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Trump Trial Jury Asks To Review Testimony And Instructions; Jury Resumes Deliberations Tomorrow After 4.5 Hours So Far; Biden Campaign Weighing More Aggressive Stance On Trump's Legal Troubles After Jury Reaches Verdict; Alito Not Recusing From Trump Case Amid Flag Controversy; CNN Analysis: U.S.-Made Munitions Used In Deadly Rafah Strike. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 29, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's called the Appeal to Heaven flag. It was seen outside a leader's vacation home. Some have noted it was visible in crowds on January 6th outside the capital. Well, guess where else it's reportedly been flying for decades up until Saturday for some reason, outside San Francisco City Hall in the Civic Center Plaza.

We learned that thanks to reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle, hat tip to our friends in San Francisco, even as my Phillies clobber your giants right now, 6-0 in the middle of the eighth, not that I'm watching.

The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Donald Trump's historic hush money trial is now in the hands of jurors who already are making requests to rehear testimony from two key prosecution witnesses, former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer boss David Pecker. They also want to review the judge's instructions. After about 4.5 hours of very high stakes deliberations, so far. We're breaking all of this down and what it might reveal about a potential verdict.

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

There's more breaking news in the Trump trial tonight. A new wrangling over which portions of testimony will be read back to jurors based on their request to the judge. We're following all of these dramatic developments with deliberations now underway on the unprecedented criminal charges against the former president of the United States.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse in New York for us. Kara, give us the very latest.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump has just left the courthouse at the end of this day, that was just after his lawyers and prosecutors finished negotiating what portions of the transcripts and from the testimony of David Pecker and Michael Cohen they agreed would be read back to the jury when the jury resumes tomorrow.

You know, this came after there was the sound of a buzzer going off twice inside the courtroom indicating that there were notes from those juries. But at the end of this first day of deliberations, there's not a verdict.


SCANNELL (voice over): The historic first criminal trial of a former president and presumptive Republican nominee is now in the hands of a jury.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mother Teresa could not beat those charges, but we'll see. We'll see how we do.

SCANNELL: 12 Manhattan residents, seven men and five women, deliberating if Donald Trump is guilty of 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.

TRUMP: These charges are rigged. The whole thing is rigged.

SCANNELL: After nearly four hours of deliberations, the jury sent in their first note, asking for portions of testimony to be read back from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and former Trump fixer Michael Cohen about a meeting at Trump Tower.

Prosecutors say there was a 2015 meeting there between the two men and Trump, where Pecker allegedly agreed to be the eyes and ears for Trump's campaign and flag any negative stories to Cohen. There were several other meetings there that Pecker and Cohen testified about during the trial. The testimony will be read back to the jury at the start of deliberations on Thursday.

The jury also had a second question before they were dismissed for the day about Judge Juan Merchan's instructions. Earlier, he explained that to find Trump guilty, they must unanimously find that he falsified business records with the intent to violate New York State election law, promoting or preventing the election of a candidate to public office by unlawful means.

The jury does not need to be unanimous about what those unlawful means are. Prosecutors have put forward three theories about how Trump violated election law, a corporate donation or individual contribution exceeding $2,700, falsifying other business records such as Michael Cohen's bank records, and tax law violations.

As it did during his 17 hours of intense testimony and closing arguments, Michael Cohen and his credibility took center stage. Under our law, Michael Cohen is an accomplice, Judge Merchan said to the jury. Even if you find the testimony of Michael Cohen to be believable, you may not convict the defendant solely upon that testimony unless you also find it's corroborated by other evidence.

Cohen, the prosecution's star witness and the only person called who could directly implicate Trump, testified he spoke to Trump twice to get his sign off just before making payments to Stormy Daniels. He said Trump approved the repayment scheme. Trump's defense painted Cohen as a liar and a thief who could not be trusted, out for revenge on his former boss.

The judge left the jury to deliberate with these parting words. It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours, Merchan said. You are the judges of the facts, and you are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.



SCANNELL (on camera): Now, Wolf, the jury will be back here tomorrow at 9:30 A.M. That is when the judge will have the testimony read back to them and also instruct them on the law, whether that is in the whole instruction again or a portion of it. He's expecting the jury to let them know that. Tomorrow morning, deliberations will pick up again, and Donald Trump will be forced to stay in this courthouse until there is a note or verdict. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Kara, thank you, Kara Scannell reporting for us.

I want to bring in our legal and political experts right now, and Elie Honig, let me start with you. Take a look at this, and I'll put it up on the screen. These are the four portions of the transcript the jury has asked the judge to read out, three of them from David Pecker's testimony and one from Michael Cohen's testimony. What stands out to you from these four sections?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Wolf, this tells me that the jury has been assessing this case more or less how the prosecution asked them to look at it yesterday in their closing. They're looking at it from a more or less chronological perspective and they're taking a systematic approach.

And the thing that they asked about that I think is most important is this August 2015 meeting that happens at Trump Tower. The D.A. yesterday said essentially, this is where the conspiracy started, the participants in this meeting, three key players, Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and David Pecker.

And here's the crucial part of David Pecker's testimony that I think the judge should read back if he's responding accurately to the request tomorrow when the jury comes back in. Here's what David Pecker said. At that meeting, Donald Trump and Michael, meaning Michael Cohen, they asked me what can I do and what my magazines, meaning the National Enquirer, could do to help the campaign.

So, thinking about it, as I did previously, I said what I would do is I would run or publish positive stories about Mr. Trump, and I would publish negative stories about his opponents. And I said that I would also be the eyes and ears of your dash. I said I would be your eyes and ears because I know that the Trump organization had a very small staff. So, eyes and ears is a crucial phrase that the prosecution really stressed to the jury. Clearly they want to go back to this crucial testimony and incorporate it into their deliberations.

BLITZER: They certainly do. Ankush Khardori is with us as well, Ankush, the prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, who did all of the summation yesterday, we heard it for hours yesterday, called Pecker's testimony, and I'm quoting, I'm quoting him now, utterly damning. Does this suggest the jurors are following his lead with these requests?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. No, I agree with Elie that the question suggests that they're sort of following the road map that the prosecutor should try to lay it out for them, it's also the start of the story, effectively, chronologically.

But just to sort of play devil's advocate here I did think one of the more effective things that Todd Blanche did during his closing yesterday was ask some serious questions about the testimony about that meeting and whether Pecker and Cohen's recollection of that meeting completely aligns. And also, what exactly happened in that meeting? What was the object of the conspiracy at that meeting, the scope of it? So, I could see these questions being asked in either direction.

BLITZER: Todd Blanche, the defense attorney for Trump, raising those issues.

Retired Judge George Grasso is with us as well. Judge, thanks for joining us. The jury is also asking for the judge, in this case, to read his jury instructions again. How unusual is that type of request and what does that tell you?

GEORGE GRASSO, RETIRED NEW YORK CITY CRIMINAL COURT JUDGE: Well, first of all, Hello, Wolf. It's always good to be with you. Well, it tells me they're taking this very seriously that they want to -- this is not a simple -- it's not the most straightforward case. I'm not clear at this point whether or not they want all of the jury's instructions read back or just some of the jury instructions read back. But I agree with what the previous guests just said that they're kind of starting from the beginning. They're looking to follow a road map laid out in the prosecutor's summation. And I think they want to just make sure that they've got the right rules of the road when they start driving down the highway towards either a conviction or acquittal.

BLITZER: I have in front of me the 55 pages of the instructions from the judge. It's all written down. But, Judge Grasso, explain to me because I'm still a little bit confused about this, if I have a copy of all these instructions from the judge, why don't members of the jury have the same written 55 pages that they can simply read?

GRASSO: The theory is they don't want individual jurors acting like the judge. They don't want, you know, one juror reading instructions with another jurors interpret another juror. This system is designed to funnel all of that instructions, testimony, evidence that the judge is keeping control. If they've got questions about things, they send a note to the judge and then the judge can bring the whole jury back. They want specific evidence, they request it, they get it. If they want read-backs, they have to come to the judge.


It's all to keep the judge in the driver's seat.

BLITZER: Yes, very interesting indeed. Alyssa Farah Griffin is with us as well. As you know, Alyssa former President Trump has to remain inside the courthouse while the jury deliberates. How do you think all of this is weighing on him?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think Trump World is really bracing for the impact of a conviction. There's clearly already a bit of a strategy underway. We saw it today that some of Trump's closest allies, members on Capitol Hill, like Elise Stefanik, are actually calling for essentially an investigation into how Judge Merchan got on, into this case. You've seen others messaging and echoing that this is a witch hunt and calling into question the entire process itself.

So, what he's doing is laying the groundwork because this is out of his control. He does not know where the jury is going to come down. There's a very real chance he could be convicted. So he needs his outside allies out there convincing the public that there was something untoward here, he wasn't treated properly.

I suspect that regardless of the outcome, you're going to hear a lot of anger from Donald Trump. We've seen that when he's gone out and spoken in these little press conferences. Even if it were to be a hung jury or an acquittal, which seems unlikely, I think he's still going to rail against the judge in the process and try to use that to rally his base.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, Elie, I thought it was interesting that there's another portion of the jury request involving David Pecker's testimony. I know you've been going over that and giving us some insight at what it could potentially suggest.

HONIG: So another indicator, Wolf, that the jury's being chronological and methodical about how they go about it. They asked for a read-back of David Pecker's testimony about a June 2016 meeting. Now, David Pecker is in a meeting with an investor and he essentially gets pulled out because Donald Trump has called him. And this is right in the heart of the election campaign season leading up to 2016. And here's how that testimony went.

And, again, I believe this is what the judge will read to the jury tomorrow. Steinglass, the ADA, asks David Pecker, and could you tell us about the conversation you had that day with Donald Trump? Now, Pecker's response, yes. When I got on the phone, Mr. Trump said to me, I spoke to Michael, meaning Michael Cohen.

Karen, meaning Karen McDougal, her allegations are starting to surface now. Karen is a nice girl. Is it true that a Mexican group is looking to buy her story for $8 million? I said, I absolutely don't believe that there's a Mexican group out there to buy a story for $8 million. And then he, meaning Trump, he said, what do you think I should do? I said, I think you should buy the story and take it off the market. So, again, this is the evolution of catch and kill that the D.A. tried to lay out for the jury, that leads up to the next incident, which is Stormy Daniels.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Ankush, what are these two notes from the jury tell you about their mindset right now?

KHARDORI: Well, I mean, I'm a little reluctant to read anything into them more than what we've already talked about, but I think as a general matter, it suggests to me that they're taking this very seriously, honestly, the questions are good. Their questions are good in terms of, like, the granularity of them.

And I also would want the jury instructions, not just in my hands, but right back. They're very complicated. They're complicated to read, much less to hear. And I think as anyone who's seen a jury hear jury instructions can tell you, they are very hard for jurors to follow. Often they don't follow them very closely because they're dense.

BLITZER: And they're very complicated too. You know, I spent more than an hour reading these jury instructions. And if you read it, you have a better chance of understanding it, as opposed to simply the judge talking about it.

KHARDORI: Absolutely. There's a big difference between when you can read a document and you hear it. It's very dense.

BLITZER: Yes, very complicated. Alyssa, sources say that former President Trump's allies believe that the longer the jury deliberates, the better that is for Trump. Do you think that's right?

GRIFFIN: I actually would disagree. I think that if they were to come to a decision quickly, especially if it were a conviction, it would play into the notion that this is partisan and they were always against him. I think it actually the longer they take, it shows they are really weighing the facts of this case. They're being meticulous.

And I think it was very noteworthy, by the way, that the judge gave this instruction about you cannot base your decision purely on Michael Cohen's testimony. It has to be corroborated. That's right. That's correct. That's the way that the process should work. And I think based on what we're hearing from the jury, the more information they want back, they're doing exactly that. So, I'd say complete the actually quite the opposite of what Trump world suggesting there.

BLITZER: Bottom line, we have no idea what's going on inside that jury room, but we should find out fairly soon. To all of you, thank you very much for joining us.

Just ahead, we're going to get more reaction to the first day of deliberations in the Trump trial from an attorney for the prosecution star witness, Michael Cohen.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, a historic day in New York. The 34th felony counts against Donald Trump finally in the hands of the jury after weeks of testimony in this hush money trial.

Right now, I'm joined by Danya Perry. She's an attorney for Michael Cohen. Danya, thank you very much for joining us.

I know you've spoken to Michael Cohen about today's jury deliberations. How does he think they went?

DANYA PERRY, MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER: Well, he is. I've asked him to essentially sequester himself. The jury is not sequester, but the witness is. And so, yes, I think he's speaking only to his family and to me. And he wants to know what's the meaning of these notes, what's our takeaway and I always tell my clients what I do know and also the limits of what I know.

And I'll tell you what I said to him, which is that we can't -- you don't want to over-read into jury notes. So what we do know is that this is a methodical and deliberate jury and the prosecution told them that this election fraud conspiracy was hatched in August of 2015 at this Trump Tower meeting between David Pecker, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. And so they are going back to the beginning and they're asking for testimony about that, about two of the attendees of that meeting. So, clearly, they're being careful and methodical.


They also, I think of note, asked for some testimony of Mr. Cohen's. And that to me -- the only take away or I should say the most likely take away from that is that they are discounting Todd Blanche's summation where he said, do not rely on the say so of Michael Cohen. They are asking specifically for his testimony.

So, while there are other possible alternative explanations, I think the most likely is that they are, in fact, looking to a testimony and to rely on it as well as Mr. Pecker's and other testimony from the trial.

BLITZER: In his jury instructions, as you know, Danya, Judge Merchan instructed the jury to treat Michael Cohen, your client, as an accomplice, telling them, and I'm quoting him now, even if you find the testimony of Michael Cohen to be believable, you may not convict the defendant solely upon that testimony unless you also find that it was corroborated by other evidence. What does that say about the concerns over Michael Cohen's testimony?

PERRY: It says nothing at all. That is an everyday garden variety instruction. There's nothing unusual about that at all. And it's not Judge or Justice Merchan instructing the jury that Mr. Cohen was an accomplice. Mr. Cohen testified to that. He allocated to it in federal criminal court and he told the jury all about it. So, that is a very ordinary commonplace instruction. And I don't believe anything should be read into that at all. And the jury is following that instruction. They are asking for Mr. Cohen's testimony. They're also asking for corroborative testimony from Mr. Pecker, and that's, I believe, exactly what a careful jury should be doing.

BLITZER: Does Michael Cohen, Danya, believe this jury will ultimately, ultimately convict Donald Trump?

PERRY: That I think, because this is still pending, it's still in front of a jury, I really don't want to get into his subjective or personal thoughts about it. He testified in court, and I can reiterate that here that he does wish to see accountability for Mr. Trump. That is undeniable. And I think that's all that I can say about that at this point.

BLITZER: I know you're restricted on that front. Sources say that Trump's allies think the longer these deliberations by the jury go on, the more it benefits Trump. Do you agree with that?

PERRY: I don't in this case. I think that is kind of the conventional wisdom for defendants. I think here, I watch this jury very carefully, and they really followed very closely. They clearly we're very attentive. They listen to the judge, even on his everyday instructions to not -- you know, we press about or not talk to each other or form an opinion. They nodded along.

So, they're going to they're going to do exactly as they were instructed and they're going to take their time. There are 34 counts. There were six weeks' worth of testimony, 20 witnesses, hundreds of exhibits. So, I think they will put themselves -- not to not to use a loaded term, they will follow their obligations and take them seriously. And so it could take some time and I don't think that we should read anything into that at all.

BLITZER: Danya Perry, let's continue this conversation down the road. Thanks so much for joining us.

And coming up, an Irishman, a teacher, two lawyers, and a physical therapist walk into a courtroom, and now they're deciding the fate of a former U.S. president. We'll have a deeper look at the 12 people whose deliberations and verdicts will make history.



BLITZER: Back to the breaking news, a Manhattan jury just wrapped up its first day of deliberations in Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial.

Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look at the 12 New Yorkers deciding Trump's fate. Brian, who exactly are these jurors?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're a pretty diverse group, Wolf. Tonight, we have new information on the men and women who will decide this historically important case, their jobs, backgrounds, personal information, and the enormous pressure they're now under.


TODD (voice over): The foreperson is an Irish immigrant male who works in sales and hasn't finished college. He shares a jury box with a young female software engineer who lives with three roommates in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Also in the jury box, a retired wealth manager, just a few of the 12 people who now have to work closely together to decide the fate of the former president of the United States.

LESLIE ELLIS, TRIAL CONSULTANT, THE CAISSA GROUP: These are not people who would necessarily get in touch and hang out and know each other under other circumstances.

TODD: The 12 Trump jurors, seven men and five women, plus six alternates, are diverse in ethnicity, education, employment background, and in their consumption of news. One female juror said she doesn't really follow the news. Another was not aware that Donald Trump is facing charges in other criminal cases.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I worry a little bit about what experience they have in breaking down a lot of information and having to analyze it if they kind of just don't pay attention to the news that's going on.

TODD: Two of the Trump jurors, both men, are attorneys themselves, one, a corporate lawyer, the other, a civil litigator. Analysts say that could be good or bad. On the positive side, their skills in analyzing the law could help fellow jurors. But, conversely, they could dominate the jury room.

ELLIS: If they might not be tempted to sort of lead the charge and tell all of the other jurors how it should go.

TODD: During this trial, jurors have been observed in the courtroom smiling during lighter moments, swiveling their heads back and forth during exchanges with witnesses like Michael Cohen, and studiously taking notes.


But there's one particular disadvantage that these Trump jurors have at this moment. Until Tuesday, the court was dark for about a week. Experts say jurors are usually not allowed to take their notes home with them and are often prohibited from consuming news, sometimes even barred from watching T.V.

WU: The biggest disadvantage is the lack of freshness and memory. By the time they get to deliberations, any dark days, any breaks, that's all hard for them to recall things.

TODD: According to jurors in another high-profile hush money trial, the case of former Vice Presidential Nominee John Edwards, the hardest part just started, the deliberations.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How tough was it in that deliberation room? I mean, how --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It got really intense at times.

COOPER: Did it really?


COOPER: Screaming, yelling, that kind of thing?


TODD: As for the pressure these Trump jurors are facing --

ELLIS: They're under immense pressure. Not only is it a bit of a circus, when it's all over, they're going to have friends and family and employers to go back to who are all going to be asking them a lot of questions.


TODD (on camera): Now, as for any advice to the jurors in this particular highly charged case, the analyst we spoke to said, block everything else out. Concentrate only on the facts of the case. And when the case is over, they say, try not to take anything personally, including insults and other personal attacks, because those will come. Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you.

Let's get some analysis right now from the former U. S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. Preet, thanks so much for joining us.

How do you read between the lines of the jury's requests today, first of all? How unusual is it for a jury to ask for instructions to be reread?

PREET BHARARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it's hard to read between the lines. The tea leaves that people have been talking about are difficult to read. I think we can take comfort from the fact that the jury seems to be getting along well. That's what you want for good faith and proper and appropriate deliberation. I also think it's a good sign that they're asking questions. Jury notes or something that show that the jury is thinking about the evidence, is thinking about the facts are going methodically through things. Maybe they're going chronologically. Maybe they've already made a decision about the falsification of documents and they're going straight to the other issue, which is whether or not this was in furtherance of some other crime, like an election crime. So, it's hard to tell.

It is not unusual for jurors to ask about the law, the legal instructions that were given by the judge. As other guests have pointed out, I agree with those who have said that it's rather anachronistic for this judge under New York law, not permitted to, but not sending the jury instructions back with the jury in the jury room. They have a laptop that does not have internet access that allows them to look at every exhibit in the case. And they can get read-backs of the testimony, but they can't have the jury instructions. And I think it's a good sign that they are taking seriously the idea that they're supposed to sift through the evidence and also take seriously the instructions of law given by the judge, which can be somewhat confusing and arcane. So, I think it's all good and not uncommon at all.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Preet, that the National Enquirer, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, is a key witness who doesn't have any animus towards Trump, we're told. The prosecution called his testimony, and I'm quoting now, utterly damning. What does it say that the jury's questions today mainly centered on David Pecker's testimony?

BHARARA: It's unclear. It could be that they just want to confirm their understanding and recollection of David Pecker's testimony. It could be that some jurors said, this is all speculation on my part, to make that clear, that you know, even in the early stages of deliberation, some jurors said, well, we can't trust Michael Cohen. And maybe another juror said, well, it doesn't just rest on Michael Cohen's shoulders, as the prosecutor said. There's very devastating and important testimony from David Pecker. Let's hear that again. Let's get some of that back in our memories. Remember, they had a week off from trial and David Pecker testified some weeks ago, so it's not fresh in their minds.

So, it's impossible to know exactly why, but I think the prosecution is probably feeling better about that note and that question than the defense right now.

BLITZER: You know, sources say that Trump's allies believe the longer the jury deliberates, the better it is for Trump. Is there any truth to that based on your years of experience?

BHARARA: No, I would, I would say not. Length of time does not tell you anything about what the verdict will be. You know, the longest jury verdict that I had to await when I was United States attorney was against a very significant insider trading defendant back when in the first year or two that I was the U.S. attorney. And it was most significant insider trading case brought in a generation and the jury deliberated for 11 days and found the defendant guilty on every single count.

I think in cases of high scrutiny and great public attention, like that case was and overshadowed by about, you know, 5 million times, this one, jurors take their role seriously. They're going to take a little bit of time. I had no expectations. There will be a verdict today. I doubt there will be a verdict tomorrow.


Sometimes you come up against the weekend deadline and maybe there can be a verdict on Friday, but they're not in any rush. They know that history will judge, you know, their conduct and their good faith in these deliberations. And there's 34 counts and there's a lot of testimony and it's complicated and it's interesting. And so they could take a number of days, and it could still be bad for Donald Trump, or it could be the opposite. No one can tell.

BLITZER: Interesting. Judge Merchan will eventually decide whether to lift Trump's gag order, or extend it for that matter. Regardless of the verdict, should the judge extend the gag order to prevent Trump from going after those who testified against him?

BHARARA: You know, I think so. I mean, you know, as I've said before, the gag order is a little bit of a sideshow. The fact that Trump has gone and sought an appeal and still wants to be able to speak in a way beyond what is permitted by the gag order while the jury is deliberating, to me, is a pretty big red flag. You know, the case is done he had his lawyers say their peace in court, defended him to the best of their abilities, and speaking now could serve no purpose other than trying to influence the jury, which I think is wrong and bad.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, how President Biden is planning to react to a possible Trump verdict. I'll get more from a key Biden campaign official right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Right now, as a New York jury weighs Donald Trump's fate, the Biden campaign is weighing how to respond to a verdict. The president looking to take a more aggressive approach to Trump's legal troubles after largely steering clear of the subject.

For more on that, I want to bring in the principal deputy campaign manager for the Biden-Harris campaign, Quentin Fulks. Quentin, thanks so much for joining us.

As I mentioned, President Biden has largely avoided any direct mention of Trump's criminal trial, so why is he now considering changing tactics?

QUENTIN FULKS, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BIDEN-HARRIS 2024 CAMPAIGN: I don't think that that is true, Wolf. I don't think that we are considering changing tactics. I think our tactic has been what it's always been. We've been headstrong on the fact that we've got to defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. And that's exactly what our campaign is doing.

I just left the president. We just left Philadelphia where we launched Black Voters for Biden, a coalition to reengage African-American voters across this country. And the president laid out the promises that he made to them four years ago and the promises that he kept and he laid out the vision of two contrasting agendas for what America could look like, one where people can continue to pay 35 for insulin and one where Donald Trump can take it away, one where people can continue to expand on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, or we can roll it back. Those are the two in the contrasting visions. President Biden made a lot of promises to African-American voters and voters across this country, and he has kept them, and particularly for African-American voters' record low unemployment, the lowest racial wealth gap packing the court with black women, more black justices on the court than all of the presidents combined. And that is what our campaign has been focused on. And we've been making sure that we're building an apparatus to be able to speak to voters wherever they are in their countries, in their own communities. And the contrast in the split screen that we see and where we see Donald Trump is while President Biden is out talking to voters in their communities, doing the work, putting it in, not taking any voters for granted. And that's our strategy and how we're going to respond to whatever verdict may come from --

BLITZER: Let me explain why I asked the question about changing tactics, the Biden-Harris campaign. As you know, the Biden Harris campaign yesterday held a press conference just outside the courthouse in New York with the actor, Robert De Niro. Let me play a little bit of that. Listen to this.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted. And elections, forget about it.


BLITZER: So, does this actually appeal to voters, do you think? Is there any concern that this feeds into Trump's baseless claims about this criminal trial being directed by President Biden?

FULKS: Not at all, Wolf. Look, I think that people are misconstruing location with subject matter. And at the end of the day, what you heard Robert De Niro talk about yesterday are the threats that Donald Trump poses to democracy. And that's what our campaign has been saying from our H.Q. here in Delaware to every single battleground across the state. You didn't hear anything from our campaign talking about the trial itself. And the reason that we're there is because that's where the media is.

It is our job and our responsibility on this campaign to do everything we can to draw those two contrasting visions and make sure that American voters know that this is a choice between President Biden and Donald Trump. And so if that's where the media is and that's where they're covering, we're going to be there communicating. And that clip of Robert De Niro is circulating all over because the media is covering it, because they're standing outside the courtroom.

And so we're going to be where we need to be to make sure that we're getting in front of as many voters as possible to continue to talk about the threat and the dangers that Donald Trump posed to democracy, threats of a bloodbath, threats to terminate the Constitution, threats to be a dictator on day one, and the list goes on and on versus Vice President Biden -- Vice President Harris and President Biden, who are out campaigning, putting in the work to make sure we're going to turn out voters and send them back to the White House in 2024.

BLITZER: It's interesting. On the campaign stop, you just mentioned up in Philadelphia, polls show a steep slip in support among this key group in his coalition. Look at this. In 2020, Biden enjoyed a dominant 75 point margin, but now that margin has dropped to just 49 points. Why has this support slipped and what is the campaign's plan to reverse it?

FULKS: Well, Wolf, we're going to continue to do exactly what we did today by sending the president out to talk about what he promised and what he delivered. Again, I've already run through a number of those accomplishments but President Biden has kept his word. Donald Trump is running around peddling lies, lies that our campaign is going to begin to make sure that we contrast and that we break and set the record straight, Donald Trump did not deliver relief checks to folks.


What Donald Trump wants to do is repeal all the things that the president has done, repeal the American Rescue Plan that put money in Americans pockets. He wants to overturn -- continue to take away freedoms and overturn accomplishments by President Biden, he wants people to begin to pay $400 a month on insulin instead of $35 a month.

And that's what we have to do. Our campaign from day one has made sure that we have gotten now to invest in paid media early, cultural competent media to reach voters where they are, sending the president, the vice president, second gentleman, that first lady out into all of the states, talking to voters. And we're going to continue to do that. We're very clear that the way that we are going to defeat Donald Trump is at the ballot box and we're focused on doing the work to do that.

While Donald Trump continues to only be in this campaign for himself, revenge and retribution.

BLITZER: Quentin Fulks, thanks so much for joining us.

FULKS: Thank you, Wolf. It's always a pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, new developments today directly from the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. But he's not telling Congress about calls to recuse himself in cases related to January 6 and Donald Trump.



BLITZER: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito says he will not -- not recuse himself from cases involving the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including the federal case against Donald Trump.

Let's bring in our senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Joan, what exactly is Justice Alito saying? JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good to see you,


He wrote letters to congressional leaders and saying, bottom line, that he's not going to recuse himself from any cases that are tied to the January 6 attack at the Capitol, and he tried to explain exactly why those flags were flying at his home. And he says that when you look at his involvement, which he said really was non-existent, it was the involvement of his wife, Martha, and flying them. There's no reason why he should recuse.

And let me break down the two flags. The first one was an inverted flag flying at the Alito home in northern Virginia. He said, I had nothing whatsoever to do it with the flying of that flag. I was not even aware of the upside down flag until it was called to my attention.

As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused. I have to say, Wolf, that in addition to his recusal, we got kind of a window into the Alito household with these messages. He did say that her -- her motivations were not related to the stop the steal. They were related to a response to a nasty confrontation she was having with neighbors.

And then for the second flag that flew at their vacation home on the Jersey Shore, it bore the words, "an appeal to heaven". He said, he acknowledges that it flew for a period of time in summer of 2023. But again, he mentioned that it was Martha-Ann Alito doing it, and he said, in his letter to members of Congress, my wife is an independently minded private citizen. Our vacation home was purchased with money she inherited from her parents and it's titled in her name. It is a place away from Washington where she should be able to relax.

And then he added, Wolf, again, you know, giving an insight into the family a bit. My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not. And then he went on to list all the variety of flag she has flown, you know, sports flags, state flags, flags of ancestors, religious flags, but his bottom line and what's relevant here is that he said, no reasonable person should conclude that he is impartiality would be questioned in these two cases that are tied to January 6 because he had nothing to do with these flags, Wolf. And that's I think he's hoping that that's -- this is the last he will have to confront the whole flag issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.

There's other news we're following right now. A new CNN analysis finding Sunday's deadly Israeli strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah used American made munitions.

Let's bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's joining us live from Jerusalem right now.

Jeremy, tell us more about what this analysis shows.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if we had four munitions experts look at footage from the scene that shows the remnants of the munitions that were used in this deadly strike Sunday night, and all four munitions experts agree that these are the remnants of a GBU-39 small-diameter bomb.

This is a U.S. manufactured bomb. And interestingly, Wolf, if this is a bomb that is carries a relatively small payload, about 37 pounds, which is consistent with what the Israeli military described these two munitions as carrying when they launched this attack.

This is a bomb that's actually typically used to try and minimize civilian casualties. But as these experts noted, when it's used in a very densely packed populated area like this camp for displaced persons, that obviously raises the risk of more civilians dying.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, Jeremy, Israel seems to be expanding its military operations in Rafah, right?

DIAMOND: Yeah, that's right, Wolf. We have witnessed Israeli tanks now rolling all across Rafah, to central Rafah, two western Rafah. And now the Israeli military says that they are, that they have, quote, operational control full of this critical Philadelphi corridor, which is the corridor that runs along the 7-1/2-mile long border between Gaza and Egypt.

This is a corridor that Israel has had its sights said on since the beginning of this war because they view it as strategic. They say that Hamas uses this corridor to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt and then uses that area to smuggle weapons in tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military offensive is expected to continue for some time now, Wolf. Today, the national security advisor of Israel, Tzachi Hanegbi, saying that this war is likely going to continue for at least the rest of the year.


That's at least seven more months of fighting, seven more months of what we've witnessed in recent weeks, which is disruptions to the flow of humanitarian aid, and, of course, more suffering for Palestinian civilians in Gaza -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond reporting from Jerusalem for us, thank you very much.

And we'll be right back with more news.


BLITZER: Tonight, the national zoo here in Washington is preparing to welcome two new giant pandas from China. That announcement coming in a video message featuring First Lady Jill Biden, celebrating the news. Three of the beloved bears have departed the zoo last November, prompting concerns the 30-year partnership with Chinese conservation officials could be coming to an end. It's a 50-year partnership.

The zoo says the new pandas, a pair of two-year-olds, should be arriving in the nation's Capitol, by the end of the year.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.