Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN International: Israel's Largest Union Calls Historic General Strike; Southeastern U.S. Struck By at Lease 10 Confirmed Tornadoes; Manhattan Grand Jury to Resume Investigation Monday into Donald Trump; Philadelphia Officials Say Tap Water Safe to Drink Despite Chemical Spill; FDIC: First-Citizens Bank Purchases Silicon Valley Bank. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Bianca is off for the day just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like no notice. We didn't know what was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My city is gone, but we're resilient. And we're going to come back. We're going to come back strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, coming up here in the upcoming 24 hours we are expecting to deal with the same threats over the same areas.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe that Bragg would be doing this if Donald Trump were not running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israeli President Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, firing his own defense minister who is a member of his own political party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What these people are saying is they care about democracy? I think it shows the vitality vibrancy of Israel's democracy.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: It is Monday March 27th 9:00 a.m. here in London, 11:00 a.m. in Israel were just a short time ago, the country's largest union called for an historic general strike. Universities are also on strike today.

These moves after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister over his opposition to controversial plans for judicial overhaul. That also sparked spontaneous protests on the streets of Tel Aviv late on Sunday night.

Thousands turned out in the city as calls grow for Netanyahu to delay plans for judicial reforms. We'll head now to Jerusalem and CNN's Hadas Gold with the latest hearing. Hearing now the airport is closed as well. It feels like the country's coming to a standstill.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The country is coming to a screeching halt, Max, over these judicial reforms. We've already experienced more than 12 weeks of regular protests, but it really feels as though today it is completely coming to a head.

Just a couple hours ago in about an hour ago, the largest union in Israel, which by itself could bring the country to a halt. It's a union that represents everything from teachers to business workers to factory workers.

They announced an immediate general strike and then the airport. The one main airport for Israel announced their union announced an immediate halt to takeoffs. Now landings as we understand, are still going to take place, especially of course of flights are in the air. But all takeoffs are immediately halted.

Now we know from people who are at the airport right now. It's a bit chaotic. People are still trying to figure out exactly what is happening. Boardings that we're in the process have suddenly been stopped. We spoke to a spokesperson for the Israeli airport authorities saying that as of right now all takeoffs are halted. They did expect around 70,000 total passengers today. About half of them were supposed to be arriving. About half of them were supposed to be departing.

But this literally brings the entire country to a halt. The last time the airport was closed, Max, was during war. When Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza engaged in that about 10-11-day war in 2021, so rockets were flying in the air. That's why the airport was closed. This is the next time the airport was closed, and it's in response to this massive judicial overhaul.

Of course, this all started on Saturday evening when the Defense Minister Yoav Galant, dared to make a striking speech calling for a halt to this controversial judicial overhaul that would place immense power in the hands of the Israeli Parliament. Allowing them to overturn supreme court decisions. Saying that the divisiveness over this reform was creating a tangible and credible threat to Israeli security. 24 hours later, he is fired by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yoav Galant the Minister of Defense, was the first minister to come out against these reforms calling to halt of course, as defense minister. He is very high ranking. And then after that firing, we saw all those spontaneous protests. Now while protests have been going on for now, more than 12 weeks, the protest last night they felt different. They felt more angry. They felt a little bit more violent. They went late in into the night.

This morning we heard from the Israeli President Isaac Herzog immediately calling for a halt. We heard from the Jewish Agency immediate calling for a halt. We heard from actually some other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu's own government, calling for at least a freeze to the legislation.


We have not yet heard from Benjamin Netanyahu himself. There were reports he was going to make a speech in the last hour or so that he was going to announce a free civil legislation. Still, we have not heard anything. Meanwhile the country is in chaos. It's possible that the entire country is going to grind to a halt with this general strike. Schools could go and strike businesses could be on strike. You know, you might not be able to go to the shops today. And of course, if you have a flight plan to leave today. Well, you're not going to be leaving Israel anytime soon -- Max.

FOSTER: Just explain where the pressure is coming from for him to continue pushing for these reforms and why it's so difficult for him to climb down from this position.

GOLD: Well, it does seem as though -- and we are seeing some reports -- that even some of those stall warp for the pressure points that were within his own government may now also be agreeing it is time to stop.

Much of this pressure was coming from the right-wing flanks of his government. These were the settler leaders. These were the ultra orthodox who have their own reasons for wanting to push forward with these reforms.

But keep in mind, Benjamin Netanyahu has his own reasons for wanting to push forward with these reforms. He has denied over and over again that this massive judicial overhaul has anything to do with his own ongoing corruption trial. But when you just look at the bare facts if the Israeli government will have more power over selecting judges if the Israeli government the politicians in power would have more power in being able to potentially overturn high court decisions. That might have an effect on somebody's own corruption trial.

Now again, he has denied this over and over again. He has denied the charges against him, but we still have not heard from Benjamin Netanyahu. But we are hearing reports that even some of these far right wing members of his government. That's Bezalel Smotrich and the like are now agreeing that it may be

time to at least freeze legislation. This doesn't mean it's going to completely stop. It doesn't mean that reforms of some kind will not move forward. Because people do say reforms may be needed. But perhaps now we will finally see some sort of compromised reform going forward -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, we'll stay with you for any updates. Hadas thanks for joining us from Jerusalem.

Meanwhile millions of people across several states in the southeastern U.S. are under severe weather threats as a storm system that's already left behind a deadly trail of destruction moves east.

In Georgia, the governor issued a state of emergency after a large tornado struck a town about an hour southwest of Atlanta on Sunday. At least three people were injured. Dozens of homes were destroyed and as many as 100 were damaged.

Over the weekend, at least 10 confirmed tornado struck Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, killing 26 people. The city of Rolling Fork, Mississippi was almost completely flattened by one of those powerful tornadoes.

President Biden approved a disaster declaration for parts of Mississippi to get federal funds flowing quickly to the areas most in need. One survivor in Rolling Fork who lost everything in the storm tells CNN. He's just grateful to be alive.


ERWIN MACON, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Not being sucked out. That's a blessing because I could feel my body sleeping coming all out. It's frightening. Just to be able to walk away from here, I don't worry about nothing else. You know, just feel blessed to still be alive.


FOSTER: The area is still mostly without power and without the businesses that provide basic necessities. The police and fire department facilities were all destroyed. Here's what the mayor of Rolling Fork had to say.


ELDRIDGE WALKER, ROLLING FORD, MISSISSIPPI MAYOR: The city of Rolling Fork will come back bigger and better than ever before.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With all of those who were unaccounted for on Saturday now located safely. The effort is entirely on the clean up here, and there is a lot of it to be done. There's very little of this community that was untouched by the storm that ripped through here on Friday night, but one of the things that really stood out to our crew here is just how everyone is chipping in to help. It's something that the governor talked about earlier when he spoke to the media.

TATE REEVES (R) MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: What we've seen over the last 36 hours in Mississippi, on the one hand, has been heartbreaking to see the loss and devastation of these communities, but on the other hand has been inspiring and gives me great reason for optimism. And quite frankly, makes me damn proud to be a Mississippian. Because Mississippians have done what Mississippians do in times of tragedy in times of crisis they stand up and they show up. VALENCIA: Part of what's giving us a better understanding of the scope of this devastation is the aerial footage that we've seen. It shows just how widespread this damage is, and gives an indication of how much time it will take to clean up.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Rolling Fork, Mississippi.


FOSTER: Let's get more on where the storms are heading then from CNN meteorologist Britley Ritz.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately, these same areas are going to get hit once again. We've been dealing with it all through the evening, and it will continue through the overnight and early morning hours. Many hail reports as well as wind and, yes, tornado reports over the last 24 hours, same areas getting hit once again.


Areas highlighted in red Alexandria, Louisiana, back into Jackson, Mississippi Montgomery, Alabama. These are areas that are most vulnerable for long lived tornadoes. EF three or stronger with winds guesting over 100 mph in some sense. Large hail to very large hail -- we're talking golf ball size hail, if not larger. We've already had hail reports of two inches.

And this will extend through Georgia back up into the Carolinas through the overnight hours. Areas highlighted in yellow, meaning it's not going to be as strong but we're still dealing with the same threats, wind and hail going to be our biggest concerns.

This rides up into tomorrow. So, areas highlighted in yellow, Savannah, Georgia back into Albany up into parts of South Carolina. Large hail, damaging winds main threats going into your Monday, but a tornado or two cannot be ruled out. Heavy rain also another big concern is this trains over the same areas.

Pay attention to the timeframe here. Sunday night into Monday morning, pushing through Alabama into central Georgia up into the Carolinas. Again, it starts to weaken. We lose that tornado threat but holding on to the threat of damaging winds and large hail.

Areas from just south of Birmingham and Atlanta, picking up 2 to 4 more inches of rain through Monday. That's these areas highlighted in orange. Isolated higher amounts are definitely possible. So that flash flood threat continues on through the overnight and early tomorrow morning. Macon, Georgia back into Montgomery areas highlighted in red again where you're most vulnerable.

But this extends back into parts of Mississippi up into the Carolinas through Monday morning. So, remember, if you come across the roadway and water turn around, find around. You just don't know how deep that water is. Back to you.

FOSTER: Thank you to Britley. Now in the coming hours a Manhattan grand jury is expected to continue its investigation into former U.S. President Donald Trump. They're looking into whether Trump falsified business records to cover up hush payments for an alleged affair with an adult film star. Trump took to social media to lay into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the man leading the hush money probe.

And so did other Republican lawmakers.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We're sick and tired of the meddling in federal elections. And I don't believe that Bragg would be doing this if Donald Trump were not running for president. And that's something that we would like to ask Mr. Bragg as well. Would you be doing this if he weren't a declared candidate for president -- for president, United States? If so, if this is the reason you're doing it, then this is a political investigation. And we again desperately want to keep, you know, the Department of Justice from meddling in presidential elections.


FOSTER: Trump railed against his legal battles at a rally over the weekend, accusing Democrats of trying to sully his name and prevent him from getting back to the White House.


TRUMP: Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool, and they are willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country. We've had it, but we've never had it like this. We must stop them, and we must not allow them to go through another election, where they have yet another tool in their tool kit.


FOSTER: Trump also predicted, quote, potential death and destruction would follow if he were to be indicted. After those remarks as attorney went into damage control.


JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm not his social media consultant. I don't -- I think that was an ill-advised post that one of his social media people put up and he quickly took down when he realized the rhetoric in the photo that was attached to it.


FOSTER: The double shooting at a Sikh temple in Sacramento, California has left two people -- two men in critical condition and two facing arrest as well. It happened as temple members were celebrating a religious event with the parade. Investigators say three men got into an argument and the guns came out. Two men were shot and a third ran from the scene but was later caught. They say it appears all three men knew each other. And that was a personal dispute.

In Philadelphia officials say they are confident that tap water is safe to drink after a chemical spill in a nearby Delaware river. They say they haven't found any contamination in the city's water supply. But that hasn't calmed down residents as many rushed to buy bottled water. CNN's Danny Freeman has more.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The message of the city of Philadelphia wants to put out there is that the water here in the city is absolutely safe to drink and that it is not contaminated at this point, and it will remain safe to drink until Monday night around 11:59 just before midnight.

But I want to explain exactly how we got to this point. The contamination actually happened back on Friday evening. There was a chemical spill in Bristol township. It's part of Bucks County, which is about 20 miles north of here, and there was a chemical spill in the Delaware River. And of course, the Delaware River is one of the main water supply to Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia, out of an abundance of caution issued an alert to the residents here saying you should drink bottled water if you are concerned.


Although they said the risk was still very low from the beginning. But Philadelphians they heeded that advice. They took that concern seriously, and they rushed supermarkets all over the city, including this one here in South Philadelphia. Take a listen to what one resident told us her experience was when she tried to buy some water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were hopeful going in because it didn't seem that chaotic. Just regular Sunday at the South Philly but we got there, we're OK, I'll go to the water aisle. I'll see what's going on. It is bare and you can see people looking at like the seltzer and the weird flavors. Being like, OK, like maybe this will work. We bought some juice. There's water and juice. You know, like I overheard one of the workers, saying there's no more water in the store.

FREEMAN: Now the manufacturing company of the product that spilled into Delaware River, it's called Trinseo PLC. They explained in a statement that the spill occurred because equipment failure and ultimately resulted in 8,100 gallons of a latex polymer -- of a solution that had latex polymer in it -- seeping into the Delaware River. They described it as a white liquid used in various consumer goods.

But again, the Philadelphia Water Department says none of that, as of now has gotten into the Philadelphia water supplies. So, the message still until Monday night at 11:59 is that the water here is safe to drink.

Danny Freeman, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER: And just an hour north of Philadelphia, seven people are now confirmed dead after a candy factory explosion on Friday. The blast happened in West Redding, Pennsylvania, at a factory owned by the RM Palmer company. Officials say anyone missing after the explosion has now been accounted for. Authorities are investigating the cause of the blast, including the possibility of a gas leak.

Three boaters are very likely to be alive on and on a cruise ship right now. They were rescued from their sinking ship about 400 miles off the coast of Alabama. The rescue was a combined effort of the Coast Guard and the cruise ship Carnival Valor. The small boat named Snail Mail sent out a distress signal with an emergency radio beacon as they were taking on water. The boaters were checked out of the cruises -- cruise ships doctor -- checked out by the doctor. They are in a stable condition we're told.

Now just ahead. The men's basketball NCAA basketball final four is set. March Madness is almost over. We'll have the very great highlights for you.

Plus, a buyer has purchased the assets of Silicon Valley Bank. We'll at the look at the global markets ahead in a live report.

And another migrant disaster at sea. More than a dozen people were killed after two boats sank in the Mediterranean. And we'll to Rome for the latest update on that.



FOSTER: We are keeping an eye on world markets today after news that First Citizens Bank and Trust has officially purchased the assets of the troubled Silicon Valley Bank. The FDIC says SVB's 17 former branches will reopen on Monday under the name of the new owners. This as federal regulators are set to testify on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee about the collapse of SVB and Signature Bank as well.

CNN correspondent Clare Sebastian joins us on set with the very latest here. And this is you know a justifiable look at the regulators, who many say should have acted sooner to prevent this latest near crisis.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think there's two questions, right. Was there enough regulation? Obviously we know there was that controversial rollback of some of the Dodd/Frank regulations certainly on the mid size and smaller banks in 2018 under Donald Trump.

And then there was the question of supervision. Were they correctly supervised? Whether regulations in place, you know, appropriately applied? And this is questions around things like why was Silicon Valley Bank allowed to amass such a large proportion of treasury bonds on its balance sheet, then left it very exposed when interest rates went up. And add to that the issue of those uninsured deposits. Silicon Valley

Bank had more than 90 percent uninsured deposits. Those over a quarter of a million on its balance sheets. And those two things together really made it very vulnerable.

So questions are going to be asked if the regulators, representatives from the FDIC, from the Federal Reserve and from the Treasury, in the Senate, first on Tuesday, and then in the House about how we got to this point and how to prevent it in future.

FOSTER: And how are they looking this week do you think, because some of the nervousness seems to have gone.

SEBASTIAN: So, Europe has had an interesting, what, hour and 20 minutes so far of trade, we saw quite a big comeback at the beginning. But now it looks like certainly the Deutsche Bank has fallen off its highs of the day. So, look a little bit of relief. This was the first weekend in three, Max, that we didn't have a bank fail, or at least look like it was going to fail.

And then, of course, the actions around Silicon Valley Bank that buyer coming in wrapping that up to some extent, did lead to some relief. But I think this just shows that there is still a lot of nervousness out there. The vultures are circling in these markets to look for the next week link in the banking sector. And still big questions over how it could spill over into the real economy.

FOSTER: Absolutely, Clare, thank you.

Germany facing a nationwide transport strike right now grounding planes and halting trains as well. The departures board at Munich Airport told the story with every listed flight now marked canceled. Two major unions representing millions of public sector employers -- employees rather -- called the one-day strike to protest inflation and demand significant wage increases. One top union boss calls it a matter of survival.

Western Europe has been plagued with labor actions lately, as rising prices have pinched the pockets of millions of workers.

U.S. President Joe Biden's picked to lead the Federal Aviation Administration has withdrawn his name from nomination, a source tells CNN. Phillip Washington has faced blowback from Republican lawmakers. He cited his marginal aviation experience and potential legal entanglements as well. The White House says they respect his decision and praised his public service record and his qualifications.

Meanwhile the FAA is investigating what prompted a passenger on a Delta Airlines flight to open the plane's emergency exit door. It happened at the Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday just before takeoff. The incident caused the plane's emergency slide to activate. Airport police later took the passenger into custody and other passengers were moved to a different flight.

[04:25:04] Russian president Vladimir Putin has announced something his country hasn't done since the 1990s, much to the dismay of Ukraine and its Western allies. That's still just ahead.

Plus, more on Donald Trump's legal woes. We'll break down all four criminal investigations surrounding the former U.S. president.


FOSTER: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM I'm Max Foster. Let me bring you up to date with the top stories this hour.

Israel's largest union and the country's universities are set to strike today after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister over his opposition to controversial plans for judicial overhaul.

And the Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump's hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels will reconvene. The district attorney is still debating charges against the former president.

New York investigation is just the tip of the legal iceberg for Donald Trump. He could be indicted at any time in other probes. CNN's Paula Reid has more on the former president's challenges.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now, former president Trump is facing no fewer than four criminal investigations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation concerning the former president is ongoing.

Reid (voice-over): the case that seems to be putting Trump in the most immediate jeopardy, the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into hush money payments porn star Stormy Daniels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payments. Daniels?

TRUMP: no, no.

REID (voice-over): The case involves potentially falsified business records and possible campaign finance violations, something that would have surprised Trump back in 1999.

TRUMP: Nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do.

REID (voice-over): The payments to Daniels were.