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Isa Soares Tonight

Russian Forces Advance In Northeastern Kharkiv Region; Blinken: U.S. Weapons Package Has Started Arriving In Ukraine; Trump Lawyer Grills Michael Cohen On Social Media Rants; Israel-Hamas War; GOP Attempt To Prevent Biden From Stopping The Supply Of Weaponry To Israel; Talks Hampered By Israel's Rafah Operation, According To Qatar PM; Captive Hersh Goldberg-Polin's Parents Talk To CNN; Donald Trump's Hush Money Trial; Cross-Examination Of Michael Cohen By Trump Defense; Deadly Prison Van Ambush In France. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 14, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome, everyone, I'm Isa Soares in London where it's just gone 7:00 p.m., and

tonight, we are covering developments in Ukraine where the U.S. Secretary of State has paid a surprise visit, promising Kyiv more support as well as

scenes unfolding in Georgia where huge crowds of protesters are gathered following the passing of a very controversial law. We'll have more on that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: No question. Consequential events overseas, I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington tracking the developments in Donald

Trump's criminal hush money trial. The man at the center of the trial, Michael Cohen, will soon be cross-examined by the former president's legal

defense team. We're going to have much more on the trial in just the next ten minutes or so.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Jim. We begin this hour though in Ukraine where Russian offensive on the north eastern front is making gains during a

critical time, of course, in the war, as Kyiv waits for desperately-needed U.S. military aid. Now, Moscow's troops launched a surprised cross-border

attack in the Kharkiv region.

Just a few days ago, we brought you that just yesterday, and they're taking a series of towns and villages right along the way. And they're advancing

in several other areas as well. Meanwhile, Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital today.

And this comes after the U.S., of course, approved a massive military assistance package to Ukraine that had, if you remember, being blocked for

months on end by Republican lawmakers. Now, the U.S. Secretary of State met with President Zelenskyy, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and he reaffirmed America's

support. Have a little -- have a listen to this little clip.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: Our joint task is to secure Ukraine sustained and permanent strategic advantage so that Ukraine

can not only deliver on the battlefield today, but deter and defend against future attacks. As President Biden said, we want Ukraine to win, and we're

committed to helping you do it.


SOARES: Well, joining us with the very latest is Kylie Atwood who is at the State Department now, Fred Pleitgen is with us from Berlin. And Fred, let

me start with you. This visit clearly by Secretary Blinken comes at a crucial time. You and I were talking about this when Ukraine is losing

ground after a long delay in U.S. aid.

First of all, how much of that promised aid has arrived? Well, do we have a sense of that? And is it enough here to make a difference to those

frontlines and to push the Russian forces back?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think right now, it is already making a difference on the frontlines. I don't

think that it's pushing the Russians back yet. We can clearly see that on all frontlines including that new one, that new assault that you were just

speaking about in the northeast of the country, the Russians still are advancing, but certainly at a much slower pace.

For instance, today, than they did yesterday, at least according to the Ukrainians, and the Russians are sort of acknowledging that as well. Now,

listening to Antony Blinken today, he said that some of the aid has already hit the frontlines and a lot more is set to arrive.

Essentially, what the U.S. did when it got that aid package through is, it tried to get some of that military aid, especially ammunition to the

Ukrainians as fast as possible, because that's been their biggest issue of big lack of an ammunition -- rocket artillery ammunition, but then also

regular 155 millimeter artillery ammunition has been a big deal and a big problem for the Ukrainians.

In fact, pretty much over the past seven months that I've been going to Ukraine on every frontline, the Ukrainians have been speaking about being

starved of artillery shells, so that's certainly something that can make a difference fairly quickly, but at the same time, of course, the Ukrainians

are badly outnumbered because the Russians certainly have gotten a lot of people into military service.

And a lot of that aid simply hasn't reached the frontline yet, because it is logistically, of course, also a challenge as well.

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: Finally, one of the big issues that Volodymyr Zelenskyy was speaking about, which I think is probably one that is absolutely key right

now up there in the north and in the east, is that the Russians are just able to use their Air Force a lot more effectively --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: Than they have in the past. They're able to fire bombs or drop bombs from a lot further away from the frontlines, and that's why Volodymyr

Zelenskyy said that Ukrainians essentially need two more Patriot surface- to-air missile systems to be able to protect that region. There are long distance, they're the only thing the Ukrainians say that can keep those

Russian jets away. Isa.

SOARES: Yes, and that, Kylie, really to you, we heard once again, Secretary Blinken throwing support as well as solidarity behind Ukraine.


He said you are not -- you're not alone, we'll stay by your side. Does this support really, to what Fred was talking about? Does this support include

any air defenses here for Ukraine?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At this time, it doesn't include the types of air defenses that Zelenskyy is asking for, and that's

the key here. That's why Zelenskyy obviously felt the need to come out and very clearly say exactly what he believes Ukraine needs at this time.

So, that will be, of course, a question that we continue to ask this administration, but the Secretary of State made the case that there have

been questions about Ukraine and its ability to rely on the United States to sustain its support for Ukraine.

And he said he believes that, that $60 billion new assistance and weapons package that is now beginning to be delivered to Ukraine shows that they

can rely on the United States, pointing out that it was passed in Congress with wide support on both sides of the aisle, despite, of course, the fact

that it took months to get there.

And of course, the secretary has admitted that there were costs that the Ukrainians endured because of that delay. The other thing that he spoke

about at length was the need for the Ukrainians to root out corruption. He spoke about the progress that the country has made in building up its


And he said that, that work needs to continue to go on. Saying quote, "winning on the battlefield will prevent Ukraine from becoming part of

Russia, winning the war against corruption will keep Ukraine from becoming like Russia." So, some pretty clear language on that front, and the other

thing that I want to note is that he committed to continued efforts to try and make sure that those frozen Russian assets in Europe and the United

States are freed up so they can be used to rebuild Ukraine.

He said -- because Putin has created this destruction, Russia should pay for the rebuilding of Ukraine. This has been something that the U.S. and

the G7 had been working on for months now. The Secretary of State didn't have any timeline for that, so, that is an area we will continue to watch

because it could be tremendously helpful for the Ukrainians.

SOARES: Without a doubt. Kylie Atwood there for us. And thanks to our Fred Pleitgen too. I want to turn now to Georgia where parliament has passed a

controversial -- a controversial, I should say, Foreign Agents Bill, despite of course, widespread opposition. It was a chaotic scene unfolding

really early in Tbilisi as wide police moved on protesters after some broke into parliament grounds.

Demonstrators gathered ahead of the vote, and the bill, as you well know, because we bought you this story here for several weeks now, has received

condemnation for derailing Georgia's route to becoming an EU member, really pivoting towards Russia instead. Have a listen.


KETI MATCHAVARIANI, GEORGIAN PROTESTER: I feel like this law is going to destroy the European future that my country has been fighting for. I think

the Georgian government is trying to take something away from us that we -- the majority of us is like very desperate to have.


SOARES: And the bill would require organizations to register as agents of foreign influence if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding

from a board or else face huge fines. I want to talk about really what's at stake, because of this bill? Joining me now in London is former ambassador,

head of the Georgian Mission to the EU, Natalie Sabanadze and CNN correspondent Clare Sebastian.

Clare, to you first, if I could. I mean, do you -- give us just -- give our viewers a sense of what this bill actually means in real terms to Georgian

civil society here.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Isa, it would have a pretty immediate chilling effect on civil society, as you say on paper,

this is about organizations that get more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad. Registering, they then would have to submit to sort of onerous

reporting or requirements, and if they don't do that, then they could face penalties like fines.

Now, I spoke today to the director, the local director of Transparency International in Georgia who told me that if the law is passed, they would

not be registering and she understands that, that means that they would face those penalties and would in her words find it difficult to do their

work like observing elections.

So, you see there the kind of ripple effects that you get from a law like this, plus, the worry that as we've seen with the similar law in Russia,

they could gradually tighten it over time, increasing the level of repression that it causes. This is why, Isa, now today, and from a number

of weeks now, Georgia streets have erupted. Take a look.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Storming the barricades where justice in the Georgian capital refusing to accept their weeks-long battle could be lost.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't scare us, they can't do anything to make us go away. We are going to stay here and fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not Russians, we are not Belarus, we will not allow anyone to bring us as foreign agents. We will resist.

SEBASTIAN: Protesters faced down a wall of riot police pushing them back just hours after opposition and government faced off in parliament.

ANA TSITIDZE, GEORGIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, UNITED NATIONAL MOVEMENT (through translator): You are the Russian regime. You are the illegitimate

Russian regime.

EKA SEPASHVILI, GEORGIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, GEORGIAN DREAM (through translator): It's double-standards and the hypocrisy of the opposition.

SEBASTIAN: Georgia's pro-European majority has tasted success. Scenes like this last year forced the government to scrap the same so-called Foreign

Agent Bill, seen here as a replica of a repressive Russian law and a sign of Moscow's growing influence in this small post-Soviet state.

Then in March, barely three months after gaining EU candidate status, the Georgian government revived the law. In a rare appearance in late April,

the ruling party's honorary leader and most powerful driving force, lashing out the West.

BIDZINA IVANISHVILI, RULING PARTY HONORARY CHAIRMAN, GEORGIAN DREAM (through translator): Despite the promises of the 2008 Bucharest Summit,

Georgia and Ukraine have not been accepted into NATO, and have been left out to dry. All those decisions are made by the global party of war.

SEBASTIAN: As protesters grew more determined, the police response escalated. Violence widely condemned by the European Union. In this

shocking attack on May 1st, opposition leader, Levan Khabeishvili says he was deliberately targeted. His bruises are still visible.

LEVAN KHABEISHVILI, GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER, UNITED NATIONAL MOVEMENT (through translator): They did not get what they wanted from me. They were

filming to upload the video afterwards, and to show the opposition leader in a state that would discredit me.

SEBASTIAN: And violence not the only means of intimidation, Transparency International says these posters of its local executive director appeared a

few days ago outside its offices and those of other NGOs. The text reads, "traitor" and "grant guzzler".

EKA GIGAURI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL: You are under attack all the time. So, the governmental officials and even the prime

minister would organize the press conference where they would single you out.

SEBASTIAN: Still the drumbeat of opposition in Georgia grows louder. This is a country at a cross-roads. EU making it clear this bill becomes law,

future membership is at serious risk.


SOARES: Let's bring in Natalie and Clare, do stay with us for this conversation because it's so important because you, of course, have been

covering this for weeks. Because Natalie, we've seen these protests now for weeks on end, and they have done very little clearly to move the needle.

Why isn't the government there heeding the call of the protesters because we were -- we were covered -- we covered this story roughly March of last

year, there was a pause, right? So, why haven't that had the same effect that we saw --


SOARES: Compared to last year?

SABANADZE: Well, first of all, on the scale of the protests, I have to say Georgia has seen its quite fair amount of revolutions and protests. But

what we saw on Saturday in particular, this was the largest demonstration I think in the history of post-independence Georgia. So, it has really

galvanized people, and you know, as we've heard, it's been going on now for weeks.


SABANADZE: Last year, exactly in March, they tried to introduce the same bill under pressure from protesters as well as international partners, the

ruling party, Georgian Dream at that time decided to withdraw this bill. And not only that, they promised both to the public and to the partners

abroad, that this will be -- this was a done deal.

That they were not going to return to it. So, this was a surprise move to put it on the table. Now, six months before the elections --

SOARES: Why -- what's politically -- what does it mean?

SABANADZE: So -- and plus, they have really determined to push this through. Now to answer your question, to back down second time is going to

be much more costly to them politically. So, this is not even being considered at this point. And there is a reason why they introduced this

six months before elections.

I mean, we've heard this chairman and the founder of the Georgian Dream who basically -- fierce-colored revolution. It's exactly the same motive that

Putin had when he introduced his foreign agents --

SOARES: Yes --

SABANADZE: You know, in 2012. He fears that after -- he's not sure how the --

SOARES: Yes --

SABANADZE: Party is going to do during this elections because they are going to be proportional election for the first time. It's going to be hard

to win. It. So, he wants to prevent colored revolution, and he wants to prevent any kind of manifestation of dissent. And the main source of it in

Georgia, its civil society is public, which is very vibrant.

SOARES: And on that case then Clare, it's there anyway to delay it now, because I'm guessing it goes to the president, the president says, she's

going to veto it, but she really doesn't have a majority, right?


It's the parliament that has a say here. So, what else? What other pressure is there? And just to bring later, the White House in the last few minutes

has slammed this new law. I'm just going to read a quote from the White House who said, "we will see what the parliament does. But if this

legislation passes, it will compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia."

What are we hearing from Europe? What else? What other tools are there to put pressure on the Georgian government? Let's say sanctions. I don't know.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, you will. Sanctions is one of the things, Isa, that opposition figures, civil society representatives that we've been speaking

to have brought up. They do believe that if the U.S. were to bring in individual sanctions against members of the ruling elite, that they would

have an impact, things like asset freezes and travel bans would impact their lifestyles.

International pressure is one thing the president of Georgia who was on our air in the last hour or so did say, that she does not believe that this can

be changed in parliament. I think you can see from events of the last few days, the bill and the third reading passed through the legal committee in

67 seconds.

They faced no real opposition to that or at least, amid reports that the opposition weren't even allowed into the room. If the president, as we

expect, does veto this, she has ten days to do that, then the parliament has another two weeks after that to override it, and they do have the votes

to do that.

That gives a couple of weeks where the -- you know, the people on the streets can ramp up the pressure, can hope for some kind of turnaround. But

I think whether really putting their hopes at this moment is one on that international pressure, some of which --

SOARES: Yes --

SEBASTIAN: I think with those comments from the White House, we see it coming to bear today, and secondly, on those elections where with Europe's

watch for gays(ph), they do hope to be able to bring about change democratic --

SOARES: Yes, and European officials have been very vocal as we have seen in the last few weeks. Speaking to people on the streets, Clare, I just want

to bring our viewers the very latest images, we are seeing live pictures coming to us from Tbilisi where it's just 60 minutes past 10:00.

As we look at these images, Natalie, you know, I remember having a conversation with the president of Georgia, and she said to me that it's a

-- this is Russian strategy of destabilization. This is Russian soft power at work. Just explain that because we know where majority of Jordan side,

right? Eighty percent want to be closer to Europe. Explain what that means in real terms for our viewers around the world.

SABANADZE: Yes, if there was one constant in Georgia's foreign policy, it was determination to go westwards, to become part of the collective West,

join European Union and NATO. And that has been consistent even with this government, they continue to pursue this policy.

I was representative of Georgia under this government three years ago. And precisely then, there's a very dramatic change, and because it is such a --

such a shift from the years of continuation, it is very strange. And President is right. This bill in particular is the most obvious

manifestation of the government's pivot-away from the West, because it is the Russian bill.

It is an instrument that the government is acquiring. It's a legal instrument to stifle dissent and to basically destroy the opposition, and

we know for sure, an opposition, I mean, not only political opposition, societal position as well. And we know for sure that this is going to

derail Georgia's European integration.

Now, interestingly enough, they don't say that they want to derail European integration because obviously this would be political suicide with --

SOARES: Yes --

SABANADZE: The 80 percent for it. So, they continue insisting no, we want to join the EU, and we want to join NATO. But they say one thing and do

something completely different. And so, people feel really betrayed. And this young lady that was talking, it is true. It is since their gaining of

independence, Georgia was waiting for this window of opportunity. It has opened up, and now it is our own government that doesn't want to take it --

SOARES: Yes, and as I've heard today, we've been hearing many saying, this is a betrayal of their national dream, really. Natalie and Clare, thank you

to you both. Of course, we'll stay across all those images coming to us live from Tbilisi. But this is clearly, of course, Georgia at a cross-


We'll have much more on this ahead this hour, as well as our other international stories. But for now, I want to hand over to Jim Sciutto for

the latest on Trump's hush money trial. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much, Isa, it is day 17 of Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, and we could be nearing the end. Any moment now, the

prosecution's star witness will face off with Trump's defense attorney in what promises to be a fiery exchange. Todd Blanche is expected to attack

Michael Cohen's credibility.

As cross-examination begins, we learned moments ago that Cohen has re- entered the courtroom under direct examination by prosecutors. Cohen described the moment of truth with his family, who asked him point-blank in

2018, why he remained loyal to Trump?

It was then Cohen testified that he decided he would not lie for President Trump anymore.


Earlier, an appeals court rejected Trump's challenge to the gag order issued by Judge Juan Merchan in the case. CNN justice correspondent Jessica

Schneider has been closely following the trial. Jessica, first to one headline here that Cohen will be the last prosecution witness. The defense

may not call any witnesses, so, we could be -- if I have this right entering into closing arguments, perhaps even the start of jury

deliberations next week?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in fact, Todd Blanche has told the judge that their cross-examination will likely take until the

end of the day Thursday. Remember, the court is dark as always tomorrow. It's also dark on Friday. So, Donald Trump can attend his son, Barron's


And Jim, I'll tell you, cross-examination has literally just begun, and you might be able to see it on your screen there, but I mean, the sparks are

already flying. Todd Blanche, the lawyer who's conducting this cross- examination, you know, he says, you and I have never spoken before, have we? To Michael Cohen.

And then Blanche immediately says to Cohen, you went on TikTok and called me a crying little expletive. I mean, that is how things are beginning for

the cross-examination. Cohen responded, yes, sounds like something I would say. There was an objection from prosecutors, but this is exactly what we


A very fiery, combative-likely cross-examination, you know, similar, I guess to what we saw with Stormy Daniels, but this is going to be much more

amped up with Michael Cohen, because Jim, it's all at stake here. I mean, prosecutors elicited a number of times, I counted at least six to eight

times, that Michael Cohen directly said Donald Trump was directly involved in this hush money scheme.

He was really -- he was looking at it and he was involved in it every single step of the way. Cohen said, I constantly consulted Donald Trump.

So, really in many ways, the prosecution has laid out quite a case against Donald Trump. You know, is it enough to convict? It's unclear. That's of

course all up to the jury.

But the defense has a lot at stake here in this cross-examination, and we're already seeing the fire that is happening within the first --


SCHNEIDER: Few minutes of this. So, buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride for the next probably day and-a-half today, and then again on Thursday.


SCIUTTO: Certainly, we should know prosecutors prior to Cohen's testimony, took care to present other evidence to therefore make the cast -- case not

rest entirely on one person's --


SCIUTTO: Testimony. Though, of course, is a central. Prosecutors did have to deal with his credibility, Cohen's credibility and Cohen said in so many

words in his testimony that he regrets lying for Trump.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, he did. He said he regrets it. He said the reason why he eventually pleaded guilty to those federal crimes was because he had been

giving all of his loyalty to Donald Trump and his family eventually called him out on it, and said, why do you keep giving your loyalty to this guy?

You have to give your loyalty to us.

And that is when Michael Cohen said he decided to plead guilty. But you're right, Jim, it wasn't just Michael Cohen's words, in a way, Michael Cohen's

words were the icing on the cake. Prosecutors have the receipts, they have all of those signed checks, some of them signed by Donald Trump for -- from

the 11 times Michael Cohen was reimbursed.

They have the bank statements, they have the agreement that was signed by Allen Weisselberg. So, yes, it's not just Michael Cohen's words, but

Michael Cohen's words were very striking as opposed to just the --

SCIUTTO: Right --

SCHNEIDER: Other evidence that they had already admitted.

SCIUTTO: No question, and of course, they played that recording of Trump speaking about this as well --


SCIUTTO: Surreptitiously recorded by Cohen years prior. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. And still to come tonight, searching through the rubble,

the situation in central Gaza remains grim after overnight airstrikes killed dozens of people. We're going to have details just ahead.

And check in on the escalating tensions specifically about -- around Rafah in the south.



SOARES: "We were targeted while we were asleep." A father of seven spoke with CNN in the aftermath of overnight Israeli airstrikes. Right now,

families in central Gaza are searching for loved ones in the rubble. According to local hospital officials, dozens have been killed including

nine children.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials tell CNN that Israel now has enough troops around Rafah to launch a full-scale incursion. This despite U.S. as well as

international pressure, of course, not to go ahead with such an operation. Jeremy Diamond is following the story for us and he joins us now live from


And Jeremy, do we know then at this stage when this full-scale incursion will take place, and critically, what preparations are being made for the

million-plus people evacuating? What are you hearing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: We don't on either front really. I mean, U.S. officials have said that Israeli forces have now

amassed enough troops, enough material to be able to carry out a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah should they choose to do so.

But we don't have a sense of when or if that will actually come. What we have heard, of course, over the course of the last week since President

Biden made that threat regarding future U.S. weapons shipments. Should Israel carry out such a full-scale ground invasion has been a lot of

bluster, a lot of defiance from Israeli officials, certainly no indication of a course correction, but we also haven't yet seen the plans in motion to

be able to carry out that full-scale invasion.

What we've also seen is a lack of planning, a lack of information at least, about where the nearly 1.5 million people who were sheltering in Rafah

should go in the event of such an invasion. The Israeli military has pointed to the expanded humanitarian zone at Al-Mawasi.

But as we've seen over the course of the last week, nearly half-a-million people have already fled Rafah, heading for that area and other parts of

north of Rafah in Gaza. And what they have found is a total lack of sufficient and adequate infrastructure, sewage infrastructure, electricity,

water, humanitarian aid groups having trouble bringing enough aid in to reach those parts, those areas where people are setting up makeshift

shelters and tents.

And the United States is also saying that they have yet to see a credible and competent plan by the Israeli government for how exactly they will

evacuate that large number of people. So, certainly concerns escalating over exactly how this could happen.

And again, so far, we don't have a sense of timing from the Israeli government or when they plan to move forward.

SOARES: Yes, and that is a concern that I've been hearing as well, and I'll be speaking to the World Food Program in Rafah this time tomorrow to see

what they are doing and how they are preparing. Jeremy, appreciate it, thank you very much. Still to come tonight, an agonizing wait that no

parent should really have to endure.

After the break, I'll be speaking with Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son has now spent more than 200 days as a captive of Hamas inside




SOARES: Welcome back everyone.

In the United States, House Republicans are trying to pass a measure that would force Washington to send weapons to Israel. This new bill is called

the Israel Security Assistance Support Act. It prohibits the Biden administration from reversing, cancelling, or indeed pausing military aid

to Israel. It's in direct response to President Joe Biden's announcement, if you remember last week, that an invasion of Rafah would result in the

U.S. stopping the shipments of some weapons.

Joining me now from Washington with the very latest, Melanie Zanona. Melanie, great to see you. So, just talk us through what the

representatives have been saying. The chances here of stopping this?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Republicans are really looking to turn up the heat on President Biden and his handling of the

conflict in the Middle East. This legislation was added to the floor schedule just days after Biden said in an interview with CNN that he would

halt the shipment of some weapons to Israel if there is a major invasion of Rafah as Netanyahu has signaled, he would do.

So, what this legislation would specifically do was essentially forcing the administration to release any weapons or aid that have already been

approved by Congress to Israel, by restricting funds to the Pentagon and the State Department if they do cancel or halt any defense services.

Now, this measure would be dead on arrival in the Democratic controlled Senate, and of course, Biden would not sign something like this into law,

but it could really put House Democrats in a bind. The leadership, the House Democratic leadership is formally encouraging and asking its members

to vote against the bill.

And there were plenty of Democrats who applauded Biden's comments and who have concerns about these weapons being used to kill innocent civilians in

Gaza, but there was also some Democrats who pushed back against Biden's ultimatum. There was a group of 26 House Democrats who put together a

formal letter to the Biden administration. Telling him this was the wrong move.


So, certainly, this measure could really exploit some divisions in the Democratic Party, which is probably part of the calculation for Republicans


SOARES: Yes, yes. It sounds like it. Melanie, great to see you. Appreciate it.

Now, Israel's Rafah operation has set back negotiations for a hostage release and Gaza ceasefire, according to Qatar's Prime Minister. Qatar is,

as you know, and has been, of course, a key mediator between Israel as well as Hamas. But the Prime Minister warned, talks are almost at a stalemate

over a, "Fundamental difference on stopping the war in Gaza."

This would come as a major blow, of course, to the hundreds of Israeli family members still hoping for a breakthrough. Almost 100 hostages are

thought to still be alive inside Gaza. One of those people still in captivity is Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin. He was

kidnapped on October the 7th and has been in Gaza ever since. Just a few weeks ago, Hamas released a video of Hersh, the first proof that he

survived being badly wounded during his capture.

I want to bring in his parents now, Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg-Polin. They're joining me now from Jerusalem. Rachel and Jon, really appreciate

you taking the time to speak to us here on the show. As you probably have heard in the last, kind of, 24 hours, we have heard from President Biden,

who says he's still hopeful that a deal, of course, can be reached to bring the hostages on your son, Hersh, home, and to -- as well to bring a pause

to the fighting.

But by all the indications, it does seem that the negotiations have stalled. And I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. Just

your reaction, first of all, to those negotiations being at a pause for now.

RACHEL GOLDBERG-POLIN, MOTHER OF AMERICAN-ISRAELI HOSTAGE HERSH GOLDBERG- POLIN: Well, obviously, as parents, we are deeply concerned. And as all the hostage families are, we -- every time there's a stalling in the

negotiations, we feel tremendous frustration. We really feel that there should not be a halt to negotiations ever. That those people in that room

should actually be locked in that room until they can come up with a solution.

And if they feel helpless and frustrated and trapped, I would say, I have a feeling that the 132 hostages who have been held for 221 days feel

helpless, frustrated and trapped. And so, I think you have to stay in that room until you have a solution.

SOARES: And Jon, in a recent interview that you did, you said -- I'm just going to quote you here, "I understand everyone's playing a game. Israel,

the U.S. and Hamas." And you then added, we are caught in the middle of political games, Ben-Gvirs and Smotriches. We as parents want one thing, to

bring the hostages back today. All else is not for us to decide.

Just explain a bit more on what you mean by that -- by those comments. Is Prime Minister Netanyahu and others playing politics with the lives of

hostages, with the lives of your son?

JON POLIN, FATHER OF AMERICAN-ISRAELI HOSTAGE HERSH GOLDBERG-POLIN: Look, unfortunately, it has become politicized, not only in Israel but globally.

And it -- the proof is, it's 221 days in, and the hostages are still sitting there. So, we could talk a lot about who's blaming whom and who's

at fault, both domestically and globally, but there's a fact.

It's day 221 and 132 hostages remain in captivity. Something is wrong with that picture. We don't want to be in the middle of the politics. We don't

want to be in the middle of the blame. We just want to end the suffering for people on all sides and get these 132 hostages back home to their loved


Many are still believed to be alive. Some, unfortunately, are known to be dead. They all need to come home. The living to be rehabilitated. The

nonliving to be given proper burial. Now is the time.

SOARES: And it's not politics. I mean, in -- also public opinion. According to the latest poll, Rachel, a majority of the Jewish public, 56 percent,

agree that a deal to release the hostages should be the top priority for Israel, while 37 percent say military action in Rafah should be the top

priority. I mean, how do you assess then, really how Netanyahu's conducting this war? Is going into Rafah the best way to bring your son home?

GOLDBERG-POLIN: It's an excellent question, and truly, I'm not a military strategist, and I'm not a geopolitical, you know, expert. So, it's

difficult because I'm a mother, Jon's a father. We have all of these other families that are -- were coming from that angle.

And, remember, this is not just one monolithic, homogenous group of people. These people, these hostages, represent 25 different nations. They are

Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist.


The youngest one is one and a half years old, and the oldest is a grandfather who is 86. There's not a way to come at this objectively. We

are all subjective.

SOARES: And Rachel, look, I think --

POLIN: One --

SOARES: Go ahead. Go ahead, Jon.

POLIN: I wanted to throw something out, which is 221 days in, things seem to either be in neutral or taking steps backward. And one of the things

we've been talking about is the mediator sitting in the room may have the best intentions, but something is stuck. Here's an idea. We are happy to

come sit in that room with you. We are happy to bring in a family of suffering Gazan civilians to also join us in that room.

And you know what? While we don't have diplomatic experience, while we're not politicians, we have something else that is very valuable. We are

deeply, emotionally connected to solving this conflict as soon as possible. Invite us into the room.

SOARES: And for those listening that would be fantastic to have you right at the table and finding a solution for so many, of course, who are going

through all this pain. I want -- we're running out of time. But Rachel, I think it's really important, and Jon, that you talk about the moment, of

course, that you -- that we -- that you learned that Hamas released, you plan to release a video of your son. Just for our viewers right around the

world, what was that moment like when you saw him, when you heard him, when he spoke, I believe, directly to you and to your family?

GOLDBERG-POLIN: I mean, it was a huge, emotional, indescribable moment for us after half a year. When so many people did not believe that Hersh had

survived, having his arm amputated, which we had, you know, CNN was the one -- was the network that shared that video with us. And so, that was our

last image of him on October 7th, you know, getting onto that pickup truck with his arm missing, covered in blood, clearly in distress.

So, to see him, just, you know, 20 days ago, and to hear his voice and see him moving and see -- you know, he's clearly medically compromised and

fragile, but he's alive. And when he spoke directly to us, even if it was a script. We were happy and thrilled to hear him and see him.

SOARES: Rachel and Jon really appreciate you both taking the time. Here's hoping to some positive and good news to have your son back home. Thank you

very much to you both. We're going to take a short --


POLIN: Thank you.

SOARES: -- we're going to take a short break. We'll be back on the other side.



SCIUTTO: Further update on the Donald Trump criminal hush money trial underway in New York. As you see on our screen there, Cohen now under

cross-examination by defense attorneys. It is day 17 of the trial. The prosecution's star witness, Cohen, facing that cross-examination. it starts

off with some blistering fire.

Earlier, under direct examination by the prosecution, Cohen described a moment of truth with his family, who asked him point blank in 2018 why he

remained loyal to Trump? It was then Cohen testified he decided he would, "Not lie for President Trump anymore."

Also, on Tuesday an appeals court did reject Trump's challenge to the gag order issued by Judge Juan Merchan in this case which prevents him from

publicly attacking witnesses.

For more on where this stand, let's bring in Misty Marris, she's a defense and trial attorney. She joins us now from New York. Misty, let me get --

begin with where we stand because part of the news this morning is that Cohen will be the prosecution's last witness. He's now being cross-examined

by the defense, and that the defense will not call any witnesses, which means we could be done perhaps with testimony by the end of this week and

then into closing arguments and deliberations next week. Is that faster than you expected?

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was a little faster than I expected, Jim. We thought this trial was going to be stretched out over a

significantly longer period of time. Of course, all of that really relates to the defense and whether the defense decides to actually put on a case.

Remember, prosecutors have the burden of proof. They have to prove their case. The defense does not have to say anything. So, it's always a strategy

call, and oftentimes the defense will wait until the prosecutors are done or close to wrapping up their case to make that determination.

But Jim, we are really -- we're at the end of this thing. The Trump team said that they're going to cross-examine Michael Cohen today, cross-examine

Michael Cohen Thursday, court is dark on Friday. That means we're heading into jury instructions and closing arguments next week.

SCIUTTO: We're seeing the defense go after Cohen's credibility here, as expected. The prosecution tried to some degree to immunize him against that

by getting him to explain why he changed the story. And you had Cohen saying, in so many words, that he regrets lying for Trump. I wonder, do you

think the prosecution -- before we get to the defensive strategy here, do you think the prosecution did enough to, kind of, put a wall around the

credibility questions about Cohen?

MARRIS: They really had to. And there's a specific reason for this. So, when it comes to jury instructions, there will be an instruction that says,

juror, if you don't believe one part of this testimony, you can actually decide you don't believe any of it. You can believe none, some or all.

So, jurors have a lot of discretion in assessing that credibility. So, prosecutors needed to get ahead of it. They needed to control the narrative

about all of Michael Cohen's very, very obvious credibility issues. There's a -- just a timeline of changes in his story at admission.

He came out the gate on direct testimony and said, yes, I lied for Trump. He also said that he lied before courts. He lied before Congress. So, the

prosecutors really had to do that in order to get ahead of what they knew would be a big part of the cross-examination.

SCIUTTO: And prior to this, they tried to build up the case of the story based on other witnesses than Cohen, in part, again, to insulate their case

against those questions. We'll see what the jury thinks. I do want to ask you about how the defense now has been going after Cohen.

From the start of the cross-examination, it seemed that they were going more after Cohen's nastiness, some of his public nasty comments on TikTok

about the former president, about the former president's attorney, Todd Blanche here, prior to even going after his credibility. Now, I wonder if

that -- is that a successful, often a successful defense tactic?

MARRIS: Well, they --

SCIUTTO: To just portray the witness as kind of a nasty person.

MARRIS: Yes, I think they went right for the TikTok. And it's funny because I do think that we're going to see a bit more of that comeback. And look,

right now, they're actually going through in the questioning, talking about a lot of Michael Cohen's media appearances. They're talking about various

stages of when he was under investigation or communicating with district attorney's office, making appearances on TV, posting on social media.

I think that the reason the defense is doing this is because a lot of that is going to come back with a bit more specificity relating to Michael

Cohen's testimony. It was very, very chronological on direct. And part of that going to be public statements that he made, in the public sphere where

at first, he's defending Trump, then he hates Trump. They obviously had an acrimonious relationship at some point. That's going to be about


But, Jim, these TikTok's, this is going to come back to haunt him because that's not in the timeline. That's contemporaneous what he thinks about

this trial. So, that's going to be something the defense is going to capitalize on as the cross goes on.


SCIUTTO: And right now, we can see as the cross continues, they're going after his motivations here. Saying, you have these podcasts, you've written

these books, criticizing the president. The implication being, I imagine, that he's doing this for the money.

Of course, we should note he is testifying and has been testifying under oath. So, if you were to be lying in these circumstances, he would face

criminal prosecution again, or at least be vulnerable to it. Misty Marris, thanks so much.

MARRIS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And still to come tonight, a prisoner's escape. A frightening scene as gunmen ambush a prison van in broad daylight. There's video,

you'll want to see it.


SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

A convicted gangster is now on the run in France after a deadly brazen ambush on a prison transport van that was caught on video. Our Saskya

Vandoorne has now more from Paris.


SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: This kind of incident is extremely rare in France. Now, it happened shortly after 11:00 a.m., two gunmen

ambushed a police van that was transporting an inmate from court to a nearby prison in Normandy.

Now, authorities say the gunman killed two guards and wounded three others while helping the prisoner escape. Both the gunman and prisoner are now at

large and there's an ongoing manhunt for them. Now this happened at a motorway toll booth where many cars had stopped So there are several videos

of the scene. One quite dramatic video shows two hooded individuals who look like they're carrying long rifles.

Now, the justice minister has said that everything will be done to find the perpetrators. But what do we know about the prisoner? Well, he's 30 years

old. And he was in prison because he had been convicted of burglary. He's also being investigated for a kidnapping that resulted in a death,

according to the national prosecutor.

Now, there are currently several hundred police officers that have been deployed in the manhunt, and authorities on the scene have set up

roadblocks. President Macron also weighed in, saying that every effort is being made to find the perpetrators of this crime so that justice can be

done in the name of the French people.

Saskya Vandoorne, CNN, Paris.


SOARES: Now, authorities hope they can soon refloat the Dali cargo ship nearly seven weeks after it hit a bridge and caused its collapse. Monday, a

demolition crew destroyed part of the bridge that was trapping the ship in Baltimore, Maryland.


Once the Dal has moved, it will clear the way, of course, for other ships use -- to use the USC route. Six people died in the collapse when the ship

crashed into the bridge nearly seven weeks ago.

And finally, tonight, a special moment for Britain's King Charles. On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace unveiled the first official portrait of the

king. Now, this was by renowned artist Jonathan Yeo, who depicted his majesty wearing there, you can see close up, the uniform of the Welsh

Guards on which he was made regimental colonel in 1975.

To create the piece, Yeo sat with the King four times and also referred to drawings as well as photos that he took. Now, if you look at close up in

the picture, if we've got an image over the king's right shoulder, is a picture -- you can see the pictured -- is a monarch -- you can see there,

monarch butterfly. It's an endangered (ph), of course, a butterfly.

It has been a bit divisive here. Controversial in the studio. We did a little poll earlier, and about six people on my team said no, they didn't

like it. I loved it. So, let me know what you think. Tweet me @isacnn. This is, of course, the first completed portrait of Charles since his


Thanks for your company. That does it for us for today. Do stay right here. "Newsroom with Jim Sciutto" is up next. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.