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Trump Attorney: We'll "Vigorously Fight" Conviction; Trump Guilty on all 34 Counts, Sentencing July 11; Collinson: Trump Conviction Comes Amid Deep Division in U.S.; Republicans & Democrats React to Verdict; NATO Ministers Meet in Prague; Volatile Open on Wall Street for Donald Trump's Media Company. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 31, 2024 - 09:00   ET




OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to CNN's "Connect the World". I'm Omar Jimenez. It is 9 am here in New York where Former President Donald

Trump was found guilty of 34 charges of falsifying business records. This hour, we're going to bring you a comprehensive coverage of the

unprecedented and historic verdict.

Starting with the sentencing, what are the judge's options here and what is likely to happen? This also doesn't mean the case is over yet. There is

still an appeals process that we expect based on what we have heard to come. So what comes next and what grounds could there be for an appeal.

We're also bracing for more responses to that damning verdict that came out Thursday and a couple hours from now. The first Former U.S. President ever

to be convicted of a crime Donald Trump is expected to use his public platform to restate his case. We could also hear from President Joe Biden

as he heads back to the White House today.

Now Trump's sentence on those 34 counts will be delivered on July 11, as it's scheduled now, but just a week before the Republicans officially

choose their nominee for the November election. He could get probation, though the judge also has the power to impose a prison sentence of up to 4

years for each offense with a maximum of 20 years.

For now, though, Trump remains out of prison and of course, he plans to appeal the verdict saying he will fight to the end. Now this was the first

of four criminal cases expected to go to trial for Trump and you look at the timeline here. Let's take a look back at some of the key events that

brought us here on October 2016.

Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump. This is separate from the 150,000 paid

to Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal, which was discussed a month earlier. Now Trump has publicly denied those affairs.

But in 2018, Michael Cohen pleads guilty to two counts of making unlawful campaign contributions and implicates Trump directly in the scheme. March

of 2023, Trump is indicted by a grand jury and April 15 of this year the trial begins. CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz have

the latest from Washington.

All right, so just get us up to speed on how this verdict went down and what we can expect to see in the coming months ahead?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Omar, it took seven weeks for this trial to play out, 20 witnesses from the prosecution and

then two witnesses that the defense presented. And then when the jury went to deliberate it took them a little bit over a day to come to a unanimous

verdict. They deliberated for just under 12 hours.

And over the course of that, 12 hours, there weren't that many indications about what the jury was thinking. One thing that we know that they zeroed

in on was the questions of the testimony about campaign finance. One of the underpinnings that the prosecutors argued to the jury was something that

Donald Trump intended to break the law.

Related to they asked about the testimony of an early and crucial witness. David Pecker, who was a top the National Enquirer as the -- big boss over

the publishing company there, and David Pecker had spoken about not just talking to Michael Cohen about burning stories for Trump to help his

campaign when there were negative things, women wanted to put out there in the press.

But he spoke about how he talked to Trump directly. We don't know what the jury ultimately was saying behind those closed doors in their

deliberations, we will have to wait and see if anyone from the jury comes out to devolve. But we do know they did not get to the point where they

told the court they were having trouble coming to -- an agreement.

And when they delivered that verdict right at the end of the court day, yesterday, it was unanimous. And it was unanimously guilty on all 34 counts

of business falsification of records that Donald Trump faced. His attorney, Todd Blanche, after the verdict, came on television, did multiple

interviews and said they're going to be fighting this they're going to be appealing.

We also know that they are very likely not to ask the judge on -- at his July 11 sentencing to put him in jail. It is a possibility with these

felony convictions. But we know Trump's team is going to strongly make the arguments that this should not be something that would ever result in some

sort of incarceration for the former president. And here's a little bit more about what Blanche had to say.


TODD BLANCHE, DONALD TRUMP'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We have motions due in a couple of weeks in front of Judge Merchan, which we're going to vigorously

fight and restate a lot of what I'm saying to you tonight and other things that happened or the trial that we think just made the trial unfair,

including the testimony of Ms. Daniels. If that is not successful, then as soon as we can appeal, we will.


POLANTZ: Omar, the appeals process can take a long time and it's not often that an appeals court will want to overturn the work of a jury.


But this is an unprecedented case, there's going to be a lot of legal questions still in the court system and Blanche there underlining how much

he believes as Donald Trump's defense lawyer, not just in this case, but in other cases as well, that this was not a fair trial.

It is not fair for the former president to be on trial during an election season, and that they are going to continue the long practice strategy of

Donald Trump to fight everything that they can in court, Omar.

JIMENEZ: And we'll likely hear more of those elements from the former president when he speaks a little bit later this morning and as we continue

this 2024 election season. Katelyn Polantz, really appreciate it. Thank you. Now the Biden campaign wasted no time slamming Donald Trump saying the

verdict shows quote, no one is above the law.

The campaign also warning supporters, that Trump is likely to set fundraising records after the verdict. And Biden also repeating that the

only way to beat Trump is at the ballot box in November. Let's go live to the White House and CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Priscilla, what else are you

hearing from the White House from the Biden campaign about this verdict?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're both trying to walk a fine line here. And really, they're taking a bit of a subdued approach,

because at this point, they don't see this conviction really changing the election calculus entirely. They really do want to keep a focus on issues

and frame this as yet another example, that in their central theme that Donald Trump poses a threat to democracy.

But all of this was reflected in their sharply worded statement that came out shortly after the verdict where they said, quote, convicted felon or

not Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. The White House also released a statement that you see they're keeping it very brief saying

that they respect the rule of law and have no additional comment.

But again, it is the Biden campaign that is leading the charge here. And we also saw a fundraising email that went out yesterday after the verdict was

reached. And the president -- told supporters of the Trump conviction could fire up his supporters and lead to those fundraising records.

And so he was also asking for those grassroots donations to keep the focused on the president and him getting voted in November. Now, the

president remained largely out of public view. Yesterday, he was commemorating the ninth anniversary of the death of his son Beau. He is

returning to the White House this morning where he will have a celebration with the Kansas City Chiefs.

That is usually a lighthearted event, but it is also an opportunity for reporters to ask him questions. So we'll see whether or not he takes any

questions about this verdict. But again, the campaign is still taking a bit of a subdued approach here. They're trying to signal the Democrats to not

get carried away whether that remains their strategy moving forward, still unclear.

We have seen how their strategies have evolved as it pertains to this trial over the course of the last few weeks. But the White House at the very

least is staying quite quiet on the subject, Omar.

JIMENEZ: All right. Priscilla Alvarez. Thank you. Thank you for bringing us that reporting. As we've been discussing, we are standing by for reaction

from Donald Trump. He's due to speak in the next few hours at Trump Tower in Manhattan. The focus now, shifting to what kind of sentence the former

president, now a convicted felon will receive.

CNN spoke to Trump's Lead Attorney Todd Blanche, who says his team plans to appeal the conviction. He also made it clear that he sees no way his client

should face prison for a crime like this.


BLANCHE: Somebody like President Trump should never face a jail sentence based on this conduct. Other 77 year old first time offenders would never

be sent to prison.


JIMENEZ: Let's get to CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's outside Trump Tower in Manhattan. Look, we're waiting for the former president to speak a little

bit later this morning. I know you've been speaking with members in and around his circle. What sort of elements should we expect here from the

former president?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Omar, we are going to expect exactly what we have seen from the former president time and time

again, since before the trial even started, he's going to say that this is election interference. But this was rigged. That is political persecution.

And there is a reason for that.

It's because of senior advisors believe that linking this directly to President Joe Biden, which it is not it was brought by the State of New

York, but directly to this election as well works for them that it rallies up their base that they think it actually helps them come November, because

they say they've been setting the table for months now for a possible conviction so that this wasn't that surprising to some people around Donald


Now, he was outraged. He was shocked at various times that after this verdict came out, but I am told by the end of the night, last night he had

received a number of calls from lawmakers, donors, allies, people telling them they want to stand by them by him and also give him a significant

amount of money.


Now the big question of course is whether or not he will take questions from the press. Yesterday, he spoke to microphones at the courthouse and

then walked away. We will be ready to ask him about how he feels about this verdict and what the next steps are. The other question is whether or not

Melania Trump will be by his side.

We know that she is here in New York. She has been here at Trump Tower for several days. We don't know if she's going to appear by a cyber-member. She

didn't come to a single day of this criminal hush money trial. So one of the things we're watching very closely, Omar.

JIMENEZ: We will see and I know you will be on top of it all. Kristen thanks for being here. He is a former president in unprecedented

circumstances. After the break, we're going to take a closer look at what Donald Trump's conviction means for the U.S. election. Stay with us.


JIMENEZ: Welcome everyone. We inevitably come back to that great unanswered question. What impact does all this have on the race for the White House?

Donald Trump is now a convicted felon. But as we've been hearing, that doesn't mean he can't run for president.

The U.S. Constitution lays out just three requirements to run for the country's highest office, be a natural born citizen, be at least 35 years

old, and be a U.S. resident for at least 14 years. In other words, being a convicted criminal is no bar to the Oval Office. So the question is do

Americans feel any differently about Trump than they did before? Here's some of what them told us after the news broke.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like he's kind of like Teflon, there have been a lot of things attached to him that haven't really stuck. But this is one

where they went through the process. You know, we have to trust the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everybody needs to abide by the law. And if they're not going to then they should be pay the consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really hope that people spend time not saying what - - or gotcha or great or entertainment, but feeling deeply saddened that they knowingly participated in a process in which we elected somebody like



JIMENEZ: Now, during the trial, the Former National Enquirer Boss, David Pecker testified that his publication paid for stories to squash them. Now

Ronan Farrow, who wrote an entire book about the catch and kill scheme says, this story became public because of investigative journalism and

sources wanting to speak up. He spoke with our Anderson Cooper.


RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER OF THE NEW YORKER: I think it's meaningful to note that this is a story that came out through investigative

reporting first, not just at the New Yorker where we broke some of these stories, but also a whole circle of publications.

"The Wall Street Journal" did amazing work exposing the first stories about Stormy Daniels. That's worth noting, because it is a reaffirmation of how

important the press is to our democracy.


And a lot of us who worked on this story, you also were in receipt of some of this when you did your interview with Karen McDougal, really got a lot

of blowback when I was first exposing the rumor of the love child and the suppression of that story that Karen McDougal details, the Enquirer and



FARROW: They came after me so hard. And it was my job at the time to not linger on that or talk about it publicly too much. But I do think it's

worth noting now, in retrospect, because it was a hard price to pay. It messed me up for a long time. And I'm still kind of recovering from some of

the things they did.

COOPER: Have you talked to sources you had in that industry now about this verdict what they think?

FARROW: Yeah, and it's fascinating, because, of course, the flip side of how vindictive that empire was, and going after people is that there were

good people within it, who became sources for "The Wall Street Journal" for The New Yorker, for you know, people like you at CNN.

And they helped expose this thing. And that's really meaningful to and for a lot of those good people who did help with that exposure. What they're

telling me even in conversations today is we wish we weren't associated with this sort of filthy enterprise of catching and killing stories for the


And be that they kind of knew at the time that the good people started leaking, because they knew that they were too closely associated with

something that might not just be sleazy, but also illegal.

COOPER: It's interesting that the jury wanted to hear back, David -- the testimony from David Pecker. I mean, you've talked all along, as we've been

talking throughout this trial of Pecker's importance prosecutors put him first for a reason.

FARROW: Yeah, that's right. And I think in retrospect, it's going to be regarded as a really canny move that the prosecution led with that context,

because the Stormy Daniels' transactions and their concealment don't make sense without first establishing that there was this conspiracy between AMI

and Donald Trump, that meeting at Trump Tower in 2015 really did have hatch a plan to subvert the election, as prosecutors said.

And the thing about that earlier meeting and the prosecutors telling it to the jury that it's a significant end, the jury then asking, afterwards

really was the first bellwether that the verdict was going to go the way it did. I have sources within AMI, who told me today when we heard that news,

when we heard they were asking about the Trump Tower meeting, asking about Pecker, we understood that the jury bought the premise being given to them

by the process.

COOPER: Which is interesting, because Todd Blanche in his closing spent a lot of time basically undercutting, trying to undercut that meeting and

undercut the importance of the National Enquirer and saying, Well, it's absurd to think that, you know, that they cared -- that the Trump campaign

cared so much and thought that this was such an important public that they clearly did.

They held this meeting, and it was Trump and Cohen approaching Pecker, not Pecker approaching them about, how can I help you with them approaching

Pecker about what can you do for the campaign?

FARROW: And that's why it's relevant that so many sources around us. People who were in those rooms or close to those rooms, executing these

transactions, had these misgivings at the time, knew what it was, and saw it the way the prosecution ultimately framed it for this jury.


JIMENEZ: All right. For more on the implications of this case, I want to speak to Former Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi, who joins us from

Washington. All right, so at this point, we can assume Donald Trump is going to appeal which Trump has consistently done with court rulings

against him.

They've let out hints of that to this point as well. But this was a case brought by a grand jury. The selected jury was unanimous over 34 counts

despite an imperfect star witness and Michael Cohen. I mean, what are the real chances of an appeal actually working here?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I got to put on my criminal defense hat for Mr. Trump. They do have good faith issues for appeal. And

one of them would be the -- what I call the Ohio versus Shepherd principle, pre-trial and trial publicity, including the jury selection. It was impure

and violated Mr. Trump's due process rights.

It was a famous case of Dr. Shepherd that was the basis for a movie, that's one appeal. Second appeal would be the judge's ruling to allow cross

examination if Mr. Trump took the stand, a various uncharged conduct relating to E. Jean Carroll and other things involving his alleged criminal

past alleged.

And the third appeal would be they wanted to call an expert from the Federal Election Commission. And the judge said they couldn't call that

person that may be another avenue that was an abuse of discretion. So those are at least three, I'm sure the brainy appellate lawyers, and I'm not one.

And some say I'm not a brainy trial attorney. But the brainy appellate lawyers may come up with four or five or six more issues. So he has a basis

for an appeal, whether they appellate courts will agree with him, we won't know until probably well after the election.

JIMENEZ: And look. And by the way, I will say based on that answer, no. I'll call you a brainy trial attorney. Let's just we'll get that out of the

way right now.

ROSSI: I'll take that compliment.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, there we go. There we go. We're on good footing here. Now look, the sentencing is scheduled as of now for July 11.


You know, it's a classy felony, which, you know, it's the lowest level of felony here in New York only carries a maximum of 4 years for per count max

of 20 years for all of these. What realistically do you see here, given the factors of what we know about Donald Trump, lack of criminal history, his

age? What do you see realistically of the prospects of whether he could actually go to prison?

ROSSI: Well, I'm going to steal some information from commentator Norman Eisen, who's -- who is a brilliant guy. And he's reviewed hundreds of cases

involving this type of charge. And he has concluded that if you compare Donald Trump's charges, which really it wasn't hush money.

It was a conspiracy to affect the integrity of the election. And that conspiracy appears to be successful. That is extremely serious. His view is

that based on the cases he reviewed, and the charges and the facts of this case, he should get jail time, my prediction, and I always use the word

Tasseography, reading the tea leaves.

My prediction is the judge either will give a de minimis amount of incarceration, or it's possible for Donald Trump to get probation with home

confinement, here's why. He's got to be almost 80 years old. He's been humiliated with the 34 out of 34 counts, which is shocking. And age is of a

huge factor in sentencing.

The second thing is I am very worried that when Donald Trump goes to prison, if he does, he will be hurt. He will be hurt, he could be attacked.

And I'm worried about that. Because I don't think the people in many of the prisons love him as much as his MAGA supporters. Maybe they do.

But I'm worried about that. So because he's unique, he's -- generous, he's the Former President of United States. It's hard to put him in a prison,

you'd have to have secret service, there's so many things that will be involved, he may be imposed, the judge may impose home detention or the

State Department of Correction folks may find a facility that they can call a correction facility.

But it'll be something that will be more segregated to respect the office and to ought to show that they are taking care of the possible risk to his


JIMENEZ: Yeah. Look, these are all factors that will be taken into consideration as we approach sentencing and wait await the judge to see

what is actually decided to hear. Gene Rossi, really appreciate you taking the time and perspective.

ROSSI: Thank you.

JIMENEZ: Of course. All right, now Donald Trump's attorneys are vowing to appeal after you became the first Former U.S. President to be convicted of

a crime. For now though, Trump will remain out of prison without bond at least until he is sentenced in July. That's where that possibility would

even come back into the equation here.

And even though he can still run for president, the case could have a profound impact on voters and a new analysis piece. CNN Stephen Collinson

writes, quote, Americans have never seen an ex-President convicted of a crime and a country already torn apart by bitter political and cultural

polarization is likely in for a rocky time. The implications are enormous.

And Stephen Collinson joins us now. Stephen, after that pep talk heading into the 2024 election season, I mean, what do you anticipate being the

overriding impact from this verdict on the actual campaigning for the former president?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: I think what it will do is solidify Donald Trump's campaign strategy which is to present himself as a

victim of political persecution of weaponize justice to keep him out of the White House that has been essentially his defense strategy in most of his

legal cases that he's facing.

And it is simultaneously his political strategy too, so that is how it will impact the campaign, how it will impact with voters I think, is very

difficult to say before the event, before the conviction, there were some polls which suggested that some voters could, especially Republicans begin

to reconsider their vote for Trump.

Small numbers of those voters that could do that, it's one thing to take a poll before it happens. And then I think we have to wait and see how this

plays out over the next few weeks. I think the lesson of Donald Trump's political career is that while he does get some reverses in the legal

sense, he was impeached twice. It doesn't affect his standing among his own voters.


The key question is those, more moderate vote in swing states which could be decided by a few 1000 votes, and wherein a shift of a few votes or some

Republican staying home, could make a big difference, but the country is completely polarized about Trump and has been for a long time. So I don't

expect a big swing either way.

JIMENEZ: Now outside of the polarized ends, I mean, I think it's no secret at this point that this election will likely come down to a good number of

swing voters in a few states, here in the U.S. How do you anticipate what's happened with this verdict reverberating to some of those swing voters in

suburbs in states like Arizona and Michigan, even Georgia?

COLLINSON: I think there's a real question to be asked about what voters will be prioritizing when it comes to November. One of the key issues in

this election has been high prices, groceries or gas stations, a sense that there is no longer economic security in the United States, even years now

coming out of the pandemic, that could well be a far more motivating factor for many voters than Donald Trump's legal problems.

And if that's the case, it could be a big problem for President Joe Biden in the polls right now. So pretty much this election is neck and neck,

nationally, and in those swing states, although there have been some that show Trump had a little bit in the key swing states, but this is going to

come down to a few states.

The president will try to use this verdict, to say that Donald Trump has extreme, he's a threat to the legal system. With his attempts to burn down

the legal system after this verdict, he's a threat to democracy. And that should be the overwhelming argument. If he can't make that the overwhelming

argument of this election, if economic factors are more important, then I think the verdict probably isn't going to play that much of an impact.

By the time we get to November, it's already it's the end of May. This was a kind of an October surprise at the end of May. And it wasn't really that

much of a surprise to many voters. So really, its impact could be muted, but we just really don't know until we get some more evidence.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. And one of the things we are actually starting to get some real glimpses into is maybe not from the voter perspective, but from

elected officials on the Republican side who have really only increasingly coalesced around the former president after news of this verdict.

And then, of course, the sentencing is happening days ahead of the Republican National Convention were Trump is expected to officially become

the party's nominee for president. How do you anticipate that relationship expanding, growing, changing in any way, heading into that convention, and

of course, later down to November?

COLLINSON: Right. So if you want to be a politician in the Republican Party, you want to have a political future, there is no choice but to stand

squarely behind Donald Trump, because he is so popular with the grassroots of the party. He absolutely obliterated all of his opponents in the

Republican nominating race after only a few contests.

So you're seeing people that in the past might be more minded to criticize the former president, like, for example, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who

ran against him in 2016, the Republican primary. All of these people are getting on board. Rubio even compared what happened yesterday in New York

to Fidel Castro's Cuba, which clearly is a bit of a -- comparison.

But it shows you where the Republicans, who want to play a part in the party after Donald Trump has finally left the scene, feel that they need to

be to avoid alienating Republican voters with a view to a future primary race. So it is not a very brave position for many of these Republicans to


But it's a sound one politically, the impact of that, of course, is that they're all jumping on this bandwagon and saying the legal system is

discredited and corrupt. That is something that's going to reverberate for years and even decades to come, another American institution, basically

poisoned by his attempt to bring Donald Trump to account.

JIMENEZ: And we've seen really already the impact of the first part you were talking about Governor, Larry Hogan, who got the Maryland nomination

was it was attacked pretty heavily for just saying he respects the ruling.


JIMENEZ: So we will continue to monitor that. Stephen Collinson, really appreciate the time.


JIMENEZ: Still to come. We're going to take a look at how members of both political parties reacted to the historic verdict. Is anyone straying from

the party line? Details, straight ahead, plus a parallel media universe we're going to take a look at how this historic guilty verdict is being

covered in the press. Stay with us.



JIMENEZ: Welcome back as we continue our coverage of the fallout from Former U.S. President Donald Trump's unanimous guilty verdict in the

criminal hush money trial. Now in the moments after Trump's conviction, Republicans rushed to the former president's defense.

Republican candidates and races for Governor, Senate and the House largely aligned themselves with Trump, while Democrats largely avoided the

specifics of the case but said Justice had prevailed. Joining me now is CNN Congressional Correspondent, Lauren Fox. So Lauren, what's been the mood

there, this morning in the wake of yesterday's historic verdict?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Omar. Well, lawmakers are away for their week long recess. They'll return next week, and I can

guess that we'll get a better sense of how they are feeling but many Republicans were swift to come out in support of Donald Trump.

You heard yesterday, within mere minutes of the verdicts being read that the Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, as well as the Majority Leader Steve

Scalise, Tom Emmer, the Republican Whip, Elise Stefanik, the Conference Chair, they all had put out statements saying that they backed the

President that this was wrong, that this had been a political move.

You heard from Tom Emmer yesterday, that this was one of the biggest political ploys in history, given the fact that he argued Democrats were

responsible for Donald Trump's conviction. Of course, that is not the case, right. This was an independent jury who made this decision.

Meanwhile, in the United States Senate, you had some folks who are running to be the next Republican Leader of the Senate. People like John Thune,

John Cornyn putting out statements rather quickly. And then Mitch McConnell actually put out a statement saying that these charges should have never

been brought that he expects that Donald Trump will not ultimately be persecuted for this.

But it's interesting because he did not use Donald Trump's name in the tweet and McConnell doesn't often weigh in. Obviously, the two have a

fractious relationship since January 6th. They have not kept in close contact. They are not close. And Mitch McConnell typically declines to

comment when it comes to issues of Donald Trump.

So I did think it was very interesting yesterday that a couple hours after the verdict you heard from Mitch McConnell in Twitter Omar.


JIMENEZ: I guess the question is and you may have just answered it. Do you think any Republicans will see this as an opening to break free of what's

been Trump's stranglehold on the party?

FOX: You know, if history gives any indication of how Republicans can handle this, I think a lot of Republican members find that there's really

no political upside to trying to get out of Donald Trump's shadow to trying to distance themselves from the president.

When they do they often lose support from the Republican base. And even people who are running in difficult districts -- you know people like Don

Bacon or others they still have to get their base to turn out.

Yes, they also have to depend on independent and some Democratic voters in those districts, but they have to get their base to turn out and the

fastest way to turn the base against you to find yourself in a situation where you have a primary challenger is to go up against Donald Trump. So

politically, it's a very difficult and precarious position for Republicans who choose to try to distance themselves from Trump.

JIMENEZ: Lauren Fox, really appreciate it. Thank you. For everyone else, we're back after a quick break, stay with us.


GIOKOS: Welcome back. You're watching "Connect the World". I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Now, the United States and Chinese Defense Ministers have met

for the first time in two years. Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with Admiral Dong Joon in Singapore. There'll be long been tensions between the

two military powers and talk centered on disputes in the South China Sea China's recent military drills around Taiwan, and its support for Russia.

I want to go now to our National Security Correspondent, Natasha Bertrand who is traveling with the defense secretary. Great to see you Natasha look,

the message to China was clear and candid. That's according to the defense official. Take us through what was on the agenda?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Eleni, as you said this was the first face-to-face meeting the Secretary Austin has had

with his Chinese counterparts in 2022, when the Chinese really cut off all kinds of military to military communications with the U.S. following that

very high profile trip by then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

And so this was really an attempt by the U.S. by the Chinese to kind of reestablish that relationship between the two defense chief that, of

course, is so important for these two major global powers. And according to the Pentagon's read out of their conversation, it really touched on a

number of different issues, including very hot button topics, like, of course, China's major war games around Taiwan.

Just last week following the inauguration of Taiwan's new president, as well as China's provocative actions in the South China Sea regarding the

Philippines and the fact that the Chinese Coast Guard has been firing water cannons at Philippine vessels.

That was an extremely important topic for Secretary Austin to rise with the Chinese Defense Minister raising the United States' concerned with those

provocations. The Chinese in return, according to a spokesperson for the defense minister said that there's a difference of course between freedom

of navigation and quote provocation and trespassing.


And so while they are happy, according to the spokesperson to have these military to military communications open, again, for the time being. They

indicated however, the deep differences obviously remain between the two countries. But, you know, the U.S. remains pretty optimistic about the

trajectory of this relationship at the moment.

Military to military communications were cut off, as I said, about two years ago, and now they're back on track, it seems at least for the time

being. And so it remains to be seen just how long that actually lasts because the Chinese have been known to cut that off when they're angry

about something the United States has done.

But really the bilateral was -- the importance of it was underscored by some comments that the Leader of the Philippines made here earlier tonight,

which is that if any Filipino dies in the South China Sea as a result of China's provocations there then that really could cross into what the

Philippines sees as an act of war.

And the U.S., given that it is a treaty partner with the Philippines might then have to enter that war in order to defend the Philippines if a

conflict were to break out. And so it's really important for the two chiefs to meet here to discuss to maintain those open lines of communication just

because there's such a huge possibility of a major misunderstanding happening here in the region Eleni.

GIOKOS: Alright, Natasha Bertrand thanks for that update. Well, from tensions in Asia to tensions in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Antony

Blinken is wrapping up a meeting with NATO Foreign Ministers in Prague today. The group is continuing to pledge its support for Ukraine's war

efforts against Russia. Blinken said NATO would announce a very robust package for Ukraine at the alliance's Washington Summit in July.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Stakes couldn't be higher in this moment. We know that if Russia's aggression is allowed to proceed in

Ukraine with impunity. It will not stop with Ukraine and other would be aggressors and other parts of the world will take note and consider

pursuing their own aggressions.


GIOKOS: Well, the meeting follows Joe Biden's decision yesterday to allow Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to strike Russian territory near the besieged

city of Kharkiv. I want to bring in now our Correspondent at the Pentagon Oren Liebermann.

Oren this is a big shift. This is perhaps the biggest shift that we've seen with countries given the green lights on using weapons on Russian

territory. Give me a sense of what exactly President Biden meant in terms of using weapons on the front lines in Kharkiv and, of course, importantly,

the Kremlin's reaction to this.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is been playing out over the course of the past couple of months or so. The discussions and

what the U.S. saw that led to this point. And that's because the U.S. saw Russian forces building up within Russian territory for a new offensive in


And that's where these discussions began realizing the need for this, especially as Ukraine's leaders asked for the ability to use U.S. weapons

to strike right across the border into Russian territory and effectively hit those Russian forces before they attacked.

Those discussions took a much more serious tone in May 10th, when Russia launched its new offensive. And then over the course of the next several

days, the top U.S. leadership and that includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd

Austin, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General CQ Brown came to the conclusion and made the recommendation to the President to Joe Biden, that

Ukraine should be allowed to use U.S. weapons in Russia in a limited way.

They can't use deep strike missiles like attack items that the U.S. has provided. They can use effectively to attack the forces that are masked

right along the border there. And it took a while once the decision was made from Biden to essentially hammer out all the details, but according to

U.S. officials, it has now as of yesterday, I believe gone into effect.

And Ukraine can now for the first time use U.S. weaponry to hit those Russian forces just across the border. And it's significant even if

Russia's offensive has stalled. It was able to keep its forces in its supply lines just a couple of miles away there in Russian territory,

believing they'd be immune from U.S. weapons now, of course, that is no longer the case.

Russia not exactly reacting positively to this news warning of a potential escalation and I believe also warning that it won't change the situation

here. So Russia, defiant in the face of what frankly we saw coming because Eleni this has played out, like so many others -- other instances where the

U.S. has said no, no, no, no, no and then under domestic and international pressure said yes. It happened with Abrams tanks with attack comes with F6

teens and we're seeing it happen again with his change in U.S. policy.

GIOKOS: It's such an important point because we've had resounding those from so many European countries from the U.S. from the start of this, then

slowly shifting into yeses. So this is -- this is a significant moment many would say. I also want to talk about this significance or this robust

package which they haven't elaborated on what it exactly entails.


But it does show that they are committing to supporting Russia -- to supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia for the long term.

LIEBERMANN: Correct. This has been a statement we've heard from the very beginning almost from day one of this war that the U.S. will support

Ukraine for as long as it needs. But that needs to be more than just words and more than just a security package here and there.

What could that involve? Some sort of defense pact, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also pushed to effectively make progress on the

conversations about the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO. So there are different ways this could proceed and of course, each of these different

agreements could have its own -- its own details, its own limitations, its own abilities to help Ukraine in the long term.

But that's the goal here to get to something that is not just in the moment, and not just announcing an aid package every few weeks from the

U.S. or from NATO. It is something more robust than that, and something that simply can't be cancelled. And that it seems to be is the goal here

with that NATO Summit in Washington coming up in July?

GIOKOS: Oren Liebermann, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. Well, as we keep our eye on the war in Gaza as well overnight, Israeli

strikes in central Gaza killed 15 Palestinians, 8 members of one family died when an airstrike hits their house early Friday morning.

This is the first time the IDF has confirmed it is operating in central Gaza. The attacks come as a group "Doctors Without Borders" accuses

countries supporting Israel's military operation has been complicit in Gaza's destruction more than that's coming up in the next hour.

Of course still to come, Donald Trump's parallel media universe, we look at how news organizations and social media are covering the former presidency

star guilty verdict. Omar Jimenez will join you after that stay tuned.


JIMENEZ: Donald Trump's guilty verdict is making headlines around the world that's no secret. The mainstream news coverage reflecting the unprecedented

nature of this moment in U.S. history of former president convicted as a felon.

While among the outlets supportive of Trump one response that quickly took hold was that the verdict proves United States has become quote, banana

republic. CNN's Hadas Gold joins me now.


It seems that depending on who you read, dictates what you perceive over how this went down Hadas can you just walk us through the range of what

we've seen here?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yeah. I mean, it goes to show you the alternate realities that people are living in based off of what you read?

What's your news consumption? Also, what's in your social media feeds? You have two different sides to them.

I mean, I'll just show you like you showed some newspapers out of the UK, but here in the United States, you know, "Washington Post" they have Trump

found guilty and they lay out right here, all of those 34 counts, he was found guilty on it, to see them the pure number of them on the front page.

That's a very arresting image, excuse the pun.

But then if you go to sort of the other side of the media, you get "The New York Post" here. Local paper here says it calls it an injustice. And if you

go into other parts of the right wing media, they go even further and some of the rhetoric we were hearing last night was almost frightening where

they're talking about claiming that the United States is now a dictatorship and sometimes even worse, take a listen to what Fox News' Laura Ingraham

had to say yesterday.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I guess we all need what to shop at banana republic from now on, because that's what it feels like? Yeah, a banana

republic I wish there was something to laugh about. But there's not. This is a disgraceful day for the United States a day that America may never

recover from. This is a humiliating day for the country that we all love. It makes us look like a joke to the rest of the world. Is this what they

meant by the American way?


GOLD: And many of these commentators were also questioning the legal system questioning the fairness of the trial. Take a listen to what Fox News'

Jeanine Pirro had to say.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: We have convicted a Former President of the United States of America. We've gone over a clip. The question as to

whether or not America will react to this, whether its numbers will go up or down? I don't know.

But I do know what I know. And what I know is that this case is riddled with errors. It is reversible. It will not get through to the Appellate

Division and the first department in New York or certainly the Court of Appeals before the next year.


HOLD: And some of them went even further Daley Wires and Matt Walsh calling on the Donald Trump Administration to publish a list of 10 high ranking

Democrat criminals who he will have arrested. Now Omar, the point of all of this from this -- from this -- this rhetoric is really I think to chip away

at American institutions to chip away at the trust in American institutions. And keep in mind what that may do ahead of the 2024 election.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, all of this happening within the context of an election year. It's been impossible not to look at it within that context. Hadas

Gold, really appreciate you and out for us. Now as we cover all of the varying perspectives and reactions to this verdict.

We've seen a volatile open on Wall Street for Donald Trump's media company. Immediately following yesterday's verdict, shares of the company which owns

the Truth Social platform tumbled as much as 15 percent in after hours trading. The stock has now opened today lower.

CNN's Matt Egan joins us with more. So Matt, I mean, this has been a pretty volatile stock since going public back in March. I mean, the U.S. markets

have just opened what's happening right now?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Omar, this has been a ridiculously volatile stock since it started trading two months ago. But even by those standards, there

are some pretty wild moves. The stock is opening down 5 percent as we speak, but that's after that 15 percent plunge in the minutes after that

conviction became public late yesterday.

And then we saw the stock start to battle back. And as of about 30 minutes ago, the pre-market indications were that this was going to open sharply

higher. But that has not happened so more volatility here. And I guess we shouldn't be shocked that this historic event has caused yet more

volatility for Trump media because, you know, Trump really is this company, right?

He's not just the Chairman. He is the most popular user and he is the dominant shareholder. Look at that almost 115 million shares owned by the

former president at current prices, that stake is worth about $6 billion on paper. There you see the live look at the stock down about 7 percent.

Now, what's really, really striking about this company is that it is valued in the billions of dollars, even though Truth Social remains a pretty tiny

social media player and the corporate parent is losing money and it's generating very, very little revenue.

And so those numbers plus the fact that the stock bounces around so much explains why a lot of experts have called this a meme stock or even a meme

stock on steroids. And I think that we're going to continue to see it bounce around as investors and traders and analysts try to make sense of

what this conviction means for the social media company Omar.


JIMENEZ: Yeah, I know, there's a lot to keep an eye on, and especially on the business front and the media fine, as you've just laid out Matt Egan,

really appreciate it. We're going to continue to cover all aspects of the fallout from this historic verdict that came through now yesterday at this

point but threatens to reverberate throughout the election season here in the United States. Stay with us, we'll be back after a short break.