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Trump Believes He Will Be Arrested on Tuesday; Putin Visits Ukraine; What to Expect from Xi Jinping's Meeting with Putin. Aired 3- 4a ET

Aired March 19, 2023 - 03:00   ET



LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Donald Trump fans the flames of resentment in a message to his supporters, telling them he expects to be arrested within days.

Vladimir Putin makes a surprise appearance in occupied Ukraine. This coming just a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president for alleged war crimes.

And Chinese Leader Xi Jinping headed to Moscow in the coming days to meet with Putin. We'll break down what the two leaders are expected to discuss.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is responding to a potential indictment in New York with the same angry rhetoric he used before the 2021 insurrection. In a social media post, Trump said he expects to be arrested on Tuesday, and he urged his supporters to protest and, quote, take our nation back. The case is related to a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels over an alleged affair which Trump denies.

While Trump's attorneys believe he will be indicted soon, but they still haven't confirmed when it would happen, Republicans have been rallying behind the former president, condemning the potential indictment as a political witch hunt.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The idea of indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me, as it is to tens of millions of Americans. And particularly happening in what appears to be a politically-charged environment in New York where the attorney general and other elected officials literally campaigned on a pledge to prosecute the former president.


HARRAK: CNN's Katelyn Polantz has more on the possible indictment.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Donald Trump says on social media on Saturday that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday in this ongoing financial crimes investigation out of Manhattan. But at this point in time, he doesn't actually know. His spokesperson for Donald Trump this morning said there has been no notification from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office that Trump is going to be indicted in the coming days, although everything we know about this investigation signals that it is in its very last days.

Last week, Trump was invited to come in and testify to the grand jury that has been investigating this for many, many months, as would be his right as the target of the investigation in New York. He declined to do that. He we have learned that there is another witness scheduled for Monday to go before the grand jury. But right now the grand jury is finishing up its work. This investigation is about a $130,000 payment that Donald Trump's attorney at the time in 2016 -- this was Michael Cohen -- paid to Stormy Daniels, who was alleging that she had an affair with Donald Trump and they wanted to keep her quiet before that campaign or as that campaign was ongoing.

There also is clearly an investigation around just general financial issues related to the Trump Organization, possible financial falsification of records connecting back to the Stormy Daniels payment. But at this point in time, we don't know when this indictment will come or what exactly the charges would be if and when the grand jury in Manhattan is asked to approve them.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.

HARRAK: Well, the Manhattan district attorney is pushing back against Trump's call for protests, saying his office does not tolerate attempts to intimidate.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on how authorities in New York are responding.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Law enforcement officials who are actively engaged in these behind-the-scenes conversations, saying that they do have several concerns should we get to the point where those charges are filed against former President Donald Trump, one of which is courthouse security in lower Manhattan if Donald Trump has to travel here to answer to these charges.

That's mainly because of the potential for demonstrations or rallies by Trump supporters, that they could possibly be galvanized into taking action beyond peaceful protests in light of what we heard from Donald Trump over the weekend in his message calling for protests, also the idea of any possible counter demonstrations.


And that's why local, state, and federal law enforcement in New York City are coming together and having those conversations about how they would respond.

Another fascinating angle in all this is what one federal law enforcement source told CNN's John Miller that the Secret Service detail in charge of protecting the former president is also careful engaged in conversations with agents in New York City about the logistics that would come in transporting Trump to the Manhattan district attorney to answer to these charges. This is a process that is typically quite routine, that would include a full booking process, including fingerprinting and a mug shot being taken before an eventual arraignment and it's safe to assume an eventual release.

However, given the publicity of this case, multiple sources saying that that process, if we reach that point, would likely happen away from the crowds and cameras. So, it just speaks to the unprecedented nature of everything that's happening behind the scenes as many wait for what the next step will be from a grand jury.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

HARRAK: Let's discuss this now with CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, so good to have you with us.

The former president urged his supporters to go back to the streets. How do you interpret this message?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, what makes this message so striking is that it comes after January 6th and after the clear effect of his words on that day. You know, if you are the most sympathetic to Trump observer possible and you go through contortions and back flips, you can come to the conclusion in the most generous possible interpretation that he did not know on January 6th that what he was saying would lead to violence.

Even with those back flips, you cannot reach that conclusion today. I mean, he knows what he said on January 6th, he knows the reaction to it, and yet here he is delivering similar messages. It is reckless. It is dropping matches in gasoline. And what is so striking is that as so many points in his presidency, once again in this period, you do not see any mainstream Republican leaders condemning him for this rhetoric, and, in fact, you see them rallying around his argument that this is inherently a politically motivated prosecution.

HARRAK: And, Ron, this is not the only case. Mr. Trump is facing separate criminal investigations in addition to the hush money inquiry in New York. Is this the strongest case?

BROWNSTEIN: This is the least-consequential case, and maybe the legal analysts will tell you is probably the most difficult case to prove, right? I mean, this is about a hush money payment in 2016 to an adult film star who was alleging that they had an affair. There are much more consequential cases out there in Georgia and about trying to undermine the election, and then the two special prosecutor investigations at the federal level about undermining the election and classified documents.

And, again, if you look at the reaction of what we are seeing today with the speaker of the House calling for an investigation of the investigators, rather than -- we're so far removed from this, that an earlier generation in American politics, you would have had leaders in both parties saying, we have to let the legal process play out, no American is above the law, the legal system will decide whether there are grounds to indict and then whether there are grounds to convict. We're jumping past all that. You have the speaker of the House saying, this is inherently illegitimate and we have to investigate the investigators. If that's the reaction to this potential indictment, you really do wonder what's going to come when the more consequential issues are joined at some point presumably later this year.

HARRAK: Okay. That brings me to my next point or my next question, I should say, regarding the hush money inquiry in New York. If that case does not result in a conviction, what would that mean?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, Trump would argue that -- he will use it as evidence that the deep state is conspiring against him. I suspect that some of the other prosecutors wish this case had not come first and that they had a clean field in which to operate. But those other investigations are going to proceed on their own track. I mean, whether Trump is convicted or a hung jury or exonerated or it never goes to trial, he's going to say the same thing in any case, that the deep state is coming after me because they really want to silence me. That is the argument that he has made. And there is a piece of the Republican Party for whom that is going to be very persuasive.

I think what's different from his presidency is that there is now also a piece of the Republican Party for whom that will not be persuasive. After '22, you saw more Republican elites, political strategists, donors, other elected officials raising -- openly questioning whether Trump can win in 2024.


And while I think there would be a rally around the flag effect for some of his base, if in fact he is indicted, for this other piece of the party, I think this would be more evidence, more reason for them to be concerned that he can actually win again.

So, this would not be -- certainly in a general election, it would not be unequivocal benefit for him. And even in the context of a Republican primary, I think it's going to have contradictory and cross-cutting effects.

HARRAK: Ron Brownstein, as always, thank you so much.

We have just received new video of Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. The city suffered massive damage before Russia occupied it last year. The Russian president stopped at one of the city's neighborhoods where he was reportedly invited into a family's home.

The trip followed his visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary since Russia announced the annexation of the Ukrainian Peninsula. Russia carried out that land grab back in 2014 after sending in troops and staging a hasty referendum. Kyiv says it's only a matter of time before all of its occupied lands are liberated.

All right, let's get you more now. Clare Sebastian joins us live from London. Clare, President Putin on a surprise visit to Mariupol after his trip to Crimea, this just a day after the ICC issued an arrest warrant.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laila, pretty extraordinary to see him on the ground there. We've just, as you say, got that new video showing Putin himself arriving, then behind the wheel of a car driving from the airport, it seems, towards Mariupol. He is then later seen in the philharmonic theater in Mariupol, not far from the drama theater, which almost a year to the day ago was bombed by Russia in what is believed to be perhaps the worst mass casualty event of this war. People then reportedly shelters in that philharmonic theater where we now see President Putin, there you see him, of course, now in the car.

He's with the deputy prime minister of Russia, Marat Khusnullin, they are discussing reconstruction efforts, rebuilding the airports. They later discussed rebuilding apartment buildings in Mariupol. This, I think, from the western perspective, looks like a pretty extraordinary act of defiance coming just a day after that arrest warrant was issued by the ICC, literally taking a tour, it looks like, of some of the scenes of his alleged war crimes, some of the worst it's believed committed in Mariupol itself.

But from the Russian perspective, the message to the Russian people here is not only Putin in control, in charge, significant to see him behind the wheel of a car -- the last time we saw him driving was across the Kerch Bridge, that Crimean bridge that was blown up in the autumn. He drove a truck across it after some rebuilding efforts there. But also the effort here is to normalize these territories in the eyes of the Russian people as part of Russia. They've been doing this with Crimea since 2014 with events held to mark the anniversary. I think by discussing rebuilding, investment, stuff like that, this is what he's trying to do here. Of course, that pushes any hope of discussions with Ukraine even further away. Laila?

HARRAK: And, Clare, this all happening as Ukraine says Wagner mercenaries have suffered colossal losses in beleaguered Bakhmut.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, this coming from Ukrainian commander in the east of the country who says he believes Bakhmut may be the last stand, the last battle, essentially, for Wagner. We heard on Saturday from Yevgeny Prigozhin admitting openly that they need to replenish their ranks, really. He said they were hoping to recruit 30,000 new members by May, that they're already in the process of actively recruiting hundreds per day in some cases.

Interestingly, the number 30,000 is exactly how many people the U.S. government estimates Wagner has lost, including deaths, desertions, and injuries. That estimate coming earlier this year. But it's also interesting, obviously Bakhmut remains a nexus of pretty heavy fighting. But in terms of the frontline overall, both Ukrainian and British intelligence assessments have estimated that the number of Russian offensives has actually gone down. There's been some relenting over the last week. That may be partly because of the scale of these heavy losses alongside what we know to be significant losses in terms of equipment and significant ammunition expenditure. Laila?

HARRAK: Clare Sebastian reporting, thank you so very much.

Still ahead, anger across France after the government tells workers they'll have to stay on the job two years longer to collect their pension. We'll head to Paris for an update.

Plus, for an 11th week, hundreds of thousands of Israelis filled the streets to protest a plan to curb the power of the country's judiciary. Why some believe the proposal is a distraction created by Prime Minister Netanyahu.


That's next.


HARRAK: France is in the throes of turmoil after President Emmanuel Macron's government bypassed parliament and raised the retirement age from 62 to 64. Thousands of protesters marched through a Paris train station and a shopping center chanting, Macron, go away. Some demonstrators clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

CNN's Sam Kiley has more now from Paris.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Place d'Italie, this is the third day of spontaneous demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron's policy of changing the pension age from 62 to 64.

Now, there have been more organized demonstrations. The unions are asking people to get off the streets because they are worried about an increased level of violence. And there's a great deal of pressure now on Emmanuel Macron, because this conjures up memories of the Gilets Jaunes, Yellow Vest Movement that he had to deal with for many, many months as part of the demonstrations against his attempts to reform the economic and even the social structures of this country.


Sam Kiley, CNN, in Paris.

HARRAK: Hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Israel on Saturday, voicing their opposition to the Netanyahu government's plan to overhaul Israel's judicial system. It's the 11th straight week of demonstrations over the proposal, which would let lawmakers overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.

Critics fear the changes will weaken the country's highest court and erode democratic checks and balances. Well, this week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog unveiled a proposed compromise plan saying the country was, quote, on the brink of civil war. But Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rejected the suggestion.

South Korea's military says it's detected another launch from North Korea on Sunday, this time, a short-range ballistic missile. Officials say it flew nearly 500 miles, about 800 kilometers, before landing in the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. While this follows multiple recent tests by Pyongyang, including an intercontinental ballistic missile launch Thursday.

The tests coincide with ongoing military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. Chinese scientists ran a simulation of a possible North Korean missile attack on the U.S. They say it would take about 33 minutes for an ICBM to reach the U.S. if American defense systems failed.

CNN's Will Ripley has more on that and Thursday's ICBM launch.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the skies near Japan, F-15s on the hunt for a suspected North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, capturing what could be its last seconds in flight. This rare video released by Japan's military, experts say the burning object resembles a ballistic missile boost rocket re-entering the atmosphere, flying for about an hour at hypersonic speeds.

TIANRAN XU, ANALYST, OPEN NUCLEAR NETWORK: If there is no interception or the interception fails, an ICBM launched from North Korea would take a little bit more than 30 minutes to reach the homeland U.S., and also depending on if it's the West Coast or the East Coast, it will take slightly more time.

RIPLEY: Chinese scientists simulated a North Korean nuclear attack. According to the South China Morning Post, the simulation shows 33 minutes from the time of launch to the time of impact if U.S. missile defenses fail to shoot down the ICBM.

PENCE: Missile defense begins here.

RIPLEY: For years, U.S. leaders have reassured the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation should be very confident --

RIPLEY: -- and America's allies --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Easily shoot them out of the sky --

RIPLEY: -- missile defense systems can keep them safe. But, virtually, all ballistic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound, sometimes faster.

LAURA GREGO, SENIOR SCIENTIST AND RESEARCH DIRECTOR, GLOBAL SECURITY PROGRAM: It's been described as hitting a bullet with a bullet, trying to hit a warhead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, ignition.

RIPLEY: A report last year finding America's missile defense system, the nation's best, and perhaps only line of defense, only succeeds about half the time.

FREDERICK, K. LAMB, PHYSICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA- CHAMPAIGN: If North Korea were to fire nuclear-armed ICBMs at the United States, we cannot be assured that our missile defense system would prevent the deaths of millions.

RIPLEY: A U.S. defense agency report last year said the missile defense system has demonstrated a measured capability to defend the United States, deploy forces and allies from a rogue nation's missile attack. But that rogue nation has a fast-growing arsenal. Kim Jong- un's military is mass-producing ICBMs. He knows a barrage of ballistic missiles could be too much for the U.S. to shoot down.


RIPLEY (on camera): With each ballistic missile launch, the United States' goal of denuclearizing North Korea seems to rocket farther and farther into outer space, frankly. North Korea wants to become a nuclear power, like China, like Russia, with an arsenal so big that it would be impossible to shoot all of their nuclear weapons down. That essentially gives Kim Jong-un the legitimacy he has been working so hard to get by launching so many of these missiles over the years.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

HARRAK: Chinese Leader Xi Jinping will travel to Russia in the coming days for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine. How this show of support could be viewed by the west, next.

Plus, NATO puts its military muscle behind Europe's energy lifeline. CNN joins two top European leaders as they fly to a gas field the alliance is working to protect.



HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and Canada and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak, and you're watching CNN Newsroom.

For the second time this week, British and German fighter jets have intercepted Russian military planes near Estonia's airspace. Friday's incident was part of a routine NATO mission which is protecting Baltic nations.

But NATO has another concern in Northern Europe, and it involves the continent's vital energy supply.

Fred Pleitgen has the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As tensions mount after the collision between a Russian plane and U.S. drone over the Black Sea, NATO's head tells me the alliance stands firmly behind the U.S.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: What you're seeing is a reckless and irresponsible behavior by Russia that led to this incident in the Black Sea. The good thing is that the United States behaved utmost professionally.

PLEITGEN: And security on the seas is a huge issue for NATO. We flew to one of Europe's largest gas fields with the secretary general and the head of the E.U. Commission as NATO warships were guarding the rig, watchful for possible acts of sabotage.

The U.S. and its allies understand full well that Russia's war in Ukraine is a threat not just to the skies above the seas and on the seas, but also to critical infrastructure under the sea as well. That's why the NATO alliance is beefing up its efforts to protect this critical infrastructure.


These are the actual wells of the Troll gas field near Norway. Around 10 percent of the natural gas supplies for America's European allies come from this field alone after most of them stopped buying gas from Russia.

Last year, the Nord Stream pipeline between Germany and Russia was blown up in what the U.S. says was an act of sabotage. While some believe Ukrainians might be behind the explosion, Kyiv denies involvement, and the E.U. Commission head tells me Europe will continue to support Ukraine.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: We know in the European Union that Ukraine is not only fighting for its independence, sovereignty, and freedom, but also for the vital values we share, like respect for the international law.

PLEITGEN: And the Ukrainians say they will fight on. Kyiv saying the most intense battles are still taking place around Bakhmut, where the Russians claim they're gaining ground. And Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet Chinese Leader Xi Jinping in Moscow next week as the Russians are looking to further deepen ties and the U.S. believes want Beijing to give them weapons.

NATO's leader says security in Europe will only be guaranteed if Putin ends the war against Ukraine.

STOLTENBERG: The best way to reduce risks of an instance like this is, of course, for us to end the war. Wars are dangerous and they lead to dangerous situations, like the instant (INAUDIBLE).

PLEITGEN: But as long as is war continues, NATO says its ships will stay on alert, shielding the alliance members' critical infrastructure from possible attacks.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Bergen, Norway.


HARRAK: Russia says it's open to what it's calling really serious proposals from the west and Ukraine for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine. But in a telegram post on Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the language of ultimatums is unacceptable. The comments come days ahead of Chinese Leader Xi Jinping's planned visit to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The visit will be Mr. Xi's first to Russia since the start of the war and is seen as a powerful display of Beijing's support for Moscow.

Let's get you more now. Alexander Gabuev is a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Alexander, welcome to CNN.

What do you make of this visit? How would you characterize Russia and China's relationship right now? What are Moscow and Beijing's objectives here?

ALEXANDER GABUEV, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Great to be with you. Russia and China have a mutually beneficial relationship. They share a colossal border, their mutually complementary economic structures and their like-minded authoritarian states. This relationship was asymmetric before Russia's illegitimate war against Ukraine, and it is now asymmetry on steroids where China is in the driving seat and is in full control. So, Xi Jinping comes to Moscow as a senior partner.

HARRAK: As a senior partner, that's really a change in that relationship, if I understand you correctly.

Now, the International Criminal Court, as you know, issued an arrest warrant for President Putin. Is that an issue at all for China?

GABUEV: I don't think that Xi Jinping can be embarrassed. And it just only moves Russia and President Putin deeper into China's pocket, creating more leverage for Xi Jinping.

HARRAK: Now, if we widen our aperture and look beyond the Russia/China relationship, which has now come under renewed scrutiny in the west, what does the strengthening or deepening of Sino-Russian ties mean for Ukraine?

GABUEV: I think that it's important that China provides Putin's war machine a lot of components that Russia needs. China is the largest buyer of Russian commodities that's providing money to Putin's war chest. China is continuing to supply some critical components for Russian arms, and this relationship with supply chain dates back years, but nevertheless, China didn't feel pressed to stop them. And then China also supplies a lot of civilian technology, including chips, that keep the Russian economy going. And now it's also the major international partner amid looming Russia's isolation from the rest of the world.

HARRAK: Now, as you know, China brokered a detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran just recently. Can it mediate settlements between Russia and Ukraine? What kind of leverage does Beijing have over the Kremlin?

GABUEV: I think that Saudi Arabia and Iran deal provided very wrong optics. Both Riyadh and Tehran had internal reasons to dial down the confrontation and seek limited detente with China's help. Here, Beijing understands that Kyiv and Moscow are miles apart. And now the mood in both countries is, give war a chance.

China comes up with a peace plan which is basically a laundry list of very familiar Chinese talking points as a way to portray itself as the only peace-loving permanent member of the Security Council, where Russia is fighting the war, and the U.S. and its allies providing arms to other party of the war, and justify its outreach to Vladimir Putin while pushing back against western criticism and creating a lot enthusiastic audience in the global south.


HARRAK: Now, Ukraine's allies and Kyiv's most significant ally, the United States, has warned China against providing defensive arms to Russia that can be used against Ukraine, a move that is seen as a red line. Is the Russia/China alliance a cause for concern?

GABUEV: I do think it's a cause of concern. We still have to wait whether China provides Russia with weapons. We've heard CIA Director Bill Burns saying that the U.S. Intelligence Community has data that China is considering this option but have not done a decision yet.

I think that Russia moving deeper into China's sphere of influence and becoming a tool for China's competition with the U.S. is increasingly boring because Russia stills has some advanced military technology it can share with China, it can let Chinese Navy sail into Arctics and it can enforce a lot of exports of raw material that will strengthen China's hand in this competition.

HARRAK: Alexander Gabueva, thank you for joining us. I greatly appreciate it.

Now in a significant breakthrough, Serbia and Kosovo have reached a deal to normalize relations. The decision was announced bit European Union's top diplomat in a tweet after he met recently with leaders from both countries.

Kosovo and Serbia have been in E.U.-backed talks for nearly ten years, this after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Well, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence, seeing it as a breakaway province instead. The E.U. says the deal will be an integral and binding part of the two nations' path to the bloc's membership.

Just ahead, an earthquake strikes Ecuador, killing more than a dozen people and damaging a historic city. We'll update you on the latest.

And Malawi calls for help after Cyclone Freddy rips through the country. Coming up, a look at the damage it has left behind.



HARRAK: At least 16 people are dead and more than 380 injured after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday. You're now looking at what's left of the Marine Museum in Puerto Bolivar, which collapse into the ocean after the quake. Dozens of homes, schools, and medical centers were damaged or destroyed.

Multiple roads were blocked by landslides, and a CNN affiliate reports structural damage in Cuenca (ph) which as United Nations world heritage city, while the epicenter was in the southern part of the country near the Pacific Coast and not far from the major city of Guayaquil.

And in Southern Africa, the official death toll has climbed again as Malawi faces the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy, this as a search for the missing continues.

Michael Holmes reports.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than 400 people are dead after Cyclone Freddy tore through Malawi. Entire villages swept away, many families still searching for loved ones. This woman says her husband and child were washed away in the flooding. She is the only one left in her family.

AGATHA CHAONEKE, LOST HER FAMILY: It was raining for three days. On the third day, I saw what looked like fire coming from the mountain. It felt like the mountain was falling down. Then a huge splash of water and mud came. Those who could run ran and survived. Those who could not were covered by mud. That's how I survived.

HOLMES: Another woman describes how her parents were holding on to each other when they were separated by a falling tree.

DOREEN PIYASI, FLOOD SURVIVOR: My mother and father were holding hands, but a fallen tree came between them. So, my father was not able to hold on. There was too much water, and my mother was taken by the water. My father survived, but he is very badly injured. To this day, my mother's body has not been found.

HOLMES: Across the country, officials say nearly 80,000 are displaced, more than 900 injured, and nearly 300 missing. Malawi's president calling for urgent humanitarian aid. On Saturday, he visited primary schools in the east, handing out buckets, blankets, and food. Many schools will remain closed until the end of the month. Classrooms and toilets are unsafe.

The cyclone first made landfall in late February, then circled back a second time this week. While the storm has finally passed, survivors are left trudging through the mud, searching for some sign of hope amid the destruction.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


HARRAK: There have been more reports of voter disenfranchisement and violence during Saturday's governorship elections in Nigeria, many of them in Lagos. And that's where a labor party official said one of its agents was shot and killed. Residents of the Victoria Garden City gated complex in Lagos told CNN that electoral commission officials moved the polling unit, which is normally inside their secure state, to a location outside without notice.

Well, for more, I'm now joined by Stephanie Busari in Lagos. Steph, another vote plagued by challenges?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: Yes. Good morning, Laila. This one was widespread. We were in Lagos. We went to several different polling units, and the story we heard was the same, widespread attempts at intimidation, threats, violence in some places.

And there was very heavy military presence on the roads, Laila. At some points, we were checked more times than I ever remember, more than ten times in the space of a very short radius. And this violence and it's happened under the watch of military presence, with impunity in some places. Voters were being told, if you're not voting for the ruling party, APC, then don't bother voting at all. Some people were threatened. We heard reports they were told, don't vote if you're not voting for APC.


And one man was threatened with a broken bottle, he told us.

So, it was widespread, Laila, and very surprising, that because there was very heavy military presence, and the voting in most places passed without incident, but in Lagos, what we heard was that a lot of people were suppressed, there were widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters, and threats and intimidation.

HARRAK: Stephanie, has this further eroded public trust? How do Nigerians feel?

BUSARI: There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of the anger from what people are telling me. They just cannot believe that this situation was allowed to happen and without any recourse, seemingly. There are people carrying weapons and broken bottles and threatening voters. And as a result, we saw very low voter turnout, Laila. Much more -- we covered the presidential elections weeks ago, and the voter turnout was very low. People are not happy with how it went this time.

HARRAK: Stephanie Busari reporting from Lagos, thank you so much, Steph.

Now to Pakistan where there was another dramatic standoff as former Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared in court on Saturday. Clashes broke out between his supporters and the police as he was attempting to enter the high court in Islamabad. It comes just hours after police stormed Khan's house in Lahore with bulldozers, removing camps that had been set up by his supporters. Khan says the recent events are an attempt to keep him from returning to power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IMRAN KHAN, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: The powerful people are behind it. And I am -- my life is even more at threat than it was then, because these people are worried, all sitting in powerful positions, that if I come back into power, which in normal elections, we would win.

They're trying to, you know, make sure that I don't get there.


HARRAK: The former prime minister is facing a spate of legal challenges that have sparked week-long clashes between his supporters and the police.

The world's top tennis player is out at yet another tournament. Ahead, the very familiar reason the U.S. is forbidding Novak Djokovic from playing in Miami.



HARRAK: California is announcing a new initiative to plow affordable insulin. Governor Gavin Newsom says the state will cut the drug's price for users by 90 percent. His office says they've secured a contract with drug manufacturer Civica Rx to make $30 insulin available to all who need it. Brand-name insulin is often sold for nearly $300 a vial. While the high cost has forced many people with diabetes to ration or skip the drug altogether, which helps the body manage sugar.

Now, a top tennis tournament, the Miami Open, kicks off on Monday but, again, without the world number one. Novak Djokovic is being denied entry to the U.S. for a familiar reason, because he's unvaccinated against COVID. The tournament says the Serbian star applied for a special exemption but didn't get it. The same issue forced the 22-time Grand Slam winner to pull out of the recent Indian Wells Tournament. He also missed last year's Miami Open and U.S. Open and was even deported from last year's Australian Open for his refusal to get vaccinated.

The director of the Miami Open, James Blake, spoke with CNN's Patrick Snell about Djokovic's situation and what the tournament hopes will happen in the future.


JAMES BLAKE, MIAMI OPEN DIRECTOR: Unfortunately, he won't be able to compete in the Miami open, similar to Indian Wells. He was not granted an exemption to get into the country. So, we did our best, we tried, but he's not able to come. We hope he will be back in 2024. He's our greatest champion, number one player in the world, so we'd love to have him, obviously. But this year, it just, unfortunately, was not possible.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be so frustrating for him, though, as a player, as well. What's he telling you?

BLAKE: I haven't talked to him directly about it quite yet. I'm sure I'll see him down the road soon. But at this point in his career, I'm hoping he's also done such a great job of finding the positive in every situation, and for him, maybe it gives him a little bit more rest. He's not as young as he used to be, none of us are. But for him to maybe rest and get ready for the clay-court season and look to add more Grand Slams to his already legendary and record-breaking career, and hopefully, like I said, back here next year to add to his already incredible haul of six Miami Open titles.

SNELL: Florida's governor even got involved. He said earlier this month he would run a boat from the Bahamas for Djokovic to compete in the Miami Open tennis event. Politics in play here, right? What is your message for the current administration on this? Because this is a really, really strong storyline.

BLAKE: Yes, that's why I don't get involved in politics is because I don't deal with the crazy kind of hyperbole stuff and what may or may not be possible. But we did our best. We tried with everything we could to make it happen, to have Novak here.

But as far as I'm concerned, we did everything we could, and you know -- for any of the politicians to get involved and say whatever they want to say, that's -- I never saw them in any meetings that I was in. I never interacted with any of them aside from the letters that we wrote, and we sent it kind of up above my pay grade to the people at Endeavor and IMG. They're trying to get Novak here.


But I also understand that there's a lot going on in the government besides a tennis tournament. As much as we like to think of the tennis world being our kind of isolated bubble and so important, I know there are many, many more important things going on in the world that politicians need to concern themselves with.

SNELL: There's no Nadal, he's injured, there's no Federer, no Serena Williams, retired, as we've established, no Djokovic. Does the tournament feel different? And I know there're some outstanding talent taking place, a world-class field, but does it feel different this year, and is there an impact to the region economically?

BLAKE: Yes. I mean, every tournament I've been tournament director, now this is my fifth year, it's felt different. Every year it seems like it's brand new. And this time, yes, you're right, it feels different because you wonder -- we've been talking about a possible changing of the guard for the last five or six years, and these guys have just hung on to that torch. They don't want to pass it for so long. And it seems like this year, maybe there is that passing of the torch. And maybe Carlos Alcaraz is going to take that lead, maybe Medvedev is going to take it, maybe Zverev is going to get back to being healthy and continue to run the progress he was making before he had that horrific injury at the French Open last year. So, we'll see.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRAK: Miami Open Tournament Director James Blake there in conversation with CNN World Sport Anchor Patrick Snell.

Now, to March Madness and the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is under way. There have already been some bracket-busting shockers. Kansas, the top-ranked defending champ, is out. The Jayhawks fell 72-71 to number eight-ranked Arkansas, which surged into the lead in the final minute of play. The Razorbacks will play St. Mary's or Connecticut in the sweet 16.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Laila Harrak. Kim Brunhuber picks up our coverage after a quick break, and I'll see you tomorrow.