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Isa Soares Tonight

Man Suspected Of Shooting Slovakia Prime Minister Charged With Attempted Murder; IDF Ground Operations Steadily Creep Into Rafah; Trump Defense Grills Cohen On Cross-Examination; Charges Of Attempted Murder Brought Against Suspect In Slovak Prime Minister Shooting; As Gang Violence Rages, Hunger Is Growing In Haiti; Michael Cohen Grilled By Trump Defense During Cross-Examination; Russia's War On Ukraine; In Northeastern Ukraine, Russia Is Gaining Ground; Russian Attack Mostly Affects Border Town. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 16, 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 O'clock in the

evening. And tonight, the man suspected of shooting Slovakia's prime minister has been charged with attempted murder. We'll be live in Slovakia

with the very latest.

Plus, ground operations is steadily creeping towards central Rafah. I'll speak with an American nurse on the ground in Gaza who says they're stuck,

they can't save lives and they can't leave.

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

more cross-examination of Trump's former fixer and personal loyal -- lawyer, Michael Cohen. We're going to have the latest on what is crucial

testimony in this trial next.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Jim. But first, police in Slovakia warning of an increase of online threats to politicians there after the assassination

attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico. A 71-year-old man is facing attempted murder charges for Wednesday shooting attack.

Officials have described the suspect as a lone wolf. He apparently told police he was motivated by his disagreement with the government and its

reforms. Prime Minister Fico is still hospitalized and in serious condition. He's had several surgeries.

The Slovak President-elect said Fico is conscious and able to speak. Our Fred Pleitgen just now from the capital of Bratislava with the very latest.

So, Fred, we know now the name of the shooter, what we know about him and any other details you can find in terms of the investigation here by


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation, Isa, saying that they basically only have one lead. They

believe that this man is 71-year-old man from the south of Slovakia, that he came to that place, Handlova, wanting to gun down the Prime Minister

Robert Fico.

And so, therefore they say that is right now the only investigative lead that they have, and they say that right now, the evidence for them is also

pretty clear. Now, as you've already pointed out, this man apparently had disagreements, says the government here put it, with a lot of the

government policies.

One of the things that of course, internationalized this all this a little bit, is that one of the main disagreements that apparently he had with the

government was the fact that the Fico government was cutting off aid to Ukraine, which of course, right now fighting against Russia. So, therefore,

they believe that all this is politically-motivated. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): After getting shot five times in broad daylight, Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico's condition remains difficult,

officials say, even though the wounds are no longer life threatening.

(on camera): This is exactly the place where Robert Fico was shot, and you can see on that tree over there that there is a hole with a forensic teams

appear to have carved something like a projectile out of the bark. Now, he suffered several gunshot wounds and had to be air-medevaced into a hospital


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The hospital says two surgical teams had to operate more than five hours to save the prime minister's life. Slovakia's

President-elect confirming Fico is now conscious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is able to speak, but only few sentences and then he is really tired, because he's under some medication -- some medication(ph).

So, of course, it is very difficult for him.

PLEITGEN: Slovakian authorities claiming the attack was politically motivated. The 71-year-old suspect, they say on the happy among other

things with the Russia-friendly Fico government's decision to cut off military aid to Ukraine. The country's Interior Minister stressing, though

the assailant was not part of a wider network.

MATUS SUTAJ-ESTOK, INTERIOR MINISTER, SLOVAKIA (through translator): He's a lone wolf, who is disappointed with the government accelerated after the

presidential election, when he decided to act.

PLEITGEN: This may and disbelief in the suspect's neighborhood. "I was very surprised by what he did", this neighbor says. "I don't understand how it

happened, something must have clicked." Robert Fico is often viewed as pro- Russian and critical of the European Union.

Slovakia society deeply divided. But now that the prime minister remains in intensive care, trying to recover, politicians from both sides are urging

unity and stability.



PLEITGEN: And really, Isa, it can't be overstated just how big these divisions are here in Slovakia society. When you speak to people on the

ground, they do acknowledge that, that divide is there, and that there is a lot of issues here within this society.

And I think it is quite crucial that politicians right now, really from both sides are coming out and urging national unity. It was quite

interesting because the outgoing president of this country came out and said, no matter where you stand politically, they believe this was an

attack on the democracy here in this country.

And there certainly are some who believe that this could really -- this attack on this politician could really destabilize the situation here in

this country, Isa.

SOARES: Yes, acute polarization. Fred, appreciate it, thank you very much. Fred Pleitgen live from Bratislava. We'll have much more of course, on

this story here in about 20 minutes as well as our other international stories. But for now, I want to hand over to Jim Sciutto for the very

latest on Trump's -- Trump's, I should say, hush money criminal trial.

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much, Isa, a crucial day, perhaps one of the final days in this trial. Donald Trumps' lead attorney is attempting to hammer away at

the credibility of one of the prosecution star witnesses, trying to portray him as a serial liar, determined to exact revenge on the man he once said

he'd take a bullet for.

Michael Cohen being grilled by the defense once again at Trump's hush money trial in New York. Cohen questioned about all of the times he previously

lied under oath, also, whether he held a grudge against Trump because he wasn't given a job in the Trump White House.

Trial is at a critical phase. Trump's former fixer will be the last witness for the prosecution, not clear whether the defense will call anyone to the

stand, but we are in the final days. Joined now by criminal defense attorney Joseph Tully. Good to have you on, sir.

Clearly, the intent today of the defense was to diminish Michael Cohen's credibility. We expected this going into the trial, and to do so, they

brought up a number of instances, including instances where he was charged with perjury in 2018, where he lied when he met with the special counsel in

August 2018 as well as other instances.

Did in your view, the defense hit their mark in undermining his credibility or were his answers sufficient?

JOSEPH TULLY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They did a good job attacking his credibility, and they did score some points there. I think if people were

leaning toward their side, they got maybe what they needed for that.

My hesitancy is that, you know, in underscoring how much of a liar Michael Cohen is, the fact that he had such a close relationship with Donald Trump

kind of cuts against their client as well. So, kind of cuts both ways. And in my view, such cross-examination had to be very delicate, and you want to

keep it very compartmentalize, where you know, you want to show that Michael Cohen is a liar and that Trump isn't.

And they didn't necessarily break that relationship. A lot of what they did actually, I think can cut against Donald Trump as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, of course, Donald Trump had the right to testify himself. He and his lawyer decided not to. Often times in cases, criminal cases, you

have imperfect, shall I say witnesses who might have been convicted of other crimes, but also might be testifying in exchange for clemency,

leniency, et cetera.

In this case, he is not. He's already gone to jail and served time for those crimes. I wonder does that add potentially to his credibility? Is

that an asset for the prosecution?

TULLY: Yes, so, there's an old saying in the -- in criminal practice that when a crime happens in hell, you don't have angels as witnesses. And I'm

sure that prosecution will bring up some form of that of that phrase during closing arguments.

I think that the fact that he wasn't testifying for leniency, that there's no offer there, it's one less tool that the defense can use in closing

argument in front of the jury. Normally, when there is an agreement for leniency, the defense can say to the -- to the jury in closing, ladies and

gentlemen, you can't trust what they're -- what that witness said, because they were given a grant of immunity or a promise of leniency, that if they

testified to XYZ, they would benefit in some way. So, you better believe members of the jury that --

SCIUTTO: Right --

TULLY: This witness testified to XYZ exactly as the government wanted. And so, the fact that they don't have that here, I think is a tool that the

defense does not have.

SCIUTTO: Now, perhaps is an alternative argument, the intent that the defense seems to be trying to build here is that he had a grudge against

Trump, that he wanted a position at the Trump White House, didn't get it.


And they even at one point quoted from his podcast, notably entitled "Mea Culpa", that he says quote, "I truly f-ing" -- I'm replacing the word

there, "hope that this man ends up in prison." So, they're trying to create another incentive for him to turn on Trump. But I wonder if you found that

credible for the defense.

TULLY: Right, you know, it sounds like for me, I would not rely on that in trial as a tactic. It's a very shallow thing, you know, so and so, didn't

ask you to the dance, so, you got mad and now you're -- at them. It's a very shallow motive in my view, and I don't know that a jury will really

buy that -- buy that all the way.

I do think that showing his ugly statements about Trump, anger and hatred do not play well in court, whether it's justified or unjustified. It

doesn't play well in court. So, I think the Trump defense team did a great job in bringing out a lot of his motive, his biases -- his ugly -- his

ugliness against Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: There's another issue that you have raised separate from Cohen's testimony, which goes to an essential part of the prosecution's case, and

that is that part of it must be that Trump specifically knew that the payments, the financial transactions were coded as legal expenses,

therefore, with the intent to violate federal campaign laws.

Your position is that, that crucial piece of the prosecution case -- prosecution's case, they have not proven.

TULLY: Correct. In fact, they've disproven it. The prosecution called two witnesses that established that has been uncovered, that the coding in

other words, legal payments, putting legal payments for the purpose of these checks was done by people in the accounting department and having to

do -- it was not at the direction of Donald Trump.

For the prosecution to truly win this case, they would have to prove that point beyond a reasonable doubt and we have two witnesses, where their

testimony uncontroverted has established the opposite. So, in my view, if the jury were to vote right now, it would have to be a vote for not guilty.

SCIUTTO: We will watch, and we could be getting to that point where the jury takes these charges into deliberations and then of course, they have

to make their decision. Joseph Tully, thanks so much for sharing your expertise. Still to come tonight, South Africa joins a growing global call

to try to stop Israel's assault on Rafah from expanding further. Details ahead on the request made to U.N.'s top court. Plus, a huge explosion in

northern Gaza. Details ahead on the situation there.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Israel has received several global calls to halt its offensive in the Gaza city or Rafah. And now, South Africa's

leaders are seeking an emergency hold to what they call a genocide that has reached a new and horrific stage.

I want you to take a listen to what one member of the South African legal team had to say during today's hearing at the International Court of

Justice. Have a listen.


VAUGHAN LOWE, SOUTH AFRICAN LEGAL TEAM: South Africa's request was initially focused on Rafah because the imminent prospect of death and

suffering on a massive scale resulting from Israel's attack. And since that request was made, it has become increasingly clear that Israel's

actions in Rafah are part of the end game in which Gaza is utterly destroyed as an area capable of human habitation. This is the last step in

the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people.


SOARES: And tomorrow, we are expecting to hear from the Israeli side at The Hague. Of course, we'll bring you that. And right now, Rafah is facing a

ground offensive that's moving towards the center of the city where hundreds of thousands are sheltering. Israel's Defense Minister Yoav

Gallant says more forces will be joining the Rafah operation.

Meanwhile, in the north, a massive explosion happened in Jabalya. Hospital officials say they have received several -- received several bodies and

many people being told who are injured. And this comes just one day after, according to the IDF, five Israeli soldiers were killed in a so-called

friendly fire incident in the same city.

All of this goes on -- as all of this goes on, of course, we've seen Gallant has now issued a challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

calling on him to come up with a plan for Gaza once the fighting ends, the day after, and to do it. Now, have a listen.


YOAV GALLANT, DEFENSE MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): I call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a decision and declare that

Israel will not have a civilian rule over the Gaza Strip. That there will be no Israeli military administration in the Gaza Strip. And that a

governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be promoted immediately.


SOARES: Let's speak about all these threats with our correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, who joins us this evening from Jerusalem. And Jeremy, I mean, this

Rafah operation from the IDF, does seem to be ramping up very quickly, and of course, the needs of the million-plus people seem to be getting more

dire. Just bring us up-to-date with the very latest on the ground.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Nearly more than half a million people at this point have been displaced from Rafah as

the fighting intensifies, not only there in southern Gaza, but also in northern Gaza. The Israeli military, tonight, saying that they have allowed

more humanitarian aid trucks into the Gaza Strip, 365 aid trucks just today, they say including 38 trucks carrying flour, 76,000 liters of fuel.

But the United States is also working to ramp up this maritime route to bring in more aid into Gaza. The U.S. military announcing today that early

this morning, they actually anchored that floating pier to the Gaza coastline. This is an effort that's been weeks in the making in

coordination with the Israeli military as well as local Palestinians on the ground, that could allow as many as 150 aid trucks per day into the Gaza

Strip once it is fully up and running.

Over the coming days, they're going to be testing out this causeway that would take aid trucks from this floating pier onto the coastline. And from

there, the United Nations will be responsible for receiving and distributing the humanitarian aid that arrives.

But the Rafah Border Crossing, meanwhile, it remains closed at this hour amid continued disputes between Egyptian and Israeli authorities over who

is responsible for that crossing remaining closed. It has been closed, of course, since the Israeli military began carrying out its offensive in

Rafah a week and a half ago.

The Israeli military still retaining control of the Gaza side of that crossing. And for now, there is no end in sight to that.


The Israeli military is actually planning on ramping up its military operations in Rafah with the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying that they

will send more troops into Rafah and already, an additional commando brigade has already joined other troops in Rafah.

SOARES: There for us on the ground in Jerusalem this hour, thanks very much, Jeremy. Well, a team of international medics are trapped in Gaza,

including American citizens who are calling on the U.S. government to bring them home. They were due to leave the enclave through the Rafah Crossing

that Jeremy was talking about there on Monday, but weren't able, of course, after Israeli forces seized the Gaza side of that border.

Monica Johnston joins us now, she's an American burn specialist and mother of two from the U.S. state of Oregon. She's also currently stuck in Gaza.

Monica, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. I think you've been, you know, at the European hospital for I think two weeks. Just

give us a sense, you know, what you have been seeing, because this is probably, possibly the most critical dire moment right now.


anything other than you can imagine. The injuries we're getting are exclusive burn injuries with patients, large burns, and all these large

injuries, these patients just are not making it.

They're passing away after 2-3-4 days. This is in part due to the lack of medications for them, the infections due to a lack of infection control

here. So, anything large coming to us is just not surviving.

SOARES: Yes, and this is something, Monica, I've been hearing from doctors -- we're looking at video that you've sent in. I think it's just important

to point out, this is your video, and what I've been hearing, Monica, I was saying, you know, from doctors, NGOs on the ground, it's just not only how

overwhelm there everyone is, but just under-resourced. You are treating burns and wounds. What are you treating these with?

JOHNSTON: So, as a burn nurse, I'm creative in my job anyways with -- about hold the dressing together and what to put on it. So, some dressings that I

do, and I use six different items, six different types of dressings just because that's all I have in my bag.

So, I -- we're scraping the bottom of our bags that we brought in. We brought in about 300 bags of supplies, and we just had two kids this

morning, a one and a three-year-old with the large burns, and I used almost all the stuff within that I had in my bag. So, it's devastating.

SOARES: It's devastating. And I don't know if you heard our correspondent before, it does seem to be getting worse, more dire by the day. Israel, of

course, despite the calls from NGOs, many western countries, including the United States is threatening, of course, to widen, Monica, this offensive

in Rafah.

I mean, what will this do you think to the European Gaza Hospital, and to not just the people, the citizens, but also those you work with, your


JOHNSTON: Yes, my colleagues, I have developed such amazing relationships with people, and they're so selfless, and you know, they worked tirelessly.

They've been working for seven-plus months, seeing death all around them. One of the nurses said that death -- you just smell death everywhere in


And it was just so heartbreaking to hear her say that. So, already, the hospital is completely under-staffed. ICUs are being staffed with nursing

students, interns, residents, so many people have fled due to the evacuation orders. So, with this continued evasion, more and more staff

keep fleeing to make sure they --

SOARES: Yes --

JOHNSTON: And their families are --

SOARES: Yes, and that's -- I mean, that's their priority, right? To protect their families is incredibly dire, really, the picture that we have been

hearing from so many on the ground. And I wonder where this leaves you then, Monica, because speaking from doctors on the show, I know, I

understand it's a rotation, right?

But you can't swap out because the Rafah Border Crossing is closed as we heard. So, what is happening? What are you hearing?

JOHNSTON: So, this is where the emotions come in, because, you know, we are here to help. And yes, we want to go home to our families, but without

replacement, these people will not make it at all. And, you know, we just got word this evening that that there may be an opportunity for part of our

team to go tomorrow.

And the emotions were so huge. Part of that was because it's the Americans on our team that get to leave. And the feeling of injustice with that,

along with just the injustice that we're seeing everywhere here. And, you know, the fear of leaving these people because our next team that's waiting

in Egypt to come in is not allowed passage.


So, half of our team is leaving, and the rest is left to pick up the pieces in the hospital, and the pieces --

SOARES: Does this mean, Monica, that you'll -- I mean, that you'll be leaving, you know, if no one else is coming in, are you going to be leaving

possibly tomorrow? I mean, and I can hear the guilt in your voice.

JOHNSTON: Yes, you know, yes, very possible that we're leaving tomorrow if everything goes through. But the guilt is immense. My female colleagues, my

roommates, my best friends now, I'm going to have to leave them behind, and with the intensified bombings that I am so fearful of them.

And then, not just them, all the staff and the patients that I developed relationships with. I am so terrified for their fate, and the guilt -- the

fact that I get to leave, me, because I'm American or white American, it just seems wrong --

SOARES: And going --

JOHNSTON: And the Palestinians don't get to leave.

SOARES: Yes, Monica, it's -- in just -- I hear you. I'm sure viewers completely understand your emotions right now, and I'm sure everyone on the

ground there and the hospital are incredibly grateful for everything you have done for them. Do keep us posted. I'm sure your children can't wait to

see you. Thank you very much, Monica, appreciate your time. And --

JOHNSTON: Thanks --

SOARES: Still to come tonight, police in Slovakia warn of an increase in online threats of politicians there just after an assassination attempt. Of

course, we look at how these threats expose a bitterly-divided Europe. Plus, I speak to a photographer who was documented in the life of ordinary

Haitians as gang violence continues to rage in the capital. Both those stories after this very short break, you are watching CNN.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

Slovak prosecutors say the 71-year-old man is charged with attempted murder in the assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico. The country's interior

minister says, the suspect is not a member of an extremist group, but he is described as a politically motivated lone wolf.

Now, since the attack, Slovak police report an increase in online threats against top officials across, really, the political spectrum. The shooting

came at a time of extreme divisions over Slovakia's position in the world, as well as its future.

Our International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson joins me now. And Nic, you know, we heard the defense minister and interior minister this time

yesterday, urging people, appealing for calm. What I'm hearing now, we knew there were divisions already, but that polarization is being acutely felt.

And there is a fear that this may become politicized. Just talk about this moment.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I -- I've -- it's interesting. I was looking back at the last report I did on Robert Fico

back October the 2nd, as it looked like he was about to win the election. And I'd quoted in that a quote from the European Commission Vice President,

who said that Russia is dangerously undermining, feeding false information to the Slovak population in the content and could affect the result of the


There is a fertile audience that is pro-Russian within Slovakia that is the power base, the vote base Fico.

SOARES: Fico, yes.

ROBERTSON: Fico. And that there's a possibility here that for political reasons, the narrative of him as he tries to bring reforms that they say

they probably want. But the other side of the political equation would say they undermine democracy.

Reforms like, reducing the power of the judiciary. They have already removed the special prosecutors in charge of bribery and corruption in --

among senior officials. Some of those officials implicated in those potential charges are in his party. They're trying to get greater control

of the media, the free media in Slovakia.

So, you can see that there's a -- there's an environment here where the political narrative, again, can be manipulated by this event. So, we may

not see reactions on the streets now, but they may -- these may precipitate darker events in the future.

SOARES: I was reading an interesting op-ed from Slovakian journalist -- a Slovak journalist who basically saying, you know, on the day of the -- this

attempted assassination happened on Fico, there was a large protest against some of the proposals, Fico's proposals immediately, right?

ROBERTSON: And that had been for the weeks leading up to this.

SOARES: Exactly.

ROBERTSON: All the changes that he is making. All the reverses of what the, sort of, you might call pro-democracy previous government and --

SOARES: And what -- the point that she was making, Nic, is that they fear that this -- the party will use this, politicize this moment to crack down

on independent media, independent voices. That speaks exactly to this moment and what can be done here given the juncture that Slovakia is facing

at the moment.

ROBERTSON: We've seen this with populist autocratic leaders who try to wrest as much control from the things that define a democracy that give the

people and the country the power to change the leadership, and to hold the leadership to account. Whether it's through the judiciary over corruption,

remembering that the Prime Minister himself was under a cloud of corruption charges not so many years ago. And the media is one of those places where

they can have a huge impact.

And again, going back to what the vice president of the European Commission had said about the influence of, sort of, fake information, if you will,

being fed into the information stream by, sort of, pro-Russian trolls, essentially.


ROBERTSON: That shows you how an audience can be manipulated. I mean, look, fast forward, I'm not saying this was going to happen.


ROBERTSON: But look at Russia right now.


ROBERTSON: Look at how Putin --


ROBERTSON: -- manipulates and controls the media so that only his voice, only his message is heard. So, people coming out on the streets because

they fear that's going to happen? Yes. Is the political temperature heating up? This was a political assassination. The control of the media.


The reduction and the scope --


ROBERTSON: -- and capacity of the judiciary were a couple of the things the interior minister said were the motivations for the gunman.

SOARES: Indeed, yes.

ROBERTSON: There are some very uncomfortable things happening here and this may not be the end of it.

SOARES: Yes. I mean, as our guest -- one of our guests on the show yesterday, the prime minister's own party is to blame for some of the

rhetoric against others -- other members of the party. Nic, appreciate it. Thank you very much

Now, we turn now to the gang violence that has been raging now for weeks and months in Haiti. The capital Port-au-Prince has been cut off for more

than two months Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds more have been kidnapped, including more than 20 children.

Right now, the country is being led by a transitional council after the prime minister, if you remember, he resigned last month. On the ground

civilian contractors are preparing for a Kenyan led international security force to basically arrive and attempt to restore orders. A small force, I

should add, but it's not yet clear when that will be.

The U.N. says the humanitarian situation, it's cataclysmic Roughly 5 million people are going hungry and aid groups say that getting help to

those in need is increasingly dangerous is something we have heard from the World Food Programme here on the show.

My next guest is a photographer who has just returned from Haiti where he's been documenting life of the millions of civilians trapped amid the

violence. Describing Port-au-Prince, he writes, the city I knew and I visited for the last 14 years is not a full-blown war zone in many areas.

Streets where we drove 12 weeks ago are now empty and under gang control. No go zones.

And photographer Giles Clarke joins me now. Giles, welcome back to the show. I mean, you were in Haiti. My team tells me until Sunday, I believe.

So, just lay out what you have been seeing. As you heard there, the U.N. is saying the situation is cataclysmic. Is that a fair assessment in your


GILES CLARKE, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Hi, Isa. Yes. I mean, I've been there three times over the last few months, primarily just to see how things were going

to develop. This last trip was really quite alarming because 12 weeks ago as we actually spoke, I was working in the general hospital in the areas --

in downtown which were still accessible. Hospitals were working and the public was going about its daily business.

That's all changed. The hospital is now occupied by a gang, and there's only one full hospital remaining and that's completely packed and

overcrowded. So, yes, it's area -- there are areas that are completely and utterly off limits. And upturned cars and burning vehicles, and it's very

much a war zone, yes.

SOARES: And, you know, we're looking at some of your images right now as you were talking, Giles. I mean, speak also to the food insecurity, because

I know it's the highest on record. Food prices have spiked. I hear that, you know, for example, the watermelon you were saying cost something like



SOARES: It's just incredible to think of that. I mean, just give us a sense of how people are getting by every day.

CLARKE: Well, there's -- the city of almost 3 million is basically surrounded with gang checkpoints. So, all the rural, all the food, and all

the stuff that comes into us, any usual city is now -- has to go through gang checkpoints, which if it's allowed through, then there's taxes and

gang levies sort of added on.

So that means that a lot of the food that comes in is much more expensive. And then you add to the fact that the civilian population inside the city

is -- has been massively displaced in areas. And gangs have just wiped through complete areas and burnt houses and displaced 95,000 the last month


So, it's impossible for them to find work. So, to be able to afford a food, you know, your basic food stuffs are another issue. Hunger is a massive

thing now. And child soldiers are being recruited on the back of hunger into the gangs because they're being promised a hot meal or food.


CLARKE: And so, that -- that's how recruitment's happening. So, that's an example of just the extreme levels of poverty, which in effect causes the

continued unrest.

SOARES: Yes. And the continued cycle, of course, of violence. And I don't know if you heard what we were just saying before we came to you, Giles,

that civilian contractors are preparing for the arrival of this Kenyan-led security group team, I should say.

I -- from what I understand, it's quite a small group. Do we have any sense in terms of the dates of the arrival? And speak also, Giles, here of the

challenges because, I mean, the gangs control 80 percent of the territory.


CLARKE: Yes, yes. They -- the deployment, as far as I know, is very low. I mean, 200 is the initial deployment, apparently. That's due to, again,

supposedly coming on the 23rd to coincide with Kenyan President Ruto's visit to the U.S. on the same day, a state visit.

No, I mean, I think that I think there's a tiny -- it's a tiny part of the city that will be secured. And one of the reasons -- one of the regions

that that is being -- that I was in last week, that was -- that's very much under attack and being, sort of, fought over strategically as one of those

roads, one of those areas that leads from the city towards the airport, an area called Solino, and there's obviously the city Soleil, which is south

of the airport.

But these areas are really heavily involved in conflict right now. And so, I don't know if there's nothing -- there's really, from what I saw, I mean,

there's barriers that are 12 feet high and 15, 20, 30 feet deep with up to two buses. And it's -- they're digging themselves in and it's going to be a

long and, sort of, arduous fight for anybody who tries to take on the gangs. It's more about security -- gaining security, I think.

SOARES: Giles, always appreciate you coming on the show and giving us your insight of what you have been seeing. Of course, you have traveled

extensively to Haiti. And the picture you have been painting is a concerning one, indeed, on so many levels, in particular, the humanitarian

aspect and the food hunger, the property that is a huge concern too. We'll stay on and stay in touch Appreciate it. Thank you very much, Giles. Good

to see you.

And still to come tonight, heated cross-examination in the Donald Trump hush money trial. We'll bring you the latest from Michael Cohen's time on

the stand. That is next.



SCIUTTO: Let's turn back now for another update on Former U.S. President Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, where there have been some heated

moments this morning and this afternoon with Trump's former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen under cross-examination by defense attorneys. Court

now back in session after a lunch break.

Our Jessica Schneider joins us now. And Jessica, in addition to going after his overall credibility, citing past instances of lying under oath, the

defense zeroed in on a phone call in October 2016, which Cohen testified to earlier in the week to say that was when he told Trump that a payment had

been made to Stormy Daniels, in effect, taken care of. But under heavy cross, Cohen granting, it seems, that he doesn't quite remember the

specifics of that phone call. How significant?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty significant just by the mere fact that this is sort of the first time we have seen the defense

really get at a gotcha moment when it comes to Michael Cohen and his credibility. And in particular, not just his credibility, but specific

testimony that he's given about, you know, the heart of this case, the Stormy Daniels payment.

So, you know, this is a line of questioning that started before the lunch break and it continued after the lunch break. I mean, basically the

takeaway is that Michael Cohen had previously testified during the direct examination when prosecutors were asking him questions that he had spoken

on October 24th, 2016 to Donald Trump via this phone call to Keith Schiller, who was Donald Trump's security guard body man. That they had

talked about, sort of, the Stormy Daniels deal and it potentially being done or almost done.

Interestingly, when the defense got up today, they had text messages that showed an exchange between Keith Schiller and Michael Cohen in the moments

before that phone call was made. And the text messages were actually about something completely different.

Apparently a 14-year-old prankster had been texting Michael Cohen and Michael Cohen was getting very flustered by it, frustrated, annoyed. So, he

pinged Keith Schiller, Keith Schiller said, call me. And then there was that phone call in question. It was about a 96 second phone call.

So, the defense's point here, which seems to have, you know, resonated in the courtroom was that, are you sure that this conversation was really

about Stormy Daniels? You had just been texting about this 14-year-old prankster. Michael Cohen came back and said, well, it was about both.

But Jim, I mean, that definitely cast some doubt on Michael Cohen's previous testimony. You know, it wasn't the only time he had testified

about Stormy Daniels. So, does it completely kill the prosecution's case? Of course not. But it does start to, probably of all the lines of

questioning we've seen so far, I think it gives the biggest doubt to jurors. Huh, is Michael Cohen telling the absolute truth here? And did he

have these conversations with Donald Trump like he says he did about the Stormy Daniels payment? It just -- has that cast that doubt in the jury's


SCIUTTO: Right. And that's all the defense has to do, right?


SCIUTTO: Is cast a reasonable doubt.


SCIUTTO: Of course, we'll see how the prosecution attempts to revisit that issue during redirect. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

And coming up, we do have new reporting from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh from the Ukrainian front lines. Don't go away.



SOARES: To northeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have reported intense fighting in Vovchans'k, a town close, you can see there, to Ukraine's

second largest city, and that is Kharkiv. Earlier, Ukraine's president met troops along those front lines and described the situation as extremely

difficult. Ukraine's defense minister spoke to my colleague Christiane Amanpour from the Kharkiv region last hour and had this update on the

fighting as well as the evacuation of civilians from that area.


RUSTEM UMEROV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: The Russian are shelling to the civilians, to the cities that are close to the state border. That's where

our administration is evacuating people so that they're not going to be under the Russian shellings. But the city of Kharkiv -- and we are fighting

near the border.

So, they are crossing the border, the invasion. The second front started. So, that's why we are repelling them. And that's why we want to save more

lives of people, that's why we evacuate them to the city.


SOARES: And staying in Kharkiv and just into CNN, in fact, new reporting from our Nick Paton Walsh from the Ukrainian front lines in Vovchans'k.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): When nightmares recur, they're often the same. Here, they get worse. The border town of Vovchans'k bearing the blunt horror of Moscow's race to

take as much as they can in the weeks before Ukraine starts feeling American military help again.

Every street aflame. Russians deeper inside the town. Policeman Maxim is answering one of 35 calls from locals on Thursday to evacuate. The day

before, three colleagues were injured. The shelling never stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Quiet. Everyone get down.

WALSH: Three people are still coming out, and you have to imagine quite how desperate these final people, the situation must be to leave.

WALSH (voice-over): Mikola and his wife hiding in their basement, but despite staying through the first Russian occupation and then liberation

two years ago, they're still here. They found the airstrikes last night just too much. They're joined by Maria, their mother, who can't hear the

shelling or anything too well.

Thousands evacuated since Russia invaded again around here five days ago. Why everyone has to leave is clear again as we drive out, as it is with

almost every part of Ukraine, Russia covets just utter destruction, little left to rule over.

This is their first moment of calm in many days. Entire lives in plastic bags.

WALSH: Saying it wasn't like last night, it was scary and everyone else was talking about significant bombardment, more than it was just better to get

out of there, 85.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).

WALSH (voice-over): An armored ride to a new world, knowing they may never get back to their homes. Tormented for days by shelling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Aerial bombs, everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And mortars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Did you see the Russian soldiers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They are over there on the other side of the river. And we were on this side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were shooting close to us. Firing machine guns and everything.

WALSH (voice-over): We head back in with another police unit who soon learn two of the houses they must rescue from are impossible to reach. As we

wait, they hear a buzzing noise.


WALSH: I think they can hear a drone here. It's so hard to tell with the wind and the trees and the artillery. But that's a constant threat for them


WALSH (voice-over): Then our security advisor spots it. They raise their weapons, but will firing make them more of a target Three drones, one large

one that hovers, and two small ones whizzing about. Exposed. Powerless. If we run for cover, they might come for us. All we can do is hide in the

trees, and hope that if we are seen, the Russians instead have a better target in mind, but they come right overhead.

That noise --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the car and move, they say.

WALSH (voice-over): And either the sound of death or someone deciding you're not worth their payload. We decide to leave. But again, we cannot

travel fast enough to escape the drones. Only expose ourselves and pray they lose interest. Perhaps they did. We'll never know. But behind us,

Ukraine is aflame again. Because however the West's interest in this war wanes, Putin's burns brighter than ever.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Vovchans'k, Ukraine.


SOARES: And our thanks to Nick for that report.

That does it for us. "Newsroom with Jim Sciutto" is up next. Bye-bye.