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Middle East On Edge Following Iranian Attack On Israel; Biden Speaks With Jordan King To Discuss Iran's Attack On Israel; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 15:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington and we are following breaking news in just one hour. The United Nations Security Council will hold that emergency meeting following Iran's significant attack against Israel.

Israel Defense Forces now say Iran and their proxy forces in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon launched around 350 rockets and missiles into Israel overnight, most of them shot down before they could do any damage.

But these attacks are threatening to escalate and already volatile, very dangerous situation in the Middle East.

Today, Israel's War Cabinet met to go over options for a response to Iran's unprecedented first-ever direct attack on Israel from Iran. Cabinet Member Benny Gantz vowing Israel "will exact a price from Iran.

President Biden meeting with other G7 leaders virtually looking for a diplomatic path forward. CNN has our correspondents around the globe covering all of these late breaking developments for us. It is a rapidly developing situation that is unfolding right now in the Middle East.

And I want to start with Jeremy Diamond. He is joining us from Jerusalem. Right now, Jeremy, what are you hearing from officials there about today's War Cabinet meeting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Israel's War Cabinet met for nearly five hours today. The topic of discussion was of course, to focus on how Israel will respond to this unprecedented large-scale attack that Iran launched against Israel in the early hours of this morning, more than 300 missiles and drones directed at Israel, and although only a few of those ballistic missiles actually made it through Israel and the United States air defense assets in the region hitting an Israeli air base and causing what the Israeli military has described as light damage.

Despite that, the Israeli government and its military have vowed that they will respond no matter what. The question now, Wolf, is the scale and the scope of that response going to be?

And despite the nearly five hours of deliberations, I am told that the Israeli War Cabinet meeting ended today without a clear decision about exactly how Israel will respond.

Instead, the Israeli million military has been tasked with coming up with additional military options for the Israeli War Cabinet to consider.

But in the meantime, we are hearing from some members of Israel's government, including the former Defense minister, a member of the War Cabinet, Benny Gantz, who has said that Israel will "exact a price from Iran" in a way and time that suits us.

The Israeli Prime Minister is also already coming under pressure from his right wing, including the Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of them saying that the Israeli response should be firm with Ben-Gvir saying, Israel should "go crazy" in its military response against Iran.

Iran for its part has said that its attack against Israel has been concluded. They have described it as retaliation for that Israeli strike that took out a senior Iranian commander in an Iranian consular building in Damascus, but they have said that if Israel carries out an attack on Iran, then Iran will once again retaliate, a very dangerous back-and-forth, Wolf that could quickly escalate.

BLITZER: Yes, it could explode at any minute. We are watching this closely.

Ben Wedeman is also watching this closely. He is joining us from Beirut right now.

Ben, we are getting new details about Iranian officials' warnings to neighboring nations prior to these attacks. What more are you learning about those conversations?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, what we learned from Scott McLean, our colleague in Istanbul is that Iranian officials warned the Turks that this was going to happen, that there would be an attack. The Turks passed that message on to the Americans and obviously, it ended up, so the Israelis were aware as well.

And it really wasn't a huge surprise that it happened given how much talk about it, proceeded attacks. We know that the Iranian foreign minister in the preceding days was in touch with many of his counterparts across, for instance, the Persian Gulf region as well.

And in the aftermath of last night's strikes, what we are seeing is that there was a really sharp intake of breath across the region for many of the regime's that are very concerned about the spread of the conflict from Gaza well beyond there.

[15:05:01] You have, for instance, a lot of popular anger at Arab regimes that have condemned Israel, but really done little else to help the people of Gaza, so what we heard, for instance, is King Abdullah had a conversation with President Joe Biden in which he said that the best solution to avoiding an escalation, avoiding perhaps even a regional war is to stop the Gaza war immediately.

And I think the impression of most of the leaders in the region is that the United States does have the wherewithal, the influence over Israel to actually make that happen.

And certainly the events of last night really underscore the need for some sort of calming down of this situation, not just between Iran and Israel, but the heart of the matter, which of course is the war in Gaza -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any indication Hamas though would release those remaining hostages that may still be alive?

WEDEMAN: Well, what it appears is that those negotiations have once more hit a wall. There doesn't seem to be an agreement even though we saw William Burns, the head of the CIA, coming to the region, meeting with Qatari, Egyptian officials, Israeli officials, trying to work something out, but it appears yet again, after months of trying, these negotiations are not bearing any fruit.

Now, for instance, Hamas says they simply cannot come up with 40 hostages that fit the categories that the Israelis are looking for.

Women, children, the elderly. They say that until there is some sort of cessation of hostilities in Gaza, at least temporarily, they are not even a people to find out who is where as far as the hostage is concerned, who is holding those hostages.

So a ceasefire regardless, an unconditional ceasefire would perhaps prepare the grounds for a breakthrough on the issue of the hostages, on the issue of the more than 8,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails.

But certainly, the desire, the demand of regimes across the region is that the war in Gaza, six months, almost 34,000 people dead, the war has got to stop.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, Ben Wedeman in Beirut for us. Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem, to both of you, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, President Biden spoke with several world leaders today, including as we just noted, King Abdullah of Jordan.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is over at the White House for us. Priscilla, what are officials there saying about these discussions?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they say that in those calls, the president and other leaders have strongly condemned Iran's attacks against Israel. But of course, Wolf, the focus here at the White House is trying to contain the risk of a wider regional conflict.

This has been front and center on the minds of US officials here since those October 7 terrorist attacks. Now, President Biden did meet with the G7 leaders today in a call that was meant to "coordinate a united diplomatic response."

The key word there is diplomatic. During that call, they talked about -- and they put an emphasis on non-military actions, and US officials have since described the call as constructive, but they wouldn't provide details as to what actions specifically were discussed.

But what is the resounding message from that and also from the White House is that the US will not participate in a response with Israel in terms of any retaliation against Iran.

In fact, in the call that the president had with the Israeli Prime Minister last night, the president made clear that the US will not participate in any offensive action against Iran. Instead, advising the Israeli prime minister to think strategically and carefully about his next steps.

Now, the US assessment here is that Israel was largely successful. They were able to defend themselves and there was no major damage to infrastructure within Israel.

Take a listen to what National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby had to say about last night's attacks.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET), COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: If you think about what they threw at Israel, 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 military power weight that they claimed now.


ALVAREZ: Now, according to a senior administration official, Israel is not looking for escalation, but of course the big question is, what steps Israel does take moving forward and whether Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take President Biden's advice.

All of those are open questions here at the White House, but what does remain clear is that they do not want to see this spread any further -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Priscilla, thank you.

Priscilla Alvarez over at the White House for us.

Let's discuss what is going on right now with Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Give us your perspective because you're well plugged in. How unprecedented was this Iranian attack against Israel?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Wolf, we've never seen anything like it. Certainly, we don't remember a time when Iran launched attacks directly from its soil onto Israeli soil.

Now, thankfully, President Biden, working with our regional partners, including the Jordanians, were able to shoot down most of these missiles and drones before they did damage, but what i would say is that at this point, we should focus most of our attention on the national security supplemental sitting before Congress because right now, somebody else said the other day, "A Churchill or Chamberlain moment." Either we stand up to aggressors from Tehran, to Moscow, to Beijing and deter aggression and pass the supplemental or we appease them, and that is at stake in Congress, and so that is what we have to do there.

And then finally, I would just say that the parties have to be forced to the table and we have to come to an immediate halt to hostilities linked to hostages being returned and massive humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip.

BLITZER: I know you're back in your home district in Illinois this weekend. You're a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, have you already been briefed on what is going on?


When we were in Washington on Friday, we received information in a classified setting and then I will be getting more tomorrow.

BLITZER: When you're back here in Washington.

Israel is weighing its response, so the Israeli President Isaac Herzog, told me today that balance is needed and Israel is approaching all of this he said cool headedly.

What do you see as the appropriate next step for Israel?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I personally -- you know, obviously it is up to the Israelis and their War Cabinet and their government.

However, I think at this point -- they, I think had a victory last night in working with their partners and friends to defeat the massive attack that Iran undertook and now they working with us should look to see how we can stand united against further aggression.

And we, in the US will also have the space, so to speak, to pass the National Security supplemental. Any kind of escalation, any kind of wider war or hostilities there will make it harder, not easier for us to do the work that we need to do in Washington. And so I would just respectfully request our friends to not escalate and take this to a wider regional war that could spiral out-of- control, instead, allow us to do our work past the national security supplemental help fund the David's Sling, the Arrow Program, the Iron Dome Programs, which proved so successful last night in defeating those missile attacks.

BLITZER: Were you surprised that 99 percent of those rockets and missiles the armed drones that were coming in towards Israel were intercepted by Israel, by the US and the UK and other friendly countries in the region?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ninety-nine percent pretty good, huh?

BLITZER: Absolutely.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think look -- I think that -- you know, I think that is a testament to President Biden's leadership as well in pre- positioning assets, so that we are in a position to help coordinate with the Jordanians, with the British, with the French in partnership with the Israelis, where the missiles and drones are going and then taking them down before they can do damage.

The images from last night were pretty stark. A lot of missiles were coming in all at once. But thankfully, the IDF working with partners were able to make the most of the technology that we've jointly funded.

BLITZER: Yes, I knew that technology, the Iron Dome and David's Sling and the Arrow. We are all very, very impressed with the Patriot Air Defense Missile System, all of that is really amazing, but I had no idea that it would be able to knock out hundreds of these incoming rockets and missiles as quickly and as effectively as they did.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And here is the thing, Wolf, which is that in funding the security supplemental, we would help to replenish the Iron Dome. We'd have to help to modernize the David's Sling and Arrow Systems, and remember, any kind of escalation of this conflict could trigger Hezbollah entering the picture.


They have 150,000 missiles, which could make last night look like a stroll in the park. So let's not go there. We don't want a wider war that spirals out of control.

BLITZER: As you know, many of your Democratic colleagues in the House are extremely concerned over the way Israel is conducting the war against Hamas in Gaza. You're saying Northern Gaza has now entered a period of famine.

The Israeli President Isaac Herzog told me a couple of hours ago that Israel is not using starvation as a weapon. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: How do you respond to allegations that Israel is using starvation potentially as a weapon of war? Weapon of war -- those are strong words for potentially could be a war crime.

ISAAC HERTZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: 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 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 have said, there is a huge influx of importation of humanitarian aid to Gaza and I reject as far as I know, I reject this claim.


BLITZER: So Congressman Krishnamoorthi, what is your reaction to what we just heard?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I hope Mr. Herzog is right. However, the impact or effect of what is happening now cannot be denied.

As Jose Andres wrote in a very eloquent op-ed in "The New York Times" the other day, we are seeing a situation that demands massive humanitarian aid and food aid.

We cannot have a situation where anyone is facing starvation especially the children, but any innocents in Gaza.

And we have to remember, we are talking about millions of people who are there right now.

BLITZER: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks as usual for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And still to come, Iran's attack on Israel has crossed a key threshold in the tensions between the two countries. How Israel's reaction and any help the US provides could impact the ongoing conflict.



BLITZER: Iran's overnight strikes on Israel cross a new threshold in the decades of hostilities between the two countries, but we are now hearing from a senior Biden administration official that Israel told the us, it is not looking for a "significant escalation" with Iran.

President Biden reiterating the United States' ironclad support for Israel as congressional leaders remain at odds over additional funding. CNN correspondent Natasha Bertrand is with me here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Natasha, how is the US prepared to defend Israel from further attacks?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that in the wake of the October 7th attack, the US military surged firepower and military assets to the region because of the possibility of this very scenario just in case something were to spiral and the Israelis needed more help from the United States to defend against an attack either by Iran or by its proxy groups.

And now, of course, we are learning that President Biden also surged additional military assets to the region, including additional fighter aircraft as well as air defense systems and destroyers to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, after Israel struck this building in Damascus, that Iran has claimed was its consulate.

And so from that moment on, what happened about 10 days ago, the US and its allies, they were really preparing for a significant retaliation by the Iranians and they prepared as such, they moved assets, and what were told is that the Destroyers that were moved to the Mediterranean, they in fact did intercept a number of ballistic missiles between four and six according to a senior military official and US aircraft, both on land and on sea, that took off by land and by sea, they also shot down more than 70 drones and a patriot battery, which is that sophisticated air defense system the US has really all over the world, that also took out one of the ballistic missiles.

So by and large, Israel's own air defense system, the Arrow Defense System, that really was very productive to say the least. It took out the vast majority according to military officials of those ballistic missiles that were incoming, but the US military, the UK, other allies in the region, they were also extremely active last night in helping Israel take this out.

And so it is that kind of firepower that you're going to continue to see really stay in the region and help the Israelis.

BLITZER: Yes, the Arrow System, the Israeli Arrow System, David's Sling, the Iron Dome, all were very, very effective indeed. And the US, by knocking intercepting a lot of those incoming rockets and missiles and drones saved potentially a lot of lives in Israel, it could have been a disaster.

All right, thanks very much, Natasha Bertrand reporting for us. Thank you.

Coming up, we will have more on our breaking news coverage of Iran's attack on Israel and how it plunged the Middle East deeper and deeper into uncharted waters.

Up next, we will discuss with an expert the concerns this could all turn into an all-out conflict in the region.


[15:29:29] BLITZER: We continue our special coverage of Iran's attack on Israel. This is the first time Iran has launched a direct assault on Israeli soil from directly inside Iran.

Last hour, the IDF said 350 the rockets and missiles had been fired at Israel during that attack, but the vast majority the Israeli say, 99 percent were intercepted.

Soon, the United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting in New York about this. The Israeli War Cabinet just wrapped up its meeting as at weighs Israel's response.


No decision we are told was made, but Israel has told the US that it is not looking for a significant escalation with Iran. Iran has also sent messages to the United States indicating that its retaliation against Israel has concluded.

President Biden pledging what he called iron ironclad us support for Israel in a phone call with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But he also warned that the US will not participate in any counterstrike against Iran.

I am joined now by Ali Vaez, he is the Director of the Iran Project for the International Crisis Group. That is an important organization that works to prevent conflict and wars.

Ali, thanks so much for joining us. What is your analysis first of all of this Iranian attack against Israel and what Iran's intentions are?


Of course, this attack crossed a psychological threshold. As you said, it is the first time Iran striking Israel directly from its own soil. But I think it was also an attack that was designed to be flashy, but not fatal and in that sense, it is very similar to what Iran did in 2020 after the US killed General Soleimani in Iraq and Iran responded with a barrage of ballistic missiles into US bases in Iraq which resulted in no casualties. It was a risky operation, but it did not escalate any further.

And I think the Iranians were seeking to achieve the same objective, restore a degree of deterrence with Israel without triggering a broader escalation that would bring them in direct confrontation with Israel or the US.

BLITZER: What kind of response, Ali, do you expect from Israel?

VAEZ: Well, it is hard to say. I think Israel would be probably itching to retaliate in kind and target Iran on its own soil, but here is where the Biden administration, I think has played a very important role in trying to contain these tensions and prevents the war in Gaza from turning into an all-out conflict in the region by encouraging Prime Minister Netanyahu to take the win.

Basically shutting down 99 percent of Iranian missiles and drones was a real significant achievement for Israel. And if it draws a line under this tit-for-tat and doesn't escalate any further, it can basically come out as a winner.

BLITZER: Yes, the Israelis could not have done it though without the US assistance, the UK assistance and some friendly Arab governments in the region as well.

The US has clearly helped Israel deter this Iranian attack, but says it won't participate in any offensive action against Iran. What message is President Biden, do you think is sending?

VAEZ: That is precisely the message that is basically Iran and Israel are now even. Israel has targeted Iranian consulate in Damascus, which prompted this Iranian retaliatory act and the risk and the alternative scenario is that if Israel targets Iran on its own soil, then Iranians would also have to respond. This cycle can continue and spiral out of control.

And also, Wolf, take another real concern into consideration, which I am sure is on the top of the mind of the many decision-makers in the Biden administration, which is that if Israel indeed attacks Iran on its own soil, it will clearly demonstrate that Iran's regional deterrence and its conventional military capabilities have not been able to secure Iran.

And that means that Iran would start looking for alternatives and given how close Iran is to the verge of nuclear weapons, it might seek an alternative in the ultimate deterrent, which only comes in the form of nuclear weapons and that would make a region that is already in so much turmoil that much more dangerous

BLITZER: Yes, that's a really important point you're making.

Another, really grave concern to the Israelis, the Iran-backed group, Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah also launched a lot of rockets for Southern Lebanon overnight into Israel.

How should Israel be looking at that specific threat from Hezbollah?

VAEZ: Well, the simple calculation is that look at how much the war in Gaza against a much lesser enemy, Hamas has been difficult and complicated and imagine Hezbollah, which is a much more battle- hardened adversary with missiles that are even -- it has in its arsenal precision guided missiles that could target critical infrastructure in Israel.

And of course, the last episode of compensation we had between Israel and Hezbollah was in 2006, that did not result in an Israeli victory. It basically came to a draw.

The confrontation with Hezbollah would be extremely costly. Of course, Israel will always come out on the top because it is a much stronger conventional military power and it also has nuclear weapons.

But all of this would render the concept of Israel as a safe haven under a shadow and a cloud, but I think in the long run would be very damaging for Israel, and that is why President Biden is trying to contain these tensions.


BLITZER: Yes, let's not forget, Hezbollah has thousands of rockets and Missiles in their inventory in South Lebanon, many of them could reach not just Northern Israel or Haifa, but even Tel Aviv and even further south, they have long-range capabilities, which potentially could kill a lot of civilians if they were to unleash that weaponry.

Ali Vaez, thank you so much for your expertise. Thanks for all you're doing. Appreciate it very much.

VAEZ: My pleasure.

BLITZER: It will be a very historic day in New York City tomorrow as Donald Trump's first criminal trial begins. We have details of what we should expect to see in court. That's next.



BLITZER: We are less than 24 hours away from Donald Trump's first criminal trial, a historic moment for a former US president, first time in American history, a former president will face a criminal trial here in the United States.

Trump's lawyers are using tomorrow's hush-money trial in New York to delay his classified documents case down in Florida, citing Trump's packed courtroom schedule.

CNN's Zachary Cohen is joining us right now. So what are the chances even at this late minute right now, Zach, for Trump's lawyers to seek another delay and to get a delay.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Wolf, Trump's lawyers, again, using this tactic of trying to use the colliding court schedule that Trump has with the four criminal cases ongoing to push back a deadline in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, the federal criminal case down in Florida.

They are basically saying that Donald Trump and his two main attorneys in the Florida case can't be in two places at once and they are citing this trial in Manhattan that is going to consume most of the time over the next two months. Trump has to be in court four days a week with his attorneys, and they are saying that doesn't give them enough time to review classified sensitive evidence in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.

Now, we've seen Trump try to make this argument before. He has often tried to play his various criminal cases and various court deadlines against each other.

Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the Mar-a-Lago case, has been a little bit more sympathetic than some of the other judges we've seeing in these other jurisdictions.

Jack Smith has continued to apply pressure trying to move this case forward, trying to move things along, but there is no trial date in the Florida case and we will have to see if we ultimately get one at some point, but that is another attempt to push that down the line.

BLITZER: So set the scene for us. What are we going to see tomorrow morning?

COHEN: Yes, absolutely. Tomorrow is the start of the first trial for a former president facing criminal charges and Donald Trump is expected to be there in-person.

And when he arrives in Lower Manhattan, he and about a hundred other people that live in Manhattan will arrive at the courthouse and have to answer questions in this jury selection process. This is essential into how the process, the trial process over the next two months will begin.

Jurors will essentially come into the room and into the courtroom hundred at a time and be asked questions about their views, potential biases, potential feelings about Donald Trump, either pro or anti Donald Trump.

And I want to read a few of the questions that jurors, potential jurors will be asked as lawyers tried to narrow down this pool to 12, plus a few alternates.

One of them is have you ever attended a rally or campaign event for Donald Trump? Do you currently follow Donald Trump on any social media site or have you done so in the past? Do you currently follow any anti-Trump group or organization on any social media site? Do you have any feelings or opinions about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case?

Have you ever considered yourself a supporter of or belong to any of the following? It mentions groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers groups that we know were present on January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol. The groups that do support Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

So really prosecutors trying to -- and defense attorneys trying to find 12 people who can come to a fair verdict in this case.

But this is a case unlike anyone we've ever seen, so we will have to see how long that will take.

BLITZER: Well, jurors and some alternates as well.

All right, Zach Cohen, thank you very much.

The NYPD Secret Service and the New York court system are all taking multi-layered steps right now to ensure that everyone stays safe during this trial in New York.

CNN's Brynn Gingras takes a closer look at the security at the courthouse.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, it will be a robust security package. How is continually described to us, it's one that has been practiced and discussed for the last couple of months.

Now, listen, this courthouse here behind me, it handles hundreds of cases daily, but this is a trial like no other. It's expected to last six to eight weeks. So law enforcement really on a state, local, and federal level, needs to have this delicate balance of protecting the public, the former president, while also allowing business as usual.


GINGRAS (voice over): The crush of media, protesters and supporters, and the complicated task of protecting the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who is also the defendant.

GINGRAS (on camera): This whole area is going to look very different come Monday.

CHIEF JAMES MCCARTHY, NYPD MANHATTAN SOUTH: Yeah. I mean, obviously, a lot of area, Brynn, is going to be frozen for the arrival of the ex- president.

GINGRAS (voice over): Outside Manhattan Criminal Court. This is where Donald Trump's trial kicks off Monday. Police are preparing for what even they describe as an unprecedented several weeks.

GINGRAS (on camera): Is there any difference from your standpoint on the ground now that Trump is the presumptive nominee rather than a past president?

MCCARTHY: Well, that's why I'm saying, we are obviously going to ratchet it up.

GINGRAS (voice over): That means the building will be wrapped in a security blanket of cameras, uniformed officers, drones, bomb sniffing dogs and barricades.

CHIEF JOHN HART, NYPD INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERRORISM BUREAU: This is just a small sample of what's available.

GINGRAS (voice over): CNN was given a look inside the NYPD's joint operation center, an intelligence and visual hub for the NYPD and its law enforcement partners.


HART: It's a big challenge. It's a lot of moving parts and the attention of the nation and often the world will be on New York City for this entire event. GINGRAS (voice over): This is the first criminal trial of a former US president in history. But Donald Trump has been in and out of courtrooms for the past year.

HART: This really is just a continuation of what occurred when he was on the civil trials.

GINGRAS: Giving law enforcement a head start on how to prepare and what to expect. It includes being nimble in responding to immediate threats.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We got word of that bomb threat this morning.

GINGRAS: Since Trump's indictments, law enforcement says threats against judges, district attorneys, and others have become almost expected.

HART: We're going to be looking at the threat picture on a constant basis -- social media, you know, scrubbing, just listening to people making calls or making threats online.

GINGRAS: How do you handle that?

HART: We want to find the basis of the threat. Is it real? Is it an online warrior? Is it -- you know, what kind of extra security preparations do we have to take?

GINGRAS: It includes also protecting jurors. We're told those picked could possibly be treated the same as jurors in Trump's civil trial against E. Jean Carroll. They may be driven in daily from a secret location for their safety.

And moving Trump, who likely will spend most of his nights at Trump Tower will be a calculated choreography between the NYPD and Secret Service who have triggered more robust security plans.

MCCARTHY: Is this unprecedented? Yes, it is. And that's why we've ratcheted up to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch and everybody goes home safe.

GINGRAS (voice over): Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Our thanks to Brynn.

And you can watch CNN for special live coverage of this historic hush money trial. Our special coverage starts tomorrow morning, 9:00 AM Eastern, right here on CNN and streaming on Max as well.

And we have more of our breaking news coming up this out and how the tensions between Israel and Iran can impact the war in Gaza. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Only moments ago, we learned that President Biden had a call this afternoon with congressional leaders to discuss the situation in the Middle East and that included Democrats and Republicans.

It comes as the UN Security Council is now getting ready to hold in an emergency meeting following Iran's attack on Israel.

Let's get some analysis from Suzanne Maloney right now. She is the vice president and director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institute here in Washington, a think tank.

Suzanne, thanks so much for joining us. How significant is the scope of this Iranian attack and that many of these attacks came directly from Iran's territory?


This is really an unprecedented moment in what has been a long-running conflict between Iran and Israel.

There has been a lot of violence over the years, but typically has taken place either coming from proxies of Iran such as Hezbollah or it has taken place on other grounds, especially in Syria, where Israel has attacked Iranian targets in the past.

Iran has never struck Israel proper, although it has certainly aimed at Israeli diplomatic facilities and other targets all around the world. And so we are very much in, I think a new stage of this war and one that is extremely dangerous for the region and for the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Give us, Suzanne, of how Iran's leaders view this moment and how the people of Iran might see it as well.

MALONEY: Well, I think there is a distinction between the two -- the leaders and the people. The people of Iran have really no interest in any kind of a conflict with Israel. Whatever their feelings on the war in Gaza or on the broader question of Arab-Israeli peace, Iranians are tired of war. They are tired of the conflict and differences that their government has with the rest of the world and they are quite eager for a more normal situation in their own country as well as in the wider region.

The leadership of course, sees it very differently, since coming to power in 1979 on the heels of an Islamic Revolution.

Tehran and the Iranian leadership has very much been oriented toward at animosity toward the West, but especially toward the United States and Israel.

This is a precarious moment, of course, because Iran's Supreme Leader is 85 years old. He is likely to be passing from the scene over the course of several years and Iran will have to go through a succession process.

And so that leadership too does not want war, but of course it feeds on the hostility and the conflict and the antagonism with the West and especially with Israel.

BLITZER: What effect, Suzanne, could this weekend's Iran attack against Israel have on the war that is ongoing in Gaza?

MALONEY: Well, I think the first thing that it does is it brings the United States and the Israeli leadership to a better place than they were just a few days ago. The strike that Israel launched that killed seven senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corpse at an Iranian Consulate in Damascus took place on the same day as the strike that killed seven members of World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian group that was bringing food and other much needed supplies to the people of Gaza and that created a real breach between the Biden administration, and the Israeli leadership over the conduct of the war and particularly the Israelis readiness to provide the necessary humanitarian support to the people of Gaza.


There was a shift in the Israeli position since then, but I think that its clear the ironclad support that President Biden pledged for the Israeli people, the demonstration of how important it was to have, not just the United States, but the wider international community, the British and others, the Jordanians, all working together to ensure that this Iranian attack did not succeed, will reinforce to everyone in the Israeli leadership, including Prime Minister Netanyahu that the US relationship is absolutely central and that Israel has to conduct this war in a way that it retains the support of its closest friends and allies.

BLITZER: Excellent analysis from Suzanne Maloney.

Thanks so much for joining us, Suzanne.

MALONEY: Thank you, Wolf.

MALONEY: And coming up, a dramatic video capturing -- fired from South Lebanon along the Israeli border. Hezbollah has now released a statement praising Iran's attack on Israel.

We will more on the tensions in the region after a quick break.