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Isa Soares Tonight

Former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen Testifies In Hush Money Trial; Russia Launches Cross-Border Offensive In Kharkiv Region; Putin Replaces Defense Minister With A Civilian Economist; Cohen: Trump Wanted To Delay Stormy Daniels' Payment Until After Election Day; At Least 43 Killed In Indonesia "Cold Lava" Flashfloods; Flooding Death Toll Now 147 In Brazil's Rio Grande Do Sul. 2-3p ET

Aired May 13, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome, everyone, I'm Isa Soares in London. Tonight, we are following developments

in two very different wars, we'll have the latest from Ukraine, as Russia makes significant gains on the battlefield, and more from Gaza where fierce

fighting is now gripping its north.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington tracking developments in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, which is

where we begin this hour. He was once the most loyal foot soldier in the Trump organization.

Now, he is the prosecution's star witness in a case that could cost the former president potentially his freedom. Donald Trump's former personal

attorney and fixer-turned foe, Michael Cohen is on the stand today in a dramatic courtroom face-off with his ex boss.

Cohen testified that Trump told him to quote, "take care" of the allegation that he had an alleged sexual encounter with adult film actress Stormy

Daniels. He also quoted Trump as saying, "make sure it doesn't get released", end quote.

In regards to "Playboy Magazine" model Karen McDougal's claim that she also had an extra-marital affair with Trump. CNN justice correspondent Jessica

Schneider joins us now. And Jessica, it strikes me that one of the highlights today was hearing Trump's recorded voice, recorded by Michael

Cohen talk about these payments.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we heard that audio, once again, we had heard it from a different witness previously, but again,

the jury heard it once again, and it was in relation to the Karen McDougal payment where Trump said, you know, just take care of it.

So, again, the prosecution here trying to show that Trump was involved in many, if not all of these decisions. Just before we went into the lunch

break, and they are back now, but we're waiting for the jury to enter before we resume testimony, but we are getting into the heart of this case.

It's the circumstances surrounding the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. Before the lunch break, we heard Michael Cohen really describe what was the

perfect storm of bad news for Donald Trump. It was the "Access Hollywood" tape that came out one month before the election, and then immediately

after, Stormy Daniels threatened to come out with her story about their affair.

Now, Cohen testified that Daniel's story -- he called it, it would be catastrophic in his words to the campaign. And Michael Cohen also had

testified about how Donald Trump was a lot more concerned with the Stormy Daniels story, affecting his standing in the polls before the election.

Then he really was worried about it affecting his marriage with Melania. Trump at one point really said, you know, I'm a hot commodity, I'll find

another woman, essentially if Melania left him. So, some revealing testimony about what the motivation would be behind paying Stormy Daniels,

Jim, because of course, the motivation behind it and wanting to make sure that it didn't affect the election.

That is part of the prosecution's case here. It's not just about the hush money payment, the cover-up about how that payment was reimbursed, but also

the motivation for influencing the 2016 election. So, Michael Cohen --

SCIUTTO: And that comment you referenced there is quite relevant to that point, because you --


SCIUTTO: Cohen recounting Trump's own words, saying in so many words -- we're not paraphrasing here in so many words, I don't care about the

Melania issue. I care about the effect on the election, because part of the defenses I understand is that this was a man just trying to protect his


SCHNEIDER: Yes, and we've heard this theme touched upon repeatedly. And many of these witnesses, not just Michael Cohen, but many of these people

were talking about how Donald Trump, Hope Hicks also said it, how he was -- he was concerned about his family, but he was very concerned about any

impacts these stories could have on the campaign and on his election chances. So, yes, I mean, that's what the prosecution wants to go to.


It's part of their case that they have to prove that the motivation for this was any impact on the 2016 election. So, you know, these next few

hours of testimony from Michael Cohen, they could be quite crucial to the prosecution's case, Jim, because we are getting into the Stormy Daniels'

hush money payment --


SCHNEIDER: And potentially how much Donald Trump knew and how much he was intimately involved in directing how this was going to be paid and how it

was going to be documented --


SCHNEIDER: On the business record side of things.

SCIUTTO: No question, first-hand account for Michael --


SCIUTTO: Cohen. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much, and we will have much more on Cohen's testimony coming up in about 20 minutes time. In the

meantime, Isa Soares, she has the other major international stories we're following today.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Jim. Well, Ukrainian military official reports one civilian dead and four others injured in the Kharkiv region after

Russian attacks. The general staff report posted on Telegram also said Ukrainian reserves were deployed to the Kharkiv to reinforce soldiers in

the embattled region.

Over the weekend, Moscow's troops started a new cross-border offensive, claiming to capture over nine villages. Meantime, the Kremlin said the

Russian military is now in the hands of a new Defense Minister, you're looking at him, the civilian doesn't come with a combat background, in

fact, he is an economist.

Joining us now from Berlin is our Fred Pleitgen. And Fred, I mean, the Defense Minister that you and I have spoken -- wait, length about Sergei

Shoigu, of course, he was a strong Putin loyalists, right? So, how do you read the shake-up and what could this potentially mean going forward in

terms of the battlefield here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think in terms of the battlefield, it means that Vladimir Putin is certainly gearing

up for what could be a very long war, and I think he wants to make sure that the Defense Ministry is ready for that.

One of the interesting things that we saw on the weekend was the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov coming out and saying, look, right now the war is

eating up a lot of money and the defense budget right now is about 6.7 percent of the budget, which is substantial.

So, now, that there is an economist in charge of the Defense Ministry, it could mean that they are trying to make that more cost-effective, if you

will, for a war that seems to be dragging on. At the same time, of course, you do have that massive offensive, Isa, it's taking place right now in the

northeast of Ukraine where the Russians are trying to invade that province of Kharkiv, allegedly having some success.

But all of that also coming at big costs. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russian jets bombing Ukrainian frontline positions. This video released by Moscow's Defense Ministry purporting to show what

Vladimir Putin's troops on the offensive. But just as Russian forces have started a new assault on the northeastern Kharkiv region of Ukraine, Putin

sacking his long-time Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The two last seen together at Russia's victory day parade last week, where Putin once again threatened the West.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Russia will do anything to prevent a global conflict. But at the same time, we will not

allow anyone to threaten us.

PLEITGEN: Well, the Russian army has recently made some gains, there are losses and soldiers and armored vehicles have been catastrophic, both the

U.S. and Ukraine say. Shoigu often facing heavy criticism in March 2022, he disappeared from the public light altogether, fueling speculation Putin may

have sacked him, only to resurface in a Defense Ministry call nearly two weeks later.

When Russia's deputy Defense Minister and close Shoigu ally Timur Ivanov, was recently arrested and charged with corruption, it seemed clear the air

for Shoigu was getting thinner, Russian political commentator, Sergey Markov says.

SERGEY MARKOV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One problem is corruption because now a Russian military budget increasing twice and arrest of that deputy

Defense Minister Timur Ivanov shows that level of corruption around Defense Ministry are quite high.

PLEITGEN: Shoigu really moved to head Russia State Security Council along with another side-lined former Putin ally, Dmitry Medvedev, once even

viewed as a possible successor to Putin. The Kremlin's new designated Defense Minister, the former Minister for Economic Innovation, Andrei

Belousov, his task, putting Russia's army on a long-term war footing, Markov says.

MARKOV: This has been more than a war. This not on the soldiers, but also a technical system as armies of drones and a connection between artificial

internet and armies of drones and rocket missiles and artillery system should play a decisive role.


PLEITGEN: So, there you have Sergey Markov saying that he believes Vladimir Putin is trying to gear Russia up for what he calls a modern war, and

certainly, one that could take a very long time, believing that Vladimir Putin is trying to make the Russian military more nimble, more lethal, but

also cost-effective to be able to prosecute this war for a very long time.


As right now, we can see the Russians really pressing on several major frontlines in Ukraine, Isa.

SOARES: Fred Pleitgen there for us, appreciate it, Fred, good to see you. Let's get more on all of this. Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and CNN

military analyst Cedric Leighton joins us now to discuss. Colonel, great to see you, let me pick up where Fred just left off in that report, and that

surprise announcement of the new Defense Minister.

And it comes, of course, as Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, and Fred touched on this, kind of admitted over the weekend that Russia is

spending almost 7 percent of its GDP on this war. I mean, this speaks to Russia's view of this war onto the -- on the long term a war of attrition,

where economics crucially can make all the difference.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it certainly does, Isa, and it's very interesting because Mr. Belousov, the new Minister of Defense is

somebody as Fred pointed out, who has an economics background. He is known for his academic work as well as his political work.

But as you pointed out earlier, he has no military experience, at least, not in terms of leading forces at the strategic level we're doing anything

like that, that would be comparable to that.

But what he does have experience in is basically state control of the economy, and that very fact that ideological bent that he seems to have,

which is basically that state-run enterprises are the best way to run this kind of economy, fits nicely with the idea of putting the Russian economy

on a war-footing and integrating all the desperate parts of the Russian economy into a -- basically a coherent whole that will help with the

Russian war effort in Ukraine.

SOARES: Yes, let's delve deeper into these gains that we were talking about by Russia, because it's not only advancing in one place, it seems to be

advancing Russian multiple areas along the long frontline. Let's start with Kharkiv which was where Fred really started that report there.

Ukraine says that it seems like Russia -- is admitting that Russia is having tactical success. I mean, it's very rare to hear Ukrainians so --

been so downbeat. Talk to that. I mean, how troubling is this in your view?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's very concerning, Isa, and one of the problems that you have is that this border area between Russia and Ukraine, of course, is

right where Kharkiv lies. And Kharkiv is about 30 kilometers or so -- 30 to 50 kilometers from the Russian border in terms of its metropolitan area,

the region itself, of course, borders directly on the Belgorod region in Russia.

And the idea that the Russians have had is to -- at one point to another, come into this region because of course, Kharkiv is Ukraine's second

largest city. The big worry that the Ukrainians have is that Kharkiv could potentially turn into another Aleppo.

In other words, that it could be so devastated that it would be impossible to live there, just like the city of Aleppo in Syria was when the Russians

attacked it for -- on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. And so, there's a big worry that if the Russians move forward in these different areas, that

they're going to be able to -- every part of Kharkiv in artillery range. And that is going to be of course, a significant issue and it would result


SOARES: Yes --

LEIGHTON: In significant, not only -- for territory as well.

SOARES: And if we bring up the map again that you are mentioning, because we've got not only Kharkiv, of course, that they've said they've taken

seven villages, but also we've got there just across the boat over the border, you've got Belgorod.

And this for our viewers, this is a key military hub for Russia's kind of invading forces. How much is this push on Kharkiv about creating this

buffer zone and protecting this Russian city, which of course, has seen shelling, but also tactically, how much is this about filling(ph) out --

Ukraine strip stretching them out here, colonel?

LEIGHTON: I think it's very much about stretching the troops out. Yes, of course, the -- in any area that they capture in the Kharkiv region that the

Russians capture would help with creating a buffer zone. But the other part of this is that they want to fight a multi-front war with the Ukrainians.

They have the capacity on the Russian side to do this, they have the number of troops, they have the war material, they have ammunitions, those kinds

of things can be brought to bear not only in the northeast where Kharkiv lies, but also along the eastern front.

So, when you look at Bakhmut, when you look at Avdiivka, when you look even as far south as Zaporizhzhia, those areas are all at risk because of the

ability of the Russians at the very least to maintain defensive lines there.

But more importantly, they are now moving to the offensive, and when they move to the offensive, it's going to really impact the northeastern part

because Kharkiv, of course, would be a major prize for the Russians, either rendering it uninhabitable or actually capturing it outright.


SOARES: Yes, and the concern of course, is all the military equipment that has yet to arrive and that the impact this is having on this -- on these

frontlines. Colonel, always great to see you, appreciate it, thank you very much.

Now, to Georgia where violent protests outside the country's parliament continue for yet another night.

Demonstrators, as you can see there, want to block a Russian-style foreign agents bill, which is set for a third as well as final reading in

parliament, that's happening on Tuesday. Now, if passed, the law would require groups receiving more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad

to register as foreign agents or face heavy fines.

The EU says the law could jeopardize Georgia's candidate status to join the bloc, while protesters warn it could turn their country into something

unrecognizable. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want Georgia to leave in Europe. I want -- I do not want to wake up in Russia, and I really hope that our generation is going

to have a bright future because I want to get education. I want to get educated in Europe, not in Russia.

And I have these sincere fear, and I want to ask this government, what does it really give you that it costs you our fear?


SOARES: It's a story of course, we've been staying across for weeks now. We'll continue to monitor it, including tomorrow. And still to come

tonight, death and devastation in Gaza, we are tracking the latest out of Rafah as top U.S. officials warn Israel to not carry out a full-scale

ground offensive there.

And people in Afghanistan are dealing with deadly flooding, homes, livestock, drinking water, all gone. We'll have the latest on the

humanitarian disaster that is gripping Afghanistan next.


SOARES: And new developments out of Gaza. At least, one United Nations aid worker was killed and another injured after an agency vehicle was attacked

today in Rafah. It's not clear who attacked the vehicle, this comes as top American officials are once again warning against a full-scale Israeli

ground offensive in Rafah. Have a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We believe two things. One, you have to have a clear, credible plan to protect civilians which we

haven't seen, second, we also need to see a plan for what happens after this conflict in Gaza open -- is over.



SOARES: Well, in northern Gaza, people are fleeing intense shelling as well as gunfire, targeting Jabalya Refugee Camp. Israel says it's trying to

prevent Hamas from regrouping there. And in southern Gaza, a U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says more than 360,000 people have now fled Rafah.

And this comes as Israel marks its Memorial Day, honoring of course, the country's fallen soldiers. Protests and scuffles have broken out at some of

the events. I want to bring in our Jeremy Diamond who is in Tel Aviv, and Alex Marquardt who is live for us this hour in Washington.

And Jeremy, to you first, I mean, the shear is a particularly, of course, painful memorial with many Israelis mourning fallen soldiers. We've also

seen of course, families of hostages protesting today. I believe you are at the hostage family forum in Tel Aviv, just bring us up the very latest.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the thousands of people are just starting to disburse now, but there was a large rally behind me

that just ended moments ago, trying to raise the plight of hostages as this memorial day turns into independence day here in Israel.

It's important to note that memorial day and Israel is not just about fallen soldiers, but it is also about victims of terrorism. And so, for

the families of those hostages and in particular, the hostages who have been killed and whose bodies are still being held in Gaza, this day has

particular significance.

I spoke moments ago with Ayelet Samerano, whose 21-year-old son, Yonatan(ph), is believed to be -- his body is still believed to be held

hostage in Gaza. The Israeli government has said that he is dead. And normally on this day, she would go and visit the grave of her son, but she

cannot do that because she still does not have his body. Listen.


AYELET SAMERANO, MOTHER OF DECEASED HOSTAGE: No. All the parents were all going to a special place, and they have the time with him. I don't have it.

Where should they go? Where is this place? There's no place. I cannot go to Gaza. Maybe this is the place I should go to look for him. I don't love

this place.


DIAMOND: And so, Isa, without the ability to go and mourn at the grave site of her son with his body inside of it, you know, it is difficult for her to

even have closure. She told me that she still holds out even a shred of hope that there is a chance maybe, that perhaps her son is still alive.


SOARES: Yes, a mother's pain, just so heartbreaking to hear -- to hear from her. Let me go to Alex, do stay with us, Jeremy. And Alex, meanwhile, we

have heard both, I believe, Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan warning of an -- you know, of an Israeli invasion into Rafah, and again the potential

consequences of this. Give us some context here. Any idea of a plan, has U.S. seen a plan here of an offensive?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They have not, and this is something they say that they have been asking for, for a long

time to see a comprehensive plan of what would happen with the civilians in Rafah in order to prevent more of those civilian casualties.

So, since last week, since President Biden made that threat of cutting off weapons for Israel's Rafah operation. His senior-most deputies, Jake

Sullivan; the National Security adviser, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, they followed it up, saying that they do not want to see this

large scale operation in Rafah, not just, Isa, because it would harm the more than 1 million civilians who are still there.

The U.N. now saying some 360,000 have moved down, but around a million are believed to have sought refuge down. They're fleeing from the fighting

after Israel told them to go south and now, they have nowhere to go that really has any kind of infrastructure to support them.

But interestingly, Isa, top U.S. officials now saying that, that Rafah operation would essentially be ineffective, that it would not accomplish

Israel's goals of trying to eradicate Hamas there in Rafah. Jake Sullivan saying that Rafah militants could melt into the civilian population, that a

vacuum would be created that Hamas could then come flood back into.

And you heard the Secretary of State talking about the fighting that we're now seeing and the re-emergence that we're now seeing of Hamas in Khan

Yunis. You mentioned the fighting in Jabalya, that's taking place. So, Hamas is re-emerging there, and that is because according to U.S.

officials, there hasn't been a plan for governance, for security, and that is something that the U.S. has been working on, they say with other allies,

Arab countries, for example.

But Secretary of State Antony Blinken, making the clear point that he's not seeing enough engagement from Israel on those points. And so, he wants to

see about -- more of that dialogue about what will happen in Gaza afterwards, because the -- he doesn't believe that it would be effective if

they went in and carried out this large scale operation to take out Hamas in Rafah, Isa.


SOARES: And Jeremy, just going back to you, if I could, given that you've been speaking to so many there on the ground. I think -- I wonder if you

could just add context here in terms of what the families there, what the Israelis are telling you about the way this war is being conducted. What

are you hearing from those on the streets?

DIAMOND: Well, there's no question that typically the people who attend these rallies, these protests, calling for a hostage and a ceasefire deal,

they feel that the current Israeli government that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are prioritizing the goals of the war in terms of destroying

Hamas and removing its hold on power in Gaza over the prospects of a hostage and a ceasefire deal.

They feel like those priorities are out of whack. And interestingly, when we heard from the Israeli Prime Minister today in delivering Memorial Day

remarks, he talked about the goals of the war, and he talked about them once again, hand-in-hand destroying Hamas and also securing the release of

the hostages.

But increasingly, people here feel like those two goals are very much at odds with each other, that the military pressure is not the way to secure

the release of the hostages. They feel that the Israeli government isn't doing enough at the negotiating table. But then I also speak with some of

the families of these hostages who say that at this point, they simply do not know what to believe or who to believe.

That woman who I told you about, Ayelet Samerano, you know, she told me that she's not sure anymore who to believe. I spoke with the daughter of

another hostage who said, you know, that it's not clear to her at this point if the Israeli government is or isn't doing enough at the negotiating


And you just have to think about the emotional roller-coaster that these last several weeks have been for those families as they have watched these

reports of progress and optimism at the negotiating table, only to see that progress crumble once again. And for Israel and Hamas to be once again at a


And instead what we are seeing is ramped up Israeli military activity in Gaza, not only in the south in Rafah, where that ongoing military operation

has been happening over the course of the last week. But also now, the Israeli military saying that three -- the fighters from Israeli troops from

three different divisions are now fighting in southern, central as well as in northern Gaza. Isa.

SOARES: Yes, absolutely terrifying for so many families and an important insight there from that team on the ground. Jeremy Diamond and Alex

Marquardt, thank you to you both. And on tomorrow's show, I'll be speaking to Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg-Polin, their son, Hersh, an Israeli-

American was kidnapped during the Hamas attacks, if you remember, on -- Israel, on October the 7th.

Just a few days ago, Hamas released a video of Hersh, and this was the first proof that he survived, being badly wounded during his capture. Don't

want to miss that interview live right here on tomorrow's program. And still to come tonight, we'll go back to New York for the latest in the

Donald Trump hush money case.

His former lawyer, as well as adviser Michael Cohen is on the stand right now.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Court is back in session in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial in New York.

Still on the stand is one of Trump's closest former advisors, Michael Cohen. Early on, Cohen said he was told to delay a payment to the adult

film actress Stormy Daniels until after the election, told by Trump. He also testified that Trump was worried about how women voters would react to

his alleged sex scandals.

Cohen, a crucial witness for the prosecution in its case against the former president, his testimony central to their case. Joining me now from Florida

is former Miami-Dade County Judge Jeff Swartz. Good to have you back on, Jeff.


SCIUTTO: So you have Michael Cohen testifying here that Donald Trump was so involved that he even suggested pushing the hush money payment until after

the election so that he wouldn't have to pay it, in effect. I wonder how that fits into the -- beyond what it says about his character. I wonder how

that fits into the prosecution's case here, because their case is he was highly knowledgeable and highly involved, while the defense seems to be

focused on saying this was not his business. He wasn't that worried about it.

SWARTZ: Well, it's interesting because Mr. Davidson made a point of saying that he had been being stalled by Michael several times over a four day

period, being told the money's on the way, the checks in the mail, whatever you want to say. And he had finally reached the point where he said, I'm

calling off this deal because you're just stalling me to get to the election.

And it was at that point, apparently this afternoon, that Michael testified and said, I made a phone call to Mr. Trump, which was picked up on the log.

And it was an eight-second phone call where he left a message to have Mr. Trump call him and then went on to say that he was telling him you're going

to have to do something because I can't hold them off. They're going to go public tomorrow. We have to pay the money.

That shows how far into the minutia and the control over what Michael was doing that Mr. Trump had. And it's corroborated by Mr. Davidson. So Cohen's

not standing on his own.

SCIUTTO: And that was key. And that's one reason why we saw some of the other witnesses prior was to kind of build the case before you brought

Cohen up to the stand.

There was another moment notable in court this morning, and that was to hear Trump's voice recorded by Michael Cohen describing these payments. I

want to play that because we actually have the audio of what was played in the courtroom and then get your thoughts as to the significance. Have a



MICHAEL COHEN, AMERICAN ATTORNEY: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that

I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --


COHEN: -- to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what are we going to do?

COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff.

TRUMP: You got to be thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff, because, you know, you never know where that company -- never know where he's going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time for the financing --


Which will be --

TRUMP: Listen. What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won't pay with cash?

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

TRUMP: Check --


SCIUTTO: You hear him there saying he has to pay. That is Cohen and Trump suggesting paying in cash. Again, suggests knowledge of and involvement in

the decision regarding those payments. What is the significance of hearing Trump in his own words on tape? And not just for the legal case, but I

wonder for the way a jury is taking this all in.

SWARTZ: Well, first of all, hearing Mr. Trump's voice on all of this is kind of important. The fact that he is involved again in the minutia of all

of this and the fact that -- the downside to that tape is going to be for the defense that this was all being set up by Cohen and Weisselberg and

Weisselberg is not going to testify in this case.

And they're still dealing with the empty chair issue of bringing Weisselberg in and saying, I'm going to take the Fifth Amendment. The

state's not going to give immunity. And now all of a sudden the defense has to say, well, we don't want to put him on either because we don't know what

he's going to say either.

So, at that point -- plus he's subject to some very bad cross examination. So the fact of the matter is that at this point, there's something for the

defense to argue. But still, he's saying how he wants the money paid. He's backing up the idea that Cohen did not set up this shell corporation

without the knowledge of Trump and how the money was going to get transferred. So it really is more corroboration of what Michael Cohen is

saying. And that's kind of important. But it's coming from Trump. It's not coming from some other witness.

SCIUTTO: Right. Yes. And even to the point that detail you mentioned, I think important setting up this LLC to help process the payment. Before we

go, part of the defense, as I understand it, is based on intent to say that Trump's intent was not to influence the election, but primarily to protect

his family.

And you had an exchange with Cohen on the stand quoting Trump. And I'm paraphrasing the comment here. But Trump, in effect, saying he doesn't care

about Melania, that he's focused very, very much on the effect on the election. The impact of that particular testimony for the prosecution's

case, but also for the defense.

SWARTZ: OK, it's very important to the prosecution because in order to get a felony conviction, they have to prove that it was about the election. It

was about an illegal contribution of sorts.

And so therefore, an illegal and then based upon fraudulent entries in the books of the corporation. So it's kind of important that people see that

that's what it was about. That was also corroborated by Hope Hicks, who said, yes, he was worried about Melania, but he was more worried about the


And everybody seems to say the same thing. He was worried about the election. So now, Michael, who's involved with Trump at this point, is

basically saying the same thing, but directly out of Trump's mouth, saying precisely those words.

This is very important. It kind of hurts the defense of what his intent was, unless they've got some other way to get around this. They're going to

have to eat that kind of testimony and try to come up with, yes, he thought about it. But the real reason, the real substantial reason was Melania. And

that seems to be contradicted by just about everybody.

SCIUTTO: Right. In addition, I would expect going after Cohen's credibility, much as they did after Stormy Daniels. Jeff Swartz, thanks so

much, as always.

Over the weekend, Donald Trump used his downtime from his trial to get back on the campaign trail. He was met by enthusiastic crowds at a rally in the

state of New Jersey. Those crowds seemed to match the voters' sentiment in some new polling from The New York Times and Siena College. These polls

show Trump leading President Biden in four key battleground states, including Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan.

It's a bit closer in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with no clear leader there. But those are all states that, well, Biden did a heck of a lot

better in in 2020. Joining us now from Washington is Alayna Treene.

I wonder -- and again, there are different polls on different days, but I imagine the Trump campaign is celebrating these particular polls.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: You're exactly right, Jim. You don't have to wonder. They are celebrating. We saw Jason Miller, one of Donald Trump's

senior advisers, sharing this repeatedly on social media this morning. I received several texts from the campaign this morning just touting these

poll numbers. They are very happy with it.

But there are a few key things that I think are really important that we can take away from these most recent surveys. One is that the polling

between Trump and Biden in The New York Times and Siena, they are similar numbers from November.


But it's also similar numbers with other national polls that have really remained stable for the last several months. And that's something that's

very concerning to the Biden campaign because, really, this is what they are working toward. They're trying to change voter opinions. And it's not

really working so that's one thing to keep in mind, just how consistent these numbers have been in poll after poll.

The other thing is some of the underlying questions that The New York Times and the Siena College poll asked, which is really focusing on young voters,

Hispanic voters and black voters. These are key coalitions that are fundamentally have helped Democrats in past elections before. But, really,

Biden's campaign, these polls show, are not doing well or resounding well with those types of voters. So that's another area of concern.

I mean, one of the polls, I'm just going to pull it up here, showed Donald Trump receives roughly 20 percent support from black voters in a head-to-

head matchup with Biden. So, that's a big number, considering just how much support Joe Biden had among black voters, specifically, back in 2020.

The other thing they found is some of the underlying issues for the Biden campaign, which is that a lot of voters don't think he is doing a good job

in handling the war with Israel and Hamas. They don't think that he has a great handling on the economy. They also found that a lot of people do not

think that the country is moving in the right direction, that they want some big changes. They do not want just a return to normalcy or to keep the

status quo.

They want to see someone who can shake it up. And a lot of voters think, regardless of their opinions of Donald Trump, that he is someone who would

definitely shake up American politics. So a lot of warning bells in this poll for the Biden campaign.

SCIUTTO: No question. We should know for the Trump campaign's reaction, they like the polls they like, right? And the other ones, they will often

say, oh, those polls don't mean anything.

TREENE: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Fake news. Alayna Treene, thanks so much. And we will be right back after a short break.


SOARES: Welcome back. On Indonesia's Sumatra Island, search and rescue officials say at least 43 people have been killed. Heavy rains triggered

flash flooding and what is called a cold lava flow from an active volcano, that's when volcanic debris and rocks flow down the volcano slopes during

wet weather. The disaster has also forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 people.

In Afghanistan, more than 300 people have been killed in floods in the country's northern east -- northern region, I should say.


Torrents of mud washed away people as well as animals and houses. It is the latest climate disaster to hit the country that went through a summer of

intense heat as well as drought. Anna Coren has more and a warning some viewers may find parts of her report disturbing.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ferocious roar of water heard moments before its devastating arrival. "Run away, people," yells a

villager. "Oh, brother, run away." The flash flooding in mountainous Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan hit on Friday.

Many men were at the mosque for prayers while women and children stayed home. Their mud brick dwellings engulfed with raging torrents of water.

These four siblings including 2-year-old Aria were rescued. "Take off the rope from his body," instructs the man recording on his phone. "Bring him

to his mother and get him warm."

Their uncle spoke to CNN and told us that all 10 family members survived the flood and are now being treated in hospital. But everyone is filled

with fear of what Mother Nature can unleash. "This is the roof of the madrasa and the flood has swept everywhere," explains the villager. "This

man held me tightly, otherwise I was gone."

For this little girl, there were no miracles that day. "The flood took everything," she cries shaking. "My mother was swept away."

In the central hospital of Baghlan province, the bodies of dozens of children have been brought here to prepare for burial. "Most of these

victims are children," explains the man, and so many more are still missing.

The World Food Programme says it's sending emergency aid, some via donkey, to now inaccessible areas in a region that was already poverty stricken.

TIMOTHY ANDERSON, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: There's been a system to identify the most vulnerable people who are in danger essentially of starvation.

These areas are among those hot spots, so it was already pretty grim and now it's catastrophic.

COREN (voice-over): The Taliban says it's mobilizing all available resources, but it's calling on the U.N. and humanitarian agencies to


For a country devastated by decades of conflict, suffering an economic crisis and now bearing the brunt of climate change, this current disaster

is one the people of Afghanistan must also endure. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


SOARES: Just devastating. Well, in Brazil, the death toll from weeks of heavy rain and floods is continuing to rise. According to official data, at

least 147 people in the state of Rio Grande do Sul have now died. That's more than 800, we understand more than 800 are injured and 127 people are

still missing.

This -- the ongoing disaster, of course, as we told you last week, has affected millions of people. The heaviest rainfall is expected to wrap up

on Monday. A small relief after the area, of course, exceeded 100 millimeters of rain in a period of just 24 hours.

We're going to take a short break. See you on the other side.



SOARES: While jury selection is underway in the trial of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat and two co-defendants have all pleaded

not guilty and they're accused of receiving large bribes to help the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The bribes are said to have included cash, gold as well as a luxury car. Menendez faces 16 charges. His wife, Nadine, has been charged as well.

However, she will face a separate trial.

CNN correspondent Jason Carroll joins us from outside the courthouse in New York. So Jason, just talk us through, our viewers through, what we can

expect here.

JASON CARROLL, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's talk about what's happening right now and that's jury selection, the initial phases of

jury selection now underway. The judge asking a pool of potentially 100 jurors questions like would they be able to sit for a trial that's expected

to last several weeks. Would that be a hardship for them, yes or no, just one of the questions that potential jurors are going to be asked here.

So once a jury is set, then we're going to move on with opening statements where both sides will lay out their cases to jurors. We already know what

the defense has said. They've been pretty clear about they say Menendez and his wife, Nadine, accepted bribes in exchange for favors from the senator.

Bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, gold bars that they found at the senator's home in New Jersey when they executed a search

warrant there. The senator, for his part, has maintained his innocence throughout this, Isa, saying that the government is overstepping, that

they're making a target after him, that they're going after him.

Senator Menendez also, we're getting a sort of a hint as to what his possible defense may be, at least part of his defense. And that came

through a pretrial document. There was a very interesting passage that I want to read part of it to you. It has to go to his defense. It says,

Senator Menendez intends to present a defense arguing, in part, that he lacked the requisite knowledge of much of the conduct and statements of his

wife, Nadine, and did not agree to join any of the charged conspiracies.

So, perhaps that means, as part of the defense, what they're going to do is lay part of the blame at Nadine Menendez, who, as you know, will be tried

separately in July. But once again, right now, first steps first, and that's jury selection, which is now underway. Isa.

SOARES: Jason, appreciate it. Thanks for breaking it all down for us, Jason Carroll there.

And finally tonight, the stars were out for L.A.'s Gold Gala, this annual event aimed to honor Asian Pacific contributions to the creative arts, as

well as much more. Kristie Lu Stout has a story for you.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stars arrived at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to attend the annual Gold

Gala, a gathering of who's who in the Asian Pacific community. The event celebrates the non-profit Gold House's A100 list, 100 changemakers making a

significant impact in areas like entertainment, fashion, technology, and more.

PRABAL GURUNG, FASHION DESIGNER AND GOLD GALA CREATIVE DIRECTOR (through translator): It's great to see that kind of visibility. There's a long way

to go still, you know, obviously we feel that way, but the progress is being made.

STOUT (voice-over): Among this year's honorees, Padma Lakshmi.

PADMA LAKSHMI, AUTHOR AND TV HOST: I just feel seen. I feel so humbled to be included.

STOUT (voice-over): And Lucy Liu.

LUCY LIU, ACTRESS: It's a really important time to be together in this community.

STOUT (voice-over): When it comes to Hollywood, Asians have historically been underrepresented or stereotyped, but that's changed in recent years. A

joint study by Gold House and USC Annenberg found the percentage of speaking Asian characters in top box office films in the U.S. rose from 3.4

percent in 2007 to 15.9 percent in 2022.


The roles themselves are more complex. The age of streaming has also ushered in more opportunities for diverse storytelling.

LAKSHMI: I think what the industry has realized is that Asian creativity and Asian talent is A, different, and B, lucrative. You know, that's been

wonderful to see people take chances and how we've knocked it out of the park.

JOEL KIM BOOSTER, ACTION AND COMEDIAN: Events like this are so exciting to me because when I was coming up in this industry, I think there was a lot

of energy of, like, there's only going to be one of us in the room. It's so rewarding to be in a space like this where we're all coming together and

we're all supporting each other as a community. It's not something that I grew up imagining I'd have for myself.

STOUT (voice-over): Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

SOARES: Fantastic. And thank you for watching tonight. You stay right here and "NEWSROOM" with my colleague Jim Sciutto, who's up next. And, of

course, you'll have much more on what's happening in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial, where, of course, as you know, that still on the

stand is Michael Cohen. We'll have much more on that as well as the other top international stories. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.