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New Storm Threat Today after Tornadoes Tear Through the South; Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister after He calls for Pause on Reforms; Donald Trump Rallies in Texas Amid Growing Legal Woes. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 26, 2023 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

And we start in the South where the danger from potential tornadoes is growing at this hour just days after a devastating outbreak of severe storms. Right now, more than 30 million people are facing a storm threat in the Midwest and South. The Storm Prediction Center upgrading the risk bracing for tornadoes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and that includes areas like Rolling Fork, Mississippi already reeling after being obliterated by an EF4 tornado overnight, Friday.

The death toll from this weekend's storms rising to 26. President Biden approving Mississippi's disaster declaration freeing up Federal resources. And today, State and Federal officials saw the damage for themselves and vowed to rebuild.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What we've come to do, we've come to see it in person to communicate to the people of Mississippi that we are here, not just today, but for the long haul.

It is heartbreaking to hear of the loss of life, to see the devastation firsthand. It is also as, the Governor expressed inspiring to see the people of Mississippi come together.

The President has directed us to be here, to assist the people of Mississippi, to be here on an enduring basis not just through the response, but through the recovery as well. We are mindful of the fact that that will take time, but we are here for the time it will take.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Isabel Rosales is live in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

Isabel what is happening there right now?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, two days since this violent and deadly EF4 tornado hit in Rolling Fork. I'm seeing just an increase of activity, of movement when it comes to this recovery effort. If you take a look right over here, clearly a ton of damage everywhere that you look, debris piles all over this small town. But also, take a look at that, people in hard hats. These are you

utility workers AT&T workers bringing in heavy machinery. There is a pole in the back there, a power pole that they are working to restore. Some movement and progress is happening.

We've also confirmed with MEMA, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency that there are still search and rescue operations going on right now, but they have accounted for all of the people that were missing statewide.

Originally, it was four from Friday's storm and tornado. And right now, they are looking for anyone who might still be in distress and might need some help, but everyone is accounted for, something Fred that will be really big here in this recovery journey because this is going to take some time will be that major disaster declaration by the President that he approved this morning, that opens up federal resources and money for things like debris removal, for help with grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and also low cost loans for those that have uninsured properties.

This tornado has undoubtedly cost tremendous loss here, a tremendous toll between human lives lost, but also property and homes lost. I spoke with Erwin Macon as I was standing next to a debris pile that was his home, a mobile home park. The only thing he could recover from that was a piece of luggage, a carry on. In it, a pair of tennis shoes, a couple of shirts and jeans. That is all that he has tangible to his name to this day.

He told me he was in tremendous fear on Friday. He could hear the tornado approaching, then he felt the winds sucking him out of his home. Listen to him.


ERWIN MACON, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Tried not to break down because of what you see out here you know. God brought me through this. There is no way I would be here.


MACON: You know, regardless of what you do in life, if you believe and trust God know your heart, you know -- you come through this here, Dear God.


ROSALES: And just over an hour ago, we saw the Governor here of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, also the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas and the FEMA Administrator, Deanne Criswell, and other local politicians and the Mayor of Rolling Fork taking a tour and witnessing for themselves the aftermath of this tornado.

They were speaking to survivors who shared their stories of riding out this tornado in a bathtub, one in a freezer. Some sharing that they've lost family members. At moments, they hugged. Tears were shed. So to see these leaders witnessing this for themselves, Alejandro

Mayorkas said, there is no substitute for coming here on the ground and witnessing this devastation -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is extraordinary. And I mean, these extraordinary stories of survival, as well.

All right, Isabel Rosales, thanks so much.

All right, let's go now to CNN meteorologist, Britley Ritz who is tracking new storms that are forming and threatening -- Britley.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, we're watching the stalled out boundary unfortunately holding the threat for the same threats -- wind, hail, and even tornadoes.

Watching closely, the storms that are firing up in East Texas, that's what's along the cold front that's really going to ramp up and unfortunately bring that tornado threat once again. Tornado Watches in effect for Central and Southern Louisiana, rolling up into Northern Louisiana back into East Texas and that goes until roughly about seven o'clock Central Time.

And a handful of already Severe Thunderstorm Warnings within that watch box and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch that goes until six o'clock Central Time for the Florida Panhandle back into Southern Alabama.

Already numerous reports over the last 24 hours of hail, a couple of tornadoes as well and even wind damage. You'll see areas highlighted in red, that again where we're most vulnerable for that severe weather threat. Montgomery back into Jackson, Alexandria. These are areas where we can see a couple of long lived tornadoes, strong and dealing with large hail. We're talking golf ball sized hail with this extending back up into the Carolinas in the upcoming hours here when we bring in the threat for wind as well as hail.

So you'll see that red hashed area. Future radar showing you these storms are ramping up and training over the same areas right up into the Carolinas coming into Monday morning.

So it's not just the threat of wind, hail and tornadoes, but we are also dealing with the threat for heavy rains causing flash flooding. And we're already tapping into some of that. You'll see areas highlighted in orange, two to four inches of rain, isolated higher amounts up to six inches possible and that goes across Central and Southern Alabama as well as Georgia. Watching that closely and you'll see areas highlighted in red here, Macon back into Montgomery where we will likely be dealing with the greatest threat of flash flooding -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Okay, thanks so much for the warning, Britley Ritz.

All right here now to talk about the ongoing recovery efforts, National Spokesperson for the American Red Cross, Annette Rowland.

Annette, glad you could be with us. So can you tell us what is the greatest need for people in Mississippi who are now living through the disaster?

ANNETTE ROWLAND, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON FOR THE AMERICAN RED CROSS (via phone): You know, right now, people, as you know, they are devastated to say the least and they are going through so much right now.

But really, what people are needing right now is food, it's water, and shelter. And if they still have a home, it's things to clean up their home -- debris clean up, gloves, tarps, water, things like that and that's what we're on the ground, providing and making sure that people have that safe shelter to go to.

WHITFIELD: And how are you getting to them? I mean, so many people are dispersed, you know, really looking for a place to, you know, lay their head or in some cases they return to their property, they are picking up the pieces, but how are you getting to them helping to meet their needs?

ROWLAND: That is a great, great question, because it is such a wide swath that that tornado ripped through and affected so many. So, we've got shelters that -- we have about three shelters right now set up and we will continue working with our partners, with local officials, to really see what the communities need right now and assess if we need to open more shelters.

But we are working with partners to get that outreach out there making sure that people know that they can come to the shelter. They don't have to stay if they have a place to stay, but everyone is welcome at the shelter and we invite people to come get a warm meal, come do what you need to do to be safe, come charge your phone, but that's what our shelters are there for.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and then I mean, really where do you begin because when we look at these images, I mean it is just so strewn. You know, the path of destruction is very wide and long. And then, you know, you've got some of the people who are helping in the recovery and the rescues. Well, they too, have been victimized by the storm.


ROWLAND: You're right. And, you know, I think it's important to note that a lot of the people that have been impacted by these latest tornadoes, this isn't their first go around. Unfortunately, we're seeing, you know, people that have been affected multiple times that are coming into the shelter, and saying, you know, "I didn't expect to be in this position, but here I am, again." And it's just heartbreaking.

But we -- you know, as the Red Cross, we're there. We're there and we want everyone to know that that's what we're there for because this is something that is very difficult to experience and to cope with. And so we are there to help people cope and find those next steps.

WHITFIELD: And what do you say to people when they think long term? You're there now, you know, FEMA, you know, other Federal and State emergency response. Agencies are there, but this is not an overnight clean up. This is not an overnight, pick your lives back up. This is weeks, months, years.

What do you tell people who are trying to look at their lives and say, you know, are they ever going to be able to recover all that they've lost?

ROWLAND: You're exactly right. It's not a quick process, unfortunately. And, you know, that's why we put in the work. Throughout the year, you know, every day, we're working with our partners, our community partners, making sure that when disasters like this do strike, that we can help support our community, and we can be there, and that means being there as long as we're needed. Because you're right, this isn't a quick process by any means, and people are still going to need in the months to come and we'll still be there. We're going to be there as long as we're needed.

WHITFIELD: All right, Annette, how can people who don't live in this area, but they're watching these images, they want to help. How can they?

ROWLAND: Yes, the quickest way to help is a financial donation and you can make those easily at And really, the reason for that is because financial donations is what helps allow the Red Cross to be able to help people. And that may come in the form of helping people replace important medical equipment that they lost, you know, a CPAP machine, or replacing prescription medications.

There are so many things that financial donations can do, and it also gives us the freedom to help people the way they need to be helped.

WHITFIELD: All right, Annette Rowland, thanks so much for your time, and thanks on behalf of the communities impacted for doing all that you and the American Red Cross can do.

ROWLAND: Thank you for having me.

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

All right, and this just into CNN, the City of Philadelphia is recommending residents there use bottled water following a toxic chemical spill in the nearby Delaware River. It happened along a tributary in the Bristol Township area of Bucks County Friday night.

Philly's Municipal Water serves more than two million people in the city, sent Push Alerts to cell phones today urging people to drink bottled water "out of caution" due to potential dangers posed by that chemical spill. Some stores in fact already say they are limiting bottled water sales because of shortages.

And about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, the search goes on for potential survivors after that explosion at a candy factory in West Reading. Four people are now dead and three others remain missing nearly 48 hours after the blast and officials say the hope of finding people alive is rapidly decreasing.

The explosion leveled the RM Palmer Company facility Friday. Listen as a neighbor describes the moment the blast hit.


KRISTEN WISNIEWSKI, LIVES THREE BLOCKS FROM EXPLODED FACTORY (via phone): It is actually indescribable. It felt like the ground fell out from underneath you and the boom that it made was so intense. It shook you off your feet.

We definitely felt the ground shake. There was no damage to my house, but a few of my neighbors did say that their front doors flew open. When I ran out front, all of my neighbors also came out on the block and we were all wondering what happened and comforting each other, making sure, you know everyone on our close knit-block was okay.

We had no idea what to think. It was just a very scary moment for all of us.


WHITFIELD: In a statement, the RM Palmer Company said it is devastated by the tragic events and that its thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted.

Officials say the cause of explosion is still under investigation.

All right coming up, we're live in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu just fired his Defense Minister after he pushed back on Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan. Details straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: Fast-moving developments out of Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fired his Defense Minister. The move comes after the Minister called for a pause on the government's controversial judicial overhaul. The reforms have sparked weeks of protests across Israel.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. So Hadas, was this move expected or did the Minister figure that he might be dismissed after he made his comments public?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was definitely a daring move to make while the Prime Minister was out flee abroad in London on an official visit. The Defense Minister becoming the first sitting government minister to come out against this massive judicial overhaul plan which I'll remind you would give unprecedented power in the hands of the Israeli politicians and in the hands of the Israeli Parliament, allowing them for example, to do such things as to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.


GOLD: But the Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant making a televised speech on Saturday night saying that the divisiveness over these reforms that's brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets now for more than 12 weeks, he said, is a clear, immediate, and tangible threat to the security of the state, partly because now we've heard from hundreds of Israeli military reservists to say they will not heed the call to serve if these reforms go through, because they will feel as though they are no longer serving a democracy.

And he specifically talked about how that feeling is now seeping its way into the members who are currently serving in the Israeli military.

Now, the Defense Minister joins a chorus of high-ranking officials, we're talking from the Israeli President, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, as well as high profile figures from nearly every sector of Israeli society, who have either called for these reforms not to happen, for at least for a pause as the Defense Minister was calling for.

But soon after the Defense Minister's speech, there were calls from the right flank of Netanyahu's government to immediately fire him. It seems as though that those voices won out. An official in the Prime Minister's office saying that the Prime Minister called the Defense Minister to his office for discussion and saying he had lost confidence against him, because he had acted against the government, and against the coalition, against the Prime Minister while the Prime Minister was abroad.

And by not coordinating the speech with the Prime Minister's Office, this official saying that the Defense Minister sabotaged any sort of efforts to reach a solution.

We just heard actually from the Defense Minister himself, he tweeted, saying: "The security of the State of Israel has always been and will always remain the mission of my life."

But Fred, this isn't just a political crisis, because this was the Minister of Defense, during a very sensitive time for Israel's security. This has already been a record year and we are not even into the end of March, violence between Israelis and Palestinians, record number of dead on both sides, and we are in the middle of Ramadan and Passover is about to come. This is going to be a very sensitive time, especially here in Jerusalem, and we actually don't know right now who is the Minister of Defense in Israel -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Hadas Gold, thanks so much.

Still ahead, in this country, former President Donald Trump is denying any wrongdoing and making baseless claims about being politically targeted by prosecutors, all of that during his first major rally of the 2024 campaign.

We'll discuss, next.


[15:27:05] WHITFIELD: Former President Donald Trump returned to the campaign

trail Saturday night holding his first major rally of the 2024 campaign season in Waco, Texas. The event comes as the former President faces a number of legal investigations including a potential indictment for his alleged role in hush money payment to adult film star, Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has more from Waco.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thousands and thousands of people showed up in Waco, Texas for former President Donald Trump's first campaign rally of this season since he announced his third presidential bid. The former President talked at length about the numerous investigations he is facing, including that one in New York where there is a potential indictment. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The district attorney of New York under the auspices and direction of the Department of injustice in Washington, DC was investigating me for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair.


HOLMES: Now in recent days, those investigations have seemed to escalate in addition to the investigation in New York, a potential indictment in that hush money probe. We've also seen former President Trump's personal defense attorney, Evan Corcoran be made to appear before a Federal grand jury in that Mar-a-Lago documents case. We also know that a Federal Judge has now ordered several of Trump's former aides including Mark Meadows, his former Chief-of-Staff to testify in the Special Counsel's investigation into January 6th.

But I will tell you, we spoke to dozens of people who were there to see Donald Trump and almost all of them told us that not only would an indictment not impact them at all, but that they believed it would make Trump stronger. And this is something that we have heard from a number of Republicans. They believe that at least in a contested primary, this kind of potential indictment will make him stronger.

However, there are still a lot of questions about what this will mean in the long term.

Kristen Holmes, Waco, Texas, CNN.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining me now to talk more about this, Barbara Res. She is a former engineer for Trump construction projects and author of the book, "Tower of Lies: What My 18 Years of Working with Donald Trump Reveals about Him," the former President.

Good to see you, Barbara. You know, he is in the middle, you know of a swirl of legal cases from New York to DC to Florida and here he is in Waco, Texas talking about abuses of power, not the ones that he is accused of, but abuses he alleges in the judicial system.

So you know, his psyche better than most. Is he feeling the pressure?

BARBARA RES, AUTHOR, "TOWER OF LIES" You know, he is feeling pressure, but not the kind of pressure that a normal person would feel. I mean, I don't think he is fearing jail or anything like that. He knows that there is a lot going on and what he is trying to do is make the most of it with his, you know inciting the violence and he is carrying on about the Russian state and things like that. He is trying to feed his base and get some mileage out of it.


WHITFIELD: And is it also really about feeding his ego?

RES: Yes. I guess so, and to an extent his ego was always involved in everything. And you know, the way he spins this certainly involves the ego to the sense that he is so great, so powerful, so wonderful that his enemies are doing everything they could possibly do to bring him down, but of course, they won't.

WHITFIELD: You know, I mean, it seems too that it is part of his style to use words, you know, in an accusatory fashion, that he ends up, himself exhibiting, using words like lying, you know, crooked, and now abuse of power and weaponization. And he's the one who is facing legal cases involving all of those kinds of descriptors.

He says his arrest is imminent, so why doesn't he just lay low?

RES: Donald Trump laying low is like the oxymoron of all time. He will never lay low. And of course, he's not going to lay low know. I mean, you know, if there were any possibility that this could have a negative effect on him, he would immediately want us to twist it around and to spin it, and that's what he's doing.

But he likes what he's doing. I think he's enjoying this to an extent.

WHITFIELD: Well, I mean, it seems as though, he stirred things up ahead of, you know, any kind of arrest. I mean, the DA's office said, they didn't have anything to comment on a calendar of events.

I mean, people in Trump's inner circle, are on deck to testify. Michael Cohen is among those who have said that, you know, they told lies to cover up for Donald Trump. You know, he ended up serving time for it. So because many of these witnesses may have lied at the orders or expectations of the former President, in your view, are they less credible or you know, does this make them that much more powerful witnesses?

RES: You know, the credibility like when you go back to a guy like Cohen, clearly, he was a very shady guy, and he did things that were wrong, not correct. So you're going to look at him, you're going to say, okay, like you would with any criminal who is testifying against another one. You know, what are his motivations here? You know, did Cohen cut a

deal? Apparently he did and he went to jail. So, you know, at this point in time, he's not going to perjure himself. He wants to tell the truth as much as he can because he wants to cover himself, to be honest with you.

And the others? Yes. There is no question that anything major, anything at all major that was done, in the Trump Organization, by the way, I was an executive VP, not just an engineer, was down with Trump's full knowledge and whether he directed them to the extent where he said, "You do this?" Or you know, he would more often say, this is the kind of outcome we should want to see. And people would know immediately that what he was saying is -- this is what you're going to do to make this outcome possible.

So definitely, he was inside of every major move that was made, and people are afraid of him. People are afraid that he has information on him and this goes to the big sharp Republicans in the party. I mean, why is everybody being such a -- I don't know, cowardly anti-American with the rhetoric that they are coming out with, and all I can think of is so they're basically afraid of Trump and what he will do to them.

WHITFIELD: And what are they afraid of? I mean, afraid of what? Can you can explain that one, like afraid of what?

RES: Well, you know, the obvious thing is afraid of turning the electorate against them. Okay? That's the obvious stuff. And he tried that with a lot of people in their primaries for the last major election, and it didn't work so much, but he can do all sorts of things.

For one thing, I wouldn't be surprised if he has a dossier of sorts on every major politician and everyone has got something they want to hide. So right then and there.

And there are other threats. There are threats like the ones that he sort of, didn't come out and say go kill somebody, but the implication was the death and destruction and people are afraid of that as well.

WHITFIELD: All right, Barbara Res a former executive with the Trump construction projects, Trump Organization. Thank you so much.

RES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, Vladimir Putin says he plans to station nuclear weapons in Belarus. How the move could escalate the conflict in Ukraine, next.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

Russia plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus. The announcement was made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview.

Putin says Moscow will maintain control of the weapons and insisted the plan would not violate any non-proliferation agreements. The US State Department says the move does not change its strategy with Russia.

CNN's Matthew Chance has the latest -- Matthew.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what Putin said is that Russia is planning to station a number of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the first time since the 1990s that any part of Russia's nuclear arsenal has been stationed outside the country.

Putin added that a storage facility is scheduled to be completed by July, so by the summer potentially, these small but powerful battlefield weapons could be deployed.


CHANCE: But while Putin's frequent references to Russia's nuclear missiles and weapons are alarming for the rest of the world, they don't necessarily mean that we're taking a step closer to Armageddon. Much of this may be for domestic consumption, to show Russians that Putin still has the initiative when actually progress on the battlefield has been pretty stagnant.

Certainly, the US State Department has reacted calmly to the announcement, saying they don't see any reason to adjust their nuclear posture, nor any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

Where this Russian decision will be felt though is Belarus, Moscow's ally in what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine. Putin made it quite clear that the tactical nuclear weapons will not simply be handed over to Belarus, but would remain under the command and control of Moscow, and what that means is that Russia will likely be stationing even more of its troops there, slowly but surely moving into Belarus, gradually tightening its grip over that country.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in David Sanger now. He is a CNN political and national security analyst and White House and national security correspondent at "The New York Times."

Good to see you see you. So you just heard Matthew Chance say, you know that this move may have been more for the Russian domestic consumption. What do you think?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, I think Matthew has got it about right. There are two elements to this. One is that at any moment when Putin feels that he is not making much battlefield progress, we have seen him invoke his nuclear arsenal in some way or another.

In February and March of last year, he did it early in the war to threaten that if the West intervened, he might be tempted to use these. In the fall, we had a significant nuclear crisis, that you may recall, President Biden himself talked about at length, comparing the moment to the Cuban Missile Crisis, because of Putin threats.

This is the third time around, and this time, what he is basically saying is that he is going to place these weapons in a country that can threaten both Poland and Ukraine. And I think it's an opportunity to try to rattle both of them. I think, though, he is finding that the nuclear card isn't making as much progress for him as it did at the beginning.

WHITFIELD: Intimidation of neighbors at the very least. So other observers say that the real damage here could be the ultimate destabilization of Belarus. Is that a real concern for the US and its allies?

SANGER: Well, at this moment, Belarus is pretty much a satellite of Russia. It is really the only country that was, you know, sort of freed as a former Soviet state that has really come back hard into Russia's orbit.

And you know, when you look around the world right now, Putin doesn't have that many allies. Obviously, he's got Belarus. Obviously, he has Iran, which is providing him with drones. North Korea, which is providing some artillery shells and other ammunition, and of course, this strange relationship and the most important one with China. But Belarus has basically decided that it has to sign up with Putin, because it has no other choice.

WHITFIELD: So Putin is closely watching, not just how the US reacts to this, but also to other incidents, such as the drone attacks in Syria last week. What kind of indicators do you think he's looking for?

SANGER: Well, I think he's looking for any way he can that will intimidate the West enough that they stop shipping arms at the pace that has been flowing into Ukraine so far, and that is where his nuclear threats are of the greatest utility to him because he can say, look, if I need to, I will escalate this.

A few months ago, Bill Burns, the CIA Director was sent out to meet his Russian counterpart and warn him about how the US might react if -- and NATO -- if the Russians use a weapon. I thought it was interesting today that the administration said they see no evidence that Russia is considering using a weapon.

But I don't think we've heard the last of this. I think you're going to hear Putin make the threat again.

WHITFIELD: I want to shift gears if we could now to some of the news coming out of Israel, which is quite stunning with Prime Minister Netanyahu firing his Defense Minister after you know, he spoke out against the country's judicial reforms. Netanyahu, you know has ultimate power here and there has not been a new person named for the Defense Minister.


WHITFIELD: What do you suppose is going on here? Can he keep his coalition government afloat?

SANGER: It's looking increasingly tenuous, I think. Prior to this, he had weekend after weekend of these huge demonstrations and then, we've now seen a fracture within his very own Cabinet. And not only that, but from a Defense Minister, who was making the point a few days ago that the reservists who the Israeli military really relies on, including pilots and others, have begun to say that if the government doesn't back off from this plan to try to neuter the power of the Israeli Supreme Court, then they would not show up for their reserve duty.

So they're beginning to get to a point, the Defense Minister was saying, where Israel's own National Security is impaired by Mr. Netanyahu's determination to solidify his power and make it harder for him to be removed as Prime Minister, which was narrowly passed in their Parliament the other day. And then, of course, now the effort to push through these judicial reforms.

It's harder and harder to understand where he's going to get the votes to hold the coalition together.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's an extraordinary set of events.

David Sanger, thanks so much.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

WHITFIELD: And straight ahead in this country, violent storms are targeting the South again today impacting some of the same areas devastated Friday. And just moments before a deadly tornado ravaged the town of Amory, Mississippi Friday night, local meteorologist Matt Laubhan got visibly emotional on air realizing the gravity of the situation. Take a look.


MATT LAUBHAN, WTVA CHIEF METEOROLOGIST: We've got new scan coming in here as we speak. Oh man, like north side of Amory. This is coming in.

Oh man. Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen.




WHITFIELD: Voters in Wisconsin will soon decide who will control the State's Supreme Court and the result could have major implications for the presidential election.

CNN Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Voting is underway again in battleground Wisconsin, where echoes of the last presidential race still resonate.

Even as an April election nears, this time the campaign is all about the Court, the State Supreme Court that came within one vote of overturning Donald Trump's narrow loss to Joe Biden here three years ago.

JANET PROTASIEWICZ, MILWAUKEE COUNTY JUDGE: He is a true threat to our democracy.

DANIEL KELLY, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: So once again, you're lying --

ZELENY (voice over): Milwaukee County Judge, Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate sparred on a debate stage here this week with former Supreme Court Justice, Daniel Kelly, a conservative who lost his seat in 2020 and is fighting to return to the State's Highest Court. It has become the nation's most expensive judicial race on record.

VOICE OVER: The false elector scheme. In Wisconsin, extremist, Dan Kelly was the right-wing lawyer behind the scenes of it all.

ZELENY (voice over): With $30 million in counting on ads alone.

VOICE OVER: Protasiewicz set violent criminals free again and again.

ZELENY (voice over): In a bitter contest over abortion rights, redistricting and even rules for voting in the next presidential election.

PROTASIEWICZ: The results of the 2024 presidential election are likely to come in front of the Supreme Court as well. The 10 electoral votes that we have here are very, very highly sought after.

ZELENY (on camera): Should the 2024 presidential election be a part of this race?

KELLY: Nope. All we deal with in the Court is legal questions. Political questions, those are resolved in the Legislature. That's why I don't talk about politics.

ZELENY (voice over): But the Democratic Governor and a Republican Legislature, the conservative leaning Supreme Court often has had the last word from outlawing ballot drop boxes to potentially taking up a challenge to an 1849 law banning nearly all abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

PROTASIEWICZ: If my opponent is elected, that 1849 abortion ban will stay on the books. KELLY: This seems to be a pattern for you, Janet. Just telling lies.

ZELENY (voice over): Three major Wisconsin antiabortion groups have endorsed Kelly who said he makes no promises how he'd rule on that or any issue.

GRACIE SKOGMAN, WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR: Our endorsement is based on his judicial philosophy.

ZELENY (voice over): Gracie Skogman of Wisconsin Right to Life said her movement is working hard to elect Kelly.

SKOGMAN: There is more at stake in this election than ever before in our State,

ZELENY (voice over): Wisconsin is one of 14 States that directly elect Supreme Court Justices at the ballot box in elections that are technically nonpartisan, but practically anything but.

BEN WIKLER, WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: This election is the most important election in the country in the year 2023, because Wisconsin is the tipping point state for presidential elections.

ZELENY (voice over): Ben Wikler leads the Wisconsin Democratic Party which has invested millions into the race for Protasiewicz.

WIKLER: Whoever is elected April 4th will serve in 2024's presidential race, 2028 and 2032.

ZELENY (on camera): The Wisconsin Capitol here has been the political epicenter of one battle after another for the last two decades. The Supreme Court race is no exception. Whichever side wins will hold a four to three majority on the Supreme Court with abortion legislation and litigation likely to come before the High Court. It is driving both sides of this issue.

Election Day is April 4th, but early voting is already underway.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Madison, Wisconsin,



WHITFIELD: And this quick programming note: Actress and activist, Eva Longoria is proud of her Mexican roots and deeply connected to the country that she calls her second home.

And now, in the new CNN Original Series "Searching for Mexico," Longoria is taking us on a journey across the country to see how its people, culture, landscape, and history have shaped it's very diverse cuisine.


EVA LONGORIA, CNN HOST, "SEARCHING FOR MEXICO": Lucy is the queen of tlacoyos, a favorite Mexican city street food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an oval shaped patty and it's stuffed with usually beans, fava beans, or cheese. She puts it fava beans inside and this is where like the tricky part. She has to keep the oval shape, keep the filling inside in the same thickness.

LONGORIA: Oh my gosh, she did that so fast. I don't know how you guys are going to film that?

(EVA LONGORIA speaking in foreign language.)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Otherwise, it doesn't taste the same.

LONGORIA: So she brings the carbon from the hotel.


(LUCY speaking in foreign language.)

LONGORIA: This is definitely food made with love, right down to Lucy's green salsa, cooked cactus and cheese.

(EVA LONGORIA speaking in foreign language.)


WHITFIELD: Oh yum. Okay, already I was hungry; now, I'm famished. I can't wait to see that and maybe taste a little bit of that.

All right, catch the new CNN series tonight at 10:00 PM.