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26 Killed, Dozens Hurt as Deadly Tornadoes Sweep U.S. South; Putin: Russia Will Deploy Tactical Nukes to Belarus; Trump Rallies in Waco Ahead of Possible Charges; Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Pause to Courts Overhaul; Man Portrayed as Hero in "Hotel Rwanda" is Out of Prison. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 26, 2023 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN Newsroom, devastating, friends lost, damage. It is heartbreaking.

BRUNHUBER: Horror and heartbreak gripping much of Mississippi after deadly tornadoes ripped through the state. I'll speak to a disaster relief organization about what's being done on the ground to help.

Plus, Vladimir Putin planning to put nuclear weapons closer to Ukraine and right next door to a close U.S. ally in the region. We're live in Moscow and Kyiv with the latest.

And march madness like we've never seen before. Massive upsets in both men's and women's matches. CNN Sports COY Wire joining me live to break down the tournament.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: We begin in the deep south of the U.S., where another round of severe storms could be heading their way in the coming hours. Hopefully, they won't be as destructive as the ones that pummeled Mississippi and nearby states Friday night into Saturday, images like these. Have a look. These used to be homes. Now a mangled mass of crumbled buildings, vehicles scattered like toys, trees and power lines stripped bare and strewn about. At least 26 people were killed and dozens were injured.

The mayor of hard-hit Rolling Fork, Mississippi says, his city is gone. Hours ago, President Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state to get federal disaster aid flowing quickly. And one sobering fact, the U.S. has seen more deaths from tornadoes in that 124 hours period than all of last year. Here's how one resident described the devastation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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


BRUNHUBER: Kate Amaral is Senior Associate at Team Rubicon, a veteran led disaster response organization, and she joins me live from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Thanks so much for being here with us. First of all, just describe the conditions you've been seeing out there?

KATE AMARAL, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, TEAM RUBICON: Thank you so much for having me this morning. The conditions here in Mississippi, unfortunately, are just devastating. We are seeing, you know, down trees and power lines, vehicles overturned and thrown great distances from where they were parked. We've seen homes that are completely destroyed or have severe damage. So it's very disheartening to see the damage here.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, I mean, were you just surprised at how wide and total the damage was from this tornado?

AMARAL: The tornado's destruction path is absolutely something like I've never seen before. I've been doing this for over three years now. I can compare it similar to the tornadoes that I saw in 2021 in the Kentucky area, in western Kentucky. Very similar, very long track, and the devastation is just -- it will all struck you when you see it.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah. I mean, we're seeing the pictures from the air. That's just awe inspiring how powerful it was. I mean, just even -- your organization is trying to help, but even getting around trying to provide that help is a challenge. How are you going about it?

AMARAL: It can be a challenge. However, in Team Rubicon, one of the services that we provide to our communities is that we provide chainsaw operators that go through and remove move debris from these roads. So we, you know, are trying to get into these communities and access these communities, and we have the ability to do that, by utilizing our skills with those chainsaws and opening up roads for the first responders, for community members to get back to somewhat of normal by being able to move around their municipality.

BRUNHUBER: Do you know, are there still -- people out there who need to be rescued, or possibly recovered?

AMARAL: I cannot speak for the, you know, entire area. I know that search and rescue has been the priority, you know, over -- since the storm happened, right? Whether it was neighbors trying to help neighbors or, you know, organized efforts for search and rescue. I think that those will continue. I don't have specifics as far as numbers are concerned, but we're staying in touch with the local communities as we try to render aid to them to make sure that we're not hindering any efforts there. [05:05:17]

BRUNHUBER: So you're trying to help free the roads. I mean, what are some of the other things that you're doing? What are some of the other pressing needs?

AMARAL: Absolutely. We see the needs for, you know, roof tarping, expedient home repair, things like window boarding, trying to get, you know, homes livable, in a livable condition for the homeowners. But it's going to be a long road to recovery here. And so Team Rubicon is going to be with these communities until we can get, you know, normal back in these communities.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, unfortunately, more bad weather is on its way. I mean, how could that make your efforts and the aid efforts overall more challenging?

AMARAL: Unfortunately, bad weather does slow the efforts, right? We have to think about the safety of our volunteers and of all of the responders that are involved in the recovery here. You know, obviously, we don't want additional damage that could come to other communities in Mississippi or anywhere for that matter. But the individual homes that have sustained damage already could sustain additional damage through water, you know, being in rooms that it wouldn't be in normally because there was a roof there. So it can compound the issue. But we're hoping that the rain stays south and stays less severe.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, absolutely. Hope that as well. Quickly for people out there, they want to help, how can they do it?

AMARAL: Absolutely. You can go to and sign up to volunteer. We are veteran led, but that doesn't mean that you have to be a veteran to join. And you can also place a donation there that will help fuel our efforts and continue the recovery here in Mississippi.

BRUNHUBER: All right, listen, we really appreciate everything you guys do out there. Stay safe. Kate Amaral, thank you very much for being here with us.

And if you want more information on how you can help the victims of the deadly tornado and those storms that swept through Mississippi, you can go to

On the latest, I want to go now to CNN Meteorologist Karen Maginnis. So, Karen, as I mentioned a couple of times, there more bad weather on the way. Do you have any updates on those new weather threats that the folks in the Deep South are facing?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN WEATHER: Yes, I do. And Kim, it's a very volatile, very active and very dynamic situation. Now, just about an hour and a half ago, I saw one cell, one thunderstorm cell that was located to the north of Montgomery, Alabama. But now more being touched off across central sections of Alabama, also into Mississippi, now encroaching across central sections of Georgia. There's a languishing weather system here, and that's what's triggering all this activity with return flow coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. So lots of moisture twist in the atmosphere.

But what we're primarily seeing right now as these storms fire up from LaGrange over just to the north of Montgomery, all the way over to Meridian, Mississippi, is we're seeing mostly large size hail, large size hail as an egg size golf ball size hail. We're also seeing lots of lightning. You'll see some heavy downpours. And now the Storm Prediction Center says we've got a 10% likelihood that you could see an isolated tornado. Right now we do have severe thunderstorm watches out, as well as localized warnings.

And where you see these warnings, those are areas in the orange, that's where you're seeing the hail. Also the high winds, heavy downpour, lots of lightning. So it's not benign weather, but it may not be tornadic weather. But overall, this is the severe weather risk going into Sunday. Pretty much extending across the southern third of Alabama, also into Mississippi and for Louisiana. I think the bulk of that stays to the south of the Rolling Fort.

Rolling Fort is the county seat of Sharkey County. Their courthouse was pretty much demolished, and we saw the entire city, with rare exception, that was so affected by this tornado, which the preliminary estimates are it was an EF-4. An EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes are considered rare, but very, very dangerous and deadly.

When you look at that, it is staggering to see just the extent of that damage. An EF-4 will topple cars. It'll destroy sturdily built homes. So when you think about what an EF-5 could do, it would even -- it's unimaginable. Already 26 reported deaths here, a very volatile atmosphere across the Deep South. Also the Carolinas can expect to see the volatility as far as the weather is concerned, mostly with severe thunderstorms. That track from Rolling Fork to Winona, the track that moved toward the Northeast preliminarily 59 miles long. That tornado was estimated to be three quarters of a mile wide. If you can imagine just the ferocity of that and what we saw, yes, there is a comparison.


But also in northern Alabama, also, Kim, we saw EF-1 and EF-2 reports of tornadoes and lots of damage and several fatalities there as well. Back to you.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, just absolutely terrifying. All right, Karen Maginnis, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

In Pennsylvania, at least three people are dead and four others unaccounted for, following an explosion at a candy factory. Officials say they're conducting search operations, but hopes of finding more survivors are fading. CNN's Danny Freeman has more.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has been an absolutely devastating weekend for the residents of West Reading, Pennsylvania. We're about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and it's all because of that explosion that happened here at Friday afternoon at a chocolate factory right in the center of town.

Now, first responders have been working tirelessly throughout the weekend to try and find survivors, but again, that explosion was just so massive that it made it a very challenging task. Now, this was a multiagency operation. The governor of Pennsylvania was even here, and he deployed state resources like structural engineers and search and rescue specialists. And the challenging part here is there have been some moments of hope in addition to the sadness overnight on Friday night, there was actually one survivor who was pulled from the rubble and taken to the hospital. But we spoke with a gentleman later on Saturday who emphasized that he fears his system her was still trapped inside of that wreckage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hoping that she found a spot that she could hide in. And, you know, it's been cold. It was cold last night and rainy today. And, you know, I'm glad, I'd be happy that she was just cold or wet. You know, hiding in a spot. I don't want to hear the worst. You know, they tell you to prepare for the worst, you know, but it's not something you want to prepare for.

FREEMAN: Now, on Saturday afternoon, we actually got a statement from R.M. Palmer. It read, everyone is devastated, and also continued in part, "We have lost close friends and colleagues, and our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of all those who have been impacted. And, of course, as we get more details on the story, we'll bring them to you. Danny Freeman, CNN, West Reading, Pennsylvania.


BRUNHUBER: Weeks after taking a fall, put him in the hospital and then rehab, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is back at home. We'll share what we're learning about his return to Capitol Hill after the break.

Plus, fighting grinds on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut as both sides claim progress on the ground. The Red Cross is concerned about civilians caught in the middle.

Plus, Vladimir Putin is again raffling the nuclear saber, this time pledging to send tactical weapons to NATO's doorstep. We'll have live reports just ahead from Moscow. And Kyiv, please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Ukraine says at least two people are dead after Russian shelling on the eastern front overnight. The statement says artillery fire hit several towns in the Donetsk region, leaving one other person wounded.

Meanwhile, Russian state media claims the Wagner Group has gained more ground in Bakhmut. The report says the mercenaries are now in control of the AZOM industrial plant on the north side of the city. Now, CNN can't independently verify that claim. But it came after Ukraine said it pushed Russian troops away from a key supply route in Bakhmut. A Red Cross official says the Ukrainian civilians who remain in the city are in sheer survival mode. Listen to this.


UMAR KHAN, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: All you see are people pushed to the very limit of their existence and survival and resilience in them. Houses are crushed by military firepower, roofs ripped off. Apartment buildings are riddled with holes, chunks missing, the constant threat of exploded shells, bombs, underfoot, and some people still living in the shelters trying to survive these intense hostilities.


BRUNHUBER: Now, against the backdrop of the Kremlin's military struggles in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin says Russia will place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Ukraine's northern neighbor. Belarus borders both Ukraine and NATO ally, Poland it hasn't had a nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War, but that could change in just a few months. Here's how Putin defended the move in an interview with Russian media.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The United States has done it for decades. They have placed their tactical nuclear weapons in their allied countries, NATO countries, in six countries, to be exact, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey and Greece. And we had an agreement with Lukashenko, as allies do the same.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Matthew Chance joins us live from Moscow with more on this developing story, a potentially significant development, Matthew, take us through it.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's potentially significant, but it doesn't mean that Belarus is going to have control over these nuclear weapons. In fact, Vladimir Putin was very clear on that point, saying that they would be transferred to Belarus, but command and control over them would remain in Russian hands.

And so what that means is that they would be, for the first time since the 1990s, Russia would be putting elements of its nuclear arsenal, these tactical nuclear weapons, not the big intercontinental ballistic ones, but small but powerful battlefield types of munitions. It would physically put them in Belarus, but it would maintain sort of military control over them.

Now, the consequences for Belarus are quite significant, because what that means is that Russia would have the opportunity with these missiles to send with them a lot of troops, to protect them and to use them if necessary. And so it's a further step that Russia is taking to tighten its grip and increase its military presence inside Belarus, not necessarily a further step towards nuclear Armageddon. In fact, the U.S. State Department, other U.S. officials as well, have

downplayed this move, saying that it doesn't necessarily change their calculus in terms of whether or not Putin is going to use nuclear weapons.


BRUNHUBER: All right, so you explained what it might mean for Belarus in terms of them not being able to control these nuclear weapons. What else does it mean for Belarus and then for surrounding European nations?

CHANCE: Yeah, well, I think it's quite alarming, isn't it, that almost every week, Putin comes out with some reference to his nuclear arsenal, and that sends alarm bells ringing in the neighboring countries, Ukraine particularly, but also in the other European states as well.

And, you know, understandably so, Russia has the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, and it has the most tactical nuclear weapons than any country in the world as well. And so people are understandably concerned.

But, you know, I think there's a sense in which Putin is largely doing this for a domestic audience. He has to show that he has the initiative on the battlefield. He has to show that Russia remains potent. In the face of the reality, which is that progress in what he calls his special military operation, the war in Ukraine, is not very quick.

You know, there are setbacks there hasn't been progress as rapid as the Kremlin would have liked to have seen events unfold on the ground. And so by sort of talking about its nuclear arsenal and deploying its nuclear arsenal in this way to neighboring Belarus, it gives the impression that Russia is taking the initiative and is taking action and is on the offensive, but actually on the ground, really, nothing could be further from the truth.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. All right, thanks so much Matthew Chance in Moscow.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is standing by in the Ukrainian capital, where senior officials are weighing in on Russia's latest move. So, Ben, you've been monitoring reaction there in Ukraine. What have you been seeing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we see is that the Ukrainians clearly feel that the temperature is being raised by President Putin's statement regarding the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons sometime down the line in Belarus.

On the other hand, they are not pressing the panic button. We did see a statement from Oleksiy Danilov, who's a Senior Adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He said, and I'm reading here, "Putin's statement about placing nuclear weapons in Belarus, a step towards internal destabilization of the country, maximizes the level of negative perception and public rejection of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society. The Kremlin,' he concluded, 'took Belarus as a nuclear hostage."

I think if you read between the lines here, what the Ukrainians are saying, that Lukashenko, whose hold on power just a few years ago was looking rather shaky, may be weakening his domestic position by allowing Russia at some point to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.

And as Matthew just mentioned, the fact that this means more Russian troops in Belarus, a country which did allow the Russians to use their territory to invade Ukraine just over a year ago. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. And then, Ben, from the battlefront now, what's the latest, particularly in the ongoing battle for Bakhmut?

WEDEMAN: The situation there continues to be precarious. CNN was on the phone with a Senior Spokesman for Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. He said that the Russians in the area around Bakhmut do not seem to be suffering from a shortage of artillery shells, that the shelling of that city continues to be intense. He says that there are around 4000 civilians incredibly still inside what's left of that city.

Now, every day we're seeing that the Russians have advanced in some areas. The Ukrainians claiming that they're pushing back in others. What's most important is that there is one last road allowing for Ukrainian forces to go in and out of the city and to bring supplies and whatnot. That road continues to be quite dangerous. And if at some point the Russians do manage to either cut that road or make it impassable because of fire, that could spell the end of the Ukrainian military presence in Bakhmut. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right, appreciate the updates. Ben Wedeman in Kyiv, thanks so much.

In a move likely to intensify an already volatile situation, U.S. officials say a drone attack targeted a base housing U.S. troops in Syria. It's the fifth attack against U.S. troops in the country since Thursday. The U.S. blames the attacks on Iranian proxies and affiliated militias linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Thursday, American forces launched retaliatory airstrikes against facilities linked to the guard corps and warned of more strikes if attacks on U.S. forces continued. In response, Iranian officials warned the U.S. of revenge of its forces are targeted in Syria.


Back on the campaign trail for a third run, Donald Trump drums a familiar beat about the 2020 election and makes accusations about the motivation behind the legal challenges he's facing you. Watch this.

Plus, people cleaning up the debris from the deadly tornadoes in Mississippi are getting aid from the federal government and people like you. One charity group is helping, after the break. Please 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. Updating our top story, millions are under the threat of severe weather today in the south and Midwest, including parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The Storm Prediction Center says a couple of strong tornadoes are possible across the south.

Now, this as residents of Mississippi clean up the debris left by powerful storms that swept through the region Friday night, killing at least 26 people and injuring dozens more.

President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration to make federal funds available quickly. And as one of those tornadoes swept through Friday night, a local meteorologist had this reaction to what he was seeing on the radar. Have a look.


MATT LAUBHAN, WTVA METEOROLOGIST: We got a 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.



BRUNHUBER: The tornadoes have affected so many people and their stories of loss are just heartbreaking. Earlier, I spoke with the divisional commander of the Salvation Army in Mississippi and I asked him what people in the devastated area need most. Here he is.


MAJOR MARK HARWELL, DIVISIONAL COMMANDER, THE SALVATION ARMY IN MISSISSIPPI: We've stood up an incident command team to help us serve. There are four specific areas that we're targeting right now. This initial phase of our response is mass feeding. It's typically where we begin. And so we've got four response teams that are working in the hardest hit areas, Rolling Fork, Silver City, Winona and other areas in between all along that path which have had destruction.

And so yesterday was a busy day. So we served about a little over 2000 meals, lots of water, so pallets of water that we've been distributing to communities that were impacted and so really upfront. It's trying to meet those basic needs to ensure that people have healthy meals. Many homes that can no longer prepare a meal and actually there are some homes that have not had damage or have had little damage and they could prepare meals, but they're still without power. So we're servicing those folks too as well.


BRUNHUBER: And we'll have more on this to story at the top of the next hour.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Saturday afternoon with a rally in Waco, Texas that evoked memories of his previous bids for the White House. His speech included the patently false claim that he actually won the 2020 presidential election. It came as he faces legal investigations in several jurisdictions. Our Kristen Holmes has more.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. 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. 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, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The District Attorney of New York under the auspices and direction of the Department of Injustice in Washington, D.C. 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, that 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 6.

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 mean in the long term. Kristen Holmes, Waco, Texas, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is back home after nearly two weeks of inpatient physical therapy. In a statement, McConnell said he would be working from his Washington, D.C. home for the next several days.

The Kentucky Senator was hospitalized after he tripped and fell earlier this month suffering a concussion and a rib fracture. An aide says McConnell isn't expected to return to the Senate before the chamber breaks for its two-week recess in early April.

Idaho has become the latest U.S. State to ban transgender students from using public school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The governor signed the measure this week, and it takes effect July first. So students can only use bathrooms that align with the gender assigned at their birth. The rule applies to locker rooms, showers and other facilities, but not single occupancy restrooms. Arkansas and Iowa passed similar laws this year.

A human smuggling investigation is underway after two people were found dead in a shipping container on a train in southern Texas. Homeland Security officials say the men were from One, Honduras. They were among more than 30 people found on two separate train cars, including some who had to be airlifted to hospitals. Police say they were tipped off by an emergency caller who said numerous migrants were suffocating inside of a train car.


More than a dozen people have been killed and thousands displaced due to flash floods in southern Somalia. The country's disaster management agency says hundreds of homes were destroyed, leaving people in severe danger and needing urgent support. The floods also swept away food storage and wiped-out acres of crops. It comes just days after a study found that more than 43,000 Somalis might have died last year due to the country's prolonged drought.

All right, just ahead, Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial overhaul has galvanized protesters in Israel for twelve weeks. And now one of his cabinet members is calling for a pause to the proposal. Why he's breaking ranks with the prime minister?

Plus, he became a hero in real life. And on the silver screen. We'll have a major update about the man who inspired the award-winning movie Hotel Rwanda. It's coming up. Please stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: For the 12th straight week, thousands of Israelis took to the streets to voice their opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed overhaul of the nation's judicial system. The Prime Minister isn't showing any signs of backing down so far, but Israel's defense minister is urging him to reconsider.

Yoav Gallant broke ranks with Netanyahu on Saturday and called for a pause in the planned overhaul. CNN's Hadas Gold reports.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Kim, you could call this the most significant defection from Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition against these reforms, or at least calling for them to be halted. The Defense Minister giving a speech on Saturday evening with short notice, where he came publicly in front of the Israeli public and called for the legislation over this massive judicial overhaul to be at least frozen for some time, at least after several of the major holidays, both religious holidays and national holidays that are coming up in the next month.


Now, keep in mind, this judicial reform would give unprecedented power in the hands of the Israeli parliament to the point where in some situations, according to this legislation, the Israeli parliament would be able to overturn certain Supreme Court decisions.

Now, we've seen now more than three months of hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets in protest. We've heard from high level figures from across Israel's banking and academic and high tech. And now we are hearing from the Defense Minister himself, saying that this legislation needs to be halted in the sense of national security. He says that divisiveness over this overhaul is causing problems for Israel's national security and that Israel would not be able to properly defend itself essentially if this continues down this path.

This comes in the wake of hundreds of Israeli military reservists, including elite air force crews who've said they will not heed the call to serve if this legislation passes, because they will no longer feel as though they are serving a democracy. Take a listen to what the Defense Minister had to say.

YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translator): The events taking place and the issues in Israeli society do not skip the Israel Defense Forces. Unprecedented feelings of anger, pain and disappointment have risen, and I see the source of our strength is eroding. As Minister of Defense of the State of Israel, I emphasize the growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies. This poses a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the state. I would not allow this.


GOLD: Now keep in mind Yoav Gallant, the Defense Minister, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's own party. To give you a sense of the level of this defection. Now, several other members of Netanyahu's party have come out in support of halting the legislation. These people all support some sort of form of reform to the judiciary, but just not the way it's being pushed through the speed and the way it's being pushed through right now. They want at least some sort of freeze to come about.

We're already hearing from other ministers in the Israeli government, including from the far-right wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has called on Netanyahu to fire the defense minister. He says, for using the Israeli military as a bargaining chip, saying the defense minister has folded in the face of protesters.

Notably, though, is who we have not heard from, and that's the prime minister himself. We have not heard anything from him about this speech or about the judicial reforms since Yoav Gallant, since the defense minister gave this speech last night. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Man, who inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda by saving hundreds of people during the country's genocide, is now out of prison after his sentence was commuted,. Movie stars and government officials campaigned for his release despite political opposition in his homeland. CNN's Larry Madowo has a report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can they not intervene? Hundreds of thousands are dying.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Portrayed as a hero in the Oscar nominated film Hotel Rwanda. Later jailed in the same country on terror related charges, he denied. Paul Rusesabagina's story could be a Hollywood movie of its own. Actor Don Cheadle played Rusesabagina in the film, about a hotel manager who helped to save about 1200 people during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 mostly ethnic minority Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists.

His act of courage gained him international acclaim, but also made powerful adversaries in Rwanda. He was a vocal critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In 2020, he was arrested by Rwandan authorities while traveling, and the following year he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

MUHIMA ANTOINE, RWANDAN SUPREME COURT JUDGE: He is convicted of being a member of an illegal armed group and participating in terror activities.

MADOWO: The Clooney Foundation for Justice called it a show trial, saying it lacked guarantees of fairness. His family has since made several appeals for his release.

CARINE KANIMBA, PAUL RUSESABAGINA'S DAUGHTER (through translator): Frankly, there are days when I cry a lot. I can't sleep. I don't eat at all. Just knowing that my father is sitting in a room with no windows, no light, and no one to talk to, no one he can trust in this country.

MADOWO: On Friday, there was a new twist to his saga. The Rwandan government said it has committed Rusesabagina's sentence after a request for clemency. Recently, President Paul Kagame signaled he was willing to move forward on the issue.

PAUL KAGAME, RWANDA PRESIDENT: We are not people who want to get stuck in one place.

MADOWO: There have been many high-profile efforts to release Rusesabagina, the United States and Qatar among them. On a trip to Kigali last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he voiced his concerns about the fairness of Rusesabagina's trial, who is a permanent resident of the U.S. with dual citizenship in Rwanda and Belgium.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with President Kagame. I'm not going to get into specifics, but we'll continue to engage on it.


MADOWO: In his pardon appeal, Rusesabagina, a cancer survivor, says he is suffering from poor health and as a free man, promised to leave politics and spend the remainder of his days in the U.S. in quiet reflection. Larry Madowo, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: After decades of diplomatic relations, Taiwan and Honduras have formally cut ties. The move comes as the Honduran Foreign Ministry referred to Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory and said it recognized the existence of just one China. Right now, only 13 countries maintain official relations with Taiwan. In recent years, several nations have switched recognition to China in an effort to bolster trade and investment.

Already facing an economic crisis, the people of Lebanon are about to confront a whole new challenge. Two different time zones, the government has decided to delay the switch to daylight saving time. It was supposed to happen on March 25, but now it will officially take place on April 20. But not everyone is going along with it.

At least two TV networks have refused to delay the change. And to add to the confusion, it's unclear if officials responsible for synchronizing times on electric devices or even informed about the move.

Almost a quarter century after Elian Gonzales came to the U.S., migrants from Cuba keep arriving, some in unconventional ways. Florida officials say two Cuban migrants arrived at Key West Airport on Saturday on this motorized hang glider. They weren't hurt and were turned over to U.S. border officials.

All right, just ahead, two men's final four spots are locked in one by an unlikely team, meaning two more are still up for grabs. CNN Sports Coy Wire will join me to break down at Saturday's NCAA tournament action coming up. Please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: There were major upsets during Saturday's games in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament. The final four teams is locked in, and it will be a surprise to many people. And a powerhouse school that most people expected to be in the final four won't be for the first time in more than a decade. So with me now to discuss this is CNN Sports Coy Wire.

Coy, another day, another upset, right? Or a couple, I guess.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORT: The only thing you can predict about this NCAA college tournament called March Madness is how unpredictable it is.

BRUNHUBER: How mad it is. That's right.

WIRE: And the case in point for us right now is Florida Atlantic, this university in Boca Raton, Florida less than 1% of the tens of millions of brackets that people tried to fill out for this had them going to the final four. Well, here they are now, the Owls headed to Houston. That's where the championship will be. The Owls are hooting and hollering after taking down the number three seed Kansas State 79/76. This is a basketball program, Kim, that didn't even exist 35 years ago. They didn't even have any March Madness wins until 10 days ago. And they're on this run. They had just one previous appearance in this tournament before this. And now the nine seed is doing it for all the Cinderellas at the ball. The only other nine seed to ever reach the final four was Wichita State in 2013.


DUSTY MAY, FLORIDA ATLANTIC HEAD COACH: They're going to have a special bond forever, but they would have -- this group would have had a special bond forever if we would have got knocked out in the conference tournament and not made the tournament. It's who they are. Like I said before, it's just awesome to see a guy, a group of guys that, that deserve this 100% for it to happen for them.


WIRE: Now check out the Florida Atlantic fans waiting for their team to arrive back at the team hotel. Imagine the scene if they are able to pull off two more wins and become national champs.

Now the University of Connecticut, they put the gone in Gonzaga, they're from Washington and they just absolutely embarrassed this team, handing them their worst loss of the season by 28 points. Their coach Dan Hurley has this team steamrolling everyone in this tournament though they've beaten their four opponents by an average of 22. Their star guard Jordan Hawkins said after the game, UConn is back. The Huskies playing their best ball of an up and down season at the perfect time.


DAN HURLEY, UCONN HEAD COACH: The big east conference is the best conference in the country. So we went through some struggles, but, you know, once we got out of that league and started playing non- conference teams again, we've been back to that team that looked like the best team in the country.


WIRE: I watched coach cutting down nets afterwards. He doesn't even need the scissors. He realized here eventually he's one of the most fiery coaches in college hoops. He has UConn headed to the final four as the only team left on the men's side that's ever won a national title. The last time was 2014, it just speaks volumes about how wild them this tournament has been. Kim.

The rest of the final four, they'll be set later on Sunday afternoon. Creighton Bluejays, they'll take on San Diego State just after two eastern. Then Miami faces off against the highest remaining seed in the tournament and that's Texas. They are at number two.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, I mean, UConn really on a roll there, but surprisingly not for the women?

WIRE: Yes. So, on the women's side, UConn, they have been the benchmark for excellence in the women's game. And now you have to go all the way back to 2005 to find a women's tournament where UConn were not in the Elite Eight. But check this out, the Buckeyes of Ohio State, they buck the trend. They dominate with defense forcing 18 turnovers, Kim, just in the first half. For some effective, UConn had only averaged 16 for an entire game all season. The Buckeyes head to the Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years, ending UConn's record streak of 16 straight trips to the Elite Eight. No women's or men's team had ever done that.


GENO AURIEMMA, UCONN HEAD COACH: The problem with streaks is the longer they go, you're closer to an ending than you are to the beginning of it. And it's just a matter of time. You know, it's not like, when will it happen? It's just a matter of time. I mean, it's not if it's going to happen, it's just a matter of time when it's going to happen. And it was going to Happen sooner rather than later.



WIRE: Now, South Carolina women's team, they know a thing or two about streaks. The Gamecocks beat UCLA 59/43 on Saturday for their 41st consecutive win. The defending champs haven't lost since March 6 of 2022. They advanced to the lead eight for the 6th time under coach Dawn Staley. They're going to play their fifth trip to the Final Four in Monday's regional final against two seed Maryland. Coach Staley is an Olympic gold medalist. She's a multiple time all-star in her playing career. She's such a motivator and inspiring individual. I've spoken to her and she had me wanting to run through walls for her, but she's the type of person that after a loss, she'll go to the opposing team's locker room to just, you know, show her gratitude and thanks for the competition.

BRUNHUBER: Listen, we have a couple of moments here, so I thought I'd ask you, what's behind all of these upsets. Is it just luck or is there maybe something to it?

WIRE: We're seeing a lot more parity. It used to be just the several few teams, the Dukes, North Carolinas, Kansas, who are going to be there. Well, they're not there this year. And I think part of it, Kim, is the name, image and likeness deals which are now allowed players in college sports are allowed to be paid to have their name on a jersey or in a video game or whatever it may be. And I think that's allowing some of these other schools to attract a star player, whereas before, all the stars were going to one of maybe four or five schools. Well, now you get these other schools that have a chance because they have some star players who are able to go there and get paid to play the game.

BRUNHUBER: Well, it's a real equalizing factor. Interesting stuff. Been a fascinating tournament so far, been fun to watch it along with you. Thanks so much. Thank you, all of you, for watching us. 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 Decoded, the Internet of things.