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Erin Burnett Outfront

Michael Cohen's High-Stakes Testimony Set for Monday In Trump Case; U.S.: Israel Used U.S. Weapons In Ways That May Have Violated Law; Massive Solar Storm Tonight Could Disrupt Communications, Power; Trump Plans Wide-Scale Immigration Crackdown In A Second Term. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 10, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Michael Cohen set to take the stand, and his testimony could make or break this case for prosecutors. So is he ready for this moment? Cohen's former lawyer is OUTFRONT.

Plus, from Stormy Daniels to the judge, the alarming and growing threats targeting key players in Trump's trial.

And the breaking news, a new Biden administration report says it is reasonable to assess that Israel's use of U.S. weapons in Gaza could violate international law. At least one Democrat though says that report ducks the hard questions.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

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

OUTFRONT tonight, the final major witness in the Trump criminal trial now confirmed. Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and fixer, set to take the stand when the trial resumes on Monday. And, of course, much of this case really hangs on Michael Cohen someone who the defense will say has deep credibility issues.

Cohen though, is seen as the one potential witness who can help prosecutors proved the crux of their case that the hush money payment was made to influence the 2016 election. Cohen says Trump repaid him for that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, money that Trump again claimed today was simply for Cohen's illegal fees.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn't call it construction. They didn't call it building something or concrete or electrical cost. They go very simply, a legal expense to a lawyer. He was a lawyer, not a fixer. He was a lawyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: It's -- of course, it's important to remember, Trump himself actually admitted in a tweet in 2018 that the payments he made to Cohen were in fact reimbursement for the hush money agreement. Today, in court, that tweet was read aloud and entered into evidence. What Mr. Cohen and attorney received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign from which he entered into through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties known as a nondisclosure agreement or NDA.

Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT, outside the courthouse tonight.

So, Brynn, a short day, but a busy day in court. Bring us up to speed.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, yeah. Erica, I mean, really, jurors have the weekend to digest what was a seesaw going of testimony between the drama of Stormy Daniels to basically evidenced by being admitted -- emails, text messages, phone calls from witnesses like we saw today. This all ahead, of course, the prosecution's main witness, like you just said, Michael Cohen.

Remember, he is the person who said he would take a bullet for the president. Now, he could be the person that helps the prosecution win its case.


GINGRAS (voice-over): The prosecution continuing to built its case against Donald Trump today, teeing up Michael Cohen's key testimony, Cohen expected to be called to the stand on Monday.

TRUMP: He was a lawyer, not a fixer. He was a lawyer.

There is no crime, and they failed to show a crime.

GINGRAS: Earlier in the day, Madeleine Westerhout, Trump's former director of Oval Office operations, cross-examined by the defense. Trump attorney Susan Necheles asked, would you see him signing checks without reviewing them? Yes, Westerhout replied, confirming Trump would sign checks sometimes while on the phone or in a meeting.

Westerhout exchanged smiles with her former boss as she left the stand.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: Your next president of the United States!


GINGRAS: A flurry of other witnesses taking the stand, too, helping the prosecution lay the groundwork for Cohen.

COHEN: Kind of looking forward to it, sooner this thing starts, the sooner this thing finishes, and that way I can, yeah, this too shall pass.

GINGRAS: Analysts from Verizon and AT&T sharing phone records as Trump's attorneys already attempting to sow seeds of doubt. Emil Bove asked, you're familiar with the concept of a pocket dial. These records don't reflect the content of these calls. Correct, an AT&T analyst answered.

Employees from the district attorneys office also introduce text messages, business vouchers, and several tweets from Trump about Cohen, including this one from 2018, the day after Cohen pled guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations. If anyone is looking for a lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen, Trump wrote.

TRUMP: Hello, how are you?

GINGRAS: Also revealed, call logs relating to this September 2016 conversation with Trump Cohen recorded.

TRUMP: What financing?

COHEN: Well, I'll have to pay something.

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.

TRUMP: Check.

GINGRAS: Cohen claiming the call was referencing another hush money payment for playboy model Karen McDougal's alleged affair with Trump.


Trump not paying close attention to the testimony from later witnesses and was seen using a highlighter and flipping through possible news clippings.

TRUMP: This trial is a scam. It's something that should never happened.


GINGRAS (on camera): Aside from Cohen, the prosecutors say they have one more witness to call before they can rest their case, possibly by the end of next week, Erica. Then, of course, it's the defense's turn and the big question is, will Donald Trump take the stand? Erica?

HILL: That is a big question. Brynn, appreciate it. Thank you.

So as we look at where we stand now, Ryan Goodman, there's a lot riding on Michael Cohen for the prosecution. What does he need to do?

RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: So he has to provide direct evidence that according to his own book, he says that he's in direct conversations with Donald Trump, in which they're discussing the very details of the hush money payment grossing him up for taxes, et cetera. That's what he offers and then he comes back to the White House, February 2017, and they do it again. They talk about the exact details of how it's all going to be carried out.

That's what he's going to present. And then what he has to do is remain credible under withering cross-examination in which he will be exposed in so much many different ways about lying to all three branches of the U.S. governments and whatnot.

HILL: Speaking of what is expected, you know, for the defense, Joey Jackson, my criminal defense attorney here, the cross-examination of Stormy Daniels was personal. It was combative. She did push back a little bit.

Is there a lesson there, though, for Michael Cohen as he's going in, in terms of, you know, what the defense through it her were going to see at least twice that I would imagine for him.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. Erica, may be more. I mean, they're going to throw everything and the kitchen sink. Just stepping back before we step forward, I think the thing but Stormy Daniels was their boss, Mr. Trump saying, look, I want you to humiliate her. I want you to embarrass her. I want you to go in and do everything. And that was a mistake because it's about the jury, not about Donald Trump. However --

HILL: It's about being effective versus vindictive?

JACKSON: It's -- yeah, absolutely. I think that's so well-stated, Erica. It's about the effectiveness before the 12 who have the ultimately by unanimous decision, verdict, say that there's either guilt or lack thereof. But as it relates to Cohen, we know the defense is going to attempt to lambaste him.

You are a convicted felon. Is that right? You're a perjurer. Is that right? You lie before Congress. Is that right? So many things they'll go after them with.

Now, what the prosecution I think has done is they've launched what I call a preemptive strike. What do I mean? What they've done is they've used witnesses essentially to tell the story that Michael Cohen would tell. So you don't have to what they'll say in closing argument believed Michael Cohen at all. We have reasonable inferences that can be drawn from all the other witnesses, which would suggest that exactly what he's telling you is true. Call them a felon, call him a perjurer, call him what you want, but everybody else speaks to the truth of his testimony, which ranks the one thing which is guilt. That'll be the argument of prosecution.

HILL: Is it what you bring up in terms of his credibility issues, right? This is the not so elephant, I guess in the room, Jeremy, because it has been brought up since the beginning, but we've also seen it come up in testimony from a number of witnesses.

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah. Not only of the witnesses told the story. They've also told the story of how Michael Cohen is very unlikable. We've heard from a witness after witness after witness about have a list of quotes here. You know, David Pecker says he was prone to exaggeration.

Keith Davidson, he was a jerk. Why did I have to deal with him? Because no one else wanted to talk to Michael Cohen.

Hope Hicks, she said that he was the fixer because he first would break things before and then have to go fix them.

So I think what that has done is its prepared the jury to not expect that they're going to like Michael Cohen and that if they do find some of the cross-examination where he is evicted, inevitably probably going to be combative if they find that off-putting. That's what they've already been told to expect, you know, even before we start with opening statements, that one of the prosecutor said during the during jury selection that the witnesses here have baggage that they have been upfront about that, and now were going to see that baggage come out into the open.

HILL: Yeah. We certainly are. These unsavory characters, they were talking about in jury selection, Ryan. So everyone is anticipating Michael Cohen likely to be on the stand for a couple of days. I think everybody's really waiting for the cross-examination there, but when it comes to batting cleanup here for the prosecution, we're expecting another witness after Michael Cohen.

Who do you put out there just basically seal the deal for the prosecution after the Michael Cohen testimony?

GOODMAN: So, you would think ideally the prosecution, when somebody strong who can be the as we say sandwich Michael Cohen with somebody on the back end. You can also do clean up if he gets dirtied by the defense counsel and the like. They don't seem to have some star witness like that, rather they'll just have somebody who's going to do a summation. Maybe we'll show all the call logs, the house -- White House logs, and then show it according to the timeline, how everything matches up.

So that will still be a presentation for the jury in a formidable way, but nothing no other kind of star witness seems to be coming forward.


HILL: Interesting to see how well -- how well that works or doesn't, all these things that were anticipating.

Meantime, there was some activity in court today. So we had the second day of testimony from Donald Trump's former assistant in the White House back on the stand. She -- when she was out there, Jeremy, today, what did you make? There was some interaction between her and the former president, smiling at one another.

You're in that courtroom. You get to see this firsthand every day. What was that like?

HERB: It is always interesting to see when he engages and I think the pattern that we've seen is, when it's his former employees, when it's, you know, his assistant in the White House, Rhona Graff, his longtime assistant at Trump Org, that has been when he has been most at ease and happy, smiling at the witnesses as they come by and come out. And she was happy to see him.

We heard her break down in tears on Thursday and it was as she was talking about how she wrote a book to defend. She clearly is very much in his camp, unlike some of his other former aides. So I think that's interesting to see on the witness stand. The other thing we've seen is he likes having allies in the gallery, outside, pass the witness stand.

I watched him walk by today. As he went out, he made a point to stop at Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host. She was there. She was there today in the courtroom. He came my padded her on the shoulders hi to her. He was happy to see her and we've seen a parade of others, Rick Scott, and some of his other aides as well gotten this week.

HILL: Yes, there are -- but it's been a busy weekend, so they've been a fair amount of people there in support of him.

Joey, in terms of that testimony today, too, she was talking about how when Donald Trump would sign these checks, right? This has come up a lot. He didn't review all of them. He was multitask signed checks. He was doing other things.

That's a nice point for the defense.

JACKSON: It's a great point if you believe it. Right now, not that you don't believe the multitasking because certainly you have to believe that he's doing a number of things. The issue is the attentive to detail. You can multitask, but certainly know specifically what you're doing and you don't sign checks that are what, $35,000 a month or so when you're just nothing to see here, here you go.

Instead, you sign on with a sharpie pen, right? You meet in the White House, which they have testimony of, not even thinking about Cohen and what hell say, but they have been in the White House. They have the discussion between Mr. Cohen and the president in the White House.

You have these checks that are being sent to his security. That is Trump's security person. They're being shuffled into the White House in a manila envelope, right where she doesn't see them.

HILL: So, they don't have to go through White House security protocol with personal mail.

JACKSON: There you go and ultimately, he's signing these things and he's sending them to Michael Cohen, but he didn't know what he was doing. He had no idea. And by the way, there's a tweet saying I reimburse them, but you sent a tweet saying you reimburse them, but now you didn't know what you assigning.

It's a credibility determination. She's not there to try to hurt him. Remember, there's a relationship there and I think that's something that's easily dispatched by the prosecution.

HILL: We will be watching. Joey, Ryan, Jeremy, appreciate it. Jeremy, happy birthday.

HERB: Thank you.

HILL: Thank you all.

JACKSON: Happy birthday.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, Judge Merchan on warning Michael Cohen to keep his mouth shut ahead of his upcoming testimony, so can he? His former lawyer joints me next.

Plus, breaking news, the Biden administration says it is reasonable to assess that Israel's use of U.S. weapons in Gaza could violate international law. That report comes after Biden told Erin some American weapons have been used to kill civilians.

Plus, incredible new images of a rare solar storm. We could see similar scenes in the U.S., similar to what you're seeing there in just a matter of hours. Those beautiful pictures though when the phenomenon could also cause some pretty big headaches throughout the country.



HILL: Tonight, a warning for Michael Cohen. The judge in Trump's hush money case, denying Trump's request for a gag order against Cohen, but asking prosecutors today to, quote, communicate to Mr. Cohen that the judge is asking him to refrain from making any more statements.

Trump's attorneys had specifically complained to the judge about this TikTok that Cohen posted on Wednesday. You see him there wearing a white t-shirt with a picture of Donald Trump behind bars in an orange jumpsuit.

It all comes as key witnesses in this case, like Cohen and Stormy Daniels, are facing growing attacks from Trump's supporters during the trial.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stormy Daniels has made no secret about threats she received after the former president was indicted on charges related to 2016 hush money payments centered around her.

The former adult film star described how her life has changed in the documentary titled "Stormy".

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: You just signed your death warrants. I don't know what that means. CARROLL: Daniels has spoken about fear, not only for her, but for her

family, and persistent threads which he says have gotten progressively worse.

DANIELS: Before, it was just like these, like loud mouth armchair anti-porn, like judgmental, critical people, you know, faceless. Now, they are doing it like a suicide bomber. They truly in their depths, but more importantly in the depths of their soul, they feel like they are doing the right thing.

CARROLL: Recently, Daniel shared this message with OUTFRONT a threat to physically abuse her family.

Also a target, prosecution witness and former "National Enquirer" publisher David Pecker.

According to "Reuters", on the same day Pecker testified last month, he was the target of a swatting incident.

Swatting is when someone calls in a phony emergency report to authorities accusing someone of a crime with hopes of triggering a police response.

It did not work and did not prevent Pecker from taking the stand.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): We will not be intimidated as a community by threats, and we're here to watch our D.A.'s back.

CARROLL: Last March, community leaders in New York spoke out in support of District Attorney Alvin Bragg after he and his office were inundated with threats related to the Trump criminal case.


And twice last year, the office received letters with white powder. One said, Alvin, I'm going to kill you. According to an affidavit from the commanding officer of Bragg's security detail, at its peak in March 2023, more than 600 emails and phone calls received by the D.A.'s office were forwarded for security review.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: You don't have to stretch your imagination to imagine what might happen if some of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters take matters into their own hand in some way, in a way that they think protects him or somehow stands up for him, and they react violently.

CARROLL: A gag order put in place to try and deter Trump from speaking about witnesses, jurors, and most others associated with the trial and possibly inciting more threats.

Judge Juan Merchan found Trump to be in contempt of the order on several occasions, including most recently, after he made comments about the makeup of the jury.

But the gag order does not prohibit him from making comments about the judge, the former president, continuing to lash out at him, calling Merchan crooked, and highly conflicted.


CARROLL (on camera): And Trump has repeatedly said over and over that the gag order is unfair. In fact, at one point, he called it a disgrace. It prohibits him from talking about that key witness, Michael Cohen, scheduled to testify, probably this upcoming Monday.

Meanwhile, Cohen has made any number of numerous comments about Trump, making numerous jabs at him. You already showed what he did on TikTok on social media there. The judge overseeing the cases, told prosecutors to tell Cohen, basically, look, stop making comments about the case, but prosecutors admitting they have very little control over him. It sounds familiar.

HILL: Yeah.

All right. Jason, appreciate it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now is Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's former attorney.

Lanny, good to have you here. Now you --



You've actually said that the threats have increased for Michael Cohen as well since the start of this trial. By continuing to post on talk about Donald Trump, and this case, is that actually making those fits worst do you think?

DAVIS: Well, I think in terms of the objective of a fair trial and not drawing the ire of the judge, I think Michael understands that its time for restraint, but I have to at least sympathized with his being the subject of attacks by the president of the United States, his wife, her father, and pretty vicious ongoing threats that are result of the president, the former president making those attacks.

So he's acting out of passion and out of hurt. But I think now going forward, he recognizes that the objective is a fair trial. Mr. Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, Michael as a key witness wants to be effective and fair.

HILL: So in terms of that, then, are you saying based on what we heard, what you've heard from Michael Cohen, what we heard today from the judge imploring, right -- he actually said he sympathizes with the defense here, with the defense legal team, and was imploring prosecutors as we've just discussed, that he needs to impress upon Michael Cohen. This is the bench asking him to remain -- refrain from making any further statements.

You think that message has gotten through?

DAVIS: Well, Erica, I have to question the word sympathizes. I think the judge is doing his job. I'm not sure there's any sympathy and just saying to Mr. Cohen, it's not in the interests of the court's system of justice that now that he's about to be a principal witness but he's not the same. Mr. Trump is an unindicted individual, presumed to be innocent, but he is subject to a gag order because he's indicted. Michael is a principal witness, so there is a difference.

HILL: You also talked about -- you talked about Michael Cohen wanting the former president to have a fair trial?


HILL: Do you think there is a concern for Michael Cohen as well that if you were to continue to speak out, that it would in fact undermine his credibility or his testimony?

DAVIS: No. Michaels credibility has been established and I can assure all the individuals, including members of panels on this network, that Michael Cohen lied and the west of the sentence, I don't here, even the prior panel is saying and would ask everybody to remember the second half to the sentence.

He lied on behalf of and for the benefit of Donald Trump. That's not an excuse. Lying is -- even if you do it for Trump, but that's the rest of the sentence.

I think Michael recognizes that his testimony in this case, and I was with him for years while this case was being prepared, is corroborated in every detail surrounded by witnesses, by text messages, by documents, by even witnesses friendly to Donald Trump as occurred with his immediate White House receptionist or assistant, who saw Michael go into the Oval Office with a sitting president writing a check from his personal checking account to, quote, reimburse Michael for the advances made on this illegal hush money, which federal prosecutors working for Donald Trump's Justice Department said that Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to make those payments for which he did time in prison.


So we'll see whether a jury finds the person who directed the crime to be also guilty of the same crime.

HILL: We saw how hard Donald Trump's team went after Stormy Daniels in cross-examination. It was personal. It was combative. She pushed back a fair amount.

I think most people watching this would say it is fair to expect but they will likely go after Michael Cohen, even harder. You know him well. Is he ready for that moment?

DAVIS: Yes, and he's already done it. People have short memories on February 27, 2019, live on international television under oath, Michael Cohen testified without a protection of a judge in front of 15 partisan Republicans attacking him, calling him liar, a sign on the wall was liar, liar pants on fire. And when he testified at the end of the day, the honorable Elijah and late Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, complimented him on his credibility. So he's been through the test. And I think he will testify and

surprise all those that are looking for him to blow up and get angry. He stayed calm during his testimony and I think that's the way he'll be during the testimony in the next week.

HILL: Lanny Davis, appreciate your insight tonight.

DAVIS: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Thank you.

DAVIS: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, a new Biden administration report finds Israel's use of American weapons in Gaza may have violated international law. That report coming as Israeli tanks encircle Rafah at this hour. We'll speak with someone on the ground.

Plus, take a look at these images. This is a rare weather phenomenon, makes for a pretty incredible picture, quite a spectacle. It's also one that could knock out power across the U.S.



HILL: Breaking news, it is reasonable to assess that Israel's war in Gaza has violated international law. That's the finding from a just- released and highly critical report by the Biden administration on Israel's use of U.S. weapons. That report says, in part, quote, while Israel has the knowledge, experience, and tools to implement best practices for mitigating civilian harm and its military operations, there's ultimate ground including high levels of civilian casualties raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases.

The report comes as Israel has just approved an expansion of the operation in Rafah just days after President Biden, in an interview right here on OUTFRONT, threatened to withhold U.S. weapons if the Israelis launched a major ground offensive in Rafah.

Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT live in Jerusalem tonight.

So, Jeremy, the report, highly critical, as I noted, of Israel's war in Gaza.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is Erica, highly critical talking about the number and severity of incidents involving civilian casualties and Israel's war in Gaza, saying that Israel appears to have acted in ways that are inconsistent with the international humanitarian law.

It did, however, stopped short of saying that Israel violated those laws outright, saying that it was difficult to reach a conclusive findings due to Hamas's practice of embedding with civilians, as well as the lack of U.S. government personnel on the ground to verify these reports. But this is nonetheless the most detailed and the most damning public accounting of Israel's conduct in the war in Gaza by the Biden administration. And it certainly adds yet another layer to the ongoing Israel-U.S. tensions that we have watched really escalate. In particular, this week following that interview that President Biden did with Erin Burnett, in which the president made clear that a main each are ground offensive in Rafah would be a red line would result in withholding additional U.S. munitions to Israel.

The Israeli prime minister in responding to that, he has been defiant. He has made clear that Israel will do what it feels is necessary for its security, including going into Rafah, something that the Israeli security pretty cabinet late last night made clear will continue to expand in terms of that military operation.

I'm told by an Israeli official that the Israeli security cabinet last night approved a, quote, expansion of the area of operation in Rafah, indicating that the Israeli military will continue to expand its operations there. This basically gives the war cabinet, which is the key decision-making body, the authority to continue to expand that military campaign, to make decisions about the timing of that.

It's not an indication that this offensive in Rafah, the expansion of it is imminent but it does give that additional authority and ultimately, it seems right now that it is more a question of when the Israeli military will expand its ground operation in Rafah, rather than if it will do so. And that's something that the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned will result in a, quote, epic humanitarian disaster -- Erica.

HILL: Jeremy, I appreciate the reporting tonight. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Sam Rose. He's the director of planning for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency and has been in Rafah for the last two-and-a- half weeks. Sam, it's good to have you with us to give us a sense of what is actually happening there on the ground, Israel approving an expansion. As you know, if the military is area of operations in Rafah, there are concerns and expectations that bombing may soon intensify.


Give us a sense of what the situation is currently on the ground that you're seeing and what that would mean?

SAM ROSE, UNRWA PLANNING DIRECTOR: Absolutely. And thanks for having me on.

People have fair intensification of the situation because its already very desperate. We've suffered relentless artillery strikes, airstrikes, tank shells over the past four or five days. The population is exhausted, degraded, humiliated. There are approximately 150,000 people now, we believe, are on the move, have left the evacuation area and also the area beyond the evacuation areas.

So lots and lots of people on them move -- on the move, fearing the worst and fleeing for safety. HILL: And having a hard time figuring out obviously as they're fleeing where to go is we know. The U.N. warning the situation is reaching, quote, even more unprecedented levels of emergency, crossings remain closed into Rafah, although I know you were just able to get some fuel in, correct?

ROSE: That's right. We got about 150,000 liters of fuel in today, which is less than we requested. It's less than we need on a daily basis, but it's a bit of progress more than we've been able to get in, or week the first amounts we've been able to get him for about four or five days.

So it takes us back from the brink but that needs to be sustained. It needs to be increased. And we now need to be able to bring in supplies so that we can get the goods and the shelter, the water, and sanitation, the food to people who are in such awful conditions.

HILL: Give us a sense, you said 150,000 liters of fuel, noting that's not enough but it is something. What will that allow you to do? What does that translate to?

ROSE: This allows us to power water wells, that allow us to get water to people who are being displaced to truck the water around. It allows us to our generators that run incubators. Dialysis machines, in hospitals. It allows us to maintain health care at UNRWA's network of clinics.

And hopefully, it will eventually allow us to transport goods around the Gaza strip.

So as you are able to do that, hoping for more fuel to come in, for aid to come in as we know, can you just give us a sense of what these families, what these people from Rafah who have many of whom have already been displaced before, what are their living conditions at this moment? Where are they going?

The living conditions are terrible I mean, we are encountering and were seeing on a daily basis families who've already been displaced five, six, seven, 10 times across the Gaza strip.

This is a community of extended families. So within a family, you will have babes in arms, all the way up to elderly people in wheelchairs, desperately trying to find some way to go. And now, they're packing up their belongings. They're dismantling their tents using whatever means of transport they've got to get themselves out of the line of fire, but there's literally no way for people to go there. They're forced into sand dunes or else back to the bombed-out ruins of other cities inside Gaza.

So deeply, deeply traumatized, and exhausted population that we're facing here.

HILL: Sam Rose, we will continue to follow this. Appreciate you taking the time to join us tonight.

ROSE: Thank you. HILL: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon. He's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he's also one of the few members of Congress to have visited Rafah. He was there in January.

Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

This new report from the State Department, which was just released a short time ago, finds it is reasonable to assess Israeli forces did use us weapons in ways that are inconsistent with international humanitarian law.

Your colleague from Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen says the administration, quote, duct, all the hard questions here, that they quote, don't want to have to take any action to hold the Netanyahu government accountable for what's happening?

Would you agree with his assessment?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Yes, I think it's very accurate. It's a massive diplomatic dodge. On the one hand, it says it's very reasonable to conclude that there's been restriction of aid. It's very reasonable to conclude that our weapons have been used in violation of international law, then it proceeds to say, but we just don't want to give an answer on that yet.

And, you know, clearly, politics come into this, and strategy comes into this, but it is frustrating because its so important at this moment that we use the leverage we have to persuade Israel, to change its conduct with some 24,000 plus women and children dead, with what Cindy McCain has now called full-blown famine in the north of Gaza and massive starvation in the south of Gaza.


And we are tied to this so closely as a key ally of Israel and this report was the tool to reach the conclusions that the facts are telling us, that the administration knows those facts, that is why they're withholding 3,500 500- and 2000-pound bombs. That is why they're building a pier to try to get aid in because Israeli won't let the aid in.

So the report, certainly, is for America. Unusual for us to have as much criticism of Israel as is in the report. But it does not reach the conclusions that everyone is aware of and that are required under our law.

HILL: So by not reaching those conclusions, you use the word dodge. You called this a dodge. You talked about the importance of the leverage that the U.S. needs to have and to use. Does the U.S. still have that leverage?

MERKLEY: Well, the U.S. does have leverage and certainly the administration is to be praised in several ways that they have been working very hard sending every high government official and the president himself has been working so hard to try to get a ceasefire to get the release of hostages, which we all want. I mean, we all recognize that that Israel had every right to respond

to the events of October 7, but how you respond matters. And when you use a 2,000 pound bomb to go after one member of Hamas and kill 100 or more people. That is not consistent with international law, starving the Palestinian who are not part of Hamas is not consistent with international law.

HILL: You know, in terms of some of the other concerns, we have understandably heard concerns from both sides of the aisle, but it stood out to me, 26 House Democrats writing to the president in the letter saying they're deeply concerned about the message the administration is sending to Hamas. Again, this was prior to the report, but also Congressman Adam Smith just this morning telling CNN he doesn't think the president should have talked so publicly as he did with my colleague Erin Burnett on this program earlier this week, that he should stick to private conversations when it comes to dealing with Israel.

Do you share any of those concerns?

MERKLEY: No, absolutely not. The president tried personal conversations, time and time again. He relayed to us how passionate he had been, how clear he had been. He sent the top officials. He has done repeated calls directly to Netanyahu, clearly, just failing to have a public position is an exercising the leverage needed.

So the president is right to withhold those weapons. He is right to speak about this publicly, and he's right to draw the line on the invasion of Rafah. There's no place left to go.

The people in Gaza have the worst conditions of anyone in a conflict around the world, as seasoned humanitarian workers say they've never seen anything like this. A combination of lack of power, transportation, communications, water, food, shelter, all of it.

HILL: Senator Jeff Merkley, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

MERKLEY: You're welcome.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, it is an extremely rare and potentially damaging solar activity, creating pretty remarkable images like these that you see over Russia. Similar sites could soon be seen here in the and just towers, but they come with plenty of concern.

Plus, implementation is everything. How Stephen Miller plans to turn Donald Trump's hard-line rhetoric on immigration into action.


STEPHEN MILLER, PRESIDENT, AMERICA FIRST LEGAL: If you're going to be successful as a conservative, you have to learn to be loathed by the right people.



HILL: Tonight, you are looking at some pretty remarkable images there. The world at this hour is bracing for us a severe geomagnetic storm. Having heard a one in a while, that's because it's the first in nearly 20 years.

Look at the night sky. This is what it looks like in most of Europe right now. The strong storm is treating these spectacular displays of the northern lights, and also solar flares.

Take a look at this burst of energy, powerful bursts of energy coming, right off the sun. NASA capturing some close-ups of the flares, there you go, but also warning, we could see potential blackouts because of them, mobile phone networks, GPS satellites, power grids. They could all be impacted here.

Chad Myers is watching very closely for us. So can we talk about this impact, what should we all be bracing for here?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We should be bracing for the G5 that was just issued. So all day long, we were three and four. Five is the highest you go.

Kind of like that tornado area that we talked about, at level two or five, sometimes four or five, sometimes -- well, now were five of five. So, obviously, the aurora is much farther to South beautiful pictures, but there are some dangers here.

Possible power surges, maybe even some brownouts and some spikes depending on how the power companies can handle this. And then obviously satellite navigation, your phone may not work for awhile. Here we had a few problems with set phones and this is what were seeing here.

This was the solar flare you talked about, and this is the coronal mass ejection. I want to show you with this, this puff away from the middle, and we know this is headed toward America, headed toward the globe because if you think about somebody that just kind of blows a smoke ring at you and you see it coming, then all of a sudden, you know, its headed your way.

Well, we're seeing that little smoke ring right there, but that's the plasma coming out of the sun, that coronal mass ejection, the hole in the sun, the sunspot, 17 times the diameter of the earth.

Here comes another one. Here is about midnight tonight, we are going to see another surge possible here in -- the atmosphere, we're going to talk about the magnetosphere.


We're talking about the how beautiful aurora is. But there are some dangers here. We're ionizing. We're magnetizing the atmosphere.

And that could put some power into high-tension lines that could cause some surges, some spikes in what the voltage might be and all those other things. There's a lot going on here.

HILL: Chad, you had me a little scared, but I feel like were going to be okay some people in the in terms of who can see the northern lights, who, where, when?

MYERS: You know, a large area, much larger, we've talked -- I've seen the northern lights one time I was in northern Minnesota, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and I saw, was a beautiful, beautiful colors. But what we saw earlier today is all of this sudden spike here, almost like a, like a seismograph, just kind of went boom, boom, boom, went the first one come in now, all of a sudden, the next one is coming and we are seeing this red area. Everyone under this area is going to see it, except if you have a cloud, and that's it.

It doesn't matter if you have a cloud today because this will be around tomorrow.

HILL: OK, there you go. You get a second shot. Chad, appreciate it. Thank you, my friend.

And we do have special coverage tonight on "NEWSNIGHT". Be sure to join Abby Phillip at 10:00 p.m.

OUTFRONT next, mass deportations, bringing back the travel bans. New reporting on how Trump plans to crack down on immigration if he wins a second term.



HILL: Tonight, Trump's campaign with a new message, illegal immigrants should, quote, not get comfortable because very soon they will be going home.

Trump's team telling our Phil Mattingly that the plans to launch a wide-scale crackdown would happen immediately if he is, in fact, reelected?

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.


TRUMP: I don't know if you call them people. In some cases, they're not people in my opinion.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The predictable and according to critics justified frenzy over rhetoric like that from former President Trump has obscured a crucial reality, beneath Trump's bombast sits an expansive and largely unprecedented swath of immigration policy.

It's an agenda that marks a dramatic shift from Trump's 2016 candidacy, which was driven by similarly dark rhetoric, but little in the form of tangible planning.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

MATTINGLY: Where the red meat for the base is actually underpinned by a flurry of actions Trump and his advisers say they can launch without Congress as soon as day one of a second term.

Trump's ambitions are expansive, according to campaign officials and key outside advisers.

MILLER: It's a feat similar current size and scale to the other great American projects that have been undertaken. For example, the Transcontinental Railroad or digging the Panama Canal.

MATTINGLY: And the plans, many of them tethered to decades-old statutes are neither subtle nor secret -- mass arrests, detention, and deportation, plans to reshape the agencies responsible for the border and re-implement and then expand on that first term, immigration agenda.

Stephen Miller is credited as the architect of the most extreme policies from Trump's time in the Oval Office. He's working closely with the former president to draft their plans for a potential second term.

MILLER: And I'll be blunt, conservatives will need to have the stomach for it.

MATTINGLY: Yet it's Trump's rhetoric --

TRUMP: That it's going to be a bloodbath for the country. That'll be the least of it.

MATTINGLY: And the record of the first term plans many rejected by the courts and Congress has had the effect of overshadowing a very different moment, one of which Trump would re-enter the West Wing with policies ready to deploy, surrounded by advisers committed to doing just that.

Miller is not a part of the official campaign, but is widely expected to serve as Trump's point person on the issue. On its face, it's a simplistic two-point plan.

MILLER: The simple part is seal the border, deport all the illegals.

MATTINGLY: But their plans are actually far from modest.

MILLER: It's a series of interlocking domestic and foreign policies to accomplish this goal.

MATTINGLY: One Democratic lawmaker told CNN, the widely held view of Miller among critics is that he's, quote, the most dangerous person in Trump's inner circle. Why? Because he has an encyclopedic knowledge of how things actually work, the lawmaker said.

Now, unlike the early stages of Trump's first term, Miller is far from alone. A constellation of well-funded outside groups have formed with the aim of turning Trump's desires into tangible policy. One of those groups is housed in the conservative Heritage Foundation.

And while it's not officially tied to the campaign, and at times has gotten crosswise with Trump's political advisers, their detailed policy playbook sets a marker for the goals of Trump's allies.

Project 2025, as it's called, echoes many of Trump's key talking points the details, logistics for detaining and deporting millions of suspected illegal immigrants.

TRUMP: We'll carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.

MATTINGLY: The border wall, of course, features as a centerpiece.

TRUMP: We will seal it up and we will expand the wall.

MATTINGLY: As the other policies familiar from Trump's first term.

TRUMP: I will immediately reinstate and expand the wildly successful Trump travel ban.

MATTINGLY: To curb the legal immigration into the country, Project 2025 proposes limiting visa admissions, carrying out workplace raids, minimizing refugee admissions, and raising the bar for asylum seekers fleeing unsafe conditions.

It's an agenda as ambitious as it is unapologetically radical.

MILLER: It will be an all of nation, all of government, state, local, and federal effort.

MATTINGLY: One that includes the U.S. military.

MILLER: You deputize the National Guard to carry out immigration enforcement, and then you also deploy the military to the southern border.

MATTINGLY: Campaign rhetoric is especially from Trump is often dismissed as little more than words.

This time on this issue, advisers emphasize, it is different.

MILLER: If you're going to be successful as a conservative you have to learn to be loathed by the right people.


MATTINGLY: And, Erica, what's been really interesting talking to those who support the former president and those who absolutely loathe his immigration policy, they agree there has been a dramatic shift on the issues that served as roadblocks in that first term, the courts. Now, 200-plus federal judges that were nominated by Trump, Supreme Court, six to three conservative majority, lawmakers, especially in the Republican Party, very much in line with Trump.

And more than anything else, experience. They have four years in office. They know what to do, they know how to do it, and they very clearly plan to implement on day one.

HILL: Yeah, they certainly do.

Phil, really appreciate it. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.