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Middle East On Edge Following Iranian Attack On Israel; Interview With Israeli President Isaac Herzog; Iran Informed Turkey In Advance Of Attack, Turkey Then Informed The U.S.; Hezbollah, IDF Exchange Fire Along Lebanon-Israel Border; Middle East On Edge Following Iranian Attack On Israel; Jury Selection In Trump's Historic Criminal Trial Begins Tomorrow. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 14:00   ET




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

And we start with the breaking news.

Leaders around the world are responding after that unprecedented Iranian attack on Israel, the first time Iran has ever launched a direct assault from inside Iran on Israeli territory. In two hours, the United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the escalating, very dramatic tensions that are unfolding.

This afternoon, leaders of the G7 met virtually trying to work out a potential diplomatic response to this Iranian attack. And the Israeli war cabinet also has been meeting just a short time ago to weigh its response.

No decision was made, at least we're told that no decision was made at least not yet, but war cabinet member Benny Gantz is vowing to exact a price, his words, exact a price from Iran for the assault.

President Joe Biden, pledging "ironclad", his words, "ironclad" U.S. support for Israel in a phone call with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But he also warned that the United States will not participate in any offensive operations against Iran.

For all the latest developments on the ground in Israel, let's go to CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's joining us live from Jerusalem right now.

Jeremy, the situation in the region clearly is very tenuous, shall we -- shall we say right now. What is the feeling there as we near 24 hours since Iran launched this attack against Israel.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the waves of drones and missiles that Iran fired at Israel in the early hours of this morning have subsided. But this remains a moment of extraordinary tension, extraordinary uncertainty about what the future may hold, certainly an inflection point in terms of whether or not these tensions, these clashes between Iran and Israel could escalate into something far more significant.

Already this morning, early this morning, these attacks carried out by Iran were the first time that they have attacked Israel directly. And so today Israel's war cabinet meeting for nearly five hours.

But I'm told Wolf that -- by an Israeli official that the war cabinet did not make a decision on exactly how or when it will respond militarily towards Iran.

But one thing is clear, Wolf is that Israel will respond. That has been the resounding sentiment from multiple Israeli officials who I've spoken to today.

And one thing I understand from this war cabinet meeting is that the timing of this attack -- of a potential Israeli response on Iran is one of the dilemmas that the war cabinet was facing today.

And so the Israeli military has now been tasked with coming up with additional options for the war cabinet to consider as they prepare for a possible response.

But there's no doubt Wolf that much remains to be determined and that the next days to come will be critical in terms of Israel's decision and the fate of the region, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you. Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem, Thank you very much.

And joining us now, also from Jerusalem, the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog. Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us. I know you're you have a lot going on.

In the wake of this unprecedented Iranian --


BLITZER: -- attack against Israel, give us an assessment. What is the latest you could tell us on what's going on right now?

HERZOG: So we have to understand that what we're seeing, unraveling in front of our eyes is a reality that has been there for at least a decade or two decades, meaning an empire of evil headed from Tehran, which has an objective -- has an objective two radicalize, derail any peace processes, overthrow regimes, bring havoc and terror throughout the Middle East, of course eliminate Israel with a jihadist philosophy, with proxies, but also hold terror cells all over the world.

Now, this empire of evil has shown what it wants to achieve. And in front of it, it was met by a strong coalition and was met by an incredible Israeli army and air force, incredibly younger offices and commanders, and by an incredible partnership of nations, which I want to thank wholeheartedly -- a coalition of nations led by the United States of America. And I want to thank President Biden for his leadership.


BLITZER: Israel and its allies, including the United States, as you know, intercepted 99 percent of those Iranian missiles and drones coming towards Israel. President Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu, we should consider this a win -- his words, you should consider this a win. Is this a win and what message does all this send to Iran?

HERZOG: So it was an overall campaign from all four corners of the Middle East aimed at Israel it was almost like a "Star War" night because you had the incredible technologies went into this throughout in various layers and incredible column coordination.

And it shows that we are united when we are together and when we fight against evil together. Naturally, I absolutely agree that we are victorious and we were victorious in this. But one has to also take into account that this was a very aggressive and brutal attack on Israel.

And under the circumstances, I think the decision of the war cabinet, which is convening right now, will take into account all the measures that are required to defend and protect the people of Israel

BLITZER: You've called what Iran did a declaration of war.

But Iran seems to have telegraphed what it was going to be doing. Do you assess Iran really once the spark a wider war, a conflict with Israel? Or are they more interested in narrowly responding to that deadly attack on Iran's consulate in Damascus, Syria.

HERZOG: So I would say of course that what I meant was that in terms of the size and scope, we're talking over 500 drones and missiles, and you know, ballistic missiles, et cetera. This was a very aggressive and brutal attack, which looks like a declaration of war.

But I also added immediately to say that we are not seeking war. We are seeking always peace. We want to reach peace in the region. That's what we're striving for throughout the years and we were met by a horrific massacre by Hamas and it's another proxy of Iran on October 7.

Iran has been holding war against us for decades with its proxies. And if you look at one small example which exemplifies the entire story. Iran took over a tribe called the Houthis in Yemen, 50,000 people made it its proxy, because they are Shiites. Fed it up to its neck with armament of an empire -- cruise missiles, drones, and ballistic missiles to a tribe of 50,000 people, blocking the high seas and of course, elevating the cost of living of every family in the world.

Thats the story. That's what we are meeting. We are meeting an empire of evil which wants to eradicate all values of the free world. Thats why their drones are killing all over the place in Ukraine. Their drones are killing in other places.

And it's about time the world stands up to them and says, no, we won't let you, don't, as President Biden said, don't. And therefore, because he says don't and we all say don't, that's why they were met with a very strong response last night.

But I think the world has to understand that this is another development in the war which Iran is waging against the free world and has to be met accordingly.

BLITZER: As you know, Mr. President, some of the far-right political voices in Israel are pushing for a very harsh Israeli response. The national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir says Israel deeds to quote, "go crazy".

Does this attack in your perspective, require a harsh Israeli response? How forceful of a response should it be? And would that risk a major regional escalation?

HERZOG: So as I said, we don't seek war and I think that we all understand the balance that is needed in this situation. We are holding a very intimate dialogue with our allies and I think Prime Minister Netanyahu, he's talking to many world leaders. He had a call with President Biden last night. In addition, of course, to our allies, other countries such as Britain, France, and others in the region as well.

We're considering it all. We're acting cool headedly and lucidly. I think the cabinet now its convening exactly to discuss it. So of course, we have -- as a democracy, the only democracy in the region -- we have a multitude of voices.


HERZOG: But if we look at it objectively, I think we're operating in a very focused way and a very responsible way. And I'm sure there will be a decision accordingly that will make sure that we protect and defend the people of Israel, and of course, serve the idea of this coalition that has emanated all of a sudden in front of our eyes in opposing the aggressive acts and the -- and the operations of Iran in the region for so many years.

BLITZER: As you know the United States, the Biden administration says it won't participate in any offensive action against Iran right now,

Is Israel willing to take unilateral action that potentially could put U.S. troops and assets throughout the region at risk?

HERZOG: So let's first speak about the grand picture. There has been a war with Iran for decades. May I remind you that there was ever a bold decision of President Donald Trump to get rid of Qasem Soleimani the war -- the warlord, the commander of terror in the region for years, who was the head of the national guards of Iran.

So these guys keep on spreading terror and havoc. They've been attacking American forces for years, including this year in various spots in the Middle East. And I believe that it's in the inherent interests -- national interests of the United States and of course, of European countries and regional countries that want to go to peace and want to go to normalization with Israel that we are strong and united and act accordingly.

As to the technicalities of what will be decided upon, this, of course, I leave to the Israeli cabinet.

BLITZER: And they're meeting as we speak right now at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, the United States, as you know, helped strongly defend Israel against this latest Iranian attack over the past 24 hours. What obligation Mr. President, does Israel have to address President Biden's repeated demands to dramatically ramp up humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and to reduce civilian casualties there.

HERZOG: So indeed, Israel has elevated dramatically the humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza in a dramatic way, in a dialogue -- frank and open dialogue with all our allies. First of all, by way of airdrops from all over. Secondly, by opening terrestrial crossings, including now a northern crossing from Zikim and a crossing in Erez and a crossing in Karni -- I mean all over the place so there's a major inflow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Of course, the maritime route which is being operated in a very impressive way, which was an initiative of the U.A.E. And now America -- the United States is about to lead it in a very professional manner.

So there's a major effort to meet the demands that are required for the humanitarian assistance of Gaza. And by the way, it's the right thing to do.

But let me explain to your viewers something which is really important to mention. There are still 135 Israeli hostages in Gaza. They're going through hell. Their life is in question. They are under huge threat, let alone the enormous pain that they're going through, such as rape and torture and other things.

And the problem is that it's been discussed day-in, day-out, 24/7 in Israel is how to bring them out. And then comes the question by the Israeli public how come you're supplying so much humanitarian aid to Gaza when our hostages, when our citizens are there in peril, we don't even know their fate because the Hamas is, is so cruel that they don't even allow us the names of those who are alive or dead amongst them.

And therefore, these are honest and frank discussions in the Israeli public. We have to make sure that our hostages are back, are back as soon as possible. I know it's the commitment of the United States of America and President Biden, of leaders from all over the world. We must do it. We must carry it out as much as possible.

Unfortunately, Hamas in the last 24 hours for the fifth time declined, another compromise and another scheme that was proposed again by the mediators in the United States of America. And it's about time the world understands that it's Hamas who is refusing to move on a hostage deal.

BLITZER: As all of this is unfolding, Mr. President, the top U.S. humanitarian official, the U.S.A.I.D. administrator, Samantha Power now says parts of Gaza are already experiencing famine. Palestinian children, as you know, are dying of hunger.


How do you respond to allegations that Israel is using starvation potentially as a weapon of war. Weapon of war -- those are strong words. Perhaps it could be a war crime.


HERZOG: God forbid. No way.

God forbid. God forbid, we have no intention to do that. We take any measures necessary according to international humanitarian law. If Samantha Power who I respect has as any real information, data that can be tested, our people are always available.

We are working very closely with the United States and with many other allies to test on an hourly basis the situation in Gaza. As I've said, there's a huge influx of importation of humanitarian aid to Gaza. And I reject, as far as I know, I reject this claim.

BLITZER: We've seen tensions, as you know, between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu flare over these past few weeks. President Biden has called Prime Minister Netanyahu's approach to this war, a mistake, his word, a mistake.

What is the state of U.S.-Israeli relations, right now?

HERZOG: So the real trust at the end, you know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating at the end, in the last 24 hours, we've really seen a huge historical challenge and that's where the ironclad alliance between Israel and the United States, and the United States with Israel and Israel has been as shown as resonated as an incredible ironclad alliance serves the national interests of both nations and serves the free royal.

This is the real example. We can argue on many things and it's legitimate. You know, we have our objectives and we are a small nation, the United States is a world superpower, has its interest, but at the end, we must have a dialogue, an open and frank dialogue between the administrations.

Wherever I can put my advice into the -- into the ears of all sides. I do that as much as I can. I have immense respect to the United States of America and the administration and the people of the United States of America.

But everybody who watches us and listens and analyzes the conflict must understand we have been met by an empire of evil. It's true, it's absolutely true. Our citizens were raped and butchered and burnt, and tortured and abducted in an unbelievably unprecedented massacre.

I call it a Hamassacre (ph). This Hamassacre of Hamas is something that is unbelievable in terms of modern-day warfare or modern-day activities of any human being. And when I stood up in front of a joint session of the House in July 19 of this year, I said that it's terror, which is undermining, terror which is undermining the whole notion of peace in the region.

And may I remind you and I said it in the past and I repeat it now again. In the G20 summit before the October 7, President Biden presented this vision connecting Israel to India, which means connecting Europe to the Southeast Asia, which means connecting the United States to Australia through the eastern hemisphere. That's the grand vision of peace, inclusion, and normalization.

Someone in the empire of evil decided to derail this vision and we must go back to the vision. We must get to peace with Saudi Arabia, with our allies in the region. We must show these terrorists and we must show these cruel people out there in Tehran that it won't work for them.

We are standing strong and we shall overcome

BLITZER: President Isaac Herzog joining us from Jerusalem. Thank you very much

HERZOG: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And still to come, we now know how the U.S. learned details about Iran's plans to attack Israel.

Our special live coverage continues right after a quick break.



BLITZER: We're getting new details right now about how the United States learned about Iran's impending attack on Israel. A diplomatic source says Iran informed Turkish officials about its options for retaliation last week. Turkey, a NATO ally in turn informed the United States.

CNN's national security correspondent Natasha Bertrand is here with me. She's got more.

We also just learned that Iran sent a private message to the U.S. after its attack concluded. What else are you learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, so the U.S. and Iran do have back-channel communications and that is clearly very important to managing escalation when it comes to this conflicts.

But according to a senior administration official, Iran did privately message the U.S. through the Swiss embassy, which is primarily how they communicate, telling the U.S. that the attack had concluded and that essentially they were not going to launch any more drones and missiles that evening.


BERTRAND: Now, Iran also said, though earlier today, quite publicly in fact, that if the U.S. were to engage in any kind of retaliatory strike alongside Israel then none of the U.S.' military bases inside the region would be safe and they would quote, "be dealt with".

And so while the one on the one hand, Israel is messaging to the U.S. that the attack has concluded and that they don't want any, you know, additional action here. On the other hand, they're saying, look, we are also going to defend ourselves and strike back if the U.S. does in fact work with the Israelis to launch a retaliatory strike.

Now, we were just speaking with senior administration officials in a call with reporters who were saying that the U.S. has made it very clear to the Israelis that while they support, of course, Israel's right to defend themselves and the U.S. is going to help Israel defend itself really in an ironclad way that ironclad commitment they have, the U.S. is also not going to take part actively in any kind of response that Israel conducts in reaction to this Iranian strike.

And so the message now is look, we want to lower tensions here. We want to calm things down. One way to do that, of course, is through this back channeling with the Iranians. And now it's of course, all hands-on-deck for this massive diplomatic effort.

BLITZER: I know you're also learning about some measures that the U.S. currently has in place to defend Israel potentially from any further Iranian attacks.

BERTRAND: Yes. So we learned a bit more as well about how all of the U.S. military firepower that's currently in the region really contributed to helping to shoot down all of these drones and missiles that are on fired last night.

According to senior defense officials two of the U.S. Navy destroyers that are currently in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, they shot down between four and six ballistic missiles and U.S. aircraft that was actually moved to the region just this last week by President Biden on his orders. They engaged more than 70 drones and managed to shoot them down as well as a U.S. Army Patriot battery, which is that very sophisticated air defense system the U.S. has all over the world near Erbil, Iraq also shot down one of the ballistic missiles.

So all of the equipment and the force posture that the U.S. has in the region, it really came into play last night, and that is exactly why the U.S. military moved it there after October 7, just in case something like this were to happen.

BLITZER: Yes, it underscores the so-called ironclad commitment to Israel. Actions speak louder than words, that kind of effort by the U.S. to help Israel.

Thank you very, very much Natasha Bertrand reporting.

Coming up -- very dramatic video capturing the ongoing fire exchange between the IDF and Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

The militant group just released a statement praising Iran's attack on Israel. We're going live to Beirut. That's next.



BLITZER: As Israel scrambled big time to intercept an unprecedented attack from Iran, the IDF was also involved in very heavy back-and- forth fighting with Hezbollah.


BLITZER: The Iran-backed group 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 -- against Israel for the bombing of Iran's consulate in Damascus, issued a statement saying the attacks were in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

And this comes after the IDF says it carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah targets inside Lebanon, including a large military complex run by Hezbollah. The stepped up attacks raising concerns right now that the conflict could spread throughout the region.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Beirut for us.

Ben, Hezbollah has now released another statement praising Iran's attack on Israel. So how might Israel respond?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, Wolf, it doesn't appear that things are going to radically change on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Now, today, I counted seven, possibly more Israeli strikes on Hezbollah targets, only two Hezbollah counterstrikes on Israeli targets.

Really, I mean the sort of thing that could really change this situation is if Israel responds to the Iranian barrage of drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles last night.

We've heard from a source close to Hezbollah that if things escalate between Iran and Israel beyond last night that certainly Hezbollah and other malicious and proxies affiliated with Iran will basically dramatically escalate.

But until that happens, I think were going to see a continuation of this deadly, sometimes deadly -- daily -- these daily rather, and sometimes deadly exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel.

Now, speaking to other sources here, they have indicated, however, that Israel in the long term does play and to try to take decisive action against Hezbollah. We've heard, for instance, that unlike in November last year when there was that brief truce between Israel and Gaza, and Hamas, Hezbollah observed that truce and so did Israel. So the border was quiet.

The expectation is even if there's some sort of ceasefire in Gaza, the border here will not be quiet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, I suspect it's going to heat up big time.


Ben Wedeman in Beirut, Lebanon for us -- Ben, thank you very much.

And our special coverage will continue right after a quick break.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now, Iran's attack on Israel. In a short time from now, the United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting in New York, and it comes as were learning that Iran told the U.S. through a private message, that it's done with its retaliation against Israel.


Let's bring in Robin Wright. She's a fellow over at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and a contributing writer at "The New Yorker Magazine".

Robin, thanks very much for joining us.

How do you read Iran's message that its retaliation is over?

ROBIN WRIGHT, FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Well, in fact, that its attacks continued. Its missiles and drones were still in the air. It's a signal that it really wanted to have this one and done at least short-term.

The danger at the moment is that Israel's playing the short term. It has military superiority it can whether its eliminate Iran's arsenals of pushback, its allies in the region or kill its military leaders but it doesn't really have a long-term strategy when it comes to what are its goals as it to contain Iran, is to eliminate its nuclear program? Is it to, you know, push for regime change?

In the meantime, Iran is playing the long game and it is willing to undertake what was very daring and unprecedented barrage, or swarm of attacks on Israel what it is playing for the long term over the last 42 years has taken what was a group of small scale militias and turn it into the most powerful alliance in the Middle East. Israel now faces conflicts, militias, well-armed militias on five frontiers in the Middle East. And that's, you know -- that's, not something that one attack on a consulate in Damascus or one counter strike after what happened last night is going to eliminate. They've crossed a threshold in the Middle East and there's no rolling it back.

BLITZER: You know, this region well. How did Iran view this action? Was Iran's leadership, Robin, united on this decision to attack Israel?

WRIGHT: Iran's regime is now kind of full of ultra hardliners. They're down to they've shed many of the layers of other revolutionaries along the way. There's a sense that the regime is kind of paranoid right now. It feels since the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with the tensions playing out with Israel. And now over Gaza, Iran feels more of an existential threat.

I suspect there was some debate. There always is in Iran, but they moved fairly expeditiously and mobilizing what was, you know, the largest attack by Iran on Israel, unprecedented, the only one since the revolution of 1979.

BLITZER: Yeah, I remember those days, 1979 when there was that overthrow of the Shah. But before that, Israel and Iran under the shah had very strong relations. They were almost like allies in that part of the world, but all that changed in 1979 during the overthrow of the shah.

The Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, told me in the last hour or so here on CNN, that Israel doesn't seek war and is considering its options. He said, cool-headedly and lucidly.

How might Israel respond? What do you think?

WRIGHT: Well, Israel has a lot of options and they're not just kinetic. It can engage in cyber campaigns. It, you know, its abilities are -- extend far beyond Israel. So it has, I think, a number of options. We're all looking theme for what kind of physical strike it might engage in as it did, you know, in eliminating the revolutionary leadership that was based in Syria.

There are other places it could act as well. Other places where Iran operates, you know, beyond Syria in many places where it -- Iran has allies. So I think there are a number of bodies.

The question is, what is the long-term goal and how do you achieve it? Just as we see in Gaza, there is no visible or viable plan to defuse tensions. We all know how they might escalate, but there's no means of pulling it back, trying to get the two, you know, not go after each other, whether its short-term or long-term. And I think that's the real danger that without some way out that we're all kind of stuck in what is an escalating confrontation.

BLITZER: Always good to get your analysis. Robin Wright, thank you very much for joining us.

WRIGHT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll have more of our special coverage on the escalating conflict right now in the Middle East.

Plus, our other top stories, Donald Trump set to be in New York. In New York courtroom tomorrow as jury selection starts in his criminal hush money trial, what to expect as this historic trial is about to get underway.


[14:49:31] BLITZER: We'll have more of Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel coming up. But there's another big story we're following as well. Donald Trump's historic criminal trial is set to begin tomorrow morning in New York with jury selection.

CNN's Zachary Cohen is joining us right now. So, Zach, you're doing a lot of reporting in this work.

Can we expect tomorrow?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Wolf, Donald Trump will make history when he arrives in Lower Manhattan tomorrow. It will be the first time we've ever seen a former president stand trial for criminal charges and, look, it's about supposed to take about two months to play out, but tomorrow, we see the beginning of a crucial process.


It's selecting a panel of 12 jurors and some older nodes. We're ultimately be charged with determining a verdict in this case, right? And these jurors are going to be asked, hundreds of people who live in Manhattan will be asked questions about Donald Trump and whether or not they have strong feelings one way or the other about him or about the fact that he is a candidate for president in 2024.

I wanted to take a look at some of these questions that jurors are going to be asked tomorrow as they tried to narrow down the pool to 12. That's one of them is, have you ever attended a rally or a campaign event for Donald Trump? Do you currently followed Donald Trump on one social media site or have you done so in the past?

Do you currently follow any anti-Trump group or organization on social media site or have you done in the past? Do you have any feelings or opinions about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case? Have you ever considered yourself as supporter of or belong to any of the following?

And it goes on to list groups like QAnon, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers groups that we know were at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

So tomorrow again, it's really just the first step in this trial process. You know, Donald Trump has made a show in a lot of ways of this trial. He is trying to use it to campaign for president, but he's going to be in the courtroom four days a week for the next two months, not on the campaign trail.

He faces 34 felony counts in this case. So the stakes are high for him and tomorrow, that process will kick off and ultimately determine his legal fate.

BLITZER: They'll be meeting, what, Monday and Tuesday and then Thursday, Friday, and Wednesday. There'll be off so he can go campaign on Wednesday and Saturday, basically.

COHEN: It can be interesting to see how he weaves in his experiences in the courtroom on the campaign. BLITZER: We'll be watching closely as we can. Thanks very much, Zach

Cohen, reporting for us.

So how do you select a jury for such a high profile and contentious trial?

I want to bring in jury consultant Melissa Gomez. She's the author of the book jury trials outside in, leveraging psychology from discovery to decision.

Melissa, thanks so much for all the work you do. Thanks so much for joining us.

As I said, this is a trial like no other that we've seen. What do you see as the biggest challenges to seating a jury in a case like this?

MELISSA GOMEZ, SENIOR JURY CONSULTING ADVISOR, IMS LEGAL STRATEGIES: There are a lot of challenges here. I think one of the biggest challenges is to have people who can separate their political feelings from the evidence in this case. So you can see, Wolf, that the questions that are being asked of the jurors are about political orientation, about whether they've attended rallies. And just because someone either would or would not vote for Trump doesn't necessarily mean they can't be a juror in this trial. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to have any jury at all.

The issue is whether folks can separate their political preferences and be able to view the evidence in this case without their political preferences clouding their judgment

BLITZER: So, in selecting a jury. What do you expect Trumps attorneys to zero in on and what will the prosecution be looking for?

GOMEZ: I think primarily what both sides are going to be looking for are folks that are so entrenched in their political positions that they see this as an opportunity to have an influence on a political election with their verdict those are going to be jurors who are not necessarily going to be rendering a verdict based on the evidence in the case is whether the prosecution has either met their burden are not met their burden but really to be able to have a larger influence on a political election. And that is why those questions about political elections are at the forefront of this voir dire.

BLITZER: What else stood out to you in that juror questionnaire?

GOMEZ: A lot of the questions there were pretty standard, but otherwise, it was really targeting people who not just have particular feelings about Trump, but who have engaged in activities who belonged to specific organizations. So those are jurors, those are people who are taking the next step forward in their political preferences, which gives an indication that they feel more strongly, maybe more entrenched, and maybe more likely to render a verdict based on influencing an election as opposed to determining whether Donald Trump is guilty or not guilty

BLITZER: What do you say to the Trump supporters who say he can't get a fair trial in Manhattan, all these jurors will be coming from Manhattan, which is very, very Democratic?

GOMEZ: I would say that wouldn't necessarily be true, So if you're thinking of people who are polarized, strong on either end of the political spectrum. There are likely going to be some jurors who are going to do that. They're going to be some jurors who are going to try to get on this panel in order to have an influence on the political election.

But there are other people who can compartmentalize, who can say, I would vote for Trump in a trial. But if the prosecution meets its burden of proof, I can say that they did.


And there are some people who could say, I would not vote for Trump, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they would automatically convict without the burden of proof being met.

BLITZER: Melissa Gomez --

GOMEZ: So, it's those jurors in the middle -- those in the middle that you want to get.

BLITZER: We'll be staying in close touch with you as this process unfolds, could take several days for a jury to be selected. Thank you very much for joining us.

And we're also following major breaking developments out of the Middle East. Our special coverage of Iran's attack on Israel will continue. That's next.