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Tornadoes Strike Mississippi; Multiple Militants Reportedly Killed By U.S. Strikes In Syria; Biden And Trudeau Build On U.S.- Canada Ties; John Fetterman Absent From The Hill; Investigation Of Russian Denial Of Forced Child Deportations; Gwyneth Paltrow Takes The Stand; "City Killer" Asteroid. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 25, 2023 - 05:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the states, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

We begin with breaking news out of the southeastern United States, where the death toll from a severe storm system spawning multiple tornadoes across Mississippi has just gone up. At least 19 people are now dead in Mississippi.

Officials report at least 13 deaths in hard hit Sharkey County, where homes and businesses were flattened and trees and power lines were knocked down. Three others were killed in Humphreys County and at least two people are in critical condition there.

And we've just learned that three more people were killed in Carroll County. Search and rescue teams and first responders are on the scene in the hardhit areas north of Jackson. We spoke with a resident from the town of Rolling Fork, who was on the phone with her grandmother when the tornado went through. Listen to this.


BRANDY SHOWAH, ROLLING FORK RESIDENT: There's power lines all over the road. There's trees all over the road. There's brick buildings that are -- that are just laying out in the street. Actually, two houses down from my grandmother's house, everything is just a debris field. The houses are just destroyed.



BRUNHUBER: One resident in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, describes the tornadoes and the devastation left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are things out. So blackout, people just trying to get home to their --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- check on their family like I am, trying to get home to my mom's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you -- did you hear the storm coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we was uptown. Came through. When it came through, it sound like a helicopter real, real fast and it came so fast and quick. We couldn't do nothing but get up under cover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long did it last?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wasn't even 15 minutes. It wasn't even 15 minutes. I think good fire had 10 minutes that came through and ripped this -- ripped it apart.

The first y'all made it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was I was going to say, again, you walked from the other side of town to here --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and just power out --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Power out everywhere. I'm just trying to maneuver through these trees and limbs and power lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about anybody hurt?

Did you see any --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say a lot of people hurt. There's just a lot of people hurt down behind Chuck's on Blue Front (ph). I'd say a lot of people hurt, a lot of injuries.


BRUNHUBER: And stay with us here at CNN for updates on this breaking news story as soon as they're available.

For the third time in two days, U.S. forces in Syria have come under rocket and drone attacks by militants in the U.S. that they believe are proxies for Iran. American troops were targeted twice on Friday in Deir ez-Zor and Green Village. One U.S. service member was reported wounded.

The day before, an American contractor was killed by a drone strike in Hasakah. The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes that reportedly killed more than a dozen militants. Here is what U.S. President Biden had to say afterward.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To make no mistake, the United States does not -- does not -- emphasize -- seek conflict with Iran. But be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people. That's exactly what happened last night.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon and has our report.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A late night strike in northeast Syria, ambulances rushing to the scene as fire burns in the distance. The U.S. striking what officials say were ammunition depots and intelligence sites used by militias linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The U.S. called the strike, carried out by two F-15 fighters, "a proportionate and deliberate action," after a one-way drone attack killed an American contractor earlier Thursday near Hasakah in Syria.

Five U.S. service members and another contractor were wounded in the attack. Early Friday morning, another U.S. base in Syria coming under attack from a barrage of 10 rockets, the Pentagon said.

The U.S. placing the blame on Iran.

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: Iran certainly again backs these groups. And by default, therefore has a responsibility to ensure that they are not contributing to insecurity, instability. But clearly they continue to do that.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Syria has become a crossroads of conflict in the Middle East. Iranian proxies have carried out rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces. And Russia has begun flying armed fighters over U.S. positions in the country.

For the U.S. and its footprint of about 900 troops in Syria, focus remains ISIS.

ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We don't seek a war with Iran. We're not looking for an armed conflict with that country or another war in the region. We do seek to protect our mission in Syria, which is about defeating ISIS.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): On Thursday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Erik Kurilla, told the House Armed Services Committee hearing, that Iran and its proxies have fired drones or rockets 78 times at U.S. forces since the beginning of 2021, nearly one attack every 10 days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. MICHAEL "ERIK" KURILLA, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: So what Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies. That's either UAVs or rockets, to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria.

QUESTION: Are these considered acts of war by Iran?

KURILLA: They are being done by the Iranian proxies, is what I would tell you, Congressman.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The U.S. has carried out attacks against Iranian proxies in Syria before, targeting either enemy infrastructure or launch vehicles used to attack U.S. forces.

LIEBERMANN: Back in August, when there was a similar back and forth of strikes and attacks, the administration believed, after that, according to U.S. officials, deterrence had been restored in Syria.

That's clearly no longer the case. The question for the administration is how to get there from this point. We have seen the administration carry out a series of strikes.

Is that the way forward here?

The administration trying to avoid an escalation but clearly knows it has to send a message with Iranian proxies in the region, launching a series of attacks against a number of bases housing U.S. troops -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: So as you just heard, the U.S. maintains a relatively small but pivotal force in Syria. Earlier, former U.S. Defense chief Mark Esper, who served in the Trump administration, spoke to CNN about their unique mission. Here he is.


MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Look, we have and have had nearly 1,000 troops in Syria for several years now. They were the follow-on force, if you will, that stayed behind once we do fight -- defeated ISIS in Syria.

If you recall, during the Trump administration, ISIS was rolled back considerably and the caliphate was largely destroyed. So those 900 troops or so on the ground there are working with our partners.


ESPER: And ensuring that ISIS doesn't rise back up and attack our allies and partners in the region, who are eventually trying to strike our homeland. But for the most part, Shia militia groups are funded and resourced and, in many cases, directed by Tehran.

And so the question is, why is this -- why is this escalating at this point in time now?

On the other hand, we've heard from DOD that since, January, 20th, '21, we were attacked nearly every 10 days or so. There's been nearly 80 attacks in this two-year period. So this is ongoing in many ways.

And now we've had an American killed, six or seven others injured. And I give the Biden administration credit for responding, for retaliating. It's exactly what they should do.


BRUNHUBER: There are new developments in the investigations into Donald Trump, a federal judge has ordered several Trump aides to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The directive comes as a former Trump attorney was compelled to testify about the handling of classified documents. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump's closest advisers ordered to testify in two Justice Department probes a federal judge rejecting Trump's claim of executive privilege.

Ordering former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior aide Stephen Miller and others to answer questions from a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, I had an interesting conversation with Brody, Mark. Sounds like we're going to go to the Capitol.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.

HUTCHINSON: He didn't look up from his phone and said, something to the effect of, there's a lot going on, Cass but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad.

SCHNEIDER: Separately, Evan Corcoran, a top Trump attorney and a crucial witness in special counsel Jack Smith's classified documents, probe, spending nearly four hours testifying behind closed doors to a federal grand jury on Friday.

Trump also fought in court to stop his testimony. But several judges ruling Corcoran must divulge information about the conversations he had with former President Trump. Leading up to the FBI search of Mar- a-Lago last summer and that Corcoran must turn over handwritten notes documenting their interactions.

FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August.

TRUMP: They should give me immediately back everything that they've taken from because it's mine. It's mine.

SCHNEIDER: FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August and in November, the attorney general appointed special counsel Jack Smith, to investigate, among other things, whether Trump obstructed the government's attempts to get back all the classified material still in his possession after he left office.

Evan Corcoran crafted a statement in June 2022, claiming a diligent search had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago and that all classified documents had been returned.

A source tells CNN prosecutors wanted to ask Corcoran about that statement and a June phone call between him and Trump that took place the same day as subpoena was issued for Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage that showed boxes being moved out of a storage room.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You still have the surveillance tape. Is that correct?


SCHNEIDER: Sources tell CNN prosecutors have made clear that they believe Trump used Corcoran to advance a crime.

A Trump spokesperson has fired back, accusing the Justice Department of continuously stepping far outside the standard norms and an attempt to destroy the long accepted, long held constitutionally based standards of attorney- client privilege and executive privilege.

TIM PARLATORE, TRUMP ATTORNEY: From the beginning, he has tried to cooperate.

SCHNEIDER: Trump attorney Tim Parlatore tells CNN. He also testified before the grand jury in December, divulging details about additional searches for classified documents he organized at several Trump properties last year.

PARLATORE: They would rather make this into an adversarial fight and try to make it into a criminal case.

SCHNEIDER: Special counsel Jack Smith will now be getting an influx of new information, both from Evan Corcoran, being forced to testify in front of the grand jury on Friday, and from the array of top Trump administration officials, who will now have to testify to the grand jury about what they know about what transpired on and around January 6th.

Our team is told that Trump's legal team is expected to appeal this decision that said these top officials cannot claim executive privilege -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: The investigation into hush money payments made by former president Donald Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels may be putting the Manhattan district attorney's office at risk. NYPD were called to Alvin Bragg's office Friday to investigate an

envelope containing white powder that was sent to the DA. Police say the powder wasn't hazardous but an investigation is ongoing. The delivery arrived a day after Trump took to social media to rail against Bragg, saying there was, quote, "total disarray" in the Manhattan DA's office.

All right, straight ahead, their countries are allies, neighbors and friends.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden and prime minister Justin Trudeau built on the close ties between the U.S. and Canada. We will have details on the president's trip to Ottawa next.

And controversial congressman George Santos appears ready to confess to a fraud case in Brazil. A look at how his potential admission compares to what he was saying publicly just a few months ago.

Plus --


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Children who stayed here were under 5 years old mostly. This orphanage had more than 40 children here.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): CNN goes to the scene to investigate the deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia. Stay with us.



JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I ask you all to raise your glasses as I offer a toast.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau offering a toast there for U.S. President Joe Biden at a dinner in Ottawa Friday night. That happened during President Biden's whirlwind trip to Canada, where he held meetings with Trudeau on a range of issues.

At the top of the agenda was reaching a deal on migration. The two leaders announced changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which covers asylum policies.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden touted the partnership. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And together under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection -- and the prime minister has already spoken -- we're also making good on our commitment to address historic levels of migration in our hemisphere.

Since we created dedicated pathways in the United States, the number of migrants arriving on our southern border has dropped precipitously. And I commend Canada for stepping up with a similar program, opening new legal pathways for up to 50,000 migrants that come to Canada from countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Mr. Prime Minister, Canada and the United States have always been partners in progress.


BRUNHUBER: Officials in both the U.S. and Canada have reported an influx of migrant crossings along their shared border. For example, in January, Canadian authorities intercepted nearly 5,000 asylum seekers crossing unlawfully.

Embattled congressman George Santos agreed to a deal with Brazilian prosecutors to settle a 15-year old fraud case. Santos was accused of defrauding a Rio de Janeiro store clerk out of more than $1,300 worth of clothing and shoes. CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju has the details.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congress man George Santos appears to be confessing to a crime that he committed in 2008 in Brazil. At that time, he wrote bad checks, apparently to a Rio de Janeiro area clerk worth about $1,300 for clothes and for shoes.

Back then, from a stolen checkbook, he wrote those checks and then he essentially left the country and then the authorities in Brazil were not able to serve him with any papers. And essentially, the case went cold for some time until Santos reemerged.

Of course, now he's a freshman Republican congress man under enormous scrutiny and facing federal investigation, as well as the House Ethics Committee probe over a number of misrepresentations from his past lives, from his past and whether or not he committed any crimes as well as on a range of issues, including campaign finance issues and now on this issue as well, admitting to this crime of check fraud.

According to our reporting in Brazil, in order to reach a deal with the victim here, you simply have to confess to the crime. And that's what the documents that we have obtained essentially said, that he would have to agree to formally confess to this crime and pay damages to this victim in order to essentially move forward here.

Now Santos' attorney had made clear that they do not want to have a trial on this, essentially wanted to quietly go away. And Santos himself not addressing this issue.

I approached him about this on Capitol Hill on Friday. He declined to say anything. I asked him directly about why he is settling, why he is reaching a deal about this issue involving apparently writing bad checks, apparent fraud here. He would not respond, walked onto an elevator, hit down, their door closed. He didn't respond as attorneys also have not responded to our inquiries.

But this is -- also stands in stark contrast to what he told the "New York Post" in December.

At the time, he said, "I am not a criminal here. Not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. That didn't happen."

Apparently another lie told by George Santos here, given the fact that he is now confessing to this in this deal has been reached with the Brazilian authorities here. Santos, his political career still uncertain what's going to happen next, facing these investigations, facing as an ethics probe, still maintaining his innocence.

Still is intending to hang onto his seat.

But will he be forced to resign and will he ultimately run for reelection?

Big questions facing Santos, as his legal jeopardy appears to only be growing -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: Two weeks after he suffered a concussion and a fractured rib during a fall, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is said to be more than ready to return to work.

Texas senator John Cornyn says McConnell is chomping at the bit to get back to Capitol Hill but he offered no timetable on when that might happen. And the 81 year old McConnell isn't the only lawmaker absent from the Hill.

Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman checked himself into a hospital last month for treatment of clinical depression. But it's still unclear when he'll be returning to the office. And that uncertainty is getting mixed reactions back home. Danny Freeman reports.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Braddock, Pennsylvania, an old steel town east of Pittsburgh once booming, now struggling.


FREEMAN: It's where you might find 83-year-old Guy Rocco volunteering at the Free Store. It's the town's take what you need charity store started 10 years ago by Gisele Fetterman wife of the town's former mayor, current Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman.

GUY ROCCO, FETTERMAN SUPPORTER: I wish everyone could know him like I do. He'll never change, he'll always be the most authentic representative anyone has ever had.

FREEMAN: Rocco's passion even led him to the campaign trail.

ROCCO: The Fetterman's are truly special.


FREEMAN (voice-over): Like many, Rocco was concerned after Fetterman suffered a series of health setbacks. First, when he had a stroke during last year's hard-fought campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations senator.

FREEMAN: And then six weeks after he was sworn in, when the senator checked himself into Walter Reed Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression.

ROCCO: I was brokenhearted when I heard about it of course. I knew it'd be temporary. FREEMAN: Even as Fetterman has now spent more than a month in the hospital, Rocco and other Fetterman supporters we spoke with remain steadfast.

MARCIE GANS, PENNSYLVANIA INDEPENDENT VOTER: I pray that he gets better. But I appreciate that he did go get mental health and he isn't keeping it private. Because it is a stigma.

MARY KUNSAK, PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: We all take time to heal. You shouldn't judge people for what it takes.

FREEMAN: Not every Pennsylvania voter agrees. From the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

JIM COLLETTI, PENNSYLVANIA INDEPENDENT VOTER: I don't think the man is fit for the job. OK. And maybe he doesn't have the cognitive ability also.

FREEMAN: Is there anything you think he could do to kind of assure you that he can handle the job?

STEVE SMILEY, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: He could resign and turn it over to somebody who is physically fit to handle the job.

FREEMAN: To deep red Washington County. We also heard concern over Fetterman's fitness to serve.

SEAN LOGUE, GOP PARTY CHIEF: I'm rooting for the guy. I want him to be able to do his job. And he's MIA and I'm not the bad guy for simply asking. Are you capable of doing your job?

FREEMAN: Two weeks ago, Fetterman's office released pictures of the senator working from the hospital. Sean Logue, the county's GOP party chair says it's not enough.

LOGUE: Senator Fetterman sits on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. We are in the middle of a banking crisis. And our senators must be representing Pennsylvania can't leave the hospital. There's something wrong. They have lied to us before and I'm afraid they're lying to us now. FREEMAN: Fetterman's state director insists the senator's office has never stopped working and that the senator has been informed and engaged throughout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My chief of staff goes to the senator every morning. He's got this briefcase that he takes over with all of this stuff. Right. And the senator reads every word. And he goes and he makes decision. He's a very intelligent man.

FREEMAN: You're ready for him to get back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, of course. I think the Senator is ready to get back.

FREEMAN: Guy Rocco is also ready. He showed us a photo he says Gisele Fetterman recently texted to him. The couple smiling outside of the hospital. This smile is for you proof that the Fetterman you know is coming back --

ROCCO: Is back, right.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Danny Freeman, CNN, Philadelphia.


BRUNHUBER: Just ahead, thousands of Israelis are taking to the streets and some members of the prime minister's own cabinet are warning him to back off a proposed judicial overhaul.

And more protests are planned in France, as anger over raising the retirement age grows.

Plus Ukraine senses opportunity after months of brutal Russian attacks in Bakhmut. Now Ukrainian troops may take the fight to the enemy instead of staying on defense. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM. Want to get back to our breaking news.

In the past few moments, the death toll from tornadoes in Mississippi has gone up yet again. At least 21 people are now dead after tornadoes slammed across the state in the past few hours, flattening homes and businesses and knocking down trees and power lines.

Most of those deaths occurred in Sharkey County, which includes the hard-hit town of Rolling Fork. Storms have left more than 100,000 homes and businesses without power in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, according to

Earlier we spoke with a storm chaser, who arrived in a town south of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, right after the tornado touched down. Here he is.


AARON RIGSBY, STORM CHASER: This tornado was one of those tornadoes that went 0 to 100 very, very quickly. It started out just outside of town and probably about a mile southwest of the town before it was impacted as just this cylinder cone tornado.

And it quickly grew with every lightning flash into a huge, at least quarter mile wide, wedge tornado. And I actually didn't realize how close we were to the town and the path of the tornado was taking until it was too late when, across the road in front of us, that's when I could see all the debris being lofted up into the air by all of the power flashes and the lightning.

And I arrived on scene literally as the tornado had just exited town. And there was -- there was just a constant scream for help while it was pouring down, the rain, thunder and lightning still around.

And we just went to the nearest homes that, you know, that we could find. And we were pulling people out of homes. There was debris that had rained down from where their houses had collapsed on them.

One of the ladies that we helped, she was an elderly lady. It looked like she was only able to get to her living room with her walker. And she was actually blown down in her living room with the wall partially collapsed on her.

We were able to remove her and get a stretcher there and get her out of the home. And the second woman we came across, she was in the centermost room of her house and the entire house collapsed on top of her.

And a good Samaritan near us was able to loan us a chainsaw and we were able to cut part of the roof that had fallen on her away from her and free her from the home.

And that was the scene across the entire town, about the 1.5 hours that we were there, helping as many people as we could.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine says at least 16 people are dead after a barrage of Russian strikes across the country. Officials say more than 100 settlements have been struck by the shelling, which left 54 other people injured.

Kyiv says there have been more than 100 Russian missile and rocket attacks the past 24 hours. But on the ground, Ukraine says Russian forces keep hitting a wall in their attacks in the east.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER (voice-over): This is video of fighting in the city of Bakhmut, which Ukraine says is still under Russian military pressure but Kyiv says the invaders aren't gaining any new ground.


BRUNHUBER: Russia says more than 50 Ukrainian children are waiting to be reunited with their families back home. Russia's children's rights commissioner says they're located in southern Russia and Crimea and that there is a plan for each of them to be sent back to Ukraine.

Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin and the commissioner, accused in a scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia, which Ukraine says happened to more than 16,000 children in its occupied territories.

The U.S. considers forced deportations of people in an occupied territory a war crime but Russia describes the moves as humanitarian gestures that wasn't forced.

But is that statement true?

Well, CNN's David McKenzie went to an orphanage in southern Ukraine to investigate.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Approaching the Southern front line in Kherson. In the liberated city, many have fled. It's deceptively quiet.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Until the relentless terror: the often indiscriminate, almost daily Russian shelling.

We've come to investigate a very deliberate horror of the Russian occupation.

MCKENZIE: So the children who stayed here were under 5 years old, mostly. This orphanage had more than 40 children here.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Elena was a nurse here for 17 years. Not a single child is left.

"I feel emptiness, emptiness. Everything has just stopped," she says. "The children had everything. They were so happy. The children were happy."

Now it's just silence. And small reminders of them. Their names still on each locker, the Kherson Children's Home is now a crime scene.

"They warned us to collect their clothes," says Elena. "The Russians and collaborators called in the evening and said to prepare the children for the morning. The busses arrived at 8." The heartbreaking scenes captured for Russian propaganda, shared on a Russian MP's Telegram channel. The bewildered children, taken from their beloved nurses in October, transported to Russian-occupied Crimea or Russia itself, say Ukrainian investigators.

But instead of hiding this alleged war crime, Russians advertised it.

"Children will be taken to safe conditions in Crimea," he says. "I'll definitely go and visit."

Investigators said was part of a premeditated Russian mission to take Ukrainian children. They even targeted hospitals.

MCKENZIE: There was a lot of pressure by the Russians to take these children. Weren't you afraid?

"It was scary. Very, very scary. So much pressure," says Orla Piliasca (ph). "Twice a day, they demanded we show them lists of the kids to take to Russia."

So Orla (ph) and her team came up with an extraordinary deception. They hid orphans in the ICU and they forged medical assessments, saying healthy children were severely sick. They even faked an emergency ventilation, she says.

"We understood that the Russians and collaborators would not forgive us," she says. "We knew there would be serious retribution. We understood this." But they took the risks and managed to save children.

And a critical care nurse took it a step further. Tatiana (ph) says she fell in love with one of the orphaned children. She worked desperately to keep the child off the list.

MCKENZIE: How are you?

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Now she's adopting Kira (ph).

MCKENZIE: Nice to meet you.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We met them at home: a Ukrainian mom with her treasured Ukrainian child.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Kira (ph) is almost ready to walk.

MCKENZIE: What does she mean to you?

TATIANA (ph): Kira.

"She means everything to me," says Tatiana (ph). "I don't even know. To be honest, I can't imagine my life without Kira."

This awful war has given her a precious gift -- David McKenzie, CNN, Kherson. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Israel's attorney general accused prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting illegally after he announced that he would be directly involved in his government's moves to change the judicial system.

While the prime minister was in London, his attorney general published an open letter, accusing him of breaking the law.

She said, quote, "Last night you publicly announced that you intend to violate the ruling of the supreme court and act contrary to the opinion of the legal advisor to the government. That statement is illegal and contaminated by a conflict of interest."

Opposition to the planned overhaul of Israel's judicial system continues, as thousands of Israeli protesters have taken to the streets and some military reservists are refusing to train.

Protesters are planning more demonstrations against France's pension reform in the coming days.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): In Paris on Friday, bus drivers honked their horns to show support, as students blocked the entrance to their school and chanted slogans against the police.

And president Macron, right as protests were markedly less chaotic than the day before, when hundreds were arrested after violent clashes. And with all the unrest, the French president has postponed a visit by Britain's King Charles.

Macron says France would have lacked common sense to proceed with the state visit, which was set to start on Sunday.

Gwyneth Paltrow takes the stand in Utah. Just ahead, the real life trial that she says -- the actress is saying she's been wrongly accused.


GWYNETH PALTROW, ACTOR AND ENTREPRENEUR: I said, "You skied directly into my effing back," and he said, "Oh, sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry."






BRUNHUBER: Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow testified Friday in a Utah courtroom. She's accused of crashing into another skier at a resort seven years ago, leaving him with serious injuries. Here's CNN's Veronica Miracle with the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.

PALTROW: Good afternoon.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four days into her civil trial --

PALTROW: My legal name is Gwyneth Kate Paltrow Falchuk.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow took the stand, accused of plowing into 76-year-old Terry Sanderson on a Utah ski slope in 2016.

On the stand, Paltrow claimed she was the victim.

PALTROW: I was skiing and looking downhill as you do. And I was skied directly into by Mr. Sanderson. And your 9-year-old son, you will admit, was on your left and up a bit to my recollection.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Sanderson claims Paltrow was distracted by her children and ran into him.

PALTROW: I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart. And then there was a body pressing against me and there was a very strange grunting noise. So my brain was trying to make sense of what was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was still on the ground, right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you said, what are you doing?



Like why did you do that?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he said, "I think you skied into me."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's when you were furious and said, "You skied directly into my effing back. At the top of your lungs."

PALTROW: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. PALTROW: I apologize for my bad language.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Before the 50 year old star took the stand --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a day and night as far as before and after the accident.

MIRACLE (voice-over): -- Plaintiff's attorneys claim Sanderson broke four ribs, suffered brain damage and was vibrant (ph) before the collision. But after his brain deteriorated. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not my dad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an alternate version of my dad.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Sanderson's daughter recalled angry outbursts after the collision, like when he lashed out at his granddaughter while struggling to close the van door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is just so belittled and made to feel like she's stupid. And my just -- but this didn't have to happen if he just listened to her.

MIRACLE (voice-over): The defense, claiming Sanderson's prior medical issues, including a stroke like event, could have been a factor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree that he adjusted his scheme to the right side of the slope because of his in the -- because of his vision issues?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that was typical. He would. Yes.

MIRACLE (voice-over): The only witness who testified to seeing the collision, a friend of the plaintiff, said Paltrow was to blame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She hits him right directly in the back.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Paltrow said on the stand he got it wrong.

PALTROW: I did not believe his testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that he saw the collision?

PALTROW: No. I don't believe that he saw what he thinks he saw.

MIRACLE: Sanderson is suing Paltrow for more than $300,000 in damages. Paltrow is countersuing for a symbolic $1 and attorney's fees -- Veronica Miracle, CNN, Park City, Utah.


BRUNHUBER: The unusually stormy winter weather in California has had one positive impact, the -- most of the state's drought has been wiped out. On Friday, the governor announced the lifting of some drought restrictions, including a requirement to limit outdoor watering after reservoirs and lakes hit record low levels.

Governor Gavin Newsom also lifted an order for residents and businesses to cut their water usage by 15 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the storage levels in California's 154 reservoirs is now at a normal level. And that doesn't include the large snowpack which will be melting over the next few months.

Millions of people around the world are set to mark the 16th annual celebration of Earth Hour later today. It's a way to raise awareness about climate change by turning off the lights for just one hour from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm in your local time zone.

Iconic landmarks like New York's Empire State Building, Bangkok's Temple of Dawn and the Acropolis in Greece will all go dark for one hour. And moments ago, Sydney, Australia's, Opera House went dark to mark the occasion.

All right, still ahead, a March Madness like no other. Why we've never seen an Elite Eight like this in the history of the Big Dance. Stay with us.








BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, it's not as bad as it sounds. But a so called "city killer" asteroid is heading our way. According to a tweet by NASA, a newly discovered asteroid will pass by Earth later today. It will be about 100,000 miles away.

NASA says that, while close approaches are a regular occurrence, only one this big only happens about once a decade.

Now while some of us might go hiding under our bed, NASA calls it a, quote, "unique opportunity for science."

The asteroid is expected to fly by harmlessly between Earth and the moon.

And stargazers are being treated to a stunning show, five planets lining up beneath the moon in what's called a planetary parade or alignment and it includes Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus.

The alignment became visible Friday and can be seen for the next couple of weeks. But the best time will come on Tuesday to watch it. All right, that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

You can follow me on Twitter @KimBrunhuber. For viewers in North America, "CNN THIS MORNING" is next. For the rest of the world, it's "MISSION TIGER."