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Trump Invited to Appear Before Grand Jury; Economy Added 311,000 Jobs in February; Kyiv Holds Memorial for Ukrainian Commander; Ukraine Regroups after Deadly Wave of Attacks. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2023 - 09:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, we made it to Friday, my friends. Good morning. I'm Erica Hill.


New this morning, could we see an indictment soon against former President Donald Trump. CNN has now learned the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has invited Trump to testify before a grand jury. All of this connected to the alleged hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016, right before the election. Ahead, what it means as prosecutors weigh potential criminal charges.

Plus, good economic news. The U.S. economy added some 311,000 new jobs last month. That beat analysts' expectations by a long shot. Wages, unemployment, up slightly. What does this all mean for the Fed as it continues its fight to cool down inflation. We're going to break down the numbers.

HILL: And, right now, evacuation warnings are in effect for parts of California. People along the central coast could see dangerous amounts of rain. We're going to take you there as residents prepare for yet another massive storm.

But we do begin this hour with news that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office signaling it could file criminal charges against former President Trump.

CNN's senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joining us now.

So, Paula, what more do we know? What does this signal really tell us?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact that this invitation has been extended to the former president to come before the grand jury in New York, it signals that this investigation is likely wrapping up and an indictment is possible, but it's no guarantee. This investigation has been going on for around five years as an investigation not into an extramarital affair, not even specifically into a hush payment, but into whether business records were falsified when the former president reimbursed Michael Cohen for this hush money payment that was made to Stormy Daniels.

So, again, this has been going on for five years. But in the fast five weeks, we've seen an uptick in activity in this grand jury investigation. We've seen a number of high-profile Trump associates, like Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks going before the grand jury.

Now, I do not expect the former president will join that parade of witnesses and take them up on this invitation. But if an indictment is brought here, this would be historic. This is incredibly significant. But prosecutors face a lot of challenges. We're talking about events that occurred about seven years ago. At the core, this is a paperwork crime that would rely on a novel legal theory to be prosecuted. And at the center of all of this is your star witness, Michael Cohen, a convicted liar who has publicly been arguably fixated on the former president and wanting to see him charged. And any good defense attorney would seize on that.

So, again, it's unclear if there absolutely will be an indictment, but a lot of legal experts agree that this could be a difficult case to prove. And in talking to the former president's attorneys, they're not as worried about this case as they are about the one in Georgia and the ones with the special counsel.

SCIUTTO: Paula Reid, thanks so much.

And joining us now to discuss, former federal prosecute Renato Mariotti, host of the "It's Complicated" podcast.

Good to have you on, sir.


SCIUTTO: So, questions, of course, about Cohen's role in this, his own background, but he did, by the way, go to jail. He was convicted here.

Tell us what you think about, one, the seriously of these potential charges, misdemeanor or felony, and how far you think this goes.

MARIOTTI: Well, first of all, I really doubt that the Manhattan DA's office has gotten this far and is inviting the former president to the grand jury if they're not planning on charging him. So, I do think it's likely that charges are going to issue.

I do agree with Paula's analysis that these are going to be difficult charges to make. I mean of the array of potential charges that Trump is facing, I agree that these are probably the most difficult to prove. However, nonetheless, it adds a degree of difficulty for Trump's defense team because of course they're facing a -- kind of a tight front war. In other words, just because, you know, these are easier charges to beat than, let's say, what's going -- you know, the charges he might face in Fulton County or from the special counsel from the Justice Department, doesn't mean that he can ignore those.

So, you know, what - it's actually kind of -- you're playing three- dimensional chess. Any move, any statement, any defense that he makes in this case will have repercussions in those other cases potentially. His words can be used against him in those other cases. So it just, I think, makes things more difficult for him.


HILL: So, that's from one side, whatever Trump does could impact those other cases, potentially. But what about the charges themselves? Bringing these charges and them what could ultimately unfold, could that in any way impact what happens in some of those other cases?

MARIOTTI: Well, sure. So, first of all, the - there's a number of different potential charges here, and Paula kind of highlighted those. The most basic charge is the misdemeanor, which would be falsifying business records. That, actually, I think is the easiest charge to prove here. There will still be issues proving that. I'm not saying that it's a slam dunk, but it's definitely the easiest charge to prove.

The novel theory that Paula was hooking onto is that in order to make that into a felony, prosecutors have to prove that that falsified business record was in connection with another separate crime. That would have to be an election law violation in New York most likely. And that essentially would be suggesting that the $130,000 payment, hush money payment to Stormy Daniels was an unlawful campaign expenditure rather than just like a personal payment. Very similar to the charges that were brought against former presidential candidate John Edwards, which resulted in an acquittal.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the point there, you know, misuse of federal -- or rather election money.

Help our viewers understand, given there's so many investigations currently underway, where does this fall in terms of seriousness in those cases? I mean you've got the Georgia state case on attempting to overturn election. You've got a federal case on the same thing, election interference, attempting to overturn election, et cetera, as well as potential federal case on handling of classified documents. Where does this stand in that hierarchy, in your view, in terms of seriousness?

MARIOTTI: I think the least serious in terms of potential penalties and also the most difficult to prove. Unusual that the Manhattan DA is pursuing charges on this matter when he had taken a pass on what appeared to be stronger charges that ultimately were brought in a civil case by Letitia James, the attorney general.

The Fulton County case, we don't know exactly what the charges are going to be, but, you know, a lot of problematic conversations that Trump had with former - the former Georgia secretary -- or the current Georgia secretary of state. Others in the state of Georgia tried to overturn that.

There's also, as you pointed out, I mean I think the most easily and readily provable charges are the Mar-a-Lago documents charges. In other words, you know, he willfully retained classified documents in his residence, even after a grand jury subpoena. And then, of course, there's a whole (INAUDIBLE) panoply of potential

charges around January 6th. The problem, though, is that Trump is going to have to have legal teams in all of these cases. And like I said, there's (INAUDIBLE) between them. So definitely not a good development.

SCIUTTO: Renato Mariotti, thanks so much.

All right, economic news now. Employers added 311,000 jobs last month. That's more than expected. A pullback from the 504,000 jobs added in January. But, boy, that's a big number at any other time. It does continue a streak of hotter than expected jobs reports. Of course, the other factor here is how the Fed reads all this because they are trying to put the brakes on the economy.

HILL: CNN economics and political commentator Katherine Rampell joining us this morning.

So, here's what I think -- and I don't think I'm the only one, right? I think a number of viewers and Americans in general struggle with as well.


HILL: So, we have this strong jobs report, right? So, the jobs market is still hot. Looking at some of those sectors, you had pretty significant gains in leisure and hospitality and in retail, so people are needed in those sectors, which means people are spending money. And we know the U.S. economy depends on consumer spending. Inflation's still too high, though. So, what are we supposed to make of all of this? Sort of a similar formula that we've been seeing. How do I put it all in perspective this morning, Katherine?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is legitimately confusing. This is the 11th consecutive month when forecasters have expected much lower job growth than we got. And it's weird. I mean we've had eight rate hikes, eight interest rate hikes. A lot of people were expecting, if not a slowdown, maybe even a recession. But this recession is like waiting for Godot. You know, it's like, people keep thinking it's around the corner and then it never arrives, which is generally good news, right? I mean nobody's really rooting for a recession. But it is puzzling how the economy has been able to maintain its strength, how the job market has been able to maintain its strength given these predictions and given the great stress on the economy to date.

So, you're not alone. It's -- it's hard to make sense of.

SCIUTTO: First of all, very good literally reference there. Second of all, the Fed is trying this balance, right? I mean they -- listen, every -- we should be celebrating a strong job market. That means Americans can find jobs and get paid. And, by the way, the pay is going up as well. But, the trouble is, prices are still staying high. The Fed, and understandably you and me, and folks watching, want to get those prices down.


Why aren't the interest rate hikes working so far? It's pretty aggressive ramp up. And how far do you see them needing to go before they begin to have an effect?

RAMPELL: Again, it's a little bit unclear. Is this about there's just a longer lag between the time when the Fed raises interest rates and it's really felt in the economy, or maybe we don't know what the alternative universe would have been. Maybe the economy would have been even stronger, booming even more absent these rate hikes.


RAMPELL: I also wonder to what extent fiscal policy is still playing a role in helping the economy expand, especially at the state level. Most states have cut taxes in the past year. Almost every state has cut taxes in the past two years. So, that's still giving people money to spend.

SCIUTTO: Interesting.

RAMPELL: That might be part of the explanation here.

You know, we also don't know if our headline numbers are capturing all of the stress that's out there. You know, there might be something we're missing in part because of this weird Covid economy.

HILL: You tweeted yesterday, I'm paraphrasing here, but if I remember it was something to the effect of, no matter what the jobs report shows, the Fed is going to be mad. How does the Fed deal with this latest bit of data?

RAMPELL: I -- well, what I said was, people will be mad at the Fed. I think the Fed is in a very challenging --

HILL: There you go. Sorry about that.

RAMPELL: That's OK. They're not that different. But I think the Fed is in a really challenging position because we have these contradictory signals. Strong jobs market. You know, some stress in the financial sector. Inflation too high. Maybe some signals that some of those pressures might be coming down but then they reverse themselves, so who knows.

I think the Fed is looking at this report and saying, hmm, the job market still looks stronger than we anticipated. There's some silver - you know, some signs that monetary policy is doing what we want it to do, but it's not sufficient. Next week we will get new inflation data. I think that there's going to be a lot of attention paid to those data, and that will affect what the Fed does.


RAMPELL: But I think we should anticipate rate hikes continuing for a while. SCIUTTO: You said something interesting there. You said that part of

the inflationary push here are tax cuts at the state level because all the -- in the political environment, all the criticism has been leveled at Covid relief money going back a couple of years now. But are you saying that there's - there's inflationary tax policy at the state level?

RAMPELL: Yes. I mean, I don't know how big the magnitude is, but states have had these huge budget surpluses in the last few years. That's partly because the economy has been quite strong and they have strong tax revenues. It's also partly because they got a lot of money from Congress. So, they have a lot of money to play with.


RAMPELL: And that money was supposed to be used, of course, for making investments in schools and various other things. And to some extent it's been used to just, you know, hand it back over to taxpayers in the form of property rate cuts, income tax cuts, et cetera.

And so, we don't have a great sense -- because there isn't like a central database, a central repository that tells us how that money is flowing through to taxpayers, but I think it's quite possible that that's part of the story here.

SCIUTTO: Got it.

RAMPELL: People have more money to play with.

HILL: Catherine Rampell, always good to talk to you. Appreciate it. Thanks.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

HILL: Just ahead, Ukraine's military says it was able to intercept about a third of the 95 missiles Russia has launched at them over the past day. We are live on the ground as Ukrainians plan to memorialize a hero soldier killed near Bakhmut.

Plus, Republicans on the road in Iowa. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis getting a push toward a 2024 bid now from a new super PAC created with the sole intention of getting him to run.

SCIUTTO: Also ahead, the cartel suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping of four Americans, killing of two of them, has issued, remarkably, a letter of apology. Also handed over five of its members to local authorities.

Plus, a friend of the kidnapped group is speaking to CNN.



SCIUTTO: Today, Ukraine is attempting to regroup after Russia launched its largest missile barrage so far this year, 95 missiles over the course of just the past day. Ukraine's military says it was only able to intercept about a third of them, 34. In Kyiv, power and water have now been restored, but, boy, it was a tough night.

HILL: Yes, absolutely.

We are also watching an event happening in Kyiv right now. It's a burial service. It's being held for a fallen Ukrainian commander who was killed in Bakhmut.

CNN's Ivan Watson is there.

So, Ivan, what more do we know about this commander?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, this young man's name was Dmytro Kotsiubailo. He went by the code name Da Vinci. And part of his funeral is taking place here. We've been watching funeral and memorial events in Kyiv for hours now. The church service was actually attended by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the top military command were in Kyiv's Maidan, that central square where thousands gathered to pay their respects to this man who was killed this week in the grinding battle of Bakhmut, that small southeastern Ukrainian city where the Russian and Ukrainian militaries are pounding each other day after day for months now for control of that city.

Now, this man, Da Vinci, as he's known, last year Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, gave him the honor of calling him a hero of Ukraine. And he is viewed by many of the people who -- the thousands who have gathered, as a national hero. Someone who participated in the 2014 protests -- the 2014 protests against a pro-Russian president in the Maidan Square that ultimately resulted in the overthrow of that president.


He fled to neighboring Russia.

So, Da Vinci had been a young activist there and then joined a militia that fought against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region for years after that and then has been part of the armed forces fighting against the Russian invasion over the course of the last year. He is the youngest battalion commander in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The crowds have been chanting things like "heroes never die." And I think this underscores the immense sacrifice that Ukrainian military commanders are paying in this battle, this contest, this deadly contest against the Russian military in Bakhmut.

Back to you.

HILL: Ivan Watson, live for us there this morning. Ivan, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Let's dive deeper into all of this now with retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

Good to have you on, sir.

Let's talk first about this missile barrage overnight. One, it's the scope across the nation, even killing people all the way in the western part of the country.


SCIUTTO: Seems to be a mix of a couple things, hypersonic missiles, difficult to impossible to shoot down with Ukrainian air defenses, but also these Iranian Shahed drones, and it seems fired at the same time. Is that by design to overwhelm Ukraine's air defenses?

KIMMITT: Sure. Absolutely. And it's their version of shock and awe too. They're trying to make a huge effect on the population and the infrastructure.

SCIUTTO: And are Ukrainian air defenses, even with the addition of more advanced western NATO systems, still overwhelmed there by these Russian missiles?

KIMMITT: They are. I think until we see the patriot get on to the ground or - they're going to be on their back foot, especially when you send so many at once -


KIMMITT: It's hard to target all of them. Hard to shoot them all down.

SCIUTTO: Another thing -- this is CNN's reporting -- is that Russia is capturing some western made U.S. supplied in particular weapons in the - in this fight so far, including the javelin anti-tank missile and the stinger shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile, sending them to Iran, in effect, as a gift for them to reverse engineer potentially. How significant is that?

KIMMITT: Some gift.


KIMMITT: It's a boon to Iran. Iran is providing drones to Russia. In return, they're getting systems that they're reverse engineering and propagating throughout the region. They've done this before. Iran got ahold of the old TOW missile. They got ahold of old drones as well. So there's sort of Middle East regional impact if you now see advanced weapons being developed by Iran.

SCIUTTO: And have they shown themself, for instance, with the TOW, the ability to take one, figure it out and make their own?

KIMMITT: Sure. Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: That's alarming.

OK, let's talk about the progress of war then in the east. There's been a lot of talk about a Russian spring offensive. Really hasn't materialized. U.S. officials have been telling me for some time they just don't have the forces and the manpower to do anything definitive. But we also know Ukrainians want to carry out a counteroffensive in the opposite direction. What is the actual state over here? Does any - does either side have the potential to make ground?

KIMMITT: Well, it really depends on what the Ukrainians have been doing over the wintertime. Yes, we've been focusing on Bakhmut, but hopefully they're been resupplying, rearming, retraining. They really have almost an imperative to have a spring offensive.


KIMMITT: They've got to demonstrate to the west that they're making progress. They have to demonstrate to their own people that they're making progress.

SCIUTTO: All the fighting, all the attention around Bakhmut in these last several weeks, extremely deadly for both sides. I mean we're talking about some days where thousands are killed in a single 24-hour period. Has it been worth it for the Russians, but also crucially for the Ukrainians, to fight so hard, so long, and to give up so much there?

KIMMITT: I don't think so. I mean retrospectively this reminds me of World War I, these great battles where inches were gained and thousands were lost.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This is the area we're talking about here.


SCIUTTO: So, what happens now in the coming weeks? You say that Ukraine has to make -- they have to make a push this way just to not be on their back foot in effect. Do they make progress when they make that push?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I don't think that's where they're going to do it. If I was advising them, I would be looking at a different area. There is a -- down here by Kherson, going all the way up to Berdyansk, I think what they really want to try to do is unhinge the Russian offensive. Imagine if they were able to get all the way to Berdyansk, they would essentially put all of Crimea at risk, particularly if the Americans put in ATACMS.


KIMMITT: And then the Russians are going to have to think about this land bridge that has been so important to them. How will they react?

SCIUTTO: I mean that's been one of the principle goals of the whole Russian invasion is to join Russian controlled areas here with Crimea in the south.

Great point. General Kimmitt, always good to have your expertise.

KIMMITT: Thank you.


HILL: We'll soon hear Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who will be shaking hands in Iowa. That, of course, traditionally one of the first stops along the way to a presidential launch.


So, when it comes to a 2024 campaign, what is he saying privately? We'll tell you. We'll also tell you what Iowans can expect to her. That's next.


HILL: This morning, more evidence that California really just can't seem to catch a break. Check out that map right there. It gives you an indication of why. So, one of the things we're keeping a close watch on, these powerful storms that could dump dangerous amounts of rain on the central coast. And, of course, the concern there, possible widespread flooding.

SCIUTTO: That same system could also bring intense snowfall, winds up to 80 miles an hour in some areas.

CNN's Natasha Chen, she's live in Sacramento County, California.


Natasha, it's remarkable because in these areas, and we've talked to you and others for months really, wildfires, right? You know, the result of drought. And now we have this.