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Isa Soares Tonight

Trump Hush Money Trial Resumes; IDF Intelligence Chief Resigns Over October 7 Attacks; Gaza Civil Defense Says Nearly 300 Bodies were Found in Mass Grave; Key Player In Hush Money Trial To Resume Testimony Tuesday; $95B Foreign Aid Package Heads To U.S. Senate Tuesday; British PM Promises Rwanda Deportation Flights. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 22, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CO-HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Hello, and a very warm welcome everyone, I'm Isa Soares in London.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: And I'm Jim Sciutto in New York where opening statements in the first ever criminal trial of a former U.S.

President, have now just a short time ago wrapped up, and court has concluded for the day.

SOARES: It is a historic moment, we'll have of course all the details on Trump's hush money trial, that's alongside of course, all the other key

international headlines today including more on a gruesome discovery of a mass grave in Gaza's Khan Yunis. We'll have more, of course, also on the

much-needed U.S. funding for Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: But first, it is the people of the state of New York versus Donald J. Trump, the first ever criminal trial of a former American

President who happens to be a current candidate for President as well. Day one proceedings wrapped up just a short time ago.

In opening statements, prosecutors argued that Trump committed election fraud, pure and simple in 2016, while Trump's defense attorneys told

jurors, there is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election, and there is the core of the case.

The first witness, David Pecker; the former publisher of the American tabloid, the "National Enquirer", and a long-time friend of Trump's.

Prosecutors say that he engineered so-called catch and kill plans to cover up stories of Trump's alleged affairs.

CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joins me now. And Katelyn, the key here to the prosecution's case is that not only was this

fraudulent, but it was done to interfere in the 2016 election by hiding a story that Trump wanted hidden, and more broadly, that it was part of a

pattern of doing such. Explain their case.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, so, the prosecutors today said to the jury, we've got the goods as far as the

documents go. These records were falsified. There's 34 counts here against Donald Trump for falsifying those records about his business expenses, his

payments to Michael Cohen.

And they're also pulling back and saying it's all about election fraud. It's about how Donald Trump was motivated to keep damaging stories about

him quiet when women wanted to allege they had affairs with him. And he used his network, Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, David Pecker; the

former chairman of "American Media' and the "National --


POLANTZ: Enquirer", how he was in direct communication with them to set up this plan to get those stories --


POLANTZ: Under the control of the campaign or the "National Enquirer" and bury them. Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and there's an audio tape

apparently --

SCIUTTO: Well, that -- I was going to say -- I was going to say they have the goods, papers to prove the transactions, but also they say an audio

tape, text messages, et cetera, and more than one instance. The defense's case here in effect is listen, protecting a reputation is just fine,

legally, that's not illegal. That seems to be part one of the holes they're trying to put into the prosecution's case.

POLANTZ: Right, it's just politics. That was one of the messages from his defense attorney, Todd Blanche in opening statements. The other thing is,

they want to inoculate all of the damage that might be done to Trump by these key witnesses, David Pecker, who was on the stand for 25 minutes

today, there are about just the start of his testimony. Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, potentially very damaging witnesses. The prosecutor say

they have --


POLANTZ: All kinds of stuff to backup what they're going to say, the story they'll tell to the jury. And so, the defense team is trying to say to the

jury, well, wait a minute, look at those people's motivations. Look at their histories, look at how they got paid.

The newspapers they wanted to sell, the documentaries they wanted to promote, the podcast and the public statements and the public personas

they've built by attacking Donald Trump. That was what we heard --


POLANTZ: From the defense team. We're going to have to see exactly how this plays out witnessed-by-witness though.

SCIUTTO: And there's one more piece here which relates to this ongoing allegation from prosecutors that Trump is repeatedly violating his gag

orders -- gag order, and that, by the way, is going to be the first thing they deal with tomorrow.

POLANTZ: The first-order of business, that will take place out of the eyes and ears of the jury. The jury, what they see is very controlled, but there

is a need for the court to protect what's happening in these proceedings. To do that --


POLANTZ: The judge has a gag order over Trump saying he can't talk about court staff, line prosecutor's witnesses --


POLANTZ: Who are called here.


And the prosecutors in this case have compiled very many social media posts to say to the judge --


POLANTZ: He's been violating this over and over again. He's commenting especially about Michael Cohen, we'll have -- we'll have to see how that

goes tomorrow if he receives a fine or some sort of additional --

SCIUTTO: Right --

POLANTZ: Blowback from the judge.

SCIUTTO: And to that point, while you and I were on the air as Trump commented, following the proceedings today, he did mention one of the

likely witnesses, Michael Cohen, and both you and I, our ears perked up because the question was, wait a second, could that be another instance

that his -- that the prosecutors might bring up to the judge.

POLANTZ: Yes, a lot is going to depend on how much the judge wants to get the point across, and to treat Donald Trump like any other criminal

defendant in this case. The prosecutors are asking for a fine of $1,000 for every violation of that gag order.


POLANTZ: We'll see what the judge says in that hour-and-a-half tomorrow before the jury comes in at 11:00 to hear David Pecker on the stand, but it

is going to be really interesting how much the judge says going forward.


POLANTZ: This is what you can say. This is what you can --

SCIUTTO: Yes, there's certainly been instances where he's shown his impatience with the former president's comments. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so

much, much more to follow tomorrow. Joining us now, former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein. David, good to have you.

On that question, just before we get to the cases here of violation or the potential violation of his gag orders, did you hear anything in the

president's -- former president's comments as he left the court, that might wade into that territory?

DAVID WEINSTEIN, FORMER STATE & FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I did, Jim. You know, his comments about the credibility of this witness, the fact that he's

lying, the fact that he has motivation, all of that are things that his lawyers are going to say to the jury, and it's fine for them to say it to

the jury in the courtroom.

It's quite another matter for him to say that in direct violation of a gag order that's put in place by a judge outside of the courtroom, and that's -

- I think that's where the rubber is going to hit the road tomorrow morning.

SCIUTTO: That's right. That's going to be the first issue they deal with tomorrow morning. So, on the essential legal question here, was this

election interference hiding up a payment to hide an alleged affair, or was it just legal defense of his reputation, which by the way is Trump's

attorneys' arguments. Where is the legal line that will help this jury answer that question?

WEINSTEIN: The line that the jury has to focus on is, were there statements made? Were there documents signed? Were there filings made that

misrepresented exactly what took place? If in fact, there was some sort of negotiated settlement out of court, an agreement between the parties to not

comment about a potential lawsuit, that's one thing.

But if in fact, there were payments that were made, and then the people who made the payments mischaracterized those payments, misrepresented what

those payments were about, as well as provided documents and statements that were made in official filings, that's what the prosecution is going to

say took place here.

And if that's what they prove, then the line has been crossed and the jury will find him guilty. So, it's going to be a tight rope walk, and it will

be interesting to see which side the jury falls on.

SCIUTTO: Trump has tried to put some daylight between himself and those records. Can he and his defense attorneys reasonably claim perhaps, OK, the

records were wrong, but I had no knowledge of them.

WEINSTEIN: They're going to try to do that, but what's going to hurt him are his own words and his own statements. Whether it's on the recording

that the prosecution has said they're going to play, that was recorded by Michael Cohen.

Whether it's going to be statements he made on that Access Hollywood tape about his involvement, knowledge, or if he continues to make out-of-court

statements, even if they're not under oath, the prosecution is going to use them against him to deflect from what the defense is saying and to poke a

huge hole in their theory that he didn't know what was going on and he was not involved.

So, this is going to go back to the very heart of this all. Did he know, and did he intend to be involved in this rather large conspiracy for which

they're painting a picture as of today?

SCIUTTO: I know that the court broke early today and that's because one of the alternate jurors had a dentist appointment, that's why they were --

they were done just after lunch as opposed to later in the afternoon. But they got through opening arguments for both sides, they're into their first

witness here.

As you look at that early pacing, is it moving more quickly than you expected? I mean, folks had speculated about six to eight weeks. Is it

possible that the trial wraps up more quickly than that?


WEINSTEIN: I'd love to give you an answer that doesn't sound like a lawyer, but my answer is, it depends. I think the prosecution is going to

move quickly, and I think we've talked about this. They're operating in two-day snippets. They know they'll be in court Monday and Tuesday, and

they'll be in court Thursday and Friday for every week. So, they want to get their witnesses on, they can get them off within those two days.

The unknown is how long will the cross-examination be? That's what's going to drag this trial out. The prosecution is going to be moving --


WEINSTEIN: Quickly, checking the boxes, getting things in. But the defense, they're going to want to cross-examine, and that's what's going to

extend the proceedings.

SCIUTTO: Right, and we've certainly seen delay tactics and other -- in other legal proceedings. David Weinstein, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

WEINSTEIN: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Kara Scannell in New York outside the courthouse alongside me. Kara, you had something of a vision inside that

courtroom as things -- as things were happening today. And I wonder, big question is, what was Trump's demeanor like?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, he walked in, kind of all business, just walked in straight ahead talking to his attorney. He didn't do his

usual scan of the courtroom, seem very focused. Then, as the opening statements got underway, the prosecutions up first, and Trump was looking

straight ahead and at the defense table. There's a monitor there, like a screen --


SCANNELL: And it shows what the courtroom looks like. This is the feed that --


SCANNELL: Goes to the overflow room for all the other reporters that -- other than the six-year sober siget(ph) inside the courtroom. So, he's here

to be watching himself, watching the trial and the opening statements in the case, but he was actively passing notes to his lawyers, really

responding and trying to get their attention at times when they were listening to the prosecution.

That when it was his lawyers turn to go, he had turned his chair, was looking facing the jury and watching them and his lawyer as he was giving

his defense of this, and why he should not be found guilty in these charges.

SCIUTTO: Did he have reaction to David Pecker's initial testimony. This is someone he's known for years.

SCANNELL: It was fascinating. David Pecker walked into the courtroom through a side door, and so --


SCANNELL: He walked right behind Donald Trump's seat and straight to the witness stand. I didn't see him look over there in any direction. And then

when he was giving the testimony today, it was just kind of setting the table for --


SCANNELL: What's to come, explaining to the jury who he is, that what the "National Enquirer" is, that they engage in what he called checkup

journalism, you know, they pay --


SCANNELL: For stories. So, just -- I'm trying to let them understand this world they're about to enter. His testimony only lasted about 20 minutes

today because we reached that break. He'll be back tomorrow. And as he was leaving the courtroom though, he was taking that same route back, and he

looked over at Trump's table, smiled and said, hi.

Now, I couldn't see Trump's reaction to see if he had responded in any way, but he exuded more of like a pleasant -- like a familiar look towards Trump

versus avoiding any eye contact.

SCIUTTO: Right --

SCANNELL: And that was a little surprising.

SCIUTTO: But you couldn't see what Trump's reaction was to that friendly look, yes --

SCANNELL: I didn't see Trump's reaction at all to that. Between the court officers and just to the moment. But it is pretty fascinating.

SCIUTTO: And how about how the jury's reaction was, and again, listen, we're asking you to make judgments from afar, but could you tell moments

that they were reacting to or their level of attention to the first -- to the opening arguments and then the first witness?

SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, for the opening arguments, they were very focused on the attorneys. They had -- more than half of them had asked for

notebooks and pens so they can take notes. I saw all eyes on the prosecutor when he was --


SCANNELL: Speaking, and then all eyes on Trump's attorney when he was speaking. So, they were very engaged in that, they were paying close

attention to the judge when he was telling them what their job is, what reasonable doubt is, so, they could understand that what is evidence,

things that they would be hearing.

So, they all seem very engaged in this on the first opening day of -- I mean, abbreviated court today, but they'll be back again tomorrow for more.

SCIUTTO: Others have made the point that, inside the courtroom, a defendant or even a juror, there's not a lot they can do, right? I mean,

this is several hours out of your time, and Trump is someone who is used to managing his own time and perhaps having access to his phone and other

things, was he fidgeting?

Was he -- what was his level of attention throughout?

SCANNELL: When the prosecutors were going, he was often sitting there just looking straight ahead. I can see his hands were on his thighs, he wasn't

fidgeting. But then at certain points during their tests -- during the opening, so, they were talking about Michael Cohen. He had passed notes to

his lawyers, so, trying to feed them with his reactions to I suppose, what the prosecutors were saying.

And then, when it was over for the day, he was one of the first people to stand up and look toward the court officer as though to suggest, like can

we leave now?

SCIUTTO: Right --

SCANNELL: So, he seemed like he was ready to exit, and then we saw he did speak to the cameras for a little while, giving --


SCANNELL: His reaction to the day.

SCIUTTO: Those were live on the air. Kara Scannell, thanks so much. We'll keep asking for your view inside that courtroom and we will have much more

on this historic trial just a little later on the show. We're going to dig more into the potential political ramifications as well as what we can

expect in the coming days down here at the courthouse, please, do stay tuned for that for now, we're going to take a quick break, my colleague Isa

Soares will be back with some of the other top international headlines.



SOARES: Well, Gaza Civil Defense Agency is reporting a gruesome scene on the grounds of the Nasser Hospital complex in Khan Yunis. It says nearly

300 bodies have been recovered so far from a mass grave. The civil defense chief says some bodies were found with hands and feeds tied.

CNN has reached out to Israel's military for a response. The IDF meantime has announced the first senior resignation of the October 7th Hamas

attacks that sparked the war. The head of Israel's military Intelligence is stepping down after acknowledging Intelligence failures.

We want to bring in our Nic Robertson, who is in Jerusalem for us this evening. And Nic, the Israeli military chief, of course, is the first

senior military figure to step down over these failures on October 7th. What -- have we heard from him directly, and do we know critically here if

other resignations, Nic, will follow.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Major General Aharon Haliva, he actually has spoken out before, and interestingly, he

spoke out about the Intelligence failures that he felt responsible for and his department was responsible for.

He said that we failed the country in the most basic measure of what we're supposed to do. He said that almost a week after the October 7th attack.

But now, it's officially announced that he is stepping down. He will remain in post until a suitable replacement is found.

Other Intelligence officials are expected to step down or other military commanders are expected to step down. I think there's a lot of people here

questioning about the political leadership. We know that the military had carried out an internal military investigation into the failures of October

7th, so that they could put them into effect immediately.

So that there couldn't be any repeat as they continue to focus on their fight against Hamas. But this is significant because it is a very senior

military career officer admittedly, towards the end of his career. But very clearly saying, they got it wrong, that they didn't listen, that they

didn't see this coming.


And we know it's been very well documented here in Israel, that members at much lower ranks in the Intelligence service who were monitoring Hamas'

activity inside Gaza in the months before the October 7th attack, reported to their seniors that they could see Hamas appearing to go through military

sort of training, effective training, training in hang-gliders to sort -- well, these para-gliders, the sorts of things that were eventually used in

the actual attack itself.

So, there's been documentation from a low-level about the messages that were going up, but weren't being acted upon. But now, we have a senior

commander -- now, we don't have detail for why he is specifically laying out the steps to his resignation, but he did accept way back very early on

into this conflict. He did accept that he and his department had failed the country.

SOARES: And staying with the IDF, Nic, I mean, I wonder what the response has been, I'm wondering you probably have this from the Netanyahu

government in particular, to the plans from the Biden administration to sanction a unit of the IDF for -- I believe are alleged human rights abuses

in the West Bank. What are you hearing?

ROBERTSON: Yes, this is something that's not been officially announced by the United States. It is something that's getting a lot of traction over

here, and a lot of the senior politicians, from the Prime Minister on down, are pushing back vociferously.

The Defense Minister spoke about it today, saying that no one should, you know, lecture this country on morality. The Prime Minister has said that,

you know, this is -- this is not the time to do this. He's pushed back. His right-wing Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has called it, you know, an

absolute absurdity to do this while Israel is fighting for what he calls its survival.

I will say, on the left-wing side of politics though, again, a lot of commentators are saying what they're recommending for this ultra orthodox

unit that's accused or appears to be on the verge by the United States of being accused of these human rights violations, and why this particular

battalion wouldn't get weapons and training from the United States.

They say that this goes -- doesn't go far enough, that actually these issues go to the top, to the top military command structures, and are not

just limited to this unit. We were with a family today of an American -- a Palestinian-American, a 78-year-old man, who was essentially killed by

soldiers of this unit.

There was an inquiry, the senior officer who we understand might be one of those who quits his post in the near future called it a moral failure. This

was a 70-year-old -- 78-year-old man who was blindfolded, had his hands zip-tied behind his back on a freezing cold January night, who was pushed

faced down and left on the cold concrete.

He had well-documented heart conditions and the medics -- not that, there weren't medics there. The soldiers there at one point seem to realize that

he was dead and checked on him, and rather than call a medic, they fled the scene, other people who were detained with him called a doctor.

And I spoke to that doctor today, and he said, look, if those soldiers had helped him, he might still be alive. So, these are the failures of the unit

that may receive these sanctions. It hasn't happened yet though.

SOARES: Indeed, a horrific account, nevertheless, Nic Robertson there for us, thanks very much, Nic. And staying in the West Bank, the British

consonant -- consular, I should say in Jerusalem says it's alarmed by escalating violence in the West Bank after deadly operation by Israeli


The IDF carried out a two-day raid in a refugee camp near Tulkarem, Palestinian health officials say at least 14 people were killed. Residents

said the toll includes a teenage boy, Israel says it killed ten, quote, "terrorists" and arrested eight others.

More now on the discovery of a mass grave in the ruins of the Nasser Hospital complex in Gaza. Crews in white hazmat suits are recovering more

bodies today, describing some as bearing signs of field executions. Our Nada Bashir has more.



NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): For the last ten days, this mother has returned to Gaza's Nasser Hospital, searching desperately for the body

of her 24-year-old daughter, Kultha(ph). She had been buried at this makeshift gravesite in January.


Now, her body is missing. "The Israelis turned the hospital upside down", she says, they dug up all the dead bodies and moved them around. These are

the shrouded corpses of those retrieved from a newly discovered mass grave in Khan Yunis.

Nearly, 300 bodies have so far been recovered according to Gaza's civil defense. But the search is still ongoing. "This is a crime against

humanity", Dr. Emayir(ph) says. "How could the Israeli occupation forces dig up these graves and mishandle the bodies of our martyrs".

In some cases, they even opened and removed the bodies from their bags, even though their names had been marked on them. Many of the bodies

recovered here were buried by relatives or medics on the hospital grounds in January as a temporary measure.

Israel's relentless bombardment of the southern city, making it too difficult to carry out a traditional burial. Following the IDF's withdrawal

from Khan Yunis, families returned in hope of finally laying their loved ones to rest, only to find that their bodies had been exhumed by the

Israeli military according to civil defense officials, and discarded in this nearby mass grave.

"I still haven't found my son, Halel's(ph) body", this father says. "We'd buried him over there, but we can't find him anymore. We just want to give

him a dignified burial." According to Gaza's civil defense chief, some bodies have been discovered with their hands tied together, an indication

he says that these may be the victims of alleged field executions.

Though CNN is unable to verify such claims and cannot confirm the causes of death among the bodies being unearthed, CNN has reached out to the Israeli

military for comment without response. But this would not be the first time graves have been disturbed by the Israeli military.

The IDF previously acknowledging that its forces have exhumed graves in Gaza in order to carry out DNA tests to identify potential hostages. This

man point to the palm tree beside which his brother, Alla(ph) had been buried.

Two weeks on, and his body has still not been found. Under international humanitarian law, graves must in times of war, be respected, properly

maintained and marked, so they may always be found. But in Gaza, the Palestinian people have been robbed of their dignity, even in death. Nada

Bashir, CNN, London.


SOARES: We're going to take a short break, see you on the other side.




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jury has been excused until tomorrow, 11:00 a.m. local time, in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial. The

prosecution has now presented its first witness, David Pecker. He is the former chairman of the National Enquirer tabloid's parent company. Court

filings show that he helped orchestrate an alleged scheme to pay hush money to the adult film star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair with

Trump, which was part of an effort to influence the 2016 election, according to prosecutors. Trump attacked his former attorney, Michael

Cohen, as he left the courthouse.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Cohen is a lawyer. Represented a lot of people over the years. Now, I'm not the only one. And it wasn't very

good, in a lot of ways, in terms of his representation. But he represented a lot of people.


SCIUTTO: Questions about whether that might have violated Trump's gag order. That testimony from Pecker will resume tomorrow. Joining us now, our

panel, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato, as well as criminal defense and appellate attorney, Amy Lee

Copeland. Good to have you both on.

Amy Lee, if I could begin with you. Just on what Trump's just said there about Michael Cohen, expected to be a witness in this case, given that he

is under a gag order, which prosecutors say he's repeatedly violated, and the gag order includes critical statements about witnesses, did that

statement violate, potentially, the gag order?

AMY LEE COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE & APPELLATE ATTORNEY: Jim, just throw it on the pile if it did. There have been so many statements that the judge is

going to consider tomorrow morning. This struck me as some of the stuff he said.

This is a little bit more innocuous than most of his other statements, but he still shouldn't be talking about witnesses in the light of a gag order.

It will be interesting what the judge decides to do tomorrow. Of course, he could fine the former president, but that doesn't seem to make much


He could possibly even throw him in jail for the evening, but that would be an extreme move. We'll see what plays out in the morning.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Particularly when those fines amount to $1,000, as I understand it, poor violation given not only his wealth, but the fines that

he's paid in other cases in the many tens of millions of dollars.

Larry, if we could talk about the politics just briefly here. Listen, I'm not going to say that any single poll is indicative of the state of the

race. We see polls every week, more than once a week.

But let's throw up some of the latest data. Our CNN poll of polls puts Trump and Biden tied at this point in the national horse race there. I

imagine it's too early to see any impact from this trial or the essential argument, allegation at the core of this trial here. But do you see this as

one that is likely to impact the former president's support?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, it certainly will if the president, former President Trump is found guilty

in the end. I think that's really critical. If he's found not guilty or there's a hung jury, I think it's more likely that this will end up not

changing the basic balance between Trump and Biden.

Though the other trials, if they occur before Election Day, may very well do that. So this is given the timing of it. You know, it's April. The

Republican convention isn't until July. We know how fast the headlines change.


And they do for most voters who are not paying as close attention as we are to every jot and tittle of the trial.

SCIUTTO: So, Emily, let's speak about the potential for how this trial ends up. Of course, this is about the law, the arcane issues of federal election

law and so forth.

But it's also about a story that prosecutors tell jurors. And in those opening arguments, you heard what that story will be from prosecutors. And

that is that there was this alleged affair.

Trump did not want it out, particularly in an election campaign, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape. And therefore, he

instructed his lawyer to pay off a stormy analyst so she didn't go public. And then prosecutors say that was, therefore, an attempt to influence the

election, which, by the way, they say was part of a broader pattern of doing so with other stories that might have hurt him.

SCIUTTO: Did they make, in your view, a strong case for the president's conviction in their opening arguments?

COPELAND: They did, Jim. And what really got me was the mention that after Trump was elected president, he said that -- along the lines of they should

slow walk the payments to Stormy Daniels because it really doesn't matter now. And that is something that the state believes that Michael Cohen will

testify to.

So, it seems to be very well constructed. You do have people that even the state said, you know, listen, he's -- Cohen has a mountain of baggage. But

they seem to have corroborating evidence.

We heard about the possibility of text messages. In fact, they asked David Pecker, the National Enquirer's editor at the time, for his cell phone

number. So, there are probably going to be some text messages from him.

There are other documents beyond just the bank documents. So I suspect they know what Cohen should say based on these documents, and I expect that he

will testify in accordance with those documents. But again, the state acknowledged he had a mountain of baggage.

SCIUTTO: The defense's argument, and we heard this in their opening arguments, Amy Lee, is in effect this is not illegal. It was an attempt to

influence the election, but that's not illegal. How do you game out the defense's argument here, and do you think they made a credible case?

COPELAND: You know, I thought that was an interesting way to phrase it. They said that what we have here aren't 34 crimes. We have simply 34 pieces

of paper. And their main argument, as you know, was that Michael Cohen is a lying liar who lies.

My big thing that I'm really looking for in this case is when we get to jury instructions and closing arguments, if the defense is going to ask for

a lesser-included offense of a misdemeanor, of just falsifying documents without any connection to any other case, which is what makes it a felony,

I'm really curious how they're going to play this. If they say, you know, he did nothing wrong, period, or if he did something wrong, it was just a

misdemeanor, and kind of give the jury a choice. That's what I'm looking for in this case.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Larry, they say, prosecutors, that they have the goods, and not just pieces of paper that prove financial transactions, but they have

text messages, a recording that Michael Cohen made, in which case the jury is going to hear the former president in his own words, describing his

intentions here, separate from any potential legal outcome.

Will the details of this case, the alleged affair, the effort to hide the affair, perhaps hearing from the former president, describe his intention

to hide that affair, does that have a political effect short of any potential conviction?

SABATO: Well, the details are going to absolutely convince the anti-Trump people, who comprise maybe upper 40s percent of the electorate, it's going

to be more fodder for them, and they're going to be strongly anti-Trump, as they have been all along, now they've got new evidence.

And the pro-Trump people, who are in the mid-40s, somewhere there, that's his base, they're going to disregard every single thing that this trial

turns up. So, it's a few percent of the electorate who will actually be listening and learning from this trial. If the -- if the evidence turns out

to be substantial, and it's the kind of evidence that people would pay close attention to because it's scandalous, or it's very revealing, then it

could have an election effect.

Of course, you know, we're speculating about what the jury will actually do. Trump, as all defendants are, has an advantage here. He only needs one

juror to hold out.

And we'll just have to see whether one of those Trump people managed to get on the jury, or someone on the jury is absolutely convinced that Trump is

being mistreated as a result of the trial. That's all he needs.

SCIUTTO: That's the defense's advantage.


Larry Sabato, Amy Lee Copeland, thanks so much to both of you.

And that does it for our Trump trial coverage this hour. But I'll be back in about 20 minutes with more analysis from our position here outside the


For now, we're going to take a short break. And my colleague, Isa Soarez, will be back with more international headlines in just a moment.


ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. The U.S. military aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan goes before the Senate on Tuesday

for a preliminary vote.

The $95 billion legislation was passed, of course, by the House over the weekend after months of political infighting between U.S. Republicans. But

there's still renewed calls for House Speaker Mike Johnson to resign for pushing the plan to a vote.

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. lawmakers and said the weapons need to reach the front lines as quickly as possible.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, has a serious warning for the Western allies. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen now reports from Ukraine.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian troops advancing in a heavy firefight in eastern Ukraine.

This video from Russian military TV claiming to show Ukrainian soldiers having to surrender. Ukraine's howitzers often unable to support their

frontline units severely lacking 155-millimeter artillery shells. But now they hope that will change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'll defend ourselves and counterattack.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Kremlin-controlled media seething after the House passed the Ukraine aid bill while praising Republican Representative

Marjorie Taylor Greene for trying to derail it.

REPORTER (through translator): Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who New York Post already dressed in a Ushanka hat with a star, officially

putting her in the ranks of Kremlin agents, called Speaker Johnson a Democrat elected by Ukraine.

Greene also said that Johnson betrayed not only Republicans but the whole of the USA. Nonetheless, the U.S. military aid will be bigger this year

compared to the past years, and, of course, there is nothing good in that.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia's foreign minister going even further, threatening nuclear confrontation.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Westerners are teetering dangerously on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers,

fraught with catastrophic consequences.


Particularly that it's the troika of Western nuclear states that are among key sponsors of the criminal Kiev regime.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukraine is in desperate need of lots of artillery ammo, Kyiv says, badly outgunned by Vladimir Putin's forces. But also air

defense missiles, with Russia drastically escalating its missile and drone campaign against Ukraine's cities and power plants.

Ukraine's president saying he's grateful for the aid, but the weapons need to come fast.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The time between political decisions and inflicting real defeats on the enemy at the

front, between the approval of the aid package and providing the strength to our guys, this should be reduced to a minimum.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And the Ukrainians hope U.S. aid will arrive quickly and change the tune on the battlefield, allowing Kyiv's forces to stop

further Russian advances.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


SOARES: Well, members of the British parliament are in for a long night of voting, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants passage now of his

controversial plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda. He says he wants the first deportation flights to begin in 10 to 12 weeks.

The flights are part of a plan by Mr. Sunak's conservative government to halt illegal entry across the English Channel. The move has faced

opposition from human rights groups and in the upper house of parliament, which wants safeguards added to the controversial legislation. We'll, of

course, stay across those votes for you.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be back after this.


SOARES: Returning now to the Middle East. Officials in Gaza say a mass grave with nearly 300 bodies has been found in the Nasser Medical Complex

in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

Meantime, Jordan has called for more pressure on Israel to prevent a ground invasion in Rafah, stating that "such an attack would be another massacre."

Amidst escalating tensions in the region, many Western countries have been vocal in calling for peace by way of a two-state solution, and that

includes Spain.

Last week, I spoke to the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, and despite a U.S. veto in the Security Council denying Palestine full

member status in the U.N., he says Spain remains committed to recognizing Palestinian statehood.


SOARES: Have a listen.

JOSE MANUEL ALBARES, SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Very clearly spoke in favor of the accession of Palestine as a member of the U.N. The vote yesterday

shows that there is a majority in the international community for it. And personally, and as a member of the Spanish government, I think that the

best way to protect and to guarantee that the two-state solution that we all know that is this real definitive solution for a permanent peace in the

Middle East, the only way to protect it and to defend it is to accept Palestine as a member of the United Nations and to recognize the state of

Palestine as Spain is going to do it.

SOARES: And our thanks to Foreign Minister Albares.

Now, U.S. President Biden is condemning what he calls incidents of, "blatant anti-Semitism" during ongoing student protests at universities

like Columbia, MIT and Yale, among others. Protesters are demanding the school sever financial ties with Israel over the war in Gaza. More than 100

demonstrators have been arrested at Columbia University.

Officials have moved all classes online ahead of Passover with some Jewish students saying they are fearful to return. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have been able to -- they've done nothing. They haven't been able to step in and we've been saying, oh, can you walk us

home? Could you please stop these people from harassing us? And it's hard because they kind of just are like they shrug their shoulders and there's

no enforcement of policy. That's the real issue.


SOARES: Well, a rabbi associated with Columbia says he recommended Jewish students stay home until their safety can be guaranteed.

Our Polo Sandoval is live on the Columbia University campus with much more. And, Polo, I can see crowds behind you, tents, it seems, behind you. Just

explain to us what we're seeing.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Isa, just for some context here, you could consider this a rare look inside the campus at this hour. This is

because those restrictions that were put in place by campus officials last week after the NYPD was called in to assist clearing out a similar

encampment, that measure is still in place. However, working through the Columbia School of Journalism, we've been granted temporary access to show

you what has been still a very impressive show right now of Palestinian support over my shoulder.

This is being referred to as the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. An opportunity to visit here a couple of days ago, I can tell you it has considerably


The list of demands, you laid them out perfectly right now. They are steadfast in their persistent call on their university to divest funds from

companies with Israeli connections. The question here, though, is certainly, when will Columbia school officials potentially reach out to the

NYPD, or will they actually reach out to the NYPD for any potential removal? I can tell you this has been very peaceful in terms of the

conversations that I've had with some of the people here and some of these people around this group.

But the concern, especially in the last couple of days, especially from Jewish members of the community here, have expressed concern with

university officials about simply not feeling safe on campus. Hence, the president of the university issued that statement late last night, calling

on virtual classes, at least for now, until they do what she described as a reset moment. Now, what does that mean is yet to be seen.

The broader picture here for viewers around the world, it's really important also to remember that this really provides a snapshot of what has

been a galvanizing moment for universities throughout the country. We've seen it, certainly, also the potential there at Harvard and some measures

that have taken place there overnight. Some news also coming out of Yale.

So, this is certainly a moment for universities throughout the United States to grapple with how they would respond to protests and subsequent

counter-protests. That really is perhaps one of the big messages right now. But it is still quite the moment here as we see this encampment continue to


The question is, will Columbia reach out again to NYPD to potentially remove these students that want to get their message heard?

SOARES: Yes, and I understand the NYPD had a press conference the last hour or so. What more did they tell us, Polo? And are any kind of special

preparations being made ahead of Passover?

SANDOVAL: So I did ask the NYPD if they have received any additional reports from Columbia University, which is exactly what happened last week

when officers set foot on this campus to remove well over a hundred demonstrators, and the answer was no. So that is what would have to happen.

We are on private property, obviously allowed to be here right now by Columbia University. That is the institution that would then have to reach

out to the NYPD should they choose to -- for another removal to take place.

Now in terms of the measures, we do know of several Jewish organizations on campus that are offering support to their students right now, and a certain

section of that support system is calling on school administration officials to do more to ensure the safety of some of these students.


I have spoken to several of these Jewish students as we get ready to send things back to you, and they tell me they are concerned, they are

intimidated, and they will not return until they feel safe again.

SOARES: Indeed. Polo Sandoval, appreciated there in New York. Thank you, Polo.

And finally tonight, a record-breaking performance at Sunday's London Marathon. Not only did the reigning Olympic champion, Peres Jepchirchir,

won the women's elite race, have a look at that. 2:16:17. She broke the women's only world record with a time of two hours, 16 minutes and 16

seconds. A women's-only event does not have male runners setting the pace, regarded as one of the greatest female distance runners of all time. The

30-year-old Kenyan smashed the world's 2017 record by 45 seconds. Huge congratulations to her, of course.

That does it for us for tonight. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here, of course, to the "NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto is up next. We'll

have much more from outside the courthouse as the first full day of Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial wraps up.

I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.