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Israel Strikes at Iran, No Damage Says Iran; Far-Right Minister Ben- Gvir Calls Israel's Response Lame; Israel-Iran Conflict Happening Amid War in Gaza; Court Resumes in Trump's Hush Money Trial; Calls for Restraint After U.S. Officials Says Israel Struck Iran; Dubai International Airport Struggles with Backlog After Record Rain; Frustrated Trump Calls on Judge to Release Him from Gag Order; Foreign Aid Bills Head to U.S. House of Rule Vote, Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 19, 2024 - 10:00   ET



ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: -- to a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erica Hill in New York outside the courthouse where Donald Trump's criminal trial has resumed now for a fourth

day. Jury selection continues here, 12 jurors and one alternate have been selected so far. The process, though, to pick five more is in process. As I

speak opening statements in the trial could begin as soon as Monday.

We'll bring you up to speed on all of that just ahead this hour. But first want to hand things back to Eleni who has more of these latest developments

we're following so closely of course out of the Middle East -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. Thanks so much, Erica.

Well, we start with calls for calm after Israel's attack inside Iran. Iranian officials say air defenses intercepted three drones fired towards

an army base in central Iran. Israel isn't commenting, but a U.S. official says Israel carried up a attack. Iran's army chief reports no damage and

state media is downplaying the incident and broadcasting scenes of calmed streets near the strikes. Now despite pointed warnings from Iranian leaders

of a severe immediate response if Israel, of course, attacked inside Iran.

I want to now -- we're now going to go to Paula Hancocks who's standing by for us in Beirut. She's going to give us an update on the latest.

I mean, there's so many questions about whether infrastructure was damaged. Why Iran could be potentially downplaying what this attack meant inside its

territory. What do we know?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, most of what we know is from Iranian state media at this point. And the Iranian

commander in chief of the army, for example, speaking and saying that there were explosions in the early hours of the morning, but they were the air

defense systems of Iran that were taking out three drones and this was nearby an army base.

Now there are still many details that have to be confirmed, most notably we still don't have confirmation from Israel itself that it carried out this

attack. We have heard that from a U.S. official saying that it was Israel that carried it out, also pointing out Israel had warned it shortly

beforehand that this was going to happen. But the U.S. had not endorsed this plan in any way.

So we also heard from the U.S. Secretary of State Blinken really trying to distance the U.S. from what has happened, not being drawn after being asked

many times about this attack, basically saying that it is important to deescalate. It was important so all the foreign ministers of the G7 that

there was this de-escalation given the fact that we have really seen tensions in this region escalate since the beginning of the month really.

So what we have seen is an attack, an Israeli suspected attack on the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus, a retaliation then with that

unprecedented launched of more than 300 drones and missiles against Iran last weekend and then just in the early hours of this morning what appears

to be at this point a far smaller operation.

Now we have heard from a U.S. official that they believed the Israeli response was going to be limited in scope. It would at face value at least

appear to be the case that this was not a significantly large or damaging a strike. And what we're hearing from the Iranian side is there has been no

damage. It is business as usual.

You're seeing on state media images, street scenes of the areas where the air defense systems kicked into place and took those drones out to show at

least a visual proof that this was not a significant strike.

And I think that's the hope, Eleni, at this point is that is really to allow them to not retaliate because that's the concern, that this tit-for-

tat retaliation does continue certainly between these two countries, which up until a couple of weeks ago had not carried out direct attacks on each

other's territory.

So it's very different to what we have been hearing from Iranian officials in recent days who have been quite vocal in saying that if Israel were to

carry out another attack then they would have a very immediate response and it would be far stronger. We're not seeing that in the Iranian reaction to

this attack at this point -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes, really important point there because Iranian authorities specifically the foreign minister had spoken to CNN's Erin Burnett, and had

said that any sort of small or additional provocation would result in a severe response.


But in the same breadth, we've heard Iran saying they have no appetite for a wider escalation while the world is calling for calm in this regard. It

feels like a very delicate situation right now and calm heads need to prevail essentially.

HANCOCKS: Well, it is one of those cases where we will have to wait and see. The ball is currently in Tehran's court. If they are going to respond,

then that could obviously change everything. So everything we are saying at this point does bear some pretty hefty caveats with it. And the fact that

we don't know the exact details of what Israel was targeting, what possible damage there may have been on the ground.

These are all details that we may or may not get clarity on in the hours ahead. But of course, even if there isn't this direct contacts and this

direct attack between Israel and Iran, you can still expect to see this continuation of Iran's proxies engaging with Israel. For example, Hezbollah

here in southern Lebanon. We have seen this week in particular a significant uptick in the amount of cross-border attacks and launches and

strikes that have been happening -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Paula Hancocks, great to have you on the ground in Beirut for us.

Well, Jeremy Diamond has also been following the hostilities between Iran and Israel for us since the very beginning, and he's in Tel Aviv.

Jeremy, great to see you. Look, Israel's far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir posted on X the words lame. Is he undermining

Netanyahu and particularly the response to Iran?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is certainly voicing what we expected him to voice, which is to say that the right flank of Netanyahu's

government, namely Itamar Ben-Gvir, as well as the finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, made clear that they wanted to see an overwhelming Israeli

military response to this first of its kind strike by Iran on Iranian soil over the weekend.

And clearly, while Israel appears to have achieved a kind of happy medium with this strike to avoid escalation, avoid escalating the situation

further into an all-out war, it certainly fell short of the kind of overwhelming military strike that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich have been pushing


That being said, when you look at the Israeli public overall, an interesting poll came out earlier this week from Hebrew University that

suggested that 74 percent of Israelis would not want Israel to strike inside of Iran in a way that would undermine its -- the support that it

gets from its allies, namely the United States.

And that really reflects the fact that this successful Israeli air defense operation over the weekend in cooperation with the United States and other

regional allies really was viewed as quite a victory inside of Israel. And there was also a recognition that it was the power of those alliances, the

power of that coalition, that allowed Israel to be as successful as it was. And so there is a sense inside of Israel that it would be better not to

undermine the power of that coalition.

And so as Israel carried out the strike with no public fanfare, no public acknowledgement from its military, from its government, what we are seeing

in turn is that the United States and other G7 allies are now continuing to focus not on these overnight strikes, but rather on Iran's attack this past

weekend, and on new efforts now that are being summoned to further isolate Iran, to hold Iran accountable as the Secretary of State Tony Blinken said

earlier today -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes, Jeremy, I mean, look, this concern about wider escalation and what we're seeing between Iran and Israel, the tit-for-tat, you know,

retaliatory cycle that we could be getting into, to what extent is that actually distracting from what is going on in Gaza and of course, the big

question of whether there's an impending Rafah operation? DIAMOND: Well, there's no question that these two issues were very much

linked. The Israeli government, the Israeli military was set to begin dropping flyers on Rafah this past Monday, ordering citizens, civilians in

Rafah to evacuate, and they postponed that as the Israeli war cabinet was in the process of deliberating how they would respond to this Iranian

strikes. So those plans were effectively put on hold.

But now that Israel appears to have carried out this retaliation already, that it does not appear inclined to go any further, that puts Rafah very

much back on the front burner here, and we know that there are more than one million people in Rafah that the United States and other countries have

expressed significant concerns about the impact on civilians that a major ground operation in Rafah would have, about the feasibility of evacuating

civilians from Rafah, where they would go, how they would be provided with food, shelter, and other essentials when they are moved further north.


And so that is very much now front of mind once again. We don't have a sense of timing for when the Israeli military will move forward with that.

But as we have seen, not only Iran now pushed to the side, but also the fact that those negotiations with Hamas are going absolutely nowhere. In

fact, taking steps backwards, that very much suggests that we could be getting very, very close to a planned evacuation and ultimately a ground

offensive into that southern city in Gaza.

GIOKOS: Now, things moving very quickly and of course I think when I look at this chorus of voices coming through from regional perspective, that

everyone has to stay calm, that we can't get into the cycle because we're taking our eye off the ball in terms of what is happening in Gaza. firstly

the humanitarian situation and whether there's sufficient alleviation there and then secondly what the ultimate plan is for negotiations.

And you mentioned this and you said, look, the negotiations aren't going anyway right now. What are you hearing on the ground that sort of gives us

hope in terms of -- gives us visibility perhaps of what could be coming in the next few weeks and days?

DIAMOND: Well, in terms of the negotiations you're saying? Sorry.

GIOKOS: Yes. Exactly. In terms of negotiations, in terms of, you know, what we've been seeing, just the general messaging. It's been fascinating to see

how this has transpired over the past week since we saw Iran striking Israel.

DIAMOND: Yes. Yes. I mean, look, these negotiations haven't been abandoned altogether, but we heard the CIA director yesterday making comments about

how disappointed he was to see Hamas' reaction to the latest counterproposal. And I think it's fair to say at this point that, you know,

Israel has really quite substantively shifted its positions in these negotiations over the course of the last month.

They started off with a red line in terms of allowing any Palestinians to go back to their homes in northern Gaza. They then move to a number of

about 2,000 per day and they have significantly upped that number since, talking about allowing much more freedom of movement for Palestinians to go

north than they initially were. But they also have offered more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for those 40 Israeli hostages, more Palestinian

prisoners with significant sentences.

And so it's clear that Israel was kind of trying to move closer to Hamas' position. Hamas meanwhile has really not even moved an inch. And in fact,

rather than moving at all towards Israel's position, they have in fact gone backwards, talking not about 40 hostages, which has been the basis of these

negotiations for months, but now talking about fewer than 20 hostages in exchange for that same period of time, demanding more Palestinian prisoners

be released in exchange for a smaller number of Israeli hostages.

And so it seems clear that Hamas, from the perspective of Israeli officials, it seems clear to them that Hamas is not interested in a deal

and therefore that once again puts Rafah, puts more military pressure back on the table as the only avenue the Israeli government officials see to

getting those hostages back home.

GIOKOS: All right, Jeremy Diamond, great to have that wider picture from you. Thank you so much.

As we've seen, Iran has been very measured in its reaction and one expert in the region says if Iran continues to downplay the Israeli attack,

dismiss it as nothing and as a result stop the escalatory cycle, it will expect to be recognized as the more rational and restrained party to this


Trita Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which focuses on U.S. foreign policy, and joining

us now for a little bit more insight into what we can expect.

Trita, great to have you with us. Can Iran really be seen as the more rational actor after launching more than 300 missiles at Israel?


international law and attack Iran's consulate in Damascus, which is a blatant violation of international law of the Vienna Convention, was

condemned by the majority of countries in the world, and would have been condemned by the U.N. Security Council, as well if the United States and

France had not stood in the way of that.

Having said that, however, I don't think that anyone truly deserves to be called rational in this entire mess, including the Iranians, the Israelis

and the Biden administration that I think could have put a stop to this much, much earlier. But given where we are right now, I think it is --

everyone is drawing a sigh of relief that the Iranians are playing this down, probably exaggerating dramatically in the manner of how little damage

was done, et cetera, in order to give themselves a face-saving way out but also for the Israelis and the rest of the region so that this escalatory

cycle is broken.


But if that is what they're doing, they're the ones breaking the escalatory cycle rather the Israelis.

GIOKOS: You know, a really important point that you mentioned. Of course this started with retaliation from Iran's side. The question is can it end

right now? But, you know, what do you know about how this operation was conducted? Is it possible these drones were launched from inside Iran? Do

you have any insight about damage to infrastructure? What are you hearing?

PARSI: The Iranian media has been completely silent about this, has not been sharing any information or any suggestion that there has been damage.

So I find that unlikely, but it's probably not a particularly significant amount of damage. This strike appears to have been designed as a face-

saving way for the Israelis to say that they did something without doing anything that truly would have been escalatory.

Whether they have the capacity to fly drones from inside of Iran or not is an interesting question. The Israelis have a tremendous capacity of

striking inside of Iran and have assassinated numerous Iranian officials and nuclear scientists, et cetera. Far greater capacity than the Iranians

do. But the fact that the Iranians are saying that this is coming from inside of Iran may be something they're saying in order to further reduce

the pressure on themselves to take action against Israel, by saying that essentially this may not have been Israel directly.

GIOKOS: Yes, I mean, there's two things that are really fascinating right now. Iran speaking of a new equation in the Middle East. And the question

about who's established a greater deterrence in the region. And then the question about whether this is the end of the tit-for-tat attacks, because

there is so much concern over what it means regionally and the potential for more collation.

PARSI: Certainly. And I think one thing that in terms of whether there is a new equation or not in the region that I think ultimately has come to the

detriment of the Israelis, is that there's no surprise that Israel has the capacity to be able to strike Iran, and strike Iran hard if it so wish to

do. What is new in this entire situation is that the Iranians have the capacity to make Israel very wonderful.

Yes, it's true a lot of those drones were shot down, but that's largely because the United States had the time to be involved because the Iranians

had given the United States and Israel 72 hours' heads up. If they hadn't, and if the U.S. wasn't involved, that there would have likely been far more

than the seven Scud missile that nevertheless did hit Israeli base. So I think the difference here now is that we're now in a world in which a

vulnerability on the Israeli side has been revealed that didn't exist previously.

GIOKOS: Fascinating. Great to speak to you, sir. Thank you so much for joining us.

And still to come on CNN, Donald Trump is back in court today. A full jury of his criminal trial has been chosen, and now the focus is on selecting

alternate jurors. A live report up next. Erica Hill is on the ground. We'll be right back.



HILL: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Erica Hill in Lower Manhattan outside where attorneys are of course in the process of selecting alternate jurors in

Donald Trump's criminal case.

Court resumed last hour. Donald Trump is in that courtroom seated. A full 12-person jury and one alternate were of course is selected by Thursday.

Right now, what is happening is they're going through the process to select as many as five alternates here. And later today, there could potentially

be a hearing about what prosecutors can say about Donald Trump's legal history during the trial. That could happen later today if in fact all the

alternatives are chosen.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joining me now from Washington, who's been following along with all of these developments.

So we're learning a little bit more. They're going through this questionnaire that we've talked about so much. 42 questions on that

questionnaire of these folks who are prospective jurors. A couple have already, though, been excused today, Zach.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And we are looking to fill that remaining five or so slot for the alternates

that are required to fill out the rest of this jury and move on to opening statements, but I want to look a little bit about what we know about the 12

who were sworn in yesterday because it really is an interesting cross- section of New Yorkers.

It's made up of seven men and five women. We have an investment banker, we have two lawyers, a speech therapist, and it's really interesting, too,

because there's a wide array of viewpoints about Donald Trump himself that these jurors expressed before they were sworn in. We have one juror who

said that they don't like Trump's, quote, "persona" and they called him -- they said he seems selfish and self-serving.

And yet another juror who was also sworn in yesterday, who said that they appreciated Trump's candor. And then there were several jurors that said

that they didn't really feel a strong way about Trump one way or the other, but it's important to note that all of these jurors said that their

feelings about Trump, whether his personal, feelings about him personally or about his politics would not impact their ability to render a fair and

impartial verdict in this case.

And that's what the lawyers and the judges in the judgments looking for today in the remaining five alternates that they're going to pick. As we've

said, a few have already been dismissed. They are dealing with this group of 22 remaining potential jurors. These are leftover from yesterday's

panel. There is another 96 -- a group of 96 potential jurors who are also sworn in and will be brought in later today if we need to go through more


We go to this questionnaire again, but we'll see if we can fill out that remaining five without having to go to the next panel of 96. The process is

the same as what we've seen play out as you mentioned. They are going through the questionnaire process right now asking the questions about

whether or not they've ever attended a Trump rally, what are their personal views on Donald Trump, and trying to narrow down that group into about five


HILL: And in terms of the strikes, we've talked a lot about the fact that each side had 10 strikes. They used all of those up with the 12 jurors, but

they now have a couple more because we're dealing with alternates.

COHEN: That's right. They get two strikes per alternate, both sides get to strikes per alternate. So this process should move along fairly quickly,

though. And again, I want to -- Donald Trump did speak to reporters before going into court today, and I want to play a little bit of sound of what he

said because he hasn't really spoken a whole lot this week. Take a listen to what he said this morning, though.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So thank you very much. As you know, I've been saying for a long while, this is rigged trial. It's coming

from the White House. They have White House DOJ people in the trial, in the D.A.'s office representing the D.A. because he's probably not smart enough

to represent himself. The guy got elected using Trump. And you're not supposed to do that. Very much like Letitia did.

New York is going down. It's a very corrupt place to do business, that I can tell you. A lot of people are not going to be moving to New York. But

this is a rigged case and this is a case that was put in very strongly because of politics. So instead of being in Pennsylvania or Georgia or

North Carolina or lots of other places, today I'm sitting in a courthouse all day long. This is going on for the week and this will go on for another

four or five weeks.

And it's very unfair and people know -- and people know it's very unfair. The gag order has to come off.


COHEN: So Donald Trump saying a lot of familiar things and a lot of baseless things there again. But it is interesting because he is -- this is

the core part of his campaign message for president. But at the end of the day, he is sitting in that courtroom like any other criminal defendant,

watching as this jury selection process takes place, and he will continue to sit in that courtroom as the rest of the trial moves forward.


We could in fact have opening statements occur as early as Monday, like you said, if jury selection and some of these other issues are resolved before

or in time for that.

HILL: Zach, appreciate it. Thank you.

Also with me now attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin.

Areva, good to have you here this morning. As we look at where things stand and the comments as, you know, Zach was just pointing out, these are

comments, sort of the greatest hits once again, from Donald trial that we've heard over and over again. Also a key part of his campaign message,

these grievances, I shouldn't have to be here, I shouldn't have to be here, I should be out on the trail, he's effectively campaigning in all of these

moments, though, before and after court when he goes to the cameras.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, Erica. He is repeating the same baseless claims that he has made throughout. The

reality is DOJ has nothing to do with this trial. This is a state prosecution by a state district attorney. And the claim that somehow this

is being driven by Joe Biden and the White House is absolutely absurd.

And then the personal attacks on Alvin Bragg and Letitia James, Alvin Bragg, the same law school I graduated from. So to say that he's not smart,

again, is a completely ridiculous statement. And Letitia James just got a $454 million civil judgment against him so she's pretty smart, no doubt

about it. She's proven herself and her prowess in a courtroom.

So Donald Trump always tries to paint himself as the victim, never takes personal responsibility for any of his actions. And this is a day of

reckoning for him. This trial is a day of reckoning. They were going to hear from witnesses, including some in his very inner circle like Hope

Hicks and they're going to tell us about the criminal conduct that he engaged in, which is why he's sitting in a trial and not on the campaign


It is because of his own doing, not the White House, not the district attorney. He is there because of his own actions.

HILL: Areva, are you surprised at all about -- at rather how quickly this jury selection process is moving?

MARTIN: Not at all. Again, everything about this trial is unusual because Donald Trump is such an unusual and such an oversized personality. He gets

away with things that no other criminal defendant would ever get away with in any criminal trial. In the case of this nature given the nature of the

offense, jury selection would typically take a day or two. The fact that we are at the end of the week and a jury has been seated and they're just

selecting alternates is not unusual.

And everything about this case should not be made extraordinary because it's Donald Trump. He's a man, a person just like you and I. And the

judicial system should treat him in the same way that they treat any other criminal defendant.

HILL: What are you watching for? So we could potentially be looking at opening statements come Monday. What are you watching for in these moments?

MARTIN: Probably watching to see what the defense's defense is. We know that for Donald Trump, the defense is this is all rigged, this is a

political persecution, this is an effort to prevent me from running for the -- you know, president, for being president again in this election cycle.

But that's not a criminal defense. That's not your typical defense to a case. So I'm really going to be looking to see what his defense lawyers

argue as it relates to the evidence.

This is a documents case. This is a case where we're going to see lots of documents that have come from business records involving Donald Trump so I

want to see what his team is going to do to try to counter the overwhelming amount of documents that I suspect the prosecution will use as evidence in

this case.

HILL: Areva, always got to talk with you. Thank you.

Stay with us. We are back live in the Middle East on the other side of this quick break.



GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai.

Now leaders around the world are calling for restraint after Israel apparently made good on his promise to strike back at Iran. The overnight

attack is said to have targeted the Iranian province of Isfahan. From Oman this reaction, "The Sultanate of Oman is following the continuing tension

in the region and condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It also condemns and denounces Israel's

repeated military attacks in the region,"

And there are fears about what this conflict could mean in the region as well. We've got CNN's Scott McLean in Istanbul with more insight into this.

Good to see you, Scott. How Iran is framing this is very important because it gives us a sense on whether we should expect retaliation. So give me a

sense of the messaging coming out of Iran.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's sort of downplaying the situation at this stage of the game, Eleni, saying that, look, the

explosions that took place in Isfahan Province were actually from the anti- air defense systems going off, shooting at unidentified objects in the air. They're promising more information at some point. We're also hearing

precious little from the Israelis as well.

And you have virtually the whole world pleading for de-escalation. We have heard similar messaging from the U.K., the E.U., the Chinese, the list goes

on, but of course, here in the Middle East, these are the countries that are going to feel the effects of any potential escalation the most.

You mentioned the Omanis already. They also said in their statement that they are urging the international community to get to the root cause of all

of this tension. We have also heard from the Jordanian foreign minister today. I'll just read you part of what that statement said. He said, "We

condemn all actions that threaten dragging the region into war. Israeli- Iranian retaliations must end. The inhumane war on Gaza must end now."

We have also heard from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry which said Egypt urged both parties to exercise maximum restraint. Warning of the

consequences of expanding the scope of the conflict and instability in the region. Of course, Egypt has been among the countries that has been in

touch with both the Israelis and the Iranians to sort of urge them to take down the temperature.

Turkey has also been playing somewhat of an intermediary role. We know that they were passing messages the previous week between the Iranians and the

Americans. I've just heard from a Turkish diplomatic source that over the past week there were lower level conversations between both Ankara and

Tehran, and Ankara and Washington, D.C., as well.

And this afternoon here in Istanbul, we heard from the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Friday prayers when he spoke and he seemed to bemoan

a lack of leadership on all of this. I'll read you part of what he said. He said, "Israel is saying different things, Iran is also putting forward

different views. No one has claimed the attack and there really is no statement that's not ridiculous regarding the matter.


"In recent statements made at the U.N. Security Council, we see that the U.S. has sided with Israel. While everyone else is standing with Palestine

the U.S. unfortunately is showing its stance by siding with Israel."

Now President Erdogan also confirmed that local Turkish media reports that the leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh will be visiting Turkey this weekend. We

also know that the Egyptian foreign minister will also be here for talks with his Turkish counterpart -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Scott, very quickly I want to talk about Iran's nuclear doctrine. Could you give me a sense of whether that's going to change in

what we've been hearing?

MCLEAN: This is one of the things that they have threatened. Iran is still essentially they are enriching uranium, but not quite to the level that is

needed to actually make a nuclear weapon. Of course, the U.S. pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal under President Trump back in 2017 and so we've

heard in recent days that if Israel didn't stop its threats, that the Iranians could change their stance toward the nuclear program.

Obviously, the Israelis -- there's no indication that they went after any nuclear facilities here so that is good news. And obviously we don't have

any indications, at least at this stage, thankfully, that there's going to be any massive shift, at least for the moment. Again, the Iranians going to

great lengths, seemingly to downplay all of this -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. Scott, great to see you. Thank you so much.

And you can follow all the latest developments from Israel, Iran, and the rest of the region in our "Meanwhile in the Middle East" newsletter.

There's a story up right now on Jordan's diplomatic tightrope after downing Iranian drones and missiles during last weekend's attack on Israel. Scan

the QR code right at the bottom of your screen to sign up for the newsletter.

Now, Dubai International Airport is struggling to get its flight schedule back on track after historic flooding this week. The torrential rain had

the runways and tarmac underwater. Dubai is one of the world's busiest aviation hubs and thousands of passengers have been affected by flight

cancellations. Today, the airport announced it is limiting the number of flight arrivals for two days as it works to clear a massive, massive


The CEO of Dubai Airport, Paul Griffiths, joins us now.

Paul, great to see you. I have to say, you know, the last few days here in Dubai have been absolutely cataclysmic. You and I spoke yesterday. You said

this exactly to me, you said there's a slow recovery in the next 24 hours back to normal operations. We're hearing from passengers inside the airport

saying there's many delays. It's not back to normal.

Has the timeline changed at this point?

PAUL GRIFFITHS, CEO, DUBAI AIRPORTS: Well, Eleni, so far we've got something like 8,000 passengers on their way so far today. And of course,

we've still got the evening departure good to go. So we are making good progress. We estimate there's probably about the same numbers still in the

concourses ready to go. But what Emirates have recently announced is that they've suspended taking any transfer passengers who are not originating or

ending up in Dubai.

In other words, those starting from somewhere else and going on to somewhere else because they are adding additional load to our concourses

and we would rather prioritize getting people away on flights as urgent way forward. The situation is recovering more slowly than we would have hoped

over the course of the last 24 hours.

We're still keeping in place a curfew on some of the flights for foreign carriers to operate capacity reductions just to get the backlog cleared.

But I think by the morning we will have been in a much better shape than we are today. We've had full resource (INAUDIBLE) which have been a problem in

the past, and now clear. So a lot of the things we were struggling with are now actually back to normal.

GIOKOS: How are passengers coping with delays and the people that have been stuck for many, many hours? I know that when I'm delayed, I get very

frustrated. You know, what is the state right now, how you're dealing with them, and what's the atmosphere like in your terminals?

GRIFFITHS: Well, I think the most important thing is to make sure that our customers' welfare is looked after and we've delivered something like

45,000 bottles of water and an equivalent number of snacks to the airport for free dispense, say, to the customers that have been displaced by the

disruption. All of our trading partners throughout the airports, all of our food and beverage establishments are fully open.

We've had regular deliveries of fresh foods and drinks to all of those outlets and they're trading very briskly. They are providing all the

welfare necessary. We've got sheer physical space problem at the moment. People are having to find spaces in the airport to basically relax and



And we are doing everything we can. The flow of information I think is updated almost by the minute. All our flight information displays have QR

codes on them. So people are able to download the latest information. And of course we have to undergo a massive rebooking effort to get people

rebooked onto flights that have been cancelled. We've had something like 1600 flight cancellations over the course of the week. And obviously the

flights that we did have scheduled were already full. So it's going to take a while to clear the backlog.


GRIFFITHS: But our concern obviously is to get our customers away and whilst there are at the airport to make sure they're looked after as best

we can.

GIOKOS: So 1,600 flights that have been canceled. That is extraordinary. I mean, I think about the numbers of people that have been affected. What has

been the longest waiting time for people that were at the airport since Tuesday when they were stranded?

GRIFFITHS: Well, average delays I think earlier in the week were six to seven hours. That's actually come down quite significantly now. And we did

have some people that were at the airport for more than 24 hours. So it's been incredibly variable and dependent on the ability of us to get aircraft

in and out. The infrastructure of the airport is fully functional, has been for the last couple of days. So there's no restrictions on the operation.

The difficulty has been our airline partners trying to get crews, catering, fuel, all of the logistics associated in getting aircraft away, to the

appropriate aircraft and getting passengers boarded and away. That's proved immensely challenging because of the resources we've had because of access

to the airports.


GRIFFITHS: However, that's now fully resolved and we are 100 percent back in terms of manpower, logistics, and facilities.

GIOKOS: Yes. I mean, the roads are starting to clear up, you know, even yesterday was absolutely disastrous to try and get to the airport.

In terms of financial impact for you over the last three days and what that means for the airport, could you give me a sense of what you guys are


GRIFFITHS: Well, to be honest, we are prioritizing the welfare of our customers and we're not sitting down counting the cost of that. I've

approved some emergency budgets to buy food and drinks for everyone that's been displaced and our concern really is to make sure that everyone is

looked after. Over the course of the year, we'll absorb that cost when we're not seeking to recharge it or even count it at the moment. The

definite welfare of our customers is our major priority.

GIOKOS: OK, so in terms of the biggest bottleneck, what would you say it is right now? I mean, we've had, you know, India, for example, canceling

flights and so forth. I'm just trying to get a sense of what you're worried about right now.

GRIFFITHS: The thing is you see, this is an immense logistical operation, and normally we operate 24/7, 250,000 departing passengers a day. So to

have any form of disruptions, obviously going to have a significant impact. At the moment, our biggest concern is we've got aircraft and crews out of

position distributed across different parts of the region and the world, and trying to get all of that logistical exercise back into its planned

state is probably the biggest hurdle that our airline colleagues are facing.

So making sure we can get aircraft and crews and catering and fueling and passengers and baggage all at the right place at the right time to ensure a

timely departure and getting back to a normal schedule, I think that's the biggest hurdle that we're facing at the moment.

GIOKOS: Right. Well, Paul Griffiths, it's great to speak to you. My mom actually is flying out tomorrow morning from Dubai International. I'll be

in touch to tell you what experience. I'm dropping her off in the morning. Good to see you, Paul. Thank you.

All right. And still to come, the political impact Donald Trump's criminal case could have on his campaign efforts as he expresses frustration for

being on trial and not on the trail. The story right ahead. Stay with CNN.



HILL: Returning now to one of our top stories on this Friday. Donald Trump, of course, back in a New York courtroom for his hush money trial. Opening

statements could begin as soon as Monday. Before making his way into the courtroom this morning, a frustrated Trump called on the judge to release

him from his gag order, all while continuing to complain about being here in New York instead of out on the campaign trail. Take a listen.


TRUMP: -- should be allowed to speak. Every time I come out to speak to you, I want to be open because we did absolutely nothing wrong. I showed

you yesterday, 30 stories, 32 stories of experts, legal experts, and I don't have one the other way. 32 stories of legal experts say very strongly

there's is no case. This case has been brought. Trump did nothing wrong. And they say it strongly. Trump did nothing wrong.


HILL: Some of the familiar comments that we've heard from the former president there.

Alayna Treene joining us now from Washington, continuing too in those comments earlier this morning to complain about being here in the

courtroom, not being able to be out on the campaign trail, although he is effectively using these moments before and after court when it comes to the

cameras to campaign in many ways, Alayna.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And that's exactly what his campaign wants him to be doing. As much as of course Donald Trump

does not want to be on trial, particularly a criminal trial, they recognize the benefits of having him being able to speak to the cameras when he goes

in and out. He's been holding press conferences. He'll be holding more events around New York and doing rallies when he can on Wednesdays and

Saturdays when court is not in session.

But you could see there, Erica, that Donald Trump is clearly very frustrated and very angry. And I do just want to fact-check some of what he

was saying because a lot of his criticism of the judge and of the trial so far has been about the gag order and he is allowed to speak as we saw. He's

allowed to speak about this case. He's allowed to criticize the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, as well as the judge in this case.

There are a few areas that he is not able to touch. I'll just walk you through them. There's three specific categories. One is speaking publicly

or directly about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses. The others speaking publicly or directly about prosecutors, and staff, but that does

not include the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and then the third is about speaking about jurors or prospective jurors.

So that is where he is limited. But as you can see, he has really a lot of ground to cover with what he is able to speak about. But some of his anger

here, and from my reporting and just having covered Donald Trump for as long as I have is because he likes to be able to speak openly and publicly

and rail against his opponents on Truth Social and in his comments that are being streamed on TV.

That is part of how he feels that he is bringing his own message directly to the people. And that's why Donald Trump is so cut up about this. But at

the same time, I'd also just want to say, again, as much as his attorneys in this case do believe that this criminal trial is the weakest case of the

four criminal indictments he is facing, this is going to be a very difficult case for Donald Trump to sit through, particularly because of

many of the salacious details that come with it as well as, you know, the nature of some of the witnesses that are expected to testify against him.

That is something that Donald Trump is very much worried about. And I think as well that is where some of his anger with the gag order comes in. If he

cannot publicly attack some of the witnesses who'll be taking the stand.


People like Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer, someone who Donald Trump has had very harsh words for in the past. That is where I

think a lot of this anger is stemming from -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Alayna, appreciate it very much. Thank you.

We're also watching Washington on this Friday where U.S. House lawmakers are getting their first chance to vote on a package of foreign aid bills

that have deepened a rift within the Republican Party. Just before midnight Washington time, the Rules Committee advanced the bills with support from

Democrats. So now the full House will vote on the rules.

Speaker Mike Johnson, whose political future and frankly his job as speaker, is riding on this, says the House will likely vote on the bills

themselves Saturday.

CNN's Manu Raju is live this morning in Washington.

So, Manu, boy, talk about tough to get here, but here we are. What is different in these bills that we have at this point? How do they differ

from that aid package that had already been approved by the Senate?

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, its different in some respects, but it's very similar in a lot. The overall

price tag is a, say, $95 billion. There's some aid to Ukraine that will be in a form of forgivable loan. There's also some other provisions as well,

allowing the United States to seize frozen Russian assets and turn that into aid for Ukraine.

There's also another -- there's a language in there that would essentially force the sale from the Chinese owned company ByteDance of TikTok. If not

TikTok would be banned in U.S. app stores. And so those are some of the provisions, but overall, the idea is the same. And one thing that this does

not include is border security provisions. Remember that have been a demand of Republicans and the speaker of the House for some time.

The speaker calculated he simply did not have the votes to do that. And that is why he is facing this revolt on the right flank and potentially a

threat to his speakership because of that decision not to include border security and frankly his decision to move ahead with this Ukraine aid. And

some of those memories on the far-right don't want to spend another dime for Ukraine.

Now this measure right now we're seeing a procedural vote happened on the floor of the House. That is expected to pass on a bipartisan majority. That

is unusual. Typically these rules have gone along party lines. Democrats are in the minority would vote against it. Republicans who are the majority

vote for it. But because of the divisions over this aid package, Democrats will need to come and such bail out the speaker of the House to push it

over the finish line.

That's what we expect to happen in this vote. And then tomorrow on final passage in the House with a bipartisan majority there as well. The question

will be, if and when Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is trying to push for Mike Johnson's ouster, when does she call for that vote? She can do that anytime

and that would happen within two legislative days. And what would Democrats do at that point? Because their support would be needed essentially to keep

Mike Johnson in the speaker's chair.

So a lot of questions, a lot riding on this vote, not to mention all the money in aid to Ukraine, into Israel, to Taiwan, that is expected to be

approved by the House tomorrow and then over to the Senate after that -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Manu, appreciate the update. Thank you.

Stay with us, CONNECT THE WORLD continues on the other side of this short break.


GIOKOS: In India, polls have closed for the day after the first phase of the world's largest ever general election. About 12 percent of the world's

population is eligible to vote setting the stage for a massive exercise in democracy over the next six weeks.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is standing for a third term in power against an alliance of opposition parties. India's election will be the

world's biggest. Some 969 million people are registered to vote.


Indians will decide whether to grant Prime Minister Narendra Modi a rare third consecutive term in office. There'll be voting in one million polling

stations, one million, run by staff of around 15 million people. Now, voting will take place in seven phase through June 1st, and Indians will

vote to fill 543 of the 545 seats in Lower House of Parliament. The majority party will then select the prime minister.

All right, you might want to grab your headphones this weekend or will turn up your stereo. Taylor Swift just surprised fans with the second album

right after releasing her highly anticipated "Tortured Poets Department" in the middle of last night. No wonder why the

album became the most pre-saved in Spotify's history. Now you have a playlist of around 31 new songs to enjoy this weekend.

All right. We'll that's it for CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai. Stay with CNN. NEWSROOM is up next.