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Connect the World

Supreme Leader Appoints VP Mohammad Mokhber as Acting President; Trump Back in Court, Testimony to Resume Soon; Defense Resumes Cross- Examination of Michael Cohen; Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Seven others also Killed; Iran: President Raisi Killed in Helicopter Crash. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 09:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Hello, and welcome to a special edition of "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson in London. We're

following two breaking stories rooted in the Middle East. Leaders of the Israeli government and of Hamas now face potential arrest warrants from the

world's top criminal court and questions hanging over the future of Iran's government after the sudden deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, and the

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.

It is 2 pm here in London it is 3 pm at The Hague, where we begin this hour's special coverage. The ICC's Chief Prosecutor has told CNN in an

exclusive interview that he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He is accusing three Hamas leaders including Yahya Sinwar of extermination, taking hostages and of sexual violence among other serious charges. He is

also accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of extermination, starvation and deliberately

attacking civilians in Gaza. Here is part of the interview Christiane Amanpour conducted earlier.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: We're here at the ICC. You are today announcing that you are applying for arrest warrants for top military and

political leadership in the Israel Gaza war since the October 7th events. First and foremost, explain to me exactly what you're asking for and who

you are charging?

KARIM KHAN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Today, Christiane, we've applied for warrants to the pre-trial chamber of the

International Criminal Court in relation to three individuals that are Hamas members. Sinwar who's in charge on the ground?

AMANPOUR: That's Yahya Sinwar?

KHAN: Absolutely. They -- who's in charge of the custom brigade, and Hania (ph), who's one of their political bureau based in Doha.

AMANPOUR: What are the charges?

KHAN: The charges are extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention. So these are the key crimes that are alleged

to have been committed by these three individuals. The world was shocked on the 7th of October when people were ripped from their bedrooms from their

homes from the different Kibbutzim in Israel. And people have suffered enormously, and we have a variety of evidence to support the applications

that we've submitted to the judges.

AMANPOUR: You have also issued warrants against the top political and military leadership of the government of the State of Israel.

KHAN: We've applied for warrants. Of course, the judges must determine whether or not to issue them. But we've applied today -- will apply for

warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and also Minister of Defense Gallant for crimes of causing extermination causing starvation as a method of war,

including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.


ANDERSON: Now CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour has more from The Hague. And Christiane I think it's important to start with the

basics here. How have they gathered this evidence?

AMANPOUR: Well, a lot of the evidence is in the public domain, as you know. But a lot of the evidence was also gathered according to the ICC by going

there and actually visiting certainly inside Israel the areas the locations the specific locations where Hamas committed those atrocities on October


Whether it was the supernova rave or the different kibbutzim, individual homes, talking to people, including hostage families one of the charges

leveled, as you heard from Karim Khan is a crime against humanity in terms of taking the hostages, and there's no release of them yet.

So that is one side. They've also been even in the years before October 7th this is slightly separate but it is part of their investigation.


Crimes committed on the occupied West Bank as well against Palestinian civilians. And he actually interestingly spoke specifically in that regard

and -- about why they are issuing these demands for arrest warrants. There's a big New York Times Magazine article that has showed how for the

last 50 years, many of the transgressions have gone unpunished. That was the actual title of the article.

So he's saying Israel is a democracy, it can do this itself if it will then that enters their jurisdiction. But we've been warning certainly Israel

against the starvation against the aid not getting in, in enough quantities to Gaza, that if that doesn't stop and get better, then -- you know don't

complain. Don't complain -- our office these are his words you know takes matters in hand.

So the evidence has been -- you know face to face evidence gathering, although, of course, there's no independent ability to get into Gaza right

now, to examine some of the other charges. But what the world knows is certainly about using the allegation of using starvation as a weapon of war

that international humanitarian organizations, including the USAID have talked about starvation and famine. So that's the broad spectrum of

evidence right now. But as he says, investigations are ongoing.

ANDERSON: We are getting some reaction from Israel to be precise, from Benny Gantz. Here's what he had to say Christiane, quote, drawing parallels

between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a bloodthirsty terror organization is

a deep distortion of justice.

We expect, I guess, similar reaction from other voices in Israel. In fact, I'm just keeping an eye on X and a number of official now tweeting similar

response and indeed, we should expect to hear from the U.S. administration and others going forward. What's your response to what we are hearing at

this point?

AMANPOUR: So it's not my response that matters is the response of the ICC. And when I put the idea of political pressure -- and you know the idea that

they would have had a lot of pressure from both sets of allies, and both sets of organizations to do or not to do so to speak he basically said,

this is not political.

They can -- you know talk all they want about equivalence, or the other or otherwise. But this is not what this is about. In fact, he told me that

obviously, Israel has a right, as everybody has said to defend itself after the slaughter by Hamas on October 7th, and the capture of their hostages.

However, there are international rules of the road, even when it comes to war. And it's the United States above all, Israel's biggest ally, the

biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, which has constantly been saying since the beginning since October 7th, to take care of the civilians.

You know there are 35,000 or so death toll, according to authorities in Gaza. And this is a big issue around the world. But more importantly I

said, what about the politicization of this, the idea of going after a democracy like Israel is with its own judicial system? And this is one of

the ways he answered that. What was the purpose of the ICC?


AMANPOUR: There must have been a huge amount of pressure on you from all sides to do and not to do.

KHAN: Well, this court Christiane is a child of Nuremberg. It was built because of the awful pictures that haunt us today of the shower, and the

gas chambers, and then the Balkans and the list goes on. And we have to look at the evidence.

And the way I very simply try to do things is look at the evidence, look at the conduct, look at the victims, and airbrush out the nationality. And if

a crime has been committed, we should move forward. Nobody is above the law, no people by doing to birth or passport, religion, nationality or the

kind of color of their skin, have a get out of jail free card have a free pass to say, well, the law doesn't apply to us.


AMANPOUR: So that is the main -- you know statement that he made in regard to that specific -- you know criticism and backlash. And that is the point

to the ICC and independent organization. Now we know that Israel is not party to it nor is the United States and by the way nor is Russia.


And few months, I can't remember exactly when it was. But last year, this ICC indicted and sought arrest warrants and was granted arrest warrants for

Putin and his Hench woman, when it came to the charge of illegally abducting Ukrainian children from areas that the Russians occupied inside


So yes, they are not party to the ICC. It is unlikely when it's -- it won't happen. The ICC has no independent arrest mechanism or law enforcement

mechanism. So it does actually depend on the nations and the people around those who are -- you know who are accused and charged, if indeed, this gets

to a formal charge and a formal arrest warrant.

The next step is that they put these -- you know the requests for arrest warrants to what they call -- you know the panel of trial judges to see

whether they agree here at the ICC, and then the arrest warrants are put out. But it's really important also -- you know not to downplay or to de-

emphasize the very serious charges against Hamas.

And -- you know that was something that the ICC was absolutely determined to hold accountable as well. And that's going to be also incredibly

difficult. There's obviously no arrest mechanism that can go into the tunnels in Gaza and elsewhere.

But you know, he's talked also about the threats he's had from the United States, certain parts of the United States to sanction the ICC to not

support its work anymore if this kind of -- you know charges were leveled and arrest warrants was sought, but he says we have to justice has to be


ANDERSON: Christiane and I are discussing the news breaking in the last hour and a half that leaders of the Israeli government and of Hamas now

face potential arrest warrants from the world's top Criminal Court. Stay with me Christiane, because we are also following another breaking story.

Iran's Supreme Leader has declared five days of mourning after President Ebrahim Raisi and the country's foreign minister died in a helicopter

crash. Iranian media report, the aircraft went down in heavy fog in a remote mountainous area of East Azerbaijan Province. Nine people were on

board, there were no survivors.

State media is calling the accident the results of a technical failure. Raisi was a protege of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and widely considered to be

a prime candidate to eventually succeed Khamenei as Supreme Leader. And Christiane, you've been covering Iran, of course, for years.

This is an important and consequential story. And please explain why that is. Why it is that the death of the president after all, not the most

powerful man in the country, the death of him and his foreign minister, could be so consequential in the days and weeks ahead.

AMANPOUR: You know Becky, the question people are asking is, in fact, quite that is it consequential in terms of personnel -- you know the fact that

they have been killed in a crash is significant. The fact that they were essentially not independent actors, the actual people who run Iran are the

supreme leader, so called Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the internet -- you know the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Those are the people who rule Iran and the president by and large, does what he's told by the top leadership. Having said that Raisi's own history

is very disturbing in terms of extremely hard line he is responsible for some of the worst crackdowns on civilians inside Iran.

As you all remember, the crackdowns against the civilians who rose up in protest when Masha Amini (ph) mean, a young woman was killed in police

custody. Those he announced just recently, those moral police forces would be put back onto the streets. Women would be again forced to wear the

hijab, after they were given some -- you know leeway after the uprisings.

Even before that, decades ago he was the head of a judicial panel that signed the death warrants of some 5000 so called Iranian dissidents after

the Iran Iraq war. That was back in the late 80s. I mean, this is a person who has exemplified the hardest of the hardest, Islamic hardline tendencies

in Iran.

And it's very unclear as to whether he actually would have succeeded Khamenei. And it's also very unclear what's going to happen in the society

at large? Because one of the things that the Islamic Republic likes to say is that it has popular legitimacy. Well, that was clearly blown out of the

water with the last round of so called midterm elections in which only 41 percent of the people turned out.


So the credibility of the regime and the system has been falling more and more. And Raisi was not one to build back that credibility. In fact, he was

constantly -- you know viewed as chipping away at the legitimacy of that regime.

ANDERSON: It's good to have you, Christiane, thank you very much indeed. It is a very, very busy news cycle today. Ben Wedeman has been covering the

region in depth for years and joins me now with more on the investigation.

Ben into the crash in what was a mountainous area, helicopter crash, the president and the foreign minister alongside another seven in -- a nine man

delegation who had been traveling to the Iran Azerbaijan border on their way back it was reported early on Sunday or late in the afternoon Sunday

Iran time that there had been a hard landing of this helicopter only for it to be reported on Monday morning, of course, that nobody had survived that

crash. What do we know about what happened and how the legislative branch of Iran's government is functioning today?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know so far about the crash itself is that it was -- it's been attributed to a

technical failure. Now, keep in mind, this helicopter, I've seen reports, it's a U.S. made Bell Helicopter that Iran purchased back in 1979.

And given that Iran has been under U.S. inspired international sanctions, for decades, some are attributing the crash to the fact that the helicopter

was not as well maintained as it could, but it's obviously early days, it was only in the early hours of this morning that the helicopter was

actually found the remains that is.

And so we'll just have to see what they come up with in terms of the actual cause for the crash. As far as the functioning of the government going

ahead well, we've heard from Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, that the government continues to function and I don't think anybody actually

expected it not to given the fact that since the 1970 -- 79, Islamic revolution, despite external and internal pressures.

This is a very solid regime, which as Christiane did mention has been suffering from falling credibility in recent years, but it still functions.

Now we understand that Muhammad Mokhber (ph), who is one of 12, vice presidents in the Iranian system, the most senior of them, is now an

interim president.

And there's going to be a 50 day period mandated by the Iranian constitution, during which he will be consulting with the speaker of

parliament, and the head of the judiciary to prepare the grounds for a new election for a new president, a president who will serve a full four year


However any Iranian who a Shia Iranian can qualify to run for president but the Council of Guardians which is made up of six senior clerics will

actually hand pick who they believe is eligible to run for president. So after 50 days, we will have an election for the president in Iran. At this

point, nobody has put their name forward, obviously. So we'll yet again, just have to wait and see Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman thank you. Well, Mohammad Ali Shabani is Editor of Amwaj-Media and a Middle East Scholar and joins me here in London. It's

good to have you. The most pressing question for Iranians and for Iran watchers at this point, after the news of the death of the president, and

indeed the foreign minister is not who will succeed the president and Ben has just sort of outline how that process will work.

But who will ultimately succeed the Supreme Leader an 85-year-old man who has been in poor health of late. And the received wisdom was that Ebrahim

Raisi was one of a number of candidates a small number of candidates who may have taken that position.

That is the consequential question at this point, isn't it for Iran's direction, ideological direction, its national security file, and the like

going forward? What are your thoughts as we consider what's happened in the last 24 hours?

MOHAMMAD ALI SHABANI, EDITOR, AMWAJ-MEDIA: I would take things in a slightly different direction. I would beg to differ with you.


I would argue that the most consequential immediate impact of his death is who will come in his wake. And the reason I mentioned that is because

that's a given. We know that his death has sparked a constitutional process, which will result in the election in the next 50 days. And that

election can be a watershed moment for everyone.

And what I mean by that is that Raisi was elected in 2021, the lowest turnout presidential election he won in history, because most if not all,

pro-reform candidates were barred from even running, right? So imagine a minimum contest race him coming in. That's not really a bedrock of

legitimacy is it, especially considering that he lost the 2017 elections.

If Khamenei, if the Supreme Leader chooses to use these early elections, as a watershed moment, to open up the political space to get people to vote

again, that could be a massive game changer, and then impact leadership success.

ANDERSON: That's a big if so isn't it? I mean, the hard right has -- as I understand it, no immediate candidate to succeed Raisi. It will need to

come up with a viable candidate. This may open the door to perhaps a more conservative than hardline candidate and those two are not sort of

interchangeable in Iran.

So I get your point. But it's a big if at this point. The sort of 180 on that is that you get a much more hardline character as representative for

president going forward. And that lurches Iran in a more hardline direction going forward. That is still a possibility of course?

SHABANI: It's absolutely a risk. And in fact, I'd argue that Khamenei the Supreme Leader is more inclined towards conservative rule than to open up

the political space. However, I mentioned the prospect of him using this potentially, as a watershed moment, because he has always emphasized voter

turnout as a litmus test of the legitimacy of the system.

We have him on record, basically making fun of unnamed Western countries with 40 percent turnout, as evidence of people not really caring about the

political process in those countries. And then in Iran, we had around 40 percent participation in the recent parliamentary election. Last week

alone, we had a parliamentary one of in Tehran on the capital with 8 percent turnout.


SHABANI: Eight. 92 percent sat at home, this is a disaster. So to get people back into the political process, he has now the opportunity a golden

opportunity to in a face saving way, reverse course, do a u turn, open up the space allow people to run.

I accept that this may not be the outcome that we may have the exact opposite, which you just noted. That is certainly the case. That could be

the case. However, I think that he's presented with an opportunity and we shouldn't forget this opportunity.

ANDERSON: Very briefly short term what is the impact if at all on the national security file, the impact on the wider region on the proxies

around the region, on the shadow war between Iran and Israel? And indeed, the nuclear file? Do you see any change any opportunity for movement on any

of those?

SHABANI: So, Khamenei -- Iran immediately activated the constitutional provisions for to ensure continuity of government. And I think that's on

foreign policy they are not determined solely by the president. They're part of a bigger structure. Structure -- the Supreme National Security

Council, which Khamenei can veto.

So I think that we will see continuity in terms of how Iran approaches original files when it comes to collaboration with regional allies. And we

can also see a similar trajectory on the nuclear program, mindful that the person leading the indirect nuclear talks with the U.S. has been the deputy

foreign minister, who apparently has been confirmed as the interim foreign minister.

So none of the two people who perished in this chopper crash, were directly involved in 100 percent, making sure everything goes right with the region

of --

ANDERSON: Mohammad you make a very good point and your insight and analysis extremely important for us as we consider the news out of Iran over the

past 24 hours. Thank you. Mohammad Ali Shabani.

And we will be back with more coverage of this major news story as international reaction pause in with marked differences in tone. Stay

tuned. Plus, Donald Trump back in court right now where he will once again come face to face with Michael Cohen his former fixer faces another day of

bruising cross examination. We're live in New York with the very latest that is coming up.



ANDERSON: Iran's Acting President Mohammad Mokhber has held a quote extraordinary meeting today with the heads of the legislative and judicial

branches there that of course, following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini announced five days of public morning after a helicopter crash killed President Raisi, Iran's foreign

minister and amongst others. Mokhber has been obligated by Ayatollah Khomeini to elect a new president with the legislative and judicial

branches within 50 days.

Well, joining me now is Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian American Journalist and Political Analyst. It's good to have you. And I want our viewers just to

see this video -- people praying for Raisi while he was missing. But before he was found dead, it illustrates what some parts of Iran will be feeling

today. What are we hearing from inside Iran right now? Because there will be others who will say there is no love lost on the news of the death of

the president?

NEGAR MORTAZAVI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND POLITICAL ANALYST: That's absolutely correct, Becky. I would call it a very polarized sort of society

atmosphere. He wasn't a very popular president. He actually came out of an election, a presidential election with the least voter turnout and a very

active boycott movement by a big portion of the Iranian population -- our society who did not participate in a previous presidential election.

And before that, when he ran against Hassan Rouhani in a presidential election, he actually lost a big margin. So I would say as the voter

turnout, and also the actual number of votes -- Raisi was not a popular president. Of course, he did have supporters. He did have people who voted

for him and we are going to see sort of both images of Iranians who are mourning for him and also Iranians who are to the other extreme in essence

of celebrating actually his death. And as you said, no love lost.

ANDERSON: A great deal of international reaction, of course, the tone of that very split. Allies Russia, for example, President Vladimir Putin and

his foreign minister putting out lengthy statements calling Raisi friend saying they have fond memories of him. Putin said he rightfully enjoyed a

high respect from his compatriots and significant authority abroad as a true friend of Russia.

He made an invaluable personal contribution to the development of good neighborly relations between our countries and made great efforts to bring

them to the level of strategic partnership. And a number of other responses, particularly from proxies of Iran, Hezbollah and the Houthis

very much speaking to the fact.


And the Supreme Leader sort of underlying this that, things will not be disrupted with the death of the President, the Supreme Leader is in charge

that there is a constitutional process.

But I wonder how you believe the President's death and the foreign minister's death might change, for example, if at all the relationship with

Russia and the sort of wider foreign file as those outside Iran watch for change from this leadership.

MORTAZAVI: Becky, if I give you the big picture, I don't see any major change happening in Iran, either domestic or foreign policy, maybe more

chance for domestic politics, depending on who runs and who gets elected as the next president. But I think the big files of foreign policy, the

regional policy, the nuclear file.

Those are not decisions only made by the President, certainly not by President who, as I said on popular not considered very strong only in the

office for three years. And it comes down again, from the top person, the supreme leader, I don't see a major shift in the direction of the country's

policies, but this is going to create disruption, maybe even chaos in the domestic politics, especially because their own constitution requires an

election within 50 days.

So -- pull together a presidential election without can -- and bring voter turnout, all of that I think there's going to be some domestic turmoil and

disruptions for sure.

ANDERSON: Who, would you be watching as potential presidential candidates going forward? After all, this is an economy on its knees effective and

inefficient leadership has led to so many internal problems as Iranians wake up and digest this news, today. Will this be a more hardline


A more conservative candidate -- for example, Rouhani, the two term president, the many watching the show may remember. What is the profile of

that candidate going forward, do you believe?

MORTAZAVI: Well, I think currently the Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the Speaker of the parliaments, some of these

other sort of more hardline figures are being potentially discussed as contenders or interest that first of all, we have to see who wants to run,

who gets approved to run, and then talk about winning the election process of Iran happens very, very fast.

But I don't think that the regime or the Supreme Leader per se, is going to see this as an opening, I don't think they're going to change the domestic

-- or hardline, of course that they've taken at the expense of voter turnout at the expense of parties, political participation. And I don't

think they're going to let this moment sort of create a major disruption or risk even doing an opening.

So I wouldn't bet on a reform, or even fairly more moderate candidate. I don't think it will be specifically more hardline or more conservative as

someone who's considered again, as an insider like Raisi was within sort of the same political realm and faction that he was part of.

ANDERSON: It's good to have you, Negar, your insight and analysis extremely valuable as we consider the news out of Iran today. Well, the time is 3

minutes past 5. We've been looking at pictures of mourners in Iran. More of course on this story as we continue through the hours here on CNN.

As we consider these images, any moment now we are expecting Donald Trump's Former Fixer Michael Cohen, to return to the witness stand in New York as

the defense continues with its cross examination. We are live there with the latest on the hush money trial, just ahead. Stay with us.



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello everyone I'm Omar Jimenez. Becky Anderson will be back with the latest from Iran in a bit. But first I want

to get you caught up on what's happening here in New York. Donald Trump's hush money trial is back underway. The credibility of Trump's Former Lawyer

and Fixer Michael Cohen is once again on the line.

As Cohen returns to the witness stand for cross examination and he is back on the stand, based on our latest updates here. Cohen has already faced six

hours of grilling by Trump's defense attorneys over two days last week. Now earlier, the judge said he expects closing arguments in this case, its

begin next Tuesday, based on the court schedule and a holiday schedule here in the U.S.

The biggest question before then, though, is whether the former president will testify in his own defense? We will see. Joining us now to discuss the

latest with the trial is former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein, really appreciate you being here. And as everybody can see, on

the left side of your screen, you are seeing the actual real time updates we're getting from inside court.

So David, one of the big moments last week when Michael Cohen appeared to contradict himself, over an account of a call he'd previously said was to

talk about the hush money payment, but based on texts that were produced that appeared the call, at least to begin with was about something else

entirely. Is that -- what do you see, credibility wise? Is that recoverable for the prosecution?

DAVID WEINSTEIN, FORMER STATE AND FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it is Omar. Look, there's only one person who knows what took place during that

conversation. And that's Cohen and the person he was talking to, firstly, he's talking to he's not going to take the witness stand. And he may have

been talking about both of those things.

And so it certainly is a point for the defense because Cohen's recollection isn't necessarily what he claims it to be. It's biased against the former

president, the defendant, but that doesn't mean he's not being truthful about part of the conversation. That's something the jury has to decide.

JIMENEZ: And look for folks watching. Obviously, the testimony does not end with cross examination or the prosecution will have a chance on redirect

examination. If you are the prosecution, though, how do you -- I guess, damage control in a sense, but sort of get the jury back on track to a

place where you want them to be?

WEINSTEIN: I think I go back in and I highlight the fact that he's made consistent statements that are corroborated by other witnesses' testimony

by text messages by records and highlight those for the jury. And, again, get him to admit that his recollection isn't perfect, but that he remembers

the context of those particular conversations.


And he remembers and he's very sure of what was said during those conversations, despite the fact that the defense was trying to make an

issue of it. So it's corroboration at this point going back going through and saying, well, you said this, and this was corroborated by this, and you

said this, and this was corroborated by this and then having him admit that he doesn't have the greatest memory in the world.

But that he does remember these particular conversations, especially the ones that the prosecution needs to establish the intent of the defendant in

this case.

JIMENEZ: And look, this appears it'll be the final witness to prosecution calls in we're nearing the end of the prosecution's case, court day wise,

even if closing arguments don't happen until next week. And look, this case is about allegedly Trump breaking the law by falsifying records cover up

the hush money trial, hush money payment, but also to deceive voters ahead of the 2016 election.

Based on where we are in the prosecution's case, again, towards the end. Do you believe the prosecution has sufficiently proven their case?

WEINSTEIN: They've got enough of their circumstantially to get this to the jury and for the jurors to consider that. Is it the strongest part of their

case? No, absolutely not. It's the weakest part of their case. And that's why they needed Michael Cohen and they needed him to tie up these loose


But there is enough there circumstantially to show that's what the intent was now. Can the defense flip it on its head? Can they show that had

nothing to do with the election? It was simply about protecting his family, that remains to be seen or they going to call a witness who's going to

bolster that part of their argument?

Or do they think they've made enough headway through Cohen, to show that, that's not what the intent was, and that takes it from being this felony

for which they want the conviction to a misdemeanor at best? But there's enough there for these jurors to consider that the law was broken as

alleged by the prosecution.

JIMENEZ: And of course, as we learned closing arguments expected to be now, next week, given the court schedule and the holiday as well. So we will see

how the prosecution ties things together. And we will see if the defense ends up calling any witnesses though. Today, it seems some of their expert

witnesses that they wanted to call it were shot down by the judge. David Weinstein, really appreciate the time and perspective. Thanks for being


WEINSTEIN: You're welcome.

JIMENEZ: Of course. All right, still to come, everyone, WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange has been given a reprieve to try and avoid extradition to

the U.S. where he faces life in prison on espionage charges. We're going to have the latest from London, just ahead.


ANDERSON: Well 5 days of mourning lie ahead in Iran after a helicopter crash killed President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's Foreign Minister and seven

others were also killed. The country's Supreme Leader has confirmed the first Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber has taken over as Acting President.

Meantime, State Media says Ali Bagheri Kani who has led the Iranian delegations through indirect negotiations with the U.S. over nuclear issue

and prisoner exchanges has been appointed as the acting foreign minister.


Well, this is the ICC says it is seeking arrest warrants for both Hamas and Israeli leaders, America's National Security Adviser meeting top Israeli

officials. The White House says Jake Sullivan re-emphasized America's position on Rafah. But Israel's Defense Minister posting on X Monday that

he told Sullivan, Israel will expand its ground operation in Rafah.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins me now live in Jerusalem. Let's just start with official reaction in Israel to the ICC seeking those arrest warrants. What

have we heard, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there's widespread condemnation pouring in from Israeli officials across the Israeli political

spectrum for this decision by the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants for two top Israeli officials, the Israeli Prime Minister,

Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

And they're also outraged at the fact that the ICC is doing this at the same time as they are seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leaders. A lot of

outrage about the kind of moral equivalency that Israeli officials say that suggests. We've heard from the Israeli Foreign Minister, Israel Katz

saying, for example, quote, the scandalous decision of the Prosecutor General of the Criminal Court in The Hague is an unrestrained frontal

attack on the victims of October 7 and our 128 hostages in Gaza.

Notably these charges that would be sought if he's -- arrest warrants are approved by the panel of judges that the ICC would charge Netanyahu and

Gallant not only with crimes against humanity, but war crimes also stemming from what the ICC views as the forced starvation of the Palestinian people

using starvation as a weapon of war, something that Prosecutor Khan had actually warned against for months as there appear to be limitations on

humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

There are also charges of course for Hamas' top three leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas is also responding to those

charges, which include crimes against humanity and war crimes, extermination of people among the list of charges the taking of hostages,

and rape and sexual assault.

The Hamas in a statement says a quote, strongly condemns the attempts of the ICC Prosecutor to equate victims with aggressors by issuing arrest

warrants against the number of Palestinian resistance leaders without legal basis. So Hamas, they're also taking issue with the fact that these -- the

seeking of these warrants is happening for both Hamas as well as for Israel.

Now, in terms of the practical implications of this, no one really expects the leaders of Hamas or the leaders of Israel to actually be arrested and

tried, certainly not anytime soon. 124 member states are party to the Rome Statute that set up the International Criminal Court, Israel is not party

to it, nor is the United States.

However, as we've seen with Vladimir Putin, who was charged last year by the ICC, this could potentially limit Netanyahu and Gallant's travel to

certain European countries, for example, that are party to this statue.

ANDERSON: We are discussing the news such as breaking the past couple of hours that the ICC has said seeking the arrest warrants against Yahya

Sinwar of Hamas and others and Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Gallant for war crimes over the Gaza war and the October 7 attacks.

Jeremy, thank you. Well, it is a busy. We'll have news here turning to London where the High Court has granted WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange a

lifeline to avoid extradition to the United States. Celebrations took place outside that court where justice is ruled that U.S. is assurance it's over

Assange's right to use freedom of speech as a defense in a trial when not sufficient, and he will be allowed a full appeal hearing in London at a

later date.

But Assange faces life in prison on espionage charges for posting classified documents on WikiLeaks in 2010 and in 2011. Joining me now is

CNN's Clare Sebastian. Clare, just walk us through what happens now with today's ruling.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Becky, as you said, on the one hand, this is a victory for Assange's team and Assange's family. His wife

called it a turning point in this case, and obviously if it hadn't gone his way, he could have been on a plane to the U.S. the extradition process

could have started, really at this moment. So certainly there's a lot of relief there.


But this does mean that the appeal wills process and he's been through this before. This essentially restarts. Now in the U.K., he has a right to a

full appeal. We don't have a date for that as of yet and until that point he does remain in Belmarsh high security prison here in London.

So as you say, look this has been a multi-year effort he has, it's been 12 years since he's lived free, obviously 7 of those in his self-imposed exile

in the Ecuadorian embassy, 5 now in Belmarsh prison. So there definitely was a hope that this hearing could have led not only to an appeal, but also

to his freedom. Take a look, Becky, and how we got to this point.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): The Australian computer programmer and WikiLeaks Founder first grabbed headlines in 2010, when WikiLeaks released highly

classified information. First a U.S. military video showing an Apache helicopter mistakenly gunning down to journalists and several Iraqi

civilians in 2007.

Next, the release of tens of thousands of classified military documents related to the war in Afghanistan. Documents on the Iraq War followed, then

the leak of cables from U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the world. Assange claimed his mission was to shine a light on evidence of war

crimes and abuses of power.

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: And that's how people can really understand what is actually going on and whether they choose to support it

or not. Spiegel 17 pages --

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): As the world watched for WikiLeaks, his next move in November 2010, Sweden opened an investigation into allegations of sexual

assault against Assange and issued an international arrest warrant for his extradition. Assange denied the allegations claiming it was retribution for

his political work and orchestrated to pave the way for his extradition to the U.S.

He turned himself into London police and was later released on strict bail conditions. Then, in an unexpected twist, he entered the Ecuadorian embassy

in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum, the start of a seven year diplomatic route.

ASSANGE: A courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Still, Assange was able to reveal details that rocked the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): WikiLeaks published hacked emails from DNC staffers and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign. Over time his

relationship with his host soured. Ecuador revoked his asylum in 2019 and London police arrested him on an extradition warrant from the U.S. Justice

Department to face a conspiracy charge.

17 new counts under the Espionage Act followed. Assange was sentenced to prison for violating his 2010 bail conditions and spent five years fighting

extradition to the U.S. mostly isolated at Belmarsh high security prison. Two years ago, he married his lawyer and mother of his two children, Stella

Morris inside jail. If extradited and convicted in the U.S., Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.


SEBASTIAN (on camera): Well, Becky, of course, that is not happening imminently. As I said, we don't know when the appeal will be there hasn't

been a date set. But suddenly there is another option that is raising hopes. Yeah, there were a lot of flags outside the court today that said,

let him go Joe, a reference to comments by President Biden of the U.S.

Just a few weeks ago, that he was considering a request from Australia to drop the case entirely. I spoke to the Editor in Chief of WikiLeaks. He

said that they are really piling on the pressure on the U.S. to do that. Now they don't want to wait for another long drawn out legal process. So

really the hopes of being pinned on that international pressure as well as this renewed hope for success in the British court system.

ANDERSON: Clare Sebastian is in London. Thank you, Clare. We'll be back with more news in just a moment. Stay with us.



ANDERSON: Well, the latest in our top story Iran is in mourning this week for President Ebrahim Raisi. Official say he and the foreign minister were

among those killed when their helicopter went down Sunday in Iran's northwest. His remains are expected to be transferred to his hometown on


Well Iran's Gulf neighbors offering condolences over the deaths of Mr. Raisi and the others. The President of the United Arab Emirates says and I

quote, we pray that God grant them eternal rest. UAE stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time.

The Emir of Qatar asking God Almighty for mercy and forgiveness for them and for their families. He goes on to say we belong to Allah and to Him we

shall return. "Connect the World" continues after this short break. Stay with us.