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Middle East On Edge Following Iranian Attack On Israel; IDF: 99% Of Iranian Barrage Intercepted; Biden Meets With G7 Leaders After Iran's Attack On Israel; Hezbollah, IDF Exchange Fire Along Lebanon- Israel Border; White House Calls For House Vote On Israel-Ukraine Aid; Jury Selection In Trump's Historic Criminal Trial Begins Tomorrow. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 13:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. And welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world for our special live coverage of Iran's attack on Israel.

And we begin with the breaking news right now the world on edge. Following an unprecedented attack against Israel by Iran. For the first time, Iran launched a direct assault on Israeli territory threatened to escalate an already volatile situation in the Middle East. The variety sent waves of explosive drones and ballistic missiles. A response Iran says for a deadly attack at an Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier this month. A coalition of the Israel Defense Forces the IDF, including the U.S. and the UK, shot down nearly all of the more than 300 munitions, whose missiles and rockets and missiles launched by Iran. Now the world is waiting to see how Israel will respond. The Israeli war cabinet met today with one member calling to quote, exact a price over Iran assault, and the United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting in the next few hours.

We're also getting new details right now about that phone conversation between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden affirming that the United States is iron clyde's (ph) -- iron close -- iron clad support for Israel exists. But telling Netanyahu the United States will not repeat -- not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

I want to bring in our team of excellent reporters who are covering the story from around the world monitoring all the late breaking developments for the Middle East, as well as here in Washington. And let's go to our chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, first she's in Tel Aviv for us.

Clarissa first of all, is there any indication at least at this point of what Israel's response will look like?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't have any exact indication, Wolf. As you mentioned, that war cabinet meeting lasted some hours. It's now over, there hasn't been any kind of formal announcement, people waiting to hear some kind of a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We did hear from Central War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz earlier who said that essentially, Israel was hoping to put together a regional coalition and that it would exact a price on Iran at the time and in the manner of its own choosing. So, the question now becomes, what does that response look like?

Certainly, we are seeing a lot of pressure from certain quarters politically, particularly. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, calling Benny Gantz's comments, hollow Western catchphrases, saying that it was important to have a robust, strong response to essentially reinstate a real deterrent. At the same time, though, Ben-Gvir (INAUDIBLE) and others are not part of that war cabinet. And it does seem the longer we wait, the more time Israel takes to make this decision, that potentially it is pursuing a course of precision calibration, listening to the strong words of guidance that have been given from President Biden at the White House, urging restraint and not to escalate, making it clear that the U.S. would not be part of any retaliatory strike against Iran.

At this stage, things here are getting back to some sense of normalcy, but schools will remain close, Wolf, the airport open here, but in Iran airports and civilian aircraft, not operational through Monday, as everyone in the region keenly awaits and Israeli response, Wolf.

BLITZER: Give us a sense Clarissa have the mood -- the mood in Israel right now.

WARD: I would say it's remarkably calm, given the situation, people are going about their daily business and it's important to have underscore that despite the scope and scale of this attack, 99 percent of those 300 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, drones were intercepted, there was one case of a seven-year-old girl from the Negev, who was seriously injured, but otherwise no real injuries. There was also of course, a few cases of ballistic missiles that successfully made landfall. They -- they did some minor infrastructural damage to the Nevatim Air Force Base, that's where those F-35s are base, Iran saying that it had targeted that base because it believes that's where the attack against its consulate in Damascus originated on April 1st.


But for the most part, very little evidence of damage here. The question really becoming though Wolf, what does this mean for the region going forward? Do we now risk an all-out conflagration or will cooler heads prevail, Wolf?

BLITZER: We will find out sooner rather than later, I am sure. All right. Clarissa Ward in Tel Aviv for us. We'll get back to you soon.

I want to go to our White House correspondent, Priscilla Alvarez right now. Priscilla, as you know, President Biden met with G7 leaders just a little while ago to discuss potentially some sort of diplomatic response to Iran's unprecedented attack against Israel. What more are you hearing about those conversations?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The focus here at the White House has been containing the risk of a wider regional conflict. And as you mentioned, that call between President Biden and G7 leaders concluded only moments ago and the emphasis was on non-military actions finding diplomatic way forward and a senior administration official telling reporters only minutes ago that they had a detailed and constructive conversation about Iran but did not disclose any details as to what exactly that's going to look like moving forward.

Now, the President and his national security team members have made clear to their Israeli counterparts, including in that call between President Biden and the Israeli Prime Minister just yesterday, that they will not participate in any offensive actions against Iran. And the U.S. assessment thus far has been that as Israel should take the win on this, that they were able to respond promptly and in real time to Iran's brazen attack, as the White House has put it against Israel. And National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby detailing that success earlier this morning.

Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESMAN: And think about what they threw at Israel.


KIRBY: Several hundred drones and missiles over the course of a few hours. And what damage did they cause? Not very much. I mean, it was an incredible effort by Israel. But also, it shows that Iran is not the -- the military power weight that that they -- that they claim to be.


ALVAREZ: Of course, the question, as you heard earlier from Clarissa is whether the Israeli Prime Minister takes the advice of the United States. Of course, he too is under political pressure back at home. So that is a question here at the White House right now. And we know that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had also asked his counterpart to advisor tell and notify the White House ahead of time if there is a response.

But for now, the White House keeping the focus on making sure that this does not result in a wider regional conflict. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much, Priscilla Alvarez, reporting from the White House for us.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is also with us right down. And Natasha, what measures does the U.S. currently have in place to defend Israel from any further attacks? NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of U.S. military firepower in the Middle East right now, of course, because assets were surged there after October 7th, and they remained there. But also in the last week, the President surged additional destroyers, warships, of course, that can shoot down ballistic missiles, he also surged additional aircraft to the region, all of which was capable and did take part in shooting down these missiles and drones last night.

And so that really forms the bulk I think of the U.S. military presence there. And it just underscores just how robust it is. I mean, even in the wake of October 7th, when aircraft carriers were searched there, including one that currently remains in the Red Sea, you saw that the U.S. was preparing for the possibility of an escalation, something that the U.S. has been trying to avoid, of course, over the last several months, and in fact, you saw the U.S. start to pull back some of that firepower over the last several weeks, including a Marine Expeditionary Unit that was in the eastern Mediterranean, because it seemed like the risk of an escalation between Iran and Israel was not going to happen. But then of course, you see that how quickly things can spiral. And of course, Israel did make that decision to strike that building in Damascus, that Iran says was a consulate and that then created a really an additional need for the U.S. to surge, more assets there.

And so, I think what you're seeing now is of course abroad coalition of not only the U.S. helping the Israeli shoot down all of these incoming, this massive barrage, but also of course its allies including the United Kingdom.


And so, the bottom line here is that even amid all the disagreements, of course, and even stronger than that, really the outright confrontation that the U.S. has had with Israel over its conduct in the war in Gaza, the fact remains that the U.S. remains militarily committed to protecting Israel. And not only do they have military assets in the region, to do so. But they also, of course, have continued to sell Israel, this offensive and defensive military equipment, something that, of course, has been controversial here. But when you see what happened last night, you know, the administration would argue that that is exactly why it's necessary.

BLITZER: I don't know if you know the answer but, the Israeli say what 99 percent of the incoming cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and the other munitions coming in from Iran, towards Israel were intercepted successfully and destroyed. Do we -- we know that the Israelis have a very strong air defense system within Israel over Israeli proper, but the U.S. was deeply involved together with some others like the UK, in intercepting incoming Iranian drones and other missiles as they were approaching Israel.

Do we know how many of those Iranian missiles and drones were knocked out, were intercepted by the U.S.?

BERTRAND: So, we do have some sense. And we got this from a defense official just late last night that the U.S. intercepted more than 70 drones and at least three ballistic missiles and those ballistic missiles were in fact intercepted by those U.S. Navy destroyers that were in the eastern Mediterranean, including the USS Kearny and the USS Arleigh Burke. So, they did a lot of work there as well.

BLITZER: Very important work helping Israel indeed, preventing those missiles and those rockets and weapons coming in and potentially could land in heavily civilian, populated areas of Israel. Thank you very much, Natasha for that.

We're taking a quick break. We'll have much more we come back including the very swift reaction from countries in the region and indeed around the world to Iran's attack on Israel.

And next hour, I'll be speaking live with the Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a live, exclusive interview on this unprecedented attack against Israel.



BLITZER: As Israel scrambled to intercept that unprecedented attack from Iran, the IDF was also involved in very heavy back and forth fighting with Hezbollah. The Iran backed group, Hezbollah launched a significant number of rockets from southern Lebanon into the Israeli occupied Golan Heights area on the border with Syria early Sunday. Hezbollah which has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the bombing of Iran consulate Damascus issued a statement saying the attacks were in support of Palestinians in Gaza. All this comes after the IDF says it carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including a large military complex. The stepped-up attacks are raising concerns that the war in Gaza could quickly spread throughout the region.

We have team coverage and how the region is responding right now. Our Scott McLean is in Istanbul, Turkey. But let's begin with Ben Wedeman, he's in Beirut, Lebanon for us.

Ben, Hezbollah, just released a statement praising Iran's attack on Israel. So, give us a sense how might Israel now respond to what Hezbollah is up to?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of Hezbollah, really what we know is that Hezbollah has sent messages indirectly, of course didn't Iran was going to respond to Israel's attack on the consulate in Damascus. And that appears to be what happened. Now last night after we got the news that drones had been launched from Iran, there was a volley of Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah and Israeli air and missile defense positions in the Golan Heights. But Hezbollah framed it as basically part of its ongoing support for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Nonetheless, the fear is that if the situation escalates, if Israel responds to last night, say Iranian attack on Israel, then certainly that could change. We a few days ago spoke to a senior official, rather and source close to Hezbollah, who told us that although Iran would be the author of the response to Israel, if there is a counter attack by Israel and the situation escalates, Iran and Iran's other affiliates and allies in the region would become more directly involved.

So, what we've seen so far today, Wolf, is a somewhat lower level of strike and counter strike between Israel and Hezbollah. Now, Israel did strike deep inside Lebanon, in the Beqaa Valley, hitting a building the Israelis claimed was used as a weapons manufacturing site. That's far deeper than the normal Israeli strikes. But the actual number of strikes is lowered -- dramatically lower in fact, than what it was yesterday. And I think everyone is waiting to see is Israel going to hit Iran after last night? That will probably determine where Israel and where Hezbollah go into conflict when it comes to when -- when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.



BLITZER: Give us a sense, Ben, you're there in Beirut for us, city I've been to. Give us a sense of the mood among Lebanese right now especially in Beirut as they watch what's going on. There's no great love between so many Lebanese and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as you well know. And a few months ago, there were even some talks of Israel and Lebanon in proving their relationship. Give us a sense of what's going on right now in the streets of Beirut.

WEDEMAN: As you rightly mentioned, there is a real division of opinion about Hezbollah, Hezbollah has some very fervent supporters, and also some very fervent critics here. But what we saw last night was there was a real jolt of fear that Lebanon could be drawn into this war, we saw people queuing up at petrol stations to stock up in the event, things really got worse. We saw the (INAUDIBLE) space being closed, the airport closed down

It does appear that people are bright -- are breathing a sigh of relief, because it does seem that perhaps the worst has passed. But there's that nagging fear here that things could very dramatically change, as we saw in 2006, war broke out between Hezbollah and Israel sort of from the morning to midday. And so, people are very worried constantly watching what's going on -- on the southern border here. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, a very tense situation, indeed. Ben Wedeman, stay safe over there. Thank you very much.

I want to go to Scott McLean in Istanbul for us right now. Scott, you have some new reporting on how Turkey, a NATO ally shared information with the U.S. about the attacks coming in from Iran. Tell our viewers what you know.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, yes, so the Iranian foreign minister had said previously today that it had informed its neighbors in advance of its intention to strike. And we now know through a Turkish diplomatic source that one of those neighbors that was informed was, in fact, Turkey, which then through the Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was able to pass that information to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who then in turn, was able to get a message pass back to the Iranians.

And so, Turkey was very much acting as a go between -- between the two countries. And so, I just want to read you what this diplomatic source told me. They said, quote, the Iranian side informed us about the options in advance. Possible developments were also discussed during the call with Blinken, which was on Wednesday, by the way. The American side convened --conveyed to Iran through us that the reaction should remain within certain limits. In response, Iran said that the response would be a retaliation to the attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus, and would not go beyond that.

And Wolf, we also know, again, through diplomatic sources in Turkey, that the Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke with his Iranian counterpart today, again, with a message of de-escalation, they do not want to see an inflammation of tensions in this region. And he also spoke with the British Foreign Secretary David Cameron with a very similar message about bringing down the temperature on all of this.

BLITZER: Let's see if that happens. How are other regional powers, Scott responding to all of this?

MCLEAN: Yes, the messaging so far Wolf, as you can imagine, is quite measured in the Middle East, because these are the countries that have the most to lose, should things really go off the rails here. And so that's why you have the Jordanians urging restraint, you have the Emiratis warning of new levels of instability. And you have the Saudis who said this, in part, the Foreign Ministry said this, in part, the UN Security Council must act to prevent the crisis from escalating which would have grave consequences if it expands. And the Egyptian foreign ministry seemed to indicate that all of this was rather predictable, saying, quote, The escalation is nothing but a direct result of what Egypt has repeatedly warned about, regarding the dangers of expanding the conflict in the region, as a result of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip and the provocative military actions being exercised in the region.

Of course, it's not clear which side that's referring to that last line. But of course, there have been provocative actions from both the Israelis and also from the Iranians through their proxies in the region for some time leading up to this. Wolf.

BLITZER: Scott McLean, reporting for us from Istanbul. Will stay in close touch. Thank you very much.

Still to come, we'll have much more of our special coverage of Iran's attack on Israel. Israel's War Cabinet has met today to discuss the immediate next steps the country will take. We're live in Jerusalem.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[13:29:13] BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're following all the latest developments out of the Middle East right now after Iran launched an unprecedented wave of retaliatory strikes against Israel. Here's what we're learning.

President Biden met virtually today with G7 leaders on what he called an urgent diplomatic response to Iran's attack against Israel. The White House posted on X formerly known as Twitter, saying the leaders quote, condemned Iran's unprecedented attack against Israel and reaffirmed the G7's commitment to Israel's security, close quote.

Earlier the President told the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States will not repeat -- not participate in any offensive operations against Iran.


CNN correspondent Jeremy Diamond is watching all of this unfold. He's joining us from Jerusalem right now.

So, Jeremy, I take it Israel's work cabinet also has been meeting today. What's the latest you're hearing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf, if Israel's war cabinet convened for nearly five hours today, and I just spoke with an Israeli official who tells me that the meeting ended tonight without a decision being made on how and when Israel will respond to this unprecedented large-scale attack that Iran carried out on Israel in the wee hours of the morning. The Israeli war cabinet, I'm told, is still determined to respond to Iran, but it is -- has yet to decide on the timing and the scope of such a military response.

One of the key dilemmas I'm told that is facing the war cabinet is exactly when to respond to Iran, in part because there is still a war going on in Gaza that the Israeli cabinet, including the Israeli prime minister has been, has said that they are determined to continue to carry out and to expand, including with a potential major ground defensive into Rafah. I'm told that this war cabinet meeting Wolf ended with the Israeli military being tasked with coming up with additional options for how to respond to the threat from Iran to this attack that was carried out by Iran.

So, a lot still to be determined. And this war cabinet meeting today ending after nearly five hours of deliberations between the war cabinet, Israel's top general, the Mossad director, but without a decision. Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm just curious, did this meeting, the war cabinet meeting, the meeting that the Prime Minister had with his national security advisors. Did they meet in Jerusalem? Or did they meet in Tel Aviv where the Israeli Defense Ministry is?

DIAMOND: Wolf, they met at the -- in Tel Aviv at the -- at the Kirya, I believe, which is where the Israeli war cabinet has been typically convening throughout the course of this six-month war. The government has effectively in many ways moved to Tel Aviv for the majority of the time because of how much time managing this war has been taking on -- on -- on this -- on this governments.

So, my understanding is that they were indeed once again at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant. I think that's important. Indeed. We also learned today, Jeremy that the IDF is activating more reserved brigades for Gaza. What do we know about that?

DIAMOND: Not a ton of information, Wolf. But it is quite a significant development, especially in light of the fact that over the course of the last several weeks, we have seen the Israeli military draw down its military presence on the ground in Gaza, most notably, last week, the Israeli military withdrawing all of its forces from Southern Gaza after completing its military operations in that southern city of Khan Younis. Until now, there has only been really one Israeli military brigade remaining inside the Gaza Strip. And that is the brigade that is -- is basically managing the Netzarim Corridor, which separates northern Gaza from the rest of the Gaza Strip, and in its call up order tonight, the Israeli military saying that it is calling up two additional reserve brigade specifically for central Gaza.

And so that may mean additional security measures that are being taken along that corridor. We also know Wolf that this comes as we saw today that many Palestinians had started to try and make their way back into northern Gaza. The Israeli military appeared based on reports on the ground to have allowed some of those Gazans women and children to return to northern Gaza, but a chaotic situation did indeed ensue. And so perhaps this is a measure designed to provide additional security for those types of operations.

There is also of course, Wolf, the fact that the Israeli government has continued to vow that they will press on with a major offensive in Rafah, I don't think that two reserve brigades will be anywhere close to enough to carry out the kind of major ground defensive that they have been talking about. But it could potentially Wolf, be a prelude to one of the things that needs to happen before that ground defensive is evacuating civilians from Rafah to the central part of the Gaza Strip. That could also be a major consideration at this time.

BLITZER: And very quickly, give us a sense of the mood in Jerusalem, because we heard the sirens going off, the interceptions going over the skies of Jerusalem overnight. Give us a sense of the mood of what's happening in Jerusalem right now.

DIAMOND: Well, I would say that things are relatively quiet, but people have by and large return to their normal lives. But a couple of caveats to that, which is that the Israeli military has decided to prolong its directives to Israel civilian population. Schools are remaining close through the end of tomorrow at least, large gatherings are being this -- advice -- and people are being advised against holding large gatherings particularly near the Gaza Strip as well as the northern part of Israel and in the Golan Heights.


So there certainly is still a sense of tension, a sense of uncertainty about what will come next. But for now, at least, it appears that the immediate threat of more Iranian drones and missiles is over.

BLITZER: Let's hope it is. Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much. Jeremy is in Jerusalem for us.

Still to come. The House Speaker Mike Johnson and the House Republicans are working on the details right now of a major aid package for Israel. I'll discuss that and more with Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: After Iran's attack on Israel, the White House is now calling for a floor vote in Congress on Israel Ukraine funding as soon as possible. The Senate has already passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill, but it has been stalled in the House of Representatives.

I'm joined now by Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. He's a member -- a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, let me start by getting your immediate reaction to Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): We just said it right, Wolf, and thanks for having me unprecedented right for Iran to attack Israel on Israeli soil. And what they fired in Israel, right. It's just incredible between the drones and the SAMs, right and the cruise and ballistic missiles. But what was also unprecedented was how Israel working with United States and other key allies, including not just France and Britain, but of course, the Saudis and Jordanians knocking out all missiles headed their way 99 percent of them, just that that also was incredible -- incredible show of strength.

BLITZER: Yes, it was really impressive that that's just the U.S. And its European allies like the UK and France, were helping Israel not -- not get rid of those -- intercepting those rockets and missiles as they were coming towards Israel. But even some of the Arab countries, were providing some assistance as well.

Explain why you think that was going on?

GOTTHEIMER: I mean, first of all, as you know, several of the Arab countries are -- are not on the best side with -- with Iran to begin with, right? I mean, understanding that their terrorist proxies seek to do them harm as well, just like the tariffs proxies, like Hamas, and Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. And those that were firing out of the Houthis and out of Iraq, are not just interested in doing harm to Israel and to the United States, but to many of these Arab countries.

So, you saw a great unified force in response to Iran. I think the key is to continue to stand up to Iran and make it very clear through additional sanctions and other moves that that Iran working with China and Russia, and North Korea are our top adversaries. You see what's going on in Ukraine, with -- with Russia still working with Iran. You know, these -- these pieces are all connected, all interested in doing harm to our key democratic allies. And I think that's what's on the line. And why, as you said, it's so important that we get this package passed as passed out of the Senate bipartisan with 70 votes, has been waiting for a vote in the House that'll provide aid to Ukraine, to Taiwan, of course, to Israel and get humanitarian aid into the region, which of course, is also essential.

BLITZER: Yes, so important right now. Earlier today, the House Speaker Mike Johnson, the Republican, of course, indicated he hopes to bring an Israel aid package to the floor of the House this week.

Listen to this.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: The House Republicans and the Republican Party understand the necessity of standing with Israel. We're going to try again this week. And the details of that package are being put together right now. We're looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.


BLITZER: So, Congressman, it's still unclear, at least to me, if that aid package would also include funding for Ukraine. Is that a deal breaker if this bill for Israel doesn't also include funding for Ukraine?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, as you've pointed out, it's unclear to all of us and I'm hopeful that Speaker Johnson will do the right thing and bring this aid package. It's passed out of the Senate to the floor, we could get it to the President's desk as early as Monday night, if we vote on it, and I'm confident that we could vote and pass it. But that's the question here. Right. Will -- will he bring that bill to the floor? If he brings another option, what does that option look like? And is it something that we could get out of the Senate? Right?

But -- but the bottom line is we don't have time to delay here. And that's been clear coming out of Ukraine of how dire straits they're in. You see what the attack on Israel yesterday, our key ally in the region, our critical ally in the fight against terror against Hamas and Hezbollah, and of course, Iran. We see the threats that they can pose, we need to make sure we stand with our ironclad relationship with Israel and now more than ever. And don't forget, Wolf, we have hostages Americans who were still hostage as we speak, after they killed 40 Americans, we still have five Americans who are hostage including one who lives in my district, Edan Alexander, who's 20 years old, has been a hostage for six -- more than six months and his parents have not heard a peep from him or from anybody about his safety.


BLITZER: Let's hope he's OK. In that phone conversation that they had overnight, Congressman, President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the United States won't participate in any counter attack against Iran, out of fears that may spark a regional, much wider war. Do you agree with the President's stance?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, none of us want to a wider regional war. At the same time, you know, if I'm going to leave it to Israel, to make her own decisions on the after what she faced last night, after the country was attacked with 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles, 30 cruise missiles, I'll just say, Wolf, if that had happened to the United States of America, on our soil if they attack in New York, and I'm sure we'd be having a very different conversation today.

So, you know, again, I will leave it to our key ally and the President have private conversations about what the best next step is here. I think the key, let's just not take our eye off the ball as well about getting that temporary pause and the hostages home as quickly as humanly possible. And making sure of course, we get aid into the region. But you might imagine what it's like in Israel today, after Jerusalem with the rockets firing over Jerusalem last night, this massive onslaught first (ph) unprecedented with Iran attacking Israel on its soil, and with its proxies attacking as well. Right. And this was an all -- all-out effort to attack Israel last night, our key democratic ally.

BLITZER: We will see what happens in the coming hours and days. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thanks as usual for joining us.

GOTTHEIMER: Thanks, Wolf. Good to see you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll have much more of our special coverage on the escalating conflict right now in the Middle East. In minutes, the Israeli President Isaac Herzog will join me live for an exclusive interview on this unprecedented Iranian attack against Israel.

Plus, former President Donald Trump got back in a courtroom this week. Jury selection is expected to start tomorrow in his historic criminal hush money trial. What to expect? We'll check it on that as well.



BLITZER: Much more on our special coverage of Iran's unprecedented attack against Israel, just ahead. But we're also following a historic trial that's about to begin. Jury selection is set to begin tomorrow morning in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial in New York City after a series of legal attempts by the former president's lawyers to delay it.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to keep voters back in 2016 from finding out about allegations he had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.

CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers is joining us right now.

As you know, Jennifer, Trump is not only a former president, but a very polarizing figure. Hard to find people who don't have strong views about him either negative or positive. And given that, his legal team's penchant for pushing for delays. How do you see these next few days actually playing out beginning with jury selection tomorrow morning, assuming it starts on time?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you're certainly right Wolf, it's hard to find jurors who don't have strong views about Trump one way or the other. It's really unprecedented to have a defendant like this, it's going to be interesting to watch. The judge has already said he's going to allow people to self-identify as having conflicts or views that are too strong to serve on the jury. So that'll cut out a whole bunch of folks.

You know, it's going to be a big deal for both sides, but especially for prosecutors here because of course, they need 12 jurors unanimously to convict the former president, whereas Trump only needs one juror to say that they won't convict in order to at least hang (INAUDIBLE) anyone with (INAUDIBLE) a bias that doesn't allow them to fairly deliberate, whereas Trump only, you know, doesn't have to have that same burden. So, it's going to be interesting to watch.

BLITZER: It's going to be a very complicated jury selection. How long do you think it could take?

RODGERS: Well, they're saying a week. So, I think probably between a week and two weeks, there's just hundreds and hundreds of people to get through. And the parties will want to ask questions as follow on to 42 questions in the questionnaire. So, I'm thinking a week to two weeks, we'll hopefully have a jury seated.

BLITZER: Interesting. The big picture, Jennifer, how do you assess the strength of this case against Trump?

RODGERS: Well, it's a strong case on paper, certainly. I mean, it's not a complicated case. There's nothing really in it that should give anyone any pause, except the issue of his intent and whether the falsification of the business records was intending to interfere with the election. That's really the important thing here because it makes what would otherwise be misdemeanors into felonies. So that's the only even halfway challenging case.

The real challenge here though, is of course, again, can you see the fair jury? What will jurors think of Michael Cohen, who is corroborated by other evidence, but it's so polarizing has such obvious distaste for his former boss? And that's really -- and then the other question, of course, is will trump testify? And if he testifies, man, that will be the blockbuster and that will really impact the jury, whether you know, however it goes, especially cross examination.

BLITZER: He says happy to testify. We'll see if that actually does happen, though. Jennifer Rogers Thank you very, very much.


The historic first criminal trial of the former President Donald Trump begins with jury selection in New York City tomorrow morning. Stay with CNN for special live coverage. The Trump Hush Money Trial starts tomorrow morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern, it will be -- we'll have a special coverage starting and then it'll be streaming on max as well.

We're also following breaking developments right now out of the Middle East. The region is on very high alert after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel. In just minutes, the Israeli President Isaac Herzog will join me from Jerusalem live for an exclusive interview on this unprecedented attack against Israel.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.