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Middle East On Edge After Iran Attacks Israel; World Leaders Call For Restraint After Iran's Attack; Jury Selection In Historic Criminal Trial Begins Monday. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 23:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Well, hello and welcome. I'm Becky Anderson coming to you live from Abu Dhabi, where the time is 7:00 a.m.

The world anxiously watching the Middle East right now waiting to see how Israel will respond to Iran's unprecedented, aerial assault. As the bombardment ended on Sunday and all out diplomatic push began, aiming to avoid any further escalation in the region, well, G7 nations met virtually and regional leaders spoke with their counterparts around the world and an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. The secretary general called for restraint.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The middle is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real dangers of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to diffuse and deescalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint.


ANDERSON: Well, Israel now says about 300 drones, missiles, and rockets were fired from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and by Hezbollah in Lebanon, carrying some 60 tons of explosives. Nearly all were intercepted by Israel with help from the U.S., the UK, France, and others.

U.S. Central Command said Sunday that its forces intercepted more than 80 drones and at least six ballistic missiles. But the U.S. insists it will not join any retaliatory strikes.

Well, Israel's war cabinet met for hours on Sunday to discuss a response, but reached no decision. A source told CNN some ministers are pushing for immediate retaliation, but a call from U.S. President Joe Biden convinced Israeli prime minister to wait at least for now.

Israel's president told CNN his country is not seeking war.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDEN: 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.


ANDERSON: Well, meantime, Israel has lifted restrictions put in place shortly before the attack, ending limits on gatherings and reopening schools for Monday.

Well, CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson joining us now from Jerusalem.

Nic, the decision on what happens next will ultimately sit with the five-person war cabinet, weighing pressure from the international community, not least the United States, calling for restrained with pressure internally, at least from some senior ministers to go in big. What's the received wisdom on the ground there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think at the moment, it is, pause and wait to work out the timing and scope that was what came out after that very long war cabinet meeting. The war cabinet has directed the IDF to come up with a number of military options to put on the table.

But I -- but I think that international pressure is what's caused the pause but what will likely cause Israel to go ahead because he indications are they will it's not just the right-wing members of the cabinet and their view that Israel needs to take strong and decisive action. But perhaps that Israel believes that its secure purity in the region is best served if it shows maximum deterrence.


Now of course, Iran at the moment thinks that it has shifted the -- shifted the dial, if you will, and it is showing Israel that there's a deterrent factor now that Israel can strike its interests without consequence of action. But it does seem that the moment the intent here will be to have a return strike of some sort on Iran, but we don't know when and we don't know what it will be at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: This assault and it was an historic assault, some 350 missiles, rockets, drones and missiles raining down at least towards, if not on Israel, that is a significant ratcheting up of effort on the part of Tehran. And this has worried the wider region, not just Israelis who feel under significant pressure supported, of course, by the U.S. and other partners. But around the region, this is really rattled confidence in the prospect for a wider conflict.

Just how important is that at this point a, where might we see that wider conflict evidenced anytime soon?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think the most immediate trigger for a rapid escalation would be if Israel strikes back at a huge number of sensitive targets inside of Iran, Iran has said that it will straight back. It's warned the United States not to support that Iran told its neighbors in advance of the strike that it was going to take against Israel in an effort to avoid an escalation.

But nevertheless, Iran -- Iran strike into Israel really has changed the equation for the Israelis and for the region. I think there were a lot of countries here that really feel that since October the 7th, since Hamas's attack, since Israel's response in Gaza, since the killing now of approaching 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the tensions of slowly, slowly been increasing.

Israel has had a number of senior Iranian military commanders in the region over the past few months because it believes that they are setting out to work with proxies to destabilize and attack Israel. So Israel believes that it's been looking after its own national interest. But in the region, looking in, there's a sense that this has just been a growing, growing escalation and with no off-ramp at the moment, certainly not now we've heard from Israel saying that Hamas is turning down the current ceasefire hostage release deal that's on the table.

But I think when you -- when you look at Iran strike into Israel, you have to see that as being a quantifiable up step in the -- in the possible escalation as we're looking, as we're seeing the situation and there's not -- there is not despite the words from the secretary general of the United Nations, despite what we hear from the G7, despite the phone calls that are going on between Secretary Blinken and partners in the region and partners in Europe there is not an off- ramp to this yet, and that's what -- that's why people are incredibly worried. Because they the steps for de-escalation don't exist at the moment, Becky.

How significant was the involvement of the Iranian proxies, the uranium backed groups around this region. We hear that these, these attacks were mostly launched from Iran, but we are also reporting Hezbollah involvement, involvement in from Iraq groups based their Yemen and Syria. Nick that compares with the involvement by some Arab partners, certainly of the U.S., if not, Israel, that being Jordan for example Saudi Arabia. You know, there are other sort of split here regionally about clearly what happens next and the concerns about escalation, isn't it?

ANDERSON: Yeah. I mean, you can definitely look and see that Iran had the help of its proxies. It had always said that it was going to or it was understood that it around was going to strike back from its soil and the principal preponderance if you will, that the larger amount of missiles that were fired did come from Iran.


But the Houthis in Yemen, for example, fired some missiles and the belief and understanding is that the Saudi Arabia, because they, the trajectory would have come across Saudi Arabias as space would were involved in alerting if not intercepting some of those they were missiles that came from Iran, from Iraq, pass over Jordanian airspace that were interested in the air space over Jordan. But I think if you look at Iran's proxies that perhaps had played the

biggest and had the biggest effect on the ground, and if not firing the big missiles. But in helping frame a slightly more confusing military picture around the northern border with multiple Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah into northern Israel. Other heavy amounts of missiles fired and on the previous night as well, which, which will have been to Iran's advantage, to confuse the picture of what was incoming to Israel.

We know it was the drones that were slow the cruise missiles that were moderately quicker, and the ballistic missiles which got through the ones that did get through. We've got through were much faster and they were fired from Iran.

So the proxies played a role, but not a massive role. But again, they all continue to be he threats for Israel and play a de-stabilizing role for Iran against Israel.

ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, and hence the real concern around the region about the prospect and risk of a wider conflict. Many will say that conflict already exists, but certainly significant concerns and called for restraint echoed across this region of the Middle East and Gulf.

Nic, thank you.

Nic Roberson is in Jerusalem for you.

Well, as Israel considers how to respond to Iran's attack, other countries as I say in the region, are also calling for restraint on both sides.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with his counterparts in Iran and Israel on Sunday, warning any further escalation could destabilize the Middle East even more.

The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement expressing concerns over any, quote, potential severe repercussions. In a social media post, the ministry called on the U.N. Security Council to step up and manage the situation, given a threat to international peace and security. That, of course, is squarely on the file of the United Nations Security Council.

Officials here in the UAE responded as well. The ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement saying called for resolving differences through dialogue and through diplomatic channels.

Well, to discuss the possible military options here, let's bring in Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a CNN military analyst and former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army.

It's good to have you, Mark.

So let's start with what we do know, that is that the war cabinet met for hours yesterday in Israel, to mull its response because they promised there will be one. The question is, what will that response look like? Just weigh the calculations that they are considering at this point,

if you will.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Truthfully, Becky, and first of all, it's good to be with you again. Truthfully, I don't think we're going to see a kinetic strike. I think the percentage of a kinetic strike more missiles going back toward Iran, fighter jets going into the Iran territory probably will not happen because Israel realizes they have the upper hand right now. They fought off this missile barrage of over 350 platforms coming into their airspace, and they had a lot of Arab partners with them to fight that off.

So right now, they're in a better position truthfully on the world stage, and from a messaging perspective than they were before the attack. So what does that mean? I believe that the Israeli defense forces had excelled over the last decade or so in building a very robust cyber capability through development of a whole nation approach.

And what I mean by that is they have connected their educational system, the Israeli entrepreneurial system, along with the IDF, to really get some great cyber capabilities not only in defense, which a lot of nations --


HERTLING: -- are putting a lot of attention to. But in cyber offensive operations.

They've even had a couple of programs where they link university students with the IDF. One called I think its called Odyssey, the other one interestingly enough, is called Moffett which is called the girls, the cyber girls facility, where they're training women to be cyber experts.

So they have put a lot of attention on that, and I think that could be a covert action that they might use against Iran.

ANDERSON: Joe Biden let heavily on the Israelis. Certainly as we understand it, in a phone call with Benjamin Netanyahu, it has been very clear that the U.S. has said that they will not get involved in any offensive operation on the part of the Israelis against Iran. He called this a win for Israel and perhaps understandable in exerting pressure on Israel to really consider carefully what they do next, because Israel, of course, you know, sure, it looked strong and its defense capabilities worked, but they work in conjunction with the U.S. and other partners.

Just how much support was it provided? And without that supports would it have been as effective in any way in its defense during that what, five-hour unprecedented, huge wave of incoming fire, some 350 missiles. Let's be quite clear about this -- how much did Israel really need to lean into that support?

HERTLING: What id say, Becky, is categorically, they had a whole lot of support. Now, I'm not going to quantify that other than to say there was an intelligence factor. There were tanker aircrafts overhead from different nations to include the United States. There were early warning aircraft overhead that would guide jet fighters towards specific targets as they were coming across. There was a literally a target stream of U.S. and others across the areas.

Nic Robertson even mentioned the Saudi Arabians in a glide path though, anything coming out of Yemen, but also the entire carrier battle group that's in the Red Sea as well as outpost from the United States and the United Kingdom in different countries like Jordan and in northern Syria and in Iraq, I'd even point to that.

So you're talking about just a massive amount of a multinational force. Israel could not have done what happened last night by themselves, and that was a defense of operation with a lot lead time. So when you're turning the tables a little bit and saying about the potential for an offensive strike of that size and capacity, it would be impossible for Israel to do that without help from multinational partners.

I'm going to give you an example. It was interesting today I was thinking about, I heard someone call all this d is really shock and awe campaign or the Iranian shock and awe against Israel.

So I looked up the figures, the first day of the alleged American shock and awe in Iraq in 2003, had 500 precision weapons going in to the nation of Iraq. This had about 380. So this was about the same capacity of the shock and awe at the start of the Iraq war and not that many ground targets were hit.

When you're talking about that many weapons coming across, you can't imagine the disaster that would have occurred had maybe even a third of those weapons hit targets inside of Israel, there would've been a lot of death, a lot of destruction, and a lot of civilian casualties.

ANDERSON: To your point, Mark, and I'm interested to note for our viewers sake the Ukrainian presidents words yesterday in the wake of what happened. Have a listen


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The whole world sees much the whole world sees what real defense is. It sees that it is feasible and the whole world saw that Israel was not alone in this defense. The threat in the sky was also been eliminated by its allies. And when Ukraine tells its allies that unity provides the best defense, they are already well aware of its effectiveness. They are aware of it and insure it.


ANDERSON: I mean, it's clearly why Zelenskyy would take the opportunity to say that isn't it, Mark, at this point given the hold up in aid and support for Ukraine in the present. But I just wonder what your perspective of his words are.

HERTLING: Well, I'm going to be accused of excuse-making, Becky, but what I'll say is this, it's a different ballgame.


Israel has spent the last 15 years establishing an integrated air defense system. Not only the Iron Dome, which is the most famous, but the Arrow weapons systems and the David's Sling. They also used to use Patriot weapon systems until they built their own over the last two decades. These are weapons systems and a network that the Israeli government has established for their military to fight these kind of combat actions.

The other thing I would point out Israel is about 250 miles along and about 70 miles wide at its widest point, a total combined area of about 8,500 square kilometers. Ukraine on the other hand, is 255,000 square kilometers. You can't cover the entire space of Ukraine without quadrupling beyond exponentially expanding their air defense capability.

Foreign Minister Kuleba has had a campaign over the last few days where he's claimed he's now no longer going to be a diplomat, and he's going to start demanding the all the patriot missiles that are rusting or have collecting dust and aren't being used around the world.

Those weapons systems are part of nation security. And I think there's been a great deal of effort by Secretary Austin and the Ramstein group to get Ukraine as much as they can get, but they started this war without anything, without, you know, truthfully the capability to defend themselves against some of the Russian systems. They had been given a lot of equipment, but they just want more.

That's understandable. I understand. Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Kuleba's approach toward this, but covering their whole system -- remember, this attack last night, lasted five hours. Ukraine has been in this war for two years. And the amount of money that was spent last night on rockets and systems would probably boggle the mind and we don't know what that is just yet.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. It's good to have you say, sir. Mark Hertling, in the house -- thank you.

HERTLING: Thanks, Becky.

ANDERSON: Still to come, the leaders of G7 countries meet virtually in the wake of Iran's, unprecedented attacks on Israel. The group's message to both sides as they vow to, quote, stabilize the situation. That is up next.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson. You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD live for our Middle East programming hub here in Abu Dhabi.

A senior U.S. administration official says Iran messaged the U.S. privately while the attack on Israel was underway on Saturday to say, quoting the U.S. official that they were finished after this -- well, the barrage of more than 350 projectiles from Tehran mostly had the potential to cause great destruction



ANDERSON: The vast majority of those strikes were intercepted by Israel and its partners. And the U.S. has assessed that there was no significant damage within Israel itself. The IDF says only a few of these projectiles actually made it inside Israel, some landing here at an airbase in the south of the country, and those caused two only minor damage.

Well, now, Israel is promising to, and I quote, exact a price from Iran for the attack as Israel's war cabinet weighs its response, its allies, including U.S. President Joe Biden, are urging restraint.

Well, joining me now from Washington is CNN politics senior reporter Stephen Collinson.

Stephen, it's good to have you.

Israel, its war cabinet responsible for what happens next, suggesting it will exact a price. Frankly, the rest of the world while in the West condemning Iran for this action, calling for restraint. And that is echoed around this region.

What are you hearing Stateside about the assessment of this attack and the sort of pressure that is being imposed on Netanyahu and his war cabinet in this period as they weigh their next move?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: I think the president said something very interesting in a public statement after he'd spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu after the operation last night, he said the success in repelling this multi-front attack showed that there wasn't a threat to Israel from Iran. This is clearly saying to the Israelis that not only does the U.S. have their back, but there's no need for retaliation that could escalate this and cause yet, even greater retaliation from the Iranians.

Today, we saw the president talk to the other leaders of the G7, including some of those leaders who've been increasingly critical of Israel's position in Gaza and its tactics there. That is sending a signal to Israel that there's this moment of goodwill towards them. And perhaps they would do best not to squander that as some people think they've squandered some of the sympathy of the October 7 terrorist attacks.

So there are a lot of messages going towards the Israelis the president really does not need another hot war and other confrontation in the Middle East. And award Iran of any sort would of course be disastrous

ANDERSON: Stephen, the G7 released this after that meeting which read in part, and I quote, here we unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran's direct and unprecedented attack against Israel. We express our full solidarity and support to Israel, and its people. And reaffirm our commitment towards its security Israel's G7 allies clearly signaling public support, while calling for restraint.

And that restraint is the key line being echoed around this region where I am not least by some significant partners for the U.S., Jordan, for example, Egypt and importantly at this stage Saudi Arabia, Stephen.

COLLINSON: Right, right. And I think that message is that if Israel does go ahead and inflame the situation as outsiders would see it, it could stand to lose a lot of that new support that it's just got and that solidarity.

The issue here though, is that how this conflict looks in Washington or London or Paris is a lot different than it looks within Israel. Israel has had its security now shattered twice. Within six months after the October 7 attacks and the fear that this attack last night caused.

You know, they stopped most of these missiles and drones coming in. But I'm sure it didn't feel very good on the ground for the Israelis. And that is going to factor into the political calculations that Netanyahu has made. We know how fragile his position. And Israel believes it's an existential fight that perhaps some of his allies don't perceive.


So that is the tension here. And that is what we're going to have to watch over the coming days, whether Israel can respond in a way that doesn't escalate this or if it goes ahead and takes the next step.

I mean the West, the United States has been trying to tamp down as conflict to stop it becoming a regional war for six months. While it has taken the now for Iran to become involved, it hasn't really worked. There's no real clear sense that I can see that there's any diplomatic off-ramp here and that this is going to get better anytime soon.

ANDERSON: And, Biden. Of course, will here be significant criticism and certainly from members of Congress on the right of the political divide in Washington, as you say, he does not need another hot war, six months out less than we are now from this next us election.

Always good to have you, Steven. Thank you very much, indeed.


ANDERSON: Discussing the political calculations surface stakeholders across the board here, not least for the Israelis.

Still to come, Israelis slowly getting back to normal life. Even call it that as the government discussed how to respond to Iran's unprecedented attack.

You're watching our special coverage. It continues after this short break. Stay with us.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi

Well, Iran's military chief warning Israel in the U.S. against any future attacks on Iran. The chief of staff of Iran's armed forces says U.S. bases in the region will be, quote, dealt with should the U.S. cooperate with Israel in possible retaliatory actions and the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps echoed those words.


MAJOR GEN. HOSSEIN SALAMI, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, 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, and 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.


ANDERSON: Well, joining me now is to Trita Parsi, author of "Losing An Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy", also executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

We spoke at this time yesterday, 24 hours on I say dust settles, as it were. Trita, we heard the commander of the IRGC talking about establishing a new equation, a new military strategy effectively. Are witnessing a move from the shadow war between Iran and Israel that we have seen over years into a more overt conflict at this point, or does that exaggerate what we are hearing here?

TRITA PARSI, AUTHOR, "LOSING AN ENEMY": I think actually, Becky. It's the opposite. It's the fact that this conflict has emerged out of the shower. War and what will happen if this new doctrine ends up being establishes that it will most likely go back into the shadow war, in which the Israelis will continue to target Iran, but it will do so in a much more low level way without any fanfare, giving the Iranians and ability not to respond because they're not publicly embarrassed in the sense of Israel taking credit for such attacks, and the Iranians will do the same thing, but probably less successfully so against Israel.

That is a situation we were in prior to October 7 and prior to the Israelis starting to really go after a high level Iranian officials in Syria and Libya -- and Lebanon in the middle of the day, and the last one of course, at and Iranian consular premise, which is a clear violation of international law, on top of that.

ANDERSON: Iran has been very forceful in its threats to the U.S. and regional countries that might aid Israel in any retaliation against Iran.

Do you see this as part of its strategy to reestablish deterrence at this point? After all, you know, what we see as the sort of asymmetric position. With regard, Iran in this region is the guard then its use of proxies in what others describe as its axis of resistance. What's going on here? What's the strategy?

PARSI: I think you put your finger on and when you said that, this is about restoring deterrence.

Now, of course, there's a big, big weakness in the surrounding approach, which is, Israel has a say in this, too.


If the Netanyahu government decides to escalate further, then Iran's returns will not have been restored, and instead Iran will be in an open warfare with Israel and we will potentially see a regional war. Now, of course, from the U.S. stand point, the Biden administration wants to avoid this but what Biden has said to the Israelis in my view, is rather incomplete because by saying that the United States will not support Israel in any offensive action, I understand why the Biden administration says that, but we have to be clear, once the war starts, there is no difference between offensive and defensive measures, because if the Israelis attack Iran and the U.S. has no part in it, the Iranians will respond to an attack Israel in return. At that point United States will get involved because it will consider that helping defend Israel.

Needless to say, it doesn't matter. The U.S. will get dragged into the war. If Biden truly wants to avoid this war and truly wants to make sure that the Israelis don't start this next cycle of escalation, I think he needs to be clearer and firmer with Netanyahu, particularly mindful of the fact that Netanyahu, unlike Biden, actually has an interest in escalation.

ANDERSON: We have to remember and there will be people watching this who say, have you forgotten that 350 projectiles were launched towards Israel last night and without, of course, the support of the international partners, including very specifically the United States, this may have been a completely different story. This was a country to all intents and purposes under significant attack last night.

The deputy U.S. representative at the U.N., Trita, Robert Wood, issued his own warning to Iran at the Security Council meeting on Sunday saying, and I quote: Let me be clear. If Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States all further action against Israel, Iran will be held to account.

So this is the United States on the one hand, exerting significant pressure. It seems on Netanyahu, warning the Israeli prime minister that they will not get involved in a -- in an offensive assault on Iran, like you say offense and defense at this stage goes out the window. But this is the U.S. as well, on the other hand, treated not mincing words.

PARSI: Absolutely. And I think there is a distinction and what they said regarding attacks on U.S. troops, as well as on Israel, which has mentioned that any attack on the U.S. at this point well, of course, the respondent to by the United States. ANDERSON: You mentioned that Israel have been on the attack of 350

projectiles, absolutely true. It's, of course, something that Israel itself initiated by attacking that embassy in the first place.

But we should also be very clear Iranians choreographed this in such a way to ensure that there wouldn't be any significant damage or any casualties on the Israeli side. They gave the Israelis and the Americans 72 hours heads up before the attack started. The U.S. knew exactly what was happening.

But in that, there's also something else very interesting that happened. The United States in Israel and its other partners were successful is shooting down the overwhelming majority of these missiles and drones, et cetera. But that is largely because A, they were involved with 72 hours heads up and because there were several countries it's doing so.

What the Iranians show in all of this is that next time, if they were to do this without any heads up, and without the United States having enough time to make itself ready to help Israel, Israel may end up in a much, much worse situation.

So, in that, I think the Iranians conclude or I think they hope that the message to Israel has been that Iran's deterrence has been restored.

ANDERSON: Hmm, fascinating.

All right. Going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us, Trita Parsi, here on CNN.

And I will be back in about 20 minutes live from Abu Dhabi.

Coming up next, my colleague Paula Newton has the day's other top stores for you, including former President Donald Trump about to appear in a New York courtroom for what is his hush money trial. That after this.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta.

And we are just hours away from Donald Trump's historic criminal trial that begins in New York. Now, jury selection is set to get underway Monday morning, and this will be the first time a former U.S. president -- think about it -- will go on trial for criminal charges. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Now, Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records. Those counts are what are called class E felonies in New York. What does it mean? It means each are punishable by up to four years in prison.


Now, Trump is pleading not guilty we remind you and he denies having an affair with Daniels.

Security, you can imagine, will be tight when the former president appears in court. Law enforcement says a sophisticated and multi- layered security plan is already in place.

Joining us now from Chicago is Ronaldo Mariotti. He is a former federal prosecutor and host of "It's Complicated" podcasts.

And yes, so it begins and so do the complications up. First, jury selection, how complicated could that get? And do you believe the outcome of this entire trial could really hinge on that selection?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's no question. Try a lot of cases and jury selection is often where you win or lose trial and really you often don't know whether you've selected good jury for your client or bad jury for your client? So after the trial is over.

So there's no question that for Trump everything is really riding on that. His best hope is to try to have one or two jurors who just are very favorably inclined towards him and are unwilling to convict. So, he's going to be, you know, having his legal team trying to find those jurors. Realistically, I expect him to raise lots of issues regarding the jury, but I expect that most of them are not going to have legal weight. I think they'll slow down the process and I expect to Judge Marshawn to take that process very seriously.

But at the end of the day, were going to be able to select a jury and move forward with this trial.

NEWTON: And then they're going to be going through that evidence. Now, while the trial itself may end up reading like the anatomy of a scandal, this is really, as you're going to explain to us, a trial about fraud, about allegations the financial crimes. Is that really though the former presidents best defense here, right?

I mean, many have said that this is white-collar crime and that it isn't a case that should have been brought by New York.

MARIOTTI: So, really the issue here is whether or not there was falsification of business records. And Trump's defense is going to be that he had no idea that those business records are being falsified.

In other words, he can admit that he was involved in a scheme to cover up an alleged affair, whether he admits it's true or not. But he could say that, for example, he had no idea that these payments to Stormy Daniels were being reflected in the books and records of the Trump Organization as payments for legal services. That would be a complete defense and ultimately just comes down to his credibility versus the credibility of the other witnesses that the prosecution is going to be putting out.

NEWTON: Yeah. And I remind everyone, one of the crucial witnesses is Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, who -- I mean, some have indicated is that times not reliable. I want to ask you your opinion though. You have a lot of experience in these cases. Is this a tough case? Meaning you have to convince the entire jury each and every one of them that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

MARIOTTI: It's difficult in certain -- in certain respects and not others. A lot of the evidence here is very straightforward. There's really no question that he was trying to hide these allegations. There's no question that he made payments. Cohen, there's no question that Cohen made the payments to Stormy Daniels, and there's no question that Michael Cohen really wasn't doing much in the way of legal services here. And there's no question that there's false statements that ended up in the books and records.

So this really comes down to what the prosecution could prove about Trumps knowledge regarding those false statements and I think the prosecution also is really half he has to convince the jury that this is a case worth bringing. You know, as you've alluded to, there have been people who have been very critical the case. I think one thing that prosecution absolutely, yes, to do is convinced the jury that this is a case that is worth their time. It's also a case in which Trump merits a felony conviction and, you know, that's why they're very focused on the impact on the election is in the concealment of an election crime versus actually been very focused on the alleged affair itself.

NEWTON: And when you talk about this actually being worthy of a felony crime, this could have been tried in other ways, right, it doesn't have to -- it didn't have to be prosecuted to this extent.

MARIOTTI: That's right. So the crime of falsifications of business records under New York law is typically a misdemeanor. It becomes a felony when the when the prosecution alleges that that falsification is being done to conceal another crime.


So the prosecution didn't have to charge these this class E felony. They could have just said, you know, this was -- these are misdemeanor counts. They purposely didn't do that. You can imagine that the defense is going to make light of that and they're also going to try to convince the jury that if they're not going to acquit the former president, that instead they should convict him of a misdemeanor.

NEWTON: It is going to be interesting, as we said, just a few hours from now, we will cover all of it, Renato Mariotti, and you will be helping us. Really appreciate your time tonight. I appreciate

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, you can watch CNN's special coverage of the Trump hush money trial Monday, 9:00 a.m. New York, 2:00 p.m. London Time. I'm Paula Newton, I want to thank you for watching.

Our coverage with Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi continues right after this break. [00:00:00]