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Tornadoes Rip Through The South; Crews Search For Survivors After PA Candy Factory Explosion; Trump Rallies In Waco Ahead Of Possible Charges; Several Federal, State Cases Remain In Legal Limbo; Russia To Station Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Belarus; Series Features CNN Host Looking For Ancestral Roots; Mitch McConnell Released From Rehab Facility. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 25, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin this hour with the outbreak of tornadoes that's left death and destruction across the south. The mayor of Rolling Fork, Mississippi says his city is gone. And when you see the pictures, it's painfully clear that he is not exaggerating.

These were homes, neighborhoods, communities and here and elsewhere. The staggering loss of property is secondary with 25 people are now confirmed dead in Mississippi. Another person was killed in Alabama. For perspective these past 24 hours have seen more tornado deaths than all of last year. Many are just thankful to have survived.


TRACEY HARDEN, OWNER, CHUCK'S DARY BARN: My community and thank God we're alive, but also we're so devastated by the loss. The whole trailer park behind the building is gone and we don't know where everybody is. We don't know who's alive and who's gone.

ACOSTA: CNN's Nick Valencia is in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. Nick, just heartbreaking to hear these accounts. What are you hearing from people?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It is and it's just awful to see this and we apologize for having to go live from our satellite phone. But it's a testament how much damage is here in Sharkey County and Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

Cell towers have been heavily damaged here, which is why we'll not be able to go live on air. But what we're looking at here is just utter devastation, Jim. Structures that have just been reduced to rubble.

One local official says that his town looks like a landfill, and it really does. There's just debris stretching out for miles here. It is really, you know, hard to say this, but it doesn't seem like any of the town really was able to escape any other damage. A lot of the structures -- most of the structures that we've seen have had significant damage to them.

And just in the last several minutes, we've seen some what we believe to be cadaver dogs going through some of the harder hit sites, including the site that we brought to you last hour, which was Chuck's restaurant and diner here, a sort of staple here, a gathering point for the local community that has just been devastated. It's gone.

Looking at it right now. There's a car flipped upside down on top of the debris. We've seen cars up in trees, telephone poles that have been snapped like toothpicks.

And talking to the tornado survivors here looking in their eyes there's this look of shell shock. Earlier, I spoke to Ernest Hall, who tells me that he went through the storm last night. He was actually asleep. He works, you know lots of hours and he was asleep in his home when he was woken up and went actually to a trailer park that was hard hit and started rescuing family members.

He said along with two friends, he rescued six people. Unfortunately one of the people that he was hopeful was alive, his mother in law. He found her body, he said.

Earlier, he spoke to me about his experience.


ERNEST HALL, TORNADO SURIVOR: She had told the kids to get down on the ground on the floor in the house. The kids that survived it, the one that told me. And when I found her she was down like she would trying to cover up from a tornado storm and then when she left it.

VALENCIA: You found her?

HALL: Yes.

VALENCIA: That's not something you're going to forget.

HALL: No. So many bodies last night I seen.


VALENCIA: The recovery operations are still ongoing here in Rolling Fork, everyone here, even those who have been hit by the tornado and had homes that were destroyed are out here helping out everyone chipping in. And there is a lot of cleanup to be done here, Jim.

ACOSTA: It looks that way. All right. Nick Valencia, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

I want to stay in Rolling Fork right now. Jessie Mason is a member of the Sharkey County Mississippi Board of Supervisors. He joins me also over the phone.

Jessie, we were just talking with our correspondent Nick Valencia there over the phone. He was saying it was in part because it's difficult to get any kind of service down there. How are things going on that end and just with everything else. I mean it's just devastating these pictures.

JESSIE MASON, MEMBER, SHARKEY COUNTY MISSISSIPPI BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Well, right now, everything is kind of running pretty smooth as far as -- as far as the outpouring of help and we couldn't ask for no better. You know, full out as help wise, but we're still searching for hopefully survivors and not bodies. But we have been finding -- you know, finding several casualties and my thing is it's just an ongoing process and it's going to be a long road ahead.


MASON: You know, going to be -- this town -- this town is 98 percent -- 98 percent gone, so therefore it has taken no serious blow.

ACOSTA: And did you see the tornado or hear the tornado? Did you experience it anyway? And if not, did you have to talk to neighbors who did go through it?

MASON: Yes. The only thing I did you know, I could hear. You know, I could hear the sound of the tornado because I remember when it hit my town and you know, the last about three months ago when it hit Anguilla, and I can remember that sound.

And so that's when I say that's that same sound when it came through here. And so I jumped in my vehicle because I got a phone call about what was going on in Rolling Fork, so I started to come this way and that yes, you can tell that it was something bigger than just a regular storm because of the way that the wind and all that, but the way that it was blowing, so yes, you could. You know the difference.

ACOSTA: You certainly do. And how are people reacting in the community there? I mean I just have to imagine it's just devastating. I mean, looking at the video, people's lives have been destroyed.

MASON: Yes that's to sum it up in a nutshell. People have been destroyed, but you still got a lot of people are showing support and loving on each other right now, and that's what that's what we need more than anything.

And ACOSTA: the mayor of Rolling Fork, Eldridge Walker says the city is just gone. Is that your assessment as well? What does it look like?

MASON: That would be -- that would be -- that would be my say on it as well. I'll say maybe 2 percent of the town that you can say suffered minor damage, but 98 percent is pretty much gone.

ACOSTA: My goodness. Well Jessie Mason, thank you very much for your time. Please stay safe. We really appreciate your time this evening. Thanks so much.

MASON: You're welcome. Thank you.

ACOSTA: And for more information on how you can help the victims of the severe storms that swept through Mississippi, go to

The candy company that operates the factory where an explosion has killed at least two people says it is devastated by the tragedy. Rescue crews are combing the rubble of the RM Palmer candy factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania.

You're seeing the video right there. It's unbelievable. Searching for survivors a day after a massive blast leveled the building has been very intense.

Our Danny Freeman is in West Reading and joins us now. Danny, what more do we know at this hour?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, what I can tell you is this community is tremendously sad at this moment. This chocolate factory is really a staple of the West Reading community. But there is still some hope.

For now 24 hours, first responders have been working here sifting through the rubble, hoping to find survivors.

Let me show you exactly what we're looking at right here. You can still see that hole right there. That's where the RM Palmer chocolate factory used to be, now these machines are trying to take debris out of that space into the street to try and see if there are survivors on the inside. Now, here is what we still know. Two people, as you said, confirmed dead at this point. Five people missing and no cause of the explosion just yet.

But like I said, it's hope mixed with sadness because they were able to pull one person out of the rubble last night. That person was taken to the hospital. That's some of the hope that folks here are hanging onto.

But take a listen to one neighbor we spoke with who described he lives a couple of blocks away, and he described just how forceful this impact was.


CHRIS SUGIA, WEST READING, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: The house shook and the windows shook and it was -- it was, you know, pretty crazy.

FREEMAN: What went through your mind when you heard that --

SUGIO: either an earthquake honestly or like I said, someone literally drove into the house is what it sounded like and the impact of the shaking of the house and the windows. It was just very unexpected.


FREEMAN: Now, I'll say just in the past hour we got a new statement from RM Palmer that's, of course, the candy company right here. I'll read it to you. They said that everyone is devastated and also said in part, we have lost close friends and colleagues and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted.

So we'll stay out here and continue to wait on the progress of these first responders and when we have more information on the condition of folks who were potentially in there, we'll bring it back to you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. CNN's Danny Freeman -- thank you very much.

A short time from now Donald Trump will hold what his campaign is calling the first official rally of the 2024 election season. He's holding it in Waco, Texas -- of all places. You'll remember that is where 30 years ago, federal agents were involved in a 51-day standoff with a religious separatist group known as the Branch Davidians. That's a provocative place to kick off any presidential campaign, let alone one for a former president whose first term ended with an assault on the U.S. Capitol and is now the subject of multiple criminal investigations.


ACOSTA: CNN's Kristen Holmes is on the ground for us in Waco at the rally. Kristen, what more can you tell us about the timing of this event? And what are you seeing there as far as the rally is concerned?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well so when it comes to Waco, we have talked to the campaign who have pushed back significantly on anything that shows that these were a link between the 30th anniversary as you mentioned of that raid and this rally being held at the time.

They issued a statement to us in which they said that President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in Waco in the Super Tuesday state of Texas because it is centrally located and close to all four of Texas's biggest metropolitan areas.

But I wanted to mention one other thing, you know, you just touched on which is that this rally is happening in the middle of all of these significant legal investigations at a time. When they really seem to be escalating.

We know that there is a potential looming indictment in New York in that hush money case. We also know, of course, that there is still the ongoing investigation in Georgia for Trump's actions in 2020, and just in recent days, we have seen that Trump's own defense attorney had to testify before a federal grand jury in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.

And we talked to a number of people on the ground and I do want to note there are thousands and thousands of people who have shown up here to support the former president.

We asked them if any sort of indictment for any of this legal peril would impact him politically in a negative way. Almost all of them said no and actually quite the opposite. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll be a shoo-in -- a shoo-in 100 percent. If they do that, he'll be a shoo-in because it's wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't change a thing about his integrity and everything else. We all have seen. We all have some things that we've done.


HOLMES: And Jim this is something we heard over and over again. And I will tell you that while I have heard from Republicans in the last several weeks talking about how this will only make Trump stronger, any kind of legal potential indictment, I did talk to members of his own team of people who are close to the former president, who said that they had some concerns that they were in uncharted territory.

And now they are working to try to figure out how to run a presidential campaign with a candidate who might be potentially indicted, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes and it's hard to run a campaign when you're indicted. I think that that's not really a question there.

All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Ad the former president looks to drum up support in Texas tonight a federal judge is ordering several former Trump aides to testify to a grand jury. We'll break that down for you in a few moments.

Plus, Vladimir Putin now plans to put nuclear weapons closer to Ukraine and right next door to a close U.S. ally in the region.

And later Mississippi residents in shock after this deadly tornado. I'll talk to Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat in that district. He spoke with the president earlier today about the damage. We'll talk to him in just a little while from now.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: New developments on several legal fronts for former President Donald Trump. On Friday, a federal judge ordered some former Trump aides to testify, including the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as criminal investigations are underway into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. There's also a state criminal investigation underway on the same issue in Georgia.

All this comes as Trump's own defense attorney was hauled back to testify about classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate and there's the possibility, of course, of an indictment involving the alleged hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

CNN Zachary Cohen joins us now. Zach, it's hard to keep up, but let's start with your new reporting on the election investigation. What can you tell us? ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Jim. We're

learning about this (INAUDIBLE) decision that was made by a federal judge in that case involving Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

This happened under seal, but we're hearing from our sources that the judge decided that several Trump aides including Mark Meadows, have to come in and testify before the grand jury.

Now Trump wanted to block them from testifying about certain topics, including conversations that they had with him. But you know this judge's decision, it does mean that they will ultimately most likely have to come in and testify. The Trump team is planning to appeal the decision. That's what we're hearing from our sources, but he's appealed similar decisions in the past without much success, so the expectation is that they will likely have to come in and testify before the grand jury before this is all said and done.

And what about the latest in the Mar-a-Lago case, or developments there as well? It's been a busy few days for Jack Smith. This is, of course, the other criminal investigation that he's overseeing.

And you know, Trump's own defense attorney in the Mar-a-Lago case, had to come in and testify before the grand jury. And a few days before that happened. It was the expectation set by a judge that he would have to answer questions, which is rare in a criminal case like this.

And so the grand jury wants to hear more about the interactions between Trump's legal team and the federal government leading up to the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, right. And so they want to know why more classified documents were found there after the legal team said to the best of their knowledge that there weren't any more so the expectation is he was asked and had to answer questions about that.

ACOSTA: All right Zachary Cohen, thank you very much.

With his unique insights, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig joins us now to break down some of these headlines.

Elie, thanks so much. Great to see you again. What do you think is the most perilous legal case against Trump out of all of the ones that we've been talking about? There are many, but does any of them stand out as being the most perilous?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a lot to keep track of as you said, Jim. I think the one that's closest at hand in terms of timing remains the Manhattan D.A.s investigation into the Stormy Daniels hush money payments. We know that grand jury is going back into session on Monday. We don't know exactly whether or when they'll indict, but it seems to me like they're basically at the very end of their grand jury presentation based on the witnesses.

That said, I also think that case has the least serious conduct and the least well supported evidence.


HONIG: I think the biggest threat, the most important case is the January six cases that Zach just talked about. I think we're looking at very serious charges that have some substantial grounding and the evidence, including this evidence that prosecutors should now be able to get now that they've won these court battles that Zach just laid out for you.

ACOSTA: And in the case involving the alleged hush money to Stormy Daniels. I mean, what do you make of Trump not being arrested and indicted this past week, despite his prediction that that's what would happen and what would happen do you think if Trump is on the trail running for president and he is on trial?

I mean back in the old days, you know when you were indicted you that was when you ended your presidential campaign, but not today. Not now.

HONIG: Yes. I think it's safe to say now Donald Trump pulled his prediction about being arrested on Tuesday out of thin air. There was nothing to it. It did not come true. It seems like he was just making it up.

People should understand though legally speaking, you can still run for president if you're indicted. You can still run for president if you're on trial. You can still run for president and be president, even if you've been convicted of this type of offense.

So I think a lot of people don't understand that. Now, of course there would be logistical complications. There could be the trial going on the same night as a debate or a primary. Who knows?

And the political calculation, I guess I'll leave that to our political experts. On the one hand people seem to say that could rally support and fundraising. On the other hand, I think at a certain point voters look at a candidate and say, do we really want to vote for somebody who's under the threat -- who is under indictment, let's say hypothetically.

It seems to me that would drag down someone's political support, but we'll leave that for you know, for the Jeff Zelenys and the political experts of the world.

ACOSTA: Right and just a quick follow to what Zach was reporting on. You know the mounting, I guess caseload for Jack Smith and what he's been dealing with, dealing with both the January 6th investigation and the documents investigation at Mar-a-Lago.

In your view as a former federal prosecutor, is that just too much for his team to handle both of those investigations at once or do you think they could do that? Both at the same time?

HONIG: No, not at all. No, I don't think it's too much to handle at all. The Justice Department has massive resources and Jack Smith, it seems like has been given essentially whatever he needs in terms of lawyers and law enforcement. And I think this is an important change in pace we've seen. I mean,

you and I, Jim have been critical and spoken many times about how slowly Merrick Garland was moving. Well, there's been a marked change in focus and pace since Jack Smith took over. And look now as it stands right now, there are a couple of appeals pending, but Jack Smith is now in position where he will be able to question under oath Mark Meadows, even Mike Pence, potentially.

So there's real progress being made Jack Smith is doing what I've been saying should be done from the start, which is aim at the top. Start there. Go after the people with the real valuable inside information.

ACOSTA: And that is somebody that never testified before the January 6 committee. Mike Pence is somebody. So potentially, for the first time, the federal government I guess, you know, through the Justice Department will be hearing through, you know, the testimony of Meadows and Pence, potentially some very key information and insights.

HONIG: Yes and these claims of executive privilege were just shot down as we just heard recorded on Mark Meadows. Generally speaking, executive privilege claims are not going to prevail in the context of a criminal grand jury subpoena. It's not automatic, but generally speaking.

Also, let's remember this is a former president Donald Trump, trying to invoke executive privilege much more difficult legally, so it's no surprise that he lost on the Meadows issue. I think he'll lose if he appeals and I think he'll lose on the Pence issue as well.

ACOSTA: All right. Fascinating.

All right. Elie Honig, we'll be watching. Thanks so much.

HONIG: All right, guys. Thanks.

All right and a startling development today involving Russia. Vladimir Putin is moving tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. That's right on the border with Ukraine. How dangerous is this move? We'll talk about that next. A closer look, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: This just in to CNN.

CNN is learning about a new drone attack in Syria overnight, a U.S. official tells CNN. It targeted a site known as Green Village, a base where U.S. troops are in the area.

That official says no one was hurt and nothing was damaged. This is the fifth such drone attack in 48 hours. We'll stay on top of that. any more information we'll bring it to you.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country will now station tactical nuclear weapons right on NATO's doorstep. Today, Putin announced an agreement with Belarus and says a special

storage facility for those weapons will be built there by July. As you can see Belarus borders both NATO ally Poland and Ukraine.

And CNN -- former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty joins us now. She is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

Jill, I mean, we've heard Vladimir Putin try so many times to be provocative when it comes to, you know, injecting the prospect of nuclear weapons into this war in Ukraine. Your reaction to this announcement. Is it just more of that bluster? Should it be taken more seriously?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think what he's trying to do, as usual, is raise the threat level and as soon as you used the word "nuclear" regardless of what kind of nukes he's talking about it's frightening and it gets attention.

And I'm not saying that we should diminish it, Jim, but I think you know, as usual with President Putin, you have to read the fine print and put it into context.

So what he's saying is as you said that we will station these tactical nuclear weapons, you know, field weapons in Belarus. And the question is, you know when will this happen? Maybe this summer, but I think the important thing is he's not saying. And in fact, he's saying they will not put them in the hands of Alexander Lukashenko who is the president of Belarus.

And that could be a problem. He's keeping control, he says, in the hands of himself, obviously -- Russia in general.


DOUGHERTY: So I do think that in all of these things, as soon as you kind of dig in, upping the ante when you're talking about nuclear weapons, it's provocative, sometimes dangerous, but I do not think that, you know, it's panic time or anything like that.

ACOSTA: Right.

DOUGHERTY: It's Putin trying to escalate because he has problems.

ACOSTA: Right. I mean, we've seen that time and again in Ukraine. And do you think this decision will force any sort of counter move by the U.S. or NATO? Or do they just keep an eye on it and see, you know, how much he really does deliver on this?

DOUGHERTY: Well, don't forget that the United States itself has tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. And in fact, Putin mentioned there are six bases where they are kept. And that actually apparently is correct that there are six bases where the United States keeps weapons like that, but they are really under control of the U.S. Air Force and they are on bases. They're not just spread all over the place.

So is Putin saying, and very much we've seen this, Jim, in the Ukraine war, you're doing something. It's our turn. We're going to do it. But again, it -- you know, it does up the ante. And if you have more nuclear weapons there and then also, I think it raises a real question. Why is Lukashenko even agreeing to this? You know, this is something he gave up.

ACOSTA: Right.

DOUGHERTY: Nuclear weapons. Ukraine, Belarus, they all gave them up back in the early '90s. Why does he want any type of nuclear weapon back?

ACOSTA: Right. I mean, and Jill, I was just about to ask you that. I mean, Belarus has had no nuclear weapons in its territory since the early 1990s. That -- I mean that in and of itself does present an escalation. I mean, whether you want to call this a cold war between the U.S. and Russia, I mean, it is -- it's provocative.

DOUGHERTY: It's provocative, and it's also I think a sign of weakness. You know, weakness by Putin, because one of the only things that he can do right now, let's look at the situation. He did not get a whole lot out of that meeting with the Chinese President Xi. He has now the ICC has issued a warrant for his arrest as a war criminal. And then also, the fighting in Ukraine isn't going very well.

So the one thing that Vladimir Putin has all the time in his pocket is his nuclear weapons, so he tends to, you know, resort to bluster about those and threats, and I think that's what we've got here, that every time he do that, it does get more dangerous because there will be, apparently, you know, tactical weapons in Belarus.

ACOSTA: All right, Jill Dougherty, another worrying development in the war in Ukraine. We always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell hasn't been in the Senate since a bad fall earlier this month. So when might the Republican leader returned? New details next in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: You might find some surprises digging through your family history. I know I did while tracing my own roots with our next guest for an episode of the remarkable "Finding Your Roots" on PBS. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's Andy working as a live-in servant for a woman named Josephine Taylor, and you could see a photo of the apartment building in which she was living on the left. Do you happen to recognize that building?

ACOSTA: I was going to say that looks like a famous building. Is that the Dakota or?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the Dakota, baby.

ACOSTA: That is the Dakota Building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your great grandmother was living in the Dakota. The famous apartment building that was home to Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall and John Lennon.

ACOSTA: John Lennon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it like to learn that?

ACOSTA: I mean, that is -- that's wild.


ACOSTA: Henry Louis Gates Jr., Skip Gates, joins us now. He's the host of "Finding Your Roots" now on its eighth season. Do we have that right? What a program, Skip. You know, we just watched a clip from his upcoming show. Van Jones is also featured on the program.

And I just want to, you know, ask you to give us some insight on how you and your team traced these family histories. It is just a remarkable undertaking. This all started on my family a few years back, if I have that correct, and it's taken this long to get it to air. It's a remarkable undertaking.

HENRY LOUIS GATES JR., HOST, "FINDING YOUR ROOTS" ON PBS: Well, Jim, we were so excited to do your family tree, particularly, because, as I think you know, my wife is a very brilliant Cuban historian, Marial Iglesias, and she teams up with one of the world's greatest Cuban genealogists, Lourdes del Pino, and they tackled your family tree.

And it was so good because your father Abillo left -- he was born in 1950 in Cuba, and he and his mom left in 1962, and then you took him back in 2016, and you went to your family village, Santa Maria del Rosario, right?

ACOSTA: That's right.

GATES: And had no idea how deep your roots ran in Santa Maria del Rosario. We were able to trace your ancestry back six generations to your fourth great grandfather, whose name was Don Julian Yannas, who was a farmer. And then we found out we didn't know exactly -- we wanted to see when your family arrived on the island of Cuba. So we want to see where they came from. They came from the Canary Islands. You had no idea about that, right?

ACOSTA: I did not know that at all. Totally incredible. Just amazing.

GATES: And we identified five of your 7th and 8th great grandparents, all born in the Canary Islands, likely all in the late 1600s.

[17:40:08] And they -- we found a document saying that they were some of the founding mothers and fathers of Santa Maria del Rosario. That they were -- we uncovered a document from 1733, indicating that five of your ancestors were among the founders of this town.


GATES: And they were no slackers. They were city council members and an attorney general of the town. And you had no idea.

ACOSTA: I had no idea about any of that. And my Cuban ancestry has always been a mystery somewhat to me because my dad left when he was so very young, and also my mom's side of the family, and you were able to trace some of those routes as well going back to Ireland and Czechoslovakia. And I just find it just astonishing and you had so many celebrities on your show this season. Are there some big surprises that you found that you just didn't -- had no idea you had just didn't imagine? I suppose it's hard to pick just one surprise.

GATES: Well, finding out that we were able to trace you back to your 15th great grandfather, who was -- 15th great grandfather, Jim. His name was Alonso Garcia Camacho, likely born in the early to mid-1400s. This is 600 years ago, man.


GATES: In Spain. You can't make that up. But Julia Roberts was one of my favorite stories this season. DNA showed that her great grandfather, John Roberts, was actually the son of a man named Henry Mitchell. So Julia Roberts is not Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is Julia Mitchell.

ACOSTA: And tracing family roots can refresh your perspective on both identity and global issues. We talked about immigration pretty extensively in this upcoming episode. Let's watch a little bit of that.


ACOSTA: People know who I am because I stood up to Trump when it came to immigrants, and I can't tell you how many times I run into people from all walks of life all around the world who are grateful for that. And I did it not knowing the full history, which you've given to me, but knowing a little bit about myself, you know, as a human being that I came from this immigrant experience. So how can I sit here silently as somebody is denigrating that entire experience?


ACOSTA: And you skip one of the things I found really fascinating about your program is that it gets into some of these areas, these issues in our nation's history that folks just don't want to talk about. They don't want to revisit. They don't want to teach it anymore. And I just wonder what you think about that. And is that part of the reason why you do this program? I don't want to give away all the secrets that we're going to find out

on Tuesday because there's some pretty incredible stuff. But what do you make of that? Is that what part of what you want to accomplish with the show?

GATES: Jim, just some subliminal messages of each episode of "Finding Your Roots." One is that we are a nation of immigrants. All Americans descend from people who came from elsewhere. Even our Native American sisters and brothers descend from people who migrated here 15,000 years ago. And my African ancestors didn't -- were willing immigrants of course. They were unwilling immigrants, but they were immigrants nonetheless.

And the other subliminal message, as you know from the analysis we did of your DNA, which is quite fascinating, very, very extraordinarily rich and comfortable is that at the level of the genome, no matter how apparently different we are, no matter our (INAUDIBLE) differences, we are 99.99 percent the same. And that is the message that Americans need to hear every day of the week because there are forces that have arisen that will seek to divide us because of apparent differences, and who would want to erase the rich history of immigration that made our nation great, and that's one of the reasons that I make this series.

ACOSTA: And Skip, you know, you know when I saw the results from my genealogy test, it was like 23 types of test, I was blown away by just the mix of, you know, I mean, I feel like you know, this country is a melting pot. That's what makes this country such a great place. And I felt like I was sort of like my own melting pot because I had so many different parts of the world coming together. Maybe it explains why am I where I am.

GATES: Jim, you have one of the most --


GATES: You have one of the most very gated genomes that we've ever tested. Look, I wrote this down because I was hoping you were asking about it. Your 23 percent Portugal, 21 percent Irish, 13 percent Eastern Europe and Russia, 12 percent Spain, 8 percent Sweden and Denmark, 5 percent Scotland, 5 percent Northern Africa, 4 percent Germanic Europe, 4 percent Basque, 3 percent Northern Italy and 2 percent England and Northwest Europe.


And you're DNA cousins with Jeff Daniels. Can't make this up.

ACOSTA: That's right. That's right. And that is one of the things that's going to be revealed in the show is that I'm related to the actor Jeff Daniels in some way, shape or form, which is great because he once played a journalist on HBO, so that's terrific.

But, you know, Skip, I mean, this show it is -- it's just so incredible what you've done with this program. You really show how we are all God's children. I think that at the end of the day is my big takeaway from it, that we're just all people.

GATES: Well, thanks.

ACOSTA: And we've come from so many different experiences, but we're like you said earlier, we're all one people.

GATES: And it's this variety that's made us the greatest nation in the world. Too many people are trying to convince us that this is not true. And we can't let that happen. So that's -- finding roots is a testament to the glories of immigration week by week.

ACOSTA: Well, Skip Gates, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., thank you so much for your time. We call you Skip. It's just an amazing thing that you've done for me. I am so grateful. My family is so grateful. We really appreciate the episodes coming up on Tuesday on PBS. Also we'll find out about Van Jones as well. I trust that's going to be a fascinating tale as well.

GATES: A lot of surprises for old Van Jones. I can't wait for you to watch.

ACOSTA: Thanks so much, Skip. Great to see you.

GATES: Thanks for having me on the show.

ACOSTA: Much appreciated.

All right. And actress and activist Eva Longoria is the host of a new CNN Original Series "SEARCHING FOR MEXICO." She takes us on a journey to learn how Mexico's culture, people, landscape, and history have shaped its cuisine. Here's a sneak preview.


EVA LONGORIA, HOST, SEARCHING FOR MEXICO: I'm not surprised Contramar is always packed with dishes like fresh tuna tostadas, mouthwatering shrimp a chili and white fish ceviche. I'm lucky to get a table here. Because I have a date with one sexy chilantro, my husband Pepe.

GABRIELA CAMARA, CHEF: (Speaking in foreign language). Forgive me for interrupting this romantic one.

LONGORIA: To get us in the mood Gabby starts with Pepe's favorite, red clam ceviche. You love these, no?



BASTON: One of our first dates was here on Contramar.

LONGORIA: We had so much fun because we were like just dating, we had to be smushed into the really tight to the bar. I mean, first of all, you're impressed with my Spanish.

BASTON: (Speaking foreign language) You're Mexican, I said, you're a Mexican that doesn't speak Spanish? I speak Spanish. OK, cool.


ACOSTA: "FOR MEXICO" tomorrow night at 10:00 right here on CNN.



ACOSTA: Just into CNN, we have an update now on the health of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell who was injured and hospitalized after falling earlier this month. He's been released from the inpatient facility where he's been rehabbing for nearly two weeks and will be working from home for the next few days.

CNN's Alayna Treene joins us now.

Alayna, this is good news for Mitch McConnell. What more do we know about his health.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is great news. So we just received this statement at the top of the hour from Mitch McConnell himself, which I should note is noteworthy. So far all the statements we've received from McConnell since he fell earlier this month had been from his communications director. But this is from him himself and he said that he is out of -- he's in good health. He's feeling good. He's out of the inpatient rehab facility. And he is looking forward to getting back to the Senate as soon as he can.

Now I spoke with one of his advisers this evening after the statement, and they told me that they do not expect him to return to the Senate immediately. He's still going to be working from home, but that they hope he can come back soon. He's not expected to come back, though, before the Senate breaks for their two-week recess later this week.

And now here's the statement, it reads -- the statement from Mitch McConnell.

ACOSTA: Might have to reload the statement.

TREENE: Yes. There we are. McConnell writes himself, "I want to sincerely thank everyone for all the kind wishes. I'm happy to say I finished inpatient physical therapy earlier today, and I'm glad to be home. I'm going to follow the recommendations and advice of my physical therapists and spend the next few days working for Kentuckians and the Republican conference from home. I'm in frequent touch with my Senate colleagues and my staff and I look forward to returning in person to the Senate soon."


So clearly, I mean, big news. He's been out of the Senate now since March 8th when he fell at a D.C. area hotel. A lot of his colleagues that I've spoken with in recent days said that they've been in touch with him, but they're eager to have him back. But of course not before he's in good health and ready to return. ACOSTA: And no set date yet for when he'll return?

TREENE: No set date. From what I'm told when I spoke with his team this evening, they don't think it'll be this week. And then at the end of this week the Senate breaks for two weeks for the recess where they'll go home and be home for the Easter holiday. And so I'm expecting that it may not be until mid-April that we see McConnell on Capitol Hill again.

ACOSTA: Wow. OK. Long absence, but good to see he's on the mend.

Alayna Treene, thank you very much.

TREENE: Thank you.

ACOSTA: People in parts of the southeast are surveying damage tonight and hoping to find survivors after being hit by massive storms and at least one tornado. Next CNN is live on the ground in a town that was nearly destroyed.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: You're back live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

At this hour, a state of emergency blankets much of Mississippi where an outbreak of tornadoes has left a trail of devastation and heartache.