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U.S. Slaps New Sanctions On Iran After Attack On Israel; Today: Kennedy Family Members To Endorse Biden Over RFK Jr.; Now: Court In Recess, Jury Selection Resumes Soon. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 18, 2024 - 11:30   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But beyond the numbers, there are these little faces, their dreams, their lives cut short, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeremy in Tel Aviv, thanks for that report. It is so, so heartbreaking. And our -- of course, our deepest, deepest condolences to all those families who are suffering right now.

I want to bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt. He's here with me in the CNN NEWSROOM. I understand that you have some new reporting on the White House reaction.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the -- what we've just heard from the White House is actually that there's going to be another meeting today, a virtual meeting between senior White House advisors and senior Israeli members of the government who are close to Netanyahu about Rafah. And that is really the focus right now. What -- this is really offensive that is looming into Rafah that they really want to carry out to eradicate the rest of Hamas, they say, but that the White House has said they do not yet have a plan for.

And so, this is a continuing of the conversation for Israel to essentially trying to convince the United States that they do have a plan to get those civilians out of the way so they can carry out this offensive into Rafah and avoid frankly, scenes like the ones that we just saw in Jeremy's piece with 1.4 million people, many of whom have fled for safety down to Rafah. So, those continue -- those conversations continuing today, which had been delayed because of Iran's strike over the weekend.

BLITZER: Yes, so heartbreaking to see those little kids. Like that was really, really painful. You've got some more information now on the United States' decision to slap yet more sanctions on Iran. What are you learning?

MARQUARDT: The White House and President Biden announcing today that they are adding more sanctions on Iran because of what they call this unprecedented attack. And it really was an unprecedented attack by Iran against Israel over the weekend. They're targeting specifically, Iran's drone program, and those who are affiliated with the drone program.

Remember, Wolf, there were more than one hundred drones that were fired by Iran at Israel on Saturday night. You and I were both covering that in real-time. So, these are drone, steel, and automobile companies that are being targeted by these sanctions, as well as those who maintain the maintenance on those drones, and who manufacture them.

But this was done very much in coordination with the G7. That was important for the Biden administration. So, we're also seeing sanctions from the UK and the European Union, as these countries not only try to show Israel that they are taking action against Iran but also urging Israel to restrain and to not counterattack against Iran, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Important developments indeed. Alex, thank you very, very much.

Other news we are following. Members of an American political dynasty will make a very telling endorsement today, whom the Kennedy family is backing for president as one of their own vised for the White House. I'll speak with RFK Jr.'s sister, Kerry Kennedy. That's coming up next, our live discussion. Stay with us. You're on the CNN NEWSROOM.



BLITZER: Next hour in Philadelphia, President Biden is expected to chalk up an endorsement from an American political dynasty. The Biden campaign says several members of the Kennedy family plan to pledge their support for his reelection today. That despite the fact that one of their own, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is running as a third-party candidate.

Joining us now live from Philadelphia is Kerry Kennedy. She's the sister of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a human rights activist. Kerry, thank you so much for joining us. Why have you decided to endorse President Biden today over your brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?

KERRY KENNEDY, ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.'S SISTER: You know, I'm endorsing President Biden. And in fact, nearly every member of Joe and Rose Kennedy's grandchildren are endorsing President Biden today, for one reason. We are in the most important presidential election of our lifetime.

This as Trump is a -- poses an existential threat to our country. He's said he's proud of packing the Supreme Court in overturning Roe v. Wade. He said he's going to be a dictator on day one. He said he wants to change the constitution so he can go after his enemies, members of the press, the fourth estate in our country, which keeps our democracy going. So, these are that -- we cannot have this help in our country. It would be a complete disaster if he is elected.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, has been an extraordinary leader for us. He stood with the United Auto Workers. He's a man we can trust and who carries forth Bobby Kennedy's values and John Kennedy's values.

BLITZER: As you know, Kerry, the Biden campaign is concerned that your brother will potentially take votes away from President Biden in some of the very key and close swing states. Are you concerned that your brother will play potentially a spoiler role in this election?

KENNEDY: You know, I think we all know this is going to be a very, very close election. So, the only way Biden will win is if everybody comes out and votes. That's the way Biden wins.

So, we need everybody to come and vote. Vote for President Biden. If you vote for somebody else, that's a vote for Trump. Don't do that. Vote for Biden.

BLITZER: I know you've said that this is the most important election of your lifetime and you do just told me that Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the United States. If that's the case, should you be trying to convince your own brother to drop out, so he doesn't necessarily jeopardize your candidate, President Biden?


KENNEDY: Well, of course, you know, we have a big family, and we have loved discussions. But the thing today is not about my brother Bobby. Today, it's about America.

It's about freedom. It's about democracy. It's about the values and vision of Senator Robert Kennedy, my father, my uncle John Kennedy, my uncle Ted Kennedy, and our full family for generation upon generation. It's about decency to one another. It's about creating community, justice, and love.

You know, when Dad -- when Martin Luther King died, Daddy said, what we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love and compassion, and a sense of justice for those who still suffer in this country, whether they be black or they be white. That's what we need. That's what Joe Biden is and that's why we're supporting him.

BLITZER: Have you had a chance to speak with your brother? And if you have, Kerry, how is he reacting to all of this?

KENNEDY: I have -- you know, I've talked to my brother over the last few months -- over the last year, and what's really working today, Wolf, is to really focus on who's going to win this presidential. There's only two people who have any -- (INAUDIBLE) of getting 270 electoral votes. One is Donald Trump, which is division and chaos and fear. And the other is Joe Biden. Compassion, love, caring about our communities, standing with our working moms and dads and families, walking with the United Auto Workers, creating over 14 million jobs since he became president, 800,000 manufacturing jobs, historic highs, getting our economy that was decimated by Donald Trump under COVID back into shape, one of the strongest in years and years.

So, me, I prefer Donald -- I prefer Joe Biden. My family is for Joe Biden. And I hope all your viewers will go out there and vote for Joe Biden.

BLITZER: Very strong words from Kerry Kennedy. Kerry, thank you so much for joining us.

KENNEDY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up next, we'll go back to Manhattan where the court in Donald Trump's trial -- the criminal trial has taken a very quick recess. We'll also get an update on the jury selection process right after this short break. Stay with us. You're on the CNN NEWSROOM.



LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Coates in New York. We are in day three of jury selection on Donald Trump's historic criminal hush money trial. But the court is now in recess for just a small amount of time.

I want to bring in Kara Scannell and also Kristen Holmes who have been following the story so closely. You were inside the courthouse. What is the latest right now? Have there been any other jurors dismissed or any returns?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, one of the jurors this morning that was missing, he didn't show up today. He just came back into court. And the reason the judge asked him to come in is because prosecutors raised some questions about the honesty of an answer he gave on the questionnaire as they were doing some of their own due diligence. So, that --

COATES: He's one of the seven who have already been set? OK. Thank you.

SCANNELL: That's right. That's one of the seven who had been seated as a juror who was not expected to come back until Monday at least. But the prosecution had said that they found some material in this man's history about his wife having some kind of non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney's office way back in the 90s. And they said they were not sure if it was definitely him and they were not sure what that said about the honesty of his answer.

So, that juror arrived. He went into the courtroom with all the other jurors, excused. It was just the attorneys. The judge brought Trump's attorney and the assistant district attorney up to the bench with the juror and asked them some questions. It was inaudible to the pool of reporters who were in the room. So, we don't know what they said.

We do know that whatever he said elicited laughter at some point. And so, they spoke for a bit. The juror was then escorted out of the courtroom and the judge told the attorneys to talk about it.

So, it looks like they're still deciding whether they're going to keep this door or not -- keep the juror, you know, as we're now dealing -- we're down to six because we lost another juror earlier this morning who felt that some of her identity had been compromised. And so, the judge allowed her to be excused. You know, they brought in this new pool, 96.

That was cut in half by the number of people so they couldn't be fair and impartial. And they've now questioned nine people going through the questionnaire just to learn a little bit more about them and their views on Trump where they get their news and includes the number of people who work in finance, a stay-at-home mother, a retired university administrator, you know, as we're building this box to 18. Once we get 18, then the attorney starts asking their questions.

COATES: And importantly, as you said, we've already lost somebody who said they could not be impartial because of their compromise. The non- prosecution agreement is interesting because that's a way for somebody to essentially admit to having committed a crime, but have their sentence delayed or even eventually having it completely expunged for whatever reason if they abide by the terms and conditions of what the prosecutor's office said. So, if you're a defense, you might think to yourself, well, hold on a minute. If you have a non-prosecution agreement, do you have an incentive to be more cooperative with the prosecution? This happened back in the 90s, so it may no longer have the same weight to it.


Let me turn to you because we can almost set our clocks or watches by Donald Trump on a break coming out to a courthouse step and making some sort of statement. He hasn't done that. Why?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look. It's always going to be up to Donald Trump. We were even told coming into this process that if he was going to deliver remarks afterwards, we wouldn't know until the morning of, it's always done on his whim. But I will say he seems to be somewhat more participatory today, not necessarily his outrage, rolling his eyes, making comments, but he isn't --

COATES: That is happening or that's not happening?

HOLMES: It's not happening today. But we saw that before. Instead, he's actually engrossed in the questionnaire, we're here -- we're being told from the people in the court. He is looking at the jurors as they are talking. He is following along.

There are quite a few jurors who have said that they have read Art of the Deal, which obviously, that is going to appeal to Donald Trump. We know even the first day when they said --

SCANNELL: They told me he was craning his neck to look at some of these jurors.

HOLMES: To try to look at them as they were talking.

COATES: To see which one was actually reading his book? Interesting.

HOLMES: Well, it was during one of the ones who had said that they had run out of the deal. So, this is going to be something that he wants to be involved in the process of. I will also tell you. He did talk last night. He had an event at Trump Tower with the President of Poland. He also had his events in Harlem where he went to the bodega afterwards on Tuesday, trying to make this into campaign stops. However, maybe not every single time he sees the cameras since he's already been having this kind of exposure during the trial.

COATES: Important point. And I met I guess courthouse book reading club and list, Wolf. You also have one juror who has read Mike Pomerance's book. He was the former Manhattan D.A. who criticized Alvin Bragg for failing to bring a prosecution against Donald Trump. And so, it's really running the gamut here of who might be a potential juror in this historic case.

BLITZER: A very busy day in this historic case. So, thanks very much, Laura, for that update. There's breaking news we're following here in Washington.

GOP hardliners are not mincing any words in their anger at the House speaker, Mike Johnson after he announced he will move forward quickly with the foreign aid bills that includes massive amounts of aid to Ukraine and Israel. CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us now from Capitol Hill. Manu, I understand you've been speaking to some of those key Republican lawmakers. What are they telling you?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In fact, they just engaged in what Congressman Matt Gaetz described as a "Pence conversation" on the House floor with the Speaker of the House over their objections, how he's moving forward on his foreign aid package, and his decision to move forward on a separate border security plan that it will not be tied ultimately to this bill. That had caused this back and forth. There's also a tense exchange between him and another congressman, Derrick Van Orden, a congressman from Wisconsin, who's daring them to move forward with their call to oust Speaker Mike Johnson.

And also very interestingly, they tried to press Johnson about whether he would agree to a rules change, making it harder to oust a sitting speaker. And they contended, both Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, just moments ago that Johnson would not guarantee that he would move forward and support, making it harder to oust him from the job. Listen.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): From Kevin McCarthy. Unfortunately, Mike Johnson's going to have a fat lie.


RAJU: I'm going to pull out of here. And, Rahel, I'm pulling out of this right now. This --


RAJU: Wolf, this is not the right -- Wolf, it looks like that was not the right part of the soundbite. But we'll -- hopefully we'll get back to you here, Wolf. But essentially what he described this interaction to happen back and forth and whether or not he would support actually, ousting Mike Johnson. Actually, Matt Gaetz at the moment is not on the same side as someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who does support voting -- moving ahead in ousting Mike Johnson.

In fact, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was leading that charge just spoke to us moments before that interaction with Matt Gaetz. She's said that she wants to hear directly from the Speaker of the House whether or not he supports changing the House rules to make it harder to oust him from the position. And she did not rule out trying to call for that vote right now.

Remember, one member of the House right now can actually call for a vote ousting -- to essentially as the speaker of the House. That's what happened to Kevin McCarthy for the first time in history last fall. Now, there's some discussion about perhaps raising the threshold, maybe half of the members, maybe even somewhere around that to actually -- who can call for such a vote because of the concerns that calling for a vote in pushing out a speaker causes grave instability to this institution. And because of Mike Johnson's decision to move forward on Ukraine aid, is why people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are now trying to push him out of this job. So, a critical moment here, Wolf, for the speaker, for the future of Ukraine, and for the Republican Conference, which has been in deep disarray for months and months and months.

Mike Johnson trying to take the reins back from those folks on the far right. And we'll see if he's able to do that. He has some support within his conference, but members on the right are angry at his decisions on his key -- on this key package, Wolf.

BLITZER: And what's significant, Manu, he also has some support amongst at least some Democrats out there who say they will vote to keep him as a speaker. Is that right?


RAJU: Yes. That is another key development, much different than what we saw last fall when all Democrats joined with eight Republicans to push out Kevin McCarthy. This time, several of them are indicating that they are willing to save Johnson because of their support of how he handled this Ukraine aid package.

Remember, this bill that's going to pass -- expected to pass on Saturday night is very similar to what passed the Senate about two months ago. And for that reason, is why many of them say why would we kick him out of the speakership. They would -- are expected to vote to essentially kill this on the first vote -- of a procedural vote to actually stop Mike Johnson from being pushed out of office.

Now, here's the one catcher though, Wolf. The Democratic leadership in the House has not explicitly endorsed saving Mike Johnson. In fact, the number two Democrat, Katherine Clark, privately told her members this morning, keep your powder dry. Use this as leverage in a negotiation with the speaker. So, we'll see how the Democratic leaders play out. But some rank-and-file members say, let's save Mike Johnson, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the stakes are clearly enormous. Manu Raju, we can always count on you for the update. Thanks very, very much.

And to our viewers. Thanks very much for joining me here in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Stay with CNN for all the latest developments out of the jury selection in Donald Trump's hush money trial.

And I'll be back later tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern with all the dramatic moments from inside the courtroom in a special report on "THE SITUATION ROOM," Trump trial today. Stay with us right now. "INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts after a short break.