Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

World Central Kitchen: Israeli Strike Killed Workers In Gaza; Voting In Presidential Primaries Underway In Four States; Iowa Defeats 2023 Champion LSU For Final Four Spot. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 11:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to our top story right now. Israel's military says it's launching an investigation into the deaths of seven aid workers who are trying to feed starving civilians in Gaza. Those aid workers were killed Monday in an Israeli airstrike. Their group, World Central Kitchen, is one of the few aid organizations providing desperately needed food in Gaza. Right now, the group for the time being is now understandably paused its operations there.

Joining us now is Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. She's also the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies for food and agriculture. Director McCain, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all your important work. We are all grateful to you. Let me, first of all, get your reaction to this tragedy involving World Central Kitchen in Gaza.

AMBASSADOR CINDY MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Well, Wolf, it's unconscionable, number one. But I know personally what it feels like to lose colleagues in the field. And it's heart- wrenching and heartbreaking. And my heart goes out to everyone at World Central Kitchen.

But this has to stop targeting or not targeting or miss rep -- miss firing or whatever it is. Humanitarian aid workers is -- it's unacceptable in this situation. We need to get food in. We need access.

We need to be able to get to the north, especially to make sure that we can stave off famine. Aid workers should not be a part of actually what's going on. We're the ones that bring help and help them when we come.

BLITZER: The World Central Kitchen, as I said, is now pausing its operations in Gaza. And that's totally understandable given what has happened. The group has been delivering about 300,000 meals a day.

Another key a group, Anora, a group you're familiar with, also just announced it's also suspending operations in Gaza. How big of a void does all this leave?

MCCAIN: Well, there was a huge void anyway. What they have been able to do is probably 1/100 of what we need to get in. With -- none of us have been able to get to scale or get to -- get to where we need to go and bring in enough food to feed. Again, we need access, we need the ability to safely get into these areas, we need unfettered access all the way up and down both the fence road and the beach road.

It's -- we -- it's simply -- we simply can't help people feed themselves or feed them unless we can get in. And it's been an impossible task to be able to get our truck sent up until now.

BLITZER: Director McCain, I want to share a statement from the CEO of World Central Kitchen. Eron Gore said this. "This is not only an attack against World Central Kitchen, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable." Do you agree? Has food in Gaza become a weapon of war?

MCCAIN: Well, in my -- in my case, I leave those to -- there's someone in the U.N. that actually says those things and determines whether or not -- whether or not it is being used as a weapon of war. My job is to get the food in. My job is to make sure that our people are safe when they're getting it in, and that we can get it in at scale. That's what I'm asking for, and I've asked the Israelis this many times now to be able to do justice.

And we also have to remember that the South is in trouble too. We can't just concentrate on the north. But we need to also maintain help within the South.

BLITZER: The United Nations says at least 165 of its relief workers have been killed since the start of this war, making this the deadliest conflict ever for aid workers. Just how dangerous has this conflict been for aid workers and how big of an obstacle does all this pose for delivering desperately needed humanitarian aid going forward?

MCCAIN: We saw how dangerous it was today by what happened to World Central Kitchen. We've got to move forward though. That's what organizations like World Central Kitchen and WFP and others do.

We still stay in. We still maintain. We still keep food going because that's what we do. That's what humanitarians do. And so, the idea that somehow humanitarians could be attacked for doing what the right thing is and then is trying to feed people is just unconscionable.


BLITZER: The World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain. Cindy, thanks so much for all you're doing. We really appreciate it. So, so important. Thanks very much for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. In this news, just coming into CNN. President Biden just spoke to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. It's the first time they've spoken since November.

Our White House correspondent Arlette Saenz is joining us now. Arlette, what do we know? What did they speak about? ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we learn moments ago, that President Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jing ping this morning. Their first communication since they met in person at a summit in California in November. Now, this comes as the U.S. has really sought to defuse tensions between the U.S. and China, one thing officials have repeatedly stressed is that they want to ensure going forward that there aren't any misunderstandings in the relationship. President Bide, after he met with Xi in California said that one goal that they had was to be able to pick up the phone and call each other more often to talk about certain issues. And that is what happened today.

Now, this call is coming amid a very turbulent time on the global stage, in the wars in Gaza, as well as Ukraine, and North Korea's nuclear capabilities were expected to be part of this conversation. They were also expected to speak, quite frankly, about the tension points between the U.S. and China. That includes China's approach to Taiwan, the provocations in the South China Sea, as well as human rights.

A senior administration official had said that the U.S. was also planning to discuss efforts by China to potentially hack into U.S. infrastructure. There's also areas of agreement that the two leaders were expected to touch on. Things like climate change and artificial intelligence.

But really, what -- this phone call between the two leaders is the first since they met back in November. The last phone call had been all the way back in the summer of 2022. And it really makes good on the president's intention to try to manage this relationship, clear up any misunderstandings or prevent any misunderstandings from unfolding.

And it's not just this high-level engagement from President Biden with President Xi. We're also learning that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to travel to China a bit later, in the coming days. She'll be meeting with her Treasury counterparts in the country as well as business leaders and students, all signs of the U.S. efforts to try to ease into few some of the tensions between the two superpowers, something that President Biden has said he would work towards as he's been in office.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz at the White House, thanks for that update. Appreciate it very much. And we'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: Right now, voting in the presidential primaries is underway in four states. While the Trump-Biden November rematches already set, the president faces a potential protest vote from Wisconsin Democrats, angry with his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. As for Donald Trump, he'll be stomping in both Wisconsin and Michigan today where he set to deliver remarks on what he calls Biden's border bloodbath. All this comes as yet another judge is trying to rein in the former president's rhetoric by expanding a gag order to protect the families of court officials involved in the New York hush money trial.

Let's discuss all this and more with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart and CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Karen Finney. Let me start, Karen, with you.

What's your sense about right now? What's going on with the judge in these latest issues involving the judge's family and Trump?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I think there's a real concern based, frankly, on fact and precedent that this dangerous rhetoric could have real world consequences. Look at what happened to Nancy Pelosi's husband. I mean, look at what happened January 6.

And a feeling that family members, particularly ones who are not in the public eye should not be brought into the ire -- you know, Donald Trump free speech is free speech. But you don't need to use that speech to attack people who have nothing to do with the case as a way to certainly try to intimidate people. And I think there's a real concern that that's the impact that could have. And so, look, I think as these cases go on, and judges, they take it very seriously and they're looking at ways to let's keep it focused on the merits of the case.

BLITZER: They should be doing. Judge Merchan called Trump's rhetoric as you know, Alice, "a very real threat to court officials and to their families." How significant is it for a judge to make such a statement involving a former United States President?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is significant, but the reality is he does have some basis for saying so. And I agree one hundred percent with Karen, there's just no need and certainly should not be any desire for anyone to threaten anyone in the court system, but certainly not their families. And I think he's faced some consequences for this kind of outside the courtroom behavior with these fines against him because of his lack of remorse, lack of contrition, and is egging on those involved in the case.

But this is part of Donald Trump's campaign. This was part of how he is convened to his supporters and others that he is a victim here. He is martyr here.

The justice system and liberal justices and district attorneys are going after him because he is a threat to Joe Biden. And that is something that he is not just campaigning on, he's fundraising on, and has really, energizing his base off of this. But criticizing and attacking and threatening family members is not necessary.


BLITZER: While I have both of you, I want to talk a little bit about what's going on in Florida right now. In a new memo, the Biden reelection campaign says they think Florida is now a winnable state for President Biden after the state Supreme Court upheld Florida six- week abortion ban, but also let voters have the final say in November. Do you see Florida as potentially now in play for Democrats? STEWART: It certainly does give some lifeblood to Democrats. Look, we have seen every time abortion as a single issue on any of these states individually. It has been a win for the pro-abortion crowd. And the pro-life community really needs to make sure and take this head on and take this seriously.

Look, that decision from Florida Supreme Court yesterday was -- in one decision was a victory for the pro-life community in terms of saving innocent lives. But the fact that now this is on the ballot in December or in the election, this will rally Democrats. And I think Republicans and the pro-life community needs to change the language, stop talking about abortion, and put more emphasis on abortion limits because that is something that more people can agree on. And the bands are certainly energizing Democrats.

BLITZER: Yes. That's interesting, Karen, because the Biden campaign has a new ad that's just out now, focused again on Trump's stance when it comes to abortion rights for women. It's airing in several battleground states, including Florida. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2016, Donald Trump ran to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, in 2024, 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.


BLITZER: What do you think?

FINNEY: I think it's a great ad. And it reflects frankly, the way the country feels. I mean 8 of 10 Americans support Roe v. Wade. And states like Florida -- majorities of the Floridians actually supported Roe v. Wade and oppose the six-week ban.

I think what's important about this ad, though, is holding Donald Trump accountable for his record because one of the things we've seen him do particularly on this issue is to try to have it both ways on both sides of the issue. And the reality is a ban is a ban as a ban. And we've seen time and again, when Republicans have tried to soften that language and say it's a limit.

Americans understand. The problem with that is that every woman has a different situation. And you can't have a one-size-fits-all government solution to our most personal private healthcare decisions.

And so, look, I do think at this point, it'll be interesting to see does this put Florida in play? Maybe at least for now. We'll see. You know, this is the moment where you got a lot of chips on the board and you try to see what -- you know, you're going to move those around as conditions shift throughout the election.

STEWART: I do think while this has been a motivating issue for Democrats and those on the left, abortion is not high on the list of where voters are. People are concerned about the economy, immigration, national security, and crime. And abortion is down. So, I think the more that the Republicans can focus on those issues that really turns out voters, that will be better for Republicans.

FINNEY: Although, as we've seen reproductive freedom, IVF contraception, access to abortion, it actually motivates Democrats, Republicans, independents, moderates across the board.

BLITZER: Suburban women in a lot of those battleground states especially.


BLITZER: All right, guys.

FINNEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thank you very, very much, Alice Stewart and Karen Finney. Iowa's Caitlin Clark dominates again, taking her team to the Final Four.

We'll have more on the epic matchup with the LSU Tigers. That's coming up next. Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BLITZER: The Iowa Hawkeyes are back at the Women's Final Four. Last night, their star, Caitlin Clark, lead them to a 94-87 victory over the LSU Tigers. It was a rematch of last year's title game that LSU won. Our national correspondent

Brynn Gingras is joining us live from Albany, New York where the game was played. Brynn, one big reason people were into this game so much as I was, is the rivalry between Clark and LSU star Angel Reese. What are -- how they -- everyone reacting today? Give us a little sense

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. I mean, Wolf, if you're Angel Reese, in the postgame interviews, she was crying, she was talking about the role she played in that rivalry, talking to how she's sort of been the villain and what told that has taken on for her. We'll talk about that just in a minute.

But as you've said, this game was a rematch of the national championship game from last year between these two teams. And that's exactly what it felt like when these two teams went to the floor. It felt like a national championship game with all of the passion and the intensity of these players and also the drama between those the star players.

Before the game even started, we saw Angel Reese puta crown on the bench while Caitlin Clark was warming up. What we saw? Caitlin Clark hit one of those big three, she would point at Angel Reese. So, it had all of those elements. But take a listen now to both of those players talk about this game and their futures. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAITLIN CLARK, IOWA HAWKEYES GUARD: We don't want this to end, and we want to keep coming back, and working hard with each other and fighting for one more week. And you know, extended as long as you possibly can, I guess.

ANGEL REESE, LSU TIGERS FORWARD: I'm still like all this has happened since I won the national championship. And I said the other day I beat since then. And it sucks. And -- but I still wouldn't change. I wouldn't change anything.


GINGRAS: So much pressure on those players. But look, they know what role they have played in elevating this game for future generations. At the end, they both said to each other, keep on elevating this game.


And certainly, that is what we are seeing from them. You know, Jason Sudeikis, Wolf, was in the stands last night. Ted Lasso wearing a sweatshirt said, everyone is watching women's sports. And that couldn't be for -- that could be -- that is totally -- the truth is I want to say there. And certainly, everybody will be tuning in this Friday when Final Four kicks off in Cleveland, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm so excited about how women's basketball has really exploded this year. It makes me so happy.


BLITZER: I was recently at the NBA all-star game weekend.


BLITZER: AND the highlight for me, and I think for whole bunch of people, I don't know if you were watching on T.V., I don't think you were there, was when the greatest three-pointer in the NBA, Steph Curry was doing a shootout contest with Sabrina Ionescu of the WNBA.


BLITZER: New York Liberty.


BLITZER: And she almost won. That was an amazing moment. It really was a great moment. I don't know if you were watching.

GINGRAS: Yes, I was watching, Wolf. I will be with you next year. Bring me. But yes, I know, it's a great time to be a women's basketball fan. And the greatest thing about this is there are more fans. And that is exciting to see. And hopefully, it continues as we go into future years. Yes. BLITZER: Yes. When she almost beat Steph Curry, it was an amazing moment for all of us, especially those of us who are there at the stadium. Brynn, thank you very, very much. Let's --


BLITZER: Let's up next year in San Francisco. The NBA all-star game will be in San Francisco next year. Thanks very much for all the great reporting.

GINGRAS: All right.

BLITZER: And thanks very much to everyone watching the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I'll be back, of course, later tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in the "SITUATION ROOM," right here tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Stay with CNN. "INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts right after a short break.