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New Details On Closing Arguments In Trump Trial Tomorrow; U.S. Reaction As Israel Calls Deadly Rafah Strike A Tragic Mistake; Now, 16 Million Under Tornado Watch In Parts Of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland And D.C.; Tornadoes & Severe Storms Kill At Least 23 In U.S.; How Trump's Trial Compares To Other Landmark Cases. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 27, 2024 - 18:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, we're learning new details about closing arguments in Donald Trump's historic criminal trial, as both sides prepare to make their final pitches to jurors tomorrow.

Also tonight, U.S. reaction to the Israeli airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Rafah as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now calling it a tragic mistake. Stand by for new reporting on behind the scenes conversations inside the Biden administration.

And breaking news, as multiple states are reeling from severe weather, the tornado threat extending to the East Coast, with millions on alert right now, including right here in the nation's capital.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Boris Sanchez and you are in The Situation Room.

Let's get right to the breaking news on what to expect during tomorrow's closing arguments in Donald Trump's hush money trial, sources revealing some of the key points that both sides plan to make.

CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York with the details. Kara, what are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, in closing arguments tomorrow, Michael Cohen is expected to be a focus of both the prosecution and the defense. Sources say that Trump's attorneys are going to look to try to undermine his testimony and focus on some of the witnesses that prosecutors did not call to buttress Cohen's testimony, including the former Trump Organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg, and Trump's former bodyguard, Keith Schiller.

Now, prosecutors, they are expected to argue to the jury that they don't have to rely alone on Michael Cohen and try to look towards some of these other witnesses' testimony as well as the text messages and phone logs to bolster Cohen's credibility.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCANNELL (voice over): Donald Trump watching NASCAR in North Carolina this weekend while his hush money trial approaches the final lap in New York.

REPORTER: Are you going to win North Carolina?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe so. I think by a lot.

SCANNELL: Trump's lawyers and prosecutors will square off trying to win over the jury of seven men and five women Prosecutors called 20 witnesses over five weeks. And in their closing arguments, they're expected to tie testimony together with a paper trail of text messages, phone calls and the records at the center of the case, the 11 invoices seeking payment pursuant to a retainer agreement, a dozen vouchers and 11 checks, most signed by Trump.

REPORTER: Mr. Trump, how are you doing? (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Very good. I think we have a -- the great case has been on. There is no crime.

SCANNELL: During the trial, the jury heard from former members of Trump's inner circle, the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, campaign aide Hope Hicks, and his former fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is the only witness to directly tie Trump to the cover up.

Trump's attorneys are up first in closings and are expected to attack Cohen's credibility, arguing to the jury that they cannot find Trump guilty based on the testimony of a convicted liar.

TRUMP: Michael Cohen is a convicted liar and he's got no credibility, whatsoever.

SCANNELL: Cohen was on the witness stand for five days, telling the jury Trump called adult film actress Stormy Daniels' story a disaster for his campaign and directed Cohen to take care of it. Cohen testifying he spoke with Trump twice to get his approval just before wiring the $130,000 payment to Daniels' attorney to block her story of an alleged affair with Trump from becoming public to influence the 2016 election. Trump denies the affair.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: And I can't even tell you how many times he said to me, you know I hate the fact that we did it. And my comment to him was, but every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move.

SCANNELL: He told the jury that Trump signed off on the repayment scheme in a meeting at Trump tower with former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Cohen walked the jury through the 34 allegedly falsified documents, testifying there was no retainer agreement, the money was payback for the Daniels deal.

COHEN: This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year while he was president. The president of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.

SCANNELL: Trump attorney Todd Blanche has used Cohen's own words to bolster their defense, that Cohen would say anything to take Trump down and is out for revenge.

COHEN: I truly (INAUDIBLE) hope that this man ends up in prison.


SCANNELL (on camera): Now Boris, there are already people lining up outside in the rain, trying to get a seat inside the courtroom or in the over flume (ph) to hear closing arguments tomorrow.


They are expected to go all day. And the judge has said that he will instruct the jury on the law on Wednesday to help them determine what the prosecution needs to prove for them to return a guilty verdict in the case. Once the judge does that, deliberations will get underway, and they'll continue until this jury reaches a verdict. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Kara Scannell, thanks so much for the update.

Let's dig deeper into the final phase of the Trump trial with former U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin. Judge, thank you so much for being with us.

As Kara just reported, the defense is expected to focus on Cohen's credibility. Prosecutors are going to try to corroborate his account with text messages, phone logs and the testimony of other witnesses. I'm wondering what you make of these strategies.

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: Well, most strategies are right. The prosecution can say to the jury that the witnesses are credible. But in case you have any doubt about that, look at the documents, because the documents tell the story here. And there are some very damning documents where Trump used the phrase, reimbursement, twice in documents himself, once in a Twitter, once in a disclosure that he has to make to the government of funds paid. And both times he called it a reimbursement. So, you don't reimburse legal fees.

So, there's a lot of proof that he knew that there was no retainer and that he was reimbursing Cohen for making these hush money payments. So, I think the prosecution is going to stress the documents. Sure, they're going to say the witnesses corroborate each other. You should believe Cohen. You can believe Pecker. You can believe Daniels. But if you have any doubt, look at the documents. That's their strategy.

Now, on the other side, the defense side, they're going to say, where is Allen Weisselberg? The people have the burden of proof. I have no burden of proof. The people have the burden of proof. And the prosecutor didn't call that witness. It's a missing witness. And Weisselberg was the third man in the room at this alleged meeting. It wasn't just Cohen and Trump, it was Weisselberg. He would have a lot to say if he would say it.

So, I think they're going to pound on the failure of proof and say the people have failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. They're also, of course, going to attack Cohen's credibility. That's easy to do and they're going to do it.

SANCHEZ: And, Judge, what about the fact that the jury has been away from the courtroom for a week? What kind of impact could that have?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, that's not so great for the defense because the last witness in the case was Costello. And so what are they going to remember for five days was this strange witness who was antagonizing the judge. Clearly, they knew that. The jury was aware of that. The jury was sent out. The courtroom was cleared. They knew that the two weren't getting along. They also knew that about 15 objections were sustained in a row. And jurors bond with the judge.

So, it's not good that for five days, the last thing on their mind was Costello. But we'll see, because after the summations comes the charge. And that's really the last thing jurors remember is what did the judge tell him to do in the jury room.

SANCHEZ: Speaking of what happens in the jury room, what are deliberations typically like in a case as divisive as this one?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, that's hard to say. I don't sit in the jury room when I spent so many years as a judge, I sat on the bench. But I made a practice to talk to the jury after every verdict that I had, I would go into the jury room. I would shake the hands of every juror and I would ask them about their reactions to the trial. And they would often say, you know, the prosecutor was very good. He or she was very clear. The documents told the story, or they would say they didn't like a certain lawyer, too aggressive, too wandering. They would always give me their reactions to the sort of performance of the lawyer.

But over time, they would also come together. They would say, you know, our first vote was like, six to six. But after a couple of days, people became convinced and it became 12 to 0 because they try not to hang. If there if there's a sense there's going to be a hung jury, the judge will give what's called an Allen charge and we'll tell the jury, you know, try harder because no jury is going to be any better than you are. You've sat here. You've listened. You paid attention. So, go back and try harder. And they may reach a verdict, because one of the fears here is that it would be a hung jury.

SANCHEZ: Judge Shira Scheindlin, great to hear your perspective. Thanks so much for being with us.

SCHEINDLIN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Let's expand the conversation now with former Trump Attorney Tim Parlatore along with former Federal Prosecutor Alyse Adamson. Tim, the defense goes first, so we'll go first to you. I saw you nodding when Judge Scheindlin brought up the testimony, or lack thereof, of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's CFO. Why is he a pivotal part of the defense and their closing argument?


TIM PARLATORE, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: He is pivotal because everything in this case hinges upon that meeting at Trump Tower. You know, everything else that the prosecution has put forth about Karen McDougal and catch and kill and all that stuff, it's all interesting atmospherics, but the difference between a legal transaction and an illegal transaction for Donald Trump is what happened in that meeting? Who was there? What was said? Did he know?

And so the only three people that can testify about that are Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen. There's corroboration of everything else Cohen said, but nothing on that meeting. So, really, it comes down to that meeting. If they don't call Weisselberg, that's something that, as a defense, I would pound on that because there were two witnesses they could have called. They only called one. They didn't call the other person. And you can assume the reason they didn't call him was because he wasn't going to help their case.

SANCHEZ: Alyse, how do you see that argument from the defense? As a prosecutor, if you're going in and you have to justify not calling Allen Weisselberg, how do you fold that into your closing argument?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, and I'm sure the prosecution is anticipating that argument. And they knew by not calling Weisselberg, they were opening themselves up to that. I think how you handle it is by focusing on the evidence. Instead of getting too defensive, you just argue why it doesn't matter, and that's because you have corroboration. Yes, there were only three people in the room. One of them did testify, and that's Michael Cohen.

Now, we understand he has severe credibility problems, but everything else he said has been corroborated by the documentary evidence. And jurors are allowed to make inferences, permissible inferences, on circumstantial evidence. That's what the documents are. So, I think by focusing on that, refocusing the jury on everything we do have and how everything we have makes sense and fits into Michael Cohen's account, they can take a little of the sting out of that line of argument.

SANCHEZ: Those severe credibility issues that she described that Michael Cohen has, how important is it for the defense to make that a continued focus of the closing argument?

PARLATORE: It's essential. You know, what you have here is a very complex case, a lot of evidence, and, you know, they're talking about having closings all day long. I think that's a mistake. I don't think that they should go the entire day. The defense needs to take a complicated case and make it as simple as possible and say, look, there's four legs to the table, but if this leg right here is rotten, the table can't stand. Everything is on this one meeting. And so if you focus on the only evidence you've heard, is Michael Cohen's testimony. And even say to them, look, when you're back in the jury room, you can ask for read- backs. You can ask for evidence to be presented back to you. Send out a note. Ask them to show you every piece of evidence regarding that meeting. And you're not going to see a single thing that puts Donald Trump in the room aside from the word of Michael Cohen. And you know, you can't trust him because, and then I would roll into all of the things -- in particular, the things that came out on cross examination about how he falsified even these invoices about how much he was paying back RedFinch that he, you know, that he stole from the Trump Organization. And so if he didn't -- if he lied about that, you can't trust him on anything.

SANCHEZ: Alyse, I want to read something to you that Donald Trump actually just posted on Truth Social. He writes quote, tomorrow, going before a corrupt and conflicted Democrat-appointed acting New York judge on a fake and made up case by a Soros-backed failed D.A. and the judge himself. What do you make of a defendant posting something like this on the eve of a jury going into a room and deliberating his fate?

ADAMSON: Well, this is not an ordinary defendant. I mean, this is the former president and this is what he does. We've seen this in all of his cases, the civil fraud trial. I think if this were an average defendant, right, he might face some repercussions, although he is not -- the gag order does not cover the judge. He is allowed to assail the judge, which is why I think he's confining his comments to the judge. But it does show a disrespect for the court proceedings, which is unwise if you are a criminal defendant.

So, I don't think he's going to face any judicial admonishment for this, but I don't think it's a smart move either.

SANCHEZ: Alyse Adamson, Tim Parlatore, thank you both for joining us. I appreciate it.

Still to come on The Situation Room, the news out of the Middle East today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now responding to Israel's deadly airstrike on a camp for displaced Palestinians. We have a report from the region as officials in Gaza continue the desperate search for survivors.

Stay with CNN.



SANCHEZ: We're following the international outrage after an Israeli airstrike killed dozens of displaced Gazans at a camp in Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now calling the killing of those civilians a tragic mistake.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on the attack and the fiery aftermath. And we should warn you, some of the images in his report are disturbing and graphic. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Their blood-curdling screams tell the story of the unfolding horror more than words ever could. But it is only as bodies are pulled out of the inferno that the scale of this attack becomes clear. At least 45 people were killed after an Israeli airstrike targeted this camp for displaced Palestinians in Western Rafah, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Plastic tarps engulfed in flames, sheet metal walls crushed by the blast, a block of makeshift shelters flattened in an instant.

The Israeli military says the strike killed two senior Hamas militants who commanded Hamas West Bank operations, Yassin Rabia and Khaled Najjar. In a rare move, the Israeli military's top lawyer launching an investigation into the strike, saying civilian casualties had not been expected.


It was assessed that there would be no expected harm to uninvolved civilians. The IDF regrets any harm to uninvolved civilians during combat.

Mohammed Abu Ataywi (ph) is one of those civilians, so badly burned that he cannot even open his eyes. But there are so many more, so many Children writhing in pain. And then there are the parents desperate to save babies whose cries have been silenced, perhaps forever.

For those who survived, whatever thin sense of safety they still had has now been completely shattered.

We were sitting and suddenly there was a big blast and fire. People started screaming, Ranin (ph) says, describing how they spent the whole night pulling charred bodies out of the embers.

While hundreds of thousands have fled Eastern Rafah after the military ordered its evacuation, many others, like this man displaced from Central Gaza, came here, to Western Rafah, told the area would be safe.

And then, there are the mourners. The occupation army is a liar. There is no security in Gaza, says this man, whose brother was killed in the strike. Here he is with his wife. They were martyred. They are gone.

For one man, a brother, for another, his sister. She was the only one, he says. She was the only one, and she is gone.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Boris, sadly, this isn't the first time that an Israeli airstrike in Gaza has killed dozens of civilians, but it is the first time that we've seen this kind of damage control being done by the Israeli government and the Israeli military, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling this a tragic mistake and the Israeli military launching this full scale investigation.

It speaks, of course, to this moment that we are in with Israel increasingly condemned and isolated on the world stage. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Jeremy Diamond from Jerusalem, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss CNN Political and Global Affairs Analyst Barak Ravid. Barak, great to see you. I want to play a sound bite of what President Biden told Aaron Burnett about his red line for Rafah just a few weeks ago. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities to deal with that problem.

But I've made it clear to be in the war cabinet. They're not going to get our support if in fact they go in these population centers. We're not walking away from Israel's security walking away Israel's ability to wage war in those areas.


SANCHEZ: So you have new reporting on the behind the scenes conversations going on in the White House about whether Israel has now crossed that red line with this attack. What are you learning?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first, I don't think there's a decision yet in the White House. What I heard from several U.S. officials is that when the White House is trying to understand what happened, it's not just doing that in order to, you know, know the facts. It is doing that because there were several cases that -- or several lines.

It wasn't just one red line. It was, you know, several scenarios that the White House said, if this thing happens, we will see that as a violation of a red line. It was one a massive ground operation inside the population centers in Rafah, but also in incidents like the one we saw yesterday with the bombing that hits, you know, refugees in Rafah, creates mass casualty, a huge, a big number of, of Palestinian civilians who were killed. This is exactly one of the scenarios that the White House talked about before as something that would cross the red line. I think the White House still hasn't made a decision, but it will in the next, I guess, 24 to 48 hours.

SANCHEZ: This attack also comes just two days after the International Court of Justice, as you know, ordered Israel to stop its operations in Rafah out of concern for Palestinian civilians. How much more international pressure do you think this incident now puts on Israel? Is Netanyahu concerned about that?

RAVID: Well, it doesn't seem that he's too concerned about that. He said today that everything is going to continue business as usual. Is there going to continue this operation? But it doesn't only increase the pressure on Israel, it also increases the pressure on the Biden administration, both domestically and internationally. Because a lot of countries that are, you know, U.S. allies will come to Biden's decision (ph), will say now, okay, so now what? [18:25:01]

Because you know, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was in Israel just last week, and he came out of this visit feeling that the U.S. managed to influence the Israel's operational planning of this Rafah campaign.

And, apparently, what we saw yesterday shows that you can plan as much as you want. But when you talk about an area, like Rafah, densely populated with so many displaced refugees, you cannot really plan because every small thing you do can cause the damages we saw last night.

SANCHEZ: So, Barak, do you think this strike is going to have any bearing on Netanyahu's invitation to speak before Congress?

RAVID: Well, you know, first, I'm not aware that the invitation was sent yet. You know, we heard Speaker Johnson saying that he will invite them. I'm not aware that this invitation was sent. I don't think it will have any influence on the invitation, but I think it will have a lot of influence about how many members of Congress will actually be attend.

Remember that in 2015, Netanyahu came to Congress to speak against President Obama's effort to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Dozens of Democrats boycotted the speech. I think we will see many more if Netanyahu comes this time around.

SANCHEZ: Barak Ravid, always great to get your reporting and your insights on the news. Thanks for being with us.

RAVID: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, Donald Trump preparing to go back into a New York courtroom this week. What we're learning about how the former president and his team are preparing for what will be a historic week.



SANCHEZ: We're back with breaking news, sources sharing new information with CNN about closing arguments in Donald Trump's criminal trial tomorrow. The defense planning to hammer away at the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, Michael Cohen, and continue their attacks on his credibility.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is covering Trump, the trial and the 2024 campaign. Kristen, how are the former president and his advisers approaching this pivotal week?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they're still trying to figure out what exactly is going to happen. I mean, we have some of them telling me they think it's going to be a hung jury. We have Donald Trump who privately has said both that it could be a hung jury, but also that he feels like he's likely to be convicted, giving up the makeup of the jury.

One of the things we've heard him kind of echo while he's out there talking in the courtroom that it's unfair, that the demographic is too Democratic, that he wouldn't get a fair trial. So, that's one of some of the stuff he's been saying in private, but it's really hard for them to plan what exactly to do unless they know what the verdict is. And right now they don't.

So, there have been ongoing conversations as to How exactly do they address this, how is this going to impact the campaign. But the bottom line is that, one, Donald Trump is going to be the one who determines how this affects the campaign. But, two, until they actually have a grasp of what this verdict is, it's pretty hard to put on paper how this is going to play out ahead of the election.

Now, Donald Trump himself is focused all over the place, sending a very Donald Trump message on Memorial Day in a Truth Social post, posting happy Memorial Day to all, including the human scum that is working so hard to destroy our once great country and to the radical left Trump-hating federal judge in New York. And then he went on to attack E. Jean Carroll. He went on to attack the judge in his hush money case as well as a civil fraud case, and so on and so on, so one of the very traditional kind of messages Donald Trump sends on a holiday.

SANCHEZ: He made a bit of an untraditional stop over the weekend at a convention for the libertarian party, his short -- one of his shortest speeches ever, didn't get a welcome reception there.

HOLMES: Yes. When have you lately heard Donald Trump go somewhere and speak for 30 minutes? I mean, that is a record. I think the shortest I've ever been to a rally, you know, our colleague, Steve Contorno, really drew the long stick because he got to go to the short rally. Usually I'm there, he's talking for two and a half hours. But I also want to play some of what he said and how he was received at the libertarian convention.


TRUMP: The libertarian party should nominate Trump for president of the United States. Whoa. That's nice. That's nice, only if you want to win, only if you want to win. Maybe you don't want to win.


HOLMES: So, here he is, obviously, mocking them, saying maybe you don't want to win. Then he also went on to say, okay, keep getting your 3 percent if that's all you want to do.

But I will say, the reason they even went, and this is kind of an unprecedented move, is because there's clearly some concern about RFK Jr. And we've seen the polls, they've seen the polls, that say that it's likely RFK siphons votes away from Biden. But they are not convinced that that is 100 percent true. They believe that it's really unknown and there is a huge chance that some of those votes can be taken from Donald Trump. And if you're on either side of this, you believe that the election in November is going to be determined by such a small margin of votes that you really can't afford to lose any of those votes.

So, he essentially decided to do this. Clearly not the most positive we've seen him received. He usually likes to have, you know, crowds of people adoring him and not people booing at him. But he went into there and ended up doing it so.

SANCHEZ: It speaks to actual concern about a third party candidate. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much for your reporting. I appreciate it.

We're joined now by CNN Political Commentators Scott Jennings and Ashley Allison. Thank you both for sharing part of your Memorial Day with us.

Scott, this is obviously a crucial week for former President Trump. What is what we're seeing from him on social media tell you about what's going through his mind right now?


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think it tells me what goes through his mind on every holiday, which is I need to post something that's going to cause everybody to talk about it on a slow holiday weekend. He tends to do this for every holiday. Some of us cook barbecue and grill hot dogs. Some of us go to the, you know, national cemetery and remember our fallen heroes. Donald Trump, you know, he becomes a provocative on holiday.

So, look, I don't know if it tells us anything at all about him or his mindset other than, you know, he's going to be at the center of attention this week in American politics.

SANCHEZ: Ashley, former Trump Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin said this to The New York Times, quote, regardless of the outcome, the playbook is the same. An acquittal or a hung jury is just absolute gold for Trump and it will resonate with a lot of people. He doesn't want to be convicted for a variety of reasons, but I do think he realizes there's a way to turn this into political jet fuel. Do you agree with that assessment?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, look, if Donald Trump is acquitted or a hung jury, he will play victim. He will say he was put under attack by all the things that you reported before from the district attorney. The interesting thing is, okay, you lost this case, but there's three more to go. But I think there's also an opportunity. Even if he uses this as jet fuel for his base, there are still a significant amount of people who did not vote for him in the Republican primary that still just don't want this chaos, this nonsense.

Now, on the reverse, if he is convicted, there are about 3 percent of Nikki Haley voters that said they just will not vote for someone who was a convicted criminal. And so there's an opportunity for the Biden campaign to go in and grab those voters and say, you can come over here and there's a place for you here. So, either way, I think both political sides will use this to their advantage.

But Alyssa is right, we know this playbook, just like Scott laid out on a holiday. He puts trash on his social media. He doesn't actually honor the people who need to be honored on a day like today. And the playbook is written for Team Trump.

SANCHEZ: Now, Scott, this libertarian convention, was it a mistake for Trump to go there and get booed? Like how many votes do you think he won by going to the convention?

JENNINGS: No, I see it just the opposite, actually. I think if you look at what Trump is doing, it's actually pretty remarkable and pretty unusual. How often in our politics do politicians of either party ever go and speak to crowds that aren't uniformly supportive of them? I mean, Joe Biden's not going to step in front of a crowd that isn't uniformly supportive. Heck, he steps in front of crowds hardly ever of any kind.

But you look at what Trump did. He went to the libertarians. These are not necessarily Republicans. He went to the Bronx and said, look, I'm your guy. I'm putting together a working class political party. I mean, he is going places where Republican candidates don't usually go, but he's doing something that American politicians don't usually do, and that's reach out to people who aren't necessarily in your party and say, I'm for you and you'd be for me because we have one thing in common. The incumbent president United States is not acceptable. I actually think it's pretty confident. It's a confident move and pretty smart.

SANCHEZ: Ashley, President Biden is planning to publicly address Trump's criminal trial for the very first time once a verdict is reached, that reporting is according to Politico. What should Biden's message be then?

ALLISON: Well, one, I want to say it's good that the president hasn't weighed in on the political trials, because unlike Donald Trump during his presidency, we like to keep a firewall between the justice system and the Biden administration. So, I think it's good he hasn't weighed on it on it right now.

I do think Joe Biden should say whether or not the former president is convicted, that this is a person and point out the record, that he did these things. Now, whether or not he was convicted, he's admitted that he's done these things. He's caught on tape doing these things. And this is not the person and the character that we want for a leader.

I think he also then needs to make the pivot. I've been saying this over and over. It's not much just keep talking about the past, but let's talk about the future. Let's talk about why a Biden second term will do something for the American people and why Donald Trump will just continue to sow chaos with not just this case, but the three cases that he still has left to left to go through.

SANCHEZ: Ashley Allison, Scott Jennings, I appreciate you both. Thanks for being with us.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Just ahead, a live report on the expanding severe weather threat after nearly two dozen people have already been killed in a weekend outbreak.

Stay with CNN.



SANCHEZ: Breaking news, a tornado watch has just been issued for Washington D.C. and parts of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. It comes after at least 23 people were killed by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms over the weekend.

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports now from hard hit Valley View, Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Across 20 states, there were more than 630 locations reporting storm damage on Sunday, making it the busiest severe weather day of the year. In Texas, seven people were killed when a tornado ripped through this subdivision near the small city of Valley View.

Benito Esparza (ph) raced here Saturday night to help his brother's family. The family was inside their home when the tornado packing 135 mile power winds catapulted them more than a hundred yards away.

He says he's really tried to control his emotions.

His brother survived, but his sister-in-law, Laura, and their two children, Miranda and Marco, were killed.

This is the remnants of his brother's family's home. This is where they ended up and his brother was left over in this debris over here and his sister-in-law.


The three of them were already dead and he took his brother and loaded him up into his truck and drove him out of this neighborhood to get him to the hospital.

In Arkansas, eight people were killed by the violent storms in the town of Rogers, Tony and Landon Roberts grabbed their two children and raced for cover as a tornado took aim at their home.

TONY & LANDON ROBERTS, HOME DAMAGED BY STORMS: Had to make it to the hallway. That's the most central part of our house, and that's when we realized we didn't have a roof. Yeah. There was water and debris coming through the attic fan.

LAVANDERA: The common theme of all these storms from Texas to Kentucky is the near brushes with death and injury. Residents escaping with harrowing stories of survival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me and my wife and our four-month-old, we hopped in a tab and it just sound like a train.

LISA ARNDT, WITNESSED TORNADO: All of a sudden, my husband screamed "run" and we grabbed the dog and ran down to the basement. But before that, I saw the water swirling around and hitting our window.


LAVANDERA: Back in Valley View, Texas, Frank Garcia's father built this cinderblock storm shelter by hand. They ran inside as the tornado approached.

And you could feel the tornado hit.

GARCIA: And then out of nowhere, you just hear the wind started wailing hard. And at that point, we knew we knew that we were going to have some damage, I mean, for sure, but I don't think I realized, you know, the whole magnitude of everything until you started walking out.

MATTINGLY: Pretty terrifying?

GARCIA: Definitely going to leave a scar in this town for -- for a bit.

MATTINGLY: When they saw the shattered remnants of their home after the storm, they knew the shelter saved their lives.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Boris, there were two people inside this home and they're left with the cleanup process and piles of debris like this will soon look like this. And this is how they have been dealing with the cleanup process here, just setting up burn piles and burning what they're not able to salvage. That's what its come to here in this small community, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Ed Lavandera live for us in Valley View, Texas, thanks, Ed.

Coming up, the trial of this century, getting closer to the end with closing arguments tomorrow in Donald Trump's criminal trial.

We're back with a look at other famous trials in U.S. history.



SANCHEZ: Donald Trump's trial is nearing its end, with closing arguments scheduled for tomorrow.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.

Brian, how does this history-making case compared to other ones? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, there been a few trials

throughout American history that have had that certain something that have just captivated us, whether its sensationalism or legal gravitas. And they've all been given that dramatic moniker, trial of the century there is no crime.


TODD (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump's hush money trial is historic and unprecedented.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what's being called the trial of the century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the trial is history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But just might be the trial of the century.

TODD: There have been other trials that have gripped the nation's attention, many of them in the last century. Some analysts say for media coverage, there's one trial that rivals Trump's.

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The O.J. trial is the only case that compares to the sensationalism of this case.

TODD: The former football star accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole and Ronald Goldman, a fallen American icon in court, on TV, all day, every day for about eight months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury and the above in tidal action, find the defendant Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You have two individuals who are viewed in such polarizing terms, in the O.J. case, the polarization was around race in the Trump case, it's around politics. But it illuminates a key moment in our life as a nation to see those stark divisions. That's what makes a trial of a century.

TODD: Then there was the impeachment trial of a sitting American president, Bill Clinton in 1999, impeached by the House, which had charged him with perjury and obstruction of justice relating to the Monica Lewinsky investigation, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.

America had been introduced to the concept of a gut wrenching trial of the century more than 60 years earlier. In 1932, the 20-month old son of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from the family home in New Jersey. The child's body found more than two months later.

ROSSI: The remember case is a historical trial because obviously Lindbergh had a -- had a heroes following. He crossed the Atlantic, so that had all the drama.

TODD: After more than two year investigation, a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann an was arrested for the Lindbergh baby's murder. Hauptmann professed his innocence until the moment he was executed. His guilt still debated to this day. It's their purely compelling nature, analysts say, that's made

Americans become glued to all these trials, from Hauptmann to O.J., to Clinton, to Trump.

EISEN: Every trial of the century must capture the zeitgeist, the moment that we're in.


TODD (voice-over): The analysts we spoke to said one of the strongest common threads with all of these trials, heavily anticipated verdict, like the other trials, they say verdict day in the Trump case is going to be highly charged, historic and many of us will remember where we were and what we were doing when it comes down.

SANCHEZ: It is going to be a must-watch moment no matter what happens.

Brian Todd, thank you so much for the reporting.

Stay with CNN. We're back in just a few minutes.



SANCHEZ: This Memorial Day, President Biden honored those killed while serving the country by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom has never been guaranteed. Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it in battle between autocracy and democracy, between the greedy of a few, and the rights of many. It matters.

Our democracy is more than justice system of government. It's a very soul of America.


SANCHEZ: We leave you now with other sights and sounds honoring the men and women who paid the ultimate price.


SANCHEZ: Their sacrifice must not be forgotten.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.