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Erin Burnett Outfront

Opening Arguments In Trump's First Criminal Trial Set For Monday; MTG: GOP "Civil War" Erupting Over Handling Of Foreign Aid Bills; Source: "Huge Explosion" At Pro-Iran Military Base in Iraq. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 19, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, opening statements for Trump's hush money trial now set for 9:30 Monday morning. We'll take you inside the courtroom for details on what Trump was zeroing in on today and what it may tell us about his legal strategy.

Plus, Marjorie Taylor Greene says it is civil war in the House of Representatives, just hours before a vote that could very well end Mike Johnson's stint as speaker.

And breaking news just into CNN, a, quote, huge explosion reported at a pro-Iran military base. We are working on those details.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. Opening statements in the first criminal trial of Donald Trump is set for 9:30 a.m. on Monday. The jury of 12 and six alternates have been sworn in, and an appeals court judge just rejected Trump's last-ditch effort to delay that trial further, as he tries to move the case that of New York City.

All of this comes after a flurry of pretrial motions from Trump's legal team, the judge shutting them down. And finally this afternoon telling team Trump, it has two quote, has to end saying there comes a point where you accept my rulings.

Well, Trump appears to come to terms with opening statements starting on Monday. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The trial starts on Monday, which is long before a lot of people thought. The judge wants to go as fast as possible. That's for his reasons, not for my reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: The stakes are, of course, high emotions running even higher today in court, some prospective jurors broke down as they were being questioned.

Just ahead, you're going to hear from the courtroom sketch artist who was there just feet away from Donald Trump.

I do first though, want to turn to my colleague, Evan Perez, who is OUTFRONT live tonight outside the New York courthouse.

So Evan, were waiting from a judge -- from a ruling from the judge that could come any moment would tell us what we may hear at trial. Why is that so important? What will it mean?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things you've heard, the left one and lasting you heard from the former president, Erica, as he was leaving court was that he intends he still says he intends to testify on his own behalf when this trial begins.

So if that is the case, the prosecution is arguing that they should be able to bring up a number of things that would be able to impeach his credibility before this jury. And the things that they want to bring up, of course, are some of his past legal problems, some of the rulings that have gone against him. And, of course, a civil some of the civil fraud judgment, the $355 million civil fraud judgment that was rendered against the former president, just a few months ago, just a few weeks ago, the fact that he was -- he violated a gag order of judge had ruled that he violated a gag order, things like that.

The prosecution says should be used, they should be able to use to impeach his credibility before this jury. Today, during that at the end of -- after they had sworn in the jurors, they stayed behind to argue some of these points to Trump team again, saying that they don't believe any of these things should be able to be brought up. The judge said that they will he will make a decision before Monday -- before we begin our trial on Monday -- Erica.

HILL: So as we wait for that, Evan, I do also want to ask you about a really terrible incident that happened it really just across from where you are outside the courthouse today, you were there as it happened. A man set himself on fire.

What have police said about this incident and about that?

PEREZ: Look, this all -- this all happened about just 100 meters away from where I'm standing. And at first we thought it was somebody had said that a trash can on fire and then it's not until you saw the form of a human being actually on fire that we realized what was actually happening.

And according to the police, this is a man that appears to have been disturbed. He had a number of conspiracy theories that he was focused on. And he came here, it appears had nothing to do with this trial and the proceedings are going on in the court behind me, he set himself on fire and according to the authorities, he is still in the hospital being treated for those burns. Now, one of the things that the police said it that that he didn't

violate any of the security precautions here, that he didn't violate any of the security precautions before he did this.


And, you know, that does raise some concerns because this has been a pretty wide open access area. The street obviously is still functioning and they've allowed cars to be parked right behind us. It's kind of an unusual situation compared to some of the other courts where the former president is facing various trials.

So, we'll see whether the police reassess the security situation as a result of what just happened, Erica.

HILL: Yeah, let's see how that all plays out on Monday morning.

Evan, appreciate it. Thank you.

Our experts out here with me now. Lets do a little deeper into what we saw today, but also what were going to see on Monday.

Paul Martin, opening statements are set for Monday do you have any concerns about any jurors dropping out over the weekend?

PAUL MARTIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, this is a heavy case. We already had jurors that weighed on them throughout the night. So this is definitely a possibility that a juror to may rethink this situation, especially when they hear about what is took taken place outside died the courtroom. But that's not unusual.

I think they have six jurors. Prayerfully, that will be enough during this fall for this process, but time will tell.

HILL: As we watch for that, Jennifer Rodgers, you're a former federal prosecutor. I was struck. You're really focused on what we may hear from the defense. Come Monday morning.

Donald Trump may have given us perhaps a little clue as to what the defense strategy may be. What we may here earlier this week as he was going into court, he said, and I'm going to quote him here. I was paying a lawyer and marked it down as a legal expense, some account I didn't know, marked it down as a legal expense.

He threw that out there unprompted. Do you think that's what we'll hear on those opening statements?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. It's hard to say. Its always a guessing game with the defense is going to do. I mean, I'm wondering if they're going to try to gain some credibility by admitting some things to the jury. Maybe the thing they've never admitted, which is that there was an encounter between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump, although I wouldn't bet on it.

But, yeah, this is -- this is our opportunity to see what they're actually going to say. They're definitely going to say that he didn't know that those payments were fraudulent, right? I mean, that is clear and of course, they're going to deny that anything was tied to the election. I think that we can count on.

Other than that, I'm waiting to hear based on the judges rulings that are coming from the Sandoval hearing if he's going to promise to testify -- if his lawyers will promise he will testify, that'll be a big one.

HILL: To which that we're going to get into in just a second.

But I do want to get Ryan's take. What do you think in terms of opening statements, what will you be looking for Monday morning or listening for?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: So, in the prosecution's opening statement, I'm looking for how they frame the case. Do they frame it in a way that's also meant for the public about this is about influencing an election unlawful fully, or do they try to narrow it down to the business records as the center of the case and then tax fraud, which might just be an easier case to win in some respects, I think that's one part of it.

And then the other is who are going to be there witnesses? How much do they center Michael Cohen or other people that we haven't heard of as much like David Pecker, who was apparently allegedly in on the deal from in August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower to set up the catch and kill operation and then when Trump is president, Trump, thanks him, allegedly for helping with the campaign, which means that this was about election interference of a certain sort. That's what I'm looking for. Who exactly are the witnesses and how do they frame it?

HILL: Speaking of those witnesses, this came up again today, where the defense really want -- they want that witness list. Who were the initial witnesses going to be in the prosecutor said, we don't trust you, essentially. I'm paraphrasing here, but we don't trust you to not give those names to your client, Donald Trump. So tell you what, we'll give you the name on Sunday, but the prosecutor then went on to say, sharing the first witness only, warning should that be tweeted, it will be the last time, meaning in the last time they'll share a witness in advance.

What do you think the chances are that Trump can keep their client offline?

MARTIN: Well -- well, I don't think they're going to stand a chance in heck to keep him offline, and they are going to share this with their client because they need to know what the contact they had with this individual, what this individual may have said, not said. So he's definitely going to know Sunday night, but time again will tell whether he gets on his little phone and starts tweeting it.

But it's necessary. It's important for the defense to know who these witnesses are, so they can spend the weekend to prepare.

HILL: When we look at this, as you were alluding to, right, we're waiting to see what happens after the Sandoval hearing that happened this afternoon. The judge set to rule by Monday, as Evan told us about how much prosecutors can ask if Donald Trump testifies, what they can bring up about his past as he was leaving today, he was asked again if you would take the stand. Here's what he said.


REPORTER: President Trump, are you going to testify?



HILL: Yes, there you have it. I mean, look, we've heard Donald Trumps say before he will testify. Time will tell.

Do you envision though a scenario where it makes sense to put Donald Trump on the stand?

RODGERS: I don't think so because their case is really about like breaking down the government's case, right? So they're just saying it wasn't about the election. You can't prove it's about the election.


It was legal expenses. It wasn't a payoff. So they don't really have to prove anything affirmatively, which is why he doesn't need to testify to put that into evidence and he's such an undisciplined witness to put it mildly. It's just such an unknown what would happen? There's so much cross even if the judge, as I think he will limits what the prosecutors can cross him about, there's still so much material there. I just think it's too risky.

MARTIN: You're thinking logically.

RODGERS: I am. Try it, try it.

HILL: Which I would imagine his attorneys are also thinking logically.

MARTIN: I'm sure.

HILL: One would think, right?

He's a solid -- I mean, these are attorneys that I think many of you at this table know actually, as certainly I know number of our legal analysts do.

When we look at this, there was also the separate hearing, Ryan, today. Yet another appeal from team Trump for a change of venue. So the judge denied a stay in that as this -- as this moves through court. Donald Trump once again saying he can't get a fair trial in New York.

He was complaining after leaving court today that this was moving too fast. This is the interests of the judge. They seated a jury so quickly. It's actually a fairly diverse, sort of well-rounded jury, when you look at it. How do you think this will play out? There was also this argument that it was untenable, right? That it was untenable in terms of the jurors, that there was some sort of -- some sort of bias because so many jurors have been dismissed that that was untenable.

Is that valid?

GOODMAN: No, I don't see any validity to it. In fact, I think that the American public saw a really great process over the past week. And a cross-section of Americans are going to serve in that jury, including their news sources, varied new sources, varied walks of life. And if anything, I think it really undermines the idea that he's going to get a better venue somewhere else.

This is really just Americans have proven to the judge and as well, too, what else we can see from their interrogatories that they will try to be impartial, and that they will be impartial. I think he's actually gotten a pretty fair shake in terms of the jury that's come out of this process, and now we're off to see what will happen with the actual trials or nothing that I think is going to stop it or move it to another location.

HILL: OK, buckle up. I know where we will all be at 9:30 on Monday morning. And you'll probably be back here throughout the day. And when on Monday night. Thank you all.

OUTFRONT next, the breaking news. We are just learning of what has been described as a huge explosion at a pro-Iranian military base in Iraq. Those details just coming in, we have them for you.

Plus, more breaking news about what happened inside the courtroom today. Talk about the emotions on display, some potential jurors prying Trump team reprimanded the court sketch artists, who was there joins me next.

And tensions boiling over in some never video a voters in a focus group going after each other, take a closer look at what's going on there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a president takes on women, minorities, everything but --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He won the election, and he won, and you guys can't handle that!




HILL: Breaking news, the latest now on those reports, we just told you about of a huge blast at a pro-Iranian military base in Iraq. Video surfacing shall massive explosions and fire. The explosions took place in an ammunition depot at a military base, now a source added that, but not provided further details or elaborate on the cause. So that is what we're working to get more of those details for you. And as they come in, we will be bringing them to hear.

But understandably the entire region really on edge at this point, following Israel strikes in Iran last night. This also comes as Iraq just hours ago warned that any military escalation following that attack could, quote, threaten the security and stability of the region as a whole.

So we'll keep an eye on that as we continue to follow the other breaking news here in New York, President Trump lashing out after learning that opening arguments in his criminal hush money trial will in fact begin Monday morning. All 12 jurors and six alternates have been chosen by the attorneys.


TRUMP: What's happening here with the judicial system is an outrage, and all over the world they're watching it, and all over the world is a -- this is a giant witch hunt.


HILL: A familiar refrain from the former president, who is also claiming baselessly that the judge is speeding up the timeline for this trial to begin.

CNN's Jeremy Herb has been covering this since day one, in court again today.

What did you notice most today, Jeremy, about his behavior, his demeanor?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Erica, you know, what's interesting is seeing there's sort of two Trumps when he is in trial at times, he sort of aloof uninterested. He's leaning back in his chair, his eyes maybe closing from time to time.

Other times, he is very attentive and very into what is happening and what's going on, particularly when some of the jurors are being asked question about him, their opinions about him.

He is watching them. He's studying them, he's listening to their answers. He's also particularly interested when they're talking about some of the stuff that annoys him with this case, and that happens that happens quite a bit, not surprisingly.

We had a hearing this afternoon where prosecutors are going through all of the other cases they want to bring up these civil fraud verdict against him, the E. Jean Carroll defamation verdict said have gone against him. And when one of the prosecutors raise that verdict, Trumps shook his head and was glaring at the prosecutor. One other interesting thing, just seeing that this afternoon, the end

of the day, Trump, he went to get up. He thought that hearing was done and we thought it was too is trying to write it was wrapping up. But as Trumps sit up, the judge turned me in quickly, said, sir, sit down, please sit down. It was just -- it was another reminder, Erica, of Trump is not in control on movements there and he listened to the judge as whole. But this is certainly, it's something that we will continue to watch going forward.

HILL: Yet not a role that he's perhaps used to.

Jeremy, stay with me. I also want to bring in with us Jane Rosenberg. She's one of the sketch artists for this trial.

Jane, you were also in court today. You've been doing this since the '80s.


You're doing a lot of Trump coverage these days.


HILL: Donald Trump all the time.

Jeremy was talking about the various moods that he saw. What do you notice because you really need to hone in on the details of all of these people there to bring us inside the courtroom? There are no cameras, so were grateful that you're there. What really stood out to you?

ROSENBERG: I was glad I heard his report because today I was seated behind his head and I didn't get a good look at his facial expressions, but yesterday and the day before, I was -- I was a front view and exactly the way he described him. He was today. He was very attentive. I noticed he was turned really looking at the jurors who were being interviewed, very interested.

But I also have seen him on other days falling asleep and like, I couldn't keep his eyes open. But today, he was really paying attention to the jurors.

HILL: So your view then, that give you more of a view of the jurors today?

ROSENBERG: Today, I'm in -- yes.

HILL: And so, what was -- what did you notice from the jurors? Because it was a fairly emotional day. There were a couple of different moments where it got fairly emotional, people raised concerns about their anxiety, about perhaps being outed as a juror?


They're are anonymous and it's a little risky to be outed as a juror in the Trump trial and even as a courtroom artist, I get -- I get mouth emails from his base. You have to watch out.

So I know the judge is probably being protected people, anybody involved will have -- have to watch it. So --

HILL: Does that concern you? You mentioned you've gotten emails. Have you ever felt threatened?

ROSENBERG: I know -- they say nasty things to me. I haven't been threatened with my life actually been I once responded and I won't do that ever again.

HILL: Yeah. I guess that's a lesson you learned.


HILL: Probably a lesson that you learned pretty quickly.

Jeremy, as we look at the things, as we look at how things were playing out rather in court today, you're talking about the end of the day. There were Donald Trump, of course, was told to sit down and did listen as you point out. As we are moving in to Monday, too, there are a lot of questions about what that will look like.

Donald Trump saying again that he does plan to testify. What is the sense and what are you seeing from the attorneys as they are working with him throughout the time when they're questioning some of these potential jurors? He's leaning in. How engaged is he?

HERB: He's certainly engaged, and yeah, he speaks a lot with his lawyer, Todd Blanche, and those other lawyers. You know, he's certainly in these trials when we watched him, I watched him also in the fall during the civil fraud trial. That was a lot of times a boring trial about accounting. But when witnesses like Michael Cohen came, he was incredibly engaged and I think what were going to see now going forward with opening statements, there's going to be a lot of Michael Cohens, including Michael Cohen himself.

We're going to have Stormy Daniels testify and Hope Hicks testify. And I think Trump is certainly going to both be engaged with what's happening, but also he's going to have to help himself not to react. Remember back earlier in this week, the judge reprimanded Trump for turning toward a juror and muttering while the juror was speaking and Trump is real going to have to watch himself as the judges already put him on notice and we're going to have a hearing, of course, on Tuesday about the violating the gag order.

So, the former president, you know, he's certainly going to be engaged here, but he's -- he's also going to have to be careful but what he does when he is in that courtroom.

HILL: Among the moments today, we're saying that there were a few emotional moments. One of those -- there was a woman who went to his hand the microphone during the voir dire process as they're going through the questionnaire. She said and I'm quoting her here. I'm sorry, I thought I could do this. I wouldn't want someone who feels this way to judge my case either. But jurors have been very forthright it seems, at least in reading the

transcripts, as I've been doing and Jeremy's reporting. Can you walk us through what that was like?

ROSENBERG: Well, I'm not allowed to draw their faces so I can't -- I can't sketch the jurors, but she was very emotional. Tears and tissues and it's too bad. I wish I could have drawn her.

HILL: Yeah.

Do you notice a difference with this trial and other trials? Again, you've been doing this for decades. Is there anything different in that courtroom?

ROSENBERG: Yes, I don't think I've ever seen people get so nervous or anxious about actually being a juror on a trial.

HILL: And why do you think that is?

ROSENBERG: I don't know, the ex-president is a big deal to people.

HILL: Yeah.

ROSENBERG: I think maybe a little bit of star struck. I don't know. It's a -- it's an important decision to make for the country, for Trump in his life. We'll see.

HILL: Yeah. Jane, appreciate joining us tonight. Thank you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

HILL: Jeremy, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, Marjorie Taylor Greene essentially accusing her own House speaker of backstabbing Republicans and striking a deal with Democrats.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): What has he promised he will give them in the future? And this is why we have to remove Mike Johnson from the speakership.


HILL: And we're staying on this breaking news reports of a massive explosion at a pro-Iran military base in Iraq.


New details coming in now from the region. Stay with us.

We're going to bring those to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HILL: Tonight, a civil war on Capitol Hill. That's what Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia, says has erupted in the House of Representatives after more Democrats than Republicans voted to advance a Ukraine aid bill brought to the floor by Republican Speaker Mike Johnson. An outraged Greene is now urging other Republicans to join her effort to oust Johnson from office, accusing the speaker of making a secret deal with Democrats.


GREENE: What has Mike Johnson made a deal to do?


What has he promised he will give them in the future? And this is why we have to remove Mike Johnson from the speakership.


HILL: Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. So there's now another House conservative, Congressman Paul Gosar, who is joining Marjorie Taylor Greene's effort to remove Johnson.

Where do things stand tonight?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah. Well, Speaker Mike Johnson's job is in real jeopardy and that is because he has had to rely on Democrats throughout every step of this process to advance these foreign aid bills, including on key procedural votes, which are almost always done along party the lines. So that has really sparked a revolt on the right, and it also fueled new calls to oust him from the speakership.

As you mentioned, a third Republican has now officially signed on to a motion to vacate the speakership. And meanwhile, other hard-line conservatives or not yet willing to go that route, but they are making their anger at the speaker known. Take a listen.


REP. BILL CRANE (R-AZ): It's tough to defend him right now, you know? And that's hard to say, but it's just a reality.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): For five months, we've done nothing but advanced things with more Democrat votes, then Republican votes.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I don't defend the performance of the speaker. I don't offend the actions that have been taken, including today. I think this is a terrible mistake.


ZANONA: Now, the House has already adjourned for the day. So, the earliest that Marjorie Taylor Greene could potentially force a floor vote on this motion to vacate is tomorrow. That is also when the House is expected to vote and pass that package of foreign aid bills before they send them over to the Senate. But just given the simple math here, given that there's three Republicans on this resolution and that at this point Johnson can only afford to lose two Republicans on party-line votes, that means that he is going to have to rely on Democrats to potentially bail him out and save his speakership.

Now, Democrats have not made any commitments, just yet, but they we have signaled some willingness to save him and that is because they appreciate the fact that he was willing to defy his right flank, put this package of foreign aid bills on the floor, a package that does closely mirror the Senate passed version. And there's also just some general concerns that just among Democrats, but also among Republicans about the chaos of a potential motion to vacate.

But, of course, around here in this congress, nothing is guaranteed. So it's certainly something were going to be watching out for it in the coming days, Erica.

HILL: In some ways, it feels like the chaos is guaranteed though in this congress. But I'm going to -- maybe that's just me.

Melanie, I appreciate it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, former Republican Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, who knows quite well about all of the chaos. He just retired, of course, from Congress before his term was over, saying the dysfunction was worse than he had ever seen in his more than nine years in Washington.

It's nice to have you back with us tonight, sir.

Speaker Johnson relying on a majority of Democrats to help advance this Ukraine aid. The bipartisan coalition there, does that strengthen or weaken him?

FORMER REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Well, I think, one, this package of bills is popular with the American public. I think Mike Johnsons on the right side of history. And I think that Republicans and Democrats will rally around someone who is showing leadership on Capitol Hill.

It is a rare commodity on Capitol Hill. Mike has the backbone to move forward with very important and controversial legislation. The vote should be two to vote for or against this package, not to vote for or against the speaker if you don't like this package. That is not something that should be happening. And I think Mike survives.

HILL: So you think he survives? And what about this coalition itself? Democrats -- Marjorie Taylor Greene as you just heard her saying, oh, there must be some deal with Democrats here. What did he give up for them? They may be expecting something in return.

We know some Republicans want to punish Johnson as we just heard, for reaching across the aisle.

What about this bipartisan dynamic? Could it last?

BUCK: Well, you more than 180 Democrats signed a discharge petition trying to move this bill to the floor, these bills to the floor. So I'm not surprised at all about the coalition. I think the coalitions are based on the particular legislation that's going to the floor and not necessarily a standing collision that some Republicans have with some Democrats.

I think that bipartisanship used to be something that people celebrated. Now, it's evidently a sign of weakness or some backroom deal. If Marjorie knows about a backroom deal, she should bring forth the evidence. If she has a recording or she was present when the deal was made, or there's another witness present? It's all nonsense and it's all designed to get the American people riled up about something that isn't true.

HILL: Well, to that point, isn't wishful thinking, then that puts some of this bipartisanship, perhaps even some cooperation, which is also becoming dirty word it seems in Washington, could start to become more than norm. Could we actually see some legislation from this Congress?

BUCK: Well, you're seeing legislation now. You're seeing Ukraine, Israel --

HILL: Beyond, I'm sorry.

BUCK: The Pacific rim -- yeah, I think before this, you saw legislation, you saw the appropriations bills pass this.

The government hasn't shut down as a result of Republicans having a very small majority.


Again, because Mike has shown leadership, I wouldn't have voted for the appropriations bills because I think we need to reduce spending in those bills, increased spending, but Mike had the skill to bring together a coalition on that particular spending package and get it passed, just as he's done with this foreign aid package.

HILL: So as you said, you don't think he's going to be ousted from office. We're going to watch for that. I am curious. You were on the show, you called you called Greene "Moscow Marjorie." The nickname seems to really taken off and her anti-Ukraine rhetoric is also getting a lot of attention on Russian state TV.

I'm not sure how much of this you've seen, but I want to show you a little bit now.


DMITRY DROBNITSKY, RUSSIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: The issue is now a Johnson. Speaker Johnson is not the one who's running Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene is running Congress. Everyone is afraid of her.

YEVGENY POPOV, RUSSIAN STATE TV HOST, STATE DUMA MEMBER: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is proposing for the U.S. to withdraw from NATO. She believes that Americans should help Putin win.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: Quite the statements there on Russian state TV. What do you make of that?

BUCK: Well, Moscow Marjorie has reached a new low. You know, during the Russian revolution, Lenin talked about American journalists who are writing glowing reports about Russia at the time as useful idiots and I don't even think that Marjorie reaches that level of being a useful idiot here. She is just mouthing the Russian propaganda and really hurting American foreign policy in the process.

She's acting completely irresponsibly and again, when history looks at this period of time, Russia invaded Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for its freedom, and we should be with the freedom fighters in this war.

HILL: Congressman Ken Buck, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

BUCK: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, we are following the breaking news out of Iraq, reports of a huge explosion that pro-Iran military base. New details next.

Plus, never before seen video from a group of young voters. What they have to say may surprise you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is our democracy in danger of failing? Raise your hands if you say yes.

Wow. I'm shocked at how many.




HILL: Breaking news, were getting new details about that, quote, huge explosion at a pro-Iranian military base near Baghdad, the region on edge, of course, especially following Israel's strike in Iran last night.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is standing by.

Paula, what more do we know about this explosion?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, the information is just coming through to us at this point. So we do know that there has been a huge explosion at a military base. This is just south of Baghdad and it's a military base that belonged to the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces. This is an Iraqi group that Iran funds and equips and trains.

And we understand this was an ammunition depot. So the images that we are starting to see a quite dramatic, huge fires we see by the side of the highway. Now this took place very recently. A security source in Iraq telling us that this was happening at this point. We don't have very much more information.

We do understand though that it is that Kalso military base. We understand that an investigation team were being told on the ground has now arrived and they are trying to investigate to find out exactly what's happened. There has been material losses. We understand there has also been injuries.

The security source saying that they are going to provide us with details it was once that preliminary investigation has -- has been undertaken. But as you say, Erica, it comes at a time of heightened tension here in the region. It comes just hours after Israel carried out that retaliatory strike against Iran. It comes at a time, of course, when there is the war in Gaza on going where their attention here in Lebanon and around the wider region at large.

So at this point, there is so indication that it may have been an attack. We simply do not know. Of course there have been in the past that these incidence of badly stored domination, for example, at a depth bot that can cause this kind of damage.

At this point, we simply don't know what caused it, but we do know there has been material losses, so there have been injuries and the ammunition depots, as we understand it from security source is currently on fire -- Erica.

HILL: Paula, really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

We know you'll stay on top of it. Let us know as you're learning more.

I just want to bring in now retired Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack, former U.S. State Department official, Ray Takeyh.

Good to have both of you with us.

General, if I start with you, we're also learning there have been a total of five explosions as Paula just mentioned, some wounded, three wounded. No indication as Paula said that this was an attack? Yes. Things have happened in ammunitions depot before, but based on everything else that is happening right now, General, what are your questions as you see the few facts that we have right now?

BRIGADIER GENERAL PETER ZWACK, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes. These are the questions are absolutely spot on.


I'm not sure and I think everybody that's smart is saying they're not sure. But there is awful lot of coincidence in this, ammunition dumps do blow. But the fact that is an ammunition link to one of Iran's -- excuse me, Iran-backed Shia militias near Baghdad is highly significant, just had the counter striking -- counter strike -- and strike with Israel and Iran. That's out there.

In my mind, it would be logical if Israel were going to take the fight to anybody. They take it to the militias outside of Iran who have been, you know, pestering, really tormenting them.

In the middle of it, also, as you well know, we have 2,500 American service members in there and the Baghdadi -- the Sudani government, the prime minister of Iraq, was just in the White House earlier this week, and in Lansing, Michigan, coincidentally, this has got Iraq is in the middle of all this stuff going on.

It's got running groups. It's got us. It's got -- and so, right now, anything could happen but for me, the fight going to the proxies would make a lot of sense if Israel wanted to find a -- find a way to get out of nations and our nation getting. But after groups that are really, really tormenting them.

HILL: I do want to point out, too, U.S. officials have confirmed there's no us military activity in that area of the Kalso base where this is happening.

Ray, when you look at this, what are your biggest concerns in this moment?

RAY TAKEYH, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Just how volatile the region is. There's more taking place in Kalso, possibility of working Israel's northern frontier. Syria is (INAUDIBLE) morbid itself.

We have had a direct confrontation with Israel and Iran for the first time of 45 years. Now, you're going to begin to see Iran proxies under stress, whether by Israel or some other entity.

This situation is real possibility of getting out of hand, even more out of hand, (INAUDIBLE) cooler heads prevailed, and fail to see how that could happen given the fact that there's only (INAUDIBLE) first of all.

I'm not quite sure as the general mentioned, who did this, but it's certainly absolute inches instability of this very turbulent time.

HILL: And as we watch this, Iran's foreign minister told Erin in an exclusive interview last night if there was an Israeli attack as we saw overnight that their response would be, quote, maximum. Here was that moment.


HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In case the Israeli regime embarks on adventurism again and takes action against the interests of Iran, the next response from us will be immediate and at a maximum level.


HILL: So, again, these explosions, and we don't know who was responsible, this was an ammunition depot. This is in an Iranian- backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Baghdad.

But the fact that that's what we heard last night. And then today, right? What were hearing from Iran is essentially laughing at the attack that we saw overnight even when Israeli official calling it lame. Is that Iran trying to save face in this moment?

TAKEYH: Well, the comments from the foreign minister was part of the general public diplomacy by Iran before the Israel striking (INAUDIBLE) to deter Israel from more comprehensive enforcement strike. So, that comment has to do with that particular conference.

Do the Iranians take the Israeli threat seriously? Well, the airspace was penetrated (INAUDIBLE), military base was easily targeted. That has to be concerned for the Iranian regime in terms of its penetration.

Probably the Israeli strike surprise them in the sense that it wasn't as confidence as they have anticipated. But this is still an ongoing event and many things can happen still.

HILL: Yeah.

General, really quickly, we have about 15 seconds. How quickly do you think we could know who is in fact responsible for these explosions?

ZWACK: The Answer is I don't know. The -- we do have sensors and I imagine its just its just hours ago that there's a lot of work on it and I have a feeling they well find out. It will either come through technical means or it'll come off the street.

You've got to be careful. The Twitter sphere is full of this right now.

HILL: Yes, that is good advice on pretty much any random Tuesday to be a little cautious about what you see out there in the Twitter sphere.

Really appreciate you both being with us. Thank you for your expertise, your time tonight.


ZWACK: Absolutely.

TAKEYH: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, new video just into OUTFRONT, voters in a focus group of really going after each other, the insults flying. What is going on in these moments?





HILL: New tonight, President Biden taking a swipe at Donald Trump during a union conference. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I look at the economy, I don't see through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago. I literally see through the eyes of Scranton where I grew up with my grandpop's kitchen table. I see through eyes are working people like you.


HILL: Well, 2024 shapes up to be a bitter rematch.

Longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz sharing some never before seen video from his focus groups, sharing it with OUTFRONT. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How condescending was Obama. I can't stand to watch that guy. He just looked down on top of everybody.

Trump will get down in the dirt and work with you. Obama would never have done that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you want respect, you want respect but you have a president who takes on women, minorities, everything but white --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he who won the election. He won. And you guys can't handle that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know why he's racist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he says, all those Mexicans are rapists and murderers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're talking about -- I'm talking about when he was running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, they send the worst among them. Some of them are rapists, some of them are drug dealers and murderers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're asking me. They asked me what I feel.


HILL: Frank is with me now. So that's just -- I mean, that's a small snapshot, right? You shared a fair amount of video with us. When we look at that you've said the country is more divided than ever. I think a lot of people would agree with you.

But this video evidence, why? How? Why is it this bad? What do you learning from these groups in these moments?

FRANK LUNTZ, GOP POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: That there are -- there's no editing anymore, there's no censorship that we now say what we think. We say what we want people to hear, rather than trying to learn. To me, it's not about the mistakes made, it's about the lessons learned, and no-one is trying to learn anything from this. They simply want to be heard and they will shout to be heard.

HILL: They want to be heard. Do they want to listen?

LUNTZ: No, they don't want to listen. They don't want to learn. And my issue in this is, children are watching. Our kids are watching this and they're learning model behavior.

There's a reason why in universities and in schools all across America, more young people are acting out. There's more shouting, there's more aggression and that they see it from the politicians. They see it from Washington, D.C. They see it in focus groups.

HILL: They see it at school board meeting.

LUNTZ: And the school boards are the worst.

HILL: Yes.

LUNTZ: Parents go there and they threaten the people and the school board. You have to get cops in there.

What is wrong with this country that we've gone that far? That's my question I keep asking.

HILL: So I think its a question a lot of Americans are asking, I was stuck, too. You also sat down recently with some younger voters and you talk to them specifically about democracy. I want to play those moments.


LUNTZ: Is our democracy in danger of failing? Raise your hands if you say yes.

Wow, I'm shocked at how many.

Does anyone here by a show of hands, they regard democracy is truly strong.

You got two people. That's it.


LUNTZ: We're in trouble. We're in trouble. I don't know what to do about it.

This is my craft. This has been my trade for the last 30 years. I've been seeing this get worse and worse.

Seventy-four percent of Americans now say they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, 83 percent say are more divided than we've ever been, even people 65 and older, old enough to remember the killing of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy or cities burning down. They said, this is the most divided it's ever been.

HILL: They're mad as hell, they're not going to take anymore, you said, what, 74 percent. But why are they mad? Can they articulate why they're mad?

LUNTZ: Yes, they believe they've been ignored, forgotten, and the worst of all betrayed. And I'm paying attention to the words and phrases they use because the stronger language, the greater the anger and I've seen this, and I feel this and I'm reminding them, your children are watching, your friends are watching, and they don't care anymore because they want to own the opposition rather than change the opposition.

HILL: Or top to the opposition.

Really quickly too, because I do want to get to one other topic with you, the younger voters you spoke with there, who see the democracy at risk. Only two of them at the democracy is strong. Where are they? Are they mad as hell? Are they just throwing up their hands? They want to try to change anything.

LUNTZ: They don't like anybody. They see Joe Biden as being too old. They see Donald Trump is being corrupt.

They don't like anyone. They don't everyone to follow. They're looking for a role model, looking for someone to aspire to be. And they don't see it. And that's the frustration.

HILL: So, that's the frustration. We're going to see if they're able to change that.

I do want to ask you about you posted probably a lot of people who are watching may have seen a tweet for you. Of course, you in the last day you posted that you suffered a stroke on Monday, and yet you're sitting here tonight, part of the reason you want to come in with to share that information but also to talk about some real health concerns.

So before I let you go, I do want to give you a moment to do that and to share with our viewers why that's so important to you?

LUNTZ: Because it's personal responsibility and I'm supposed to act properly. I'm supposed to know what is right, what is wrong. I was very active in getting people vaccinated during COVID. I've been very active in a nonpartisan way in trying to teach people what's the right thing to do. And then I behave badly and I suffer for it.

And so I looked people right now, take your medications, do what your doctors tell you to do and we have to take personal responsibility in this country.

We can no longer blame other people, no longer say is their fault. It's my fault. I got it wrong. Behave properly and do the right thing and we can save our country.

HILL: Let's see if this starts on a better track.

Frank, I'm glad you're doing well. Glad felt well enough to be here tonight. Continue that road to recovery. Thank you.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks to all of you for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.