Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

White House Calls Deadly Strike in Rafah "Heartbreaking"; Former Fixer Michael Cohen Remains the only Witness who can Directly Link Trump to Hush Money Payments; 47M People in Possible Path of Tornadoes, Storms in U.S.; Closing Arguments to Begin in Trump Hush Money Trial; Taiwan Lawmakers Pass Controversial Reform Bill; IDF: It's still too Early to Determine the Case of the Blast. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 09:00:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Hello, it is 5 pm in Abu Dhabi. I'm Eleni Giokos, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. We're following two

breaking stories this hour. First, Israeli tanks push into the hearts of Rafah, even as condemnation pause in following its deadly strike on

displacement camp.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: And I'm Erica Hill in New York where Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial is nearing its final stages. It is 9 am here.

Donald Trump's defense team set to begin their closing arguments in just about 30 minutes. We'll bring you those updates throughout the hour Eleni.

GIOKOS: Well, for the first time Israeli military tanks have moved into the center of Rafah that is according two eyewitnesses this escalation

happening despite the international outcry over the air strike that killed 45 people at a displacement camp in the area. We've now heard from the

Israeli Prime Minister who called it a tragic error.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the strike later today, and Israel is growing -- is undergoing pressure to stop the

bloodshed. Spain, Norway and Ireland have now formally recognized a Palestinian state in accordance with its 1967 borders. Here's what the

Spanish Prime Minister had to say about that decision.


PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER: Recognition of the Palestinian State is not only a matter of historical justice, with the legitimate aspirations

of the Palestinian people. It is in addition, a necessity if we want to achieve peace.


GIOKOS: Well, the recognition comes as Gazans are once again forced to flee their makeshift homes. The United Nations reports 1 million people have

fled Rafah in the last three weeks. CNN's Nada Bashir is following developments from London for us Nada good to have you on.

There are a lot of moving parts today. The most important that we've heard the latest is from eyewitnesses in Rafah saying that they've seen Israeli

military tanks in the center of Rafah take us through what we know.

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And this comes despite the continued pressure mounting from members of the international

community, including some of Israel's closest allies warning the Israeli military, the Israeli government not to go into Rafah a city, which has

become and has been for the last few months whatever safe haven is left for civilians displaced in the war torn Gaza Strip.

Now, eyewitnesses telling CNN that they have seen Israeli tanks and armored vehicles moving into the central part of Rafah. This, of course, is the

first that we're hearing of this sort of expansion into the central part of the city. We are still waiting for further details and confirmation from

the Israeli military, as well with regards to the finer details of this latest expansion.

And this comes less than 48 hours after that devastating horrifying strike on the -- Sultan neighborhood in the Rafah, which killed at least 45 people

and injured more than 240. This was an area that was filled with tents sheltering the displaced, including families, young children.

We saw this horrifying videos emerging of charred bodies, including the bodies of children being pulled from the shelters and this has drawn

widespread condemnation and outcry from members of the international community and humanitarian organizations.

The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described the incident as horrific has condemned the attack. We've heard also from the U.N.'s

Humanitarian Affairs Chief Martin Griffiths, who issued a statement directly in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who

described the attack the strike on this neighborhood of Rafah as a tragic error.

Martin Griffiths said in a statement on Monday, whether the attack was a war crime or a quote, tragic mistake. For the people of Gaza there is no

debate what happened was the latest and possibly most cruel abomination. And of course, we are expecting the U.N. Security Council to meets later


This will be an emergency meeting focused on Sunday evening strike on this neighborhood in Rafah. But of course, news that we are now seeing tanks in

central Rafah will also be a priority for many in the international community.

We've heard previously from the Biden Administration describing Sunday's incident as heartbreaking. And President Biden has previously told CNN that

if Israel were to go into Rafah, the U.S. would not be able to provide support in the form of arms that it stands against and expansion without

the protection of civilians.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Sunday's attack is indeed a red line, whether the movement of tanks into central Rafah will constitute a

red line for President Biden. What action will the Biden Administration will take in response?


GIOKOS: Yeah, really good point. Is that a red line and of course, international condemnation, really putting pressure on Netanyahu, whether

that's going to result in anything of course, perhaps we'll find out as the days go on? But important today Spain, Norway and Ireland formally

recognizing State of Palestine what is the significance of this, is it mostly symbolic or is it is it practically implemented in some way?

BASHIR: Well look Eleni this is a significant political statement from Spain, Norway and Ireland. They had previously expressed their intention to

do so that official recognition has come through today's statements from all three nations.

We've heard from the leaders of all three nations and officials from all three nations, saying that the hope or the intention behind this decision

to recognize the state of Palestine is to work towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians and to ensure the viability of a Palestinian

state in the future along those 1967 borders constituting the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Spain, clarifying that they want to see a corridor established between the two territories with East Jerusalem, as the capital of the states of

Palestine. Norway and Ireland have both been clear that they haven't seen any positive engagement from the Israeli government on this front.

However, as to be expected, the Israeli government has long stood against the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. And when it comes to the

practical terms on the ground, what we have seen over decades now, but particularly over the last few months, is an erosion of the territorial

integrity of the occupied West Bank under the authority of the Palestinian authority.

We have seen the continued expansion of settlements, which are considered by many in the international community to be illegal under international

law. We have over the last seven months of the war in Gaza seen an intensification of settler violence, which has pushed many Palestinian

communities out of their land out of their homes.

And of course, while this is a significant political step, and while calls for a ceasefire, have also of course been called for in conjunction with

calls for a two state solution by many in the international community. It is hard to see how this will be realized in practical terms and the current

state of affairs.

GIOKOS: All right. Nada Bashir, thank you so much following fast moving story for us. Meantime, the Israeli military has told the United States the

fire was caused by shrapnel hitting a fuel tank in the displacement camp. Now that is according to one U.S. official, not a reminder, we've just

covered this.

We are learning of tanks moving into the center of Rafah that U.S. President Biden had said he wouldn't supply some weapons if Israel moved

into Rafah's population centers. CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon for us to shed some light in terms of the latest.

We were just discussing with Nada Oren whether this is going to be a red line for President Biden. And of course, as the investigation is underway

in terms of what really transpired in that latest devastating strike on Rafah as well?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So there are two questions here. One is on the question of Israeli tanks in Central Rafah, according

to eyewitnesses, the U.S. has not responded to that. The U.S. and President Joe Biden have made clear that if Israel conducted large scale ground

incursion of Rafah that would cross effectively, the red line.

But to this point, the U.S. has described Israel's military operations in Rafah as limited in terms of the size, the forces used, the targets that

Israel has gone after. So does this change that if and when the U.S. acknowledges that there are Israeli tanks in central Rafah? That'll be up

to the administration? And certainly we will be asking that question.

Then, of course, there's the question of this strike, a strike that a spokesman for the National Security Council called heartbreaking, and made

it clear at least for now, where the U.S. places the blame on this. In a statement over the weekend that spokesman said the devastating images

following the IDF strike in Rafah last night that killed dozens of innocent Palestinians are heartbreaking.

So the U.S. is in touch with not only the Israeli military, but also other organizations on the ground to get a better sense of what happened and

exactly how this happened? Now, at this point, there is no indication the U.S. will try to carry out its own independent assessment. And the U.S.

rarely does that. Most often it relies on the Israelis to investigate to assess to look into this.

So for right now, according to U.S. official, the U.S. is waiting for more information, as the Israelis look into exactly what happened here. To this

point the Israelis have told the Biden Administration that the strike was carried out against a specific target. Israel has said it was going after

two senior Hamas terrorists that were in this area, not the humanitarian camp.

And then shrapnel or a fragment from that strike ignited either a fuel tank or something else flammable and then led to the fire that caused at least

45 Palestinians to die include women and children as well as more than 200 injured. Now does the U.S. accept that and find that to be a credible



And does the U.S. still fully blame Israel for this strike? Those are two questions here that we'll get a better sense of today, as we have a chance

to question administration officials, Eleni.

GIOKOS: And a lot of questions. There are a few things playing out in tandem, I think a lot of countries. And of course, organizations are

looking to the U.S. in terms of what the U.S. will be saying whether this is a red line, as we've now asking that question.

And then importantly, whether Israel is going to abide by the ICJ ruling. Many say is going to also be up to the U.S. in terms of what it says about

what the next move should and could be as international condemnation is growing, adding pressure, not only to Netanyahu but also to what the U.S.'s

stance should be?

LIEBERMANN: Part of that question is, when the U.S. speaks and puts forward a more complete position here, what other pressures can it put on Israel?

It has put some when it comes to the military side, for example, not only the public calls, but also pausing a shipment of larger bombs, 2500 pound

bombs, so the U.S. could expand that and put pauses on other offensive weapons.

Even though the Biden Administration has pressed forward with nearly billion dollar arms transfer that would include tank rounds, mortar rounds.

So clearly, the weapons continued to flow. And then there's a question of diplomatic pressure.

The Biden Administration has tried to exert some of that not only to get Israel into a deal that would see the release of hostages and a ceasefire,

but also to put forward a plan to essentially paint a fuller picture of where this goes from here.

And there has clearly been frustration on the part of the U.S. that some of these questions haven't been answered, like what the plan is for the day

after? What does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see as the endgame here? So that has been a source of frustration, whether that turns into more

pressure, more weapons shipments pause, that's what we'll be looking for at this point, but right now, it doesn't seem like that's the way this is


GIOKOS: All right. Oren Liebermann, always good to see you thank you so much. Well, that is the latest we have for you on Gaza. We're following

breaking news. Erica Hill is standing by in New York. Erica, it is a big day for Donald Trump closing arguments in that trial.

HILL: Yeah.

GIOKOS: What is the latest?

HILL: It certainly is Eleni. Donald Trump just arriving there at the courthouse and moments from now prosecutors and the defense will be making,

of course their closing arguments here in New York, making those arguments to the jury for Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial.

The burden is of course on the prosecution. They need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the former president committed these 34 felony counts

of falsifying business records in an effort to cover up the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

The president of course has denied those charges. The defense meantime, just seeds to sow doubt in one juror. Here's CNN's Kara Scannell now with

reminder of how we got here, including some of those standout moments from the last several weeks of this criminal trial.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump watching NASCAR in North Carolina this weekend, while his hush money trial approaches the

final lap in New York.



SCANNELL (voice-over): Trump's lawyers and prosecutors will square off trying to win over the jury of seven men and five women. Prosecutors called

20 witnesses over five weeks and in their closing arguments they're expected to tie testimony together with a paper trail of text messages,

phone calls, and the records at the center of the case the 11 invoices seeking payment pursuant to a retainer agreement a dozen vouchers and 11

checks most signed by Trump.


TRUMP: Very good. I think we have great case with --. There is no crime.

SCANNELL (voice-over): During the trial the jury heard from former members of Trump's inner circle, the publisher of the National Enquirer David

Pecker Campaign Aide Hope Hicks and his Former Fixer and Personal Attorney Michael Cohen, who was the only witness to directly tie Trump to the cover


Trump's attorneys are up first and closings and are expected to attack Cohen's credibility, arguing to the jury that they cannot find Trump guilty

based on the testimony of a convicted liar.

TRUMP: Michael Cohen is a convicted liar and he's got no credibility whatsoever.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Cohen was on the witness stand for five days telling the jury Trump called Adult Film Actress Stormy Daniels story a disaster

for his campaign and directed Cohen to take care of it. Cohen testifying he spoke with Trump twice to get his approval just before wiring the $130,000

payment to Daniels' attorney to block her story of an alleged affair with Trump from becoming public to influence the 2016 election. Trump denies the



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I can't even tell you how many times he said to me - - you know I hate the fact that we did it. And my comment to him was but every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move.

SCANNELL (voice-over): He told the jury that Trump signed off on the repayment scheme in a meeting at Trump Tower with Former Trump Organization

CFO Allen Weisselberg. Cohen walked the jury through the 34 allegedly falsified documents, testifying, there was no retainer agreement, the money

was paid back for the Daniels deal.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: This $35,000 check was one of 11 Check installments that were paid throughout the year while he was

president. The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate

campaign finance laws.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Trump Attorney Todd Blanche has used Cohen's own words to bolster their defense that Cohen would say anything to take Trump

down and is out for revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I truly -- hope that this man ends up in prison.


HILL: And our thanks to Kara Scannell for that reporting. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan. The defense

Brynn really expected to continue that focus on Michael Cohen today. I know prosecutors just now making their way into the courtroom as we prepare.

Trump's legal team is up first this morning. What else do we anticipate the defense will focus on in that closing argument?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erica. We're expecting the defense to take about 2.5 to 3 hours for their closing

arguments. Our understanding and reporting from our colleagues is that they don't want to take much longer than that, because they don't want the

jurors to sort of get bored or lose of focus.

They also have a strategy to that because after of course, they're done the prosecution is up. And they don't want the prosecution's closing arguments

to bleed into tomorrow, which is still a possibility because everybody has as much time as they want.

They don't want jurors to hear yet again from the prosecution going into tomorrow, and then going right into those deliberations. So there is a bit

of a strategy there. Other than what Kara just pointed out in that piece about Michael Cohen, and the defense focusing on him and the fact that he

is a liar in their words?

Well, they want to also bring to the fact that they -- jurors have not heard from several people that were sort of named in other witnesses from

other witnesses, like a CFO, the Former CFO, Allen Weisselberg like Keith Schiller, who of course, was Trump's former bodyguard.

And to have -- you know was the person who connected Michael Cohen allegedly, according to the prosecution to Trump and talked about those

hush money payments in that critical phone call that the defense tried to shut down, saying it was about a crank call so a prank call rather.

So they do hope to get through the thing again, within three hours then it is the prosecution's term, and they're going to -- turn and they're going

to do exactly what we heard from Kara, there is really just point to the evidence point to the witness testimony to lay out their entire story of

why the former president is guilty.

And then of course, we know after that is jury instructions, which we expect to take about an hour and then the deliberations begin.

HILL: Right and we're expected this to be a full day in court, the judge had actually asked. Prior to the jury being off, they've been out of this

courtroom for the last week wanted to make sure everybody could stay late today. Part of what these closing arguments will be doing to which is

especially important Brynn, given that the jury hasn't been there for a week is reminding them what they've heard over the last several weeks.

GINGRAS: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's been -- it's a long gap. And then this wasn't ideal even the judge kind of alluded to that, to have them go away

for a week before the holiday. But this is how the schedule works is how he said it. And yeah, a lot of it is going to be refreshing in their minds,

although many jurors we've -- you know been reporting have been taking lots of notes along with this five weeks of testimony.

But yeah, certainly this is the time where both lawyers just get to wrap up their entire arguments. And again, it's on the bird -- it's the burden of

the prosecution to prove that the former president is guilty and all these 34 counts. We'll see how it goes.

HILL: All right, Brynn, appreciate it my friend thank you. Still to come here, nearly 50 million people are now bracing for possible tornadoes and

severe storms in the United States today on the heels of several deadly days of those storms. More of those details straight ahead.

Plus hazardous conditions mean a slow difficult rescue recovery effort in Papua New Guinea where of course that massive landslide struck in the

middle of the night. We have an update on those complicated efforts just ahead.



GIOKOS: Welcome back. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Now, EU Defence Ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss European support for Ukraine.

The -- Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell had this to say ahead of that meeting.


JOSEP BORRELL, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Everybody knows what Ukraine needs yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I suppose today Minister

Umerov will remind us which are the critical need for the Ukrainians. So we had to provide them and we had the resource. That's the sad thing that we

have the cash, we have the capacity, but we are still pending decisions to implement the recently approved Ukraine -- assistance from.


GIOKOS: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy signed a security agreement with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, worth more than $1 billion. The

pact includes 30 F-16, fighter jets, tanks and military training with a pledge for more assistance over the next decade. Now Ukraine has signed a

series of such agreements with its western partners, including yesterday with Spain, as Kyiv looks for long term security support and military aid.

47 million people in the United States are bracing for possible tornadoes and severe storms today. It comes on the heels of a weekend of deadly

violent weather in handful of states. A big chunk of Texas is at risk today for bad weather including flood warnings also excessive heat advisories

according to the National Weather Service.

Already this morning, powerful winds and large hail have knocked out power to more than half a million customers in the Dallas area. 83 mile an hour

gusts and hail reported to be the size of ping pong balls also in Missouri, check out this tornado captured on Sunday. Forecasters say it was the

busiest severe weather day of the year so far in the United States.

Let's get straight to Meteorologist Allison Chinchar. With more on where people should be on the lookout today really, Allison, a list of just bad

news on the weather front and extreme weather. Tell us what you're seeing.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, so different storm system than what we had over the weekend. But many of the same areas are expected to

get hit. So, today the main focus is really going to be across the southern plains this area right through here. So that includes Texas, Oklahoma,

Louisiana, and a portion of Arkansas.

That's where the bulk of the thunderstorms will be today. We already have some ongoing around the Greater Dallas area. Again, you can see this

cluster of storms just sliding through that area and continuing southward. This yellow box indicates a severe thunderstorm watch that's valid for at

least a couple more hours through lunchtime, local time for these communities.

We also have some severe thunderstorm warnings and off and on we've had tornado warnings even this morning indicating the severity of this storm,

but also it's been a tremendous amount of rain. So there's also a flooding concern, flash flood warnings still in effect, and that does include the

Dallas Metroplex area just because of how much rain has fallen in such a short period of time.

And these are likely to stick around also for a few more hours now because of the strong winds as this system slid through, you mentioned a tremendous

amount of people without power, the bulk of them in that Northern Texas region


But yes, you're talking over 670,000 people still without power at this very moment that number is expected to tick up just a little bit before we

finally start to see those numbers coming back down. Part of the reason for that is it's not over. We anticipate even more showers and thunderstorms as

we transition into the afternoon hours locally.

Here you can see by 3, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, more of the showers and thunderstorms begin to develop. And yes, even across Northern Texas, which

was already hit this morning, that main line continues as we go through the evening hours, once again, impacting places like Dallas stretching all the

way down through Houston, which is likely to be impacted overnight tonight and as we transition into the morning hours tomorrow.

So overall, here's a look at the greatest threat for a lot of these areas. Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, even up through Oklahoma City, all

looking at the potential for very large hail, you're talking golf balls, eggs may be even as large as baseball size at some point today, damaging

winds which could lead to additional power outages.

And yes, also the possibility for a tornado maybe even to across this region as we go through the remainder of the day. And that's just going to

add to the tornado count. Take a look at this. This is all from just past weekend up through this morning. Again, taking a look at all of these

reports, 76 tornado reports nearly 1000 damaging wind reports and over 300 hail reports.

Some of those hail reports were the size of grapefruits or baseball. So again, very large hail it's also causing our tornado count to go up. Yes,

we get it and I think -- this is the really the time of year we see them we would usually have about 700 tornadoes by this time. We have 989. So even

though it's the time of year we see it, it's far above the average of where we would normally be this time of year.

GIOKOS: Incredible. I'm just thinking the size of a grapefruit that is really enormous. Thank you so much for that updates, Alison, much

appreciate it. OK, so in the meantime, government officials in a remote region in Papua New Guinea have ordered thousands of people to evacuate

huge rocks and debris continue to fall four days after a massive landslide.

The conditions are making recovery efforts more dangerous as crews struggle to reach the areas. CNN's Anna Coren has more for us.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Last week's deadly landslide in the highlands of Papua New Guinea that is feared to have buried alive, more

than 2000 people is still active and growing, according to government officials triggering mass evacuations in the area. The PNG defense forces

have told more than 7000 people to leave as the threat to life continues.

It comes as villagers and emergency crew has tried to dig through the debris which officials say stretches over nine hectares will the nine

football fields and a six to eight meters deep in Earth rubble and boulders some as large as shipping containers. Heavy earthmoving equipment has

reached the area but is unable to be used on the site due to the instability.

The densely populated village that was hit on Friday at 3 am while people slept was located on a highway the lifeline of the region, which local say

had more than 100 homes, shops, the school, church, gas station, and a lodge. All of it is now buried. The people who live there were mainly

subsistence farmers.

A handful of bodies have been recovered so far and funeral processions have begun. U.N. officials who visited the site said the community is grieving

and still in total shock.


MATE BAGOSSY, UNDP HUMANITARIAN COORDINATION SPECIALIST: That they are mourning their dead and they are looking forward to receive some assistance

which is already coming. But I think the main question is right now the population is caught between the trauma of what just happened and the

uncertainty about the longer term future.


COREN: Basic aid, food and clean water have reached the area. But more humanitarian assistance and medical supplies from the U.N. NGOs, Australia

and New Zealand should be arriving in the coming days, along with engineering specialists provide technical support over what has tragically

become a mass grave Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.

GIOKOS: Well still to come. Closing arguments are about to begin in the criminal trial that could land former President Trump in prison. We'll

break it all down with a former judge that's coming up, just after this. And a watershed election for the rainbow nation, South Africa prepares to

head to the polls



HILL: Welcome back, I'm Erica Hill in New York. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD and it is a historic day here in New York City. Donald Trump back in

that courtroom for the first time in a week as his criminal hush money trial now enters its dramatic and final stage closing arguments about to

get underway.

The judges on the bench we know that the DA, Alvin Bragg is in the courtroom today along with a number of members of the former president's

family. Donald Trump's defense attorneys will have the first shot here at hammering home. What they see as the many reasons why their client should

not be convicted.

Their text I really focus in on Michael Cohen, the man you see on your screen there, the former fixer, of course and former attorney for Donald

Trump. I want to bring in my colleague Katelyn Polantz, who has been following all of this so closely, our CNN Justice and -- Senior Crime and

Justice Reporter.

So Katelyn, we have a sense of where the defense is going to go perhaps not surprising. They're going to really hammer their view of Michael Cohen as a

liar who can't be trusted. What more do we know?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Erica, we're getting some details as the day has started, Judge Juan Merchan starting it

by saying good morning, Mr. Trump, we're going to be waiting for the jury to come in. Once that jury is in the jury box then the day begins the final

act of this first criminal trial against Donald Trump.

We're going to be hearing from the defense team first. So Defense Attorney Todd Blanche, the lead lawyer for Donald Trump in this case and several

other of his criminal cases, he's going to be giving his closing summation or argument first, it's going to go what looks to be until about lunchtime.

He's going to be arguing a lot about how Michael Cohen, that star witness for the prosecutors who was alleging that Donald Trump was hiding the

payments to him to reimburse Stormy Daniels in 2016, to keep her quiet, not to harm Trump's campaign that Cohen is incredible that he was working as a

lawyer for Donald Trump.

And that he actually was the one that was doing the lying. He was skimming a little bit of his reimbursements from the Trump Organization off the top

for his own pockets. That is going to be how the defense is going to be arguing this case. But the prosecutors, they're the ones that have to prove

beyond a reasonable doubt.


Donald Trump's guilt if they want to get that conviction, they are now telling the judge that their summation which will happen second is going to

last about four hours maybe more than that as they weave together all of the details that they presented in testimony and evidence in this case over

20 different witnesses.

They are going to be saying that Trump was motivated to keep things quiet in 2016 because of his political interest, because of his presidential

campaign, and that he was defrauding essentially, the public because he was labeling his payments to Michael Cohen as legal expenses when they were


There is some jury alchemy here that has to take place, Erica. The defense team, we know they do not want closing arguments to stretch into two days.

So the prosecutors get that final and sole word to the jury tomorrow. But we're just going to have to see how the day plays out to get a gauge on

exactly when deliberations might begin, Erica.

HILL: Yeah we'll be watching for that, Katelyn appreciate it and the jury just now entering the courtroom, the judge that he's going to ask them if

they can maybe say a little bit later, we'll see if they say yes, let's get some more legal perspective from Jeff Swartz. He's a Former Florida Judge,

and a professor at Western Michigan University's Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Great to see you back with us this morning. So picking up where my colleague Katelyn left off there what we can expect today. What's

interesting, perhaps for a lot of people watching is the fact that the defense is going first, Donald Trump has been railing about this on social

media, calling it unfair. But this is just the way things work in New York, correct?

JEFF SWARTZ, FORMER FLORIDA JUDGE: Yes, the way it works in New York, and most states, though, the state would go first, then the defense and then

there would be a rebuttal argument. Here instead of going with three arguments, the State of New York says, OK, since the state has the burden

of proof, they go last. And therefore there are only two arguments that we're going to hear today.

HILL: So we know that there's going to be this heavy focus on Michael Cohen, perhaps not surprising for a lot of folks who've been following

along here with the trial, the defense has worked really hard to discredit Michael Cohen on the stand there to point to all of the lies that he has

admitted to.

But we're also told we're going to bring up some other characters who, were never on that witness stand among them, the Former CFO for the Trump

Organization, Allen Weisselberg. He's of course, right now serving time in jail for lying in a different case involving Donald Trump.

Does it matter that they are raising those questions that offense that is in this closing argument as to why Allen Weisselberg was not called to


SWARTZ: It can be it depends upon how it's argued. And these are experienced lawyers. So they will argue it appropriately. But what happens

here is that they raised the fact of what's known as the empty chair, or raising this the scope of the idea that the state failed to prove its case

and failed to put on the evidence that you really need it.

And therefore, because they didn't do that, they probably -- they'll argue that they probably figured that Weisselberg would either lie, or do or say

things that were untrue. So at this point, I think that yes, the state understands that's coming there is an argument that they can make.

And the basic argument is you ignore the fact of who, you didn't hear you pay attention to what you did here, even if the judge instructs them, that

you can find reasonable doubt from the evidence or the lack of evidence. They're going to argue that not putting them on the stand was something

that really doesn't matter, because of all the other evidence that you have.

Don't look at what you don't have. Look at what you do have. It's sort of a shell game that's being played by the defense. So we'll have to see how

they approach it. But they're going to argue the state is going to argue that the evidence that they put on, it's un-contradicted. It doesn't matter

whether Michael Cohen lied in the past.

The question is did he lie when he was on the stand? And I don't think the defense presented any evidence that he was lying on the stand at all.

HILL: When you look at what we have learned throughout this trial, the evidence that's been presented, the witnesses who have been on the stand

the questions that they were asked that testimony, what stands out to you as a real win for the prosecution and also for the defense?

SWARTZ: Well, the defense during Michael Cohen is really where the all the action took place. Everybody else pretty much was untouched by the defense,

including Stormy Daniels. I think that what we look at is did the defense score some points during cross examination? The answer is yes.

The answer to them is did the state put on evidence to show that what they thought was impeachment really wasn't. For example, there were two things

that were important. Number one that, in fact Michael did skim money off of money that he was given for other purposes.

And he actually talked about that and admitted to that during direct examination. The defense successfully termed it as being stealing, and

that's what they're going to argue.


The second thing that -- they got some impeachment out of was the idea of the one and a half minute call. And I thought that the photograph that the

state came up with to show Schiller together with Trump, and exactly the moment that, that call was made, it was in question, kind of presented the

idea that in a 90 minute -- 92nd phone call, 10 seconds to tell Trump everything's OK was a nothing burger in the context of the time that was


And in fact, that very well could have happened in light of the shortness of most conversations that Trump and Michael had, as far as we can see from

the phone records.

HILL: The judges, as folks can see at home, if they're following along on the side of their screen, giving the jury some instructions now as to what

they're going to hear why they're hearing these arguments in the order that they are, the defense, and then the prosecution, and then it's going to be

off to the races.

There is a goal to get this all in today. You know, as we heard from Katelyn, of the Trump team certainly does not want the prosecution to bleed

into a second day. The judge really doesn't want to either. How important is it that this, be wrapped up in one day?

SWARTZ: Well, it's important to the defense, they don't want the jury going directly into deliberations after hearing the state within moments after

hearing the state's last argument. However, it depends on how long Blanche takes in his closing argument. If Blanche takes a long time and takes them

into the 1:30 or 2 o'clock hour than that may be the idea that in a four hour closing -- for four and a half hour closing.

They're not -- the state is not going to be able to finish that is important, these instructions that you're hearing even more important and

that was evidenced by the instructions that the defense asked for which were found to be either totally inappropriate or not in keeping with the


And so they didn't really get what they wanted, which were instructions that they could argue to the jury. That's what we're arguing to and the

judges saying the same thing we are. So they didn't get the instructions. They want it. So this is a very important thing that's happening right now.

Cases are won or lost on the jury instructions.

HILL: Yeah. And thank you for hitting on that and for bringing that up. I also want to ask you before I let you go. We've talked a lot over the last

few weeks about the people in the courtroom. There's a high interest in this trial and -- my colleagues actually stopped people camping out already

more than 24 hours ago hoping to score one of those public seats in the courtroom today.

There's been talk though, about who is there to support the former president, lots of politicians, some of them perhaps vying for a spot on

the 2024 ticket with him, but also members of his family who were or were not there today. He has three of his children. He's got Eric, Don Jr.,

Tiffany, as well as his daughter in law, Lara Trump as well as other supporters. How much does that matter to a jury to see a defendant's family

in the courtroom?

SWARTZ: It would mean more if some of them had been there during the testimony. And none of them were there during the testimony -- Eric made a

very brief appearance, the idea that all these politicians walked in and out, all wearing the uniform that is the blue suit with the red tie. It

seemed kind of created.

And I don't think the jury paid much attention to it. I think the jury didn't even know who most of those people were. All they did was make a

spectacle of themselves walking in and then walking out during the testimony, which Merchan didn't do anything about. I think some judges

would have said once you're here, you're here, you don't walk out.

I think that there was a spectacle outside the idea of the all of them saying how terrible this was. And this is destroying the justice system.

The criticism alone of the justice system destroys the faith in the -- and the justice system itself. So that was kind of unseemly to me.

HILL: Yeah.

SWARTZ: But what they did in a courtroom that really didn't mean much because they just look like sycophants, I think to the jury. And from what

I've heard from people that were in there, nobody turned their head. Nobody whispered to another juror and said -- that's Mike Johnson, or whatever it

may be.

I think that they were just, they were a non-entity and made Trump feel good. And it made those people feel good that Trump knew they were there.

But I don't think it meant much, to the -- into the jury. The jury might recognize this family though.

HILL: Right, Jeff, always great to have your insight your expertise. Thank you. We will have much more to discuss I would think in the coming days as

well about ready for these arguments to get underway. Thank you. Stay with us. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD much more to come on the other side

of this break. This is CNN.



GIOKOS: Welcome back to the show. I want to get you up to speed now on some stories that are on our radar right now. Despite its growing protests like

this Taiwan's parliament has passed a controversial reform bill that grants greater oversight powers to lawmakers opposition parties back the bill

calling for tighter scrutiny of the President and his administration.

Protesters say it could undermine Taiwan's democratic institutions and lead to greater influence from China. At least 36 people have died in India and

Bangladesh after tropical cyclone Remal made landfall on Sunday. Torrential rain and strong winds have wreaked havoc damaging more than 150,000 homes

while uprooted.

Power lines have left millions without electricity. 41 people remain in hospital following the extreme turbulence and last week Singapore Airlines

flight from London. That is according to hospital officials in Bangkok, where the plane was forced to land. At least five patients are still in

intensive care.

At least 160 people are missing and 10 others were killed. After suspected Boko Haram militants raided a remote village in North Central Nigeria. A

local official told CNN that around 300 gunmen went unchallenged for hours. The state has faced recurring incidents of kidnapping for ransom by armed

groups including mass abductions in recent years.

All right, let's now connect you to South Africa which is just one day away from what could be a watershed election 30 years after Nelson Mandela

triumphantly led it to power. The ruling ANC party's political dominance is in jeopardy this as South Africa grapples with high unemployment, power

cuts and ramped corruption.

Polls suggest the African National Congress might lose its majority and be forced into a coalition with its rivals. That poses a major leadership

challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa. Right we have justice Malala, who's a political commentator, and author of the plot to save South Africa.

He joins us now from Johannesburg, to give us some insight. Justice, great to see you, it's been a minute and we talk at a very pivotal moment, you

know, I think about OK, I've just been told we are going to be listening into Daniel Hagari who is the spokesperson for the IDF. Justice, we'll

catch up with you later, but listening to Daniel Hagari.

DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAELI ARMY SPOKESPERSON: That resulted in this tragic loss of life. The investigation is ongoing. I will now share the facts that

we've gathered so far as you can see in our aerial surveillance, from the time of the strike, where we targeted a closed structure away from tent


As you can see, there are no tents in the immediate vicinity of the structure that we targeted. Contrary to reports, we conducted the strike

outside the area that we designated as a humanitarian area and called civilians to evacuate to. Our strike was over a kilometer and a half away

from the al-Mawasi humanitarian area, what we call the safer zone.


Here is where Hamas claims were struck. And here is where we conducted our strike against the Hamas senior commanders outside the area designated as a

humanitarian area. Our aerial surveillance was filming prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian harm. Here is the footage from our strike of

the specific structure, where the senior Hamas commanders were meeting.

The strike was conducted using two munitions with small warheads suited for this targeted strike. We're talking about munition with 17 kilos of

explosive material. This is the smallest munition that our jets can use. Following the strike a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being


Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size -- Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size. Our

investigation seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite. We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that

weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of may have ignited as a result of the strike.

It should be noted, Hamas has been operating from this area since October 7th. Here in this satellite image 43 meters from the structure we targeted.

You can see Hamas rocket launchers. Hamas fired rockets from these launchers at Israel during their massacre on October 7th.

We're also assessing footage documented by Gazans on the night of the strike posted on social media, which appeared to show secondary explosions,

indicating that there may have been weapons in the area. Our signal intelligence intercepted some phone calls that reinforce this concern

raising the possibility that weapons stored in a nearby compound caught fire. Here is one of those phone calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Bags of money were flying in the air, Abu Rafik.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These (the ammunition that exploded) were really ours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is an ammunition warehouse. I tell you it exploded -- I mean the Jewish bombing wasn't strong. It was a small

missile, because it didn't create a large hole and afterwards a lot of secondary explosions.

HAGARI: We are working to verify the cause of the fire. It is still too early to be determined. Even when we do find the cause of the fire that

erupted. It won't make the situation any less tragic. We took a number of steps prior to the strike to avoid civilian casualties.

Aerial surveillance from above, using specific munitions aimed at minimizing collateral damage, delaying the attack in order to further

assess expected civilian presence and other means. This incident is being investigated by the general stuff fact finding and assessment mechanism, an

independent and professional body that is investigating the circumstances of those killed in the area of the strike.

This investigation will be swift, comprehensive and transparent. Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza, which is why we convey deep

sorrow for this tragic loss of life. Questions, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question for Fox News. What was seen in the surveillance before the strike was --

HAGARI: We were working not just with those civilians that I showed here. There are other things we did that I will not share now, in order to verify

the existence of women and children in those -- in the compound where commas members were. And we know that in the compound that we attack there

were only Hamas members.

We're now trying to understand in the compound nearby. What was there? What was that something that ignited the fire?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question from CNN. Were any civilians killed by the IDF fire munitions or does the IDF believe that all of the civilian casualties

were caused by the fire and or secondary explosion and what is the name of the ammunition used?

HAGARI: We used the smallest munition that our jet fighters can use, and it's also a very accurate munition. This is what I can say about the

munition. And the other question was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were any civilians killed by the IDF fire munitions or does the IDF believe that all of the civilian casualties were caused by the

fire and a secondary explosion?

HAGARI: The investigation is ongoing and the fact finding mechanism we'll look into it in a swift, comprehensive and transparent way and I'm sure

we'll supply all those details.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question from Radio France. Can you give us an update on tank advances in Rafah and along the Philadelphia corridor?

HAGARI: We are operating in Rafah in a very targeted and precise way. There is still terror in Rafah. There are still some master battalions in Rafah.

A couple of days ago, launchers from Rafah fire to Tel Aviv. Millions of people went into bomb shelters. There is still turn Rafah.

Today, and the day before, we have, again, detected tunnels on the Philadelphia corridors, those are tunnels going to Sinai. We are talking to

the Egyptians, we are demolishing those tunnels, and we are working in a precise and targeted way. They're still hostages in Rafah and we need to

make sure that we do everything we can to bring our hostages back home.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will investigate will let you know.

HAGARI: Thank you very much.

GIOKOS: All right. That was IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari giving an update on the investigation currently underway after that strike in Rafah where 45

people were killed and dozens injured as well. Basically, what the IDF is saying that the investigation is still underway, what they have discovered,

and they were showing maps on this.

That they -- what they call very precise targets was quite far away from what they call a safer zone that only you 17 kilograms of explosives,

munitions, it's the smallest munitions that they can use, and the jet fighter that they have. They also said that they intercepted certain calls

that give details on the possibility of secondary explosions that occurred within the areas.

They say it's too early to ascertain the cause of the fire, and also what ignited the fire. But they're saying that this is so underway, very

important. They also said that they're trying to minimize civilian casualties as much as possible as well. So this is the update that we have

at this stage.

We also know that I witnesses are talking about tanks being seen in the central parts of Rafah as well. No real news on that but they're saying the

military operation is still underway. All right, we are going to be back with more CONNECT THE WORLD right after the short break a lot of news lines

coming through from Rafah and Gaza. We'll bring you up to speed with over that in just a moment. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi.