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Biden Campaign Slams Trump As A Convicted Criminal In New Ad; Putin To Visit North Korea To Deepen Anti-West Bond With Kim Jong-Un; California Wildfire Explodes In Size As U.S. Hit By Extreme Heat; Israel's "Tactical Pause" For Gaza Aid Raising Questions; FAA Investigating Southwest Flight That Came Within 400 Feet Crashing Into The Ocean. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And the National Hurricane Center just issued its first warning about a system forming in the lower Gulf of Mexico. Tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico. Five to ten inches of rain are possible, perhaps more.

In just ten days, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have their first debate of the general election.

I will moderate all of that that discussion, along with my colleague, Dana Bash. That's next Thursday, June 27th on CNN, streaming on MAX and elsewhere.

The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the Biden campaign slams Donald Trump as a, quote, convicted criminal who's only out for himself in a scathing new ad, this as Trump has been plotting 2024 strategy with House Speaker Mike Johnson. We're tracking the rising tensions and the sharpening attacks just ahead of the historic Biden Trump debate on CNN.

Also tonight, a potentially ominous meeting revealed as Russia's Vladimir Putin is set to hold talks with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. The U.S. raising concerns as two of its fiercest adversaries look to strengthen their alliance against the West.

And a very fast-moving California wildfire explodes in size fueled by hot, gusty winds and forcing evacuations, extreme weather endangering millions of Americans, including large swaths of the country at risk of record heat.

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

Tonight, the 2024 presidential race is shifting into an aggressive new phase as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are getting closer and closer to their high stakes debate right here on CNN just ten days from now.

CNN's Alayna Treene is covering the Trump campaign. CNN's Kayla Tausche is covering the Biden campaign. First, let's go to Kayla. How is the Biden camp, Kayla, sharpening its strategy?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Biden campaign has, for months, been talking about the so called split screen between what President Biden and former President Trump have been doing these last few months. But a new ad that is just out puts into stark relief and into stark new messaging, exactly what the Biden campaign feels that split screen should look like. That's part of a new $50 million ad buy across all battleground states as well as on cable television. And here's a little sample of that new ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the courtroom, we see Donald Trump for who he is. He's been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault, and he committed financial fraud. This election is between a convicted criminal who's only out for himself and a president who's fighting for your family.


TAUSCHE: Now, this ad previewing some of the amped up rhetoric that we could expect from President Biden on the debate stage next week as he goes directly after Trump as a convicted criminal. And the two presidents vied for support from independents as well as I'm here to tell you about the year since more dollars from donors. Over the weekend, the Biden campaign raised more than $30 million as part of a star studded fundraiser in Hollywood, where Biden appeared on stage with President Obama, and it was co-hosted by George Clooney. And attendees say that President Biden gave an impassioned plea about the future of the Supreme Court being on the line, among other things.

But even despite that fundraising Wolf, the Biden campaign suggesting it needs more. A text message blasted grass roots donor this afternoon from Vice President Kamala Harris, suggesting that Trump has raised $141 million just since the conviction and asking donors to help them match that.

Now, President Biden is going to be spending the federal Juneteenth holiday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Then he'll be traveling to Camp David to start some of that debate prep. Well, he and his team will be refining his messages and some of those attacks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Kayla, what are you learning about this important meeting that the former president had with the House speaker today?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, I'll take that one for you, Wolf. So, today, Donald Trump met with House Speaker Mike Johnson, as well as Richard Hudson, the chairman of House Republicans' campaign arm. And I'm told that the two really walked Donald Trump through the key races that they think are critical to helping them not only keep their majority come the fall but also expand it. And that's really critical as well to Donald Trump, who will want to enact his policy agenda if he is to reclaim the White House. If they can expand the majority, Donald Trump will be able to do a lot more regarding policy than with the majority, the slim majority, I should say, that they currently have.

Now, I also just want to take you through this weekend where Donald Trump was really aggressively campaigning in Michigan.


He first spoke to black voters, although I will say the audience was predominantly white, but he was courting black voters in Detroit. He also had some interesting words talking about crime, something that I know, you know, some of the rhetoric he used, saying that the city of Detroit was hellish, saying that many black communities are the ones that are rife with crime. This is rhetoric that we've heard from other black voters in the past that hasn't sat right with them, that they argue has racial overtones, the same kind of language Donald Trump used over the weekend.

But I do also want to touch on what he said at the Turning Point Action Conference later that day. He talked about wanting to guard the vote while simultaneously trying to convince his voters really to buy into the early voting and mail-in voting that Republicans had really taught them to be skeptical of back in 2020. Listen to how he put it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to watch the vote. We need to guard the vote. We need to stop the steal.

These mail-in ballots are treacherous. They're treacherous. These boxes, these lock boxes are horrible, horrible. And we'll change it, but we have to win the election in order to change it. What they're doing, they have these boxes all over the place. People are walking up. Who the hell knows what they're doing.


TREENE: Now, Wolf, clearly you could hear Donald Trump there repeating a lot of the rhetoric about, you know, the election being stolen in 2020, but also laying the groundwork for Republicans to try and claim that the upcoming election could be rife with election fraud as well.

And what I just find really interesting about this is it's very contradictory. We know that his campaign and groups, like Turning Point, are trying to convince Republicans to buy into mail-in voting, to do early voting, even though Donald Trump continuously criticizes those processes on the campaign trail. So, I think it just gives you some insight into kind of the inner workings of what the Republican Party is trying to do behind the scenes and how Donald Trump is sometimes getting in the way of that. Wolf?

BLITZER: This battle is clearly heating up. Alayna Treene and Kayla Tausche, to both of you, thank you very much. Let's get some analysis right now with our political experts. And, Jeff Zeleny, this new Biden campaign ad is, what, part of a $50 million advertising blitz that's going on right now in several of the key battleground states. But almost everybody knows about Trump's conviction. So, how effective is this going to be?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we will see. They're certainly investing a considerable amount of money behind this ad and they've obviously have tested this out. But what they're trying to do clearly there is draw that contrast. You can see the beginning of the ad is black and white with Donald Trump in the courtroom. The ending of the ad is President Biden around with the union workers signing legislation, other things, so, again, trying to draw this stark comparison between the two.

It's really what the Biden campaign has been trying to do for months and months and months with limited success. I mean, the polls have been remarkably stable. Given everything that's happened in the race, 34 felony convictions, I mean, we couldn't have even imagined that once upon a time, the polls have barely changed, but they really believe, the Biden campaign, talking to their advisers, believe that what they need to do is bring some Democrats home and bring some Biden voters home, so by sort of shining a light on this stark difference, they think that's necessary. And, clearly, they also want this to be part of the conversation going into the debate next week, our debate here on CNN in just ten days.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Ashley to weigh in. Should President Biden be leaning into this argument during next week's debate?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He should definitely talk about the contrast between himself and the former President Trump in addition to talking of painting a future picture for the future of America. One of the ways to bring Democrats back to, as Jeff was talking about, is not just what have you done for me lately, but what I will continue to do, acknowledging Americans are still suffering and that the economy is improving, but it's not where we want it to go. And if you give me four years, we will get it there. So, I definitely think he should draw the contrast, but also paint the picture of the future.

BLITZER: Shermichael, should the Republicans be concerned about the contrast that Biden is now drawing between himself and Trump right now going into the debate next week and part of the campaign that he's working for the American people and Trump is only out for himself and he's a convicted felon?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, not necessarily, Wolf. And I think we can expect the Trump campaign to do the same with the millions of dollars they've raised thus far to just point both candidates. Both camps are going to start pumping millions into ads saying that I'm better than the other guys so vote for me.

What we noticed in that ad, it was heavy on the criminality of some of the things that the former president has, has experienced but we didn't really hear a plan or a path forward for how the president, to Ashley's point, is going to materially improve the lives of working class voters, which is where I believe the former president has an opportunity to continue to hammer on that economic and immigration message, which most voters still currently believe they have not seen improvements under the current administration.


BLITZER: All right. Well, the base is going to be lively. You know, we're getting a better look right now at the terms for next week's debate that both campaigns have apparently agreed to. They've agreed to there will be no studio audience. You got some notes up there on the screen. Microphones will be muted throughout the debate except for the candidate speaking. No props or pre-written notes allowed and candidates will be given a pen, a pad of paper and a bottle of water. What are your takeaways, Jeff, from, from this format?

ZELENY: Look, the biggest thing is if we remember the last time these two candidates met on stage. Frankly, it was the last time either of them have debated in 2020. And the interruptions were so extreme, it was very difficult to hear what either of them were saying.

And it's one of the reasons that many Republicans believe that Donald Trump actually did not do well in that debate, interrupting at the time, a former Vice President Joe Biden. So, cutting off the microphones, that is the key difference here, really. Yes, there are a couple commercials, which is probably good for the candidates to rest a bit. But cutting off the mics when they're not speaking, it's interesting because it sort of raises -- if it works, it raises the burden, I think, on both sides to make their coherent point, and you can't necessarily win by having someone else outshout you.

And the no audience, the no studio audience is also very important. The White House insisted on that. President Biden did not want an audience and that Donald Trump wanted to debate Joe Biden. That's what they've been waiting for here. So, again, the earliest debate in history, and the Biden campaign is really hoping that it sort of gives him a lift, and the Trump campaign is hoping it does the opposite.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens next week. It's coming up.

As Trump here, Shermichael, is stepping up his attacks against Biden, raising questions about Biden's mental status right now, take a look at this is. This was what Trump said the other day. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I think he should take a cognitive test like I did. I took a cognitive test and I aced it. Doc Ronny, Doc Ronny Johnson -- does everyone know Ronny Johnson, Congressman from Texas? He was the White House doctor. And he said I was the healthiest president he feels in history. So, I liked him very much.


BLITZER: And the only problem is we all know it's not Ronny Johnson, it's Ronny Jackson. That's the name of the doctor who did the investigation. It's pretty awkward.

SINGLETON: We all forget things sometimes. Yes, President Biden is older. Is he slowing down? Yes. I think many people see that with their own eyes. I'm not a medical professional. I'm not going to attempt to diagnose the president.

BLITZER: But he can't even remember the name of his doctor.

SINGLETON: That's my point. People forget, Wolf. I think the message to this campaign cycle should be on the issues that matter. This debate that's coming up, and I'm happy there is an audience, people want to hear about how you're going to improve things for them. There're so many people in this country, whether it's young people, African-Americans, poor white Americans, other Americans of color, who do believe that there's this huge disconnect between a certain class of Americans who are wealthy, well educated, and the rest of them. And both of those candidates next week needs to drive that message home.

Now, Ashley is looking at me skeptically here.

ALLISON: I'm just saying, I just feel like Trump throws rocks and he lives in a glass house. Like he couldn't get the man's name right and he's talking about his opponent's cognitive ability. Stop it. Also, I love the fact that they're going to cut off the microphones because I think this is like poising Donald Trump to actually throw a tantrum on stage because very rarely is he surrounded by people who check him, and this is a way for our network to hold him accountable and keep the conversation honest.

BLITZER: It's going to be lively, to be sure. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, news coming in on just where Steve Bannon will soon start to report to prison and why the former Trump adviser isn't getting his wish.

Plus, controversial comments from a top contender to be Donald Trump's running mate, we will get reaction to what Senator J.D. Vance is saying from one of his fellow lawmakers, Senator Chris Murphy. He's standing by life.



BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning new details about where Steve Bannon is expected to serve his prison time for contempt of Congress, and it's apparently not what the former Trump adviser was hoping for.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Zachary Cohn who is joining us right now. So, Zach, what are sources revealing to CNN?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. Bannon had hoped to serve out his time in what is called a Club Fed. It's known as that because it is a low security work camp of types, and it's the most comfortable option for federal inmates. Instead, though, we're learning from our sources that Bannon will have to serve out his sentence in a low security federal prison. This is a prison that is home to a lot of white collar prisoners, like Steve Bannon, but it's also home to some violent and sex offenders. So, a different population that Bannon will have to serve out his time in prison when he reports on July 1. That's the date a judge has ordered Bannon to report to start serving out his four-month sentence.

And the reason Bannon can't serve out his time in this lowest security, most comfortable option for inmates, is because he's got another pending criminal case. This one is in New York. You might remember that he faces criminal charges for allegedly defrauding investors over the We Build the Wall scheme. This was essentially a fraud scheme that Bannon and others were charged with several years ago. Look, but he's going to have to serve out his time in a federal prison as that case is still pending, leading up to trial in September, and as he continues to appeal his contempt of Congress ruling in for defying a January 6th committee subpoena. He was convicted of that over two years ago.

And I want to go a little deeper into what this facility that he's going to be reporting to is. It's home to about a thousand different inmates. I mean, it's also adjacent to a much smaller female prison that was really made famous by that show on Netflix, Orange is the New Black.


So, it's a federal facility that's well known. It's in Danburg, Connecticut, and it's one that Steve Bannon will spend four months in when he reports in under a month.

BLITZER: Interesting. Zachary Cohen, thank you very, very much.

Even as Steve Bannon faces jail, he's rallying far right activists and Trump supporters with a chilling battle cry of, quote, victory or death.

Let's talk about that and more with Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Thanks so much for joining us.

Let's talk a little bit about that, but I want you to listen to what Steve Bannon said at this event that Trump spoke at as well. Listen to this.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: November 5th is judgment day. January 20th, 2025 is accountability day.

We're going to get every single receipt and to the fullest extension of the law, you are going to be investigated, prosecuted, and incarcerated.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's very simple, victory or death.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: So, how do you interpret this?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I mean, I don't know. That sounds like a madman. And I can't keep track of all these guys. Everybody that's been around Donald Trump is in jail, his campaign managers, his national security advisers. I mean, this guy just surrounds himself with criminals. And I've got a job to do to try to run the country. I can't keep track of all the idiotic things that Donald Trump's criminal class says at rallies.

America should see who Donald Trump is. He's an autocrat in waiting. He wants to be president in order to dispense with our democracy. He surrounds himself with sycophants and criminals. That's just what he is. And, I don't know, I don't spend a lot of time tracing Steve Bannon's actions, deeds, and statements.

BLITZER: Let's move on, Senator. GOP Senator J.D. Vance says he believes alternative slates of electors for states Trump lost should have been submitted back in 2020. He's a frontrunner, we're told, to be Trump's potential running mate. What's your reaction to that?

MURPHY: That's the first time hearing of it. So, what I know is that, you know, Donald Trump is, you know, still in denial that he lost the 2020 election. Basically, anybody in good standing in the Republican Party today has to accept the premise that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, despite the fact that there's no evidence. It's, you know, an unfortunate circumstance that the Republican Party has come to this place in which they, you know, have to pledge allegiance to Donald Trump and his wild conspiracy theories about the 2020 election in order to have, you know, any shot at being able to be nominated for office.

So, I don't know what Senator Vance is talking about, but what I do think is unfortunate is that Donald Trump continues to attack the 2020 election. If he loses in 2024, he will attack that election, and he will likely encourage his supporters to use violence to try to overthrow the election, as he did in 2020.

This is serious. These are serious times. And I wish that my Republican colleagues would choose democracy, choose the rule of law, over Trump's conspiracy theories and endorsement of violence.

BLITZER: While I have you, Senator, I want to turn to the issue of gun control. You called your GOP colleagues' hesitation to act on legislation to ban bump stocks, and I'm quoting you now, you said it was scary. This is what GOP Senator Thom Tillis said, and I'm quoting him now, take a look at this. These folks are looking for a way to be partisan even when there may be some flicker of bipartisan hope. Maybe if they'd taken the time to say, guys, how do we get this, or how do we address this, we would have a possibility of getting something passed. How do you respond to Senator Tillis?

MURPHY: Well, Senator Tillis is a good friend, and he is someone that has been very serious about saving lives and passing common sense gun legislation in the Congress. And so I'll be glad to talk to Senator Tillis about his concerns. I guess my feeling is that this issue isn't really that complicated. I'm not sure what additional discussion would produce because the bill that is in front of Congress this week or next week is pretty simple. It just bans bump stocks. It says that you can't continue to sell these devices that turn a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun.

That's what the Trump administration tried to do with the support of Republicans. The Supreme Court just struck down the Trump administration's regulation. And all we're seeking to do is take that Trump-era regulation and put it into statute. I thought this was something that we had consensus on, that we shouldn't legalize machine guns by accident in this country. And so, if Senator Tillis has concerns, I'll listen to him, because he's got a lot of credibility on this issue, but I don't know that it's that confusing.


It's a simple bill, ban bump stocks, make sure that we keep machine guns out of the hands of mad men in this country. I think that that should be something we should be able to find easy consensus on.

BLITZER: And related to that, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, says he will bring the bump stock legislation to the floor this week Do you see any prospect of that passing?

MURPHY: Well, I think sometimes Republicans decide that they're going to vote against something because they impute or infer motives that don't exist. I mean, maybe we want to vote on the bump stocks legislation because we want to ban bump stocks, right? Maybe it's not for political purposes. That actually is the truth.

I just think it's better for this country if people can't convert their semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. That's why we lost 50- plus lives in Las Vegas because the shooter up in that hotel had converted his semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun. Let's just all decide that machine guns shouldn't be legal in this country.

We're going to bring this bill up for a vote because we want to save lives, not because we want to play politics. If Republicans decide to vote against it because they perceive our motives to be something that they are not, that's their issue. That's not my issue.

BLITZER: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thanks very much for joining us.

MURPHY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up, new satellite images show how North Korea is now preparing to welcome Vladimir Putin as worries grow over increased military cooperation.

Plus, Russia confirming new details about the trial of American Journalist Evan Gershkovich, including when it will start and just how public it will be.



BLITZER: Within hours, two of the world's most dangerous strongmen will be face to face. Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to make a rare trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look for all of us.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two of America's most bitter and aggressive enemies soon to embrace in Pyongyang. The Kremlin announcing Vladimir Putin will meet with Kim Jong-un for two days in North Korea starting tomorrow, two leaders whose propaganda machines know how to do up the red carpet. The banners being prepared in Kim Il-sung's square, so large you can see them from space lying on the ground.

In Washington, alarms are raised.

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNITCATIONS ADVISER: What we are concerned about is the deepening relationship between these two countries.

TODD: Specifically their growing military relationship. Kim Jong-un now a key supplier of the weapons Putin is using against Ukraine.

PATRICK CRONIN, HUDSON INSTITUTE: North Korea has shipped ballistic missiles that have fired on even innocent civilians in Ukraine and killing them.

TODD: According to South Korea's Defense Ministry, between last August and this February, North Korea shipped ballistic missiles, rocket launchers, and millions of rounds of artillery shells to Russia, which Putin has deployed on the battlefield. Both countries deny those allegations.

While these armaments are compatible with Soviet and Russian weapons systems, some of North Korea's weapons are old and defective.

BRUCE KLINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: There have been numerous reports that some of the North Korean provided artillery shells have exploded in the barrel destroying the system as well as injuring or killing some of the Russian soldiers.

TODD: Still, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the North Korean weapons have allowed Russian forces to, quote, get back up on their feet following earlier losses to Ukraine on the battlefield. What can Kim get in return from Putin?

CRONIN: Russia is sending to North Korea Unknown technology, which we believe includes not just military satellite technology, which Kim desperately wants to see the battlefield around North Korea, but also he wants technology that can advance his ICBMs and his other missiles with re-entry vehicles.

TODD: This visit also reflects the isolation of the two leaders. It's Putin's first visit to North Korea in 24 years, when he strutted through the capital with Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, when the current dictator was only 16 years old. Kim, meanwhile, has not hosted another world leader in Pyongyang since the COVID-19 pandemic.

CRONIN: This is a step on the world stage for Putin and Kim at the same time that it's a desperation move.

TODD: After Kim met with Putin at a military manufacturing facility in Russia's Far East last year, Putin gifted Kim a luxury Russian limousine called the Orus, which Kim has proudly ridden around Pyongyang in.

KLINGNER: And that certainly enhances Kim's stature. It shows that he's an equal on the world stage.


TODD (on camera): Vladimir Putin's poke the U.S. tour doesn't stop in Pyongyang. When he leaves North Korea, he'll head straight to communist-governed Vietnam, a visit to another Cold War Russian ally that is sure to cause more consternation here in Washington. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lots at stake. Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thank you very much.

There's also more news out of Russia tonight. State media there is revealing new details about plans to try the jailed U.S. Journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges.

CNN's Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us live from Moscow right now. Matthew, what are you learning about this trial?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we're watching these developments very closely, of course, here from Moscow, Wolf. And what we've learned today from the Russian authorities is that the trial for espionage of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter, will begin in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on the 26th of this month, so just in a few days from now, in fact.

At the moment, Gershkovich, as far as we know, is being held here in Moscow in the notorious Lefortevo prison, where he's been held in pre- trial detention since his arrest on espionage charges in March last year.


And so that's the situation there.

And what we understand is that, you know, the trial, when it gets underway, will be in camera reporters won't be allowed in, it will be held behind closed doors. The U.S. State Department has issued a statement saying that they're going to try to visit the court case and to be in attendance when it takes place, but they're not sure yet if that will be allowed to happen. Certainly, there's been a great deal of restrictions because of what Russia says that the security restraints surrounding Evan Gershkovich right now, the security concerns about his espionage case, a lot of restrictions on him being visited by U.S. diplomats and certainly by members of the public and the press. Wolf?

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you very much.

Just ahead, a live report from one of the more than a dozen wildfires now burning across California as the National Weather Service ups its risk of spreading.



BLITZER: In California right now, firefighters are waging a very difficult and urgent battle against a massive and fast-moving wildfire just outside of Los Angeles.

CNN's Camila Bernal is on the scene for us. Camila, what's the situation where you are?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. The wind still very strong and the concern is that that high wind advisory is going to be in place until tomorrow. So, that's what these firefighters are up against. I just talked to a fire official who told me they have been able to hold the lines. But you see here behind me, this has already destroyed more than 15,000 acres and you have firefighters working around the clock. This crew here on to my left, they're taking a quick 15-minute break, but they are working very, very hard. And you have the crews also up in the air dropping the water, trying to do everything they can to continue to keep those fire lines. The efforts by these guys here is what is keeping those fire lines.

There's also this concern about what climate change is doing to this fire and many others in the season. It is very early to see this type of fire. So, I want you to take a listen to what one fire official with the Forest Service told me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's causing us to be ever vigilant seeing a fire of this scale so early in the season. It's springtime after all and not typical that we see fires this size so soon.

This could be a harbinger of things to come for sure.


BERNAL: And so there are already about 1,200 people under evacuation orders, many others under evacuation warnings, people being told to be vigilant because this wind can change the direction of the fire in a moment's notice. And so everybody is being told to pack their bags and to be ready in case this fire continues to spread, Wolf.

BLITZER: Camila Bernal, thank you very much for that report. Stay safe over there.

There's another very dangerous situation unfolding right now as well. Millions of Americans are at risk from a brutal heat wave.

CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the extreme weather.


ZACH ISCOL, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: We are in the path of extreme heat, bringing along potential health risks in the forthcoming days.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice over): Summer officially arrives in the northern hemisphere this week. And with it, a heat wave not seen in decades. From the Midwest and Great Lakes to the Northeast, more than 260 million Americans, or roughly 82 percent of the U.S. population, could see temperatures above 90 degrees. Nearly 200 daily high temperature records could be tied or broken in major cities, including Boston, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York City. And little relief is expected even at night with low temperatures not dropping below the middle seventies.

ISCOL: Extreme heat is the most dangerous weather phenomenon we have in New York City. We lose over 350 New Yorkers a year on average to heat.

MYERS: Caribou, Maine, which prides itself as the most northeastern city in the U.S., could hit their hottest temperature ever Wednesday, with a forecast of 99. That's three degrees higher than their all time hottest high temperature on record. Boston is forecast to be nearly 100 degrees on Thursday, which would be their earliest 100-degree day in 99 years.

And it's not just the high temperatures causing concern, but how long they're expected to stick around. Pittsburgh, which hasn't seen a single day go over 95 degrees and more than a decade, is forecast to see six consecutive days above 95 degrees. And Philadelphia is expected to see five straight days at or above 95.

If it seems like these scorching heat waves are happening more and more each year, it's not your imagination.

DR. ASHWIN VASAN, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE: While very hot days are, of course, normal, the number and the duration of these hot days we are seeing each and every year is not. The risk to our planet presents risks to our health and heat is, of course, the deadliest of all extreme weather events here in New York City and across the United States.


MYERS (on camera): And Wolf, if the air is hot, the water is hot. Brand new, just out from the National Hurricane Center, potential tropical cyclone number one will be Tropical Storm Alberto moving toward Mexico. Actually, there's Texas right there, could even see quite a bit of rain in Texas with this, some of the models putting somewhere between 10 and 20 inches of rainfall in spots here as the storm circulates around. Even if it doesn't become a hurricane, it could certainly become a flood maker. We'll keep watching that. Part of summer and it's just getting started.

BLITZER: All right, Chad Myers reporting. Chad, thank you very much.

Coming up, news from the Middle East, including Israel's so-called tactical pause in one small part of Gaza, and whether it's having an impact.



BLITZER: Tonight, Israel's so-called tactical pause in military activity along an aid route in southern Gaza is raising a lot of questions and concerns about whether it's actually making any difference. Aid groups have warned for weeks and months about roadblocks to providing vital supplies to civilians in Gaza.

Take a look at how the UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, reacted to a failed attempt to deliver aid to northern Gaza last week.


JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: The medical supplies, that is nutritional supplies for 10,000 people, it was denied. After all the approvals, it's denied. It's gone back. Five hours, we'll have to do the same, 10,000 people will not get those medical and nutritional supplies that they so urgently, urgently need. Another aid restriction, another aid denial.



BLITZER: And joining us now from Rafah in southern Gaza, the UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder.

James, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you described being stuck at checkpoints only to have a denied. Have you seen any changes at all with this so-called tactical pause that we've been reporting on?

ELDER: No, no. And I talk to colleagues across agencies on are the backbone of aid here, many others, no, Wolf, and it's a great question because we need -- we need evidence. We need to just to work with evidence and not statements. And, obviously, any pause in bombing anywhere on the Gaza Strip that will protect children is good news.

But, really, the problem is bigger than this tiny stretch of land. The problem is about more crossings being open, Wolf, areas in the north, close Rafah, the lifeline for humanitarian aid in the south closed the port, not functioning at the moment. These are the things that are critical. And then once aid gets in, Israel is the occupying power, ensuring it

lives up to that legal responsibility to ensure we can deliver that aid safely across the Gaza Strip. They are the real problems as to why so many children, so many civilians are on the cusp of what we know is being on the cusp of famine.

BLITZER: I know you've -- you've been in Rafah for some time. You've seen children wounded in hospitals. You've seen children suffering from malnutrition. What's it like to be a child in Gaza right now?

ELDER: Wolf, it's just no place for children. A few hours ago, I was at European hospital and again, I'm seeing many children with amputations, so many children amputations and parents who will tell their stories and as they tell their stories, I'll explain that at the same time that their son was, had I had two limbs removed. Their husband was killed, their homes bombed.

I was also seeing children who are angry, who is silent or who would throw things because they know what's happened to them. I'm seeing children also, Wolf, on the ground. Hospitals are so overcrowded. I'm seeing children with head wounds oh, terrible burns, not being able to get the medical attention because we've seen the systematic devastation.

So physically, it is a place where they are so woefully under threat, but psychologically, it's 250 days of this, Wolf, and they trust me as someone who's barely slept for a few days because the bombing and the drones are so utterly relentless. And then during the day, if they're not being bombed in a town into a tent, Wolf, tangible because, of course, they don't want to lose their home.

So there's no windows and there's no ceiling fans. One of these tents is 50 degrees Celsius. That's -- I don't know, 120 plus Fahrenheit with a lethal lack of water.

That's life for child in Gaza. It's no place for children, but it's home. It's home to a million children.

BLITZER: When you see so many children being killed and suffering month after month, James, do you feel that your warnings are falling on deaf ears? Yeah. I have to unfortunately, yes, and it's crushing.

On one hand, of course, we've seen so many protests around the world. People just protesting against attacks on children, just protesting piece. And that has been a wonderful thing. And I think it's a thing also when I speak to so many Gazans that it lifts their spirits to know that people are seeking to raise their voice.

But at the same time, whilst we see this almost unprecedented in modern times, range of protests against attacks on children. We see almost impunity on the other side. So, yes, of course, certainly. I find it very disconcerting that people still somehow excused away attacks on children and don't just look solely for a ceasefire, a ceasefire.

Both these parties seem woefully disconnected from the suffering of children as ceasefire, it gets hostages home that, ends that torment. And it allows, Wolf, as a mother said to me, it would allow her to promise her daughter that she would wake up in the morning. A parent cannot do that. Children look in parents eyes now, he will open children know their parents have lost the ability to protect them.

That is an -- that is awful realization for child and a terrible, terrible moment for parents who also knows that they can no longer protect their child albeit from the sky or malnutrition and lack of water on the ground.

BLITZER: James Elder, the spokesperson for UNICEF, thanks very much for joining us. Stay safe over there.

ELDER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, an FAA investigation is underway into a terrifying close call involving a Southwest flight that came within 400 feet of crashing into the ocean.

Our aviation correspondent Pete Muntean is joining us right now.

What do we know, Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this happened two months ago back on April 11th, only coming to light just now, because of an internal Southwest Airlines memo to pilots that leaked to Bloomberg and "The Air Current", an open source data really tells a tale of a lot of demands on the pilots of the Southwest Boeing 737 MAX 8 coming into land at Lihue, a short flight over from Honolulu, about 27 minutes, a very busy cockpit on those short flights.

And add this into mix, the weather was very bad at the time, a low visibility and rain, the pilots setup to come into land. But apparently aborted the landing when they could not see the runway in front of them, something called a missed approach, known to be an especially busy time in the cockpit of a large airline are typically the procedure is to decline, but the data shows the plane continuing to descend at a rate of 4,000 feet a minute until the dissent was arrested at 400 feet above ground level, very low.

The question here will be the cause and the memo reported by other outlets says the first officer was flying the plane at the time and may have inadvertently pushed forward on the control column.

Now, Southwest has released a statement men saying, nothing is more important to Southwest than safety through our robust safety management system, the event was addressed appropriately as we always strive for continuous improvement.

This is similar you may remember to an incident on a United Airlines flight back in December of 2022, also, a landing in the island of Hawaii in bad weather, the NTSB found significant miscommunication in the cockpit. The NTSB says it will not investigate this latest incident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pete Muntean reporting for us -- Pete, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.