Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Today's Funeral for Evelyn Dieckhaus, a Victim of Nashville School Shooting; Tomorrow's Funeral Will Be Held for Two More Victims of Nashville School Shooting; Arrest of An American Journalist in Russia has White House "Deeply Concerned"; Kremlin: Foreign Journalists with Proper Credentials may Continue Their Work in Russia; Interview with Committee to Protect Journalists President Jodie Ginsberg; In Preparation for Trump's Court Appearance, NYPD is Stepping Up Security; Biden and First Lady Will Visit the Wreckage of the Fatal Tornado in Mississippi; Biden Will Speak About Repairing Damage Caused by Deadly Storms; Pope Francis Will Attend The Service on Palm Sunday. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: There's nothing I hate more than this job than to announce the funeral for a child on this broadcast, but we are doing that again. The first funeral for a victim of Monday's school shooting in Nashville will be held today. This, as we're hearing new audio that communicates just how frightful those circumstances were, as a gunman walked through that school. Those 9-1- 1 provided glimpse into the fear, the desperation as the massacre unfolded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I thought was a man holding an assault rifle shooting through the door. He's currently in the second grade hallway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second grade hallway.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is he a white man.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Camouflage, he had a vest on and an assault rifle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I here another shot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hearing more shots.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're upstairs by the art room hallway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're upstairs by what hallway?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's in the art room.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just please hurry, I'm hearing shots.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're shooting at everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 as you can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please send someone soon.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can just hear the fear in their voice. The voices -- some of them shaking. The voice is shaking.


DEAN: Oh, that's hard to listen to. CNN Correspondent Carlos Suarez is in Nashville. And Carlos, it is nearly impossible to imagine and understand the grief that these families and that community are experiencing. You are outside where that first funeral for nine-year- old Evelyn Dieckhaus will be held today. Tell us more.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica and Jim it is shaping up to be yet another emotional day for the City of Nashville, especially for these family members, their friends and their loved ones. The pastor at the church where the service is going to take place tells me that they can accommodate well over 1,000 people when that service gets underway this afternoon. As you all mentioned the first funeral service is going to be for nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus.

Overnight, an obituary for her was released. And it reads, in part, "A constant beacon of joy to her family. She was a radiant, sparkly soul with an ever-present twinkle in her eye." The obituary notes how her most prized possession was her collection of stuffed animals. Tigers, we're told, and that she named all of them Tony.

On Saturday, were also expected is set to -- a funeral service, rather, is set to take place for a nine-year-old, Hallie Scruggs. And then on Saturday, we're also going to be getting another funeral service for 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, she is that beloved substitute teacher who died. The remaining three funeral services will take place on Sunday and then later on next week. Jim and Jessica.

SCIUTTO: Goodness those poor families and, of course, those poor little girls, heartbreaking to see. Carlos Suarez, thanks so much. Well, now to another story we are following overseas and those other questions sparking global concerns and outrage this morning. What will happen next with American journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia? And are other U.S. journalist still working there safe?

DEAN: The Kremlin claims they are, but like Jim just said, there is deep concern as Gershkovich, a 31-year-old "Wall Street Journal" reporter faces now espionage charges. President Biden, this morning, making a direct plea to Russia.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message for Russia right now as they're detaining --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To Russia, as they're detaining this "Wall Street Journal" reporter.

BIDEN: let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to expel Russian diplomats or journalists?

BIDEN: That's not the plan right now.


DEAN: And joining us now is Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jodie, thanks so much for being here. You know -- look, the Kremlin says that foreign journalists are safe there. Do you believe that's the reality?

I don't know if Jodie can hear us.

SCIUTTO: Jodie, do you hear us OK?

We might have to fix that. We're going to fix that and bring back Jodie to discuss the case just after this break.



SCIUTTO: Back now to the American journalists detained in Russia, Evan Gershkovich. One organization following this closely, of course, the Committee to Protect Journalists. We're joined now by their president, Jodie Ginsberg.

Jodie, good to have you on. You hear me OK now?


SCIUTTO: OK. Great Russia's track record here on cases like this is reprehensible. It has a history of manufacturing charges, trumping them up. Based on what we know here, is Gershkovich a hostage? Is this a deliberate Russian operation in effect to create a bargaining chip?

GINSBERG: It's really difficult to say at this stage.


What we can say is it's a really serious escalation in the kinds of attacks that we've seen over the past year against journalists and against independent reporting in Russia since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And indeed, of course of the suppression of journalists and journalism that we have seen under Vladimir Putin for many years.

DEAN: And Jodie, I -- the Kremlin has said that foreign journalists can keep working there, that they're safe. Do you believe that to be true?

GINSBERG: We have very little confidence that that's the case. As we see a reporter who is a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", whom the journal have come out very strongly in defense of has been detained on spying charges. And this is a classic trope of authoritarian regimes is to use the national security laws. To go after journalists who are doing the work of journalism, which is to expose the wrongdoing of governments, to exposing that governments would rather keep hidden from us.

DEAN: Uh-huh.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and you're right. I mean, it's a pattern we've seen from other authoritarian regimes, which is in China, in Iran. Question now about what's best to do now? Of course, "The Wall Street Journal", his family, his colleagues want to get him home. What is the most hopeful path for Gershkovich? Is it a prisoner exchange? What is the best path forward?

GINSBERG: Well, we need immediately to see a couple of things. So, as of yesterday, Gershkovich had had no access to any consular support from the U.S., consular services had not been able to have any access to the lawyer for whom -- that "The Wall Street Journal" had provided for him. So, those are really important.

It's really important that we have due process, that we have transparency. And we know that we've heard from both the White House and State Department that they're working very closely on this. So, hopefully this will be resolved safely. This is the first American journalist arrested on espionage charges since the cold war, since 1986. In that instance, that was resolved within three weeks, and it did result in a effectively a swap, but it's very difficult to say at this stage.

DEAN: Yes, you're right. And that really does put it into perspective. The first American journalists arrested in Russia for doing their work since the cold war. Jodie Ginsberg, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

GINSBERG: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: All 35,000 NYPD officers are now preparing to mobilize ahead of Former President Trump's surrender to the court next week. CNN's Brynn Gingras, she's been following this. She joins us now from outside that Manhattan courthouse where that's going to take place on Tuesday.

Brynn, I mean that, you know, thousands of officers preparing to mobilize, that's a remarkable reaction from the NYPD. What do we know this morning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Jim. It's a pretty remarkable scene down here at the courthouse, of course, where we expect all of this to happen on Tuesday. Let me, kind of, point over to here, where the entrance to the district attorney's offices. That's actually the district attorney, Alvin Braggs, car right there. He arrived this morning under heavy security. And then of course, there are police all around this area, in addition to barricades.

We know that every member of the NYPD, doesn't matter the rank or the position, they are in uniform today. As you mentioned Jim, ahead of a possible mobilization reaction to anything that might come up. Of course, we're also learning inside the courtroom, actually on the floor over this arraignment is likely to happen, it's pretty much shut down. We actually -- a colleague of mine can't really loiter, they're being told. They are not allowed on that floor and all. So, there's security happening inside as well.

And of course, so much happening behind the scenes that we don't even know about, right. The intelligence community, keeping an eye on any chatter through social media chatrooms, making sure there is no mobilization of any groups coming to New York City. But of course, as I said, NYPD, others will be at the ready should anything sort of pop up. That's why everybody is in uniform today.

Now, again all eyes on Tuesday when this arraignment is expected to happen. My colleague, John Miller, reporting that there are conversations going on today between the secret service, all the agencies on the ground here, NYPD, the court martials about how that is going to look. What's the motorcade of the former president going to look like to get to this building? What's the booking going to be looking like?

And then the actual arraignment, from a security standpoint, they're actually, according to John Miller, they are going to have a dry -- a run through of that and what that will look like today. So again, a lot of preparations at this moment, no credible threats. But again, these entire police force and others at the ready should anything pop up guys.

DEAN: Such an extraordinary situation. All right. Brynn Gingras for us, thanks so much. And let's take a look now, here are live pictures as Air Force One has landed in Jackson, Mississippi, as President Biden visits the tornado ravaged state.


You'll remember earlier this week they endured historic damage in that state. This morning, President Biden, on his way out of the White House, refusing to comment on the Trump indictment. He was asked several times, the reporters, he said, no comment. We know he will travel from Jackson to Rolling Fork, Mississippi this afternoon.

SCIUTTO: CNN White House Reporter Priscilla Alvarez is there traveling with the president. Priscilla, what do we know? What's his intention on this visit?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, he intends to reaffirm the federal government's commitment to providing resources to this region last weekend when those tornadoes tore through this community. He called those images, "Heartbreaking". And really, it is hard to overstate the devastation that they have endured here. If you look behind me, this was a dog clinic, but you wouldn't be able to tell followed by a home and a funeral home, but now it is all debris.

So, President Biden will announce that the federal government will cover the full cost of the state emergency measures. That includes, for example, recovering debris, shelter operations, over time for first responders. FEMA will also be opening disaster recovery centers. And while he's here, he will be getting a briefing from state and local officials.

Of course, this is the damage that President Biden will be assessing as he arrives to this community. But of course, Jim and Jessica, this all comes against the backdrop of that historic indictment of Former President Donald Trump. As you mentioned earlier, President Biden declined to comment on it really following the strategy of his presidency, which has been tonight get engaged in ongoing legal cases. And also, to stay focused on the issues that have a tangible effect on Americans.

So, while he is expected to get questions on this throughout the day, the focus for the president and the White House will be the damage here in Rolling Fork, Mississippi and the federal resources that they can provide moving forward. Jim, Jessica.

SCIUTTO: Priscilla Alvarez there in Mississippi. Gosh, that destruction just mind-boggling. Thanks so much.

Well, some good news, a major improvement for Pope Francis today, right in time for the beginning of holy week. The Vatican has announced that not only is the pope expected to be released from the hospital tomorrow, he will take part in the Palm Sunday mass coming up.

DEAN: CNN Vatican Correspondent Delia Gallagher is joining us now from Rome. And Delia, this is apparently a marked improvement. What helped him and do we expect to hear from him? Will he speak on Sunday?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well listen, it is all good news from here. The Vatican says, the pope had another restful night. He even managed to have pizza for dinner last night with the medical staff here at the hospital, and they're expecting him to be discharged tomorrow. Very importantly, they are saying he will be present for the Palm Sunday mass this Sunday, that was thrown into doubt by this hospital visit. Now, whether or not he will say the mass, he generally doesn't, he will probably sit there, but he will speak. So, we will get to hear from him at that mass which will be important, as you mentioned, because we'll be able to see him publicly. We'll be able to hear him speak. And that mass is the first of several events that happened throughout the coming week leading up to Easter.

So, it's a very busy time for the pope. But of course, look, he is 86 years old. He's just getting over bronchitis. He had antibiotics intravenously during this hospital stay. It's obviously a delicate moment for him on top of his mobility issues, which we'd already been monitoring in which were causing him a lot of pain. You can see it in his face.

So, you know, I think it is going to be a time where he's going to have to pull back. He's got a trip to Hungary scheduled at the end of April. So, we will be watching this week to see what events he does participate in and the extent to which he participates. But certainly, on Sunday, it will be important to hear from him and I think we can certainly expect that on Sunday. Jim, Jessica.

DEAN: Yes, no doubt about it. And he's suffering from sciatica for years which, of course, Delia as you mentioned can be so painful. We're wishing him the best. Thanks so much for that update. And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Today is the last day of our show as you've come to know it. Starting next week, there will be a new team and new show at 9:00 a.m., and I'll be moving to the afternoons with a new team and new show at 1:00 p.m. But before I go, I want to thank the wonderful, hardworking, warm and sometimes very funny team I've been lucky to work with these last four and a half years.

We are a big group at "CNN Newsroom", across three cities, Washington, New York and Atlanta. We get up real early, hours before the show to make sure you get the best news we can deliver. We've done it through a pandemic, through war in Europe, a contentious election, and even a bomb threat right in the middle of our newscast.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN THIS MORNING CO-ANCHOR: You're outside safely. All of our CNN colleagues that we know of are outside right now. Everyone is safe as we can see. We do have some reporting. Jim, was just able to confirm. I believe, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Strategic response group. They are the team that responds to situations like this. They're very quick. They get there within minutes or second, threats like this may be tied to terrorism. They say that the device is inside the CNN building.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: I am grateful to everyone. I've also been lucky to share the anchor desk with the very best of journalists and friends, Erica Hill, Bianna Golodryga and, of course for the bulk of the last several years, Poppy Harlow. They're all just so good at their jobs. I've been privileged to work with them.


And most importantly, they're good human beings, and that means a lot. Thank you, team. Thank you at home for joining us. And I'll see you in the afternoons.

DEAN: It's been really fun to watch. Thank you for letting me be kind of a temporary passenger on this last week. But, Jim, you guys have an incredible team that worked really, really hard and really are the best among us, and it's been great to watch you and your co-hosts over the years. So, thanks for letting me be a small part of it. And we're excited for the new show.

SCIUTTO: It's been great to have you --

DEAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- this week. Great to mark the last day, Jessica Dean. I'm sure we'll be working together some more.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Thanks so much for being here today. I'm Jessica Dean.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour with Amara Walker" will start right after a quick break.