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White House Pressing Israelis On Rafah Operation, Despite Canceled Delegation; MLB Star Shohei Ohtani To Address Allegations Against Ex-Interpreter; House Democrats Could Save Speaker Johnson's Job For Ukraine Aid; DOJ Charges Chines Hackers With Sweeping Attacks On U.S. Targets. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 15:30   ET



MARK ESPER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, well again, keep in mind Biden also said that they shouldn't go to Rafah unless they have a plan to protect the civilians and -- and again, as I said, that's seems to be have been dropped from the lexicon right now. But again, they're going in. I think there are various options to move the civilians around whether it's back up North further to the southeast.

I'm surprised there's been no international pressure by the way on Egypt to open up the border area and create a safe zone a sanctuary for the Gazans while they wait out the Israeli offensive.

But look clearly this is going to happen. I suspect as Ramadan ends in a couple weeks. It will further divide Washington and Tel Aviv and there's going to be a really, really tough time for us Israeli relations coming up. And it's going to impact domestic politics as well, both here in the United States and in Israel also. Keep in mind that the Israeli population poll by poll shows they want two thinks. One is the return of the hostages immediately.

And secondly, they never want October 7th to happen again, and they believe defeating Hamas is critical to doing that.

DEAN: All right, Mark Esper. Thanks so much for stopping by. We really appreciate it.

ESPER: Thank you, Jessica.

DEAN: Dodgers superstar show Shohei Ohtani is about to speak publicly for the very first time about the sports betting allegations against his longtime interpreter. CNN just talked to the attorney representing the bookie at the center of it all.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Any moment now, L.A. Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani is expected to finally address the sports betting allegations against his former interpreter. That interpreter is accused of stealing millions of dollars and

placing bets with a former bookie under federal investigation. The bookie has also claimed -- and this is key -- that Ohtani was not involved or aware of the betting.

CNN's Nick Watt is at Dodger Stadium for us. So, Nick, when do we expect to hear from Ohtani?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Boris, first of all, let's just get a little bit of context here. This guy Ohtani is a unicorn in this game. He just came to the Dodgers on a 10 year, $700 million deal. He's 29. He's already being spoken about as one of the all time greats of the game. And in an MLB survey of current players, two thirds of them said that he's the best player right now.

So that's the context. He is going to speak 2:45 local 5:45 Eastern. We've been told it's just going to be a statement. No questions. Let's see what happens.

The only inkling we've got was from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who said, quote, I'm happy he's going to speak and that he'll address what he knows and his thoughts.

And another quote from Roberts. I think it'll give us a bit more clarity.

Clarity is needed here because right now there's a lot of confusion. This story started last Tuesday when Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter, told ESPN that Shohei Ohtani had paid off his -- Mizuhara's gambling debt and that Ohtani definitely had never gambled at all.

A little while later, Ohtani's camp then, quote, disavowed all of that and said that Ohtani had in fact been the victim of, quote, a massive theft. And they were handing the case over to authorities.

Now, Major League Baseball say that since the allegations, they are, quote, gathering information about the allegations involving, they say, Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara. The IRS Criminal Investigations Division, they confirmed to me that they are investigating the interpreter. No mention of Shohei Ohtani, the interpreter, and this one time bookie down in Orange County just south of here.

Now, that bookie, Matthew Bowyer, had apparently been telling people that Shohei Ohtani was his client. Over the weekend, I spoke on Zoom with Bowyer's lawyer, Diane Bass, about that. Take a listen to what she had to say.


DIANE BASS, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED BOOKIE MATTHEW BOWYER: At that point, he couldn't say for certain that Ohtani was betting with him. But of course, he took the ball and ran with it because, to use a sports analogy, because it was great marketing. It was his way of getting more business.

If he could say, oh, Shohei Ohtani is my client. But he didn't know that.

WATT: But did he suspect that perhaps Shohei Ohtani was his client?

BASS: What he suspected is not something I can speculate on.


WATT (on camera): But what she did say is she said that Matthew Bowyer, the bookie, and Shohei Ohtani never had any contact, any direct contact whatsoever. And she also points out her client has not actually been charged with anything. She said that Mizuhara bet on soccer, a little bit of football, never baseball.

And she said he was basically a very bad gambler. Hence, this huge debt that Ohtani allegedly paid off.

Now, there's a game tonight against the Angels here at Dodger Stadium, opening day Thursday. But all of this does really cast a cloud over the beginning of this season. And Ohtani's start here at the world famous Dodgers in Los Angeles -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Nick, $450 million debt that the interpreter accrued. Not a great gambler at all. Nick Watt from Los Angeles. Thank you so much.

WATT: Yes.


SANCHEZ: Next, why some House Democrats want to save Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson's job as one of his own members take steps to oust him.


DEAN: Congress is out for the next two weeks, but Democrats may be mapping out a strategy to save Speaker Mike Johnson's job. Now that his fellow Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene has filed a motion to oust him.


SANCHEZ: Yes, sources say the Democrats could vote in droves to keep Johnson as Speaker if, and this is a colossal if, he outlines a path to getting the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine aid package approved.

CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona joins us now live. Melanie, what are the chances that Speaker Johnson bites on this plan?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, I mean, it is important to point out here that Democrats have had just a remarkable level of power in this narrowly divided House. And once again, it might be up to them to decide whether they are going to save or sink the Republican speaker.

Now, his fate may be tied on how he handles Ukraine aid because Democrats have said that they are not going to just save him for free and they want a clear commitment on Ukraine aid. He has said that he would address this issue after this two week recess, but he has not said exactly how he would plan to do that. One of the options he has is putting that massive Senate passed Ukraine aid package, which also has aid for Israel and Taiwan on the House floor.

Now that would almost certainly trigger a revolt from the right flank and force Marjorie Taylor Greene to go through with the motion to vacate. But we are told that a massive amount of Democrats would likely save Johnson if that were the case.

Another option that Johnson has is to put forward a more narrow proposal, a bipartisan proposal that's currently being worked on in the House that might not trigger the right wing revolts, but it could.

And in that case, there are still some Democrats who still might want to step in and save Johnson. But all of it is a reminder of just how much his fate right now is tied to how he handles Ukraine.

Just take a listen to what Chip Roy, a Republican congressman, told our colleague Jake Tapper yesterday when asked about the motion to vacate.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I oppose the use of the motion to vacate against Kevin McCarthy very openly and very loudly against my right flank colleagues and everybody across the entire body. I disagreed with it. It was a mistake.

Kevin was actually honoring most of the agreement that we came up with. We were actually having bills that we had 72 hours to read. You know what? That got violated this last week. Mike was wrong.

I can promise you if you put a Ukraine bill on the floor and you haven't secured the border, there's going to be a problem within the within the ranks and on Capitol Hill.


ZANONA: Now, Greene has not actually forced a floor vote yet on the motion to vacate. She is still keeping this threat in her back pocket, at least for now.

But in the weeks and months ahead, as Johnson is contending with this divisive issue of Ukraine aid, it is certainly going to loom large over his head.

SANCHEZ: It's a cloud hanging over everything he does. Melanie Zenona, live for us on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

Next, the Justice Department says they've uncovered a massive hacking ring run out of Beijing. What and more importantly, who prosecutors say they were targeting.


DEAN: New today, the Department of Justice just unsealed indictments against an alleged hacking campaign they say was sweeping and run out of Beijing.

SANCHEZ: Yes, prosecutors say they've charged seven hackers associated with the Chinese government who targeted U.S. businesses, government officials, and perceived critics of Beijing.

CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is here with more. So, Evan, how widespread was this threat?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a an operation that the Justice Department says has been going on for 14 years.

They know of various email phishing campaigns that were targeting various people. I mean, this is an operation that is run by the Ministry of State Security. This is associated with the Civilian Intelligence Agency for the Chinese and pretty much runs the gamut, right. From defense organizations or defense companies in the United States, people from inside the government, the Justice Department, Commerce, Treasury, State Department people were targeted, senators, representatives, election campaign people.

And in the U.K., they also announced that they had found that the same group, something that the West calls the APT 13, this is the outfit that they refer to, was also responsible for infiltrating the U.K. elections agency and their organization. There is no indication that they did anything to change voting results or anything. But obviously that raises the huge concerns, you know, certainly here or elsewhere, whenever you have election systems being breached, it's a perennial concern.

The other thing that this group was also doing was to target organizations, anybody associated with dissidents, anything that is criticizing the Chinese government, for reference, for example, Tiananmen Square, anything like that, they were going after in Norway, for instance.

So this was a full-on organization. Seven people have been indicted. It's not clear whether they'll ever see the inside of a U.S. courtroom, but it is something that the U.S. does to sort of what they call name and shame, so that they can tell the Chinese, look, we know what you've been doing, and we want you to stop it.

DEAN: It's like calling it out, yes.

PEREZ: Calling it out.

DEAN: All right, I'm impressed. Fascinating. All right, thanks so much.

Coming up, Kevin Bacon is going to the prom, enticed by a promposal -- a promposal, and a chance to kick off the Sunday shoes. We'll hear the special way the star will return to his footloose days from 40 years ago.



SANCHEZ: Kevin Bacon is ready to cut loose and cut a rug at prom again. But he won't be visiting just any school. He's actually going to Payson High in Utah, where he filmed his iconic movie, "Footloose." The school is set to relocate at the end of the school year and is holding its final prom next month. So students launched a social media campaign to get the star to attend.

And guess what? He said yes.

DEAN: How about that? Bacon says the 1984 movie was a big part of his life. He started as a teenager who moves to a small town where dancing is banned. Payson High School's final prom is set for April 20. Dancing not banned there. They won't.

SANCHEZ: Not banned there, unfortunately. Honestly, when I saw it -- it was before my time, "Footloose." But when I saw it, I thought --

DEAN: It was before his time, OK.

SANCHEZ: I was like, I cannot believe that they would ban dancing. Dancing is so much fun.


Turns out they actually -- there was a town in Oklahoma that I just learned moments ago, thanks to our producer, Margaret, in my ear, that actually banned dancing?

DEAN: Yes. Yes. Can you imagine? I'd be so sad.

SANCHEZ: Wilds. Wilds.

DEAN: It seems so fun.


DEAN: Well we wish them the best. Prom, the last one before they move with Kevin Bacon.

SANCHEZ: Look forward to seeing some footage of Kevin Bacon. Seeing if he's still got the moves.

DEAN: I bet he does.

SANCHEZ: We'll find out. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.