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Israeli Forces Largest Military Operation In West Bank; DeSantis Campaign Ad Backfires; Ukrainian Military Claiming Gains As Russia Attacks With Drones In Sumy; Ukraine Claims New War Gains As Russia Unleashes Drones; Spokesman: Ducey Has Not Been Contacted By Special Counsel Jack Smith Over 2020 Election; American Journalist Held By Russia Allowed To Meet With U.S. Ambassador For Second Time. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 03, 2023 - 17:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: This ride has been shut down ever since. And I will never be going on it. But our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer over in "The Situation Room" -- actually with Alex Marquardt who is in "The Situation Room" for Wolf.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Happening now, the largest Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank in more than 20 years. We're following the deadly aftermath of what Israel is calling a counterterrorism effort and Palestinian officials are calling a war crime.

Also tonight, an explosive attack in northeastern Ukraine. A new Russian drone strike causing death and destruction as Ukraine claims it is regaining ground on the battlefield.

And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis slamming Donald Trump for a past promise to protect gay rights. The video further driving a wedge into the Republican Party and the Republican presidential field.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt and you're in "The Situation Room."

Nd let's get right to Israel's intense incursion in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, its impact on Middle East tensions and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN's Hadas Gold joins us live now from Jerusalem. Hadas, give us the latest on this Israeli operation in Jenin.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this operation, as far as we understand, is actually still on going. We are well past 20 hours that this operation has been ongoing. It started around 1:00 a.m. overnight with air strikes -- air strikes actually carried out by drones. The Israeli military saying it was targeting what it says are militant locations in the Jenin refugee camp.

They say these are things like command centers, weapons manufacturing sites. They say these are thing like tunnels even underneath mosques that they say they found, and also hundreds of Israeli forces have been in Jenin engaging in firefights with who they say are militants. We have seen even bulldozers taking to the streets to tear up streets. The Israeli militants saying that's because there are IEDs they say underneath the concrete.

And scenes reminiscent really of the Second Intifada of the early 2000's.

Tanks have been seen on the outskirts of Jenin. None of them have actually entered the city itself, but that goes to show you what the sort of situation that we're in. This has been confirmed to us as the largest Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank since 2002, since the days of the Second Intifada.

The Israeli military saying that it's carrying out targeted air strikes. Now, the Palestinian Ministry of Health saying that eight Palestinians have been killed and at least 100 have been injured. But the IDF is claiming to reporters that they don't believe any non- combatants have been killed, but they are acknowledging that civilians are among those injured and they are acknowledging that vital services in the Jenin refugee camp, things like electricity and water have been affected.

Now, obviously we just looked at what's been happening in the camp, you see that the streets are completely torn up and you see several buildings very heavily damaged. Alex, I was actually in Jenin just yesterday to speak to residents there, that Jenin has seen regular Israeli military raids over the past year, year and a half or so. This, the Israeli military, has been doing across the occupied West Bank in response to a wave of what they say are Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

But the residents there say they have not seen the likes of what they are seeing right now in decades. What we are seeing at this moment actually are more than 500 Palestinian families are evacuating the Jenin refugee camp. This is according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. This is in response to what they expect will be a continuation of this operation especially overnight.

The Israeli military saying as much as well, saying the operation could continue for another day or so. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commenting on the situation at Jenin. Actually, he was at an event at the U.S. embassy here in Jerusalem just a few hours ago. Take a listen


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAELI: In recent months, Jenin has become a safe haven for terrorists. From that safe haven, terrorists perpetrated savage attacks, murdering Israeli civilians, men, women and children, as many children as they could find. As I speak, our troops are battling the terrorists with unyielding resolve and fortitude while doing everything, everything to avoid civilian casualties.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GOLD: And Alex, the big question right now is, will this current operation that the Israeli military operation is saying is focused on the Jenin refugee camp, it's not turning into a broader West Bank operation, but will it spill over into something much broader? Because we're already hearing calls from the militant group Hamas. They are calling on all of their members they say to strike Israel wherever they can. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yeah. An extraordinarily combustible situation. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you so much for that report.


Back here in Washington, the Biden White House says it is closely monitoring the situation in Israel and the West Bank. Let's get straight to our White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond. So, Jeremy, what is the administration saying tonight?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, here at the White House and also at the State Department, officials are closely monitoring this situation that is unfolding, this operation unfolding inside of the West Bank. They are not saying much more beyond that.

All we have heard so far from both the spokesperson for the National Security Council as well as the State Department is that the U.S. reiterating its support for Israel's right to defend itself while also calling for Israel to exercise restraint in particular as it relates to civilians saying, quote, "it is imperative to take all possible precautions to prevent the loss of civilian lives."

Now, what U.S. officials are also monitoring here is what Hadas just mentioned, and that is the concern that this is really operation inside the West Bank could escalate into some kind of a broader conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants both in the West Bank and in Gaza.

U.S. officials over the last couple of years have really played an important role in trying to mediate some of those conflicts that have erupted between Israel and Palestinian militants and really to a good deal of success in terms of limiting the amount of time that those conflicts have gone on and how big they could get.

But just keep in mind some of the broader context here, the deadliest year for Palestinians in years and also, of course, just the broader powder keg situation in terms of the politics on both sides. It's something that U.S. officials are keeping in mind.

And it also comes, Alex, at a time when U.S. officials are trying to push for more normalization between Israel and countries in the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia which has expressed some openness to that possibility, but has made very clear that the situation with Palestinians needs to improve before any of that can happen. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yeah, making that normalization practically impossible, Secretary Blinken just said. Jeremey Diamond at the White House. Thank you very much. Joining me now is someone who has mediated between these two sides.

The former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. Aaron, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate your perspective on this very combustible situation as we've been saying. It has been decades since we've seen an Israeli operation like this in the occupied West Bank. We've seen 10 air strikes so far, hundreds of Israeli soldiers. Echoes of course of the Second Intifada. How fearful are you that this could spark another uprising, another intifada?

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: Well, I think that's been a concern all along, Alex. (Inaudible) is not our fight. We see diplomacy and gun at the same time. Second, (inaudible) which was so instrumental in mounting a resistance and terror attacks during the Second Intifada is not interested in another mass uprising.

And right now, Hamas nor -- neither Hamas nor Palestine Islamic Jihad has the influence nor recreate such an explosion. If, however, this is left to its own devices and it continues to escalate with more sustained Israeli operations, perhaps suicide attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and in (inaudible) proper, no telling where it's going to go.

You have a perfect storm, Alex. It's actually very soon. 56-year-old Israeli occupation turns no signs of upgrading (ph). Palestinian authority is unwilling and unable to control places like Jenin, and now the most extreme government in the history of the state of Israel committed to annexing the West Bank and a series of informal Palestinian groups (inaudible) in terms of weapon smuggling and current and facilitated by Hamas and jihad which have, I think, surprised the Israelis in terms of the lethality of their resistance.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, it really is a perfect storm. In terms of what the U.S. can do, what tools do they have? What pressure can they apply to both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to prevent the scenarios that you just laid out?

MILLER: Well, part of it, Alex, is the absence of political will. I mean, involving themselves in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right now with any hope of creating some measure of stability is probably beyond even the capacity of the most talented mediator. You can bring James Baker and Henry Kissinger down to basically help mediate this. I'm not sure you could.

The administration knows this is bad politics. Republicans have emerged as the go-to party when it comes to Israel. And number two, the administration is really not interested in involving itself in a major way in an issue that's doomed to fail. Far more interested, as you pointed out, as Jeremy Diamond pointed out, in the other peace process, the one between Israel and the Arab states.

And the real question (inaudible), if the West Bank is on fire, can in fact, the Israelis citing (inaudible) move forward? That I think is an unanswered question and, in the weeks, and months ahead, we're going to find out. [17:09:59]

MARQUARDT: We certainly are going to find out and probably quite soon. Aaron David Miller, always appreciate your expertise on this matter. Thank you.

MILLER: Thanks, Alex.

MARQUARDT: And coming up, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is speaking exclusively with CNN as Putin's forces unleash new drone attacks amid Ukraine's counteroffensive. CNN is on the frontlines with the latest.

Plus, the ad from Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, some in his own party are calling dangerous and homophobic. That's next. You're in "The Situation Room."


MARQUARDT: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is now under fire for a new campaign video that critics are calling homophobic. The video posted to the Florida governor's rapid response campaign account slammed Republican front-runner Donald Trump for his 2016 campaign to protect LGBTQ rights. CNN's Eva McKend is following this for us. So, Eva, what is the DeSantis campaign now saying about this video that they themselves posted?

EVA MCKEND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Alex, as expected, they aren't backing down from this. A spokesperson for the governor seeming to take issue with the concept of pride month altogether, justifying the video by arguing, well, there isn't a similar celebration for straight people, this is pandering and describing identity politics as toxic.


At this point this video, widespread, many people have seen it, but let's take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA: I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.

UNKNOWN: If Caitlyn Jenner would walk into Trump Tower and want to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any bathroom she chooses?

TRUMP: That is correct.

UNKNOWN: In the future, can transgender women compete in Ms. Universe?


UNKNOWN: Make America great again.



MCKEND: So, the irony here, of course, is that during the former president's tenure, he adopted many anti-trans policies. Certainly, trans folks in this country would not say Trump has been a friend to them. Nonetheless, Alex, the reason that we're seeing DeSantis and his team take this approach is because there is an anti-queer hostility among some conservative-based voters.

Just a few weeks ago I was at the Faith and Freedom Forum here in Washington. That's a gathering of evangelical conservative voters. And time and time again, I would ask them what their number one issue is. And they would often say transgender Americans are concerned about transgender Americans and how gender identity is taught in schools. So that's why they're going all in on this.

MARQUARDT: Yeah. That imagery and production, just incredible. There are, of course, gay Republicans, LGBTQ conservatives. How are they responding to this?

MCKEND: Well, they are pushing back against this, arguing that the campaign is not doing enough to delineate between conservative queer folks and liberal queer folks. In a statement they say, "Republicans and other common-sense conservatives know Ron DeSantis has alienated swing state and younger voters. DeSantis' rhetoric will lose hard- fought gains in critical races across the nation. This old playbook has been tried in the past and has failed repeatedly."

I mean, this is a case of maybe winning a battle but losing the war because we know that more and increasing number of Americans embrace LGBTQ folks. And so, this might be popular with a certain segment of the electorate that Governor DeSantis is trying to capture in a Republican primary, but the position is not consistent with the views of most Americans.

MARQUARDT: And the timing, no accident either. I mean, this is posted at the very end of pride month.

MCKEND: Exactly.

MARQUARDT: Eva, stay with us, I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, thanks so much for joining us. As Eva was saying, the DeSantis campaign team not backing down from this video despite the blowback. Do they see this as a winning strategy? Why do they see this as a winning strategy?

RON BRWONSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the core of their strategy, right? I mean, DeSantis has chosen to run at Donald Trump almost entirely from the right, you know. You could think of Donald Trump as a Mac truck rolling down the far-right lane of American politics. Ron DeSantis is trying to squeeze past him on the shoulder on this and on other issues, in a way that, to use his word, could prove toxic if he does win the nomination and gets to the general election. But even before that, it makes it for difficult for him to build a

broad coalition within the Republican electorate to beat Trump. It's a very distinct strategy. And what's really, I think, revealing about this video is what is Donald Trump's offense in quotes that he is citing here? It's not any particular policy. It's the idea that he has spoken favorably about LGBTQ people and indicated that he would treat Caitlyn Jenner with respect. In that way it's reminiscent of the Bud Light boycott which is not about any specific endorsement by the company. It was just that they associated with someone who is transgender.

And you see, you know, as this -- it's all in line with these proliferation of laws in Republican-controlled states, limiting transgender rights, prohibiting gender affirmation surgery or treatment even for minors, limiting what teachers can talk about in the classroom.

One last point, you know, in both parties for the past 20 years, to Eva's point, we have seen a steady increase in the share of adults who say that same-sex relations are morally acceptable. It's gone from 40 percent of the country in 2000 to 71 percent in 2022, including a majority of Republicans as recently as 2022. That's now plummeted to just 40 percent of Republicans as more of this rhetoric becomes common among GOP leaders.

MARQUARDT: We have yet to hear from Donald Trump in response as well as many other of the 2024 candidates. But Chris Christie was critical in an interview that took place yesterday. Let's take a listen.



CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not comfortable with the way both Governor DeSantis and Donald Trump are moving our debate in this country. It is a teenage, you know, food fight between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, and I don't think that's what leaders should be doing.


MARQUARDT: So, Eva, what do you make of the silence from the rest of the field?

MCKEND: Well, in many ways this is mission accomplish for Governor DeSantis. We're having this conversation this evening and the so- called, what they would describe as the elites are admonishing him. And so, I think that the rest of the field is kind of treading carefully. They don't want to give Governor DeSantis too much of what he wants which is to be the center of conversation.

MARQUARDT: And, Ron, you touched on this a moment ago, but this comes on the heels of the Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of a website designer being allowed to deny services to a gay couple. What does this say about the Republican Party's evolution on LGBTQ issues? BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's similar too on a broad range of issues. You

know, as I've said, the Republican Party now, the glue that holds it together above all is that it is strongest among the people and places who are most uncomfortable with the way the country is changing, demographically, culturally, even economically and LGBTQ rights is a big part of that.

And what we are moving, I think, toward in portions of the conservative movement is a desire not only to change public policy, but to re-attach the idea of stigma, of a stigma to same-sex relations. I mean, it's very hard to look at this video as really a policy prescription.

It is more about making -- that Trump is being morally objectionable by acknowledging and associating with LGBTQ people, and that does reflect a portion of the Republican coalition with one reason why, as you said, many of the other candidates are biting their tongues.

MARQUARDT: All right. We'll have to leave it there. Ron Brownstein, Eva McKend, thank you both. Appreciate it.

And up next, we'll have the latest on the war in Ukraine as we learning more about the mobilization of Russian troops.

Plus, a preview of CNN's exclusive new interview with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. You're in "The Situation Room."



MARQUARDT: In Ukraine tonight, officials are claiming new gains against Russian forces even as Kremlin soldiers are unleashing new drone attacks. CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report from the war zone.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's much anticipated counteroffensive now well into its fourth week. The frontlines evermore intense. But the gains so far are small and incremental. Ukrainian forces are pushing forward in the south, liberating just over 150 square kilometers. That's only 60 square miles.

But as Ukraine advances, the country's deputy defense minister says Russia is stepping up attacks in the east. "The enemy is trying to force our troops out of their positions, but is receiving a worthy rebuff," she said in her latest update.

On several fronts Russian forces are managing to move forward, now in the offensive in the town of Svatove in the Luhansk region. Back in Moscow, Russia's military leaders continued to project strength even after the recent mutiny by Wagner mercenaries.

SERGEI SHOIGU, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: These plans failed primarily because the personnel of the armed forces showed loyalty to their oath and military duty. The provocation did not have impact on the actions of the groupings of troops. The servicemen courageously and selflessly continue to solve the tasks assigned to them.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Russia's assault on Ukraine also continues further from the frontlines, hammering civilian infrastructure. Monday, four Russian drones were launched at the northeastern city of Sumy hitting two residential apartment blocks and a local administrative building. That attack killed two people and injured at least 19. Rescuers are determined to quickly clear up the aftermath, just as Ukrainian forces tell CNN they're determined to keep inching forward.


(On camera): Just to put in perspective the challenge facing the Ukrainian army, today we heard from the spokesman for Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine on national TV saying that along the eastern front, the Russians have deployed 180,000 troops. That's more than twice the size of the entire British army. There are 50,000 Russian troops alone in and around the town of Bakhmut. Alex?

MARQUARDT: A considerable force. All right, thanks Ben Wedeman for that report.

And now to a new and exclusive CNN interview with Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He spoke at length with our Erin Burnett about the Russian mutiny, the state of the war and the prospects for peace. Listen to Zelenskyy link a potential end of the conflict to the fate of Crimea and discussing his recent talks with the head of the CIA.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): We cannot imagine Ukraine without Crimea. And while Crimea is under the Russian occupation, it means only one thing, war is not over yet.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: To be clear, in victory, in peace, is there any scenario where Crimea is not part of Ukraine?

ZELENSKYY (through translation): It will not be victory then.


BURNETT: I know the U.S. CIA Chief Bill Burns has come and visited you regularly. He was here recently. What did you tell him about your plans to take back territory in the counteroffensive?

ZELENSKYY (through translation): To be honest with you, I was surprised to see the information in some media, both in the U.S. and Ukrainian and European media. My communication with the CIA chief should always behind the scenes and the media attention because we discuss U.S. important things, what Ukraine needs and how Ukraine is prepared to act.

We don't have any secrets from CIA because we have good relations and our intelligence services talk with each other. I don't know what were other contacts. I don't really remember which media I read it in. The situation is pretty straightforward. We have good relations with the CIA chief and we are talking. I told him about all the important things related to the battlefield which we need.


MARQUARDT: And you can see the full interview with President Zelenskyy on Erin Burnett Out Front on Wednesday night at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN. Let's get more on all this from a former National Security Council official, retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He joins us now from Kyiv. Colonel Vindman, thank you so much for joining us. You heard President Zelenskyy saying there that his talks with the CIA director Bill Burns should remain behind the scenes.

But what message do these in person meetings in this moment, during this counter offensive between Zelenskyy and Burns, what message does that send to the Kremlin?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Thanks, Alex, for having me. And happy Independence Day. We're seven hours ahead. Well, first I met with a large number of officials and they're all deeply frustrated that our government apparatus leaks like a sieve. This is a constant theme. The Ukrainians have been doing an excellent job of maintaining operational security, keeping their secrets close. But also --

MARQUARDT: All right, it appears that we have lost Colonel Vindman there. We're going to try -- no -- Colonel Vindman, can you hear me?

VINDMAN: Yes, I got you loud and clear.

MARQUARDT: All right, so what message do you think this meeting between Burns and Zelenskyy is sending to the Russians?

VINDMAN: Yes, first let me pass deep frustration from the Ukrainians for what a U.S. government that seems to leak like a sieve that's coming for a lot of reporters. But the message that comes through is really that this is a razor's edge. What's happening on the battlefield is a razor's edge between success and failure. That the Ukrainians are burning through enormous amounts of ammunition and that they need additional support. This was never going to be an easy operation.

This was going to be a months' long struggle to liberate territory, deplete Russia's forces like they did last year, and then after that achieve some territorial gains. The way the Russians are going to interpret it is that the U.S. is there to support them.

MARQUARDT: The officials that you've been speaking with over the past few days in Kyiv, how do they think this counter offensive is going so far?

VINDMAN: They're still cautiously optimistic. I think they're also frustrated that was the interview with the Chief of the General Staff's illusion (ph) about how there is misconceptions about this war, how quickly it should happen. The expectation is like U.S. military defeating the Iraqis in Desert Storm, that it's like some sort of lightning strikes. That's not what this war is.

This is heavy formations, very fortified positions, and this is always going to play out over the course of months. So there's some frustration that there's a misperception about how quickly this is going to go. At the same time, there remains cautious optimism that the Ukrainian armed forces will achieve their operational objectives when all said and done by fall. And be in quite a good position to compel Putin to the negotiating table, or mobilize, which is extremely dangerous for him.

MARQUARDT: We are just a few days out from a NATO summit. Ukraine obviously has designs on eventually joining the alliance. What are officials there telling you about their immediate hopes for this summit in terms of commitment and that timeline for joining NATO?

VINDMAN: Well, the population overwhelmingly supports NATO. There was a recent report where some almost 90 percent of the population supports NATO. I think the leadership is a little bit cautiously optimistic. I have come around 180 degrees from being deeply reluctant about Ukraine joining NATO during the war, but at this point, I see no other choice.

Joining NATO would basically put an end to Putin's indefinite war, perpetual war, with this idea that the longer he waits, he could wait out the west. It is a good idea. There's a right way of doing it without precipitating a broader confrontation. There is absolutely a path to Ukraine joining NATO, but immediately they need ammunition, they need ATACMS, they need lanes, and they need continued support for a month long campaign to wear down the Russian army.


MARQUARDT: It's going to be a very interesting NATO summit to watch. Colonel Alexander Vindman joining us from Kyiv, thank you very much.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, what we are learning about a call former President Donald Trump made to pressure the governor of a key state to overturn the 2020 election and whether it could add to the former president's legal jeopardy.


MARQUARDT: We are following new revelations around former President Donald Trump's moves after his defeat in the 2020 election. A source telling CNN that Trump called then Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to pressure him to find fraud in the state's voting results. CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes is working the story for us. So Kristen, what more can you tell us about this call?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So there's some stuff we knew and some stuff that is new. The first thing is that we knew that former President Trump had talked to then Governor Ducey. We just weren't exactly sure what they had spoken about. Now I have learned from a source that behind closed doors, Ducey has said that this is really a pressure campaign from the White House, particularly the former president, trying to get him to find fraud to overturn the results in Arizona.


If you'll remember, Trump was obsessed with Arizona. He lost by a narrow margin. It was about 11,000 votes. Now, the other thing we learned was that Mike Pence repeatedly called Governor Ducey. Now sources say that Pence was not pressuring Ducey in any way. He was asking if there was any evidence of fraud and telling him how to report it appropriately. But this weekend, Pence was asked about those calls and I want you to take a listen to what he said.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did check in with not only Governor Ducey but other governors in states that were going through the legal process of reviewing their election results, but there was no pressure involved. Margaret, I was calling to get an update. I passed along that information to the president and it was no more, no less than that.


HOLMES: And he was specifically asked, did you have pressure from the former president? And he said no. But we should note that this is coming at a time where it's been widely reported that the former president was putting an enormous amount of pressure on then Vice President Mike Pence, not just about finding fraud to overturn the election, but also about certifying the election, which is how we ended up on January 6th.

And the other thing I want to point out here is that obviously we have reported extensively about another call, which is the call that was recorded between Trump and the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, where he asks for more votes. And now we know that call has actually been part of the special Counsel's investigation that Jack Smith has met with Raffensperger.

There is no recording of this call. And we have asked and we have learned that Ducey has not been contacted by the Special Counsel's office as of yet. So clearly not the same level of interest in this conversation, or perhaps no knowledge of this conversation until recently. But as of now, he has not been brought in any way.

MARQUARDT: That is so interesting because of those parallels with Georgia. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much for more terrific reporting. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI Deputy director, Andrew McCabe and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers to get into this. Thank you both for joining us. Andrew, I want to pick up where Kristen left off there. There's no evidence that Ducey has spoken with the Special Counsel, which I think is really interesting here. Do you think that Jack Smith is going to include this call between Trump and the former governor in his investigation into 2020 election meddling?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Alex, whether or not a particular call or an incident would be included in the investigation is one question. Whether or not it makes it into any potential charges is a very different question. I would expect that the special counsel's team would look into each one of these issues as they became aware of them. It's possible that they weren't aware of this call, although that seems a little strange since most of us actually saw the videotape of the governor receiving a call from allegedly the former president while he was essentially certifying the vote in Arizona.

So they may be a little behind the curve here on uncovering this call. But I would expect at some point they'll make contact with the governor or his people to get at least his version of these events and then evaluate them as you would any other thing you consider.

MARQUARDT: Jennifer the special counsel's team of prosecutors, they recently interviewed the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. He also faced pressure, as we know well from that tape from Trump to overturn his state's election results in 2020. Let's listen to that infamous call.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


MARQUARDT: Jennifer, trump's conversation with then Arizona Governor Ducey was not recorded, as we mentioned. So how does that complicate things for prosecutors?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it doesn't complicate them. I mean, it never gets old to listen to a recording like that Raffensperger call, it's just such a golden piece of evidence for prosecutors. But prosecutors don't always have that kind of evidence. Instead, you call witnesses. So if they decide that this piece of evidence, once they speak to former Governor Ducey, is worth including in any charges, they'll call him as a witness, and he will explain on a witness stand what happened during that call.

So it's not that it's problematic in any way. It's not the same kind of evidence, not as powerful as hearing Trump in his own voice, but still legitimate piece of evidence, relevant and it's credible to a jury.

MARQUARDT: Andrew, the former vice president, Mike Pence, he did testify before the special Counsel's grand jury. That was back in March. Wouldn't he have been asked about these very calls?

MCCABE: Well, it's a great question, Alex, and we don't know because obviously those proceedings are secret. The vice president knows. He could share that with us if he chose to. My guess is that this particular call, these interactions with Governor Ducey, probably did not come up, but we'll have to see.


You know, I also think that, you know, Jennifer is absolutely right. There is evidence you could pull together here to shed light on what happened in this call or between the former Vice President's contacts with him. But at the end of the day, there's a lot -- if you attempted to charge something like this, there are a lot of potentially very effective defenses. There is no recording. These are conversations that certainly former President Trump, or as we heard from former Vice President Pence, could say, no, I didn't pressure him.

I was simply looking for additional evidence as we're filing lawsuits around the country. There was nothing improper here, so there's a lot of gray area that might make these harder to move forward.

MARQUARDT: It's a very interesting turn and lots of questions about the implications. Andrew McCabe, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you both very much.

And coming up, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia lays eyes on detained American journalist Evan Gershkovich for the first time in months.

And we'll go live to Paris as nearly a week of violent protest takes a toll on France, the riots continuing tonight.



MARQUARDT: Tonight, the State Department is giving us a summary of the U.S. ambassador's visit with American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges since March. CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is at the State Department. So, Kylie, what are we learning about the ambassador's visit with Evan, and what more is the State Department saying?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, we heard from a State Department spokesperson saying that it's Ambassador Lynne Tracy's judgment that Evan Gershkovich is in good health and he remains strong, of course, despite the circumstances. And when you look at the timeline of what has occurred during Gershkovich's detention in Russia, you'll see that this is only the second time that the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Ambassador Lynne Tracy, has been able to visit with Gershkovich.

Now, the U.S. State Department has put in multiple requests to the Russian government for visits with Evan, but those have been turned down. So it's significant that he was able to actually receive Ambassador Tracy today, have a conversation with her. Of course, he was detained back in late March. He has since been wrongfully -- deemed wrongfully detained by the State Department that they came to that determination quite quickly. Now he is facing charges of espionage, and that is a really complicated charge that he is facing, because what it means is that the Russians are looking in return to get something for him that is related to their intelligence collection apparatus. If they're treating him as a spy, they want the United States to give them something that would help benefit their intelligence collection apparatus, their spy capabilities.

And Paul Whelan, who's another American who's still wrongfully detained in Russia, he is also facing spy charges. So, behind the scenes, U.S. officials have been working to try and figure out what they can offer to the Russians to secure the release of both Whelan and Evan Gershkovich. But today, the big news is that the ambassador was able to see him, and of course, he is in pretrial detention until at least August 30th. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Kylie, is there any indication that the State Department is getting any closer to getting Whelan and Gershkovich home, that this very complicated deal could come to fruition anytime soon?

ATWOOD: I'm sorry, I couldn't really hear you there, Alex, but I think you were talking about their efforts to try and get it home. It would be a complicated deal, right? And the bottom line for that is because the United States doesn't have any Russian spies in their custody right now. And so we have reported that they're having conversations with countries around the world that actually do have Russian spies in their custody to see if those countries would be willing to play ball and essentially offer up that person for the United States to offer as a trade to the Russians.

But those efforts take a long time. A lot of those Russian spies are still going through processes in those countries legal systems, and so it's not really clear when or if that deal would come to fruition. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, a multi country deal would be very complicated. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thank you so much for that reporting.

And now to Paris, where 45,000 police officers in France remain deployed all across the country tonight, after nearly a week of violent protest. CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live from the streets of Paris. So, Melissa, what is the latest?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've seen really, Alex, these last few days is that violence, the damage done, has gone down. In fact, last night, only just over 150 people arrested, way down from Saturday or Friday night. Tonight, those policemen and women stay on the streets. But because of that decrease, we have seen some hope that this might be petering out, at least on the part of authorities.

What we saw today, and this might have been part of it, was a reaction to some of the more shocking events of the weekend, when at one point in one of the suburbs of Paris, a burning car was rammed into a mayor's house. Just his wife and children were there. There was a march today in solidarity with him. This is what he had to say.


MAYOR VINCENT JEANBRUN, L'HAY-LES ROSES, FRANCE: More than ever, our republic and its servants are threatened, threatened and attacked. In truth, it is democracy itself that is under attack.


BELL: Perhaps the more important thing in calming things down, certainly on Sunday so far, was what we heard from young Nahel's grandmother. Remember, he was the young 17-year-old who was killed last Tuesday. She buried her grandson the day before and she called for calm, saying just to stay home. This has to stop.


Still there's, 45,000 police men and women remain on the streets just in case. What we've heard just in the last couple of hours, it is 11 people in custody so far. So there are things happening around Paris, certainly. But it is unclear how bad it will get just at the moment of political condensation, as well as launch to try and figure out what was at the heart of it, Alex. So that political authorities can try and prevent this from happening again.

MARQUARDT: Yes, a very volatile moment across France. Melissa Bell in the French capital, thank you very much for that report.

And coming up, more of CNN's exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He's weighing in on the state of Vladimir Putin's power after the mutiny by Wagner mercenaries.



MARQUARDT: Happening now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes aim at Vladimir Putin in an exclusive CNN interview. He says the mute meet by Russian mercenaries shows that the Kremlin boss is weak. I'll ask former Defense Secretary Mark Esper for his take on Putin's clout right now.