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At This Hour

Trump Appeals Court Ruling Lifting Executive Privilege Shield; Homes Evacuated After Train Goes Off The Tracks In Minnesota; Disney Took Power From DeSantis' New Board Before State Takeover. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 11:30   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Donald Trump is trying to keep his former White House Chief of Staff and other top aides from testifying before a federal grand jury investigating his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He's appealing a court ruling that would force Mark Meadows, former National Intelligence Director John Radcliffe, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, and others to testify.

CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers is joining me now. Hi, Jennifer. So, how do you expect Trump's appeal to play out? I know you've said that the arguments over the executive privilege that Trump's been making trying to prevent, you know, his former aides from testifying have been quite weak.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, Amara. There's a direct Supreme Court precedent right on point, U.S. v. Nixon in a criminal investigation if the government can prove a demonstrated need for testimony that will overcome executive privilege. So, on the merits, he's going to lose this. Again, this is just one of the delay tactics that Trump has used so often.

WALKER: And what about Mike Pence? I mean, he's been ordered to testify about the conversations, at least you know in the run-up to January 6 as opposed to that day. He says he's got nothing to hide, and he's still considering whether or not he'll appeal. If you were his attorney, what would you be weighing right now?

RODGERS: So, it's really interesting because this issue is not an executive privilege issue. It's a Speech and Debate Clause issue. And it centers around his legislative role as president of the senate and whether he has a privilege based on that. So, the lawyers need to think about if they want to expand that privilege, in other words, have him testify about less than Judge Boasberg ordered that he testify about, they could appeal and try to get that ruling from the DC Circuit.

The problem is it could also go the other way. Judge Boasberg's order was the first time that a federal judge has recognized that a vice president has this privilege and need not testify about legislative activities. So, the circuit could also say, you know what, he doesn't have any protection from that. So, they're probably weighing which way they think it will go. I mean, which of course is some guesswork and also what the political consequences is. Because of course, he's probably running for president.

WALKER: So, regarding this particular investigation about Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, do you -- does it look like it's nearing its end?

RODGERS: It's always hard to say but I will say that these witnesses, Mike Pence, Mark Meadows, some of these other folks are certainly the biggest witnesses, the most important witnesses. And so the fact that they are now moving as swiftly as they can to get them into the grand jury does suggest that they're entering the last phases of evidence collection at least and then it'll be time to decide whether or not they can charge.

WALKER: Jennifer Rodgers, I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.

RODGERS: Thanks so much.

WALKER: Tonight on CNN Primetime -- it's on CNN Primetime, Former Vice President Mike Pence talks with Wolf Blitzer. Tune in for the interview at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Arkansas is suing three social media giants including TikTok, and Facebook parent company Meta. They claim the platforms are harmful to young users. We're going to talk to the State's Attorney General on why the state took this step.



WALKER: It has happened again. Another freight train has derailed, this time in Minnesota. Rail cars carrying hazardous and flammable material went off the tracks before dawn, and that sparked a fire. Nearby residents have had to flee their homes.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is following this for us. Hi, Gabe, what are you learning?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Amara, this has been a rapidly developing story this morning. We were just listening in to a press conference with Minnesota's Governor Tim Walz.

And there is some good news here. He says that there are no reported injuries at this point and no toxic exposures either in this area, around Raymond, Minnesota. This small town two hours west of Minneapolis, a population of just under a thousand people that evacuated really frantically overnight, right around 1:00 a.m. Central Time after that train derailed. And as you can see, many of the cars actually caught fire.

The goal the governor says is to get all of these Raymond residents back into their homes by around 11:00 a.m. local time. That's in about 30 minutes. And we're also getting a lot more information about both the derailment and the spill.


We now know that it was a train carrying ethanol and corn syrup. And according to an update that we've gotten from the EPA, there were four cars containing ethanol that ruptured during the derailment. And that's what actually led to that fire which continues to burn at this hour.

There are also four additional cars containing ethanol that may release at some point today in the hours ahead. We really don't know that at this point. But that's according to the EPA.

Now, ethanol is a highly flammable chemical. It can be very dangerous. Exposure can lead to coughing, to dizziness, burning eyes, drowsiness, so there was a lot of concern from first responders. The local fire department ordered that mandatory evacuation around Raymond.

And -- but again, the good news is those people should soon be coming home. Amara, we are waiting for more updates, but we know the NTSB is sending a team right now to the scene to learn more about how this happened.

WALKER: Yes, it has to be quite unnerving for the residents there. Gabe Cohen, thank you for that update.

Well, Arkansas has filed three separate lawsuits against social media companies TikTok, its Chinese owner ByteDance, and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. In one lawsuit, the state accuses TikTok and ByteDance of misleading users about China's access to their data. In another, they claim TikTok's algorithms deceive consumers and promote adult content, including nudity and profanity. And the third lawsuit against Meta accuses the company of using algorithms and features that negatively impact the mental health of young people.

Joining me now to discuss is Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin. Appreciate your time. Look, there's been criticism --


WALKER: There's been criticism and concern about social media companies and their impact on kids and teens for quite some time, right? What brought you to the point where you thought you needed to take these companies to court in this way?

GRIFFIN: Well, for me, it's personal. It's not just that I'm an elected official, I have three children under the age of 16. So, I am personally aware of these issues among young people.

And I just took office in January, so this was a priority for me to look into, as soon as I became Attorney General. And I've been doing that. We're the first state in the country to file the lawsuit against Meta.

So, let me just say this. Schematically, all three of these lawsuits have one thing in common, and it's not the content, it's not the data, it's the deception. That's the issue. Parents have the primary responsibility to raise their children.

But at the same time, companies in the marketplace cannot mislead and deceive parents and Americans in our case, Arkansans about their product, what that product does, and what the company is doing. All of that has to be truthfully communicated to the public.

WALKER: Right.

GRIFFIN: And that's why we have the Arkansas deceptive trade practices act in many states out there.

WALKER: You say that this is about deception. There -- it's twofold, right? Because you're talking about the data, and whether or not China really has access to it, but also when it comes to the mental health of our youth. Can you elaborate on that part of this lawsuit?


WALKER: And what you are saying regarding the deceptive practices that lead to you know, damaging our children's mental health?

GRIFFIN: Yes. Well, look. This is a really important part of it. So, I was at an event with some of my kids this past weekend and I had a parent say to me you know, when I take those apps away, my daughter's whole personality changes. And I said, really? Because I've seen that with mine as well. So, there's a lot of first-hand experience by parents about this.

So, let me address the two lawsuits that deal with deception as it relates to the product itself, as opposed to the third, which relates to data. First of all, the one that we filed first in the country against -- the first state in the country against Meta is about the algorithm, the addictive algorithm that they have intentionally designed to hook juveniles, young adults, children on their product. And the problem here is not the content. It's the deception.

They have repeatedly indicated -- even under oath in front of the United States Congress, they have indicated that that's not the case. Well, we can show -- we believe we will show just the opposite, that this is all done intentionally and not disclosed and in fact, denied. That's the core --


WALKER: Can I ask you how you will show that? What evidence you'll be able to provide for that?

GRIFFIN: Well, that's what litigation is all about. This is -- this is not going to be completed today or tomorrow, but we're going to have plenty of opportunities for you to have me back --

WALKER: Right.

GRIFFIN: -- to lay all that out for you. WALKER: Got it.

GRIFFIN: This is going to be an ongoing deal. Now, the other lawsuit on -- against TikTok and ByteDance, the first lawsuit, not the one about the data, but the one about deception in the product, is the fact that they represent that adult content, is generally not available to young people. But the fact is, if you're a 13-year-old and you sign on to TikTok, you can have access to all sorts of sexual content, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etcetera. And it's plain that what they're saying is not the case.

Now, why would they deceive on this? Well, first of all, if they can portray it as kid-friendly, family-friendly, then -- and that there are protections for juveniles, they get more business, they grow --


GRIFFIN: And also they get a higher rating on, for example, the Apple App Store so that more people will use it.

WALKER: Well --

GRIFFIN: We can show that that's false, as well.

WALKER: Well, listen, Attorney General Tim Griffin, we really appreciate you breaking that down for us. And I know at least one thing that you know parents are united on is the addictive nature of social media and the potential harmful effects that it could have on our children. Thank you for your time.

GRIFFIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate you all.

WALKER: Well, you could call it a Spat in the Sunshine State, how Disney pulled the wool over Ron DeSantis's eyes ahead of the state's hostile takeover last month. The details from Florida is next.



WALKER: The battle between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may be reigniting. This, after Disney quietly stripped power from a DeSantis-backed board, which is supposed to oversee the governance of the company's Florida parks.

Steve Contorno is live in St. Petersburg with the details. So, Steve, how did Disney secretly get this by the governor?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, Amara, last month, the legislature in Florida was meeting to strip Disney of this special governing power and put Governor DeSantis in charge of the board that oversees its vast holdings in Central Florida. But while this was going on, Florida or the board that oversees this property was also meeting in sort of secret, very quietly, where they -- were they voted to hand over much of their powers to Disney. And when this new board that DeSantis handpicked came in, they discovered that this -- that the outgoing board had basically given away all their powers to Disney. And this all came about during yesterday's meeting of the Board where they began to disclose just how little oversight they may now have of Disney. This is what they said.


BRIAN AUNGST JR., BOARD MEMBER: This development agreement, which in my opinion is void as an illegal malady, was passed the same day the Florida House passed the bill creating this board. And it was done to prevent us from doing our job.

DANIEL LANGLEY, SPECIAL GENERAL COUNSEL: I cannot imagine Orange County, Osceola County, and the city of Orlando or any other central government -- central Florida government allowing or agreeing to allow any private developer or property owner to have this sort of control over a government and the officials that run it.


CONTORNO: Now, DeSantis -- now Disney stands by its actions. And yesterday, they sent us a statement about this, saying "all agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open notice public forums in compliance with Florida's government in the Sunshine Law." So, clearly, another chapter in the saga is opening up and it's going to be a legal one.

WALKER: Yes. That battle between DeSantis and Disney, not over just yet. Steve Contorno, I appreciate that. Thank you.

Well, California getting hit again by more snow. More than two feet fell in some areas in just 24 hours. This has already been a winter season for the ages with record snowfall and torrential rains.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevadas joins me now. Wow, Stephanie. This is really unprecedented, isn't it?

STEPHANIE ELAM CNN CORRESPONDENT: It -- I mean, it really is amazing to see this much snow. And let me just paint the picture of how much snow is out here, Amara. Look at this sign here. You can see that there's a parking sign here. It's pretty much all absconded.

Look at how much snow I'm standing over underneath here. They're talking about three -- 700 inches of snow that has fallen here in Mammoth Lakes, approaching three feet in just the last couple of days here. And you can see that this is just stacked up. The social dilemma, nowhere to put it. That's approaching like a six-story building blanketing several places here.

You can see, since we've been out here all night, fresh snow, it's still coming down more and more fresh snow. Basically, all of this is what has been impacting and giving us this record year that we are seeing here for the Sierra.

[11:55:05] The Mammoth Lakes is saying this is the most snow that they've ever recorded in a March, that they even know of. And so now they're saying that they're going to keep their resort open until the end of July because there's been so much snow.

And this is good news for the drought because the drought here in California, the new numbers are off in the U.S. Drought Monitor. And just 1 percent of the state now is in severe drought. So, you can see, this makes a difference. And take a look across the street, Amara, just for more visuals of just how crazy and how much snow has fallen and how they're just pushing it up and out of the way. It's just -- really, I know I keep saying it, but it really is an unbelievable amount of snow up here.

WALKER: No, no, I get it. You know, talking to my parents in California -- I mean, they're grateful for, you know, all that rain. And the drought -- the severe drought being eliminated for now, but I think they're at a point where they're like, well give us a little bit more sunshine and less rain.

Stephanie Elam, thanks for braving those non-California-esque conditions for us. Thank you very much.

And thank you for watching. I'm Amara Walker. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after the break.