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Trump Asks Judge To Amend Jury Questions On Eve Of Hush Money Trial; Vice President Harris Hammers Republicans Over Abortion Rights In Arizona; Biden Says, Expecting Iranian Attack Sooner Than Later; Disastrous Rollout Of New College Financial Aid Application A Nightmare For High School Seniors; Ex-Interpreter For MLB Star Ohtani Makes First Court Appearance. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 12, 2024 - 18:00   ET


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is 2024, so it gives that forward-looking proactive, not just negative on Trump, but mobilize for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris around this.


That's the argument.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a preview of what the next seven months are going to be, courtesy of Donald Trump and Kamala Harris just now on the show.

Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, Democratic Senator John Fetterman from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, that's Sunday morning at 9:00 and noon, only here on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, Donald Trump just threw another wrench into his hush money trial, attorneys for the former president asking the judge to change the jury questionnaire only three days before selection is set to begin. Trump also saying he would, I repeat, would take the stand.

In Arizona, meanwhile, Vice President Harris hammers Republicans on the issue of abortion rights for women. The southwestern state now the latest backdrop in the battle over reproductive rights with an extremely restrictive Civil War-era law soon to take effect.

Now, we're also following breaking news President Biden warning he expects an Iranian attack in the Middle East sooner, his words, sooner rather than later, this as Israel intercepts dozens of rockets and the Pentagon moves new assets to the region.

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

And let's begin with the breaking news, our coverage tonight includes Donald Trump's latest remarks on his hush money trial, the former president claiming he would testify during the proceedings, which begin on Monday.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us right now from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Kristen. Give us the very latest.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. We just heard from a joint press conference with Speaker Mike Johnson alongside former President Donald Trump, and it was really billed as an election integrity. They wanted to talk about this issue of impacting elections, but the real news came after the fact during the question-and-answer session with reporters.

And I will note, first of all, I will get to the trial, but one of the biggest moments came right at the top when I asked former President Trump if he stood by Speaker Johnson at the time where he is facing this motion to vacate by Marjorie Taylor Greene. Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're getting along very well with the speaker, and I get along very well with Marjorie. We have a speaker, he was voted in, and it was a complicated process, and I think it's not an easy situation for any speaker.

I think he's doing a very good job. He's doing about as good as you're going to do, and I'm sure that Marjorie understands that.


HOLMES: That seems like a lot of support for Speaker Johnson at this time. He also was asked by me whether or not he would support Johnson if Johnson was to put forward a Ukrainian aid package and he didn't shoot it down. He actually said that they were talking about it now in terms of a loan, loaning Ukraine the money instead of straight up giving it to them. This is a turn of events and one that Johnson particularly needed.

Now, let's talk about next week because of course this is history being made with first time a former president is going to be sitting in court in a criminal trial. He talked about how as you noted he wanted to testify, he would be willing to testify and he also talked about that jury selection process. Take a listen.


TRUMP: You know, jury selection is largely luck. It depends who you get. It's very unfair that I'm having a trial there.

I'm testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there's no case.


HOLMES: Now, we do expect Donald Trump to make the most of his court appearances, and by that, I mean, try to turn it into a media circus when he can. There are no cameras inside of the courtroom, but he will be stopping by the cameras on the way in and out of the courtroom.

We're also told that he's likely to do, at least on some days, remarks at Trump Tower after his courtroom appearances, like we have seen during those New York appearances before.

But one thing to keep in mind, you know, we were told by the campaign that this was going to interfere with this campaign schedule, that they were going to schedule these campaign events on Wednesdays and Saturdays because he's in court every other day, but this upcoming week, he does not have an event on Wednesday, so he will be in New York the entire week. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Kristen Holmes in Palm Beach for us. Kristen, thank you very much.

There's more breaking news we're following right now. Attorneys for Donald Trump have just made a new request of the judge overseeing his hush money trial only three days before jury selection is set to begin Monday morning.


Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. She's got the latest information for us. Kara, what is this last minute request?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Trump's team wants the judge to alter some of this one main question that he's posing to the jury pool. The judge said he would ask all the jurors when they come in and assemble right off the bat if anyone thought that they couldn't be fair or impartial or for any other reasons, such as travel or religious commitments, be unable to serve on the jury. Anyone who puts their hands up, the judge said he would excuse, saying that polling people individually is time-consuming and doesn't generally yield any different outcome.

Trump's lawyers are asking the Judge to separate those questions. They want to know who says that they can't be fair and impartial, distinct from those who say they cannot serve because of some other commitment. This is all because they're trying to build some data as far as their appeal goes. As you know, earlier this week, they asked a judge, an appellate judge to stop the trial. That was denied.

One of the reasons is they have been arguing that Trump can't get a fair trial in New York, in Manhattan, where this jury pool will be pulled from, because Manhattanites have tended to vote at Democratic. They wanting to build some data now for that appeal by trying to understand how much -- how many people in the jury poll say that they would be biased against Trump, and they want to separate that from people who just otherwise couldn't serve.

You know, the district attorney's office will have a chance to weigh in on this, though it is just a few days away from jury selection and will be up to the judge to decide on Monday morning how he's going to handle that. But everything for now is still a go. Wolf?

BLITZER: Monday morning, we'll all be watching this jury election as it unfolds. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on Donald Trump's legal troubles with our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins.

Elie, how unusual is this sort of request to amend jury questions on this, the eve of the start of this historic trial, first time in American history, a former president will face criminal charges in a trial? How do you think the judge is likely to respond?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump has made a series of unreasonable motions that have failed throughout this week, but this particular request is completely reasonable and, I think, fair. And it wouldn't even surprise me if the D.A. agrees.

So, here's what the Judge said he's going to do. He said he is going start jury selection by saying, is there anyone here who cannot serve, either because of hardship, meaning you have a job that prevents you, or some other impediment, or because you have such strong bias you can't set on this case. And all that Trump has said he wants the judge to do is separate those into two different questions so that if and when he needs to appeal, he'll be able to say, look how many people we lost out of our jury pool because of bias.

That will take essentially zero extra time. It actually will make for a clearer record here, and I think it makes sense for the judge to it. I it's a perfectly reasonable and rational request by Trump's team.

BLITZER: Important. Kaitlan Collins, what's your takeaway from hearing Donald Trump call the jury selection process, and I'm quoting him now, largely luck?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I think it shows what a focus this is. This is going to be what kicks off this entire process, Wolf, starting on Monday, and it has been an intense point of focus from Trump's legal team for the last several days.

Even as they've been trying to delay this trial time and time again, 12 efforts in total, none of them which worked, I should note, in the last several weeks, this is going to be going forward, and they have been hyper-focused on what this jury is going to look like. Because as Elie has noted, you know, it's not necessarily about what the actual arguments are going to be, what it is going to look like, it's what the jurors decide that means. I mean, we've seen just the emphasis of that in last, several days.

And it also shows Trump is basically, reluctantly accepted that this going to starting on Monday, despite all those efforts by them to delay it. And they know what influence this has on the jury.

The question I have is how it changes Trump's behavior inside the courtroom, because we've seen where he's been in the courtroom and there has been a jury in there, whether it was deciding how much E. Jean Carroll was going to be awarded in her defamation damages, where Trump will speak loudly when he talks to his attorneys, or he'll have those moments where he makes clear that he is displeased with what's actually taking place inside of the courtroom. Does he do that once this jury has been impaneled in this case is going be a big question. He often thinks that can sway people.

When he says, Wolf, that he's going to testify, I mean, you got to remember that with a lot of doubt because he said that before. I remember during the Robert Mueller investigation, he claimed he was willing to justify. He never once went and sat down and did an interview with him against the advice of his attorneys. They said he shouldn't. And so we'll see if he actually ends up getting on the stand in this case.

BLITZER: We will find out. Elie, what are the unique challenges of selecting a jury in his case and how long could that take?

HONIG: Well, Wolf, this is a unique, historical challenge that everyone's facing come Monday. Now, we have, first of all, a defendant, Donald Trump, who has 100 percent name recognition. He's universally known and recognized, but we had that before. We've had situations like that before.

What makes Trump especially unique is he tends to evoke such strong emotions, politically and personally, such a strong feelings for and against, and candidly, in this pool of Manhattanite, predominantly against.


He also happens to be running for president later on this year.

And so the trick here is going to be for the judge and the parties to sift through people. First of all, you'll get rid of people who say, I just feel too strongly, one way or the other. I can't decide on that. But the tricky is going to be, what do you do with people who will say I could be fair here? Yes, I don't like him politically, but I can be fair here. That's where the instinct and sort of strategy is coming into play.

BLITZER: Yes, it will be very, very sensitive, indeed. Kaitlan, Monday will be an historic day, as I said, when the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president actually begins. What should we expect from that day?

COLLINS: I think it's hard to know, Wolf, because, yes, we know what a criminal trial looks like but we've never seen anything like this before. And something that typically most people probably wouldn't pay attention to, like jury selection, is going to become a huge point of focus. And as Trump is saying, it may be one of the most important factors going into this.

And so I think it's just to prepare to expect the unexpected. I mean, there won't be cameras inside the courtroom, but our reporters will be in there. We'll obviously be covering the key moments of this and what it looks like and what means.

I think another thing for the Trump team that they are watching closely, and that it is not clear until it actually happens, what it's going to look like, is how he responds when all of these people from his past get up there on the witness stand in front of him. And it not just the Michael Cohens and the Stormy Daniels and maybe the Karen McDougals, it's also people, Wolf, who used to work closely with him, people like Hope Hicks, who certainly could be called to the stand. All of that is going to be something to watch over the next several weeks as this gets underway.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins and Elie Honig, to both of you, stand by. We're going get back to you. There's more we need to discuss.

Just ahead, Vice President Kamala Harris rips into Donald Trump and Republicans over abortion rights for women, why she's accusing the former president of gaslighting voters.

Plus, new comments from President Biden now what he believes is the timeline of a potential Iran strike against Israel.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following right now, Vice President Kamala Harris ripping into Republicans on the issue of abortion rights.

CNN White House Correspondent Priscilla Alvarez is joining us from Tucson, Arizona, right now. Priscilla, this was a direct attack by the Vice President on Donald Trump and his party.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: This is a window into 2024 as the two go back and forth on this issue of abortion. Only moments after former President Donald said that we broke Roe v. Wade and also that states were doing exactly what they should, Vice President Kamala Harris hit right back. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: standing beside Speaker Johnson, Donald Trump just said the collection of state bans is, quote, working the way it is supposed to. And as much harm as he has already caused, a second Trump term would be even worse.

Donald Trump's friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban and understand a national ban would outlaw abortion in every state, even states like New York and California. And now Trump wants us to believe he will not sign a national ban.

Enough with the gaslighting. Enough with gaslighting.


ALVAREZ: Now, the vice president also went on to say that former President Donald Trump wants to take the United States back to the 1800s, in reference there to uh the law that the Arizona Supreme Court ruling revived this week, calling that an inflection point, and also tying the former president directly to these unpopular abortion bans, dubbing them Trump abortion bans.

Of course, the vice president keeping this front and center as Democrats try to seize on this issue, a salient political issue for them going into November, hoping that it will mobilize voters and turn them out to in the state.

We also learned that this week, the Biden campaign will pour more money into ads, abortion-related ads that are going to be airing in this battleground state. Wolf?

BLITZER: Priscilla Alvarez reporting for us, Priscilla, thank you.

Our political experts are joining me now with more analysis, and, Kaitlan Collins, let me start again with you. The vice president put the blame for this near-total abortion ban squarely on Trump. How does what we just heard from her signal how 2024 will be fought on this specific issue?

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, welcome to the next six months of our lives, Wolf, because that's the split screen that just played out right there before us. You know, this was not what Trump was ostensibly going to be talking about at that press conference, but obviously he got questions on it given in what happened in Arizona this week, where that ban from 1864 was reinstated into law.

And so now Trump is dealing with this issue that he thought he had put to bed by saying that it will be left up to the states as he did on Monday. And now he is deal with these questions.

And I think it's obviously very clear, you know, by his answers there on what he believes this is going to look like, saying that there's not a need for a federal abortion ban because Roe versus Wade was overturned, and then claiming wrongly that all legal scholars agreed it was an issue that should be decided by the states. Obviously, Wolf, we've heard from legal scholar on this air who have said that they don't agree with that.

But I thought the most telling moment was when Trump was asked if he's pro-choice or not, he didn't answer the question. He was asked if he was pro-life or pro-choice. And he said, you know the answer to that question. But, of course, Wolf, that has been one of the famous issues that Trump has waffled on and change his position on over the last several decades.


And so he did not say yes or no one way or another. People like Ron DeSantis have said they do not believe Trump is actually, at his, core pro-life, and this is just a matter of political convenience for him, and that is why his position has changed. You're going to see how the vice president is using it like she did just there in Tucson today.

BLITZER: You know, Alice Stewart, I want to play that clip, that moment that Kaitlan just referenced. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: While you were in office, you said that you would sign a federal abortion ban if Congress sent it to your desk. Why should Americans trust your word that you would not do it now if you were reelected?

TRUMP: Because we don't need it any longer, because we broke Roe v. Wade, and we did something that nobody thought was possible. We gave it back to the states.

REPORTER: You have both considered yourself pro-choice and pro-life. Which one is it?

TRUMP: Well, you know exactly which one it is. And when I was in New York and when I was a Democrat also, also just like Ronald Reagan. You know, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat, which sort of followed a very similar path.

But if you look at what we've done with Roe v. Wade, we did something that everyone said couldn't be done, and we got it done. And I give great credit to the Supreme Court and the justices for having the courage to do it. What they did is very simply give it back to the state.


BLITZER: And, Alice Stewart, how do you think conservatives are going to react to that answer from Trump?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they understand, like President Trump does, that there is a political liability to this issue right now. Look, he was extremely pro-life in the Republican primary, but turning into the general election, needing to appeal to a broader electorate, he understands you need to moderate the position on this.

And, look, I think it's important from a political standpoint and a communications standpoint to really button up the pro-life message in this post-Roe world. And Vice President Harris was exactly right. When this is back in the hands of people in the states and they're looking at the decision of more bans, more suffering and less freedoms, every time this issue has come up at the state level, it has gone to the pro-abortion crowd, and it's a very energizing message.

So, I think it's important for Trump and Republicans up and down the ticket to make sure that we understand that you can be pro-life, you can be anti-abortion, but you also understand the political reality and make sure we communicate.

Look, we must have exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. We need to stop talking about bans and talk about abortion limits and do everything we can to pivot from abortion to issues that are top of mind, such as the economy, immigration and national security.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, good luck with that. First of all, you just saw the defendant-in-chief, Donald Trump, bumbling, stumbling, duck and dodging. He sounded like a defendant, and you also saw the prosecutor-in-chief. Vice President Harris is in her element on this issue. This is the Vice President Harris the Republican Party doesn't want to see because she's comfortable in this role.

She is a prosecutor. She was a district attorney. She was an attorney general when she was in the Senate. She knew how to put people on the hot seat and grill them and drill them. And this is her at her best today. This is the best use of her for the campaign. She spanked him. She whooped them. She made him look horrible. The split screen is embarrassing, and it's going to be this way for the next six months.

She takes this personally. You can see this means something to her. When she's talking about freedom for women, she's talking about her own sister. She's talking about her own nieces and people she knows, she cares about it. That was Vice President Harris as the prosecutor- in-chief on this issue. The Republicans are in trouble.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, could Trump say Arizona's near-total abortion ban -- did that go too far? Does it complicate Democratic efforts to pin the blame for this law on him?

COLLINS: It remains to be seen who voters hold accountable and how they vote, especially on that abortion measure that we do expect to be on the ballot in Arizona come November, Wolf, but it's a very difficult position.

I mean, just watch what Kari Lake is doing. She is someone who, you know, had this comment recorded where she was saying that this law, this abortion ban, was a great law that was on the book. And she seemed to say it with all the genuineness in the world.

And now she has had to completely flip-flop her position on that. She's putting out 5.5 minute long videos where she's saying that that video -- that that should not be the law of the land in Arizona. Trump himself is turning to the Democratic governor in Arizona, saying that they should fix this immediately. Of course, that's the person that he wanted to lose to Kari Lake when he wanted her to be the governor of Arizona.

So, it puts them in an incredibly difficult position. I don't think any Republican will not concede that fact, at least not privately, Wolf. And so it just makes it difficult because Trump is saying leave it up to the states, but then he doesn't like how it is left up when it is left up to the states, in Arizona at least.

And so I think it does make it a very complicated message, and a tightrope for him to walk before the next, you seven months play out.


BLITZER: Good point. Van, should President Biden have come to Arizona himself to address this critical issue in this key battleground state?

JONES: Look, I think he did the right thing. Send in the attack dog. Send in the prosecutor. Send in Vice President Harris. I think a lot of people have been frustrated she hasn't been used more. When she's got an issue that she cares about passionately, like this one, and you put her in front of a crowd and let her do what she does to prosecute the case, she's unstoppable.

She did fantastic today. They should use her over and over again. You bring in Biden later on whenever you want to, but don't take the dad gum handcuffs off of Kamala Harris. Let her get out here and fight for this issue.

BLITZER: Sensitive issue, indeed. Alice, give me your final thoughts.

STEWART: Look, I can't disagree with Van at all. I do think the vice president made a very compelling argument. She certainly was full of passion and vim and vigor, and also the fact sending her out on the road on this, she's not really bound by the Hatch Act, so she can be a little bit more political, say, than the president.

So, I think it's a good use of her talents and the messaging. And Republicans really need to wake up to this is going to be the message, certainly in Arizona. It's a galvanizing message. And we caught the car. We're the dog that caught the car. Now we have to figure out what we're going to do in this post-Roe world. As Democrats motivate pro- choice voters, we need to motivate pro-life voters and realize that Trump's policies are better than Biden's.

BLITZER: We'll see how it all unfolds.

JONES: We're going to back that car up over you.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Important note to our viewers, be sure to watch Kaitlan on her program, The Source, at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, later tonight, right here on CNN.

And coming up, waves of rockets fired into Israel today as the country remains on high alert for a potential retaliatory strike from Iran. We'll have a live report from Jerusalem on the escalating tensions. That's coming up.



BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following. President Biden is now warning that an Iranian military attack on Israel could be imminent. Those remarks coming with the Middle East on very high alert right now as the U.S. sends more assets to the region. Listen to this.


REPORTER: How imminent do you think it would happen on Israelis when it is from Iran, Mr. President?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't want to give this information but my expectation is sooner than later.

REPORTER: Mr. President, your message to Iran in this moment.

BIDEN: Don't.


BLITZER: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is standing by for us live in Jerusalem, he's got an update. So, what is Israel bracing for right now, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight, Israeli forces are certainly on high alert, anticipating a potential Iranian response, one that could even come on Israeli soil in response for that Israeli strike that killed a senior Iranian commander in Damascus, Syria, earlier last week.

The Israeli military's top general, General Herzi Halevi, saying that Israeli forces are prepared and ready to respond to any scenario. And tonight, already, we have seen Israeli forces responding to a barrage of rockets that were fired by Hezbollah towards Northern Israel. About 40 rockets were intercepted or fell into open areas in Israel. Two explosive drones were also intercepted by Israeli defense systems.

That is not the Iranian response that we are waiting for, though. We're waiting for something perhaps much more significant from Iran itself or its proxy forces. Israeli officials say that they are prepared for any scenario. They're also trying to deter a potential Iranian attack by stressing cooperation with the United States.

Today, top Israeli officials were spotted with General Kurilla, the head of U.S. Central Command, putting that cooperation in the spotlight.

BLITZER: I know you're also following a deadly settler rampage in the occupied West Bank that just occurred. What can you tell us about that?

DIAMOND: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed an Arab village in the West Bank today, setting fire to homes as well as cars. One Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli settler, according to the head of the village council, Amin Abu Alia. The Israeli military said it sent soldiers in to disperse the riots. It also said that its forces came under -- had rocks that were thrown at them and that they responded with fire.

The settlers, we should note, were looking for a 14-year-old boy who went missing about a mile away from that village. But, Wolf, there is no evidence that the Palestinians in that village were involved in his disappearance at all. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem for us, thank you for that update.

I want to bring in Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's also the national co- chair for President Biden's re-election campaign. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. How imminent do you think this Iranian retaliation could be? Imminent is a very, very powerful word. Could this be a multi-pronged attack from Iranian proxies, not directly necessarily from Iran?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Wolf, it certainly could. Hezbollah is one of the most capable, best-equipped and armed of the Iranian proxies that are arrayed around Israel's borders. The Houthis in Yemen, who have been harassing civilian shipping in the Red Sea, Hamas, obviously, which carried out a barbaric attack on October 7th, and a whole series of militias in Syria and in Iraq, all of those are Iranian-backed, trained and equipped proxies throughout the region, any one of which could carry out attacks on Israeli and American interests.


I am, of course, encouraged to see that our president is standing strong with Israel, sending one of our key military leaders to plan and consult, dispatching warships to the region, and making it clear publicly and privately to Iran that they should not think the United States will, in any way, step back from defending Israel from an Iranian attack.

BLITZER: Yes. The commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees the entire Middle East, is now in Israel for those coordinating talks.

The Pentagon at the same time, as you know, Senator, is moving additional military assets to the region, to the Middle East. How high is the risk of all this spiraling into a much larger regional conflict potentially involving the United States?

COONS: Well, that's been a significant risk since those October 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israelis. And President Biden moved decisively six months ago by deploying two aircraft carrier battle groups, of thousands of Marines and other forces to the region and issuing clear and direct pushback to Iran at the time. And when militias attacked a number of American bases and facilities and personnel in the region, President Biden took action and we haven't had any more attacks on Americans in last several months.

This is a real risk. Iran is a real threat to stability, security, and peace in the region. And the United States and our other regional allies, obviously, principally Israel, need to stand firm.

One of the reasons that Hamas carried out this horrific attack back on October 7th, six months ago, was to stop the recognition by Saudi Arabia of Israel and the potential reconciliation of Israeli with much of Arab world. That's long been Iran's goal, is to keep Israel isolated. It's important to remember that Iran has gone to great lengths to train, arm, and equip a whole series of proxies throughout the region that have continually contributed to chaos and destabilization.

BLITZER: Yes, we saw some of that unfold just the beginning part of it earlier today in the northern part Israel. We saw those rockets, those missiles coming into Kiryat Shmona, the Israeli town in northern part of Israel.

On the Israeli settler attack in the occupied West Bank today, a witness tells CNN, Senator, that the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, arrived on the scene but didn't stop the settlers. How should the Biden administration respond to that?

COONS: Well, I don't know the details of today's incident, Wolf, but broadly across the last couple of months, the administration has engaged forcefully when there have been incidents of settler violence that seemed to be, in some ways, either facilitated or tolerated by IDF and in particular reserve elements. In fact, at one point a number of months ago now, the administration issued some visa sanctions against individuals who seem to inciting violence in the West Bank.

The West Bank is a potential tinderbox, and there were recent press accounts that Iran had been smuggling weapons into the West Bank. I think it's important that we work closely with our partners in Israel to tamp down any possibility of either settler violence or of another wave of uprisings in the West Bank that could further destabilize the whole region.

BLITZER: Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much, as usual, for joining us.

And just ahead, we're looking at the timeline that led to Donald Trump's criminal trial scheduled to start on Monday.



BLITZER: All right. There's more breaking news coming in right now, now the judge overseeing Donald Trump's hush money case has just rejected Trump's latest attempt to delay the trial. It's set to begin on Monday.

Brian Todd has a closer look now at how this historic case all came together.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It wasn't until almost 12 years after the affair allegedly occurred that the world first learned of the allegations of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. In January 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that, in the weeks before the 2016 election, Donald Trump had arranged a $130,000 payment to the adult film star to keep her from publicly discussing their alleged 2006 encounter.

Later, former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen testified that Trump directed him to make payments to Daniels, quote, for the principal purpose of influencing the election and that Trump later reimbursed him. Cohen served jail time for campaign finance violations related to the hush money payments and gave jarring testimony to Congress.

MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

TODD: Donald Trump has always denied having an affair with Stormy Daniels. In April 2018, Trump was asked by reporters about hush money.

REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


TODD: But later in 2018, in an ethics filing, Trump acknowledged reimbursing Michael Cohen for more than $100,000, but didn't say what it was for.

Daniels spoke to Anderson Cooper in a CBS interview about the alleged payment.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Was it hush money to stay silent?

STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: Yes. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that in my heart, and some people will argue that I don't have one of those, but whatever, I was doing the right thing.

TODD: That same year, the New Yorker Magazine detailed reports that Trump had had an affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She spoke to Anderson Cooper about it.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married.

TODD: The Wall Street Journal reported four days before the 2016 election that the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid had paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story shortly after Trump became the Republican nominee for president, but that the Enquirer never published the story.


DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP: Catch and kill. That is, pay someone and then kill a story that would be damaging to Donald.

MCDOUGAL: I knew the story wasn't going to be printed. They didn't want to hurt him.

TODD: Trump has denied having an affair with McDougal. He was indicted a year ago, on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the Daniels hush money payments. He's pleaded not guilty.

Cohen, Daniels and McDougal are among those expected to be on the witness list for this trial.

How credible a witness would Daniels be?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: She seemed like she would make a very good witness. If I were trying the case, I'd be happy to put on the stand. What really helps the prosecution here is what she is talking about is all corroborated in the documents.


TODD (on camera): The trial is scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection. Potential jurors will be asked 42 questions, including their feelings about Donald Trump, whether they ever participated in a rally for or against Trump, and whether they can be fair and impartial. But they will not be asked what party they belong to or who they've voted for -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Interesting, very significant. Brian Todd, thank you.

Coming up, there's new reporting on chaos at colleges here in the United States. A change meant to make the federal financial aid process easier is actually making it harder for students.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden this touting another round of student loan relief, $7.4 billion for 277,000 borrowers but for more than 1 million high school seniors, the disastrous rollout of a new financial aid form is throwing college plans into chaos.

CNN's Rene Marsh has details.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maryland's high school senior Dakota West has her sights set on running track in college and studying to be an OB-GYN. But with just weeks to go before the decision deadline for colleges and universities, West is in limbo.

DAKOTA WEST, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I wasn't expecting April to come around. I still wouldn't know what school I was going to be at.

MARSH: She's been accepted into eight schools, but like more than 1 million other high school seniors across the country, west cant make one of the most important decisions of her life, picking which college to attend all because of the U.S. Department of Education's disastrous rollout of the new free application for federal student aid form, also known as FAFSA.


MARSH: Financial aid packages detailing what scholarships and grants students will receive usually go out by March, but she liked most other students have not received a package. That means she doesn't know if she can afford to attend a particular school.

CRUISE-MARSHALL: It's not like we are sitting on a pot of gold and being able to plan for things like this helps us set you up for success.

MARSH: The average cost of attendance in the 2021, 2022 academic year was more than $55,000 per year for a private non-profit institution, and $26,000 per year for public Congress issued a bipartisan mandate to simplify the historically burdensome financial aid application form that is the gateway to billions of dollars for students who need help affording college.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the form, the 108 questions.

MARSH: It's now down from a maximum of 108 questions to as few as 18, making applying two and affording college easier. But the new form rollout has been plagued by delays, data errors, and technical glitches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I press zero for the representative, she's like we are experiencing historically high call volumes.

MARSH: Students have flooded social media to vent their frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This rollout has been disastrous.

MARSH: On Capitol Hill this week, Justin Draeger testified on behalf of college and university financial aid offices.

JUSTIN DRAEGER, CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STUDENT FINANCIAL AID ADMINISTRATORS: We are in an awful place today, 20 percent of the files that schools have our riddled with errors. And another 20 percent of the files on top of that, on average, don't have the numbers that the financial aid office is need to actually calculate any awards.

MARSH: The education department says the FAFSA website is now running glitch free.

Can you explain how did all of this become such a mess?

JAMES KVAAL, UNDER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: We'd to re-engineer systems that in some cases are older than the parents who were filling out the form, but our focus right now is trying to get financial aid information to schools so that they can make aid offers to students as quickly as possible.


MARSH (on camera): Well, the Education Department says that they've processed more than 7 million applications. They're still working though to make corrections to applications sent to schools with inaccurate information. Now, students who still need to make corrections to their applications and have been unable to, they will be able to by early next week. That's according to the Department of Education.

And on Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers are turning their focus to a federal contractor, General Dynamics, which received a $121 million contract to modernize, Wolf, this online portal. They want to find out what role they had to play in this really botched rollout.

BLITZER: They're going to figure this out.

Rene Marsh, thank you very much, excellent reporting.

And we'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: The former interpreter for baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani made his first court appearance today, accused of stealing $16 million from the player's bank account.

CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.

So what did we learn today?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ippei Mizuhara walked into the courtroom and ankle shackles. He walked out on a $25,000 bond.

Some conditions attached to that. Of course, he surrendered his passport. No travel. He's not allowed to gamble on or offline. He's not allowed to even speak to a bookmaker.

And the judge said he must seek gambling addiction treatment.

Mizuhara's lawyer said he was planning on doing that anyway

I just want to read you the last couple of lines of the complaint against Mizuhara. This is allegedly a text from the bookie to Mizuhara, the interpreter. It says, obviously you didn't steal from him. The reply from the interpreter, technically, I did steal from him. It's all over for me.

A couple of questions still remain. He apparently won $140 million, lost $180. That's a $40 million shortfall. We're told him and he stole 16 from Shohei Ohtani. So some of the math doesn't quite add up there.

Another condition of his bond. He's not allowed to contact Shohei Ohtani. He'll be back in court May 9th.

Meantime, Shohei Ohtani, the golden boy of the Dodgers, the $700 million man, he's playing great. And the Dodgers are going to be playing again tonight. Couple of hours from now Dodger Stadium, just a mile up the road against the Padres -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nick Watt, reporting for us -- Nick, thanks very much.

And our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.