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RFK Jr. Speaks At Libertarian Convention Ahead Of Trump; Biden Aides: Goal For President To Needle, Taunt Trump In Debate; Federal Judge Makes Key Rulings Ahead Of Hunter Biden's Trial On Gun Charges In June; Closing Argument On Tuesday, Then Case Goes To The Jury As Trump Trial Nears Historical Conclusion; Family: American Missionary Couple Killed By Gangs In Haiti; U.N.'s Top Court Orders Israel To "Immediately Halt" Rafah Offensive; China Launches Second Day Of Military Exercises Around Taiwan As U.S. Warns Of Escalation Threat. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 24, 2024 - 17:00   ET


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Facing backlash from controversial comments that he made about women and Biden policies during a commencement speech a few weeks ago.

And coming up on Sunday on "State of the Union," a name floated as a Trump VP candidate, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, also Democratic Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota and Democratic former representative Patrick Kennedy. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.

If you ever missed an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show from whence you get your podcast. The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right now in the "Situation Room."


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the Biden campaign launches a new attack ad warning that Donald Trump has quote, "snapped." The President's team sharpening its pre-debate strategy against Trump. This as Robert Kennedy Jr.'s potential as a spoiler is on display today with his new appeal to the Libertarian Party.

Also this hour why Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is returning to the hospital tonight and temporarily transferring power to his deputy. The Pentagon sharing new information after the uproar over previous medical treatment that Austin kept secret.

And China unleashes a show of force around Taiwan for a second day sending an ominous message that the military drills are a test of Beijing's ability to seize power.

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

Tonight, the 2024 presidential races heading into an earlier than usual overdrive with the first Biden Trump debate a little over one month away right here on CNN. The Biden campaign is launching a new attack ad and going public with his playbook against Trump. CNN's MJ Lee and Eva McKend are following the race for us. First to you, MJ, you're over the White House, the Biden campaign unveiled two new attack ads today, including one about the evolving shooting. Tell us about that.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We are seeing the Biden White House and the campaign marking the two-year anniversary of the Uvalde shooting and tragedy that took so many young lives, this ad from the campaign both honors the lives lost during that tragedy two years ago, and also alludes to the fact that it was precisely that tragedy that prompted rare legislative action on gun violence here in Washington. Let's take a look at that ad and we can discuss more coming out of it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.


LEE: And the Biden campaign official tells me that they believe that specifically the Uvalde tragedy, but also in general the issue of gun violence that they are both resonating with the Latino community. So it is not a coincidence that this ad is specifically targeting the Latino community and Latino voters. It's also not a coincidence that if you look at the ad, there's imagery of referenda. This is a collection of offerings that are made at an altar to honor the dead that is common in Mexican culture. So you see sort of what the thinking was behind this ad.

And also very deliberate or the words that we saw on that ad, it said Joe Biden expanded background checks and is fighting to ban assault weapons. The campaign very much believes, just like the White House, does that whenever they can point to any kind of progress, record from the president during his first term that that is always going to be helpful with voters.

BLITZER: MJ, I understand you also have some new reporting about how the Biden campaign is preparing for the end of Donald Trump's New York hush money trial. Tell us what you know.

LEE: Yes, listen, Wolf. The Biden campaign, of course, has no idea exactly what is going to happen next week. Is the former President going to be found guilty or not guilty? Could there be a mistrial? Is it actually even going to come to an end next week?

But what they do know is that at some point, the trial is going to end and so is the coverage that we have seen of the trial that has made it challenging for the Biden campaign to break through at times. And what they are saying is that they believe that there is going to be more space, more opportunity, more room for the Biden campaign to go even more on the offensive. And we are going to see sort of the beginning of a more -- just a more -- a state of -- state of the campaign, excuse me, that is going to be just more aggressive. And that is why we saw that other ad that you alluded to that is narrated by a famous after -- [17:05:04]

BLITZER: We just lost our connection with MJ Lee. But I want to thank MJ for her reporting.

I want to get to another major political issue right now, a wildcard in this presidential race, the Independent candidate Robert Kennedy, Jr., just made a new appeal for support right now. And we're watching all of that unfold very closely as well. Eva McKend is on the scene for us. We're going to get there shortly. But I want to bring in our political experts first.

Eva, do both these campaigns, the Biden campaign and the Trump campaign, Karen, do they see Robert Kennedy, Jr. potentially is hurting them respectively? Or do they see Robert Kennedy Jr. hurting one side more than the other?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they recognize -- both campaigns, I think are recognizing that he could take away from both of them. And, you know, campaigns are a game of inches, taking from any given Sunday, one of my favorite movies, that meaning that, you know, you build your coalition block by block, piece by piece, and so even a little bit siphon and we saw how close it was in 2020. So 10,000 votes here, 20,000 votes there can really matter. And that's part of why you're seeing Robert Kennedy Jr., you know, kind of cozying to some of the ideas that Donald Trump has talked about, like maybe pardoning January 6 rioters. It's also why he's trying to go after younger voters and peel away from the Joe Biden coalition.

BLITZER: What do you think, Sarah? He's clearly a spoiler candidate right now. Who does he hurt more potentially?

SARAH CHAMBERLAIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think unfortunately, he hurts Trump more.

BLITZER: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: I really do. I mean, Biden's got his people locked in to some extent. But there's a lot of people on the Republican side that don't know where to go. We see that they're still voting for Nikki Haley. He could be an option for them without having to go all the way over to Biden. So it's going to be an interesting play.

And also, you know, the anti Vax, that's a huge thing. And he's taking voters away from Trump on that as well.

BLITZER: It's a sensitive issue. Both we stand by. I want to go to CNN's Eva McKend right now. She's over at that libertarian convention here in Washington.

Eva, RFK, Jr. is speaking as he-- is he wrapped up his speech, or is he still speaking right now? And if he is still speaking, tell our viewers what he has said.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I have to be relatively quiet, because he is still speaking right now. What I can tell you is that this is not his standard stump speech. He's really talking about the history of America, and emphasizing freedom and liberty, this entire thing -- this entire address is really tailor made for this libertarian audience. You know, frequently he has -- we have some free Palestine protesters here. We of course, know that Kennedy is a strong supporter of Israel.

But listen, Kennedy, also focusing in this speech on a core grievance, and that is, he argues he and others were silenced during the pandemic. Something else that really stuck out to me, Wolf, is that this is probably the most pointed attack that he has made against former President Donald Trump. Let's listen.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., (I) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump said that he was going to run America like a business, he closed down 3.3 million businesses with no due process, no just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. With a lock downs, the mass mandates, the travel restrictions, President Trump presided over the greatest restriction on individual liberties this country has ever known.


MCKEND: You know, something else that Kennedy has emphasized, Wolf, is gun rights. He told this crowd, I will protect your right to bear arms. That is really in contrast with where Kennedy stood on this issue historically. You know, he has historically been very critical of the NRA. Historically, he supported an assault weapons ban. And it's just one of many policy issues that he's moved to the right on on this campaign.

BLITZER: Eva, I understand that both the Biden campaign and the Trump campaign made their presence known at the convention earlier today just ahead of RFK Jr.'s speech. Tell us about that.

MCKEND: Yes, they sure did. There are these mobile billboards outside that are attacking him from both the right and the left? You know, I'm not really clear on how impactful that will be for this audience. The libertarians I speak to here are very excited to hear from him. Wolf.

BLITZER: Eva McKend reporting for us. Eva, thank you very, very much.

I want to get back to our political experts. And Karen, CNN has the new reporting the President Biden is preparing to needle, taunt Trump during the upcoming debate at the end of June debate. That's going to be seen as we keep saying --

FINNEY: Yes. Right here.

BLITZER: -- right here on CNN. So, he's really advertising what he's planning on doing.

FINNEY: Absolutely. They're not making any secret of it, right? They recognize that Trump in the same way we frankly heard during these trials where his lawyers are hopeful everyday he goes into the courtroom that he will stay quiet basically and maintain the judge's orders. I think predictably, once he no longer has that gag order on him, we're going to see the unhinged Donald Trump that we tend to see at his rallies that go on for, you know, a couple of hours.


And so it's wise for the Biden campaign to say, you know, what, we're going to step back and let the crazy show itself while trying to make substantive points where he can. And let's be honest, we know Donald Trump is very thin skinned, so it will not be hard to get under his skin and Joe Biden send that quite effectively.

BLITZER: He's going to be doing a lot of that as they've made clear, apparently, today, in the course of a lot of the public statements that campaigners put up --


BLITZER: -- including a lengthy document that they released as well.

The Trump folks are saying, there's no need for Trump to do any practice sessions going into the debate. We know historically, every presidential candidate and incumbent or a challenger has always gone through some practice sessions with their aides. What do you make of that?

CHAMBERLAIN: I think it's a mistake. I think Trump needs to prep. I think President Biden is going to come in as a little bit different candidate than it was four years ago. He's going to be much tougher. And I think Trump needs to be ready for that.

I think Biden is going to try to push Trump's buttons and he has to relax and step back and talk about the policy. So it's going to be a fascinating debate here in CNN.

BLITZER: How significant is this debate going to be in the terms of the bottom line?

CHAMBERLAIN: I usually don't think debates are significant. I think this one will. I think a lot of suburban women, like myself, will be watching this debate. I think that's one of the reasons Biden wanted to have it so early. So I think it's going to be a great debate here.

BLITZER: What do you think?

FINNEY: Absolutely. I think people are going to be watching in part because -- and people were waiting for the debates anyway, right? We'll be watching conventions, and we're watching the debates. And so I think the Biden campaign said, OK, and then let's move it up. Let's get people to refocus earlier on, on the differences between us because as our own reporting has shown, it is a challenge to break through with Trump when he's got the trial.

So, and I think the debate we're going to be talking about it, it'll be right here on CNN, obviously, but I think I hope people will tune in. BLITZER: From a Republican perspective, Sarah, How significant was the announcement from Nikki Haley that she will vote for Trump?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was huge. And actually a lot of us didn't see that coming. I think she actually -- she went down. She talked to President Trump and they work some things out. So for her endorsement, it may bring the percentage of the Republicans that aren't MAGAs that have been voting for her in these primaries, even after she withdrew, and to maybe come and take a fresh look at him. So I think it's very, very important for --

BLITZER: I thought Trump would at least call her and thank her but apparently he hasn't.

CHAMBERLAIN: I don't think he has yet.


CHAMBERLAIN: Hopefully he will.

BLITZER: We'll see if he does. All right. Ladies, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the crisis of gang violence in Haiti hits home here in the United States after the killing of an American couple working in Haiti as missionaries. But first Hunter Biden in federal court today where a judge made some key rulings just out of his trial on gun charges that set to start next month.



BLITZER: The federal judge overseeing Hunter Biden's gun case issued a series of key rulings today, just ahead of the trial of the President's son that's scheduled to begin 10 days from now. CNN's Evan Perez is working the story for us.

So Evan, what happened in court today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're getting to see a little bit of the contours of how this trial is going to shape up. And look, this is now appears to be -- it's going to be about two weeks that the president's son is going to be on trial on these gun charges. He's three charges that he's facing in Delaware that the -- special counsel David Weiss is leading that case. And a number of things that the judge today decided could not be included, could not be included by prosecutors as part of the evidence in this case, show you just a couple of days right now, the sum of Hunter Biden's other legal troubles, including the tax evasion case that is going to trial in September in Los Angeles, as well as his Arkansas paternity case, and his discharge from the Navy over a drug incident back in 2014. However, prosecutors will be able to talk about his drug use, they'll be able to use some of the text and some of his -- some of the stuff that came from his laptop, they'll be able to use that to show some of the connections to his drug use at the time that he bought this firearm that he is now being tried for. As well as some of his own statements from his memoir where he described having a drug issues, being a drug addict at the time that he was purchasing this firearm.

As well as you're going to hear from three different people that he had relationships with. A key part of this, though, Wolf, today was focusing on how prosecutors can try to narrow this case with his drug use. What exactly can they bring up as far as his drug use for the time that he owned this firearm? What the judge said was that prosecutors can say if he was using drugs in the weeks or days before he bought this firearm, that they can then use that information as part of this case. Of course, Wolf, if Hunter Biden takes the stand, something we don't know will happen anytime soon.

These limitations that the judge has approved, all of those could change. Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Evan Perez, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen and Georgetown University law professor Victoria Nourse. To both of you thanks for joining us. What do you see is the significance of these rulings by the judge at least so far?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there were some questions about Judge Maryellen Norieka, because you'll remember there was a plea bargain before her to resolve all of 100 Biden's criminal problems. The prosecution agreed on it, the defense and Hunter Biden agreed on it, special counsel David Weiss agreed on it, the judge didn't agree, she threw it out. And myself and some others thought, gosh, was that a fair resolution?


But I thought she was very even handed today, barring some of the most prejudicial information about tax and his paternity suit, his drug discharged from the Navy, but letting in other relevant material, and he's going to get to challenge the authenticity of some of those e- mails from off of that laptop. Very important for the defense.

BLITZER: Yes. And Victoria, what do you think there's both sides clearly, were handed some wins in this house that's going to impact the trial?

VICTORIA NOURSE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE VP COUNSEL: Well, I think what you're going to see is that we are going to hear from these e-mails and this whole saga about whether they are made up, you know. Hunter Biden is suing Julian.

BLITZER: From the laptop that he left.

NOURSE: From the laptop. And we're going to learn a lot from that in this trial, because of these rulings.

BLITZER: If they allow all those e-mails to be released in the course of -- NOURSE: Yes.

BLITZER: -- the trial. I want to get to the hush money trail that's wrapping up in New York expecting closing arguments in the next few days. We're watching it all very, very closely. What are you expecting from the, first of all, from the prosecutors in their summation and their final arguments?

EISEN: Well, Wolf, I'll be there as I have been every day for those summations. On the prosecution side, they are going to argue that no one witness no one document, no one piece of evidence makes this case but that they have built a mosaic of a hundreds of pieces of evidence that all fit together. So they'll say Michael Cohen was honest with you, but you don't have to believe him, because he's corroborated by other documents, and other witnesses. And they will say the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump caused was involved in and facilitated was is liable for 34 false documents. And he did it to cover up a hush money payment that was a campaign finance and election violation and also a tax violation.

That's what you can -- those three points are what you can expect to hear from them.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Victoria, Donald Trump, as we all know, declined to take the stand in his own defense. He had every right to do so but he declined. So how do you think the defense is going to sum up all of this?

NOURSE: Well, I think they're going to go after the credibility of, of Michael Cohen and the other witnesses. And obviously, all they need is one juror to find a reasonable doubt. So they're going to harp on the fact that there is a reasonable doubt here about Cohen's veracity. And prosecution is going to come back and say, well, you can believe him on some things but not believe him on other things. And that's where, as Norm says, the documents are going to be key.

Putting them together will be key for the prosecution and rebutting that is key for the defense.

BLITZER: And that's to be unanimous in order to convict --


BLITZER: -- beyond a reasonable doubt. How important will the judge's jury instructions be to the jury?

EISEN: Well, Victoria is smiling because the two -- the one two punch for the jury is they have the facts, evidence, the witnesses, the documents, and the law. And I think both the documents and the law, favor the prosecution. It's not a slam dunk. It's not a lay down. And absolutely, we could see one or two jurors hang this jury.

But the judge made a series of rulings in the charging conference when we were last in court on Tuesday afternoon. New York law just favors the prosecution on this, Wolf. For example, the defense said, we want you to find that the jury has to unanimously agree. What was the crime that Trump was covering up with these documents that makes this a felony? You need another crime.

The judge, I'm sorry, that's not New York law, they don't have to agree. So, the law does favor the prosecution here but not a slam dunk.

BLITZER: What do you see as potentially the key piece of evidence that could make or break this case?

NOURSE: Well, it's actually the documents. And you know, one of the things that people don't realize about a trial is it's really so, oh, you've been down there, it goes very, very slow. And the jury is told the story over a long time. And so we've been focusing on the personalities. But the prosecutor is going to focus on all of the corroborating evidence.

And they may -- the jury may ask to see some of this corroborating evidence.

BLITZER: Yes. And they -- some of the witnesses who potentially could help were not called as witnesses.


BLITZER: So we'll see if that has an impact as well. All right to both of you, thank you very, very much.

Coming up here in the Situation Room, what the Pentagon is now saying about the medical procedure that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is undergoing tonight.



BLITZER: The Pentagon just revealed new information on the health of the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin months after the controversy he faced for keeping his medical issues under wraps. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining us. She's joining us with details over at the Pentagon. So Natasha, what are you hearing over there?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're told from the Pentagon press secretary tonight that the Secretary is scheduled to undergo a, quote, "scheduled elective minimally invasive and non- surgical procedure at Walter Reed this evening." So they're really downplaying the significance of this procedure saying that it is elective and that is not expected to be anything very serious.

Now, the reason of course, they are putting out these very regular updates whenever the Secretary has to go -- undergo any kind of procedure at Walter Reed or any kind of doctor's appointment even really is because of the controversy that was marked a few months ago when Secretary Austin was hospitalized twice and did not tell either the public, his deputy or even the President of the United States.

[17:30:10] And Secretary Austin did pledge to do better after that, but this

procedure that he is getting tonight, according to the Pentagon, it's related to a bladder issue that he suffered when he underwent surgery, trying to treat his prostate cancer back in December. That surgery then led to complications that led him to be hospitalized again in January.

And now he is doing yet again, another follow up procedure that, again, depending on the saying is very minimally invasive and non- surgical. So we do expect Secretary Austin to be back at work as normal on Monday when he goes to certain events to commemorate Memorial Day. And of course, he is expected to travel to Asia later this week -- we -- later next week. We also saw him earlier today, with Kenya's leader here at the Pentagon, and he looked to be in good spirits and good health.

So this just seems to be out of an abundance of transparency, that the Pentagon is informing the press corps and the public of course, that he is undergoing this procedure. But we should note that he is expected to transfer his full duties and authorities to his deputy Kathleen Hicks. Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, we wish him of course a speedy, speedy recovery. Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon for us, thank you very much.

Other news we're following, an American missionary couple was shot and killed by a gang in Haiti. According to their family, the couple who were married back in 2022 were ambushed by the gang yesterday when coming out of church. CNN's David Culver has the devastating report.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An outpouring of grief for two young missionaries brutally killed and Haiti's capital. They went to heaven together, Missouri State Representative Ben Baker posted, his daughter Natalie and her husband Davy Lloyd attacked by gangs Thursday night in Port-au-Prince. The couple in their early 20s served as part of missions in Haiti, a Christian nonprofit organization run for more than two decades by Lloyd's parents.

The organization posting Friday, they were ambushed by a gang of three trucks full of guys. Davy was taken to the house, tied up and beat. The gang then took our trucks and loaded everything up they wanted and left. Three hours later, the group posted that the couple was shot and killed by the gang missions in Haiti has a third person, a Haitian staffer named Jude was also killed in the attack. We're told he'd been with the organization for 20 years.

The violent incident started as the missionaries were leaving church and lasted for several hours. Davy Lloyd's father says the three died barricaded in the Lloyd family's living quarters on the mission's compound. Haiti has been spiraling into gang fueled chaos which forced the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry in April. The U.N. estimates some 80 percent of the capital city is under gang control. In recent months, CNN has made multiple trips to Port-au-Prince. We've met victims of the gang's brutality, including rape, kidnappings and murder. Hundreds of thousands now refugees in their own cities, as gangs have torched their homes and forced them to flee. We've also met with a leader of one prominent gang, he and others demanding a say in Haiti's future, a future that may again be shaped by foreign forces.

President Biden hosted Kenya's President William Ruto, for a state dinner in Washington, Thursday, around the same time that the deadly attack on Devy and Natalie Lloyd was taking place. On top of the two leaders agenda, Haiti.

PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO, KENYA: We are going to take up that responsibility alongside the Haiti police.

CULVER (voice-over): Kenya plans to lead a U.N.-backed multinational support mission to Haiti, with at least 1,000 Kenyan police officers set to deploy. President Biden stating, Thursday, the U.S. will not send troops but is providing equipment and Intel, the White House reacting to the killing did a statement on Friday, our hearts go out to the families of those killed, as they experience unimaginable grief.

Missions in Haiti, among many others has been warning, Haiti is on the brink of collapse. The group posting last month, it seems the world has turned their backs on Haiti. And it's going to be left in complete gang control. Now three of their members just the latest victims of that unrelenting gang violence.


BLITZER: And David Culver is joining us now live from New York. David, you spent a lot of time over these past several weeks in Haiti. And I understand that CNN just spoke to the father of Davy Lloyd. Tell our viewers what he said.

CULVER: That's right, Wolf. Our colleague, Kaitlan, who just got off a zoom interview with him and no question, I mean, he's devastated by what's played out and he and his wife and their family have been dedicating their lives to Haiti and trying to make the lives better for many Haitians, making this all the more challenging and difficult personally for him. He was on the phone with his son Davy, in between two of the gang attacks. And here's what he had to say about that moment.


DAVID LLOYD, FATHER OF DAVY LLOYD: He was injured so he was hurt and he was very nervous and very scared. Because I asked him why they tied him up and he's like, what, because you're the only one that's got strength that we have to worry about. And so they wanted to make sure he couldn't put up a fight back and then he was begging me to find somebody to get in there to help him and I did all I can but I couldn't locate anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [17:35:11]

CULVER: And knowing what Port-au-Prince is like right now, Wolf, with more than 80 percent of that capital city controlled by gangs, it's no wonder that he couldn't get anybody to help his son. I mean, it's just too challenging terrain to coordinate between the dozens of gangs that are controlling that capital city right now. But this killing, obviously, just the latest in what has been unrelenting violence in Haiti and really in across that country and what they're trying to deal with. And it speaks to the need for the MSS mission, that multinational security support mission, which has been delayed for months. And folks now saying it's needed now more than ever. And as soon as it gets down there, Wolf, it's expected to meet a lot of conflict from the gangs who are determined to resist.

BLITZER: Our deepest condolences to the family. David Culver, thanks very much for joining us. Thanks for all your reporting on what's going on in Haiti as well.

And just ahead, the United States making a major decision today about who will take part in a new round of talks on a ceasefire deal in the Middle East, as the United Nations top court sends a stark message to Israel over its military offensive in southern Gaza.



BLITZER: Tonight, another global organization is turning up the heat on Israel over the war in Gaza. The United Nation's highest court ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza. CNN's Alex Marquardt is joining us with details. Alex, first of all, what more do we know about this ruling?

MARQUARDT: Well, Wolf, it is a dramatic ruling by the International Court of Justice, it is legally binding. But we should note it is not enforceable. And in their order, they are ordering Israel to immediately halt their military offensive in Rafah in the southern part of Gaza because it could lead to the physical destruction they say of the Palestinians. That is a reference to genocide under international law.

Now this ruling has been met with widespread rejection by Israeli officials all across the political spectrum. The National Security Council in Israel along with the Foreign Ministry putting out a joint statement saying that what the military is doing in Rafah does not reflect what the court order says the IDF may do and they say that this allegation of genocide is false, outrageous and morally repugnant.

But Wolf, this does reflect the growing isolation of Israel on the international stage, of course, comes just a few days after the International Criminal Court said that they are seeking arrest warrants for the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alex, there's also news on the hostage front. What do we know?

MARQUARDT: Some very sad news, three more bodies of hostages were recovered by the IDF overnight. They were found in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. That's an area where there is renewed fighting after the IDF said that they had cleared that area. You can see their photos there on the screen. Two of them were at the Nova Music Festival when the October 7th attack happened. The third was a grandfather who was going to pick up his granddaughter when he was killed. All three of them were killed on October 7th. Their bodies have been held in Gaza since then.

Of course, Wolf, this can bring closure to families who are waiting to bury their loved ones, but can also of course, bring extraordinary sadness for those families who've been holding out hope that their loved ones in Gaza may still be alive. Wolf, we should note that these hostage and ceasefire talks that have been, you know, coming and going for the past few months have been paused at a stalemate for the past few weeks.

I've been told by sources that they are picking up again, slightly. The CIA Director Bill Burns was meeting today in Paris with his counterpart at the Mossad, David Barnea as well as the Qatari Prime Minister. But it is -- it does not appear that any kind of deal is imminent, Wolf, instead I'm told by a U.S. official that Burns' goal there in Paris is to simply revive the talks. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt, reporting for us, Alex, thank you very much.

Also tonight, President Biden is welcoming a new commitment by Egypt to allow aid to pass through a crossing located at the borders of Gaza, Egypt and Israel until the Rafah border crossing actually reopens. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is increasingly dire and deadly. CNN's Paula Hancock's reports.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Living in a city of ruins is barely living. The daily search for water and food in Gaza second largest city of Khan Yunis is relentless. This young man says life is horrible. Isam (ph) shows us what's left of his home, a twisted shell of concrete with tarpaulin for walls.

The bathroom he sets his half destroyed, the living room half destroyed. And I'm now sleeping in the kitchen with my family with my children. Ominous cracks slice through the ceiling, which bulges precariously over the family below. As you can see he says the ceiling is cracked and could fall at any time. God knows we could be dead or alive in the morning relative to other countries. It is dangerous and it is unsanitary. And yet better than the alternative, he says he has been unable to secure a tent for his family.

Others have found shelter in a bomb school around 100 families live here. Mohamed was an engineer in Gaza City. He has been forced to move his family almost half a dozen times so far by the Israeli military, most recently from Rafah. He points to his seven-month-old son saying he needs to be allowed to live. MOHAMED IBRAHIM, GAZA RESIDENT: Do you think he is Hamas? Does he have a Kalashnikov, or RPG, have something to make a war with Israeli soldiers?


HANCOCKS (voice-over): His only hope, he says, he shares with all Gazans that the war will end.

IBRAHIM: We are humans, not animals, like some people say. Israelis and people say. We're not animals. We are humans. We have rights.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): This is where the Israeli military says the displaced should move to. Alma Wasi (ph), calling it a, quote, humanitarian zone. As waste piles high alongside makeshift shelters, aid groups call it unfit for human habitation. The Israeli military response to the Hamas October 7th attacks continues to be overwhelming for those trying to survive in Gaza. Israel insists it needs to destroy Hamas and find the remaining hostages.

Local officials estimate 80 percent of buildings in Khan Yunis have been destroyed. And yet amid the dusty wasteland, a makeshift market has sprung up. Everything is destroyed this vendor says, this is a ghost town. People are living on top of dead bodies still under the rubble.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


BLITZER: Thank you very much Paula Hancocks for that report. Coming up, we'll go live to Taiwan, where China is now saying its continued high stake military drills are designed to quote seize power over the island.



BLITZER: China conducted its largest military exercise in more than a year around the island of Taiwan. And it comes just days after Taiwan swore in its new president who has championed in the islands sovereignty from Beijing. I want to bring in CNN's Will Ripley, who's joining us now. Will, how threatening are these Chinese drills that have been ongoing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The military activity encircling Taiwan, Wolf, has been pretty significant. China is actually saying that this has been a test of their ability to seize power over this democracy after the inauguration of their new president, Lai Ching Te, earlier this week. We saw over two days, dozens of Chinese aircraft along with warships, Coast Guard vessels. And basically that what they were told that the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, was practicing, Wolf, is a blockade of Taiwan, a blockade would be a potential precursor for an invasion. They would try to use their military assets to cut off crucial shipping ports, and also try to block air traffic from coming in and out. And on an island like Taiwan where 24 million people living here rely on imports extensively for everything from food to energy, it wouldn't take very long before the economy here would essentially be brought to its knees if a blockade were in effect. So very ominous, very threatening. These military drills have happened before. And of course, they're taking them very seriously here in the capital of Taipei. Wolf.

BLITZER: So how is Taiwan will responding to this Chinese aggression?

RIPLEY: Obviously, on the government level, they are condemning this and calling on democratic allies around the world, including the United States to do the same. At the same time, the Taiwanese military has been deploying its own aircraft to monitor the situation. They've been releasing video, tailing some of these Chinese bombers that reportedly were carrying live missiles during these war games simulations. And at the same time, there have been protests here in the capital of Taipei.

Thousands of people gathering, a lot of them young people, but not all of them young people, saying that they're angry at some lawmakers here in Taiwan, who have who have perceived as having views that are friendly to China, who are trying they say to take power away from the new president, who has a very tough on China stance. These people and I was out talking to him yesterday, Wolf, including one man who flew all the way from California. He was born in Taiwan. He's lived in the U.S. for 40 years. And he told me why he's decided to come here to Taipei to participate in these protests.


RIPLEY: Why'd you come all the way here?

LI HONG-CHENG, PROTESTER: Because I support democracy. I believe democracy is it's a freedom that people should exercise and freedom come with very, very hard price.


RIPLEY: You know, Wolf, a lot of people may not know that Taiwan hasn't always been a democracy. It's only been in the last 30 years or so that they've had these free and fair presidential elections. For decades, they lived under a single party system under Chiang Kai-shek. And so there are people of a certain age over 40 here who remember what life was like living under martial law under an authoritarian government. And they say they fought hard for the democracy they have today and that they're not willing to give that up.

BLITZER: Will, what more can you tell us about the mood of everyday people who live there where you are right now in Taiwan?

RIPLEY: So in some ways, the attitude here in Taiwan, I've been based here for two years already. It reminds me of what I heard when North and South Korea were these two sides are very close to each other. They've been living their whole lives on the brink of war. They've been hearing for decades, that war is possible, and you just learn to go on with your day to day life.

But I am noticing a bit of a change among some people. I interviewed a dad yesterday a father of two who's a financial analyst. He has a great job here in Taiwan. And he actually told me that he feels like war may be closer than he has ever felt it's been in his life. And he said, if China wants to invade, he hopes they do it now while he's still strong enough to fight so this doesn't get passed on to his children. I thought that was a pretty powerful sentiment that others were sharing out the protests as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very tense situation indeed. Will Ripley reporting for us, thank you very much.


Coming up, a former Trump ally turned critic on the neck critical days and weeks for the former president and his campaign as his hush money criminal trial nears an end and his first debate with President Biden is getting closer.


BLITZER: Happening now, Donald Trump works to rally Republicans at a perilous moment for him with jurors on the brink of deciding his fate, even as he's gearing up for his first high stakes debate with President Biden here on CNN. We're learning more about both candidates strategies right now as the presidential race heads into a new phase.


Also tonight tens of millions of Americans are on the move as long holiday weekend gets underway. Standby for updates on the record setting rush to airports and the severe weather that could make traveling dangerous.