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Iran Attacks Israel; Biden Convenes With G7 After Attacks; Israel's War Cabinet, No Decision Yet On Retaliation; Hardliners Warn Speaker Mike Johnson; Trump Faces Hush Money Trial. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. We begin tonight with breaking news and fears of a wider war as Israel considers its next move following an unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran.

Late Saturday night, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles and drones against Israel, calling it a response to a deadly Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier this month. Israel's military says with the help of its partners, including the U.S. and the U.K., it intercepted some 99 percent of more than 300 missiles and drones and other projectiles launched by Iran.

The Israeli war cabinet ended a meeting today without reaching a decision, but determined to act, one member saying Israel will quote "exact a price at the time of its choosing."

President Biden met virtually with G7 leaders today to discuss what he calls, quote, an urgent diplomatic response. And late last night, Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the phone, reaffirming the U.S.'s ironclad commitment to its ally, but making it clear the U.S. will not participate in any Israeli attack against Iranian territory.

Right now, the U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting. The U.N. Secretary General called for restraint.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Now is the time to defuse and deescalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint.


SCIUTTO: We have a team of reporters here in Washington and around the world tracking all of the latest developments. We begin with CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson in Jerusalem. Nic, do we know the range of responses that Israel is considering right now and if they'll abide by Biden's pressure not to strike inside Iranian territory?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, it's a very difficult question for the Israeli war cabinet at the moment because it gets to the heart of how Israel has handled all threats in the region until now, which is to deter the opponent from trying again. And this is precisely what the White House is guiding against, which is an escalation which Iran has said it will respond to.

So, the war cabinet, when it met today, a very small war cabinet that it is, Benny Gantz along with the prime minister and Yoav Gallant, the defense minister. The head of Mossad, David Barnea, was there as well. We also saw that the army chief of staff, General Herzi Halevi, was present. I think this is a slight broadening of what we normally see in the war cabinet. And of course, three others were there as well in the sort of observer status.

But what the resolve is at the moment appears to be to bide time a little bit and consider the move. And I think this indicates that any impetuous sense that there was a need to respond immediately, that's been set to one side to consider how allies and partners might be brought on board.

And that was something we heard separately from Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, speaking separately after his conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, talking about building a broader coalition of partners in the region. So, it does seem to be that whatever the next move is going to be in the war cabinet is determined that there will be a move against Iran.

But the scope and scale of it, should it be the maximalist deterrence style that Israel has used in the past, which is to show absolutely sort of break all the crockery, if you will, or will there be something that's more defined and definitive that will perhaps try to as we've heard from Israeli officials today, to encourage allies and partners to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization and try to build a coalition around Iran's bigger threat to the region, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Of course, one man's deterrence can be another's offensive attack. It all is in how each side reads each of these moves. I want to ask you, Nic, about your sense of if there is disagreement within the Israeli war cabinet. We know there is no love lost between some of the partners in that very cabinet itself. Is there a sense there that there is unity on this response or perhaps disunity, disagreement, debate?


ROBERTSON: The fact that there's no definitive outcome tends to speak to a level of disunity. And we know that the divisions exist over how to handle the conflict in Gaza at the moment, how to handle the humanitarian support for the Palestinians in Gaza, how to handle the release of the hostages. And this situation seems to be no different at the moment.

There are those that wanted a very immediate response. But the clear pressure coming from the White House and President Biden's conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu does seem to have sort of brought in a level of pause and consider the next move. But precisely the breakdown within that cabinet, it's very hard to know. But the fact that they still need more time to make a determination, I think, is indicative of the lack of unity of opinion, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nic Robertson, thanks so much. We'll come back to you regularly this evening. I want to turn now to the White House. Priscilla Alvarez there. Priscilla, there was some reporting earlier in the day that at least Biden administration officials had the sense Israel does not want to expand the war in the region. Is there a read that you're hearing from the White House as to where Israel stands on next steps?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's certainly the case, Jim. A senior administration official telling reporters that Israel doesn't want to escalate. That is what they have told U.S. officials. And the focus at the White House for months now, but especially in this moment, is for the conflict not to escalate in the region, for there not to be a broader regional conflict.

And that is the risk that they are trying to contain. It was part of the discussion that President Biden had with G7 leaders earlier this morning when they discussed a united diplomatic response. In other words, trying to find nonmilitary actions here. Let me read you part of the statement that was released by the G7 leaders.

It said, quote, "With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided. We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation."

Part of that, of course, is that the U.S. will not participate in any offensive action that is taken by Israel. That is what President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his call with him last night.

It is also what senior national security members have relayed to their Israeli counterparts because the assessment from the U.S. up until this point is that Israel was largely successful here. There was no major damage on their infrastructure.

And so, they are essentially saying, take the win here and let's not escalate the situation any further, especially when tensions are already so heightened in the Middle East. But the big question is whether the Israeli prime minister decides to take President Biden's guidance.

There's an acknowledgement that he is also facing political pressure back at home. And as we have seen with the war in Gaza, there have often been rifts between President Biden and the Israeli prime minister on next steps. So, the big question at this hour here at the White House is what Israel decides to move forward.

But the message that the White House has been sending out, at least today, is that they certainly do not want to see this escalate and that the U.S. will not participate in any offensive action here.

SCIUTTO: Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much. Joining me now, someone who led much of the coverage of this last night as the attack unfolded, Barak Ravid. He's a CNN analyst, also a political reporter for "Axios." Barak, good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: So that is the U.S. position. No offensive action against Iran and the U.S. will not take part in such action. Has that pressure landed? In other words, is Israel's war cabinet prepared to abide by that pressure?

RAVID: Yes and no, meaning you see that for now they didn't take a decision on a retaliation. But this doesn't mean that this won't happen. Maybe even relatively soon, in the next few days. There are more things to consider when you decide on a timing for such an attack other than what the Biden administration says, you know, things like the weather, other operational issues.

So, I think the jury is still out on when and how and if such retaliation will take place. In the cabinet meeting, the war cabinet meeting today, they discussed several options. You know, this thing could look like, on the one hand, as a, you know, overt kinetic action like, you know, airstrikes with, you know, F-35s.

But it can also look like things that Israel did before, like a covert operation that Israel never took responsibility for. So, I think it's still unclear exactly which path they're going to choose.


SCIUTTO: It's a good point. And when you look at attacks, for instance, on Iran nuclear facilities, much debate over that through the years, pressure from the U.S., then you had these series of targeted assassinations of nuclear engineers as opposed to a kinetic strike.

I wonder, when you look inside that war cabinet, same question I asked of Nic Robertson just a few minutes ago, is there unity? I mean, there's some reporting that at least one member of the cabinet won't meet with Netanyahu alone because he doesn't trust him. I mean, is there open conflict within the cabinet about how to proceed from here?

RAVID: Well, there's an open conflict within the cabinet on almost everything. You have to remember that almost all the members of this cabinet are also political rivals. But I'll give you an anecdote about what happened last night as Israel received the initial information that the Iranians launched their drones.

Ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, both of them from the same party, both of them former IDF chiefs of staff, came and told Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Gallant and the other war cabinet ministers, let's conduct our retaliation now, even before the Iranian drones arrive at Israeli airspace.

Why first? Because as time passes, we'll be under more and more international pressure not to do anything. And more importantly, if we do it now, it will sort of combine with the Iranian attacks so that the Iranians will not have to retaliate again for our counteroffensive. And then we can try and like sort of conclude this incident all in one piece and prevent an escalation.

What happened then is that Biden spoke on the phone with Netanyahu and this discussion was sort of put on hold. And after the call, the decision was, let's wait another day and make a decision then.

SCIUTTO: As you know, Benjamin Netanyahu is under competing pressures, much of those political pressures, including from his further right flank, National Security Minister Ben-Gvir. Here's what he had to say earlier today.


ITAMAR BEN-GVIR, ISRAEL'S NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER (through translation): Israel's response must not be weak in the style of the dune bombings we saw in previous years in Gaza. Their concepts of containment and proportionality are concepts that passed away on the 7th of October. In order to create deterrence in the Middle East, the landlord must go crazy.


SCIUTTO: The landlord must go crazy. Is that the kind of pressure Netanyahu feels compelled to listen to at this point?

RAVID: Well, I have to tell you that some members of the war cabinet when they heard this comment asked, is this landlord not crazy already? You know, I think, you know -- and a lot of what has happened over the last year happened because of things that Mr. Ben-Gvir and his colleague from the same party, Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, did.

And I think this is the reason that last night when the Security Cabinet convened, it passed a vote that basically authorizes Netanyahu, Gallant, and Gantz to take all the decisions alone about the retaliation, which means that the more radical right-wing ministers like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich were sidelined and have zero influence on where this thing will go from now on.

SCIUTTO: On the military side, before we go, 99 percent of -- hundreds of missiles and drones that were fired were shot down. And this is both a victory for Israeli defenses, but also for the help that it received from the U.S., the U.K. would shoot down a great number as well. Did this, and I wonder if there's a view in Israel, did this expose weaknesses in Iran's both offensive and defensive capabilities?

RAVID: I think what a lot of people in Israel saw is, and by the way, it's not only the U.S. and the U.K., it was also Jordan, it was also Saudi Arabia. So, a lot of people see that, A, Netanyahu's claim for years that Israel will defend itself by itself, I think it's been revealed that it's null and void. This is not the case, especially when it comes to Israel's dependence on the United States and on the U.S. military. That's first.

And second, what we saw yesterday, in a way, if there's some silver lining here, is that this regional security architecture really worked yesterday and managed to counter this Iranian attack. [17:15:00]

And this shows you how things can look like not only when it comes to regional security, but on a lot of other things, because there are a lot of countries in the region that want to work together with Israel. This is how we got to the Abraham Accords.

This is how we got to this regional security architecture that started over the last year of the Trump administration, continued and strengthened during the Biden administration.

And I think, you know, you can see the opportunity here, and the question is if the current Israeli government is capable of doing the steps needed to take this opportunity.

SCIUTTO: And it's notable, as you said, that it wasn't just the U.S., the U.K. and, of course, Israel, but Arab partners. They're not advertising it right now, but Arab partners such as Jordan that took part in this as well. Barak Ravid, good to have you on. Thanks so much.

RAVID: Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Just ahead, we're taking a closer look at Israel's defensive capabilities and how well they are expected to hold up against any possible future attacks.

Plus, Israel was not alone, as we said, in fending off Israel's massive barrage. The role the U.S., other Western allies, other Arab allies played in protecting Israel.

And will Congress now act and pass a new round of aid, not just for Israel, but Ukraine and Taiwan following this attack? It's been waiting for months just for a vote. We'll have an update. We'll be back in just a moment.



SCIUTTO: We're learning more tonight about how and when the U.S. learned about Iran's plans to launch an attack on Israel. A diplomatic source says that Iran informed Turkish officials about its options for retaliation last week. Turkey then informed the U.S. This likely played a key role in the coordinated response and defense against these strikes.

Israel says, with the help of the U.S., Britain and France, as well as other partners, nearly all the missiles and drones fired at Israel were shot down. CNN national security correspondent Natasha Bertrand joins me now from the Pentagon. Natasha, we just learned that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with an IDF official today about this joint response. But I'm curious about this advance warning, in effect. Is the reporting here that Iran, in effect, telegraphed that these strikes were coming? NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, senior

administration officials on a call earlier today with reporters, they pushed back very strongly on the notion that Iran issued any kind of warning to the region about just what it was going to do, because according to U.S. officials, Iran intended for its missile and drone attack on Israel to cause significant damage and injuries on the ground.

And so, officials are saying that Israel or that Iran did not intend to send any kind of warning to allies or to partners in the region or anyone in the region that could then allow them to move out of the way, for example. But of course, our new reporting suggests that Iran did tell Turkey what some of the options might be for a retaliatory strike, and then in turn, Turkey informed the United States.

Now, we know that leading up to this attack, the U.S. had a really good picture, intelligence picture of what Iran might be planning to do. That picture shifted a little bit as last week wore on. Earlier in the week, U.S. officials predicted that it was likely that Iranian proxies were going to play a very large role in some kind of retaliatory strike on Israel, but that it was unlikely that Iran itself would get directly involved.

However, as the week wore on, it became clear as the U.S. began seeing missiles and drones being moved around inside Iran, that Iran was clearly planning for something, whether that was going to be a first strike or planning for some kind of retaliation by the U.S. and Israel in response to its strike. And so, the U.S. became convinced later on in the week that Iran was planning something that included perhaps an attack from its territory.

So, you know, the timing of this, the scope, the parties involved, the weaponry involved, including the drones and missiles, the U.S. had a pretty good idea of well in advance, and that is why they were able to position some pretty key assets in the region, including U.S. Navy destroyers, including additional fighter aircraft to help take down whatever came Israel's way, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, certainly allowed time for preparation. Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Joining me now, military analyst Cedric Leighton. First to that question there, I mean, what does that sound like to you? If Iran communicated to Turkey about options it was considering, it would know, Turkey's a NATO ally, that Turkey might pick up the phone and call Washington and say, hear what we're hearing. Is that deliberate?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it is, Jim. You know, the way I look at it after I heard that report, it was like, yeah, the Iranians were clearly sending a signal to the U.S. through the Turks. Like you said, Turkey is a NATO ally. And the big thing here is that we have, you know, so many different elements. You know, this is Turkey right here, bordering Iran.

And the main thing that the Turks do, of course, is they have an integrated defense system with us and they've had a relationship with us as well, even though that relationship has been rocky of late. But the Iranians knew that they were going to talk to the U.S. and they, I think, clearly wanted to telegraph this.


SCIUTTO: As I understand it, this defense was multi-pronged, multiple partners coming from several directions. You have Israel here, of course. You had U.S. assets in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. assets down here in the Red Sea. I'm not sure, in the Persian Gulf as well, involved?

LEIGHTON: Yes. There were certainly assets. And it's pretty clear to me that specifically at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, they would probably have been involved, possibly out of Kuwait as well.

SCIUTTO: And we believe Jordan fired as well. So, I mean, that gives you a sense of the net of defenses that were able to shoot down these missiles and drones as they were coming from Iran.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. And they had -- this is about a thousand miles from here to here. They had that whole area in which to actually see what was going on and to actually take a look at, you know, the different types of projectiles here. You know, you had 170 drones, over 120 ballistic missiles, 30 cruise missiles. In fact, 70 of those drones, as we've reported, were shot down by the U.S. assets. So that really does make a big difference.

SCIUTTO: Drones don't fly particularly fast.

LEIGHTON: No, they do not.

SCIUTTO: So, they give you time. And by the way, cruise missiles, they're faster, but you could see them. When I was in Ukraine, I could see them in the sky. You could pick them out. That gave time to target and defend?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. It gave time because that 1,000-mile distance right here, Jim, that gives you time to do this. Now, the one key thing, though, is when you look at, you know, for example, what is happening here. This is gun camera footage from the IDF as they're blowing a drone out of the sky.

SCIUTTO: And by the way, we know that fighter jets were involved, not just Israeli, but U.S. fighter jets and I believe British fighter jets as well.

LEIGHTON: That's correct. And there were other assets that were out there. Then, of course, they have that capability. Then with the Iron Dome, of course, you have the capability to shoot things down from the ground. So, you've got air assets that are engaged in this and you've got ground assets as part of this air defense network that the Israelis have, the Iron Dome being the short-range version. They have two other systems that do medium and longer range. And those systems, of course, provided an entire picture for everybody.

SCIUTTO: And the Arrow, which shoots down ballistic missiles, that's the highest altitude defense as well. I mean, that involves shooting down a missile that went into space.

LEIGHTON: That's right. And it's what's interesting about this is that there were so many ballistic missiles. These are the quickest ones. These are the ones that can basically cover this distance within a few minutes.


LEIGHTON: The drones take up to nine hours to reach this particular distance, depending on the specific drone. And then, of course, you have cruise missiles. They take about two hours or so, depending.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because there's been talk for years about Iran's missile capabilities, not just fired from Iran, but also fired from, say, an Iranian proxy here in Lebanon, where they have many thousands of them. And the concern had been so many, whether it's from Lebanon here, of course, Hezbollah, sorry, Hamas has its own rocket capability, then from Iran. So many that they would be able to overwhelm Israeli defenses. Based on the response tonight, does that show you a shortcoming?

LEIGHTON: Yes, I think it does show a shortcoming on the part of the Iranians, because they did try to do what amounted to a swarm attack. When you look at the quantity that we're dealing with here, you can see that there are so many different things that the Iranians could have done, and they thought they could overwhelm the system.

But because of these kinds of things happening, we were able to actually intercept this, or the Israelis were able to intercept this in this particular case, and they were able to take out a really, really large proportion of both the drones and the missiles.

SCIUTTO: And what strikes me throughout this is that this is exactly the kind of attack that Ukraine is enduring every day from Russia, a mix of drones and missiles and cruise missiles with far more limited defenses, and by the way, shortages now of some of these air defense missiles.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. And one of the key things to think about here, everybody talks about Ukraine going it alone and doing those kinds of things that the Israelis did. Remember, the Israelis had a very sophisticated air defense system, a three-layer defense system, as we talked about, and they had a lot of help in doing it.

So, if you want the Ukrainians to be as successful as the Israelis, there are several factors involved here. They have a lot more space to deal with, but if you want them to be successful, you need to help them. And that's the difference here.

SCIUTTO: And you certainly don't have U.S. or U.K. assets directly shooting down Russian missiles and drones coming in, even as they devastate Ukrainian cities. Cedric Leighton, thanks so much, as always.

LEIGHTON: You bet you. SCIUTTO: The White House is using Iran's attack to try and light a

fire under Congress to keep sending aid not just to Israel, but also Ukraine and Taiwan. There's a bill that's been sitting there for weeks and months waiting for a vote, but Republican lawmakers are still at odds over what exactly they even want to vote on.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, a warning from conservative hardliners to the House Republican speaker: Don't pair any Israel aid with aid for Ukraine or Taiwan which, by the way, has broad support from members of both parties.

CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona joins me now for the latest. There's new urgency to approve more aid for Israel in light of this attack, but not to pass the supplemental that already passed the Senate with large bipartisan support, which has that aid as well as aid for Ukraine and Taiwan. So, what happens now?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Mike Johnson is walking a very tricky tightrope right now when it comes to Ukraine and Israel, and Congress is really divided over how to proceed.

In one corner, there are bipartisan calls, including from GOP leader Mitch McConnell, including from some of Johnson's own Republican committee chairman in the House, to just put that Senate passed foreign aid package on the floor, arguing that is the fastest way to get aid to Israel.


As a reminder, that does include money for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. And if the House were to pass it, it could go immediately to Biden's desk for signature. But --

SCIUTTO: Why doesn't he just do it?

ZANONA: In the other corner, he is facing calls from hardline conservatives to not tie those two issues together and just pass a stand-alone Israel bill.

SCIUTTO: Why? What's their argument?

SCIUTTO: Well, with Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, she just doesn't want to provide any money to Ukraine. She has also been skeptical of money to Israel as well. But they don't like to have these big packages, these hardline conservatives. They like to separate them typically on principle. But there's major questions about whether even a stand-alone Israel bill could pass the House. And whatever they do, they would then have to send it back to the Senate where, again, there's a question of whether it would pass.

Now, Johnson did say he is going to put some type of Israel aid bill on the floor this upcoming week, but he has said those details are still not yet finalized. I was checking with sources just before I came on, and they said he still not made decision yet.

We should also know that Johnson did have a call with the other top four congressional leaders with President Biden to discuss the ongoing situation in the Middle East. So, he is facing competing pressures from all sides right now.

SCIUTTO: So, if he blinks again which, by the way, he has done multiple times by the accounts of members of the Democratic and Republican Party, is a discharge position still alive, petition whereby the House could go around him?

ZANONA: So that is a very tricky procedural tool and it actually takes time, so that might not be the best option. But if Johnson does fail to do anything on the subject, there have been some Republicans who would warn that they would sign on to this Democratic tool, which essentially would force a floor vote on that Senate aid package. But at this moment, what these bipartisan lawmakers are saying, both in the Senate and the House, are just put the Senate bill --


ZANONA: -- on the floor. But again, the reason why Johnson --

SCIUTTO: They could send it for a long time.

ZANONA: Right. The reason why Johnson hasn't yet and probably won't is because his job is on the line, and Marjorie Taylor Greene has threatened to force him out of the speakership if he were to move ahead with that.

SCIUTTO: Melanie Zanona, thanks so much.

Joining me now for more, former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. Miller, good to have you back. We had a good chat last night. I want to ask you where things stand in your view in terms of how Israel is likely to respond to this. You have some quite public pressure from the U.S. president saying do not strike Iranian territory directly. The U.S. will not be involved. It will not help you through this. Does Israel, does Bibi Netanyahu listen to that pressure?

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: He's not a lone decisionmaker in this, Jim. Thanks for having me. I think the war cabinet is divided. I think, probably, Benny Gantz has actually already made his use clear. There's a consensus on the need to respond among the five, the three decisionmakers, the other two are observers. I think there's some discrepancy or disagreement over the timing of a response and the scale of the response.

Benny Gantz made a statement today, earlier today, in which he said he wanted a regional response. I think he used the word alliance in an effort to isolate Iran. What that means is unclear.

I think the greatest sort of argument that the Israelis will probably make in terms of why they would need to respond was tied to a statement that the head of the IRGC, Iranian Revolutionary Guard, made today, in which he said, we've created a new point of departure here.

Any Israeli strike on any, the word any, Iranian asset, interest, citizen or official, I think that's an exact quote, will be met with an attack by Iran on Israeli territory. Now, is that bluster? I think the Israelis somehow feel the need to restore, if it's even relevant any longer, I don't know if it is, some measure of deterrence and to remind Iran that this cannot become the new normal.

Against that are all the arguments you and I know, possibilities of escalation, deepening of Iran's efforts to -- they're already a nuclear weapons threshold state. Possibility that an Israeli attack, if it's large enough, could push the Iranians to actually weaponize. I suspect they'll wait a while. They're riding a pretty positive diplomatic wave right now.

SCIUTTO: There are some in the region who argue Israel should see this attack as a strategic opportunity. Explain that to us.

MILLER: Strategic opportunity. Well, pocketing the fact that 350 missiles of varying ranges and lethality have failed to --


MILLER: -- penetrate and strike Israeli targets, you had cooperation, the Middle East Air Defense --

SCIUTTO: Uh-hmm.

MILLER: -- alignment that appeared to be working.


There are a lot of unnamed partners here on the Arab side, Arab state side that play a role, Jordan. The whole notion of sanctioning Israel or restricting or conditioning military assistance, that's gone the way of the dodo. You had a G7 statement, which was the most pro- Israeli statement. I think the G7 may have ever actually announced.

So, in that respect, I think that the Israelis are in a pretty good position. The problem is that this rivalry with Iran is going to continue. The Israeli-Palestinian-Hamas war in Gaza is going to continue. There seems to be a strategic cul-de-sac. No hostage deals in the offing.


MILLER: So, I think there's still a lot of uncertainties, and there may be a few more shoes to drop.

SCIUTTO: That's an interesting point because after October 7th, the Biden administration intention was to make it a regional response. Biden was going to go not just to Israel but to Oman, bring that together. That fell apart very quickly. Here, you had Arab partners participating in this defense. Perhaps an opportunity. We'll have to see. Aaron David Miller, thanks so much.

MILLER: Sure. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We're going to have more on the breaking news when we come back.



SCIUTTO: After its missile and drone attack against Israel last night, Iranian officials called the barrage retaliation for an attack in Damascus two weeks ago, which Iran has blamed on Israel. Earlier today, the commander of Iran's armed forces said that for Iran, the matter is over, but added that could change if Israel strikes back, and that's where we find ourselves.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins us now with the latest. Fred, we're also learning that Russia and Iran, their foreign ministers, discussed the situation during a phone call earlier. That is quite a close relationship. What do we know about that? Did Russia express support for Iran's attack?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they essentially expressed support for the Iranians and said they wanted to make the relations between the two countries better. There was very little mention, actually, of the actual attack by the Iranians against the Israelis.

So certainly, it doesn't seem as though the Russians in any way, shape or form critical of the Iranians. Of course, we know that there is military cooperation, apparently, between Russia and Iran, Iran supplying some things that the Russians badly need in their battle against the Ukrainian forces. And so, they are very close allies indeed.

And if you look at the readout, Jim, of the call between Sergei Lavrov and the Iranian foreign minister, then you compare that, for instance, to the readout of the call between the Iranian foreign minister and the German foreign minister, the two of them spoke by phone today as well, the German foreign minister, actually, the first opening line from that readout is that the German foreign minister absolutely condemned Iran's attacks on Israel, saying that it was dangerous for the entire region.

Certainly, the Iranians have been saying today, we've been following very closely some of the messaging that we've been getting out of Tehran, Jim, and I think that there are three main messages that the Iranians are trying to send now. They were saying that this retaliation is now over and it's up to the Israelis where things go next.

But they're also saying that there actually has been a strategic shift on the part of the Iranians and that if their forces or any of their personnel are attacked by Israel again, that once again, there will now always be retaliation coming from Iran.

I want to listen into some of what the head of the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had to say. Let's listen then.


HOSSEIN SALAMI, COMMANDER, ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS (through translator): We decided to create a new equation, and that is if the Zionist regime attacks our interests, assets, personalities and citizens at any point, we will attack them from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Honest Promise Operation is a prominent and very clear example of this new equation.


SCIUTTO: That's a pretty big shift coming there from the Iranians, Jim. The other thing, of course, that we've been talking about as well is some of the threats coming from the Iranians towards the United States, saying they don't want escalation with the U.S., but if the U.S. does help Israel, if Israel retaliates against Iran, the Iranians are also saying that they will potentially also attack American interests in the region as well, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, a lot of threats going in a lot of directions right now in the region. A concerning time. Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much.

We are going to see some history tomorrow morning when jury selection begins in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial, a first for any former president in U.S. history to face such a trial. What we expect to see on day one, just ahead in "CNN Newsroom."



SCIUTTO: We're now less than 24 hours away from Donald Trump's first criminal trial. The judge recently expanded a gag order to include family members of the court following attacks by Trump against the daughter of the judge. That gag order also now includes family members of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, though not Bragg himself.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Bragg, Alvin Bragg, is trying to do is enforce federal campaign finance law, which he doesn't have any authority whatsoever to do.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Zachary Cohen joins me now. It's interesting. Trump was speaking there. It made me think for a moment. Is he acknowledging that campaign finance law is relevant into this case there?


SCIUTTO: But anyway, Trump did try to delay this hush money trial.


Those delay attempts did not work, but he's trying now to use this trial to delay another case. Explain.

COHEN: Yeah, Donald Trump is trying to capitalize on the trial schedule to ensure that this is the only jury he has to face in all of his four criminal trials. And specifically, he's trying to delay facing a trial in the federal case in Florida over his handling of classified material.

He's asking the judge in that case, saying, look, I have to be in court four days a week in New York for the next two months. My two top lawyers in the Florida case also have to be in court with me. Therefore, we don't have time to review this very sensitive, very classified evidence in the classified documents case.

Again, we've seen him try to play off his criminal cases against each other, try to delay them as much as possible. While it was unsuccessful in avoiding a trial in New York, we still see him trying to do that in the federal cases and potentially the ones where he's facing more serious criminal charges, federal criminal charges like the one in Florida.

SCIUTTO: Is he trying to do the same for the January 6th federal case as well?

COHEN: We haven't seen him officially trying to do that, but we do know, you know, with trying to file and make this argument about immunity, right?


COHEN: Complete immunity for presidents, that was a delay tactic and that is something that will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. But overall, we do not have a lot of clarity as to whether or not we'll see any of these other cases go to trial before the 2024 election.

So that makes the start of tomorrow's trial in New York potentially even more significant because we'll see, you know, the jury process started -- starting up. We'll see potentially the 12 jurors and the alternates who could determine the only verdict against Donald Trump in his four criminal cases.

SCIUTTO: In the midst of that, we're going to have the Supreme Court at least hearing arguments. We'll see when they decide hearing arguments on that broad claim of sort of endless immunity. Zach Cohen, thanks so much.

Just ahead in the "CNN Newsroom," we are still following breaking news out of the Middle East as the White House pushes to keep Iran's missile and drone attack on Israel from flaring into a broader regional conflict. You're in the "CNN Newsroom."