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CNN International: Republican Lawmakers Sidestep Weapons Ban Questions; Maryland Court Reinstates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed; Rare Access to South Korean and U.S. Military Drills; Zelenskyy Invites Chinese Leader to Visit Ukraine. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 04:30   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Bianca Nobilo. And if you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

A federal judge has ordered former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a subpoena asking for his testimony in the January 6th investigation. Pence says that he and his attorneys are considering all options.

And authorities in Nashville, Tennessee, say that Audrey Hale, the suspect in Monday's school shooting, had purchased seven weapons before carrying out the attack. Three of those seven guns were used in the mass shooting. Three children and three adults were killed before police took down the shooter.

In the wake of the Nashville shooting. U.S. President Joe Biden is turning up the pressure on Congress to take action on gun control, urging lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What in God's name are we doing? These guns are the number -- this is hard to believe. I never thought when I started my public life that guns will be the number one killer of children in America. Guns. Number one. It's sick. So I again call on Congress to pass the assault weapons ban. Pass it. It should not be a partisan issue. It's a commonsense issue. We have to act now. People say, why do I keep saying this if they're not happening? Because I want you to know who isn't doing it. Who isn't helping, to put pressure on them.


NOBILO: Have already been 130 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The group defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot.

Despite the president's please and the chilling data on guns, Republican lawmakers say that gun control legislation is a nonstarter on Capitol Hill. CNN's Manu Raju has more from Washington.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an all too familiar story tearing apart communities and devastating families. Mass shootings 130 in this year alone, including the rampage at a Christian school in Nashville, leaving six victims dead, including three nine-year-olds. But on Capitol Hill, little has changed.

RAJU: So, why not limit the AR-15? Why not put a ban on that?

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): If you're going to talk about the AR-15, you're talking politics now. Let's not get into politics. All right, let's not get into emotion. Because emotion feels good, but emotion doesn't solve problems.

POLICE: Says that they've got a legit active shooter at the school. All units be advised we are under a mass casualty alert.

RAJU (voice-over): An AR-15 was one of the weapons possessed by the killer during Monday's massacre. It has been frequently used in mass shootings following the 2004 expiration of the assault weapons ban. But president Biden lacks of support from Republicans who control the House and can block legislation in the Senate. They argue such a ban is ineffective and infringes on constitutional rights.

RAJU: Why not take action to ban AR-15s in the aftermath of all these terrible shootings?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Because I believe in the second amendment, and you shouldn't -- you know, you shouldn't penalize law abiding American citizens.

RAJU (voice-over): The Senator from Tennessee, also declining to embrace further restrictions.

RAJU: We're not banning those weapons that were used and attacks like these.


REP. BILL HAGERTY (R-TN): I'm certain that politics will wave into everything, but right now, I'm not focused on the politics of the situation. I'm focused on the families.

RAJU (voice-over): Even Andy Ogles, whose district includes the Covenant School in Nashville, is a longtime supporter of access to high powered weapons.

RAJU: Why not ban AR-15s?

REP. ANDY OGLES (R-TN): Why not talk about the real issue facing this country in regards to this shooting, which would be mental health.

RAJU (voice-over): But Congress did take steps to address mental help when it passed the most ambitious gun laws in a generation just last year. Now, even GOP supporters of that law are skeptical of any more Hill action.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): At the end of the day, I don't know if there's much space to do more, but I'll certainly look and see.

RAJU (voice-over): Well, with mass shootings up sharply in the last few years, Democrats say that it's time to force a vote.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): We need to fight in Congress, and I'm prepared to conduct that fight. Others are as well.

RAJU (voice-over): It's a fight Republicans are willing to have.

RAJU: Why are you opposed to reinstating this ban.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Well, I mean, a lot of people use ARs and AKs for sporting purposes. I've fired both of those things. So, that's firearms for sporting purposes. So, but listen, let's stay focused on the issue at hand, which isn't some generic question about guns. It's what happened to these children in this school by this shooter.

RAJU: Now Senator John Thune, who's the number two Senate Republican told me that it's, quote, premature to talk about any legislative action in the aftermath of the shooting in Nashville, even in the aftermath of 130 mass shooting so far this year.

And Speaker Kevin McCarthy would not answer questions today when posed the questions by me and other reporters about whether there should be any legislative response at all. He of course, was among the most of the House Republicans, including all members of the Republican leadership who voted against the bipartisan gun safety law that went into effect last year.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NOBILO: An attorney for Adnan Syed is speaking out after a U.S. appellate court reinstated Syed's murder conviction just months after a judge vacated it. His attorney says that there is no basis for retraumatizing him. Syed had spent more than two decades behind bars for the 1999 killing of his ex-girlfriend before his release last year. CNN's Brynn Gingras has more.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The judges in the appellate court, essentially saying that hearing late last year where Syed's conviction was overturned, that hearing needs to be redone. Essentially siding with the victim's family in this case, Hae Min Lee, who was the ex girlfriend of Syed. Essentially, they said that her brother didn't have the adequate amount of time to prepare for that hearing. Was only notified about it just a few days before it happened. And because he lived in California didn't have time to actually traveled to Maryland, and attend that hearing in person, which violated his right. So that's why the appellate judges says that hearing needs to be overturned. Now they went into detail about how this doesn't mean it's double

jeopardy, essentially saying he's not being prosecuted twice for this case. Instead the same conclusions could come at the end of that hearing when it happens. His conviction could be reinstated or again could be overturned. Certainly a gamble for Syed who we have reached out to you, but haven't heard back yet.

Of course, the family of the victim here celebrating this, saying they're very pleased with the judge's decision and that we don't know yet the date of that hearing. The appellate court judges saying that they are giving 60 days for both sides to sort of figure out what happens from here.

I'm Brynn Gingras in New York, CNN.


NOBILO: An alleged $40 million bribe to Chinese officials is the focus of the latest criminal charge against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. An indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Bankman-Fried of bribing one or more Chinese officials to unfreeze more than $1 billion in lock accounts. They belong to his hedge fund Alameda Research.

Prosecutors say that once he made the payoff, the accounts were unlocked. Bankman-Fried has not yet entered a plea on that charge. He now faces a total of 13 criminal counts in connection with the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange.

Still ahead, one of Vladimir Putin's closest allies has an invitation to visit Kyiv. Find out what President Zelenskyy had to say about that. What might happen if Ukraine loses Bakhmut?

And as North Korea ramps up its missile tests, South Korea and the U.S. are showing off their fire power and the strength of their military alliance.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the drill that North Korea always reacts to. The idea of American and South Korean Marines storming a beach on the Korean Peninsula.




NOBILO: South Korea and the U.S. are demonstrating their firepower during major military exercises that struck a nerve with North Korea. We're waiting to see how Pyongyang will react. Earlier this week, state media claimed that North Korea had simulated a tactical nuclear missile launch. CNN's Paula Hancocks shows us the joint drills that are now underway.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. and South Korean presidents pledged last year to expand joint military drills, they said to counter the increasing threat from North Korea, and that's exactly what they're doing.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): A ship to shore assault, grounding of fighting force and equipment while trying to maintain the element of surprise.

HANCOCKS: This is the drill that North Korea always reacts to. The idea of American and South Korean marines storming a beach on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang sees this as a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

Now, the South Korean and American line has always been that this is defensive in nature.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): 2,500 U.S. Marines and sailors, 3,000 South Korean Marines and sailors working together on one large scale joint drill. The U.S. Landing Craft Air Cushion or LCAC, bringing to shore all that's needed for the early stages of battle.

HANCOCKS: Now, we haven't seen this level of drills in the Korean Peninsula for five years and multiple drills across the country of South Korea they're being held on land, at sea and in the air.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): We gained rare access behind the scenes of this training, flying out to the U.S. amphibious assault ship, the USS Makin Island.

On the back of North Korean missile launches and disputed claims of simulated underwater nuclear weapons tests, this is a drill that will be watched carefully in Pyongyang.

HANCOCKS: We're about 30 nautical miles from shore at this point, and this is one of the LCACs that is being loaded up right now. Ready for an amphibious landing.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is meant for rapid response to any kind of crisis -- military or humanitarian -- self sufficient and often the first to arrive in an emergency.


But with the five year gap in training due to COVID-19 and previous diplomatic efforts with North Korea, there is an element of catching up.

CAPT. TONY CHAVEZ, USS MAKIN ISLAND: We've had to start from the basics again. There's some things that we're relearning. I mean the basic just as communications between ships, between aircraft, and then a partner and ally here in this region.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): North Korean military moves, it appears, are not the main focus here.

COL. SAMUEL L. MEYER, 13TH MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT: It's in an area of the world that's significant right now, but it is routine. It has been scheduled. We've done this many times. So the fact that those things are happening around us, really our focus is just on the exercise.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Interoperability is the most used term during this drill working on smooth American-Korean maneuvers.

CAPT. AARON PADEN, OSPREY PILOT: We're used to this now. So if we have to do this for real, we already done it. We've already worked with the Ssang Yong Koreans, and we know how to operate with them.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): A U.S. return to large scale drills in a region of both allies and adversaries.

HANCOCKS: And it's not just about North Korea but also Russia. The commander of the USS Makin Island told us that during this drill, they actually had a Russian intelligence ship shadowing them at a distance of some 15 nautical miles. He called it quote, "pretty routine."

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Pohang, South Korea.


NOBILO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, to visit Ukraine. In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Zelenskyy said that he wants to engage directly with Xi. He's fresh off a visit to Moscow. He also warned that a Ukrainian defeat in Bakhmut will embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile President Zelenskyy visited the Sumy region in northern Ukraine, including a city where Russian forces shelled a kindergarten in the early days of the war. He's also traveled to areas around Bakhmut, Zaporizhia, Dnipro and Kherson in recent days.

Scott McLean joins me now for more on all of this. Scott is there any scenario in which President Xi's interests align with the Zelenskyy's here in terms of outcomes of this invasion?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think maybe. I mean, this sort of seems to be a test what President Zelenskyy said in this interview with the Associated Press of China's willingness to be a neutral broker. Which is how it's tried to present itself in this whole conflict. Though China hasn't actually called the Russian invasion of Ukraine an invasion.

So, President Zelenskyy says look, he wants to speak with President Xi. He wants him to come to Kyiv. He says that the two leaders haven't been in touch or had been in touch prior to the full-scale invasion but haven't been in touch since then. Though there has been an effort, according to Kyiv, to broker at least a call between Xi and Zelenskyy to discuss China's peace proposal. That proposal involves a ceasefire and a political settlement. Though Zelenskyy initially last week said that, look, that would only allow Russia to sort of freeze the conflict in place and then regroup stronger. NOBILO: And Zelenskyy also mentioned in this interview Bakhmut, the city that has taken on so much additional symbolic strategic significance because of the focus on it for all of the last month. What did he say?

MCLEAN: Yes, and so, a lot of outsiders are wondering why Ukraine insists on trying to hold this town that really from an outsider's perspective doesn't seem all that strategically important. But Zelenskyy said that, look, if Ukraine were to give up Bakhmut, were to withdraw, then that would only allow President Putin to sense that Ukraine is weak and, in his words, would push, push, push further into the country.

He says that he also worries that he would get pressure not only from international allies. but from within his own country to compromise with Russia and to reach some kind of negotiated settlement. Which is not what Zelenskyy wants to do at this moment in time.

We've also heard from Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister who says that look, Ukraine is not holding Bakhmut for political expediency. She insists that, look, there are good military reasons to hold this city. And they will hold it as long as there's a good reason militarily to do so. And at the moment that seems to be -- to put it very bluntly, according to the Ukrainians -- to kill as many Russian troops as possible. Because they have a huge numbers advantage on the front lines around Bakhmut, and so Ukrainians are essentially trying to wear down that numbers advantage that they have there in preparation for potentially a counterattack down the road.

Ukrainians also say that the situation is under control. In fact, they say that they shot down a Russian bomber just yesterday.

NOBILO: Scott McLean, thanks for joining us.

Taiwan's president is enroute to the U.S. for a 10-day trip across North and Central America. Before leaving President Tsai Ing-wen to hold -- and held a news conference at the airport. She says that external pressures won't stop Taiwan from moving towards international society. And that a democratic Taiwan will contribute to the well being of the world.

The president will also visit Guatemala and Belize before returning home.


The U.S. special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights is demanding information on the whereabouts of a girls' education activists arrested by the Taliban. Matiullah Wesa runs an NGO called Pen Path, which brings mobile schools and libraries to the most remote parts of Afghanistan. The UN says that he was arrested Monday in Kabul. But it's unclear why two of his brothers were reportedly taken as well.

Other prominent activists, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai are calling for Wesa's release. Still ahead. How's the weather on Jupiter? NASA has new images of our

solar system's outer planet showing how the weather is changing over time.


NOBILO: Welcome back. A look at some stories trending this hour. NASA has new images showing how the weather on Jupiter and Uranus is changing. Take a look at these. The large smog like circle hovering over the north pole of Uranus appears to be much brighter compared to eight years prior. NASA says that several storms are gathering near the circle's edge as well.

And on Jupiter, check out this image from January on the right. The planet's great red spot, which actually is a gigantic storm, is the smallest that it's ever been on record.


But overall storm activity on the planet has increased, which is visible in both images.

One of the world's most recognizable logos is getting a makeover. Pepsi unveiled the new look on Tuesday with bold black upper-case letters placed between those iconic red and blue waves. It's a bit of a throwback to the logo that many people remember from the nineties, but it's also a nod to Pepsi zero sugar line. A big part of the company's growth plan, which uses a black can and label. New branding will launch in North America this fall and will go global next year.

And Priyanka Chopra Jonas is getting candid about parts of her career for the very first time. The actress revealed Monday why she left her Bollywood life behind for Hollywood. She says that she was tired of the politics in the industry and being rejected for roles. And after arguments with other Bollywood figures, she just needed a break. She eventually got her American break when she signed a record deal in the early 2010s and went on to star in films, including the "Matrix Resurrections."

And before we go, the NHL's Nashville Predators played their first game Tuesday night since the Covenant School Shooting and the Boston Bruins paid tribute to the six victims.


ANNOUNCER: At this time, we ask that you please join the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators in a moment of silence in memory of the victims.


NOBILO: The bruins are donating $10,000 to Nashville's fund to support the victims' families. Both teams will helmet decals with the Covenant School insignia too.

I'm Bianca Nobilo. Our coverage of the Nashville school shooting will continue on EARLY START with Christine Romans.