Return to Transcripts main page

Isa Soares Tonight

ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants For Hamas And Israeli Leaders; Investigations Begin In What Caused The Helicopter Carrying Iranian President And Seven Others To Crash; Michael Cohen Admits To Stealing From Trump Organization; ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants For Hamas & Israeli Leaders; Cohen Admits To Stealing From Trump Organization; State Media: Iran Sets Elections For June 28 After Raisi's Death. 2-3p ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome to the show, I am Zain Asher in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. It is a major day of news, both here in the United States and right around the


ASHER: Yes, first to the Middle East, though, the International Criminal Court prosecutor is seeking arrest warrant against Israel's Prime Minister

and Hamas leaders for crimes in Gaza. U.S. President Joe Biden is calling it outrageous. Also ahead, an investigation is ordered to determine what

exactly caused the helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

SCIUTTO: And in New York, potentially significant development in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, where the president's defense team has

forced the key witness, Michael Cohen, to admit to stealing from the Trump Organization. This as the trial is entering its final stages, possible

closing arguments next week. All the details you need to know that's coming up.

ASHER: All right, we are tracking in the meantime, the very latest reactions from world leaders after the International Criminal Court chief

prosecutor Karim Khan told our Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that the court is seeking arrest warrants against Hamas leader

Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others.

The potential charges, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Here's what the ICC chief prosecutor told Christiane.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We're here at the ICC, you are today announcing that you are applying for arrest warrants for top

military and political leadership in the Israel-Gaza war since the October 7th events. First and foremost, explain to me exactly what you're asking

for, and who you are charging?

KARIM KHAN, PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Today, Christiane, we've applied for warrants to the pre-trial chamber of the International

Criminal Court in relation to three individuals that are Hamas members. Sinwar, who is in charge on the ground.

AMANPOUR: That's Yahya Sinwar?

KHAN: Absolutely. Dave, who's in charge of the Al-Qassam Brigades and Haniya(ph), who is one of their political bureau based in Doha.

AMANPOUR: What are the charges?

KHAN: The charges are extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention. So, these are the key crimes that are alleged

to have been committed by these three individuals. The world was shocked on the 7th of October when people were ripped from their bedrooms, from their

homes, from the different kibbutzs in Israel.

And people have suffered enormously, and we have a variety of evidence to support the applications that we've submitted to the judges.

AMANPOUR: You have also issued warrants against the top political and military leadership of the government of the state of Israel.

KHAN: We've applied for warrants. Of course, the judges must determine whether or not to issue them, but we have applied today, we'll apply for

warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and also Minister of Defense Gallant for the crimes of causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of

war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.


ASHER: We are witnessing a fiery reaction from the United States, President Joe Biden essentially saying the ICC's prosecutor application for arrest

warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous. He also went on to say, "let me be clear. Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no

equivalence, none whatsoever between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security." And just moments ago, this is

what we heard from the U.S. State Department.


MATTHEW MILLER, SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: There should be no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. None. There are also deeply troubling

process questions. Despite not being a member of the court, Israel was prepared to cooperate with the prosecutor and had made that clear.


In fact, the prosecutor himself was scheduled to visit Israel as early as next week to discuss the investigation and hear from the Israeli

government. The prosecutor staff was supposed to land in Israel today to coordinate the visit, and instead, Israel was informed that the prosecutor

staff didn't get on their flight, around the same time that the prosecutor himself went on television to announce these charges. These circumstances

call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation.


ASHER: Christiane joins us live now from The Hague. So, Christiane, first of all, thank you so much for bringing us that very important interview

last hour. I just want to sort of expand on what Matthew Miller was saying there. The State Department essentially saying, look, even though Israel is

not a party to the ICC, even though they didn't recognize his authority, Israel went out of their way, they went out of their way to cooperate.

They went out of their way to be transparent. Israeli officials met staff from the ICC multiple times in Israel. And in fact, today, to date, ICC

staff members were set to land in Israel, and instead, Karim Khan went on TV to announce these charges. And so, Israel really feels blind-sided by

this. What has the ICC -- just in terms of them releasing a statement, what have they said to that?

AMANPOUR: Well, there is, as you've mentioned, and as we've shown a furious backlash from within Israel and its allies to these charges, they are not

actually formally yet charges, they are seeking -- they're seeking these arrest warrants, which they will then put to the pre-trial judges to get

their sign-off on accepting these warrants, these arrest warrants, and thus, the charges would be then officially, you know, leveled.

Now, there has been according to the prosecutor, and I called the office after this backlash from the State Department, I asked him specifically,

why would you not let the Israeli system of a democracy deal with these kinds of accountability issues? And he said to me, and they stand by what

they said to me that, they have tried to engage in good faith on many occasions and over a period of some three years because there have been

investigations as you know by the ICC over other issues in the occupied West Bank.

And they had not got the kind of cooperation or the kind of understanding that Israeli authorities would actually take up this judicial matter

themselves. So, that is one thing. I spoke to a very senior juror as Geoffrey Nice about the issue that is also being complained about, and that

is equivalence, moral equivalence or factual equivalence as Israel and its allies, and including Prime Minister Netanyahu who have charged between

them and Hamas, saying that the prosecutor made that as a statement in these announcements today.

Geoffrey Nice says he doesn't see that at all. There's no statement of equivalence whatsoever. It is just based on the evidence, and that is what

I also talked to prosecutor Karim Khan about. He said, this is not about politics, this is not about emotion. This is not about one side or the

other, this is about where the evidence has led us.

And this evidence has been as he said, being gathered ever since October 7th. They -- he had been in the aftermath to the worst-affected areas that

were attacked by Hamas on October 7th. And obviously, there's no independent access into Gaza, but there had been many interviews,

investigations, video evidence, and the like, including from the international community that led him to produce what he did today.

And he told me with the sort of bar being charges that could stand the test of a conviction in court, not just being brought to trial, but a conviction

in court. So, on this side, they are very sure that they've done it right. They predicted that they would get this backlash. They had been threatened

by a group of American senators, Republican senators, even before this happened, to cut off funds, to you know, sanction the prosecutor and his

team and their families to bar them from the United States. Things like that.

So, they expected this kind of backlash, but they assured us and the world that this is not political. It's where the facts and the evidence have led

them, and that is the ICC's mandate.

ASHER: Yes, applying the law --


ASHER: Without fear nor favor. Christiane, live for us there, thank you so much. And as Christiane was just talking about, we are hearing strong

objections from both the Israelis and also Hamas as well. Jeremy Diamond joins us live now from Jerusalem with the latest reactions from Israel, and

Kylie Atwood has been tracking this story from the U.S. State Department in Washington.

So, as Matthew Miller -- Kylie, I'll start with you, as Matthew Miller was just saying there, he was reiterating what President Biden was saying.


This idea that you can't draw any sort of parallels. You can't draw any sort of equivalence between what the Israelis are doing in Gaza, Israel

being a democratic state, and Hamas, which is a terrorist organization. Take us through that.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. So, the State Department is making clear that they -- you know,

fundamentally reject this being brought forward for a number of reasons. First of all, the jurisdiction issue, they don't believe that the ICC has

jurisdiction over Israel or over the Palestinians or Hamas for that matter.

And then, secondarily, as the -- as President Biden said, he said there's no equivalence between Israel and Hamas here. So, they're taking issue with

the fact that the prosecutor has brought this fourth at the same time. They think that there is a troubling situation there. And then, we should also

note that they're taking issue with the process, and how this was played out as you were just talking about with Christiane there.

The State Department is saying that the prosecutor, the ICC prosecutor was actually scheduled to travel to Israel to discuss this matter as early as

next week. There were some preparations for those discussions that were supposed to happen in Israel this week.

So, they feel like essentially, the ICC went around that and short- circuited, not giving the Israelis the opportunity to engage when they were willing to engage on this matter. And the other point that I think is worth

highlighting is the Secretary of State in his statement said that the timing of this, coming out right now with these arrest warrants could come

at a moment that would undermine the efforts to come to a ceasefire and the release of hostages that are ongoing.

And so, that's a very -- that's a very -- you know, big concern by the United States right now, that this coming out at this moment in time only

creates a more troubling reality for what we're seeing on the ground.

ASHER: Kylie, stand by. Jeremy, I want to bring in -- bring you in because one of the things that Karim Khan continue to reiterate during that

interview with our Christiane was just this idea that look, his job is to seek justice for the victims of October 7th, for the victims of those

heinous horrific crimes that we saw -- the entire world saw on October 7th, but also seek justice for the innocent civilians in Gaza.

Most of whom of course had nothing to do with October 7th, but who are being made to suffer nonetheless, that his job is to apply the law without

considering politics, without taking sides, without favoritism. What are the Israelis saying about that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Israeli officials across the political spectrum are certainly rejecting that notion. They

view the fact that Karim Khan has gone after not only the leaders of Hamas, but also two key Israeli leaders in the same breath as suggesting some kind

of moral equivalency, which they, of course, reject here.

And so, we've heard not only the Prime Minister himself, the Prime Minister's opponents, his top political rival Benny Gantz, for example,

slamming this equivalency that he believes is being drawn here. But we've also heard the Israeli Prime Minister himself strike out with his kind of

trademark defiance and outrage as well, saying that this is not only an attack against him, but against -- an attack against the state of Israel.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): The absurd and false order of the prosecutor in The Hague is not only directed against

the Prime Minister of Israel and the Minister of Defense, it is directed against the entire state of Israel.

It is directed against the IDF soldiers who are fighting with supreme heroism against the vile Hamas murderers who attacked us with terrible

cruelty on October 7th. Prosecutor in The Hague, with what audacity do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF? The most

moral army in the world.


DIAMOND: And of course, the reality of international law, which is what Karim Khan is relying on here is the reality that the war crimes by one

camp do not absolve the war crimes of the other. And that is kind of -- the kind of foundation for his decision to seek arrest warrants on both sides

of this conflict.

The Israeli Prime Minister for his part, though, he does not seem daunted by this. He is vowing that the war in Gaza will continue until Hamas is

destroyed. Zain?

ASHER: Jeremy Diamond live for us there, Kylie Atwood, thank you both so much. And the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is going to be

joining us in a few minutes, in about half an hour or so from now to give his take on today's unprecedented events. Stay tuned for that interview

airing later on this hour.

All right, turning now to Iran where a tragic helicopter crash has created a huge gap in political leadership. An Iranian news agency reports an

investigation is underway into the exact cause of the crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister.


Officials say seven other people on board the aircraft also died when it went down in a remote mountainous area of Iran's northwest. State media

says the crash is the result of a technical failure. Heavy fog was also reported near the border with Azerbaijan as well.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday said the U.S. is keeping a close watch on the investigation.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: Regarding the death of Iran's president in the very unfortunate helicopter crash, we continue to

monitor the situation, but we don't have any insights into the cause of the accident at this point. And certainly, I know the Iranians are

investigating or will investigate, and so we'll see what the -- what the outcome is once their investigation is complete.


ASHER: Five days of mourning ordered by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have now begun, condolences pouring in from around the world,

including the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. And we're just learning --


ASHER: That elections have been set for June 28th. All right, joining us live now, let's talk about the significance, the consequences, and what

could happen next in Iran is Maha Yahya; she is the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. Maha, thank you so much for being with us.

So, as we've been saying all afternoon here and all morning really that, you know, Iran's president isn't of course, the most powerful person in the

country, that would be the Ayatollah. But his death is still significant for a number of reasons. Just take us through why this matters.

MAHA YAHYA, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Good morning, Zain and good afternoon. Thank you for having me on the program. His death is

significant, I mean, this comes at a very delicate moment for Iran. It just came out of elections which saw the lowest turnout on record, voter

election and voter participation.

The -- I mean, the president himself sits on the council, the National Security Council, which also includes the supreme leader, it includes the

IRGC among others. And he's part of the decision-making process in the country. So, while this decision-making process, at least on the foreign

policy front is not going to be disrupted to a great degree, because its foreign policy by consensus, that can also be vetoed by the supreme -- by

the supreme leader.

Domestically, it comes at a very turbulent moment. Under the tenure of Raisi, President Raisi, we have seen kind of a move to the right within

Israeli institute -- excuse me, my apologies -- within Iranian institutions --

ASHER: It's OK, it's OK --


YAHYA: Go on, a slip, Freudian maybe, but within Iranian institutions, we've seen a real shift to the right on multiple fronts. So, the question

here, Raisi was kind of the runner up or the main candidate who was -- who was likely to succeed Khamenei, the supreme leader.

There were also -- there were also considerations that he was the principal person who's likely to win the presidential election. With him gone now,

there's quite a bit of a vacuum on both fronts. The question is, will this open the door for other candidates to be brought in?

The council of experts that basically, you know, agrees to whatever can run in the election had really restricted, and the people who could run for the

presidential election. At this point, there's no clear successor. So --

ASHER: Right --

YAHYA: Lots of names have been tossed around --

ASHER: Right, we just know -- we just know that the interim president is going to be Mohammad Mokhber, just until the next 50 days really, and we

have --

YAHYA: Yes --

ASHER: A date now that the presidential elections in Iran are going to be set on June 28th. Just in terms of Raisi's legacy though, how divisive of a

figure was he? I mean, this is somebody who has sort of sidelined a lot of the moderates and also the hardliners viewed as somewhat inept, just in

terms of how he handled domestic issues. Like, for example, the economy. Take us through that.

YAHYA: I mean, the man was named the Butcher of Baghdad by -- as far as many Iranians are concerned, because of his role in the killings in the

1980s, in the executions of political prisoners in the 1980s in Tehran. So, he was not liked at all, he's seen as a hardliner. He was very close to the

supreme council -- sorry, to the supreme leader. But he was not liked at all.


Internally, actually, the current now, the acting president was the person who was taking the lead on the economic reforms within the country. This is

a country that's under heavy sanctions, but that outlet is also pouring a lot of money not only until its developing its own domestic military and

weapon industry.

But also pouring a lot of money externally until its non-proxy, its proxy actors across the region and its partners. So, there's a lot of resentment

within Iran because of high inflation, deteriorating economic situation. They're seeing money going out of the country and not for their own


So, and Raisi was being held responsible for that. I don't see a real shift in this, particularly now in the short-term. As I said, the acting --

ASHER: Right --

YAHYA: President was the person who has taken the lead on this. Again, the question is, in 50 days, you know, it's not a lot of time for a --

ASHER: Right --

YAHYA: Candidate --

ASHER: Right --

YAHYA: But even less than 50 days for a candidate to be able to build some support --

ASHER: Some momentum --

YAHYA: Sure, yes.

ASHER: Maha Yahya, we have to leave it there, we are indeed out of time, but appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much, right. Still to come

tonight, a bombshell in court, what did Michael Cohen admit to on the stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial. We'll have that story next.


SCIUTTO: In an ongoing effort to undermine his credibility, Donald Trump's attorneys may have scored some points against Michael Cohen today, this

after Cohen admitted on the stand that he stole money from the Trump Organization in the past. Lead attorney Todd Blanche hammered away at Cohen

as the defense finished its cross-examination of one of the prosecution's key witnesses.

Prosecutors are now questioning Trump's former fixer on what's known as redirect, their next opportunity to question him. Judge Juan Merchan says

he expects closing arguments to begin now next Tuesday after the holiday weekend. It seems -- it seems unlikely, it's still possible the former

president could testify in his own defense, though a number of lawyers we've spoken to on this program say that's quite risky for his defense


A senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz has been following the trial from Washington, and I wonder if you could describe this moment, the

specific moment where Cohen admitted to stealing from the Trump Organization, but also the circumstances of that just so viewers


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, the lead up to that is about reimbursement that Michael Cohen was getting from the Trump



There is questioning that Todd Blanche; the defense lawyer for Donald Trump is asking Michael Cohen about money he was getting back from the Trump

Organization for money that he was paying out to a company called Red Finch. And during that testimony, he was specifically asked by Todd

Blanche, "you did steal from the Trump Organization based upon the expected reimbursement from Red Finch?", and Michael Cohen said, yes, sir.

That is Michael Cohen on the witness stand admitting to skimming off the top of the money that he was getting back from Trump board to pay off what

he owed this company. He took more than he paid to the company. That's how that boiled down --

SCIUTTO: Oh, it's true --

POLANTZ: So, it was a dramatic moment of Michael Cohen admitting to stealing, making money off of his work from Trump, that Trump didn't know

about. If that is the point that this all hinges around for the jury, we just don't know yet that is going to be something at a later date.

But Jim, right now, actually, there is a quite intense discussion going on in the courtroom around a photo from "C-SPAN", and whether a witness from

"C-SPAN" has even come back to the court before anyone can finish their case. Because there are other issues related to Michael Cohen's testimony,

was he lying about --

SCIUTTO: Right --

POLANTZ: Speaking to Donald Trump on the phone, October 24th of 2016 --

SCIUTTO: Let's speak about that photo, so our viewers understand. This photo as I understand it establishes that Trump was with Keith Schiller I

believe, just minutes before this phone call in 2016 that Cohen says he informed Schiller and informed Trump of the money to pay off Stormy

Daniels. Do I have that right?

POLANTZ: Right, so, the initial testimony from Cohen was that he spoke to Donald Trump on the phone about Stormy Daniels on October 24th, 2016. Then

on the cross-examination of him, he said, well, actually he spoke to Schiller and possibly Trump as well, or he spoke to Schiller possibly about

Stormy Daniels.

But it was primarily a minute-long phone call about a harassing set of text messages he was receiving that day. What is happening right now is that the

prosecution wants to clean up that testimony. And so, they want to show the jury a photo of Michael Cohen -- or a photo of Keith Schiller and Donald

Trump just minutes before that call, standing side-by-side, whether that can come into the case, that is the question right now the judge is looking

at and could be crucial for the prosecution.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. Every moment worth following in this case, so, we'll see how it adds up. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much. And we're going to

follow up with a lawyer later this hour to judge the significance of all this. Meanwhile, still to come tonight, strong objections from the U.S.

after the International Criminal Court prosecutor said he will seek arrest warrants against Israel's prime minister as well as leaders of Hamas.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joins us with reaction next.



ASHER: All right, returning now to one of our top stories. Leaders from Israel and Hamas are potentially facing charges of war crimes and crimes

against humanity as well. As the International Criminal Court prosecutor says, he is seeking arrest warrants.

Many Western countries are condemning the move from the ICC. The United States is calling it outrageous. Joe Biden is saying, "There is no

equivalence, none, between Israel and Hamas." No one is more united against it than Israel.

The issue of bringing together voices from -- the issue bringing together voices FROM across the political spectrum at a time of deep division, Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the decision, "will not deter us."

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joins us live now.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for being with us. I just want to get your reaction. Just as former Prime Minister of Israel yourself, obviously,

you don't see eye to eye with Netanyahu. But as former Prime Minister of Israel, your reaction to this announcement by Karim Khan.

EHUD OLMERT, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: I entirely agree to what President Biden said. This is outrageous. This is really appalling. I hope

that the ICC will not accept the arrest warrant by the prosecution. And I think that particularly the binding together of the Israeli leaders is the

two leaders of the terrorist organizations. The events that led to the war in Gaza happened on the 7th of October.

They have to wait seven months until they decided to request an arrest warrant for the two leaders of the terrorist organizations. The binding

together is totally outrageous. And in any event, I don't think that there is any factual basis that justifies the charges against the leader of


The fact is that the International Court of Justice already discussed this issue, almost the same charges, just a while ago. And they didn't find any

basis for these charges against Israel. So I think that this is entirely intolerable and not fair in all this.

ASHER: We were having issues with your audio, but I'm going to try to ask you another question. I hope that you can hear me. One of the things that a

lot of people have been saying, including the United States and actually Israel as well, is this idea of equivalence, that you cannot compare Israel

to Hamas.

Obviously, Hamas is a terrorist organization. But from the prosecutor's perspective, just -- Christiane Amanpour interviewed Karim Khan just

earlier, and it aired about an hour or so ago. From the prosecutor's perspective, he was essentially saying that, look, his job is to bring

justice to the victims of October 7th. No one is, of course, denying that horrible, horrible crimes were committed on October 7th, and he's bringing

justice and accountability for those victims.

But at the same time, without any sort of favoritism, without any sort of consideration for politics, he also has to bring justice to the victims of

this war in Gaza, many of whom had nothing --


As you know, nothing to do with it. Think about the children suffering in Gaza right now, nothing to do with October 7th. And he has to bring justice

and accountability for them. Just your response to that, that explanation by the prosecutor from the ICC.

OLMERT: I'm not familiar with the specific charges. And what is the factual basis on which the prosecution decides to request an arrest warrant against

the prime minister and the minister of defense. But I definitely, and I speak not just to the president, but to the whole world.

I was in charge of the army and military, never in the history of Israel anyone ever gave an order to kill indiscriminately people, whether they are

involved or not involved in terror. I don't know that may have been mistakes committed by Israeli soldiers during the fighting against

terrorist organizations, which is embedded in the center, in the urban centers in Gaza.

And maybe people that were entirely uninvolved killed as a result of this. And this is absolutely regrettable. But there is not a policy, there has

never been a policy of killing innocent civilians while the terrorist organizations are entirely based on killing innocent civilians as a goal,

as the basic policy of this organization.

Now, what disturbs me and disgusts me is the fact that it took them seven months to decide that they have to issue an arrest warrant against them.

Terrorists committed these atrocities on the 7th of October. If they found from the 7th of October until now there were things committed by Israelis

that justifies according to their judgment, which I entirely disagree with, a restaurant against Israelis, why did they have to bind together as if to

create a certain equivalence that the president correctly found totally unacceptable and all of us?

ASHER: It took a while to announce the charges because -- the attempted, you know, obviously he's trying to seeking arrest warrants for leaders on

both sides. It took a while because obviously there is an investigation that goes into it. And in terms of the charges, you mentioned that you

weren't familiar with the specific charges.

Netanyahu and Gallant are accused of extermination using starvation as a weapon of war, the denial of humanitarian relief supplies and deliberately

targeting civilians. Just in terms of this idea of using starvation as a weapon of war and denying humanitarian relief supplies, your reaction to

those specific accusations here?

OLMERT: Again, to the rest of my knowledge, Israel allowed the transfer of hundreds of stars every day that provided this humanitarian aid,

humanitarian supply. It's not very simple, of course, to arrange all of this in the course of the fighting that takes place in exactly the same

places because the fighting takes place in the urban centers where there are many hundreds of thousands of people.

And at the same time, there are many thousands of killers and murderers that are hiding underneath, underground, under the hospitals and the public

facilities and the mosques and schools and the other private buildings as well. But one thing I can guarantee you that Israel was accused, the

Israeli government was accused by many who are opponents to this government, criticizing this government from the right-wing factions of the

Israeli public for providing too much of the humanitarian supplies to the Palestinians. So I am not here in a position to answer these charges.

I can only say that to the best of my knowledge, hundreds of trucks are moving every day through many different checkpoints and buses that are

bringing humanitarian supplies to the Palestinians living in the territories. Is this pleasant? Is this nice? Is this simple? Definitely

not. It's a war, unfortunately, that was imposed on us and we are trying to do the almost impossible to fight against the terrorists, to prevent

possible innocent civilians being impacted by the military operations and to do as much as we can in order to provide them the humanitarian supplies.

Maybe it was not perfect, maybe it wasn't ideal, but there was not any policy of the Israeli government to prevent the Palestinians from getting

those humanitarian supplies. And I am certain that it will not stand any examination.


ASHER: Mr. Prime Minister, we have to leave it there. We are out of time. Thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

All right, still to come tonight, Iran's friends and allies sending their condolences after the shocking death of President Ebrahim Raisi, how the

region and allies sending their condolences after the shocking death of President Ebrahim Raisi, how the region and the world are responding.


SCIUTTO: Things moving relatively fast today in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial. The defense says it may rest as soon as today. This after

earlier cross-examination continued of Michael Cohen, pictured there.

In that cross-examination, Cohen admitted to stealing tens of thousands of dollars in the past from the Trump organization. This part of a ongoing

effort by the defense to undermine his credibility.

Joining us now, Joseph Marino. He's a former prosecutor for the Justice Department. Good to have you on. Thanks for joining.

So first to the defense's efforts here to undermine Cohen's testimony about the payments to Stormy Daniels by identifying other times, and we saw this

previously last week where Cohen lied, including under oath. And now this instance where he admitted to stealing from the Trump organization.

I wonder, in your view, has the defense accomplished its task of raising enough doubt in jurors' minds about Cohen's testimony, about the Stormy

Daniels payments, other issues?

JOSEPH MARINO, FORMER U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: I have to think that they're doing the best with what they have to work with. And while

this latest indicator, this latest admission from Cohen that he stole, it's shocking. I'm not sure if it's surprising.

I mean, we knew weeks ago that Cohen was a bad guy, right? We know he lies. We know he surreptitiously records his clients' conversations. So I'm not

sure at the end of the day it really changes the fact that we know he's a damaged witness, but he's what the prosecution is standing behind.

SCIUTTO: There was an instance last week, instant last week, you'll remember, where also under cross-examination, the defense established that

a phone call that Cohen had testified to earlier in the week, in which he said he informed Donald Trump of the payment to Stormy Daniels in a phone

call that Keith Schiller, Trump's Head of Security, was on the call. Defense tried to cast doubt on that call too by saying, in fact, you were

also informing Schiller about, well, long story, but a 13-year-old who had made prank calls, et cetera.

Today, a moment where prosecution then introduced a photo showing that Trump was indeed with Schiller just minutes before that phone call, in

effect, to try to do damage control on that admission that perhaps more than one subject, as Cohen testified, was discussed on that phone call.


Did that picture help rehabilitate that piece of Cohen testimony?

MARINO: Maybe a little. I mean, he's got -- he's been pretty shaken in terms of his recollection of specifics, whether it's phone calls, whether

it's dates and things like that. So it helps a bit solidify putting a time and a place and some circumstances around it. And obviously the more

specific Cohen can get, the more believable he sounds. And if you can corroborate that with photos or other testimony, all the better.

SCIUTTO: So the defense is saying they could rest as soon as today. The judge is now discussing the possibility of giving the jurors a break till

after this long holiday weekend, in which case they would deliberate next week. Big picture, where we stand, you followed the trial closely. Who has

the advantage now? Prosecution or the defense?

MARINO: You know, I'm going to -- I'm kind of copping out here. I'm going to say 50/50. Going into this, I would have given a big lead to the

prosecution. The defense has done a pretty good job under Todd Blanche of shaking things up, of trying to narrow basically the prosecution's entire

case behind the testimony of Michael Cohen. It really comes down to him. So to the extent they can cast doubt in the jury's mind about Cohen's

testimony, they've done a good job.

That being said, the facts here, I've never thought were very complicated. And the prosecution has laid them out. And so if you simplify the case, the

jury doesn't have a whole lot to really kind of deliberate about because the facts are fairly straightforward. So again, if they believe Cohen, I

think the case goes to the prosecution. If they don't, maybe Donald Trump gets either a mistrial or maybe even an acquittal.

SCIUTTO: As you can see on the side of our screen there where there've been regular updates, that photo that I was describing is now being shown to the

jurors to help prosecutors hope to rehabilitate that portion of Cohen's testimony.

I mean, to your point, Joseph, it comes down to really do the -- does the jury believe the case, right? And do they believe the witnesses Cohen among

them here? But how about on the legal question? Because going into this trial, the challenge, as I understood it for prosecutors, was not just to

establish that money was paid to Stormy Daniels to kill her story during election, but that in order for it to be a felony, to have been done in

violation as well of a federal law, they had to prove intent, as I understand it, but also Trump's knowledge of all this and specific

knowledge. And I wonder beyond the credibility issues, do you believe the prosecution has established that connection?

MARINO: That's a tough one, Jim. I mean, you're absolutely right. They have to show that Donald Trump was not only aware of the transactions, but was

aware that they could be in violation of federal campaign finance laws and he had the intent to violate those laws. And then again, it comes down to

Michael Cohen's testimony. That's typically the most difficult thing to prove in cases like that, is the intent of the defendant.

And so, you know, Michael Cohen, he has said it. I don't think Donald Trump's going to get up there and rebut him from the stand. I think it's

way too dangerous. So again, the jury's going to put their stock in Michael Cohen and say, you know, either we believe him or we don't.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see. And they're going to get that fairly soon, it seems within a matter of days.

Joseph Marino, thanks so much for joining.

MARINO: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And still to come tonight. Responses are flooding in from Iran's friends and allies as they react, and others do, to the shocking death of

the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, in a helicopter crash. Their messages to the people of Iran just ahead.



ASHER: All right, welcome back. Groups of people have been gathering in Iran's capital, Tehran, to mourn the death of President Ibrahim Raisi. He

was killed in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on Sunday.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has announced five days of public mourning and world leaders, including those from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and

China and Russia, have been sending in their condolences. A short time ago, the U.S. expressed its official condolences and also reaffirmed its support

for the people of Iran in their struggle for human rights.

Presidential elections are now scheduled for June 28th. That is according to Iranian state media. CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman

joins us live now.

So Ben, let's talk a bit about President Raisi's legacy, his legacy within the country. Obviously, he took the reins most recently back in 2021, but

he was a very divisive figure in Iranian politics.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he participated in the Iranian revolution in 1979 at the age of 18. He quickly became a

judge and he was a key participant in some of the darker chapters of Iran. Now, most recently, of course, he was president in the aftermath of the

killing of Mahsa Amini, that young woman who was killed because she wasn't wearing a scarf properly. That was back in 2023. That left many people dead

as a result. That was essentially a nationwide uprising. And he was very much behind the crackdown on it.

Now, before that, back in 2019, when he head -- headed the judiciary, there were nationwide protests against the in crisis -- increases in the price of

fuel, leaving more than 500 people dead. And he was also part of that crackdown as well. So there's very -- a lot of dissatisfaction with his


In fact, when he was elected back in 2021, the way the Iranian political system works, a variety of people can register to run as a candidate for

the presidency. But the Guardian Council, which is made up of six clerics approved by the supreme leader, they essentially decide who can actually

run for president. And they narrowed it down to just a few candidates.

And of course, Mr. Raisi was the one, the candidate of choice for the regime, and he won. And therefore, when these elections come up, or coming

up on the 28th of June, we're going to see how much legitimacy they actually have. When he ran for president back in 2021 and won the election,

it was the lowest turnout back then in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Now, in March, we saw another round of parliamentary elections, and that saw an even lower turnout. So certainly it will be interesting to see when

these elections take place on the 28th of June, what sort of turnout there is.


Which will certainly give an indication how much support the regime in Iran writ large actually has.

ASHER: Yes, because as you point out, the last elections that saw Raisi come to power had very low turnout. So we'll see what happens on June 28th.

Ben Wedeman, live for us there. Thank you so much.

In Gaza, hospital officials report at least 35 people killed on Sunday by airstrikes. According to the Israeli military, two senior Hamas operatives

were among those killed.

In the strikes, the health ministry in Gaza says 106 people were killed in Israeli military operations within 24 hours, the highest daily death toll

since mid-April. The United Nations now says in the past two weeks alone, more than 900,000 people have been displaced in Gaza. And that includes

more than 800,000 from Rafa.

All right. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Zain Asher in for my colleague, Isa Soares. Stay with CNN. "NEWSROOM: with Jim Sciutto is up

next after this very, very short break.