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White House Outraged By Deadly Israeli Strike On Aid Workers In Gaza; Now, Trump In Swing State, Doubles Down On Calling Immigrants Animals; Now, Millions At Risk For Severe Weather In Midwest And South; Pentagon: U.S. Assesses That Israel Carried Out Deadly Strike On Iranian Consulate In Syria; Women's NCAA Tourney Generating Historic Excitement. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 18:00   ET



CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And even by tomorrow afternoon, there could be some thunderstorms along the gulf coast and also the East Coast.

But look at this, yes, Jake, that's snow. I don't even know where to begin. But blizzard warnings are in effect for parts of the upper Midwest.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, it is April and that is snow.

Chad Myers, thank you so much.

Join CNN for Monday's Eclipse Across America We're on the air with special coverage starting at 1:00 P.M. Eastern on CNN, streaming on max.

And if you ever miss an episode of The Lead you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts.

The news continues on CNN. I'll see you tomorrow

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the U.S. expresses outrage over the Israeli airstrikes that killed seven aid workers in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling the attack unintentional and vowing an investigation. We'll get reaction from an aid group director who was a friend of one of the victims.

Also tonight, Donald Trump is following up a stop in Michigan with another battleground state visit in holding a rally in Wisconsin this hour.

He's using his return to the campaign trail to ramp up his rhetoric on the border crisis and to double down on calling undocumented immigrants animals.

Plus, breaking news, as parts of the U.S. are already reeling from destructive storms, millions of Americans are at risk tonight for very severe weather, including the most significant threat of tornadoes so far this year. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We begin with a deadly strike on aid workers in Gaza. It's prompting new condemnation of Israel's war tactics and forcing the suspension of desperately needed food deliveries to Gaza.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more from Jerusalem. We want to warn you some of the images in this report are graphic and may be disturbing to viewers.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There is no mistaking the target of this Israeli strike. The World Central Kitchen's logo still visible after a missile tore through the roof of this vehicle. Pieces of the aid organization's emblem scattered throughout the charred hull of a second vehicle. And then there are the bodies of the aid workers themselves, patches proudly worn on chests, over bulletproof vests that offered no more protection in Gaza than the emblem of a humanitarian aid organization.

They are among seven aid workers killed in Israeli strikes on their convoy late Monday night. Six of them were foreigners, including a dual American-Canadian citizen, as well as British, Australian and Polish nationals, triggering international uproar and prompting a rare acknowledgement of Israeli responsibility from Prime Minister Netanyahu.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Unfortunately, in the last day, there was a tragic incident where our forces unintentionally struck innocent people in the Gaza Strip. It happens in war, and we are thoroughly investigating it.

DIAMOND: World Central Kitchen says the Israeli military knew about the convoy. A weapons expert consulted by CNN said images of the damage indicate a precise drone strike carried out with total visibility of the target.

World Central Kitchen said its aid workers got into three vehicles after unloading aid at this warehouse in central Gaza and began traveling down the coastal Al-Rasheed Street. CNN geolocated the convoy's deadly journey using images filmed at the scene.

Three and a half miles south, a first vehicle is struck. Two other strikes rain down in quick succession. One vehicle is hit a half mile further. The third comes to a stop another mile down the road, found only the next day.

HASSAN AL SHUNBAJI, HEARD THE AIRSTRIKE: Last night between 11:00 and 11:30 P.M., a missile hit a car. When we approached, we saw the car on fire. We tried to extinguish the fire, and upon opening the car, we discovered boxes of canned meat. It was an international aid organization that assists people. Any international or European organization that comes to aid Gaza will be targeted. They want to send a message of don't come and let the people die. DIAMOND: The Israeli military has struck aid convoys in the past, including this U.N. truck, which was shelled in early February. World Central Kitchen, founded in 2010 by celebrity Chef Jose Andres, has been one of the most prominent aid organizations in Gaza, even working with the Israeli military last month to build a pier off the Gaza coastline, delivering the first aid shipments to Gaza by sea.


Australian Zomi Frankom spent years coordinating aid operations for World Central Kitchen, risking and ultimately sacrificing her life to help those in need. She died alongside her Polish colleague, Damian Sobol.

Weeks earlier, he was excitedly readying a convoy to build soup kitchens in Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are already a lot of tables, shelves, water systems.

DIAMOND: Today, their bodies were among those headed for the Rafah border crossing, but the body of one of the seven will not leave Gaza. Saif Issam Abu Taha, a driver and translator, was buried in Central Gaza, not far from where he carried out his final mission.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Wolf, three of the seven aid workers who were killed were British nationals. Today, the Israeli prime minister speaking with his British counterpart, Prime Minister Sunak, telling the Israeli prime minister he was appalled by the attack and calling for a transparent, independent investigation.

While we wait for the possibility of such an investigation, the World Central Kitchen suspending its aid operations in the Gaza Strip at a very dangerous time, as hundreds of thousands of people face an increased risk of famine. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jeremy Diamond, this is so heartbreaking. Thank you very much for that report.

I want to go to the White House right now. CNN's Kayla Tausche is standing by. Kayla, how much U.S. pressure on Israel are we seeing today in the aftermath of this horrific strike?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, quite a bit of pressure, President Biden, according to the White House, conveyed to Jose Andres, the founder of World Central Kitchen, that he is going to tell Israel that humanitarian aid workers must be protected.

And on multiple occasions earlier today, the White House, in the form of NSC spokesman John Kirby at the White House briefing, declined on multiple occasions to back the assessment of Israel that this was an unintentional incident, instead choosing to say that they will reserve their judgment until the comprehensive investigation is concluded, but noting that misfires have been all too frequent. Here's John Kirby earlier today.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: This isn't the first one. There are issues of de-confliction that clearly need to be fleshed out and improved.

Our expectation is, and we've made this clear to them, that they'll come clean about what they've learned. They'll be fully transparent, and if people need to be held accountable, that they'll be held accountable.


TAUSCHE: But Kirby also said that the U.S. would not pause or stop military aid going to Israel. This as CNN is reporting that the White House has quietly green-lit an additional $18 billion of F-15 fighter jets to go to Israel over the next five years.

And also, Wolf, the White House and the Biden administration confirming its assessment that Israel was behind the attack of an Iranian building in Damascus, Syria, where senior leaders of the IRGC were present, but saying the U.S. had no role in that strike and so the U.S. should be spared any retaliation. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche at the White House, thank you very much.

And joining me now, Sandra Rasheed, a director with the aid group, Anera, that's now suspending its operations in Gaza. Sandra, thank you so much for all the important work you're doing. Thank you so much for joining us.

I know your group works with World Central Kitchen on the ground in Gaza, and you knew Zomi Frankcom well, the Australian aid worker who was killed. How are you grappling with this horrible, horrible attack?

SANDRA RASHEED, ANERA'S PALESTINE COUNTRY DIRECTOR: You know, every day we think that it can't get any worse and every day it's proven that it does get worse. This has been a particularly hard blow for us. Anera has recently lost one of our own colleagues, Mousa Shawwa, on March 8th and that was as close as we had in terms of losing some of our staff members.

But Zomi was a friend and we worked together for two years. We've been working since 2021. WCK has supported our work in Gaza. And, actually, I just -- I had a bowl of nachos with her three weeks ago and we talked about the challenges we were facing on the ground and how we can move forward. It's really hard. Today is a very hard day, Wolf.

BLITZER: You say you spoke with her recently. What should we know about Zomi and your other colleagues who bravely put themselves at risk to deliver this critically important aid?

RASHEED: I think everybody on the ground that's working for Gaza, whether they're in Gaza or working in the West Bank or working even globally, everybody's heart is in doing whatever we can to support the Palestinians in Gaza during this horrible time.

And Zomi and the WCK team, Damian, we interacted with Damian quite a bit as well, they were committed humanitarians.


They had their heart in it. They were doing it for all the right reasons. And their main objective was to feed as many people as they possibly can. And we, as Anera, were supporting them to do that. And they worked very closely with our team. They have daily interactions with our team on the ground.

BLITZER: Now that Anera and World Central Kitchen, unfortunately, have had to pause their operations in Gaza, how much do you fear more Gazans will starve and possibly die?

RASHEED: You know, World Center Kitchen and Anera together, we're providing over a million meals a week. We were alone providing about 150,000 meals through our different kitchens and tekilas (ph). This is going to have a deep impact, and the humanitarian conditions on the ground are going to be even more difficult.

Unfortunately, we were forced to pause. We were force to stop our work because we had to ensure that the safety of our team was guaranteed and we don't have that guarantee right now. Our team on the ground is, for the first time, since this whole started is really quite worried and quite scared about them being targeted.

BLITZER: As you know, World Central Kitchen says they were coordinating closely with the Israel Defense Forces and driving on a pre-approved route. Their logo was clearly displayed on the roof of the vehicles and on the sides of vehicles. Israel says its attack was unintentional. Do you think that's true?

RASHEED: You know, if you look at the images and you look what happened on ground, the vehicles were hit three different times, very direct targeted hits. It's clear that this was a targeted attack. If it wasn't going to be targeted, I don't think it would have been hit three times.

And what the news on the ground is saying is that the first hit happened and the survivors of the first car got out and moved to the second car, and then that second car was hit, and those -- after that car got hit, survivors got and went to third car, and that car was hit. That does not sound unintentional to me. I mean, that is -- that sounds like it was a very direct target for the Israelis.

BLITZER: Sandra Rasheed, thank you so much for joining us. And once again, thank you for all the important work Anera has done for the Palestinians in Gaza over these years. I appreciate it very much.

RASHEED: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: And just ahead, how Donald Trump is stoking fears of immigrants and attacking President Biden as he's campaigning in crucial battleground states. And later, Trump's newest legal move against the judge in the New York hush money case with the trial less than two weeks away.



BLITZER: Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail tonight trying to rally support in two critical battleground states he lost in 2020, Michigan and Wisconsin. He has an event in Green Bay, Wisconsin, this hour.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is there for us. Kristen, what is Trump's message today in these two Midwestern swing states?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, earlier, it was all about immigration. We were told that today, tonight in Green Bay, Wisconsin, it would be a mix of immigration and the economy. But, so far, it has, again, just been him doubling down on his anti- immigration rhetoric and promising these expansion of these hard-line policies if he is re-elected.

Now, it tends to be going over well with the crowd, because we just heard the crowds stopped him chanting, build the wall, over and over again. Remember, this messaging on immigration propelled him to the White House in 2016, and he's hoping it does again in 2024.

Now earlier today, we heard him in Michigan going further, repeating his claims that immigrants and migrants were animals. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Democrats say, please don't call them animals, they're humans. I said, no, they're not humans, they're not aliens. They're animals. Nancy Pelosi told me that she said please don't use the word, animal, sir, when you're talking about these people. I said, I'll use the world, animal, because that's what they are.


HOLMES: And just a reminder that one of the things we've been reporting is that immigration is at the top of the list for voters this cycle so far. So, Donald Trump is really leaning into that hard. He's also linking violent crime to immigration. As we have repeatedly reported, data shows that immigrants, migrants are far less likely to commit crimes than citizens. However, there have been a number of high-profile cases, and Donald Trump has really picked up on that, doubling down, repeating that, trying to stoke fear and say that he would protect American people better than President Biden has.

BLITZER: And it was interesting because Trump also addressed his $175 million bond, and he teased an announcement on a key issue in this campaign, right?

HOLMES: That's right, Wolf. Well, first of all, this is the first time we've heard him addressing this bond on camera. He unsurprisingly complained about it. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I'm the only one that has to put up a bond. You know, I put up a bond, and I didn't do anything wrong. I had to a put bond this morning for $175 million. I did nothing wrong.


HOLMES: Not surprising, again, saying he did nothing wrong, he also continued to call all of these legal cases election interference. And as you mentioned, he did tease that he would be making some kind of statement on abortion next week.

A reminder, he has been floating this idea of a potential national abortion ban at 15 weeks. His team had said, however, there was nothing planned to roll out. We will obviously be pressing them on what exactly he is planning to say next week.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Kristen Holmes in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for us, thank you very much.

Let's get some more.


Joining us, our political experts, and, Evan Osnos, let me start with you. You're the Biden biographer. Trump says he'll address abortion next week, but President Biden is already hitting him on this issue of abortion rights for women in a new ad that has just been released. Watch this.


TRUMP: Because for 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated and I did it and I'm proud to have done it.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: In 2016, Donald Trump ran to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, in 2024, he's running to pass a national ban on a woman's right to choose. I'm running to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again.


BLITZER: Evan, how important is this issue of access to abortion rights for women to Biden's re-election campaign?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's enormously important. In fact, it's really at the center of it in many respects. When I spoke to President Biden not too long ago about this subject of abortion, he said, how is it that the Supreme Court could roll back a basic American right that had been in place for over half a century? And he believes that is fundamentally out of step with where most Americans are.

You know, the polls show Americans overwhelmingly believe that the termination of Roe v. Wade, as Donald Trump puts it, was bad for the country. And the events of recent days, particularly the Supreme Court decision in Florida, which cleared the way for a six-week abortion ban and also puts it on the ballot in November, drives home the fact that a lot of voters will have abortion on their minds in the fall, and Democrats believe that probably works to their advantage.

BLITZER: It's interesting. S.E. Cupp is with us as well. S.E., Trump called Florida's six-week abortion ban a terrible mistake last year. But now that the ban is going into effect, the proposed constitutional amendment to protect access to abortion in Florida could put Trump in a tough political spot, right?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's interesting. He's been all over the map on abortion. He was critical of six-week bans. He has also at the same time taken credit for 6, 10, and 15-week bans. Obviously, as you just noted, he takes credit for overturning Roe v. Wade. Now with the Florida news, he's saying, well, it's a state's rights issue. So, he's really been all over the map, and he's going to have to get pretty clear on his messaging because the pro-life wing of his party feels responsible for helping to get him elected.

But this is an issue that, for sure, imperils Republicans. We have metrics to show that, the 2022 midterm elections being one, votes in Kansas and Ohio, red states that Trump won that rejected these kinds of effective bans. Voters there don't want these. Polling that shows most voters think that these kinds of bans are too extreme.

So, Republicans are playing with this at their peril. And if I were Biden, if I were Democrats, I would make this the number one issue that they were running on.

BLITZER: Ashley Etienne is with us as well. Ashley, will Democrats be able to successfully hit Trump on this issue of abortion rights for women when he's on record speaking out against this strict ban in Florida?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes. I mean, I think S.E. is completely right. Democrats are going to continue to lean in on this issue. The Republicans' war against women will continue to sort of be the gift that continues to give to Democrats.

And I just want to add to what she said. It's not just -- we didn't see these gains in Kansas and Ohio, but even in places like Michigan, where the president just left. You saw Whitmer, who made incredible inroads and Republican strongholds and suburbs outside of Detroit and Grand Rapids on this particular issue.

Democrats were able to build an aggressive, diverse coalition, from young to old, to people of color, as well as women in the suburbs, that really are sort of rejecting Republicans' extreme agenda on this issue. So, the president is double downing with ads in these battleground states, Florida being one of them. This is an issue that they continue to see as a winner.

But I will add, I mean, my recommendation to the president is continue to make this the center of the campaign, but he also has to become even more aggressive on the issue of the border. Why not start running ads, putting the blame for the open border on Republicans, congressional Republicans, on Donald Trump, in these key battleground states. Immigration and border has now become a national issue right up there with abortion that I think could, if they start to message right and aggressively could help build and stabilize that coalition going into November.

Evan, why do you think Trump is railing against immigration in these two Midwestern states today? Trump made these comments in Michigan, which shares a border with Canada.

OSNOS: Right. Well, as we know, Donald Trump has really hinged his campaign to that issue just a few months ago, given the opportunity for Republicans to sign a bill, to pass a bill that had been negotiated in part by Republicans, in fact, by some hardliners on immigration, that he had stood in the way of that and said, no, I don't want an immigration deal to pass now, in effect, because it would undermine his case, his base, really, that is rallied around this issue.


And it is also -- let's be honest, Wolf, these two issues are intertwined. It is a way of distracting attention from the fact that abortion is a growing and important issue for people not only in Florida, but across the south, because by undoing access to abortion in Florida, it means that women in Georgia, in Mississippi, and elsewhere also lose valuable access to reproductive health. So, he wants to keep focused on immigration because he doesn't want people talking about abortion.

BLITZER: An important point. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, there's breaking news. Donald Trump asked the judge overseeing his hush money trial to recuse himself. We're going to tell you why Trump's attorneys are claiming he's too conflicted to be fair.



BLITZER: There's breaking news we're watching right now. Attorneys for Donald Trump are once again pushing for the judge overseeing his hush money trial to recuse himself, arguing he's conflicted by his daughter's political work.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us. She's got details. Kara, tell us about this new filing.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, Trump's lawyers have asked the judge to consider a motion for his recusal. This is because of work that the judge's daughter does for a political consulting firm. That firm has done work in the past for the Biden and Kamala Harris campaigns. So, Trump's team is arguing to the judge that that business and his daughter stands to benefit financially from this trial because it will provide fodder for Trump rivals to fundraise off of. Now, prosecutors are opposing this. They say that an advisory committee on judicial ethics has already said that this was not grounds for the judge to recuse. And also they say that Trump's team has put together a daisy chain of innuendos, but no actual evidence that the judge's daughter or her company has benefited or will benefit from this.

Now, this comes, though, as the judge has already expanded this gag order in the case to include preventing Trump from talking about his family members, including his daughter, as well as family members of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

Now, Trump this morning immediately posting again on his social media platform statements about the judge not making comments about the daughter, but he also made comments about the judge who oversaw the civil fraud case.

And Trump posted that $175 million bond on that last night, which now means that the New York attorney general's office cannot move to seize assets. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Kara, thank you, Kara Scannell reporting.

Let's get some insight right now from former Federal Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann. He's the co-author of a brand new book entitled The Trump Indictments, the Historic Charging Documents with Commentary. There you see the cover. Andrew, thanks very much for joining us.

Trump is again asking Judge Merchan to recuse himself from this upcoming trial, arguing he's conflicted by his daughter's political work. What do you make of this?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, this, as Kara reported, is really the exact same motion he made months ago and was denied. And it wasn't denied just by the judge. This is one where the judge, to be sure that he was making the call correctly, actually went to the judicial ethics panel to get a ruling with respect to whether this was a bridge too far, whether he should be recusing himself. And they said, absolutely not.

I think the phrase that Kara quoted is really definitely the one to cite, which is a daisy chain of innuendo. This is not how, you know, the basis for recusal. When you're looking for a recusal of a judge, you're looking for something that they have said that is really partisan. You're looking for some connection to one side or the other in the case. And there's just nothing about this case that would suggest that Judge Merchan is going to be anything other than his reputation in New York, which is as a very solid judge who's fair to both sides.

BLITZER: He's highly respected. Let me also get your reaction, Andrew, to something former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told me yesterday here in the Situation Room about gag orders of Trump. Watch and listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: These gag orders create more of a distraction than they do a productive limitation of this, of Donald Trump's speech. The Trump 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.


BLITZER: So, Andrew, how do you respond to that?

WEISSMANN: So, first of all, I take it as a given that it's really dangerous to ever disagree with Andrew McCabe. I worked with him when I was at the FBI. He's terrific. I would say here one thing that is different and one reason I disagree with him in this case is this isn't simply the defendant attacking the judge or the prosecution.

If that were all that was going on, as heinous as that is, as inappropriate for any defendant, let alone somebody who used to be the leader of the free world, here, the prosecution and the judge have to be concerned about so many other players, the jurors, the prospective jurors, the witnesses, all of whom can feel intimidated and threatened.


And that is not how you want the justice system to work.

So, it is true that it is a distraction, but I do think it's one that the parties have to undertake if you're going to have a rule of law and a justice system that's fair to everyone, to the government and to the defendant, and all of the participants can feel safe by doing their duty in that process.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. We're also learning, Andrew, about some of the expected witnesses in this New York criminal trial. You write about many of these witnesses in your new book. Who do you see being the key players in the prosecution's case? We're showing some pictures, some names of some of the expected witnesses.

WEISSMANN: You know, I think what you're going to hear, and we sort of lay this out in our book, is that although it's going to be tempting for all of us who are covering the trial to say that Michael Cohen is the star witness, I think you're going to hear the state say that the documents are the key here, because there's going to be such a paper trail of what happened.

But having said that, there are obviously going to be witnesses who gather a lot of attention, whether it's David Pecker, the person who was running the National Enquirer, that's alleged to have taken a position to help Donald Trump to keep information from becoming public. It's a bizarre thing for a news organization to be doing, to not only keep information, but to be doing it on behalf of one party, not doing it in a bipartisan way. Stormy Daniels will obviously be an important witness to set the predicate for the hush money payments, and then, of course, Michael Cohen, because he is at the heart of this.

So, I think those will be important witnesses, but I think you're going to hear a lot about the documents and how they corroborate all of those witnesses in the substance of what they put forth. And, obviously, those witnesses will be subject to enormous cross- examination, particularly Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: Good point. If Trump were to be convicted in this case, what kind of penalty potentially could he be looking at?

WEISSMANN: You know, he could be looking at jail. This is one where the judge, I think, is going to be looking at the rule of law to see how other people were treated, other people with a similar criminal background.

I think this is an area where Donald Trump's pretrial behavior is going to be relevant. If you have someone who's contrite, if you have someone who shares that he's respectful of the rule of law, that this was an aberration, that is something that the court can take into account.

But if you think that the defendant actually is running basically as an outlaw and is basically thumbing his nose at the judicial process and it shows no sign of remorse and essentially is a recidivist, those are factors that a judge can consider. And I am sure that a judge like Judge Merchan, if there were to be a conviction, is going to factor all of that in. But it's just way too soon to say whether it would actually constitute jail time.

The one thing I would add, Wolf, is I think the fact that the former president has Secret Service protection is not going to be something that prevents him from doing jail time, that that's something that can be worked out. It is a factor, but it is not something that is preclusive, I think, for any judge considering whether to send Donald Trump to jail if there is a conviction.

BLITZER: Yes, pretty amazing stuff, indeed. Andrew Weissmann, thank you very much for joining us.

And this important note to our viewers, be sure to check out Andrew's very important new book entitled The Trump Indictments. There you see the cover.

Just ahead, there's more breaking news we're following, the severe weather threat, including tornadoes for millions and millions of Americans. Stand by for the latest from the CNN Weather Center.



BLITZER: Breaking news, millions of Americans in the Midwest and south are at risk for severe weather right now, including very dangerous storms, flooding and tornadoes.

Let's get an update from CNN's Chad Myers. He's over at the CNN Weather Center for us. Chad, where are we seeing the most serious threats this hour?

MYERS: Right now, south of Cincinnati, Florence, Erlanger, that area, just to the Northern Kentucky, but south of Cincinnati, that storm moved out of Louisville and then moved across the river into northern Kentucky, and it was a big spinning storm. We likely have damage on the ground. I just don't have any reports from that yet. But now we're kind of losing a little bit of daylight here, and that's the most concerning.

These storms that happen in the overnight hours, notice how this kind of this satellite gets a little darker at the end because the sun is setting, that's the area in that time of day that we start to lose people because they're, one, not paying attention or they've gone to sleep. These storms will continue all the way through the night.

So, let's zoom in on to some of them right now. There is Cincinnati. There are the storms here that just moved through Florence, you all, and has moved off toward the east of I-75 down to the south We had a storm that likely made a tornado over I-75 south of Jellico that big hill you go up toward Jellico and then here's the storms to the south, and it's going to continue for the evening hours here.

Even if you don't get a tornado, and we hope you don't, there still could be 60 to 70 mile-per-hour winds that could bring down branches, there could be some hail, not as much hail as yesterday though, so still have your plan in place.

And believe it or not, Wolf, up here in the U.P. of Michigan, there is a blizzard warning. It's because the warm air of spring wants to come up from the south, the cold air winter says, hey, it's not so fast. And all of a sudden, you get that clash between the warm and the cold. It happens mainly in spring, but also we do get a fall season of severe weather when the colder air wants the crash and push the warmer air away.


Winter storm warnings in effect for more than a foot of snow, and tornadoes were on the ground -- at least five on the ground already today, five on the ground yesterday, and likely more to come in the overnight hours.

So this is still a storm to contend with or could be a little bit of flooding with it as well. Flood watches and warnings are in effect, especially if you get very heavy rain in the Poconos and the Alleghenies and the Catskills, that water wants to run downhill quite quickly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very dangerous situation. Everybody should be careful out there.

Chad Myers at the CNN weather center, thank you very much for that update.

Coming up, Iran now vows revenge for the attack on its consulate in Damascus, Syria, as the U.S. weighs in on whether Israel was in fact a blame for that deadly strike.


BLITZER: Tonight, the Pentagon says it has assessed that Israel was indeed behind a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria.


Israel hasn't acknowledged carrying out the strike, but insists it was a military facility.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Beirut for us.

Ben, what is Iran saying about retaliating and how would Iran make that happen?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've heard the senior Iranian officials say retaliation is coming. Ebrahim Raisi, the president, said that the attack will not go unanswered and Ali Khamenei, the so-called supreme leader of Iran, said that Israel will regret this attack.

Now how does Iran plan to respond is very much open to question. Until now, they have worked through there affiliated militias in Lebanon, we have Hezbollah in Iraq, Syria, the Houthis in Yemen have either targeted Israel or have targeted U.S. forces, as we saw, for instance in late January when Iraqi militias struck an American base in Jordan, killing three U.S. service personnel.

Now, since then, those militias have actually stopped those attacks apparently under orders from the Iranians to avoid an escalation. But now it may be the case that in the aftermath of this attack that killed a senior IRGC commander, that the Iranians might tell their proxies in the region to increase pressure on Israel, on the United States, or perhaps given the gravity of this strike on the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus, the Iranians will target Israel directly, something they haven't done until now.

That very much will raise the possibility of a major escalation, possibly even a regional war. It's widely understood that the Iranians, the Americans, and perhaps even the Israelis don't want that to happen. But it appears that all sides are really pushing the envelope.

The Israelis, for instance, are striking deeper and deeper within Lebanon on the early hours of Friday morning. There was a strike on his Syrian military position outside of Aleppo, in northern Syria, widely believed that the Israelis were behind that. That left at least 40 military personnel of dead there, among them, his bullfighter.

So certainly the temperature is rising. The question is, is it going to boil over into a full blown regional war, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah, it was enormous concern.

Ben Wedeman reporting from Beirut -- Ben, thank you very much. And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: The Final Four and the women's NCAA doublet tournament is now locked in after another pair of thrilling games in the Elite Eight.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the story for us.

Brian, all of this comes at an unprecedented moment for women's basketball.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There really has never been another moment like this in the women's game, Wolf. It is the perfect storm of two superstar players who drew a lot of interest on their own, coupled with the fact that they've had an intense on-court rivalry with each other.


TODD (voice-over): They're on a roll like never before superstar Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes team, just advancing to the Final Four and shining a brighter spotlight on the game of women's basketball overall. Clark, who's broken most of college basketball scoring and three-point shooting records, scored 41 points last night, as Iowa defeated rival LSU in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament.

CAITLIN CLARK, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA BASKETBALL PLAYER: We don't want this to end and we want to keep coming back and working hard with each other and fighting for one more week.

TODD: Fans of women's basketball don't want this to end either.

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Women's college basketball has never been this popular. It is a national sensation. Every corner bar was watching Iowa versus LSU, every college dorm room was watching Iowa versus LSU.

TODD: It's its all placed enormous pressure on the 22-year-old senior from Des Moines, pressure that her coach says Clark doesn't shrink from.

LISA BLUDER, HEAD WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: When the stage is the brightest, when the spotlight is the brightest, she's at her very best. She loves this. Some people wither in the moment, she just gets stronger in the moment. When it's her time, I mean, she's going to just shine.

According to "Axios", the cheapest ticket to the women's college basketball championship game this year is 61 percent more expensive than the cheapest ticket to the men's championship game analysts say the spike in popularity is almost entirely due to Clark and her on- court rivalry with LSU star Angel Reese, one of the most debated moments of last years championship game was when Reese made the "you can't see me" gesture to Clark as LSU was closing out its victory over Iowa for the title.

In an emotional news conference last night, Reese spoke about what she's gone through since then.

ANGEL REESE, LSU BASKETBALL PLAYER: I've been through so much. I've seen so much. I've been attacked so many times. Death threats, I've been sexualized. I've been threatened, I've been so many things and I stayed strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's be honest, there's a racial element as well. And so, she's had to shoulder all of this ever since they won the national championship. Anytime you summon her name, it is just -- even -- anytime I even tweet something about her, the level of reaction people call her ghetto, a thug.

All of this comes on the heels of the most talked about event at the NBA all-star game in February when Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry barely beat Sabrina Ionescu of the WNBA's New York Liberty in a three-point shooting contest.

ZIRIN: Expect more of that in the future. If it's Steph versus Caitlin Clark, they might need to hold it in a football stadium.


TODD (on camera): And we have this just in, last night's game between Caitlin Clark's Iowa Hawkeyes and Angel Reese's LSU Tiger, has set the all-time TV ratings record for a women's college basketball game according to ESPN, Wolf, 12 million.

BLITZER: Yeah, more than 12 million viewers. Amazing. I was one of them.

TODD: Yeah.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very, very much. Brian Todd reporting.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you back here tomorrow 11:00 a.m. Eastern for "CNN NEWSROOM", and, of course, 6:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues on CNN right now.