Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Biden Set to Defend Global Democracy; Powerful Blasts in Melitopol; Dominion Wants Fox Executives and Hosts to Testify; Fire Spread in Migrant Detention Center; Apple Launches New Program. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 09:30   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, President Biden preparing to defend global democracy amid political turmoil around the world as he co-host the second summit for democracy this morning. The president's focus, expanding diplomacy and bolstering democracies around the world amid growing influence from countries like China and Russia.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The event comes amid another political crisis, that the one in Israel over the prime minister's effort to overhaul the judiciary, something President Biden, as well as many senior Israeli figures have strongly criticized.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us now from the White House.

Arlette, top leaders in Israel, they're in talks perhaps to put these reforms not just on hold but maybe walk them back a bit. I wonder, how is this impacting the conversation because we know President Biden has publicly encourage Netanyahu to pull this back.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has, Jim. And this issue regarding these judicial reforms in Israel has already come up during this summit. A bit earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the summit, where he talked about those disagreements that have existed between the U.S. and Israel, but also said that he did not appear to be backing down from pursuing these judicial reforms, simply saying that he hopes that there is a way to strike a balance amidst all of the concerns playing out in Israel at this moment.

This all comes as just yesterday President Biden revealed deep concern and expressed his own criticism of this proposal saying that he does not want Israel to go down this path, that he hopes the Israeli prime minister will walk away from pursuing these judicial reforms.

It really reflects a very rare moment where the U.S. is weighing in on another country's domestic affairs, but especially when it comes to a key ally like Israel. So much of these conversations, so much of expressing concern about these reforms had been done behind the scenes until President Biden brought his own viewpoint out into the open just yesterday. [09:35:04]

Now, the president is expected to speak in the coming hours at this democracy summit, a gathering of about 120 world leaders, where the administration is hoping they can put the strength of democracies on display. Of course, that has been a centerpiece of President Biden's foreign policy in his first two years in office, trying to argue that democracies need to remain strong at this time.

So, in just a short while, we will hear from the president as this democracy summit plays out over the next two days.


DEAN: Quite a global background with everything that's going on for this democracy summit.

All right, Arlette Saenz, at the White House for us, thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: Well, the head of the IAEA is back in Ukraine this morning inspecting the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia for the second time. The U.N. nuclear watchdog is pushing for a safety agreement between Ukraine and Russia, calling the situation in Zaporizhzhia very dangerous and unstable.

DEAN: Not far from there in the occupied city of Melitopol, residents were woken up early this morning by powerful blasts. There were about 10 strikes, knocking out power too much of that city. That's according to Ukrainian forces.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is near the frontlines in eastern Ukraine.

Ben, walk us through what you're seeing today.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is that the fighting in the city of Bakhmut continues to be intense. Russian forces have been trying for seven months to take Bakhmut. The Ukrainians say the lines have stabilized. But one interesting thing we heard today from Yevgeny Prigozhin, who's the head of that private military company, Wagner, the Russian company, he said that he -- he said that, of course, the Ukrainian forces have been battered in Bakhmut, but he acknowledged that the Wagner group has also been battered as well there. Both sides have invested a huge amount of material and manpower in that city. And it seems that it -- at this point it's something of a stalemate.

Now, to the south of there in the town of Avdiivka, which is very close to the part of the Donetsk region occupied by the Russians, the situation continues to be dire. We are hearing that there have been evacuations there. But like Bakhmut, it seems there's a stalemate there as well.

Jessica. Jim.

SCIUTTO: We saw the Chinese president visit the Russian president in Moscow last week. Certainly a show of support in the midst of the ongoing war there. We know the Ukrainian president has sent his own invitation to the Chinese president. Do we know where that stands and what's the intention?

WEDEMAN: Well, we haven't heard from the Chinese. It's certainly an interesting move by President Zelenskyy. He says that before the war he was in contact with the -- his Chinese counterpart, but since then hasn't heard directly from him. Keeping in mind, of course, that last week there was that very high profile visit by the Chinese president to Moscow. China has put forth sort of a program - a peace proposal I suppose we could call it.

Now, the United States and other western powers fairly -- were fairly dismissive of it, but Ukraine itself has not dismissed it. And it does seem that Zelenskyy is keeping all his options open as far as the Chinese go,

Jim. Jessica.

SCIUTTO: Ben Wedeman, good to have you on the ground there. Please keep yourself and your team safe.

DEAN: Dramatic, new video of the moment a fire was set at a Mexican migrant center. Thirty-eight migrants dying in that incident. How the guards there responded. We'll have more on that, next.



SCIUTTO: One of the most extraordinary media trials in modern memory, Dominion Voting Systems big defamation lawsuit against Fox News is now moving towards a trial. Details emerging about who might be called to testify, including some of the network's most recognized and prominent hosts.

DEAN: Let's bring in CNN's senior media reporter Oliver Darcy to discuss all of this.

First off, Oliver, who can we expect to see on the stand if this does go to trial?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, this is shaping up to be one of the most high-profile media trials in recent memory. And really you're expected to see some of the biggest stars in right wing media potentially at this trial. And that includes Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, the network president, Jay Wallace, as well as hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, Bret Baier. Basically, anyone who is anyone over at Fox News could be potentially called to the stand in this trial, if it goes to trial in a few weeks.

SCIUTTO: So, another potential target for prosecutors, of course, Rupert Murdoch, the man who pulls all the strings in the business. Has the judge shown any indication of how he would rule on his potential testimony?

DARCY: That's exactly right, Jim. Fox Corporation, for obvious reasons, doesn't really want Rupert Murdoch to take the stand, and they've already argued against it. But the judge isn't buying those arguments. And he said in court yesterday at a virtual hearing that -- that he doesn't think it's an inconvenience for Murdoch to travel based on Murdoch's previous behavior.

I'll read to you what he said. He said at one point, I think he recently got engaged on St. Patrick's Day. And he said he looks forward to traveling between his various residences in Montana, New York, and London.

And of course, while Murdoch is 92 years old, Jim, we have seen him in public.


He was just at the Super Bowl, for instance, with Elon Musk. So, the judge not buying the idea or the notion that Murdoch is not able to travel to Wilmington for this potential trial.

SCIUTTO: That was quite an answer from the judge, it must be said.

DEAN: Yes, it sure was.


DEAN: And, obviously, we're talking about all these hypotheticals, who might testify, how this might work. But, in the end, Oliver, how likely is it that this actually gets to a trial?


DARCY: It's possible. I mean, of course, until the clock strikes midnight, it's possible that the side -- both sides will somehow reach a settlement out of court. Both sides have, at the moment, they've asked the judge to rule in their favor, declare them the outright winner ahead of a jury trial and saying we don't need to go to trial, just declare us the winner. We've proven our case. That's unlikely. It's a very high bar. So that's unlikely. The judge is likely to allow this to move forward through trial in mid-April. We'll see if the two sides reach a settlement. But right now all things are pointing toward some of these big names potentially taking the stand in a trial.

SCIUTTO: Wow, quite a moment in court.

Oliver Darcy, thanks so much for covering.

DEAN: Some dramatic, new video to show you this morning. You'll see the moment a deadly fire began to spread at a migrant detention center. This happened Monday in Juarez, Mexico, near the El Paso border crossing. And we do want to warn you, this video is disturbing.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This dramatic video captured what appears to be the beginning of the fire that spread through this Mexican migrant detention facility in Juarez late Monday night. You can see flames and smoke filling the detention area in a matter of seconds, migrants scrambling for their lives and several Mexican immigration officers walking away from the area while migrants were left locked in the cells. Eventually, thick smoke fills the area, making it impossible to see anything else.

Outside, witnesses described hearing migrants screaming for help as fire spread through the detention center. Rescue workers responded, pulling people from the smoke and flames.

This woman says there was smoke everywhere. Everyone was running for their lives. But all the men were left locked inside and the door to let them out was never open.

At least 40 people died, 29 others were injured in the blaze.

Mexico's president says the migrants started the fire when they found out they were being deported. The president says they protested by setting fire to mattresses inside the building where they were being detained.

The video from inside the detention center doesn't clearly show how or who started the fire, but several mattresses can be seen on the ground by the steel jail bars. Mexico's National Migration Institute and attorney general are investigating the cause of the fire as many questions remain.

BETTY CAMARGO, BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: I showed up when the fire had already started, just flaming and more than anything the takeaway was the screaming of people still inside.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You don't sound convinced that it was the migrants that started this fire?

CAMARGO: Migrants were coming to me and letting me know that they believe that someone else outside the building started the fire. They were locked inside a room, which they should have never been locked in.

LAVANDERA (voice over): This woman, who cried as her husband was taken away by ambulance, said he was grabbed off the street in Ciudad Juarez and taken to the migration center.

They grabbed him on the street for no reason.

Immigration advocates say this deadly fire fuels concerns along the border as migrants continue to flow through Mexico trying to reach the U.S.

CAMARGO: You have migrants that are just desperate and frustrated.


DEAN: That was Ed Lavandera for us. Thanks so much for that reporting, Ed. SCIUTTO: Yes.

Still ahead, Apple has announced an easier way to pay. Why we're seeing a rise in the buy now pay later trend and what that means next time you check out.



DEAN: By now, Apple Pay later. That is the brand-new option now available to shoppers who may be feeling inflation sting.

SCIUTTO: The platform, Apple says, now allows buyers to pay for things in installments, but there are risks.

CNN business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn joins us now.

Nathaniel, I mean the first obvious question is, is this with or without interest?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: So, Jim, Apple is jumping into the growing buy now pay later trend. And these -- this is a program without interest and without late fees. More customers are turning to it and more businesses are rolling it out. The Apple program, you can pay in four installments over six weeks for just about anything, and the loans range in $50 to $1,000.

DEAN: And so, Nathaniel, this trend, this buy now pay later trend is growing. Why is that and what are people using it for?

MEYERSOHN: So, shoppers right now are squeezed by inflation and they're looking to spread out their purchases, not pay everything all at once. More retailers have rolled it out. I'm just -- if you go on any major retailer's website right now, you'll see the option. You can use buy now pay later for clothing, for furniture, electronic. And, increasingly, shoppers are using it to pay for groceries. We've seen about a 40 percent jump in buy now pay later for groceries during the first two months of 2023 compared to a year ago, and that's because grocery prices are up double digits and shoppers are feeling the pain from that.

SCIUTTO: So, the fact that there's no interest, that, obviously, takes away one of the risks, inflating the actual cost, but what are the other risks for consumers?

MEYERSOHN: So, some of the services, Jim, do charge late fees. So, if customers miss one of the payment installments, they're going to get hit with a late fee, and we see late fees growing on these buy now pay later services.


The other real concern is that it's going to encourage overspending among shoppers who don't have the funds to pay it back, particularly on their debit cards. So, you look at the profile of who's using buy now pay later services. About 25 percent of users don't have any emergency save or non-retirement funds. So, these are folks who are really financially strapped and may not be able to pay it back.


DEAN: Something to certainly consider.

All right, Nathaniel Meyersohn, thanks for explaining it all to us. We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: All right, it wasn't exactly "Ocean's 11," one of my favorite movies, but an employee is accused of a casino heist, a big one, in Colorado. Sabrina Eddie is facing theft charges after video surveillance caught her taking half a million dollars from the company vault.

DEAN: The cashier told police though she got a call from someone identifying himself as the head of operations saying the casino was having trouble with an equipment order and would be in breach of contract if she did not deliver money to a lawyer. She's saying she did nothing wrong and she just thought she was following orders. So, we'll see what the truth ends up being, Jim.

Still ahead, what officials are saying about how the Nashville shooter legally purchased those guns involved in Monday's deadly shooting. Next, we go live to Nashville.