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CNN International: World Central Kitchen: 7 Workers Killed In Israeli Strike; Trump Returns To Campaign Trail Amid Newly Expanded Gag Order; Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban Takes Effect May 1, Voters Will Decide On Access Rights This November; Blinken Meets With French President Macron To Discuss Support For Ukraine, Ongoing Global Crises. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 15:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: It is 8:00 p.m. in London, 10:00 p.m. in Damascus, 3:00 a.m. in Beijing, 3:00 p.m. here in Washington. I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks so much for joining me today on CNN NEWSROOM.

And let's get right to the news.

We begin with terrible news today for a charity that has fed millions in war zones and disaster areas around the world. An Israeli airstrike has killed seven aid workers from a World Central Kitchen team which was delivering desperately needed food to civilians in Gaza, civilians already starving and facing an imminent famine, according to aid groups. One of those killed was Palestinian. The others came from around the world, a U.S.-Canadian dual national, one Australian, three British citizens, one Polish citizen.

Just yesterday, the IDF spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, told me when pressed about the thousands of civilians already killed by Israeli airstrikes that the IDF acts more cautiously than any military in the world.


DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESPERSON: I want to repeat it again, I want to repeat again because it's important, any American general that will visit here, the Israeli air force and the Israeli intelligence and will be involved in those strikes, will see that we do it, and I want to repeat it, more cautiously than any army in the world. We have so much lawyers in the room and so much intelligence in the room in any strikes that we conduct, and we're open to show it. We're not hiding anything.


SCIUTTO: Well, now, the IDF has promised to investigate this latest deadly strike.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Jerusalem with the latest.

And I wonder what is the IDF's explanation for how it killed three civilians -- seven civilians?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, so far, Jim, they haven't provided any clear explanation. We have asked them for the findings of this initial review that is being conducted. And so far, they haven't shared it, but what they are trying to convey is the seriousness with which they are taking this incidents, noting that the Herzi Halevi, the top Israeli general, the chief of staff of the Israeli military, will be overseeing and reviewing the findings of that initial investigation before it is kicked over to an independent fact-finding body.

But what is also clear, Jim, is the fact that these three vehicles were two of which were very clearly marked with World Central Kitchen logos, one of which was on the roof, which is where one of these missiles that appears to have been fired from a drone according to arms experts, went right through that logo on the roof.

And so these vehicles were clearly marked as aid belonging to an aid organization. The people traveling in the vehicle had patches of the aid organizations on them and beyond that, the World Central Kitchen said that they conveyed their plans for this convoy's movements to the Israeli military ahead of time. And despite all of that, it appears that these three vehicles were targeted in perhaps what were separate drone strikes, one, after the other.

We know that six of the seven aid workers, as you've said, are foreign nationals. One of them is in American Canadian dual citizen. The others are British, Australian, and Polish. One of the seven was a Palestinian, a driver and translator working with that aid organization. Now, the Israeli prime minister for his part, he was just on the phone with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, who we understand conveyed his serious concerns about the situation to the Israeli prime minister and interestingly, the prime minister himself in a video statement earlier today, spoke about this directly, which was quite rare for him to admit that the Israel -- Israeli forces actually carried out this strike, calling it a tragic incidents, saying that it unintentionally struck innocent people.

Now, in terms of the intention here, once again, we come back to the fact that these were clearly marked vehicles that the Israeli military knew of their plans and yet still somehow the Israeli military intentions only targeted these vehicles. Although questions about exactly what they were targeting or what the reasons were behind the strike -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Question, and to your point, multiple strikes on multiple vehicles over a period of time there. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

At the White House, President Biden spoke with World Central Kitchen's Jose Andres today to personally expressed his condolences for the deaths of those seven aid workers. White House spokesperson John Kirby said the administration was, quote, outraged by the strike.


For more on the White House response now and going forward, CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche join me now.

Kayla, I watched John Kirby respond to this. He didn't use the word outraged. He was not willing to say if this would push the administration to condition aid. He said he wouldn't go there.

I just wonder is there any specific response beyond those words that the administration is now considering or discussing?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, you heard John Kirby asked multiple times in that briefing whether the U.S. believes the claim from Israel that the strike was unintentional. Kirby repeatedly just said that the investigation -- a fulsome investigation, would bear that out and that despite the fact that there had been some preliminary findings, he stopped short of saying that the White House does agree that that strike was unintentional, even as the CEO of World Central Kitchen claims it was a targeted attack, and one that was unforgivable.

Even so, Kirby was also asked about the flow of military aid to Israel with news that the White House has quietly authorized another tranche of F-15 fighter jets, as well as precision guided missiles that the administration has notified Congress and received support from Congress to authorize the sale of. But here's how Kirby responded when he was asked whether the fact that some of these strikes against civilians keep happening unintentionally or otherwise, whether that would mean that the military aid should be paused or withheld.

Here -- here's how we said that.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: They're still under a viable third of Hamas. We're still going to make sure that they can defend themselves, and the 7th of October doesn't happen again. That doesn't mean that it's a free pass, that we --that we look the other way when something like this happens or that we aren't -- and haven't since the beginning of the conflict, urged the Israelis to be more precise, to be more careful, and quite frankly to increase the amount of humanitarian assistance that gets in.


TAUSCHE: Now, I asked him specifically about that investigation that's ongoing into the cause of that attack. And he said that he believes that it should be conducted swiftly and comprehensively, but asked whether that means a week or a few days, he would not exactly engage on that -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And as you said, more weapons are in fact headed that way.

Kayla Tausche at the White House, thanks so much

Now to a different strike, a missile strike on an Iranian consulate building in Syria that killed at least seven high ranking officials. Today, the U.N. secretary general warned of the risk of escalation in a region already tense. Iran has blamed Israel for the attack. Yesterday, IDF spokesman Hagari indicated me that the target struck was not an Iranian diplomatic facility while refusing to comment on who is responsible.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Beirut with the latest.

Ben, and I wonder if there's any sense now of an Iranian in response to this attack. We've seen them respond to attacks on senior military officials before, including those carried out by the U.S.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, at this point, we're hearing that there will be a response. We've heard from supreme leader Ali Khamenei, as well as Ibrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, that this attack will not go unanswered, that there will be revenged, there were demonstrations in Tehran today, people chanting "for revenge". The question is, what kind of revenge will that be?

What we've seen until now is that there have been increasing numbers of Israeli strikes on Iranian officials and positions particularly in Syria. Now -- and starting on the 8th of October, certainly between Hezbollah, which is, of course, backed by Iran and Israel, there has been daily exchanges of fire, but until late December, there was sort of what are known as rules of engagement that both sides would not a target the other beyond the border area.

But since late December, what we've seen is that Israeli strikes have gone deeper and deeper into Lebanon for him instance. And what we've seen the same basically scenario playing out in Syria. For instance, in the early hours of Friday, there was a strike. It's widely believed it was an Israeli strike, although the Israelis never comment on these things, on a facility, a military facility outside Aleppo in northern Syria, which left around 40 soldiers dead, some of them fighters with Hezbollah.


Now, if Iran is going to respond to this, the question is, is it going to respond via its affiliates? Or is it going to respond directly?

Until now, it's been working through its affiliates to put pressure on Israel as well as the United States. But an attack of this kind on an Iranian diplomatic facility, despite what the Israelis are claiming, the question is, will the Iranians responded directly? And, of course the question is, how would they respond? They don't share a common border, but certainly the Iranians have the ability to inflict pain on the Israelis.

The worry is that if we get to that, it could lead to the regional war so many people have feared -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Israel claims, this IDF spokesperson told me yesterday that this was not a consulate or embassy building. Is that true based on what we know?

SCIUTTO: It's part of the complex that makes up the Iranian embassy. I believe the Iranian ambassador's residence is right next door. So, it is, regardless of how it's being used, it is officially according to the Syrian government, this is a diplomatic facility.

So the Israelis can say what they like, but it is part of the Iranian embassy in Damascus -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Ben Wedeman, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

Good to have you on.

First. I want to talk about this strike in Gaza killing these World Central Kitchen workers. I mean, it's hard to think of an organization that is equally beloved to this group, given the work its done in Ukraine, Gaza, other disaster areas around the world. I wonder, does this change the dynamic at all?

Israel was already losing international support. Clearly, you're hearing some strong words from the Biden administration on this. Does it change or does Israel just move on and go forward?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it's got to change in that this strike hit allies, citizens on the ground who are trying to carry out aid. It raises the immediate questions, what were they doing in armored vehicles that were clearly marked with an aid logo on top, what were they doing that made them in a military term of art "an actionable target"? And if whoever was firing at them thought that this was a legitimate target, what does that mean for other Palestinians driving around Gaza?

If you are an Arab or Muslim world right now and you're looking at this, you're saying, oh finally, the West is paying attention when its aid workers got hit and not when we saw and reported indiscriminate airstrike after indiscriminate airstrike.

From the Israeli point of view, they could ignore a lot of that agro that was coming out of the Arab and Muslim world. They can't ignore it when it's the British prime minister, the Australian prime minister, and the White House saying, you've told us you were being careful. Now we can see that you're not and things have got to change.

SCIUTTO: This is not the first time this has happened since this war started post-October 7, just in terms of children, more than 13,000 children killed in Israeli strikes since the start of the war. I -- when I spoke and press the IDF spokesperson on that very fact just yesterday, he said that Israel behaves more cautiously than any military in the world when it carries out such strikes. Is there evidence to support that claim?

DOZIER: I am sure he believes that and I've been in other war zones listening to commanders who really believed that they were following all of their procedures properly and that their people were. So this is also got to be rude awakening, just like the accidental shooting of Israeli hostages who were trying to surrender, was a real wake-up call within the Israeli Defense Forces.

But the fact of matter is, it's also a matter of trust in that the Israelis trust World Central Kitchen. They trust the people carrying this out. So they believe them when they say these were our people, and they also had another arm of the IDF that was coordinating with these people on the ground. And so they understand that this was their fault.

So it's also wake-up call within the military. No matter what's happening with Netanyahu, wanting to carry this on because it political goals, the IDF itself it's going to be -- is having a horrible day looking itself in the mirror and having to say, are we the good guys we thought we were? Because, you know, that's everyone prosecuting something like this, wants to think of themselves as the responsible party.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I mean, the issue with wake-up calls is whether you take them or not, right? I mean, it's an open question.


In terms of U.S. pressure on Israel, there's been a lot of talk of conditioning U.S. military assistance to Israel based on greater care to avoid civilian casualties and yet, the Biden administration is set to greenlight the sale of as many as 50 U.S.-made 15 fighter jets to Israel, that would be the largest U.S. military sale to Israel since the country went to war with Hamas, square that circle for me. Is the U.S. applying just rhetorical pressure on Israel? Is there any well consideration in this administration of making demands by withholding assistance or is that just not going to happen?

DOZIER: I think what this incident is going to do is give teeth to the Biden complaints that have been happening behind closed doors and also to the complaints from Capitol Hill. So the Biden White House will be able to say to the Netanyahu government, look, you guys have proven untrustworthy with this, and that makes us suspicious of every other action. And now unless you take more care and show us how you're doing it, possibly with U.S. military observers quietly on station observing these strikes.

But you know, when I used to talk to us counterterrorism officials who were deciding on lethal strikes against al-Qaeda or ISIS, there was a very rigid procedure they had to go through, including watching the target for a long period of time, sometimes 24 hours or sometimes a week to make sure you were hitting the right target. Israelis say they do the same thing. It doesn't look like they did it this time.

And now, the Biden White House will be able to say, if you don't straighten up your act, there will be consequences.

SCIUTTO: Well, we should note that a us general went to Israel in the very early days and weeks of this war, two share experience of its American military operations in symbols for similar urban areas with warnings about the difficulty of doing so while avoiding civilian casualties. So it's not the first time that message has been delivered.

Kim Dozier, thanks so much. And still to come, Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail today in

some key battleground states. Michigan today, Wisconsin tomorrow. We're going to check in, coming up.



SCIUTTO: Right now, former President Donald Trump is in Michigan, as you see there, his first campaign event in more than two weeks, coming at a moment in which the presumptive GOP nominee is looking for a win after a string of controversies and setbacks.

Consider this, yesterday, Trump posted $175 million bond in New York for business fraud. He also lost $1 billion in net worth after shares in his media company, Truth Social, plunged on the market. All that as he's staring down the barrel of his first trial set for next Monday, the judge in that case just expanded a gag order against him following a number of threats and offensive remarks.

Following it all, CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes on the ground in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Trumps is going to be tonight.

Kristen, tell us how the campaign is viewing these events. What are they looking to accomplish?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, they're trying to reach out to voters in these critical battlegrounds. I mean, Michigan and Wisconsin are both so important to both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. They're states that Donald Trump won in 2016 and then lost with a small margin in 2020. Now, they are trying to court back voters and the way that Donald Trump is doing that is by really campaigning these next been these two speeches on his anti-immigration rhetoric, they believe that this is going health carry him back to the White House.

We heard part of that speech in Michigan there. I was just listening to some of it, blaming Joe Biden for recent crimes, blaming immigrants for recent crime, bringing up some of those high-profile cases. I know as we have mentioned, time and time again, again, data shows that migrants and immigrants actually less likely to commit crimes than citizens.

However, there have been these high profile crimes that Donald Trump is continuing to push with this rhetoric, that it is unsafe out there because of former pre -- or excuse me, because of current President Joe Biden.

So that's what's here to do. He's here to try and actually just make his mark on both of these states. Jim, he has not been here in Wisconsin since 2022. Joe Biden on the other hand, has spent an extensive amount of time here, as well as put his surrogates in the state. So they were trying to get their ground game going.

Also, note, Donald Trump hasn't spent a single dollar on ads in state of Wisconsin yet. They say they will eventually do that, but kind of a little bit late here as they are trying to do consider this one of the most critical battleground states.

SCIUTTO: Is there any shift in his speech, his post, et cetera, since the judge expanded the gag order just last night, of course, following Trump's attacks on a family member of the judge involved does -- is he responding to the expansion of that gag order?

HOLMES: I mean, he's not posting the judge's daughter by name anymore. I mean, he's still talking about the judge which doesn't fall under the gag order, but he's not talking specifically about his daughter. He is kind of talking around it.

Here's the thing about Donald Trump that people don't tend to realize, his lawyers are briefing him on just how far up to the line he can go in these social media posts without actually breaking the gag order. He does not want to spend money. Remember, last time he broke a gag order, he had to actually pay a huge fine. He doesn't want to spend that fine, but he doesn't want to walk all the way up to the line.

So that's what you're seeing here, is he's going all the way up, but not quite crossing it. That's because his lawyers have briefed him on exactly what he can say. Also, I'm told that his lawyer is actually look at some of the posts that he puts out there to make sure that he is not breaching that gag order.

SCIUTTO: And yet still making offensive attack. So, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

So let's go to our political panel now, Jackie Kucinich of "The Boston Globe", Molly Ball of "The Wall Street Journal".

Good to have you both on.

I wonder, there is -- there is a narrative Molly Ball and I hate the word narrative and I hit them to sort of narrative phenomenon because its so often wrong. But a narrative that Trump does not need to campaign like other candidates that he has enough visibility on TV, on social media, et cetera. Is that true? That we see that play out in 2020?

I mean, the basic question is, has his absence on the campaign trail or at least to the degree that Biden has been out there, is that likely to hurt him?

MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, we'll see if anything, I think there's a possibility or a counter narrative, if you will that the opposite could be the case, right? The Biden campaign feels that the more people are exposed to Trump and his extreme rhetoric, that the more they will remember how much which they disliked him when he was president.

So it'll be interesting to see if, if, if these rallies have any effect on his standing in these, in these battleground states. Look, I mean, at this moment. He is winning.

[15:25:00] He is ahead in most of these swing states. He is ahead in the national polls. So, he is facing these legal setbacks, which he has tried to use as fodder for his campaign. And I think the question now that we're in the general election phase is number one, does he continue that tactic? Does he continue to believe that the voters are with him when he describes this victimization, this witch hunt, that he believes that judicial system has undertaken against him, or does he abandon that argument, understanding that maybe general election voters are not as open to it as Republican primary voters were.

So, I'm going to be interested to hear whether and how he continues to talk about the legal situation. And then as you say, whether, whether the voters respond to it, whether it improves his standing in some of these swing states, or whether, you know, as we've seen for so long, he continues to sort of defy the rules of political gravity.

SCIUTTO: Trump is attempting to campaign today, Jackie Kucinich, on the situation of the border. Of course, it was Trump under his pressures that House Republicans killed a bipartisan immigration deal that would have increase security the border, raise standards for asylum seekers. Is there any evidence that that is costing him politically or as so often happens in our conversation, does it just sort of fade out of discussion?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think at this point, you have -- particularly people who are attending a Trump rally are not concerned about what he did in terms of killing that bill in the House because there's so much -- I mean, Republicans have spent a lot of time kind of twisting are actually was in the bill and making it seem like it was doing all sorts of things that it actually did not do and that is what's driving the Republicans perhaps to that rally.

I don't think we know yet if that is breaking through, some of the Democratic messaging on that bill, Jim. But he really is leaning in to immigration and really fueling the sort of anti-immigrant -- immigrant rhetoric particularly in the swing states

SCIUTTO: Yeah. I mean, the irony is its not just Democratic political messaging, even Republicans involved in the compromise, they're like -- what's going on here really, how to deal?

KUCINICH: Oh, yeah.

SCIUTTO: Molly Ball, as you know, the Biden campaign has been all over the country more so than Trump has been. His team seems more energized, more engaged. I just wonder, are they seeing any results in internal polling or other polling to show that that's beginning to eat into Trumps lead in many of those swing states?

BALL: I don't think we've seen it show up yet. And as you say, they've been on the ground, they're building out the team, making more hires, putting in more staff. They've spent tens of millions of dollars and TV advertising already. And it hasn't seemed to move the needle.

And I think this is what's really concerning for a lot of Democrats is they feel like the campaign is now engaged -- there was a feeling for a long time there that they were slow to start or they weren't moving off the need -- off the -- off the starting point. But now that it has engaged, things still don't seem to be budgeting and there's a possibility, you know, given that Joe Biden's approval rating has been so low and so steady for so long, despite they all kinds of things that have happened good and bad, I think there is a worry that voters have just turned their backs on him and are not listening and are not necessarily even open to changing their minds.

So that is the real problem that they're confronting. That I think is why you now see this flurry of activity. Why you see them trying harder to prosecute the case against Trump to really engage in that general election contest in an attempt to move the needle. We haven't seen it so far, but, of course, that's the whole point of a campaign.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, next week, his first trial, if we have more than one before the election, we don't know is going to start. This, of course, in New York related to hush money, does that make a difference, right? I mean, it's not a January 6 trial. It's not a federal case related to his attempts to overturn the election viewed as more serious than this one. But to seeing a candidate in a courtroom, does that begin to have a more of an effect than just the -- well, the charges on paper as opposed to seeing the trial play out in action.

KUCINICH: You know, Jim, I think that's a great question and I don't think we know that yet. This has not happened before. We haven't seen a presidential candidate have to go through exactly what the former president is going to go through and whether any of these cases and being taken up this year, we'll have to see, but this is something I know all of us are going to be marching very closely because -- yes, again, people were going to Trump rallies, are going to look at this as victimization, something Trump has been pushing since the very beginning.

However, those voters who may have voted for Biden because they were done with the Trump drama. We saw them in 2020. What they're going to think when they see that is going to be very, very interesting and watched very closely, I think by all of us involved in covering them.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, listen, people are going to be paying attention more as you get closer to the election than perhaps many of the more prior. So as you say, we just don't know yet.

Jackie Kucinich, Molly Ball, thanks so much to both of you.


And still to come this hour, the Supreme Court in Florida is allowing a six-week abortion ban to take effect next month but abortion access will be back directly before voters this November. That story, potential impact, coming up.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back in what would have been seen as a stunning move just a couple of years ago. Florida Supreme Court paved the way for a six-week abortion ban to go into effect next month. That will not, however, be the final word. In a separate ruling, the justices said voters will be able to decide on a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access this November.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is in Miami, Florida, with the latest. So, events in the courtroom but now events at the ballot box coming quite soon.

Tell us how Florida is receiving this news.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right. Jim. So the ballot amendment could and it's a big question. It could expand access to reproductive care, but its going to need a super majority of support. We're talking about 60 percent of voters in Florida. We need to approve it.

Right now, Jim, abortion providers tell us that they're focus really is on the 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.

Now Florida is about to join several other states across the south that's 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 some of these states that have these restrictions.


Now as for this ballot amendments, the Florida Supreme Court, again, they approve the wording of this valid question that would protect the right to an abortion in Florida's state constitution. Now the ballot amendment would prohibit the restriction of an abortion before viability. And that's key here because that's around the 24-week mark. And we're talking about a six-week ban here in Florida.

About 60 percent of voters would have to approve it in November for it to pass. Jim, as you can imagine, both of these rulings are going to play out politically here in Florida come November. Some Democrats have all but said that they are going to campaign on this issue.

And there are even some Republicans in Florida who have said that they are going to campaign in opposition to this ballot amendment. In fact, back the state speaker of the house said he expect there -- he expects there to be pretty robust effort to campaign against this ballot question.

SCIUTTO: Carlos Suarez, thanks so much.

So back to our political panel, Molly Ball and Jackie Kucinich.

I mean, it is remarkable just dial the clock back. I'm talking months right not years, but the idea that Florida, a state with cities such as Miami and it would institute a six-week ban, which lets be frank, is effectively a ban because many women don't know that they're pregnant at the six-week point here. I guess the first question is Molly Ball for Republicans, how big of a danger is this for them politically to see a states such as Florida in pose such a ban?

BALL: Well, we don't know that yet, but I think Democrats feel that this, this joint ruling is absolutely the best-case scenario for them, because first of all, the six-week band will take effect and well give everyone a taste of what its like to actually live under this sort of a restrictive regime in a state that going back to even before Roe was overturned, was the most pro-choice red state, the most pro-abortion rights state, certainly in the South and potentially have any Republican voting state.

And so, there will, you know, be several months of people actually living under this ban. And then they will have a chance to vote to overturn it.

At the same time, you know, I was in Florida in November 2022 when Ron DeSantis, his opponent, was campaigning against him saying that he would further restrict abortion rights at a time when he had already approved a 15-week ban and voters did not see that as a reason to turn on the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. So, I think the way that these potential issues interact with candidates is complicated and we don't know at something like the presidential level, especially how that's going to pan out.

SCIUTTO: Well, we have seen another states that abortion access certainly has gotten voters out, right? I mean, at a minimum and turnout, but, but even in deeply, deeper red states its in Florida is today the Biden campaign. Jackie Kucinich is still -- is clearly, they believe they've got an issue here to run on. They rolled out an ad campaign in Florida.

I want to play a clip of that and get your thoughts.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated and I did it, and I'm proud to have done it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I 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.


SCIUTTO: Not coincidentally today, the Biden campaign put out a memo saying Florida is now a target for their campaign. I mean, Florida, as you know, Jackie has been going redder and redder over time, used to be a purple state.

Is that an uphill battle for them? Is that a long shot?

KUCINICH: It can -- you could definitely be a long shot, but listen, as you said, we've seen when abortion is actually on the ballot, when one of these initiatives is there, it increases turnout for that particular issue. And, you know, it's helped Democrats potentially down ballot and we -- that that is the X factor here, whether that will work as state like Florida.

The other potentially a factor here is that marijuana is going to be on the ballot, too, which is an issue particularly important with young people as is abortion. So we'll see if that turnout increases as well. And it's not only in Florida, it's in Arizona. There are other states that are considered these ballot initiatives that Democrats are looking. And they also have, you know, they have blueprints in other states where they've been able to push these ballot initiatives and to help Democrats.

So, certainly, that is what they're going to be focusing on in Florida, where you're right, it has been an uphill battle in the last couple of cycles.

SCIUTTO: No question.

Molly Ball, I just wonder if Trump has was called Florida is six-week ban a terrible mistake today. His campaign said the following about this law, president Trumps supports preserving life, but also has made clear that he supports states rights because he supports the voters right to make decisions for themselves.

Does Trump actually have a clear position on abortion?


BALL: No, no, he doesn't. I mean as you heard in that ad, he has probably taken credit for appointing the justices overturned Roe, but he hasn't taken a clear position on what he thinks should happen next, and we've seen various reporting about, oh, he wants 15 or 16 or he's going to support some kind of national limit. I think he's facing a lot of pressure from both sides.

I think we know from comments like what he said about the DeSantis six-week ban that he understands the politics of this are very dangerous for Republicans at the same time, the Republican Party is a pro-life party. There's a huge amount of passion behind these activists on the right who so -- who were so powerful in helping Trump get elected in 2016. And they want to hear him take their side in a forceful way and say that he would continue to be good on their issue.

So I think he may at some point have to take a position, but one of the tactics that Trump often employees is he sort of talks on all sides of an issue lets people here, whatever they want. So I think its certainly possible we didn't use to do that. And people who want to hear, oh, he doesn't want six weeks. We'll hear that comment. And people who want it, you're -- oh, he's super pro-life will hear that comment and he just leaves it there.

SCIUTTO: I'm betting some women can see through that way when their own reproductive rights come to bear. But we will certainly watch results in November.

Molly Ball, Jackie Kucinich, thanks so much. Still to come, the state of Ukraine's fight to push back Russia's ongoing invasion with desperately needed U.S. aid is still held up by House Republicans. I'm going to speak one-on-one with a member of Ukraine's parliament. That is next.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Paris meeting with French officials, including President Macron. Four critical talks on Ukraine, this as Ukraine claims one of its long-range drones hit one of Russia's biggest oil refineries located some 700 miles inside Russia.


The secretary of state weighed in on this earlier today.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It has been our view and policy from day one when it comes to Ukraine, to do everything we possibly can to help Ukraine defend itself against this Russian aggression. At the same time, we have neither supportive nor enabled strikes by Ukraine outside of its territory.


SCIUTTO: U.S. secretary of state separating the U.S. somewhat from those strikes inside Russia.

Joining me now is a Ukrainian member of parliament, Oleksiy Goncharenko.

Thanks so much for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: First, I want to ask about these strikes specifically targeting oil facilities and infrastructure inside Russia. This one particularly deep inside, some 700 miles, a Ukrainian drone. Does this signify a new capability, a new strategy in Russia's -- in Ukraine's war against Russia?

GONCHARENKO: Definitely, we need to make Russians feel the war in the case that they will never stop this war. And Ukraine has all the rights to defend itself also by taking the objects and Russian territory. Unfortunately, Russia is able to attack all Ukrainian territory until the last each.

But as you see, Ukrainian capabilities to attack Russian territories are also increasing. And that is very good. And we need to destroy everything we can first of all, such critical things as refineries, as the military production spots as long as we can. That's the only way for us to win this war. SCIUTTO: As you know, U.S. aid to Ukraine remains stalled. The House Speaker Johnson said he's working on a plan, but in fact, members of the House, they just went on a two-week vacation. I wonder, do you trust the U.S. as an ally at this point? Do you still trust that the U.S. is going to come through with this aid?

GONCHARENKO: You know, the question -- the bigger question is, what the world will think about the United States as a partner, as a leader if their support to grain will continue to be stalled? Because the United States, we will be with you as long as it takes, as long as it will be needed, and then just two years, the full-scale invasion. And already almost half year, the support of Ukraine is stalled in the Congress and we hear about new ideas here are some speaker now to connect it with a gas or something like this. What is the -- I can't understand what is common between the southern border of the United States, natural gas or anything else, internal U.S. issues with Ukraine.

And I really can't understand this. I understand that democracy needs time, thereby it needs time, but half a year. And you, every day Ukrainians are losing their lives in this fight for democracy and our common values and against Russian tyranny, which aids United States of America. And Putin is very openly saying, this is the war not against Ukraine, this is the war against Anglo-Saxons, against United States and United Kingdom and in such situation with countries seem the help and support which we were promised. It's very disappointing.

SCIUTTO: It sounds like you don't believe that as long as it takes promise anymore.

GONCHARENKO: I want to believe and I hope that this time after Easter holidays, the U.S. Congress will have finally decision. But I really can't understand what Speaker Johnson and unfortunately, a part of Republicans are doing now with a support to Ukraine. It's in the best interest of the United States of America to help Ukraine, to stop this tyranny, to avoid the worst-case scenario when Putin is absorbing Ukraine than a checking next European countries where already United States forces are deployed and they will need to give their lives stopping this tyrant.

So, I really can't understand this. And I address them -- asking them to make a decision to help us and don't -- to forget that the vast majority of this money will stay the United States of America, will come to the U.S. average, giving jobs to American people.

SCIUTTO: No question. That points been made even by Republicans in this country.

President Zelenskyy said recently that without U.S. aid, Ukrainian forces may have to retrieve, particularly with expectations now of a new Russian push, perhaps in April, later in April, in May. Do you agree with that?

GONCHARENKO: President Zelenskyy knows better than me. He has more information than I have.


And it's clear that without weaponry, it will be very hard for us to keep the frontline but we need to win this war.

It can't last forever. The whole world suffers from this. One more thing which I want to remind our Republican friends, and in general to the United States of America is that its not just a will of United States to support Ukraine, it's not a charity. Thirty years ago, United States of America gave guarantees to Ukraine when we voluntarily gave up our nuclear weaponry, the United States of America will help us to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

If it will not happen, what will be the signal to the whole world? What will be with the non-proliferation policy? That will be the end of nonproliferation policy in the world. That will be the end of international law.

The consequences will be awful and everybody on the planet will feel it.

SCIUTTO: I've heard quite the same from officials both in Europe and in Asia.

Oleksiy Goncharenko, thanks so much for joining us.

GONCHARENKO: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, severe weather firing up in parts of the U.S., including the threat of long track tornados as well. We're going to have a forecast coming up.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

At this hour, millions of Americans are under threat of severe storms. There's even the possibility of long track tornados as they're called. Already more than 200,000 customers are without power.

CNN's Chad Myers is tracking it all.

Chad, where has it started? Where is it stopping? I mean, listen, when I look at that map, that's a big chunk of the country.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And now, a new tornado watch just for Cincinnati, Ohio, too. But Evansville is the place that it just started. The sirens were going off about ten minutes ago. Things have calmed down. The storm kind of moved over toward Chandler and then away from the city.

But the first tornado warning really of the afternoon, we expect a lot more just put it that way in many more places. And the problem, Jim, is that some of these storms are traveling at 50 miles per hour. You may only have a few minutes when your siren goes off or your phone goes off or NOAA weather radio goes off, get some place quickly, don't say, oh, I've got some few -- I got a few minutes. No, you don't because there's a lot of sunshine here right now and that's bad.

That sunshine is the fuel to the heat to the ground, to the heat, the storms and those storms want to go up in the air.


And when they go up in the air and they begin to rotate and they're moving in a jet stream, that's almost 100 miles per hour. These storms roll on by, they start to pick up steam as long as they're on the ground and in the air, they start to get faster and faster. So you may only have moments after you hear the alarms today.

So here's the Evansville storm right there, only a severe thunderstorm warning on it as the rotation kind of settled down, but the rotation was honestly right over the town of Evansville. This was right over the city. And then down to the south, more storms firing.

This is a long area from the Gulf Coast all the way up into Ohio. So, yes, we will seem storms today. Some of them will rotate, some of them will put down golf ball, tennis ball-sized hail, and others will make wins at 60 to 70 miles per hour.

So don't get in the way this is just a big rake that's going to go right across the Ohio Valley today. And, yes, Jim, that snow -- snow coming to New England.


MYERS: There's snow coming just to the west of Chicago because the cold ones to fight the warm, and that's why we're getting the storms right now.

SCIUTTO: Lets hope it clears by next week. I'll count on you to manage that.

Chad Myers, thanks so much.

MYERS: I don't know. We'll see.

SCIUTTO: Speaking of next week, join us Monday for the total solar eclipse as it travels from Mexico across the United States and into Canada. Experienced the total eclipse from numerous locations, along with plenty of science and excitement along the way. our special coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And thanks so much for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.