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First Funeral for Nashville Shooting Victim; Russia Arrests American Reporter; Trump Reaches out to Capitol Hill Allies; Inflation Measure Cooled in February. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 09:30   ET



PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anglo-American jurisprudence go back to 1215 in the Magna Carta is, no one is above the law.


BEGALA: And so when the Trump administration brought the charges against Michael Cohen, that Trump Justice Department said this, I'm quoting the Trump Justice Department, Mr. Cohen acted in coordination with and at the direction of Donald Trump.

So - and Cohen went to prison, where he belongs, right? He committed a crime.

SCIUTTO: But we have short memories in Washington, so -

BEGALA: Right. So -- but - but so the system, I think, it can hold up for this. And the question of two systems of justice is going to be the center of this. So you lock up one guy because he's not powerful and rich and well connected the way Trump is -


BEGALA: But we're just going to take a pass on Mr. Trump? Again, I'd rather the cases move to the more consequential places than the New York case.


BEGALA: I'm not very interested in this.


SCIUTTO: That's not how it works, right? Individual prosecutors in each case, they make their decisions.

Sorry, just a quick thought before we go.

STEWART: Yes, just quickly. You know, from a political standpoint, we're all looking forward to 2021 (ph) and talking about real issues that real Americans care about. This is certainly not one of them. But I - I truly believe, and it appears, this will help Donald Trump in the Republican primary because he is rallying the base like never before. But this is not what general election voters want.


STEWART: And the independents and undecided voters are not going to rally behind someone with such legal jeopardy.

BEGALA: This was opening day of a very long season.

SCIUTTO: Oh goodness! There was another opening day yesterday as well.

BEGALA: There was.

SCIUTTO: More fun to watch.

SCIUTTO: Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, thanks so much to both of you.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Up next, we're going to go live to Moscow, where the Kremlin is responding to safety concerns for foreign journalists. The latest is and the U.S. fights for access to detained American reporter Evan Gershkovich.



DEAN: The first funeral for a victim of Monday's school shooting in Nashville will be held today. This as new audio of the heart-wrenching 911 calls is released.

SCIUTTO: I can barely bear to say it. Funerals for little children and this little girl. Those 911 calls provide a glimpse into the fear and desperation as that massacre unfolded.


CALLER 1: They're shooting at everything.

OPERATOR: You need to make sure that, if he comes there, you're going to have to either find a way to get out safely or fight. Do whatever is safest for you to do, OK, but try to barricade yourself in the room as best you can.

CALLER 1: Please send someone soon.

OPERATOR: How many more shots did you hear?

CALLER 1: I heard so many.

CALLER 2: It's the church right by the - the fire station, ma'am.

OPERATOR: OK. It's - so it's on this side of the fire station?

CALLER 2: Please, there's children here.


DEAN: There's children here.

CNN correspondent Carlos Suarez is in Nashville.

And, Carlos, it is hard to imagine and wrap our hands around the grief that these families and that community are experiencing today and will be for weeks and years to come. You are outside the location of the first funeral for nine-year-old Evelyn today. Tell us more.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica and Jim, good morning.

That's right, I'm outside the church where later this afternoon that service is going to take place. The pastor here tells us that this church is able to accommodate well over 1,000 people.

As you mentioned, today is going to be the first funeral. It's going to be for nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus. The obituary for this child described her as a beacon of joy to her family. It went on to say that her most prized possession was a collection of stuffed animal tigers, all of them named Tony. They described her faith as being pure and her prayers as being sincere.

On Saturday we're going to get the second funeral here in Nashville. Little nine-year-old Hallie Scruggs is going to be remembered. She's going to be laid to rest. Her father, Chad Scruggs, is elite pastor at the - at this - at the church where the school is at. And in some 911 calls that were released yesterday, you can hear Hallie's - Hallie's father, rather, telling a 911 dispatcher that he heard that there was a shooting going on inside of the school. He tells the dispatcher that he's going to go inside of the building. And the dispatcher actually tells him that he should probably wait for police to show up to the school. It does not appear from any part of that phone call that the father knew that his daughter had been shot.

And then on Saturday, we're also going to get a funeral service for 61-year-old Cynthia Peak. She was a beloved substitute teacher.

Those are going to be the first three funeral services for the three people that died. The other three victims in this, we're told, are going to be laid to rest over the coming days, on Sunday, Monday and then into Wednesday.

Jim and Jessica.

SCIUTTO: Just such a senseless, senseless loss of life.

Carlos Suarez, thanks so much.

Well, this morning, the Kremlin says that accredited foreign journalists are safe in Russia. Those remarks come as U.S. officials right now expressed deep concern over the arrest of the American journalists, who, by the way, was credentialed as well, Evan Gershkovich.

DEAN: Russian authorities have accused the 31-year-old reporter of espionage. He's pleaded not guilty.

CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

Matthew, as of yesterday this had been marked top secret, a top secret case, which means we weren't going to get a lot of details about it. What more are you learning today, though?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, that that top secret designation is still very much in force, and so we're not getting any actual details from the Russian authorities about, you know, the status of Evan Gershkovich, you know, where he's being held, though it's believed that he's being held in a big jail complex in the center of Moscow called the Lefortovo Prison. That's where these sensitive kinds of prisoners tend to be held.

We are in touch with U.S. diplomats in Moscow. They're saying that they've been trying to get consular access to Mr. Gershkovich but so far they've not been successful in doing that. They have -- and it's partly because of that security around him that they haven't been able to actually have face to face meetings with this U.S. citizen, is 31- year-old journalists accused of espionage so far.

You referred there to the Kremlin about how they're giving assurances in this very bleak time. That accredited journalists can continue to operate in Russia. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, saying that earlier today on a conference call to journalists around - you know, around the country but in the capital here.

But, of course, the arrest of Evan Gershkovich does inevitably send a chilling effect through the press corps here. And so, obviously, there are a lot of concern - there's a lot of concern in Moscow right now amongst the press corps, you know, which I'm a member as well, about what we should do about, you know, what limits this places on us as journalists.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Understandable concerns for sure.

Please take care, Matthew Chance, and your team. Thanks so much.

Coming up next, the Republican lawmakers Donald Trump called last night. How they're now defending him and the chances we could soon see House lawmakers issue a subpoena to the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.



DEAN: Former President Trump has been busy calling key allies and gathering support after news of his indictment dropped yesterday. He's vowing to fight the Manhattan DA's charges, and he wants his party, of course, Jim, to rally behind him.

SCIUTTO: Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, says that he was one of the folks on Trump's call list and tells us the former president sounded, quote, fierce and focused.

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox has been following all of this.

Lauren, I wonder who was on that call list? What was the message?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it was just minutes before Republican members of the House of Representatives leapt, really, to Donald Trump's defense and you started to see these statements rolling out. We know that, you know, Donald Trump was in touch with some House Republicans, like you mentioned, Matt Gaetz. We know also that this comes as there already was an investigation into Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA, by key chairman. That is something that lawmakers have been marching toward. They are trying to get more information about that investigation. So, that's one component of this.

I would note that there's a massive split screen, however, between Republicans in the House of Representatives and their leadership, and what we are seeing from Senate leadership on the Republican side. We haven't seen a statement from Mitch McConnell or from John Thune.

Also, while there are some rank and file members who are coming to Trump's defense, there are fewer of them.

One of them, however, is Senator Lindsey Graham, of fierce defender of the former president. Here's what he had to say.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is legal voodoo. You got a misdemeanor that's been made of felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever been prosecuted under this theory, except for Donald J. Trump. This case will fold like a cheap suit under legal scrutiny.

How does this end, Sean? Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That's how this wins.


FOX: And you can expect more forceful Republican responses when lawmakers return, but they are gone now for a two-week recess. Obviously, that is going to change the dynamics up here a little bit on Capitol Hill given the fact that this is all going to transpire next week, and lawmakers aren't going to be in Washington to react to it.

Jim. Jessica.

DEAN: Yes. And, Lauren, you make such a good point, it tells us all a lot that we have heard nothing so far from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That tells us a lot,

All right, Lauren Fox, for us on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. And we have brand new data this morning on what's driving inflation. What the Fed's favorite inflation gauge is telling us about the state of the economy. That's next.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, the Fed's favorite inflation gauge cooled back down last month after an unexpected uptick in January. Inflation now standing at about 5 percent.

DEAN: CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here.

Christine, what do these numbers tell you?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Some welcome cooling. Remember it was last month's number, this PCE, that really caused a freakout and caused people to think the Fed might have to keep rates higher for longer. And then the banks showed sign of stress because of all of these rate hikes. So, the Fed is in a really uncomfortable position here.

I think this shows that all of that Fed medicine may be starting to work. Five percent is the overall number, down from a revised 5.3 percent in January. And month to month, price gains were about half what they were in January. So, it's cooling. This is still too high, but cooling. And I'd like to see another couple of months of this. But when you look at a line chart, Jim - Jim knows that I love to say the trend is your friend, and the trend here clearly does show some peeking there after that freak out last month, you guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes. all right, so you often look to the markets to see how they're receiving this news. The markets are up today.


SCIUTTO: They don't seem to be frazzled by the news of a Trump indictment. Tell us what -- what you're hearing.

ROMANS: So, the most important factor for the markets today was that PCE number that I just showed you. There are three stocks that are related to the Trump world that have all jumped this morning. Those stocks are up simply because when the president -- former president is in the news they tend to go up, and then when the spotlight's off him they tend to go back down. So those aren't really representative for the overall stock market.

Jim and Jessica, where I think a Trump indictment could become something that overall investors care about is if somehow the politics become toxic and you have House Republicans, at the urging of the former president who don't want to raise the debt ceiling without a lot of conditions.


ROMANS: And we have a debt ceiling problem. That is where the Trump indictment could -

SCIUTTO: That's great (ph).

ROMANS: Could -- so you have to kind of extrapolate a little bit and kind of look way ahead there, but it's not really that far in the future, the debt ceiling drama.



ROMANS: And so it's something for investors to keep in mind.


SCIUTTO: Great point.

Christine Romans, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, we return to our top story, go live outside the New York courthouse where we're learning more about just how the Manhattan DA had wanted Trump actually to surrender at the court today. The security considerations underway as the former president faces indictment. That's coming up.


DEAN: Top of the hour on this Friday. Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Jessica Dean.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

New this morning, and it is quite a morning, former President Donald Trump will not, he says, accept a plea deal. This after Trump was indicted on multiple charges by a New York grand jury.


That refusal to accept a plea deal, according to his lawyer, Joe Tacopina.

Trump is the first former U.S. president to face a criminal indictment. It's never happened before.