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Trump On The Brink, Trial Heads To Jury Soon As CNN Debate Nears; Holiday Travel Setting Records Amid Severe Weather Threat; NCAA Agrees To Deal That Paves The Way For Paying Student Athletes; Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss Charges Against Alec Baldwin In "Rust" Shooting; Sean "Diddy" Combs Accused Of Sexual Assault In Another Lawsuit; Putin Expands Purge Of High-Ranking Russian Military Officials. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 24, 2024 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump works to rally Republican 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 ends into a new phase.

Also tonight, tens of millions of Americans are on the move, aAs the long holiday weekend gets underway.


Stand by for updates on the record-setting rush to airports and the severe weather that could make traveling dangerous.

Plus, a historic deal is paving the way for colleges and universities to pay student athletes. How the NCAA sports could be changed forever.

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

All right, our top story tonight, the presidential race heads into unchartered territory. Donald Trump could potentially learn within a few days if he's the first former president of the United States to be convicted of crimes. At the same time, he's gearing up for the earliest presidential debate between general election candidates in modern history.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has more on Trump's efforts to rally support at this critical moment.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former President Donald Trump trading the courtroom for the campaign trail this holiday weekend.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win so big. As the jury in his criminal hush money trial is poised to begin deliberations in his case next week. As he continues to try and make inroads with Black and Hispanic voters --

TRUMP: I did criminal justice reform at a level that nobody thought was possible to get, and I did that largely for the black and Hispanic community.

HOLMES: -- Trump making a campaign stop in the Bronx Thursday night.

TRUMP: The simple fact is Joe Biden is not getting the job done for the Bronx.

HOLMES: At that event, Trump weighing in for the first time on his former rival Nikki Haley's announcement she would vote for him in November.

TRUMP: I appreciated what she said. You know, we had a nasty campaign. It was pretty nasty. But she's a very capable person and I'm sure she's going to be on our team in some form.

HOLMES: But despite the public thawing in their rivalry, Trump and Haley still have not spoken since the former South Carolina governor ended her bid, with sources telling CNN their relationship remains chilled after the contentious primary. Saturday is likely to see Trump take on another rival.

TRUMP: RFK Jr. is a Democrat plant, a radical left liberal who's been put in place in order to help crooked Joe Biden, the worst president in the history of the United States, get re-elected.

HOLMES: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as the two address the Libertarian Convention in Washington, D.C. on back-to-back days. Trump and his team have increasingly viewed Kennedy as a potential political problem, as the independent gains ballot access in states across the country and sustains support in the polls.

TRUMP: A lot of people think that Jr. is a conservative. He's not. He's more liberal than anybody running on the Democrat side.

HOLMES: Kennedy targeting Trump's record during his speech this afternoon.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With the lockdowns, the mask mandates, the travel restrictions, President Trump presided over the greatest restriction on individual liberties this country has ever known.

HOLMES: One item likely missing from the former president's schedule this holiday weekend, debate prep. With less than five weeks until the first general election debate in Atlanta, sources close to the former president say there have been no formal conversations about preparation, confident he can outperform Biden.

TRUMP: If crooked Joe Biden makes it through the debate, which I think he will, they're going to say it was one of the great debate performances in history. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (on camera): Now, Wolf, Donald Trump's advisers have told me not to expect your typical preparation for a debate overall. You're not going to see someone sitting in for Biden, practicing grilling questions or sitting in for the moderators. Whether or not they do prep at all will be left to the candidate.

I do want to say this weekend, we're going to see Trump in a battleground state, but not campaigning. He will be behind the scenes attending the NASCAR race in North Carolina. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting for us. Kristen, thank you. Joining us now, the former Trump White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. He's also the author of a brand new book entitled, From Wall Street to the White House and Back, The Scaramucci Guide to Unbreakable Resilience. You can see the cover right there. Anthony, thanks for joining us.

Trump claimed he was going to win deep blue New York during his rally in the Bronx yesterday. Do you take that at all seriously?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No, not any more seriously than there were 20,000 people there to greet him. You know, listen, this is what he does. We're in the age of post- truth. You and I both know that. And, you know, in my book, I counted 30, 540 lies that he told over the four years. That's according to The Washington Post. And he's telling lies every single day to the American people.

And he's also testing the rhetoric of authoritarianism. He's praising dictators. He's out on the stump praising dictators today. And that's sort of a boil the frog approach, Wolf. He's trying to see how far he can go in terms of stretching the rhetoric, because if he were to win, and he's not going to, but if he were to win he'll see what he can do with that unitary executive power that him and his team want to push on the American people.


BLITZER: Anthony, closing arguments, as you know, begin Tuesday in Trump's New York hush money criminal trial. Do you think prosecutors did enough to tie Trump to the alleged criminal activity?

SCARAMUCCI: I do. You know, I've read through the transcripts and, and I've read the testimony, the crosses, the redirects, et cetera. I do think the evidence is overwhelming. The real question, though, because you know what it's like in a jury trial, you could get a situation similar to the O.J. case, where you get a hung jury or acquittal. Not impossible in a case like this.

But, Wolf, I've said this all along, that case is not going to be material come September, October, November. Whether he's convicted or not convicted, I don't see the case being the real issue. What's that issue is what did the American people want over the next four years? They want to maintain the system of their democracy, or they want to allow the chaos of Donald Trump to come in and threaten that system. That's what's going to be litigated in the fall.

So, I don't think the case is going to bear a lot of meaning. There'll be a conviction or not a conviction. It'll be over in a few weeks.

BLITZER: The point you're making is backed up in a new Quinnipiac University poll. Just 6 percent of Trump supporters say a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for him, just 6 percent. So, how much do you think the verdict will ultimately impact the 2024 election?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's play both sides to the extreme. He's guilty of everything and they give him a felony. They're not going to put him in court. They probably will give him home confinement and a fine. That will charge his base. If anything, he'll probably raise money off of that.

The flip side of that, there's a full acquittal, you know, he'll go on, he'll say that this was lawfare, which you and I both know it wasn't, because of the separation of powers in the country and the decentralized nature of our government between the federal and state and local governments.

But, ultimately, I think that Quinnipiac poll is correct. Very few people are going to make a decision on who the next president is going to be on a case like this. It's unfortunate, Wolf, that those other two cases have been delayed, because those cases were more meaningful. And I think the facts of those two cases were more damning for the president in terms of how he imported himself after the presidency and what he did in the days prior to the insurrection and what, in fact, he did on January 6th,

BLITZER: That's why Trump's lawyers and Trump have been trying to delay all those other cases as much as they possibly can.

As you know, Biden campaign officials did meet with some Nikki Haley supporters this week after she announced she would be voting for Trump. What do you think Biden needs to do to bring some of these disaffected GOP voters to his side?

SCARAMUCCI: I think he's got to go to the Trump cabinet that's denouncing Donald Trump. There's 40 people that have either worked for the president inside the White House or were in the cabinet or the subcabinet, including the former vice president of the United States that have denounced the president and are trying to explain to the American people the warning signs. It's sort of a mass surgeon general's warning, don't go back to this type of chaos, don't go back to this threat to the democracy. And I would implore the Biden campaign to reach out to those people. Those are the people that know the danger.

You know, I'm disappointed in Governor Haley. She knows the danger. She's smarter than what she's doing right now. But there's no backbone in her decision. She's obviously been influenced by these campaign apparatchiks and these campaign consultants that tell her, hey, you better support Donald Trump. You have no future in that party. A wiser Churchillian version of Nikki Haley would have held her ground. She had 20 percent of that party. And she could have spoke to a vision for a new center right party that dropped the hatred, dropped the threat of violence, dropped the threat of persecution, all of the nonsense that Donald Trump represents. And she could have reached out to many non-voters and rebuilt that party. But she's not Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, of course, left the Whig Party and formed became the first Republican nominee for president in 1860. We don't have that type of leadership right now.

But if I were the Biden people, I'd say, hey, this is a binary election. It's democracy first. Are you a patriot first and a partisan last? Come join us so that we can keep this system of government, this great American experiment working for the American people, as well as it's worked over the last 250 years.

BLITZER: Anthony Scaramucci, thanks very much for joining us. And once again Anthony's new book and I'm holding it up right here, From Wall Street to the White House and Back, The Scaramucci Guide to Unbreakable Resilience.


Anthony, thanks very much for joining us.

SCARAMUCCI: That's an expensive photo, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck. Nice photo on the cover.

All right, we have breaking news coming in on the situation right now. Only moments ago, the Louisiana Republican governor, Jeff Landry, signed a bill into law that now classifies two abortion-inducing drugs as controlled and dangerous substances. Louisiana is the first state in the United States to take this step.

I want to bring in Republican Strategist Michael Singleton, and former Senior Adviser to President Biden, Ashley Etienne.

Ashley, let's start with the breaking news out of Louisiana. What's your reaction?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR V.P. HARRIS: I mean, this is really a continuation of Republicans war against women. First, they undermine Roe, and now you've got all these Republican states and governors that are implementing near bans on abortion, if not complete and total bans on abortion. And to add insult to injury, you have the speaker, the head of the Republican Party, head of an entire branch of government, going to the court to sit in court in support of a person that was convicted of sexual abuse against a woman.

The Republican Party needs to explain to the American women what is it they have against us? Why is it that they continue to wage war on our bodies? What is that about?

BLITZER: Shermichael, how concerned should Republicans be about a potentially a fierce backlash From voters as a result of this?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, as a strategist Wolf, I am concerned for the very points that Ashley just made. This is just a position, an area that women and voters writ large do not want Republicans touching. We have two years worth of impeccable electoral data that showcases we lose election after election after election on this particular issue when, we have an advantage on the economy, we have an advantage on immigration, we have an advantage on foreign policy. Those are the three issues that Republicans need to stick to if they expect to do well this November.

BLITZER: I want to quickly turn, Shermichael, while I have you, to Trump's rally in the Bronx last night in New York City. Here's a bit more of what Trump told Fox, Fox News, after his speech. Listen to this.


TRUMP: The party is together. I appreciate what you said. The party is together and I think we're going to have a tremendous --


BLITZER: But a former campaign official for Nikki Haley tells CNN this, and let me quote from this official. I think that they assume that we'll just come home, which is a very bad assumption. We get a lot of text messages for fundraising but we have not had any outreach on the Trump campaign. What do you think?

SINGLETON: I would advise the campaign to reach out to make that phone call to Nikki Haley.

BLITZER: The Trump campaign?

SINGLETON: Correct. When you look at the voter profile of some of those voters, those Republicans who are still supporting the former governor, many of them voted for president Biden in 2020. I am not convinced that they will not repeat that this November, but I do believe there's about a third of them who are sort of sitting on the fence waiting to see if there will be some direct appeals from the former president. I think it's about time to move forward with that before the convention.

BLITZER: Do you think, Ashley, the Biden campaign, the Biden team should be doing more to reach out to Nikki Haley voters?

ETIENNE: I mean, they are aggressively reaching out to Nikki Haley voters. You know, as soon as she announces that she's going to vote for the president, the -- vote for the former president, the Biden campaign was on the phone with her supporters almost immediately. They've also released an ad today that's specifically targeted, according to the campaign, to those voters that really paints the pictures and remind the American people of who Donald Trump is, his threat to American democracy, the fact that he prioritizes revenge over the interests of the American people. So, they're making an aggressive push and they recognize that the advantage they have with those voters is those voters are over Donald Trump's antics. They despise what Donald Trump represents in his threat to what we believe in the very fabric of the nation. So, I think they're going to continue to have some luck with reaching out to those voters because there' no sign that indicates that Trump actually can't get those votes back.

BLITZER: We have a little clip from that ad. Let me play it for our viewers. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From midnight tweets, to drinking bleach, to tear gassing citizens and staging a photo op, we knew Trump was out of control when he was president. Then he lost the 2020 election and snapped, desperately trying to hold on to power.

Now, he's running again. This time, threatening to be a dictator to terminate the Constitution.

TRUMP: If I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath.


BLITZER: Do you think this is effective, Shermichael?

SINGLETON: I mean, what I'm realizing here is that the Biden reelect campaign should do more to talk about the president's record over the past four years and what he plans to do for another four years. They're not talking about those things, because the reality is most Americans don't believe the former president -- the current president, rather, has done a great job on the economy, on immigration.

Axios had two fascinating data points that came out earlier today, Wolf, one that showcased the 39 percent of black workers and 35 percent of Hispanic workers said that they're not doing okay financially.


The other dataset showcased that parents with kids 18 years old or younger are not doing as well financially as well. That's decreased 11 points since 2021. The American people are not doing well, Wolf, in terms of their pocketbook issues.

BLITZER: Do want to quickly respond, Ashley?

ETIENNE: Well, I mean the America has the strongest economy in the world. The president has created 15 million jobs record low unemployment that we're seeing right now. But as I've said previously, I mean, I don't think that -- I've been in politics for a long time and I don't think people ever feel very confident in having enough money and enough security economically.

But the reality is what really is turning off that 20 percent of Nikki Haley voters is Donald Trump. So, to bring those voters into the fold, the best approach is what the president is doing now, which is aggressively defining Donald Trump in the threat that he presents.

BLITZER: Actually, at the end, we got to run.

SINGLETON: It's okay, Wolf.

BLITZER: Shermichael Singleton, we'll continue this conversation, to be sure.

Just ahead, we're in the middle of a record-breaking travel weekend across the country, just as tens of millions of Americans are in the path of potentially very dangerous and severe weather. We'll have a live update as the unofficial start to summer kicks off.

Plus, power to the players details on the nearly $3 billion that paves the way for schools to start paying student athletes.



BLITZER: Today is the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season here in the United States, and already the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, is reporting a record number of travelers at airports across the country.

CNN's Ryan Young and Chad Myers are joining us right now. Ryan, you're over at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport, where the TSA screened a record number of passengers this morning for the second day in a row. So, update our viewers, what's the situation there now?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been unreal Wolf. And, of course, this is happening across the country where we've seen people really wanting to fly. And as we talk to people not only about flying but the economy, most of the folks that we talked to say they were willing to spend whatever it took to have this vacation. They wanted to kick off summer.

If you look behind me, you can see these TSA lines have been busy all day long. Yesterday, they broke the all time record here with over 111,000 people. They're on pace to break that again. And this is better than NFL numbers because what we've been told even the day after the Super Bowl, those numbers have been passed. They believe they will crush those numbers again.

But listen to some of the passengers who say they weren't worried about the economy, they weren't worried about all the travel or all the people, they just wanted to get out of town.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a little scared and excited. So, we left super early.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was dead set on traveling. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The TSA checkout or check in line was insane. There was just too much going on.


YOUNG: Yes. Here you go, Wolf. Look, 2.9 million people traveled yesterday. They believe is going to be 9 percent above last year. We're talking about numbers that will crush 2019.

And I was talking to people who were flying. I was asking them about their average spend for their family. We've had people as low as $2,000 and we talked to a family that's going to spend over $11,000 on their travel this weekend because they've been putting off this travel for quite some time.

I'm talking to people who work in business as well. They believe this will be a positive pop for the economy because with all these people traveling and moving in and out, there's hotels, there's cars connected to this, many of the people who work here at the airport say these are like times before the pandemic, lots of smiles.

Of course, now you've got to add in that afternoon rush hour traffic, plus people trying to get here. We saw our first delays in terms of air travel across the country in the last hour or so. I also checked in with Miami. They're breaking their records as well as for air travel. So, what you're seeing is the domino effect. You see a public that's doing the revenge travel. They want to get out. This summer season is starting off strong. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, and experts are saying get to the airports two hours before your flight just to be on the safe side.

Ryan, stand by. I want to get to Chad right now. Chad, you're tracking some severe weather. What should people be bracing for this holiday weekend?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: If you are flying, keep that seatbelt on. 87 tornadoes so far this week, 928 reports of winds over 55 to 60 miles per hour. Just in the past 30 days, 550 tornadoes have been on the ground. We'll get a couple today. Tomorrow is a bigger day for that. There may even be some airport delays, so, certainly, there will be some bumps in the air as the pilots try to fly around some of these storms, around Dallas right now, St. Louis right now, even closer to Chicago later on today.

But we have severe thunderstorm watches. And I say that in a good way because there's no tornado watch out there like we've had over the past days and days and days in a row. Yes, we will get hail. Yes, there will be wind. but so far, so good with these storms not rotating, at least for now.

We move you ahead to later on this afternoon into this evening. Storms may even approach Hartsfield Jackson tomorrow afternoon. We'll have to watch that, especially right around noon hour. But today, kind of a lull, tomorrow, back up, and then for Sunday, we start to see more storms in busier, more populated places, like the Ohio Valley. For tomorrow, it could be a very significant day for Kansas and Oklahoma. Anywhere that there is a colored little cube here, you could see some severe weather. Certainly tornadoes on the ground tomorrow, another day, maybe like we had yesterday. We'll have to watch this.

Make sure if you're traveling, you know what county you're in. So, that when you hear the warning, you go, oh, that's where I am, or make sure that your phone knows where you are as well.

BLITZER: Good point. Chad Myers, Ryan Young, to both of you, thank you very much.


Coming up, we're getting new reaction to a bombshell payment for a pay to play settlement, the multibillion dollar agreement that's shaking up the sports world.


BLITZER: A groundbreaking agreement could change college sports forever, and it could mean student athletes would begin making some serious money.

CNN's Polo Sandoval breaks down the deal and what it means for colleges and universities.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a groundbreaking agreement promising to reshape the fan-packed world of college athletics. If approved by a judge, the settlement announced by the governing body of college sports paves the way for universities to pay student athletes in five power conferences.


PAUL FINEBAUM, SPORTS RADIO HOST: This is the most significant day in the history of the NCAA, because the sham that the NCAA has always been is over. They have always fought on every mountain, to defend the right that this is really amateur athletics when we've all known that is has not been the case for a long time.

SANDOVAL: NCAA President Charlie Baker saying in a statement Friday, the NCAA, in coordination with division one conferences, promises to pay roughly $2.7 billion in damages over ten years, the money for thousands of student athletes previously prohibited from accepting endorsements. The deal also creates a revenue sharing system, allowing schools to pay up to around $20 million a year to division one athletes and conferences, like the Big 10 and the SEC, going back to 2016. The system could start by fall 2025.

JEFFREY KESSLER, ANTITRUST, SPORTS LAW AND TRIAL ATTORNEY: This is the life-transforming opportunity for these student athletes to share in the revenues they've been generating.

SANDOVAL: Jeffrey Kessler was lead attorney in the antitrust case against the NCAA that helped reach the unprecedented agreement.

KESSLER: These athletes work 45 hours a week before they go to a single class. They are asked to dedicate themselves to make these teams great and to bring in all these money to these schools. So, it is their time.

SANDOVAL: Former college football and NFL Wide Receiver Donte Stallworth telling CNN, this is long overdue.

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE AND NFL PLAYER: You could have learned a lot of financial stability, have a lot of financial resources from that aspect. A lot of guys don't make it to the NFL, like I was fortunate enough to do.

SANDOVAL: Eligible students stand to get a piece of a very lucrative pie. NCAA sports generated roughly $1.3 billion in revenue last fiscal year alone. There is skepticism about the deal though.

JOE MOGLIA, CHAIR, COASTAL CAROLINA ATHELTICS DIVISION: 75 percent of the NBA players and NFL players that have retired after five years, they go broke, okay? That's NBA and NFL players. What kind of financial illiteracy is part of the life of an 18, 19, 20, 21-year-old kid? To what extent might they be taken advantage of with regard to the agents? To what extent do academics really, really matter with regard to all this? And those are significant, significant questions that are not being addressed.

SANDOVAL: And there are other unanswered questions about a possible framework. Just how exactly will it work? What athletes and sports will profit over others? And how will schools adhere to strict Title IX laws, which aim to prohibit sexual discrimination?


BLITZER: And Polo Sandoval is joining us now live. Polo, this is something years in the making, as we all know. How did we get here?

SANDOVAL (on camera): This side of agreement, Wolf, it may be new, but not the efforts to get to this point. You recall, it was only three years ago that student athletes finally gained the right to legally make a profit off of their name, image and likeness on their own. And then it was just this past March that the men's basketball team at Dartmouth College voted to unionize, essentially becoming employees of the university.

That, Wolf, was a major milestone. But that is also part of a separate and very ongoing conversation and debate right now about these student athletes being considered potentially as employees, one that stretches all the way to Washington, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important point. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.

Joining us now, CNN Contributor, Sports Broadcaster Cari Champion. Cari, thanks very much for joining us.

This is significant -- this is a monumental move by the NCAA, allowing these schools, these colleges, universities to directly pay players for the first time ever. So, what's your reaction?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as Donte Stallworth said in the piece, long overdue. I think that we have known for a long time that this isn't an amateur athletics program. We've watched these coaches. We've watched these heads of these schools make millions and millions of dollars. And I don't know if you know this, Wolf, we all talked to some champions, you know, not more than ten years ago, and the kids would win a national championship, and they wouldn't have money to celebrate. They wouldn't have money to take themselves to dinner, yet the school and the NCAA saw millions, if not billions of dollars. So, it is a long time overdue, however, there is still so much more work to be done because it's still very ambiguous how this all shake out.

BLITZER: We'll see how it does shake out. How could this decision, though, impact women college athletes and others outside of the major revenue-generating sports universities?

CHAMPION: That's a great question. And that is one of the things where it's still not -- it's still unclear. They talked about Title IX. It's a federal law that makes sure there's equal scholarships for men and for women at all of these schools. And also that means they should also have equal pay in theory. But let's just be honest, the programs that make the most money are usually the basketball programs and the football programs, primarily women's volleyball doesn't necessarily make money.

So, I think that the schools as well as the NCAA and the student themselves will have a lot to say about how they will get these funds.


Will they be distributed equally? I would have to think just on first blush and hearing about it. That won't be the case. But yet, and still, I see this playing out. That particular issue you just referred to, who will get the funds, how will they be divided, I could see that issue being played out in court as well.

BLITZER: Yes, me too. We've seen these name, image and likeness deals change the nature of college sports. How does this deal possibly impact that?

CHAMPION: Well, I do believe what NIL will do, name, image and likeness, will highlight those players that are really above board in the sense that they're superstars. People like a Caitlin Clark, or if LeBron James had went to college, or if there was a Zion most recently, there are some players that just -- especially student athletes, that just stand out above the rest. And, of course, you would think the sponsorship deals would be plenty.

However, as mentioned, not too long ago, a lot of these students will be making the type of money that they may not ever see their entire lives while in college. And so the way that I think this will end up playing out is that they'll need to put some sort of payment structure in place because this landscape could get very scary if you have a 19- year-old making millions of dollars and what left for them to do if they're thinking perhaps I'll just go to college -- I mean, I'll just go to the pros. This feels like the pros anyway.

BLITZER: Good point. Cari Champion, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we'll have a live report from Jerusalem as the United Nations top court issues a very blunt order to Israel over its military operations inside Southern Gaza.



BLITZER: Tonight, Israel is being ordered by the United Nations' highest court to stop military operations in Rafah.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more from Jerusalem.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the United Nations top court intervening to try and stop Israel's military offensive in Rafah.

NAWAF SALAM, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE: The state of Israel shall, in conformity with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza, conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction.

DIAMOND: The ruling comes nearly three weeks after Israeli tanks first rolled into Rafah, seizing the border crossing with Egypt, slowing aid deliveries to Gaza. More than 800,000 people have now been forced to flee the city, many camping out in areas with insufficient food, water and sanitation, as humanitarian aid officials warn of looming catastrophe.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet, says Israel must continue fighting to return its abductees and ensure the safety of its citizens at anytime and anywhere, including in Rafah.

The ruling cements a month of extraordinary international condemnation of Israel's conduct in Gaza when it saw President Biden threaten Israel over concerns about Rafah.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: If they go into Rafa, I'm not supplying the weapons.

DIAMOND: And just this week, the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor seeking an arrest warrant for Israel's prime minister.

For the second time in two weeks, Israelis also learning of the deaths of more hostages.

REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESPERSON: It is with a heavy heart that I share that last night, Israeli Special Forces in Gaza rescued the bodies of our hostages. DIAMOND: The Israeli military recovering the bodies of three hostages in Northern Gaza, 59-year-old Michel Nisenbaum, 30-year-old Orion Hernandez Radoux, and 42-year-old Hanan Yablonka. The news crushing their family's hopes that their loved ones were still alive.

SHAY ABADY, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF HANAN YABLONKA: Eight months, we were hoping that we will find them. But until now, until today, this morning, we didn't know nothing if he was alive or he was dead.

DIAMOND: His brother-in-law, Hanan Yablonka, was killed after making a last minute decision to attend the Nova festival.

ABADY: He always had a smile on his face, always smiling. No matter what happened, he smiled.


DIAMOND (on camera): And Wolf, as their families mourn, we understand the top American, Israeli, and Qatari negotiators met in Paris today to try and advance ceasefire and hostage negotiations to free the remainder of the 121 hostages from October 7th who remain in Gaza. Wolf?

BLITZER: I hope those negotiations succeed. Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much.

Coming up, there's breaking news on the involuntary manslaughter charge against the actor, Alec Baldwin.



BLITZER: We have some breaking news in the Alec Baldwin "Rust" movie shooting case.

CNN's Josh Campbell is joining us right now.

Josh, what are the new developments?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Wolf, a judge in the state of New Mexico clearing the way for their continued prosecution of actor Alec Baldwin, issuing a ruling just moments ago, denying a motion by Baldwin's team to dismiss charges against him. Of course, he faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter based on that 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Now, Baldwin's attorney had alleged in a filing that the prosecutors were operating in bad faith, taking issue with the procedures they used to handle a grand jury that ultimately indicted him. But this judge signing with the prosecution, denying that motion, Wolf, the trial against actor Alec Baldwin is set to begin in July.

BLITZER: Josh Campbell with the latest on that front, thanks very much. Also tonight, Sean "Diddy" Combs is now facing a seventh lawsuit

directly accusing him of sexual assault. The legal pressure on the rapper and producer growing after CNN exclusively uncovered a 2016 video of Combs physically attacking because then girlfriend.

CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister has an update.


ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The legal fallout continues for Sean "Diddy" Combs, just a week after CNN uncovered this disturbing video of the music mogul, throwing then- girlfriend Cassie Ventura to the ground, then kicking and dragging her.

On Thursday, April Lampros filed a civil law lawsuit accusing Combs of sexual assault when she was a fashion student in New York in the mid- '90s, and shared with him her dreams of working in the fashion industry.

Then, Mr. Combs love-bombed her, the suit alleges, using flowers and cards like this one, and inviting her to his first Father's Day celebration.

But Combs's kind gestures became more aggressive, the suit alleges, leading to a total of four separate sexual assault. The first and alleged rape in 1995 leaving Lampros nude, sore, and confused. She claims Combs used his power in the industry to regain her trust, but then in a New York parking garage forced Lampros to perform oral sex. As Ms. Lampros' eyes filled with tears, she could see the parking garage attendant witnessing this horrific assault, the suit claims.


Lampros says she was caught in an abusive relationship and tried to end it after several years. But after running into Combs at an event, he pursued her. And in late 2000s at her apartment, Combs violently grabbed her and forced himself onto her, kissing and touching her against her will.

This came, the suit notes, while Combs was in a public relationship with Jennifer Lopez.

Combs develop this mobster persona, the suit claims, at one point violently yanking her down to her knees and pulling her hair. The alleged abuse similar to this, when Combs was caught on hotel surveillance in 2016, kicking and dragging Cassie Ventura, then throwing a vase at her.

SEAN "DIDDY" COOMBS", MUSIC MOGUL: I mean, I hit rock bottom.

WAGMEISTER: The latest suit filed by Lampros is the seventh civil lawsuit against Combs, alleging sexual assault. Many of the cases once fell outside the statute of limitations.

But in the case of that shocking video from Los Angeles, the district attorney says criminal charges won't be filed. The video shows assault, not rape, but with those federal raids on Diddy's homes in March, legal analysts say the civil claims much like in the case against Harvey Weinstein, could play into criminal charges in the future.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And so just because its a civil lawsuit now doesn't mean that prosecutors looking and evaluating it may not find something that they feel that they can prosecute that makes it fair game for prosecution. And I think it's a faulty assumption to presume that he's out of the woods.


WAGMEISTER (on camera): Now, Wolf, I reached out to April Lampros and she says that the reason why she came forward is so that other women do not have to endure what she did. She says that she believes that justice will ultimately prevail. We reached out to Diddy's team. No word back yet.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you very much.

And we'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: Russian president Vladimir Putin is expanding a purge of high-ranking military officials, shaking up his forces, even as the war in Ukraine rages on.

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

Brian, tell us more about Putin's latest moves and his motives.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one analyst says this reminds her of the palace intrigue back in the Soviet era. But, frankly, the methods at work here, the mysterious purges, the arrests, the questionable charges leveled, are not really out of character for Vladimir Putin either.


TODD (voice-over): As he swaggered in the presidential palace of his top ally in Belarus today, and quote about the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in that country, the former KGB colonel ruthlessly pressed on with a purge of his top military brass at home. Two top Russian military officials just arrested as Vladimir Putin's purported campaign to stamp out corruption continues.

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA HEAD OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: I think it's definitely the biggest military shakeup that we've seen in Moscow since the start of the war that were aware of.

TODD: One of those arrested, Lieutenant General Vadim Shamarin, a top communications officer in the Russian army. He's accused of taking large scale bribes. Russian state media reports that despite having an annual salary in 2018 of about $32,000 American dollars, Shamarin's wife in 2022, bought a Mercedes worth over $200,000.

Analysts say not unusual in a military rife with corruption.

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: The Russian military is known for padding contracts. They, you know, will write a big contract and take a cut. This kind of rampant corruption is normal, and again, the higher you go, the more rampant it is.

TODD: With these latest arrest, five top Russian military officials have been arrested in the past couple of months, at least four have denied wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, Putin pushed out his longtime defense minister and close ally Sergey Shoigu and replaced him with an economist.

This all comes as Russian forces have made recent gains on the battlefield in Ukraine, still grinding war that Putin has ramped up spending for.

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Russia is moving toward war economy and it's true, 7 percent of their GDP now is focused on defense. They're on a war footing.

TODD: But some analysts believe there's more going on inside the Kremlin than Putin trying to clean up his defense spending.

FARKAS: I mean, it really feels to me like a Soviet style purge. He's probably done some forensics since the march on Moscow last summer remember by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

TODD: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary chief who led a short- lived rebellion against the Kremlin last year after viciously and very publicly accusing Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, of not supporting Wagner militants on the battlefield. Once doing that while strolling among the dead bodies of his mercenaries.

Prigozhin later died in mysterious plane crash.

Analysts say Putin could now be sorting out who's really loyal to him and sending a message to the Russian people.

HALL: Allows Putin to say to his domestic audience, yeah, I'm cleaning shop here and we're going to be in this for awhile.


TODD (on camera): Experts say its possible that more purges could be coming from Vladimir Putin, and that the powerful chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, might need to look over his shoulder.

But one analyst points out, Gerasimov is at the top of the military pyramid and Putin might need to tread carefully with him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting -- Brian, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a very safe Memorial Day weekend.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.