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Trump And Biden Prepping For CNN Debate And Setting Expectations; Judge Wraps Hearing On Trump's Request To Declare Special Counsel Jack Smith's Appointment Invalid; Supreme Court Upholds Law Banning Domestic Abusers From Owning Guns; Public Clash Between U.S. And Israel Over Weapons Intensifies. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 21, 2024 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, extreme weather, a heatwave is intensifying in the mostly densely populated areas of the United States. More than 100 million people are under heat advisories right now. We're watching all of this.

Also happening now, the preps and the posturing. They're underway right now. A huge, huge debate coming up next week.

Also tonight, we're watching very significant legal developments unfolding right now. The judge in the Trump classified documents case just wrapped up a hearing on whether a special counsel Jack Smith was legally appointed after pushing Trump's lawyer to defend an argument she called ominous.

Plus, the United States Supreme Court upholds a federal gun law aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence. We're breaking all this down. It's a significant new ruling and how it tested the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

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

We begin with the pregame warm up before the high stakes presidential debate here on CNN just six days from now. President Joe Biden is getting deeply personal in rehearsal mode behind closed doors, while former President Donald Trump is publicly trying to raise expectations for his opponent.

Our correspondents are here with more on both candidates and their strategies that are unfolding. First let's go to CNN's Kayla Tausche, she's covering the Biden camp pain for us. So how is Biden campaigning, right, preparing for his debate?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's at Camp David right now huddling with his advisors. It's day one of what's expected to be as much as six days of preparation with aides reserving the possibility that it travels right to Atlanta from Camp David depending on how much practice he still needs to do. Now, they're workshopping policy items, zingers, punches, counter punches, trying to refine exactly what his argument will be all with the goal of trying to highlight some of the wildest Trumpisms of recent years that they believe in the Biden campaigns theory of the case that voters have just been disengaged for.

Now, they also believe that having the mics muted, is a productive way for President Biden to be able to make that case without being interrupted as he was in the first debate of the 2020 cycle.

Now, there is expected to be a Trump standard when they evolve into the formal mock debate portion of the prep, which is going to be in a couple of days. And sources tell me that that's expected to be Bob Bauer, the personal attorney to the president, who also served in that role in 2020. And he has a book out where he describes some of that 2020 prep. And here's how he described the character study of sorts earlier today.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you do a trumpet pressure? Do you sound like Donald Trump? Are you talking to normal voice?

BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Whenever you do this, you want to strike a balance between trying to approximate the experience. But it's not an opportunity for theatrics. That's a distraction. So, you want to find some balance between recreating the experience and not attempting to if you will audition for Saturday night.


TAUSCHE: So it's more of a character study where the content reflects what Trump would say he doesn't try to look the part of Trump when he does that. But it's safe to say, Wolf, the stakes were high for the debate before, but they're especially high now that we got those new fundraising numbers that show for two straight months Trump outraised Biden. Certainly he's going to be making that appeal to not only his longtime donors, but also a new class of voters as well.

BLITZER: Yes. Lots at stake right now. Kayla, stay with us. I want to turn to CNN's Alayna Treene. She's covering the Trump campaign for us. So what are you hearing about Trump's take on what's going on and how he's preparing?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, there's a few things. One, he's not doing, what President Joe Biden is doing and what Kayla just laid out, he will not be engaging in mock debates, even though he has done that in past years. But one thing I found really interesting in my conversations with Trump's team, and we heard Trump talk about this a little bit yesterday, is that they're really trying to raise the expectations for Joe Biden. So we know over the past several months, Donald Trump as well as all of his senior advisors, have really been trying to paint Biden as this old and feeble man, someone who cannot stand up for the 90 minutes that is allotted in this debate, that he has trouble with his mental and physical activity. Now, they're trying to raise the bar.

[17:05:03] They recognize that maybe that's setting the expectations too low for Joe Biden. Take a listen to what Trump said on the "All-In" podcast yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He beat Paul Ryan pretty badly. And I assume he's going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater. Yes, I would say. I think --


TRUMP: I don't want to underestimate him.


TREENE: I don't want to underestimate him. I think he's a worthy debater. That is a far cry from what we have heard Donald Trump say repeatedly on the campaign trail for the last several months.

But look, I mean, what they're trying to do here, again, is raise the expectations. And really, I think for my conversations with Trump's campaign behind the scenes, they are trying to figure out OK, we recognize that Joe Biden is going into this intense prep, what can we do to sharpen our own rhetoric, our own messaging. Now we know that Donald Trump has met with a series of vice presidential contenders, senators, policy experts, people from his previous administration like Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Rick Grenell, to sharpen some of those attack lines.

I'm also told that he's been really working to rein in some of his aggression and kind of what Kayla talked about with him talking over Joe Biden repeatedly in that 2020 debate, they don't want him to do this time. Of course, there will be the microphones cut off. So that'll handle some of that problem for him.

BLITZER: We'll see how that all unfolds. Kayla, thank you very much. Alayna, thanks to you as well.

Let's bring in our political experts right now. And I'll start with David Chalian.

David, what is Trump now trying to -- what is Trump trying to do to raise expectations for Biden just ahead of the debate? What does that tell you?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It tells me that Trump and his team did not like the way the expectations game went around President Biden State of the Union address and that they're trying to learn from that. As Alayna said, you know, and I think we should caution here, all this expectations setting that both sides tend to do in advance of debates, it all goes out the window once the two men take the stage and the American people are able to see for themselves what their debate performances are, Wolf. But there is no doubt that this narrative of trying to paint Joe Biden as this feeble old man wandering in fields and all the like, would lower expectations that all Joe Biden would need to be able to do sort of complete a sentence and it's deemed a victory for him. And I think the Trump team and the former president himself are keenly aware of that after his more energetic State of the Union speech, and they're trying to avoid falling into that trap this time.

BLITZER: SE Cupp is with us as well.

SE, despite what he's saying now, did Trump make a major mistake lowering expectations for Biden for so long?

SE CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, they've been, you know, running the tape of every Biden gaffe and exacerbating exaggerating Biden gaps. They're trying to tell their base that Biden's completely out of it, incompetent. That could backfire when, as David says, Biden looks OK during the debate. Then it looks like sleight of hand and sort of optical illusions and tricks that the Trump campaign is trying to play on voters and actually, Joe Biden looks just fine.

We don't know how the debate is going to go. But Trump's expectation setting tends to go from very, very high to very, very low. He doesn't have a sort of moderating voice. So it'll be interesting to see how his voters and how all voters react to the two on stage on Thursday.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. Meghan Hays is with us as well.

Meghan, how important is it for President Biden to have a really, really strong debate performance?

I think we got a technical problem. Meghan, let me ask David, that question. How important is it for the President to have a very strong debate performance, David?

CHALIAN: Wolf, I think for both candidates, it is important for them to have strong debate performance. As you know, this has been a remarkably stable race. These two men are in this historic moment having never had something like this in American history before, a sitting president debating a former president. And this is a high stakes moment. Perhaps not as high stakes, as it would be if we were talking about this debate in October.

But I think one of the reasons certainly that the Biden campaign appeared desiring in earlier debate was perhaps too, in case it doesn't go so well, to have some time to recover. But given the fact of the concerns around Joe Biden's performance, his age that voters have expressed, and that he's asking for a renewal of his contract for four years, there is no doubt that just like we were talking before the State of the Union, this is going to be a big moment for Joe Biden to demonstrate to the American people that he's ready for that contract renewal for four years.


BLITZER: All right, let me try to reconnect with Meghan if you can hear me OK, Meghan. Which campaign do you think has more at stake right now in the CNN upcoming debate? MEGHAN HAYS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. BIDEN: I think both men have a lot at stake here. I think they both need to show up strong. The optics are more important than the substance in a lot of ways here, they both need to come across strong, they both need to talk about the issues that are important to the American people. I think that both camps have a lot to gain for their momentum. I also think that nothing is really moving the needle one way or the other.

And this is an opportunity for one camp or the other to have that happen. So I do think that both parties have a lot here to gain and to lose, frankly.

BLITZER: And specifically, SE, what kind of impact do you think debating without a live audience in the room will have on Trump?

CUPP: Well, I think we've seen the kind of impact that having a lot of live audience can have on a debate. It gives an audience at home, the perception that, you know, Donald Trump or someone else might be doing really well, when in fact, you know, that candidate might be telling some mistruths or messing up. So I think, removing that factor is important for viewers at home to just get a very clear one to one interaction with both of these candidates. And these candidates have to remember, they are speaking to viewers at home, not the room, but at home. And specifically in a state like Georgia, they are speaking to swing state voters.

They both have their fans, their supporters who aren't going anywhere. What they need to do is grow their base. They need independents, undeclared, moderates, all in these swing states. That's the kind of thing they should both be thinking about as they head into this debate, not solidifying their base, but reaching those independent voters.

BLITZER: And we know there will be a huge audience, 10s and 10s of millions of people will be watching this upcoming debate.

David, I understand we have some new fundraising numbers from the campaigns and I want to put them up on the screen for us. Take a look at this, Trump with a massive Hall taking in $141 million, while the President Biden is behind with $85 million. Biden had been enjoying, as you well know, David, a major fundraising advantage. How is this, these new numbers, likely to impact the race?

CHALIAN: Yes, this is the second month in a row now that Trump in the RNC has outraised Biden in the DNC. This is not about those outside Super PACs, yet their latest filings come a little bit later this summer, Wolf. But I will note here, it is a significant development, obviously, that Trump is completely nearly entirely washed away the fundraising advantage that you noted that Biden had. The question is what is he going to do with that because Biden has been on the air for months pressing that fundraising advantage with advertising dollars. And as Meghan was saying, the needle hasn't really moved here.

This has been a stable race. I think watching how Joe -- Donald Trump now spends this money that he has, both of these candidates will be well funded in the fall, how Trump now spends this money now that he has raised it. And what he puts on the air since he has not been largely on the air nearly at all at the same levels of Biden will be a key thing to watch. And the other thing to remember here is what fueled all of that fundraising was his felony conviction. I know that sounds nuts, but the president was convicted 34 times of felonies in a Manhattan trial, and that supercharged his fundraising.

BLITZER: And David, just to be precise, a lot of that money is going to go for legal fees for Trump, right?

CHALIAN: Yes, as well as some of the money from his aligned Super PACs where super wealthy people write a very big check. And we have seen time and again, that that Super PAC money has been utilized for indeed paying some of his legal fees.

BLITZER: All right guys, thank you very, very much. Lots going on.

Coming up, is there any chance that Judge Aileen Cannon will agree with the Trump team that special counsel Jack Smith was illegally appointed? Standby for new information. We're getting details on the latest hearing. And why the heatwave that's roiling parts of the United States may be even more dangerous right now. You're in the Situation Room.



BLITZER: A key hearing in the Trump classified documents case ended just a little while ago without, repeat, without a ruling on the defense's bid to invalidate the appointment of the special counsel Jack Smith. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is working the story for us.

Katelyn, what unfolded inside a Judge Cannon's courtroom?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, it was hours and hours of arguments today over special counsel Jack Smith, and whether it's constitutional for him as a prosecutor at the Justice Department to bring a case against Donald Trump or anyone really. Trump's team and his codefendants, they're challenging the legality of the special counsel's office on a couple of different fronts that they're trying to argue to Judge Cannon that he wasn't appointed lawfully. He was brought in from outside the government. The Attorney General didn't do it right. They're going to be arguing a little bit more on Monday about the funding underneath that office, underpinning it allowing that office to continue to do its work if it was appropriated correctly by Congress.

And then the third thing, the part that Donald Trump's team really dragged the arguments toward today in the courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida before Judge Cannon, they were arguing about how it actually might work between Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith, how much oversight is there and how much independence is there. Judge Cannon had quite a lot of questions about this and could make a decision if she sides with Trump's team to invalidate the special counsel. The other thing they're aiming for here is potentially additional hearings to look into what it's like inside the Justice Department between Garland and Jack Smith. And Cannon was asking has there been additional oversight? Justice Department didn't answer every question, Wolf, but they did articulate that the attorney general could fire the special counsel if he wanted to, and he hasn't reviewed all of the Jack Smith decisions in this case.


BLITZER: Katelyn, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers and Elie Honig.

Jennifer, what are the chances, do you believe, that this challenge from Trump's team to Jack Smith's appointment could actually succeed?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's unlikely that it ultimately succeeds, Wolf. We don't have anything that's exactly on all fours here. But in the past this has been challenged before. The appointment of special counsels has been challenged before, those challenges have all failed.

So, while factually, they're not exactly the same, just to give you one example, Hunter Biden challenge the appointment of his special counsel David Weiss, but on the basis that David Weiss actually came from inside government, not from outside government. So, they're not exactly the same, but they have failed in the past.

I do think the government has the better of this argument. But you know, you never know what a judge and especially Judge Cannon will do.

BLITZER: Elie Honig, what would likely happen, likely happen, to this criminal case against Trump, if Judge Cannon ruled against the special counsel Jack Smith?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the first thing that would happen is Jack Smith would appeal and I believe successfully. I agree with Jennifer, I think there are prior cases that are similar to this where defendants tried to get Robert Mueller removed, where a defendant tried to get the special counsel on the Hunter Biden case removed. So, I think if Judge Cannon rules against Jack Smith, he'll appeal and he will probably be able to get her reversed in that scenario.

Now, if this somehow comes to pass, that it's upheld, the Jack Smith was improperly appointed, then I think the indictment gets dismissed because the argument that Donald Trump is making here is that Jack Smith has been given essentially the same powers as a U.S. attorney to indict and try federal cases. But U.S. attorneys have to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, neither of which applies to Jack Smith. That said, what prior courts have said is the power that Jack Smith is given is legally given to him through the attorney general. There's a lot of discretion there. So I think ultimately, Jack Smith will remain in place.

BLITZER: Let me get back to Katelyn Polantz who is doing excellent reporting on all of this. Today's hearing, Katelyn, as you know, is just the start of a flurry of legal arguments. In this case, we're expecting more key hearings next week. Tell us about that.

POLANTZ: Yes, there are several more days ahead with Judge Aileen Cannon in that courtroom Monday and Tuesday, more arguments on Monday. the prosecutors do want to have the judge or try to convince the judge to put limitations on Donald Trump's speech, so called gag order, because they believe that he's speaking so much about law enforcement and spreading misleading information about them in a way that could harm them either as witnesses if they were agents that took part in the search of Mar-a-Lago, or just generally be very harmful to the FBI, the Justice Department, that Trump rhetoric continues. They're asking to change his release conditions. So, something even more than has happened in other cases. But that's the centerpiece of what the arguments will be on Monday afternoon.

There's other arguments going to be -- that going to be happening on Tuesday where Trump's team continues to try and convince Cannon to dismiss this case. They haven't been successful with that yet. They're going to keep trying. But a theme of all of these today and then again next week is we're going to keep hearing Trump's team, Wolf, try to get more hearings. Can they convince Cannon to allow them to call witnesses like people from the Justice Department and perhaps gin up some sort of sideshow that may be very similar to what happened in the Georgia case where Fani Willis was put under oath and had to testify.

Maybe that won't be a sideshow for Judge Cannon, but it very well could take this case in a totally different direction than it's already going.

BLITZER: Elie, as you know, at least as of right now, there isn't a gag order against Trump in place in this classified documents case. What are the arguments both sides are making about that?

HONIG: So, Wolf, Jack Smith's team is arguing that Donald Trump has made statements that are inflammatory, potentially dangerous towards the FBI agents, law enforcement agents, and that refers to Donald Trump's really false and outrageous statements a few weeks ago, that there was some attempt to assassinate or some plot to assassinate him when the search warrant was executed at Mar-a-Lago. Jack Smith has said, that type of rhetoric needs to be prevented by the court to protect the process here.

What Donald Trump's team has said in their brief is essentially, first of all, there's no specific proof they claim that any of the FBI agents have been threatened or in danger. And second of all, they argue that the gag order itself would be too broad and infringe on Donald Trump's first amendment rights. Now, Judge Cannon as any judge does, has very broad discretion to decide whether to impose a gag border and if so, how broad to make it. But I do think it's worth noting that judges in virtually every other one of Donald Trump's criminal and civil cases have put in some type of gag order at a minimum designed to protect the process in as narrow but sort of significant way as possible.


BLITZER: That's interesting. Jennifer, on this point, how common are these sorts of gag orders? And could the gag order against Trump in the New York criminal case impact whether we see another one down in Florida?

RODGERS: Well, it's interesting, Wolf, Ellie and I were speaking about this earlier, they're very, very uncommon in normal cases. We've never had on any of our cases, and Elie consulted with some colleagues who said the same, but in Donald Trump cases, they obviously are very common because your normal criminal defendant listens to his lawyers, listens to the judge about the rules and doesn't threaten people. So, I would say, you know, in the normal case, you don't see this a lot at all, but we've seen them a lot with Donald Trump. A lot of it depends on what he says, what he continues to do as to whether there will be one here or not.

You know, in Manhattan, we have Alvin Bragg coming out and saying these threats continue. You need to continue the gag order in place even when the (inaudible) is over. But this trial is a little bit different. Donald Trump doesn't dislike the judge here. He likes the judge.

He wants delay, she's giving him delay. So I think we'll have to kind of watch and see what he says as this case moves forward to see whether one is justified or not.

BLITZER: To all of you, thank you very, very much. Good discussion.

Up next, news from the United States Supreme Court with conservative and liberal justices agreeing in a major case on gun rights, as we await a key ruling around Donald Trump as well.



BLITZER: A major win today for gun safety groups and domestic violence victims. The United States Supreme Court upheld a federal law that bars domestic abusers from owning guns. The decision was nearly unanimous eight to one decision with Justice Clarence Thomas as the lone dissenter. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is here with me in the Situation Room. More -- give us a little bit more of the significant ruling. How significant is it?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Chief Justice wrote this ruling and he really stressed, Wolf, that the right to own a gun is not unlimited, and perhaps trying to add some clarity to the Bruun ruling that this Court issued two years ago, this really caused much confusion at the lower courts. And the Chief Justice said, you don't need to find an identical law that existed at the nation's founding in order to uphold a gun law. And he put this in the opinion.

He said, our tradition of firearm regulation allows the government to disarm individuals who present a credible threat to the physical safety of others. And that's exactly what this federal law did. But Wolf, I'll note, this decision doesn't exactly close the door on all future gun challenges. In fact, there are many gun challenges out there, including one that asks whether it's unconstitutional to forbid drug users from owning or possessing a gun. That's a case the Supreme Court could take up, it could directly factor into Hunter Biden's conviction.

But of course, this isn't the last word from the Supreme Court. We're still expecting several more opinions obviously, in the next week. There are about 12 opinions remaining some, very key ones, including the big one concerning Donald Trump, whether former presidents have immunity from criminal prosecution. Then there's also the question of whether hundreds of January 6th rioters were properly charged under an obstruction law.

There's the case out of Idaho, whether a near total abortion ban in Idaho is really preempted by federal law. And then there's the question of the power of federal agencies, this could really rock the way that federal agencies run if the Supreme Court finds a certain way. And then there's also questions about the rights of social media platforms to restrict content on their sites. So the Supreme Court has a lot of big cases still left to decide. They typically finish up by the end of June. So the big question is, will we see about all dozen opinions decided by the end of next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sometimes they spill over to the first week in July --

SCHNEIDER: It can happen.

BLITZER: -- as well. Let's see if that happens.


BLITZER: Jessica Schneider, thank you very, very much.

I want to bring in Steve Vladeck right now. He's a CNN legal analyst and a professor over at the University of Texas School of Law. Steve, thanks for joining us. So as you just heard a lot of outstanding decisions from the Supreme Court. We're waiting for all of that in the next several days. Why do you think it's taking so long specifically for the Supreme Court to decide on Trump's immunity claim?

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, Wolf, I think it's a combination of a couple of factors. Remember, this was the last case the court heard argument in, just on April 25th. Actually pretty normal, at least in other high profile cases, for the cases argued at the end of that last session to be the last ones the court decides in late June or early July. But, Wolf, I also think it's a sign that the justices are probably pretty divided, if not as to the bottom line, and at least as to the reasoning.

And this seems to be altering some kind of split decision from the Supreme Court on former President Trump's immunity. Perhaps next Wednesday, the next time we expect long from the court, perhaps not until early the following week. You know, I don't think it's quite fair to say the Court is holding on to this case deliberately.

Sometimes the cases where the justices are most divided are the ones that take them along as to decide. It's part of why when Jessica notes all of the cases that are still outstanding. Wolf so many of them are high profile cases where we're probably going to get pretty badly divided ruling from these justices.


BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. The first presidential debate as you and everyone now knows is what less than a week away next Thursday. Is this something you think, Steve, the justices factor into, into their timeline?

VLADECK: So, you know, I think it's probably not driving exactly when the immunity decision is going to come out. But, you know, it's hard to imagine that if you're Chief Justice John Roberts, you're going to actually ignore the possibility that you'd be dropping this decision on the morning of the very first presidential debate. We don't know yet, Wolf, what other days the Supreme Court is going to hand down decisions besides next Wednesday.

You know, I couldn't tell you what day the immunity decisions coming down. But I have to think Thursday is the least likely candidate. It's just -- it's not the kind of thing that the court would do lightly. Even as we say, the court tries to stay out of politics, staying out of politics in this case probably means not handing down massive divisive rulings, the morning of the debate.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're right. Steve Vladeck, as usual, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pours more fuel out of major dispute with the United States that's left the Biden administration in their words, baffled and frustrated.



BLITZER: Tonight, a very public clash between the United States and Israel is clearly intensifying. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still insisting the Biden administration is withholding weapons from Israel, despite repeated denials by U.S. officials. CNN's Paula Hancocks has that report from Jerusalem.



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel's Prime Minister doubling down on a feud with his country's most important ally, repeating his accusation that the Biden administration is withholding weapons from Israel. Netanyahu told "Punchbowl News" there have been months of significant problems, and that barely a trickle of U.S. military aid is coming through in an interview published Friday. The simmering controversy has sparked U.S. frustrations.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We generally do not know what he's talking about. JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: It was vexing and disappointing to us, as much as it was incorrect.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): U.S. officials say the only weapons posed a heavy bonds that President Joe Biden does not want used in a densely populated area like Rafah.

MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: There is one shipment of high payload munitions that we have put on under review, and that remains under review. That's not a bottleneck. That's a policy review.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): As the IDF insists its ongoing operation in Rafah is limited, the city's mayor strongly disagrees, telling CNN on the ground they are destroying the city of Rafah completely. Adding, anyone who sets foot in Rafah is killed instantly.

DAVID MENCER, ISRAELI GOVT. SPOKESPERSON: The final stronghold in Rafah is being taken apart systematically slowly, with intelligence.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Footage and satellite imagery of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt shows the passenger terminal has been heavily burned and damaged. The Israeli military took control of the crossing early last month. Since then it has been closed to aid coming in and critical patients going out.

The U.S. says it has started bringing humanitarian aid in through its floating pier again, although it has not yet been distributed. The pier was dismantled for the second time last week due to high seas and bad weather. The U.N. has given Israel security steps that must be met before it can resume distribution of the aid from the pier. Humanitarian groups point to increased lawlessness and desperation in Gaza making some distribution simply too dangerous.


BLITZER: Paula Hancocks is joining us now live from Jerusalem. Paula, Israel's operations continue across the Gaza Strip we're told. What's the latest you can tell us? Update our viewers.

HANCOCKS: Well, Wolf, there has been a mass casualty event in southern Gaza, this coming to us from the Red Cross the Palestine Red Crescent, saying that more than two dozen Palestinians have been killed in the Al-Mawasi area. Now this is an area that's supposed to be a humanitarian zone. It's where tens of thousands of displaced people have moved to once Israel started their operation in Rafah and where many people are living in tents.

Now we heard from the Red Cross that it was a heavy projectile that landed very close to their headquarters. The IDF at this point says there's no indication it carried out the strike, but they are looking into the incident. Wolf?

BLITZER: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem for us, thank you very much.

[17:43:46] Coming up, a blistering heat wave is intensifying right here in the United States. How climate change is fueling this extreme weather? We have details, that's next.


BLITZER: Happening now, extreme weather, a heat wave is intensifying in the most densely populated areas of the United States. More than 100 million people are under heat advisories right now. CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir is joining us. Bill, how does climate change fuel the extreme weather we're seeing now across so much of the United States?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in its simplest terms, humanity has unlocked a carbon Godzilla into the sky. We can't see it. But it weighs over a trillion and a half tons. Last year it got 40 billion metric tons bigger as a result of fossil fuel pollution. The bigger that thing gets, the hotter we get down here. It's changing everything. It's changing laws. California yesterday became the third state after Minnesota, Oregon to mandate cooling breaks for indoor workers, while states like Texas and Florida have actively blocked mandatory water breaks for outdoor workers. But this summer, Wolf, could be the hottest since the birth of Christ. That was the record set last year. This is on track to do even hotter.

BLITZER: And it's not only here in the United States, it's globally as well. Internationally, Bill, just how deadly is this extreme heat for Muslim worshippers right now at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia?

WEIR: Well, Wolf, one of the pillars of the Islamic faith is to make this trip to Mecca, the holiest site there. It happens in the beginning of summer and typically there are deaths from heatstroke. But this year it seems to be off the charts. The fatality numbers have been, and a warning some of these images are very disturbing, we've gotten some of actual folks who perish on the road to Mecca there as other pilgrims pass by.

We know stretches in the fall and had been taken from these holy sites right now. It could be near 500, that is expected to, you know, be much higher once all different countries from Indonesia to Pakistan to Egypt reports how many of their folks fell there in this intense heat. On Monday they set an all-time record in Mecca of over 125 degrees Fahrenheit, Wolf. And the human body at a certain point, it shuts down.


BLITZER: Yes. It's a global problem right now. Bill Weir, thank you very much.

Also tonight, a look at why a 50-year-old Hollywood movie still resonates today. The 1974 classic "Chinatown" invoke real life mayhem over water rights in Los Angeles. And as CNN's Stephanie Elam reports, the fight over water is far more realistic than it is fictional.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have we ever met?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forbidden love, deceit, murder. Released 50 years ago, "Chinatown" the 1974 film noir classic also features an ageless California protagonist, water.

BILL DEVERELL, CO-DIRECTOR, HUNTINGTON-USC INSTITUTE ON CA AND THE WEST: It's astonishing in the way it centralizes water as a character in the growth of Los Angeles.

ELAM (voice-over): The film's fictional murder mystery is tethered to LA's very real quest to bring more of the so called liquid gold to the ever expanding metropolis.

JESSICA GARRISON, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: There is an old saying, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You steal water from the valley.

ELAM (voice-over): In "Chinatown," Jack Nicholson's Private Eye uncovers a conspiracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're blowing these farmers out of their land and then picking it up for peanuts. You have any idea what this land would be worth with a steady water supply?

DEVERELL: The way the movie works is that it's all a kind of mysterious dastardly ploy that the public doesn't know about, in that they're kind of wrong actually.

ELAM (voice-over): In real life, Los Angeles did quietly buy a water rights 300 miles to the north. But it was no secret.

DEVERELL: Los Angeles before people really were paying attention up there had amassed enough water rights to say we're taking that river with us, say goodbye to your river, it's coming to L.A.

ELAM: While "Chinatown" was set in the 1930s California's water war started much earlier than that. And even now water keepers can still happen so worthy perhaps of their own screenplay.

ELAM (voice-over): The location, California Central Valley prior to 2000. The scene opens at night, a local water official and others allegedly begin siphoning water from an irrigation canal.

GARRISON: This is an absolutely eye popping story about one of the most audacious water heists in California history.

ELAM (voice-over): This true story is detailed in a 2022 federal indictment against former Panoche Water District general manager, Dennis Falaschi, accusing him of conspiring to steal more than $25 million in water over a 20 year period.

GARRISON: What is alleged in the indictment is they started just taking water out of the canal without a meter without anybody knowing. ELAM (voice-over): But plot twist, some consider Falaschi a modern day Robin Hood.

GARRISON: They were farmers and they desperately needed water and he got them water.

ELAM (voice-over): In May, Falaschi struck a deal and pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water valued somewhere between $1.5 and $3.5 million. He awaits sentencing in September. His attorney had no comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jake, it's Chinatown.

ELAM (voice-over): Part of what makes "Chinatown" timeless is its thread of truth. The fear of California without enough water as climate change is making the hot days hotter and the drier periods even drier.

DEVERELL: The deeper story about water what people will do to get it, how depraved they will be that is a takeaway for the ages.


ELAM (on camera): And remember, California feeds the world with all that is grown in the Central Valley and into the 50s into unincorporated Los Angeles County. The thing is, though, because they knew they needed to get water here in L.A., Los Angeles went ahead and just annexed San Fernando Valley to make it part of Los Angeles, the city in order, all in order just to get water here. Los Angeles would not have grown to the behemoth that is according to Bill Deverell there, our history professor, if it had not been for the fact that we got more water here to Los Angeles. Wolf?

BLITZER: Fascinating report. Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thank you very much.


Coming up, we're getting new information right now about Donald Trump's vice presidential search and who's trying to pull the strings behind the scenes.


BLITZER: Happening now, the judge in the Trump classified documents case is weighing the former president's bid to effectively get rid of the Special Counsel who's prosecuting him, following a daylong hearing today and a lot of questions.

Also tonight, we'll take you inside the shadow campaigns that are influencing Donald Trump's vice presidential search. Who has Trump's here as the hunt for a running mate intensifies.

And a judge in New Mexico is weighing whether to throw out the criminal case involving the accurate Alec Baldwin. We'll bring you the latest developments on the hearing underway right now. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.

This hour, a lot of questions about when and how Judge Aileen Cannon will rule after a daylong hearing on one of the many attempts by Donald Trump to delay his trial in the classified documents case in Florida.


Let's go right to CNN justice -- senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. He's covering the hearing for us in Fort Pierce, Florida just north of Palm Beach. Evan, you are inside the court today, how did Judge Cannon handle today's important hearing?