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Isa Soares Tonight

Aid-Seekers Hit By Shelling in Gaza; Russia And Ukraine Trade Accusations Over A Fatal Military Plane Crash; Chaos In Ecuador As Gunmen And Drug Cartels Take Over The Streets; Russian Media: Black Boxes Recovered From Plane Crash; Trump Delivers Brief Testimony In Defamation Trial; CNN Goes Inside Ecuador's Hunt For Gangs. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 25, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, horrific reports of casualties in Gaza

where shelling and gunfire struck people waiting for desperately-needed aid. We have the very latest for you. Russia and Ukraine trade accusations

over a fatal military plane crash.

We'll have more details on the two very different accounts of what has happened. Then gangs, gunmen and drug cartels, as terror grips the streets

of Ecuador, even the Armed Forces live in fear. CNN's report inside Guayaquil coming up.

But first this evening, Gaza's civil defense authorities are reporting catastrophic scenes in Gaza city, where they say civilians waiting for aid

came under attack. They claim Israeli forces targeted people who had gathered to pick up bags of flour. The Hamas-run Health Ministry calls it a

massacre, saying 20 people were killed, 150 others wounded.

CNN has reached out to the IDF, and we are still waiting for a response. And this comes -- context imported here, comes a day after a video from the

same location showed hundreds of people running in paddocks, some carrying boxes of aid, amid as you can see gunfire there.

Well, the death toll is rising in southern Gaza as well. A U.N. agency is reporting persistent attacks on civilian sites in Khan Yunis. It says

fighting is intensifying around hospitals and shelters for the displaced, with one of its own shelters coming under fire yesterday. We had the head

of UNRWA, the representative of UNRWA yesterday on the show, you heard from him directly where we saw at least killing of 13 people -- 30 people -- 13

people dying there.

Well, Israel says it is currently ruling out an Israeli aerial or artillery strike on the shelter. Well, as more families heads south to flee the

fighting, Rafah is becoming dangerously overcrowded. The U.N. says the city is now housing more than 50 percent, 50 percent of Gaza's population.

That's more than 1 million people, many living in tents, others sleeping on the streets. Our Ben Wedeman is following the developments tonight for us

from Beirut. And Ben, let's start off on that attack in Gaza city. What are you hearing? What is the very latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this happened at the Kuwait Circle, which is on the southern outskirts of Gaza city. And

this was a spot where yesterday people had gathered hoping to get aid and then there was gunfire and it scenes of panic.

We don't know about any casualties yesterday, but certainly, today, what we saw were scenes of pandemonium in Al-Shifa Hospital where many of these

people were taken today who had gone to the very same spot in the hopes of receiving aid. Now officials at the hospital that -- Shifa Hospital is also

one place they went -- and also went to Al-Ahli Hospital.

Doctors there are saying that they -- perhaps, the death toll will rise even further. But as you said, the Israeli military has yet to actually

comment, CNN has reached out, but they are not saying anything about whether they were involved in this incident. But certainly from -- if we go

by past incidents, it's probable, Isa.

SOARES: In the meantime, as we said, the death toll continues to rise, situation incredibly dire for so many displaced, Ben. This as torrential

rains compounds even further, the misery for so many people on the ground.

WEDEMAN: Yes, there have been rants, and of course, there is Storm Danielle is coming to the eastern Mediterranean, and that's expected to

dump even more rain into these sprawling tent cities that have been set up, particularly in the Rafah area along the Egyptian border, whereas you said,

U.N. officials say 50 percent of the population has now fled there.

And certainly, the numbers alone will tell you so much about what's going on. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United

Nations put out numbers today, saying that 650,000 people in Gaza no longer have homes to return to, that doesn't include those whose homes are damaged

as a result of the fighting.


There are only 15 operational bakeries in Gaza, compared to 97 before the outbreak of hostilities. As a result of the breakdown in public services,

there are 50,000 tons of unmanaged garbage just out in the open. And as a result, this is causing a public health crisis. According to the World

Health Organization, they've recorded 158,000 cases of diarrhea, and that's only what they've recorded.

We've heard about the spread of Hepatitis A, jaundice, skin diseases, respiratory diseases. So all of this is mounting to just a disaster on so

many levels, and still, there's talk about perhaps some pause in the fighting. But every day that goes on, more people die in the last 24 hours,

200 people have been killed according to authorities in Gaza, bringing the total at this point since the 7th of October to 25,900 killed.

And that does not include all those who have died and have not been retrieved from under the rubble, Isa.

SOARES: Ben Wedeman for us there with the very latest, very dire picture indeed that he is painting. Thanks very much, Ben. I want to get more on

the -- on the humanitarian situation that Ben was talking about, but also, the situation near Khan Yunis. Well, hospitals as you well know, have come

under fire.

Israeli forces surround the city. Doctors Without Borders or Medecins Sans Frontieres still has a handful staff at Nasser Hospital. We're joined now

by Pascale Coissard Rogeret, the MSF Emergency Coordinator for Gaza. Pascale, appreciate you being with us. I know that you have, you know, a

team at Nasser Hospital.

We've seen heavy bombing and fighting close to that hospital in the last several days. What are you hearing? What are you hearing from your

colleagues inside Nasser Hospital?

PASCALE COISSARD ROGERET, MSF EMERGENCY COORDINATOR IN GAZA: Good evening, well, we still have four Palestinian colleagues inside Nasser's hospital,

they've been there from the beginning. Well, what we hear is that they are scared, and you know, they received an evacuation order.

You know, this evacuation order that was for the whole of the Nasser, the hospital area. But it was too scary to leave, because around the hospital,

there are shootings, there are bombings, it's not a safe area, it's very scary. The building is shaking all the time, so it's a very difficult

situation to treat patients when you have this feeling all around you.

SOARES: Oh, absolutely. So you know, as you said, we had -- the IDF had asked, I believe, residents or people in the area to leave. But of course,

what you're saying is that it's such heavy fighting that it was impossible to do so. So in the meantime, what is -- what is happening inside the

hospital? What are conditions like inside that hospital? Do you know?

ROGERET: Well, I don't have a lot of details, but from what I know, there are less than 10 percent of the hospital staff that is left inside. So you

can imagine that the number of patients with only 10 percent of the hospital staff there. It's a huge amount of people to be treated by very

few professionals.

And the situation is then very dire for everyone. And it's almost non- functioning. I mean, it's minimally --

SOARES: Yes, and Pascale, I'm not sure whether you heard our correspondent, Ben Wedeman talking about the dire situation, not just in

Khan Yunis, Gaza city, but also in Rafah. It's becoming dangerously overcrowded with her. The U.N. say the city is now housing more than 50

percent of Gaza's population.

You left Gaza on Monday, you were in the south, you were in Rafah. Just talk to those conditions. What were conditions like?

ROGERET: Well, people are on top of each other. There is no place without a tent, without makeshift shelter, people are just trying to find a spot to

survive. And well, as your colleague was saying, the hygiene conditions are very dire, there is not enough water, there is no place to wash yourself.


So, of course, the hygiene condition is also bringing diseases, diarrhea, skin diseases, et cetera. And we are also seeing -- well, a number of

people go into our maternity hospital that is absolutely crazy. It's three to four times what this maternity hospital was receiving before the war.

So the delivery condition for women are terrible, some of them cannot access even the maternity hospitals, so they have to give birth, you know,

in the --


ROGERET: Shelters. And I have heard the stories of women who have even given birth in latrines, you know, so that can maybe help you imagine what

the conditions are for all these people over there. It is just one example, but there are so many.

SOARES: And Pascale, let me pick up on that, because I know you have been working closely with pregnant women in Gaza. Just tell me more of their

stories, conditions sound horrendous for childbirth. And even those, I mean, lack of food is a problem if you're pregnant, also feeding children,

feeding yourself and feeding your child.

Just talk to the conditions and what you have heard, the stories that you've seen and what you've heard.

ROGERET: Well, yes, as we were saying, these women living in shelters, for most of them, you know, they live in schools, they leave in hospitals,

sometimes they leave -- even sometimes just under a bit of plastic sheeting, you know, and when the moment of giving birth is coming, you can

go to the hospital and get rejected because there is just no space, there is just no available bet, you know.

So well, you have to give birth where you can. But if you ever get to the hospital and get to place to give birth, usually, what we see in the

patients that we -- that we see is that, yes, there are lots of conditions due to the lack of proper food and the breast feeding --

SOARES: Yes --

ROGERET: Is becoming more difficult, you know, so --

SOARES: Pascale, have you -- have you ever seen anything like this? I know you've worked across other war zones. Is this comparable in any way?

ROGERET: No. To be honest, Gaza is hell on earth, and it's the worst thing I've seen since I've worked with Doctors Without Borders. It's definitely

the worst place I've been to at the moment. It's noisy all the time, you have groans, you have tanks, you have bombings, you have both shooting as

well, I mean, it's a scary place, and I am lucky enough that I can go out.

But the people inside cannot go out and they have to live in these conditions. And they have to bear with the sounds and they have to bear

with the deaths all around, all around them and in their families. And they still have to warn with their lives in the horrible conditions that we just

described. And they have to care for their children in these --

SOARES: Yes --

ROGERET: Conditions. So well, you can imagine the amount of pain and suffering that there is in these small place of the world.

SOARES: Pascale, appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you very much, Pascale.

ROGERET: Thank you.

SOARES: Well, officials in Qatar are slamming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of undermining mediation efforts between

Israel and Hamas. That's after leaked comments allegedly from Netanyahu who described Qatar's role in talks as problematic.

Qatar said Netanyahu's remarks, if validated, are irresponsible and destructive. CNN cannot verify that it is the prime minister's voice on the

recording, and all of this comes as the CIA director prepares to meet with negotiators from Israel, Qatar and Egypt in the coming days. Our Nic

Robertson is live for us from Tel Aviv.

Nic, just how serious, first of all, you're a diplomatic editor here, you've been following the story right from the very beginning. How serious

are these leaked comments? What did the Netanyahu government had to say about this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think Qatar's response was very immediate, and it was very barbed as well, and takes as

they say, if these -- if this recording is validated as being the prime minister, they take a very personal note at it.

The prime minister accused, if it was him, accused the Qataris of essentially being no better than the U.N., or no better than the Red Cross.


And then went on, it appeared to accuse them of helping finance Hamas. And this is a very stinging criticism of the Qataris, something they take issue

with because of course, the payments that they were making to Hamas were with the absolute say-so of the Israeli government and the backing of the

United States.

And in their statements on Twitter, the Qatari, the Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman said that it appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to put

his career ahead of the safety of people in Gaza, including the Israeli hostages that are being held there. I mean, remember just a couple of days

ago, the Qataris were saying that the negotiations were going in a serious manner between --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Hamas and Israel with them as the mediators in-between. And I think, you know, that underlying sentiment that this is all about Prime

Minister Netanyahu, if it is his voice, that it is all about his political career. It really is something that resonates with some people here in


This notion that if there were a prisoner -- if the hostages were released, there would probably be a period on the extended period of ceasefire which

could mean an end to the war, which could very much potentially bring down the war cabinet and Prime Minister Netanyahu as prime minister.

We heard something from the families, those families of the hostages who were in the room when the Prime Minister -- when these comments were made.

And they said, look, when we went into that room, we had to hand over our phones, and officials told us there will be a recording of the conversation


And they questioned the Prime Minister's Office and the sensors who control the release of material from the Prime Minister's office. They question the

Prime Minister's office about why they would leak it, and that perception is alive here in Israel, that it is to essentially not do a deal. The Prime

Minister has said very clearly, it was not him who leaked this.

SOARES: Nic Robertson with the very latest there in Tel Aviv, appreciate it, Nic, thank you. Well, the International Court of Justice in The Hague

will deliver a key ruling tomorrow. The court is deciding whether to enact provisional measures to temporarily suspend Israel's military campaign in


South Africa filed a legal action, if you remember, accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has firmly

rejected the claims, calling them false and grossly distorted. A final ruling on the genocide claim could take the court years to determine.

However, in practice, the court has no way of enforcing its verdict. To Russia now where state media is reporting, officials have recovered the

black boxes from the military pain which crashed on Wednesday in Belgorod. They have been sent for analysis and should hopefully give more answers to

what happened.

Right now, both Kyiv and the Kremlin have different accounts. Moscow, if you remember, says 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed on board,

Ukraine says they have no evidence it is the case. We'll have much more of course, on this story later in the show. Well, our Fred Pleitgen will be

joining us from eastern Ukraine with the very latest. You can watch that in about 15 minutes time.

And still to come tonight, the latest from Donald Trump's defamation trial in New York. The ex president testifying in his own defense. That is next.



SOARES: And we have some breaking news to bring you. We have just heard in the last few minutes that Donald Trump is taking the stand in his own

defense in federal court in Manhattan. This is of course, for the civil defamation trial brought against him by former magazine columnist E. Jean


Her attorneys have played videos for the jury in which Trump talked about his personal wealth. This trial, of course, worth reminding you, will

determine how much he owes Carroll in damages, if any. Let's get more from this, Kristen Holmes joins us now. And Kristen, what are you learning in

this very hour as he takes the stand?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to take the stand with limitations. That is from the judge, and this is happening in

real-time. So I'm reading it as it's coming in. The judge did just admonish him for interrupting his attorney for saying in court, I never met the

woman, referring to E. Jean Carroll.

And he has put a limit on what exactly Trump can say. As I noted, he cannot say -- read this -- "ordered restrictions that Trump will not be allowed to

testify that he didn't assault Carroll or that she lied about the rape allegation since those questions are not before the jury".

Just reminder, he's already been found liable in sexual assault, but this is a defamation case.

Whether or not he defamed her and owes her fees because of that. Now, we heard from Alina Habba, which is Trump's attorney, saying that she was

going to ask only three questions that -- and that Trump was going to essentially say that he needed to respond to the claims that E. Jean

Carroll was making, that he didn't mean to hurt her in any way.

It's still kind of unclear what those three questions would be that lead to this, or why exactly they determined at this point, he should take the

stand -- and just a quick reminder. He has said before in his previous E. Jean Carroll case that he wanted to testify. His lawyers --

SOARES: Yes --

HOLMES: Convinced him that was a bad idea. He should not take the stand. They thought it would be more harmful than helpful in any way. But now here

we are, now, I will say, and of course, I can later put my foot in my mouth when we listen to what he said or when we hear what he said.

But if he is doing this, he has been extensively prepped on where the line is of what he can and cannot say. Remember at the end of the day, this is

all about defamation and whether or not he is going to owe her money. Money is something that Donald Trump cares very deeply about. It's unlikely to me

as somebody --

SOARES: Yes --

HOLMES: Who has covered him extensively, that he would be --

SOARES: And Kristen, just to clarify, apologize to interrupt, just to clarify, I am -- from what I understand, he has already taken stand, that's

finished --

HOLMES: Yes --

SOARES: Right? Can I just clarify that.

HOLMES: Is he now finished? Is that --

SOARES: He's not, OK --

HOLMES: Let me see. No, he has not finished --

SOARES: He has not finished, that's why --

HOLMES: He's not finished yet. He is still on the stand.


HOLMES: As far as the last thing I have seen. And they have -- and the last thing I saw was that the judge admonished him. He has taken the stand.

But they did say it was going to be very quick so we could have an update - -

SOARES: Right --

HOLMES: On that any second. Again, unclear why he is doing this now.

SOARES: And of course, what we have seen in the past, we see the Judge Lewis Kaplan saying that he was increasingly agitated, right? This is

something that we have seen, he was interrupted, he interrupted his lawyers' discussion by proclaiming he never met her, I never met the woman.

I don't know who the woman is. I never met this woman. And the judge, again saying, you're interrupting these proceedings by talking loudly while your

attorney is taking -- is talking, that is not permitted. And apparently, this happened outside the presence of this jury.

But we've also heard today, I'm wondering if you can tell me more on this, Kristen, that the attorneys, Carroll's attorneys played, I think clips of

him testifying in deposition from other cases. I mean, how much of the concern, how much do we know about this and how will this -- will that hurt

him down the line in other cases, I wonder?

HOLMES: Likely since it's all related to this defamation case, it's not --

SOARES: Yes --

HOLMES: Going to hurt him in some of his other criminal trials since they're so specific about either January 6th or about classified documents

and mistreating them. However, I do think one interesting thing I heard Alina Habba had said in court was that he was going to say that he stands

by any testimony that came that was showed in those depositions.

So it will be interesting to see what exactly he says about that. Obviously, he was shown on tape that doesn't ever stop Donald Trump from

saying he did or did not say anything if he wants to, but it sounds like he's going to be saying that he stands by everything that was said there.


SOARES: Understood. So after this, what happens? Well, how long will this stay? What should we expect next, Kristen?

HOLMES: Well, this is the last witness. She was -- she -- Alina Habba brought Trump as the last witness. Now, remember, this is a jury case, so,

the jury will have to go out and deliberate, which is anyone's guess. It could take a few hours, it could take much longer.

So -- but that will be what we wait for. It is interesting that he is doing this in front of a jury. Remember, he --

SOARES: Yes --

HOLMES: Had a brief kind of off-color, off-remarks testimony in the New York civil case, but that was just with a judge. I mean, this is actually

him going in front of a jury who will make this final decision, which is also why he can't argue about any of the sexual assault or that kind of --

that part of it, it's just about this defamation.

SOARES: Kristen, appreciate it with that breaking news, as soon as there's any more developments, please brief us and come back to us. Thank you very

much. And if you're just joining us, let me bring you up-to-date with breaking news. We have heard in the last few minutes that former President

Donald Trump has taken the stand.

He has been excused. That is finished. The jury has also been excused, and he was taking the stand in defense -- in his own defense in a federal

court, as you heard there, Kristen saying in Manhattan. And this context here is his -- for his civil defamation trial that's been brought against

him by the former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.

We also know, we heard Kristen there saying that her attorneys have also played videos for the jury in which Trump talked about his personal wealth.

And this is all about determining how much he owes Carroll in damages, if any, of course. But look, it's an extraordinary moment as well as you know,

for the -- Trump, who is the frontrunner so far as we have seen from the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

He faces multiple criminal trials this year as well as civil litigation. And he was -- he won in Iowa, as you remember and New Hampshire. And will

be interesting to see what happens next or how this may influence what happens in South Carolina if anything.

As soon as there are any more developments, as soon as we have any reaction from Trump, his attorneys, we shall bring that to you. Still to come

tonight, were Ukrainian prisoners of war on the -- board the Russian plane -- while they were on board the Russian military plane that crashed on

Wednesday, Kyiv and the Kremlin seem to have different answers. We'll explain after the break.



SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOS: Welcome back, everyone. Questions are still swirling over what happened to the Russian military plane, which crashed in

Belgorod on Wednesday. But we could get answers, some answers at least soon. The flight recorders or black boxes have been recovered and sent for

analysis that is according to Russian state media.

Russian maintains there were Ukrainian soldiers on board for a prisoner swap and that 74 people were killed.

Kyiv, meanwhile says it has intelligence suggesting only five bodies were recovered. I want to bring in our senior international correspondent, Fred

Pleitgen, who is following all this for us from eastern Ukraine.

And, Fred, I wonder what the reaction has been from Kyiv and from the Zelenskyy team in particular to the results we've had today from the -- of

this Russian preliminary investigation where they claim what we have heard from them yesterday again that the crash was caused by anti-aircraft

missile, Ukrainian anti-air craft missile. What have they said?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've been very careful with their statements so far, Isa. It was quite

interesting because of course the Ukrainians are looking towards the Russians. But at the same time they, of course, don't want to create even

more grief than they already have on their hands here in Ukraine because, of course, there were a lot of people who were waiting and hoping that

their loved ones --


PLEITGEN: -- the POWs who were allegedly on that plane would be coming home soon. And, of course, a lot of people in a lot of worry right now.

And you're absolutely right. The Russians standing by their story, saying that they were tracking that missile as it was launched from Ukrainian

territory and that it then hit the aircraft. And, of course, today the investigative committee came out and that their preliminary findings also

showed that the aircraft was taken down by a surface-to-air missile.

Now, that's where the claims and counterclaims sort of set in. The Ukrainians have been blasting the Russians for various reasons. On the one

hand saying, look, there's absolutely no evidence right now that the Russians have put forward that POWs were actually on that plane.

In fact, the security service of this country, the SBU, they came forward and said their preliminary information, their intelligence shows that only

five bodies were recovered from that plane. So unclear whether or not POWs were on that plane.

But, of course, the Ukrainians do acknowledge that a swap of POWs was supposed to take place yesterday and that it was then subsequently


Now, the Ukrainians also laying into the Russians for other reasons saying, look, the Russians taking those POWs that they have to in exchange means

that they are responsible for the security and the safety of these POWs and the Russians should have notified the Ukrainians if they were going to take

these POWs to Belgorod on an aircraft to make sure that the Ukrainians then obviously would shut off their air defense systems and ensure that the

skies there are safe.

The Ukrainians are saying that the Russians did not do that. And another element to that also is the fact or is a statement by the intelligence

service of Ukraine saying that that specific plane that was taken down, the plane with that tail number was in the past used to ferry missiles to

Belgorod, which were then used to shell a Ukrainian town specifically, Kharkiv.

And so that they say that, in general, that plane was a legitimate target, Isa.

SOARES: Important context there. Fred, appreciate it.

Well, Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He joins us now from Odessa in Ukraine. Michael,

great to see you.

So, I mean, we have seen, as you heard Fred there, accusations, counter accusations, but clearly there's still a lot, Michael. We just do not know.

What do you make of what we've heard so far?


Well, one thing for sure, I don't think we're going to learn that much from the black boxes, either the digital one or the voice recorder because the

Russian regime is infamous for not handing over that type of evidence.

In fact, we're still waiting for them to come clean on the crash of MH17 -- 17 10 years ago. So if for example, they wanted some scrutiny of that very

crucial evidence, they could send it to an independent body, for example, France has very good expertise and we can learn more.

The other thing a lot doesn't add up here, as Fred indicated. The other thing that happened yesterday, soon after the crash, was Margarita

Simonyan, the former head of Russia Today, and a well-known Putin mouthpiece, she issued the names purportedly of these 65 POWs.

Well, the problem there was that some of those names, in fact, many had been traded previously.

And one more thing a little bit, I guess on the grizzlier side of the equation is when you look at the video of that crash site and photographs,

there are very few human remains visible.

I remember working the crash site of MH17. Of course, that was a far bigger number, 298. But there was a lot of human remains visible right afterwards.

So again, a lot of things that don't add up right now.

SOARES: Yes. Things that are not up. A lot of answers have been not going to get or may not get. But it's clear, Michael, and you know this, you know

this region. You've covered it for a long time, that there, you know, this is also an information on military dispute, but also an information war,



And if there were, let's just say if there were, indeed Ukrainian POWs inside that plane. And we do not know that, this would be just terrific and

incredibly painful, Michael, for Ukrainians. And would at the same time be used, I would assume, as a propaganda victory for Putin?

BOCIURKIW: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the Russians are benefiting from Foreign Minister Lavrov being in New York right now, being able to freely

give interviews to Western media to attend the U.N. Security Council meeting that's due for this afternoon.

So, in fact, the Ukrainian government has come under criticism from opposition politicians for not being fast enough to counter the Russian

disinformation on this one.

Oleksiy Goncharenko, who's the MP from here in Odessa, really came down on Zelenskyy hard, which is very unusual this time, saying that they have to

provide more information.

But to answer your question, yes, it's going to have a huge blow, especially on those families. That is a big number if there were 65 on

board. And it does come at a time, a kind of turning point in the war where people are -- a lot of people here are starting to ask, where are things

going? How long is it going to last?


BOCIURKIW: When are our sons --


BOCIURKIW: -- and husbands going to come back?

SOARES: Yes. Michael, always great to get your perspective. Thanks very much. Michael Bociurkiw there for us in Odessa.

And still to come tonight. As gang violence escalates in Ecuador, CNN joins the country's police as they search for those behind the terror. That is



SOARES: And returning now to our breaking news this very hour. In the last 10 minutes or so, former U.S. president Donald Trump has now finished his

brief testimony in court. He took the stand just moments ago. This was for the civil defamation trial brought against him by former magazine columnist

E. Jean Carroll.

I want to go straight to Kara Scannell who was inside the courtroom and joins us now from outside the federal courthouse.

So I'm seeing now that it lasted, what, roughly three minutes on the witness stand. What did you hear, Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, they spent more time discussing what Donald Trump would be able to answer than it was the actual

time that he was on the witness stand answering questions.

So narrowed it down. I mean, the judge have ruled in this case that because of prior jury had already found Trump's statements to be defamatory and the

jury already found Trump to be liable for sexual abuse, that was not anything that Trump was allowed to talk about when he got on the witness



So he was asked just three questions by his attorney when he walked up to that witness stand, raised his hand and swore that he would tell the truth.

And she asked him earlier today, they had played clips of Trump's video deposition in this case where he was denying the allegations made by

Carroll. He called her mentally ill and a whack job. Those were all things that the jury had already heard.

So Trump was not asked that. He was just asked if he had stood by that testimony. He said 100 percent. Yes, he was also asked if he gave those

responses because of the allegation that Carroll had made against him. Trump then responded, yes, I did.

He started to say I consider those false allegations, but then the judge cut him off telling the jury that they should ignore everything he said

other than acknowledging that he did make that response in response to Carroll's allegations. And then he was also asked if he did ever instructed

anyone to harm E. Jean Carroll.

An issue in this case goes to damages. That is whether Carroll was harmed. And if so, how much money Donald Trump should have to pay her?

Trump's response to that question, if he'd ever instructed anyone to harm Carroll, he said, no, I just wanted to defend myself, my family, and

frankly, the presidency. The judge struck everything he said after he had said no.

Then it was Carroll's turns to give their cross-examination. That was also brief. She only got one question into Trump. And that was asking if he

attended the first trial in this case, Trump said that he did not.

And then he was asked by his own attorney again about this if he had a lawyer in that case, he said that he did. She tried to ask him if he

followed the advice of that lawyer, but the judge wouldn't allow that question either. So the entire time on the witness stand was less than five


Now, before the jury came in, Trump did talk a little bit more about this. In front of the judge, it was unprompted. You know, he had just continued

what he'd been saying, just muttering. I never met the woman. I do not know who this woman is. I don't know who this woman is.

Back to you.

SOARES: And speaking of muttering, I mean, he had been, Kara, he'd been warned by the judge on previous occasions. What was his demeanor like


SCANNELL: So before Donald Trump came up on the witness stand, he was relatively quiet in court. He wasn't audibly heard saying anything. He only

actually leaned over to speak to his attorney one time during the entire morning that I sat in the courtroom proceedings.

It was when they came back in, and they were getting, you know, these discussions, this back and forth, about what he would be allowed to say,

that that is when Trump became, you know, more energetic. He was, you know, making these statements that he was not supposed to be making.

But after he did that, the judge even had said to him, you know, keep your voice down. And then later, also admonished him again, you're interrupting

your attorney while she's trying to speak to me.

You know, but when Trump went up on the witness stand, he answered these questions briefly. At one point, when Carroll's attorneys were trying to

get some questions in, he sat there shaking his head looking at the jury, like as though to say this was a waste of time.

But his whole time on the stand was so brief and so --


SCANNELL: -- different from his testimony in the civil fraud trial last month, where he was giving political speeches from the witness stand, and

he was on for an entire day.

SOARES: And, Kara, now that he's testified, just briefly, what happens next?

SCANNELL: So the judge dismissed the jury for the day. They're going to have some discussions with the lawyers about what the jury will be told,

about what needs to be proven in this case. But he told the jury, the judge said, come back tomorrow, 9:30 for closing arguments. And then after

closing arguments, the judge will tell the jury what the law is, and then deliberations will begin.

SOARES: Kara Scannell with the very latest. Thank you very much.

Trump, of course, briefing, of course, delivering his statements today. He -- that has closed less than five minutes, in fact. All of five minutes.

We'll bring you the very latest as soon as the case begins again.

But just to update you in the breaking news, the former president Donald Trump took the stand today, for less, we've been told, roughly three

minutes on the witness stand on his civil defamation trial.

We'll be back after this short break.



SOARES: Prominent Russian military blogger, Igor Girkin, has been convicted of extremism charges in a Moscow court. Girkin, who deny the charges, now

faces a four-year sentence. He was arrested last July for his increasingly public criticism of President Putin's handling of the war in Ukraine.

A former officer in Russia's FSB, as well as ex-military commander. Girkin played a major role in Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. He was also

linked to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July of that same year.

Meanwhile, a Russian court has sentenced a woman to 27 years in prison for the murder of pro-Kremlin blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky.

Daria Trepova was arrested following an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg that killed the blogger last April. Trepova's husband told

independent Russian media that he's convinced she was set up.

Now, Ecuador's national police force is carrying out raids across the country to arrest citizens with suspectitized (PH) to what it calls

terrorist groups.

Officials have arrested more than 3,000 people in thousands of raids since gang violence erupted early this month.

President Daniel Nobia has vowed to neutralize gangs with an unprecedented government decree of internal armed conflict.

CNN's David Culver rides along with the Ecuadorian police as they conduct night-time raids. We need to warn you that his report contains disturbing



DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're the fourth in a convoy of what looks to be about four pickup trucks. All of them unmarked, no lights, no sirens.

All the officers in plain clothes.

We're with Ecuador's national police force, as they're dispatched to a house with suspected ties to terror groups. They won't tell us where

exactly we're headed, and they ask us to blur their faces.

It shows you the level of concern and fear that exists here right now.

So we'll keep it vague.

We're just outside Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, and headed into one of the most violent areas, Duran.

Within a dozen officers storm what could be mistaken for an abandoned barn, but their intel suggests otherwise. They cuff two men and search the high

grass in weeds.

On each corner, security cameras strategically positioned. Officers hack them down.

As they leave here, we've noticed even he's carrying some evidence. It's like a gun and several rounds in that baggie.

This is just one of thousands of raids across Ecuador carried out over the past two weeks.

Ecuador's military now deployed to neighborhoods. We went with them.


Over here, we see two guys who have been detained for now.

Officials arresting within 3,000 people so far. Ecuador's latest surge in violence sparked by the suspected prison escape of notorious gang leader,

Jose Adolfo Macias known as Fito, reported missing from this massive prison compound on January 7th.

If you look over here, this is where officials tell us Fito was being held, possibly is still being held. They really don't know.

A top military commander telling me the prison system is rife with mismanagement and heavy gang influence. So much so that Fito could still be

hiding inside.

Fito's disappearance led President Daniel Noboa to declare a state of emergency, vowing to neutralize terror groups.

A day after Noboa's declaration, on January 9th, 13 armed men took over a television news studio in Guayaquil. They put guns to the heads of

employees, forcing them to the ground, and held up what looked to be sticks of dynamite.

Folks watched it all unfold on live TV. Among them, Camille Gamarra and her husband, Diego Gallardo. Feeling the unease, Diego decided to pick up their

10-year-old son.

But minutes before reaching his school, someone opened fire on the streets. Diego stopped messaging Camille, who was frantically trying to call him. A

police colonel eventually answered and told Camille, Diego had been shot.

Chaos rocked Ecuador that day, especially in Guayaquil, where barricades went up and streets shut down. This young girl, still in her school

uniform, also hit by a stray bullet. The hospital later saying she survived thanks to a security guard who drove her to the emergency room.

A family friend was able to get Camille's son to safety. But Diego died before Camille could get to him.


CULVER: Across town, National Police and Armed Forces stormed the television studio, capturing the gunman before they could kill any of the


This is the studio where the terror group entered and 13 of them.

We saw firsthand the damage left behind.

So this is the studio door, and you can see and you count here. One, two, three, four, five, six, about a half dozen bullet holes.

The day after our visit, and a brazen strike against the government, suspected gang members assassinated the prosecutor investigating that

studio takeover.

You can see he's pulling this car over right now.

Police and military now stepping up their efforts, setting up random checkpoints.

Every possible hiding place searched.

I just saw one of the soldiers signaling to the other, "Look at his arm. Look at his arm."

They checked tattoos for any gang affiliations, and even scroll through people's phones.

They also board commuter buses to get intel.

He's asking, do they have anything they need to tell them they were informed about? He says, we're doing this operation for you all.

Residents here struggle with what's happened in their country over the past few years. They tell me gangs are growing bolder and holding people and

their businesses hostage, demanding protection money known as vacunas.

What happens if you don't pay the vacuna? If you don't pay the extortion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They get a contract killer and kill you. They put an explosive outside your store.

CULVER: The military tries to weed out those responsible, raiding homes like this one, holding the suspects at gunpoint as neighbors, including

kids, watch.

It's a lot to take in.

She says the fact that there are police here, it's comforting. She accepts that and that there's military now patrolling the streets. What she doesn't

like is that it goes into people's homes and it's now pouring out onto the street.

But this is war. At least that's how the government here sees it. And they're asking the U.S. for support, desperate for tactical equipment,

ammo, and intel.

Why should the U.S. help? Because people will look at this from the U.S. and they'll say, well that's Ecuador's problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, if you don't help us, probably you will see more people trying to cross the border. Because these people is in the middle of

gunfights on their neighborhoods. What would you do?

CULVER: Hey, you're not going to stay there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want to stay there.

CULVER: Back on the front lines after executing their raid, we're reminded of the fear instilled by these gangs, even among law enforcement.

This officer putting on a ski mask in 90 degree heat and thick humidity before stepping into frame. And yet, beneath those tactical layers, a soft

spot. This soldier's not been home in a week telling us the reason he's fighting is for his little girl.


She wrote him a letter in English. I want you to know that everyone misses you here at home, and we want you to return safe and sound. And I ask you

to help the country to be a better place. You are number one.

David Culver, CNN, Guayaquil, Ecuador.


SOARES: Extraordinary piece there from David Culver in Guayaquil.

If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date on the breaking news we've had in last what? Forty minutes or so we have heard that former U.S.

president Donald Trump has taken the stand in his own defense in the federal court in Manhattan.

We know from our producer, our team that was inside the courtroom, that it lasted roughly three minutes. So he was in the stand for really three

minutes. Brief testimony.

We know also that before taking the stand, Judge Kaplan had admonished him for increasingly being somewhat agitated.

We know as well from our team inside the court, the defense has rested, the judge has dismissed the jury. It is, though, an important point to add an

extraordinary moment for the man who is the frontrunner to -- for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" will have much more on this after this break.