Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

U.S. Preparing For Significant Attack By Iran, Possibly Within Days; Millions Rattled By Rare 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake In Northeast; Historic Excitement For Tonight's NCAA Women's Final Four; New Defense Memo Just Made Public In Trump New York Hush Money Case; Business Eager To Cash In On Monday's Solar Eclipse. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 05, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok @jaketapper. You can follow the show on X @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD," you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now on CNN. I will see you Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, just days after a deadly airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Syria, a senior U.S. official now reveals active preparations are underway for a significant revenge attack by Iran possibly within the week. We're getting new information about the very high alert.

Also tonight, the northeast is rattled by a rare 4.8 magnitude earthquake. We're tracking the quake threat in New York City and beyond as millions who felt the tremors are now bracing for aftershocks.

And it's a historic night for college basketball. The women's Final Four is generating unprecedented excitement fueled by record breaking Iowa Superstar Caitlin Clark. NBA Legend Charles Barkley will give us his take on this sport's phenomena.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get right to the breaking news, the United States now actively planning for a potentially imminent revenge attack by Iran in the region.

Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee. M.J., what are you learning?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are alerting tonight that the U.S. is on high alert and actively planning for what could be a significant attack by Iran that could come as soon as within the next week. We are told that this Iranian attack, of course, would be in response to the Israeli airstrike that happened in Damascus and ended up killing several top Iranian officials. U.S. and Israeli officials, we are told, believe that this attack by Iran is inevitable. And the two governments, we are told, have been working furiously together to prepare for what could be to come. They believe this attack could come in multiple forms, but at this moment, they do not know exactly how that attack will unfold, but that U.S. and Israeli assets both are at risk of being targeted.

Now, a direct attack on Israel, Wolf, would, of course, be one of the worst-case scenarios, given that it is guaranteed to rapidly de- escalate what is already a tumultuous situation in the region, and it could end up with the Israel-Hamas War spilling out into a broader regional conflict, which is something that the Biden administration has very much wanted to avoid.

We are also learning tonight that the U.S. has directly communicated to Iran, warning the country from targeting and attacking U.S. personnel and U.S. assets.

Now, as you'll recall, this is an issue that came up between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the two leaders spoke yesterday. That phone call, of course, was prompted by the deaths of those seven aid workers. And Prime Minister Netanyahu in this phone call, of course, promising President Biden that there are going to be improvements to ensure that that kind of tragedy doesn't happen again. Wolf?

BLITZER: M.J. Lee at the White House for us. Yes, this is a very, very significant development we're watching right now, lots of concern, especially here in Washington, as well as in Israel.

Let's get some more on this breaking story with CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who's joining us from Jerusalem right now.

What are Israeli officials saying, and what are they doing about the threat of Iran potentially striking back against Israel?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no question that Israel is certainly on high alert anticipating a potential Iranian retaliation to that strike in Damascus. The question, of course, is whether or not that retaliation, that response that is expected from Iran will hit here on Israeli soil.

We know that Israel this week boosted its air defenses. They suspended the ability of its soldiers to go on leave. And also we know that civilians here are certainly concerned stocking up on essential goods this week.

But amid this threat, we also know that today the Israeli military releasing the findings of its investigation into that deadly World Central Kitchen strike holding multiple soldiers, five commanders accountable for what took place.


DIAMOND (voice over): Six months into the war in Gaza, the Israeli military tonight delivering its most thorough and public admission of wrongdoing for killing civilians in Gaza.


Four days after targeted airstrikes killed seven aid workers, the Israeli military says several of its commanders violated military protocols and made errors in decision-making, leading to a fatal sequence of events.

At 10:00 P.M. on Monday night, a World Central Kitchen aid convoy departs this pier on the Gaza coastline, heading south on Al-Rashid street. 28 minutes later, the Israeli military says its forces identify a gunman on top of one of the aid trucks.

As the convoy passes the World Central Kitchen Welcome Center, four additional WCK vehicles join the convoy, driving south along Al-Rashid and then east, arriving at a warehouse just off Salah al-Din Street at 10:46 P.M.

As aid pallets are unloaded at the warehouse, Israeli forces misidentify a bag slung over one of the passenger's shoulders as a weapon. And soon, Israeli commanders make a deadly and false assumption, that the cars accompanying the trucks are not part of the aid convoy, but rather carrying Hamas militants.

World Central Kitchen had cleared the convoy, including the cars, with the military, but the Israeli military says the commanders involved in the strikes had not seen that information. As three vehicles carrying the seven WCK workers leave the warehouse heading south on Al-Rashid Street, Israeli commanders give the order to strike.

The first vehicle is hit at 11:09 P.M. An Israeli military official says some of the passengers survive, fleeing into the next vehicle. But two minutes later, an airstrike hits that vehicle a half mile down the road. At 11:13 P.M., a third missile hits the final vehicle.

In just four minutes, seven members of the World Central Kitchen team are dead. International uproar ensues, triggering the most comprehensive Israeli military investigation into its deadly actions in Gaza to-date.

REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESMAN: The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake, stemming from serious operational failures, mistaken classification and identification, errors in decision-making, and strikes that were conducted in violation of standard operating procedures.

DIAMOND: General Herzi Halevi, the IDF's chief of staff, dismissing two Nahal Brigade officers involved in the incident, Colonel Nochi Mendel, the brigade chief of staff and an unidentified major serving as the brigade's fire support officer.

Three others are formally reprimanded, Colonel Yair Zukerman, the Nahal Brigade commander, Brigadier General Itsik Cohen, the division commander, and General Yaron Finkelman, the head of Israel's southern command. In a statement, World Central Kitchen called the disciplinary actions important steps, but said, without systemic change there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families, calling for an independent commission to investigate the killings. The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza, the aid group said.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It's also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable.

As Israel pursues any military operations against Hamas, it has to prioritize the protection of civilians.

DIAMOND: As bombs continue to fall on Gaza today, human rights groups continuing to raise questions about Israel's broader commitment to protecting civilians in Gaza, vowing a longer road to accountability.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Wolf, the Israeli military says that it is drawing lessons from this incident that it intends to apply in the future, but so far not clear exactly how or if Israel's rules of engagement will change going forward.

But one issue is potentially going to be addressed. That World Central Kitchen logo on the vehicles not visible at night from those drones, according to the Israeli military, they say that they are considering thermal stickers to place on aid vehicles to prevent any kind of similar incidents in the future. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. They've got to do something to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem, thank you very much.

Joining us now is Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

First, you heard our MJ Lee at the White House report that the U.S. is now on what's described as high alert for what's being called a significant potential attack within the next week by Iran against Israel or the United States for that matter. How serious is this risk right now of an all-out regional war exploding?

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Wolf, it's a very serious risk that would put U.S. lives and others at risk.


You've seen the war in Gaza spill over into attacks from Hezbollah in the north of Israel, attacks from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis firing missiles into the Red Sea to interrupt shipping from all over the world. So, this is already escalating in a dangerous way. Iran taking any action against Israel or against the U.S. would be very, very damaging. And that should not happen. We do not need more escalation now. We need more effort to find a way to de-escalate. And that's why it's so important to push and promote more humanitarian aid into Gaza and a renewed effort to find a ceasefire and hostage release deal. That will help bring the tensions down. And that's what our priorities should be right now.

BLITZER: Have you and your colleagues on these key committees in the Senate already been briefed by the administration on the potential for Iran retaliating against either Israel or the United States for that strike in Damascus?

Wolf, we've been in the middle of an Easter recess and we're coming back to D.C. in two days, but it was pretty obvious to all of us when Israel conducted the strike against the Iranian officials in Damascus, that there would be an Iranian retaliation.

And I suspect the Israeli military was aware of that. It's just our hope that we might be able to figure out a way to de-escalate the situation so that this retaliation either doesn't happen or if it does, it might be something minor or modest rather than something that will blow this situation up even more.

BLITZER: And let's hope it doesn't happen. On Israel's investigation, Senator, into its strikes on the World Central Kitchen workers, is the military's explanation, the Israeli military's explanation, acceptable to you? And are the measures they're taking now enough?

KAINE: Wolf, the military explanation, they are taking steps. The problem is, even if it's completely accurate, it doesn't have credibility with the global community because the IDF is not really in a position to be able to objectively investigate itself.

Remember, we're talking about international aid organizations, multiple organizations that want to know that they can be safe if they're delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza. And they are not going to comfortably feel like they can do what they need to do to protect suffering people based on an investigation of an IDF attack that killed aid workers done by the IDF.

So, there needs to be an international and independent investigation. That's the only thing that will provide some confidence and assurance to these international NGOs that they can go about their business of reducing suffering without running the risk of their own people being killed.

BLITZER: I know you're calling for an independent investigation right now, but the White House clarified earlier today that the U.S. has no current plans to do that. How do you respond to that?

KAINE: Well, I don't necessarily think the investigation just should be a U.S. investigation because, again, the aid groups that are performing humanitarian work in Gaza are international NGOs from all over the world. Some are connected with the U.N., some are connected with NGOs that are U.S.-based, but some are from other countries. And we need to rely on all of them because the innocent Gazans who are not part of Hamas, who are suffering, need a lot of people trying to help them out.

And that's why I think the right thing to do is to do what Jose Andres said, which is to have an independent and international investigation with representatives from the different countries that are connected to the aid groups that are performing.

So, I don't think this is just a U.S.-only effort because I'm not sure that would have the credibility it needs. It needs to be an international effort with actors from the various different nations who are providing humanitarian support now.

BLITZER: You released a very tough statement earlier today, Senator, pushing President Biden to get tougher on Israel. You called the opening of two new humanitarian aid routes into Gaza today, an obvious solution that should have happened, in your words, months ago. So, what more do you want to see for President Biden?

KAINE: Wolf, I've been very discouraged about the pace of humanitarian aid into Gaza. At the beginning of the Israeli military operation, frankly, even before it started, we were pushing many of us in the Senate for Israel to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Southern Gaza. They were warning Gazans to move south to avoid war in the north. That was a good thing to do, but you can't tell millions of people to move and then throttle off aid to them. And it took Israel way too long to allow the Kerem Shalom crossing to open.

And, again, this latest action came after months and months and months of pressure to increase the pace of humanitarian aid.


And even then, it was only in the aftermath of this catastrophic killing of the aid workers that led for it to happen.

Things are just happening inadequately, and they're happening too slowly. President Biden and the administration have a national security memorandum that they issued in February saying any nation receiving U.S. security assistance has to cooperate with U.S. support and humanitarian missions in the area. And thus far Israel has not done enough. I think what the president did in his conversation with the Prime Minister yesterday starts to move, and Israel did take actions, but we need to see a lot more.

And I know this is going to be a major topic when we return to the Senate next week. We have hearings, both with the USAID administrator and the secretary of defense queued up next week. We're going to be digging into this issue in those hearings and seeing what we can do to promote more humanitarian aid to Gazans.

BLITZER: Senator Tim Kaine, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

And just ahead, there's breaking news, an aftershock has just rattled the Northeast in the wake of today's very rare earthquake. Our live report from New York, that's coming up.



BLITZER: We're following more breaking news. Officials now say an aftershock has just rattled the northeast after a very rare 4.8 magnitude earthquake struck outside New York City earlier today.

Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's joining us from Times Square in New York. What are you learning, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials here in New York and also the federal government have been confirming a series of subsequent aftershocks and close to ten in all, the most latest of which you just mentioned a short while ago, about 15 minutes ago in neighboring New Jersey, a 4.0 magnitude seismic event, which officials were expecting here in the heart of New York City and Times Square.

It is business as usual. I believe there was earlier this morning that that historic event took place, rattling millions of people in New York and in surrounding regions as well.


SANDOVAL (voice over): A typical morning in Middlesex, New Jersey, suddenly interrupted by a rare earthquake that rocked much of the eastern U.S. on Friday. Second angle captured the rattling of the walls, violent enough to knock items to the ground.

It's one of many videos shared online, capturing stunned and scared residents during and after a 4.8 magnitude quake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this an earthquake? Yo, my house is shaking.

SANDOVAL: The epicenter was some 50 miles west of New York City in Northern New Jersey, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which estimates at least 23 million people felt some degree of shaking from D.C. to New England.

Ned Tanner was working at a Manhattan high-rise.

NED TANNER, FELT EARTHQUAKE IN NEW YORK: My chair started kind of bouncing a little bit. And as soon as I looked around, I immediately realized that I wasn't alone. Everybody else in the building definitely felt something. So, it was a feeling I haven't experienced before. It was quite interesting. And, yes, it was a little unnerving.

The New Jersey quake is the largest to strike that state in over 240 years, according to the USGS. In New York City, a Security Council meeting on the war in the Middle East forced to pause as the U.N. Manhattan headquarters shook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that an earthquake?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You are making the ground shake. SANDOVAL: Critical infrastructure, like bridges and the transit system, fared well. Many built to withstand seismic events stronger than Friday's, assured city officials.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): We do not have any reports of major impacts to our infrastructure or injuries, but, of course, we're still assessing the situation.


SANDOVAL (on camera): And New York City officials adding that they are bringing on board additional engineering crews to work into the weekend as they continue with that assessment. We're noting here that their buildings department has not received any reports of any of the over 1 million buildings here in New York City being compromised, but they will certainly be vigilant throughout the weekend here.

And, finally, Wolf, authorities certainly recommending people continue to be vigilant because of the potential for those aftershocks. Again, some 15 minutes ago, yet another one detected in neighboring New Jersey.

BLITZER: All right, Polo, be careful over there. Polo Sandoval in New York for us.

I want to bring in our Meteorologist Chad Myers. He's joining us from the CNN Weather Center. Chad, can we expect more of these aftershocks?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Likely, although this was probably the biggest one that I'm expecting. Because even though USGS said probably one greater than 3.8, and we just got it at 4.0, but it was a shaker and a jolting kind of earthquake, a little different than we get out west where things begin to roll a little bit, what we call S-waves, after the primary wave.

But where are the faults? Well, there are up and down the East Coast, in the very old Appalachian Mountain chain. But the faults here, especially the one that shook today, we believe it was the Ramapo fault, about 300 million years old. The faults out to the west where most of the faulting is, these could be 20 million years old and still have a lot of shaking to do before they settle down.

But just to give you some perspective here between, 4 and 5 magnitude frequencies, about 13,000 of those earthquakes hit per year. And even here over the past 30 days, between 4 and 5, 765 earthquakes of that magnitude have occurred. But it's just because of where it hit. And so many people feeling it and it was the biggest quake in New Jersey since New Jersey became a state itself.

The other two 5.1s or 5.3s, it was hard to tell back then. The instruments were not what we have now, but at a 4.8, the third greatest. And a lot of people felt it.


7,000 people felt strong shaking right there in the very close to the epicenter. But even 243,000, a quarter of a million people, felt moderate shaking. How many people told the USGS? 171,000 logged onto the website and told USGS, yes, I felt it.

Now, Wolf, for a normal 4.8, that number would be like 20, not 171,000. Moderate but shallow, it was felt kind of rocky. It was a big jolt rather than a roll. And they go farther on the East Coast because there aren't as many faults to break up or attenuate that shaking.

BLITZER: All right. Chad, thank you very much, Chad Meyers with an update on this earthquake.

Coming up, a historic night for women's college basketball, the Final Four tipping off amid unprecedented excitement.



BLITZER: Tonight, the women's NCAA Final Four gets underway amid truly unprecedented excitement. First up, South Carolina and N.C. State, that's North Carolina State followed by a highly anticipated matchup between UConn, the University of Connecticut, and Iowa.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is on the story for us. Brynn, set the scene.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I mean, grab your popcorn, head to the bar, do what you got to do to be there because this is going to be a show tonight with this women's Final Four. Of course, as you just said, starting out tonight at 7:00 tip- off in just about a half an hour, that's going to be N.C. State versus South Carolina, undefeated. You cannot sleep on Don Staley's team. They are, like I said, undefeated.

So, they are going to be an incredible game to watch. Many people are favoring their team to win this whole entire thing. And keep something in mind, undefeated this season, but overall, in the last two seasons, they've only lost one game. Who did they lose to? Iowa. So, if they make it to the championship, if Iowa makes it into the championship, that's going to be an exciting game as well.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Of course, they have to win Iowa the next game tonight at 9:30 tip off. That is going be the game and that is the game that everyone is really talking about. UConn with Paige Bueckers, their headliner, and then Iowa, of course, with Caitlin Clark, their headliner, coming off the major game against LSU on Monday night, hit records in many ways, of course, with the viewers as well.

And I want you to hear from Caitlin Clark about this moment, what she was saying ahead of this Final Four.


CAITLIN CLARK, IOWA HAWKEYES POINTS GUARD: People aren't going to remember like my buzzer-beating shots, first, whoever, like that's not going to matter to people in the end. I hope they remember, you know, how we made them feel, how we brought joy to their lives, how he gave their family something to scream about on the T.V. on the weekends.


GINGRAS: I love her. She is such a good head on her shoulders.

Well, look, the prices of these games, the ticket prices of these games, insane. Just for the women's, their ticket price is, the lowest ticket, $585 for a game tonight, for the men's, comparing that to $355 for the men's.

And so women prices are up 70 percent since Caitlin Clark made it into that final four. Obviously, a lot of people have their eyes on here. But it is going to be not an easy win against UConn. But one thing is for sure, Wolf. It is going to be some great basketball. I am sure you've been getting text messages from your friends, people who don't even watch basketball are tuning in tonight and it's going to be exciting.

BLITZER: It certainly will be Brynn Gingras, former point guard at the Yale University basketball team, thanks very much for joining us. You know basketball.

Right now, I want to bring in somebody else who knows basketball, the NBA legend, Charles Barkley. He's an NBA analyst on TNT and the co- host of CNN's King Charles. Charles, thanks so much joining.

These are incredibly exciting matchups later tonight. The interest in the women's game, as you know, is sky-high right now. Why do you think that is?

CHARLES BARKLEY, CNN HOST: Well, Caitlin is unbelievable. She is a star. She's a superstar. She's the bright light. You know, what she has accomplished the last couple years bringing all the eyeballs to women's college basketball has been incredible, setting all the records, beating all the men's record, nothing but flowers for her, Wolf. She has been amazing and the performance she put on the other night against LSU was incredible.

In the biggest moment of her life probably, she showed up and showed out. So, I can't wait for both games tonight. I will tell you this, you know, obviously South Carolina, I think, you know, they got to have they're going to have their hands full with N.C. State tonight, but Iowa is definitely going to have their hands full with UConn.

BLITZER: They certainly will. You know, we all love Caitlin, as you know. I was at the NBA All-Star Game weekend this year and I'm sure you were there as well, and we also Steph Curry narrowly beat Sabrina Ionescu in a thrilling three-point shootout contest. That got me wondering, Charles, who would win a shooting match between you and Caitlin Clark.

BARKLEY: Oh, Caitlin Clark. Hey, let me let me give Sabrina some flowers also, because, you, know there was a great controversy about her shooting from the men's. I thought it was the stroke of genius on her part to shoot from where the men shot from because if she had a shot where the women shot from and beat Steph, they would have complained about that.

But if you go back and ask her, look, she beat all the other men other than Steph Curry. So, shout out to Sabrina for putting on a great show. And that was definitely the highlight of the All-Star weekend.

BLITZER: It certainly was. The game itself was not so great. That three-point shootout contest with Steph Curry, arguably the best three-point shooter in the NBA, she's clearly the best three-point shooter in the WNBA. That was the best part of that entire weekend.

On the men's side later tonight, there are two very compelling games. That will be tomorrow night, I should say. Sadly, my bracket is already pretty much busted, but I'm excited, very excited for the matchups.


What are you expecting? Set the scene.

BARKLEY: Well, we got one team that's looked like they're pretty much unbeatable in UConn. They've won -- they've been -- they've had a 30- point lead in every game so far in this tournament. You got N.C. state, who is a definitely a Cinderella. You got Alabama, who I got great hatred for, but I got to respect them for getting to the Final Four, and you got Purdue, a great -- what a great deal of redemption for those guys. You know, they've been a high seed the last couple of years and got upset.

So, we got great -- four great storylines. But the biggest question, can anybody compete with UConn? That's the big question tomorrow.

BLITZER: We're all going to be watching that as well.

Before I let you go, Charles, as you know, LeBron James' son, Bronny James, today said he will enter the NBA draft. LeBron has previously said he would like to play on the same team as his son. Is that a real possibility?

BARKLEY: Well, it's a possibility. I don't want him to play with his son. I want his son to develop his own name. If he goes to LeBron team, I think it would put too much of a spotlight on him because LeBron is the brightest star of this generation. He's been amazing. He's great. But I think the kid needs to go away by himself and so he can grow as a player, so he can grow as a person because the limelight playing with LeBron is so bright, Wolf.

I don't want -- you don't want your kid under that type of pressure because, listen, he's got a long way to go. I hope he has a great NBA career, but I don't want him to play with LeBron. I don't. I want him to go on his own way where the lights won't be as bright.

BLITZER: Good point, I totally agree. Charles Barkley, as usual, thanks very much. Thanks for being a good friend as well.

And to our viewers, be sure to watch Charles on his weekly program with Gayle King right here on CNN. King Charles airs right here Wednesday nights, 10:00 P.M. Eastern. You, of course, could catch Charles tomorrow night on TNT, our sister network, for the Final Four coverage. We'll be watching.

Charles, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, what a blockbuster jobs report means for the U.S. economy, the country and the Biden campaign. We have information you need to know.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is hailing a new jobs report as a milestone in America's economic comeback. The United States added 303,000 new jobs in March, far exceeding expectations, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, the nation now enjoying its longest streak of low unemployment since the 1960s.

Joining us now, a national co-chair of the Biden campaign, Mitch Landrieu. Mitch, thanks very much for joining us.

As you know, despite these very, very positive signs, that recent Wall Street Journal poll of seven key battleground states that will likely determine the winner of the election showed this, voters in all seven of those states said they believe Donald Trump is best able to handle the economy.

So, if we're in the middle of an economic comeback here in the United States, as the president says, why do voters seem to prefer Trump on this issue of the economy?

MITCH LANDRIEU, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, Wolf, first of all, thanks for having me. Secondly, please don't ever let me follow Sir Charles Barkley, who is a genius and smart and knows more about basketball than anybody will ever know. And be careful about watching the Final Four because Kaitlan Collins of CNN fame, as you know, is an Alabama fan, so we'll all be watching it.

Secondly, let me say this. Let's not skate over what the top line is here. President Biden took office with one of the great economic calamities in the history of the country, and in three short years, has now turned the country around and created one of the strongest economic recoveries that we've seen, 15 million jobs.

As people may recall, because some people seem to have forgotten, Donald Trump lost 2.5 million jobs. As you noted, we've now had the lowest unemployment in America since 1960s, 3.8 percent. Wages have gone up, jobs have gone up.

I'm in Arizona today talking about these investments and the thousands of high-paying jobs that they're creating.

Listen, we've always said this was going to be a tough election. We are still some significant away from Election Day. We're going to keep pushing really, really hard to make sure people know where these jobs came from and we're going to continue to talk about it.

People will be reminded about what the economy was like when Donald Trump was in office, because, right now, Joe Biden is outpacing him by very, very, very large numbers.

BLITZER: The former Obama campaign chief, a man you and I know well, who's David Axelrod, said this about President Biden's response to today's numbers, and let me put it up on the screen and I'll quote from Axelrod. Stuff costs a lot more, that is real. Joe Biden, who is known for his empathy, should more readily acknowledge and embrace that reality and highlight the things he's doing to combat it and the profiteers who have contributed to it. Better politics than simply growing about the economy. How do you respond to that?

LANDRIEU: Well, David is my friend and I like him very much. First of all, I don't think that we should gloss over the fact that Joe Biden has created 15 million jobs and Donald Trump has lost 2.5 million jobs. Nobody who has that record would not speak about it. So, the president is right to do so. And if the shoe was on the other foot, Donald Trump would be doing the same thing.

But the president has said, and David is correct about this, but the president has been doing this, he always talks about that notwithstanding the job growth, we also have high prices, which is why he's been hammering the pharmaceutical companies. He's been gone after big oil. And, in fact, he beat big pharma. People will remember in the Inflation Reduction Act, which, by the way, Donald Trump wants to repeal, is the law that has forced pharmaceutical companies to reduce people's prescription drugs, capping insulin costs at $35, and making sure that we have affordable healthcare, 20 million more people, reducing costs for junk fees.


President Biden talks about this all the time. I don't know why the press doesn't pick that up, but the president rarely ever says, we have good jobs numbers without saying, yes, and the cost of things is still too high because if you go to the grocery store in the morning and you my groceries for your kids, you're buying eggs, you're buying milk, the cost of that has gone up. That's where you feel the real pain.

But that's no reason to ignore the fact that we have the largest and the best job growth that is going to create sustainable economic growth where people can build generational wealth over time. You can do both of those things at the same time. We will continue to prosecute that case between now and Election Day.

The president, as you know, since the State of the Union Address has hit nine different states. He's out there talking. He's working. He's in Baltimore today, helping rebuild the bridge that incredibly crashed -- everybody has saw it, and Governor Wes Moore is doing a great job.

But -- and he's going to continue to do that and he's going to run it through the tape. And my best bet is Joe Biden beat Donald Trump before. And he's going to beat him again. BLITZER: All right. Mitch Landrieu joining us. Thank you very much, Mitch, for that.

Coming up --

LANDRIEU: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Arguments by Donald Trumps lawyers were just made public in the former president's bid to derail his upcoming criminal trial in New York.



BLITZER: We have new details tonight on one of Donald Trump's newest attempts to try to derail his first criminal trial that scheduled to begin only ten days from now a memo by his lawyers was just made public, involving Trump's push for the judge in the case to recuse himself.

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig is joining us right now.

Elie, walk us through Trump's arguments and whether they have any chance of succeeding.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Wolf, Donald Trump is now asking Judge Juan Marshawn for a second time to recuse himself to remove himself from the case. And Trump's team points to two things.

First of all, they note that in the summer of 2020, Judge Marshawn made a donation, a very small donation $35 to a Democratic political group that's stated purpose was to put Joe Biden in the White House and to defeat Donald Trump. Second, Trump's team notes that the judge's daughter works for a Democratic consulting organization that does work for several Democratic candidates.

Now, Trump originally made this motion last summer, Judge Marshawn consulted with an ethics group that told him you do not have to recuse and hence, Judge Marshawn rejected that motion. Now, Trump is reopening this motion and he's arguing that the circumstances have changed because last summer he says he was one of several Republican candidates, and now he's essentially the presumptive nominee.

Wolf, I think this one has close to a zero percent chance of success because if Judge Marshawn was going to recuse himself, he already would have done that. I think he'll reject this one.

BLITZER: Do you think, Elie, we'll see more emotions by Trump and his lawyers between now and the hush money trial, which as I said, is set to start in early ten days?

HONIG: You can bet on that, Wolf. I think we're going to see a steady stream of last gasp efforts to get this thing pushed off. I think Donald Trump may for example, asked to move the case out of Manhattan to another county. I would be ready for steady stream of these motions next week. I don't think any of them succeed. I do think we will be on trial on April 15.

BLITZER: We shall see. Elie Honig, thank you very much.

Coming up, why Monday could be an out of this world business boom across parts of the country. We'll explain. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're now just three days away from a total eclipse of the sun slicing its way across the United States. It's a very rare opportunity for astronomy buffs and for businesses for that matter, hoping to cash in on this phenomenon.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the story.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four minutes of daytime darkness across America is turning into a massive, bright spot for businesses, from a mass wedding in Arkansas, to sold-out hotels in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, since last year.

ELAM: As the eclipse charts, the Americans sky from Texas through the Midwest and on into the Northeast, it will trail with it and economic impact of up to one-and-a-half billion dollars. A big chunk of that boosting the Lone Star State, which will experience the eclipse for a fraction of an hour.

BULENT TEMEL, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO: I call this the most profitable 22 minutes in Texas history.

ELAM: At the intersection of the 2017 and 2024 events, Carbondale, Illinois, is dubbed the crossroads of the eclipse. That's where a southern Illinois university will cancel classes and fill its 15,000 seats stadium with sky gazers.

A local cafe is serving up eclipse cookies, lots of them.

LEAH MACIELL, OWNER, CRISTAUDO'S CAFE & BAKERY: We'll probably end up doing a round 60,000 a day.

ELAM: For those who want to get closer to the action. Delta and Southwest are offering special flights during the eclipse, while United is giving out eclipse glasses.

UNIENTIFIED MALE: I just remember how awestruck everybody was at the time.

ELAM: Roger Sarkis and his wife, Alyssa (ph), so were inspired to start Eclipse Glasses USA after the 2017 eclipse. Their sales of protective spectacles to view the upcoming celestial spectacle exploded on Monday, Sarkis says, he now expect they will sell out again.

ROGER SARKIS, FOUNDER, ECLIPSE GLASSES USA: We actually sold out of our original inventory in February. So I bought more inventory and I think were on track to sell 500,000 pairs.

ELAM: So this is beyond what you ever thought was possible.


ELAM: But all kinds of businesses are getting in on the skyrocketing excitement with eclipse specials, from Krispy Kreme's eclipse donut featuring an Oreo cookie in the middle, to Sun Chips solar eclipse chips that will only be available for four minutes and 27 seconds, the length of totality.

Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience with stellar money-making opportunities.


ELAM (on camera): And you're talking about those big box businesses, those mom and pop businesses as well, and you better believe they'll be plenty of enterprising people out there with their t-shirts and tchotchkes all along that path of totality, also stimulating the economy.

And you know, there is a lot of food opportunities even though they have nothing to do with the eclipse like this bad boy right here, Wolf. This is the Krispy Kreme total solar eclipse donut that has an Oreo cookie in the middle, as well as Oreo bits around it on a chocolate frosted donut. You can get this, I think up in through the eclipse, but it's -- it's a pretty daunting, but deliciously looking sugary delight here.

BLITZER: Sounds yummy to be indeed.

All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you very, very much.

This important note to our viewers, be sure to watch CNN's special coverage of the eclipse beginning Monday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues on CNN right now.