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Two Days To Go: Final Preps Under Way For Biden-Trump Debate On CNN; Third Day Of Hearings Wraps In Trump Classified Documents Case; CNN On $230 Million U.S.-Built Gaza Pier Amid Humanitarian Aid Distribution Problems; Bowman Vs. Latimer Primary Race In New York Reflects Dems' Divide Over Israel Support; Julian Assange Lands On U.S. Territory Ahead Of Plea Deal. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 25, 2024 - 17:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: We are just two days away from the first general election debate presidency right here on CNN. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderate, that's Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Meanwhile, the news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the preparations for the Trump- Biden debate on CNN are shifting into high gear with only two days to go. We're getting new information on both candidates and how they hope to score points on the debate stage.

Also tonight, the judge in the Trump classified documents case apparently isn't buying new defense arguments that the FBI warrant to search Mar-a-Lago back in 2022 was invalid. We'll take you inside the sometimes heated hearing.

And police in Kenya open fire on protesters who stormed parliament and set it on fire. CNN is on the scene of the deadly clashes and the growing chaos.

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

Tonight with only two days left before a CNN's groundbreaking presidential debate Biden and Trump campaign insiders are revealing new details about the candidates game plans going into this pivotal moment in the race for the White House. CNN correspondents are working their sources. MJ Lee is standing by for us over at the White House. But first, let's go to Kristen Holmes. She's near Mar-a-Lago down in Florida.

Kristen, you just got off the phone with Trump's campaign advisors. What did they tell you?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, there was a lot of level setting bolts. They talked a lot about how they believe that President Joe Biden can show up, that he has proven himself a formidable opponent, that he showed up at the State of the Union, that in debates past he has also shown up. This is very different from what we have heard from president -- former President Donald Trump and his advisers for several months as they have painted Biden as incompetent. Donald Trump often mocking Joe Biden as he tries to get off the stage saying that he can't find his way to the stairs. Now all of a sudden, they are changing the expectation level.

This is something that we anticipated would happen particularly as over the weekend, we started hearing from more and more of Donald Trump's allies talking about how the bar was set too low for President Biden.

Now the other thing I want to point out is what I've been told by multiple advisors, which is that they are hoping and working with Donald Trump to stay on message particularly to focus on three things, immigration, the economy, particularly inflation, and crime rates. They believe that Donald Trump based on recent polling is more favorable in these areas than Joe Biden. And they want Donald Trump to continue to go back even if he's answering questions about abortion, even if he's answering questions about democracy, about January 6, all of which they anticipate they are hoping that he will pivot back to that messaging on the economy, on inflation, on immigration and on crime, keeping him in the zone. Now, of course, we don't know which version of Donald Trump is going to show up. But I did talk to a number of his advisers who said that even though they originally thought that this lack of audience will be harmful to Trump since he feeds off of an audience, that they actually have come to believe it could be helpful because he won't go on these kind of rants and tirades that he does to entertain a crowd.

Now, obviously, how this plays out, we're going to find out on Thursday, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kristen, I want you to stand by as MJ Lee is joining us right now from the White House.

MJ, I understand you have some new reporting about how President Biden's debate prep over at Camp David is ramping up?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that we are really in that final homestretch. Because mock debates have begun at Camp David, I'm told by a source that the full run throughs really began in earnest yesterday, then President Biden is using a podium as a prop. And we know that there is a Biden advisor who is standing in for Donald Trump and other advisors that are playing the roles of Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, our colleagues, who will of course, be moderating that debate on Thursday. And all of this, Wolf, is really about replicating in every way, the experience that President Biden might have on Thursday night. That of course, includes sort of the substance of things are really going through every topic that could potentially come up on Thursday night.

And then there's just the pure performance aspect of this landing lines, responding to whatever Donald Trump might throw his way. And also, this is going to be an exercise in testing the President's stamina and his energy. And I should also note, Wolf, that today we also got a really good idea, a preview of sorts of how the President might address one of the most important topics that might come up on Thursday night and that of course is the economy. The campaign rolling out a new ad going after Donald Trump's record on the economy, and also defending the President's own record and his own accomplishments. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump loves to attack Joe Biden, Joe Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's focused on revenge, and he has no plan to help the middle class. He just give more tax cuts to the wealthy.


LEE: But you know, a big obstacle for President Biden when it comes to the economy is that despite the historic economic recovery that he oversaw after COVID, there are still plenty of Americans who have a lot of reservations about the president's handling of the economy, and not all of that has really translated to optimism across the board, across the country. So for the President, it is really going to be a balancing act of touting his accomplishments, but also showing a good level of empathy about the reality that plenty of Americans do not feel good still about their own economic circumstances.

BLITZER: MJ Lee and Kristen Holmes, to both of you, thank you very much.

I want to bring in some of our political experts right now to set the stage for Thursday's debate. And Gloria Borger, I'll start with you. President Biden is doing a lot of preparations for this CNN debate. What does that tell you about how the campaign sees the stakes for Thursday night?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that the campaign rightly so sees this as an incredibly important moment for Joe Biden, a way to reset, if you will, this race has been incredibly close. And on a lot of key issues, the ones you were you were just talking about on inflation, and immigration that the President is not doing well. And so this will be an opportunity for him to talk to the American public about what he intends to do in the future. And also to frame the debate about who Donald Trump really is, and remind the public, because they believe the public has a certain amount of what they call Trump amnesia, and remind the public what life was really like under Donald Trump, what kind of a president Donald Trump was, and what he would be like in the future. So this couldn't be more important.

BLITZER: That's an important point, indeed. And Maria Cardona is with us as well.

Maria, as you know, several outside advisors are urging Biden to spend more time going directly after Trump and less time pointing to his own policy record. Is that the right move?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there has got to be a healthy blend of both. But I do get what they're saying. And I do agree that President Biden has got to take the opportunities that he has presented to go after Trump because of exactly what Gloria said, there is a certain amnesia in the American population about what Trump did, about how horrific the economy became, when Trump denied the science of COVID, when he told people to inject themselves with chlorine, there were millions of jobs that were lost, more than a million Americans died, the economy was in a tailspin when he left.

And I think importantly, even before COVID on an issue, for example, like immigration, the President has got to remind people that Donald Trump ripped babies from the arms of their families, separated families. It was a policy that he implemented that he was proud of. He has talked about implementing that policy yet again. And I think on that issue of immigration, the Trump team and Trump himself is going to go full bore, xenophobia, anti-immigrant, trying to scare monger and fear monger, connect it with crime that will probably bring families that have suffered at the hands of some undocumented migrants. And Donald Trump is going to go for the jugular on this, I believe, against President Biden, because it's one of the issues that Donald Trump has said he needs in this election.

And I think it's going to be a desperate attempt to paint Joe Biden as somebody who's very weak on immigration. And so, President Biden has got to answer that with the actions that he has taken and underscore that Republicans have turned their back on any real resolution.

BLITZER: Scott Jennings is with us as well. Scott, the Trump team says Biden will be, quote, "Ready to go for the debate." Are these attempts to raise expectations for Biden too little too late after spending weeks and weeks trashing the president's ability?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's be honest, expectations are low for Joe Biden for two reasons. One, his own performance, and two, the American people have already decided they don't really like what he has done as president United States. That has nothing to do with Trump. But it is true what they say Joe Biden usually shows up for these things. He's the most experienced debater on the planet.

I mean, there's nobody that's done this more right now alive in American politics and Joe Biden. So if I were Trump, I would fully expect him to show up, ready to go. But also if I were Trump, I would show up ready to counter for him on the facts. You look at the issues that benefit Trump, inflation, the economy, immigration,, the facts are on his side, and the people are on his side. So you really got to try to pivot as much as you can and keep it on those topics.


If he does, he's going to have a perfectly fine night, even if a very good performance from Joe Biden shows up.

BLITZER: Amidst all of this, Ana Navarro, Trump has repeatedly suggested President Biden will be jacked up for this debate and should be given and would probably be given a drug test, should be given a drug test, writing on Truth Social on Monday, and I'm quoting Trump right now, "Drug test for crooked Joe Biden?" Question mark. Trump said things very similar to this back in 2016, and 2020 as well. Listen to this. Let's roll the tape.


TRUMP: I think she's actually getting pumped up. But at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning. And at the end, it was like, take me down. She could barely reach her car. So I think we should take a drug test.

Anyway, I'm willing to do it.

They gave him a big fat shot in the ass and he comes out. And for two hours, he's better than ever before. Problem is, what happens after that? Nah, we're going to ask for a drug test. We are.

I'd like to have a drug test. Both of us.

Because they want to get him good and strong. So a little before debate time he gets a shot in the ass and that's it. They want to strengthen him up so he comes out -- he'll come out. OK. I say he'll come out all jacked up, right? All jacked up.


BLITZER: So Anna, what do you make of that?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clown. Clownish moves, baseless accusations by Donald Trump trying to entertain his rally goers. Look, I think after, like you pointed out weeks and weeks and weeks of painting Joe Biden as decrepit and he was not going to be able to stand there for 90 minutes, Donald Trump and his people realized that was a very stupid tactic to take because they themselves are the ones who are responsible for lowering the expectations on Joe Biden, making it easier for Joe Biden to win. And so, now they're taking a completely different tack, right? Now, we've gone from sleepy, decrepit Joe to jacked up Joe. He's gone as far as to suggest that Joe Biden's on cocaine, completely baseless.

And I think it's very irresponsible, I think it is Donald Trump doing what Donald Trump always does, which is to try to lay the groundwork so that if he has a bad night, he can claim something was rigged. There was something rigged against him because it's not possible that he lost on his own. So it's either because Joe Biden's jacked up on cocaine or drugs or God knows what, or because the moderators are -- you know, the last one is that the moderators are bias, you name it, it's Donald Trump trying to put the playing field in a way that he can blame somebody else if he has a bad night.

BLITZER: Scott, why do you think Trump is using essentially the same debate script every time?

JENNINGS: I think number one, I think he thinks it's funny. And I think he thinks it's entertaining to his crowd. I don't take it too seriously, honestly. I mean, since the State of the Union, it's been kind of a running joke on the right about how Joe Biden came out super-hot, super aggressive, you know, kind of yelling at the Congress. And so, Republicans have been joking about this.

I see it really is nothing more than him piggybacking on that, knowing that his crowd is going to like it. I don't take it too seriously other than this one issue, which is to say, I think they did finally realize Biden might show up for this thing, and he might be ready. I mean, he's all prepping. He's got a lot of experience, and they need to be ready for that possibility that Biden shows up and comes out swinging.

BLITZER: He's been hunkered down to Camp David now these past few days. He's still there now and getting ready for this debate.

To all of you, thank you very, very much. And to our viewers, be sure to tune in to CNN Thursday when President Biden and former President Trump face off in their first debate moderated by my colleagues, Jake Tapper and Dana bash. It's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And coming up, did Donald Trump's lawyers make any headway in their latest attempt to make the classified documents criminal case go away? And we're getting a new look at the floating pier built by the U.S. in hopes of bringing more aid into Gaza, as it is plagued right now by major problems. Stay with us. You're in the Situation Room.



BLITZER: The third day of hearings in the Trump classified documents case wrapped up just a short while ago with new defense arguments aimed at derailing the prosecution of the former president. We're joined now by CNN's Katelyn Polantz who was in the courtroom in Fort Peace Florida. Also with us, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.

First to you, Katelyn, take us inside today's hearing.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, this was a hearing this afternoon that was a rare occasion in the hearings that Judge Aileen Cannon has had many times for two reasons. First of all, she showed her hand and second of all, it didn't go particularly well for Donald Trump's defense team. That is not how a lot of other hearings have gone for them even when Judge Cannon ultimately doesn't rule in their favor. In this one, their team was arguing to Judge Cannon that the search warrant that the FBI and Justice Department used and went to court to get approval of two years ago was signed off on by a judge that that was invalid and that it should cause the entire case or a lot of the evidence that was seized during that search of Mar-a-Lago, all of that should be thrown out. And Judge Cannon, she just wasn't buying it.


She said at the very end of the hearing, Wolf, "I have a hard time seeing what more needed to be included in the search warrant. The team was trying to say for Donald Trump that this warrant just wasn't specific enough about what could be taken out of the property or what rooms in Mar-a-Lago agents could go into. Judge Aileen Cannon made pretty clear she didn't agree with that argument. She hasn't ruled yet. And even while she may not be ruling in favor of Trump's team, we still have to wait and see what she does.

It didn't go exactly perfectly for the prosecutors either. She has had quite a lot of tension with them in many hearings. Addressing down and prosecutor David Harbach yesterday in court several times. And then today, at the very end of the hearing, he jumped up and wanted to point out to her that the defense team was trying to hijack the hearings. That was his words, because he thought Trump's team was trying to make accusations about the FBI that were too political and Judge Cannon shut it down immediately.

She said these hearings are not being hijacked and we're going to conclude here. I have heard enough. Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting, Elie, it seems like Trump's lawyers, correct me if I'm wrong, are throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. So what will stick?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, they're throwing a lot of marginal arguments at the wall when it comes to this search warrant. And I see no realistic prospect of them actually succeeding on this motion to defeat the search warrant. Now, it's quite common in cases where someone has been subjected to a search warrant, they challenge it. But what you have to show in order to defeat a search warrant is basically that the government, the FBI, DOJ lacked probable cause to get in the premises or then did the search in an unconstitutional way. For example, if they were authorized to search a bedroom and they went on their own down into the basement and did a search beyond what they were allowed to do.

Neither of those is present here. Trump's team hasn't even alleged either of those things. Instead, they're sort of picking around the margins, as Katelyn said, arguing well, the affidavits could have been more specific, the documents were not necessarily maintained in order which DOJ rejected. So, I don't think that's nearly enough. I don't think Trump's team has any realistic chance of getting the evidence or the case thrown out based on the search warrant.

BLITZER: Katelyn, are prosecutors frustrated with the pace here of all these hearings that are going on? And where does this but the timeline of this case and the eventual trial?

POLANTZ: Wolf, they clearly are frustrated with some of how these proceedings are going, you can just hear it in their voices and see it whenever they're arguing with Judge Cannon. They're growing impatient even with her at times, and she has told them, you know, decorum in the courtroom is needed here. But Wolf, there is so much to do, and this timeline is a huge question mark. There's no trial date on the schedule still. And then in these proceedings, she just had three days of proceedings on four different requests from prosecutors and the defense. She's going to have to rule on all of those very likely write lengthy legal opinions about them, make those decisions. And then there's so much else to do. There are things that they're doing in confidential parts of court working with classified documents preparing for that case. It's a reminder of just how much is still out there.

And then on top of that, Trump's team isn't just asking for up down yes or no deny or grant from Judge Cannon. They're asking her for look -- to look at the question of whether there should be even more hearings. Every single hearing cheese that they've had over the past couple of days, they've reiterated that, how about you have more hearings, how will we see more evidence? So there is going to be a question if Aileen Cannon is going to want to do that. That could drag things out even further if there is going to be more evidence brought into the case before trial.

BLITZER: Katelyn Polantz and Elie Honig, to both of you, thank you very, very much.

Up next, deadly protests rocked Kenya's capital today where a CNN team on the ground saw bodies in the streets and paramedics arrested. What's behind the chaos? We'll take you there. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: Tear gas, deadly gunfire and massive protests erupted in Kenya's capital today as 1000s of people took to the streets outrage over proposed tax hikes. Let's get right to CNN's Larry Madowo. He's on the ground for us in Nairobi right now.

So Larry, what's the latest?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, within an extraordinary day with mostly peaceful protesters getting beaten back by police using water cannon and tear gas, and in some cases outside Kenya's Parliament, live round. President William Ruto addressed the nation this evening and blamed it on criminals who had hijacked legitimate protests. Listen.


PRES. WILLIAM RUTO, KENYA: By put on notice the planners, financials, orchestrators and arbiters of violence and anarchy that the security infrastructure established to protect our republic and its sovereignty will be deployed to secure the country and restore normalcy.


MADOWO: These protests were organized by Kenya's Gen Z. I met people as young as 18 on the streets who said they just want to fight for a better Kenya and they have not taken lightly to present Ruto calling them criminals. They said they were only armed with banners and posters and water bottles. The police were armed with live bullets, Wolf. BLITZER: I know, Larry, you had a chance today to speak to Barack Obama's half-sister while she was protesting earlier in the day. Tell us more about that and explain what's behind, give us a little bit more explanation what's behind these very, very dramatic protests.


MADOWO: I want to show you this video when Auma Obama, Barack Obama's half-sister was tear gassed while we were live on CNN. She said she had come out to support the young people of Kenya who are fighting for their rights.


AUMA OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S HALF-SISTER: I'm here because look at what's happening. Young Kenyans are demonstrating for their rights. They're demonstrating with flags and banners. I can't even see anymore. They're being tear-gassed.


MADOWO: The reason why Auma Obama was out in the streets to support the young people of Kenya is because of a controversial finance bill that's been proposed by the government of President William Ruto. It's going through the motions in Parliament. It's likely to pass because he's got a majority there. But many young people in Kenya are really frustrated by the high cost of living say they cannot afford even higher taxes. Some of the most unpopular proposals have been dropped, but they want the entire bill to be rejected not just piecemeal amendments, but President Ruto did not address that directly in his address, leading to even more anger. These young people have called for more protests on Thursday, which are likely to escalate after the government's promise to crackdown on any criminal elements, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Larry Madowo in Kenya for us in Nairobi, thank you very much. Stay safe over there.

I want to get right now to the Israel-Hamas war. The latest developments as the humanitarian situation in Gaza is clearly getting worse. The $230 million made a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza has reattached but still faces major, major setbacks. CNN's Jeremy Diamond got a firsthand look at the pier earlier today. Jeremy, tell our viewers what you saw.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if this is the first time that the U.S. military has brought reporters on to this temporary pier, since it was first anchored off the Gaza coastline in mid-May. And over the course of this last month and a half, that pier has been operational for fewer than 20 days, it has faced setback after setback, many of those brought on by bad weather that damaged the pier and forced it to be taken offline for weeks on end.

Today, though, what they showed us is the fact that this pier is working, at least in terms of getting those trucks onto that pier onto the Gaza coast, about 800 pallets of aid were offloaded onto Gaza today. But bigger problems still remain on shore. And that's because right now, there's about 6,000 pallets of aid that are just sitting on this open airway warehouse on the Gaza beach. And that's because the World Food Program, which is supposed to be the one picking up those pallets of aid, say that there are major security concerns at this moment, and they are not able to pick up that aid and actually distributed to Gaza.

And so for now, none of this aid is actually making it into the hands of Gazans who need it the most at a time when that need is growing extraordinarily with warnings of a high risk of famine, once again in the Gaza Strip. And we were also able to see, Wolf, from our vantage on this pier was the enormous destruction on the Gaza coastline, a very rare vantage point at a time, when of course we cannot go into Gaza unilaterally because the Israeli government does not authorize us to do so. I've been in a few times with the Israeli military. But this is once again been a rare vantage to see the coastline. Every single building in sight either fully flattened, or at least partially damaged by the Israeli military's bombing campaign over nearly nine months.

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy Diamond back in Jerusalem for us. Jeremy, thank you very much.


Just ahead, voters are casting ballots in costly Democratic primary in New York that's testing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and posing a major threat to a member of the squad.



BLITZER: Its primary day in New York and voters in one key district are casting ballots in the most expensive house primary ever. The heated Democratic contest is put a member of the progressive group known as the squad in parallel. It's also presenting a test of the party's divisions over support for Israel, CNN's Miguel Marquez is following the race wars. Miguel is joining us right now. So Miguel, where does the race between Congressman Jamaal Bowman and his challenger George Latimer stand right now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we got a few more hours before the polls closed. I can tell you I spoke to the Westchester Board of Elections a short time ago and they said they had about in total that's early vote absentee votes and they have votes about 50,000 total. That's a number of about 260,000 Democrats across the entire district. So it's not a huge turnout, but it is on par with where these primaries typically are. Not a huge turnout these primaries, but the candidate that can get the most people to the polls, and typically those people are the ones that are most angry about an issue, those -- that is the candidate that will win.

I will give you one example. We're at Mount Vernon right now, the City Hall. This is a precinct that should be a very strong Jamaal Bowman precinct. If this is a sign if the polls of all the voters we've talked to the last several days are assigned, it's not going to go very well. We just checked in to see how many voters have voted in here all day long.

Nineteen, 19 voters so far in this one precinct, not a great number if you are Jamaal Bowman and hoping for more voters in areas where you have voters. Gaza has really an Israel's response to it has really commanded this race. Here's where the two candidates are. This is what they're saying basically on the trail as it comes to a close.



REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): We are not going to stand silent while U.S. tax dollars kills babies and women and children. My opponent supports genocide.

GEORGE LATIMER, WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE: What I'm watching is real respond to a horrific act no different than the way we responded to 9/11 or perhaps Pearl Harbor. Should we continue to see that type of violence happen? No, I like to see the violence cease, but it ceases when Hamas agrees to give up the hostages or the remains of the hostages.


MARQUEZ: So, you know, at the end of the day, Wolf, this is a fairly moderate districts. Jamaal Bowman beat Eliot Engel in 2020, on the anger that he harnessed out of the racial justice movement that year, and now that anger seems to have turned on him. Jamaal Bowman has been unapologetic in the way he's gone after Israel calling for a ceasefire very early on, saying there was no evidence of rape of women and beheaded babies, calling it a genocide and calling it 75 years of occupation. All things that have rubbed Jews here the wrong way, and their supporters as well. So I think it's going to be very difficult night for Jamaal Bowman. Wolf?

BLITZER: I will find out in a few hours begun. Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the former mayor of New York City and former Democratic presidential candidate himself, Bill de Blasio. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. I assume you know this district fairly well. Do you see a Jamaal Bowman losing this race tonight?

BILL DE BLASIO (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Yes, look, I think Jamal Bowman's a sincere public servant, Wolf. And I worked well with him when I was mayor. But I do think he's lost touch with his district a bit. I think he's out of touch with the feelings folks had after October 7th. I mean, this is a district. I think it is a moderate district in many ways, obviously a very strong Jewish community. I think people were really hurt after October 7th, there was a very visceral pain. And I think Jamaal Bowman has made some points about the mistakes that the Netanyahu government has made that probably a lot of people in the district would agree with. But I feel like he had to really focus on the fact that folks were feeling a very personal pain, a very deep connection to Israel. And that needed to be clear on I don't feel like he got that across to folks. BLITZER: Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, as you well know, has been a big issue in this congressional primary race. How much is this dividing Democrats though, right now?

DE BLASIO: Wolf, I think that's been overstated. Vast majority of Democrats in America support the State of Israel, believe that Israel needs to exist to protect Jewish people. They can disagree as I do. I fundamentally disagree with the Netanyahu government. I think they're making huge mistakes. But I think the average Democrat, certainly the average Democratic office holder all over this country, believes the State of Israel, critical, of course of anything where we see children dying, that's horrible on either side, on both sides, we need a ceasefire.

But I would tell you something, I think there's been a misunderstanding of where the Democratic Party as a whole, very, very few Democrats are in any way, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic. I think we have to recognize that one of the things is going to happen and I most likely is someone like George Latimer represents actually what most Democrats are thinking around the country.

BLITZER: Did Jamaal Bowman, the congressmen, do himself any favors by saying and doing what he's been doing in this campaign?

DE BLASIO: I think, you know, I don't think using the word genocide makes any sense, for example. And again, I think he should have shown a lot more empathy for folks who were feeling pain, but at the same time, he's been put through something extraordinary. And I think, dangerous and unprecedented AIPAC. With their massive contributions, altering the reality of this race, you know, I really think that's going to come back to haunt AIPAC because to intervene the Democratic primary on this scale, last I heard well over $10 million, that's the kind of thing that's going to leave a lot of wounds.

A lot of people feeling very unhappy. AIPAC has targeted in many cases, African American Democratic office holders. That's not going to be good for building a coalition long term in support of Israel. I think it's very, very short sighted. So I think Jamaal Bowman could have played his cards differently, for sure. But I think he also has suffered an extraordinary onslaught to handset AIPAC that's ultimately going to be counterproductive for them.

BLITZER: AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby organization. I want to quickly turn well, I have your mayor, to the critical CNN debate that's coming up. You debated President Biden during the 2020 campaign. What are you expecting from him? And how important is it for him to have a good performance Thursday night?

DE BLASIO: I'm going to borrow a phrase from Brooklyn politics, you'll appreciate, Wolf, never go to sleep on Joe Biden. He is often underestimated. He is a very aggressive debater. He's someone who can elevate very quickly and we saw that in a different way during the State of the Union address, which I thought was first rate. You've seen the Trump campaign now fall over themselves trying to reset expectations because they made the mistake of suggesting Joe Biden wasn't going to have a strong debate. [17:45:21]

I think he's going to go right at Donald Trump. And let me tell you three easy things, he should hit Donald Trump very, very sharply on undermining American democracy and being extremists on taking away the rights of women, the right the rights of women to choose, and on a huge tax cut for the wealthy and for the big corporations, at a point where Americans are really hurting at the kitchen table economically, Biden has so many perfect attack lanes to go at Trump and one thing we know about all bullies, they don't do well, when you smack them in the face rhetorically, I think that's what you're going to see from Joe Biden.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, as you know Mayor, is suggesting he could be, quote, tough and nasty, or his words nice and calm during this upcoming CNN debate. What are you expecting from your former fellow New Yorker?

DE BLASIO: I think Donald Trump is going to be confused in this case. I think he's confused many times. But this one for him, if he tries to be aggressive, it's just going to emphasize the extremism, which is obviously hurting him with a lot of moderate voters, including moderate independent and Republican voters, particularly women voters, in the suburbs in those key states. So an extreme like nasty approach will backfire. On the other hand, if he tries to be sweetness and light, who's going to believe that. And Joe Biden has so many effective attack lines, I guarantee you he's going to use them.

Donald Trump is going to be turned into a punching bag, which isn't going to serve them well. Or if he acts like he normally does in a debate, that also hurts him. So he's got a tough road, Donald Trump. I think Joe Biden goes into this in a very strong position.

BLITZER: It's going to be a lively debate, for sure, and very, very important. The former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanks so much for joining us.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now in U.S. territory. His car leaving the airport after touching down just a few moments ago, as he looks to clear one more major legal hurdle.



BLITZER: All right, just in, Julian Assange is officially out of prison. The WikiLeaks founder just landed on U.S. territory ahead of the hearing in the Northern Mariana Islands, where Assange will enter a guilty plea before making his way back to his home country of Australia. CNN's Clare Sebastian reports on Assange's next move.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Julian Assange, this is the final sprint in a more than decade-long legal marathon, agreeing to plead guilty to one U.S. felony charge in return for no more prison time.

STELLA ASSANGE, WIFE OF JULIAN ASSANGE: Throughout the years of Julian's imprisonment and persecution, an incredible movement has been formed. A movement of people from all walks of life, from around the world, who support not just Julian and not just us and our family but what Julian stands for, truth and justice.

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: The case has dragged on for too long.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Assange is now expected to return home to his native Australia, where he began his career as a computer programmer and hacker before founding WikiLeaks, where he first grabbed headlines in 2010 by releasing highly classified information.

First a U.S. military video showing an Apache helicopter mistakenly gunning down two journalists and several Iraqi civilians in 2007. Next was the release of tens of thousands of classified military documents related to the war in Afghanistan revealing more previously unreported civilian deaths.

Documents on the Iraq War followed, suggesting widespread abuse and torture by Iraqi security forces. Then the leak of cables from U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the world. Assange claimed his mission was to shine a light on evidence of war crimes and abuses of power.

J. ASSANGE: And that's how people can really understand what is actually going on and whether they choose to support it or not.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): As the world watched for WikiLeaks's next move, in November 2010, Sweden opened an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Assange, and issued an international arrest warrant for his extradition.

Assange denied the allegations claiming it was retribution for his political work and orchestrated to pave the way for his extradition to the U.S. over the leaks. He turned himself in to London police and was later released on strict bail conditions. Then, in an unexpected twist, he entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum at the start of a seven-year diplomatic route.

J. ASSANGE: Courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Still, Assange was able to reveal details that rocked the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): WikiLeaks published hacked e-mails from DNC staffers and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign. Over time his relationship with his host soured. Ecuador revoked his asylum in 2019 and London police arrested him on an extradition warrant from the U.S. Justice Department to face a conspiracy charge.

Seventeen new counts under the Espionage Act followed accusing Assange of publishing information that risks the lives of confidential U.S. sources and endanger national security. The Swedish charges were dropped later that year but Assange was sentenced to prison for violating his bail conditions and spent five years fighting his extradition to the U.S. mostly isolated at Belmarsh high security prison.

Two years ago, he married his lawyer and mother of his two children, Stella Morris, inside jail. His plea deal with the U.S. on a remote Pacific island, a final twist in this tale, a recognition that he has paid his dues.


Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


BLITZER: And thanks to CNN's Clare Sebastian for that report.

Coming up, the debate expectations game, how the Biden and Trump teams are now trying to psych out each other just ahead of the showdown on CNN.


BLITZER: Happening now, President Biden holds mock debates over at Camp David two days before his face off with Donald Trump right here on CNN. We're told his practice sessions are focused on substance and on stamina.


Also tonight, a Trump campaign surrogate says the former president will be on offense at the --