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Trump Opposes New Bid To Expand His Gag Order In Hush Money Case; Florida Supreme Court Clears Way For Six-Week Abortion Ban To Take Effect; Iran Blames Israel For Deadly Strike On Its Consular Building In Syria; Maryland Governor: Temporary Channel Opened At Bridge Collapse; Israeli Military Withdraws From Gaza Hospital After 14-Day Siege. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Donald Trump is fighting a new request by the Manhattan district attorney to expand his gag order in the hush money criminal case. We're following all the fallout from Trump's escalating attacks on the judge overseeing the trial and the judge's daughter.

Also breaking, more on a new ruling by the Florida Supreme Court clearing the way for a six-week abortion ban to take effect in the state, but the court also is green lighting a vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights for women.

And a new flashpoint in the Middle East right now as Iran threatens retaliation for a deadly attack on its Consulate building in Syria, blaming Israel for the airstrike. We're getting new reaction from a key member of Congress this hour.

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

A very busy night of breaking news, we begin this hour with the new request to expand Donald Trump's gag order in the hush money criminal case exactly two weeks before the trial is set to begin.

Let's go into CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, give us the latest on this request by the Manhattan district attorney and the Trump team's response.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, here, prosecutors are asking the judge to expand the gag order imposed on former President Trump to include family members of people involved in the case, because last week, this gag order was imposed that prohibits Trump from making statements about witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court staff, or the family members of prosecutors and court staff.

But the gag order does not apply to the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, or the judge overseeing the case. And shortly after this gag order was imposed, Trump fired off a series of social media posts, attacking the judge and attacking his adult daughter, who works for a political consulting firm.

And, Wolf, there was some confusion about whether the gag order applied to that daughter, because, again, it does not apply to the judge. Both sides have sought clarification today. The district attorney's office writing, quote, the defendant knows what he is doing and everyone else does too. And we all know exactly what the defendant intends because he has said for decades that it is part of his life philosophy to go after his perceived opponents as viciously and violently as he can.

Now, the Trump team has also responded. They insist that they do not read this gag order as applying to the family members of the judge or the district attorney, and they oppose any suggestion that it should be expanded to include those group because they argue that this is a violation of Trump's political speech.

They wrote today, the court should reject the people's invitations to expand the gag order, which is already an unlawful prior restraint that improperly restricts campaign advocacy by the presumptive Republican nominee and leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

Now, Wolf, with just two weeks to go before this trial begins, they're also asking for more time to file a motion to remove Judge Juan Merchan from this case. Now, they tried something similar last year. That was rejected. But the Trump legal team says they now have new evidence. So, all of this now up to the judge.

BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid reporting for us.

While this dispute over Trump's gag order plays out, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been ramping up his inflammatory rhetoric on multiple fronts, even as he prepares to return to the campaign trail.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us now from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Trump will campaign tomorrow. Kristen, give us the latest of what Trump is doing and saying as he begins a critical month in his legal battles.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Donald Trump has been railing against not only the judge, but the prosecutor and the judge's daughter. This has been a technique that we have seen him use time and time again, and he has no plans of stopping anytime soon.


HOLMES (voice over): Donald Trump is set to return to the campaign trail Tuesday, with visits to the critical battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin. But his focus appears to be on his impending criminal trial in New York.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is all about election interference. HOLMES: Upping his combative rhetoric, Trump spent the Easter holiday attacking perceived enemies in a series of social media posts, writing, quote, happy Easter to all, including crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges, and going after the judge overseeing his New York hush money case and his daughter by name, as he seeks to discredit the case against him.


TRUMP: I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.

HOLMES: The remarks come as judges around the country are voicing concern over Trump's attacks on the men and women assigned to hear his cases.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We do these jobs because we're committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law, and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

LADORIS CORDELL, RETIRED JUDGE, SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA: I've presided over thousands of hearings and trials during my nearly 20 years as a trial judge and never did any defendants in my courtroom show such disrespect for the court system was shown by Donald Trump.

HOLMES: Trump also sharing a video that featured an image of President Joe Biden tied up in the back of a pickup truck. The former president saying in the Friday social media post that the video was filmed a day earlier on Long Island, where Trump attended the wake of an NYPD officer who was recently killed during a traffic stop.

TRUMP: We have to get back to law and order.

HOLMES: The Biden campaign responding in a statement, quote, Trump is regularly inciting political violence and it's time people take him seriously. Just ask the Capitol police officers who are attacked protecting our democracy on January 6th.

Some Republicans taking issue with Trump's posts but falling short of condemning the former president.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): But want us to raise the bar of civility and how we treat the other side of the aisle, for sure.

Now, I don't think he was inciting violence, but it is representative of the political dialogue we have today.

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): At the end of the day, the former president, current president, and on down, all of us have a responsibility to check our language, to watch what we're saying and to focus on the issues at hand.

HOLMES: The video marking another instance of Trump using violent and grim imagery in his campaign messaging. TRUMP: If I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath.

They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. The radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.

HOLMES: President Biden saying today he believes his candidacy offers a clear contrast with Trump's dark rhetoric.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I just think people are so tired of the negativity that is propagated, that they just want to get engaged, that they want to change things. And I'm optimistic, I really am.


HOLMES (on camera): And, Wolf, Donald Trump is in Michigan and Wisconsin. It will be the first time we see him on the campaign trail in a number of weeks. Just a reminder, these are two very critical battleground states for both Biden and Trump. Trump won them in 2016, but lost them to Joe Biden in 2020.

Trump himself has not been here in Wisconsin since 2022. But I will tell you, his campaign says that they are feeling confident. They say they've seen data that shows him and Biden running neck and neck, but we'll see what happens when we talk to voters tomorrow. Wolf?

BLITZER: We shall see. All right, Kristen Holmes reporting for us, thank you very much.

I want to bring in our legal law enforcement and political experts right now, and, Andrew McCabe, let me start with you, this hush money trial in Manhattan. How significant is it that Alvin Bragg himself is now asking the judge to clarify this entire gag order?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, I'm afraid that the request for clarification by D.A. Bragg is a perfect example of how these gag orders create more of a distraction than they do a productive limitation of Donald Trump's speech.

I think each time we've had a gag order, whether it's in the civil case or it's in this criminal case or the gag order in the D.C. federal case that's already been litigated, each time the front team takes advantage of the imposition of those orders to file appeals, to request clarification, to make overheated statements, all of that distracts the prosecutors and the prosecution team away from their main role, which is to stay focused on the case and put together the best case they can. I'm just not convinced that these gag orders are worth the effort that has to go behind that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think Trump and his attorneys know exactly what they're doing, which is trying to delay everything because you end up going down a rabbit hole of what do you do with the gag order, do you challenge a gag order, do you challenge the judge, and one thing leads to another, and you're delaying the trial. BLITZER: It's interesting. You know, Norm, do you think that this judge, Judge Merchan, will expand the gag order especially in light of the fact that Trump went after and attacked his own -- the judge's daughter?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a close question whether the judge does expand the gag order, Wolf. He would be on sound constitutional grounds to do it. You're not allowed to make these kinds of statements and misstatements that create a threat and risk to the family member of the judge. Trump included disinformation about Lauren, the judge's daughter.


However, the judge may feel, to Andy's point, that if he extends it further, he's taking Trump's bait. He's making himself look like he's partial protecting his daughter. So, he's wrestling with that. He hasn't ruled yet.

I do think that the gag orders, if Andy will accept a friendly amendment, the gag orders are very important because of the risk to witnesses, to members of the jury, to court personnel. That can disrupt an entire trial. We need those protections, but we'll see if the judge takes another step.

BLITZER: What happens to Trump if he continues to violate the gag order?

EISEN: Well, we saw that. Trump is doing the same thing here, Wolf, as he did in the civil fraud case with Judge Engoron, where instead of attacking an adult daughter, he attacked the judge's adult law clerk, also a woman. And there he hammered and hammered and hammered. He got sanctioned. When he got sanctioned multiple times, he finally stopped.

BLITZER: You know, it's amazing, Gloria, despite what Trump is doing attacking these people publicly, going after family members of a judge or a district attorney for that matter, he still has this overwhelming support among the Republicans.

BORGER: Sure. Because, look, his whole point is that he's being persecuted and he's taking the hit for you, because if it could happen to him, it can happen to you. And he portrays himself as the victim here, as he reminds us every day, of a justice system that doesn't work, that is stacked against him, and his supporters believe that.

And that is one of the reasons he keeps doing this, because he's playing to his base, and again, as we were talking about before, he's very happy to go down this rabbit hole. He is really happy to go back and forth on these questions of whether a judge should be disqualified, or whether you've got to come up with another gag order, because then it delays the start of the trial, which is exactly what he wants.

BLITZER: Andrew, you're the former deputy director of the FBI. How concerned should law enforcement be right now that Trump's extreme rhetoric going after these individuals could potentially, potentially lead to violence?

MCCABE: It could absolutely lead to violence. That's how concerned they should be. This is no longer a theoretical construct. We know that the former president's most die-hard supporters, some of them, those with the most extremist views, listen very closely to what he says, and they take action based upon the direction they believe he's giving them.

Several thousand of them showed up at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, for exactly that reason. You had individuals like Ricky Shiffer, who attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati in 2022, because he was outraged by what he saw law enforcement executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, and he was energized by the former president's statements about that search warrant.

So, these things have happened. They should absolutely be preparing for more of that.

BLITZER: Lots at stake right now. We'll watch it very, very closely. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, breaking news on new decisions by the Florida Supreme Court clearing the way for a strict abortion ban and for a vote on abortion rights.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following, Florida's very restrictive six-week abortion ban has just been cleared to take effect by the state's Supreme Court. But the court also says voters will have a say on a pro-abortion rights ballot issue this November.

Let's bring in CNN's Carlos Suarez. He's joining us right now. So, Carlos, what do these two rulings mean?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the short-term, that a six-week ban of abortions in Florida will take effect in about 30 days. In the long-term, voters here will decide whether they will be able to expand access to abortions.

Now, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling on two cases, both of them dealing with abortion rights here in Florida.

In the first case, the justices really overturned years of precedent in a rule that a right to privacy in the state constitution doesn't protect the right to an abortion. That is a decision that clears the way for a six-week ban to take effect in about 30 days.

Now, the case before the court dealt with Florida's current 15- week ban, which was challenged by a number of groups, including Planned Parenthood, and while that case played out in court, lawmakers in Florida, they passed a stricter six-week ban, which does include exceptions like rape and incest. Now, the ban was put on hold while the court decided all of these issues. Florida now joins a list of states across the southeast with serious restrictions, if not a ban on abortions. Planned Parenthood here in Florida said that the impact of this ruling is not just for women who live in Florida, but women that live and other states that have been traveling to Florida in an effort to get access to an abortion.

The organization told me that they've been anticipating today's ruling. They said they have a plan in place to help women go to other States once this six-week ban takes effect. Wolf?

BLITZER: And, Carlos, at the same time, the Florida Supreme Court allowed voters to go ahead and weigh in on this very sensitive issue, abortion rights for women, in the November election.

SUAREZ: That's exactly right, Wolf. So, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled today that voters, they're the ones that will decide whether to expand access to abortions.


The justices today approved the wording of a state constitutional amendment that would protect the right to an abortion Florida's Constitution.

Now, the ballot amendment would prohibit the restriction of an abortion before viability, which is around the 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. It is important to note here that 60 percent of voters in Florida would have to approve it in November in order for it to pass.

Wolf, earlier this year, the group that kind of organized this petition effort, they scored just under a million signatures in order to get the item before voters. And so, Wolf, we have two decisions here in Florida that could no doubt impact how the presidential race plays out in November.

BLITZER: Good point. Carlos Suarez, thank you very much.

Let's discuss with CNN Political Commentators Alice Stewart and Kate Bedingfield.

Kate, I want to play something that the president of Planned Parenthood told me last hour. Listen and watch. Watch this.


ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: A million Floridians have signed on, including some 200,000 Republicans. I think that really pretends to create a lot of energy going into 2024. And we know that everywhere we have seen reproductive freedom on the ballot, we have won.


BLITZER: So, what do you think? You expect this winning streak out of abortion rights for women will in fact continue.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I mean, she's right. We've seen, everywhere we've seen these kinds of measures on the ballot, people have overwhelmingly turned out in support of abortion rights and in support of Democratic candidates who are protecting abortion rights.

I mean, we saw this in very red states. We saw it in Ohio, obviously, in 2023, in Kansas even, in 2022. So, while Florida has trended redder over the last few presidential cycles, we have seen time and again that this is an issue that motivates not only Democratic voters, but independent voters and a lot of moderate Republicans who don't want to see the government dictating the kinds of reproductive health care choices that women have.

So, I think this will probably be a significant motivator for people across the state of Florida come November.

BLITZER: That's a good point. You know, Alice Stewart, Democrats did very well in the 2022 midterm elections, in part fueled by the Dobbs decision, which the Supreme Court decision banning abortion rights for women. Given that, do you think Republicans should be concerned going in towards the November election on this specific issue?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you just have to look at history, Wolf, and I agree with Kate. They should be concerned, because, as she mentioned, every time abortion alone has been on the ballot, it has gone in the favor of those that support abortion.

But let's just say, first off, on today's ruling by the Florida Supreme Court, from those in the pro-life community, this is a huge victory for unborn babies who have a heartbeat and can feel pain. And it's important to protect the sanctity of life.

But those in the pro-life community also recognize there's a huge battle ahead, as this issue now will be up before voters on the next election. And as we've said, when this is on the ballot, it does turn out voters. And it's important to shift the conversation from talking about abortion bans to abortion limits.

And I think Nikki Haley hit this issue square on in terms of, let's stop talking about bans and limits, and where most people agree. And if you look at poll after poll, people across this country in red states and blue states, nearly seven in ten oppose late-term abortions. That's something we can all agree on.

So, let's talk about where we can put limits on abortions and do away with this language of bans, so we can most importantly protect unborn children, but also mothers, and make sure that we keep exceptions in place for rape, incest, and life of the mother, because that is another issue that voters do agree on.

BLITZER: Kate, Florida has traditionally been a swing state, but it has leaned towards Republicans in some of the recent elections. You think this proposed amendment could put the state back in play for Democrats come November? BEDINGFIELD: Yes, I think it absolutely could. I think we've seen that in other states that have even been redder than Florida. And I think -- but we've also seen across the board since the fall of Roe in the summer of 2022, this has been a universally motivating issue. And the intensity that voters feel about this issue, understandably, has brought them out to the polls, even in unprecedented numbers in some cases in the midterm election.

So, I think when you have the combination of Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, taking credit for eliminating Roe by putting three Supreme Court justices on the Supreme Court who struck it down, and also struggling to talk about IVF and what the Republican Party is doing in terms of limiting women's access to IVF.

I mean, there was even reporting just as recently as today about efforts by the Heritage Foundation and other Republican allied groups thinking about how to, or strategizing, I should say, on how to curtail women's access to IVF.

So, I think with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, combined with how intensely and personal this issue is for women and for men across the state of Florida, I think it will absolutely move Florida into play.


BLITZER: Alice, listen to what Donald Trump said about Florida's six- week abortion ban last year. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I mean, DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you support that? You think that goes too far?

TRUMP: I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.


BLITZER: So, what does that tell you about how potentially toxic this ban could be for Republicans?

STEWART: Look, there's no denying that it's going to be challenging ahead. And, Kate is right, it will certainly motivate those in the pro-abortion community, those that are Democrats, and it's going to help Democrat voters for the single-issue voters, if abortion is top of the list for them.

And I think it's really important for Donald Trump and other Republicans to remain consistent to the pro-life values that we have in terms of the sanctity of life, but also, again, make sure that the conversation is put more squarely on abortion limits and where is the reasonable limit that we can all agree on. And I think the Florida attorney general challenging this ballot proposal to impose -- overturn the ban, I think it was important, as Carlos mentioned, that the word viability, when is a fetus viable, that's the question. Because the concern is that this can be interpreted in a very ambiguous way, and this could lead to late-term abortions, which is not something that a majority of Americans are concerned with.

So, this is a conversation that certainly needs to be had, and Republicans need to recognize this is something that we need to make sure that we're speaking in a way that appeals to majority of Americans, but also protects the sanctity of life at the same time.

BLITZER: Alice Stewart, Kate Bedingfield, to both of you, thank you very much.

Coming up, the deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria, what Israel is now saying and not saying about Iran's claim that it's behind the attack.



BLITZER: There's growing condemnation tonight from various Middle Eastern countries after a deadly attack on the Iranian consulate building in Syria, Iran and Syria both accusing Israel of being behind the air strike.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is following this breaking story for us. Natasha, what do we know, first of all, about the strike and the response from the region?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, well, this appeared to be a very brazen attack in what Iran is saying is it's consulate in Damascus, Syria. And according to Iran's ambassador to Syria, this consulate was hit with six missiles that that he said were fired by IDF warplanes, by Israeli warplanes.

And according to the Iranians, at least seven people were killed in these strikes. All seven of them were part of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which of course is Iran's military wing, and actually two IRGC commanders were killed as part of this strike, according to the Iranians.

Now, the Israelis are neither confirming nor denying that they were behind this strike. And, in fact, one spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said they were not going to comment on this, but it is their position, according to their intelligence, this was not an Iranian consulate at all, but actually a headquarters for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that was being designed to the world and shown to the world as a civilian building, but, in fact, it was used for military purposes.

Now, the State Department at this point, they are not weighing in either. They're saying that they're still trying to get more information from regional partners and allies about just who was behind this, who the target actually was. But, importantly, they do say that they don't want to see the conflict escalate any further. And it is worth noting here that the U.S. military has not seen attacks in Syria against U.S. troops for about two months now, attacks that were really happening on a near daily basis previously.

So, the big question now is Iran is vowing, quote, decisive retaliation. Does that include additional targeting and renewed targeting of U.S. forces in the area? That's certainly something that U.S. officials are going to be watching with some concern.

BLITZER: Well, there's enormous concern right now. Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much for that background.

Joining us now, a key member of Congress, Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California. Congressman, thanks very for coming in.

What's your assessment? Who is responsible for these airstrikes in Damascus?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, we need to know and get the facts, but we a clear answer from the Israeli government. Were they responsible or not?

BLITZER: What do you think?

KHANNA: I'm not going to speculate but no comment doesn't cut it, especially when we are shipping so many arms to them.

Look, we have to make it very clear the American people do not want a war with Iran, we do want Israel to escalate a war with Lebanon, we don't want them to go into Rafah and kill civilians, and the shipments need to stop if they don't make the commitments to abide by what the president of the United States --

BLITZER: And the shipments of U.S. weapons to Israel?

KHANNA: Shipments of U.S. weapons.

BLITZER: Is that what you're talking about?

KHANNA: Yes, because it's going to escalate. It's not just about the civilians in Palestine. This could be a regional war.

And I'll tell you one thing, Wolf, Republicans, Democrats, independents, and no one wants America entangled in another war in the Middle East.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, Iran has already said they are going to retaliate big time, I'm paraphrasing right now, but they're going to retaliate decisively as a result of this air strike against this consular building in Damascus.

How concerned are you that what's going on right now could escalate into a major direct conflict between Israel and Iran? KHANNA: I'm very concerned, and that's why we need to know who struck the Iranian consulate and why. And I am concerned about our troops in Syria and in the region, that they don't face retaliation.


I'm concerned that we don't get drawn in to a conflict. And I'm concerned that we don't get drawn in to a conflict, and I'm concerned that the conflict doesn't expand.

The president was very clear, Israel, no war in Lebanon, no war with Iran. And Netanyahu has defied this president time and again, despite this president offering so much support to the people of Israel.

BLITZER: CNN is now reporting, Congressman, I don't know if you know this, that the U.S. is close, the Biden administration, very close to approving an $18 billion arms deal to Israel and selling a lot more, for example, at least 50 more F-15 fighter jets to Israel. All of that would require congressional authorization and appropriation because the U.S. taxpayers are going to pay for all of this. Do you think Congress would green-light that deal if the Biden administration is pushing it heavily?

KHANNA: I don't think so. They should not. I think this question should be asked of Senator Schumer after his powerful speech on the Senate floor. How can we green light giving more arms to Netanyahu when he's defying the president of the United States or secretary of defense and our secretary of state, when he may use those weapons not just to go into Rafah, but to go into Lebanon, to have a war with Iran? It's putting America at risk if you're defying your ally, the president of the United States. And Senator Van Hollen has already said, no. But I think my hope is Senator Schumer would say no.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what that happens. The U.S. has been meeting today with Israeli officials virtually, not face-to-face, but virtually to discuss what's going on potentially in Rafah in Southern Gaza right now. What's your message to the Biden administration?

KHANNA: Well, my message actually is that the Biden administration should make sure that Netanyahu listens to them. I think that the Biden administration has a deep concern for Palestinian lives, for civilian lives, and they've been very clear that an invasion of Rafah will mean too many civilians dying.

They've been very clear that humanitarian aid needs to come in. But Netanyahu keeps disrespecting the president of the United States, who stood unconditionally with Israel. We all did in the Democratic Party condemn the brutal Hamas attacks, condemn the rapes, condemn the killing, called Hamas a terrorist organization. And it reeks of ingratitude for Netanyahu to defy this president after what this president has done in standing with the people of Israel.

BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna of California, thanks for coming in.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BLITZER: I appreciate it.

Just ahead, there's breaking news. Officials in Atlanta are scrambling right now to find a motive after a suspect rammed his car into the gate at an FBI field office in Atlanta. We have details on the investigation. We'll share them with you right after the break.



BLITZER: A suspect has been arrested after ramming his car into the gate at an FBI field office in Atlanta this afternoon. Now, officials are attempting to figure out a motive.

CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is joining us right now. Josh, what do we know, first of all, about the incident and the suspect?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. It was just afternoon when this orange-colored Buick SUV slammed into that barrier at the FBI's Atlanta field office.

Now, a senior FBI official says that the driver was attempting to follow an employee who had entered. And you can see just from that video, the security barrier stopping that vehicle. This is the so- called final denial barrier as part of this layer of security that are around FBI field offices and other government offices, again, thankfully, preventing this individual from making his way closer to that building.

Now, the suspect then got out. He was taken into custody by law enforcement. We're told that he was now at a hospital for evaluation.

Interestingly, Wolf, as he was being taken into custody, a law enforcement source tells CNN he didn't say anything. He didn't utter anything. And so at this hour, authorities are trying to determine what the motive was of this individual, a very serious situation there in Atlanta, Wolf.

BLITZER: Josh, I know you're a former FBI supervisory special agent. Walk us through what is likely happening right now behind the scenes to try to identify a motive.

CAMPBELL: Well, they know who the suspect is at this hour, although law enforcement has not yet publicly released his name. And so, if they can, they will attempt to interview the individual, again, to try to determine what was at play here, what was the motive.

Was this some type of anti-FBI action? Was an individual who was possibly facing some type of mental health episode? But if the individual doesn't speak to law enforcement, they then have to obviously work harder to try to identify, does the suspect have any type of social media footprint, interviewing witnesses, people who might know him, again, to try to determine was this an attack, an attempted attack on the FBI, or was this something else entirely? But a lot of work going on behind the scenes, Wolf. BLITZER: I'm sure there is. This incident occurred, as you know, Josh, amid a period of unprecedented threats against FBI personnel around the country. What has been done to protect FBI facilities?

CAMPBELL: You know, well, if this is a precarious time for the FBI, I speak to FBI agents, analysts, professional staff, often daily across the country. And, again, the last couple of years, we have seen this increase of threats against employees.

We know the FBI actually established its own cell unit focused specifically on going through those types of threats that they're seeing against the bureau. And a reminder, back in 2022, there was an individual who attempted to breach the FBI's field office in Cincinnati. He died later after a standoff with law enforcement.

As we've been reporting, based on our law enforcement sources, authorities went back through his background, his social media history. This was a central casting believer of conspiracy theories, particularly surrounding the 2020 election, surrounding some of the vitriol that former President Trump has been offering about the FBI. And so this is a big concern that we've seen across the country. We don't know the motive here, but from coast to coast, FBI personnel are on alert, just because the sheer number of threats they've seen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very, very disturbing. Josh Campbell, thank you.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, crews at the Baltimore Bridge collapse have just cleared a temporary channel.

CNN's Pete Muntean our report.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the latest challenge caused by the disastrous collision and collapse of Baltimore's key bridge. Crews are now scrambling to lift thousands of tons of steel and concrete mangled across the murky Patapsco River and the crippled MV Dali.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These girders are essentially tangled together, intertwined, making it very difficult to figure out where you need to eventually cut so that we can make that into more manageable sizes to lift them from the waterway.

MUNTEAN: Officials from Maryland and the United States Coast Guard say they reached their first major milestone nearly a week after the port it came blocked. Crews have now cleared an alternate shipping channel for barges and tugs to move through, though its 11-foot depth will keep the port of Baltimore still inaccessible to large cargo ships.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are stepping stones towards finishing a marathon were not there yet. We are making those steps and strides and were going to get there. But its going to take us some time and were going to do it safely, but were going to do it as soon as possible.

MUNTEAN: The new focus of the salvage operation here has cruise cutting debris into smaller parts that can be moved, then lifting them out of the way. The U.S. Navy says three heavy-lift cranes are now in Baltimore harbor, that includes the thousand ton capacity Chesapeake. A fourth heavy lift crane is expected to arrive next week.

Crews lifted 200 tons of steel Saturday with another 350 tons slated to be moved by the end of Monday.

GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: The scale of this project to be clear, it is enormous and even the smallest are huge.

MUNTEAN: Still, there is no definitive timeline on when this port will reach full steam for the 8,000 jobs here, or one a replacement for Baltimore's iconic bridge will be rebuilt.

MOORE: We cannot rebuild the bridge until we clear the wreckage but I'm telling you we are going to get this done.

LARRY DESANTIS, BALTIMORE: I just couldn't believe it

MUNTEAN: Larry DeSantis says he drove across the key bridge just seconds before it came down. It's hard to believe

DESANTIS: Something like that could happen -- I mean, you see the video and its likely matter or less than a minute. The whole bridge is gone. It just happened so fast that who would have -- who would have thought.


MUNTEAN (on camera): The Coast Guard says it's also working on opening up to more alternate shipping lanes here. And were also learning this was the owners of the MV Dali have now petitioned a Maryland court. They want to limit their liability as a result of this crash to 42 million. They insist this disaster was not their fault, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pete Muntean reporting from Baltimore. Thank you, Pete, very much.

Coming up, Israel's two-week siege of what was once Gaza's largest hospital is over. We're going to bring you the latest. That's next.



BLITZER: In Gaza, tonight's scenes of widespread destruction after the Israeli military ended a 14-day siege of the al-Shifa hospital.

A warning, the video in this report by CNN's Nada Bashir is graphic.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As dawn breaks over Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital, the full extent of this latest nightmare becomes clear, building scorched, some still ablaze, others riddled with bullet holes, are completely destroyed below.

Bodies lay crushed and decomposing. Under torchlight, limbs are found tangled amid earth and rubble.

This is the aftermath of the Israeli military's 14-day siege on what once was Gaza's largest hospital.

Please, God, enough, this woman screams. How much more can Gaza civilians be forced to endure?

Medical crews tells CNN, they arrived on Monday morning to find hundreds of bodies scattered around the complex others have been left wounded starving, and desperate for help .

We spent days without food or water until the military gave us a few food cans, but they were not enough to feed all the patients, Dina says. They would give each patient just a quarter of a water bottle each day. The bombardment and shooting was constant.

Again, the scale of the destruction wrought by the Israeli military here seems impossible to quantify. In the surrounding area, entire families were trapped in their homes for two weeks, on the near constant bombardment. Upon the Israeli military's withdrawal, Arafat Alulu (ph) was finally able to return home, only to find that his wife and seven children had been killed.

The Israeli military has discovered the siege on a Shifa as a precise operation, targeting Hamas militants, some 200 of which they say were killed, though CNN is unable to verify this figure.

Weapons and intelligence documents are also said to have been found on the complex, which had been housing hundreds of civilians when the siege began. The IDF maintains that soldiers distinguish between militants and civilians. But such claims stand in stark contrast to the troubling testimonies and videos CNN has received from countless civilians and medical staff who are trapped in and around the hospital.

We can't estimate the number of medical staff who were targeted in what we can only call executions, this medical official says

In earlier testimonies shared with CNN, civilians described being stripped, bound, and blindfolded in the cold before facing interrogations by Israeli soldiers. Reports of beatings are also widespread. For days, medical staff within the hospital told CNN they couldn't even move between buildings on the complex for fear of being targeted by Israeli snipers.

Every day, a patient would die, nurse Mousa says. The occupation soldiers used us as human shields inside the hospital.

More than 300 bodies have so far been recovered according to authorities in Gaza. But that figure will likely only rise, warnings that Al Shifa could soon be turned into a graveyard, now a gut- wrenching reality.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


BLITZER: Thanks -- thanks, Nada, for that report.

And thanks to our viewers for watching.

The news continues on CNN right now.