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The Situation Room

New Biden Illegal Immigration Crackdown Takes Effect At Midnight; New Trump Request To End Gag Order In Hush Money Case; Sensational Testimony, Evidence In Hunter Biden Federal Gun Trial; Biden Pressed On Netanyahu's Motives In Gaza After Hinting Israeli P.M. Is Dragging Out War For Political Survival; Nationwide AT&T Outage Leaving Customers Without Service. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 04, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our World Lead, we take a look at what archaeologists just discovered in Pompeii, a blue room, possibly a shrine for rituals or the conservation of sacred objects. Experts say the female figures on the wall depict the four seasons of the year. Other figures are likely allegories of agriculture and shepherding. The building has been buried since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79.

If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts. The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden launches a new crackdown on illegal immigration at the southern border with strict limits on asylum seekers set to take effect at midnight. We'll get reactions to this election year move from a key player up on Capitol Hill, the former Democrat turned independent, Senator Joe Manchin.

Also breaking, Donald Trump just asked the judge to end his gag order in the hush money case now that the trial is over. Trump's lawyers saying their request is strengthened by the fact that President Biden has now spoken out about the guilty verdicts.

And sensational testimony and evidence in the Hunter Biden federal gun trial as prosecutors introduced his infamous laptop and illegal drug photos found on it. Stand by for details on the first witness to take the stand against the president's son.

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

And we begin with breaking news, President Biden's sweeping new executive action on immigration now just hours away from taking effect. We're tracking how this move may impact illegal border crossings and the U.S. presidential election.

CNN's David Culver is in San Diego at the southern border with Mexico. But, first, let's go to CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. She's over at the White House for us.

Priscilla, a major move by the president on a hot button issue in this rematch with Donald Trump.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, a major move, Wolf, with huge ramifications at the U.S. southern border as migrants will have more difficulty seeking asylum, as they have done before, all of this, of course, coming only weeks before the first presidential debate and ahead of the November election.


ALVAREZ (voice over): President Joe Biden took his most dramatic move yet on the U.S. southern border Tuesday, as he tries to address one of his biggest political vulnerabilities head on before November.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border.

ALVAREZ: The sweeping executive action announced by the president shuts off access to asylum to migrants crossing the border illegally when a daily threshold of 2,500 is met, resulting in people turned back to Mexico or removed to their origin country. Unaccompanied children and select others will be exempt.

The order amounts to the most restrictive border policy from the Biden White House.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I don't think it is the right direction.

ALVAREZ: Sparking swift backlash from members of Biden's own party who blasted the move as similar to steps taken by Trump.

JAYAPAL: I'm disappointed that the president has, you know, sort of gone into the same frame as Donald Trump at a very time when we need to make a distinction between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

ALVAREZ: Other Democrats, including Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, struck a more optimistic tone.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): Now, with my Republican colleagues not wanting to take action on this, we're at this point where the White House is taking some steps that might be that I truly believe is going to make a big difference.

ALVAREZ: The measure will take effect at midnight and the American civil liberties union already announced that it plans to challenge the move in court, just as they did for the Trump-era asylum restrictions.

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU'S IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROJECT: We said that that was illegal when he tried an asylum ban that we think is very similar to the one that President Biden is doing. We think it remains illegal, and so we will challenge that in court.

ALVAREZ: Officials maintain the move is necessary to stem the flow of migration and say Congress needs to act. But Republicans argue the action is too little too late.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The only question anyone should ask is, why didn't you do this in 2021? Why didn't you do this in 2022? Why didn't you do this in 2023? Why didn't you do this last month, or the month before, or the month before?


ALVAREZ: Now, the Trump campaign is already criticizing this move by President Biden, but it is the same authority that former President Donald Trump used in 2018 to clamp down on the border, and it was eventually the courts that stopped him.

Now, today, the president drawing stark contrast between him and Donald Trump, naming some of Trump's most controversial moves on immigration. But, Wolf, this move today amounts to one of the most significant policy shifts for this White House on a very difficult issue for them.


BLITZER: Indeed it does. Priscilla Alvarez at the White House for us, thank you very much.

Let's go to CNN's David Culver right now. He's at the border wall in San Diego. David, what will this mean for migrants who are there?

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Wolf, the folks who are behind this portion of the border wall right here, you see a handful of migrants, migrants who have been here a little more than two hours coming in from India, they certainly want the answer to that question. They want to know what that's going to mean in the immediacy and there's not a lot of clarity.

I mean, they're here and they speak to NGOs that come out and try to provide some humanitarian assistance. But there's not really an understanding specifically as to what that's going to mean for them, certainly in the next few hours in the midst of this desert-like climate heat that they experience.

And we wanted to get an overall sense of how this executive action was going to play out and what reaction, if any, there might be from migrants and really some of the smugglers that control where they cross here in the San Diego sector. And you can see some video that we gathered earlier this morning.

You can see from above a grown drone view and, and you get a sense of a few dozens who come together and then they're going to be processed. And those folks will likely go through the asylum claims process and I'd like to then try to figure out if they can ultimately stay here in the U.S.

But the idea would be that under this executive action, if they hit that 2,501 and they come perhaps even later in the day and they've reached that daily threshold that Priscilla was talking about, well, those folks would be put into a van and sent right back over into Mexico.

Still, though, we talked to some people who were making the journey and knowing that this was going to be big news today, we wondered if they had heard about it. We met with Brian from Ecuador. Here's what he had to say.


CULVER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). He says he's going to walk up here in (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). He acknowledges it's hot, but he says he's got to hurry along because he's going to then continue on to an immigration official to start the process for asylum.


CULVER: I've been asking several migrants that we've encountered today, what do you make of the executive action, a lot of them have no idea that this is coming down. And it shows you, Wolf, that that really plays into their focus being a day by day. And it's very much individualized for these migrants. And we saw that a year ago with Title 42 lifting. People aren't necessarily betting their future on U.S. policy, knowing that it could change at any moment.

BLITZER: David Culver in San Diego, along the border for us, David, thank you very much.

And joining us now, the West Virginia now independent senator, Joe Manchin. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, President Biden is using the same authority that Trump attempted to use to shut off access to asylum for migrants who crossed the southern border illegally. You believe this is the right move for President Biden?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (I-WV): Absolutely. I've been encouraging this since last October. The border is the most serious crisis that we face as far as I'm concerned right now. And we have people coming in to our country that haven't been vetted. We don't know what their purpose is. And we know that there's a lot of illicit trade that's coming also.

So, this is something that had to be done. It should have been done sooner, but I'm happy it's done now. I support the president for doing this, and if all those who have disagreements, whether it's not enough or too much, then you should sit down in earnest and try to work through it. That's the problem with Washington. Nobody wants to work to find a common answer to a very common problem.

BLITZER: The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are slamming the new executive action, saying the action taken today won't fix anything. Do they have a point? Is this more about scoring political points than actually addressing the situation at the border?

MANCHIN: Well, it absolutely addresses it. Basically, it stops all illegal entries in between the ports of entry. The ports of entry now will all be vetted. There won't be anyone catch and release, no more paroles from that standpoint. So, we're stopping a lot of the things so much more needs to be done. But you've got to stop this absolutely uncontrolled migration coming in anywhere they want to just to go up to that and turn themselves in. They'll be turned away now. They come to a port of entry. If we hit the maximum that we can't vet and don't know who you are, that stops. Everything shuts down.

So, I think it absolutely does help us get control of this border to an extent that at least we know who's coming and what the purpose is and if they have any criminal record behind them. We have known that before. This is long overdue and I'm glad it happened.

BLITZER: In March, Senator, I asked you what it would take for you to endorse President Biden. Let me play that brief exchange we had. Listen to this.


BLITZER: What does President Biden need to do to publicly and formally win your endorsement?


MANCHIN: Well, we have an energy security, okay? We have to get the border secured. The greatest threat we face right now, I've encouraged the president to do basically a national emergency.

You have to have legal immigration, but you cannot allow immigration, illegal immigration taking over your border. He has to step forward on that and strongly.


BLITZER: So is this the kind of strong action on the border that you said President Biden needed to do when we spoke back in March? Are you now ready, Senator, to make that endorsement?

MANCHIN: Let's just say that it helps tremendously, but we still have energy security. I'm fighting that every day to make sure that we have the energy in this country to be able to run our economy, defend ourselves and help our allies.

Also more things that we can go into, but the greatest concern I'm having now is the debt of the nation, $34.66 trillion. And no one's doing anything about this. And it's going to cause great havoc. We have, for the first time, it looks as if we will spend more on the interest on our debt than what it takes to defend our country. That cannot be sustained. So, we're moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: What else will it take for you to endorse President Biden?

MANCHIN: Well, we're moving in the right direction. Let me just say this. This is a big step in the right direction. Let's just make sure that we have more of it.

BLITZER: On Trump's criminal conviction, your friend and colleague, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, said this about the verdict, and I'm quoting her now. The district attorney who campaigned on a promise to prosecute Donald Trump brought these charges precisely because of who the defendant was rather than because of any specified criminal conduct. Senator, do you agree with her that Trump was prosecuted because of who he is?

MANCHIN: Well, I guess you could say that Hunter Biden has been prosecuted because of who he is. I hear so much of this. My main concern is the rule of law makes us different anywhere else in the world. People have different venues for correction. And if President Trump is saying he's been misjudged and misaligned, trust me, President Trump is not going to spend one day incarcerated. I can assure you. He's going to be on the ballot. You have a chance to vote for or against him. And he has different venues, only in America, only with the rule of law do you have a way through the process of our judicial system to correct a wrong that might have been done?

So, it has a long way to go. Everyone's jumping right now, misaligning this thing. I'm thankful for the rule of law we have. I want to make sure that we protect the judicial system and not to be allowed, not allow it to be weaponized. Both sides maybe want to weaponize this. It can't be done. I believe that Merrick Garland is trying to do his absolute best to be non-partial on this. If that was the case, then how can you say, well, it was against the Trumps, but it's not -- it's protecting the Bidens. I don't think so. I think on either side, they can basically think because of who they are and their last names is why they might have been brought to this situation that they're in right today.

BLITZER: Senator, as you know, President Biden slammed Donald Trump as a, quote, convicted felon over at a fundraiser, telling donors his predecessor snapped, his word, snapped after losing the 2020 election. Is focusing on Trump's conviction the best way to defeat him?

MANCHIN: Absolutely not, I think, because he has venues. He might be his honor rated. It might be he'll appeal and it might be thrown out. So, why would we be jumping to conclusions? So, I think that's the wrong.

The bottom line is let's -- these two men are going to be on the ballot. They're going to go to the final November 5th election. And the character of who you would want to be in sitting in that seat is going to be determined at that time you make your decision, but using all of these other things, start talking about the problems, the border. Is this going to fix the border? Absolutely not. Is it going to help control the border? Absolutely. Can we do something? What's our job? As a senator and also as Congress people, shouldn't we be looking at the long game of how do we fix things? Are we just using everything as a prop for the next election?

That's why I got so frustrated, I couldn't take it no more. I didn't want to be part of this process, and the political parties continue to make you pick a side and drive us apart. I'm going to do everything in my power, the six months I'm here, and for the rest of my involvement in the politics in this great country, is to bring the country together.

The reasonable, responsible middle, Wolf, they have to understand the power they have. Start determining and demanding more from the people you send here. Open up the primary processes in your states to get better selection and better candidates involved.

BLITZER: Senator Manchin, thanks so much for joining us. We, of course, will want you back to continue this conversation down the road. So much is going on. I appreciate it very, very much.

MANCHIHN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Good to be with you as well.

Just ahead, there's breaking news on the Trump hush money case five days after a jury convicted him on 34 felony counts. We have new information about the gag order against the former president.


Plus, fireworks up on Capitol Hill, the U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, goes head to head with Republicans who accuse him of weaponizing the U.S. justice system.


BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following right now. Attorneys for Donald Trump have just asked Judge Juan Merchan to terminate the gag order in his hush money case now that the trial is over.

Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, tell us about this new request.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. So, Trump's lawyers are saying that since this gag order was put in place to protect the proceedings, now that those proceedings, the trial is over, they're asking the judge to terminate it. They wrote in a letter that was sent to the judge yesterday and made public today. Now that the trial has concluded, the concerns articulated by the government and the court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump, who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election and the American people.


They say that the reasons are even stronger now for lifting it because some of these witnesses in the case, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, have made public comments since the jury convicted Trump of those 34 felony counts. And also since President Joe Biden has made comments, in addition they say since this presidential debate is coming up later this month, they're asking for the gag order to be lifted.

So, we're waiting for the judge to respond to this, in any way. A spokesman for the court has said that his gag order speaks for itself, and representatives for the D.A.'s office have declined to comment. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Kara, thank you, Kara Scannell reporting. Let's get some analysis right now from former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore and CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams. Elliot, I want to remind our viewers what Trump said about Michael Cohen, his former fixer, on Friday. Listen and watch this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not allowed to use his name because of the gag order. But, you know, he's a sleazebag. Everybody knows that. It took me a while to find out. But he was effective, he did work. But he wasn't a fixer, he was a lawyer.


BLITZER: So, do you think Trump really does have an argument for ending his gag order when he's still attacking witnesses in this case?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He has an argument for ending the gag order, but the judge also has an argument for keeping it in place, and let's unpack both of them. Number one, the judge maintains jurisdiction over his domain in the courtroom until sentencing, and can make the argument that for, quote/unquote, the integrity of the proceedings, which was the language in both gag orders, the initial one and then the amended one, there are still legal proceedings going on, and he can maintain whatever he thinks it takes to have the public maintain confidence in the proceedings.

Now, as a practical matter, number one, there's no jury anymore, which was a big basis for the gag order. And, number two, even though there's still the same risk of witness harm, there's no more witnesses in practice. And so, you know, just because the judge can, it's not clear that the judge will lift it. And, frankly, I'm quite curious as to how the judge will thread this needle.

You know, it's interesting, Tim, because you heard Trump's team say President Biden is now speaking out, calling Trump a convicted felon, which he did at this fundraiser and that's a key reason to end, they say, this gag order. Do you think that argument is going to hold up?

TIM PARLATORE, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I don't. I think that they would be much better off to focus on the constitutionality of it, that, you know, gag orders, any, any order that, that restricts your free speech is presumptively unconstitutional, except in very narrow circumstances to protect the integrity of the proceeding in, you know, defamation cases. Once something has already been proven false, you can have it injunction against repeating the same statement.

But, you know, to try to do this because of politics or the campaign, I don't think that that's a great argument. They should really focus on exactly what Elliot just said. The proceedings are done. You know, most gag orders expire the moment that the jury is sworn in. Because as soon as the jury is sworn in, then they have been ordered, you know, not to review the media, therefore, public statements can no longer affect them the same way that it would prospective jurors. And so most gag orders end there. This gag order went on further because of the intimidation of witnesses, which would impair their ability to testify at the trial. That's also done.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, how does this Trump conduct, how does that play into the eventual sentencing that's scheduled for July 11th, that's not too far down the road?

WILLIAMS: So what we in English would call remorse, what lawyers would call acceptance of responsibility, is a factor that plays in its sentencing and a defendant that is not showing this remorse or acceptance of responsibility can, under the law, be sentenced much higher. And now the former president has made a number of statements suggesting over time that he is not accepting responsibility for this.

If I were the prosecution here, let's throw this out, it's almost in their interest to have the gag order lifted because you can almost assume that this defendant is going to keep speaking out in a manner that the judge could actually use at sentencing and saying that this person has not accepted responsibility, is still attacking the integrity of the court, and that could jack his sentence up.

BLITZER: So, what do you think about that?

PARLATORE: Oh, it's absolutely right. I mean, there's a difference between what I want to judge to order my client to do and what I as an attorney would tell my client to do. I think that it is in the prosecution's best interest to allow him to speak, so that they could use things as sentencing. And, quite frankly, I think it's in the campaign's best interest to leave the gag order in place, because he gets a lot more support from saying, hey, I'm not allowed to talk than he would. I mean, if he were allowed to say what he has to think about Michael Cohen, I'm just going to hear anything that we didn't expect, you know?

BLITZER: We'll see what he says at the upcoming debate with Biden to assuming that gag order is still in effect. We'll see how that plays out.

Guys, thank you very, very much, Elliot Williams, Tim Parlatore, I appreciate it.

Coming up fiery exchanges between the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, and Republicans who accuse him of weaponizing the U.S. Justice Department. We'll go live to Capitol Hill.

Plus, the prosecution's evidence against Hunter Biden as his past use of illegal drugs takes center stage in his trial on gun charges.



BLITZER: On Capitol Hill today, Attorney General Merrick Garland fiercely defended the U.S. Justice Department in the face of Republican attacks. Garland directly taking on lawmakers who accuse him of weaponizing federal law enforcement against Donald Trump.

Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju has the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Attorney General Merrick Garland facing off with his loudest critics on Capitol Hill.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not be intimidated and the Justice Department will not be intimidated.

RAJU: And calling out GOP attacks that his department was behind the New York hush money case that made Donald Trump the first ever ex- president to become a convicted felon.


GARLAND: That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself.

RAJU: Republicans firing back.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Will the Department of Justice provide to the committee all documents, all correspondence between the department and Alvin Bragg's office and Fani Willis' office and Letitia James office?

GARLAND: The offices you're referring to are independent offices of state?

GAETZ: I get that. I get that. The question is whether or not you will provide all of your documents and correspondence. That's the question. I don't need a history lesson.

GARLAND: Well, I'm going to say again, we do not control those offices. They make their own decisions.

GAETZ: The question is whether you communicate with them, not whether you control them. Do you communicate with them and will you provide those communications?

GARLAND: You make a request, we'll refer it to our Office of Legislative Affairs.

GAETZ: But, see, here's the thing, you come in here and you lodge this attack that it's a conspiracy theory that there is coordinated lawfare against Trump. And then when we say, fine, just give us the documents, give us the correspondence, and then if it's a conspiracy theory, that will be evident.

RAJU: Democrats said Republicans were playing for an audience of one.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): They're about to nominate a convicted felon and they don't know how to cope with that.

RAJU: The GOP taking aim at Garland for appointing Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution against Trump in two federal indictments.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Is he your first choice?

GARLAND: I'm not going to go into the questions.

JORDAN: Did you know him before you picked him?

GARLAND: I did not.

JORDAN: Did he ask for the job?

GARLAND: This is not a job, I don't think, anybody asks for. I'm sorry.

JORDAN: But that's not the question I asked you. I said, did Jack Smith ask --

GARLAND: Did not ask me for the job, no.

RAJU: Garland today refusing to comply with the House subpoena for audio of Special Counsel Robert Hur's interview with President Joe Biden over his handling of classified documents. In that 388 page report, Hur declined to prosecute Biden, citing in part how a jury would view him as a sympathetic, well meaning elderly man with a poor memory,

GARLAND: Releasing the audio will chill cooperation with the department in future investigations.

RAJU: Republicans accusing Garland of protecting Biden as they threatened the attorney general with contempt of Congress.

SEN. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Is it because DOJ has determined the president is not mentally fit to defend himself and stand trial for his crime but former President Trump is?

GARLAND: I say again, that's an inaccurate description of Mr. Hur's report.

RAJU: Undercutting the GOP's criticism is the fact that two sitting Democratic congressmen and the president's own son, Hunter, are facing three separate criminal indictments.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): So, you've prosecuted Democrats, and as we speak, Hunter Biden, who is the son of the president, is under trial in Delaware, you haven't weaponized the Justice Department in terms of hiding and protecting Democrats, Menendez, Cuellar, and Hunter Biden?

GARLAND: The Justice Department follows the facts and the law.


RAJU (on camera): And this all comes, Wolf, as Republicans are grappling with the fact that their nominee, presumptive nominee, is now a convicted felon. I put the question to a number of Republicans in swing districts about whether they support Donald Trump still. A number of them said they do. Some of them sidestepped the question, criticized the verdict, but wouldn't say directly, like Congressman Juan Ciscomani of Arizona.

But I also asked the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, today about whether he still is 100 percent behind Donald Trump, he said that this case should never have been brought. He says that he believes this conviction will be overturned on appeal. But he would not say if he supports Trump.

BLITZER: Interesting. Manu Raju reporting for us, Manu, thank you.

Now to Hunter Biden's trial on federal gun charges, the leadoff witness will return to the stand tomorrow morning, we're told, after the first day of testimony focused on evidence of the drug addiction the president's son battled for years.

CNN's Paula Reid has details in this report from Wilmington, Delaware.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hunter Biden back in court today for the second day of his criminal trial on federal gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden again attending to show support for her embattled stepson.

In their opening, prosecutors told the jury we're here because of the defendant's lies and choices. No one is above the law. It doesn't matter who you are. or what your name is. Prosecutors also had to address the sensitive and ubiquitous topic of addiction, an issue central to this case and one that the majority of potential jurors said they had experience with either directly or with a loved one. Addiction may not be a choice, but buying a gun is.

Defense attorneys tried to shift the focus to Hunter's state of mind. They have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hunter knowingly violated the law, inferring that if Hunter was going through periods of sobriety amid his addiction, it could be reasonable for him to not know he was breaking the law by indicating on a federal gun buying form that he was not using or addicted to drugs.


His defense attorney said Hunter didn't have much interest in buying a gun and the salesman led Hunter to guns while he was browsing other items.

At least one juror was seen dabbing her eyes during the defense opening and during the testimony of the first witness, an FBI agent, the jury heard long portions of Hunter Biden's memoir, which he narrated detailing his addiction to drugs.

HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I possessed a new superpower, the ability to find crack in any town at any time, no matter how unfamiliar the terrain. It was easy.

REID: Prosecutors also introduced electronic evidence, including the infamous laptop and text messages from several devices. Some of those text messages said to be about his efforts to get drugs and meet with dealers in 2018 were also shown to the jury. In one text, Hunter allegedly wrote, ASAP, if you can, another reading, can you come this way now, and a text from another alleged contact to Hunter saying, you want ten grams? The jury also saw several images of drugs that the FBI agent testified were found on Hunter's devices. They also saw the ATF form where Hunter allegedly lied to purchase the firearm.

Prosecutors also spent time detailing the large amounts of cash Hunter withdrew on a daily basis in 2018 around the same time he purchased the gun at the heart of this case.


REID (on camera): Defense attorneys also cross examined this witness about some of that evidence that was introduced, pointing out that many of the text messages that prosecutors brought in were actually from 2019, months after this firearms purchase. The agent also conceded that it is possible that Hunter Biden was not continuously using drugs during the time in question. And this cross-examination will continue first thing tomorrow. And once this witness wraps up, we expect to hear from Hunter Biden's ex wife. Wolf?

BLITZER: Paula Reid outside the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware, thank you very much.

Joining us now, former federal prosecutor Ankush Gardori, who attended Hunter Biden's trial today in Wilmington. He's now back here in Washington. He just took the train back. Thanks, Ankush, for coming in.

What was it like inside the court today? And could you tell anything how the jury was reacting?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, it was packed, right? There were a lot of people attending. There was a lot of some political activity outside. I was in the overflow room. But by all accounts from people I spoke to who were in the courtroom where Hunter Biden was, the jurors were solemn and respectful and attentive. They seemed engaged, as you would expect in case of the significance, the prominence of the defendant and some, you know, challenging facts for the defense.

BLITZER: As you know, and we just heard prosecutors brought in a lot of what they describe as key evidence, including photos of crack cocaine from Hunter Biden's infamous laptop, how much does that strengthen their case?

KHARDORI: Well, you know, look, it's always a bad situation for a criminal defendant when the main witness against you is you. And that is what the government is attempting to do with the way that it has structured this case. It's no accident that they spent over an hour of their evidence opening this morning with their first witness, playing excerpts from his book. Then they moved on to stuff that they had recovered from --

BLITZER: Playing audio excerpts.

KHARDORI: Correct, audio excerpts that he had read himself.

BLITZER: So, you heard his voice?

KHARDORI: You heard his voice talking about a tremendously painful and raw experiences in his life. I have to say, listening to it, it felt a little bit like a public flogging on some level, hearing him talk about this in his own words and played back in a criminal case against him. But that stuff is potent. There's a reason why prosecutors emphasize that sort of evidence. When it's coming from the defendant's own mouth, it's hard to run away from.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. The FBI agent on the stand said today, and you heard this, that there may have been some periods of time between 2015 and 2019 when Hunter Biden was not, repeat, not abusing drugs. How significant potentially is that?

KHARDORI: Well, look, that is going to be the crux of the defense case, as Paula alluded to there or discussed there. You know, I'm not sure it will have that much power with the jury because it seems fairly evident from the evidence that we already heard today that he was off and on, right, addicted, relapsing, addicted, relapsing. It's a very sad story. But I don't think it's terribly compelling to say, well, for these particular weeks when he had just gotten out of rehab, maybe he thought he was clean and that's going to make it all go away.

BLITZER: As you know, prosecutors signaled that Hunter Biden's ex-wife could testify next in this case. What will you be watching for?

KHARDORI: Well, look, I think the prosecutors have set up not just Hunter Biden's ex-wife, but some of his other sort of romantic partners to testify about his difficulties with alcohol and drugs. That seems to be the main purpose of calling these people. Some of them were immunized, given their own interactions and dealings with some of the underlying drugs here that prosecutors disclosed today. And, again, this is a situation where the prosecutors are really turning his closest friends and family against him.


It's very difficult to get out from under that.

BLITZER: Ankush Khardori, thanks very much for coming in. Thanks for taking the train back from Wilmington to here in Washington.

And just ahead, another state charges allies of Donald Trump with trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. We have new details on the case against three men accused of devising a fake elector scheme in Wisconsin.


BLITZER: Wisconsin has just become the latest state to bring felony charges against Trump allies who allegedly devised a fake elector scheme to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

I want to bring in CNN's Sara Murray. She's working the details for us. What do we know about these charges, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are new charges against three men, three Trump allies, Kenneth Cheseboro, who's an attorney, Jim Troupis, who is an attorney, and Mike Roman, who is a former Trump campaign official.


All of them are facing a felony charge related to forgery and the complaint really lays out essentially their alleged involvement in creating this fake elector plot in Wisconsin and conversations about how you would pull the fake electors plot off to be able to overturn the 2020 election results. The pressure that they were going to put on former Vice President Mike Pence, essentially how they were going to pull this off.

Now, of course, these are three names that were allegedly involved in the plot in Wisconsin. There's one on big name that is missing from this complaint, which is Donald Trump. And the attorney general in Wisconsin was asked about whether he had ruled out bringing any charges against the former president in a press conference today, listen to what he said.


REPORTER: Have you ruled out charging Donald Trump?

JOSH KAUL, WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL: As I said, I'm not going to speak to any specific individual, but the investigation is ongoing and the decisions we make will be based on the facts and the law, not on the identity of any individual or their role.


MURRAY: Now, he probably said a dozen times in his press conference that this is an ongoing investigation. So, we'll see if other people could be charged in the state of Wisconsin, the governor, there had a one word statement about these charges today. He's a Democrat. He said simply: Good.

BLITZER: It's interesting, as you know, Wisconsin is one of a handful of so-called battleground states that could decide the 2024 presidential election coming up in November. And several of these battleground states have similarly filed charges against Trump allies in various fake electoral plots.

MURRAY: Yeah, that's right.

I mean, in addition to campaigning, gearing up for 2024, a lot of these folks are going to be dealing with issues in the courtroom. You can see there these five states now that have brought charges against folks related to the fake elector probe in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

Two of the men that we see charge day, Kenneth Chesebro and Mike Roman are also facing charges in other states. These are the first charges we've seen against Jim Troupis.

We did not hear from Troupis's today. Ken Chesebro's lawyer declined to comment. An attorney for Mike Roman says he's innocent.

BLITZER: Interesting.

All right. Sara Murray, thank you very much for your reporting.

Coming up, what President Biden is saying about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after suggesting what he -- after suggesting that the prime minister may be playing politics with the war in Gaza.



BLITZER: Tonight, new pressure on President Biden to discuss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's motives in Gaza. This after the president hinted that Netanyahu was dragging out the war against Hamas for his own political survival.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's working the story for us.

Tell us more about what the president said today and how it squares what he said in a rather provocative interview with "Time Magazine".

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, the president said he did not think that Netanyahu was playing politics with the Israel-Hamas war, but that does not square with what he said to "Time Magazine". Analysts tell us this illustrates just how difficult the president is now finding it to navigate his relationship with the embattled prime minister.


TODD (voice-over): New questions tonight about President Biden's true assessment of his Israeli counterpart. Today, the president was asked, is Benjamin Netanyahu playing politics with the Israel-Hamas war?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so. He's trying to work out a serious problem he has.

TODD: But that comes just hours after the publication of an interview with "Time Magazine" in which the president was asked if he thought that Netanyahu might be prolonging the Israel-Hamas war in an attempt to hold onto power. Biden's reply to that, quote: There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion.

Biden was also asked by "Time" if based on the intelligence, he's seen, he believes Israeli forces have committed war crimes in Gaza. His reply, the answer is, it's uncertain. One thing is certain. The people in Gaza, the Palestinians, have suffered greatly for lack of food, water, medicine, et cetera, and a lot of innocent people have been killed.

Former negotiator Aaron David Miller says, this is reflective of one of the most tense moments, a boiling point in a relationship between two liters that spanned about four decades.

AARON DAVID MILLER, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I would say without a doubt, the confidence that this president has in this prime minister, the trust that is critically important between an American president and Israeli prime minister to get things done, I think has been broken.

TODD: Just a few days ago, the tensions had spiked again when President Biden announced that Israel had offered a three-phase proposal to end the war.

BIDEN: Israel is offered a comprehensive new proposal. It's roadmap. I've urged leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal.

TODD: But since that announcement, Netanyahu himself has not publicly endorsed that plan, even though it came from his own government.

ANSHEL PFEFFER, AUTHOR, "BIBI: THE TURBULENT LIFE AND TIMES OF BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We begin to see Netanyahu starting to backtrack, keep his options open, trying to save his majority.

TODD: Far right members of Netanyahu's government have threatened to quit if that proposal is adopted. Biden also revealed to "Time Magazine" what he believes is his biggest point of contention with Netanyahu, right now, what happens with Gaza after the war, quote: There needs to be a two-state solution, a transition to a two-state solution. And that's my biggest disagreement with Bibi Netanyahu.

Miller believes despite their deteriorating relationship, Biden realizes he still has to work with Netanyahu.

MILLER: To de-escalate and ultimately end this horrifying war. That -- that is the objective and that means creating a functional relationship with the Israeli government and Benjamin Netanyahu as long as he is prime minister.


TODD (on camera): White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also tried to play down Biden's comments about Netanyahu dragging out the war to hold onto power.

Kirby said Biden was, quote, referencing what many critics have said about Netanyahu.


And Kirby reiterated that the White House would continue to work with Netanyahu's government to achieve peace and to eliminate the Hamas threat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting -- Brian, thank you very much.

And coming up, there's breaking news, AT&T customers are dealing with another nationwide outage. We just got more information from the carrier. We'll share that with you right after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news, a nationwide AT&T outage is once again leaving customers without service. In a statement to CNN, AT&T acknowledged many of its users are having trouble completing calls between carriers, although the company says calls between AT&T customers are still going through.

The outage, by the way, comes less than four months after a massive disruption knocked out service on the AT&T network for nearly 12 hours, leaving millions unable to make phone calls and texts reach emergency services or access the Internet. I hope they fix this.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for "CNN NEWSROOM".

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.