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Donald Trump Invited to Appear Before New York Grand Jury; Seven Dead in Shooting at a Jehovah's Witness Hall in Hamburg. Gulf Cartel Apologizes after Americans are Kidnapped and killed in Mexico. Severe weather expected in California. Russia's missile strike in Ukraine; Seven People Confirmed Dead at a Jehovah's Witnesses Center in Germany; Longest Detained American Prisoner Seeks President Biden's Help; Gunman Killed in Tel Aviv Before Wounding Three People; Foreign Agent Law in Georgia Dropped; Xi Jinping Gets Third Term as China's President; Hollywood Actor Robert Blake Dies at the Age of 89. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 10, 2023 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United states, Canada, and around the world. I am Kim Brunhuber. Coming up on "CNN Newsroom."

Donald Trump could soon become the first former president ever to be criminally indicted. Ahead, why his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, might play a key role.

In California, residents are preparing for another round of severe weather including excessive rainfall. An official from Monterey County joins me in just a few minutes.

And shock and outrage in Germany after a deadly attack on a Jehovah's Witness church.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: It has been more than six years since $130,000 of hush money was paid to porn star, Stormy Daniels, to keep her from going public about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. That payment was made just days before the 2016 Presidential Election. Well, now, "The New York Times" reports that Trump has been offered a chance to testify next week before the grand jury that has been hearing evidence in that case.

CNN's Evan Perez tells us what it might mean for the former president.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that they met with the Trump team recently. And, the Times says that the signal at least that was sent was an indictment may be imminent. We know that a number of witnesses or (inaudible) reported a number of witnesses have gone before this grand jury. And it appears, you know, that they have run out of witnesses. I mean, they -- very few other people that could bring before the grand jury.

So, a decision appears to be in the offing. And all signals are that they are ready to bring a case against the former president. This centers around this $130,000 hush money payment that was made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 Election. And you know, the key witness that they would be a relying on for this case, under New York State Law, is Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is, of course, the former fixer, of the former president, who in 2018 admitted to lying to Congress and was convicted.

So, the idea that you're gonna bring a case with Michael Cohen as your star witness really does raise some tough questions for the Manhattan D.A. We do know, obviously, according to Cohen, that the hush money would be reimbursed to him. And so, there is a trail of money, right? There is money that prosecutors would be able to show. And perhaps you can get witnesses who can say, while trump never pays anything unless, you know, he knows what it is for, right? He is known to be very tight-fisted with his money.


BRUNHUBER: All right, we have an update to the shooting at a Jehovah's Witness center in Hamburg, Germany. Police say that seven people are now confirmed dead as well as the gunman.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is following this live from Paris. So, Jim, we are still getting information about this. It's still breaking. What more can you tell us?

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, in addition to the eight dead, which includes the gunman, in fact, there is a number of people injured. We're trying to get an account of exactly how many people have been injured in the shooting attack. It came after a meeting at the Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in Hamburg.

And it's not clear at all what the motive is in all of this. But there has been a number of things over the decades here in Europe in terms of discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses, including right here in France, in fact, where they've had to go to court in order to clear their name after being classified as a sect in the mid 1990. So, there is some discrimination, some prejudice throughout Europe and they've had to go to court. The organizations had to go to court a number of times to try to clear their name.

Now, after the shooting, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany had this to say. He said, "Several members of the Jehovah community fell victim to a brutal attack of violence last night. My thoughts are with them and their loved one."

And then there was a statement that also came out from the church itself that said, "The religious community is deeply saddened by the horrific attack on its members at the Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a religious service. We pray for those affected and wish them for strength of the God and of all comfort."


So, up to now, that's about what we know, Kim. But we are expecting to get a briefing sometime later this morning, perhaps around the noon hour, by the Hamburg Police, and we'll get more information at that point. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, any idea how people are reacting to this? I mean it must be quite shocking for a country that does not really see this type of gun violence, like say here in the U.S.?

BITTERMAN: I think so. Yeah, I think that it's quite shocking because, in fact, in Germany and in France as well, and other parts of Europe, it's quite difficult to get hold of weapons to begin with. But also, these types of crimes are -- don't happen often, but they do happen. And there have been a number of attacks over the years. But nothing compared to what you've seen in the United States, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll keep on top of the story and I appreciate the reporting Jim Bittermann thank you so much.

The Mexican drug cartel thought to be responsible for kidnapping four Americans last week and killing two of them has reportedly issued an apology letter. The Gulf Cartel also currently handed over five of its letters to local authorities. That's according to images posted online and an official familiar with the investigation, but CNN cannot confirm any of that. Meanwhile, the remains of the U.S. tourists who were killed were repatriated on Thursday.

CNN's Rosa Flores has this update.


ROSA FLORES,CNN CORRESPONDENT: All four of the Americans who were kidnapped are back on U.S. soil. The two Americans who were injured, have been in the United States since Tuesday getting medical attention. The other two Americans, the Americans who were killed, were returned to the United States late on Thursday.

There was a caravan of vehicles that crossed from Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas that carried their caskets. They were taken to a funeral home. A second autopsy is expected. This, as we're learning more about the hours and the days after the kidnapping of these four Americans.

Mexican authorities saying that they found a clinic where these Americans who were given first aid, and they also seized an ambulance that was used to transport the Americans to that clinic. It is important to note that in Mexico there are private ambulance services and then there are also clandestine clinics in the area.

Now, we're also learning from Mexican authorities that Mexico has sent hundreds of troops to this area to secure the border. According to Mexican authorities, that includes 200 Mexican Army soldiers and 100 National Guard members. All this is a source within the state A.G.'s office telling CNN that this is still an ongoing investigation and that they are investigating all angles.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, Mexico's President is lashing out at Republicans over a proposal that would give the U.S. new power to fight Mexican drug cartels on both sides of the border. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico isn't a colony of the U.S., and called a proposal disrespectful. Take a listen.


ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are not going to allow any foreign government to intervene, much less the armed forces of a foreign government to intervene into our territory.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Senate Republicans say drug cartels have been terrorizing Americans for decades and need to be taken down. He threatened to unleash, quote, "fury and might of the U.S. against that cartels if Mexico doesn't do more to stop them." Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What was offensive to me is for him to not take decisive action against a common problem, for his lost control of a large part of Mexico to Narco terrorists. People in Mexico are living in fear. My country is being poisoned. So, I don't care if he is offended or not, I want him to up his game. Business as usual is not going to continue.


BRUNHUBER: Across the Western U.S., nine states are facing winter weather alerts. In California alone, more than 16 million people are under flood threats, amid yet another atmospheric river event. It's expected to bring heavy rains, which in some cases can trigger melting mountain snow. Residents are being urged to stay inside.


DIV. CHIEF CYNDI FOREMAN, SONOMA COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT: You know our big message to people is if you don't have to be out, please don't be out, don't drive through standing water you do not know how deep it is.


BRUNHUBER: And it is not just rain, 20 million people across the west are under high wind alerts and the highest elevations gusts could reach up to 80 miles an hour. Governor Gavin Newsom has requested a Presidential Emergency Declaration. Now, all this as some residents were finally catching their breath after previous winter storms.



TOM FREDERICKS, FELTON, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: We've been working every week, every week, when we can since then. And it's just starting right now to feel like it was before the storms. This is kind of discouraging to be facing that all over again.


BRUNHUBER: Some parts of the state have already issued evacuation warnings. One resident is hoping for warnings before the worst hits. Listen to this.


AMBERLEE GALVIN, FELTON GROVE, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: We don't have a plan be right now but we are hoping that it will not be that bad or we will at least having some warning before it does.


BRUNHUBER: And this extreme weather will continue into the weekend.

CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the latest.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEORLOGIST: New overnight, the Weather Prediction Center really upping the ante with this latest atmospheric river event pounding the state of California with heavy rain and snow. They have issued their highest alert level for flash flooding in and around the Monterey County. And to put that into context, this is the first time that they have done that since 2010.

Still overnight the moderate risk of flash flooding for the San Francisco bay region. And a look for the day on Friday, that high risk level extends further south including San Luis Obispo as well as the central Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Let's explain why this is important. Remember all the various atmospheric river events that we covered so far this winter? Dumping copious amounts of snowfall, burying homes and vehicles quite literally, right? Well guess what, this particular storm is going to be significantly milder than the previous atmospheric river events because we're tapping into that deep tropical moisture just south of Hawaii. In fact, you can pretty much track that cloud cover train all the way from Hawaii into the state of California.

Now, the various computer models that meteorologists look to show and indicate that the freezing level is actually gonna be about 1,000 feet higher than what we previously anticipated yesterday. That means that more rain will fall out of the system on top of that deep snow pack that we saw just a moment ago. There will still be snow, several feet of it across the Sierra Nevada

mountain range, but more rain anticipated across the central valley all the way to the coastline. This is going to allow for rapid snow melt, the potential for flash flooding, landslides, and mudslides. National Weather Service picking up on that, heavy rainfall and our flood watch continues.

Here is the first atmospheric river event blasting through the day on Friday, moves inward along with the moisture plume. And then look what's waiting and it's weighing, so another rain and snow event anticipated by the end of the weekend into parts of next week. Back to you.


BRUBHUBER: And joining me now from Salinas California is Matthew Lumadue. He is an EMT and Fire prevention specialist with the Monterey county regional fire district, thanks so much for being here with us.

So we've just heard about how bad things are across the state, especially where you are. What are the latest conditions there now and what are the biggest threats that folks are facing?

MATTHEW LUMADUE, FIRE PREVENTION SPECIALIST, MONTEREY COUNTY REGIONAL FIRE DISTRICT: Some of threats that folks are facing are the rivers rising. The rain did pick up quite a bit last night. And as just mentioned, the warm weather, warm air kind of came with it. There was a significant increase in temperature, but a lot of moisture and a lot of wind last night. So, the wind and rain are persistent currently.

BRUNHUBER: I know that people had been comparing. They have been sandbagging, and so on. And you had an evacuation notice as well. Are people listening? Are they really taking this threat seriously?

LUMADUE: Yes, they definitely are. Back when we had our storms earlier in the year, in early January, a lot of people realized how fast some of this water can fall and how fast some of it can actually run into the creeks and rivers. Some of the problems right now that we are having is the ground is so saturated that the majority of the water falling to the ground is really just running off into those creeks and rivers. And that's why you get the rise in the water levels so fast.

At this time, we do have some suggestions for people, like subscribing to an alert system, such as Alert Monterey County. It is basically like a reverse 9-1-1 system where you can get phone calls to alert you of incoming threats. We also have a phone number called 211. That's a great number where you can find current incident information, as well as some of the community resources as well.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah. Good advice there. Those who sort of aren't paying attention, those who maybe stayed when they should've left and got caught in the flooding, how do you get them out?

LUMADUE: So, we have a task force assembled. We have three of our own engines in that along with four others from other agencies. They are patrolling the areas, some of the low lying areas that are more prone to flooding. We also have some high water vehicles that have come into town to assist us with any types of needed evacuations and rescue


BRUNHUBER: Yeah. So -- and we've just heard from our meteorologist, I mean, it's supposed to get worse. And then I'm thinking sort of in the longer term, I mean, you've had a lot of snow as well. So, when you get all that rain, and then later all the snow that is melting, are you going to expect more of this flooding maybe later in the season as well?

LUMADUE: Here in Monterey County and Salinas, were not as affected by the snow melt. It was nice last week. With the cold storms, the difference was we didn't getting a little dusting on our heels, a little bit different than what we were used to.

But we're not gonna see the type of snow melt that the Sierra Nevadas and the towns in that area are gonna have. But we do, like I said, have a lot of water that is coming off the mountain straight into the creeks and rivers. And that is going to give some potential for the water levels to rise. Those are being monitored right now. Their -- the waters have been going up a little bit. But right now, we are just kind of keeping an eye of it.

BRUNHUBER: And just finally before we go. I want to take a bit of a wider look at this. How unusual are the conditions you are seeing? And we know as well, due to climate change, we will see more and more of this type of extreme weather. Is there something you have to do to look more long term and prepare for these types of situations as they become more and more normal?

LUMADUE: Preparation is key, you're right about that. Preparing your family, yourself and your animals before a storm is always the best thing to do. We even have some types of preparedness plans available through the Monterey County OES System. The Monterey County OES website has some samples things that people can do to prepare for such things.

But as far as climate change and things like that though, you know, winters vary. Some winters carry a lot more moisture, some less. This year, we are seeing a lot more moisture just like we had in January, similar moisture levels to that, again, here in March.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Listen, we wish you and everybody out there, all the best as we deal with this extreme weather. Matthew Lumadue, thank you so much for joining us, appreciate it.

LUMADUE: Thanks for having me. Have a great day.

BRUNHUBER: All right. President Biden is looking to cut $3 trillion from the Federal deficit with his new budget. He unveiled his plan during a speech on Thursday in Philadelphia, and it is more of a challenge for Republicans of the congressional reality. It doesn't cut Medicare or Social Security but includes funding from pre-school, family, medical leave, college grants, school lunches, Ukraine and clean energy. It's paid for with tax hikes on corporations and Americans making more than $400,000 a year. And he's the President's message to Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I said I'm going to introduce my budget on the 9th of March, you introduce yours, and we'll sit down, and go line by line, and we will go through it. We'll see if we can agree on or we disagree on, and then fight it out in Congress. I want to make it clear I'm ready to meet with the speaker anytime, tomorrow if he has his budget. Lay it down, tell me what you want to do.


BRUNHUBER: The Wall Street is looking to rebound after a 543-point drop to the Dow. So, let's look at the U.S. Futures right now. As you can see, they are all down. Investors are keeping an eye on February's unemployment numbers, which are due in the coming hours, and they are expected to have a major impact on the Federal Reserve's interest rate decision later this month.


MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: If you think about what this administration has done over the last two years with getting people back to work, with creating more opportunities, getting people into better positions with higher wages, meaning the president has been very clear, the economy is moving in a very positive direction, but he has also been clear that he wants to do everything he can to ease the inflationary pressures that every American is facing right now


BRUNHUBER: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is taking on Social Security and Medicare in her bid for the White House. It's a risky move. Those two federal entitlement programs are critical to most older Americans. And politicians rarely mentioned them to avoid alienating senior voters.

Well, not Haley. She says, younger people who are now entering the workforce, need to change our expectations about when they will retire or the benefits they might receive. So, here is how she explained it at a campaign stop in Iowa on Wednesday.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Social Security is going to go bankrupt in 10 years. We need to fix it. How do we fix it? You focus on the new generation. You focus on what is next. So, the first thing you do is change the retirement age of the young people coming up so that we can try to have some sort of system for them. The second thing is you go and you limit the benefits for wealthy people.


BRUNHUBER: Haley declined to recommend a specific new retirement age, but says she reflect that most are living longer. Just as stressed that people who are retired or near retirement would not be affected by the plan.


A spokesperson for Mitch McConnell says that the U.S. Senate Republican leader will stay in the hospital for a few more days. He is being treating for a concussion after he tripped and fell at a Washington hotel on Wednesday night. The 81-year-old McConnell is the Senate's longest serving Republican leader in history. He's first elected in 1984, and has served seven terms in the Senate.

Russia is reportedly changing its game plan with its missile strikes on Ukraine. Still ahead, the new tactic by Moscow to beat Ukraine's air defenses.

Also ahead, more large demonstrations in Israel over a proposal to greatly weaken the nation's supreme court. More details just ahead, please stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Kyiv says Russia is switching tactics in its strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. Moscow unleashed a massive barrage of missiles and drones across Ukraine on Thursday, leaving at least six people dead and more than 20 wounded.


Kyiv says Russia did something new. It fired different types of missiles and drones at the same time, including some missiles that Ukraine can't shoot down like Russia's hypersonic weapon.

For more, Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London. So, Salma, what more are we learning about the attacks?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ukrainian officials describing it as an unprecedented assault across Ukraine yesterday, around 95 different missiles used by the Kremlin launched across different provinces, and as you mentioned, the Kyiv calling this a new tactic by the Kremlin. They say all of these different types of missiles were fired at the same time simultaneously.

You had air, land and sea missiles being fired from warships in the Black Sea, airstrikes, Iranian-made drones being used as well, those hypersonic missiles which can evade Ukraine's air defenses, all coming from an attack that the result of was multiple people killed, multiple civilians killed, multiple people injured, residential buildings destroyed in several areas.

Lviv, a city that has been a relative safe haven now for sometime all the way in the west of the country, that city shook, struck by these attacks. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant that is very much a flash point along the front lines for the sixth time came yesterday. It was impacted by these attacks. And for the sixth time, they went into blackout mode, was cut off from the main power grid. It has been restored now. But the IAEA, the chief of the nuclear watchdog, warning that luck will run out soon. Again, this is not the first time that the nuclear power plant has

been caught in the cross fire. Russia, for its part, says that this attack was retaliation for an alleged cross border attack by Ukraine. Ukraine has denied that an attack took place, but it shows you just the velocity of the retaliations coming from the Kremlin.

For now, Ukrainian officials say, the country is still very much on high alert as emergency services fan out to the affected areas and try to provide to help people need. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Alright. Thank you so much, Salma Abdelaziz in London.

Much more to come here on "CNN Newsroom" including parts of CNN's conversation with an Iranian-American detained in Iran for more than seven years. Stay with us.



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom." And to our breaking news this hour, the death toll from the shooting of a Jehovah's Witnesses' center in Hamburg, Germany just went up.

Seven people are now confirmed dead along with the gunman. Not long ago, the German Chancellor spoke out about the deadly attack calling it a brutal act of violence. Police with guns drawn were seen entering the three-story building on Thursday and now say they believe there was only one shooter. There is no word yet on a possible motive.

According to local media, seven people are wounded, some seriously. The Jehovah's Witnesses' community released a statement saying that it's deeply saddened by the horrific attack after a religious service.

Fifty-one-year-old Siamak Namazi is an Iranian-U.S. national with dual citizenship. He was arrested in 2015 while on a business trip to Iran and has now been held in Iranian detention longer than any other American. He spoke by phone from the notorious Evin prison, exclusively with CNN's Christiane Amanpour and she filed this report.


CHRSTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I honestly would defy anybody not to be moved by this incredibly rare, unusual and compelling conversation with an Iranian-American who has been detained unjustly in Evin Prison for the past seven years. He decided that he felt so abandoned, so out of options, that he had to come through us to try to besiege directly President Biden to do whatever it takes to bring himself and two other American-Iranians still in Evin Prison. Here is part of that conversation.

SIAMAK NAMAZI, LONGEST-HELD AMERICAN PRISONER (via telephone): I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin prison, it should just tell you how dire my situation has become by this point. I've been a hostage for seven and a half years now. That's six times the duration of the hostage crisis. I keep getting told that I'm going to be rescued, and deals fall apart or I get left abandoned. Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally hear our cry for help and bring us home. And I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. So, this is a desperate measure.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, you wrote this letter to President Biden recently and I'm going to quote a little bit from it. "Day after day I ignore the intense pain, I always carry with me and do my best to fight this grave injustice. All I want, sir, is one minute of your days' time for the next seven days devoted to thinking about the tribulations of the U.S. hostages in Iran." Did you get any personal response to that letter, Siamak?

NAMAZI: I've never had any response. This is what makes things particularly painful. President Biden has been in office for 25 months now. You've got to excuse me, this is hard.


President Biden, I certainly hear and I sincerely appreciate your administration's repeated declaration of freeing the American hostages in Iran is its top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't appreciate how dire our situation has become. It's also very hurtful and upsetting that after 25 months in office, you haven't found the time to meet with our family, if just to give them some words of assurance. Sir, Morad, Emad and I have now collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have been utterly devastated. We desperately, desperately need you to finally conclude that we've suffered long enough as Iran's hostages. President Biden, you and you alone have the power to deliver on the Obama administration's broken promise to my family.

AMANPOUR: You can imagine that it took a huge amount of courage and desperation in equal measures to take this step. He's written to the president; he's gone on hunger strike. He's issued tweets and op-eds via the way of whatever means he's been able to do over the last period of time, but nothing has worked.

We understand now from experts that there potentially is some deal in the works using Qatar as an intermediary. Bu it would involve, like all of these issues, a financial transaction. And so, what's being asked of the president is to be brave enough to do what other presidents have done and in other countries, to do what they have to do on humanitarian grounds, to bring their citizen's home.


BRUNHUBER: Well, CNN reached out to the Iranian and U.S. governments for comments. Tehran hasn't replied but the White House said, quote, "Iran's unjust imprisonment and exploitation of U.S. citizens for use as political leverage is outrageous, inhumane and contrary to international norms. The United States will always stand up for rights of our citizens wrongfully detained overseas including Siamak Namazi. Senior officials from both the White House and the State Department meet and consult regularly with the Namazi family and we will continue to do so until this unacceptable detention ends and Siamak is reunited with his family.

The State Department reiterated Thursday that both White House officials and senior State Department officials have met with Namazi's family and they are in contact regularly. The State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, says that Namazi's release has been a priority of the current U.S. administration. Here he is.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We have made very clear to the regime since the earliest days of this administration, the priority we attach to seeing the prompt release of those Americans who are detained wrongfully. We are always going to stand up for the rights of our citizens who are wrongfully detained, and that of course includes Siamak Namazi.

Senior officials from this building as well as the white house. Meet and consult regularly with the family. And we will continue to do so until this wrongful and unacceptable detention comes to an end.

BRUNHUBER: Rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians flared again late Thursday. This time in downtown Tel Aviv's entertainment district. A 23-year-old Palestinian man was fatally shot by police after he opened fire on pedestrians, wounding three Israelis. Hamas claimed responsibility.

At the same time, there is growing unrest among Israelis over a radical proposal to weaken the nation's judiciary. This is the 10th week of large street protests. Thursday's demonstrations were billed as a day of disruption and forced U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to alter his brief visit to Tel Aviv.

Protesters in Georgia aren't going away quietly even as the ruling party has withdrawn the controversial foreign agent's bill. Some are calling for early elections, while others want government reforms that will help move Georgia towards membership in the European Union.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry says it has released all the demonstrators detained this week. And Georgia's president congratulated protesters on what she called an important victory. Here she is.


SALOME ZOURABICHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA (through translation): I commend the authorities for taking the right decision to revoke this law. They recognize the true power of the people. The unity exhibited on Tbilisi streets with this move.


BRUNHUBER: It's a record-breaking day for China's president. Just ahead, XI Jinping gets a rubberstamp and five more years in office from the National People's Congress. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BRUNHUBER: China's National People's Congress has handed Xi Jinping an unprecedented third term as president. That makes him the longest serving head of communist China since its founding in 1949. Xi was also named Chairman of the Central Military Commission. The unanimous votes were a formality. China's NPC is a highly choreographed event meant to demonstrate the legitimacy and unity of the country's political elite.

Last hour, I spoke with CNN's Beijing bureau chief Steven Jiang and I asked him about the implications of a third five-year term for Xi. Here he is.



STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: In this political system, where the communist party is the only ruling party, Xi Jinping's real power actually derives from his position as the head of the party and the head of the 2 million strong military, which by the way, is actually like not a national army but technically the party's army.

But still, symbolically, this is very significant because now Xi has been given a third term for all of the important title Xi holds. And really, this is the latest reminder that he is the most powerful Chinese leader in decades. And his iron grip over the party, the state, the government in any nation remains as firm as ever despite (inaudible) rumors and speculation. And this is also, you know, a new era that we can see how he wants to further consolidate and reassure the party's dominance in every aspect of Chinese life.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden is dismissing some sharp rebukes from his Chinese counterpart. Reporters asked what he thought about claims from Xi Jinping that the U.S. is adopting a dangerously aggressive posture around the world. Biden replied not much. The Chinese president said this week that Washington's policy had become one of containment, encirclement and suppression against China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is again showing off his daughter at a high-profile military event. According to state media, the child recently appeared next to her father at a live fire artillery exercise. The girl believed to be Kim's second child who is estimated to be about 10 years old.

She first appeared by Kim's side last November. Western observers believe the recent public appearances of Kim and his daughter are meant to show the Kim family dynasty backed up by the North Korean military will continue after he is gone.

All right, coming up. The Alex Murdaugh saga continues. The disgraced attorney making an appeal to avoid life in prison. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The disgraced attorney, Alex Murdaugh, is appealing his murder conviction for killing his wife and son. One of his attorneys said it was the next step in a legal process to fight for Alex's constitutional right to a fair trial.

Last week, a judge in South Carolina sentenced Murdaugh to life in prison for the shooting death of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. Prosecutors arguing, he killed them to distract and delay investigations into his alleged financial crimes.

And this final note before we go. Emmy-winning American actor Robert Blake has died. He was 89. Even at an early age, Blake had a successful film and television career. But all of that was overshadowed by the murder of his second wife in 2001 for which Blake stood trial. Here is CNN's Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From child star --

ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR: Good morning, mother.

ELAM (voice-over): To a Hollywood hero.

BLAKE: You want to live for corruption, don't start at the bottom.

ELAM (voice-over): To a man accused of murder.

UKNOWN: How do you plea?

BLAKE: Not guilty.

ELAM (voice-over): Robert Blake had an unusual life.

BLAKE: I was born lonely, I lived lonely, and I'll die lonely. But the audience has always given me the life.

ELAM (voice-over): Blake was a street performer in his native New Jersey with his two siblings before the family moved to Los Angeles. He got gigs as a movie extra, which lead to a lucky break in the "Our Gang" shorts.

UKNOWN: About time. What happened (inaudible)?

BLAKE: Oh, nothing.

ELAM (voice-over): He made 40 appearances as the little rascal before MGM cancelled the film series. But Blake continued working throughout his childhood like in "Red Ryder."

BLAKE: Red Ryder is right. We've got work to do.

ELAM (voice-over): Blake said that he viewed acting as an escape from a difficult upbringing.

BLAKE: As long as there was a camera within 10 feet of me that I could get in front of or if I could get in front of an audience, I feel comfortable.

ELAM (voice-over): The actor won critical praise for his performance in 1967's "In Cold Blood."

BLAKE: I would like to apologize. But who too?

ELAM (voice-over): And grew his fan base as an undercover detective in the tv series "Barretta."

The show ran three seasons and earned him an Emmy. Blake would go on to appear in about a dozen more T.V. projects. In 2000, Blake married Bonny Lee Bakley, the mother of his youngest daughter. It was his second marriage, her 10th.

In 2001, Bakley was fatally shot while sitting in a car outside a restaurant where the couple had just finished dinner. Blake was charged with her murder.

UNKNOWN: Your motion is denied a special circumstance.

UKNOWN: Denied.

ELAM (voice-over): Prosecutors argue Blake hired a hitman to get out of a loveless marriage. A jury acquitted him of the criminal charges but he was found liable for Bakley's death in a civil case filed by her children. Blake was ordered to pay $30 million and declared bankruptcy.

BLAKE: I constructed a life. I constructed marriage. I constructed friends. I constructed business associates. But it was all about what I could do for them. My hand was open to them and their hand was in my pocket.

ELAM (voice-over): Blake remained adamant he was innocent of the crime.

BLAKE: I didn't murder my wife.

ELAM (voice-over): He spent his last years largely out of the spotlight, longing for an audience and adventure.

BLAKE: I work on high wire without a net. That's where I'm comfortable.


BRUNHUBER: Well, that wraps this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm Kim Brunhuber. Thanks for watching.


More news is just ahead with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo. Please do stay with us.