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Judge Places Expanded Gag Order on Donald Trump regarding Attacks on Judge's Daughter Among Others; Trump Ally Hope Hicks to Likely Testify in Hush Money Criminal Case; Israeli PM Says Forces Unintentionally Struck Innocent People; GOP's Johnson Predicts He Will Survive Threats to His Speakership. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 08:00   ET



ELISA RAFFA, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And look at the snow that comes in for the Great Lakes and parts of the northeast, like you mentioned. We've got some ice and snow that could come in on the backside of this. We've got some winter storm warnings up in effect towards Green Bay where we could be looking at up to a foot of snow, winter storm watches for interior New England for seven inches or more. So multiple hazards with this one, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot to watch. Thank you for tracking it all for us Elisa. Thank you very much.

So we are just one week away from the total solar eclipse on April 8th. Millions of people are going to be able to see the moon's shadow block the sun in parts of Mexico through the United States and Canada. The event is expected to not only be super cool, to also be a huge boost for tourism in that line of what's being called the line of totality. Texas is already projecting that they could see a boost of nearly $1.4 billion as people could be flocking to see this solar lunar event.

And CNN has it covered for you. CNN's special live coverage of the eclipse begins Monday at 1:00 p.m. eastern. And you can also catch it streaming on Max.

A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts now.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Minutes ago, President Donald Trump responding for the first time to the expanded gag order put on him. The judge saying Trumps rhetoric poses a very real threat. What will he say at his rallies later today?

Plus, Florida's Supreme Court clears the way for one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. The Biden campaign thinks that could mobilize voters and possibly help him win Florida in November.

Also, outrage around the world after a strike in Gaza kills seven members of the charitable group World Central Kitchen. The aid group says their convoy was hit by an Israeli airstrike. What the Israeli military and the White House are saying this morning.

I'm Sara Sidner with Kate Bolduan in John Berman. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking moments ago, this just happened, Donald Trump commented for the first time since a new expanded gag order was placed on him in the New York criminal trial. The order now includes family members of the judge and the prosecutors. Why? Because Trump had been attacking being the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan online. As we said, Trump just released a new angry statement ranting about the judge, saying there has virtually never been a more conflicted judge than this one. But interestingly, he did not mention the judge's daughter.

CNN's Kara Scannell following this development is with us now. Kara, what else did he have to say?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, John. So Trump with this new post today, and as you said, he toes the line here. He's continuing to attack the judge, but he does not go after the judge's daughter after the judge made clear that she was off limits or Trump could face possible sanctions.

So in this new post, Trump, as you said, he talks about how conflicted the judge is. He says "They can talk about me, but I can't talk about them. That sounds fair, doesn't it?" Question marks. "This judge should be recused and the case should be thrown out. There has virtually never been a more conflicted judge than this one."

Now, last night, the judge issued this order at the request of the Manhattan prosecutors saying that Trump could not speak up about family members that are related to him or the district attorney, Alvin Bragg. It is an expansion of the gag order that he put in place last week. And this is because, as you said, Trump began the day after this gag order was first put in place, attacking the judge's daughter on social media. She works for a Democratic consulting firm. Trump has been trying to argue that she is conflicted and, therefore, the judge should be recused from the case.

He moved to recuse the judge once before. He said he's going to file another motion to do that. That first one was denied. The judge finding here that these threats are real. He said, "It is no longer just a mere possibility or reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self- restraint."

And the judge focusing on Trump's lawyers' argument saying that he needs to have the ability to respond and have political speech. The judge says he can respond, but he said there was no legitimate purpose to post photos of his daughter online. His daughter is not related to this case. And he also looks toward some of the arguments that prosecutors made where they said some potential witnesses are now concerned about testifying at this trial because of the possible threats not only facing them, but their family members. The judge saying that that is real and that is something that could interfere with the trial's process. He said his number one job is to make sure that this trial goes. John?

BERMAN: The threat is very real, that is something to hear from a sitting judge. Kara Scannell, thanks so much for this update. Appreciate it. Kate?


BOLDUAN: Joining us now for more on this is CNN senior legal analyst, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig. So Elie, you see this first response now from Donald Trump on the expanded gag order, not a violation of the gag order in this response. What do you see in this?

ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, I think Donald Trump's post just now is exhibit A as to why the gag order is perfectly fair and appropriate, because in this statement that we just saw from Donald Trump, he goes off. He goes off on the judge. He goes off on the charges against him. He says it's unfair. He says people are biased against him.

And you know what, under the gag order, he's allowed to do all of that. He didn't have to hold anything back. He went on an angry rant and that's allowed under the gag order. What's not allowed, what is now off base and should be off base is attacks on jurors, on witnesses, on court staff, and now, as of the expanded order, on family members. So there are boundaries here. Donald Trump can say quite a bit, as he just has done, but he can't step over those lines. And I think it's a perfect example of why this gag order is both necessary, but also fair and respectful enough of Donald Trump's First Amendment rights.

BOLDUAN: And just fact check this part for it. "I cannot talk about the corruption and conflict taking place in this courtroom with respect to the case that everyone" -- and then he goes on.

HONIG: Incorrect, because he just did it, and he is allowed to do that. I mean, what Donald Trump is allowed to do under the gag order is to say essentially what he just said. He is perfectly within his rights to say this judge is biased against me. He's perfectly within his rights under the gag order to say this case is unfair. He can say the D.A. has bad motives. What he cannot do is say things that endanger the process beyond that. He cannot attack jurors, can't attack witnesses, can't attack the daughters, Judge.

So again, I think it's a nice example. The trick before the judge in any gag order is balancing the defendants First Amendment rights -- you do have broad First Amendment rights -- with the need to run an orderly trial and protect the process. And again, I think this posting, as aggressive as it is, I think is a very good example of why the gag order strikes the right balance.

BOLDUAN: Realistically, what happens if he goes further, if he comes out of these campaign events today or anytime outside of corridor or on social media, and targets the judge's daughter again? This is such an unprecedented -- everything is -- when it comes to what this judge is facing in terms of the former president and someone who is currently running for president, what realistically could happen if he violates it?

HONIG: Yes, if he does step over that line again, I think he's going to have a real price to pay, maybe literally. So what can the judge do? There's really sort of three levels of discipline here if we think about progressive discipline. One, a judge can excoriate the defendant, can give him a tongue lashing in court. Now, for ordinary participants that's enough of a deterrent. You never want to tick off the judge. He's the one who's going to run the trial. He's the one who's going to instruct the jury. If there's a conviction, he's the one who sentences.

The second thing a judge can do is start imposing monetary fines. We saw that in the other case, the civil case, but the fines were five are $5,000 and $10,000. That's not really going to make a dent.

And then third, I think only theoretically in this case, a judge can lock a person up for violating a gag order. I would not expect that to happen here. But in ordinary cases, yes, that is an option. But the judge is going to have a discipline issue on his hands throughout this trial, the same way a parent has to struggle sometimes, I know you know this, Kate, with disciplining children. You have to set boundaries and you have to enforce them.

BOLDUAN: And then watch them -- I can't send them to Rikers. That is one thing I know, I cannot send my children to Rikers.


BOLDUAN: Also in this case, we know more now about the possible witnesses who could be called, bold names from the Trump White House days, Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway. Specifically, when you look at Hope Hicks, what can her testimony provide? Compare that to other witnesses that we know are likely to be called, like Michael Cohen?

HONIG: So there are two things about Hope Hicks that I think make her potentially a very powerful witness. First of all, she's the ultimate insider, and most significantly for this case, she apparently is on some of those key phone calls that are happening between and among Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and others when they are first arranging for these payments to be made to Stormy Daniels in 2016.

Keep in mind, the payments themselves are not illegal. It's the falsification of records around those payments. So we don't know whether she has information about either of those things, but it appears she was part of crucial conversations.

The other thing about Hope Hicks is she is still more or less in the Trump camp. She is not a defector who has publicly turned on Donald Trump and earned his ire like a Michael Cohen. She remains in relatively good graces with Donald Trump, and so she's a better witness for prosecutors there because she can't be attacked as some sort of angry anti-Trump ideologue. She's still someone who is fairly close with them. So I think she could be quite a powerful witness.

BOLDUAN: And really interesting when this gets underway in just a couple of weeks. It's good to see, Elie. Thank you. Sara? [08:10:00]

SIDNER: All right, this just coming into us. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now responding to accusations an Israeli military strike killed at least seven people working with the World Central Kitchen. We will have his response coming up.

Also, House Speaker Mike Johnson is confident he'll survive threats to his speakership. He's now fighting against Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's motion to oust him.

And Florida Supreme Court paving the way for the state's six-week abortion ban to take effect. But voters will have a say this November. New details on how the Biden campaign said that's going to seize the opportunity to try to win the state in November.



BERMAN: All right, we have breaking news. This just happened moments ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded after seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike overnight.

Netanyahu said that Israel "unintentionally struck innocent people."

World Central Kitchen said the victims had just delivered food when their convoy was hit traveling in a deconflicted zone, and that they had coordinated their movements with the IDF.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in Jerusalem this morning.

Netanyahu called it a tragic accident -- Melissa.


No mention of World Central Kitchen specifically in his statement, but regret of what happened and an assurance that this kind of thing will not happen again, that the IDF will take greater care, that it shouldn't happen.

Remember also, John, that the IDF has launched, we've heard an investigation at the highest level to try and to figure out how this could have gone wrong.

I think most damning for them is the fact that World Central Kitchen tells us and says in its statement that this was not only a de- conflicted zone, but their movements of getting this hundred tons of aid into a warehouse and then moving out from there, and that's when the convoy was struck, had been coordinated with the IDF. So, we await to hear what that probe has to tell us.

In the meantime, outrage being expressed by a number of different countries. Of course, this was a group of humanitarian aid workers that were, John, from many different countries. There was an American- Canadian amongst them, a British national, a Polish national, an Australian national, and I think, let's put a face to this tragedy.

Zomi Frankcom was one of those killed in this strike, and she had spoken to CNN last year at the time of the Moroccan earthquake. This is what she told us.


ZOMI FRANKCOM, ACTIVATION MANAGER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: That's the moment World Central Kitchen that we have eyes in the sky. So we'd be doing aerial assistance and feeding at the same time.

And we have also teams who are going into the High Atlas Mountains on high clearance four-wheel-drives, and so at the moment, we are still assessing what that need is, but we do know that it is great.


BELL: Zomi Frankcom, one of those who was killed overnight, John.

And as we were speaking about last hour, these are workers that tend to get to many of these places before we do. I remember speaking to Jose Andres who has been speaking of his outrage, tweeting about it, this morning, on the Polish border, a couple of years ago, said, look, the UN agencies do what they do. We just focus on getting food to those who are hungry in the most difficult places, and so, it has been in Gaza.

This is an organization, John that has managed to get around those substantial blocks there in getting any aid in through land by getting it through sea.

And in fact, they've been bringing in hundreds of tons of aid from Cyprus onto that makeshift jetty in Northern Gaza and that was part of what was struck today, though workers had been getting some of that aid that's been brought in by the sea to that warehouse when they were killed tragically leaving it.

We've also been hearing outrage expressed from many of the international organizations that have been trying to get around this blockade to bring food to the hungry, including the head of the UN's relief agency in the occupied territories who has pointed out that this is not tragically an isolated incident.

He says there have been 196 deaths with humanitarian workers in the occupied territories since the war began in October 2023, and he points out that is three times the amount of aid workers killed in any single conflict in a year anywhere, John.

So it gives you an idea of just how dangerous the situation is for these aid workers -- John.

BERMAN: The work is incredibly dangerous, as we said, incredibly selfless, and now we see the tragic consequences of what happened there.

Melissa Bell, thank you so much -- Kate. BOLDUAN: So the new campaign message launched this morning by the

Biden campaign in battleground states. Why the ad-buy targets Florida and shows the Biden team sees abortion rights as such a winning issue for them right now.

And a Navy veteran is arrested after ramming his car to the front gates of an FBI office. The new details coming in on that man and why he did it.



SIDNER: New this morning, House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will be able to survive threats to oust him from his post.

This is after fellow Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene threatened to trigger a vote to remove him if he brings a Ukraine aid bill to the floor. She has already filed a Motion to Vacate.

Johnson is now talking about alternate options to support Ukraine. CNN congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox joins us now.

Lauren, what is the Speaker's plan to try and keep his position?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, he is obviously very confident and he has been going around doing these interviews in conservative media to sort of boost what he believes is a path to keep the speakership.

Mike Johnson is saying yesterday he is as frustrated as Marjorie Taylor Greene when it comes to how limited their ability has been to get conservative wins, but here is what he says the solution should be.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): She is trying to send a message. I respect the message. I share her -- again, her frustration about the process.

But the way for us to fix that is to grow the House majority, and the way to do that is to stand united together on the agenda going forward.



FOX: And Speaker Johnson has said repeatedly over the course of the last several days that he does plan to talk to Marjorie Taylor Greene this week, but the next weeks ahead are going to be very difficult for the speaker to really thread that needle because he is staring down two issues that could give him problems with the right flank. One of them is renewing a security program known as FISA; the other is dealing with this Ukraine aid, something that people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are opposed to in any form. There are other chances and other opportunities, perhaps that Johnson

could convince some conservatives that he is doing it way that maybe they wouldn't vote for, but they wouldn't view as so problematic. But there are a handful of members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who don't want any more aid flowing to Ukraine at all, Sara, and that is the difficult position that Johnson is finding himself in.

SIDNER: So much infighting, so little time. Lauren Fox, thank you so much -- John.

BERMAN: All right, the Florida Supreme Court clears the way for a ban on abortions there after six weeks before most women know they are pregnant. So what is the response from the most famous resident of Florida? Donald Trump. The answer might surprise you.

And then the breaking news coming just moments ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it was a tragic accident that a bombing led to the unintentional death of seven aid workers in Gaza from World Central Kitchen.

We are waiting to get a response from that organization.