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Michael Cohen Back On The Stand; Georgia Riot Police Confront Protesters Against Controversial "Foreign Agents" Bill; Ukrainian Forces Stretched Thin, Trying To Repel Russian Northeast Offensive; Renewed Fighting In Previously Cleared Parts Of Gaza; House Speaker Claims Michael Cohen Is On Personal Mission Of Revenge; Biden To Ramp Up Chinese Import Tariffs; Trump Has Major Fundraiser In NYC. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 10:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST (voice-over): Hello and welcome to the second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Erica Hill, in for Becky today. Let's

get straight to our top story, which is right here in New York.

Right now, the prosecution in Donald Trump's historic criminal trial questioning its star witness Michael Cohen.

You see him there. This was earlier this morning as he was leaving his apartment. Michael Cohen, of course, is Donald Trump's former lawyer,

former fixer. This is the second day on the stand for the prosecution's key witness.

On Monday, Cohen implicated Trump directly in that scheme to cover up the hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, testifying that he

paid that $130,000 to Daniels at Trump's direction and was promised he would be reimbursed.

We're just learning this morning, too, about who Donald Trump has there to support him today. Among those in the courtroom and in New York, was House

Speaker Mike Johnson, who is expected to deliver more remarks outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan where this trial is underway.

CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras has been following all of this for us.

So this follows a pattern that we've seen over the last several days, a lot of politicians there to show support and to echo in many ways the talking

points that we hear in the morning on the way into court and in the evening on the way out of court from the former president when it comes to his

estimation of this trial.

Today, I guess it's going to be no different, just perhaps they rank higher in the world of politicians.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right and obviously trying to stay in good favor with the former president. But this is a crucial day of

testimony. It's going to be a crucial day of cross examination, once the defense finally gets its turn with Michael Cohen.

Now right now, what's happening in the courtroom is Cohen is on the stand. And we're being told by our reporters that are inside, that he continues to

be very measured and calculated in his words and answering the questions from the prosecution.

And right now, they are literally going through all the checks that prosecutors argued were falsified, which is the center of this case. These

are the charges that are against the former president, the falsification of these business records in order to make hush money payments to Stormy


And then they are going line by line by these checks. There's one exchange right here that says, were any of those checks in fact, for work during the

month described in those check stubs?

And Cohen replied, "No, ma'am."

Remember the accusation here is that they were billed as legal fees when, in fact, they were really reimbursements. So they're getting to really the

heart of these charges and making sure jurors are aware of Cohen's participation in this.

And they also have brought jurors into the White House. That is one of the conversations that were had about the reimbursement payments according to

the prosecution, between Cohen and Trump after he was actually in the White House.

Jurors have seen a picture Michael Cohen in the Briefing Room to show that he was there. This actually happened. Again, more evidence corroborating

this story. So certainly they are already off to a quick start, getting to the heart of this case.

And then again, we do anticipate the cross-examination to happen from defense attorneys and it could last longer than the questioning now we have

seen from the prosecutor. So we will be waiting for that, Erica.

HILL: All right, Brynn. Appreciate it. Thank you.

We are also keeping a very close eye on the breaking news out of Georgia. Riot police confronting protesters in the capital, Tbilisi, after

parliament passed a controversial bill known as the foreign agents bill.

These are live pictures now. The bill passed 84 members of the parliament's 150 voting in favor of it. There is a lot of criticism of the bill.

Specifically critics warning that this Russian style legislation could in fact jeopardize Georgia's bid to join the European Union. CNN's Clare

Sebastian joining me now.

It is, of course, not law yet but on the road to it. You've been monitoring these protests and all this activity for the last several hours. It looks

like it's calmed a bit but after things have really started to heat up just a short time ago.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Erica, it was it was initially calm this morning as we saw almost four hours of debate, debate

followed by that vote in parliament.

But it's been in the two hours or so since we got news of that approval at the third reading, third and final reading of this law. Things did escalate

a bit. The police, this huge wall of police that you can see, started to move.

Initially, then we saw protesters start to hit the barricades outside parliament. I think we might want to show you some pictures of this. In one

part of the barricade, they broke through that metal barricade to get access to the parliament building.


They would push back by police at that point. So we've also seen a few scuffles by -- between police and protesters. This is something that is

really characterized these weeks of protests that we've seen leading up to the reading of this bill.

The E.U. has several times come out and warned about the brutal actions, disproportionate force being shown by the authorities. Right now, this is

very recent footage from the center of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. You can see that it is relatively peaceful.

But there is some movement going on there. And there were, as I say, some scuffles. So we are keeping a really close eye on this. This is a very

volatile moment because this was really the key milestone in the passage of this law.

Right now, we then look ahead to the president, to his pro-European likely vetoing the bill. And then parliament potentially overriding that veto. It

does something they've promised to do. So a key moment which obviously exposes the divisions in Georgia society over this.

HILL: Yes, it certainly does. And there are, as I've mentioned and I know you've touched on as well and followed, some of the critics are also

warning not just about the content of this bill and what it could mean for democracy, what it could mean for the country.

We're hearing a lot of that from protesters but there are also concerns about what this could mean for Georgia's bid join the European Union.

SEBASTIAN: It is certainly not good for Georgia's bid to join the European Union.

They are just a few months out, Erica, from gaining candidate status and bringing this law back has led to very open statements from E.U. officials

that it would negatively impact their bid.

Georgia, of course, has to fulfill certain criteria to move to the next stage of accession. And look, this is why we've seen these protests

escalate in recent weeks. Georgia has a very young, very vibrant population, very strong civil society. They are at least 80 percent,

according to recent polls, 80 percent in favor of E.U. integration.

And that is why we've seen the protests escalate, the government statements come out against them. And this is how we got to this point. Take a look.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): "No, to the Russian law," they chant, as they have now for weeks. Young Georgians fighting for a European future, they say is

under threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our duty is to protect our country from Russia and work toward Europe where there is peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We're just going to keep going till there's a better outcome.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Last year, protests worked. Scenes like this forcing the government to scrap the same so-called both foreign agent bill,

seen here as a replica of a repressive Russian law.

And a sign of Moscow's growing influence in this small post-Soviet state. Then in March, barely three months after gaining E.U. candidate status, the

Georgian government revived the law.

In a rare appearance in late April, the ruling party's honorary leader and most powerful driving force, lashing out the west.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Despite the promises of the 2008 Bucharest summit, Georgia and Ukraine have not been accepted into NATO and

have been left out to dry. All those decisions are made by the global party of war.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): As protesters grew more determined, the police response escalated. Violence widely condemned by the European Union. In

this shocking attack on May 1st, opposition leader Levan Khabeishvili says he was deliberately targeted. His bruises are still visible.

LEVAN KHABEISHVILI, GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): They did not get what they wanted from me. They were filming to upload the video

afterwards and to show the opposition leader in a state that would discredit me.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And violence not the only means of intimidation. Transparency International says these posters of its local executive

director appeared a few days ago outside its offices and those of other NGOs.

The text reads, "Traitor and grant guzzler."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are under the attack all the time. So the governmental officials and even the prime minister would organize the press

conference, where they single you out.

SEBASTIAN: Transparency International -- as an NGO, I assume you would be subject to this law.

What would you have to do and would you do it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we are not going to register. We understand that the government will introduce the penalties for us. They might freeze our

assets and accounts. It will be very difficult for us to monitor the elections.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Recent polls show around 80 percent of Georgians favor joining the E.U. (INAUDIBLE) in Brussels has warned would be

negatively affected by this law.

Georgia's opposition now wants Western condemnation to turn into action.

KHABEISHVILI (through translator): The United States can introduce sanctions. The time has finally come now. This should be done before we get

into the swamp that we cannot get out of.



SEBASTIAN: Well, obviously the protesters are very worried about the rising tide as they did of Russian influence and interference in Georgia.

But we heard as well from the Kremlin today, saying they see once again, according to the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, undisguised interference

in Georgia's internal affairs from the outside.

The suggestion, of course, that that's coming from the West. That is the exact rhetoric being used by Georgia's ruling party to justify this law

than it is about protecting Georgian sovereignty. So you can see why these protesters are seeing growing links between the ruling party and that

Russian influence, Erica.

HILL: Yes, absolutely, Clare. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

The U.S. says it has now resumed its flow of weapons into Ukraine. This as, Russia is really looking to build on its momentum in the northeast, in the

war there. Next up, we're going to hear from U.S. secretary of Antony -- U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken in the next hour, who is in Kyiv on

an unannounced visit.

Earlier today, he met with Ukraine's president. Here's some of what they had to say.




ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know this is a challenging time but we also know that, in the near term, assistance is now on the way. Some

of it's already arrived, more of it will be arriving.

And that's going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The decision on the package was crucial for us, it's very important to get it as quick as possible. And the

second one, point, is air defense, the biggest deficit for us. I think that the biggest problem, yes.

And we need -- really we need today two Patriots (ph) for Kharkiv, for Kharkiv region because they are -- the people are under attack. Civilians

and worse, everybody there under Russian missiles.


HILL: So President Zelenskyy there talking specifically about Russia's attack on the offensive on the Kharkiv region just in the last week. Russia

now pushing deeper, apparently focusing on the towns of Vovchansk and Lyptsi. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following all of this for us.

As things do intensify in the northeast, there we also heard President Zelenskyy, thankful for the aid that is coming but calling out the need for

more specific -- specifically as you and I discussed in the last hour, that Patriot air defense, which they really need.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. That's definitely a point that Volodymyr Zelenskyy wanted to make.

And certainly as we saw, there wanted to make publicly as well, is that these Patriot air defense systems, the Ukrainians right now believe could

give them a serious boost in the battlefield and certainly protect their troops on the front lines as well.

And I think one of those areas is exactly the one that we're talking about, the ones that you mentioned, Lyptsi and Vovchansk, of course, on the border

are very close to the border between Russia and Ukraine.

And right now, the places that the Russians really are assaulting. And the reason why the Ukrainians specifically want these Patriot surface-to-air

missile systems is that the Russians are absolutely pounding the Ukrainians in those areas with their air force.

The Russians able to use that air force much more effectively than they have in the past, essentially, by inventing, as they put it, and mass-

producing guidance and wing kits for Soviet-era bombs to make sure that they can employ those further away from the front lines.

And the only system the Ukrainians say that can take those jets down or prevent them from flying near the front lines is the U.S.-made Patriots. So

definitely the Ukrainians believe that it would save a lot of lives on the front line.

Certainly make it easier for those troops to counter some of those offensive actions that the Russians are conducting right now. And on the

other hand, of course, Erica, the other thing that the U.S. has been talking about, that the Ukrainians have been talking about, is artillery,

ammunition that they say they need a lot of.

Some of it now, coming to the front lines. But then also rocket artillery as well. So the Ukrainians say they need everything. But first and

foremost, those longer range air defense systems, Erica.

HILL: Yes. The fact that Antony Blinken making this unannounced visit, the two of them talking about what is being said. Obviously they're trying to

play that up. Just put it in perspective for us, Fred.

How bad are things right now on the front line.

PLEITGEN: Well, I think right now for the Ukrainians, they're extremely challenging and very difficult. And it's really in manifold ways. On the

one hand, of course, they have been outgunned and are outgunned right now on the front lines because that U.S. aid and also some of the aid from

European countries is getting to Ukraine right now.

But certainly not getting on the battlefield at scale just yet. That is certainly set to happen. And actually there are some people who believe

that one of the reasons that Russia might be conducting these large-scale offensives right now is they're trying to use this window of opportunity

for themselves before a lot of that Western aid arrives in European, in Ukrainian hands.


And they are able to use that on the front lines. So there are some who believe that it could be a factor. But the Ukrainians really outmanned as

well. And one of the things that's been really challenging for them is mobilizing enough people to actually go to the front lines.

Apparently that's picked up pace somewhat recently. But the Ukrainians certainly still have a lot -- a long way to go, especially as far as

training some of these new recruits is also concerned.

So on all areas really of the front line right now, very difficult for the Ukrainians. However, they do say that the gains that the Russians are

currently making at huge costs, by the way, to the Russians also, that those are tactical gains and not strategic ones.

There haven't been any larger cities that the Russians have been able to capture yet, even though, right now, they certainly are the ones who are on

the offensive, Erica.

HILL: Yes. Fred Pleitgen, really appreciate the update for us. Thank you.

Still to come here, we are also keeping a close watch on the war in Gaza, Israel keeping up its bombardment of cities there. As the U.S. says, Israel

now has enough troops amassed on the edge of Rafah to launch a full incursion.

Is that imminent?

We're live in Jerusalem.




HILL: U.S. officials tell CNN, Israel now has enough troops gathered on the edge of Gaza's border city of Rafah to launch a full-scale incursion, a

move that would be in direct defiance of President Joe Biden's so-called red line.

Earlier, Qatar's prime minister also said that Israel's actions in Rafah have set back negotiations over a hostage release and ceasefire to almost a


For its part, Israel says its troops are continuing operations and not just in the south but also in the north end in central Gaza, where hospital

officials say at least 40 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli airstrikes overnight. Here's Paula Hancocks with more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dazed and bloodied, a young boy is pulled from the rubble of a four-story building. Others remain

trapped under slabs of concrete after an Israeli airstrike hit this residential building in the early hours Tuesday while people were sleeping.

This mother finds her son being carried away by rescue crews. She throws herself at his lifeless body.

More than 100 displaced people were believed to be sheltering here in Nuseirat in central Gaza. Entire families now entombed beneath the concrete


This man says, "My children, girls and boys, are under the rubble. My wife, my father, we were targeted while we slept."

He continues his desperate search for his family. Another man calls out his brother's name. He says he was sheltering here with his wife and four

children, displaced for a fourth time, this time from Rafah.


This woman says, "My brother arrived from Rafah three days ago after being forcibly displaced. We don't know where he is. His wife, his five children,

they didn't have any connections to anyone."

This is how Gazans are forced to search for their loved ones, little equipment, using their bare hands against the constant backdrop of Israeli

drones overhead. Another Israeli strike in (INAUDIBLE) by UNRWA school caused the fire which engulfed the buildings. There, too, the displaced

became the victims.

U.N. staff collect human remains from the schoolyard. The daily search for a safety that does not exist continues as hundreds of thousands leave

Rafah, moved on yet again by the Israeli military, some setting up tents in cleared areas. Others returning to what's left of their homes.

"We're returning to our destroyed homes in Khan Younis," this man says, "where there's no shelter or basic necessities, no water or electricity or

even a house to shelter in."

For the residents of Gaza, it is a constant battle to find the next meal, clean water and a place to sleep and a desperate hope to survive the night

-- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


HILL: As Israel renews fighting across the enclave and these hostage ceasefire negotiations appear to be lagging, I want to get a closer look at

what is happening there. CNN's Jeremy Diamond, joining us from Jerusalem.

So Jeremy, let's start first with what we're seeing in terms of Rafah. U.S. officials noting the amassing of troops around the border city there.

Is there any further clarification today about what, when, how this offensive could in fact happen, the status?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, there is not. I mean, all we have heard from Israeli officials so far is bluster and defiance in the face of

those threats by the United States.

And the president directly to withhold further arms shipments if Israel moves forward with an all-out ground offensive. We have heard that the U.S.

and Israel are planning to hold further consultations on Rafah.

And as you just mentioned, we're reporting that, according to U.S. officials, that there are sufficient Israeli forces now amassed to carry

out that all-out ground offensive. But we don't know if and when it will come.

What we are witnessing, though, is an offensive in Rafah that is taking place. But it is taking place in stages and in a limited way. We have

watched as initially Israeli tanks and troops moved in a little over a week ago, to eastern Rafah, the Rafah border crossing in particular.

They then issued further evacuation notices slightly further west. And Israeli troops have been slowly moving in that same direction. But we don't

know yet whether this Rafah offensive will simply continue in that manner or if there will be a day, where we suddenly see a massive, all-out

offensive into the central part of the city.

The most densely populated areas that are raising the biggest concerns among U.S. officials. In the meantime, though, what we are seeing is the

mass displacement of Palestinian people who are living in Rafah.

Many of them already displaced multiple times from other parts of the Gaza Strip. The U.N.'s main agency in Gaza now estimates that nearly 0.5 million

people have fled Rafah for areas further north.

We are seeing them arriving in areas like the al-Mawasi expanded humanitarian zone, which includes that kind of coastal sandy area of al-

Mawasi as well as now western Khan Younis, which has been decimated by months of Israeli military operations.

And bombing there, as well as fighting, of course, between Israeli forces and Hamas militants and parts of central Gaza. But the people who are

displaced there are finding that the conditions simply aren't adequate for the number of people who are flooding in.

There is a lack of sewage infrastructure, electricity, water. And humanitarian aid groups in particular are having trouble reaching those

areas to provide the sufficient aid that is needed for what is becoming a mass movement of people in that area.

HILL: As we're watching that, we're also seeing Israeli actions continue really across, across the region, including in central Gaza, in the middle

part of the region, there.

Is Hamas regrouping.

What more do we know about that effort?

DIAMOND: Well, as you saw in Paula's piece there, this was about the two airstrikes that took place in central Gaza in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

When we talk about refugee camps in this context, we're talking about refugee camps that were set up after 1948 and the mass displacement of the

Palestinian people then.

But what is happening now?


Those areas are seeing people who are displaced from elsewhere in Gaza. And one of these buildings indeed was holding more than 100 people, many of

whom were displaced from other parts of Gaza, some even displaced from Rafah over the course of the past week.

And that just speaks to this idea that, as Palestinians are being displaced from Rafah, which was once viewed as a relatively safe part of the Gaza

Strip, they are now heading for uncertainty and dangerous conditions. At worse, in what we are seeing in central Gaza.

Now what we are also witnessing is the Israeli military beyond southern and central Gaza is also operating now on the ground in northern Gaza, in the

Jabalya refugee camp in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.

These are both areas that were -- that saw some of the heaviest fighting in the early months of the war as the Israeli military initially carried out a

ground offensive in northern Gaza. And they've now been forced to return, they say, because Hamas militants have indeed returned.

And that's because -- and this is raising questions about the Israeli military's broader strategy for Gaza. We have seen Israeli forces go into

these areas, clear the areas of Palestinian militants. But then they withdraw.

And when they withdraw, they leave a power vacuum, with no other Palestinian authorities taking control of those areas. And eventually what

we're seeing, as we're seeing now, is those Hamas militants returning to those very same areas as the Israeli military seems to be playing what

could be an unending game of Whac-a-Mole, Erica.

HILL: Jeremy Diamond, really appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, in a dramatic increase, the U.N. now estimates that the number of Palestinians who have been forced to evacuate from Rafah, as you've just

heard from Jeremy, there has risen to 450,000. That's up 25 percent in just the last 24 hours.

It is at least a third of the population that had taken shelter there after Israel's military, of course, had diverted other parts of Gaza and urged

people to evacuate south.

We have been following this. We know, as we just laid out there with Jeremy, the incursion into Rafah is expected to intensify. No firm details

on when and what exactly that will look like.

But there are concerns that, of course, this will also lead to higher numbers of those evacuating, concerns about where they go. The U.N. Office

for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been on the ground, trying to provide relief for some of those civilians.

One of the spokespeople joined CNN earlier with more on what's happening on the ground.


OLGA CHEREKOV, U.N. OCHA SPOKESPERSON: The kind of running theme is the same everywhere with all of them. They are absolutely terrified of what may

come and they have lived through so much suffering and so much horror for seven months, over seven months now.

And there is so little hope left that, once that dies, I don't know. The people here will have nothing. And everyone that I've spoken with, there's

so much fear and there's so much uncertainty. And it's like the walls are closing in on them.


HILL: We'll continue to follow that situation. We're also keeping a close watch on developments here in New York City at the criminal courthouse

downtown. Michael Cohen back on the stand for day two. He of course, was once Donald Trump's attorney/fixer, said he would take a bullet for the

former president.

Today, he is testifying in this very moment, talking about why he decided to lie to Congress for the president. More on that, on the other side of

this break.





HILL: We're continuing to follow the breaking news in Tbilisi, Georgia, large demonstrations there sparked by this controversial new legislation

passed by parliament today, which would force companies with more than 20 percent funding from overseas to register as foreign agents.

This comes, of course, as the country is also trying to join the European Union.

Hans Gutbrod is a professor of public policy at Ilia State University in Tbilisi and joins me now.

Hans, it's good to have you with us. As we're watching these protests, we're monitoring as they've been evolving throughout the day. I know in the

past several weeks there have been a number of them, you've been at some of those protests.

What are you hearing from people there on the ground?

Why are they out there so passionately?

And why are they so dedicated to this?

HANS GUTBROD, ILIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, the people are very dedicated in Georgia and the reason why they're dedicated is because Georgia has had a

long history of being oppressed, of being under the thumb of others and also being under the thumb of Russia.

And now they thought that a European path would open up. The government promised to take them closer to Europe. And now it's taking a very sharp

turn away against it and people feel that their future is being robbed from them.

HILL: One young woman who spoke with CNN, just yesterday, her comments, I remember she was talking about how she wants to go to school in Europe. She

does not want to go to school in Russia. That was one of her concerns that, with this bill, it would usher in perhaps other legislation, other


The president vowed to veto it but that veto can be overridden, correct?

GUTBROD: Yes, the veto can be overridden and it's very important to contextualize it.

It's not just this law. There's been a wholesale power grab that I think you could -- I could accurately described as a kind of coup, an unlawful

seizure of power.

HILL: In terms of that unlawful seizure of power, what else -- can you put that in context for folks who are not -- who are not in Georgia, what else

you're seeing?

GUTBROD: Yes, that's very important to put it into context. So the courts are, so to speak, stitched up.

I mean, they're directly following the instructions that they get politically; the cultural sector has been purged -- I think that's the

right word. And so civil society was one of the few things left standing. And now the government is getting itself the tools to snuff that out as


That's why people are so angry and understandably angry.

HILL: Yes, there are also concerns, I know, when it comes to journalists and being able to get stories out and concerns about what may happen in

terms of the press moving forward.


And one aspect of that, so the law looks pretty nice on the outside. It has transparency written on the outside and it's spiked with a lot of really

destructive measures.

So it allows, for example, the ministry of justice to go in and inspect everything it wants in an organization every six months. And it's very hard

to do journalism as people can imagine, if you have to worry that, at any point, people can come and examine everything you do.

HILL: As we're watching this. I do want to put up just for some folks to see some of the crackdown that we saw earlier this evening, local time,

from police with protesters.

When you were down there, when you were speaking with protesters, what was the police presence like and what was the interaction between protesters

and police back then?

GUTBROD: I think it's important to say that many policeman seem ill at ease with what they're doing.

You might see in the footage that they put on face masks. They're a little bit worried about all of that. And many of them want a better future for

their children also. But we have a very kind of tough directive from the person that effectively rules Georgia, who's given people instructions just

to repress.


To repress and to repress again. And so while many policeman behave well, we've seen a few cases of really terrible violence. And we've also seen

gangs roaming and beating up opposition figures, civil society figures. So it's a serious situation.

HILL: Yes, it certainly is. Hans Gutbrod, really appreciate your time and your insight. Thank you again for joining us.

GUTBROD: Thank you.

HILL: We are also of course, continuing to follow our other top story happening here in the U.S. in Lower Manhattan. The criminal courthouse

there in New York City, prosecutors rather inside now, questioning their star witness, Michael Cohen for a second day.

This of course, is involving Donald Trump's hush money trial as it's known. Michael Cohen just in the last few moments, has been talking about how he

received reimbursement from Donald Trump to cover up that payment that he made -- he alleged to -- he allegedly has said those payments were to

reimburse him.

And cover up that payment to Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in the days leading up to the 2016 election. What we're hearing from him right now on the

stand, which is fascinating, is he's talking about why he lied for Donald Trump, why he says he continued to lie for him, even once Donald Trump was

in office in the White House.

I want to bring in Jeff Swartz, who has been following -- Jeff has been following all of this along with us for the last several weeks. He's a

former judge, now a law professor, joining us.

I am fascinated by some of this testimony and I'm following along here, thanks to our incredible CNN team that is in the courtroom, and talking

about, he was asked specifically why he lied to Congress, why he continued to pressure Keith Davidson, who was the attorney who put together those

deals for Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

So that they would not talk about their sexual encounters, their alleged sexual encounters with Donald Trump, he says he wanted to protect the

former president.

How important is this line of questioning that we're seeing from the prosecution?

JEFF SWARTZ, FORMER JUDGE: Well, this line of questioning is really set to set up the breakup between these two men. The idea that Michael was being

as loyal as anybody could be. He was falling on his sword, he was lying to the public.

He was lying to Congress. He was lying to everybody. He was putting pressure on people to perform. He was doing everything he was asked to do

to protect Donald Trump.

Now to say that it was all magnanimous is not true. He was named the president's personal lawyer and he made over $4 million between the time of

the election and the time of the breakup between the two of them.

But he was being as -- doing consulting work because he was the president's lawyer. So as a result of which, he was being as loyal as he could be. Now

comes the testimony that he is being thrown under the bus and why he eventually changed his mind and testified against Mr. Trump.

He will testify to his anger and his feeling abandoned and all of those things. And that's going to come next. But they're setting that up with, "I

am the victim here. I am not really the bad guy."

HILL: They want to set up all these moments, not only Michael Cohen admitting that he lied, right?

Multiple times, they want to set up that relationship where it went south, because they also need to get ahead of that, because the defense is really

going to hammer those points.

And this is a guy who, in his own words yesterday in his testimony, said he was pissed off about his bonus. He was upset he wasn't considered to be

chief of staff at the White House.

SWARTZ: Right. He was upset he wasn't going to be chief of staff but then he followed up by saying, I know I wasn't qualified for that job. He was

upset about his bonus but he ended up getting his bonus plus money to help pay the taxes on the bonus.

So he was getting what he needed and he, as long as he was getting the kind of money that he thought he deserved and the kind of respect that he was

going to get, he felt that he had the obligation, as he put it many times, to take a bullet for Donald Trump.

It was only when things started going south for him, when the Southern District of New York came after him for lot of things that I think he's

going to say he expected Trump to do what was necessary and that was give him a pardon.

And he didn't get it and he felt he was thrown under the bus. And then, at that point, that's when he decides he needs to be a witness against Donald

Trump, because Donald is not loyal to him. That's what we're going to hear. So he got paid all of his money. He said he got paid all his money.

HILL: Right, which is also important that. Certainly not a dull day for a day of testimony, number two for Michael Cohen. We're going to continue to

follow it. Jeff Swartz, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

There are some big names in court today to support the former president, whether inside court or speaking to the cameras outside court, which is

what happened just moments ago.


U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson here in New York City to show his support for the former president. Take a listen.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The star witness here is Michael Cohen. I just listened to a few moments of his testimony this morning. And

it is consistent with what he's already done.

This is a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge and who is widely known as a witness who has trouble with the truth. He is someone who

has a history of perjury and is well-known for it.

No one should believe a word he says today. He lied to Congress. He lied to the IRS, he lied to federal election officials. Even Cohen's own lawyer

testified to a grand jury that he is not reliable.


HILL: So House Speaker Mike Johnson there. What you'll notice is a lot of Donald Trump's supporters saying things that he cannot. Of course, that gag

order that he is under from the judge prevents him from talking about the witnesses, which includes Michael Cohen.

We're going to continue to follow those developments out of Lower Manhattan. And of course, across the globe, stay with us. You're watching

CONNECT THE WORLD, live today from New York.

Whilst keeping a close watch on these big tariff hikes just announced by the U.S. on a host of Chinese products, why the White House says the

president is making that move. Now what's China's response?

And crews battling more than 100 wildfires in Canada. The latest on this early wildfire season.




HILL: Out of control fires, mass evacuations, air quality alerts: Canada's wildfire season is well underway and kicking off quite early this year.

Crews now, fighting more than 100 blazes in eastern Canada and the province of Manitoba, officials say a massive wildfire has charred about 35,000


While hundreds of residents have been forced to evacuate. We're going to keep a close watch on those wildfires as they continue to battle them.

We're also keeping a close watch on Wall Street at this hour in early trading. Let's take a look at how things are looking here in the U.S. A bit

of a mixed bag at last look. Hopefully we can get those numbers up for you but I can't confirm -- oh.

Look at that, a mixed bag when I looked last; today, we have -- right now we have three green arrows; basically flat but three green arrows, we'll

take it.

Meantime, if we take a look at the major markets in the Asia-Pacific region, that truly a bit of a mixed bag finishing. Chinese stock exchanges

closing a little bit lower. China's government, today is criticizing U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to increase tariffs on some $18 billion

worth of Chinese imports.

Those tariff hikes, they touch everything from electric vehicles to semiconductors, to medical products. The White House says the increases are

meant to level out what it calls an unfair playing field. Marc Stewart is following all these developments for us from Beijing, Arlette Saenz is at

the White House.

Marc, first, to you, understandably this is not being very well received in Beijing.

What are you hearing?



Look, I think everything is on the table. Typically, when we see this kind of action from the U.S. toward China, there's this attitude by China: if

you hurt us, we're going to hurt you back. And then there's some kind of retaliation.

That still remains to be seen that's on the table and we'll hear from a government spokesperson in just a moment. But I will tell you that on the

surface these tariffs really appear to be more symbolic than full of substance. And here's the reason why.

China definitely has a very strong EV market. It's trying to make a global footprint. But if you look at where EVs from China are being sold, the

United States is really toward the bottom if not the bottom of the list.

A majority of Chinese EVs are sold in Europe and then across Southeast Asia. Again, the U.S. is somewhere at the bottom. So it's not like it's

going to hurt these EV makers here in China or prevent flooding of the market all that much.

However, looking ahead, Chinese EV makers certainly do want to get into the United States. It's a very crowded market here in China. In fact, hard to

believe there are more than 200 EV manufacturers. This year, about 100 more models will be added.

It is getting very congested. So obviously these Chinese automakers want to increase their footprint and that means going to the United States. As far

as though what China will do next, no surprise. We did hear some very firm language from China's ministry of foreign affairs. Let's take a quick



WANG WENBIN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): China opposes the unilateral imposition of tariffs, which violate WTO

rules. And we'll take all necessary actions to protect its legitimate rights."

STEWART: Look, I think Arlette is going to get into the politics of this much more -- much better than I can from here in China. But this is not a

big surprise, I don't think, to Beijing.

Because it was just last month that we saw Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen here, putting a warning to Chinese officials that this over-capacity, the

fact that they can make the Chinese government, that China can make products such as EVS, solar panels and other electronics batteries at such

a fast and cheap rate, that was problematic to her.

So perhaps that was setting the stage for this action, Erica, by the U.S. toward China.

HILL: All right, Marc, appreciate it.

Arlette, let's bring you in on that point.

The timing, right?

The White House coming to this decision, concerns about possible trade issues. But the timing is important here.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, of course, Erica, you can't deny the fact that it is an election year. And it comes as President Biden is trying

to show that he is ratcheting up the pressure on China and can have a tough approach toward China, especially when it comes to issues of trade.

That is an area where former president Donald Trump and Republicans have also often sought to criticize President Biden. Now, it is worth noting

that these actions that are being announced today, increasing tariffs and about $18 billion where the Chinese imports.

It comes after a review of Trump era tariffs, back when Trump was in the White House, he had raised tariffs on about $300 billion of Chinese

imports. That law that he assigned a required every four years that there would be a review done.

And so that is what the administration has been aiming toward over the course of the past few months. As Marc noted, it's no surprise that the

Biden administration did decide to increase some tariffs.

Biden really has largely kept the Trump era tariffs in place, even as he had criticized them when he was a presidential candidate back in 2020. But

what the Biden administration is trying to argue is that the president is trying to focus on domestic manufacturing and things like semiconductors

and clean energy.

And these new tariffs that they're imposing on China, Chinese imports, even as many of them are simply symbolic at this point, it's trying to show that

the U.S. is focusing on those sectors which they think will bring jobs back to the United States.

Now this is also coming as both Biden and Trump are trying to play for -- make a play for working class voters in some of those key blue wall states,

think Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the manufacturing industry is key for so many jobs there.

So with this announcement, the Biden administration is, one, trying to head off criticism that Biden's not tough enough on China but also trying to

argue that he is focused on bringing back manufacturing jobs here to the U.S. as they are trying to appeal to some of those voters in states that

will be critical to his reelection in November.

HILL: Yes, it is really important context. Arlette, appreciate it. Thank you.

Still ahead here Donald Trump's big plans after court today. He's got some high rollers here in Manhattan with him tonight. So those details straight

ahead about a major fundraiser.





HILL: Well, as the trial continues for Donald Trump in a New York courtroom at this hour, later today he'll be in a much different venue at a major

fundraiser also in Manhattan, where sources say guests will include a number of potential running mates.

Here are eight familiar faces slated to be there. Among them as you'll see, senator Marco Rubio, governor Kristi Noem, although she may have dropped a

little bit in the last few weeks based on some of the reaction to that book.

Also, senator Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy as well, Byron Donalds. They're both with im in court. CNN reporter Steve Contorno joining me now from St.

Petersburg, Florida.

There's a lot of ring kissing happening here, coming to kiss the ring, as we wait to see how close the former president is to picking a running mate.

I'm not sure if you have your crystal ball ready but I hope so because I'm hoping maybe you can tell us how close we may be.

I know Donald Trump likes to drag these things out sort of "Apprentice" style.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Erica, all indications are that we won't get a formal announcement on who his V.P. selection is until we're

closer to the Republican National Convention, which isn't until mid July.

So we can expect him to tease this along "Apprentice" style, as you said, over the next coming months. And even if he does narrow the list down, he's

liable to change his mind. He didn't make his decision in 2016 until the final moments before the announcement.

Chris Christie was still in the mix until Mike Pence officially got the call. So he's going to let this roll out over several months. And what

we're seeing is sort of this audition of the potential running mates in New York and Manhattan, where they are showing up to support him outside of the


And as well as you mentioned, at this fundraiser tonight, where we will see many of the people on that list try to do their best job of standing behind

the former president and making their pitch for him.

HILL: How is he doing on fundraising?

Where do things stand?

CONTORNO: it's hard to know in terms of how much like, for example, this hush money trial may be helping his case.

He has -- his campaign has certainly made the case that it is. He, they said, raised $5 million in the first week of the trial, $76 million

throughout April as well.

But it's hard to know how much of that money is -- are donations that would have come to him anyway or is just a factor of the Republican donor base

consolidating around him now that he is the nominee.

But they are catching up to Joe Biden. They are trying to keep pace with the fundraising we have seen from Democrats. Of course, Donald Trump

continues to use a lot of that money on his legal bills as well.

So even though the dollar sign, the number of -- the amount of money that he is bringing in might seem like a lot, there is a lot going out the door

as well.

HILL: Yes. Steve, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, before we leave you this hour, something new from the world of music.


HILL (voice-over): "Wonderful Tonight," of course, is one of Eric Clapton's biggest hits.


HILL: Well, next month, the guitar that he used to write that song.


It's set to be listed for auction. It's a 1974 000-28 Martin acoustic. Bonhams auction house says it's expected to sell for as much as $0.5


Start counting your pennies. Legend has it Clapton wrote "Wonderful Tonight" while waiting for his girlfriend, Pattie Boyd, to get ready for a



CLAIRE TOLE-MOIR, HEAD OF POPULAR CULTURE DEPARTMENT, BONHAMS: The story goes that Pattie was getting ready for a night out at a Paul McCartney

party. She didn't know what she was going to wear. She was trying on different dresses, doing her makeup, taking a little bit longer than had

planned and Eric wrote a song.

When she came down, she asked the inevitable question, "Do I look all right?"

To which he sang her the song with the chorus line, "Yes, you look wonderful tonight."


HILL: Next time my husband complains, I'll just tell him he should write a song while he's waiting for me to get ready. You might want to try to.

I'm Erica Hill. Thanks for joining us today for CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay with CNN.

"NEWSROOM" is up next.