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The Situation Room

Lawyers Say, Trump Can't Make $464 Million Bon In New York Civil Fraud Case; CNN In Haiti As Deadly Violence Explodes Amid Gang Uprising; Sources Say, Paul Manafort In Talks To Help Trump's 2024 Election Bid; Biden & Netanyahu Speak As U.S.-Israeli Rift Deepens Over Gaza; Judge Denies Trump's Request To Exclude Testimony By Stormy Daniels And Michael Cohen In Hush Money Trial. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 18:00   ET



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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump could soon be at risk of having his properties and other assets seized. His lawyers declaring it's impossible for the former president to post a nearly half billion dollar bond in the New York civil fraud case with a court deadline just days away.

Also tonight, President Biden personally warns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against an offensive in Rafah. The two leaders speaking on the phone for the first time in more than a month amid their deepening rift over the war in Gaza.

And a new explosion of deadly violence in the capital of Haiti, where machete-wielding militias and gangs are battling for power. CNN is the first major news network on the scene since the uprising.

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

First tonight, why Donald Trump's lawyers say he can't make good on a $464 million bond order in the New York civil fraud ruling, and it's raising new questions about Trump's cash crunch from multiple legal cases and how it could impact his wealth.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us now with the latest. Evan, what was the Trump team's explanation for why they can't come up with this money?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the former president is up against a deadline next week to produce a bond to satisfy this judgment. And according to this filing that they've made in federal court -- sorry, in state court today, they said that they've been rejected by 30 different underwriters who said that they cannot satisfy that kind of bond.

And so as a result of this, they're asking the court, they are asking the judge to give him more time, to extend the former president more time in order to come up with this kind of money. $464 million is what that overall judgment is. And it is going up every day as a result of interest, Wolf.

The state attorney general, Letitia James, is asking the court to not give Trump any more time. They say they're ready, as you pointed out, Wolf, to start seizing some of his assets to satisfy that judgment.

Now, according to the court filing today, these bond underwriters have said that they cannot write a bond for that size of money. And one of the -- an insurance underwriter who provided an affidavit for the Trump team in this court filing called this a practical impossibility.

So, the cash crunch for the former president is absolutely coming to a head in the next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. And, Evan, there's also news in the Georgia election subversion case after Friday's major ruling keeping the district attorney, Fani Willis, on the case. What's the latest there?

PEREZ: Right, Wolf. Well, the former president's lawyer, Steve Sadow, is asking for permission from Judge McAfee in that case, for permission in order to file an appeal. Now, the judge, in making that ruling last week, opened the possibility that this decision to keep Fani Willis on the case, but not disqualify her from the case, that opened that possibility for an appeal. And so that's what the legal team for the defense is, the defense team is now asking. They're asking for permission from the judge in order to file that appeal immediately with the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Of course, we know that Fani Willis is fighting that, Wolf, and says that she should be allowed to remain on the case.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN Anchor Katelyn Collins right now. Katelyn, how much does Trump struggle to come up with this bond, speak to the massive, massive cash crunch he's now facing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Wolf, unless that appeals court, this appeals court comes to save him, he could be in a real financial crisis in just the coming days alone. And I think what Evan said there in his first part of his report is important that there are other options that Trump has here, and that's what his team is exploring, whether that's going to a higher court or what this is going to look like. But they're also dealing with the reality here that they are having difficulty finding this. And that comes, of course, after many of his attorneys were offering public assurances that it was not going to be any kind of an issue for them.


And it kind just speaks to the moment he's in right now overall. He just had to post about a $90 million bond in the E. Jean Carroll case, of course, where he was found liable for defaming her, the money that he owes there. He's trying to summon this money that is coming up with.

And also he has got several trials ahead of him that has got a huge legal team that he is also still paying for, the PAC that's he been using that is on track to have a lot of difficulty with its money by the summer, Wolf.

And so there is a very real financial issue that is happening for the former president when it comes to these cases whether it's about his businesses, E. Jean Carroll or the criminal trials that he is facing that could start potentially as soon as next month in April after the New York case got delayed here, Wolf.

And I think one thing that that stands out about what his attorneys are saying today about the difficulty in coming up with the $450 million bond in this business fraud case is that this entire case is about Trump arguing and defending himself against these accusations about overinflating his wealth and basically saying that his properties were bigger than they actually were, that they were worth more than they actually were.

And, of course, we know the judge found him liable for that here, Wolf, but now his own attorneys are coming forward and saying they do not have the money to cover this. And I just think it speaks to the irony of this entire situation.

BLITZER: So, how is the Trump team now, Kaitlan, scrambling to raise more cash? They need that money.

COLLINS: They get that money also on the political side for his campaign. They are well behind President Biden's campaign, which is obviously the power of the incumbency that President Biden has. He didn't have to go up against any real threats when it comes to challengers. It's for the Democratic nomination like Trump did for their Republican nomination.

And when you just look at the differences in how much cash they have on hand, I believe Biden and the Democrats have about $155 million on- hand. We have not gotten the latest totals from the Trump campaign but, certainly, they're nowhere near that because we know the Republican National Committee is struggling with its finances as well.

And so I think that speaks to what you're seeing happening at Mar-a- Lago. It's basically billionaire week where the former president and his political team are welcoming in all of these wealthy donors, hoping that they will be prepared to cut checks to his campaign because they feel confident in the long run that are going to be able to have that money. They say they've been outraised before.

But, overall, this big picture does speak to the fact that his campaigns is having trouble raising money, he's behind, President Biden and trying to catch up and also obviously on the legal front having a lot of issues there as well.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of cash problems, indeed. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Kaitlan, of course, will be back later tonight 9:00 P.M. Eastern to anchor her excellent program, The Source. We will be watching.

Let's get some more right now with our legal and law enforcement experts who are all watching all of this unfold. Andrew McCabe, ;et me start with you What do you make of the Trump team's filing? Is it a practical impossibility as they claim for Trump to come up with this massive sum of money? I thought he was a multi-billionaire?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it may very well be a practical impossibility. If it is, it's because the companies that Trump has interacted with in an effort to secure the bond have quite rightly and conservatively said they're not willing to post that bond on his behalf in return for using properties as security. They want actual cash or stocks, things that can be liquidated easily to post that bond. And he doesn't have enough cash on hand or stocks, liquid assets on-hand, to get a bond of that size.

And I don't think we can really question the logic of that. This is someone who is in this unenviable position because he's been found guilty of overinflating the values of his properties. So, it makes sense that insurance companies would not accept those properties and his valuation of them as security on a bond of this size.

So, it may be impossible for him to obtain the bond, but it is not impossible to proceed forward according to the law in this case, as the laws allows the state attorney general to start pursuing the seizure of some of those properties to secure this judgment.

So, a lot to be determined in the future here, but there is a path forward. It's just not the one that Trump wants.

BLITZER: He certainly doesn't want any of this.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo is with us as well. Karen, does Trump have any options left or are his assets at risk of being seized beginning as early as next Monday, March 25th?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he has plenty of options. I mean, he made it very clear and testified as such that, for example, Mar-a-Lago is worth over a billion dollars. And he goes on and on about how Judge Engoron said it was $18 million, even though that's not really exactly the way it played out at the trial.

And so he should have no problem refinancing that or any of his other properties to quickly both liquidate some money that he can use to post this bond or to safeguard against it being seized by the attorney general.


He has multiple properties that he can do that with. And he also looks to see what the appellate courts do now that he has essentially admitted that he does not have the money that he says he does or the assets that he says he does.

And it'll be interesting to see -- I'm not surprised, for example, that Chubb did not bond this, not just because of the size of it, but also after they posted the E. Jean Carroll bond for him, he went out and he defamed her again. He repeated the same statements that he did before. So, he actually puts these at risk, these bonds.

So, I think it's going to be very interesting to see if anyone is willing to take the risk for the reasons Andrew said, that he's been lying and about the value of his properties, and that's what the judgment is about. It's about devaluing them, but also that he would go out and re-continue to do it after the fact. I think that's also something that the bond companies and insurance companies are looking at.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Ankush Khardori is with us as well. Ankush, Letitia James previously said about a month or so ago that she was ready to seize Trump's assets if needed. Listen to this. Listen to her.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are prepared to make sure that the judgment is paid to New Yorkers, and, yes, I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day.

If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets.


BLITZER: So, Ankush, do you expect that could actually happen come Monday?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, look, it's conceivable it could happen, given the timeline we're talking about, but I completely agree with Karen here. I mean, there are multiple avenues that he has, not just in the court system but in the business community to try to manage this.

It's not a practical impossibility, per se. I mean, I know that's the language that's used in the brief. It's only a practical impossibility because he refuses to sell anything, right? That is the reason why he can't generate this cash, and it's stated explicitly in the brief. He says it would be a fire sale. He'd suffer irreparable harm. There's no legal reason I can discern from the brief why the court has to care about any of that.

Now, the key thing here, though, that folks should remember is this all proceeds forward. It would not actually be in Letitia James' best interest to have to go through a very complicated, cumbersome enforcement process.

So, this is one of those areas where actually the litigants who have been sort of at loggerheads for quite some time now may actually have it in their mutual interest to try to come up with some sort of arrangement so he can have his appeal, but the A.G.'s office can also have its certainty that they'll get paid out if that appeal is resolved in their favor at the end of the day.

But a messy enforcement process with seizing 40 Wall Street, selling it in some capacity by the attorney general's office, that would be its own type of mess.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly would be.

Andrew, what would it look like to actually go ahead, and give us some more on this, to seize Trump's assets? What properties would be on the line, do you think?

MCCABE: Well, I can tell you Ankush is absolutely right. The seizure of physical property brings with it an entire course of headaches that law enforcement really isn't inclined or in well-positioned to deal with. And nothing is more headache-ridden than real estate, because there's upkeep, there's maintenance, there's all kinds of costs that go along with maintaining that real estate until you can liquidate it.

Trump has got numerous properties all over New York that would be subject to that sort of authority and it would essentially mean seizing those properties, maintaining them and putting them up to some sort of auction or sale for the public good.

Not a process that happens quickly. It takes an enormous amount of money and time and effort by the law enforcement entities involved. It's probably not one that Letitia James -- it sounds great in a sound bite, but it's probably not one that she looks forward to actually going through. So, I think the kind of deal that Ankush mentioned is something they should be looking forward to.

BLITZER: Well, let's see if that happens. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news coming into The Situation Room from the United States Supreme Court. The justices have denied a request by former Trump adviser Peter Navarro to avoid prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction. Navarro is scheduled to begin serving a four-month prison sentence at the federal facility in Miami tomorrow.

He was convicted in September of two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the January 6th House select committee.

And just ahead, CNN is on the scene in Haiti as the Caribbean nation's capital city explodes into violence. Our live report from Port-au- Prince is coming up.

Plus, Donald Trump is defending his inflammatory rhetoric, what he's now claiming he meant when he warned of a, quote, bloodbath if he's not re-elected.



BLITZER: In Haiti, the situation is growing more desperate by the day as a machete-wielding militias battle with gangs in the streets of the capital. CNN is now the first major news network inside Port-au-Prince since the uprising.

Our David Culver is joining us now live from the scene. David, I know it's very dangerous where you are. What are you seeing, first of all, on the ground there?

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf, there have been clashes between police and gangs that are playing out all day and even into this late hour as the sun is coming down here in Port-au-Prince.

And it started early in the morning with a 5:00 A.M. attack on two more affluent neighborhoods, gangs making way from home to home, going through, breaking in, even at one point, according to one source, opening fire inside a home. And it just shows you how ruthless they have become in this constant battle between the community, the citizens here, and these gangs that are trying to tighten their grip.


Now, it's also a struggle and strain on the police resources. And we spent some time over the weekend with one local police commander. And he was showing us just what they're trying deal with. And that is low resources, he says. The gangs have more money and more ammo than they do. At times, they have little to no fuel, so they can't drive their squad cars. And they are also dealing with just broken morale.

So, imagine all of that in an incident like today with a gang attack, and it explains why it is such a struggle for police to try to keep up. And that reason -- that is the reason now, Wolf, you have got the community that's building barricades and creating their own self- defense brigades to push back some of this gang activity.

BLITZER: What sort of impact, David, is the violence having on the people of Haiti?

CULVER: Well, we got to see that firsthand over the past couple of days. And you have a city where you folks who are refugees in their hometown, and they have moved from camp to camp over the past several months. And the past two weeks in particular have been increasingly challenging for them.

And we went to one location that was a school that is no longer operating, because of the violence, they had to shut it down. But it's been occupied by refugees, essentially, more than 1,500 people cramming into a building that's got maybe a dozen classrooms. And they find anywhere they can to set up their little home and bring any belongings that they have been able to gather with them.

And for them, it's also a struggle because they're not only facing the clashes with gangs, Wolf, they are also having to deal with the local community, that it feels as though they were bringing unwanted attention to that neighborhood. And they themselves want to push these folks out, because they feel the gangs will just be attracted to attack even further within that territory.

And so it's an incredible struggle that's worsened given the supply lines have been cut off and folks are dealing with little to no food. Running water is, at this point, a luxury that they can't seem to track down. And so it has left them in a dire situation.

BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking to see it. I was there in Port-au- Prince several years ago, and it was quiet, it was nice, that folks were so friendly. How did it get to this point, David, and what happens next?

CULVER: Well, I mean, you could go back several decades, but I think this most recent surge, folks point to the assassination of the former president, Jovenel Moise, who died in 2021 and was killed here. And that then left the prime minister, Ariel Henry, in charge. He was essentially appointed to that position and he was supposed to hand over power essentially to what would have been another elected leader in February of this year, February 7th in particular. But it didn't happen, because, as the prime minister argued, stability wasn't in place here, so as to have those elections.

So what happened? Well, you had folks who were part of the community wanting Henry to go, feeling as though their situation was getting worse under him. And you have the gangs gaining popularity and traction because they, too, wanted Henry to go.

Now, they both wanted the same thing, but by no means were they united force. The folks in the communities really wanted on Henry to go because they felt like the gangs, Wolf, were gaining more and more traction and pushing them further and further out of their homes.

BLITZER: David Culver, stay safe over there. Thanks for all your excellent and very courageous reporting. We appreciate it very, very much.

Coming up, new reaction to Donald Trump's inflammatory campaign rhetoric, including his claim that convicted January 6th rioters are hostages. I'll speak with former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton. That's next.



BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is taking new steps to bring a controversial figure back into the fold, his 2016 presidential campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, a convicted felon who was later pardoned by then President Trump.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us with details. Kristin, what do we know about the current talks involving the Trump team and Manafort?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are told that Manafort is being asked, or at least in discussions, to help with the Republican National Convention. Now, it's not clear exactly what he would do. One source telling me that it could be related to fundraising, but multiple sources adamant that nothing had been decided yet. They also tried to step away from the idea that he'd be part of the official campaign, mostly just highlighting that he would be part of the re-election effort.

Now, again, just to note who Paul Manafort is, he was one of a number of people who served as head of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, albeit briefly, before being charged with financial crimes later, and then, as you noted, being pardoned by the former president. And I am told that this is all being done at mostly the request of the former president, who has said time and time again he wants to bring Manafort back in, that he really likes Manafort.

Is there a role for Paul Manafort? Again, sources telling me there's nothing concrete yet, but it is something that's in discussions and discussions with him, and it's likely to take place.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kristen, despite being the presumptive Republican nominee right now, Trump does not appear to be changing strategy. What can you tell us about this?

HOLMES: Yes, we heard from him in a rally in Ohio over the weekend where he really played to his base, playing up his comments about immigration, praising those who were charged with their behaviors on January 6th.

And we are told that this is likely to remain the same, that Donald Trump is who he is, and that it's not likely that he's going to shift his narrative completely. A lot of this is what he thinks that he will win on.

Take a listen to what he said in Ohio.



DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I had prisons that were teeming with MS-13 and all sorts of people that they've got to take care of for the next 50 years, right, young people, they're in jail for years, and if you call them people, I don't know if you call them people. In some cases, they're not people, in my opinion.

These are bad -- these are animals.

We're going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you're not going to be able to sell those cars, if I get elected. Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole -- that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country. That will be the least of it, but they're not going to sell those cars.

You see the spirit from the hostages, and that's what they are, is hostages. They've been treated terribly.

Unbelievable patriots, and they were unbelievable patriots and are.


HOLMES: Now we were told by senior advisers that in a general election, you're likely to see Trump, quote/unquote, tailoring his message, meaning based on where exactly he is, he might play up specific issues, but, again, not downplaying any of his rhetoric.

But it is going to become more complicated for his campaign because, for such a long time, Donald Trump was really existing in a vacuum. Every speech that he was giving he was giving just to conservative media. He was on Truth Social instead of Twitter, a lot of his message was not amplified. But now he is the presumptive Republican nominee. So, tailoring those comments and having his campaign have to do clean up after at least some of those comments is going to be a little bit more difficult, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting for us, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the former Trump national security adviser turned vocal Trump critic, John Bolton. He also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.

And as you know, Paul Manafort is a convicted fraudster and tax cheat with ties -- actually, he had some ties to Russian intelligence services. So, why would Trump, do you think, want to add him to his team right now?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I've known Paul Manafort for over 40 years, and as a politician, he probably could bring some skills that Trump needs at this point, thinking about just what you were talking about, a general election campaign, and it's also typical of Trump. He reaches back to people like that and expects things from him. So, it's not surprising. I think we'll probably see more of the same as time goes on.

BLITZER: Interesting. The former vice president, as you know, Mike Pence, says he cannot, in good conscience, his words, endorse Donald Trump but he's not saying if he will actually vote for him. Listen and watch this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I cannot endorse the agenda that Donald Trump is carrying into this national debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the final word from you? Can you be persuaded if he changes tacks to vote for him? Would you vote for him?

PENCE: I won't be endorsing Donald Trump this year. But I want to be clear --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But would you vote for him?

PENCE: I respect the right of Republican voters who've made it clear who they're for, who they want to be our standard bearer this year.


BLITZER: So, Ambassador, do you see this as Pence potentially leaving the door open to vote for Donald Trump?

BOLTON: Well, I think he wanted to make it clear he was not endorsing him, obviously, and I wish he had gone further and said he wouldn't vote for him, because I think that would help persuade Republicans that they're somehow not betraying the party if they don't, and that could yet come.

BLITZER: You also heard Trump say it would be a, quote, bloodbath for the country, end quote, if he isn't elected. He claims he was referring only to the impact on the auto industry in the United States. Is that how you see that comment as well?

BOLTON: No. I think he knew exactly what he was saying, and he just fortunate in retrospect that it happened to be near the comment about the cars. But I think he has said similar things before about the consequences if he doesn't win, because, as we know, he'll announce that the election was stolen, and he would be trying to get his supporters to be out in the streets about it.

That speech was filled with other things. He said Liz Cheney, for example, should be prosecuted for her role in the January 6th committee. That's part of the retribution campaign that you're going to see if he's re-elected.

He was caught on an open mic over the weekend saying nice things again about Kim Jong-un. He said, you know, when Kim speaks, his people sit up and listen. I expect my people to do the same. So, now, Kim Jong-un is his role model for governance.

All of these things hopefully will sink in and cause people not to vote for him, although he said similar things in the past, and it hasn't worked.

BLITZER: I'm anxious to get your thoughts on this as well. Trump is promising to free the criminals who have been convicted, charged in the deadly January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling them hostages and patriots.

As you know, many of these people are charged with assaulting and impeding police officers.


What's your reaction to that?

BOLTON: Well, it's another Trump assault on the Constitution. Remember, he called for the Constitution to be suspended so that he could be declared the winner of the 2020 election.

None of the people who have been arrested and prosecuted by federal prosecutors for January 6th should have been on the Capitol grounds to begin with. Most of them know it. There's simply no excuse for it. I think their sentences could have been higher, and I certainly don't think any of them should be pardoned.

BLITZER: Ambassador John Bolton, thanks as usual for joining us.

BOLTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, Vladimir Putin officially secures another six years in power. The re-elected Russian president now making ominous new threats against the west.


BLITZER: Vladimir Putin is claiming a landslide victory in presidential elections officially securing another six-year term in power.


And in a very rare, very surprising move, he's also invoking the name of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us with details. Fred, as Putin takes a victory lap right now, what is he saying about Navalny?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, first of all, well if he is taking a victory lap by 87 -- more than 87 percent, the Russians say, that he won in that election. So, certainly, the Russians are saying he's definitely set for in the six years in office.

But it was probably the most surprising thing that he said after his speech that then essentially turned into a press conference where, for the first time that anybody's heard publicly, he actually mentioned the name of Alexei Navalny and then made the claim that he would have exchanged Alexei Navalny in return for Russians who are being held in the west.

I want to listen in to what Putin had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: As for Mr. Navalny, yes, he passed away. It is always a sad event. And there were other cases when people in prisons passed way. Didn't this happen in the United States? It did and not once.


PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, the White House not casting some doubt on what Vladimir Putin said there. They said that, of course, they've had conversations with the Russians over the past years about Americans who are unjustly detained in Russia. They say no Russian official has ever brought up the name Alexei Navalny in any of those conversations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Putin is also saber-rattling big time right now when it comes to Ukraine, right?

PLEITGEN: Yes, big time, as in using the word, World War III. He's obviously reacting to a question that was asked to him at that same event about comments from French President Emmanuel Macron not ruling out NATO and especially French ground troops in Ukraine while saying that at this point in time, there's no talk of actually sending any of those ground troops.

Vladimir Putin is saying that if any western NATO country did that, that that would put Russia and those countries on the brink of World War III.

Let's listen in.


PUTIN: It is clear to everyone that this will be just one step away from a full-scale World War III. I don't think anybody is interested in this.

NATO military are present there. We know this. We hear French speech there and English speech. There's nothing good in this.


PLEITGEN: So, Vladimir Putin, again, as you say, definitely saber- rattling.

The Russians for their part are saying, or the Kremlin is saying that they believe that this election shows that Russia fully stands behind Vladimir Putin, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very worrisome, indeed. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, President Biden holds his first phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in more than a month. We have details on the conversation amid a growing rift between the leaders and we'll share that with you right after a quick break.



BLITZER: As divides deepen between the U.S. and Israel over the war in Gaza, President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just held their first phone call in more than a month.

CNN White House correspondent Priscilla Alvarez is standing by for us over at the White House.

Priscilla, so what happened on this phone conversation coming amid these two leaders' very, very public rift?


This was the first call in a month amid this growing rift between President Biden and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Now, going into this call, the two leaders had two issues. Top of mind, that's the situation in Rafah where more than a million displaced Palestinians have amassed, as well as surging humanitarian aid into the region.

Now, according to White House officials, President Biden affirmed his support of Israel, but also made clear to the prime minister that a ground operation of Rafah would be catastrophic for Palestinians.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan going so far as to say that it would be a big mistake.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president has rejected and did again today the straw man that raising questions about Rafah is the same as raising questions about defeating Hamas. That's just nonsense.

The major ground operation there would be mistake. It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepened the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel internationally. More --


ALVAREZ: Now, notably, President Biden asked the Israeli prime minister to send a delegation of military leaders to Washington to discuss the next steps in their plants. That's expected later this week or early next week. But there is no doubt, Wolf, that this writ continues that this relationship is fraying.

I had asked the national security advisor what the tone of this conversation was. He said that it was business like and that it did not end abruptly, but the clip of these calls is happening far less often than it used to. Again, this call happening a month later -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, serious developments indeed. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very, very much.

For more on the phone call between these two leaders, let's bring in CNN's Jeremy. He's joining us live from Jerusalem right now.

Jeremy, President Biden expressed his deep concerns. But is Netanyahu actually listening?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems to a certain extent he is listening at least by a humoring the American president, sending this delegation to Washington to review Washington's alternative plans for how the Israeli military can go after Hamas in Rafah, as U.S. officials have been expressing major concerns about an all out offensive there.

But it's also clear that these Israeli prime minister is also in fighting mode. He has been fighting back in a number of American media interviews over the course of the last week, getting increasingly combative in his public statements as he's, you know, facing a major challenge from not only the White House's ramped up criticism of his leadership, but also from other Democratic senators, going after what is really a fundamental calling card for these really prime minister, his relationship with Washington, something that he frequently plays up in domestic politics over here.


BLITZER: Give us the latest on the situation based on what you're hearing inside Gaza right now.

DIAMOND: Well, Wolf, overnight the Israeli military carrying out a major military operation at Al Shifa Hospital. This is the same hospital that the Israeli military targeted back in November, accusing Hamas of holding a major command and control center beneath that hospital. This time, the Israeli military says, Hamas has regrouped that Hamas operatives were firing on Israel troops from the grounds of that hospital on the Israeli military said that they killed around 20 Hamas militants, including a senior Hamas operative during this operation. But there her were also 30,000 Palestinians, civilians sheltering at this hospital as this was all going on. And at least one building, the surgical building of this hospital, according to a doctor on the ground, was hit by Israeli missiles, causing it to catch fire.

This operation involved in Israeli ground troops, but also airstrikes according to people on the ground, multiple large plumes of smoke were spotted and the damage wasn't just a to the grounds of Shifa hospital or the surrounding area, but the Al-Rimal neighborhood surrounding the hospital, as far as a kilometer away.

There were reports of Israeli airstrikes in the rubble. Women and children were also among the casualties. A lot of destruction, dust covering the bodies of those individuals and all of this, of course, should be noted, is coming against the backdrop of an already dire situation in northern Gaza where we have seen the calls from humanitarian agencies for more aid to get in because of an imminent famine.

And that imminent famine is now being driven home by the leading global authority on nutrition and global food security, which has now saying that some 70 percent of the people in northern Gaza as are at imminent risk of famine, that they are in a catastrophic or emergency levels of food insecurity, much, much more aid they say is needed to get into Gaza. And they're calling on the Israeli authorities to ensure that more aid can get him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond reporting from Jerusalem for us, thank you, Jeremy, very much.

Coming up, there's breaking news involving Stormy Daniels, as a new documentary about her legal and personal battles with Donald Trump has just been released.



BLITZER: There's also a breaking news tonight in the New York criminal case against Donald Trump. A judge just denied Trump's request to block testimony by adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, two key witnesses in the hush-money trial that could begin next month.

All this comes as a new documentary on Stormy Daniels has just been released.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's got more on this.

Tell us about this new film and what we learn from it.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a pretty explosive film. We learn new details about the turmoil in Stormy Daniels' life after the alleged encounter with Donald Trump was made public turmoil, which she says included death threats against her.


STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: I was completely sure that I was going to die.

TODD (voice-over): Stormy Daniels speaking out in a new documentary about how she says her life has been turned upside down over the fallout from her alleged encounter with Donald Trump almost 20 years ago.

DANIELS: It is direct threats. It is, I'm going to come to your house and slit your throat.

TODD: The documentary entitled stormy released today on Peacock. The adult film star recalls an onslaught of public scrutiny from the moment or non-disclosure agreement with Trump was revealed in 2018.

DANIELS: There's press in our front yards. They're beating on the door. Our daughter answered it thinking it was her little friend and someone jumped a camera in her face.

What do the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you doing?

TODD: Daniels goes into detail about a string of death threats. She says she received, including threats made while she was on a tour of strip clubs after the scandal blew up. DANIELS: I was terrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People showing up trying to bring guns in, knives in.

DANIELS: You just signed your death warrant.

And just (EXPLETIVE DELETED had it.

TODD: And in the documentary, Daniel alleges that on at least one occasion, an attack was carried out, claiming one of her horses were shot with a rubber bullet.

DANIELS: The justice system fails me. And it's absolutely failed me and every single way. It didn't protect me when I made reports about being threatened or for somebody attacking my horse.

TODD: Daniels reveals new details about the alleged encounter itself, which she says occurred in a hotel suite in Lake Tahoe in 2006.

DANIELS: Having no red flags whatsoever in a conversation, I came out of a bathroom to find myself cornered, but I didn't say no.

TODD: Donald Trump has denied ever having sex with Stormy Daniels. Trump is about to go on trial in New York in a case where he is accused of covering up a 2016 payment to Daniels, charges that he denies.

One of the reasons Trump's lawyers asked for a delay in the trial was to quote, highly prejudicial release of this documentary for other reasons, the trial has been delayed from next Monday, March 25th, until at least mid-April.

Could this documentary sway jurors?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Trump's lawyers may want to say, everyone who seen the film has to get struck. That's not going to fly with the judge. What counts is asking the jurors, did you form an opinion already about Stormy Daniels' credibility or for about the case?

TODD: In the documentary, Daniels recounts a life of turmoil.

DANIELS: You never saw my name that didn't say porn star in front of it, because we're not considered human.

TODD: But could this film hurt Trump among undecided voters?

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They have a lot of independent voters and women voters who will look at this kind of information and that could give them pause.


TODD: Donald Trumps lawyers now argued that the release of the Daniels documentary should be grounds to dismiss the case against him. They say some of her statements, including concerns about the threat of violence to her, would be prejudicial to Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

The news continues next on CNN.