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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
FBI Releases Wanted Poster In Search For Alleged Mass Shooter; Manhunt Intensifies For Texas Shooting Suspect Accused Of Killing Five Neighbors; Trump Accuser E. Jean Carroll Finishes Testimony In Battery Trial; Florida Board Appointed By DeSantis Sues Disney; Judge Scolds Hunter Biden, Rules He Must Answer More Questions About Finances & Art Sales In Paternity Case; Americans Fleeing War-Torn On Ship To Saudi Arabia; Dust Storm Triggers Carnage On Illinois Interstate; Officials Say At Least Six Killed In Multi-Vehicle Pileups. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 01, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The big question, though, that is on a lot of people's minds, could these islands be the next Crimea? Well, the fact is, China could have taken them, annexed them, invaded them, whatever you want to call it years ago, because the number of soldiers on the islands, which was at 92,000, is now down to 3,000.
They are not doing it, Erin, and some say it's because they believe that the local support will actually help them, you know, make those islands an example for the main island of Taiwan to consider this one country two systems alternative for Taiwan.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Wow. All right, thank you so much, Will Ripley reporting live for us tonight.
And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: An alleged mass killer has spent three days and nights on the run. The FBI is now asking you to help make tonight his last.
John Berman here, in for Anderson.
Take a look. This is a new FBI wanted poster of Francisco Oropeza, "armed and dangerous" it reads, deported four times after entering the country illegally a federal source tells CNN and there at the bottom, the number to dial if you have any information on his whereabouts, 1- 800-CALL-FBI. There is also a web address tips.fbi.gov and an $80,000.00 reward.
This, for the man authorities say shot five people to death at a neighbor's home outside Houston Friday night shortly after, the neighbor Wilson Garcia asked Oropeza to stop firing his gun so his baby could sleep. Minutes later, Mr. Garcia's wife, his nine-year-old son and three others were shot dead.
CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now with the very latest. Ed, what are you hearing tonight?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, well tonight, friends and neighbors are gathered outside of the crime scene where five people were shot and killed Friday night and family members and the people who survived this bloody rampage to have described in the last day than frantic 9-1-1 calls they were making, pleading for help.
But this area of Cleveland, Texas is in a remote area of the county and the sheriff says they got here as fast as they could, but that wasn't enough.
LAVANDERA (voice over): According to law enforcement investigators, at 11:31 Friday night, 9-1-1 received multiple calls about gunshots, someone shooting in a nearby yard. The local sheriff said the suspect had been drinking before the violence on Friday began and that neighbors approached his property to ask him to stop shooting.
SHERIFF GREG CAPERS, SAN JACINTO COUNTY, TEXAS: The victims, they came over to the fence and said, hey, could do you mind not shooting out in the yard. We have a young baby that's trying to go sleep.
(WILSON GARCIA speaking in foreign language.)
LAVANDERA (voice over): Wilson Garcia whose wife and nine-year-old son were shot and killed says they called 9-1-1 five times that night. They asked the gunman to shoot away from his property.
(WILSON GARCIA speaking in foreign language.)
LAVANDERA (voice over): He said, instead, the gunman came to their home 10 to 20 minutes later and started shooting inside the house where 15 people including at least four children were present. Only 10 survived.
Those killed were nine-year-old Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman, his mother Sonia Argentina Guzman, Diana Velasquez Alvarado, Obdulia Molina Rivera and Jose Jonathan Casarez.
CAPERS: Everybody that was shot was shot from the neck up, almost execution style.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Multiple people were found dead in different rooms. Authorities say they believe two women died shielding children.
There is an $80,000.00 reward for information leading investigators to the suspect who the FBI calls armed and dangerous while officers search door-to-door in neighborhoods north of Houston. JAMES SMITH, FBI HOUSTON SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: What we need from the public is any type of information because right now, we're just we're running into dead ends.
LAVANDERA (voice over): An FBI agent was seen entering the suspect's home Monday afternoon and also searched through various vehicles on the property. FBI officials would only say the agents are "following all investigative leads."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott unleashed a firestorm of criticism after the shootings when he tweeted: "I've announced a $50,000.00 reward for info on the criminal who killed five illegal immigrants Friday." He later stepped that back, in a statement his spokeswoman says: "At least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally. We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal," but not before an emotional reaction from the local sheriff.
CAPERS: My heart is with this eight-year-old little boy. I don't -- I don't care if he was here illegally. Five people died in my county and that is where my heart is.
BERMAN: Ed Lavandera back with us.
Ed, you also spoke with other people who live in that neighborhood. What did they have to tell you about the suspect's history?
LAVANDERA: Well, one neighbor we spoke with, John, shared a troubling story. It was about a year-and-a-half ago, a neighbor who was throwing a baptismal celebration. The woman had hired a DJ, they were playing music in their front yard, not too far from here.
It was after midnight when another neighbor came over and asked them to turn the music off. The woman complied, but that sent according to this woman, this neighbor we spoke with -- that sent Oropeza into a rage and he pulled out a nine-millimeter handgun and emptied out an entire cartridge full of ammunition shooting into the ground, startling everyone there who is at the celebration.
The woman told us that after that, they kept their distance from Oropeza.
BERMAN: Kind of history being revealed there.
Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for your reporting, keep us posted.
Even though there is no way to make rational sense out of any of this. We're joined now by CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, as well as CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe.
And John, let me start with you. You know, three days, more than 200 members of various law enforcement agencies looking for this suspect. What's going on behind the scenes as they're trying to chase these credible leads?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, they're trying to put together what was the path of flight, you know? You look at that rural area, if you zoom out on the map, you say, if you go four blocks north of that house, you're in a vast wooded area.
They found some clothing and a cell phone in that direction. That could have been his plan, which was to go hide in the woods.
This is a spontaneous escape. It is nothing he sat down and charted out for a long time. Oropeza is at a disadvantage.
On the other hand, there's the possibility of returning to Mexico. He has been deported four times, which means he knows that border crossing, how to get in, how to get out. Mostly when he's been gotten out, it has not been voluntary. But it shows a familiarity with the process with the cartels, and the people who control those crossings.
So, you know, what you're looking for is, is he hiding in the woods right now? Did he come out the other side? Did he make a six-hour drive to the border? If so, in what car? With what person? Did he have help?
That breaks down to three areas. Who are his friends and acquaintances? You know, you try to surround that by making contact with them and saying, if they help him, they are on the ax?
What are his needs? Is he addicted to drugs? Does he have a certain habit? That does he have something predictable where they can apply pressure there? And then you know, you look at habits, friends, needs and you try to close that circle around him.
The FBI will help with as much technical assistance, logistical assistance, witness victim assistance. But at the end of the day, Greg Capers, that sheriff, this is his shooting, these are his murders and he has got the lead.
BERMAN: You know, Andrew McCabe, John just mentioned, authorities had been tracking the suspect's cell phone, but found it abandoned Saturday along with some clothes.
So how complicated does it become for law enforcement, when that aspect of the digital trail goes away?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's not helpful, John. It is -- you know, you're limited by technologies to how well or consistently the user retains it. In this case, it looks like he got rid of it pretty quickly.
So you go back to all those kind of low tech investigative techniques that John just walked through. You know, they are, I'm sure, looking very closely at every one he knows, any relationships they can establish that he has with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. I'm sure that all of those folks have been contacted by now. And many of them are probably under pretty tight surveillance to see if those are the folks that he reaches out to for help and support.
You know, it is very, very hard to go on the run without a support network and a lot of money and it is unlikely that he had any of those things in place before this event happened. As John mentioned, it was a crime of passion. It's unlikely he planned for any of this.
So he's probably very capable of getting himself across the border. He's done that a few times in the past, but he has got to get there.
He's got to get transportation. He needs some sort of cash to keep himself afloat and communication with a network to kind of keep that whole thing going and that is where the weaknesses come in.
BERMAN: Yes, I mean, is there any commonality, Andrew, with how people being chased like this end up getting caught?
MCCABE: There are many commonalities, You know, it's very frequent that people will go back to places that in retrospect seemed like the most obvious places to look for them. Girlfriends' houses, wives' houses, families' residences, things like that.
But it is understandable as well, right? You go to those places where you've sought shelter before, you rely on those people to try to hide you. So, I would expect that all of those locations that the bureau and the local authorities are aware of are under very tight surveillance for that reason.
BERMAN: So, John, how challenging does it become for investigators if some of the undocumented immigrants in that area don't want to come forward with tips or lead because they're worried about their own status and maybe being deported?
MILLER: Well, I think, you know, you look at the two law men who are in charge there. You've got Greg Capers, the sheriff. He's got 40 years in law enforcement, most of it with the Harris County Sheriff, but he's been the Sheriff of San Jacinto County for a while.
Note the communications though. He goes -- this is an elected sheriff who goes against the governor in a public statement, basically saying, I don't care if they're illegal, or they're legal, or what their status is here. This is my county, these were my people to protect. This is my case.
He is sending a direct message to that community. Aside from the $80,000.00 reward, aside from any issues of immigration, that this is our shared problem, this is our community. I'm your sheriff, I'm with you. Please come forward.
BERMAN: You know, Andrew, as Ed Lavandera mentioned, according to a neighbor, the suspect had a history of erratic behavior with firearm shooting into the ground several times at a celebration there. How was he able to obtain all these guns if he wasn't even in the country legally?
MCCABE: Sure, well, it's -- you know, obviously, it's unlawful for someone who is here illegally to even possess a firearm, so they certainly can't walk into a gun shop and purchase one and going through the requisite background checks that are required.
So the gap in the system, once again, is the opportunity to engage in personal firearm sales. So when one person who is not a federally licensed firearms dealer sells a gun to another person, they don't have to go through that process of getting a background check.
So that is a massive loophole in our current system of firearms safety regulations, and it enables people who normally can't pass a background check, who can't possess a firearm legally, to obtain pretty much whatever weapons they want to get. It's very easy to do at gun shows or in kitchen table deals, anytime you can line that up.
BERMAN: Andrew McCabe, John Miller, our thanks to both of you.
Coming up tonight on "CNN Primetime," former Attorney General Eric Holder joins Abby Phillip to talk about this man hunt, as well as his thoughts on the Justice Department's multiple investigations of the former president and also Hunter Biden. That's coming up at the top of the hour right here.
And next for us, how Donald Trump's lawyer tried to undermine testimony for the woman suing the former president for battery and defamation. How E. Jean Carroll stood up to hours of it and whether members of the jury will think that the cross examination crossed the line.
Also tonight, a new salvo in the legal battle between Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney.
BERMAN: The woman who says Donald Trump raped her at a New York department store in the mid-1990s has now had her say in court.
E. Jean Carroll left the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan after three days on the witness stand including hours of cross examination about her actions before, during, and after the alleged assault and why she sued the former president, but not another prominent figure she also claimed assaulted her.
Her answer to that to Trump attorney, Joe Tacopina, quote: "He didn't grind my face through the mud like Donald Trump did," which says a lot about Tacopina's approach and how Carroll handled it.
CNN's Kara Scannell was in the courthouse for us today and joins us now.
Kara, what more can you tell us about this testimony from E. Jean Carroll today? KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so E. Jean Carroll on the stand, again, her second day under cross examination and Trump's attorney Joe Tacopina was focusing today on her actions after this alleged rape.
He was going through some of her behavior and essentially asking her to explain for someone who was so traumatized, why did she continue doing certain things and one of them, continuing to shop and Bergdorf- Goodman.
They showed receipts showing that she had been to the department store more than 20 times after the alleged assault where she spent tens of thousands of dollars.
He also put it to some Facebook posts of hers in which she was saying she was a big fan of "The Apprentice," the television reality show that starred former President Trump. Now Carroll said that she was interested in it for the competitive spear between the aspiring entrepreneurs and she said she stopped watching at the end of each episode where Trump did the "you're fired" piece of it.
Now, they also asked her why she didn't ever report her alleged assaults to the police. You know, she had advised numerous of the people who wrote into her Ask E. Jean column to do that very thing. She explained under redirect from her attorneys that Trump was too powerful and she said she was a woman of a certain generation who was told to keep their chin up.
Now, you mentioned that this other alleged assault, that was against the former president and chairman of CBS, Les Moonves and Carroll saying that he didn't rape her, and so he also didn't defame her in that quote that you just read.
Now, another piece of the testimony today was when they were looking at -- they pointed to an episode of "Law and Order." You know, this television show we all know from 2012 that in that episode, there was a reference to a rape in the lingerie department at Bergdorf Goodman, the exact same allegation that Carroll made some seven years later.
So, Tacopina asking her about this, and Carroll said she never saw the episode, when her lawyers asked her, he asked her point blank, did you make up this accusation based on the television show? Carroll, said no, no -- John.
BERMAN: The defense had asked for a mistrial before this morning, before court even started this morning. On what grounds and what did the judge say about it?
SCANNELL: Yes, so Tacopina sent a letter overnight to the judge saying that some of the statements and rulings he made were prejudicial and unfair. Now, the judge in court spent less than five minutes on this.
He in fact, just mentioned, there was something on my desk, he said motion denied, and then he called in the jury, so he didn't spend much time on this at all, and there were not a lot of objections throughout the day or anything that would have reflected that this was an issue that was ongoing.
One of Tacopina's arguments was that the judge had limited his cross examination and said that some of his lines of questioning were argumentative. We didn't see that play out today.
They seem to have just stepped forward and moved ahead on this issue -- John.
BERMAN: And who is expected to testify tomorrow?
SCANNELL: So a source telling me that Carroll's attorneys are going to call one woman, a close friend of Carroll's who she confided in immediately after leaving the department store. That is Lisa Birnbach, a journalist. She is expected to be called to testify.
And then also, Carroll's team is expected to call a woman named Jessica Leeds. She alleges that in 1979, she was in first class on an airplane with former President Trump. She says that then he sexually assaulted her. The judge is allowing that testimony because it is part of this alleged pattern of behavior. So she will take the stand after that.
And of course, for both of them, they will face cross examination from Trump's attorneys and Trump has denied that he ever assaulted Leeds -- John.
BERMAN: Kara Scannell in court all day. I'm sure you'll be back there again tomorrow. Thanks so much for being with us.
And with us now is former federal prosecutor, Jessica Roth. She currently teaches at the Cardozo School of Law here in Manhattan.
Just quickly, the mistrial. What's the strategy in Joe Tacopina calling for a mistrial?
JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think there were two things going on there. The first is that he was trying to make a record for appeal. So, in the event that Trump is found liable, the jury rules against him, Tacopina wants to make the best possible record for an appellate court to look at and he was setting up the argument on appeal that the judge was biased against his client that this was an unfair trial. So I think part of this is about posturing for appeal.
The second thing I think, is probably for satisfying his client and the court of public opinion and being able to point to his motion and say it's our position that the judge is unfair, that this is all a proceeding bias against my client.
BERMAN: So Kara Scannell who was in the courtroom did a great job describing Joe Tacopina's line of questioning. A lot of it was focused on why E. Jean Carroll did not behave a certain way after she alleges that she was raped. What do you make of that line of questioning and how he went about it? ROTH: So I wasn't in the courtroom, so I think a lot of this churns on the details of how he asked the questions and how often and I haven't seen the full transcript yet, but it appears what he is trying to put front and center in the jury's mind is, is this the conduct of a person who has just been sexually assaulted, who's been raped? And pointed to the fact that she didn't go to the police right away.
That she -- I think he also pointed out at some point today -- that she never sought counseling. That she had never been diagnosed with anxiety. He's trying to plant the seeds of doubt about whether or not her account is being accurate.
She had really good responses to all of this, too, including pointing to the fact that we now know that people don't react in that particular way that he is sort of assuming that there's been often societal assumption that rape victims will act.
BERMAN: Yes, some of that is how things have changed over the last several years.
ROTH: Yes, absolutely.
BERMAN: In how people understand this type of thing.
ROTH: She identified herself as being from a prior generation that in a sense, had different expectations. And she said she was raised to not complain. And then she also talked in a very personal way about how she basically wanted to project her public persona, as somebody who was happy.
And she was also asked questions about why she joked about Donald Trump on Facebook, and liking "The Apprentice." And I thought she is again, as I was reading the comments, but that she persuasively explained that she said, I'd rather laugh than cry.
And so it was a very, I think, effective response to really rebut the idea that she wasn't raped and that she wasn't harmed, but to say, I chose to present myself a certain way.
BERMAN: One would think that E. Jean Carroll's testimony is the centerpiece of this whole case. However, tomorrow, there's a very important witness, Lisa Birnbach, who says and E. Jean Carroll says that they spoke immediately after the alleged rape. How important is that?
ROTH: That is critical testimony, because there are no other eyewitnesses to the alleged rape, but if E. Jean Carroll, very soon after, immediately after the assault, tells a friend that it happened, as she has now testified on the stand that it happened, that is really important corroboration to rehabilitate her credibility from the attack that's been made on cross examination, that she's just made it all now for various motives -- for fame and fortune, and because of political bias, that's what's been alleged.
But usually her prior statement out of court and her friend would be treated as hearsay and inadmissible, but because she has been charged effectively with having recently fabricated this account, that prior consistent statement that was made close in time to the alleged assault that can come in to rebut that charge, and that's going to be crucial.
BERMAN: Very quickly, you did talk about political motivations. Something that Kara didn't get to is that there was the line of questioning about a conversation that E. Jean Carroll had with George Conway, whom we all know is a conservative lawyer who has become quite anti-Donald Trump, and Conway suggested that she might have a case against Donald Trump. Why was Joe Tacopina focused on that?
ROTH: Because one of the lines of attack by Tacopina is that E. Jean Carroll has made these allegations since Donald Trump has been a prominent politician since he was president and to suggest that she is politically motivated, that she is an anti-Trump politically motivated person.
George Conway is well-known to be a vocal critic of Donald Trump, and so if she decided to sue after speaking with George Conway, right, that sort of sets up the argument that this may be in some way politically motivated.
There are lots of good responses to that that she made today, but that is what Tacopina is trying I suggest.
BERMAN: All right, another big day in court tomorrow. We look forward to speaking with you after that. Thanks so much for being with us.
Allies of Ron DeSantis escalate the likely presidential candidate's fight against Disney. A new lawsuit has been filed in a fight that many Republicans wish would go away. New details, next.
BERMAN: Allies of Governor Ron DeSantis today escalated a high-profile fight against Disney that has become a thorn in the side of his likely presidential campaign.
His handpicked board that is supposed to oversee Disney's Florida home has filed a countersuit days after Disney sued DeSantis and the board. The company says the governor weaponized his office against them for exercising their free speech rights.
It also comes after Disney appeared to outmaneuver the governor's attempt to rein in the company's control over its special taxing district.
DeSantis today said he thinks the new countersuit will be "successful."
Randi Kaye joins us from Florida with the latest.
Randi, what can you tell us about this latest lawsuit? RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Ron DeSantis' handpicked board as you mentioned filed this lawsuit today against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
And this latest lawsuit was filed by the new board which is known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and it was filed in state court whereas Disney's lawsuit was actually filed last week in federal court.
But this new lawsuit aims to invalidate Disney's last-minute deal that it made with this outgoing board which was overseeing the special taxing district for Walt Disney.
The lawsuit claims: "In an effort to stymie Florida's elected representatives, Disney covertly cobbled together a series of 11th hour deals with its soon to be replaced puppet government." That's a direct quote.
Disney has said that it did everything right to maintain control of its special taxing district. It had published two meeting notices in the "Orlando Sentinel" letting people know what it was planning to do, and they could come and weigh in at those public meetings. Disney says that this whole thing is really just an effort to punish the company, John, for speaking its mind.
BERMAN: And remind people about that, which is sort of the crux of the argument of Disney's lawsuit.
KAYE: Yes, absolutely. Disney filed its lawsuit just minutes after the new board appointed by the governor, that special board to oversee Disney's special taxing district had made a move to sort of take back control over the special taxing district and take back control and power from Disney really.
And that move was voting to invalidate that last minute agreement that Disney made at the 11th Hour with that outgoing board. Disney's lawsuit characterizes the vote to nullify the agreement as, quote, "The latest strike in a targeted campaign of government retaliation orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech."
Now, Disney's lawsuit also says, John, that DeSantis threatens Disney's business operations, jeopardizes its economic future, and also violates its constitutional rights. John?
BERMAN: OK. Constitutional rights, that's where this all started in a way, Randi, right?
KAYE: Absolutely. Yes, that's really where it all began.
Last year, Disney spoke out against this new Florida state law that had been approved by Ron DeSantis. originally critics were referring to it as the, Don't Say Gay bill, but it was signed into law and that law forbid lessons about sexual orientation, about gender identity in grades, up through third grade.
And after Disney issued a press release, knocking that law after it had passed, the governor announced that Florida was suddenly going to take over Disney's special taxing district. And that's exactly the move that the governor made. That district provided the entertainment giant control of its theme parks, control of the land, around those theme parks.
And Disney says that this is clearly a violation of free speech. Clearly, an example of retaliation for speaking out really against this signature piece of legislation that had been touted and approved by Governor Ron DeSantis, John.
BERMAN: Randi Kaye, thank you so much for clearing up what this is all about. Really appreciate it.
More now from CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig. Elie, I want to start with one major part of the Disney lawsuit.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
BERMAN: Which is the free speech lawsuit, the constitutional rights part. Disney says that DeSantis is, you know, doing a kind of retribution because of their stand. How important are DeSantis's own words in this?
HONIG: They're the whole ballgame. This is the crux of Disney's lawsuit. They are saying our first amendment rights have been violated. We're being picked out and punished by official state action because of our political speech. And ordinarily in a case like this, if you're the plaintiff, if you're in Disney's shoes, you have to sort of connect the dots and make an argument, read in between the lines.
Here, forget about it. I mean, DeSantis has come out many times and said, essentially he's called them woke Disney. And he said, I'm doing this to punish them for speaking out against the law.
BERMAN: "When corporations try to use their economic power to advance a woke agenda, they become political and not merely economic actors. Leaders must stand up and fight back when big corporations make the mistake as Disney did, of using their economic might to advance a political agenda."
HONIG: I mean, there it is. Yes, I -- the plaintiffs, Disney couldn't have made a stronger case themselves. And what's sort of interesting here, if you've been tracking this case, DeSantis's rhetoric has been evolving a little bit in the last few weeks. He's going a little bit away from this explicit. I'm punishing them because they oppose me politically to a little more of, well, they shouldn't get special treatment.
The problem is, he already said what he said. You can't unsay what you already said.
BERMAN: Yes, this is out of the bottle. HONIG: Yes.
BERMAN: He said this, and DeSantis is a lawyer and he knows that. There's another aspect of this. People might not find contract law as sexy.
HONIG: We're going to make it sexy.
BERMAN: Trust me it is. OK. Explain what's going on with the contract.
HONIG: So the old board, the Disney board on its way out the door, they knew they were going to be replaced by the new board, the DeSantis board. In their last act in office, the old board signed a whole bunch of contracts with Disney that essentially keep the status quo in place for the next 30 or so years.
And now the new board came in and said, no, we are going to cancel all of those contracts. And that's where you're seeing these competing lawsuits. Disney's argument is these were legitimate agreements. They were made while this old board, the old Disney board had power and we relied on them. We're going to invest $17 billion based on that.
The new board is saying, well, this was really sort of a dirty trick late at night, not properly noticed. And so we get to throw those contracts out and that's the crux here.
BERMAN: There are two lawsuits now.
BERMAN: The Disney suit, which was filed in federal court, which contains the free speech aspect --
BERMAN: -- the constitutional rights. Then there's the DeSantis lawsuit, or the lawsuit in Florida, which is in state court.
BERMAN: What's going to happen with these two lawsuits?
HONIG: Yes, this is a quagmire. But what I think is going to happen is Disney's going to say, OK, take the state lawsuit, move it over into federal court, because it makes no sense to have two separate lawsuits essentially arguing about the same thing in front of two different judges, two different court.
You could end up with two irreconcilable results. So Disney's going to argue, first of all, move the state lawsuit into federal court and then put it in front of our judge, and I think that's another motivation here. I think DeSantis and the new board wants to avoid this federal judge because he is a liberal-ish judge. He was appointed by Barack Obama. He's actually ruled against DeSantis on prior free speech cases and had some choice words. He compared DeSantis in these other free speech cases to George Orwell's 1984. So I think they want to avoid him as well.
BERMAN: He may be a kind of judge that you don't want your case (INAUDIBLE).
HONIG: Yes, it's a little bit of an indicator. Yes.
BERMAN: All right, Elie Honig, great to have you here.
HONIG: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Thank you very much.
Still to come, President Biden's son, Hunter Biden was in court today. The case involves child support payments, but has evolved into a proxy fight about the much larger Republican-led investigation into the younger Biden's finances. We have new details ahead.
BERMAN: President Biden's son Hunter was scolded by a judge today over his finances in a paternity case that has turned into a partisan proxy fight. The younger Biden was in an Arkansas courtroom asking to pay less in child support for a four-year-old girl, he fathered.
But the mother of the child who was being represented by attorneys who worked on the former president's effort to overturn the 2020 election says Hunter Biden should be thrown in jail because he is not being forthcoming about investments and his art, sales and other financial transactions. And some of the same financial information House Republicans are seeking in their investigation of Hunter Biden.
CNN Sara Murray has the details.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President's son appearing in an Arkansas courtroom today. The hearing related to a year's old paternity dispute. After the mother of his child, Lunden Roberts, accused Hunter Biden of ignoring earlier court orders and withholding evidence. Now the judge says Hunter must answer more questions about his investments, art, sales, and other financial transactions as part of the child support case.
He will also sit for a June deposition where he'll be questioned under oath. "You can't say, these are my tax returns. Good luck. You figure it out," the judge said, ordering up details on Hunter's taxes. This cryptic hide the ball game isn't going to cut it when we get to trial.
What began as a 2019 paternity case morphing into a battle over Hunter's overseas business dealings -- the now infamous laptop and other financial issues, all its Hunter faces scrutiny from both criminal and congressional investigators.
Republican lawmakers have launched a sprawling probe into the Biden family's business dealings, seeking many of the same financial records Lunden Roberts is trying to access. While Republicans have alleged wrongdoing by the Biden family, they have yet to back their allegations up with evidence.
REP. JAMES COMER (R), CHAIR, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, we found a lot that's certainly unethical. We found a lot that should be illegal. The line is blurry as to what is legal and not legal with respect to family influence peddling.
MURRAY (voice-over): Last week, Hunter's lawyers met with Justice Department officials as prosecutors weigh whether to bring charges related to failure to file taxes, tax evasion, and a false statement charge related to a gun purchase, sources say. Hunter has maintained his innocence.
HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I am absolutely certain. 100 percent certain that at the end of the investigation, that I will be cleared.
MURRAY (voice-over): As for the paternity case, Hunter initially denied fathering the child, but a DNA test confirmed he is the biological father. Hunter has since agreed to pay child support paying $750,000 to the mother so far, his lawyer said in court.
BERMAN: And Sara Murray joins us now. Sara, the judge is also ordering Hunter Biden's attorneys to refile some of their court filings. Why is that?
MURRAY: That's right. She chide the attorneys for being a little too overzealous in their redaction process, saying, you need to refile some of these documents. Make more information available publicly, including some documents that had been filed under a seal, so completely out of public view.
And, you know, she said she understands that this case involves sensitive information. The judge says she's been generous in allowing them to keep things under raft, but she says, look, I can't gag the whole world. I mean, some of this stuff is going to come out publicly.
And of course, John, you can imagine there are plenty of Republican lawmakers who are digging into the Biden family finances who are very eager to keep an eye on this case and see if there's anything they can use to their political benefit.
BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you so much for your reporting.
BERMAN: Perspective now from CNN Contributor Evan Osnos, author of a remarkable biography of the President. His latest book is on the deep division in the U.S. and is titled, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury". Also with us, our Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten.
Evan, I want to start with you. How does this paternity suit figure into the larger scope of things that Hunter Biden is up against? And also, you know, how does President Biden view all of this?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think from the President's family's perspective, there's sort of two big themes at work. One, of course, is Hunter Biden's very public and sort of well-known struggle with addiction.
This case, this child support case grows out of a relationship he had in 2017 by his own description, a very dark time in his life. His, one point, he said he had no recollection of the encounter. He's now paying child support.
And then the other theme here is, of course, the connection between Republican efforts to try to undermine his father's election and potential reelection. I mean, it's worth reminding people here that the lawyers in this case on behalf of the mother were members of Trump's legal team, who in fact, did try to overturn the President Trump's loss in Wisconsin.
They also consulted on the effort to create slates of so-called alternative electors, fake electors. So it's sort of impossible to disentangle this, I think, from the political context.
BERMAN: And as far as how President Biden views all this?
OSNOS: I think, look, the fact is they're sort of used to it by now. They see this as the outgrowth of a long-running effort. Really four years ago this month, more or less that it was President Trump who tried to, as you recall, pressure the President of Ukraine to try to -- they withheld military assistance to try to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden and his father.
Look, at this point, the -- you see that the President is not in effect, sort of distancing himself from his son. Recently on their trip to Ireland, you saw them quite. You know, close together, they were often traveling together. At one point, Joe Biden, turned to his family and he said, I'm proud of you. And he asked them to stand up.
So there's an effort here on the part of the family to say, we support you in what we know is a difficult path.
BERMAN: Harry, you've been looking at the polling here. What do Americans think about Hunter Biden's behavior and whether it broke the law?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. So I think we have to separate out a few things here. Number one is whether he did anything illegal, and then separately, did he do anything wrong but it wasn't necessarily illegal? So what we see is that the minority, in fact, the minority of Americans believe that he did something illegal. You could see that right there, 44 percent. And then there's this. Larger chunk, or this large chunk that says 35 percent, that he did something an unethical and not illegal. But then, of course, there are Republicans, right? And they see things quite a bit differently. And what you see among Republicans is that the clear majority of Republicans believe that he infected something illegal.
BERMAN: So the Republicans, it's a very big deal. You saw there, 71 percent.
ENTEN: 71 percent, a large chunk of Republicans, right? But that's very different from the American population at large.
BERMAN: Well, in the American population at large, Harry, how much are people paying attention to this? Because there are certain media outlets where this gets a ton of attention every day.
ENTEN: Yes. So, you know, I think the big question when we think about this sort of politically right is, is this going to hurt President Joe Biden? And what we see is, in fact, when it comes to Hunter Biden's business dealings, very few Americans are only about a -- less than 40 percent of Americans believe that, in fact, Joe Biden did something illegal.
In fact, more Americans believe that Donald Trump did something illegal in his dealings, his campaign finance dealings in New York. And when we're talking about Hunter Biden, right, and the congressional investigation into them, the fact is that very few Americans say that they're paying -- following the news, quote unquote, very closely into that investigation.
And, indeed, only about a quarter of 2020 Trump voters say they're following closely the congressional investigation of Hunter Biden. So the fact is, I don't really think this is that big of a deal when we're talking about politics at large, especially as it pertains to 2024.
BERMAN: Sorry, 15 percent of all voters, 25 percent of Trump voters say they're following it closely.
Evan, things could change here. And it's not impossible that Hunter Biden faces charges at some point. If that were to pass, how do you think President Biden might handle that?
OSNOS: You know, I think it depends, obviously a great deal on what comes out of that case. The reporting so far from CNN and many other outlets has been that it's coalescing around issues around Hunter Biden's taxes. Whether or not there is enough evidence to charge him with a crime is what we'll have to see.
What there has been no evidence of, and there certainly has been an effort to find it, is any connection to Joe Biden. And I think, you know, as a political matter that, as Harry says, is the key point here. There is not a large number of Americans who look at this and say, this is going to determine my vote for the presidency.
But on a personal basis, you've seen the President and the First Lady, Jill Biden, sort of stake out where they are on this, which is that they say, we love our son, we support him and we'll support him in whatever is to come.
BERMAN: And very quickly, you brought up the trip to Ireland, which, you know, Hunter Biden was on, in some ways, doing some of the things that Beau Biden used to do before he passed?
OSNOS: Yes, it was noticeable. You know, in some ways his -- Hunter was sort of helping with some of the logistics. That was a role that Beau played. Joe Biden, at one point, introduced Hunter on the trip as my youngest son. It was a sort of a poignant reference to the fact, of course, that he lost his oldest son.
So, look, this is a family affair and the Bidens, as you know, keep it close.
BERMAN: Evan Osnos, great to see you. Harry Enten, always a pleasure to be with you.
Up next, a look at the U.S.-led effort now underway to get Americans out of war-torn Sudan. How they make the dangerous journey from the Capitol to Saudi Arabia. That's ahead on 360.
BERMAN: Relief finally for Americans stranded in the middle of Sudan's Civil War. According to the State Department, a third U.S.-led evacuation convoy reached Port Sudan after a dangerous 500-mile journey from the Capitol City Khartoum. That's about the distance from Cleveland to New York, but in a war zone.
From Port Sudan, these evacuee will travel by ship to Saudi Arabia, where an earlier group has already arrived.
CNN's Larry Madowo is there.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the first Americans to arrive in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the U.S. Naval Ship Brunswick.
It's small comfort after an anxious two weeks of conflict in Africa's third largest nation.
MOHAMED KHALED, SUDANESE AMERICAN EVACUEE: I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't really like it. If it was up to me, I would've stayed to see things out. But unfortunately, this got too bad, you know? The situation got just -- it got worse and worse by the minute, you know what I mean? There was no water, there's no electricity.
MADOWO (voice-over): This Port City has become the main route out of Port Sudan. Several broken ceasefires later. People are desperate to escape. REEM, AMERICAN GRADUATE AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY: I'm basically doing a masters, and so I was in the Sudan to like do research ironically on these very same topics.
MADOWO (on-camera): How's your family? Do you have family back in Sudan who cannot leave because maybe they don't have dual nationality in other places?
REEM: Yes, yes, of course. I mean, that's the reality for most of the people that are currently in Sudan, is that because of the hierarchy of citizenship, the way that it works, obviously, a lot of people couldn't even afford to leave Khartoum because of the prices of bus tickets.
MADOWO (voice-over): U.S. officials say about 1,000 Americans have been evacuated since the conflict began by land, sea, or air after initially saying it was too dangerous to get private citizens out.
(on-camera): This operation only brought a hundred U.S. citizens across the Red Sea. But there are so many more still stuck in Port Sudan, hoping for a transport like this to get them to Jeddah.
FARIS ASAD, U.S. CONSUL GENERAL IN JEDDAH: We've been working very closely with international partners around the world and here in Saudi Arabia with our Saudi partners.
MADOWO (on-camera): Will there be more U.S. ships today or in the next few days?
ASAD: Not that I know of.
MADOWO (voice-over): As families escape the fighting, there are lighter moments as even in war, kids will still tease their parents.
(on-camera): How do you feel about having left Sudan?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good.
MADOWO (on-camera): How was it? Was it scary?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't scared, but she was scared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She absolutely handled herself 100 percent.
BERMAN: And Larry Madowo joins us now from Jeddah. Larry, do we know how many Americans remain in Port Sudan and need help evacuating?
MADOWO: It's not exact -- we don't have an exact number, John, but I can run you through some numbers. The estimate is that there were about 16,000 dual nationals who were in Sudan. Some have chosen to remain,
[20:55:10] Those three convoys that I've gotten to Port Sudan have about 700, though, the officials can't tell if they're all permanent -- they're all U.S. citizens or permanent residents. But the ship that arrived here in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea brought about 105 U.S. citizens. So there's still at least several hundred in just Port Sudan or across the country that can't make it to Port Sudan and then over here.
And so many people want to leave because we heard from people who told us they saw dead bodies on the streets, and it's just not a situation that you ought to leave in if you don't know how long this conflict would last, John.
BERMAN: No. People want to get out, but the journey is so difficult.
Larry Madowo, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for your reporting.
Next, as frightening as this huge dust storm looks, it is sadly nowhere near as terrifying and as tragic as it became once the dust settled.
BERMAN: Sometimes you can marvel at the power of nature. Tonight, though, sadly, it's just not possible. That's because this dust storm, which is stunning to look at along Interstate 55 in central Illinois today, did not just produce impressive footage, it also turned portions of the interstate into a hells cape of wrecked cars and trucks.
Dozens of vehicles, according to officials, 40 to 60 passenger cars, another 30 commercial vehicles, two semis caught fire, and all, at least six people lost their lives, and more than 30 were hospitalized. The dust came from newly plowed fields and nearby farms.
That does it for us. The news continues right here on CNN.