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Daniels Speaks Out About Legal Battle; Trump's Election Comments; Supreme Court Case on Social Media and Government Power; Bracket for NCAA Tournament; Christopher Hamilton is Interviewed about the Iceland Volcano Eruption. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 08:30   ET



KATA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it does give this behind the scenes look into how Stormy Daniels was navigating this story.

You'll remember, the hush money payment was made in 2017. That's all connected to Donald Trump's criminal trial that was supposed to begin on Monday, but now won't begin until April 15th. But Stormy Daniels, at that time, signed this deal that was secret. This documentary now gives the behind the scenes look at how she navigated this once it did break out into the public just a few months later in 2018 and then became, you know, a bit of a sensation.

In the documentary, as you show, it kind of has some of these raw moments. It also shows some interactions that she had with her next attorney, Michael Avenatti. He then, you'll remember, was convicted of stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels and is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

But, so many legal entanglements here that all kind of come together, all beginning with this payment in 2017.

Now, you know, this was a - this documentary was coming out. Trump's lawyers had actually asked the judge to dismiss the case or to delay the start of the trial because of the publicity that this documentary would bring just one week before jury selection was set to begin.

There were some other issues that Trump's lawyers brought up, including a trove of documents that they received from federal prosecutors who had brought the criminal case against Michael Cohen, in connection with these campaign finance violations, as well as some other crimes. So, they had raised that as an issue. That was the reason the judge agreed to postpone the trial until at least April 15th. And he is going to have a hearing next week to get into some of these issues around the documents that were turned over.

But, you know, all the publicity, all the attention was one of the reasons why Trump's lawyers brought this to their attention. Though previously the judge had said, you know, do you think you're going to have less pre-trial publicity in March, April, May? It's not as though that's going to go away. But certainly this is, you know, one area that Trump's team is focused

on. They're saying that Stormy Daniels should not be allowed to testify in the case. She did not go before the grand jury, it's important to note, but she is on the prosecution's list, so she may be taking the stand. But as it is, for now, you know, everyone will be back in court on Monday, but this trial has now been pushed off to at least April 15th, and the judge will decide if that is going to be the date that sticks or if he will give Trump's lawyers additional time to prepare their defense.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, in 2018 it was the biggest story out there for many, many months.

Kara Scannell, thank you so much for your reporting.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, a debate about when a bloodbath is really a bloodbath and whether Donald Trump meant it in a nice way. He said it in a speech over the weekend. And this morning he's on his social media platform saying he was only talking about a bloodbath in the auto industry if he is not elected. But it is important to say, it wasn't the only thing he said would happen if he's not elected.



DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this election -- if this election isn't won, I'm not sure that you'll ever have another election in this country.


BERMAN: All right, with us now, CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor with "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

And, Ron, what I want to talk about here is there is a discussion about what he said and what he meant.


BERMAN: What probably matters most to people is what he will do if he's elected president again.


BERMAN: And you've got a new article out in "The Atlantic" where you have this discussion.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Look, I mean, Donald Trump, across a broad range of issues, is running on a much more militant agenda that he ran on '16 or '20. And when you look at the civil liberties, civil rights area, personal freedoms, they really are three broad buckets where he is pursuing potentially major changes in the way Americans live their lives.

One, he's talking openly about weaponizing federal law enforcement to go after his political enemies, two, he's talking about nationalizing many of the rights rollbacks that have been underway in the red states to impose them on blue states as well. Bans on transgender -- gender conforming care for minors, for transgender kids, a national abortion ban. There are Republicans in the House who have proposed national aversions of the don't say gay laws and some of the voting rights restrictions.

And then the -- excuse me, the third bucket, which may be the most controversial of all, is about using federal force in blue jurisdictions. I mean he is -- Stephen Miller, his top aide on immigration, has talked in explicit detail about mass deportation, internment camps for undocumented migrants in the U.S., and sending the National Guard from red states into blue states that don't want to cooperate. As well as Trump talking about using the National Guard to round up homeless or simply to fight crime in blue cities.

So, in all of these ways, we are talking about a major change in the rights and liberties of Americans potentially in a second Trump term, particularly in applying the regime that is settling over red states onto people in the blue state.

BERMAN: And this is stuff that presumably he would do again.



BERMAN: No matter how he described it with words like bloodbath and whatnot -


BERMAN: Policies that he is proposing or people around him are proposing.

Now, when it comes to the issue of migration, this matters because of something Harry and I were just talking about right now -


BERMAN: Which is that right now President Biden is losing in Arizona and Nevada, which are two states he won in 2022, states he would like to be part of his collection of states in 2024.


BERMAN: What do you see among the Hispanic vote in those states and among these policies you were just pointing to?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, this is one of the critical tensions, I think, in this election. Donald Trump is ahead in those states because he is running, not only better than he did in 2020 among Hispanics, there, he is running better among any Republican ever. He's running in the mid-40s, and that's what he's polling nationally. If you look at the polling carefully in Nevada and Arizona, Joe Biden is basically where he was in 2020 among white voters when he won the state. He is losing these states at the moment because of his decline among Hispanic voters.

Now, at this point, there are probably not that many of those voters who know that Donald Trump is talking openly about, not only fortifying the border, but mass removals of people who are already here, complete with internment camps and the use of the National Guard. And I think the question of, after the culinary workers union say in Nevada and Phoenix and other groups spend months making Hispanics, they are more aware of these policies, can Trump sustain the levels that he's at, which he needs at the moment, to flip these states.

Now, there's a lot of discontent with Biden among Hispanic voters about inflation in particular. But whether he can hold an un -- more than George W Bush, more than Ronald Reagan among Hispanic voters when more of them become aware that he's talking about the largest deportation program in American history, that seems to be an unanswered question this election.

BERMAN: And, again, this gets to the issue of what he would do as president.


BERMAN: Not just what he's saying. And again, this is part of your "Atlantic" piece here.

Deportation, you're saying deportation of people who are already here -

BROWNSTEIN: Already here.

BERMAN: Which is a different issue for many voters than strengthening the border per se.

BROWNSTEIN: I think its - I think it could be potentially a very significant issue.

I mean, look, opinion on immigration has moved right under Joe Biden. A majority now support remain in Mexico. A majority now say in polls they support building the wall. But Trump, as is his want, moves beyond where he was. And he is talking about something unprecedented in American history.

By the way, this goes to a core issue in this election. Donald Trump wants the election to be primarily, I think, retrospective, comparing his four years in office with Biden's four years in office, or maybe his first three year's in office versus Biden's four years in office and say basically, everything was better, immigration was better, inflation was better. Biden needs a prospective election in many ways. He needs voters to be

focusing, not only on what each of them have done with their time in the White House, but what each of them would do if returned to the White House. That's where he see - the Democrats seem more vulnerability for Trump than necessarily in the retrospective comparison.

BERMAN: And in 20 seconds or less, what's your view on the language, on the violent language that Donald Trump does use?

BROWNSTEIN: He always finds a way to phrase it and so it's defensible and that there is an out. But there is no question that he is constantly using violent language in a way that energizes his supporters and maybe sends ominous signals to the far fringe of his coalition.

BERMAN: Ron Brownstein, always great to see you, and even more special to see you in person this morning.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.




Free speech versus disinformation. That is at the heart of the battle right now before the Supreme Court. How much power should the federal government have in removing disinformation online? Today, the justices are hearing oral arguments on just that.

CNN's Brian Fung is tracking this for us. He joins us now.

Brian, what are we going to hearing from the justices? What does this get to?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Yes, Kate, this case is all about the First Amendment. Did the Biden administration cross a line when it pressured social media companies to remove health misinformation around Covid-19 and election misinformation around the 2020 elections. This case was brought by the states of Missouri and Louisiana, in which those states argued that the Biden administration violated the First Amendment when it suggested to social media platforms, hey, this content violates your terms of service, you may want to consider removing it from your platforms.

Now, this has raised a lot of First Amendment concerns because there is traditionally a difference between persuasion under the First Amendment and coercion. And coercion is what's prohibited under the First Amendment. The government can't force online platforms to remove content, but hypothetically can encourage the platforms to remove the content. And where that line is, is what the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with. And the U.S. government says it never threatened negative consequences for platforms that didn't remove the content as they requested.



BOLDUAN: And the ripple effects of the potential decision on this case could really be huge.

FUNG: Yes, huge for everything from including public health, terrorism, and, you know, election security going forward. This is a case that could affect the 2024 elections because if the Biden administration can't reach out to social media companies to warn them of content they're seeing out there, you know, misinformation or issues like foreign interference, then that could have a direct consequence on what Americans see as they, you know, prepare to head to the polls this November. And that could have a huge downstream influence on not only this election but future elections as well.


BOLDUAN: Brian Fung, thank you so much. Those oral arguments going to be getting underway shortly.


SIDNER: All right, you can see what's happening, March Madness upon us. We all know it's not just about the game on the court, but the game everyone can play, gambling. Filling out those brackets as to who will win. So far in the women's tournament the number one seeds are undefeated South Carolina, Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes, along with USC and Texas.

Andy Scholes is with me now to help sort out which men's teams have the best chance of winning at all.

I love that we know the women's teams and that we're paying attention to them, partly because of Caitlin.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Oh, certainly, Sara, and that - the women's tournament is going to be so exciting and a lot of people are going to be filling out those brackets today as well. But I'm here to help you try to fill out those men's brackets because there are some trends that will really help you potentially zone in on who's going to win this tournament.

You - we all like picking the upsets in the first couple of rounds, but it's really - if you want to win your pool, it's about trying to pick that champion. And there's a stat that could really help you do it. It's called KenPom. It measures a team's offensive and defensive efficiency. And every single champions since 2002 has been top 40 offense and top 22 in defense. And who are the teams that qualify for that right now. We've got Houston, UConn, Perdue, Auburn, Arizona, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Marquette.

Now, there's some good teams missing here. Why? Well, look, Creighton, they, according to KenPom, they couldn't win right now because they're just not good enough defensively. Iowa State won the Big 12, but offensively they can't win. Same goes for Kentucky defensively. Duke is close, but according to the last 22 years and KenPom, they would not win the national championship this year.

Now, some other trends to look at. So, the last 19 champions have been in the top 12 in the week six AP poll. You look at this. Who's not there that we showed you just a second ago? Auburn. So, you can basically cross them off.

Now, UConn, they're the top overall seed. They're the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament this year. But it is super hard to win back-to-back national titles in college basketball. Since 1974, only Duke in the '90s and Florida in the mid-2000s were able to pull it off. It's very hard to do. Dan Hurley and the Huskies can do it, but it's not going to be easy.

Now, if you lost your first conference tournament game, no team has ever done that and gone on to win the national title. Tennessee did that, so you can basically cross them off as well.

And I always like to show this map. See that red line right down the middle. No team since 1997, I should say, every single champion has come from east of that line. Who's on the wrong side of that line, Arizona. So, let's bring up that graphic a second ago. Arizona's crossed off. They're on the wrong side of line. Tennessee lost their confidence -- first conference title game, cross them off. Auburn was not in that week six poll, I'm crossing them off. I'm only crossing off UConn just for the sole fact that it is super hard to win back-to- back national titles in college basketball.

So, who should you pick? Well, Houston, Purdue, North Carolina, they're all one seeds. And if you look at this, one seeds have won 26 times since 1979. It is certainly the safest bet.

And, Sara, if you perhaps went to school at one of those ones seeds, the University of Houston, you're obligated to take them in your bracket. That's who I'm going with.

But just some pointers there when you're helping fill out your bracket. They're due on Thursday before the games start at noon.

SIDNER: We'll have to sit down and talk about it. But I do like one thing that you did, Andy, and I'm going to say this to you, John, did you notice the back-to-back winners, the champion back-to-back winners? The University of Florida, it should be noted, is one of the two.

BERMAN: Al Horford.

SIDNER: Unfortunately, they're nowhere in the top 10 this year.

SCHOLES: Corey Brewer.

SIDNER: But they are - yes, you got us - thank you. You did that for me and I so appreciate it, Andy.


BERMAN: I am going to clip and save that piece right there -

SIDNER: Will you?

BERMAN: Because I need to sit down with what Andy Scholes just said.


BERMAN: He just told us how to do it.

SIDNER: How to win.

BERMAN: That was the most useful information that we may get this morning, Andy Scholes, thank you very much for that.

SIDNER: Agreed.

BERMAN: Really appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: All right, gang violence gripping a nation. The U.S. State Department says dozens of Americans have now been airlifted to safety. And then, just in, the interview that blew up a deal. Don Lemon just posted his conversation with Elon Musk.


We've got brand new sound from the tense discussion.


BERMAN: New this morning, we are learning that North Korea launched a pair of suspected ballistic missiles off of its east coast. The United States has condemned this missile launch. It comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in South Korea attend the third Summit for Democracy.

The family of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is demanding her name be removed from an award after it was given to Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch.


Jim Ginsburg called the awards "a desecration," and says his mother would be appalled.


JIM GINSBURG, SON OF LATE JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: The two that obviously stand out here are Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch. Now, when you think of people - you know, trying to create a more just society, which of course was mom's ultimate goal, those are probably about the last names that would come to mind.


BERMAN: After weeks of spring-like warmth, more than half of the U.S. population will get hit with temperatures at or below freezing this week. The majority of these folks will be with us along the eastern coast of the United States.

And, Sara, last hour I mentioned that I was hoping the cold weather would kill the weeds, with an s, in my lawn. A viewer said it sounded like I was saying it would kill the weed growing in my law. That is something completely different. I meant the weeds grow in my lawn.


SIDNER: Right. OK, I will take that into consideration, John.

Right now a volcano is erupting in Iceland, spewing ash and lava into the air. Just look at those pictures. A geophysicist who surveyed the eruption over the weekend says it's the most powerful so far. Officials have ordered evacuations in a nearby town and at the famous Blue Lagoon. Despite the eruption, Iceland's airport remains unaffected and its operating as usual.

Joining us now is Christopher Hamilton, planetary volcanologist and associate professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Christopher, thank you so much for joining us.

You've been to this particular volcano -- volcanic eruption. Can you just give us some sense of what it's like to be there, what you see, because the pictures are absolutely beautiful, knowing that they can be very destructive as well.

CHRISTOPHER HAMILTON, PLANETARY VOLCANOLOGIST: Yes. Well, today would be a horrible day there. It's close to freezing, rainy, and high winds.

This area, although it's really close to Reykjavik, is actually very, very remote and largely uninhabited. And the first few years of the eruption took place in a part where there were no people. It wasn't directly affecting the town and everybody had a fantastic show.

That has changed since December, when the eruption site moved much closer to the town of Grindavik. It's a very active fishing port. A very important site. And this has really changed the overall character.

So, it's absolutely beautiful when its erupting. It's in this absolutely wild and rugged area. But now it's actually affecting a town and infrastructure that's a concern to the entire country.

SIDNER: Yes, there was an emergency called by authorities there.

I do want to ask you about whether or not science is getting closer or is in a good place to try to predict when these happen, because I think there have been three eruptions the past four months. HAMILTON: Yes, the science is actually really getting much better for being able to understand the inflation. So basically the whole area is a part of the mid-Atlantic ridge, which is moving on to this peninsula. And the areas is almost breathing as magma comes into it. And you can see that from satellites and from GPS. So people have a really good idea of when the ground is swelling. But what's happened is that the area has been so cracked with hundreds of thousands of earthquakes since 2021 that now it's kind of leaky.

So before you could think of a magma chamber as like a pressurized keg and when you tap it you get a really high discharge rate in the beginning and then it wanes. But now that keg is really cracked with all these different eruptions. And so the warning time is getting to be much shorter. And, in fact, for this most recent episode, the largest of the episodes we've seen since December and, in fact, during the entire span of the eruption, that was very little warnings. So, it's a change in character. We can predict it, but not to the hour, but we can certainly see it to when particular days that are going to be at risk.

SIDNER: I think you talked about -- how many earthquakes? You said hundreds of thousands of earthquakes have happened since 2021. Were there quite a few - do you see quite a few before you start seeing this eruption? Is an indicator?

HAMILTON: Yes, that's a very good - good point. So, in 2021, there were actually 40,000 earthquakes in February for about the months leading up to the eruption. And everybody in the country, in Reykjavik and Grindavik (ph) was feeling it knowing that something was changing.

So, the earthquakes do typically continue up until the last moment when the magma gets so close to the surface that from there it just burst through in a single event. But seismicity is a major indicator for the movement of magma as it's traveling towards the surface.

SIDNER: What do you see, what do you smell, what do you hear when you are standing close enough to experience, not putting yourself in danger, but close enough to experience this kind of eruption here?

HAMILTON: Yes, so these are called effusive eruptions. So, they're dominated by lava flows that are being emplaced and they're moving over the ground.


And they're radiating a lot of heat. If you were to look at them, they're really glowing a red and an orange. It would be like opening an oven, you can just feel your skin begin to dry.

And there's also, in this area, a lot of moss and vegetation that begins to burn a little bit. Last summer they were referring to it as muster (ph), those burning sort of mordor (ph) like area. And so some of the smoke can be an issue.

And in the instance here, if the eruption does make it to the sea (ph), that sort of general soft, slow character of the lava could dramatically change with interaction with seawater. And really the main ones are -- when you begin to get too hot lava interacting with seawater, it can produce a chlorine gas, which is extremely nauseous. Even hydrofluoric acids.

So, while some of these eruptions are just beautiful to be able to sit back and watch, if it does become an ocean entry, and it's really just a few hundred meters away from potentially getting to an ocean entry points -

SIDNER: Wow (ph).

HAMILTON: Then the character would change and be very dangerous

SIDNER: How quickly is the lava moving? Because, you know, everyone watches. Sometimes it's just extremely slow as it gets closer and closer to civilization. But in this case, the closest town is - it - you know, is in danger. How quickly is it moving? Do you have some sense of that?

HAMILTON: Yes. So, as I mentioned, these magma chambers are a bit like these kegs. And so in the beginning you're going to get a huge uprush. Many, many kilometers or miles of fissure just all opening and a curtain of fire called a lava fountain. And when that lava is very, very hot, it's very fluid. So, it's moving almost like water or oil at those temperatures. A little bit more viscous but very, very fast. And once it cools and starts to get a skin on it, a little bit of a crust, it will focus into channels and move more slowly.

But one way to look at these flows is that as long as you keep the tap going, it - the flows are going to continue to march forward. It's a little bit like a zombie, slow moving and eventually just continuing to march and march and march. And so as long as the eruption keeps going, the lava keeps going too. So, very fast in the beginning and then slowing down with the sort of relentless march.

SIDNER: Christopher Hamilton, I have to tell you, I wish I would have known that the title volcanologist existed when I was in college because that is a really cool job. Thank you so much for geeking out with us this morning. I appreciate your time.

HAMILTON: Well, thank you, Sara. It was a lot of fun.


BOLDUAN: Just this morning, the first State Department charter flight evacuating U.S. citizens from Haiti has landed in Florida. On board, more than 30 Americans who were trying to escape the cascading gang violence that's been gripping Haiti right now. CNN is the first major news network in Haiti since this all began.

CNN's David Culver has been in Port-au-Prince for us, where police in the area are now relying on community vigilantes to help them combat the gangs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, police stations like this one

here in Port-au-Prince are main targets for gang. They feel like as soon as they can get hold of a station like this, they can then take siege and take control of much of the community. And they've tried coming after this one many of times. Reinforcements have been built up, not only because of the police, but because of the community. They've built barricades all around here.

For the police station to function properly, they need to rely on the community and to have these almost vigilantes building a lot of the barricades to keep out any gang members.


BOLDUAN: So, Haitians are quickly becoming refugees in their own city, in their own country. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been displaced by the violence. Some even trying to take shelter in schools now.


CULVER: So, this was a school here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And every single classroom that we pass, like this one here, has now become a dorm room essentially. There are dozens, if not hundreds of people who have made this a recent campsite.

And you can see a lot of them are following us around and are curious what we're doing because for them it's a distraction really.

And you talk to a lot of these folks and - and they've come here in the past couple of weeks because of the most recent surge in violence and gangs taking more and more territory here in the city. But these folks have also been on the run from their own homes for months, if not years.

She just got this small bag of rice and she's going to cook it up for seven people. And a lot of them tell me they don't know where their next meal is going to be. One little girl, eight years old, saying she goes to bet every single night hungry.

And a lot of that is because in the past two weeks in particular supply lines, especially for programs of international aid, like the World Food Program, have been severed. So, while those organizations are trying desperately to get food in, it's not just about getting them into Port-au-Prince, it's been about getting them into communities like this.


The challenges logistically are immense. They're dealing with this at a level that they have not faced prior.