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UBS Buying Credit Suisse In Bid To Halt Banking Crisis; Former Attorney For Michael Cohen Expected To Testify In New York Monday; L.A. School Workers Union To Hold Three-Day Strike This Week; Putin Makes Surprise Visit To Ukraine's War-Torn City Of Mariupol; Iraq War 20 Years Later; Trump Indictment Could Have Unintended Consequences; Fundraising To Save Toddler. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 19, 2023 - 16:00   ET



PAULA REID, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Jim Acosta is off. I'm Paula Reid in Washington.

A big development in the now 10-day banking crisis jolting global financial markets. Switzerland's largest banking group UBS just agreed to buy its rival Credit Suisse in an emergency rescue. The purchase is aimed at halting investor panic brought on by two sudden U.S. bank failures this month.

Investors and customers pulled their money out of Credit Suisse over the past several days as turmoil swept the global banking industry. Now Credit Suisse lost 25 percent of its shares over the course of the week despite an emergency $54 billion loan from the Swiss National Bank.

Now I want to discuss this with Jeanna Smialek. She reports on the Federal Reserve and the economy for the "New York Times.

Jeanna, will this UBS move to halt the panic, will this work?

JEANNA SMIALEK, FEDERAL RESERVE AND ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Good question. It certainly should help to secure some amount of comfort in at least Europe about, you know, whether we were going to see an orderly resolution to Credit Suisse. You know, I think this was kind of hanging over markets. There's a lot of rush to get this done before Asian markets opened.

And the fact that they've successfully done that I think should, you know, at least inject some amount of sense of comfort that, you know, this sort of things can reach a timely resolution and that financial authorities at any rate are on top of these problems.

REID: And how are the problems at Credit Suisse different from those than doomed the two lenders that failed last week? Do you see the Fed's action playing into this crisis?

SMIALEK: Yes. I think Credit Suisse's problems were many varied and actually predated a lot of the Fed's interest moves. You know, we had seen scandals in Credit Suisse. We had seen some problems in their investment banking arm. I think what really happened here is we saw the demise of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in the United States which were very much tied to the Federal Reserve's interest rate hiking cycle, and with those, I think you got this real collective look around by investors in the banking space saying, you know, who else is weak, who else in the banking industry isn't looking great these days?

And that's really what came home to roost for Credit Suisse. I don't think it was necessarily the same variety of problem. It was just that they were in the same industry at a time when there's sort of blood in the water and the sharks were circling.

REID: So is the criticism of the Fed's action fair?

SMIALEK: You know, I think it's interesting because the criticism of the Fed's action is basically this idea that by raising interest rates they've exposed vulnerabilities in the financial system. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates because inflation had popped, because inflation has been so rapid and they've been trying to wrestle that under control, and they really only do have this one tool, which is raising interest rates in order to get that under control.

So I think that, you know, when you're talking about whether it's fair or not, you just have to dissect why is it happening, did they have an alternative, what else could happen here. And I think there are certainly some fair questions about whether there could have been more done here from a regulatory and supervisory point of view. You know, people could have looked at these banks a little bit more closely to see where risks were hiding.

REID: And what will you be looking for tomorrow as markets open?

SMIALEK: I think people are really questioning, you know, what happens to the rest of these sorts of these regional midsized banks in the United States. Are they going to face outflows this week? Are people going to be nervous about banks who are sitting on a lot of unrealized losses or banks who have a lot of insured depositors because those were two big problems that really at Silicon Valley Bank?

And you know, is this sort of merging of two global behemoths, is that enough to make everybody feel comfortable sitting in bank stocks or do we continue to see outflows this week? And we're really going to have to wait for the open tomorrow to know that for sure I think.

REID: And based on your reporting, are we past the worst of it right now?

SMIALEK: I think most people I talk to are still at the point where they're saying that's pretty much TBD, you know, to be decided. They're not actually sure yet. It does seem like there is still some jitteriness among certainly depositors. And I think that everyone is kind of waiting with bated breath to see if that results in more bank runs or whether people will feel comfortable by the really extraordinary things we've seen government do over the last two weeks to try and shore up confidence in the system.

REID: Jeanna Smialek, thank you.

SMIALEK: Thank you.

REID: And a new development this hour in the Stormy Daniels hush money investigation in Manhattan. Former President Trump's legal team has asked the Manhattan DA's office to call a witness in the case who can testify to the credibility of Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Just a short time ago former Cohen legal adviser Robert Costello confirmed to me that he will testify before the Manhattan grand jury tomorrow.


Cohen is of course the chief witness for the prosecution having admitted that he made hush money payments to Daniels and another former "Playboy" model in the days before the 2016 presidential election using campaign donations. Now he says he did so at the request of then candidate Donald Trump. Now Trump denies any affair with Daniels. Now Cohen was imprisoned and disbarred after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes.

I want to bring in former federal prosecutor Shan Wu to talk about this.

All right, Shan, so we have tomorrow another witness potentially coming before the grand jury, and this witness is supposed to speak to Michael Cohen's credibility or lack thereof. How unusual is this?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it is very odd for a number of reasons. It sounds like he's going to be a surrogate for Trump testifying. In New York they invite someone who is possibly or likely to be indicted to have a chance to make a pitch to the grand jury. Trump apparently is not going to do that, which is wise. And I guess this is the substitute.

What's particularly odd about it, though, is he had at one point spoken with Cohen and he says that he was not formally retained by him. He also told "The New York Times" that Cohen had waived attorney- client privilege. But it's a very dicey ethical situation if he gave Cohen at one point any kind of confidential legal advice, whether or not Cohen had waived the privilege.

One, he might reassert it, but two, you still as a lawyer can't use confidential information to do something adverse to your client. He is obviously going in to be adverse to him to try and undercut his credibility. So it's a very odd situation.

REID: How unusual is it for prosecutor -- all right, because the prosecutor is running the show here -- to grant a request from a defense team to bring somebody in?

WU: That's not necessarily unusual. If you're a prosecutor, if I thought something was just, you know, way out in left field, not very relevant, I wouldn't want to muddy up the grand jury's analysis here. Here, however, it actually works to their advantage because he is really -- Costello is undercutting his utility later. He's going to be locked in now. They're going to know the best he has to offer to help Trump.

So it's really a poor move by Trump's team putting him on. The chances of them actually derailing an indictment at this stage are very, very low. In fact it was nonexistent. So if I were them, I wouldn't even bother putting him in.

REID: That's interesting because I was told the D.A. didn't really want to resist this request for optics reasons, right?

WU: Right. Yes.

REID: If they refused to put a defense witness on, that would become a whole thing. But ultimately it's up to the grand jury, right, whether they want to hear from this person. Do you think the grand jury will want to hear from Costello?

WU: I think they will. Yes. I think, first of all, the prosecutor has a fair amount of sway over what the grand jury is interested in hearing and they could -- the prosecutor could tell them, look, we think this will be valuable. I don't think they'll override that.

REID: And then Michael Cohen says he and his attorney Lanny Davis, they're going to be at court around 1:30 tomorrow as potential rebuttal witnesses. So he'll have the chance to rebut what Costello says about him?

WU: Yes. That's odd, too. I don't think the prosecutors should put him as a rebuttal witness. I mean, for one thing, to the grand jury it looks like now there's he said-he said kind of situation. Second of all, I mean, unless they produce an audio or transcript, Cohen will have to listen first to that to try to rebut it which kind of question if they should even do that for him hearing another witness?

So while the prosecutors probably want him on call if Costello says something that they think is really problematic, it's not the normal practice that you would have in the grand jury, this kind of witness versus witness scenario. And it's not really a good strategic thing for them do, which brings me to my original concern that it might be a little bit too quick in terms of Bragg having decided to move from zero to 60 on this. The case has been worked up for years, but it's possible that with his office trying now suddenly to push it forward, you know, haste can make waste.

REID: Yes, there are a lot of questions right now that we really haven't answered in our reporting about why we're seeing this uptick now. But let me ask you, if there is an indictment and that's still an if, what kind of charges do you expect would be brought?

WU: Most likely they're going to start with this falsifying of business records for booking this as a legal retainer fee or something when it's really meant for Stormy Daniels and related to the campaign. That all by itself, just falsifying, is a misdemeanor under the New York laws. But if they can tie it to concealing another felony, either a New York state election law crime or perhaps trying to piggyback it on to the federal campaign violation, that bumps up the falsifying to a felony charge. Then the unknown here is if Bragg is actually revisiting the many

financial crimes that are worked up which he charged the organization with.


It's theoretically possible to reopen that at this point because it would be related to this. It's a business record. That would be bad news for Trump because then he'd be looking at the tax fraud, the banking fraud, a lot more charges. Unlikely only because it seems like we haven't gotten wind of that. You would think he'd want to put in the CFO Weisselberg again if that was going to happen. But it's possible.

REID: That is certainly a question we've had about whether Weisselberg would be asked to testify here.

Shan, last, just compared to all the other legal investigations the former president is facing, I mean, how does this one stack up?

WU: This one is probably the least threatening in terms of the jail time. It's also a little bit challenging because it's older and Cohen, you know, is a cooperating witness, he could have some baggage. I mean, I don't think it's so much baggage that he wouldn't have been affected as a witness. I think he will be. But it would have been low on the radar. The Georgia one is much more developed and obviously the January 6th and Mar-a-Lago classified documents cases are massive, sprawling investigations with very serious consequences.

REID: Yes. And as we just reported this week, dozens of subpoenas going out for folks at Mar-a-Lago. So active and ongoing.

WU: Absolutely.

REID: Shan Wu, thank you so much.

WU: You're welcome.

REID: And next hour I'll speak live to one of the former president's attorneys, Alina Habba. Stay tuned for that.

And Los Angeles County schools are bracing for a three-day strike this week that the district's superintendent says could make it virtually impossible to keep schools open. The union workers representing thousands of L.A.'s school employees including cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, teachers' assistants, and aides say they plan to walk out after nearly a year of negotiations over better pay and working conditions. And about 30,000 unionized teachers will also join them.

CNN's Camila Bernal reports.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The signs Jose Tovar is making will be used Tuesday when a three-day strike is expected to force school closures in the second largest district in the nation.

JOSE TOVAR, L.A. UNITED SCHOOL DISTRICT CUSTODIAN: We're not asking for the world, but just, you know, to live above water.

BERNAL: Tovar, a custodian with a full-time job at an early education center, says he makes about $25,000 a year.

TOVAR: I love my job, especially I deal with a lot of 5-year-old, 4- year-old kids and make sure I keep it clean for them. But sometimes you don't feel appreciated, no respect.

BERNAL: And respect is what his union says this strike is about. While asking for more money, some members have reported harassment for doing so.

MAX ARIAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SEIU LOCAL 99: Some have been harassed to the point where they've lost their job, they've lost income or they generally just some are intimidated.

BERNAL: SEIU Local 99 is the union representing thousands of cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, and other school workers. But the teachers' union is also joining the strike in solidarity.


BERNAL: LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho is hopeful that the two sides will come to a monetary agreement and says harassment claims are being reviewed.

CARVALHO: We have not been presented with compelling evidence that there's widespread abuses. Are there issues? Yes. Each one of them is vigorously investigated and consequences are applied on the basis of the merit of the allegation.

BERNAL: The union says avoiding a strike is unlikely. Instead they want to shine a light on minorities and low-income workers who keep the schools running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like what you did.

BERNAL: They see this as a wake-up call for other districts in the U.S. to fund education.

ARIAS: Elected officials throughout the country, federal and state, should see what's going on here and think this is happening just over every district in this country.

BERNAL: The superintendent also believes that when they come to an agreement, the rest of the nation will use it as an example.

CARVALHO: I believe that it will be precedent setting for the country, and I will take pride in it, as will the union. For these are some of the lowest wage earners in our community.

BERNAL: Both sides worry about the students who may suffer greatly from school closures.

CARVALHO: Once you're forced to shut down a school, you eliminate some of the protections and rights that children have. The right to food, the right to health, the right to social and emotional support, the right to mental support, the right to have their disabilities addressed in an adequate way.

BERNAL: But the union believes people like Jose Tovar need to make more money.

TOVAR: It's a struggle. It's hard. You know, sometimes like I'm thinking to myself, Lord, am I going to make another day, you know, like this?

BERNAL: Because in the end they say higher salaries for school workers will lead to better schools and better education.


BERNAL: And salary negotiations are going to take place behind the scenes, but because this strike is about how teachers feel or workers feel like they're being treated and not about the salary, the union says that they could see another strike.


They don't want one but they say they will continue to push until they get what they believe is fair. In the meantime you have thousands of parents here in Los Angeles trying to figure out what exactly they're going to do with their children this week -- Paula.

REID: Camila Bernal, thank you.

And coming up next hour, I'll speak with the executive director of the Service Employees International Union. That's the union that's planning next week's strike.

And still ahead this hour, 20 years in shock and awe. A look back at the war in Iraq as the nation reflects two decades later. Plus the story of a 3-year-old with a rare disorder his family says could kill him at any moment. And there is a way you can help Henry get the one treatment that could save his life.

But first, Vladimir Putin wanted for war crimes visits a Ukrainian city his forces pummeled. One resident turned refugee shares her reaction with our Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She said that this was like seeing a serial killer return to the scene of a crime, to see the Russian president there in Mariupol, a city that his forces destroyed in the first place.




REID: Now to the war in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi will travel to Moscow tomorrow to meet with Vladimir Putin in what Beijing is framing as a peace-making mission. U.S. officials are worried that any proposal that comes out of these talks, especially a cease-fire, would heavily favor the Russians. All this as Vladimir Putin makes a surprise visit inside Ukraine to the Russian-controlled city of Mariupol.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports.

WATSON: Paula, the Russian president was fresh from publicly being issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for allegedly kidnapping Ukrainian children when he made this visit to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, arriving by helicopter, the Kremlin says, and then driving himself a few minutes to the outskirts of the city where he was shown newly constructed apartment buildings by a deputy prime minister who pointed out that much of the city has been destroyed, that the Russian government is demolishing ruins and trying to build hospitals and kindergartens that the Russian military arguably destroyed in the very first place.

Putin was introduced to a handful of residents who thanked him for their new apartments saying that they had had nothing until they were given these new buildings.

Now, I've spoken with a woman named Maria, who I met, who had just fled from Mariupol in March of last year. She and her family had endured months of Russian bombardment, were visibly shell-shocked and traumatized by their ordeal, her sister wounded, and she told me that seeing the Russian president in her home city was like seeing a serial killer return to the scene of the crime.

Ukrainian government officials heaping scorn on this visit saying that it was conducted under cover of darkness so that some of the destruction of the city could not be seen.

Let's just remind you that after the invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, the Russian forces encircled Mariupol and pounded it for weeks. I heard firsthand from residents who escaped how they hid in their basements under weeks of bombardment and air strikes. Some of them describing how their neighbors had to be buried in the front yard of their apartment buildings because it wasn't safe to go any further until they were finally able to escape. Men being strip-searched, searched for tattoos, and their phones having to be wiped before they left.

The trauma of this ordeal still being felt by tens of thousands of residents of that city. The Kremlin trying to put a positive spin on what happened there -- Paula.

REID: Ivan Watson, thank you.

And it has been 20 years since the U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq alleging it possessed weapons of mass destruction. Within weeks the government of Saddam Hussein was toppled and then President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations. But U.S. troops remained behind for nearly nine more years as sectarian violence flared and the terror group ISIS rose to power.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman takes a sobering look back at the last two decades in Iraq.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, what has stuck with me having covered the invasion and the messy aftermath is that it was as clear as day that this was a monumental catastrophe in the making.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): It began with shock and awe. 20 years ago the United States and its allies embarked on a war in Iraq. Within weeks Saddam Hussein's regime fell.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

WEDEMAN: They prevailed in the brief battle of Iraq, but the war in Iraq that followed was long and hard. The American road paved with good intentions soon led to hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Son of a bitch. Well, welcome to friggin' Iraq. Huh? Get back in the vehicle.

WEDEMAN: The U.S. never found Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the original rationale for the war. And blunder after blunder poured fuel on a fire of resentment.


Every U.S. operation like this one I covered in the summer of 2003 left behind a trail of bitterness.

By mid-week U.S. troops had detained nearly 400 men. None from their most wanted list. They also managed, however, to arouse a fair amount of resentment.

The Americans are occupiers, says this man. They have no manners or ethics. One of them grabbed a Quran and threw it to the ground.

The U.S. cobbled together a political order based on sectarian divisions, disbanded the Iraqi army and the once ruling party Baath Party, throwing hundreds of thousands out of a job, and was mired in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where Iraqis were tortured, humiliated and photographed. Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of crimes.

Less than a year after the invasion, large parts of Iraq were in chaos. Saddam Hussein was captured, tried and executed, but the insurgency went on. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed but the insurgency went on. Two years after the invasion, sectarian tensions between the Shia majority and the once-dominant Suni Arab minority erupted into civil war and the killing intensified.

The violence only subsided after the U.S. surged more troops into Iraq in 2007. In August 2010, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq leaving behind a brittle, corrupt, deeply flawed democratic regime driven by sectarian tensions, which provided fertile ground for the rampage of the Islamic State or ISIS, spilling over from the war in Syria into Iraq.

ISIS seized control of the northern city of Mosul and then captured city after city, reaching the outskirts of Baghdad. It took more than three years of bitter combat and foreign military assistance to defeat the group.

That enemy vanquished, old discontent resurfaced. In 2019 Baghdad was gripped by massive protests against corruption, sectarianism, and poor living conditions. But like protests movement across the region, it, too, was crushed.

As the U.S. invasion and occupation fade into history, neighboring Iran plays an ever-greater role in the country's affairs. Old problems, corruption, a dysfunction infrastructure, and unemployment, remained unresolved. Yet despite it all, today Baghdad is more peaceful than it has been in years.


WEDEMAN: And indeed most of Iraq is peaceful but that's not necessarily going to last. For instance, keep in mind that Iraq is basically floating on a sea of oil. It should be a wealthy nation where its population is provided with decent education, health services, employment, but that's simply not the case. A few people are fantastically rich, but the vast majority are not. For instance, youth unemployment is around 25 percent.

And the sort of anger we saw in those massive demonstrations in Iraq in 2019 could easily happen again. This is not fundamentally a stable country as a result of the last 20 years -- Paula.

REID: Ben Wedeman, thank you.

And still ahead, an investigation of a former president who is also a leading candidate for the Republican nomination with an election looming next year. How are politics meeting this moment as even moderate voices worry about what comes next. We'll discuss.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.




REID: More now on these new developments in the Stormy Daniels' hush money investigation, surrounding former President Trump. A former legal adviser to Michael Cohen confirms he will testify before a Manhattan Grand Jury tomorrow.

And sources tell me and my colleagues that Robert Costello's appearance comes at the request of the Trump legal team. And that Costello is expected to provide information pertaining to Cohen's credibility as a witness, because, of course, he is the central witness in this investigation.

And this all comes amid growing concerns about political backlash if prosecutors do, in fact, end up indicting the former president in the hush money case.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I think it's building a lot of sympathy for the former president. I think the fact that I was with coffee this morning with some folks and there's ever -- not -- none of them were big Trump supporters. But they all said, you know, they felt like he was being attacked.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D), ARIZONA: I would hope that if they brought charges that they have a strong case, because this is -- as you said, it's unprecedented. And, you know, there's certainly, you know, risks involved here.


REID: Seung Min Kim is a White House reporter for the "Associated Press."


REID: All right, you just heard those lawmakers. I mean, are there real concerns that an arrest of former President Trump, or an indictment could help him, politically?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via Webex): I think that's -- first of all, I think that's what the Trump team is banking on, at this point. I mean, all throughout his relatively brief political career, you know, the former president has really, kind of, seized on this politics of grievance to galvanize his supporters. And I think you've seen the continuation of that, even when he's been out of office.

So, there's -- his team has, kind of, always generally thought that had he actually faced criminal charges, that it would galvanize his supporters even more. I do think you're also hearing that from some of the candidates -- or of some of the actual and potential presidential candidates who are running also for the Republican nomination.

And I think that is a little bit of the fear that people aren't yet talking about openly just yet, but we could probably have escalate later this week. That this certainly could, really, you know, bolster his standing. But, again, I mean, we are in unprecedented territory here. No former president has faced criminal charges, has been indicted like this, so it's really hard to predict the political consequences. And it does come at a time when so much of the Republican Party has been shifting away from him. So, you also have to gauge that dynamic as well.

REID: And, legally, of course, it's not one of the more consequential cases that he's facing. But --

KIM: Right.

REID: -- the former president said yesterday that he expects to be arrested in this case on Tuesday. But a spokesperson for his legal team says there's been no official notification. We've learned from our sources, there's another witness coming tomorrow. This will be a really fast turnaround. But it appears, right, that, he at least, thinks that pushing the idea of an arrest must have some political benefit.

KIM: Right, right. And I think -- I believe his team has indicated that, perhaps, the Tuesday day is what they have gotten from press reports from by consuming, you know, the T.V. and print news as well.

But this is something that he feels, clearly, politically advantageous just to get out there to, again, kind of, you know, egg on his supporters. And I do think that his team is already out there kind of using this as a wedge issue against some of his most prominent potential opponents.

You saw one of Trump's top advisers on Twitter, maybe about an hour or so ago, pointing out the fact that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hasn't said anything much about this, you know, looming indictment, whether it actually happens on Tuesday or not. He is, actually, one of the big ones who hasn't weighed in just yet.

Obviously, we don't know what's going to happen. So, perhaps, Governor DeSantis is being careful there. But you do see team Trump kind of egging on DeSantis, in that sense, as well.

REID: Well, yesterday, former vice president, Mike Pence, called this a, quote, "politically charged prosecution." And I'm struck by how careful he is with his words each time we hear from him on his former boss's legal troubles. Let's take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think many Americans are taken aback at the unprecedented indictment of a former president. But also the fact that the Manhattan D.A., in the midst of a crime wave in New York City, and says that indicting the former president is his highest priority. It tells you everything you need to know about the liberal left in this country.

I'm taken aback by the idea of indicting a former president of the United States, at a time when there's a crime wave in New York City. The fact that the Manhattan D.A. thinks that indicting president Trump is his top priority. I think is -- it just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left in this country.


REID: What do you make of Pence's answers there?

KIM: Well, what you're not hearing from the former vice president there is that no one is above the law. You have heard that from other individuals this morning. It is also a fact that no one is above the law.

But what I found so interesting in the former vice president's answer is just how much he -- how much -- how aware he seems to be that he can't completely criticize the former president, his former number one in this case. We know how far, you know, Mike Pence has gone in criticizing Donald Trump, particularly over his actions on January sixth, which threatened the life of the former vice president and his family. We've seen how critical he was just this last weekend.

So, I do think him being pretty measured there, but also being willing to criticize the voters of the district attorney in this case, is trying to, kind of, keep himself not, kind of, anger the base too much in the way that he already has so far.

REID: Seung Min Kim, thank you so much.

KIM: Thanks for having me.

REID: And still ahead, it's a rare one-in-a-million disorder linked to -- likened to a human time bomb. This three-year-old has it and his family is facing one last chance to save his life. Henry's story and how you can help next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



REID: Parents of the toddler, who suffers from an ultra-rare neurological disorder, are racing to raise $2.5 million in hopes of developing an experimental treatment that may help their son survive. Three-year-old Henry Saladino suffers from Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, or AHC.

Now, there are only 1,000 sufferers worldwide and patients with AHC are referred to as human time bombs. At any moment, Henry can stop breathing, have a life-threatening seizure or become paralyzed. And there's no way to know when it will happen or if he will survive. And, as of now, there is no treatment or cure. His parents, though, are striving to change that.


MARY SALADINO: We remain forever hopeful. We've saddenly (ph) started this journey. If the challenge is the money, we will find it.

[16:45:00] SALADINO: And to hear, when you're diagnosed, that there's nothing that can be done. And then, to realize that, actually, the science exists. You just have to work together to identify the right leaders, fund it and organize the project. We're happy to get it done. But we couldn't do it without all of you and to our communities.


REID: CNN's Alaa Elassar has been following this for us. She joins us now. Alay, tell us about what this family goes through daily, hourly.

ALAA ELASSAR, CNN DIGITAL REPORTER: Of course. So, I think the reality of Henry's family's life is something that is so difficult to wrap our minds around. Twenty-four-seven, Henry's parents, Mary and Anthony, are constantly on watch for Henry to have a life-threatening seizure.

They have no idea if it's going to last minutes, days, months. They have no idea if he's going to be paralyzed at any given time. And the worst part of their reality is that they are in a literal race against time against permanent brain damage.

Every time Henry has a seizure, he is at risk of brain damage. He's at risk of losing everything that he has worked so hard to learn. So, you know, their daily life is, basically, just watching him, memorizing signs that he might be on the verge of another seizure.

You know, most families, their lives are, like, you know, going to the beach, going to the lake, going, you know, to the playground. Henry's family has to think, will he be overwhelmed by these events, that it will trigger a seizure? They can't go anywhere without their emergency rescue bag.

The worst part of it, I think, is that, you know, Mary told me that they're constantly prepared. You know, she -- whenever he has a seizure, she's almost ready to say her last words to him. And I think that's something that no parent or, you know, anyone with a loved one, can imagine. Just being prepared to share your last words with someone, while you're saving their life, let alone your baby.

So, it's just a really, really difficult and heartbreaking reality that they're dealing with.

REID: I can't imagine. Can you talk a little bit about what AHC is?

ELASSAR: Yes, absolutely. So, AHC is a neurological disorder. It affects one in a million people. So, there are currently about a thousand people worldwide who have it, but there are most likely more that just have gone undiagnosed.

And in, you know, Henry's case, his is caused by his mutation. It's a very specific mutation in his brain. And it causes one of the most severe cases of AHC where he has really life-threatening seizures. Very frequent and regular spells where he is not breathing.

And he also has a lot of motor delays. It takes a lot of work for Henry to learn how to talk and how to eat. How to even breathe. How to walk. These small things that, you know, for a lot of toddlers, just come naturally, Henry's brain works incredibly hard to do it. And it works so hard that, you know, these triggers -- the worst part about AHC is that it can be triggered by any and everything. When he was a baby, he would seize every single time that, you know, he took a bath. Sunlight can trigger seizures. Excitement can trigger seizures.

So, this basically means birthday parties, holiday celebrations, families with AHC think twice before, you know, they do these things, because they have no idea if the excitement will cause a seizure. And the reality is, you know, of course, you know, although Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, the name is a little bit deceiving because there are adults with it. It gets worse as you age.

And, again, the fear is that Henry, if he does not receive this treatment, he will have permanent brain damage that all of these things will be reversed. He might forget how to walk and talk. He might even forget, you know, the reality is, things like saying, mama and papa, he might forget how to say that.

So, yes.

REID: What is his family doing to raise money for his treatment? How are they going to come up with that $2.5 million?

ELASSAR: Yes. So, Mary and Anthony are doing absolutely everything they could. They started their nonprofit organization for Henry. The crazy thing is that his parents are, quite literally, leading the development of this drug from scratch.

It has never -- again, like, this ASO treatment that they're developing, it will take -- once they have it, it's going to take about 12 months before Henry can get the drug and hopefully be treated. So, they are, quite literally, in a race against time to raise the $2.5 million. They have their GoFundMe that they're, you know, crowd-sourcing money from.

She is also constantly on the phone with neurologists and researchers learning as much as she possibly can about ASOs. They're going to -- you know, this drug, once they develop it, is going to go through toxicology and testing to make sure that it's safe for Henry.

So, his parents are fighting for his life. They are moving, you know, heaven and earth to get this treatment for Henry. And they're doing it as fast as possible.

REID: Alaa Elassar, thank you.

ELASSAR: Thank you for having me.

REID: And we'll be -- we'll be right back.



REID: Tonight, at midnight, a curfew being imposed on Miami Beach. This after police say one person was shot dead and another injured earlier this morning, the second deadly shooting in Miami Beach this weekend. It follows a Friday night shooting that also killed one and injured one during St. Patrick's day celebrations. Miami Beach's city manager is blaming large, unruly crowds for creating a dangerous environment in the city.

Also tonight, a new study reveals an alarming rise of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the U.S.


REID: And the data reveals a stark racial divide. While the overall rate of infants dying is at record lows, "The Journal of Pediatrics" study finds a spike in the deaths of black infants. The cause, at this point, though, is unknown.

Here's CNN's Jacqueline Howard.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: The sudden, unexpected death of a baby is tragic. And, sadly, rates of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death are rising, among black infants but not among other races.

In the year of 2020, the rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death was 214 per 100,000 for black infants and 205 for American Indian or Alaskan native infants. Those rates are nearly three times the rate for white infants.

The researchers note that this these trends coincide with the early days of the COVID pandemic, but they're likely not related to a baby having a COVID-19 infection.

So, there are many unanswered questions here. Back to you.

REID: Jacqueline Howard, thank you.

And big financial news tonight, as Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, has agreed to buy its ailing rival, Credit Suisse. We'll explain why this is so significant. Plus, I'll speak live with an attorney for former President Trump, as the investigation into hush-money payments reaches a critical point. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.