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Tornadoes Rip Through The South, 25 Dead In Mississippi, One Killed In Alabama; Interview With Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); Crews Search For Survivors After Pennsylvania Candy Factory Explosion; Trump Rallies In Waco Ahead Of Possible Charges; Buy Water Rights In West To Profit From Climate Crisis; Gwyneth Paltrow Takes The Stand In Skiing Accident Trial; Adam Sandler Receives 2023 Mark Twain Prize For American Humor. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 25, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You're back live on the CNN NEWSROOM. I am 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.

This is Rolling Fork where the Mayor says the city is gone. At least 25 people are confirmed dead in Mississippi and one in Alabama, and to add some perspective to the scope of the tragedy, consider this, the National Weather Service says more people have been killed by tornadoes in the last 24 hours than in all of last year -- that's across the entire nation.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Rolling Fork, Mississippi for us. He joins us by phone.

Nick, I know you're still having cell issues there and live shot issues there because of just all the devastation. It's just -- we're looking at the video now. It's incredible.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): It is striking, Jim, to see this devastation up close and in person. You know, it's not really an exaggeration to say that there is very little of the town that has remained untouched from the tornado that ripped through here (AUDIO ISSUES).

Most of the buildings that we're seeing here throughout the area have been reduced to rubble. There are individuals that we've spoken to that don't understand how they got out alive, considering so many around them perished.

As you mentioned, at least 25 people have been killed as a result of these storms. I'd say that we're continuing to see the heavy machinery being brought through these areas to clear out the wreckage.

It was earlier that I spoke to one of those tornadoes survivors named Ernest Hall who says that he was asleep when the initial storm came through, woken up by a phone call with a family member asking for help. So he raced across town to a trailer park where we're standing in front of and it is among the hardest hit areas in his neighborhood.

And he started to rescue family members, but he said when he came to the house of his mother-in-law, he just held her body. Listen to what he said describing what he went through on Friday night.


VALENCIA: You say you lived right here. What's this like to look at all of this?

ERNEST HALL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Never seen anything like it. I wish it was all a dream.

VALENCIA: What do you have in your hands right here?

HALL: Right here, I have in my hand tissue and paper towels. You know, anything that we can get value. You know, we are in a position right now, we need help.


VALENCIA (via phone): Ernest went on to say that he couldn't even bring himself to shed a tear because he was still in so much shock after going through what he went through and what he saw.

I did speak to other tornado survivors here including a man named Elijah Washington who has not survived not one, not two, but three tornadoes in his lifetime. The 65-year old said that he got out with just a scratch on his finger, while other neighbors he knows died as a result of this storm.

There is a lot of cleanup to happen here, and the great miracle though, among this community, Jim. It is 2,000 people, very impoverished community, majority Black community. All of those residents, even the ones that have been impacted by the storm are chipping in to help, to try to clean up because there is a lot of mess in this community -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, I'm sure the community is pulling together and trying to get through this the best they can.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

Joining me now, Mississippi Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson, whose district includes most of the worst damage. He is on the phone with us right now.

Congressman, we really appreciate you joining us on such a sad day. We understand that you toured the decimated community of Rolling Fork last night. What did you see?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS) (via phone): Well, obviously, Jim, it was devastation beyond imagination. First of all, we had no lights in the entire community. People were

absolutely stunned at what had just occurred. And so as the night wore on, it was clear that this was something that people had never seen before, but the bright spot, so far, we've seen people coming from all walks of life wanting to help surrounding communities, surrounding volunteer fire departments, the Cajun Navy is already here.

So you know, but it's a matter of dealing with the immediacy of what has occurred and try to get this very vulnerable community some stability, and it's a challenge to be quite honest with you.

ACOSTA: It has to be and I have to think that seeing the devastation in the light of day today, it must have been even worse than you thought.

THOMPSON: Well, absolutely. And so, you know, when you talk about temporary shelter, the closest shelter to this community is about 50 miles away.

We don't have a public transportation system in this part of the State, so there are some logistical things that have to be worked out. We are in the process of doing it.


THOMPSON: I've had a conversation with the President today. I've talked with the FEMA Administrator. I've talked with the head of the Red Cross. So all hands are on deck as we address this really tragic situation.

ACOSTA: And during that conversation with the President and the FEMA Administrator, what did you tell them? What assurances did you get from the President? I assume help will be going in there as quickly as humanly possible.

THOMPSON: Well, absolutely. The Governor just submitted the request for a major disaster declaration. The President said the moment he gets it, they will review it, and push it right back out the door.

Based on what you see, and you're showing to your viewers, there is no question that this community cannot come back without significant Federal participation.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, it looks as though this community has just been wiped out. Is there any part of Rolling Fork left? What can you tell us about that?

THOMPSON: Well, the Police Department is destroyed. City Hall is destroyed. That County Courthouse is damaged. The Fire Department is devastated. There is no grocery store that's operable in the community, so that there are a lot of things that are having to be put in place, just for people to be able to get back.

Again, NAACP, other organizations have stepped up. We have over 300 Red Cross volunteers in Rolling Forks, Mississippi. But other areas, Silver City, Mississippi, another community similar to Rolling Fork, just smaller, they are in a similar situation.

So we're managing it. Our friends will have to help us. I understand that Secretary of Homeland Security will be here in the morning, as well as the FEMA Administrator to get a firsthand viewing of what is occurring, but I'm optimistic. With the proper help, we can come back.

I own a hospital in this community. It is offline right now. So we're having to transport our injured over 50 miles away to the nearest hospital. And so maybe I can get my Governor here in Mississippi to accept the Medicaid expansion dollars that could have gotten us the proper emergency generation for our hospital enrollment for it so that we wouldn't be offline.

So there are a lot of things we have to work through, but I'm convinced that this tragedy is an opportunity to bring this community back better than what you see right now.

ACOSTA: Well, what we're seeing right now is just devastating. The level of destruction, it is pretty hard to look at. And I have to ask you, you mentioned all the destruction in the town right now, and all of those first responders and so on, their buildings are gone.

What about the people living in that community? Are there enough shelters in place? Are there any shelters? I mean, what can you do?

THOMPSON: Well, absolutely not. We will probably end up bussing people to adjoining communities that have the capacity, but those communities are about 50 miles away.

So the Red Cross is working to facilitate that. We do have a closed National Guard Armory that has now been put back into service to accommodate the local situation.

But as things happen, you know, we had to bring in a generator so we could power up the facility. One of the local farmers loaned us a tractor to generate it last night, so we could have lights in the facility, because as I've said, we had no lights.

So businesses from other areas have set up feeding tents. They are grilling and distributing water and other things, just helping. So clearly, everybody was doing what they can, but it will be a long-term recovery effort for this community and others that are impacted.

ACOSTA: Well, Congressman Bennie Thompson, we appreciate you taking time out of the day to update our viewers on what is happening on the ground there.


ACOSTA: Our hearts go out to the community there. We know it is a tough haul ahead for everybody there, but we appreciate the time. Thanks so much.

THOMPSON: Well, thanks so much, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, and for more information on how you can help the victims of the deadly tornado and severe storms that swept through Mississippi and Alabama, you can go to

In the meantime, rescue crews in Eastern Pennsylvania are searching for survivors in the rubble of a candy factory after a massive explosion leveled the building, killing at least two people. You can see the extraordinary video right there.

It happened yesterday evening at the RM Palmer Factory in the town of West Reading and CNN's Danny Freeman, joins us from the ground there.

Danny, what more can you tell us? What's the latest?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, at this point, we're still in a bit of a waiting period to hear an update from officials as rescue crews have been working throughout the day to try and see if there are any survivors.

But again, you saw that video, you showed that video, it really tells the story of just the community that's been devastated by that huge explosion that happened a little more than 24 hours ago.

I'm going to show you the scene that's happening here right now, though. You can see that hole right there. That is where the RM Palmer Chocolate Company was standing just over 24 hours ago. But of course that explosion happened, and now crews are working to take debris out of there to try and find survivors, try and find anyone left in that rubble.

Now I'll tell you what we know at this point and what we still don't know. First of all, we know that as of right now, still two people have been confirmed dead, five people were missing earlier this morning and there is no cause of the fire just yet.

And listen, there is a bit of hope mixed in with that sadness, because last night, they weren't able to pull one person out of the rubble. But we spoke to a man today, Frankie Gonzales, who fears his sister is still in that mess.


FRANKIE GONZALES, WEST READING, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: I'm hoping that she found a spot she could hide in, and you know, it's been cold. You know, it was cold last night and rainy today and you know, I am going to be a lot be happy that she was just cold or wet, you know, hiding in a spot.

I don't want to hear the words, you know, they tell you to prepare for the worse, you know, but it's not something you want to prepare for.


FREEMAN: It's just heartbreaking, but of course, still hoping for the best at this time.

Now, there are a number of different organizations out there. Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency as well. The Governor was here earlier, and we just got a statement in the past two hours from RM Palmer.

In that statement, they said that everyone at the company is devastated and, "We have lost close friends and colleagues and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted."

Again. We'll give you more information as we get it out here in West Reading -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Danny Freeman in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Thank you very much.

Donald Trump will soon take the stage in Waco, Texas for what his campaign is calling the first rally of the 2024 cycle. It also comes as the former President is facing possible indictments and multiple criminal investigations.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Waco for us.

And Kristen, I'm thinking it's a safe bet that we'll hear Trump address some of those investigations tonight. He really just can't help himself in these kinds of situations is what I remember from covering these rallies. He will probably bring it up.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim and I actually just spoke to someone who said that he is expected to touch on a multitude of these legal investigations, not just that potential indictment out of New York.

And as you noted, when Trump is in this kind of situation, when he's with this number of supporters, and I will say this is thousands upon thousands of people who are here to support the former President at his rally, he tends to really speak his mind. And according to this source, he is very frustrated.

As we should note, these rallies do come as these legal entanglements continue to seem to be escalating. It's not just that potential indictment in New York. We've also seen in recent days of Trump's own defense attorney, Evan Corcoran testifying in front of a grand jury in the Federal Special Counsel probe into those Mar-a-Lago documents.

We also saw a Federal Judge issue an order for former Trump aides to be forced to appear before a Federal grand jury in another Special Counsel investigation that went into January 6th. That includes his former Chief-of-Staff, Mark Meadows.

Now, we asked a number of people here how they felt about these potential indictments. Did they believe that these legal problems could hurt Trump politically? Here's what they said.


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

Because it's wrong. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can still run if he gets indicted. And as that

is happening and if it does happen, that's going to excite the American people even more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you know, if a hundred million people are going to vote for him, if they do indict him, you're going to get 120 million people voted for him, because they're just -- you know, you can't take out this man down.

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: So clearly, he will be speaking in front of a very supportive crowd, and I will note that I spoke to a number of Republicans who did think that this would help him politically, particularly in a contested primary, but there are still concerns about what this means in the long term politically -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, a lot happening on the campaign trail and off the campaign trail for Donald Trump.

Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.

The head of FOX News could find himself in Court. New developments about the case it faces against Dominion Voting Machines.

And still ahead, Hollywood superstar Gwyneth Paltrow takes the stand. She is on trial after a 2016 skiing accident.

Plus, new threats against TikTok as the company's CEO gets grilled by Congress.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Rupert Murdoch may have to take the stand in Dominion's defamation case against FOX News. A Delaware Judge signaled this week, he may force the FOX Corporation Chairman to testify about his role in the network's editorial process centering on the 2020 election lies. There were some major hearings in the case this week and CNN's Marshall Cohen was in the courtroom.

Marshall, that must have been fascinating. What did you learn?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Jim, the stakes could not be higher. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion from FOX News, because the right-wing network repeatedly promoted in 2020 the false claim that Dominion rigged the election by flipping millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

So let me read for you a quote from their attorney. This is really the heart of their case: "Unlike almost every single other defamation case, we have, in their own words, the fact that they knew it was false."

Jim, Dominion has obtained thousands of damning text messages, e-mails from people at FOX News -- Rupert Murdoch, other executives, the show hosts, the producers, factcheckers that pretty much showed that they all thought this Dominion stuff was crazy, but they put it on the air anyway. That's why they think they should win.

Now on the other side, you've got FOX News, and its parent company, FOX Corporation, they say that they've done nothing wrong. They say they are fully protected by the First Amendment. Here is what their lawyer was arguing in court in Delaware earlier this week.

She said: "All we ever did was provide viewers with the true fact that those were allegations being leveled by the President, by his lawyers, and in lawsuits throughout the country." Their defense is, don't blame us. We didn't come up with this stuff, Donald Trump did. And like any journalist would, we covered what the President was saying. We'll see which one of those two arguments wins the day in Court.

ACOSTA: But of course, you were just mentioning this, all of these texts that have been provided as evidence as part of the case, as they were airing these crazy claims these false claims about the election, they were saying to one another behind the scenes that they knew none of it was true.

COHEN: Right.

ACOSTA: And Marshall, what happens next in this case? I mean, you mentioned that Rupert Murdoch may have to testify. Is it possible, we could see other notable figures from FOX?

COHEN: It is totally possible.

So right now, we are waiting for a major ruling from the Judge. Both sides have asked the Judge to declare that they are the winner without even going to trial. It's a pretty high bar for that to happen. So, it probably won't happen, which means jury selection is scheduled for April 13th, just in a few weeks.

If there is not a settlement out of Court, trial is going to happen in a few weeks from now. Rupert Murdoch might be forced to testify. His son who is the CEO of FOX Corporation, Dominion wants to force them to testify, it will be up to the Judge. There are some big questions here that remain. We'll have to wait and see.

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

Still ahead, Russia's Vladimir Putin announces plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which neighbors Russia and Ukraine. We will discuss the significance of that move next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: A significant new development in Russia's war on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin announcing that Russia when will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. He says a special facility will house those weapons and it should be completed by July.

As a reminder, Belarus not only shares a border with Ukraine, but also with NATO ally, Poland. The fighting in Ukraine has not relented especially in the eastern City of Bakhmut. After weeks of Russian advancement, the Ukrainians are pushing back.

Ukraine's military says they're gaining ground in the city claiming Russian forces have been pushed out of a key road that they're calling the "Road of Life."

Retired US Army Colonel Eugene Vindman joins us now with more.

Colonel, great to see you.

This news that Russia is going to be stationing these tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, it sounds like an escalation. But do you think this is just more bluster from Vladimir Putin when he gets backed into a corner, he starts talking about, you know, going nuclear and so on? Or does this need to be recognized as an escalation?

COL. YEVGENY "EUGENE" VINDMAN (RET), US ARMY: I think it's undoubtedly an escalation, and we've seen a series of escalations from the Russians in this conflict. How seriously we take the nuclear threat, I am not sure that we necessarily change our calculus, but anytime Putin feels like he is backed into a corner, and I think he does feel backed into a corner based on the fact that the ICC issued an arrest warrant -- I'm sorry.

ACOSTA: That's okay.

VINDMAN: But he is clearly escalating. And this is not really the actions that we expect from a country that is assuming the UN Security Council presidency in just a few short days at the beginning of the month. So, I think we have to take it seriously, and it is unfortunate.

ACOSTA: And the Red Cross says there are around 10,000 civilians still living in Bakhmut. I can't imagine what that must be like right now for them. What do you think the situation is like for the civilians there and how can they be better protected if that's even possible at this point?

VINDMAN: Sure. The situation for the civilians has got to be horrible.


First of all, every part of that city is in artillery range. So there is no safe place in that city. And frankly, most of the remaining population are those either elderly or infirm or too young. Most of the people that could leave did leave.

The fighting in Bakhmut has been taking place for eight months, so those people have been through hell. And it doesn't sound like it'll let up anytime soon, although there are claims that the situation is stabilizing. Every part of that city is still dangerous.

ACOSTA: And I know you've been investigating war crimes in Ukraine, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights has catalogued thousands of cases of civilian casualties along with cases of torture, rape, arbitrary detention in the Ukraine conflict.

The group also says that both sides are guilty in dozens of cases of summary executions of their prisoners of war. What is your reaction to that? I mean, obviously, the atrocities on the Russia end far outweigh anything on the other side, but what do you make of that?

VINDMAN: So I mean, the way I - we look at this when we investigate and when we're looking to assist our international partners is, is it systematic. You're going to have war crimes in war. War is a horrible event that should never take place, if it can ever be avoided.

But even in the U.S. we had war crimes during our 20 years of war in the Middle East and those were prosecuted. And I know that the Ukrainians have cases open on violations in discipline in their own forces. The question is, is it systematic.

And systematic is when across the entire front not isolated incidents, but across the entire front, you have war crimes, there's - there's a horrible video, probably within the last month where a Ukrainian soldier is seen on camera executed after he says "slava Ukraini," glory to Ukraine.

And it's - that type of behavior, I think, is - appears to be systematic on the Russian side. There was an attack on a POW camp attributed to Russia where dozens of Ukrainian service members were killed. So are war crimes going to occur? Yes. Should they be investigated regardless of which side? They're - those events occur on, yes. But there is - appears to be a systematic. There's a systematic problem with the Russian side.

ACOSTA: Let's talk a little bit about the evolving situation in Syria. Iranian groups are warning the United States of quote revenge following the retaliatory drone strikes the U.S. carried out this week, how concerned are you about these threats? What do you make of how the U.S. has been responding to this?

VINDMAN: So I mean, clearly the Iranians have been - are testing the U.S. They've had numerous attacks on U.S. installations and this is the first one that has resulted in casualties. And there was a contractor killed, but also a number of servicemembers wounded and the U.S. rightly takes that very seriously. And that U.S. responded and there's now been a round of exchanges.

Really, I think, the appropriate response here as to go in very heavy and punish the forces that are attacking the U.S. troops in the area. If you don't, it'll just be a continuous round of tit for tat and there needs to be a demonstration that the U.S. is serious about force protection that we're serious about making sure that our forces and contractors that are in the area are going to be kept safe and I'm not sure that hasn't been demonstrated yet.

ACOSTA: All right. Col. Eugene Vindman, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

VINDMAN: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, thank you.

Still ahead, meet the people fighting back against Wall Street companies allegedly making money off of access to water, that's next.


TRAVIS LINGENFELTER, MOJAVE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: If they're coming after a portion of our only water supply on the river for many of our communities, we have to fight it.

ANDY MUELLER, GENERAL MANAGER, COLORADO RIVER DISTRICT: They're drought profiteers. They're trying to suck the very lifeblood out of these communities for their own financial benefit.




ACOSTA: A human smuggling investigation is underway after two people were found dead in a shipping container traveling on a train near Uvalde, Texas. Homeland Security officials said the men were from Honduras and were among more than 30 people they found on two separate train cars including some who had to be airlifted to area hospitals. Police said they were tipped off at After a 911 caller said numerous migrants were suffocating inside of a train car.

Idaho just became the third state this year to ban transgender students from using public school restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The bill signed by the governor last night takes effect July 1st. It says students can only use bathrooms that align with their gender assigned at birth.

The rule applies to locker room showers and other facilities but not single occupancy restrooms. Similar laws were recently passed in Arkansas and Iowa.

Some large corporations are making big investments in the driest land they can find in the U.S. It has communities and farmers outrage. They tell CNN's Lucy Kafanov that private investors are trying to take advantage of the coveted water rights to make millions when drought sends water prices through the roof. Here's a report


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Cibola, Arizona, is a place few are likely to have heard of. Home to some 300 people, this windswept community is a tiny oasis in the Sonoran Desert, sustained by water from the Colorado River.


But this rural corner of the American West has caught the eye of East Coast investors. Much of this farmland now belongs to Greenstone, a subsidiary of the financial services conglomerate Mass Mutual.


KAFANOV (on camera): So what does an investment firm want with farmland like this?

HOLLY IRWIN, LA PAZ COUNTY SUPERVISOR: They want it for the water. They want it to make money off the water rights that are attached to the land.


KAFANOV (voice over): La Paz County supervisor Holly Irwin is fighting Greenstone's recent sale of Cibola water to a growing Phoenix suburb more than 200 miles away.


IRWIN: They make millions off of it at the expense of what it's going to do to our communities in the future and the precedence it's going to set. It's opening Pandora's box. And who is going to be the next one in line to roll the dice?


KAFANOV (voice over): A lawyer for Greenstone told CNN its plan was subject to public review, approved and that it will have no impact on the potential of cities along the river to grow.

But it's not just happening in Arizona.


KAFANOV (on camera): Wall Street firms have been snapping up properties up and down the Colorado River, not so much for the land but rather for its precious water rights. It's a growing interest in an increasingly scarce natural resource, with investors betting big on a major pay-off.

MATT DISERIO, PRESIDENT, WATER ASSET MANAGEMENT: It's a trillion- dollar market opportunity.


KAFANOV (voice over): Matt DiSerio is President of Water Asset Management, an investment firm headquartered in this New York City building, which has also been buying water rights in states along the Colorado River.

DiSerio describes its strategy in 2020 interviews with Institutional Real Estate and FinTech TV.


DISERIO: Water, we believe, is the resource that is defining the 21st Century, much like oil defined the last century.


KAFANOV (voice over): The company did not respond to CNN's specific inquiries, issuing a statement that said it was proud of its investments and will "manage assets in a manner that contributes to solutions to water scarcity."


LINGENFELTER: They come out West. They purchase and pick up cheap, rural, agricultural land. They sit on it for a little while and then they're trying to sell the water.


KAFANOV (voice over): Mojave County Commissioner Travis Lingenfelter says a number of large East Coast investment firms are trying to get in on the action.

His is one of three Arizona counties that sued the federal government to block the Cibola water transfer.


LINGENFELTER: If they're coming after a portion of our only water supply on the river for many of our communities, we have to fight it.

MUELLER: They're drought profiteers. They're trying to suck the very lifeblood out of these communities for their own financial benefit.


KAFANOV (voice over): Andy Mueller is tasked with helping to protect Colorado's share of the river and says the full scale of the land purchases is difficult to track, because investment firms use different names to disguise ownership.


MUELLER: It's a very unpopular move to come from New York and invest in real estate and irrigated agriculture, with the intent to dry it up and watch it blow away. It's all about making money.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAFANOV (voice over): Under a pilot program, the federal government

has dedicated $125 million in drought relief funds to pay Colorado River farmers and ranchers to conserve water by not growing crops on their land.

Something former state senator Kerry Donovan worries investment firms will take advantage of.


KERRY DONOVAN, FORMER STATE SENATOR: That's where I think we start to see this investment speculation, these outside land holders, get big dollars to grow nothing. And that's when we start to see farm and ranchers go away.


KAFANOV (voice over): Her efforts to strengthen the state's anti- speculation laws failed, leaving her and other ranchers worried about how Wall Street will influence their future.


DONOVAN: It's not their land. It's not their legacy. It's their bottom line and they're - by law, they're responsible to make money for their clients.

My family's brand is on the barn behind me. This is my family's land. It's our legacy. We work to keep it this way. That's a totally different mentality than a New York investment firm.


KAFANOV (voice over): Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Western Colorado.


ACOSTA: Still ahead, Gwyneth Paltrow takes the stand in a trial over a ski crash. A man who's accusing the actress of skiing out of control, but she says he's the one at fault.


GWYNETH PALTROW: I said, "You ski directly into my effing back." And he said, "Oh, Sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry."




ACOSTA: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has now taken the stand in a civil trial over 2016 snow skiing accident in Park City, Utah. She's accused of crashing into a fellow skier and inflicting physical and neurological injuries. She's countersuing claiming he's the one who hit her. Throughout her testimony, there were a few unusual moments that stuck out take a listen.



PALTROW: I'm just under 5' 10".

VANORMAN: Okay, I am so jealous, because ...

PALTROW: I think I'm shrinking though.

VANORMAN: You and me both. I have to wear four-inch heels just to make it to 5' 5",

PALTROW: Wow, they're very nice.

VANORMAN: Well, thank you. You were wearing goggles a helmet?


VANORMAN: Okay, kind of look like everybody else on the slope.

PALTROW: That's always my intention.

VANORMAN: Okay. Probably had a better ski outfit, though, I bet. Are you good friends with Taylor Swift?




VANORMAN: You're not good friends with Taylor Swift.

PALTROW: I would not say we're good friends. We are friendly.


ACOSTA: CNN's Chloe Melas joins us now.

It's not exactly an episode of Judge Judy, Chloe. What's going on here?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: I mean, first of all, I mean, okay, so this is actually a very serious civil trial because there's a man named Terry Sanderson who says that Gwyneth Paltrow barreled into him while skiing in a very high end ski resort called Deer Valley in Utah near Park City, Utah. And he says that he suffered brain issues, a concussion and four broken ribs.


But in this civil trial when Gwyneth Paltrow finally took the stand yesterday, Jim, you heard it here it was, at times, absurd to talk in social media, has had a field day with this. There were a lot of cringe worthy moments, many pointed out that Gwyneth appeared to somewhat have a smirk. Perhaps she was just amused by the cross examination by Terry Sanderson one of his attorneys that you heard there.

She's countersuing, Gwyneth Paltrow, for a dollar. She says that she did not ski into him that he actually skied into her and she actually made a comment that some people found surprising that when he skied up behind her, she alleges that she heard grunting in his skis, went in between her skis opening up her legs, and she thought that perhaps it was some sort of sexual assault or attack briefly.

So again, perhaps she'll testify a bit more Monday. We don't know. We know her children, Moses and Apple, are going to be testifying for husband Brad. And we know Terry Sanderson is going to get up there. I don't know if it's going to be as comical when Terry Sanderson gets up there, but there should be a verdict sometime mid end of next week, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yeah, I didn't get the questions about Taylor Swift that did not strike me as a Perry Mason moment there. But let's shift gears here to what's happening in the TV world. HBO's hit show Succession will debut it's fourth and final season tomorrow. A lot of Succession fans are waiting in suspense for this. You caught up with some of the stars of the show. What do they have to say?

MELAS: Well, Jim, when I wasn't covering the Gwyneth Paltrow civil trial, I was having a great night in New York City at the Succession premiere, like you said, and I caught up with some of the stars, take a listen.


BRIAN COX, ACTOR, SUCCESSION: Yeah, I think he's very sad because he's lost him in a way and as - the - because they're his kids and he's always loved them. That's the point. That was the thing that was said to me very early on. I asked Jesse, does he love his children, He's, oh, yes, he does.

MATTHEW MACFADYEN, ACTOR, SUCCESSION: He hope it will be as riveting and I hope it will be moving, and funny, and absurd and horrifying. But yes, I hope people enjoy it.

JESSE ARMSTRONG, SUCCESSION CREATOR: When I got together with the writers. I just thought this story has a lifespan and this is the season to end it.

MELAS (off camera): Spin offs, though.

ARMSTRONG: Maybe. No, not maybe. I'm saying that to be nice, but I don't think that's probably the right thing for this flavor of shake.


MELAS (on camera): So tomorrow night, the first episode of the final season of Succession. Such a bummer. I love the show and I've already seen the first episode. So I don't want to tell you guys too much, but it's really good. And as you know, if you follow the show, they're fighting the children for the power and control of their father's multi media company.

And so I think it's going to be a great season, I was really bummed out to hear Jesse Armstrong tell me, Jim, that he's not going to do a spin off because that's what the internet had told me earlier in the week that there might be a spin off. So that was kind of a downer.


MELAS: But I'm excited for this season. It's going to be - it's going to give me something to watch, I need a new show to watch.

ACOSTA: And this is going to definitely deliver in that regard. I mean, it is such a fun show and a great cast. I mean, just an amazing assortment of actors.

Chloe Melas, thanks as always. Appreciate it.

MELAS: Thanks, Jim. Thanks.

ACOSTA: Adam Sandler has created some of the most iconic movies and characters in the world of comedy. He's an actor, comedian, producer, musician and now recipient of the 2023 Mark Twain Prize for American humor. The award recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society. This past week, some friends gathered to honor him and poke some fun as well.


PETE DAVIDSON, COMEDIAN: I look at this lineup, I feel like we're all here for the same reason, to remind you how much better SNL was in the '90s.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN & ACTOR: Paul Pelosi the only guy that knows how I felt, all right? Just me and you, Paul. Just me and you, babe.

DAVID SPADE, COMEDIAN & ACTOR: It's amazing the career Adam has had if you don't know this, $4 billion in movies with this much talent. It's unbelievable.

STEVE BUSCEMI, ACTOR: And he actually sucks at golf, okay. It's more like crappy Gilmore. Heyo (ph).

BEN STILLER, ACTOR & DIRECTOR: There's something about him - his work, it just - it all feels effortless. It almost seems - I mean, I don't want to say lazy because that's not the right word and - I don't have a better word, so for now, let's go with lazy.


ROCK: One of the greatest of all time, Mr. Adam Sandler.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And you can see Sandler received that honor with some of his

famous friends and co-stars including Jennifer Aniston, Judd Apatow and Drew Barrymore on hand to celebrate this achievement. Tune in tomorrow night at 8 Eastern right here on CNN.

Still ahead, more than two dozen people are dead after storms rock the state of Mississippi. We are live from a city whose mayor says this town is simply gone.

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