Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Soon: Biden, Trevor Noah Tell Jokes At WH Correspondents' Dinner; Russia Shows Video Of Sub Launching Cruise Missiles From Black Sea; Evacuations Underway At Mariupol Plant Surrounded By Russians; Multiple Explosions Reported In Odessa As Russians Target South; Biden Administration Shifts Tone On War This Week, Saying Ukraine Can Win; Biden Taking Precautions At Tonight's Event Due To COVID Anxiety; Trump Grand Jury In NYC Wraps Up, Georgia Grand Jury To Begin. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 30, 2022 - 20:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Special live coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. This is the first time in half a decade a sitting president will not only attend a dinner but he's going to tell jokes. We're told he's going to tell jokes.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes, we understand that to be true.

BERMAN: I don't know if they'll be funny but he'll tell jokes.

KEILAR: I think there will be funny ones.

BERMAN: OK, just saying.

Of course, President Biden will allow himself to be roasted in front of the country.

Primetime "Daily Show" host, Trevor Noah, is the big speaker tonight.

KEILAR: That's the key. He's going to roast himself and beat Trevor Noah to the punch. We'll see if that happens.

But all of this is coming at a critical time for the Biden presidency. A world on edge, an economy facing headwinds. And primary season is heating up before the midterms here. We'll bring you this event as soon as it begins.

But first.

BERMAN: We'll begin with breaking news out of Ukraine. Civilian evacuations have begun in the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol. The Ukrainian military commander inside the plant says that 20 women and children have made it out. The hope is they'll get out safely.

Hundreds more remain trapped. Many of them injured during intense Russian bombing in recent days and weeks. Food, medicine and time running out. Not much left of what used to be a sprawling industrial complex. We

have new pictures from inside the plant. You can see how much of it is flattened beyond recognition with the Russians.

The same can be said of much of the city of Mariupol.

KEILAR: And in the southern city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, reports of multiple explosions in the last 24 hours in and around the airport. The Ukrainian military officials say the runway has been damaged.

And this, a propaganda video. This has been released by the Russian Ministry of Defense showing cruise missile attacks being launched from Russian subs into Ukraine from the Black Sea.

The Ukrainians, mind you, have been accusing the Kremlin of doing this for weeks.

BERMAN: Want to go live to Kyiv and bring in CNN's Matt Rivers who is there.

Matt, give us a sense of the latest.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, what you guys just said about the evacuations in Mariupol is probably the best news out of Mariupol in weeks now.

With the commander inside that steel plant complex, which is, of course, the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city, telling CNN that some 20 people were able to get out of the city today.

That number could have changed. We haven't spoken to that commander in multiple hours now. It's difficult to have continued conversation with people there because the communications infrastructure is badly damaged.

As of this afternoon, local time, he told us some 20 people were evacuated with the ultimate goal of getting to the Ukrainian-held city -- this is still Ukrainian territory -- of Zaporizhzhya.

But we cannot confirm the fate of those civilians, women and children who were evacuated from that plant.

What we do know is that it is much needed, this getting people out of that plant with the dire conditions.

And even though they've been dealing with cold for months, now as the weather gets warmer, we were warned by Ukraine's parliament today that the risk for disease is actually going way up, the diseases like cholera, inside the steel complex.

Meanwhile, I did a chance to speak to a commander in the Azov regiment, one of the units still fighting in Mariupol. He himself was injured in the fighting, managed to get smuggled out to get treatment.

But he told us that, while it is very good news that the civilians are being evacuated, that he hopes it continues, that he hopes civilians go first, he's begging, urging the Zelenskyy administration to not forget about the fighters who will remain inside that plant.


GEORGE KUPARASHVILI, AZOV REGIMENT: It's not only severely the president's responsibility to save. But it's the president's responsibility as well to save their military. No man stays behind. And it's his responsibility to deal as well.

I would say we need a third country. Third country, third side need to be involved as a guarantee with the international non-government organizations or government organizations who will provide guarantee for a safe leave and evacuation for civilians or military.


RIVERS: Kuparashvili really brings up the third party there because the option, according to these Azov soldiers we've spoken to, of surrendering to the Russians simply is not an option in their minds. They believe, if they were to do so, they would be executed, John.

And I should add that a number of the civilians inside the steel plant complex are family members of fighters. So they don't trust the Russians, either. They believe they, too, would be killed.

That's why they're calling for this third party to be involved in the evacuations.

BERMAN: Complicated emotions, I think, for so many of the people inside that plant.

Matt Rivers, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

KEILAR: We have more no on those strikes in Odessa.

Joining us is a journalist inside the city, Vladislav Davidzon.

Vladislav, I understand you saw a bombing. We heard about the strike on the airport. What can you tell us?

VLADISLAV DAVIDZON, JOURNALIST: Hi. Thank you for having us back from Odessa, my Ukrainian hometown.


So my mother-in-law, blessed memory, who was carried away by COVID right before the war, was an air traffic controller at that airport. My wife's mother was an air traffic controller there. So we know that airport very well. And the family home is about five minutes from there.

So I was in the city center but my father-in-law watched a black plume of smoke emerging from the airport. It was obvious already that the newly rebuilt landing strip was no longer operational, even when people in the city center were still thinking that it was Ukrainian anti-aircraft and antimissile defenses, which had something -- brought something down.

You know, it's very sad because it's - it's tremendously sad for all sorts of reasons.

But it's particularly sad because former Georgia prime minister, Ivanishvili, who was the then-governor of Odessa region, spent a lot of time and political capital to rebuild the runway, that second runway that needed to be built, enlarged the capacity of the airport.

So they spent four or five years of wrangling over the budget and the rebuilding of that airstrip. And now the Russians have damaged it, you know?

KEILAR: Yes, I think, Vladislav, that's the story of so much of Ukraine. Areas -- including areas that have made so much progress here. Sort of striving to model themselves after the West and totally destroyed, right?

We're seeing in Mariupol, there have been a lot of rejuvenation there. Totally destroyed.

Can you talk to us a little bit though, because I do know you've been spending days now, a couple of days actually with Ukrainian troops at a base not far from the front?

Can you tell us about what that is like?

DAVIDZON: I went along with a dear friend, my British colleague and friend. The two of us went to spend a night and a couple of days in a frontline base really close to the frontline.

And I can't quite say where because, you know, I don't know, I like the guys that I met and I prefer they not be blown up by Russian artillery.

But we were close enough to the frontline but we were, you know, we were sleeping in the frontline.

The -- yes, I was just on the eastern front and it's horrific. The Ukrainians have a very high fighting spirit and they're obviously reinforcing the frontline.

We saw a lot of Ukrainian troops pouring into the front lines from the west, especially on their way back to certain highways in the West. We saw formations, large, large formations, battalion levels of Ukrainian troops coming into eastern Ukraine to fortify the line.

BERMAN: Vladislav, thank you so much for speaking with us. I do want to wish you luck. I know your father-in-law, who you mentioned, you're trying to get him out I believe.

So I appreciate you joining us.

DAVIDZON: We're leaving tomorrow. It took two months to get my salty old sailor father-in-law to agree to leave. So I finally got him to agree to leave his house. And we're going out through Romanian border to get him out before I

come back. But it going to be an adventure.

Thank you for having me back.

KEILAR: Yes, good luck with that. So glad you convinced him.

Vladislav, thank you.

BERMAN: Joining us now, retired Army General Peter Zwack. He's the author of "Swimming the Vulga, A U.S. Army Officer's Experience in Pre-Putin Russia."

General, it's great to see you in person.

Odessa, the Russians keep on hitting it from the air. What are they after?

ARMY GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET): Odessa, I believe, for the Russians is aspirational. They want it. But I don't believe that they have the force structure or logistics to get out here.

From Crimea to Odessa is about 125 miles. And Kherson a little bit less than that. The Russians are spread out all along here. They're powerful.

So while they focus on Donbass and they got this abscess in Mariupol, epic Mariupol, they also want to, if you will, greater Russian empire, Soviet Union. Get to Odessa.

You have the Black Sea fleet that is quiet except for the kilo submarines firing missiles I believe is harassment more than anything else. And you mentioned before, they are showing the world and their own people that they got there.


So Odessa is possible but it is a long stretch. If they go for it in a major way, then you may get a situation, John, like you had in northern -- if you will, northern Ukraine near Kyiv where they're extended and Ukrainians start to slip behind.

Remember, this red area doesn't mean the Russian troops are in there. They are mostly partisans and territorials. So a lot to do with 200,000, maybe closer to 300,000.

BERMAN: So they want it but maybe they don't have the resources to get at the idea of this landlocked Ukraine. Maybe aspirational for Russia but not obtainable.

Talk to me. You brought up the subs. These are pictures. The Russians released these. The Russians. They want the world to see this. Why?

ZWACK: I completely agree. Remember, this happened also in 2015 when they had Kalibr missiles fired from the Caspian Sea into Syria.

BERMAN: Right.

ZWACK: And they took pictures for the world. You'd think you want to hide that technology.

And it's the same thing here. They're showing. I think it's defensive. I think it's trying to intimidate. But it also, as you mentioned, shows weakness.

BERMAN: And then when we talk about what is happening, obviously, this is an area where this is the greatest conflict.

ZWACK: Right.

BERMAN: "The New York Times" is reporting that the Russians are having to bring troops in for the far east to reinforce the line there.

First, what does that tell you? And how long -- I mean, should the world be prepared for almost a year's-long conflict there?

ZWACK: I think -- yes, that is possible. But I think there's a function beyond just combat power and troops, is the will to fight. And I think that we're seeing that Ukrainians are going to grimly hang this one out.

Those troops coming in from the far east -- and a bunch of them up in Belarus that came down -- are being thrown into a house of urban fighting, open area. They may have force and mass but Ukrainians have been tough.

So they're continuing to throw forces in. Will they ultimately stop? We're hearing they might be culminating. Let's watch this area here. It's about 70 miles between the two jaws in the pincer.

The fight in the battle Kursk, 82 years ago, up here with the Nazis and Soviets, the Germans pushed huge. But they got attrited and never made it.

So in a mini way, there are some aspects of this historic tank battle 82 years ago.

BERMAN: You referenced Kursk, the biggest tank battle of all time there. Let hope we don't see that in the eastern part of Ukraine.

But thank you so much for helping us understand what is going on. Great to see you in person.

ZWACK: The honor is mine.

BERMAN: The U.S. and other Western countries have committed billions- of-dollars-worth of aid to Ukraine. Why our next guests believe it will eventually bury the Russian forces.

KEILAR: And soon, White House Correspondents' Dinner host, Trevor Noah, will unleash jokes aimed at the president and, of course, at the press. And are the coronavirus safety measures at tonight's dinner enough to

prevent a super-spreader event? We have Dr. Jonathan Reiner here to weigh in.



KEILAR: The U.S. shifting its tone dramatically suggesting Ukraine can win the war against Russia.

Joining us now is retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, forker European affairs director at the National Security Council. He's now a military fellow at Lawfare.

Great to have you here, Alex.

Can you give us a sense of where you're seeing the conflict right now and if you think the Ukrainians can prevail or if you think they're going to be pushed by the Russians?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, MILITARY FELLOW, LAWFARE & FORMER EUROPEAN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I think this is a particularly big week with regard to this conflict. In a lot of ways, maybe a pivotal week.

What you have unfolding is, early this week, you had the defense ministers from 40 different countries assembled, pledge basically a support everything that Ukraine might need to win this war.

That's still rhetorical to a certain extent. There's a lot of equipment coming in. But everything would imply more strike capabilities and we haven't seen those. That's still very, very important meeting.

We have reluctant allies like Bulgaria shifting their tone and prepared to provide more aid. Germany shifting its tone in providing lethal aid.

The shift towards blocking sanctions on oil and gas trade, winding down Russia's ability to establish budget revenues. That's huge from an external perspective.

It's also been a pretty important week on the ground. Ukraine conducted a successful mobile defense, imposing significant costs as Russia attempts to advance.

Disproportional casualties on the Russian side. The Ukrainians have been taking soon casualties, too, and losing equipment but it's being replenished.

There's a lot of equipment coming in. There are five American battalions worth of Howitzers. These are very capable weapons systems. There are more coming in from allies.

So that equipment is going to start to achieve superiority in terms of fires, something the Ukrainians haven't had.

And frankly, if the U.S. and the West open that aperture wider and provide strike capabilities, like these unmanned combat ariel vehicles, these Gray Eagles that are allowing Ukraine to go after Russian airfields that are directly into this fight in Crimea, crater airfields, destroy planes on bases, and go after ballistic missiles like these Iskanders, that will be a game changer.

That's how this war really ends more abruptly than if Russia were to achieve some limited gains. If Russia were to achieve limited gains, then you can see a protracted war. I don't think we have to get there.


BERMAN: I mean, it sounds like what you're saying -- let me put this in the form of a question. To what extent can the West spend Ukraine to victory? And I'm not just talking about money but talking about resources.

VINDMAN: That's exactly right, John. What we have this, $33 billion package on top of a $15 billion or a larger package, that's about $45 billion from the U.S. side.

If you include what the Europeans are providing -- the Brits are putting in large amounts of resources. NATO as a whole is putting in large amounts of resources -- we basically get to the point where we're spending as much in the two months of war as Russia has in its annual budget, defense budget.

And $66 billion about is what they spend, a little less. The signal is powerful. The West has spent the same that Russia spends in the entire outlay for a year.

And this is just the beginning. The U.S. could easily out resource, outspend, out support for Ukraine. And that's a signal that the Russians are getting, as well as the defeats on the battlefield, as well as the shifting tone.

Eventually, the Russians will figure out that pressure isn't what get them out of this. It will be some sort of other face-saving measure, maybe a rhetorical win, that the Russians have destroyed large amounts of Ukrainian cities, depopulating Ukraine.

That's what Putin might end up with because this campaign is not going well. This more focused campaign that I thought was more dangerous is incremental gains. Russia is going to run out of combat power. It won't get near Odessa for that matter.

KEILAR: Colonel, we always appreciate your perspective.

Alexander Vindman, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

VINDMAN: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: We're just moments away from the start of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. BERMAN: That's live. That's Trevor Noah live, eating or preparing. I

think he's going over notes there.

KEILAR: Is he carb loading?

BERMAN: Well, those are his cards. I think he's literally going through notes right now, reviewing his jokes.

KEILAR: Does he look a little nervous?


BERMAN: A little bit.

There's our cameraman zooming out. These are people eating. These are live pictures of people eating.

KEILAR: I recognize some people. I recognize some people.

BERMAN: There's Robert Di Nero. I see George Hamilton.

KEILAR: Did you really?


BERMAN: Meryl Streep is there.

I'm just naming.


BERMAN: I don't know who is actually there. I have no idea if they're actually there. I'm just trying to name.


KEILAR: Don't make it up.

BERMAN: -- is there. The entire cast of "The Godfather" at a table.

But these are live pictures right now. I don't know if it's the salad or the dessert portion of the meal.

KEILAR: It's the wine portion of the meal, which is a very important portion tonight.

BERMAN: Yes. I see that on the table there.

KEILAR: Very exciting though. It's exciting.

Who do we have here?

BERMAN: That's Harry Hamlin. "Law and Order." Not "Law and Order" -- "L.A. Law" and the first "Clash of the Titans." Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Very nice. All right, so what jokes are going to be made at the president's expense? I don't know.

What do you think?

BERMAN: Be right back.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": It's kind of hard to be funny with the president of the United States sitting right next to you. Yet somehow, day in and day out, Joe Biden manages to do it.





UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: And then, of course, there's Donald Trump. Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke.


KIMMEL: Mr. President, remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.


UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: I know you into this transparency thing, but I don't need to see your nipples.


UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: Is there a beach at Camp David? What the hell?


UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: You know, there was never a nipple portrait of Lincoln, I'm sorry.



KEILAR: Just a few of the memorable moments from past White House Correspondents' Dinners.

Tonight, though, Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," is the headliner here.

And his challenge, look, it's a tough one. It's tough for any comedian. It's striking this balance. The right balance while roasting a sitting president.

It's a very different environment, Kristin Fisher, who is there on the red carpet at this advent.

It's a really different environment than the comedians are used to. So sometimes it leads to unpredictable moments.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It does. You know what, Brianna? Watching the opening montage you played, it made me excited to hear what kinds of jokes we hear from both Trevor Noah and President Biden.

It has been six years since a president of the United States has spoken and told jokes at the White House Correspondents' Association's Dinner. And so it will be interesting to see what kinds of jokes his staff has come up with.

And it will also be interesting to see kind of just what jokes -- how they play in the room.

I can tell you, I was just in the ballroom, Brianna and John. And they're running a little behind schedule. They're only at the salad portion. It will be a little while.

Part of the reason for the delay is the fact that, to get in here, there have been quite a few precautions taken around COVID. You have to show you're fully vaccinated. You have to show you've taken a COVID test today and it was negative.

It's took a little bit of time to get everybody in but now it's getting under way.

And I tell you what, I was watching you earlier. And Brianna and John, I didn't realize how much you are talking about what people are doing while eating. You're kind of spying on us.

When I was in there -- I'll be careful knowing you could be commenting on how I'm sipping my wine or eating my food or eating bread. I don't know.


BERMAN: Yeah. Oh, we can see everything. I just saw -- I just saw one of my best friends from ABC News, Aaron Katersky from ABC News Radio at his table there. And I was making sure to take notes that he didn't do anything embarrassing, but he looked dashing. He was wearing, you know, in a very nice tuxedo and was smiling. No, everyone looks great there. We're just trying to get people to play by play every minute. I don't know what's going on there. Every minute now of this event.

KEILAR: That's an amazing tie. Is that a tie?

FISHER: Look at that. I thought -- I thought it was a bit -- is that a bib or a tie?

KEILAR: Maybe it works for both. BERMAN: Ascot?

KEILAR: That's I don't think -- is it an ascot on the outside tie? I don't know.

BERMAN: It's like a tie in an ascot of Tiescot (PH), it's a merger between the two. But, yes, as you can see (INAUDIBLE) second ago. We saw Trevor Noah up on the stage actually going through his cards to get ready for this, which, you know, because he's trapped up there, it's not like he can go back to the greenroom, you know, in runners routine. He's up there with his jokes, eating until the moment where he has to go on in front of the whole country and tell them.

FISHER: Sure. And pretty soon, President Biden is going to be up there as well, he made the decision to not come for the dinner portion, because he's just trying to limit his time in a obviously very, very crowded room. He wants to just be there for the entertainment bit for when he gives her marks, for when Trevor Noah gives remarks.

But, yes, once you're in there, you're in there. It took a long time for me to get in there and then back out. You're kind of locked in once you're there. And, you know, can we also talk about some of the other celebrities that are in here? Because, you know, Brianna and John, it's been during the Trump years.

You didn't have the same level of celebrity that you did, obviously, during the Obama years. And now with President Biden, it's starting to pick up a little bit. I saw Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson, Caitlyn Jenner was here as well. If you're a fan of Succession, there was one of the -- I'm blanking on Gerri, Gerri from Succession was here as well.

So, you know, there are definitely -- there's a bit more of a Hollywood presence here, so to speak, this year than there was during the first three years of the Trump administration. But remember, this whole dinner hasn't happened for two years. So there is just a certain element of people just saying, you know, hi to folks that they haven't seen in a while and seeing some friends that you haven't been able to see over the course of this pandemic.

BERMAN: It's like life right now saying hi to people you haven't seen in a while. Kristin Fisher, of course, you were there. Great to have you there. We'll check back in with you in a bit. Please keep us posted.

FISHER: OK. Good to see you guys.

BERMAN: And joining us now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Dr. Reiner, great to see you.


KEILAR: In person.

BERMAN: Look, we heard about the COVID restrictions, we -- or the precautions I should say that they're taking their vaccinated negative test today. What do you think of that?

REINER: Well, it'll go a long way in helping to protect the attendees. But I think it's crazy to put 3,000 people in that ballroom in the middle of a pandemic, particularly when cases are rising in this country at a fairly rapid clip. And if you've ever been in the Hilton Ballroom, it manages to be both massive and claustrophobic when there are 200 tables there. So it's a very, very, I would say, high target environment for the virus. And we'll have to see how effective these precautions really turn out to be.

KEILAR: I will say, I think you are so right on when you talk about it being sort of big and small and imposing in a way. And that's because the ceiling actually is not as high --

REINER: It's low.

KEILAR: -- as you would think. It's not a large, wide open space, vertically. But we heard Kristin talking about the negative test today, right? So people have had a negative antigen test today, a rapid test today, I think we would assume is, you know, what does that tell you? And why does that protect or not protect.

REINER: So an antigen test tells you whether you are contagious, whether you are infected and contagious, but think of it -- think of it as a snapshot in time. So assuming the test is valid and, you know, that no test is perfect. And it's dependent on both the technique of how it's done and, you know, how well you get a sample and also the physical characteristics of the test.

But assuming that it's a valid test, it's a snapshot in time, and it's very, very possible to test negative at nine o'clock in the morning and be positive and contagious at nine o'clock at night. So this is an imperfect -- it's an imperfect solution.

Axios reported this week that although the attendees are all tested today and required to be vaccinated, not true of the hundreds of folks who are working for the hotel staffing the event, so they are both a potential source of infection and also they are at risk.

BERMAN: What are the -- what about the president? The president not at the dinner part of this, just going, you know, for the -- for the entertainment part of that going to, I think, going to be masked when he's not speaking, is that enough for the president given his age?


REINER: I wouldn't -- if I were advising the White House, I would not have allowed the president to go if they had had asked -- you know, the question is how much input does the White House medical staff having a decision like this? How much of this is political?

But think of it this way, Dr. Tony Fauci is just a little bit older than the president, I think he's two years older than the President also in excellent health. He declined to go because of concerns of his own personal health. Now, the president is 79 years old. And the group of folks who run into trouble when they get a breakthrough infection are people who are 80 years old. So this is the group at greatest risk, and we cloak that our president and vice president, all these layers of protection, both physical and Secret Service and they drive around in that beast, and we should be cloaking them with the same level of protection for biohazard and bringing the president the United States who is 79 years old into that cramped ballroom with 3,000 well-wishers liquored up and jovial happy to be out after two years, seems like an unwise decision.

KEILAR: Like a roll of the dice they normally wouldn't take.

BERMAN: A viral roll of the dice, right.

KEILAR: Dr. Reiner, it is so great to get your perspective on this. Thank you.

REINER: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: President Biden, Trevor Noah, just moments away.



BERMAN: All right. We are counting down to the first White House Correspondents' Dinner in two years. It's been six years since the President attended. You're looking at live pictures right now. If we see anything happened in these live pictures that deserves coverage, we will -- we will tell you exactly what's happening. There are some things being served there.

KEILAR: Entree option.

BERMAN: I do think -- I think you're right. I actually think that our entree portion is now being served in some areas.

KEILAR: Well, for chicken dinners, as they would say, right?

BERMAN: Look, President Biden speaks tonight. I think it's Pete Alexander of NBC News right there. President Biden speaks tonight at a really interesting time. There's a war in Ukraine. There's a pandemic the United States is coming out of, he's delicate. It's a delicate moment.

Now, presidents have come to this dinner and told jokes in delicate moments before -- Secretary of State Anthony Blinken right there. And sometimes it hasn't gone well. I want to play a moment for you from 2004. This was George W. Bush after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere.

Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here.


BERMAN: So there was laughter in the room, but later, that was panned and severely criticized. With us now to discuss Astead Herndon, CNN political analyst and national political reporter at The New York Times. Kristen Soltis Anderson, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist and pollster. And Ashley Allison, CNN political commentator, former national coalition's director for Biden-Harris 2020.

It is an interesting night, right? I mean, President Biden is going to the stage, low approval ratings, it has a little bit of a national audience a chance to, you know, to let his hair down some. How do you think he approaches it?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think it is delicate, as you mentioned that this is a moment for the president where the agenda stalled, really, in Congress, and he has seen those approval ratings really caused some nervousness among Democrats across the country.

I think that, you know, you play that Bush moment that -- that's really cringey like it -- and so I think it's a -- it's about avoiding that. It's about being speaking to the real fears that people are experiencing, people -- but also, at the same time, you know, there's going to be jokes, they're going to try to keep it light.

But this is a -- this is not a White House that's really known for that. So I think it'll be interesting to see, but I think this is really an insight of the moment, the midterms not being melt, made, or broken on this night, and the challenges he faces that he comes into this back with will still be here, no matter how funny he is come tomorrow morning.

KEILAR: That's the thing about this night, right, is that there are so many audiences. And there's a, you know, you want to be funny if you're the president, Trevor Noah wants to be funny, but it's tough.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's really tough. I'm interested to see their exchange because the President is going to have to keep his school because Trevor Noah is not going to take it easy on Joe Biden, I don't think tonight. He's known for kind of putting up holding back any punches.

But I think, you know, they've been working really hard on this night. I think that this is a great opportunity. The approval rating won't change, but to try and turn the corner ahead of midterms to see if they can show like the softer side of Joe Biden that Uncle Joe, we all fell in love with about a decade or so ago.

HERNDON: The eighth graders might come.

ALLISON: That's right. That's right. I bet you they will make a cameo.

BERMAN: Kirsten, you know, you look at the numbers all the time, I mean, where is the Biden presidency right now?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not in great shape. But we're living through an era where political job approval numbers can never really get very high or very low. We're just so polarized that, you know, 40 percent is the new 55 percent perhaps.

So right now, I think Joe Biden is facing a moment where there are a lot of voters who may have voted for him, but are just feeling kind of mad about things. They're not really -- they're not really feeling the magic anymore. Or perhaps they voted for him, not because they liked him, but because they just didn't want Donald Trump anymore.

So that's actually what I'm waiting to see tonight is how much of this evening's remarks whether it's from the president or from Trevor Noah himself are kind of backward looking and still with Donald Trump as the big elephant in the room. You know, Seth Meyers famously made fun of Trump when he wasn't even president. He was just a guest at the dinner of that as well.

KEILAR: I wonder if the old rules still apply, Astead, if you think -- I think of that moment where Barack Obama took aim at birthers. Do you remember and he said, oh, this is my -- the video of my birth and it was actually from The Lion King. It was when Simba was presented. And he just sort of was saying, look, this is such an asinine line that you all are doing. I mean, is Joe Biden -- can he do that or does that not work anymore?


HERNDON: Right. We know that Barack Obama has a unique charisma, was very good at this type of stuff. You know, Joe Biden has a low bar, and that that's not really what he's known for. He's known for those interpersonal interactions. He's good on the trail on the rope line. And so I think that's actually an easy bar for him to clear with speaking to the point and taking things lighter and showing a different side of himself.

I think a Joe Biden that that takes those jokes well, and dishes those out is something that we all know politicians -- we all know voters like to relate to that with politicians, you know. They're people who aren't just voting on policy, they also vote on personality. And this is an opportunity for the president to show more of that, and particularly a president that has not really been known for that type of personality gain.

BERMAN: We talked about this town for a moment here. It seems like it's sort of bursting at the seams are waiting for this moment, just walking on the streets, you know, being in and out of hotels. It seems like there's so many people just excited to get out, finally.

ALLISON: Absolutely. I mean, this is what we call nerd prom, where everyone who does the hard work, actually, regardless of what side of the aisle you're on, Republican or Democrat, you come together, you have fun, you have drinks and cocktails. And we've been not able to do that for the last two and a half years. So for this to come back because of the pandemic. It just feels like a sigh of relief. I will say I was out for a short bit last night, and I heard some jokes like, I hope COVID is not on the guest list. So what I also think will be interesting. And people might take some jabs at this administration if on Monday morning the president has positive because our vice president is positive with COVID now. So that is hanging in the backdrop, I would not recommend making jokes about COVID tonight, though.

ANDERSON: There is a big difference though between this town and your sort of median American voter, most of them are probably not going to be watching the full evening's proceedings. What's going to be interesting to me is what moments go viral?

Like what are the little bits and pieces, if any, that actually do kind of break through the noise? And in the midst of a world where inflation is very high, GDP was negative last quarter, all of these problems. Is there anything that breaks through that actually does get people's attention in a moment that has a lot else that's challenging?

BERMAN: Steve Portnoy right now, the president right now of the White House Correspondents Association there, work in the room.

All right, guys, stand by. Much more to discuss.

KEILAR: This event is beginning here officially in just a short time. We're going to take you there live as things get underway.

BERMAN: Plus, Maggie Haberman joins us live next on two big pieces of news involving grand juries and Donald Trump. Stand by.



BERMAN: Two big developments involving Donald Trump and grand juries, one in New York City over the Trump Organization investigation, wrapping up or at least the grand jury is wrapping up. And another in Georgia over alleged election interference, that grand jury starts work on Monday.

Joining us now to discuss Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

I hedge there because the grand jury in New York City has expired, but the Manhattan County DA claims, oh, the investigation still goes on. But what does this tell you, this grand jury that was looking into the Trump Organization no longer exists?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very unlikely that you're going to see another grand jury and panel barring a whole lot of new evidence. And I think even if that happened, you would then have Donald Trump's lawyer saying, you made all these other statements, you know, indicating this is sort of a weak case.

Privately, people were saying out of the DHS office that they didn't want to rely on Michael Cohen as their main witness, you know, I think that that was a big piece that you saw of concern by Alvin Bragg the DEA.

Now, whether that was valid or not is an open question, but I think that if you -- with this special Grand Jury lapsing, I think the chances that Donald Trump gets charged are -- in Manhattan are slim to none.

KEILAR: So then in Georgia, you have a special Grand Jury convening on Monday. What are you watching there?

HABERMAN: Look, I'm watching to see what that -- what testimony emerges from it. I'm watching to see, you know, what people end up saying. I'm watching to see who we see subpoena the way that we would with any of these investigations. We've been able to tell what the January 6 Committee is up to because of who they have called to come take depositions from because of the material they have subpoenaed.

I am looking for what they are going at in terms of there will be people around Donald Trump who they're interested. I'm certain they're going to be interested in who in the White House is working with him. But what specifically they try to elicit about what Donald Trump himself was doing and saying.

At the end of the day, that is the big difference between what we have seen with previous investigations into Donald Trump throughout his presidency. And these investigations, which is they really relate directly to things he was doing.

The Russia investigation ended up touching a lot of people but very few actions specific to Donald Trump related to Russia. This is going to be a whole lot of people saying Donald Trump did this, Donald Trump did that, and that's what I'm watching for.

BERMAN: All right. Maggie, standby for a moment. Much more from you coming up.

HABERMAN: Is there?

BERMAN: There is much more whole night canceled like a whole slate of parties to be with here -- would be with us here tonight.

KEILAR: And we do appreciate it, Maggie.

BERMAN: And we do appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Good to see you guys.

BERMAN: So we're going to make it worth your while.

HABERMAN: All right.

BERMAN: All right. We are. There's going to be snacks.

KEILAR: What does that entail? She's dubious. Just wondering where this is going. Just moments away from the roast is where we're going here. Jokes and laughs at the White House Correspondents' Dinner at whose expense. We shall see when our special live coverage continues. BERMAN: And Stanley Tucci is back. New episodes new food new discoveries. Stanley Tucci's, "Searching For Italy" new season premieres tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.


STANLEY TUCCI, AMERICAN ACTOR: There's nowhere on Earth quite like Italy. Every mouthful here is an eruption.


TUCCI: Cheers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: City in the sea.

TUCCI: Let's go. If you want to know the best place to eat, ask a gondolier. I'll try.


And note for any vegetarians watching when we eat a lot of meat. I surrender to the pork

Look at that. It's gorgeous. That's a revelation.

There are more Italians here than in Bologna or Pisa. And whatever you've heard, the food here is incredible. I don't even want to talk anymore. I just want to eat it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new season of Stanley Tucci, "Searching For Italy" premieres tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.




BERMAN: Tonight, Washington's biggest party in years, a tradition 100 years old, comedian, Trevor Noah, President Joe Biden, dueling roasts, who will cross the line?

KEILAR: In moments lawmakers, celebrities, and members of the media will come together in the same room at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I'm Brianna Keilar, along with John Berman here in primetime and this is CNN's special live coverage.


BERMAN: All right. Good evening to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world.