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CNN International: Investigating Trump; At Least 28 Migrants Dead After Two Boats Sink Off Tunisia; Elian Gonzalez to Become Cuban Lawmaker; West Condemns Putin's Plan to Station Nukes in Belarus; Honduras and China Formally Establish Diplomatic Ties. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 04:30   ET




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's 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?


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 facilitated by Cohen in the final days of the 2016 campaign. The Access Hollywood tape it just come out.

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

REID (voice-over): And Daniels was allegedly trying to sell her story about sleeping with Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it hush money to stay silent.

STORMY DANIELS; Yes, the story was coming out again.

REID (voice-over): Cohen Trump's former fixer and personal attorney, became one of his primary antagonistic. MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I know what Mr. Trump

is. He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.

REID (voice-over): Cohen has met with the Manhattan DA's office 20 times and appeared before the grand jury twice to testify about a $130,000 payment to Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. President Trump denies any such affair, now almost seven years later, the case may be coming to a conclusion.

But while this particular investigation maybe the most imminent, legal experts say it's far from the most consequential. Trump is also facing a dual pronged special counsel investigation.

Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General: It is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.

REID (voice-over): Examining both the former president's handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and possible obstruction.

TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol ...

REID (voice-over): And his involvement in the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol, on January 6th.

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: Jack Smith's case is the most important because it's the constitutionally most significant to the country.

REID (voice-over): And that's not the only investigation related to the 2020 election and its aftermath. In Georgia, Fulton County DA Fani Willis is looking into Trump and his allies efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes.

REID (voice-over): In that case, a special grand jury returned a report recommending multiple indictments and the DA is still decided on whether to bring charges.

REID: Prosecutors here in Manhattan have a deadline. The statute of limitations in this case expires in May. So, it's now or never for the district attorney.

Paula Reid, CNN, New York.


FOSTER: California Rep. Ro Khanna says he won't run for Senator Dianne Feinstein seat. Feinstein announced last month that she would not seek reelection in 2024. The primary is sure to be competitive and Khanna has instead endorsing his fellow California representative -- that's Barbara Lee.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I have concluded that despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie folks, the best place, the most exciting place, action place for me to serve as a progressive is in the House of Representatives, and I'm honored to be co-chairing Barbara Lee's campaign for the Senate and endorsing her today. We need a strong antiwar Senator, and she will play that role.


FOSTER: Lee was notably the only Congress member to vote against the authorization for war in Afghanistan. She's been a representative since 1998 and is part of the House Democratic leadership.

Drummers and dancers greeted U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on her arrival to Ghana on Sunday. She's on a week long trip to Africa that will also take in Zambia and Tanzania. Five Biden administration officials have visited the continent already this year, but Harris, the first black woman to serve as U.S. vice president is the highest ranking figure by far.

It's all part of a diplomatic push aimed at strengthening us ties across the region. In Accra, Harris said the world would benefit from empowering Africa's young people.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I look at what is happening on this continent. And the fact that the median age is 19 years old. And what that tells us about the growth of opportunity, of innovation, of possibilities. I see in all of that great opportunity not only for the people of this continent, but the people of the world.


FOSTER: Harris is touting U.S. investment commitments aimed at boosting economic opportunities across the continent.

Another migrant tragedy at sea. At least 28 people have died after two boats sank off the coast of Tunisia on Sunday they were trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Italy. Officials say scores are still missing from one of the wrecks. Meanwhile, the Italian Coast Guard says they've rescued more than 3,000 people from 58 boats in the past 48 hours.

For the latest let's go to CNN's Barbie Nadeau who's live for us in Rome.


Those figures are staggering, aren't they?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes I know they are. You know you this is just another deadly weekend in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean migration trail, this is the most deadly in the world. People die all the time. You know, these are boats we know about, a lot of boats sink that nobody knows about. The Italian Coast Guard though in this incredible weekend of rescues,

58 boats, 3,300 people all taken to the tiny island of Lampedusa. Now the hot spot there, the place for migrants and refugees there holds only 400 people. And so, people are in absolutely terrific -- terrifically horrible conditions. A lot of them have been taken to the Italian mainland.

But the Italian government here is asking for Europe to step in to try to do something about the situation in Tunisia right now. So often, Max, we see these boats coming from Libya. It's -- you have to go back to 2011 and the Arab Spring to see this many boats coming from Tunisia. And you know, the Italian government under Georgia Meloni, who won on an anti-immigration platform is really struggling with how to handle this -- Max.

FOSTER: OK Barbie, thank you so much for bringing us that update in Rome.

Sunday, election day in the Caribbean nation of Cuba. 470 candidates ran for the 470 seats in the National Assembly, but one stood out from all the others. Elian Gonzalez now seeking to become a lawmaker, some 23 years after he was caught in a U.S. Cuba custody dispute. And as he told our Patrick Oppmann, that experience taught him a lot about U.S. Cuban relations and about his own father.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elian Gonzalez walks with his wife and their daughter in his hometown of Cardenas, Cuba. Preparing to step back in the public view. Gonzalez is here to vote for himself and the other candidates for Cuba's National Assembly. Candidates run unopposed, so he's all but guaranteed to win. It will be Gonzalez's first official role since the legal battle that brought him back to Cuba roughly 23 years ago.

Early on in our interview, Gonzalez makes it clear the U.S. is still on his mind.

Elian Gonzalez, Former Refugee, Cuban National Assembly Candidate (through translator): I'm someone the American people know and I can help bring the American and Cuban people together, and not just the people, he says. That our governments reach an understanding and remove all the barriers between us. Our country doesn't have any sanctions on the U.S.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Now that he's a father himself of a 2-year-old girl, Elian says he better understands the ordeal that his own father went through during the bitter custody fight with his Miami relatives, as well as the pain of all Cuban families separated by political divisions.

Gonzalez (through translator): It's helped me to understand my father, he says. It's made me more sensitive. It's helped me understand how all the Cubans feel who are separated from their families and fathers who aren't able to give all the attention and things their children want. OPPMANN (voice-over): By joining the 470-member National Assembly, Gonzalez could become a high-profile spokesman for the government, something his Miami relatives said they were afraid would happen if he was returned to the island.

OPPMANN: Despite being one of the most famous people on this island, Elian Gonzalez says he's led a pretty low-key life since returning to Cuba. Now that he's going to become a member of the Cuba's National Assembly though, he could be returning into the public spotlight and no doubt using his celebrity to defend the revolution that brought him home.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Even as he is an unabashed supporter of Castro's revolution, Gonzalez also strikes a conciliatory tone rarely heard on either side of the Florida straits.

GONZALEZ (through translator): Cuban exiles, what we want one day is that they are no longer exiled, that they come home, that everyone understands that all the youth that has left that when they're willing to work for Cuba, the well-being of Cubans beyond the political party and ideologies, he says, that our doors are open to build a better country, which is what we need.

OPPMANN (voice-over): It's a hopeful sentiment of someone uniquely connected to both Cuba and the U.S. And Gonzales may prove to be instrumental in uniting Cubans and rebuilding the island even if he has a long road ahead of him.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Cardenas, Cuba.


FOSTER: Still ahead, we'll have reaction from Ukraine and its Western allies over Vladimir Putin's plan to move nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Plus, amid ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the U.S., Pyongyang conducts more weapons test. Details just ahead of us.



FOSTER: Returning to our top story the political crisis in Israel. There are live pictures here coming into us from Jerusalem. More protests taking shape their over proposed judicial reforms by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu fired his defense minister over his opposition to controversial plans for judicial overhaul. But since then, several other prominent political figures within his coalition and outside of it have called on him to drop the plans. Do you stay with us for any updates as they come in.

North Korea conducted more weapons tests on Monday morning, this time short range ballistic missiles. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff say two such missiles were launched flying about 230 miles or 370 kilometers before falling into the water east of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has ramped up missile launches amid ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. They are the largest joint exercises since 2017 and will end in early April.

The condemnation is growing amongst Ukraine and its Western allies over Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia could move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. NATO calls the move dangerous and irresponsible whilst noting the alliance doesn't see -- or hasn't seen any change in Russia's nuclear posture. Meanwhile, a senior White House official downplayed Putin's announcement.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We have not seen any indication that he's made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around . We've in fact, seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons period inside Ukraine. Obviously, we would agree that no nuclear war should be fought. No nuclear war could be won. Clearly that would cross a major threshold.

I would also tell you that as we monitor this, and we monitor every day, you have to, with the rhetoric coming out of Moscow. And with rhetoric that's been coming out since the beginning of the war that we've seen no -- nothing that would cause us to change our own strategic deterrent posture.


FOSTER: Russian attacks are ongoing in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. But a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military says they've been able to control the enemy's actions and it has in our forces to hold the front line.


Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military commander says the eastern city of Vuhledar has been, quote, completely razed to the ground after heavy shelling by Russian forces. And the eastern city of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian soldier described the situation as difficult because of increased Russian airstrikes, which have cut off some supply routes.


VITALII BARABASH, HEAD OF AVDIIVKA RMA (through translator): The perspective prospects for the town are very bad. Everyday we have multistory buildings falling apart. There hasn't been a day in the last couple of weeks when we haven't been shelled. The town is being wiped off the face of the earth.


FOSTER: Now it's the end of one relationship and the start of a new one for Honduras. On Sunday, the Central American countries signed a formal document recognizing one China and establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing. It comes after breaking off relations with Taiwan.

CNN Beijing bureau chief Steven Jiang joins us with more. And this is a coup for Beijing. STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's right. It's been held

as such as a major diplomatic victory here. And officials and state media here also made a point of noting how this now means Taiwan has only 13 formal diplomatic allies left in the entire world. Taiwan obviously pushing back with its foreign minister, saying this is but the latest example of Taipei no longer interested in engaging so called daughter diplomacy.

Now this is something Beijing would never acknowledge publicly. Actually, they have been accusing Taipei of doing so, but there have been precedents of some small and often impoverished countries switching diplomatic recognition back and forth between Taipei and Beijing, depending on who offered them more money. And Taiwan officials have said Honduras had asked them to provide the country with billions of dollars in the form of foreign aid and forgiven debts.

But obviously many view this latest development as another sign of China's growing clout on the global stage, diplomatically, economically and politically. But it's worth noting that even as Beijing continues to a squeeze Taiwan diplomatically, the self- governing island itself has become a very popular destination for Western politicians, especially legislators to visit to show their support as this island is now being viewed being on the front line in this global competition between democracy and autocracy as President Biden has put it.

And one of the biggest tests on this front is likely to come in to come in the coming days as Taiwan president, Tsai Ing-wen is widely expected to meet with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. doing a stopover as she visits some of the island's remaining allies.

Remember how China reacted furiously when then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last week. So that's why all eyes are now both Beijing and Washington to see how both sides handle this meeting between Tsai and the new U.S. House Speaker -- Max.

FOSTER: Steven Jiang live in Beijing, thank you.

Still ahead, two of the schools in the women's final four are set and one of the players delivered a performance for the ages to lead her team to the championship round.



FOSTER: It was a moment of fear and empathy. A television meteorologists realizing a monstrous tornado was bearing down on a small Mississippi town.


MATT LAUBHAN, WTVA CHIEF 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: This is dramatic video of that tornado slamming into Amory Friday night recorded by a surveillance camera in a high school hallway. Amory's mayor says the storm severely damaged about 40 percent of his entire community.

The meteorologist told us earlier about the feedback he's received from people in the community.


LAUBHAN: It was kind of a situation where we knew something extremely bad was happening. And we knew that it was possible, maybe even probable that people were being hurt and about to die. And I very rarely at a loss for words, and I was just feeling a little bit overwhelmed, honestly, and it just kind of came out.

And the reaction from the public here in Mississippi in particular has been overwhelmingly positive. In many cases, people told me that it helped them to realize the seriousness of the situation. And I'd like to say it was something I intended on doing, but I think God just kind of took over at that moment.


FOSTER: Trending this hour, the U.S. Army has pulled some recruiting ads featuring actor Jonathan Majors. That's after the "Creed III" star was arrested in New York Saturday in an alleged domestic dispute. Police say a woman called 911 from a Manhattan apartment and that Majors faced charges of strangulation, assault and harassment. His attorney says majors is completely innocent and that there's evidence proving he is the victim of an altercation with a woman that he knows.

Entertainer Kelly Clarkson is announcing the name of her new album. Clarkson says working on it for the past three years helped her heal after her divorce from Brandon Blackstock. The "American Idol" winner explains why she's calling it chemistry.


KELLY CLARKSON, ENTERTAINER: Chemistry can be of really amazing, sexy, cool fun thing, but it can also be very bad for you. So, that's why I named it chemistry. I thought it was kind of the perfect title.


FOSTER: Also trending this hour. Harry Potter is going to be a dad, actor Daniel Radcliffe and his long-time girlfriend, Erin Dark are expecting their first child, Radcliffe's representative confirmed the news to CNN on Sunday. Radcliffe became an international child star back in 2001 when he started the Harry Potter film franchise. Last year he told "Newsweek" that he would love to see his own kids around film sets, but he I said being famous should be avoided at all costs.

[04:55:00] March Madness is living up to us its name once again. For the first time since 1970, three schools who are making their first ever appearance in the final four of the men's basketball tournament. Two of them punched their tickets on Sunday, including five seed San Diego State, which beat Crichton on Darrion Trammell's free throw with just over one second left.


DARRION TRAMMELL, SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS GUARD: At the moment wasn't too big for me. To do everything I've been through, I feel like the opportunity was just set there for me. It was God's timing, and I just had to believe in that and just having that confidence that, yes, I missed the first one. But I definitely want to miss the second one.


FOSTER: And another five seed Miami mounted a second half comeback to beat Texas on Sunday. They'll join fourth seeded Yukon and nine seed FAU in next weekend's final four.

And in Sunday's women's games two schools sealed their berth in the final four. Number two seed Iowa beat number five seed Louisville, 97 to 83. It was a historic performance from Caitlin Clark, 41 point, 10 rebounds, 12 assists.


CAITLIN CLARK, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA GUARD: I thought our team played really well. That's what it's all about. You know, I was going to give every single thing I had when I came here. I said I wanted to take this program to the final four. And all you got to do is dream and all you got to do is believe and work your butt off to get there, and that's what I did. And that's what team did and that's what our coaches did. They were going to Dallas maybe.


FOSTER: Great advice. Number three. LSU defeated number nine Miami 59 to 42. LSU's coach took her team to the final four in just here second year at the school. The Tigers will play either number one Virginia Tech or number three, Ohio state. The Iowa Hawkeyes will play either number one South Carolina or number two Maryland. Both games and next Friday.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM I'm Max Foster in London EARLY START with Christine is up next.