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Americans Flee Violence As U.S. Announces Sudan Ceasefire; Tucker Carlson Is Out At Fox News Due To Shakeup; Biden Finalizes 2024 Campaign Plans; Possible Announcement From Georgia DA This Summer On Charging Decision In Trump 2020 Election Probe; New Poll: Most Americans Don't Want Biden Or Trump To Run Again; New Poll: Trump Has 15-Point Lead Over DeSantis; Other GOP Primary Prospects In Single Digits. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, an urgent crisis in Sudan where thousands of U.S. citizens remain on the ground as a new ceasefire is announced. We'll have the latest on what the Biden administration is doing and not doing to help civilians escape after U.S. diplomats were evacuated.

Also tonight, a major shakeup over at Fox News. The Primetime Host Tucker Carlson is out. Stand by for new details on the timing of his exit and the potential impact on Fox and the Republican Party.

President Biden is finalizing his 2024 campaign plans on this, the eve of his expected announcement. Most Americans don't want him or Donald Trump, for that matter, to run again.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We're following fast-moving developments in Sudan right now. The U.S. now says warring factions have agreed to a ceasefire that begins about an hour from now. This, as Americans and other civilians are looking for a way out of the country and away from the bloodshed.

CNN's Sam Kiley is in nearby Djibouti for us, where U.S. Embassy staff were evacuated over the weekend. Sam, give us the latest on this unfolding and very, very potentially dangerous crisis.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that potential danger, Wolf, is precisely why even as American officials were being evacuated out of the country, the State Department and others clearly were working very hard to try to secure a ceasefire between warring parties.

First of all, perhaps indeed primarily, in order to continue to evacuate the very large numbers of people who still want to get out of the country. And of course, on top of that, longer term, if they, in 72 hours can hold, then perhaps there might just be some prospect for peace. But either way, it is the poor, really, that have been left behind starting with the Sudanis. But many others have not been lucky enough to be evacuated by this international air effort, and are having to go out over land. This is how it looked at the airport in Djibouti today.


KILEY (voice-over): Relief for the few evacuated to safety. Misery for the many left behind. Multi-national rescue effort involving Special Forces from across the world is under way, with a focus on rescuing diplomats and their families from the horror of Sudan's new civil war.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My first priority is the safety of our people. And I determined the deteriorating security conditions in Khartoum pose an unacceptable risk to keeping our team there at this time.

KILEY (voice-over): But an estimated 16,000 Americans, thousands of other foreigners and, of course, countless Sudanese remain. They're engulfed in mayhem amid growing violence.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: But quite frankly, the situation is not conducive and not safe to try to conduct some kind of a larger military evacuation of American citizens.

KILEY: France has evacuated around 500 people, the U.S. less than a hundred.

So you got WFP, MSF, ICRC.

Rescue missions use this modest airport as a military hub.

So, do you feel that you're in this kind of center of a storm here?

DAOUD ALI ABDOU, GENERAL MANAGER, DJIBOUTI CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY: Exactly, yes, exactly. And we're proud -- we're proud of this because we -- we, for the size of our airports, we can manage all the western countries, all the Asian countries, African countries. Djibouti became the center of this war.

KILEY (voice-over): A mass evacuation by air of foreigners from Sudan like Muna Dauod's parents would be a gigantic operation of the sort seen in Kabul, but it's an unlikely prospect.

MUNA DAUOD, PARENTS STRANDED IN SUDAN: I wrote a letter to the White House. I don't know what more we can do because we simply just want to get them out. And it seems like there's simply no communication, no care whatsoever given to anybody, any American-Sudanese citizens currently in Sudan.

KILEY (voice-over): With prisons emptying and violence spreading, there's no immediate prospect of rescue, much less of peace.


KILEY (on-camera): Now, Wolf, of course, potentially, that prospect of peace may have just improved with the announcement of this ceasefire, but remember that there was supposed to be a ceasefire over the celebrations of the end of Ramadan at Eid.


But those were not respected. There were bombardments even as Americans, French, British and other Special Forces were organizing the evacuation of those diplomats. Now, you've got, for example, hundreds -- 300 Ugandans trying to get out of the country in a bus convoy. Many -- many hundreds have gone out over land Egypt. There's a big effort being put in to try to get people overland to Port Sudan. Because the numbers that can be lifted in an airlift without one large secure airport at least are really very limited. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Sam Kiley in nearby Djibouti for us. Thanks very, very much.

Let's go to the Pentagon right now. CNN's Oren Liebermann is standing by. Oren, just ahead of this newly announced ceasefire where the U.S. said it was actively facilitating the exit of Americans who remain in Sudan. You were over at the Pentagon briefing earlier, what more are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon has 24/7 surveillance up in terms of drones over and near Sudan to keep them -- an eye on the situation on the ground. That is to monitor the land routes out of the country, convoys trying to either cross a land border or get to Port Sudan and get on a ship.

The U.S. Navy also sending in two ships, there are one already off the Coast of Sudan and one headed that way right now. That would give an option for medical care, for instance, as well as an option to get out on the ships and transport them to another way.

Again, the U.S. is saying, we heard from John Kirby there just a few moments ago that to try to conduct another evacuation, to try to bring in U.S. military aircraft, simply not possible. Perhaps -- perhaps, the ceasefire changes that over the next 72 hours, but of course, we already saw one 72-hour ceasefire fall apart over the weekend.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there were intensive efforts of -- over the course for the past two days, to get to a point where they could announce another ceasefire. And now, it's the critical situation of monitoring to see if it holds. Here is National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan from earlier in the day.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We are actively facilitating the departure of American citizens who want to leave Sudan as the State Department has been urging them to do for years.


LIEBERMANN: The problem is, that's not quite accurate, what Jake Sullivan said there. There has been a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning U.S. citizens not to travel to Sudan for several years and warning them to have evacuation plans in place that do not rely in government assistance, but an explicit get-out-of-the-country statement, that we have not seen here.

It is worth noting that the U.S. did conduct a successful evacuation operation for the diplomatic staff and family members and several other nationals. Now, Wolf, the question, what do you do with several dozen, several hundred U.S. citizens who still want to leave the country and find themselves locked in a very difficult situation?

BLITZER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, the Former CIA Director Leon Panetta. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

Secretary Blinken now says Sudan's warring factions have agreed to a new ceasefire. But is there any indication that the fighting will actually stop and that this ceasefire will hold?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it's a rapidly deteriorating situation in Sudan. We've already had over 400 -- over 400 killed, 3500 wounded. And you basically got an all-out war going on.

I'm glad they were able to negotiate a ceasefire. I think that it is important. Our mission right now is to protect U.S. citizens who are there in Sudan. We ought to try to make use of the ceasefire to try to develop routes of departure, so that those who want to leave the country are able to leave in a secure fashion. So, I hope those plans are being developed.

BLITZER: Me, too. The U.S. says it's facilitating. That's the word they use, facilitating, as Americans try to leave Sudan. But how much can the U.S. military actually protect U.S. citizens who are still in Sudan without having boots on the ground?

PANETTA: It's very difficult. Obviously, it's difficult to conduct a large military evacuation. We learned that lesson in Mogadishu when the -- you know, with Black Hawk down and what happened there. So, you have to be careful of deploying military into the middle of a civil war.

At the same time, I think we -- we do owe it to our citizens who are there to try to facilitate their ability to -- to move out. If we can provide some kind of transportation or secure access to be able to get them to Port Sudan and other areas where they could leave the country, I think that would be an important thing to try to facilitate.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed. Did the Biden administration, Mr. Secretary, fail to see the warning signs out there just ahead of the outbreak of the violence that's now going on?


Should Americans, in other words, American citizens in Sudan, should they have received an explicit warning to get out of there, to evacuate?

PANETTA: Well, the administration ultimately came to that point. You know, whether they should have acted earlier depends on just how much they knew. I do think that giving our citizens as much notification as possible when there is a dangerous situation that's about to erupt, is very important. Whether we have that information or not, I don't know.

But I do think that we now have a responsibility, our most important mission, is to make sure that U.S. citizens are protected. And to do that, we want to try to deploy drones, intelligence, whatever we can provide in terms of allowing a secure evacuation to take place for our citizens.

BLITZER: Let's hope it happens. Leon Panetta, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

Coming up, Fox is parting ways with right-wing fire brand Tucker Carlson who hosts one of the most -- one of Fox's most-watched primetime shows. So, what's behind this major media shake-up? The attorney for a former Tucker Carlson producer suing the network, standing by to join us, live. We will discuss.




BLITZER: The cable news shocker today, Fox has severed ties with Tucker Carlson, the right-wing host of its highly rated 8PM hour. The announcement coming one week after Fox settled a massive defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for more than $787 million.

CNN Media Analyst Sara Fischer is joining us. What are you learning about why Fox is taking this significant step today?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: It's a hugely significant step. And I think it has to do with a mountain of evidence that's coming out about things that were incriminating, both to Tucker Carlson, but then in turn to the network. And so, you're gonna be speaking with Abby Grossberg's lawyer, a former Fox producer. She has tapes, Wolf, that show what Fox News was communicating about two Trump allies, about whether or not the allegations they are making about voter fraud with Dominion Systems were actually were actually true. That could be incriminating to Fox.

There's also a bunch of things that was filed in the Delaware Court in pre-trial discovery that was redacted. It might not always be redacted, Wolf. And so, I think if you're Fox executives, you're looking at a potential of windfall of information that could come out, that's incriminating to the network. And the easiest way to get ahead of it is to cut ties with one of the people at the very center of all the drama.

BLITZER: Lots of drama, indeed. Sara, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, Gerry Filippatos, the attorney for Former Fox Producer Abby Grossberg who filed a pair of lawsuits against Fox alleging sexism and accusing the company of coercing her into giving misleading testimony under oath.

Gerry, thanks so much very for joining us. First of all, do you believe this shocking announcement that Fox and Tucker Carlson have parted ways, is connected to your client's lawsuits against the network?

PARISIS "GERRY" FILIPPATOS, ATTORNEY FOR ABBY GROSSBERG: Well, I've said a few times that I really have given up on reading Fox's mind. But I will say that timing is significant in -- in my business in -- in proving discrimination cases. We often prove cases circumstantially.

And I do know that although we had rather preliminary and attenuated discussions from last week, over the weekend, to see whether we could resolve our dispute with Fox, I do know that about 10 minutes after Fox essentially stiff-armed us and said they didn't want to have any further discussions.

So, we heard the news that Mr. Carlson was fired. And Mr. Carlson does play prominently in our lawsuit in the southern district of New York where we allege a very toxic and frankly disgusting work environment that included all sorts of misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments. And we have allegations in our lawsuit that we are confident ultimately will be proven through discovery and trial that Mr. Carlson was well- aware of the toxic environment that was being nurtured under his stead.

In fact, one of the officials, the senior editors in Tucker's group, Mr. Fox, said to Abby when she complained about this misogynistic and sexist and anti-Semitic environment, that well, we're just following Tucker's lead. And this is -- this is Tucker's vibe, words to that effect.

BLITZER: Yeah, I mean it's pretty damning, indeed. She also claims that Fox's attorneys bullied her into giving false testimony during her deposition with Dominion. Fox settled that case, as you know. But it still faces a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from a different voting technology company called Smartmatic. Do you anticipate your client giving testimony in that case?

FILIPPATOS: Well, in fact, Ms. Grossberg has been subpoenaed by Smartmatic and we've indicated to Smartmatic that we're gonna cooperate with that subpoena and provide any relevant information. As we see Ms. Grossberg's defamation case that is currently in -- in Delaware, and where today, by the way, we had to -- we had to stand up in court and -- and meet further ridiculous allegations by Fox's attorneys that that case should be dismissed. There's no way that case gets dismissed.

We have a mountain of evidence to demonstrate Ms. Grossberg's claims against Fox with respect to conspiracy, false light, defamation. But in any event, to answer your question, there's a great relationship between those two suits, Smartmatic's and Ms. Grossberg's defamation suit.

[17:20:00] First of all, they both sounded defamation, secondly, a lot of the --

a lot of the connective tissue between the allegations in dominion and in Smartmatic reside with Ms. Grossberg's civil conspiracy claims. She is pretty much at the center of the puzzle and -- and connects those two cases quite nicely.

Also connects, by the way, through the recordings that we've already released, the upper echelons of Fox News management with what was going on, on the ground, as they sought with the Republican Party and Republican operatives to perpetrate the big lie which eventually turned into the big grift. And we have tapes to that effect.

BLITZER: We will continue to follow the story for sure. Gerry Filippatos, thank you very much for joining us.

FILIPPATOS: Thank you so much, Wolf. I really enjoyed it.

BLITZER: Other media news tonight involving this network, CNN announcing it has parted ways with long-time host, Don Lemon. The statement from CNN CEO Chris Licht, saying, and I'm quoting now, "Don will forever be part of the CNN family and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and we'll be cheering him on in his future endeavors."

Up next, we're just getting new information right now into The Situation Room, about the Georgia investigation into Former President Trump and his allies. Stand by for more, right after this quick break.




BLITZER: All right. This, just in to CNN. New information about the investigation of alleged election interference in Georgia by Former President Trump and his allies.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is joining us with details. Katelyn, what are you learning?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, the Georgia prosecutor that has been investigating Donald Trump's and other's actions after the 2020 election in that state is now giving a pretty firm timeline for whenever charges may be brought. So, that means potential indictments against people like Donald Trump. We don't know if he himself will be charged in this, if others will be charged.

But we do know this district attorney is already getting law enforcement ready, signaling to them that charges would come in the court's fourth quarter. So, that would be specifically July 11th to September 1st.

So, we know this because the Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis did write a letter to the sheriff of Fulton County today, writing, "I am providing this letter to bring to your attention, the need to heightened security and preparedness in coming months due to this pending announcement of possible charging decisions." And then she writes, "Open source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke a significant public reaction."

She then goes on to write about how public expressions of opinion have resulted in violence in the past. She's not specific about that, but if we are looking at this case, we know Donald Trump has been investigated here. We know there's the possibility that the grand jury under seal recommended charges to be brought by this prosecutor.

And we do know that both in New York, there was quite a significant security ramping up, that there had to be security in place because Trump was -- was calling for protests at the time. And we also know that this case in particular, what's being investigated here, is the same stuff, Wolf, that resulted in protests in Washington, D.C. that led to that Capitol insurrection in January of 2021.

So, Fani Willis is fully signaling here something she hasn't done before, a timeline where we can see possible charges coming out of Georgia and this Fulton County probe into Donald Trump and the 2020 election.

BLITZER: Yeah. And she's still really worried about potential violence in connection with any charges that could be announced.

Katelyn, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen. Norm, does this tell you anything about whether the D.A. Fani Willis is moving toward bringing charges -- criminal charges against the former president?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, it strongly suggests that criminal charges against Donald Trump in a second jurisdiction are on the horizon for as soon as July. It's not just the strong language of the letter, the extremely heightened level of security risk and preparedness. Wolf, this comes on top of a mountain of other indications, the evidence in the case, a tape of Donald Trump, the fake electoral certificates, the special grand jury report, the media remarks of the special grand jury foreperson. All seem to indicate Donald Trump was gonna face charges, and now we have this latest indicator, as well.

BLITZER: Very strong indicator indeed. Katelyn, Fani Willis says the announcement could come out, as you point out, between July and September of this year. How does that fit into the many other legal battles Trump is facing?

POLANTZ: Well, there are many, Wolf. And as far as this goes, we don't actually know how the other investigation that's quite similar to what Fani Willis has been looking at in Georgia, the federal criminal investigation around January 6th, around Donald Trump, where that is in the timeline. For many, many months, we've been seeing very aggressive actions by prosecutors in that federal criminal investigation. But there are still questions at Appeals Courts, for instance, that may need to be settled before any charging decisions could be made there.

And so, it really is a toss-up of how things would be progressing.


Now that said in that investigation and the other criminal investigation that's out there around Trump into the Mar-a-Lago documents that he had after the presidency in Florida and possible obstruction of justice, that also is moving fast. And we know that the Attorney General of the United States does want there to be an investigation that is taking place very speedily, because of the fact that Donald Trump is running for president.

And you know, with any of these cases, it depends on the court how fast things can go, time can move very slowly in court. But often, it does take a full year or even more to go from a charging decision and indictment to a trial.

And so, September 1, say that would be when the charge could happen. If there were to be a charge against Donald Trump in Georgia, we could be looking at something like a trial well into the election year of next year, at least in Georgia. We know in New York, the trial right now, I believe is set for the beginning of 2024.

BLITZER: Norm, is this alert by the D.A. Fani Willis normal? Or how revealing is it that Willis wants law enforcement to prepare with heightened security?

NORM EISEN, FMR. HOUSE JUDICIARY SPECIAL COUNSEL IN TRUMP'S FIRST IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Wolf, there's always security considerations when you have high profile trials. And prosecutors, when they have those concerns, always communicate them. But I think what the D.A. is doing here is also setting an expectation window. There's so much evidence that charges are going to be filed against Donald Trump. She has said they would be imminent, but imminent means something different in law enforcement terms, as Katelyn points out, than it does in everyday life.

This is within the window of eminence, and she is both putting law enforcement on alert, but advising the country for another one of these seismic events in our history. We already saw one in Manhattan, there may be as many as three more of these, with this one now set between July and September in great likelihood involved.

BLITZER: Yes. Clearly lots going on.

Norm Eisen, thank you very much. Katelyn Polantz, thanks for your reporting.

Just ahead, President Biden is expected to announce his reelection bid tomorrow. But is the American public excited for a possible Biden Trump rematch? We're breaking down the state of the 2024 race. That's coming up next.


[17:36:44] BLITZER: As President Biden is gearing up to launch his bid for reelection, we're learning more right now about his behind the scenes moves just ahead of his expected announcement video tomorrow. Our chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now.

Phil, how did the President choose this week for this historic announcement?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, and covering the President's kind of build up to a reelection announcement over the course of the last couple of months. Two things have always been very true. One, White House officials and the President's close advisers did not feel urgency to jump into the race, all of the dynamics they saw from the lack of challengers from -- on the Democratic side to the Republican wars that were breaking out intraparty gave them confidence that they could wait. The other was that those who might know about a timeline weren't actually talking about that timeline. That has started to shift over the course of the last 10 days.

The President has shot a video announcing his reelection campaign, they have started to move forward on major staff hires likely at this point that Julie Rodriguez, one of the President's senior advisors here at the White House will help the campaign as campaign manager. We are told at this point in time and all signs pointing to the plans underway for that announcement tomorrow.

Now, it would not be some major launch -- some major rally, it would be a pretty low key video announcement campaign style with a fundraising request as well. That kind of underscores that much of what you're going to see, Wolf, from the President over the course of the coming months is not going to be that different from what you've seen the last several months, the message will be very similar, the contrast with Republicans will be critical, the travel will be mostly tied to his legislative accomplishments of the first two years.

However, it is clear that the movement towards this relaunch underscores the scale of the undertaking that's ahead. And that's something that White House officials are keenly aware of, knowing quite well that despite those legislative accomplishments, the President has a lot of work to do when it comes to polling, has a lot of work to do even when it comes to the Democratic coalition, has a lot to do -- work to do to prove to people that he is ready for a second term fully capable of a second term. That's all part of the planning heading into this moment.

The President will be the one who ultimately decides whether or not tomorrow is the day. But it's worth noting, tomorrow would be the four-year anniversary to the day of his 2020 campaign announcement. As for the President himself, several times today, Wolf, he was asked if tomorrow is going to be the day, he said he let reporters know really soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thank you very, very much. CNN's KFILE is also digging into President Biden's campaign history. While Biden is now the oldest president in U.S. history, he was once vying to be one of the youngest senators ever. And he took an interesting position on age back then. CNN'ss Andrew Kaczynski is uncovering the story for us.

Andrew, tell us about how Biden campaign that time around.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Right. So 51 years ago, Joe Biden was a 29-year-old Delaware city councilman. He was so young that when he was elected, he was not even the age that he could be sworn in. He didn't turn 30 until after that election. And he was attacking his opponent, Republican Senator Cale Boggs over his age. Boggs was 63 at the time. Now we should note that 17 years younger than Biden is today, that's more than 20 years younger than Biden would be in his second term if he was reelected, if you've run for reelection.


And what's interesting about this is Biden in that campaign he had some quotes where he said Boggs had lost that old twinkle in his eye was one of his quotes. This approach was so explicit that the local press dubbed it the dear old dad approach to campaigning.

Take a look at some of these newspaper ads that the Biden campaign ran during that campaign. You can see that he cited things like the 1948 poll tax, he had ads where he talked about Joseph Stalin and jazz musicians doing heroin. And he hammered home this line to contrast with Boggs who was a two-term senator and a two-term governor, he used this line, he understands what's happening today. Take a listen to one of the radio ads that his campaign ran hammering that home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Cale Boggs' day when Stalin ruled, Americans had visions of Russian soldiers in our streets. In Joe Biden's day, Americans have visions of American criminals in our streets. Joe Biden, he understands what's happening today.


KACZYNSKI: So that was then, this is now, and it's going to be interesting to see how Biden handles those age related questions if he does announce for reelection.

BLITZER: As we expect, he will. Andrew Kaczynski, thank you very much.

I want to bring in our political experts right now to analyze President Biden's expected run in his possible rematch against Donald Trump. David Chalian, you're with us, these new polls that are out they overwhelmingly show a majority of Americans don't want Biden or Trump for that matter to run for president once again, and many of them are citing Biden's age. Walk us through with the numbers -- what they suggest about the 2024 potential presidential contest.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And that's right, Wolf, it is a rematch that most Americans don't have any desire to see. Take a look at this NBC News poll that just came out over the weekend. Just when you asked folks, should Biden run? Should Trump won? You see overwhelmingly large majority, 70 percent say Biden should not run, 60 percent say Trump should not run.

Now, if you look at that 70 percent who say you should run and ask why, what's the major reason behind it? You can see that age is the factor, 48 percent say that Joe Biden's age is the major reason they do not believe he should run. So that is a significant swath of the electorate.

As you know, Wolf, Joe Biden has a line that he is employed for many years now, when asked about this, and he says, watch me. Well, the American people have been watching him and will continue to watch him for the next year and a half. This is not an issue that with one speech or something Joe Biden's advisors believe they're going to put it to bed. This is an issue since he's going to age every day of this campaign that is going to stay with him throughout the campaign as the American people watch his performance.

BLITZER: We will certainly be watching.

You know, Gloria, it's really interesting, how much should Biden and Trump, for that matter, each be concerned by the repeated signs that the public does not necessarily want a 2020 rematch?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you don't always get what you want. And the public is saying, look, we don't want this and both candidates really ought to be concerned about it. Obviously, they're positive ratings are very low. And Joe Biden in particular has, according to this poll, a 30 percent popularity with Independent voters. Independent voters are the people who have to look at you and say, OK, we're going to vote for you so important in a presidential race.

These are both older man, and there's nothing they can do about that. Joe Biden can tell people, you know, look at what I've done for you, look at what I've done for the country, we're in a better place than we were during COVID, et cetera, et cetera, I've united the world on Ukraine. But, but what he cannot do is change the fact that he's 80 years old.


BORGER: It would be hard, however, for Donald Trump to say, well, he's such an old guy, because Donald Trump is not so much younger than Joe Biden.

BLITZER: Important point, indeed. You know, it's interesting, David, though he's not an official candidate, at least not yet, Florida Governor DeSantis is polling, what, in second place right now for the Republican presidential primary as he visits Japan today. And this is his first stop of his international tour. Help us read between the lines about the governor's role in this potential field.

CHALIAN: Yes. So, his role in this potential field is he seems to be the one right now that is running closest to Donald Trump but clearly behind. If you look at the NBC News poll, they tested seven Republican candidates you see there, Donald Trump overwhelmingly, the favorite here, 46 percent of Republicans in this poll support him to Ron DeSantis' 31 percent, that's a 15 point gap. Everyone else is down in single digits. So, DeSantis is clearly right now the one potential challenger to Trump that has substantial support.

We have no idea if it will remain that way, and we've got miles to go in this race. And obviously Ron DeSantis has had a bit of a rough patch here in the last few weeks or so in terms of the inside game. But Wolf, Ron DeSantis started at such a high in terms of expectations for him last fall this year as the one that can take on Donald Trump, he had nowhere to go but down.


And so, he's not even in the race yet. Let's see what happens when he does get in the race. He clearly is on this international trade mission right now to bolster some of his foreign policy credentials. Let's see when he becomes an actual candidate.

BORGER: And we have no way of knowing how Ron DeSantis would survive the early going here. He's not an experienced presidential candidate. He's never done it before. And we don't know how his support will last.

We know that early on, as you were saying, he had a lot of support, but we don't know if it's going to stay with him or even increase because he's new on the national stage. I mean, we know about him from being governor of Florida, but being a presidential candidate is a very different kind of cat.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right guys, thank you very, very much, David Chalian and Gloria Borger.

Coming up, we're tracking the investigation into two fires aboard American Airlines planes as dangerous bird strike incidents are clearly on the rise right now.



BLITZER: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a major test of his political clout this week as he pushes for a vote on the GOP plan to raise the nation's debt limit. CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is working the story for us.

Manu, will McCarthy have the votes?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Republican leadership is confident that they will have the votes when it comes time to put this bill on the floor. And sources say that they expect that vote to happen as soon as Wednesday. Now if the timing slips beyond Wednesday, that could mean that Kevin McCarthy has a problem, but at the moment, they believe that they are able to mollify some of the concerns within their conference.

But Kevin McCarthy has very little margin for error. And of the 222 Republican members, he can only afford to lose four votes because all Democrats are expected to vote against this package, which raise the national debt limit till next year and also include a slew of spending cuts, something that the White House and Democrats largely oppose and say that they will not support. But Kevin McCarthy has made clear that the effort to work the phones behind the scenes he believes will be enough to win over his conference.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We will hold a vote this week and we will pass in we will send it to the Senate.

He needs to show leadership and come to the negotiating table instead of put us in default.


RAJU: So the goal of McCarthy is to get this bill out of the House this week and then try to force a negotiation with Joe Biden after the White House has, for months, resisted any negotiations. Instead, the White House has held a diametrically opposite opinion as McCarthy. They want McCarthy to move on legislation to raise the national debt limit without any conditions, without any spending cuts whatsoever.

That is a position also voiced by Senate Democrats. The Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told me just days ago he would not change his position, even if the House was able to muster enough votes to get a Republican only bill through their chamber. Schumer telling me that any bill must be, quote, "clean," meaning no conditions, no spending cuts and simply raise the national debt limit, something McCarthy says simply will not happen.

So, Wolf, even as the Republicans are pushing forward and appear likely to get the votes through -- get this through their chamber. What happens next is anyone's guess as a country could be staring at the first ever debt default as early as June if the two sides don't reach a deal, if a bill does not get to the President's desk, something that could have damaging economic consequences, not just here in the United States, but around the world.

BLITZER: Clearly the stakes are enormous. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Now to airline safety here in the United States and in an alarming new fire during a commercial flight after an apparent bird strike. Your CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fiery in flight emergency was captured from the ground and in the air passenger. Matthew Danek and his fiancee saw the fireballs coming from the right engine of their flight. Right away they knew something was very wrong.

MATTHEW DANEK, PASSENGER ON AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT: Immediately the mood changed like everyone stopped talking. We feel that quiet. We all kind of did that look around.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The FAA says the American Airlines Boeing 737 was taking off from John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Ohio when the flight struck a bird causing one of the two engines to fail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday. American 1958. We've got a bird strike, and then engine failure.

DANEK: The engine was on fire for probably about three minutes, something like that. I don't know how long exactly, but it was just backfiring.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Birds pose a unique risk to airliners. The number of collisions with wildlife are trending up reaching a record 17,000 last year. The FAA says due in part to conservation efforts and quieter airplanes.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: What airports do is they have cannons to make noise, vehicles, they have other lights and noisemakers. Some airports that have tried dogs but of course got to get the dogs off the airport too. And so, there are lots of noisemaker things at the airport.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Sunday's incident follows a similar case last week when the right engine of a different American Airlines Flight caught fire before leaving the ground in Charlotte. In both cases, all onboard emerged unharmed.

DANEK: Crew was absolutely amazing. The pilot was even, I daresay, funny during it. He had a good sense of humor. His poise was astounding.


MUNTEAN: The FAA says it's investigating both of these incidents. The agency says 85 percent of reported bird strikes involve commercial airliners. Incidents rarely end well for the bird but almost always end well for passengers. In more than 30 years of data, the rate of injuries to passengers only 0.1 percent, Wolf.


BLITZER: Pete Muntean, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we're following the conflict in Sudan and whether a U.S. brokered ceasefire will stop days and days of violence. I'll ask the National Security Council official John Kirby about what it will take to stop the bloodshed. Plus, there's breaking news that we're getting new information on the next steps in the Georgia investigation into former President Trump and his allies for alleged election meddling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news a district attorney in Georgia now says she will reveal this summer whether or not former President Trump will be criminally charged in the states probe of 2020 election interference. Also this hour, the U.S. now says a ceasefire is set to begin right now in Sudan. I'll ask key White House official John Kirby debate about the fate of 1000s of American citizens still in the country after deadly violence prompted an evacuation of the U.S. embassy.