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Victim's Husband On CNN Exclusive Video Showing Assault By Diddy; Biden Launching New Appeals To Black Voters For Crucial Support; World's Number Golfer Speaks Out About Arrest, Felony Assault Charge; Michael Cohen To Face More Cross-Examination On Monday As Defense Works To Discredit His Testimony; Israel Recovers Bodies Of Three Hostages From Gaza. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Senator John Fetterman of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Donald Trump's former HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, who is being considered as a possible GOP vice presidential pick, and Democratic Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett of Texas, star of the House Oversight Committee melee last night. It's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.

You can follow the show on X or Twitter @ theleadcnn. 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 with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. I'll see you Sunday morning,

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, new reaction to video obtained exclusively by CNN, showing rapper and producer Sean Diddy Combs physically assaulting his then girlfriend, Cassie Ventura, back in 2016. Standby to see the video and hear what Ventura's husband is now saying about it.

Also this hour, President Biden ramps up his outreach to black voters who could potentially make or break his re-election bid. He's marking the civil rights milestone by warning that Donald Trump and his allies want a country for some, but not for all.

And breaking news tonight, the world's number one pro golfer just spoke out about being arrested and charged with felony assault. Scottie Scheffler trying to downplay accusations that he injured a police officer while trying to drive past the scene of a fatal crash.

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

We're following breaking news first this hour, the disturbing video of Sean Diddy Combs obtained exclusively by CNN, and the new reaction just coming in. We want to warn our viewers, the video includes scenes of violence that viewers may find very difficult to watch.

CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister broke the story for us. She's joining us now live. Elizabeth, take us through this video and tell our viewers what it shows.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. As you said, Wolf, this footage is incredibly disturbing, so we do want to issue that warning to your viewers. But back in November 2023, Cassie, who is Diddy's ex-girlfriend, and many people know her for her hit song, Me and You, she filed a lawsuit against Diddy.

And in that lawsuit, she detailed an incident that she alleged happened in March 2016. And now we have obtained this footage that we are seeing play out right now in front of us that corroborates Cassie's allegations. There you see that Diddy is dragging her in this hallway. He is kicking her. He is shoving her. He -- you know, it's really difficult to watch, Wolf, because it is so violent.

Now, as I said, this mirrors her lawsuit. And what's so interesting about it is it's really a play by play of everything thing that she alleged. I want to read you some pieces from her lawsuit, Wolf, in or around March 2016, Mr. Combs became extremely intoxicated and punched Ms. Ventura in the face, giving her a black eye.

The lawsuit goes on to say that because of that incident inside their hotel room, that she then fled the hotel room, and that is what we see her in the hallway. It says he followed her into the hallway of the hotel while yelling at her. He grabbed at her, then took glass vases in the hallway and threw them at her, causing glass to crash around them as she ran to the elevator. And he's trying to escape.

Now, in that footage, we do see him picking up a glass vase and throwing it towards her. You see right there, back in the mirror, where Diddy is. It's a bit hard to see, but he grabs that vase and he throws it at her.

Now, what is interesting about this Wolf is Diddy has denied all of this. You know, there is a settlement with this lawsuit, so he hasn't been able to speak specifically about Cassie, but he has been maintaining his innocence as all of these lawsuits have piled up against him. And now, again, we are seeing this play out right in front of our face quite different than him saying that I deny all of these allegations against me.

BLITZER: Yes, it's shocking, it's horrible. What more can you tell us, Elizabeth, about the response to this video and the other allegations against Combs?

WAGMEISTER: You know, the response has been really overwhelming. Again, I think seeing something in a visual format versus reading it, certainly in the world of social media, plays very different today. You know, that though is the court of public opinion, and of, course, Diddy is fighting to clear his name in a court of law.


There are five lawsuits against him. That's not including Cassie's, which again has been settled, and four of those five lawsuits allege that he is responsible for sexual assault. Now, again, he is denying all of this. I want to read you what he wrote back in December 2023, because we have not heard back from Diddy's team yet today, but on his Instagram, back in December 2023, here's what Diddy wrote. He said, quote, Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. And at the time, an attorney for Combs also told us that the settlement was, quote, in no way an admission of wrongdoing.

Now, we are also getting reaction tonight from Cassie's husband. She is now married with two young children and appears to be living a very happy life. And here is what he posted, Wolf. He posted what he called a letter to women and children. Here's part of it. It says, quote, to all the women and children, I'm sorry you live in a world where you're not protected. To the abusers, you're done. You are not safe anymore. He is getting a lot of praise on social media for not just backing his wife, but also for, again, speaking to women and children.

And, lastly, Wolf, I do want to tell you that we have heard from Cassie's lawyer telling us first at CNN, quote, the gut wrenching video has only further confirmed the disturbing and predatory behavior of Mr. Combs. He goes on to say that he is so proud of his client, Cassie, for coming forward with these allegations back in November.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thanks very much for your reporting.

I want to bring in right now CNN Entertainment Reporter Lisa Respers France and Joel Anderson, a staff writer for Slate, and attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin is joining us as well.

Areva, let me start with you seeing this awful, very disturbing video of Sean Diddy Combs attacking Cassie Ventura, what will this mean legally for him?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what we know, Wolf, is that he has -- he being Diddy, has denied all of the allegations in the five or six lawsuits that have been filed against him. I would not be surprised if some of the lawyers that are representing the other plaintiffs, aren't going to use this video to try to extract a higher value settlement out of P. Diddy and his team, or if these matters do or any of them proceed to trial, we should expect to see a lawyer is trying to introduce this evidence as prior bad conduct evidence on the part of P. Diddy.

This could not be more horrible, horrifying, obviously for victims, for Cassie who had to endure this kind of abuse. But this is what many people have believed to be the conduct of Diddy for years. There have been allegations of abusive conduct and predatory conduct against him, and this video confirms many of those allegations.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly does. Lisa, this is the first time we're seeing this video with our own eyes, obviously on camera, after years of allegations against Combs throughout his music career. As Areva pointed out, what's the impact of that?

LISA RESPERS FRANCE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: I think the impact of that is devastating for Diddy because, initially, people wanted to say, oh, she just filed this lawsuit because she wants money, she's lying. But we see with our very own eyes exactly confirmation, as Elizabeth has said, of what she alleged in her lawsuit. And how do you come back from that?

Honestly, you know, I've been doing this for a while now as an entertainment reporter, and it was a bit of an open secret in some corridors in terms of the music industry that Diddy and had a temper. People had accused him of being violent back in the 90s. He was alleged to have gotten to a major altercation with Steve Stout and was alleged to have beaten him, and that became a court case. And there were other instances throughout the years where people said that, you know, this is who Diddy is, but he has so much power. It wasn't until Cassie came forward with her lawsuit that people felt like they could be comfortable to discuss that.

BLITZER: Important point. Joel, back in November, when Cassie Ventura against Combs for sexual assault, you wrote that you weren't surprised, and you wrote this, and I'm quoting you now, I've been waiting for years for the other shoe to drop. Is this just the tip of the iceberg, what we're now seeing?

JOEL ANDERSON, STAFF WRITER, SLATE: I think that's right, Wolf. People have been waiting for his comeuppance for years. I mean, that ranges from 50 Cent to people that performed on his label, Bad Boy Records, many years ago. So, I mean, anyone who had read or heard of the multiple detailed allegation of violence or abuse against Combs, some of which I previously summarized in that piece you mentioned for Slate, they're not surprised. In fact, it's precisely the image you'd imagine.

And in the same way videos of police violence can shift conversations and change public opinions, like I think this really upsetting footage will be similarly significant. Like I think it could be the nail in the coffin when it comes to public opinion about Sean Diddy Combs.


BLITZER: They really are. The woman is just lying on the ground, and he's kicking her like that, awful. Areva, how might this inform the federal investigation against Diddy, as you and our viewers remember, especially after that raid on his homes back in March? Could we see federal charges against him anytime soon?

MARTIN: Well, it's not clear, Wolf, what additional video may exist. This video obviously, you know, gives us a bird's eye view of this attack on Cassie Ventura on this particular day, but it raises the question about are there other videos like this? Are there other videos involving other victims? Are there videos actually involving Cassie? And when did those incidents, when did these brutal attacks occur? You know, there are always statutes of limitations that have to be considered when you're thinking about charges, whether there's a criminal case that's going to be filed or civil actions.

But, clearly, this video, I think, is going to be a substantial piece of evidence that will be reviewed by law enforcement agencies that are looking at Sean Combs. And this is not going to -- I don't think this is going to end well for him. We've seen this happen with other powerful men. Once the evidence starts to come out, other victims find their voices and they start to come forward as well.

So, this just may be the beginning of a barrage of additional allegations and additional victims coming forward.

BLITZER: You have a final thought, Joel, before I let you go?

ANDERSON: You know, money has really insulated Sean Diddy Combs for very long. And it feels like those days might be over, like he had a falling out with a company that helped him with Ciroc. You know, he's no longer affiliated with them. He had to step down as chairman of Revolt. His reality show on Hulu was canceled.

So, you know, it seems like one of those things where, you know, he's seen Teflon for so long that I'm sure many people expected this to go away, but the walls seem to be closing in on him, and apparently not a moment too soon.

BLITZER: And, Lisa, your final thought?

FRANCE: My final thought is that this is vindication in so many ways for Cassie, but it also is -- amplifies the conversation. Whenever you have something like this with celebrities, it forces people to talk about misogyny, to talk about believing victims, and to talk about domestic violence in a way that they may not have otherwise done.

BLITZER: Lisa Respers France, Areva Martin and Joel Anderson, to all of you, thank you very much for joining us.

And to our viewers, if you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, you can get help by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline online at the or by phone at 800-799-SAFE, S-A-F-E.

Still ahead, how President Biden is ratcheting up his pitch to black voters right now and the stakes for his 2024 campaign.

And later, top pro golfer Scottie Scheffler is now claiming his arrest hours before a PGA tournament was a big misunderstanding, his words. But authorities say it was felony assault.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is making a new and concerted effort to try to reverse the erosion in his support from black voters. The outcome could be a crucial factor in whether he wins or loses his rematch with Donald Trump.

Listen to the president today marking 70 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating schools.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: All the progress we've made is still have more to do, and there's still groups who are trying to erase it.

My predecessor and his extreme MAGA of friends are responsible for taking away other fundamental freedoms, from the freedom to vote to the freedom to choose.


BLITZER: The president's outreach to black voters continues this coming weekend. He'll give the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday followed by remarks at an NAACP dinner in Detroit.

Let's get some more on all of this with our political experts. Van Jones, I'll start with you. The president is clearly trying to draw a contrast with Trump on their records on issues, like voting, reproductive rights, among several other issues. Is this the right message, do you think, to try to reverse President Biden's falling support with black voters?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a good start. Look, it's a privilege and an honor for anybody to get a chance to speak at a Morehouse commencement. I got a chance to do it once. It's one of the highlights of my life. He's speaking to the next generation of leadership in our community, but he's got to understand people are hurting and uncertain. They're struggling and juggling. And these young people really do not have a great deal of faith right now in the Democratic Party. He cannot just give a generalized message.

African-American men in particular feel -- these young men feel they have not been talked to directly, their issues when it comes to police reform, or when it comes to violence in the streets, have not been given the force they expected.

So, he's got a skeptical audience, he's got to win them over, he's got to talk to them directly. What is he going to do for them in the future going forward? And why does he need their help now? If he does that, I think it's going to go well. If he gives a big pie in the sky speech just talking about Donald Trump, I don't think it's going to work.

BLITZER: Eva, you know, a new Fox News poll shows just how much President Biden's support among black voters has fallen since the last election. Take a look at this. In 2020, he enjoyed a dominant 75 point margin, but now that margin has dropped to just 49 points. What are you hearing from voters out there about why this is and what is the Biden team's plan to try to turn these numbers around?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, I spoke to black voters earlier this year for some reporting, and their concerns are primarily economic. It's a deep frustration with stagnant wages. It's anxiety about being able to afford a home. They feel as though they keep voting for Democrats, and their lives aren't getting any materially better.


They're attracted to third party candidates actually, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and then also Cornell West, I'm hearing from these just disaffected voters.

There's also a generational divide that Van spoke to. You know, there's a certain fidelity that older black voters have to President Biden, to the Democratic Party that we're not seeing among young black voters who are deeply disappointed in President Biden's response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The administration's response to all of this is that they are working on it, that they have made historic investments when it comes to maternal health, when it comes to HBCUs and a whole number of issues. I don't know if that message this time is going to be enough.

BLITZER: Let me get Alice Stewart's thoughts on this as well. Alice, the Fox poll shows Trump winning more than 20 percent of black voters, which would be a historic high if it actually translates to votes in November. Is this something the Trump team thinks they can do?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And they're working very hard to try and win over black voters and appeal to them. But what we're seeing with President Biden the last couple of days few days, and as he will continue to do, is he is not just appealing for black support, he is pandering for black voters.

And, look, this is what Democrats do every time there's a major election year, they parachute into black communities and say, I'm a Democrat vote for me, when the reality is, they're frustrated with the policies of this administration, and he wants to go out there and talk about abortion and threats to democracy, when the key issues on top of mind for all voters are, as Eva said, the economic conditions, inflation. People are concerned about the border, and they're also concerned worried about national security. And this is a factor and a problem that the Biden administration is going to have.

And, look Trump is going to capitalize on that. And Frank Luntz, who is a conservative pollster, has done a lot of polling, he says even black voters are looking at Trump as someone that they can relate to as a victim of what they see as an unjust justice system. So, they see Trump picking up support based on what's happening to him with the legal system.

BLITZER: Interesting. Van, on another political issue that's unfolding over these past few hours, Democratic Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett is calling Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene racist following a very, very tense hearing last night that devolved into very personal attacks. I want to play some of that for you and our viewers. Watch this.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): You know we're here about A.G. I don't think you know what you're here for.

REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D-TX): Well, you're the one that's talking about --

GREENE: I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.

CROCKETT: No, it ain't nothing --

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Hold on, hold on, order.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's beneath even you, Ms. Greene.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I would like to move to take down Ms. Greene's words. That is absolutely unacceptable. How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person?

GREENE: Are your feelings hurt?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Move her words down. Oh, girl, baby, girl.

GREENE: Oh, really?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Don't even play.

CROCKETT: If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody's bleach blond, bad built butch body that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?

COMER: A what now?


BLITZER: Van, what do you make of that?

JONES: I think that the standards of conduct have been pulled down so low by some of these folks in Congress. They go there because they want to be celebrities. I'm talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene and others.

Why do we even know her name? Marjorie Taylor Greene has never passed a bill, she's never chaired a committee, she's never done anything but be a provocateur and a clown. And she gets out of the skin of people and this is the kind of stuff that goes on.

But whether she's racist or not, she is a disgrace to the American people. She's a disgrace to that Congress. And she should just -- you know, pass one bill, Marjorie Taylor. Do your job. Every time we talk about her, she's doing some clownish nonsense and it's ridiculous.

BLITZER: Eva, what do you think?

MCKEND: I mean, she is an instigator, right? This is the entire -- her entire calling card, the reason that she sort of made it to Congress was these kinds of theatrics.

I will say, I think on, on the racial element to this, you know, often it is black women, especially women like Congressman Crockett, who are leaned on to sort of rise above. And we should question sort of that double standard. Why should she conduct herself any other way?

Look at the leadership. Look at the tone. House Republicans are setting the tone. And if this is the kind of energy that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is bringing, you know, folks in that room are going to match that energy, and we shouldn't necessarily, I think castigate Congresswoman Crockett for responding in kind.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Alice, I just want to get your thoughts.


Marjorie Taylor Greene is often at the center of controversy. What's your reaction to that chaotic display?

STEWART: Look, I'm, by no means whatsoever, defending Marjorie Taylor Greene's comments here, but that was not a monologue, that was a dialogue back and forth, and it was childish behavior all around. And I think members of Congress are there to lead this country, legislate and get laws passed, and they're not there to provide you know, Real Housewives of New Jersey kind of behavior on, in Congress. And it was childish behavior all the way around and it shouldn't be tolerated.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very much. Thanks to all of you.

Coming up, what the world's top ranked golfer is now saying about his early morning arrest just hours before teeing off at the PGA Championship.



BLITZER: We're following major drama at the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, where top ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and detained just outside the course where he would tee off only a few hours later.

Our Brian Todd is on the story for us. Brian, I understand Scheffler is speaking out and calling the entire incident a big misunderstanding.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did say that, Wolf, just a short time ago, but right now, the police have a different version, and it appears for the moment to be their word against his.


TODD (voice over): The world's number one golfer, Scottie Scheffler, defending himself tonight after being charged with assaulting a police officer at the scene of a traffic accident in Louisville, Kentucky.

SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER, WORLD NUMBER ONE GOLFER, ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING POLICE OFFICER: It was a chaotic situation and a big misunderstanding. And I can't comment on any of the specifics of it. TODD: The incident occurred as Scheffler was trying to enter the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville this morning for the second round of the PGA Championship, one of the sport's major tournaments. Louisville police say they were working a separate traffic fatality when Scheffler attempted to drive past the scene. They say when an officer, Detective Brian Gillis, stopped Scheffler and attempted to give him instructions, quote, subject refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging Detective Gillis to the ground. The detective was injured, though not seriously.

CAM ROGERS, PGA TOUR AND GOLF EXPERT, BLEAV: We're talking about the number one player in the world, right, who is in contention at a major championship, and then is arrested before his tee time, probably an hour and a half before his tea time. And it's this type of adversity that you really never see in the game of golf.

TODD: ESPN Journalist Jeff Darlington witnessed the arrest and filmed it.

JEFF DARLINGTON, ESPN JOURNALIST, WITNESSED SCHEFFLER ARREST: They told him to stop. When he didn't stop, the police officer attached himself to the vehicle. Scheffler then traveled another ten yards before stopping the car. The police officer then grabbed at his arm, attempting to pull him out of the car before Scheffler eventually opened the door.

TODD: Darlington filmed Scheffler being led away in handcuffs. Police telling him to stay back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, right now he's going to jail.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he's going to jail and it ain't nothing you can do about it, period. There's nothing you can do about it.

SCHEFFLER: I think my body was just -- I was shaking the whole time. I was shaking for like an hour.

TODD: It seems to be a he said, he said situation. Scheffler says he was proceeding as directed by officers and his attorney says he never assaulted an officer with his vehicle, an almost surreal set of events surrounding a golfer with a so far sterling reputation.

JAMES COLGAN, GOLF MAGAZINE: He is probably one of the most docile guys in professional golf. He's just an incredibly happy go lucky, kind of individual.

ROGERS: We have a scenario where Scottie Scheffler could be hoisting the trophy on Sunday evening and then going to court on Monday.


TODD (on camera): Scottie Scheffler's attorney says the golfer will plead not guilty to the charges and will cooperate fully with the investigation. As part of his statement today, Scheffler also expressed sympathy with the family of the deceased accident victim, saying, quote, it truly puts everything in perspective. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Let's get some more right now from a golf reporter for Barstool Sports, Dan Rapaport. Danny, thanks very much for joining us.

You spoke with Scheffler at that press conference just a little while ago. What more did he say about what this experience has been like?

DAN RAPAPORT, GOLF REPORTER, BARSTOOL SPORTS: You know, he was remarkably calm afterwards. And even when he showed up to the golf course this morning, he seemed really loose. He kind of cut the ice with all the guys said, hey, everyone, who was laughing on the tee. So, he seems to have a clear conscience. And after it, he said, look, this officer was trying to do his job. It was a horrible situation with the accident. He didn't seem to have any ill will toward the officer. It was just really a confluence of events that led to a really unfortunate scene.

BLITZER: How is the golf world, Danny, reacting to this rather bizarre situation resulting in the arrest oOf the world's top golfer?

RAPAPORT: It was absolutely stunning. I woke up this morning to a bunch of texts and I thought that they were, you know, links to like a spam thing or something trying to get me to click on it. It was -- you know, there's 156 players in the field, I think, and he might be 156th with who you think would be most likely to be taken away in handcuffs.

He's just a soft spoken, very religious guy. He's playing the best golf of his life. There's really no reason for him to put himself in some sort of situation like this. And all the other players said, look, we did the same thing. This morning was a super chaotic scene. I went around traffic. Min Woo Lee said he did the exact same thing. So, it's really hard to believe that this happened today and who it happened to.

BLITZER: Danny, tell us a little bit more about Scheffler's reputation in the golf world. Is he at risk potentially of losing sponsorships and endorsements, for example?

RAPAPORT: I mean, there's always a risk, but, you know, I don't think that he's going to -- I don't think he's going to be like convicted of this. I mean, the mayor of Louisville got involved and the governor of Kentucky issued a statement that said, you know, I hope all parties can come to a solution.


That doesn't sound like someone who's going to be held for a felony assault charge.

So, I think it really will go down eventually as a big misunderstanding. The officer maybe didn't know that he was a player. You know, a bunch of officers showed up on the scene because of the fatality. Who knows what they were told? Who knows what he knew at that time? It's impossible to know, but it's looking very unlikely that Scottie had any sort of nefarious intentions.

BLITZER: As you know, Scheffler played in the PGA Championship after being released today by police. Update our viewers, how did he perform?

RAPAPORT: He performed like Scottie Schaeffler performs always. He shot 66. He's, you know, nine under par for the tournament, very much in contention. He won the Masters, so this would be two majors in a row. He's won four of his last five starts. And it was a master class in compartmentalizing because I can't even imagine. He said he stretched in a jail cell this morning, which definitely he didn't expect to do this week.

So, to show up here, he only had 35 minutes. He'd usually want like an hour of preparation, went up to the first tee, birdied the first hole and he was happy, you know, he moved on.

BLITZER: Interesting. Dan Rapaport, thanks very much for joining us.

And just ahead, new revelations coming into CNN to the new reaction we're getting to the revelation that an upside down flag that's been a symbol of the election denial movement was seen outside the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Alito's explanation now being disputed by his neighbors who spoke to CNN.



BLITZER: Tonight, Democrats are raising new concerns about what they see as a pro-Trump bias of the U.S. Supreme Court. This following the revelation that an upside down American flag was seen flying at the home of the Justice Samuel Alito, a symbol of the Stop the Steal election denial movement.

CNN's Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is following the story for us. Joan, tell us more about this incident.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure good to see you, Wolf. Justice Alito has said that his wife put up the flag after a heated quarrel with a neighbor. You know, it started with some an anti-Trump sign that had been in the neighborhood, apparently used an expletive against Donald Trump, and then there were some more personal insults traded and directed toward the justice's wife.

CNN spoke to some of the neighbors today in his area of his Virginia home who recalled that flag flying upside down. But the reason it's salient today, some three years later, Wolf, is because the justices are now considering cases that trace to the January 6th riots at the Capitol, one involving some of the defendants who want to challenge their charges, and one, you know, involving a very momentous case involving Donald Trump and his claim of immunity from any trial for election subversion. And as you know, justices or judges are supposed to recuse himself if there's any appearance of partiality here and not where their fairness would be questioned.

And here's what Samuel Alito said though, about the incident in a statement to The New York Times, which first reported it, I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag. It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of an objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs. So, he's suggesting that this was all something that was in his wife's hands and nothing, he's brushed aside any kind of concerns about his own impartiality, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.

Coming up, how both sides in the Trump hush money trial may be adjusting their strategies as Michael Cohen returns to the stand on Monday for more bruising cross-examination by the defense.



BLITZER: With the Trump trial on break today, anticipation is building for Michael Cohen's return to the stand on Monday. The defense is expected to keep working to try to undermine Cohen's credibility after scoring some major points yesterday. Trump's lawyer got Cohen to admit he didn't fully remember a key phone call portrayed as a direct link between Trump and the Stormy Daniels hush money deal.

Our legal experts are joining us now. They're following it all.

Tim Parlatore let me start with you. Trump's attorney Todd Blanche spent the entire day yesterday grilling Michael Cohen and trying to catch him in lies. You expect to see more of that on Monday?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I do. I think that he covered a lot of ground there's still a few more points to cover, so I think its just going to be continuation of the same, to the extent that he can find any other ways to try to undermine some of the other phone calls. I think he'll try to do that. But, you know, that's really going to depend on what text messages they may have in the discovery.

BLITZER: Norm, you are in the courtroom yesterday for the dramatic moment when Todd Blanche press Cohen on whether the phone call allegedly linking Trump to the hush money scheme was actually about a 14-year-old prank caller. What was your takeaway from that? And how will prosecutors tried to clean it up on redirect?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, it was the single best moment of Todd Blanches cross-examination which otherwise meandered and left a lot out of loose ends and it was a powerful. There's no doubt about it. It was a blow on the chin.

On the other hand, there's a tremendous amount of corroborating and supporting evidence. And it takes more than one punch to devastate the very strong proof, which I believe the district attorney has adduced here. It didn't knock Michael Cohen out either. He didn't recant his testimony. He was clearly shaken, but he stood by what he had said. So I thought it was an important moment, but not dispositive in the

case. They will redirect by making clear that in context that this call was a brief one, that there was ample time for multiple subjects. You can get a lot into 96 seconds. We do that all the time, Wolf.

And finally, that there are other direct calls with Trump, including two on the morning of October 26, clearly placed by Cohen directly to Trump that also substantiate Trump's involvement with a great deal of other evidence.

BLITZER: You know, Tim, we're just learning that an ethics complaint about Judge Merchan for his $35 donation Democrats back in 2020 was dismissed last July with a warning.

How much is Trump going to seize on that?

PARLATORE: Well, I mean, it's -- certainly, it's a political point for him to seize on but do I think that that's actually going to affect the outcome of the case or create an appellant issue? No, I don't. I mean, I've appeared in front of Judge Merchan myself.


I tried the case in front of him. And I don't think that it's really necessarily affecting this trial too much, but it is a good political talking point for him.

TAPPER: What do you think, Norm?

EISEN: I think that Tim is as usual. No legal basis here. Over 30 other judges received such warnings in the period of time. It's a very small donation. It's not an ethics violation, and what I've seen in court every day and I know Tim knows this from his time before Judge Merchan, an extremely fair judge, who very often rules for Trump and the defense as -- so I don't think it bears upon the integrity of the case.

BLITZER: Tim, while I have you, I want to turn quickly to the 2020 election subversion case in Arizona. Former Trump lawyer John Eastman pleaded not guilty today to try to overturn that state's election results.

Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, 16 others are doing court next week.

How strong you think this case against them is?

PARLATORE: I think that this indictment is far better written and better put together than the one in Georgia or quite frankly, the one in D.C., because it's the first time that I've seen anybody put together a coherent theory in my opinion about the difference between the so-called fake elector vectors versus alternate electors theory to provide the question for me is going to be it seems like they do have emails that are back that up, and it does seem to put people like Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman, right in the middle of it.

Is that going to be able to be going up the ladder to people like Rudy Giuliani, and Mark Meadows? Maybe not. I think that they're going to have difficulty connecting it up, but I think they're also going to have difficulty connecting it down to the electors themselves.

But I do think it's a much stronger case and more intelligently put together than the one in Georgia.

BLITZER: Norm, let me get your thoughts. How do you see it?

EISEN: Well, in the big picture, wealth, what we have seen is accountability both for the former president and those who were involved. Now in states across the country will have a very important day in that larger context for Arizona and the other cases because Monday will mark the de that a represents the time interval that the Supreme Court used to decide the 14th Amendment case as it applies to the federal election interference case. So everything is moving. Hopefully the federal will, too.

BLITZER: We shall see. Norm Eisen and Tim Parlatore to both of you, thank you very much.

Coming up, new developments out of the Middle East, with Israel recovering the bodies of more hostages killed by Hamas.



BLITZER: The Israel Defense Forces announced today that the bodies of three hostages have been recovered from Gaza and returned to Israel.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They managed to escape Hamas's terrifying rampage of the Nova Music Festival on October 7, but they did not survive the day.

Hamas terrorists killed Shani Louk, Amit Bouskila and Itshak Gelernter ten miles down the road from the festival, according to the Israeli military. Their bodies taken into Gaza and held hostage.

DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESMAN: Last night, the Israeli Defense Forces and ISA forces rescued the bodies of all hostages.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military now says their bodies are back on Israeli soil. Return to families who have endured more than seven months of uncertainty and anguish.

HAGARI: Our hearts go out to them, to the families at this difficult time. We will live no stone unturned. We will do everything in our power to find our hostages and bring them home.

DIAMOND: Twenty-three-year-old Shani Louk seen here at the Nova Festival hours before her death.

This image of her body being hauled into Gaza, embodying the brutality of Hamas's attack.

Her family learned in late October she had been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot do really real funeral.

DIAMOND: Her father now, telling Israeli media, they can find peace.

NISSIM LOUK, FATHER OF SHANI LOUK (through translator): This was like a present for Shabbat for us. And now shell be able to find a place in the cemetery. We can put a bouquet.

DIAMOND: For the two other families, a different type of closure. For months, the family of Amit Bouskila, a 28 fashion stylists, had no information on civilian.

NATALIE AMOUYAL, AUNT OF AMIT BUSKILA: We know nothing about her. Not one person has seen her and is capable of telling us anything about her, or any of the others, really nothing.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military operation also confirming for the first time the death of Itshak Gelernter, a 58-year-old father of four and grandfather of two.

In Israel, reaction pouring in from across the political spectrum, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the news heartbreaking, vowing we will return all of our hostages, the living, and the deceased alike.

But there is no clear path to securing their return with ceasefire negotiations at a standstill, the families of the remaining 125 hostages clinging only to hope and fear.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Jerusalem.


BLITZER: Jeremy, thank you.

And there's more news out of Gaza tonight. The Pentagon says humanitarian relief is now reaching the territory through a temporary pier built by the U.S. military, but some aid workers say it's still not enough, and the pier won't be able to replace the need for more aid convoys over land. The U.S. says no American troops set foot in Gaza during the operation.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.