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Terror Leader Killed; Taiwan Awaits Expected Pelosi Visit As China Seethes; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Appears For Seventh Court Hearing; CNN Speaks With Moscow's Former Chief Rabbi Who Left Russia. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 10:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Months of top secret planning coming down to this. The leader of al-Qaeda taken out in a drone strike in Kabul.

Plus, next level geopolitical maneuvering with all eyes on Taiwan, as we await Speaker Nancy Pelosi's expected arrival. Will her visit be a turning

point in US-China relations?

China ramps up the rhetoric ahead of the trip calling the United States a "destroyer of peace" after releasing this video.

I'm Eleni Giokos in for Becky Anderson. Welcome to "Connect The World."

Now, the US President Joe Biden says he hopes Ayman al-Zawahiri's death will help bring closure to people who lost loved ones in the September 11

attacks. The al-Qaeda leader was killed over the weekend in a drone strike in Afghanistan.

Now, this video shows smoke rising from the Kabul house after it was hit. Mr. Biden confirming that he authorized the strike to "remove Zawahiri's

from the battlefield once and for all." It ends a decade's long manhunt that began even before 911. And Michael Holmes explains his long and deep

ties to terror.


AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL-QAEDA LEADER: We want to speak to the whole world, who are we, who are we.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By the time Ayman al-Zawahiri burst onto the world scene after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar

Sadat, he was already a terrorist, committed to turning Egypt into a fundamentalist Islamic state. The young doctor came from one of Egypt's

leading families. There is even an al-Zawahiri Street in Cairo named after his grandfather. His uncle described him as pious.

MAHFOUZ AZZAM, AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI'S UNCLE: He was known as a good Muslim, who was keen to pray at time in the mosque and to read, and to think, and

to have his own decisions.

HOLMES: Al-Zawahiri spent three years in prison after Sadat's assassination. After he got out, he made his way to Pakistan, where he used

his medical skills to treat those fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That's where he met Osama bin Laden, and they found a common

cause. He talked about it a decade later.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: We are working with President (inaudible) since Muslim Sunnis, we have focus in here in Afghanistan. And we go into many other places.

HOLMES: Al-Zawahiri was many places in the early 1990s, even it's believed visiting California on a false passport. His group attacked Egyptian

embassies and tried to kill Egyptian politicians. Eventually, al-Zawahiri folded his group into al-Qaeda.

SAJJAN GOHEL, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION: Zawahiri pretty much led the group. He did the strategic policy of what al-Qaeda's agenda was. Certainly bin

Laden gave his authority and blessings to it, but al-Zawahiri, call the shots.

HOLMES: Al-Zawahiri was at bin Laden's side when he declared war on America in May 1998. Weeks later, they launched an attack on US embassies in

Africa, and then gloated after they escaped the US cruise missile attack launched in retaliation. After the 911 attacks, al-Zawahiri began to become

the voice of al-Qaeda taunting the US.

AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translation): American people, you must ask yourselves why all this hate against America?

HOLMES: After the US invasion of Afghanistan, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were on the run, sometimes together more often apart. His wife and

daughters were killed in a US airstrike aimed at him. But he continued to issue messages on subjects ranging from the war in Iraq to the London

subway attacks in 2005. And while he was always the likely choice to succeed Osama bin Laden, it took the organization several weeks to announce

his promotion

JOHN BRENNAN, THEN-US DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Al-Zawahiri is not charismatic. He has not been -- was not involved in the fight earlier on in

Afghanistan, so -- and I think he has a lot of detractors within the organization. And I think you're going to see them start eating themselves

from within more and more.


HOLMES: Without bin Laden, al-Qaeda can never be the same.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: That idea personified by Osama bin Laden. He was this charismatic figure to join al-Qaeda. You pledged a personal oath to

him. People went and died not for Ayman Zawahiri or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but for Osama bin Laden.

HOLMES: Terror experts say that the jihadists worldwide, al-Qaeda still has great appeal as an inspiration. And while al-Zawahiri was an obvious

successor to bin Laden, it's not at all clear who would succeed al- Zawahiri.


GIOKOS: Well, that was our Michael Holmes reporting. And the White House says, al-Qaeda still has a presence in Afghanistan but it's very small.

Let's talk more about the strike and its aftermath. CNN national security correspondent Alex Marquardt, as well as international security editor Nick

Paton Walsh joining us now.

Alex, I want to start with you, because this raises so many questions in terms with relationships with the Taliban, security questions, and the

commitments that were made in Doha. That knob brought up many questions where you saw al-Zawahiri sitting on the balcony brazenly so, and the

question is, were they harboring al-Qaeda?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, I think you used the right word there, brazen. It was stunning, I think, to hear

not only that al-Zawahiri was in Afghanistan but in the Afghan capital of Kabul, living in a house with his family, after the chaotic withdrawal by

the US and NATO countries last summer. Now, the Trump administration did famously strike that Doha agreement with the Taliban. And in that

agreement, there was language that in which the Taliban would agree to not harbor terrorists and not, once again, become a safe harbor for terrorism.

Now, there was no real sense that the Taliban was actually going to turn its back on al-Qaeda. And there was real concern that the US would not be

able to continue to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, where they're not to be, you know, troops on the ground, boots on the ground. And so now, what

you're seeing from the Biden administration is, they're holding this up as a validation of this theory that they can continue to strike at terrorists

inside Afghanistan.

But what you're also hearing, Eleni, from the Biden administration, is this anger directed towards the Taliban for having, arguably, the most famous

and sought after terrorists in the world living in Kabul. Which is something that would almost certainly be impossible to do without the --

certainly without the knowledge, but also without the agreement of the Taliban.

I want to play for you a little bit of what we heard from the White House's John Kirby earlier today on CNN when he was asked about what the Taliban

knew about Zawahiri living in Kabul. Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, PRESS SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It was a violation of the Doha agreement, which specifically says that he commits them to not

allowing Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven or a launching pad for attacks against the United States, or other -- of our allies and partners.

And clearly, because Mr. Zawahiri, he was not only there but was actively encouraging his followers to plot and plan attacks against American

interest in the American homeland, that's a violation. We've made that very clear. And believe me, this strike itself sends a very strong message to

the Taliban about our sincerity in meeting that commitment.


MARQUARDT: So the Biden administration says that senior Taliban officials, and particularly those who belong to the Haqqani Network, were aware of the

Zawahiri families living in that house. And in fact, that in the wake of the strike, they established a perimeter, and in fact moved the family

elsewhere after Zawahiri was killed. So they certainly see a very strong link between the Taliban and the former al-Qaeda leader.

We also heard from the national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who said that the US will not hesitate to take further action to ensure that

Afghanistan can never again be used as a basis for attacking Americans, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Nick Paton Walsh standing by for us as well. I guess now, you know, with the context that we have, the big question has been since the US

exited Afghanistan. Can the US have effective capabilities on the ground beyond horizon? Security capabilities, and we know that this was months in

the making but what do you understand of the dynamics right now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. I mean, to some degree the US' own success in this strike has exposed a key policy failing.

Before their departure from Afghanistan, they were kind of clear they felt they degraded al-Qaeda that it wasn't such a big deal. I remember reporting

on signs and raids against al-Qaeda figures. And the US pushback was, listen, this is not the problem it used to be.


August, the abject humiliation of their departure frankly and concerns, without being there, they would miss key targets, and then this

extraordinary strike. I mean, look, this is an area of Kabul, frankly, where there were rich Westerners living security firms, rich, well-

connected Afghan officials too. And imagining on balconies where, frankly, 15 years ago, you know, a Westerner could have enjoyed an illicit whiskey

or something, to imagine the leader of al-Qaeda standing on that balcony in the dawn and being taken out by a precise drone strike. That simply shows

you frankly how far the United States has come in its counter-terror capabilities. But also still, the Taliban are very much who they were in

the past. And I think that is essentially chilling lesson here.

This is the same guy that they sheltered pre-911, and they haven't, it seems, learned the lesson of the chaos that brought to the country. What

may have changed, though, frankly, is the significance of al-Qaeda here, period. Zawahiri is somebody who thought to be involved in their

operations. But you and I might both struggle really to think of the last major al-Qaeda attack that shook Western capitals.

They are diminished organization, they were fierce, that back in May of last year, they might have 18 months till some sort of ability to attack

the West. That timeline will be coming up quite soon. This strike will surely alter that. And it does show that the United States, despite the

scenes that we saw in August last year in Kabul, is still able to dispense what they will call justice towards figures inside of Afghanistan. It is

startling (inaudible).

GIOKOS: It is absolutely. Look, I have to ask you this. I mean, he's known for 911 but here's the other question. So, our international audience

understands. He unfortunately also does not lack in a record of other terrorist attacks, and he has blood on his hands of people within his own


PATON WALSH: Absolutely, of course. And, you know, but al-Qaeda has changed as an operation, no longer what it used to be, which was a series of aging

men in caves passing out orders around the world, it become a global franchise, that franchises in Africa, in the Gulf or other parts of the

world where local leaders carry out local attacks, often on locals or sometimes Western targets here.

So by far, am I not suggesting that the terror operation of al-Qaeda is no longer causing awful grief and loss around the world. But it isn't quite

necessarily the same cohesive organization it was back pre-911. And so, removing Zawahiri from it will certainly, I think, have some impact

symbolically. It may have operational impacts that we're not necessarily aware of. But fundamentally, you're seeing here United States whose

capabilities have rocketed in the last 20 years, to the point where they're able to do something which most people in their own administration were

concerned they might not be able to do once they left Afghanistan. And we're still seeing the Taliban deciding that bringing such people into

their shelter is still a good idea.

GIOKOS: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so very much. Good to see you.

We have our eye on the skies over Taiwan waiting for the highly anticipated and highly controversial arrival of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Stay

with us.



GIOKOS: All right. It could happen any moment now. Nancy Pelosi expected to land in Taipei for an unannounced stop on her tour through Asia. The

Speaker of the House of Representatives would be the highest ranking American official in 25 years to pay a visit to the self-governing island.

It is a major diplomatic boon to Taiwan and a major aggravation for Beijing.

Vague but ominous threats from the Chinese government over this visit. Beijing met with equally forceful language from Taiwan, which is vowing to

ensure national security. CNN is covering this from all angles, and we have Will Ripley standing by in Taipei, Taiwan. Selina Wang is in Beijing for us

and our US security correspondent Kylie Atwood is in New York.

Will, I want to start with you because I'm sure that Taipei, the government there, are currently working on preparations on plans (inaudible) meetings.

We don't have a clear plan in terms of itinerary, but what have you heard?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we're really having to kind of piece together information we're getting from sources. I'm

trying to verify things being reported in local media because there is just no information at all available from one of the most transparent

governments I've ever covered. Usually, they're on, they're on digital, they're on social, they're putting information out there that has not been

the case.

They've been extraordinarily tight lipped about Nancy Pelosi is landing, which is believed to be happening within the next hour or so potentially.

But we do expect that she'll be, you know, going basically straight to her hotel. If she's staying in the hotel that we think she is, she'll be able

to see Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan, that will be all lit up, you know, with lights welcoming Nancy Pelosi saying that Taiwan loves the


Speaker Pelosi, I mean -- so Taipei 101 is now welcoming her. But I do wonder how far President Tsai Ing-wen, for example, or other, you know,

lawmakers here in Taiwan will be on their social media platforms, showing how clearly happy they would be to have a visit from somebody who's second

in line for the presidency, who has a lot of power to shape the policy discussion in Washington, and for her to spend time on the ground here is

crucial for Taiwan because they're trying to tell their story.

They're trying to tell their story ahead of what a lot of people believe is an inevitable move in some way or another by China to try to, in their

words, reunify with this island, that the communist rulers in Beijing have never controlled for the last 70 years that they've been in power in the

Mainland. And yet, they still continue to say.

Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao, continues to say that Taiwan will be taken at some point. In Taiwan, they think that the remedy

to that is to tell their story to as many friendly nations, friendly democracies as possible. That if and when the time came, those nations

would send in help to try to defend Taiwan's democratic system and 25 million people from an authoritarian behemoth with 1.5 billion people, a

hundred miles across the Taiwan Strait.

GIOKOS: Yes. And I see it's almost 10:30 PM. We're also seeing the images coming through, have welcome on that building to Speaker Pelosi. And I want

to bring in Kylie Atwood here, because there's so many questions around, you know, what kind of influence President Biden could have had on Nancy

Pelosi on whether to still embark on this intended trip, which we know was in the works for quite some time. Given the, again, a very aggressive

response by Beijing and the big question of whether this is worth it, because it could then going to result in a tipping points for strange US-

China relations.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN US SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, that's right. I mean, a few weeks ago, President Biden did cite some concerns within the US

military about this potential trip. And we haven't heard from him since. He hasn't talked about these reports that Pelosi is going to Taiwan. And

administration officials say that he never explicitly told the Speaker not to visit Taiwan. And there are a few pieces to that.

First of all, of course, there are separate branches of government here in the United States and the White House, particularly President Biden is

keenly aware of that, having served in the Senate and knowing that these senators can make their own decisions. These members of the House can make

their own decisions when it comes to trip like this.

But then, the other factor to consider, of course, is the fact that we have seen this escalating rhetoric from China, warning the Speaker against

visiting. Just today coming out with another statement calling on US politicians for playing with fire, saying that they are enemy of the

Chinese people when they do play with fire on this issue of Taiwan.


And US officials are keenly aware that if she didn't go forward with this trip, it would have been potentially portrayed as the Biden administration,

as the US government being intimidated by what China is saying here. So there is a matter of optics.

Of course, when the rubber hits the road, though, the US government folks at the Department of Defense, folks at the State Department, are really

watching to see what China does here, what their responses. They have been monitoring this around the clock for the last few days, according to my

sources, and they have been calling publicly on Taiwan, excuse me, on China not to escalate the situation. With the Secretary of State saying, there

have been other US lawmakers that have visited Taiwan and trying to essentially call on them not to overreact here and to create a crisis. With

concerns, of course, about miscalculation.

HOLMES: Yes, miscalculation. Perhaps, Selina Wang will be able to offer some insight into this, because you seeing promises of big consequence to

this Pelosi visit. The rhetoric has been very aggressive. And you can clearly hear that Xi Jinping is not happy with this move.

We've heard this kind of threat before from Beijing. The question is, are they going to act on it given what's at stake?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the timing around, this time around is different too. It's very provocative here. We're just months away

from a key political meeting when Xi Jinping cannot afford to look weak. And we just got another statement saying, from China, saying that they see

the US as the biggest destroyer of peace.

Beijing doesn't buy this argument that this is just another congressional visit, and they shouldn't overreact. From Beijing's perspective, they see

this as part of a broader US position that is slowly chipping away at this One China Policy. So that's why you're seeing this kind of language from

Beijing saying a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan amounts to a direct challenge to China's sovereignty. They're calling this reckless and dangerous.

But at the same time, it's not in either side's best interest to have the spiral into an escalation. Xi Jinping also needs stability at this moment.

So as we look for the response in the coming hours, the question is how does China respond in a way that shows it's not a paper tiger. That saves

face but at the same time avoids this from turning into something that then is out of Xi Jinping has control, which is, of course, not what he wants.


WANG: Destroyers open fire, missiles launch, warships shoot into the sea. It's a show of force ahead of China's military anniversary, training for

war in the East China and Yellow Seas. Soldiers also recently ran drills around Pingtan Island, China's closest point to Taiwan, just over 77 miles

away, renewing fears of a cross strait crisis, triggered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's possible trip to the island. She's already in Asia and

released an itinerary with no mention of Taiwan.

But Taiwanese and US officials have told CNN she's expected to visit Taiwan this week and stay overnight. In a call with President Joe Biden last week,

Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned those who play with fire will perish by it. A prominent hawkish voice in China even suggested that if US fighter

jets escort Pelosi's plane into Taiwan, China's military should forcibly dispel Pelosi's plain. In ineffective, then shoot them down. The tweet has

now been banned.

He doesn't represent the official government stance but state media has been promoting his threat. It's not just that Pelosi would be the most

powerful US official to visit in 25 years, but Beijing also sees her as a hostile figure. She's been a staunch critic of China for decades. In 1991,

two years after China's military brutally crackdown on student protesters around Tiananmen Square, Pelosi traveled there and held a banner that read,

"To those who died for democracy in China." US President Joe Biden has raised concerns over Pelosi's trip.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The military thinks there's not a good idea right now.

WANG: This Chinese state media video says Pelosi is only going to Taiwan to boost her political career, and that America's fragmented government cannot

agree on what to do about Taiwan. Neither side can afford to look weak. If Pelosi doesn't go, it could look like the US is caving to China's bullying,

where Xi Jinping is just months away from a key political meeting where he's expected to seek an unprecedented third term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Given the overreaching that Xi Jinping has been doing, I don't believe we can count on his good judgment.

WANG: For now, he's keeping the world guessing as to whether the threats are just bluffing, or that Beijing is actually ready for a crisis that

could escalate into a war that no one wants now.



WANG: Now, Eleni, most do not believe that China would take any direct action, any direct hostile action, but the concern is that with all of the

military hardware and assets in the region that this increases the risk of an accident or miscalculation. The other big question here is that, the

ramifications of this trip will last far beyond when Pelosi leaves, how does this cause the US-China relationship to evolve in the long term when

there's already so much distrust? Does this actually make Taiwan any safer? Could it actually cause China to ramp up its economic, political and

military coercion of Taiwan in the years to come?

Even though there was a House Speaker that visited Taiwan 25 years ago and China tolerated it, this time around China is a lot more powerful

economically, militarily. You've got a leader at the top who does not take any insults or perceived humiliation lightly. We have a leader who's the

strongest leader since Mao Zedong. So as we take all of these varying forces into account, that's the kind of response we have to look for, one

that is strong that shows force but also tries to keep the stability here in China.

GIOKOS: Selina Wang, thank you so very much for that update. I still have Kylie Atwood with me. Kylie, we know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has, you

know, embarks on other trips on this Asia. What did we learn from those trips, those meetings, that messaging that could perhaps give us insight in

terms of her end game in terms of what she wants to achieve in Taipei?

ATWOOD: Yes. Well, the House Speaker hasn't actually said, of course, that she is going to Taiwan. So what we've been doing is reading between the

lines, right? And in the statement that she put out a few days ago talking about this visit to the region, one of the things that she talked about was

supporting democracies in the Indo-Pacific Region. We know that Taiwan is one of those that she has been vocally supportive of in the past. So it's

very clear that she wants to reiterate that in a physical sense to be there to be on that island.

And, of course, there are incredible economic ties between the US and Taiwan. It is perhaps one of the most integral partners when it comes to

the US economy. And there was just legislation that was passed here in the United States last week, and it's going through all of the checks in

Congress. But to try and fortify US industry when it comes to semiconductors and the like, that the US is really reliant on Taiwan for

right now.

So there is a need to maintain that economic relationship with Taiwan, and Pelosi is someone who is keenly aware of that relationship, just given how

long she has been in Congress and for so many years focusing on Taiwan and the challenge of China.

GIOKOS: Right. We are showing you live pictures right now from a runway in Taipei and we're keeping a very close watch on whether Nancy Pelosi is

about to land. Our intel tells us that it could happen soon. We'll bring you an update as that story develops.

Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for your insights. Always good to see you. We'll catch up with you soon.

All right. And coming up on "Connect the World," we're live in Moscow after US basketball player Brittney Griner attends her latest court hearing in





ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: American basketball star Brittney Griner was back in court today for her seventh hearing in a court near Moscow. She's on

trial in Russia accused of trying to smuggle less than a gram of cannabis oil into the country. The WNBA player has testified she had a prescription

for medical cannabis, which she mistakenly packed in her luggage. All this comes as U.S. officials attempt to negotiate a prisoners swap for her

release. Fred Pleitgen is covering the trial and joins us now live from Moscow. Fred, always good to see you. What happened today, and what can we

expect next?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Eleni, I think right now we can certainly say that we're in the end phase of this

trial. There might be one, maybe two extra trial days that are -- that are coming up. But certainly, this is a really important time for Brittney

Griner, and of course, for her legal defense team as well. What happened today was that there was an expert witness for the defense who was on the

stand. And that expert witness essentially tried to dispel some of the things that were the original findings of the things that were found on

Brittney Griner, namely those two vaping cartridges. And essentially, that expert witness casts some doubt on some of the samples that were taken,

taking -- saying those were not necessarily taken according to the scientific methods that are required. So, sort of trying to put some doubt

on how much THC Brittney Griner might have actually had on her.

Now, of course, all of this is part of a very elaborate and very large strategy that the defense has been following. On the one hand, you had

Brittney Griner pleading guilty, showing remorse, saying that she understands that she was not allowed to take those cartridges into Russia,

that she packed them by accident. And you also had some character witnesses as well testifying to the fact that, of course, Brittney Grinder is a big

superstar, did a lot for basketball around the world, and specifically in Russia. Now, I was able to speak to her defense lawyer after the trial day

today, and I asked how Brittney Griner is doing, especially now that we're coming to this, you know, very important final phase of this trial. Here's

what she had to say.


MARIA BLAGOVILINA (Brittney Grinder's Lawyer): She's still focused, and she's still nervous. And she still knows that the end is near. And of

course, she heard the news, so she -- she's hoping that sometime she could be coming home, and we hope, too.


PLEITGEN: So, they hope that Brittney Griner will be coming home. Of course, we do know that Russian courts have a very high conviction rate.

But it seems as though we could be in for a verdict fairly soon. The next trial that has already been set for this Thursday. And that same lawyer

that we just saw there, told me that there could be a verdict on the -- on that day, but it still isn't sure that that is going to be the case.

Certainly, there will be closing arguments on that day, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. And as we await for verdict and we await more in terms of the judiciary system, we have been talking for over a week now about the

potential of a prison exchange for Griner. Where are we on that?

PLEITGEN: Yes, and it's very difficult to say. What we can say is that as that trial is happening there in the court north of Moscow, it really looms

very large over that trial, the fact that it's been talked about that there could be this prisoner exchange, the fact that the U.S. has made all of

that public. Now, of course, we know that the Russians don't want to speak about it in public. It was interesting because when there was that phone

call between Secretary of State Blinken and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Lavrov said he said things all of this needs to get behind

closed doors. All this needs to be discussed behind closed doors.

And today, the spokesman for the Kremlin also said that he believes all of this needs to return to closed doors with the Russians call megaphone

diplomacy is not something that will help in this case, they said. The U.S., of course, were the ones who made the fact public that they had put

an offer on the table for both Brittney Griner and for Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who faces a 16-year jail sentence here in Russia for

alleged espionage, which he, of course, denies. What I did get from Brittney Grinder's lawyer today, though, Eleni, is she told me she believes

that there needs to be a verdict in Brittney Grinder's case before a prisoner swap could happen.


So, that seems to be one of the machinations that might have to be in place before some sort of swap might be -- might go through. But of course, we're

not privy to the fact of how negotiations might be going, and whether there are actually active negotiations going on right now, Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. And let's get the latest news about the war in Ukraine. Russian forces continue to pound

Mykolaiv, it's a key southern coastal city, hitting a university dormitory overnight. The Mayor of Mykolaiv says, the recent attacks have been the

strongest yet during the war. The U.S. is sending even more weapons to Ukraine to assist in that fight. The Pentagon on Monday announced more than

$500 million worth of ammunition, mostly artillery shells and rockets are being sent to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, we are still awaiting the arrival in Turkey of the first grain shipments to leave the Ukrainian port city of Odessa since the war began.

The ship carrying the grain has been delayed by bad weather. Moscow's former chief rabbi in the meantime, is warning of a dark cloud hanging over

Russia and tough times ahead for those living there. Pinchas Goldschmidt left the country in March over opposition to the war in Ukraine. He is now

living in Israel and sat down with CNN's Hadas Gold.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Were you pressured to support the war?

PINCHAS GOLDSCHMIDT, MOSCOW'S FORMER CHIEF RABBI: The communities were pressured to support the war.

GOLD: In what ways?

GOLDSCHMIDT: We -- I don't want to go into too many details. But organizations and individuals and communities were asked to officially

support the war.

GOLD: And what do you think would have happened had you stayed and spoken out?

GOLDSCHMIDT: You can read the news on a daily basis of people getting arrested for speaking out, even mentioning the word, war, today is against

the law.

GOLD: Do you think you, as Chief Rabbi of Moscow, would have been arrested?

GOLDSCHMIDT: In today's political climate in Russia, it would have been possible, yes.

GOLD (voiceover): Since the start of the war in February, some 20,000 Russian Jews have left and moved to Israel according to official numbers.

Pinchas Goldschmidt has been in Moscow since 1989, arriving there just ahead of an earlier period of mass Jewish immigration, as the Soviet Union

began to fall apart. He sees similarities with the situation today.

GOLDSCHMIDT: There's definitely a parallel of people not knowing what tomorrow will bring, asking themselves -- also, when I arrived in 1989, a

lot of people were just -- we're not able yet to leave Russia. So, let's -- at the first possible moment, let's leave the Soviet Union. Because maybe,

again, the iron curtain is going to close completely. So, we're not there yet but definitely, there's a feeling of uncertainty and fear.

GOLD: You've talked about a dark cloud coming over Russia. What do you mean by that?

GOLDSCHMIDT: It's altogether, it's economically, politically, isolation, and repression, all coming together, making life in Russia very, very


GOLD: Do you hope one day to be able to go back to your position as Chief Rabbi of Moscow?

GOLDSCHMIDT: We as Jews have to be always optimists. We have no other choice.

GOLD: What will it take for you to be able to go back?

GOLDSCHMIDT: A change in the political situation.

GOLD: So, changing the government, change in leadership?

GOLDSCHMIDT: A change with -- which will affect the whole country and also the Jewish community.

GOLD: I also asked Rabbi Goldschmidt what he thought about Russia's attempts to dissolve the Jewish agency. This is an organization that helps

Jews emigrate to Israel. And the rabbi actually said he was more surprised that the Jewish agency was even allowed to remain open considering how many

international organizations have been forced to close in recent years. But things he said have now changed with new leadership in Israel and what he

described as the deteriorating relationship between Russia and Israel, everything now, he says, is under question.


GIOKOS: All right, and we'll be right back after this short break. Stay with us.



GIOKOS: And let's get you up to speed on some of the stories that are on our radar right now. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid has made a rare

allusion to the country's widely suspected nuclear arsenal. It came during his speech on Monday, when he mentioned Israel has what he calls other

capabilities. That's understood to be a reference to nuclear weapons. Israel has never formally said it has them. Several U.S. states are holding

primaries on Tuesday, and Missouri, the Senate primary has been thrown into turmoil by Donald Trump. On Monday, he announced he was endorsing Eric, but

two of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination are named Eric and both claimed Trump is backing them. The former president has not clarified

which Eric he supports.

While the governor of the U.S. State of Kentucky says rescuers have plucked more than 1300 people from floodwaters inundating the State, at least 37

people have died and the death toll is expected to rise. Officials are now warning residents to be careful and stay cool as high temperatures move in.

At any moment now, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to land in Taiwan, and she is flying from Kuala Lumpur, where she met with her

Malaysian counterpart. Pelosi is leading a Congressional delegation on an official tour of Asia, which also includes stops in Singapore, South Korea,

as well as Japan. When she lands in Taiwan, as expected, she will become the highest ranking American official to visit the island in 25 years to

the red-hot isle of China.

In a statement today, the Chinese foreign minister reiterated China's position that any interference with its One China principle is a, quote,

unchallenged -- an unchallengeable red line. He also accused the U.S. of being the biggest destroyer of peace. Michael Mazza is the non-resident

fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on cross strait relations among other issues in the Asia Pacific region, and he

joins me now. Really good to see you. I have to say that as the rhetoric really heats up, it is incredible to see how strong worded China has

become. I mean, the question here is, are they going to act on any of these threats now that we know Nancy Pelosi could be landing anytime soon in


MICHAEL MAZZA, NONRESIDENT FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: So, that -- thanks for having me. Look, the reactions have already started. There

have been live fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait this week. Just overnight, a number of Chinese aircraft flew very close to the median line,

that's the unofficial dividing line between China and Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. And we're expecting to see more of that going forward. Now, you're

right that the rhetoric has been quite heated. I don't think we expect to see this rise, in my opinion, to the level of a military confrontation

between the United States and China, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

GIOKOS: Do you think it's worth it, this trip, that could be a tipping point perhaps between China and U.S. relations?


MAZZA: I don't expect it to be a tipping point. The timing of the trip is not great with the Chinese Communist Party's -- Party congress coming up in

the fall with Taiwan's own elections coming up this fall. But that being said, it's important that senior U.S. leaders, both in the administration

and in Congress, meet with their counterparts in Taiwan. You know, Taiwan is a country that the United States may one day go to war alongside, and

for senior officials in the United States to issue conversations with their counterparts in Taiwan, I think, you know, does a disservice to the

American people and to the American Armed Forces.

GIOKOS: I guess the one sort of gripe that China has that if it's One China policy is threatened, then that is a clear provocation. On the other end,

the U.S. says it supports One China policy, but also has a deal with Taiwan to sell it weapons, for example, and protect its democracy, which has been

very vocal about. Give me a sense of what is the reality? Because it seems like we're sitting with a lot of gray area here.

MAZZA: Yes, you're right. And that's sort of marked conditions in the Taiwan Strait for decades now. You're right that the United States has a

One China policy --

GIOKOS: Michael, I just -- Michael, just give me a second, I just want to alert our viewers to images that are coming through from Taipei. This is a

plane that's just landed, and it is white and blue, we cannot confirm whether it is, in fact, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but we will give you an

update as we get information. This plane has just landed in Taipei, and we are working to find out if it's Nancy Pelosi. There is a U.S. flag on the

table, you can actually see it on your screen right now. It's a pretty clear image. It is around almost 11:00 p.m. in Taipei at this point in


We were expecting Nancy Pelosi to arrive within this hour. And as we get more information, we will, of course, share it with you. These are live

images coming through in Taipei. This is a trip, which has, of course, been met with a lot of controversy, a lot of backlash from Beijing, Xi Jinping

has made his stance very clear that this is a provocation. Nancy Pelosi has been on a tour in Asia, visiting multiple countries. And we are waiting to

work to confirm on whether this is Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As you can see, it's a U.S. flag that is on that plane that has just landed in Taipei.

Michael, you're still with us. We're waiting to confirm whether this is indeed Nancy Pelosi. What has been interesting about this has been that,

you know, President Biden and his administration -- well, his -- you know, the White House has said, well, we can't really tell what the Speaker

should and shouldn't do, which I guess a lot of people are asking the question, when it has to do with this type of security and sort of global

backlash or backlash, at least, from another powerhouse, globally, you know, it would be peculiar for the President to not have intervened in some

way. What is your view on this?

MAZZA: Well, I mean, look, I think that the President, the White House is right, that these decisions are up to Nancy Pelosi, to members of Congress,

Congress is a separate but equal branch in the United States government. You know, certainly, if President Biden felt very strongly that Speaker

Pelosi shouldn't go, yes, he could have and probably should have weighed in personally with her. I think he opted not to do that both out of respect

for her position and for Congress's independence. But due to domestic political considerations here in the United States, concerns that he might,

you know, look weak on China or be accused of being weak on China.

GIOKOS: Were you surprised by some of Beijing's rhetoric? That it was that aggressive, that we saw a video from its military overnight saying that

they're willing to bury the enemies, as I said, it's been pretty shocking to see some of the quotes that have been coming through from people within

government and from the military.

MAZZA: So, it is, it's quite colorful. And I think, you know, opinions differ on this. To my mind, this is not -- this is not substantially

different from the sorts of rhetoric we have seen before. So, much was made in the fact that Xi Jinping on his call with President Biden a few days

ago, you know, made the comment that if the United States plays with fire, it'll get burned. Well, he said the same thing. The exact same thing to

President Biden when they spoke last November when -- you know, when there was no Nancy Pelosi visit in the offing. This is a phrase that is used

frequently, going back decades. And so, I actually took some reassurance from that call. That as heated as the rhetoric was, we weren't seeing sort

of new and more creative -- you know, more creative statements, threats.


GIOKOS: Michael, thank you so much for your insights. I'm going to cross over to our colleague, Jim Sciutto, who's going to continue our coverage as

we wait to confirm whether Nancy Pelosi has indeed arrived in Taipei. We saw images a short while ago, it looks like a team of people waiting. All

right, and it's over to Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Manu, as you know, this was not a visit that the White House at least was encouraging. White House officials have said to

me, it's up to the Speaker, and we will -- we will work to keep her safe while she's there, et cetera. But President Biden led on in his public

comments that the Defense Department did not believe this was the right time for such a visit. Did Pelosi -- is Pelosi going there over in effect

the objections of the Biden administration?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, there were concerns that this is only going to exacerbate tensions at a critical

moment in which the U.S. is trying to keep China out of the Russian war against Ukraine, and a whole host of other issues that are leading to

tensions between the two countries. But Nancy Pelosi has long been a very sharp critic of China, the China Communist Party. This has been a key part

of her record through the course of her long career in Congress, of course, in 1991, when she was in China, she -- well, she walked -- she -- without

permission of the Chinese leadership, she and two other members of Congress, went to Tiananmen Square, they unfurled a pro-democracy banner in

that square. The anger of Chinese --

SCIUTTO: Manu? Manu, hold that thought just for a moment. On the steps there, I believe that is the Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a mask, setting

foot on Taiwanese territory, to be greeted by Taiwanese officials. Sorry, go ahead, Manu, I interrupted you.

RAJU: Yes. And look, this is the first moment, Jim, here that we have official confirmation that the Speaker, in fact, here is landing in China,

the first -- the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so in 25 years. She has not said -- not said that she is going to go to Taiwan. She has refused

to publicly confirm it. We reported at CNN yesterday that she was expected to go. But this has been under wraps for some time because of concerns over

security issues and the like, and because as you mentioned, the pressure from the administration for her not to go. But as you can see here,

deciding that this is a key moment for her to appear here in Taiwan.

SCIUTTO: Yes, as we noted on Monday, China warned against the egregious political impact China's words of Pelosi's visit, saying that the Chinese

military won't stand idly by. It is not clear what they mean by that. We do know that there were some Chinese war planes that came very close to the

dividing line between Chinese and Taiwanese territory as it's recognized internationally. It's a bit dark there, as we watch this, but there is an

official greeting party and here comes, in fact, the Speaker of the House. It was not the woman seen earlier, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,

walking down the steps of her official U.S. government airplane. And in just a second here, we'll set foot on Taiwanese territory, the first time a

U.S. Speaker of the House has visited Taiwan since 1997. That was Newt Gingrich at the time, of course, a Republican during the Clinton

presidency. Will Ripley, he is in Taipei for us. Tell us how Taiwan has been preparing for this.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly haven't been telling us anything publicly on the record reportable insight

-- you know, that we can cite. But we have been piecing together, speaking with sources, you know, checking information that's been in, you know,

various local media. So, here's how we can kind of -- we assume, we believe, based on our reporting that this is going to go down. So, we have

the foreign minister, Joseph Wu, who's there greeting Speaker Pelosi right now. And then, you know, she may do a few more informal meet and greets at

the airport, but it is, you know, almost 11:00 o'clock at night here. And so, she'll be heading to her hotel. We believe it's a hotel right near

Taipei 101, which, as you mentioned, just a few minutes ago, has been lit up with a -- with a welcome message, saying that Taiwan loves the U.S. and

then also saying Speaker Pelosi.

That would be the most public demonstration that we've seen, you know, welcoming the Speaker. Other than that, it's been radio silence from the

President's office on down, not even reporter questions are being answered by the Ministry of Defense. It was Chinese state media, you know, unusually

that talked about the Chinese planes that may have been flying towards the median, the dividing line on the Taiwan Strait, that a line that, by the

way, China has never agreed to recognize. This is a -- you know, they don't think they -- they think they can fly anywhere they want. They think that

Taiwan is a -- is a province of their country, even though the communist rulers have never controlled it. But yet, you have -- you have -- now, you

have Nancy Pelosi, you know, one of the highest-level officials to visit. As you mentioned, 25 years is a very long time since Newt Gingrich back in

'97, second in line to the presidency.


She will be meeting with Taiwan's President tomorrow, she will be meeting with Members of Parliament, and we also think she might be doing some other

meetings with business leaders here as well, because as you mentioned, the chip manufacturers, the semiconductors. She might visit some, you know,

historical sites. If she's going to be spending perhaps a full day here, there's going to be a lot of things that could happen that could make China

pretty unhappy. But the big unknown is how are they really going to show that? Or, just going to get propaganda videos, which would be in bluster,

which is fine, a rhetorical escalation is fine. What nobody wants to see, I think, Jim, is for that to evolve from a rhetorical escalation into an

actual confrontation, militarily or economically, frankly.

SCIUTTO: Again, there, you see her now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she has arrived, greeted, as well we're saying by the Taiwanese Foreign Minister,

Joseph Wu. We should note that this is not an official visit, as it were. They're treating it more like a normal visit, a congressional delegation of

which we should note, there have been several, comprising both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in recent months. The difference here is that this

is the Speaker of the House, third most powerful, arguably, person in the U.S. government. And that is the fact that Chinese leaders take very

seriously, second in line to the presidency. We have Selina Wang in Beijing. Now, that this has happened, Selina, have you seen any reaction or

heard any reaction from Chinese officials or state media?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have just heard from state media that there are some PLA fighter jets that are crossing -- that

are crossing the Taiwan Straits. We have not confirmed how far they're going to take that. Of course, China has been regularly sending war planes

around China's -- Taiwan's self-declared air defense zone. So, we have not confirmed where that's going to go. Most experts I've been speaking to say

we could see a mixture of economic coercion that Will was talking about as well as potentially diplomatic coercion, including a show of this military

force in the build up to this moment, some of that also coinciding with celebrations for China's Military Day. We have seen more of these drills

happening around China Sea, including in the province that is closest to Taiwan.

We've also seen this rhetorical escalation around preparing for war in these military propaganda videos. But most do not believe China would

engage in any sort of direct hostile action in response to this visit. But the concern is that with all the military hardware on the ground, how does

that increase the risk of a miscalculation here? You know, the other key questions are, the ramifications of this, they're going to last far beyond

her actual visit there. How could this increase China's coercion of Taiwan moving forward in the coming years?

SCIUTTO: It is an open question. And we should note that this is part of a series of interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan that China has not been

happy with. President Trump's -- former President Trump's first call after his election was with the Chinese President, the then-Chinese President at

the time. Will Ripley in Taipei, for us, can you tell us how the next hours will play out, how long this visit will be?

RIPLEY: So, what we believe, and of course, because none of this has actually been officially put on the schedule, yet, I have to give you that

caveat, Jim. But as we understand things to be, there will be, you know, overnighting at the hotel right near Taipei 101, after these, you know,

greetings at the airport, which may already be over. I mean, I'm sure everybody's pretty tired and ready to get to bed. And we believe that the

Speaker will have an early day, and she'll get up in the morning and have meetings with some Members of Parliament, she'll be meeting potentially

with lots of different, you know, perhaps some -- you know, some working committees, you know, people who are certainly, you know, handling defense

issues, she's going to want to, you know, hear what they have to say, learn about how, you know, their workflows are similar, are different.

I mean, this is a young democracy, a very vibrant democracy. And I'm sure that for Speaker Pelosi, who was, you know, also very much active in

politics at the time that this was a dictatorship here in Taiwan up until the late 1980s, there was martial law, unprecedented long period of martial

law. And the people who are now the leaders of this country were essentially meeting in basements illegally, and now they're, you know, you

have them in positions of power, I'm sure. They will love to share stories with each other.

Anyway, moving on from that, we expect meetings with some business leaders as well. We're talking about perhaps visiting some important, you know,

monuments and sites as time allows. But it does seem that it might be quite a full day, and we're still hoping that we have a chance to ask the Speaker

some questions. But at this stage, anything like that's probably going to be thrown together, and we'll get a -- you know, might not get much notice,

but we're watching just like you are, and hoping to learn more information about her plans here.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Bader is still with us, former China Director for the National Security Council under President Obama. And Jeffrey, August 1st,

Chinese military celebrating its founding. We're also coming up on a key Party Congress in Beijing, where the Chinese President will break

convention to take a third term as president. There were term limits there, and perhaps be, in effect, president for life. Tell us how the timing of

this is received in China.