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Biden Arrives In MS To Visit Communities Impacted By Tornado; NYPD Ramping Up Security Ahead Of Trump's Court Appearance; Vatican: Pope Francis To Participate In Palm Sunday Mass. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 11:30   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Now, to new fallout after a Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in Russia. This morning, President Biden weighed in on that. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message for Russia right now as they're detaining --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To Russia as they're detaining this Wall Street Journal reporter.

BIDEN: Let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to expel Russian diplomats or journalists?

BIDEN: That's not the plan right now.


WALKER: Russia accuses journalist Evan Gershkovich of stealing state secrets and faces 20 years in prison. The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies those espionage claims. Russia claims the U.S. has not reached out about securing Gershkovich's release, something a former Russian captive, Trevor Reed, told CNN this morning needs to happen quickly.


TREVOR REED, AMERICAN FREED FROM RUSSIA: I want to see some definite action. You know, they're going to have to make some type of agreement to get him out. I don't know if that's going to involve prisoner exchange. Obviously, there's a lot of different things that go into those negotiations. But I think that it's our government's duty to do whatever it takes to get innocent Americans out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALKER: Meantime, the president has just arrived in Mississippi where he is going to get a first-hand look at the damage, the devastation caused by a deadly tornado last week. Priscilla Alvarez is live and Rolling Fork, Mississippi. That is an area that was one of the hardest hit. And this visit comes with a backdrop of the former president's indictment. What's the latest, Priscilla?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (on camera): Well, President Biden intends to commit to give -- providing federal resources to this community. And, Amara, it is hard to overstate the devastation left behind by these tornadoes.


You see it behind me. This was actually a dog clinic, according to a resident here, followed by a home and a funeral home. But you wouldn't be able to tell just because it is all debris now. And this is what President Biden will be assessing as he makes his way here.

Now, President Biden will announce that the federal government is going to cover the full cost of state emergency measures. What does that include? Debris removal, shelter operations, as well as overtime for first responders. FEMA will also be opening disaster recovery centers. And while he's here, President Biden will get a briefing from federal and state officials.

But, of course, all of this comes against the backdrop of that historic indictment of former President Trump. Now, Biden declined to comment this morning on his way to Mississippi. And that is really in line with the strategy that he has taken over the course of his presidency, which is not to weigh in on ongoing legal cases, and also to focus on the issues that have a tangible effect on Americans. So, while he's expected to continue to get questions on that throughout the day, his focus and the focus of the White House is going to be on the damage here in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and getting the resources here and quickly. Amara.

WALKER: I'm sure that's something that people there want to hear because entire neighborhoods were leveled during the storm. And we don't want to forget that. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very much there on the ground.

And we will continue our coverage of Donald Trump's indictment by a New York Grand Jury. Up next. What security measures are being taken ahead of his unprecedented hearing next week in New York?



WALKER: The city of New York is ramping up security as former President Trump prepares to appear in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday. The NYPD is requiring all officers to be in uniform starting today. CNN's Brynn Gingras is in New York. Hi, Brynn. How else is the city preparing? BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Amara, we're outside 100 Centre. That is the courthouse where the arraignment likely will happen on Tuesday. I want to kind of give you a look at what we're seeing here.

You can see the barricades that are up all around this courthouse and even across the street, and the police officers as you just mentioned in full uniform and a very large presence. Obviously, this is not typically normally what we would see outside of this particular courthouse. 35,000 police officers, doesn't matter the rank or the position, everyone from the NYPD told to be in uniform today. That is a presence of police just in case anything should happen.

Inside that courthouse, Amara, I'm also told on the floor where this arraignment is likely to happen, it's pretty much shut down to particular people. There are security there making sure anyone who shouldn't be on that floor is not. So, that is already beginning today.

Of course, a lot of this preparation behind-the-scenes, intelligence officials looking into the chatter, online discussions on message boards and social media about a possible mobilization of protests or demonstrations. That's all being analyzed at this point with police ready to respond in case something should come up today, going in all the way until Tuesday and after.

And my colleague John Miller also reporting that there are discussions, of course, between all the parties, Secret Service, the court officials, the NYPD about how this arraignment will happen, what does it look like as far as the motorcade for the former president coming to this building being booked, and then actually going through the court proceedings. He's also told a dry run is expected today. So, listen, no credible threats from what we're hearing so far. But, of course, this is a huge Police Department huge law enforcement presence here ready to react should anything pop up, Amara.

WALKER: Well, you just miss -- mentioned John Miller, so we'll get him right after you. Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.

And joining us now is CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller. John, good to see you. Yes, tell us more about what you're learning in terms of this coordination. Obviously, a lot is going to go into this. Your reporting of a dry run happening today. What more can you tell us about the behind-the-scenes events that are going on?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT & INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, as Brynn was talking about, you know, it's not your average surrender of a white-collar criminal defendant. You know, you've got somebody under Secret Service protection, who's a former president of the United States who has to be moved in his secure motorcade from wherever he starts out to the courthouse. He has to come into the district attorney's office and be booked. And then he has to be brought to a courtroom after his fingerprints and mug shots are taken for an arraignment. And there's a couple of ways to do that. In that massive building that you see on the screen next to me, there are public hallways, there are back hallways that prisoners are moved through. So, the purpose of the walkthrough today is to let the court officers who actually control that building and security in that building, work with Secret Service and NYPD to say, we'll bring him in this way, he'll go here, then we'll transport him either this back way or through the normal channels to this courtroom and then this is how we will get him out of the building.

So, the walkthrough today is to make sure that everybody's on the same page, court officers, NYPD, and the Secret Service detail that protects Donald Trump still. That it's up to everybody's standards about how they want this done and how to keep it secure.

WALKER: Yes. It all makes sense that they have to have these conversations. So, that's regarding Trump and his security. What about you know, potential protests or you know, unforeseen events? I mean, what are you hearing about you know what investigators and police and authorities are looking at right now to make sure that they're you know, prepare for anything that may pop up?


MILLER: So that's three essential things, which is, one, is there going to be a showing large or small of Trump supporters at the courthouse on Tuesday? So far, no sign of that. Going here yet, Donald Trump calling for that. You do see some social media posting about it. But you don't see a groundswell of people saying that they're coming.

So, so far, that hasn't materialized. And it still could. We have the whole weekend to go through on Monday and whatever messaging may come from the Trump camp in between.

Number two. The anti-Trump protesters. And even if you have a small group of one and a small group of the other part of the choreography for a police department is keeping them separate so you don't have a clash outside that attracts you know, attention and disorder, even if it's not with a large group of people. And the last piece is you know, just following the information on various dark corners of social media where they've been seeing threats against the district attorney, threats against the courthouse, threats -- to assess those threats and determine, you know, which ones require further investigation, which ones you know, appear to be hot air. But they're --

WALKER: Right.

MILLER: -- they're making sure that they stay on that radar to listen to the pitch and tone of what's going on.

WALKER: Yes, they obviously have a lot of work on their hands. John Miller, appreciate you as always, thank you so much.

MILLER: Thanks.

WALKER: Well, the Vatican is giving an update on Pope Francis's health and when he's expected to be released from the hospital. A live report next.

But first, a quick look at the markets right now. Stocks are up after the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation found prices cooled back down in February after taking up unexpectedly the month before.



WALKER: We are hearing new and distressing 911 calls from witnesses of Monday's massacre at Covenant School in Nashville.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please send someone soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many more shots did you hear?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the church right by the fire station ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So, it's -- where on this side of the fire station?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, there's children here.


WALKER: Meanwhile, the first funeral for a victim of the shooting will be held today. Family and friends will gather to honor nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus. CNN's Carlos Suarez is outside the church where that funeral will be held. Hi, there, Carlos. What more do we know about today's service?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Amara, we know that that funeral service is scheduled to get underway at three o'clock local. And we're told that the church here behind me can accommodate over a thousand people. We're expecting family, friends, and loved ones to show up here to remember nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus. An obituary that was released overnight of the child describes her faith as being pure and that her prayers were sincere. She was described as just being a beacon of joy to her family.

Now, on Saturday, we're also going to see a funeral service for nine- year-old Hallie Scruggs. She was one of the three children that died in this shooting. We're also expected to possibly see some more of her family.

We know that her father, the lead pastor of the school's church, he was heard in one of the 911 calls that was released yesterday. In that call, you can hear the father telling a 911 operator that he was going to go inside of the school after hearing that there have been a shooting. It does not appear that the father at any point during that call was aware of the fact that his daughter had been shot. On Saturday, we're also going to be seeing another funeral service. This one's going to be for 61-year-old Cynthia Peak. She was a beloved school teacher. And then the remaining funerals, Amara, we're told are going to take place on sun -- on Sunday, and then as well on Monday and then on Wednesday. Amara.

WALKER: Just more heartbreaking the more we hear about these victims. Carlos Suarez, thank you very much.

Well, Pope Francis will participate in a Palm Sunday Mass at St Peter's Square this weekend. A Vatican spokesperson told CNN the 86- year-old pontiff is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Saturday. CNN's Delia Gallagher is outside his hospital in Rome. Delia, that's great news. The pontiff seems to be doing well.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Absolutely, Amara, good news all the way around for Pope Francis. The Vatican says he rested well last night, even managed to have pizza for dinner last night with some of the medical staff that was taking care of him here at Gemelli hospital.

And this afternoon, Amara, he visited the pediatric oncology unit here. He brought chocolate Easter eggs and rosaries to the children and even baptized a newborn baby boy, Miguel Angel. So, the pope has been busy during his day here.

For bronchitis, he received antibiotics intravenously. The Vatican says he's expected to be discharged tomorrow. And importantly, expected to participate in the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday. So, we will be able to see him and hear from him for the first time since being in the hospital.

We're going into a very busy week, Holy Week, leading up to Easter. There are a number of public events, so we'll be able to see Pope Francis and how his health is.

It's a delicate moment for him. He's 86 years old, and he's just getting over about with bronchitis. He has some mobility issues, so we'll see how he gets on this coming week at the Vatican. Amara.


WALKER: I mean, following ill, the time, you seem to be so you know, bad timing. And then now you see that he's doing so well, you're like well, the time was perfect, just in time for Easter.

Delia, I know you'd -- you know, understand the people. You're in the community, especially when the news broke. You know, give us a sense of how people were feeling and kind of glued to the news to see how the pontiff was doing.

GALLAGHER: Look, there was a lot of concern on Wednesday afternoon because they had told us there had been complaints about him not being able to breathe. That was a surprise to a lot of people. So, Wednesday evening, a lot of concern but as of Thursday, with the diagnosis and certainly today, a lot of relief. Amara. WALKER: Great news into our hour. Delia Gallagher, thank you for that.

Thank you for your time. I'm Amara Walker. "INSIDE POLITICS," after the break.