Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Two Major Legal Threats Collide for Trump in New York; Israel Agrees to Hostage Release Deal, Awaiting Hamas Response; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) Seems to Back Off Call to Oust Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- part of my life.


It's a real pleasure to be here and see this amazing show that they're going to put on. So, thank you.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: We did Cars, we did Star Wars, it's all my favorite thing this morning. Guys, thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate your time.

And I want to thank all of you as well for joining us on this Monday morning. I hope you'll come back tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. CNN News Central starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bank accounts frozen, properties seized by the end of today, this could be a reality for Donald Trump. And this doesn't even cover the case that could land him in jail. We have special coverage as it unfolds.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: And a Republican revolt on two fronts. Senator Lisa Murkowski says she's done with Donald and could leave the GOP entirely. And in the House, where does Marjorie Taylor Greene's plan to oust speaker Mike Johnson stand today?

Also, four men in custody and charged with terrorism after Russia's worst terror attack in decades, more than 130 people are dead. And this morning, we're learning new details about the plot.

Kate Bolduan is out today. I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman. This is CNN News Central.

BERMAN: This morning it is about to get very real for Donald Trump and perhaps very expensive, two cases at key pivot points. One case could land him in jail. The other could cost him chunks of his business empire starting at any point today.

Very shortly, Trump is expected to be in a New York courtroom for a hearing in his hush money trial involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels. This is a criminal case with criminal consequences. The proceedings today could set a trial date for as soon as mid-April.

Today is also the deadline for Trump to produce nearly half a billion dollars in bond payment, and the civil fraud trial, he lost. If he does not come up with the money, the attorney general in New York is prepared to begin freezing his bank accounts and seizing his properties.

This could happen at any moment today and on social media you can see it's already getting under Trump's skin.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is outside the court here in New York City. This is where Trump will physically be today in the criminal case, but you get a sense his heart is with the money elsewhere, Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, absolutely. I mean, look, he's facing two enormous threats today, one legal, one financial and somewhat legal. It is that financial aspect that is clearly consuming him. You saw that post on social media. And we know from behind the scenes, it's something that he has been obsessing over, this need to post this nearly half a billion dollar bond.

But let's start with that first one, that legal that courtroom behind me, because today, if you'll remember, was supposed to be the first day of his criminal trial in New York. He is facing 34 charges here in the alleged business fraud covering up an alleged affair with Stormy Daniels, an adult film star. He is set to be in court. He was supposed to here. Instead, his lawyers will be arguing for a lengthy postponement, and possibly even to dismiss the trial, although that seems highly unlikely.

And I'll remind you that all of this happening because we saw the prosecutors turn over about hundreds of thousands of documents. Trump's lawyers, no surprise, seeking to delay, to postpone saying they needed time to go through all of these various documents, and, surprisingly, the prosecutors, the district attorney agreeing to that, to at least 30 days, saying that the trial would be postponed to at least April 15th. So, he could walk out of here with an actual trial date.

And, John, one of the goals here, the goal we have seen over and over again from Trump's legal teams is to delay, delay, delay. Their hope is that not one single trial will happen before the November election. However, they know that it's possible that this one will happen, but they do believe that it's easiest to paint this trial here in New York as political.

Now, let's talk about the money because that is what is consuming Donald Trump. He has been talking about it behind the scenes non-stop and we still have no indication that he's going to be able to post that half a billion dollar bond and as we have said, as you mentioned, if he does not meet that deadline today, the attorney general has said that she has started the steps to start seizing property, anything, any assets that he has. Now, we don't know that she's going to start today but she has begun those steps. And that is one thing that Donald Trump fears the most, this idea that people would view him as a non-wealthy businessman, which goes to the core of who he is, which obviously disagrees with the visual of different assets being seized, John.


BERMAN: Kristen Holmes outside the court, again, watching the criminal case, the financial steps could happen at any moment, so we're watching that very closely as well. Thank you so much, Kristen. Sara?

SIDNER: Joining me now are our CNN legal analysts, former chief assistant D.A. in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Thank you ladies for being here.

We were just listening to Kristen's report. I wanted to ask you how you think things are going to unfold in the fraud case today, where there is this $464 million bond that is still sitting out there waiting to be paid.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if we believe Tish James, I think we should take her at her word that she's going to start moving to seize assets if that bond isn't posted today. So, these things take time. The money in bank accounts is the easiest thing to freeze and then ultimately seize real property is more difficult. But she's already started filing the judgments in different jurisdictions like Westchester County and Manhattan, where she could seize properties. So, I think she'll go ahead and get that ball rolling.

It's not an instantaneous thing. There are lots of legal paperwork- type steps that need to happen first, but I think she'll start doing that, as she has said she will.

SIDNER: She's indicated it in what she's doing right now, which is sort of setting the scene for potentially seizing assets.

Karen, I want to talk to you about what we've heard from Donald Trump and his lawyers in a deposition last year. He said he had more than $400,000 in cash. Then last week, he bragged about having $500,000 on his Truth Social account. His lawyers, of course, are saying otherwise in court. What does the judge do with this?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I think, really, you have a federal monitor here. A former federal judge, Barbara Jones, who's a monitor here, appointed by Judge Engoron in the civil fraud case, and she is aware of what all of his actual numbers are and how much money he might have in bank accounts or in securities, et cetera.

So, I think Letitia James, the attorney general in New York, is going to have to coordinate with the court and this court monitor to actually determine what is there and what isn't there.

SIDNER: That is the truth, speaking of Truth Social, like the truth is going to out, right? Because the court is looking at exactly what is there, what is in the accounts, and what isn't.

I want to turn now to what could be the first criminal case against Donald Trump, and I'll start with you, Jennifer. The Manhattan D.A. charging him with falsifying documents in connection with trying to quiet Stormy Daniels, the film star that said she had a sexual encounter with him.

Is there a scenario where this gets dismissed because you have the Trump attorneys, which is what attorneys would do, what a defense attorney would do, which is ask for the entire case to be thrown out, is there a scenario where you see this actually happening, though?

RODGERS: Theoretically, sure. I mean, the judge did say in a fairly terse ruling that if necessary, he would set a trial date after this hearing that's happening today. But what's come out since then is that these documents that were turned over, which were really voluminous, a very small subset of that was actually new material. And of that, there doesn't seem to be anything that's exculpatory or really blockbuster in any way.

So, I suspect the judge will still want an explanation as to why those documents weren't turned over last year, what happened. But, ultimately, I think he'll go ahead and set a trial date and it will probably be in mid April. So, we may see this fairly soon.

SIDNER: April 15th, I think, is the date that has been set by the judge, but you do have this hundred thousand pages of documents from the DOJ that was turned over late, if you will, and they've had them for a very long time, and Trump's attorneys have had a couple of weeks to kind of go over them. What else could they argue to try and delay this further? Because one thing they're trying to do is get it dismissed, the other thing they're trying to do is delay until after the election.

AGNIFILO: Well, the other thing that's happening right now is they're waiting for the Supreme Court to determine the presidential immunity argument. And that happens to be starting, the oral arguments, April 25th, right? That's only a little more than a week away from when this trial is supposed to begin.

So, he could argue, why don't we wait for that decision, since he's also claiming that presidential immunity in the Manhattan D.A. case as well? So, he could try that, which he has already tried to seek delay. He will argue, as Jennifer says, that certain pieces of material that was turned over was exculpatory, and, therefore, there should be some sort of punishment or sanction on the Manhattan D.A.'s Office. So, I think we're going to expect they're going to make all the typical arguments to try to get delay.

But Judge Merchan is an experienced judge, so I don't think he's going to allow his legal team to get away with that.

SIDNER: Karen Agnifilo, thank you so much, as well as Jennifer Rodgers. I appreciate you both coming on and kind of walking us through these two huge cases that he's facing all happening beginning today. All right, John?

BERMAN: All right. A possible breakthrough in hostage talks, Israel agrees to a U.S. proposal that would see 40 Israeli hostages released. Hamas could respond at any time.

A Republican senator says she is done with Donald Trump and will not rule out leaving the party.


And new accusations that the four suspects charged in a deadly Moscow terror attack may have been tortured by Russian authorities.


BERMAN: New this morning, CNN has learned that Israel has agreed to a U.S. proposal for a deal that would lead to the release of hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. The world is now waiting for Hamas to respond.

Under the proposed deal, Israel released 700 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom are serving life sentences for killing Israelis. Hamas would release 40 hostages, possibly including some Americans.


CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Doha where the talks have been taking place. Paula, what's the latest?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you say at this point, we're waiting for some kind of response to this potential counterproposal.

Now, what we've heard from CNN Analyst Barak Ravid, citing Israeli government sources, is that this could take a few days now for a counterproposal or an answer to come from Hamas, saying that the person in charge, Yahya Sinwar, is likely about 100 feet under the ground in a tunnel in Gaza. So, to get the response from him will take time.

Now, we are hearing a lot of leaks, a lot of sources talking from the Israeli side. Clearly, the Israeli government is under pressure, domestically and internationally, to try and push this deal forward.

So, what we have heard is just ten days ago, Hamas suggesting that their counter-proposal was between 700 and 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to be released. So, this U.S. proposal, 700, it's within that range. And, of course, it's not just the number of prisoners released, it's which prisoners. And this proposal suggesting there would be 100 who are serving life sentences at this point for having killed Israeli citizens.

Now, it's important to note as well, this is just one part of one phase of the overall potential ceasefire deal that is being worked out. We're hearing from one source close to the talks that there is steady progress, but there are still differences that remain a number of other issues that have to be hammered out at this point. For example, what happens to the Israeli military in Gaza once there is a ceasefire?

Hamas has made it clear that they would like the Israeli military to be outside of Gaza when that happens. Israel has made it clear that that is not possible. We have heard consistently from the Israeli prime minister that they want to still carry out this major ground offensive in Rafah.

So, at this point, the Palestinian prisoner issue is a key element of this, but worth remembering, this is just one small part of an overall deal. John?

BERMAN: Yes, understood. In the meantime, waiting for Hamas to respond.

Paula Hancocks in Doha, thank you, Paula. Sara?

SIDNER: All right. Still ahead, a walk back on the latest attempt to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, but he isn't feeling a full sigh of relief.

And call off the search for Cinderella. The team is officially making the sweet 16 cut and the underdogs hoping for another upset.



SIDNER: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to be backing off her call to House Speaker Mike Johnson. She hinted she may not force the vote over it. Plus, you have this, the pressure on Johnson to bring the Ukraine aid bill up for a vote, which could happen after Easter recess, and now the House GOP is razor thin majority is getting even smaller.

CNN Washington Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is joining me now. Congressman Mike Gallagher has announced now that he's resigning earlier than expected. We also -- this is the second person in the last three weeks. I mean, where do things stand right now?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sara. This is certainly a very precarious moment for House Republicans and specifically for Speaker Johnson himself. One member warning over the weekend that this chaos and this infighting that we've seen is going to cost them in an election year.

Now, when they come back to Washington in two weeks, Speaker Johnson will face a major decision on Ukraine. That is going to just shine a bright spotlight on the problems that he's facing within his party. You have hardliners on the right. They are adamantly opposed to this bill. They're just going to ramp up the pressure on him. And that threat, of course, from Marjorie Taylor Greene of removing him, that also haunting him as well.

Here's how one member put it this weekend.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): His commitment is to put it on the floor after Easter and we are working on this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, as soon as you all come back, April 9th?

MCCAUL: I would like to be done as soon as possible. I think the situation in Ukraine is dire.


SERFATY: Now, at the same time, Johnson is seeing his majority in the House shrink. As you noticed, Congressman Gallagher of Wisconsin, he announced his retirement last week. That leaves Johnson with only one vote to spare to get measures passed along party lines. That means it will be much more difficult for him to rely on Republican votes that he needs, so he'll have to work with Democrats even more.

And, Sara, as we saw with how the spending bill got passed ultimately, Republicans on the right were so dissatisfied with how he negotiated with Democrats. So, this is something, especially now that majority is even smaller, that's just going to be hanging over him.

SIDNER: I'm curious, Marjorie Taylor Greene's sort of call to oust Johnson, will Congress have to address that when they return from recess?

SERFATY: At some point, they will. I expect that when they come back in two weeks, we will see some murmurs of that again.

She did, as you noted, back off that a bit this weekend, saying, oh, this is something that I potentially would do, but it's not imminent. We might see Democrats forced to try to kill her effort to do that.

There will be some theatrics around that, likely when Congress comes back in two weeks. But most notably, it is a warning shot to Speaker Johnson, and he will have to respond to that.


And as we see this Ukraine bill come up, how he responds to that will be because in part of this threat that's looming large over his head about some wing of his party wanting to get him out of there so they'll be watching each and every move. Sara?

SIDNER: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for reporting. John?

BERMAN: We are standing by. Frankly, Donald Trump is standing by to see if his bank accounts are frozen, properties seized. He has yet to come up with half a billion dollars he needs to cover the bond in the civil fraud trial he lost. We have special coverage.

And then Kevin Bacon is going to prom. Not just any prom. He's going to prom at the Footloose High School. How awesome is that? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)