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N.Y. Grand Jury Expected To Resume Hush Money Probe; Pence: Possible Indictment Seems Politically Motivated; Georgia Prosecutor Probing Election Interference. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. Inside Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump is preparing for a potential indictment. But new reporting by CNN this hour shows the former president's legal troubles run much deeper than alleged hush money.

The Fed's big decision just hours away. What to do with interest rates amid a bank meltdown, jittery markets and high inflation.

Plus, after the Xi-Putin meetings in Moscow, how the blooming friendship between Russia and China is testing the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin with a major legal blow to Donald Trump and the investigation of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Sources tell CNN the Justice Department has convinced a district court judge that Trump may have committed a crime. This is important of course because it means Trump's lawyer in this case, Evan Corcoran can no longer claim attorney-client privilege in his testimony.

CNN's Evan Perez has more.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A federal judge has ruled that former President Donald Trump use one of his defense attorneys in furtherance of a crime or fraud related to existence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Sources tells CNN that the ruling from Judge Beryl Howell makes clear for the first time that the Justice Department is arguing that Trump himself may have committed a crime.

And Judge Howell believes that prosecutors have met the burden to require Trump's attorney Evan Corcoran to testify to a grand jury. Meaning he can't claim attorney-client privilege to broadly declined to answer questions from prosecutors. Sources say Howell in her sealed ruling determined the prosecutors were able to show Corcoran's illegal services were used in furtherance of a crime.

The Justice Department is still seeking Corcoran's testimony after he cited attorney-client privilege as well as testimony from another Trump lawyer. Jennifer Little, CNN has learned. Trump's lawyers have sought emergency intervention from the appeals court and three judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have moved very quickly to respond as they're still considering whether the put the decision from Howell on hold.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: Now to a CNN exclusive. Stormy Daniels' attorney says communications between his client and a Trump lawyer have been turned over to the Manhattan district attorney. The exchanges raise the possibility that Trump's counsel Joe Tacopina may be sidelined from the case. Tacopina denies any confidential information was shared with his office. The district attorney is investigating Trump's alleged hush money payment to Daniels just before the 2016 election.

The grand jury in that case is expected to resume its probe in the coming hours. Despite Trump's prediction Tuesday came and went without an indictment or an arrest of the former president. Prosecutors are weighing charges that Trump falsified business records and violated campaign finance laws. A small handful of demonstrators showed up outside the prosecutor's office in New York after Trump called for protests.

Meanwhile, Trump's former vice president says he thinks any possible indictment is politically motivated.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think in this instance, I would discourage Americans from engaging in protests if in fact the former president is indicted. I understand the frustration. I -- as I said this past weekend, I -- if the President is in fact indicted by the Manhattan D.A. that appears to me to be a politically motivated prosecution.


CHURCH: The New York investigation is just the tip of the legal iceberg for Trump. He could be indicted at any time. CNN's Paula Reid has more on the former president's challenges.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Right now, former President Trump is facing no fewer than four criminal investigations

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation concerning the former president is ongoing.


REID: The case that seems to be putting Trump in the most immediate jeopardy the Manhattan District Attorney's investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


REID: The case involves potentially falsified business records and possible campaign finance violations, something that would have surprised Trump back in 1999.

TRUMP: Nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do.

REID: The payments to Daniels were facilitated by Cohen. In the final days of the 2016 campaign, the Access Hollywood tape had just come out.

TRUMP: And when you're as star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

REID: And Daniels was allegedly trying to sell her story about sleeping with Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it hush money to stay silent?


REID: Cohen, Trump's former fixer and personal attorney became one of his primary antagonists.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. And here's a cheat.

REID: Cohen has met with the Manhattan D.A.'s office 20 times that appeared before the grand jury twice to testify about a $130,000 payment to Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump.


REID: Trump denies any such affair. Now almost seven years later, that case may be coming to a conclusion. But while this particular investigation may be the most imminent, legal experts say it's far from the most consequential. Trump is also facing a dual-pronged special counsel investigation.

MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.

REID: Examining both the former president's handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and possible obstruction.

TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.

REID: And his involvement in the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: Jack Smith's case is the most important because it's the constitutionally most significance of the country.

REID: And that's not the only investigation related to the 2020 election and its aftermath. In Georgia, Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is looking into Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes.

REID: In that case, a special grand jury returned a report recommending multiple indictments and the D.A. is still decided on whether to bring charges.


REID: Prosecutors here in Manhattan have a deadline. The statute of limitations in this case expires in May. So, it's now or never for the district attorney.

Paul Reid CNN, New York.

CHURCH: The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to announce its decision on interest rates in the day ahead. Most economists are predicting a modest quarter point hike meant to curb inflation without up ending the bond market and hurting the banking industry.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is breathing a sigh of relief as the U.S. Treasury secretary is hinting at more support for small banks. Janet Yellen says the government is willing to guarantee more deposits if the meltdown continues.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES: The steps we took were not focused on eating specific banks or classes of banks. Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader U.S. banking system. And similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffered deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion.


CHURCH: The Dow gained more than 300 points on Tuesday. The S&P finished up 1-1/3 percent. And the NASDAQ added more than 1-1/2 percent. Let's take a look at the futures market ahead of Wednesday's opening bell I should say. And all looking pretty flat there.

Joining me now from Ann Arbor, Michigan is Justin Wolfers. A professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, even with U.S. markets ending in positive territory Tuesday, does it make economic sense for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the coming hours given the U.S. banking system is still a little shaky and looking for additional support for small banks?

WOLFERS: Look, I think the simple view is, is you can't do two things at the same time and to try and reduce financial distress would be a force for lower interest rates while trying to reduce inflation would lead them to higher interest rates. On the other hand, and this is actually my belief, when you have two tools, you can do two things at the same time. And that's what the Fed has.


It can fix the question of financial stability by providing liquidity to the financial system. It's opened huge lines of credit. Just making sure there's lots of money in the vaults of small and medium-sized regional banks. And at the same time, it can raise interest rates because there, it's trying to rein in spending by, say, businesses opening new office parks in new factories. So, with two tools, you can do two things. And I think that's what we're going to see.

CHURCH: What's your sense then of how the feds will respond? They'll raise the interest rates, but by a very small amount, do you think?

WOLFERS: I should say, Rosemary. If I was really good at predicting this, you'd have to pay a lot of money for my opinion.

CHURCH: We want this for free.

WOLFERS: Well, look at that, huh. I'll get you hooked on the freebies first. I think if it is going to try and do two things at once to send a signal that it's doing all can to protect the financial system. And it's been remarkably successful. And the fact that financial markets today look a lot like they did a day or two before anyone had heard of Silicon Valley Bank is testament to that.

And inflation remains high and it needs to continue on its path to defeat inflation. There is a little bit of an argument for slowing down just to get a sense of what all of this will mean for the real economy. But at the end of the day, we've got to remember that Silicon Valley Bank was a pretty small bank. And most people who need loans are going to be able to get them. And so hopefully, this is just a little hiccup along the way.

CHURCH: So, with this interest rate decision looming large, how does the Federal Reserve make that economic calculation of how much to raise interest rates in order to bring down inflation while not spooking the markets?

WOLFERS: Yes. So, the good news for viewers is that already inflation is down from the alarming levels that a lot of people have fixed in their head. There's a funny thing, the way we calculate inflation, it's about the rate of change of prices over the last 12 months. So, that calculation tells us a lot about what was happening six or nine or 11 months ago. When we look at more recent figures, it looks like inflation has come down to say four-point something percent.

So, definitely not a crisis. The bad news, though, is a couple of months ago, it looked like it might have been trending downward, that no longer seems as clear. And so, what that tells the Fed is what it's done so far has not been enough to get inflation on a clear downward trajectory. So, it's probably going to continue to push up rates for at least another meeting or so.

CHURCH: And while the U.S. markets close in positive territory Tuesday, apparently a little more confident about the banking system. Is the crisis over yet or do you foresee more trouble ahead with the some of these regional vulnerable banks?

WOLFERS: I think what I'm feel confident to say is for those people who are worried about widespread financial problems affecting all sorts of institutions and the bank that you and I might be banking at. I think that appears to be pretty much off the table. Silicon Valley Bank was pretty unique. It was a bank whose depositors were largely uninsured. And a bank that took a lot of big bets.

And there are very few banks that are in that category. So, there may be a couple of other stragglers who are in that sort of a situation, but they're small. And the federal government already is making it clear that they're going to stand behind and help depositors were that to be the case. And so, I feel quite confident we're not going to see a broad-based financial crisis. I feel less confident about whether, you know, another one or two or even half a dozen banks might go down along the way, but not really important players.

CHURCH: Justin Wolfers, always a pleasure to have your analysis. Many thanks.

WOLFERS: It's good fun, mate.

CHURCH: Well, the U.S. state of California is in cleanup mode after yet another atmospheric river dumped heavy rain across the state. Los Angeles alone has received more than 24 inches of rain. Nearly 200 percent of its average rainfall since October. Heavy rain paired with hurricane force winds has made the situation a recipe for disaster in many cities. Storms have uprooted trees and destroyed power lines with more than 170,000 customers without electricity right now.

And many are still under threat from high winds across the rest of the southwest region. Travelers in San Francisco were delayed more than three hours because of the wind on Tuesday. Snow is still a concern with nearly wiped-out conditions seen in some parts of the state.

In the coming hours, school workers across the second largest school district in the U.S. plan to hit the picket line for a second straight day. That word from the Service Employees International Union, whose leaders are calling for more respect and a dignified wage from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

[02:15:05] So far, contract negotiations have failed to reach a resolution, the two sides spoke out as the strike got underway.


MAX ARIAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 99: If LAUSD truly values and is serious about reaching an agreement, they must show workers the respect they deserve.


ARIAS: We've had enough of empty promises.

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: This is the result of a crescendo of frustration that goes back many, many, many years. This new team has inherited these conditions. We are negotiating and I remain hopeful that we'll be able to have a legitimate conversation that may result in a precedent setting contract.


CHURCH: The school workers want more full-time work opportunities and equitable wage increases. The union is seeking a 30 percent wage increase.

And still to come. The West watches with a skeptical eye as the Russian and Chinese leaders tout their deepening ties and a suppose peace plan to end the war in Ukraine. More on their talks in a live report just ahead.


CHURCH: The high stakes closely watched talks between the Russian and Chinese presidents in Moscow have ended with pledges for stronger ties and the touting of a supposed peace plan put forward by Beijing to end the war in Ukraine.


But the U.S. and Western allies have ridiculed that plan, saying it's nothing more than a one-sided deal that would give Vladimir Putin cover to continue with his war of choice.

As for those talks, Putin and Xi Jinping signed a joint declaration Tuesday to deepen their partnership. Xi says he's built a close relationship with Putin, and that relations between Russia and China are crucial to the world order.

Later, they held a toast at a state dinner where Putin declared relations between the two countries are at the highest point ever. CNN's Matthew Chance is following developments and has more now from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With a drumroll, a grand entrance for the Russian leader.

It's the Chinese president now on center stage. But the Kremlin pomp and ceremony underlining the crucial importance to Moscow of this visit. President Putin is isolated and sanctioned over Ukraine, but he still has Xi Jinping at his side. The Chinese diplomatic and economic lifeline. Vital as Russia is cut off by the West.

We're ready to support Chinese business replacing, Western enterprises that have left Russia, Putin says.

The two leaders also spoke of a new gas pipeline to China and signed more than a dozen deals to further connect the two countries. Like it or not, Russia and China are becoming increasingly aligned. And it's not just raising concerns in the West.

(INAUDIBLE) in Moscow hints at a deep-seated Russian mistrust of Chinese expansion. On the one hand, Xi's visit is good, she says, but knowing that Eastern ways we should be careful.

On Russian state T.V., there's a similar warning. China can have only one ally, this guest tells the host. China itself. But it's the war in Ukraine. Not the wisdom of embracing China overshadowing this summit. There's been no mention of China providing military aid to Russia. But the Kremlin says a controversial Chinese peace plan was thoroughly discussed.

A senior Ukrainian official tells CNN talks are now underway to get the Chinese and Ukrainian leaders on a call.

But there are serious doubts that Xi Jinping who calls Putin his dear friend is enough of an honest broker to bring the warring sides together.

Well, the China which is itself at odds with the U.S. really wants peace between Russia and the West.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


CHURCH: Let's go live to Hong Kong now and CNN's Kristie Lu Stout. Good to see you, Kristie. So, what does this signed Joint Declaration between Xi and Putin signal for future China-Russia relations and of course for the rest of the world?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In first, I do want to update our viewers Rosemary, as we have learned that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has left Russia, the visit is over. He is now on route to China. This is according to the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV. But it -- to answer your question, you know, let's just look at what's happened over the last couple of hours. While in Moscow, these two leaders, they posed and presented themselves as peace brokers playing up China's plan for peace in Ukraine.

Again, this is a plan that calls for a ceasefire and talks but it does not include any calls for Russia to back out of occupied territories inside Ukraine. Now it was drawn up without any involvement from Ukraine. It has been roundly criticized by the West, including the United States and NATO. And we heard on Tuesday from the Ukrainian president. He added that a ceasefire was not in Ukraine's best interests.

Now in addition to all the talk about peace, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin also emphasize their deepening relationship and it was certainly on full display. You had the Tuesday state dinner, the two leaders, they raised a toast and Putin proclaimed that Russia-Chinese relations are at the highest point ever. And we also heard from Xi Jinping who touted their close economic ties. Take a listen.


XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): We have signed a joint statement to deepen our comprehensive partnership and strategic engagement as we enter a new era. And a joint statement on the development plan for key areas of Chinese-Russian economic cooperation for the period up to 2030.



STOUT: Now, we already knew that their ties were close. Since the invasion, China has been buying Russian energy this, you know, lessening the impact of Western sanctions. And Putin has announced that Russia is ready to increase uninterrupted oil supplies to China. He pointed out the Russia is the fourth largest supplier of liquefied gas to China, and that those supplies will expand and Putin also said that Moscow will support Chinese business in replacing Western enterprises that left Russia. So, back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong.

Well, it could be one of the most consequential defamation lawsuits in recent history. Dominion Voting System says Fox News tossed the belt the truth aside or tossed to the side of the suit of better ratings. The latest on the billion-dollar case, that's next.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The Dominion voting systems lawsuit against Fox News will go back to court in the coming hours as both sides tried to convince the judge their case is strong enough to avoid a full trial. Dominion says Fox News and its parent company defamed them by pushing conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump, shutting down talk of fact checking those lies. The technology company accuses Fox of letting its host run wild because, quote, the lies were good for Fox's business. Jessica Schneider has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS: Fraud is something that is real that just took place two weeks ago.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The on-air words of Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts at the center of a $1.6 billion defamation case, brought by Dominion voting systems. Lawyers for the voting machine and software maker telling a Delaware judge today the fix was in. Arguing that Fox producers and hosts knew the claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 election were false. Even when they continually booked guests like Sidney Powell, who perpetuated the falsehoods.

SIDNEY POWELL, TRUMP ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: The Dominion voting systems, the smart Matic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion. Were created in Venezuela, at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.

SCHNEIDER (voiceover): Fox News maintains it is proud of its 2020 election coverage and that it is fully protected by the First Amendment, arguing it can't be held liable for airing newsworthy allegations from public figures.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: And there are other aspects of this fraud, that at this point, I really can't reveal. This is really enough, is enough to overturn any election.

SCHNEIDER (voiceover): A judge will now determine whether to decide the case on the claims already presented to him or if the case will go to a jury trial next month. The decision comes as a fox news producer is suing the network for allegedly coercing her into giving misleading testimony during a deposition for the Dominion case. Abby Grossberg's lawyer saying Fox News had its lawyers misleadingly coach manipulate and coerce Ms. Grossberg to deliver shaded and or incomplete answers, during her sworn deposition testimony.

Fox News responding that attorney client privilege prevents it from commenting on the claims, but the producer is now on administrative leave from the network. If the defamation case goes to trial, Dominion wants to put Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch on the stand as well as his CEO son, Lachlan. Both have already given depositions in the case with Rupert Murdoch acknowledging Fox News hosts endorsed election conspiracy theories and then saying, I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Fox News is resisting efforts to put Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on the stand. They're saying it would create an undue hardship for both of them and would only result in a media circus. Both sides will be back in court on Wednesday. If this case does go to trial, that trial will likely start sometime next month. Jessica Schneider, CNN Wilmington Delaware. CHURCH: Boris Johnson in rage, Britain's when word broke that parties were being held at 10 Downing Street in the midst of the U.K.'s COVID locked down. Now, the fallout from Partygate could cost him his political future. We'll take a look on this after breaks.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will soon face hours of televised questioning, that could determine his political future. He'll be asked about the so-called Partygate scandal at issue where the Johnson misled Parliament about parties held while the U.K. was under a severe COVID-19 lockdown. In written testimony, Johnson said and I'm quoting, "It is clear from that investigation, that there is no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled the house." If the committee finds Johnson's deceptions were deliberate, he could be suspended from the House of Commons and potentially lose his seat in Parliament. Bianca Nobilo has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson, you made your rules. Surely you must have known that they were being broken.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Boris Johnson, out of office but not the spotlight. The former prime minister to be grilled on live television by a panel of lawmakers on this scandal that destroyed his premiership Partygate.

KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The hubris and arrogance of a government. So, believed it was Ron wolf put them on another roll for everyone else.

NOBILO (voiceover): Johnson will once again have to answer questions about these damning photos, evidence that he and members of his government attended gatherings within 10 Downing Street, while the country was under COVID-19 restrictions. As the allegations hit the British press Johnson, categorically denied, any rules were broken.

BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: All guidance was followed complete. I've certainly, break no rules. All the guidelines were observed, there was no party.

NOBILO: (voiceover): But Johnson was forced to apologize after an internal report showed rule breaking did occur and he was fined by the Metropolitan Police.

JOHNSON: I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch.

NOBILO (voiceover): Now, the key question being considered is whether Johnson deliberately misled Parliament when he was Prime Minister. If found guilty Johnson could be suspended as a member of parliament potentially triggering a by election where he could lose his seat. Stymieing his efforts to grow his reputation as an international statesman or return to frontline politics.


Johnson maintains he did not intentionally mislead parliament and has submitted a dossier in his defense where he claims the inquiry is highly partisan. His supporters say that he'll be vindicated, and they see it as an opportunity to clear his name. But Wednesday is a make- or-break moment for Boris Johnson's turbulent, political career and legacy. One his critics hope will snuff out any chance of a political comeback. Bianca Nobilo, CNN London.


CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church, for our international viewers, "WORLD SPORT" is coming up next. And for those of you here in North America, I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.