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Menendez Pleads Not Guilty To New Charges In Alleged Bribery Scheme; At Least 50 People Injured On Flight To New Zealand; The Best Moments At The Oscars, Which Movie Took Home The Most. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 11, 2024 - 13:30   ET



JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But in the superseding indictment, prosecutors are alleging that both the Senator and his wife knew they were under investigation knew they were facing bribery charges and tried to make it out that instead of what instead of bribes, what they were receiving were loans.

So in other words, it was a loan for the money that they received to pay off their mortgage. It was a loan for that money that they received to buy that brand new Mercedes. Prosecutors saying that was simply not true.

Also alleging in the superseding indictment that they lied basically to their former attorneys and that those attorneys, then in turn, in meetings with U.S. attorneys, made misleading statements.

Now, again, the Senator and his wife, in addition to the two other defendants, have denied all of the allegations.

The Senator saying this is just the government trying to go after him.

Saying in a statement, "It says that the prosecutors are afraid of the facts, scared to subject their charges to the fair-minded scrutiny of a jury. It says, once and for all, that they will stop at nothing in their zeal to get at me."

Now, this trial had been scared scheduled for May 6th. And there was some question with a superseding indictment, if that would somehow be delayed, but the trial is still set for May 6th -- Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Jason Carroll, live outside the courthouse in New York for us. Thanks so much, Jason.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Let's talk more now about this expanding case against the Senator.

We have CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers, with us.

Thank you for going through this with us. Co-defendant, Jose Uribe, flipped just before this superseding

indictment came down in a court.

And according to "The New York Times," Jennifer, Uribe says he agreed to lie to investigators and to his own lawyer after he spoke to Nadine Menendez to say that the Mercedes payments that were made for her were actually a loan rather than a gift, which could obviously be seen as a bribe.

And Menendez and his wife, according to prosecutors, then lied to their own attorneys and, in turn, the court, as you saw there.

How problematic is this for the Senator and Nadine Menendez?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. This is a game changer, Brianna. Now they have a cooperating witness who was part of the scheme itself.

So he will have given them a lot of information about how the scheme worked. That's why we so additional substantive charges coming into the new indictment.

But he also gives them something else, the obstruction of justice part, the part where, after they all realized they were under investigation, they tried to cover it up by pretending that bribes were actually loans.

And that's so critical when you go to trial because jurors understand inherently the coverup, right? They understand getting caught with something, trying to make it seem like you didn't do what you did.

And so that's a really, really powerful tool that prosecutors use, both in a separate charge, like they have here, an obstruction of justice charge. But it also goes to consciousness of guilt for the underlying offenses as well.

So Jose Uribe flipping and now testifying at trial, as he will for the government, is a huge, huge benefit for government here.

KEILAR: What are you having to cover up if you didn't do something wrong, right? And that's certainly something they understand.

Nadine Menendez, it was -- it was she who met with Uribe initially to talk about how he was going to characterize this car payment.

Does that insulate the Senator at all if the Senator also had his lawyer lie, as prosecutors are alleging?

RODGERS: Not much. Not much. You know, they really pieced this together well, in the indictment, the prosecutors do. They show all of these communications, many of which were with the Senator's wife, Nadine Menendez.

And then they have calls to and from Nadine Menendez and her husband. But you also have to expect that some of their communications were not over the phone, right? They would have been in person. So what you see is you see these communications among the other co-

conspirators and then you can assume communication from Nadine Menendez to her husband because you then see Senator Menendez doing basically what Nadine Menendez and the others were talking about.

So it's not as directly implicating him in some of these instances, but there's plenty of ways with circumstantial evidence that you can piece it together.

And frankly, plenty of evidence of Senator Menendez himself being in these meetings and having communications with the other co- conspirators.

So the proof is very, very strong here.

KEILAR: At a certain point, could you see Nadine and Bob Menendez flipping on each other or are they just very much tied together at this point?

RODGERS: That's a really interesting question. I'm wondering if there will be a move to sever their trials. Because the problem is, if they want to flip on each other, there's a marital privilege here.

Marital communications are protected. And so it's not clear that one of them could testify about certain things, including communications that happened between the two of them while they were actually married.

Not all of these facts occurred while they were married. Some I think were before that.


But there there's a big marital privilege issue here that complicates a little bit the notion of whether they can be tried together and what they might do.

But so far, they seem to be hand in glove here. They don't seem to be turning on each other. They instead will focus on some legal arguments, trying to claim that there's no official act here or what he did was just part of his job.

So they don't seem to be attacking it that way. But, boy, there could be some interesting legal questions that come up if -- if that does happen. And even if it doesn't, they may move for separate trials, as I said,

KEILAR: How concerned are you about the fact that the Senator still has access to classified information, despite what he's alleged to have done?

RODGERS: Yes, I mean, listen, it's never a good thing when a public official with that kind of public trust and access to information is accused of something like this and is still in place.

He has been taken -- his leadership position has been removed from him or he resigned from it. So that's good.

I think there are enough eyes on him at this point that it's not a huge national security risk.

But I do think that one of the things prosecutors do when they face this kind of case is try to perhaps craft a resolution, a plea agreement that includes a resignation.

And that's for that reason, right? We don't want people in these positions of public trust who have violated that trust in the way that Menendez is accused of doing.

So, well see if he's amenable to any plea discussions at all that involve resignation. So far, he's been very defiant and says that he's going to see it through to trial. So we'll see about that.

KEILAR: All right. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you for that analysis. We appreciate it.

How did a plane trip end with dozens of people injured after a mid-air problem on a Boeing jet?

And a child treated in an emergency room may have exposed hundreds of people to the measles. Ahead, details on a major concern for public health officials.



SANCHEZ: Boeing is now investigating another mid-air incident involving one of its planes. This one, a 787 Dreamliner.

Dozens on board a Latam Airlines flight were injured today when the plane experienced a sudden jolt midair while flying from Sydney, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand.

One passenger says that people went flying through the cabin, that there was even blood on the ceiling.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now.

So, Pete, what do we know about this incident?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, passengers were describing this drop. But there's a bit of a mystery as to why this occurred. It sounds like a severe turbulence incident.

Although there was a really interesting statement here from Latam. And I want to read you that.

It says, "This was a technical event during the flight that caused a strong movement of the plane."

"Technical event" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And investigators will want to know if something happened in the cockpit. Was this an issue with the flight controls? Was this an issue with the autopilot?

So a Boeing 787, not a 737 Max, like during the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout two months ago.

But even still, Boeing says it's working together more information about this incident and it's standing by to support an investigation.

This plane was going on to Santiago, Chile. And the latest data from FlightAware shows it now remains in Auckland. The flight that continued was canceled.

That's where first responders treated 50 people in total who were on board this flight, 12 taken to the hospital, one patient in serious condition.

Technical event or not, passengers are describing this like a severe turbulence incident. And one telling Radio New Zealand blood was on the ceiling and people flew and broke the ceiling of the plane.

Turbulence can be caused by weather, like up and down drafts from thunderstorms, sometimes wind shear, where there are two columns or rows of air moving at different speeds.

But turbulence can also be triggered by no weather phenomenon at all, called clear air turbulence, meaning it's invisible to pilots.

Airlines have gotten a lot better at forecasting turbulence, but the National Transportation Safety Board says turbulence is the number-one cause of injuries on commercial flights here in the U.S.

SANCHEZ: It's been hard for Boeing to get good headlines recently.


SANCHEZ: I'm wondering what you think passengers should take away from this.

MUNTEAN: This is unlikely to be a Boeing issue. Although, we will see. The investigation only just beginning. We've reached out to the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority -- and they were equivalent to the NTSB.

What passengers should really take away here is that you should always have your seatbelt fastened.

This was at 41,000 feet, the cruising altitude of the flight. This is typically a time when people are up, milling around through the cabin, going to the bathroom, their service taking place.

So this is a really good time to just reinforce the folks, keep your seatbelt on. These turbulence incidents, if this was ultimately that, can sneak up at any moment.

SANCHEZ: Yes, moments like this are keeping you busy, Pete.


MUNTEAN: No shortage of news.



SANCHEZ: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

MUNTEAN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Brianna?

KEILAR: Now to some of the other headlines that we're watching this hour.

Attorneys for E. Jean Carroll say they do not object to the $91.6 million bond posted by former President Trump. A sum he had to come up with to appeal the jury's verdict in his latest defamation trial with Carroll.

In a letter filed this morning, Carroll's attorney and Trump's lawyers agreed to shorten the timeline by which Carroll would be paid, should Trump lose on appeal.

Also, 300 people may have been exposed to the measles at a Sacramento, California, emergency room.

County health officials say a child was treated at U.C. Davis Medical Center's E.R. for the viral illness last week after traveling outside the country. The hospital is notifying people who were in the E.R. about their possible exposure.

The positive measles case is the latest in dozens of cases reported to the CDC in 17 states since the beginning of the year.


And it's been exactly four years since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Not long after, nationwide lockdowns changed everyone's lives. We all learned how to mask up, how to social distance. So many loved ones were lost.

According to the CDC, 1.18 million Americans have died from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.

It was Hollywood's night to shine. We're going to run down the best moments at the Oscars and which movie took home the most hardware, next.


[13:50:19] KEILAR: It was "Oppenheimer's" night at the Oscars, pulling in seven awards, including best director, best film, best actor as well for Kylian Murphy. While the "Barbie" movie went home almost empty handed, it still stole the show.

And let's be honest --


KEILAR: -- our hearts as well with Ryan Gosling's "I'm Just Ken" musical number.

SANCHEZ: That was the highlight of the night for me, among the many highlights, including Dave and Joy Randolph getting emotional after winning best supporting actress for the holdovers.

And this homage to the famous Oscar streak, or a nearly naked John Cena giving out the award for best costume.

KEILAR: I mean, they are important.


KEILAR: And he made a good point with that, breaking --


KEILAR: Kevin Frazier hots -- a co-host of "Entertainment Tonight" is with us on -- to talk about all of this.

Kevin, thank you so much for being with us to talk about the big picture here.

Reviews have been pretty good for the telecast overall. It was a pretty good show.

KEVIN FRAZIER, CO-HOST, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": I thought it was a pretty good show. And I think it's been mixed. Some people called it boring, but others enjoyed the pacing of the show.

And the fact that it wasn't mean-spirited. It was more fun. We paid tribute to the actors and people who make movies. And that was important.

And when people call it boring, I think part of that is it's the nominees and who wins. And since "Oppenheimer" basically ran the board, won seven of 13 nominations, that can make it boring.

When you take the suspense out of who's going to win, well, that slows the show down, or at least takes some of the excitement out. But Jimmy Kimmel did a fabulous job.


SANCHEZ: Kevin, it was actually the first time that I'd sat down and watched the Oscars in years. I don't remember the last time that I did. Part of that, honestly, had to do with the fact that it started earlier this year. It started at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm wondering if a lot of people felt that way, that they think it might have boosted ratings that it started earlier, that way they could let it breathe a little bit more. What do you think?

FRAZIER: I think, first of all, there were some people who were confused.

But I know, on our end, on the red carpet, it caused a lot of confusion because there was a ceasefire protest that really locked down Hollywood Boulevard.

So, so many stars were stuck. Some even had to walk down Hollywood Boulevard to get into the show. So, so many arrived late.

That caused a big problem because they didn't have a chance to stop, talk about their movies or their projects, their outfits, and different things and interact with the press. They just barely got in the building.

But I do also believe that the earlier starting time let the show breathe. And you saw the pacing in the different skits that they added were beautiful.

And it also allowed them to add things, like bringing back all the nominees or the past winners to talk about the nominees in the acting categories. I thought that was beautiful. It gave the nominees kind of their flowers.

Even though so many of those people who walk in are going to walk out losers, everybody got a moment, their 15 seconds where someone gushed about what they did that year or how their performance resonated with the entire world.

KEILAR: Yes, that was a beautiful part of it.

And music and dancing was as well. It really took center stage at the Oscars, including, as I talked about, there, the best moment, "I'm Just Ken" performed by Ryan Gosling.

Let's take a little look at that little look at that.




KEILAR: I you haven't seen it people, go watch the whole thing. There's cameos from the other great Kens in the movie. There's Slash. You can't miss how it pays homage to Marilyn Monroe also.

Kevin, what were the big performances of the night besides this one?

FRAZIER: Well, let me just say something about that one. We got wind that this was happening and then we saw all the Kens coming down the red carpet and we were like, OK, we get what you're doing.

And Mark Ronson finally spilled the beans. But they pulled this together very quickly. Some of the Kens didn't get in town until Thursday. So they had quick rehearsals.

And I love that Ryan Gosling went all in on this and got into the camp of the moment.

But isn't it interesting that a movie about female empowerment and the patriarchy, and that's what we're talking about and that's what we're celebrating, the Kens. Just a little note there.

And Greta Gerwig shouldn't have gotten snubbed.

But the other great performance is where -- it was very cool to see the Osage Nation there and paying tribute to "Killers of a Flower Moon."


And then Billie Eilish was breathtaking with her performance. She is now the youngest person to have two Oscars. And she talked about it on the red carpet and said that this is something she doesn't take for granted.

But she saw all the "Barbie" film. And once Greta showed her the "Barbie" film, she was able to write the beautiful song that she wrote.

And she is unstoppable, her and her brother. It was just a perfect moment. Her voice is piano. It kind of took everybody's breath away.

KEILAR: Yes, it's so evocative, you're so right, and lends so much to that movie and others as well.

Kevin Frazier, great to have you. Thank you so much for taking the time after such a fun and, no doubt, late night. We appreciate it.

FRAZIER: Always great to talk to you. See you later, Boris and Brianna.

SANCHEZ: Take care. Thanks.

President Biden is looking to keep up his momentum from last week while Donald Trump isn't pulling his punches. The latest on the presidential race. And the fallout from Senator Katie Britt's response to Biden, when we come back.