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Isa Soares Tonight

Second Juror Excused in Trump Hush Money Trial; Fears of Regional Conflict in the Middle East in Focus at G7 Meeting and United Nations; Russia's War on Ukraine; Russia's Airstrike Claimed 18 Lives and Injured 78 People in Northern Ukraine; Bills Brought to House Floor by Speaker Johnson. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 18, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome everyone, I'm Isa Soares coming to you from London.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: And I'm Jim Sciutto in New York outside the courthouse where former U.S. President Donald Trump's hush money criminal

trial is now in its third day.

SOARES: Indeed, and we have a busy hour tonight, we'll bring you, of course, the very latest on the situation in the Middle East as efforts to

avoid an escalation continue today. Plus, we'll have much more on the fight to secure U.S. funding for Israel, as well as Ukraine. That's happening and

will happen over the weekend on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: But first we are following developments in the courthouse just behind me. It is day three of jury selection in Donald Trump's criminal

hush money trial. Until now, things have been moving relatively quickly, they did make some backwards progress today, two of the seven jurors who

had previously been seated have now been dismissed by the judge.

One of them said she felt intimidated by the potential of her identity being made public after parts of her identity were reported. As it stands,

five jurors are now seated, seven more are needed as well as six alternates. The court is on a lunch break right now, it is expected to pick

up again in about 15 minutes.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us now from Washington. So Zach, this morning, two jurors go for two different reasons. Tell us those reasons.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Jim, the first was juror two or the juror formerly known as juror two, juror two raised

concerns to the judge since they were seated on Tuesday, that they felt that their ability to render a fair and impartial verdict had been

compromised because they felt like enough of their public information about them -- or enough information about them had become public that their

identity had been compromised.

And so, the judge allowing this juror to be excused from the case, bringing our number to six jurors at that point. And then another juror, juror

number four, formerly known as juror number four, was called back into the courthouse, met with the judge and spoke with attorneys on both sides for a

considerable amount of time.

This juror was called back because prosecutors had uncovered some information as they were doing their due diligence since seating the jurors

on Tuesday, that suggested that this juror may not have been completely honest or forthcoming in some of those responses, specifically, there were

some information that indicated this juror may have been arrested in the '90s for tearing down political advertisements.

And there's also some information that somebody with the same name as this juror had a wife who was involved in a corruption inquiry and had reached a

deferred prosecution agreement with the Manhattan DA. So, it's unclear whether or not those were the reasons this juror number four was dismissed.

But ultimately, that juror was like go. So that brings us down to five of the seven jurors that we started the day with.

SCIUTTO: It's a measure of the intense scrutiny, Zach, that these jurors are under. One juror concerned about public scrutiny, then also the

scrutiny we're seeing inside that courtroom, including questions repeatedly raised by Trump's team about bias, et cetera.

But the judge has been moving forward. We saw on those first couple of days that the judge growing impatient at times with the defense team's

objections. I imagine we're going to see a similar push from the judge as they return to the courtroom to try to get this jury seated.

COHEN: Absolutely, and we are going to enter that phase of where the 38 remaining potential jurors that were narrowed down from the second panel of

96, those -- there's 18 of them that will face questions when they get back from lunch from both the prosecutors and from defense attorneys.

And those questions will be similar to what we heard, potential jurors being asked on Tuesday, there were, you know, things about their social

media postings, things about their political beliefs. As these two sides tried to narrow down this pool of potential jurors and seat the 12 needed

to move forward with this trial in addition to placing those six or so alternates in place as well.

So, we'll see, this is the part where both attorneys on the prosecution and for the defense attorneys, they'll have the ability to potentially strike

some of these jurors from the pool if they do not want them on the jury. A reminder that each side has four strikes remaining. So, we're going to see

how many jurors we ultimately end up with at the end of the day.

But this is the part now after lunch where these jurors will come under more scrutiny from attorneys on both sides.


SCIUTTO: No question. Zach Cohen, thanks so much. Isa, the wheels of justice we're watching them here, always moving so quickly --

SOARES: Indeed --

SCIUTTO: We do expect some progress this afternoon.

SOARES: Yes, one step forward, two steps back. We know -- I know you'll keep an eye on it. Thanks very much, Jim. Now, to the Middle East, and a

chilling morning from the U.N. Secretary-General, the region is tinkering on the brink of all-out war as the world watches and waits for Israel's

response to last weekend's attack by Iran.

G7 foreign ministers, you know, are meeting in Capri in Italy to discuss the crisis. And at the United Nations, the Secretary-General Antonio

Guterres joined the chorus of diplomatic voices calling for restraint as well as de-escalation. This is what he said.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation in words and

deeds. When miscalculation, when miscommunication, when mistake could lead to the unthinkable. A full-scale regional conflict that would be

devastating for all involved and for the rest of the world. The moment of maximum peril must be a time for maximum restraint.


SOARES: Well, meantime, in Gaza, hospital officials say ten people from one family were among those skilled in an airstrike in Rafah. Among the

victims, five children between the ages of three and 16. Let's get more from our Nic Robertson, who is in Jerusalem for us this evening.

And Nic, those words that we just heard there from Antonio Guterres really mirror in many ways what we've also heard, the fears, the concerns for many

in the EU. Today, we heard from the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who warned that the Middle East is on the brink of a regional war.

Where are we? What are you hearing, Nic, in terms of the diplomatic efforts to try and avert any sort of escalation. Is Netanyahu heeding these calls

and this advice?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think one of the things that Netanyahu is doing at the moment is watching how much

international diplomatic pressure will be put on Iran. And we heard some comments on that today from the Foreign Minister today, who was commenting

and thanking the United States, President Biden for the additional sanctions that it has put on Iran, the U.K. has done the same.

And he said, he wanted the United States and others to get the G7 together on that as well. The British, for example, have put sanctions on seven

people and six entities. Some of those people are top military generals, the Armed Forces, Chief of Staff, the chief of the Navy, Navy, a couple of

senior headquarters staff, somebody in the logistics, staff, that also targeting aero -- people working or directors in the aerospace industry.

The U.S. has similarly sanctioned 16 people, two entities. There -- they're focused on companies that are making the motors for the Shahed 131 drones.

Those are the one way explosive drones that were fired here over the -- over the weekend. And the U.S. Department of Treasury as well, they've got

their own sanctions going on five companies connected to steel manufacturer in Iran.

So, from an Israeli perspective, they want to hear more of that, more countries signing up for those sorts of sanctions and a joint statement

coming out of the G7 and as well from the U.N. But they are looking for the G7 to have very strong words, condemning Iran's actions when it comes to

Israel's own actions in response.

I think we are really no further forward in understanding when they will come or what they will be. The perceived wisdom is that they will be

narrower in focus than they might have been previously. But when they will happen, you know, the best indicator of that came from Israel's Prime

Minister yesterday, saying that Israel will make its own decision about when and what to do.

But I think the more diplomatic sanctions, international diplomatic sanctions, the prime minister here feels are in the bag, then he might

think about his next move, because of course, that could lose him some international support when he does that.

SOARES: Indeed, in the meantime, we are hearing that Qatar, who of course, is a crucial -- has been a crucial mediator, Nic, in this conflict, who has

close ties to Hamas and to the United States, is re-evaluating its role. I mean, what does this mean? What are we hearing from Qatar?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think one thing that it doesn't mean is that Qatar is going to pull out of the process of mediating. It has consistently said

that the barrage of criticism that's come from the right-wing of the Israeli government, criticizing them for supporting an Israeli government

policy that was supported by the United States to channel money to Hamas inside of Gaza and provide a political platform for Hamas' political

leaders inside of Qatar.


They feel that this has sort of gone through an uptick recently. And I think in a sense, if you step back and try and read this for what it is, we

know that the negotiations over getting the release of the hostages have become much tougher. It appears that Hamas is really digging in, in its

position and isn't prepared to hand over the same number of hostages that it had appeared to have been ready to hand over previously.

So, you get a sense that there is going -- there may be a stalling in the negotiations. And there is -- certainly from Qatar's perspective, the real

potential that there are those in the Israeli government who will try to scapegoat them. And I think what they're trying to do is come out very

clearly ahead of a move towards stronger rhetoric in that area to say, look, just calling it all out and saying, we're independent, we're doing

this with you because you wanted.

Now, the idea that they'll pull out of it altogether would be a blow if they did. But it doesn't appear as if that's quite where we're at, at the

moment, Isa.

SOARES: Important context there from our Nic Robertson in Jerusalem this evening. Thanks very much, Nic. And as we see the diplomatic push underway,

just being underway for days now, we must not, we cannot forget what's happening in Gaza. The number of young lives lost in Gaza is simply


UNICEF says nearly 14,000 children have been killed since the war began last October. The U.N. says one child is injured or dies every ten minutes.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond now with the heartbreaking story of just one, just one of those children and her grieving family. And do -- we want to warn you,

many of the images in this report are both graphic and disturbing.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A moment frozen in time. The bodies of at least four children splayed around the foosball

table. Laughter and shrieks of joy silenced in an instance. Blood now marking where they stood only minutes earlier. "Shahed(ph), no way,

Shahed(ph) my beloved", a cousin screams from behind the camera.

Ten-year-old Shahed(ph) is one of those children. Her bright pink pants unmistakable in the arms of the man carrying her away. With her family's

consent, CNN has decided to show Shahed(ph) in life and death in order to give a face to this war's deadly impact on children.

At Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, those who can still be saved arrive alongside those who cannot. Amid the chaos, Shahed's(ph) pink pants dangling as a

doctor confirms what is tragically obvious. But Shahed(ph) is not alone. She's one of eight children who died on that crowded street in Al


The hospital says they were killed in an Israeli airstrike. By publication time, the Israeli military said only that the incident is under review. One

after another, their small bodies arrive at the hospital's morgue, and into the arms of grieving parents.

His eyes swollen and red, the father of nine-year-old Lujain(ph) recounts his daughter's last moments, playing foosball with her friends. "This is my

eldest daughter", he says, "a drone strike hit them while they were playing. They're all children." Hours earlier, Yousuf(ph) was one of those

children playing alongside Shahed(ph) and Lujain(ph) when he was suddenly killed in a war he did not choose. His mother still clinging to her son.

Neither does this boy who cannot believe his brother is dead. "He's still alive", he cries, "don't leave him here". Amid the outpourings of grief,

there is Shahed(ph), her bloodstained-pink pants, once again impossible to miss. "Dear God, what did they all do?" One man cries. "What did they all



SOARES: What did they all do, indeed. Thank you to Jeremy and his team for that very powerful report. And just hours from now, the United Nations

Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution to make Palestine an official U.N. member state. The State Department spokesman says the United

States will veto the resolution since it would effectively amount to recognizing a Palestinian state.


Since 2012, the Palestinian Authority has had a non-member observer state status, similar to the Vatican. Now, to the latest on U.S. funding for

Israel as well as Ukraine, political infighting is resurfacing with another round of dysfunction on Capitol Hill.

Hard-line Republicans are once again threatening to fire House Speaker Mike Johnson, and they're trying to force U.S. border security funding, while

other Republicans are urging Johnson to change a procedure so he can keep his job. But through all of this, Speaker Johnson is holding firm on his

decision to push the aid package vote this Saturday.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): We know what the timetable is. We know the urgency in Ukraine and in Israel, and we're going to stand by Israel, our

close ally and dear friend, and we're going to stand for freedom and make sure that Vladimir Putin doesn't march through Europe.

These are important responsibilities. A strong America is good for the entire world. Since World War II, really, the responsibility for the free

world has been shifted onto our shoulders, and we accept that role.


SOARES: And there's a lot of information to unpack here. And helping us unpack this from Capitol Hill is CNN's Annie Grayer. Annie, great to see

you. Look, the speaker as we heard him there clearly made a decision to move ahead with the foreign aid package, and to separate it, to break it up

into different -- into separate bills, which of course, as we said includes aid for Ukraine.

Before we talk about the push-back he's getting, just tell that -- tell us and explain how this would work potentially on Saturday?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN REPORTER: So, we still don't have the final plan yet, but the plan for Saturday as Speaker Mike Johnson has laid out, is that the

House will vote on three separate bills separating the foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

And then all of those bills would get packaged together to be sent over to the Senate, which would then have to be reconciled with the Senate's

foreign aid package. Now, the top line numbers and what the House is proposing to do and what the Senate has passed is similar.

But the big hurdle here is going to be getting enough support in the House. We know that Democrats are going to have to help pass the aid for Ukraine

because it does not seem to have widespread support in the Republican conference. But the final details of these bills are still being worked


They are moving through the committee and when that -- when that process wraps up, we'll have a -- we'll have a much better sense of what Saturday

is going to look like.

SOARES: Yes, and in the meantime, he's getting -- I think it's fair to say some push-back from more hard-line conservatives, some of whom really want

to oust him completely, right? Speak to the conflict, internal conflict within the GOP.

GRAYER: There aren't -- internal conflict is at an all-time high right now. After the House finished up votes this morning, I witnessed Speaker Mike

Johnson gets swarmed by his Republican colleagues, each lobbying different demands against the speaker over his handling over Ukraine aid, and how he

is handling the threats against his job.

And the members I talked to afterwards, left more dissatisfied than not. And so, the question is, how much is gasoline being poured on the fire here

when tensions are already so high. But again, for now, the threat against Johnson and his job are just that.

There's no -- there's no meat behind it. But as more Republicans continue to get more vocal in their opposition and their disappointment of the

speaker, that's what we need to be focusing on is this question of, is -- are we now going to see movement? It seems like we are very close to seeing

some progression here.

SOARES: I know you'll stay across it, Annie, thank you very much, appreciate it. And coming up in about 20 minutes or so, reaction to the

delay in USA to Ukraine, I'll talk with Tymofiy Mylovanov; President of Kyiv's School of Economics and a former Ukrainian Minister of Economic

Development and Trade, so, do stay tuned for that interview in about 15, 20 minutes.

And still to come in the meantime, jury selection has hit a bump in the road to opening statements. Our live coverage on Donald Trump's historic

criminal trial continues with Jim Sciutto after this very short break.



SCIUTTO: The day here in New York began with seven seated jurors, now, we're down to five though. In Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial.

Earlier, one of the jurors chosen was excused from the case after expressing concerns that her identity had been revealed publicly.

A second juror was removed shortly afterwards. Prosecutors say he may have given deceptive answers to some questions earlier. That said, jury

selection has resumed again, seven more jurors still need to be selected along with six alternates on top of that, we could hear opening statements

as soon as Monday if we do get to those numbers.

Joining us now is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, good to have you. You've been involved in your share of jury

trials before, is it unusual to seat jurors and then remove them? In other words, get them through all the questioning, have them approved by the

judge in all sides, and then have to pull back.

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, it is not, Jim, it's not unusual. Certainly, it's not something that happens every day, right? Every

day, meaning, when you're on a jury trial, but you obviously have occasions where you have hiccups during the trial.

It is better that this happened now and here, as opposed to going into your pool of alternates, because what does happen occasionally as well as you

empanel a jury, you have alternates, which is why you select them. And then you have an issue come up involving a specific juror, something involving a

number of things.

They have another obligation, a conflict, intimidation, whatever it is. And so, it's not unanticipated. It's a bump in the road. It's nothing, you

know, really a huge deal. It's good that it was caught at this point. I suspect they'll move forward. They'll select their jury and will be on to

business as usual as early of course, as Monday with opening statements.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask about something you mentioned specifically there, and that is intimidation, because the judge has been very attuned to that

potential -- potentiality. He scolded Trump on Tuesday for comments in the courtroom that he thought might be intimidating.

Prosecution brought up an additional seven instances of where they say Trump may have violated his gag order. And just yesterday, Trump posted to

social media a "Fox News" report that called into question the impartiality of the jurors. So, now you have a juror who removes herself -- asked to be

removed because she's afraid that her identification is out there.

This is a trial under a microscope in a highly divided nation at this point. I wonder how big of an issue that could be as we select this jury

and even going forward.

JACKSON: Jim, I think it's a great question, and I think that we have to be hyper-careful and hyper-sensitive, particularly as we're in an election

season. And so many people have very strong views with respect to who they should -- believe should be leading the nation.

We also know that based upon that, people could be asked to do things that are irrational. And so, I think it's a fair concern, it's a legitimate

concern. You have to protect the jury. You have to protect the witnesses. You have to protect the process.


And so, I think the way to do that is for the judge really to evaluate what is in the best interests in terms of taking steps so that Mr. Trump, who

we're looking at there can follow court directives. It may very well have been the reason why the judge moved until Tuesday, right? To hear the

various arguments as to the gag order, because by then, who knows how many other people will be embroiled, right, in Trump's orbit in terms of him

targeting them against the order.

And so, final point, Jim, is I think it's going to be very critical and important what the judge does. Does the judge admonish Mr. Trump? I don't

think that's enough. Does the judge give him monetary penalties? That might not be enough? And so, I know it's an extraordinary step to jail someone.

But if you have an order, you have to give it teeth, and that might be a way to do just that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and the judge said as much. These are not suggestions, these orders, these are court orders. But you know as well as me, Joey, that this

is a man who threw multiple court appearances and legal wrangling, pushes right up to and somewhat arguable beyond the limits of the law here.

And I wonder if these gag orders we've seen have done their job, right? I mean, if you have -- you have a juror who already feels intimidated, right,

by having the possibility of her name out there -- are they working? It's a simple question.

JACKSON: Yes, I think the simple answer is they are not. Now, to be fair, the juror who was excused, whose information got out there, it could have

been a number of ways, not necessarily relating at all to Mr. Trump, but relating to a breakdown in the process itself with respect to her identity


SCIUTTO: Right --

JACKSON: Being revealed. However, as it relates to Mr. Trump, he certainly has obligations to follow the court's order, and I'm wondering -- I really

am, Jim, I'm wondering whether or not he wants to, from a political perspective, right, as we look at the Trump jurors -- juror won and you're

not -- you know, anonymous -- excuse me, anonymous jurors, because we don't want to reveal their identities and names.

But I'm wondering if he wants to get put in, if he wants to go to jail, if he wants to use that again as an outcry to talk about the system and how

unfair it is and how it's weaponized against him. So, I think there's a political imperative where he wants to test a judge potentially or


And if he does get put in, does it help him politically? It certainly hurts him in the case. But as it relates to his behavior, something needs to be

done to rein him in. If you're going to accept the proposition that no one is against the law or above the law, then you have to accept the

proposition that people should be guided by the directions that the law provides.

And the law provides for a sanction to be jail. So, is that next? I don't know, but it certainly has to be a viable option that this judge needs to

consider to have him follow the rules, follow the protocols, follow the procedures to date, he has not done that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and by the way, to a degree that you and I would be held to account if we were in a similar position. Joey Jackson, thanks so much.

JACKSON: Always.

SCIUTTO: And still to come tonight, we're going to dig into the political ramifications of Donald Trump's hush money trial as he runs for president.

And as deadly Russian airstrikes continue to rain down on Ukraine, Isa Soares will speak with a former Ukrainian economic official about an

upcoming vote on U.S. military aid, to his nation's long-delayed.




SOARES: Welcome back everyone.

As the U.S. House gets ready to vote on a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine on Saturday, a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in

Northern Ukraine, that is according to Ukrainian officials. Almost 80 people were wounded. The attack comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr

Zelenskyy warned allies about his weakened air defense system and pressed, of course, for more partner military support.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Shaheds in the skies above Ukraine sound identical to those over the Middle East. The

impact of ballistic missiles, if they are not intercepted, is the same everywhere. European skies could have received the same level of protection

long ago if Ukraine had received similar full support from its partners in intercepting drones and missiles. Terror must be defeated completely and

everywhere. Not more in some places and less than others.


SOARES: Well, for more on the cost of delayed U.S. support, Timothy Milovanov joins us. He's Ukraine's former minister of economic development

as well as trade and currently the president of Kyiv School of Economics. A well-known face here on the show.

Timothy, welcome back to the show. Look, it does seem that after months of bickering and blockages that potentially this vote for aid for Ukraine may

go ahead this Saturday. How is Ukraine seeing this vote?


are very hopeful. We think we would like this aid to be passed because every day of delay means to us lives. I've just come back from the front

lines -- well, not exactly the front lines, but the village that's closest to the front lines. And the atmosphere there is that we're being pounded by

artillery and rockets and air force.

And Russia has the advantage there. And we simply lack ammunition to defend ourselves. And so, this is -- the cost is very, very high and the mood is

very grim. But now there's a light of hope and I really think, and I really hope the aid passes.

SOARES: Yes. And it has cost you -- like you said, it has cost you not just soldiers and lives, but also territory as we have seen. In fact, in the

last 24 hours, we saw a Russian missile strike in Chernihiv, I believe. And reacting to that, I've just got a tweet from President Zelenskyy who said

this, this would not have happened if Ukraine had received a sufficient number of air defense systems, and if the world's determination to counter

Russian terror had been sufficient.

Timothy, I mean, has this delay, has this -- the impact of this bill not passing, the ammunition -- not having enough ammunition and missiles, has

this given Russia the upper hand?

MILOVANOV: Yes, that creates indeed an advantage to Russia, both well in the military sense but also in terms of pressure on civilians in terms of

creating humanitarian disaster.


Because when we are short on air defense, we have to be very, very careful about where we're located. And also, when we are short on missiles of the

air defense, we have to prioritize the targets. And so, what happens is that we have to be very careful. And sometimes we have to -- we simply are

incapable of intercepting everything or defending everything. So, people die. Civilians die.

SOARES: Yes. And we've seen that from various reports on the ground, indeed, from even Fred Pleitgen speaking to soldiers on the front lines,

how they are reserving some of that munition because they just simply do not have enough.

But as you know, on the political front, Timothy, and you know this very well, I mean, this vote on Saturday has created deep divisions within the

Republican Party. I mean, and you know, there are some of course, who want -- they don't want this to pass because they want that to be tied to U.S.

immigration reforms. But others have taken a more harder line in the U.S. I want you to have a listen, Timothy, to Republican Congressman Warren

Davidson from Ohio. Have a listen to this.


REP. WARREN DAVIDSON (R-OH): Ukraine, no matter how much money we give them, no matter how many weapons we ship them, does not have the manpower

or combat skill to extract Russia from Ukraine.

Now, they have been heroic and inspiring and holding this to a draw, but instead of being able to negotiate a peace, which they started to do, the

Biden administration stopped them from doing that. And it said, we're going to do as much as it takes, as long as it takes.


SOARES: What do you say to those GOPs who were taking that stance that no amount of money can actually change the outcome of this war?

MILOVANOV: It might look like that from afar, and sometimes it even looks differently from Kyiv, where most of the time. But when you travel to the

places where missile -- really missiles really hit people, you understand that this is very, very specific, very territorial, very contact related

situation. And what missile -- what money, what support does is helping Ukraine to actually stop encroachment of Russia.

Russia right now is not in the mood of any negotiations. In fact, the rhetoric which says that Ukraine will not be supported, encourages Russia

to push harder and to put pressure on Ukraine, hoping Ukraine will collapse. So, if we actually want any kind of sustainable peace, we need to

guarantee this peace by giving Ukraine enough support that Russia sees no reason to push forward.

SOARES: Timothy, as always, wonderful to get your insight. Thank you.

Now, German police have arrested two people suspected of spying for Russia. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office says, the arrest happened on

Wednesday. The suspects have been identified as German-Russian nationals. They're accused of plotting sabotage attacks, as well as an explosion with

the intent of undermining military aid to Ukraine.

The potential targets included U.S. armed forces facilities. Of course, we will stay across that story as soon as there are any more developments, we

will, of course, bring you up to date.

In the meantime, I want to send it back to Jim who is covering Trump's criminal hush money trial. And then, Jim, there were five.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in New York, jury selection getting back underway after a lunch break

that, of course, in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial.

Still a lot of work to do. Right now, there are five jurors seated in total, it's actually less than we started with this morning. Two jurors who

had previously been seated were then excused by the judge in just the past few hours.

Political commentator Alice Stewart is with me now. And Alice, just for a moment, big picture, we speak so often about this election year. And I

wonder how this trial, the one of the four potential trials Trump is facing that has begun, how do you think this factors into the race?

ALICE STEWAR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND U.S. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the trial in and of itself, Jim, I think doesn't, in any way, doom

Trump's campaign. But if we get to a point where there is a conviction, that will be a game changer. Of course, we're a long way away from that,

but that will certainly sway voters.

And look, what we're seeing here, just in the jury selection phase alone, the fact that we have, in essence, the trial of the century that no one

wants to be a part of speaks volumes to the toxic nature of this case. And you have people -- already two people have been taken off of the jury.

They're concerned certainly about repercussions or the tweets and the messaging that Donald Trump is putting out, but certainly his base as well.

Look, Donald Trump will continue to do what he's doing. Every time he steps out of the courtroom, he's going to talk about this being weaponization of

the DOJ. Attacking a political adversary.


The RNC also is pushing. The narrative is, we've been hearing about this being a witch hunt for months now, and we're seeing it firsthand. And they

say it's really putting Donald Trump at a political disadvantage, having him there in that seat in the courtroom full time as opposed to being out

in -- on the campaign trail. And look his base believes that this is a witch hunt.

But the problem, Jim, is what sells with the base doesn't mean that independent voters are going to buy that. That's who he needs to appeal to,

is independent voters. And they're concerned about issues like the economy, jobs, and the border and security. They're not concerned so much about

what's happening with the former president in the courtroom.

SCIUTTO: Is there a moment during this trial when you begin to hear witness testimony, including from Stormy Daniels, the woman who it is alleged that

Donald Trump had an affair with. And you begin to hear from, say, Michael Cohen, who, by the way, served jail time for a case related to this.

Described Trump's participation in that under oath on the witness stand.

Do the details of that case break through some of that sense that you hear from many on the right that this is a fundamentally unfair prosecution?

STEWART: Look, those on the right and his base are not going to move one inch where they stand on this. They believe this is a witch hunt. He is

being unfairly targeted. And look, they know all of those salacious details. They know everything that Stormy Daniels is going to say. They're

familiar with the "Access Hollywood" tape that won't be played in this case but will be referenced. They know all that.

But they're looking at this from the standpoint of, they were -- they support Donald Trump on his policies more than they do Joe Biden's. They

look at the fact -- they feel the economy was better under the Trump years. They feel the border was more secure under the Trump years. They feel that

national security was stronger under his years. And they're looking to that.

Again, the key is how are independent voters going to feel? And my advice to Trump in the campaign, who they certainly wouldn't take it. But every

time he walks out of that courtroom and has the cameras and the megaphone of the entire world media at his disposal, talk about what he's going to do

for voters in this country. How he's going to improve the economy and the border and security, and stop talking about himself. Make the address in

the appeal to independent and late decided voters.

SCIUTTO: The thing is, he has an opportunity to do just that every day, frankly. When he walks in and out of the courtroom, he has an opportunity

to speak to the cameras. He's typically taking advantage of that opportunity.

But fact is, he does not talk about those issues. He's not making detailed policy proposals for each of those things you mentioned. He's -- he keeps

repeating the same message about his view of this trial, and frankly every trial he's faced. He will use that same phrase, witch hunt.

STEWART: And look, they're also looking at this from the standpoint. He -- he's sort of pigeonholed into being in that courtroom. And he's taking,

right now, the opportunity to reinforce the message that this is a political witch hunt.

But he's also being -- they're smart as well. You have to give them some credit, Jim. The limited time he has outside the courtroom, he went to a

bodega earlier this week in New York where he really highlighted law and order, and the policing, and the justice system in New York City.

He was in Pennsylvania talking about the economy. He's going to North Carolina over the weekend. He'll be talking about jobs and the economy. At

an off-the-record stop in Georgia, he went to a Chick-fil-A and really painted a picture of how he's connecting with African American voters.

So, some of these optics and opportunities he's taking outside the courtroom, they -- they're certainly not scripted. They're not his big MAGA

rallies. But there are limited and calculated ways the campaign is able to reinforce his message in the time that he has.

SCIUTTO: Good to note those moments on the trail. Alice Stewart, thanks so much as always.

STEWART: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: My colleague Isa Soares, she's going to be back right after a short break with more international headlines. Please do stay with CNN.



SOARES: More than 100 people have been killed by flush floods and heavy rain in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, about 170 homes were

completely destroyed and more than 1,200 were damaged. The heavy downpours are unusual for the region at this time of the year. The devastation also

spreading across 23 provinces of neighboring Afghanistan.

In addition to dozens of people killed there, at least 600 animals have died. The U.N. says that more than 1,200 Afghan families have been


And Dubai is now recovering from the heaviest recorded rainfall in its history. However, schools are still closed and federal workers ordered to

work from home until Friday. Our Eleni Giokos has the latest. Eleni.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Isa, this is the scene on one of the key arteries that links Dubai. It also takes you to the airport,

essentially, looks like a river. Cars trying to get through the flood. The water levels have receded. We've also seen a lot of efforts to clean up and

cleanup operations where teams have been pumping water into trucks and taking it to the sea and also into the desert. And of course, teams that

are trying to free up the highway and the freeways.

You can see its water as far as the eye can see, and it's resulted in really horrific stories from people we've spoken to, where they had their

cars submerged in water and they had to find a way to get out of the floods. And this is just one example, seeing a big van like this that

obviously was carrying many passengers being derailed by the floods. And so many stories like this.

This street actually holds many stories after the torrential floods on Tuesday where one passenger we spoke to said they were trapped in a car for

eight hours and they weren't driving. They said they were basically swimming.

Now, important part of the story is Dubai International Airport that has been very affected by the floods, 1,000 flights have been cancelled over

the last few days. Think about it, one aircraft can carry around 300 passengers. So, we're talking hundreds of thousands of people that have

been affected.

Now, operations seemed to be getting back to normal according to the CEO of DXB. He tells us that the recovery process is slow, but it seems like

they're getting back to normal operations within the next 24 hours after incredible delays. And, of course, scenes at the airport of passengers

waiting to get on a flight.

The CEO was telling us that logistically, it's been incredibly intense to get aircraft into position, to get supplies into the airport as well. But a

heroic effort, essentially, by emergency service workers in a city that is usually bustling and extremely busy, to see scenes like this, completely

unprecedented. Isa.

SOARES: Thank you very much, Eleni Giokos there.

And still to come tonight, Venezuela is looking down the barrel with new sanctions. Why the U.S. felt the need to take punitive action. That's next.



SOARES: Well, the eruption of a volcano on a remote Indonesia island has triggered a tsunami alert. And there are fears the volcano could collapse

into the ocean. It's erupted several times since Tuesday, and the eruptions have gotten stronger.

More than 800 people have been temporarily evacuated. But so far, there have not been any reports, luckily, of deaths or indeed of injuries. Locals

have been told to be aware of flying debris. And of course, we will stay across at the very latest from Indonesia.

In Venezuela, meanwhile, opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have been demanding a chance to go head-to-head in an election. But they've gotten

very little traction, and the U.S. is renewing sanctions against the country in response. Our journalist Stefano Pozzebon has more.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a new vibe in Caracas these days. Nightlife has returned after years of economic


This show is wild. The beer is great. There is good music. Everything is incredibly beautiful.

The U.S. dollar has replaced local bolivars. And this year, Venezuela's economy is poised to grow more than Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia,

according to the IMF. Only one person seems to remain unmovable. As a new presidential election looms, Nicolas Maduro seems all but assured to cement

his position even further. On Wednesday, the U.S. announced the reimposition of economic sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry

after last minute negotiations collapsed.

The sanctions were lifted in October when representatives of the government and the opposition signed an agreement that paved the way to free and fair

elections. But since then, that deal was broken several times. The opposition candidate, Maria Corina Machado, has been barred from running.

Her replacement, Corina Yoris, was also blocked by electoral authorities.

Political activists have been detained, including members of Machado's team. Notably, the U.S. maintained a special license for U.S. major

Chevron, who has been operating since 2022. And U.S. officials told CNN they will keep engaging with Maduro despite the reaction.

If you want to hurt us, you'll get hurt. We will grow with or without a license. We are not a Yankee colony. Nobody will stop us.

Renewed sanctions could hurt Venezuela's recent economic growth. It's forecasts and push more Venezuelans to seek better fortunes abroad.

Venezuelan migrants are already reaching the U.S. southern border in record numbers. There are over 7.7 million worldwide, according to the U.N.


One reason for last year's detent was to bring those numbers down, particularly during an election year in the U.S.

LAURA DIB, VENEZUEL PROGRAM DIRECTOR, WOLA: I do think that the engagement is indeed a better policy than maximum pressure and isolation that led

Maduro to further deepen his relationship with governments like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.

But rather I think that it's a proof that, of course, the U.S. and the International Community, and of course, the opposition in Venezuela is

dealing with an authoritarian government.

POZZEBON (voice-over): With opposition in Caracas, scrambling to rally around any viable candidate to challenge Maduro, experts worry this week's

fallout will only bring the Venezuelan struggle for democracy closer to its end, and that the music will fade once again in Caracas.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


SOARES: And that does it for us for this hour. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. "Newsroom with Jim Sciutto" is up next. I

shall see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful night. Bye-bye.