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CNN INTERNATIONAL: WSJ Reporter Evan Gershkovich Marks One Year In Russian Prison; U.S. Federal Judge Rebukes Trump For Attacks On Fellow Judge; Biden Campaign Launching 30 Michigan Offices By Mid- April; Netanyahu Approves New Round Of Talks Aimed At Securing Release Of Hostages & A Ceasefire; Heavy Lift Crane On Site As Salvage Operation Ramps Up; Trump Appeals Ruling That Allows Georgia D.A. Willis To Stay On Case. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 15:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN HOST: It is 7:00 p.m. in London, 2:00 p.m. in Houston, 10:00 p.m. in Moscow and 3:00 p.m. here in New York. I'm Rahel Solomon, in today for Jim Sciutto. Thanks so much for joining me today on CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's go right to the news.

We want to start with a wrongful detainment of "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich. Today marks one year since he was arrested in Russia and charged with espionage. It's an accusation thoroughly denied by Gershkovich, the U.S. government and "The Wall Street Journal".

Now, Russia has never presented any evidence to back up those claims. And the U.S. claims and classifies that Gershkovich is wrongfully detained. He has yet to face trial, and this week, he was ordered to be held in jail for another three months by Russian security services. Diplomatic attempts to secure his release have been unsuccessful.

And today, "The Wall Street Journal" marked the grim milestone by this, by leaving the front page blank, the headline is, "His story should be here".

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more on the efforts to bring Evan Gershkovich home.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): No media allowed at Evan Gershkovich's most recent court hearing in Moscow, just this short clip by the courts press service. Despite a year and a Russian jail, a defiance smile from "The Wall Street Journal" reporter. No surprise. His detention was extended yet again through June 30th.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia ripping into the verdict.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.

PLEITGEN: Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged with espionage a year ago while on assignment in Yekaterinburg, Central Russia.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: I do not know if there are any other cases, but the allegations made by our intelligence services today were not related to his journalism.

PLEITGEN: "The Wall Street Journal" and Gershkovich's family strongly denied the allegations.

Polina Ivanova of "The Financial Times" is one of Evan's best friends and still keeps and regular contact with him writing letters.

POLINA IVANOVA, FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTER & FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH: He's doing remarkably well. He's absolutely staying strong. He's not allowing himself to, you know, to wallow to get too upset by everything. In fact, he spends most of his time in letters to us trying to make us feel better.

PLEITGEN: Gershkovich faces a jail sentence of up to 20 years if convicted. But CNN has reported that Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan were part of a proposed prisoner swap with a now dead opposite leader Alexei Navalny.

The Russian president taunted on his reelection day that he approved a swap on the condition he'd get back a high-profile Russian intelligence officer in prison for murder in Germany, Vadim Krasikov.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet. I said, I agree, but unfortunately, what happened happened.

PLEITGEN: For those close to Evan, that means the waiting continues, outcome uncertain.

IVANOVA: When you see Christians (ph) talk about it and very clear terms that this is what they want to see happen, that they're looking for a deal, you know, just gives you hope that at some point this will -- this, you know, that he will be home. He needs to be home, needs to be back with his family, with his friends.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And the Kremlin has once again confirmed that there are contacts between the United States and Russia on a possible prisoner exchange, but they also say that those talks need to happen in absolute silence or any results could be prevented.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SOLOMON: And our thanks to Fred there.

Well, today, President Biden marked the, quote, painful anniversary of his arresting, saying in a statement: Journalism is not a crime and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter -- risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia's brutal aggression against Ukraine.

For more on the administration's efforts to bring Evan Gershkovich home, let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, what more do we know about where things stand on attempts to try to secure Evan's release?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, it's a really good question, particularly now that he has been behind bars in Russia for a year. The State Department said back in December that they had put an offer on the table. And they said it was a new and significant proposal to secure the release of Evan, but also Paul Whelan, that other wrongfully detained American and Russia for more than five years they said at the time that Russia had rejected that offer.

Now we asked this week for an update as to the back-and-forth as we know that these channels of communication do remain open between the U.S. and Russia, and we haven't been given a specific update as to where those efforts stands.


So, we'll continue watching this space. Of course, Rahel and the other thing I do want to note, however, is that this week, the special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carson, told Christiane Amanpour that he does remain hopeful about the next 90 days and the reason for that is because Evan Gershkovich's pretrial detention was extended by 90 days.

Yeah. Now, it's not a good thing that he hasn't gone to trial yet. But on the other hand, U.S. officials do believe that there's more possibility to maneuver, to work with Russia, to come to a deal before his case goes to trial because once he goes to trial, they feel that the Russians are going to want to get through that trial. It's going to take nine, 10, 11 months it would be hard to secure a deal that time.

So they're viewing the next 90 days as a potential critical time to secure a deal to release him and, of course, Paul Whelan.

SOLOMON: Perhaps a critical window to try to get some progress here.

Kylie Atwood live for us in Washington -- Kylie, thanks so much.

Well, joining me now to discuss all of this is "Washington Post" opinion column, Jason Rezaian.

Jason, good to have you for people who may not know or may not remember, you spent 544 days inside an Iranian prison, and your story has a lot of similarities to Evan. You both were foreign correspondents for U.S. newspapers. You both were reporting in your ancestral countries, you both spent at least one year in a foreign prison. Of your own experience, you said that one of the biggest fears you had was growing old in captivity. How did you stay hopeful?

JASON REZAIAN, OPINION COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, thanks for asking me, Rahel, and for shining light on Evan and Paul Whelan and Alsu Kurmasheva, an American who is also being held in Russia right now.

The fact is, you have the opportunity to be your best friend or your own worst enemy. And I decided early on that it's going to do whatever I could to stay healthy to keep my mind active. But as the days start to pile up and become weeks and months it becomes harder and harder to do, and the limited amount of contact I had with the outside world through short telephone calls and short meetings with my wife and my mother, you know, they tried to assure me that as much being done on my behalf to free me as possible.

I found it hard to believe some days. And as I mentioned, earlier in an interview that I did with "The Wall Street Journal", there's never any good news until you have that ultimate piece of good news which is that you've left the airspace of the country that you were being held hostage in. So it's a long slog, but I really admire and respect Evan very much for his ability what do you to maintain a sense of humor and to keep trying to keep hopes up for not only himself, but the people that care about him.

SOLOMON: Yeah, I thought it was so fascinating to hear his friend from "The Financial Times" say that he spends a lot of his time in his letters trying to make her feel better and his parents have said the same that he spends a lot one of his letters trying to make them feel better, which I just think is so remarkable considering what he's going through.

If you could speak to Evan right now, what would you tell him?

REZAIAN: First thing I would tell him is that he has incredible advocates in his colleagues and friends who have not sat quiet for a single day, but more importantly, an incredible family. His mom, Ella, his dad Mikhail and his sister Danielle, have become incredible hostage advocates. They become his voice in the world.

And the reality is, these are not people who were looking for a public platform. They did nothing to deserve this and didn't want this kind of notoriety but because of their love for Evan, they are doing everything they can and just looking forward to the day that my family and his family can get together and reminisce about our hard days and look forward to happier ones.

SOLOMON: Yeah. And, Jason, I want to play for you a clip from Evan's parents speaking to the Wall Street Journal on this grim milestone on this anniversary. Listen.


ELLA MILLMAN, EVAN GERSHKOVICH'S MOTHER: It's a mixed emotion. It's -- I like to see that he is well -- doing well. But the same time it's so sad. So --

INTERVIEWER: What are you looking for when you look at those images? Is there anything that you're really focusing on?

MILLMAN: Of course, I've noticed that his shoulders are a lot stronger, now, from all the exercise. I see if he'd gotten the haircut, the way he looks. At some point, he looked a lot thinner than he's looking right now. It's like a mother noticed everything.



SOLOMON: And, Jason, I'm wondering if you might share some of the advice that you had -- you have shared perhaps with his family. I thought it was really touching his mom saying, you know, a mother always knows what she's watching for when she sees these clips of Evan.

REZAIAN: Yeah. Well, know that he's going through a very hard time, but the knowledge that they are taking care of themselves and taking care of each other sustains you because there's -- there's a feeling of guilt that you've -- you've put yourself in situation or a situation has been thrust upon you that is devastating for your loved ones, that he will come home and that it will be a long road ahead of them to recovery, but did he has the opportunity and will have the opportunity to do that, and that I and others will be way getting for him and want to be as helpful as possible, because he has an important role to play in helping us understand a really misunderstood country, and such an important time of history.

So I hope that that is released is not too far away. And that he's reunited with his loved ones as soon as possible.

SOLOMON: To that end, do you think, Jason, that the administration has done enough to bring Evan home, to bring about his release? I mean, President Biden, Secretary Blinken, others, they've all called for his release. Are they doing enough?

REZAIAN: Look, I -- I get that question on a lot of these cases I want to give the Biden administration of credit for bringing dozens of Americans home over the last three years. It's been a very difficult time were more and more Americans have been taken hostage than in previous times, and they're very committed to bring people home.

But to paraphrase from my brother who was asked that question almost a decade -- a decade ago when I was in prison, they're clearly not doing enough. Evan and Paul and Alsu will all be home right now if they were doing everything that they could be doing, because ultimately, it will be a decision by the U.S. president, whoever that person is, to bring these people home and other Americans who are being wrongfully detained around the world.

SOLOMON: Yeah, why -- why do you think, Jason, we're seeing this crackdown on the press? Evan is not alone, we should point out. According to the media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders,

six journalists working for independent media outlets in Russia were arrested within a span of just a few hours this week, 520 journalists are being detained worldwide. Why do you think were seeing this crackdown on the press at this point?

REZAIAN: Well, there are a lot of reasons and authoritarianism is on the rise around the world but I think the most important reason is that this is a pretty easy and effective way to exert leverage against United States and other Democratic countries because there's nothing standing in the way from these countries doing. So far, we haven't developed any kind of credible deterrence system or an accountability system for governments that use American citizens as hostages.

And I hope that in the years to come, we're able to do that. I'm part of a commission here in Washington, D.C. working to understand this problem better, but we're playing catch-up and we will be making recommendations about how to make this harder, moving forward, but we're in the middle of a crisis, one that President Biden dubbed a national emergency back in 2022.

SOLOMON: Jason Rezaian, not many people in the world had the perspective and the insight you do, and we certainly appreciate you sharing it with us on this day. Thank you

REZAIAN: Thanks for having me on.

SOLOMON: All right. Well, still to come, Donald Trump went after the daughter of the judge presiding over his hush money case, and a federal judge talked exclusively to my colleague, Kaitlan Collins about the danger of that kind of rhetoric. What he said after the break.



SOLOMON: Welcome back.

In between his courtroom appearances, Donald Trump has for months verbally attack the judges and the prosecutors presiding over his trials, as well as their clerks and their families.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Judge Engoron is a disgrace to this country and this should not be allowed to happen.

I have a Trump-hating judge with the Trump-hating wife and family.

That's a nasty man. He is a nasty judge. He's a Trump-hating guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SOLOMON: That pattern coincides with the significant and alarming rise in threats against federal judges and prosecutors. That's according to the U.S. Marshals office. The number of threats against them has more than doubled over the past three years.

And today, one sitting us federal judge is saying enough is enough to Donald Trump. In a rare interview, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton told CNN's Kaitlan Collins that what Trump is doing serves to increase the danger to judges and their families.

Here's some of that conversation.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE: I think to a lot of people, the dangers of attacking a judge and his family and their family is clear.

I wonder how you would respond to something like this.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, it's very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge and its particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they're directed at one's family. I mean, we do these jobs because we're committed to the rule of law, and we believe in the rule of law, and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

COLLINS: And you know personally, I mean, what this is like, someone threatened your daughter once as well.

WALTON: Yes. Threatened to me one day and then the next day called and made a threat against -- against my daughter and also indicated my address. So they obviously had done some research to find out that I had a daughter and what her name was, and also where I live.

COLLINS: I mean, what's that even -- that -- that must be terrifying.

WALTON: Well, it is but you kind of have to appreciate that you can't let that impact on how you live your life and how you treat litigants or before you because even though threats may be made against you and against your family, you still have an obligation to ensure that everybody who comes into your courtroom, its treated fairly regardless of who they are and what they've done.


SOLOMON: For more on this, let me bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who joins me.

Evan, tell us more about this pattern of Trump's to attack law enforcement officials presiding over his cases. And also what we know about the consequences of that kind of rhetoric.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the former president, Rahel, has had a habit of going after judges, making rulings that he doesn't like. Obviously, when he was president, early on, he went after a judge who was of Mexican descent and attacked him simply because of that, and raised that as an issue.


And so we've seen that over the course of the years. He attacked the judge in Brooklyn who struck down one of his initial -- one of his first acts and office which was the ban on what was -- what became known as the Muslim ban.

So those are the things that we've seen play out over the years and the consequences are real because as you can hear from Judge Walton in that extraordinary interview with Kaitlan Collins, you know, you -- there are real consequences.

You've had incidents in the last couple of years. You saw an armed man show up outside of Justice Kavanaugh's home in Maryland, you know, with a plan to kidnap him and to kill him. We've seen a judge attacked at her home in New Jersey a couple of years ago, her son was killed, shot and killed by someone who came to her home to try to act out against her.

And so, we've seen those consequences and that's one -- that's one of the things what you hear from the Marshal Service about the extraordinary rise in the number of threats against judges and against prosecutors.

Now, we have -- everybody who's involved in any one of these cases that has to do with Donald Trump now has to go around with additional security, additional protections everywhere they go. And there's a reason for it because of the language you keep hearing, like the ones you just played from the former president.

SOLOMON: Well, speaking of language, Evan, I mean, on Tuesday, the judge presiding over his hush money case, issued a gag order, that's not the first gag order imposed on Trump. Why don't they seem to be making an impact? I mean, why don't they seem to be effective?

PEREZ: Well, you know, he -- he is very strategic in the way he does. That -- the attack that he made against the judge's daughter -- first of all, he was attacking her for a posting on social media that had nothing to do with her. It appears to be a fake count -- a fake account, according to the courthouse. It's not associated with her at all, someone has appropriated her name and is posting things anti- Trump things.

And so, people around the former president have brought this to his attention. And this is what he's doing. So that's the first thing.

The issue for this is that the judge can make a gag order but the former president really, you know, he has a lot of leeway. He has a First Amendment right to speak. But just because you have that right doesn't mean you should say some of the things that he does say.

And so what you heard from Judge Walton just a minute ago, by the way, he is a nominee for George W. Bush, conservative president. And what he was calling to attention was that when you have a position, someone of that position, somebody who's running for president, right, someone who was a former president, that it does come with greater responsibility and you should just at least watch what you say because you don't know that someone out there might take it to heart an act out on it. That's what the message you hear from Judge Walton from other judges who are not trying to stop the former president from speaking out. They're just saying, you know, just be careful because there are consequences.

SOLOMON: Yeah, be mindful of the safety of the prosecutors and judges and all of these people.

PEREZ: Particularly for a president a candidate who's running on a platform of returned to law and order. He was at a wake for a police officer in New York yesterday. So that's the context under seems to be missing from the larger conversation of the former president.

SOLOMON: No, it's a fair point. Evan Perez, thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks.

SOLOMON: All right. The Biden campaign dubbed last night's glamorous celebrity field fundraiser, the most lucrative in campaign history, raking in more than $26 million through the event.

Amid the many A-list stars were, of course, not one, but three commanders in chief. President Biden flanked by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The two questions on the war in Gaza, threat to democracy and their golf game. The campaign excluded network cameras from the event, but did release selected clips. One poking fun at Biden's opponent, Donald Trump. Look.


STEPHEN COLBERT, MODERATOR: My question to you, sir, can voters trust a presidential candidate who was not won a single Trump international golf club trophy? At long last, sir, have you know, chip shot?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, I'd be happy to play. I told him as before, when he came into the Oval what he was being is -- before you go sworn in, I said, I'll give you three strokes if you carry your own bag.


SOLOMON: And another clip on the stakes President Biden sees in November's election.


BIDEN: I think our democracy is at stake, not a joke. I think democracy is literally at stake. We're at real inflection point in history, things are changing. And all the things he's doing are so old, speaking of old. And, you know, little old, and out of shape, anyway. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SOLOMON: All right. With me now to discuss, our political panel, "PBS NewsHour's" Laura Barron-Lopez and Kevin Cirilli of "The Hill".


Kevin, I already see you shaking your head, so I can't wait to get to you.

Let -- let me start with Laura here.

So, Laura, that campaign only releasing these two events, as we said. Network cameras were not given full access to this event. Why these two events? How do they fit into the campaign strategy? What do you think, Laura?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, clearly, this is the biggest haul that President Biden has had to date from a single event when it comes to fundraising. I mean, it really was a show of force for the president where he's flanked by two, former Democratic president saying that, you know, they're going to be out here with him as he launches this campaign, to make that contrast.

The one we just heard in that last clip you played, Rahel, which was about democracy being at stake, him seeing Trump as a threat to democracy, and the larger contrast across the board when it comes to all of the policies. And now, he's going to run the country very differently.

So, I mean, we got somewhat clips. We don't usually get to see fundraisers at all. We get pool reports out of fundraisers. So that's more par for the course here, even though this was a big star studded one.

SOLOMON: And, Kevin, your thoughts?

KEVIN CIRILLI, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE HILL: Twenty-five million dollars. I mean, that's why -- that's why they did this. According to the reports, the Democrats were able to pick up $25 million by hosting this fundraiser with one current president and to former presidents. And mind you, they actually traveled on Air Force One together, President Biden with his former boss, former President Barack Obama and to do so on Radio City Hall in New York City.

It clearly shows that they're trying to keep the Democratic coalition together, right? There's been all this talk in the political press about the fringe on the far left with regards to everything Rashida Tlaib doing out in Michigan and cracks in the Democratic coalition.

The bottom line is, they were projecting to donors for $25 million, mind you, that for that type of an investment, the Democratic coalition will hold. The person, the pudding with the polls, right? Biden got some great poll numbers this week according to the decision desk HQ. "The Hill" polls and the Bloomberg/Morning Consult polls. He actually has closed the gap, and in other times has surpassed Trump in some of the battleground states. I'm thinking of Michigan, Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin. Those are the blue wall states so that Democrats need to hold in order to have the sign of support to keep Biden in the White House.

But what's interesting is actually in Georgia, a case where the election interference is headed, Trump actually slightly expanded his lead in that state. So some good poll numbers for Biden heading into that fundraiser, and also heading out of the State of the Union.

SOLOMON: But, let me ask, as you both point out, rightly, certainly a lot of money was raised, but there were also quite a lot of protesters out there. There were pro-ceasefire protests outside Radio City Hall during the event. The event was erupted -- interrupted multiple times by demonstrators, even inside the room, and all the presidents responded to those protesters.

Here's what Biden said. He said: Israel's in a position where its very existence is at stake. You had all those people -- they weren't killed, they were massacred. And imagine if that had happened in the U.S., tying a mom and her daughter together pouring kerosene, burning to death.

It's understandable there is such a profound anger and Hamas is still there, but we must in fact stop the effort resulting insignificant deaths of innocent civilians, particularly children.

Laura, has the president made any progress bringing some of this -- the disinfected or disaffected Democrats, the 100K, for example, uncommitted voters in Michigan. Has he done anything to bring those back into the fold?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, we've seen that he has changed some of his rhetoric and that Vice President Kamala Harris has called for temporary ceasefires, and that, you know, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, has said that he thinks Benjamin Netanyahu was an obstacle to peace. Things like that don't occur without President Biden knowing about it.

And so I think he's using a lot of other Democratic officials to try to show that he's very aware and understands the frustration and the anger that a lot of Democratic voters feel about his position towards Israel. But ultimately, his policy, his underlying policy hasn't changed and I think that's why you're seeing so many voters still in places like New York, in states like Michigan and Minnesota, Democratic coalition voters that are still very upset with the President.

They feel as though he's not listening to them on the policy and he ultimately does have to bring them home if he wants to win in these battleground states where the margins are going to be so narrow because without young voters, without Muslim and Arab voters in a number of these states, it's going to be difficult for him to get across that finish line. SOLOMON: And, Kevin, without a policy changes -- well, I just wanted to mention, I mean, the campaign said today that they're opening these 30, but these 30 offices in Michigan perhaps to reach some of these voters. I mean, without a policies change, does that -- does that sort of translate into votes?


What do you think?

CIRILLI: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, there doesn't need to be a policy change. Hamas is a terrorist organization, right?

You look in a state like Pennsylvania, where Senator John Fetterman has been able to expand his lead in Pennsylvania by attracting moderates, by attracting independent voters, which by the way, there's a heck of a lot more independent voters that America and swing voters in America than a couple of far-left fringe folks who are trying to back a terrorist organization. Okay?

Nobody wants a war, right? And so --

SOLOMON: Well, Kevin, I'm not sure that we can say that. I mean, there are young voters as well. I'm not sure that we can call all of all of those voters who have concerns about the policy in Gaza, I'm not sure that we can call them fringe left. I mean, they're -- is that a fair -- is that a fair sort of way to characterize them?

CIRILLI: It's fair to say that Hamas is a terrorist organization and it's fair to say that you can support peace while also supporting Israel. And that's the policy of the folks like Senator John Fetterman as well as other folks like Congressman Ritchie Torres, a progressive in New York City.

And so, look, I look at those Gallup polls and look, at the images that have come out of Gaza are absolutely harrowing. And you can be critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while also understanding that Israel has a right to defend itself.

So, look, I think that Jewish Americans across America are deeply concerned about the rise in antisemitism that has spiked within hate crimes across the country. And I also believe that the Biden administration has done a lot of outreach to moderate and independent voters who are going to decide this election.

So, look, to say that someone who wants peace is only on the side of Rashida Tlaib, it just doesn't match any of the reporting that I've done.

SOLOMON: Okay. We'll leave it here.

Kevin Cirilli, Laura Barron-Lopez, good to have you both. Thank you.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.

CIRILLI: Thank you. SOLOMON: All right. In a new interview, "Seinfeld" co-creator and

star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", Larry David, sits down with CNN's Chris Wallace and he's pretty, pretty, pretty blunt when it comes to Donald Trump.



CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: So how much has the whole 2020 election and everything that is flowed from it piss you off? LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN AND WRITER: I mean, you can't go a day without thinking about what he's done to this country because he's such a little baby that he's thrown 250 years of democracy out the window, but not accepting the results of it.

I mean, it's -- it's so crazy. He's such a sociopath. He's so insane. He just couldn't admit to losing.

And we know he lost. He knows he lost and look how he's fooled everybody. He's convinced all these people that he didn't lose. It's -- he's such a sick man. He is so sick.

Anyway, no, it hasn't impacted me at all.


WALLACE: It hit (ph) you barely.

DAVID: Yeah.

WALLACE: But I mean, how do you wrap your head around the fact that he could very well be re-elected president? I mean, right now, I'd say he's the favorite.

DAVID: He's just such an amazing con man. He has such a gift for lying and fooling people and convincing people of something that's a complete lie.

WALLACE: But the fact, but the point is millions and millions and millions of Americans more so than three years ago, they buy it.

DAVID: They buy it. It's -- it's a testament to his conning abilities. He's -- he's the greatest con man we've ever produced. Yeah.


SOLOMON: And you can watch Chris's entire conversation with Larry David on "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" New episode stream every Friday on Max.

Well, still to come, the dire warning about famine in Gaza. We are live in the region, coming up next.


SOLOMON: Welcome back.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved a new round of talks aimed at securing the release of hostages in exchange for ceasefire in Gaza. Today, a spokesperson for UNICEF warned that hope for that ceasefire is, quote, being drowned out by bombs.

The war in Gaza is taking a devastating toll in the civilian population and one of the latest attacks, at least 14 Palestinians were reportedly killed after an Israeli airstrike in the city of Rafah. That included women and children.

Let's bring in our CNN's Melissa Bell, who is live for us in Jerusalem.

Melissa, what can you tell us? What's the latest here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rahel, it was a day of -- another great day of violence inside Gaza, not just in rough as you mentioned, that strike that saw those family members killed according to medical sources, the hospital where survivors were brought, but also so elsewhere around the Al Shifa and the Al-Amal hospitals.

One car carrying a police chief and his family also targeted by the IDF. We're hearing with the entire family killed. The IDF claims he was a terrorist. Bear in mind that policeman in the Gaza Strip tend to be civilians.

So another huge day of loss for the population of Gaza. And, of course, this amongst the mounting humanitarian catastrophe that we seen in the shape of the worst name famine, with a worsening death toll directly as a result of that famine.

So, of course, the news that Israeli delegation will once again be heading to Doha and Egypt from where they'd been recalled on Tuesday morning in the hope that these indirect talks can begin once again, clearly some sign of hope.

We had heard Rahel that there was back-and-forth going on since that pause and then negotiations on Tuesday. And what we understand is that there had been some cautious optimism that on some of the sticking points beyond the question of the ratio of Palestinian prisoners that might be exchanged for Israeli hostages, there could be some room for negotiations.

Clearly, Israel is keeping up the pressure not just on Hamas, but on the United States. So if radio officials urging very much the us to intervene, to put pressure on Hamas to bring them back to the negotiating table. Remember that it was Hamas that rejected the last American proposal, so-called bridging proposal, that had brought so much hope that some agreement might be found.

Of course, what this would mean if an agreement could be found on those broader sticking points, things like the civilians that are hoping to leave southern in Gaza to return home in the north. The question of the number of Israeli soldiers remaining in the Gaza Strip. And of course, the question of the humanitarian catastrophe -- if these issues can be resolved, that there is room for maneuver and compromise that could lead to the much needed six-week ceasefire.


And that at least would be a pause at some relief, at least for the civilians of Gaza -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: OK. Melissa Bell live for us there in Jerusalem -- Melissa Bell, thanks so much

Well, the International Court of Justice is calling on Israel to immediately take steps to ensure Palestinians in Gaza are receiving life-saving aid. It says that famine is no longer just a risk, but is now setting in. And it said that at least 30 people have now died of hunger related causes. The latest, a 6-year-old boy. His father says that he died in front of our eyes asking what his son did to deserve turning into, quote, skin and bones from hunger.

Our Jomana Karadsheh has more on this story and we do want to warn you that this report is disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video filmed 11 days ago at a northern Gaza hospital captured little Mohammed's final days, his labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive. On Thursday, six-year-old Mohammed became the 24th Palestinian child to die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza. And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost.

Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory. The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Najla, who's helplessly watched her children go hungry for months. Her husband, Mahdan, has thought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, to spare them this torture of an existence.

Dante's family endured months of bombardment in northern Gaza, but it's a looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home.

If you grab a bag of flour, someone can kill you to take it, Mahdan says. Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of before, like ground soybeans in a wild plant that we never tasted before, food that animals refuse to eat, we ate.

What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want right now is to feed their little ones.

My children were crying every night asking for a piece of bread, Najla says. We were dreaming of white bread. We were eating animal feed.

For the first time in five months, they say, the children are having real food. Even if only plain bread. This is what Dante's family left behind in the north, scenes that tell of the desperation of so many who also just want to feed their children, as they brush the little ape that's made it into this part of Gaza. More than a million Palestinians are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N.-backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the north any day now.

In this man-made crisis, where Israel's been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies. People every day find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat.

This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leaves. It's today's meal. What else can we do, she says? It's the indignity of hunger.

Avoidable suffering, as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


SOLOMON: And our thanks to Jomana for that really important reporting there.

Well, when we come back, the daunting task facing crews trying to reopen the shipping channel leading to the U.S. port of Baltimore. Now, on-site, the largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard, coming up next, were live on the scene.



SOLOMON: Welcome back.

The largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. is now at the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Massive effort now underway to clear the wreckage and reopen the key shipping channel.

And tonight, we also learn the identity of the sixth victim of the bridge collapse. It's Carlos Hernandez, age 24 from Mexico. That's according to his mother who spoke to CNN affiliate Univision.

Let's bring CNN's Brian Todd who's back on the scene today.

Brian, Maryland's governor just finished briefing the media. What did he say and what stood to you?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rahel, he gave some of the -- an update on some of the assets that are being brought to bear to start to salvage operation, didn't get it going in earnest.

And as I talk about that, I'm going to show you one of those assets over my right shoulder, photojournalist Harlan (ph) who's going to be able to zoom his camera into a crane. You can and see the crane there, next to the wreckage of the bridge. That is one of the heavy lift crane that has been brought in.

We do have to say that its been clarified to us by the governor's office, that is not, not the Chesapeake 1000, which is the largest floating crane on the Eastern Seaboard. Now the Chesapeake 1000, we are told is here. It is just around the bend. It is getting ramped up, but it is not right there at the site just yet, but it will be shortly.

But that crane that you're looking at there, we have watched it all day long and it's been -- it's been conducting some operations. So they are beginning the salvage operation in earnest with that grain and they're going to be bringing other assets to bear here.

The governor a short time ago gave us an idea of just what kind of assets that are going to be having here. They're going to be having a total of seven cranes, ten tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels, five coast guard vessels, and they're going to need all of those assets because he also gave a very -- another very daunting set of statistics. He said that the tonnage on the bridge that is draped over the bow of the Dali, that container ship, is about 3,000 to 4,000 tons, just of twisted of metal, concrete, and other wreckage that is draped over the bow. They've got to try to remove that.

That may be one of the first things that they do. I spoke to a mechanical engineer from Morgan State University, Dr. Oscar Barton a short time ago. He said that the order in which they're going to do this, they're going to start to, they have to do the survey work first and that really could be what that crane there is doing.

They've got the survey, everything that they need to remove first, the biggest chunk of the wreckage, and then they're going to have to figure out what assets to bring in to try to remove that when to get them here. And then once they get here, they've got to cut those chunks into smaller chunks. They can have welders doing that.

All of this is incredibly arduous. It is painstaking. It's going to take weeks. Probably months and its just going to be an has also going to come not without some danger involved because of the governor did say a short time ago that as soon as diverse as soon as conditions permit, divers will be deployed back into the water as I can tell you right now, it is extremely windy out here. It is extremely cold. The water is very rough the conditions for divers have been just horrendous over the past few days, Rahel.


SOLOMON: Yeah. Brian, we can even hear the wind on your mic there, just sort of how strong it is out there.

Bryan Todd live for us in Baltimore -- Brian, thanks so much.

All right. We're going to get - get to some breaking news now. This is in Fulton County, Georgia, where Donald Trump and several of his co- defendants have now filed an appeal, again, pushing to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from the election subversion case.

Let's bring in CNN's Nick Valencia, who has been following this very closely.

So, Nick, as we know, Willis came under scrutiny for this relationship she had -- past relationship now with a special prosecutor, Nathan Wade. The judge ruled that she could stay on the case so long as Wade resigned, which he did.

So what's this about now? What's this effort about now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yeah, Rahel, we had anticipated this. You remember, Judge Scott McAfee granted the certificate for immediate review, which is basically allowing them to appeal to the Georgia appeals court. And so now they're doing that.

We just got our hands on this legal filing from Steve Sadow along with eight other of the co-defendants, which include the former chief of staff for the former president, Mark Meadows, as well as his former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and what they're asking the court is listing out the reasons to take up this case and why they believe Fani Willis should be taken off of this case, as well as the rest of her team.

This is what part of that filing is saying, it's very strong language here. D.A. Willis has covered herself and her office in scandal and disrepute, and she has squandered her credibility and repeatedly and flagrantly violated the heightened ethical standards demanded of her position. The evidence of a forensic misconduct is overwhelming and her disqualification is required. The trial court's decision not to disqualify D.A. Willis under these circumstances is a structural error, a violation of the defendant's due process rights and the seriously denigrates the public's confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system.

That is just a small portion of the filing.

We should now expect the state to respond, and after the appellate court has both of those responses, they then have 45 days to decide what they're going to do.

In the meantime, we're still going through this filings, something again that we had anticipated, but now we have our hands on and it's officially filed. The defense attorneys asking the appeals court here in Georgia to take up their case -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: Now, what does this do for the start date, if at all? Does this change anything? I mean, I believe it was you actually spoke to Fani Willis over the weekend who says she still plans to move forward, the train is coming, I believe was her exact language.

What does this do to start date?

VALENCIA: This is a great question. You know, the D.A.'s office as Fani had says, Fani Willis says, the train is coming and they're going full steam ahead, preparing for what they hope for is an August start to the trial.

Of course, this is yet another distraction. You know, yesterday we were talking as though this case was back on track. It was back focused on the facts of this case, that the former president tried to subvert democracy, tried to steal the election here. That's what the prosecutors are alleging.

But again, we're now back with this dark cloud and this dark shadow over this case because of a personal relationship that Fani had, Fani Willis had with her lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade.

We don't really know what kind of delay this will have or what kind of effect this will have. But it sort of depends on who you ask. The Fulton County D.A. is being very full-throated and saying she's going to continue to step forward and focus on the facts of this case, but it's clear that defense attorneys have not given up their bite at this apple when trying to remove Fani Willis altogether -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: Fascinating. Well, we know you will stay on top of it.

Nick Valencia, that is for sure. Thank you. Nick live for us there in Atlanta. thanks so much.


SOLOMON: All right. When we come back, she said this is not -- actually said this ain't a country album. This is a Beyonce album. That's what she said. "Cowboy Carter" is out today. Beyonce reclaiming and rewriting the meaning of country music.


SOLOMON: Well, hold on to your cowboy hats because the Queen Bey is back.


SOLOMON: Beyonce releasing the highly anticipated second act of her Renaissance trilogy, "Cowboy Carter" at midnight. And she has broken the Internet. The album, it goes 27 tracks with Beyonce's take on classic slide Dolly Parton's "Jolene". Beyonce also collaborated with other artists, including Miley Cyrus and Post Malone.

"Cowboy Carter" is Beyonce's take on country music, opening up the genre for other artists of color and also continuing the conversation of diversity and country music.

Well, thanks for joining me today. I'm Rahel Solomon. Good to be with you.

"QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next. I have a great weekend.