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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Donald Trump Hires New Defense Attorney; CNN Poll Shows Majority Of Americans Approve Indictment; Trump Releases Fundraising Video Amid Indictment; Nikki Haley Calls Indictment "Political Revenge"; Russia Detains Suspect In Deadly St. Petersburg Explosion; Police: Shooter Fired 152 Rounds, Planned Attack For Months; At Least 32 People Dead After Tornadoes Rip Across The Midwest, South; Experts Say One Of China's Biggest Shopping Apps Can Spy On Users. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 03, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I see on Truth Social, he's using this perp walk of sorts to raise funds. Beyond the blaster (ph) though, based on your conversations with people around him, based on covering him, how do you think he's actually feeling right now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I think he's obviously concerned. He's not publicly projecting that when you talk to people who had conversations with him about this, Jake. He obviously is not someone who wants to be indicted, certainly not in a case that is as personally sensitive as this one is, because it's not just the hush money payments. It's the affair at the heart of the hush money payments, which we should note Trump has denied.

And you're right, Jake. This is all very carefully choreographed by Trump's team. They know that this is footage that they want to use in campaign ads. Clearly, they're already using it to try to fundraise. But also, they plan to use it going forward, knowing that it is going to be essentially everywhere. You know, they talked about what his body language would look like. They talked about his facial expression. So they are choreographing that part of it before this short appearance tomorrow.

i - when you - Jake, the president isn't playing golf in Mar-a-Lago this weekend. He was having dinner per normal. He had dinner with the First Lady on Thursday night when word of this indictment came down. But I think it's also important to note, as we look at this in the broader context, part of why Trump ran for re-election was driven by the investigations into him, when he announced so early, that was a big factor into that.

It's certainly a significant one at the time that people around him discussed when you announced this so early. So when you hear his legal team, when you hear his political advisors say that this is a politically motivated investigation, they believe that isn't part something that Trump wanted to be able to argue, to say I am a 2024 candidate, here are these investigations into me, which is obviously something we expect them from them going forward. TAPPER: Jeff, Trump is inside Trump Tower right now with his

attorneys, with his political advisors. Do we know specifically who is in there and what they might be talking about?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we did see him enter Trump Tower a just a short time ago and other words, you know, just a few dozen supporters here, unclear if he could hear them talking or not. But they were, of course, talking about his presidential campaign. But really now these are entwined. He entered this building as the leading Republican presidential candidate. But for now, at least for the next 24 hours here in his native New York City, he, of course, is a - participating in something that's outside of its control the legal system.

So I'm told he is going to be huddling with his political advisors and his legal advisers, unclear if those are in person meetings or if they are on the phone. But this, of course, is a building that has so much significance. It was eight years ago this summer when he came down the escalator, announced his presidential bid. Almost hard to believe, coming back here as a front running presidential candidate. But I'm told he will be meeting with advisors this evening, some family members likely as well, but all getting ready for that moment tomorrow because this is something of all his years in New York in business, in politics, entertainment, he has never done what he's going to do tomorrow. Walk into a Manhattan courtroom and appear before a judge.

But they quickly want to pivot beyond that. I'm already looking forward to the speech he'll be scheduled to give tomorrow evening in Mar-a-Lago when he's going to sort of frame what he believes are the charges against him. So politically speaking, they're actually pretty happy with what this has done. Frozen the presidential race, first and foremost, raised a lot of money. But also in the long term, it is very much unclear.

Of course, this is not the only legal case that's looming for him. He has others as well. But for now, at least, this is something that he's going to enter tomorrow in a very serious manner because this is a serious criminal manner, which he knows.

TAPPER: It is, indeed. Jeff Zeleny, Katelyn Collins at Trump Tower for us. Thank you so much.

Let's get right to CNN's Kara Scannell who's covering this unprecedented event from outside the Manhattan criminal courthouse where Donald Trump will be tomorrow. Carol, walk us through what to expect tomorrow.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, from Trump Tower, the former president will get in a motorcade. He'll be driven down here by the Secret Service, and then he will self-surrender. It's a real significant moment. He will turn himself in. And from there, he'll be processed. Now, this is going to follow the normal course, but there will be some exceptions because he's the president.

He is expected to arrive mid-afternoon. He will be fingerprinted. It's unclear if he will have his mug shot taken because there are some concerns that it could leak. But then he will walk down the hallway, the same hallway that drug dealers walk down, the same hallway that his former adviser, Steve Bannon, walked down and appeared before the judge.

Now, at that hearing, it's usually a pretty brief hearing, the judge will ask if he wants this indictment to be read, usually that's waved, and then he will be asked to enter a plea. And as Trump's attorneys say, he will plead not guilty. From there, his team says he will head straight to the airport and back to Florida.

But now, we are waiting for two key decisions from the judge overseeing this case. The media, including CNN, has asked the judge to allow cameras in the courtroom, saying this is of such public interest. It is a momentous occasion. It is a historic occasion. The public should be able to watch this. Now, Trump's lawyers have opposed it, saying that it will only add to what is they expect to be a circus-like atmosphere.


They also say it could harm the former president's presumption of innocence to have images of him walking down the courtroom and being before the judge sitting behind a defendant's table.

Now, the D.A.'s office has said that they are not weighing in on this, one way or the other, although they have said that in the past the judges have allowed a still camera, a regular photographer to come in and take photographs before the proceeding starts. So, we're still waiting for the judge to rule on that.

Now, CNN and other media organizations have also asked the judge to unseal the indictment. Before then, we're still waiting to see if the judge will do that, and Trump, in the meantime, is beefing up his legal team, adding a new criminal defense lawyer, and I'm told he will be in the courtroom tomorrow as well. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kara Scannell outside the Manhattan Criminal Court. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in Former Trump White House Lawyer Jim Shultz. He resigned in 2017 after nearly a year as Chief White House Ethics Lawyer. Thanks for joining us. So early in Trump's presidency, you had a front row seat to a host of legal challenges. Obviously, we have yet to see the indictment unsealed that will happen tomorrow. What do you think of what we know about the indictment?

JIM SHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: We don't really know a lot at this point, except for the fact that it involves the business records issue. And the question is whether that busy -- how that is going to be bolstered to a felony, right? Is it gonna be campaign finance issues? Is it gonna be tax issues? We don't know that yet, we'll know tomorrow there. It's a voluminous indictment from what and -- with multiple counts. So we know that, but we don't know what's gonna be contained and how they're going to frame that felony -- that felony charge. TAPPER: As you just heard, Trump has hired a new lead counsel for this case, Todd Blanche, who once represented Paul Manafort, and also Igor Fruman, one of Giuliani's former associates. He did this the day before the arraignment. What do you -- what do you make of that?

SHULTZ: Look, he's -- now, that there's an indictment, he is bolstering his legal team. That's what I make of it and he's looking into, you know, bring as much talent to the table as he can and folks that are gonna put his best foot forward in terms of making the arguments they both -- they need to make in front of a jury eventually, and perhaps, you know, to the court of law on appeal.

TAPPER: Not only has Trump attacked the district attorney. Now, surprisingly, he is on -- also going after the jury. He's also going after the judge. He's also re-truthing posts that I think it's fair to call just plain deranged. This one, from just yesterday, that he re- truthed says, we know for a proven fact that Obama, Biden, Comey, Hillary, Rice and endless colluders all lied, spied and tried to frame Trump using the FISA cords, illegal leaks and fake news to destroy candidate Trump, President-elect Trump, number 45 President Trump. I'll spare you the rest.

How do you think future generations are going to look back on Donald Trump spending his time boosting kind of wild messages like that?

SHULTZ: So I don't know how history's gonna look upon that, probably not favorably. But I think that's -- that is a clear indicator of what the strategy is gonna be, which is Clark and back, that this is a witch hunt, that this is something that's unjustified that he's being politically persecuted.

The bottom line is all these cases, including DOJ case, the Georgia case and the Manhattan district attorney's case, we're underway before he was an announced candidate, and I think that's important to note. And you know, look, this Manhattan district attorney has to make certain decisions and has prosecutorial discretion over how he can use his resources in his office. He's chosen to take on this case and it's gonna have to stand behind it, win or lose.

TAPPER: So, the judge, Juan Merchan, who's no stranger to Trump's orbit, on Friday, Trump claimed that the judge hates him. Trump's attorney walked that back, told CNN that he thought that Judge Merchan was a fair but tough judge, though Donald Trump was allowed to have his opinion, which, of course, is true. But have you ever had a representative defendant who went after and attacked the judge? I'm just -- that must really bother his attorneys.

SHULTZ: It's certainly uncommon, right? But welcome to the world that's representing Donald Trump, right? I think -- I think you've seen this time and time again where he goes out and says something we thought through the impeachment proceedings and other things, where he'll go out and say something. He slurs, he'll walk it back and say something else, his lawyers will walk it back. I think you're gonna expect to see that, a lot of that throughout this proceeding.

TAPPER: All right. Former Trump White House Attorney Jim Shultz. Thank you so much, appreciate your time.

SHULTZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up. How strong is this case against Donald Trump? We're gonna ask our legal experts to break it down, next.

Plus, deadly tornadoes sweeping through the south and a new storm threat is on the way. The death toll this year is already twice the number of tornado deaths for all of last year. And we're not even at the peak of the season yet. Stay with us.




TAPPER: Continuing our politics lead Donald Trump has hired a new attorney. This is just one day before he faces criminal charges, related, we believe, to business fraud. He'll be doing that tomorrow in a Manhattan Court. Todd Blanche will be the new lead counsel in the Manhattan district attorney case. In years past, Mr. Blanche has represented Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as Igor Fruman, a former Rudy Giuliani Associate.

Here to discuss, CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rogers, a Former Federal Prosecutor and Lecturer at Columbia University School of Law. Also with us, Charlie Savage, National Security and Legal Reporter for "The New York Times."

Jennifer, this new hire comes amid criticism that a current Trump attorney, Joe Tacopina, has a conflict of interest because as a legal pundit, he previously speculated that Trump's affair with Stormy Daniels likely happened. Do you think that this move with Mr. Blanche is related to that?

JENNIFER ROGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think so, Jake. Because Joe Tacopina says he didn't actually get any confidential information from Stormy Daniels. In which case, there wouldn't really be a conflict here. It may be that the former president is unhappy with the fact that those comments by Tacopina were made and we had all those side by side TV segments about that. So he may be looking to add to his legal team because he's not happy with Joe Tacopina.


But you know, this is the time when you would add someone. He has actually been indicted now.

ROGERS: They're going to start going to court. It's not so surprising that he would add someone to the team and Todd Blanche is a very experienced defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. So he seems like a good pick for that.

TAPPER: So, Charlie, officials in the New York say that there is no major security threat in New York as of right now, based on the intelligence they have. How does this differ from the lead up to January 6th? Do you think the New York, the NYPD has -- is better prepared?

CHARLIE SAVAGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL REPORTER: I mean, there's no doubt that because of the example of January 6th in the backdrop, everyone is looking for the problem in a way that we know now that people were not really on the ball about what was developing on the internet in terms of threats ahead of January 6th.

Then in retrospect, you could go back and say, why didn't people's hair get lit on fire by this, by this, by this. We don't -- the mayor is sending out the message. They've had some threats. They looked at it. They don't think they're credible. Of course, no one wants to say, well, then I guess there's no problem here until we get through the day.

But I don't -- you also get the sense from the broader Trump world that they know - that, that violence would not be great. Notwithstanding Trump's out there, stoking protests, protests, protests and making fun of the idea of peacefully -- they tell us to be peaceful. It doesn't look like it would be in their interest to have another January 6th either.

TAPPER: One would hope.

Jennifer, we're expecting this indictment will be unsealed by tomorrow afternoon when Trump appears and formally faces charges. There are reportedly more than 30 charges. It seems like it could be a strong case in terms of misdemeanor fraud. I mean, all the facts are pretty much out there. We know them already in terms of paying off Stormy Daniels, as well as the paying off Karen McDougal, if that's added to it.

But because the misdemeanor business fraudulence is related to campaign finance laws or tax laws, that's what makes it a felony under this theory. Do you think it's an open and shut case? What do you think?

ROGERS: I think, factually, it's quite a strong case, you know. To prove that enhancement, they just have to prove that the hush money -- the hush money payments were made in order to influence the campaign. The timing strongly suggests that they were also the information with the Karen McDougal payoff as you referenced. That indicated it was specifically done to benefit the campaign in advance of the election. So factually, it's a strong case.

Legally, as folks have been saying, it's not a well-tested legal theory. That won't come into play at the trial. They'll make a motion based on that to the judge before trial. I think they will survive that motion, and then if he's convicted, it will be an appellate issue. But factually, it's fairly straightforward and I think fairly open and shut as you said.

TAPPER: Yeah. And Charlie, what are the odds, do you think, that the judge looks at the indictment, here's all the evidence, and says, you know what? There really isn't enough to -- to proceed? I find -- I'm very skeptical that would happen.

SAVAGE: I can imagine that Alvin Bragg would go this far if there was a realistic risk of that. I mean, we have to be careful. I know it's been said on this program and others many times in the last few days. We don't know what's in this indictment.

TAPPER: Right.

SAVAGE: We don't know what that theory is that turns misdemeanor bookkeeping fraud into a felony. It could be this campaign thing that people are talking about, could be a tax thing as you mentioned. Until we see, we don't know what Bragg's theory of the case is. But he doesn't strike me as a prosecutor who is unbelievably reckless in a way that he would throw up something a judge real -- would realistically throw out without any more to do.

TAPPER: All right, Charlie Savage and Jennifer Rogers. Thanks to both of you, really appreciate.

Still ahead. Donald Trump already fundraising off this trip. This, what one wag called a rich man's perp walk from Florida to New York for the arraignment. Will this help Donald Trump in the 2024 race?

Plus, an update on the American "Wall Street Journal" reporter being detained in Russia. The Secretary of State now weighing in. Stay with us.




TAPPER: And our politics lead a significant majority, 60% of the American people tell CNN in a new poll that they approve of the indictment of Donald Trump. Democrats are nearly universal in their support. A whopping 94% say they approve of the indictment; 62% of independents say they favor the indictment; 21% of Republicans say they support the indictment.

Let's discuss. Sanguine, so Trump and most of his likely 2024 challengers are slamming this indictment. I mean, it's really, actually remarkable. But 62% of Independents, according to this poll, say that they approve of the indictment.

SEUNG MIN KIM, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right, right. Well, right now, in terms of politics, they're fighting a race in the primary, which is why you see Trump once again defined the laws of political gravity. Because I mean, on a very basic level, being indicted is not a good thing for a human being, and yet, Trump has found a way to make this into a political advantage.

He said -- his team says he has raised $7 million since his indictment became official. Now, we'll wait for the campaign records to confirm that in the coming weeks. You know, obviously, his polling has not only, you know, sustained itself but continued to rise in the last couple of weeks.

So, this is why you see so many of his primary challengers coming to his defense that I actually thought what the Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said today was really interesting, where he's talked about not being able to kind of get that oxygen, get that attention amid all these indictment news, and he's not wrong about that.


TAPPER: You know, what's interesting there, Sarah, is that I haven't heard anyone of the people defending him -- defending Donald Trump. And it's like basically every Republican running against him or would -- who will run against him is defending him, and every House Republican, every Senate Republican. I haven't heard one say, there's no way that Donald Trump slept with a porn star just a few weeks after his son was born.

SARAH MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I think the closest we saw was like Ron DeSantis being like, I don't really know how it works when you're paying these hush money payments --

TAPPER: Right. Right.

MURRAY: -- to these porn stars, I'm not familiar with that sort of thing.

TAPPER: Right.

MURRAY: But even then, you know he has been, you know, vigorously defending Donald Trump, calling it a political prosecution. I do think that we are sort of back in the same place we were, you know, a couple years ago when in a Republican primary, people really do not know how to run against this guy. They're basically out there complimenting him when this, you know, city, going into an indictment day would be a pretty potent line of political attack, you would imagine.

TAPPER: So, let -- let me turn to the campaign hands that we have here. Can you imagine if you were working on --

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. I can't imagine any of those.

TAPPER: Let's just say like, DeSantis or Haley or Asa Hutchinson, can you imagine working in those campaigns and just -- you said it during the commercial break --

MADDEN: Right.

TAPPER: -- our opponent just got indicted. Let's defend him. That's your line. I mean, it's nuts.

MADDEN: Why are they even running? If you're running in a primary against Donald Trump, you have to draw a contrast. You have to give the voters a reason to vote for you against Donald Trump. So, it -- to me, it doesn't make any sense on why they're doing this. I think the biggest concern I'd have if I was inside this primary is, every one of these candidates that's running against him thinks they're making the same mistake that they made in 2016, is they think Donald Trump is not their problem.

They think he's either going to self-destruct or somebody else can take him out, and then they can still maintain their appeal to the Republican base. They can't. That's not gonna happen. This nomination is not going to fall to you via luck or via some other fortunate happenstance. You have to go and get it. Are they going to go and get the answer right now is no.

TAPPER: And what do you think? If you were, just pretend that, just take the Republican politics out of it for a second. How would you advise a candidate running against Donald Trump to handle this, a Republican?

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: I would go after him. I mean, it -- this is free press almost for you to attack, attack, attack, attack and make the case, not just on issues about, you know, how you're different but on the moral character that you need to have to hold the Office of President and that this person, Donald Trump, does not have.

It's telling, though, again, because we say every election cycle like well, Donald Trump survived this one. If he survives an indictment, I mean, kudos to him, I suppose. Because I don't understand why Republicans are not sitting already in office, not even running for election but giving them some space to distance themselves now, but instead they're just falling behind him, and it's not good.

MADDEN: They're looking at the polls and they say, okay, well, that's -- right now, the candidates are the Republic -- or the Republican voters are supporting him. But polls are snapshots. Those numbers are not gonna change unless you go out and make a daily, sustained attack on Donald Trump or give the voters a reason to start moving towards you away from him. Absent that --

ALLISON: And I think if they all -- if all Republicans unified against Donald Trump, it actually would skew in their favor and clear the field of him to potentially become a has been of the Republican Party.

TAPPER: And meanwhile, take a look at this. This is Trump just posted this video of him traveling in his motorcade on his -- as it was remarked on Twitter, rich man's perp walk, writing, quote, "If you are doing poorly as so many of you are, do not send anything. If you're doing well, send your contributions at" Trump, you know, claims to be a billionaire. He's now using his arrest to raise funds.

MURRAY: Well, yeah, I mean, look. Coming off of the search of Mar-a- Lago, they had this banner fundraising day, and they're trying to find a way to do that again. And, you know, seemingly, it's working. If you believe at least the numbers that the campaign is sharing, they're trying to turn this into an opportunity.

And again, everyone who is running against Donald Trump is helping them do it by essentially also saying that this is a political prosecution. It does make you wonder, you know, at what point voters could grow weary of this. If this is number one of multiple indictments, if we see an indictment in Georgia, if we see a federal indictment, are we going to hear all the Republican voices, saying all of these are politically motivated from all of these different prosecutors on all of these different issues or do voters start to look at us and say, I don't want to deal with this in 2024.

TAPPER: It is exhausting. And you noted how Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is taking a somewhat different tone from the other Republicans who are all in with Trump and all against District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Here is the Arkansas governor who says he's different from the others. Take a listen.


ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's gonna be some. They say I should be tougher on the prosecutor. I should be tougher on the unfairness of this. I've expressed my view that I wouldn't bring those charges, vows the prosecutor, but let's let the system work.

UNKNOWN: There are a lot of Republicans attacking that judicial system and that legal system right now.

HUTCHINSON: And I'm different.


TAPPER: So, there is, you know, some nuance there with Hutchinson.

KIM: Right, right. And what I find interesting about his approach so far is that he goes out of his way to emphasize that he's not -- he's the non-Trump alternative. He's not anti-Trump. So he does see that delicate line. He is trying to distance himself from kind of the Trump circus, the Trump show year, but not trying to alienate the voters that do find Donald Trump appealing.

And I think that's -- and how effective that is. We'll see how far he goes. I do think, though, what Ashley said earlier about that sustained attack on Donald Trump. I do think his standing went down in part after the November midterms when you had all this frustration, all this vitriol from elected Republicans saying, Donald Trump and his handpicked candidates lost us these winnable races. So that could happen, but you're just not going to see that in this primary field. Yes.

TAPPER: Take a listen to Nikki Haley.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- you got a liberal prosecutor that's doing political revenge against a former president. I mean, that's not a precedent that you want to have here. Here you had multiple prosecutors that refused to actually prosecute this case, yet this guy's doing that. It doesn't make sense, and it's why the New York prosecutors are trying to waste our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the standard that I would prefer is not paying hush money to porn star. I'm not worried about the standard she's holding Alvin Bragg too. The people of New York elected Alvin Bragg, knowing that this case would probably come in his seat and probably his position on it. But the thing about it is the indictment was from a grand jury.

TAPPER: Right.

ALLISON: 24 people said, we think there's enough evidence to take this. Now, I'm curious, who can sit on this jury in this case? Who does it? How do you actually have an impartial jury in New York City out of all cities? So Nikki Haley is still playing to the Trump base. She's hoping that she can be his vice president if he ends up being the candidate. And that's all that was political fodder.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Trump base is going to go with Trump.



MADDEN: Nikki Haley is acting like a surrogate. She needs to act like a competitor.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, one and all. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a woman is arrested in the bombing that killed a popular Russian military blogger at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russian officials have released video of her interrogation. And that story is next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia has filed an appeal of his arrest. Evan Gershkovich was arrested last week on espionage charges he faces up to 20 years in a Russian prison. Charges that many are calling a guise for what this really is a hostage taking by Putin. That's a sentiment shared by Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian. Rezaian was unjustly imprisoned in Iran for more than a year until his release in 2016.

Meanwhile, Gershkovich will be held in a Russian pretrial detention center until May 29th. This is the first time an American journalist has been detained on such questionable accusations by Moscow since the Cold War.

Russian authorities say they've detained a person they claim was involved in Sunday's bombing at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia. The explosion injured dozens of people and killed a prominent pro-Russian military blogger who was outspoken in his support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This as a humanitarian organization called Save the Children marked a tragic milestone of this barbaric war. At least 501 children have been killed in Ukraine since Russia's invasion began more than a year ago.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin for us. And Fred, let's start with the St. Petersburg, Russia bombing. We're also getting new images of the incident. Tell us what they show.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we certainly are, Jake. And of course, the Russians have now said this is a terror investigation. They are classifying this as an act of terror. And they have, in fact, put out some new video, which appears to show the direct run up to that bombing that took place.

And, you know, one of the things that we see on that video is we see Tatarsky, Vladlen Tatarsky, the blogger who was killed, he got a statuette from someone in that crowd at that event that he was at. And the investigators believe that it was in that statuette that the explosives were hidden inside there.

Now we see the direct run up to the explosion. We also see some of the direct aftermath of that. And of course, the person who's in custody, is Darya Treptova -- or Trepova. The authorities are saying that she gave him that statue. And later what they did is they had her in custody, they interrogated her, they put some of that video out.

We're not going to show a lot of that video because obviously it appears as though she may have been under duress there. They ask her, do why you're here? She says, because I gave the statue to Vladlen Tatarsky. Now she was then asked where she got that statue at from and she said at that point in time, she didn't want to say.

The Russians, for their part, Jake, are saying now that they believe that Ukrainian intelligence planned all of this. And also that there might have been people from Alexei Navalny's organization, of course, the opposition leader who's been in prison for a very long time, also part of this as well.

Navalny's organization has denied that. The Ukrainian government has essentially laughed all that off and said the Russians need to look inward before they look anywhere else. But certainly, a very high profile investigation that's going on there by the Russians. And, in fact, there's going to be a preventive detention hearing going on for Ms. Trepova in the early morning hours of tomorrow, Jake.

TAPPER: Can you tell if this is having any effect on Russians, especially Russians who are supportive of the war in Ukraine?

PLEITGEN: Yes, you know what, I think it is and I think especially prominent Russians who are supportive of the war. If you look, for instance, at state run media in Russia, a lot of the propagandists there, but also a lot of the ideologues who sort of provide the ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine, for the war in Ukraine.

[17:40:00] One of the things that we have to keep in mind, Jake, is that this potentially is already the second high profile assassination that has taken place for someone who is very prominent hardline for the war. In August of last year, you had Darya Dugina, who's the daughter of a very prominent ideologue, who was killed in Moscow by a car bomb as she was driving away from an event.

And she was someone who knew the person who was killed now, who knew Vladlen Tatarsky quite well. There's photos of them together. So certainly this is having a chilling effect on that community where they now feel that they're not necessarily safe in Russia as well.

TAPPER: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Turning back to our politics lead, the Manhattan case is not, of course, the only legal fight Donald Trump is facing right now. It's just the most immediate. Let's bring in Wolf Blitzer, who's preparing for The Situation Room in a few minutes. And Wolf, you're going to be taking a look at some of the other cases Trump's facing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're going to be taking a closer look, Jake. The former president clearly caught up in a web of criminal investigations right now. Obviously, the case in New York is front and center, at least for right now. He's also facing mounting legal trouble on multiple other fronts.

At the federal level, for example, the special counsel, Jack Smith, is digging into Trump's role in the events leading up to the January 6 insurrection. He's also leading the probe into the hundreds of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. And in Georgia, a special grand jury has delivered its report on the pressure campaign by Trump and his allies against state officials after the 2020 presidential election.

We'll get into all of that and a lot more. That's coming up right at the top of the hour in The Situation Room.

TAPPER: All right, we'll be sure to watch. Wolf, thank you so much. We'll see you in The Situation Room just a few minutes.

Still ahead, police release new and stunning information about the Nashville school shooter. Plus, deadly tornadoes ripped through the south as a new storm threat grows today during this already devastating tornado season.



TAPPER: In our national lead, new details about last week's deadly school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. Police say that the shooter fired more than 150 rounds of ammunition, killing six people, including three nine year old children. CNN's Isabel Rosales is in Nashville. And Isabel, what more did police reveal about the shooter today? ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, exactly one week from the shooting to the day, we are getting brand new information from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. And via statement they have found that Audrey Hale, quote, acted totally alone.

Now, a crucial piece of evidence here for these investigators are the writings that Hale left behind and that they recovered from the school parking lot and also from their bedroom inside of their house. Now, through these writings, they have figured out that Hale didn't do this in a spur of a moment activity. This was planned for months in advance and that Hale also looked to the actions of previous mass murderers in that planning stages.

I also did speak with Dr. Bryanna Fox, she is a professor at the University of South Florida, studying criminology and teaching criminology. She was also a former FBI special agent. Here's what she had to say about the importance of these writings.


BRYANNA FOX, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Most beneficial thing that can come from reading the manifesto written by the shooter is were there red flags so we can see the descent into this? And what was done and, you know, what was the motivation for that person to do it? So we can see in the future, if those red flags pop up, how to intervene to see something and say something faster.


ROSALES: Now, the motive for this shooting that has not been established by police, they released that in the statement today. They're still investigating that as well as the writings. They're not quite done with this as well. So this is a joint action by the Nashville Police Department and the FBI. Jake?

TAPPER: And Isabel, meanwhile, hundreds of people, including students gathered at the state Capitol today calling for tighter gun laws.

ROSALES: Yes, just this morning, there were hundreds of children, teenagers, parents, standing right here at this plaza in front of the Capitol here chanting, save our children. Protect our children. Holding up signs, demanding accountability from politicians, insisting and demanding gun reform.

Some of them mentioned an all-out ban on assault weapons, something that's not likely to happen here politically in Tennessee. Others asking instead for red flag laws that would allow judges to temporarily seize the guns of people that maybe are a threat to themselves or others. They're asking for that. That is a law that is not in existence here in Tennessee.

And interestingly, the governor, Bill Lee, he has said that he is open to discussing potentially passing that here in the state of Tennessee. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Isabel Rosales in Nashville for us. Thank you so much.

At least 32 people are dead after an onslaught of tornadoes ripped across the southern and Midwestern United States over the weekend. The twisters obliterated houses, they wiped out power. They left behind a mess of destruction. The danger, sadly, is far from over. Another round of severe weather is expected tomorrow.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in Wynne, Arkansas for us right now. Wynne, where the mayor says the city was cut in half. Derek, what have you been hearing from all those affected by this? And how does one even begin to now have to prepare for the next round of storms?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I posed that same question to people who survived this terrifying monster of a tornado, and they were pretty much dumbfounded. They could barely speak by the catastrophe that they see and witness around them. And this is a perfect example. We're kind of in an elevated position.

And Jake, this is what, 165 miles per hour winds is capable of. It looks like a bomb has been detonated here within Wynne, Arkansas. Absolutely, heartbreaking.


There's a lawnmower from somebody's garage. Hopefully my cameraman can see this piano here. I mean, this is clearly somebody's living room. Just terrifying moments. And unfortunately, what weighs heavily over mines of the residents here in Wynne, Arkansas, but not only here, all across the Midwest and the Deep South, is the threat of more violent tornadoes late Tuesday and into the day on Wednesday, some of which could be nocturnal, meaning they happen after the sunsets.

That is particularly dangerous and, of course, can catch people off guard. I spoke to residents here at a local Baptist church just over my left hand shoulder and asked them what they're doing to prepare for the oncoming threat of more tornadoes. Take a listen to Steven Johnson.


STEVEN JOHNSON, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It makes a whole lot. I mean, it's like losing your own home. And I stopped over to what it was, the rail yard, and walked over here. It was hard to take.

VAN DAM: You need to have multiple ways to get the notifications, right? Because these things, they come in fast and they come in hard and they change people's lives in a matter of moments, right?

JOHNSON: It don't take long. When you hear the sirens, go ahead and take cover.


JOHNSON: Jake, the number of tornadoes this year has been more than double than the entire year last year. That puts it into perspective how active it's been. TAPPER: And we're not even at the peak season yet. Derek Van Dam on Wynne, Arkansas. Thanks so much.

Turning to our tech lead, experts say one of China's most popular shopping apps has the ability to spy on its users. Pinduoduo can bypass users' cell phone security. It can even read private messages. This is according to cybersecurity researchers. The ecommerce platform has previously denied that its app is in any way malicious.

And as CNN's Kristie Lou Stout reports, Pinduoduo also has an international sister app that is quite popular here in the United States.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In China, Pinduoduo is an ecommerce heavyweight. It broke the dominance of Alibaba and JD thanks to its bargain bin prices, a social shopping model that encourages people to buy with friends, and a focus on lower income rural users. The app has more than 750 million monthly users in China, and the app is now under fire over malware.

(on-camera): Malware is short for malicious software, and CNN has spoken to an array of cybersecurity experts who say that they have identified malware in versions of Pinduoduo.

MIKKO HYPPONEN, CHIEF RESEARCH OFFICER, WITHSECURE: This is highly unusual, and it is pretty damning for Pinduoduo.

SHARAT SINHA, PRESIDENT, APAC AT CHECK POINT: We found that it uses techniques to get extended functionality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen anything like that before.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Cyber experts say the malware allows Pinduoduo to bypass users' cell phone security, monitor activities on other apps, check notifications, read private messages, and change settings. And once installed, it is difficult to delete. The app can also obtain user data, like this photo of a beloved pet taken from a user's album.

HYPPONEN: Well, we have to underline the fact that this isn't a problem for users in the west. People are using these third party app stores inside mainland China, and that's where the problem was, and that's where users should be worried about this.

LU STOUT (voice-over): In March, Google suspended Pinduoduo from its Play store after finding malware versions of the app. In a statement, Google said, "We have suspended the Play version of the app for security concerns while we continue our investigation."

Pinduoduo said it rejects the speculation and accusation that Pinduoduo app is malicious just from a generic and non-conclusive response from Google.

HYPPONEN: Our team has reverse engineered the code, and we can confirm that it tries to escalate rights. It tries to gain access to things normal apps wouldn't be able to do on Android phones.

LU STOUT (voice-over): CNN also spoke to a Pinduoduo employee who says the company in 2020 set up a team of about 100 engineers and product managers to dig for vulnerabilities in Android phones and develop ways to exploit them and make a profit. Speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals, the source says the team was disbanded on March 7, with many told they would be transferred to its sister app, Temu, but a core group of 20 people remain.

Pinduoduo's parent company, PDD Holdings, did not respond to CNN requests for comment. The allegations come as PDD pushes beyond China with Temu, which sells cut rate Chinese products to mainly U.S. customers. Launched in September, it quickly became the most downloaded app in the U.S.

SHAWN CHANG, FOUNDER & CEO, HARDENEDVAULT: Until the Pinduoduo can release something like the full disclosure of how did this incident happened, yes, probably before that, we shouldn't trust any applications from Pinduoduo.


LU STOUT (voice-over): Temu is still available to download on Google Play, but the suspension of its sister app Pinduoduo and the evidence of malware are all casting a cloud on the Nasdaq listed company at a time of heightened tension and security concerns over tech that's made in China.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Kristie Lu Stout for that report. The people in our out of this world lead still have their feet firmly planted on the ground. NASA today announced the crew for its Artemis 2 Moon mission. Commander Reid Wiseman will make the trip, along with some firsts when it comes to U.S. Moon missions. The first person of color, Victor Glover, the first woman, Christina Koch, and the first Canadian, Jeremy Hansen, all scheduled to launch in November 2024 to orbit the moon.

They will not land there. There's also a good chance they'll loop farther out from Earth than any humans ever have flown.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD from whence you get your podcast. Our coverage continue with Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". See you tomorrow.