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Historic Indictment; Turkey Approves Finland's NATO Bid; American Reporter Accused Of Spying; Ukraine Hints At Counteroffensive As Early As Next Month; Ukraine Boycotts Qualifying Events With Russian Athletes; Trump Loyalists In Congress Condemn Indictment; Pope Improving, Could Leave Hospital Within Next Few Days; Nine U.S. Soldiers Dead After Choppers Crash During Training. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN Newsroom. For the first time ever, a former US president is facing criminal charges as Donald Trump is indicted by a New York grand jury. How it could impact the 2024 race for the White House.

An American reporter is arrested and accused of spying in Russia, what Moscow claims he was doing and how the US is responding.

And Pope Francis is said to be responding well to treatment for a respiratory infection when the Vatican says he could be released from the hospital.

Sources tell CNN Donald Trump will appear in a New York courtroom on Tuesday after a grand jury voted to indict the former president. It is the first time in history that a current or former US president has faced criminal charges. Sources telling CNN the indictment includes more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

The grand jury has been hearing evidence about hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Payments Trump denied knowing about. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office says it has contacted Trump's legal team to coordinate his surrender.

Trump calls the indictment a witch hunt that will backfire massively on President Joe Biden. He posted on True Social, "This is an attack on our country, the likes of which has never been seen before. It is likewise a continuing attack on our once free and fair elections. The USA is now a third world nation," he went on, "a nation in serious decline. So sad."

Another person who disagrees with the indictment is Donald Trump's former Vice President Mike Pence. He spoke exclusively with CNN's Wolf Blitzer just a few hours ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I think the unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage. And it appears to millions of Americans to be nothing more than a political prosecution that's driven by a prosecutor who literally ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president. The message that this sends to the wider world is a terrible message about the American justice system.


HOLMES: All right. Let's go live now to Washington and CNN's Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, good to see you. A historic day and one which caught many off guard. So how did it all unfold? What happens next?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Michael, there had been a few weeks recently of this question of will they bring a case in New York after they have been investigating this particular set of issues around hush money, payments, the Trump business for seven years now, will they or won't they charge him. And ultimately the grand jury, the prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, they did charge the former president of the United States, the first president to ever face a criminal charge like this.

At the end of the day today, we understand that is when the grand jury, a group of anonymous citizens of New York, approved this indictment after hearing the evidence that prosecutors brought into them. They even heard from a final witness today for about 30 minutes before approving that indictment.

But right now -- now we wait to see a little bit more. We know that Donald Trump has been charged. We know that he will be traveling to New York or is expected to travel to New York in the coming days to face his charges. He's made it quite clear he's going to be fighting them, that he's very likely to plead not guilty when he appears in court for the first time on Tuesday.

We also know that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office wants him treated like any defendant coming through the court process. He needs to appear in person. He needs to be fingerprinted and photographed. He needs to appear before the judge, how he will be released and how he will exist awaiting his trial. All of that will be considered, discussed in court.


But one of the things here that is very crucial to watch for is exactly what is being charged. We did understand through our reporting that there are more than 30 charges, and we don't know exactly what they are yet. Donald Trump himself doesn't know what they are yet, but they appear to relate largely to his business empire.

HOLMES: And, Katelyn, this is just one of Trump's legal issues, of course. Remind us about the other ones that are looming. POLANTZ: Michael, there are several, and they are all very, very serious. This is the case that has been investigated the longest. It dates back to 2016. But there are essentially three other serious criminal investigations that he is facing, one out of the state of Georgia, Fulton County, Georgia, the area around Atlanta, that is investigating the actions in that state after the election in 2020 leading up to January 6, where he was trying to overturn the popular vote there.

There are also two federal criminal investigations that are coming out of the Washington, DC Federal Courthouse. Those are various serious investigations as well. One also around January 6 conducted by a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, and also an investigation into Donald Trump's actions after he left the presidency. Very recent actions related to classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago. And the fact that they weren't handed over back to the federal government after he left office as they needed to be.

We've seen a lot of activity in all of these investigations in recent weeks and months. We know that there are charges being considered out of Georgia, and we know there are two grand juries, at least in DC, that are very active looking at the potential federal criminal charges he could face. And so, Donald Trump has a lot of things potentially coming down the pike for him that he is managing legally not only these charges in New York, but he's also trying to fend off potential criminal indictments in other jurisdictions.

HOLMES: All right. Katelyn, thank you. Katelyn Polantz there in Washington for us.

Now, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is central to the Trump indictment. He admits paying Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen pled guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations, and served time in prison. He says now it is time for Trump to face the music.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: This isn't about vindication. This is about accountability. This is about the adage that no one is above the law. This is also about that whatever laws that sent me to prison should send him to prison. We're all supposed to be looked at in the eyes of the law, the same, right? Lady Justice wears the blindfold. It's not supposed to matter about your race, religion, creed, color, whether you're a former president or not. If you break the law, you have to be held accountable.


HOLMES: Joining me now from Los Angeles, civil rights attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin. Thanks for being with us.

It's important to say, we don't even know what these charges entail, the detail of the indictment. This wouldn't happen, would it, without evidence good enough to convince a grand jury? What's your read? AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You're right, Michael. The indictment is under seal. We may not know what the indictment actually contains until Donald Trump appears in that New York courthouse on Tuesday, which is what we're being told is the day that he's actually going to show up for an arraignment. But we do know that this district attorney in Manhattan has been investigating these hush money payments that were made to Stormy Daniels just days or weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

So, in all likelihood, this indictment is related to those payments. And it's not just $130,000 that was paid to Michael Cohen -- according to the indictment against Michael Cohen. He was paid over $400,000 from the Trump Organization. $130,000 of it was the money reimbursing him for what he paid to Stormy Daniels. It was also money for the taxes that he owed on that $130,000. And he received some kind of bonus from the Trump Organization for making that transaction, that deal with Stormy Daniels. So it's important to note that the amount at stake in terms of what may be a part of this indictment is more than $130,000.

HOLMES: And for the record, how good does the evidence have to be for a grand jury to be convinced enough to indict? What is the burden of proof?

MARTIN: It's not the same burden of proof that is applicable in a criminal trial where the standard is much higher, where for a conviction to happen, you have to find that the evidence is beyond reasonable doubt. Much lower standard in a grand jury just has to be some level of probable cause. There's a joke in the legal community that a good prosecutor can't indict a ham sandwich.


So the evidence presented to the grand jury doesn't have to rise to the level that it would have to rise to in order to see a conviction in this case.

HOLMES: What do you think Trump's defense team might do as a strategy? What legal moves might they make?

MARTIN: I think, Michael, we're going to see lots of motions being filed. We know Donald Trump's playbook whenever he faces any kind of legal jeopardy, he employs his attorneys to use every legal and sometimes methods that really stretch the concept of legal to get cases dismissed. So we can look for a flurry of motions to be filed by the defense team claiming that there is no basis for these charges and that they should be dismissed.

HOLMES: I keep thinking, what will it look like arresting a former president of the United States. You know, having his rights read to him, reading, getting a mug shot, fingerprints. I imagine it will be a humbling experience for a man accustomed to being so fully in control of everything around him.

MARTIN: You would think so, Michael, but what we already know about Donald Trump is that he's fundraising. He's playing the role of martyr, a victim, and he's using this indictment as an opportunity to actually raise money to send emails out to his base.

So I don't think we're going to see a shrinking violence or a man that's been humbled in that courtroom. I think he's going to remain defiant. I think he's going to use this as an opportunity to try to rally his base and again to try to bolster his race. He's running for president in 2024, and he has said under no circumstances will he cease his efforts to try to become the president yet for a second term. So I think we're going to see a very defiant Donald Trump.

HOLMES: Then, you know -- and I guess this is a legal case. But politically speaking, a lot of people say this is the weakest of the cases against him. And it might not be the smartest one to bring first. What are the chances of charges, do you think, from what of the other cases, Georgia in particular, January 6 as well? Could this be the first in a string of charges in the months ahead?

MARTIN: I think absolutely, this could be the first amongst other cases that will be filed against Donald Trump. I don't agree with the assessment that this is the weakest case. People are focused on the payment and because it involves adult film star. But we have to keep in mind what Donald Trump and his team did. He was trying to suppress this information about his affair with Stormy Daniels, and this was just weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Had that information come out that might have changed the outcome of that election.

So in the way that that Georgia case is about interfering with the 2020 election, I think we need to think of this case as a more serious case that also is about interfering with the 2016 presidential election, because had this information come out. Donald Trump may have never been the president of the United States.

HOLMES: Always great to have you on, Areva Martin. I know you've got a flight to catch there in Los Angeles. Appreciate the time. Thanks.

MARTIN: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. For the first time since the Cold War, an American journalist is in Russian custody on spying charges. The allegation and reaction from the US. Also still to come on the program, after months of delays and negotiations, all 30 NATO countries have ratified the newest member of the alliance, and it's right on Russia's doorstep. We'll have details when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back. Turkey has approved Finland's bid to join NATO after months of delay. The Turkish parliament voting unanimously in favor of Finland's membership on Thursday, clearing the last hurdle for Helsinki. The vote fulfills a promise from Turkey's president to not oppose Finland's entry into the alliance.

Turkey was the last of 30 countries to ratify Finland's membership. Sweden has also applied to join the block, but Turkey and Hungary remain opposed to Sweden joining. Both Sweden and Finland ended decades of nonalignment after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Finland's president responding, saying, "I want to thank every NATO member for their trust and support. Finland will be a strong and capable ally committed to the security of the alliance." NATO's secretary general writing, "I welcome the vote of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to complete the ratification of Finland's accession. This will make the whole NATO family stronger and safer."

Another American is in Russian custody right now. This time a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal who was based in Moscow. Evan Gershkovich is accused of spying Russia's main security service. The FSB says he was trying to obtain state secrets. He was taken into custody in Yekaterinburg, and a Russian court says he'll be detained until late May. The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp and Dow Jones, which said it is working around the clock to secure Gershkovich's release.

The Dow Jones chief executive calling the arrest an extremely disturbing development and said, we also vehemently deny the claims made by Russian officials. The White House also denouncing the arrest.


KARINE KEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government's continued targeting and repression of journalists.


HOLMES: Now, this arrest ratchets up already high tensions between Russia and the US. CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): News of the arrest was briefed on Russian state television. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal was arrested on suspicion of espionage for the United States, the news anchor announces. Evan Gershkovich, he reads, now faces 20 years in prison.

It was in the Russian city Of Yekaterinburg, 1,100 miles from Moscow, that Russia's Federal Security Service. The former KGB say they terminated the illegal activity of the accredited journalist. They claim he was on a mission from America to accumulate classified evidence on Russia's military industrial complex.

At a brief court appearance in Moscow, the case was designated top secret, and the 31-year-old journalist was remanded in custody for nearly two months. A lawyer trying to represent Gershkovich says he was excluded from the proceedings.

DANIIL BERMAN, LAWYER (through translation): I don't know how long it took, three or 15 minutes, and that's it. After that, I assume Evan has already been taken away from here. We don't know anything.

CHANCE (voice-over): The arrest comes against the backdrop of appalling US-Russia relations, with Washington leading international support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. There's already one US citizen jailed in Russia too for espionage. Paul Whelan detained in 2018, serving a 16-year sentence.

And it's been just a few months Brittney Griner imprisoned in Moscow on contentious drug charges, was swapped for notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout, held for years in US jail. The Russian Foreign Ministry says there's no question of another prisoner swap at this time.


The Wall Street Journal says it vehemently denies the allegations against their reporter, and say they're seeking his immediate release. But Russian official are doubling down.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translation): Under the cover of journalism, this person was involved in a completely different activity. There are lots of reports that he had accreditation therefore he's a journalist. No, no, no. This is what he claims to be.

CHANCE (voice-over): It does not bode well for a case threatening to plunge US-Russian relations to new debts and to ruin the life of this young American reporter. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: The US is moving to disrupt an alleged arms deal between Russia and North Korea, which is reportedly about to go through. The US says North Korea wants to transfer about two dozen types of weapons to Moscow in return for commercial planes and raw materials. On Thursday, Washington said it slapped sanctions on a Slovakian arms dealer who served as the middleman in the deal.

The US says Russia is desperate for more weapons after losing about 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment in Ukraine. But the White House says it will work to prevent Moscow from getting it.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We're going to continue to identify, expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from North Korea or from any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine.


HOLMES: On the front lines, Ukraine says there are no reports of casualties after a new barrage of rocket strikes on Zaporizhzhia. Officials said a short time ago that multiple rockets hit the city, causing a fire and damage to residential buildings. First responders are currently on the scene. To the East, officials say Ukrainians repelled nearly 50 ground attacks across the Donetsk Region on Thursday, but there were far fewer air and missile strikes than usual. In Bakhmut, a local Ukrainian unit says Russian troops were pushed farther away from a key access road, but that road is still under Russian fire.

And to the Northeast, Ukraine says the city of Kharkiv was hit with at least six missiles fired from Russia Thursday night.

Mick Ryan is a retired major general in the Australian Army and the author of "War Transformed: The Future of 21st Century Great Power, Competition and Conflict." He joins me now from Washington. Always a pleasure, Mick.

You wrote a fascinating Twitter thread about what a Ukrainian offensive might look like, a re-ceasing of initiative, if you like. What do you think the priorities, the aims of that offensive will likely be?

MICK RYAN, RETIRED AUSTRALIAN ARMY: Well g'day, Michael? Well, first and foremost, Ukrainians need to take back territory. It's really important for them. The Russians still occupy 20% of their country. But they also need to greatly weaken the Russian army so it can't undertake any further advances. There's also a very important political imperative both in Ukraine, but also internationally, where the Ukrainians can demonstrate that they can use all this international equipment they've been given to take back large parts of their country and sustain international support.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. And to that very point, how have the dynamics changed over the winter months in terms of each side's capabilities to advance as the weather changes?

RYAN: Well, I think the Russians, over the last few months, the capability of their weapons and their equipment has gone down. They're starting to withdraw T50, Type 5, T54s out of stores where the Ukrainian equipment with the Leopard 2 tanks, the American Bradleys, and other equipment has improved. So there's a greater asymmetry in the quality equipment between the Ukrainians and Russians than there ever has been.

HOLMES: You've talked about, and you wrote about this in your Twitter thread, the importance of purpose in war. How are you seeing that play out right now? And how vital is it in how things play out in the months to come?

RYAN: Well, certainly one of the great differences between the Russians and Ukrainians in this war has been this sense of purpose. The Russian advances just haven't had that sense of purpose that the Ukrainians have had. The Ukrainians are under an existential threat. The entire Ukrainian community, as well as their army have stood up and fought very hard to resist the Russians.

That's going to be extraordinarily important for the Ukrainians in the months ahead because there'll be some difficult fighting through Russian defenses in both the south and the east of the country in the months ahead.


HOLMES: Yes. I want to -- speaking of the east of the country, when it comes to the battle for Bakhmut. Ukrainian officials have estimated, I think, that for every one of their soldiers lost, Russia has lost seven. It is a grinding stalemate. But is that stalemate a victory of sorts for Ukraine, given the resources Russia has thrown into that particular fight?

RYAN: Well, it's certainly helped them to distract the Russians from reinforcing other parts of the Russian offensive, especially to the north around Crimea or to the south around Avdiivka. So whether a victory is the right term or not, certainly the Ukrainians sniff that the Russians were fixated on Bakhmut, and I think they've leveraged that Russian fixation to distract them while the Ukrainians prepare for their own offenses.

HOLMES: It's a great point. I mean, the Russians are fixated on Bakhmut, why? Why is Bakhmut such a focus for Russia, given it's not of major, major strategic significance? Is it because Vladimir Putin is just desperate for a win, any win?

RYAN: I think both leaders have invested political capital in it. We've seen the Ukrainian president visit there at least twice. So it is a political objective now, but also for the Russian army. I think they want to show Wagner that it's the Russian army that will capture the place, not Wagner.

So there's an institutional imperative here from the Russian army, but also a political one from the Russians to show some kind of victory in the new year to the Russian people.

HOLMES: Retired Major General Mick Ryan, always great to get your analysis, Mick. Thanks so much. Follow Mick on Twitter. You'll get the latest.

RYAN: Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: Ukraine has decided, meanwhile, to boycott Olympic qualifying events in which Russian athletes are competing ahead of the games next year in Paris. That's after the head of the International Olympic Committee rolled out new guidelines that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag. When some countries criticized the committee for allowing Russians and Belarusians to participate, the IOC President lashed out.


THOMAS BACH, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: It is deplorable to see that some governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic movement and of all stakeholders, nor the autonomy of sport, which they are praising and requesting from other countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: A Ukrainian minister said the decision to boycott the qualifiers was not easy and that he knows it means some Ukrainian athletes will miss their chance to compete.

Much more on the historic indictment of Donald Trump coming up after the break. Just ahead, you'll hear what Trump's Republican allies are saying in his defense.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Former U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to surrender next Tuesday in New York City after he was indicted on what sources say more than 30 counts related to business fraud. A few dozen supporters gathered outside Trump's Florida home after the indictment was handed down late on Thursday. Details of the charges remain sealed. At the heart of the matter though is $130,000 in hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 just days before the presidential election. Trump has denied knowing anything about the payment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says prosecutors have been in contact with Trump's lawyers to arrange for his voluntary surrender. Trump firing off this response to the indictment quote, the Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession to try to get Trump but now they've done the unthinkable indicting a completely innocent person. He goes on, never before in our nation's history has been done ever.

Trump's allies in Congress have been rushing to his defense, here's just a sample. U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accusing District Attorney Alvin Bragg of trying to interfere with next year's presidential election and of weaponizing the Justice Department to go after Trump. It's a theme repeated by Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, who called the indictment a sham. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham echoing those same talking points to "Fox News." Have a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is legal voodoo. You got a misdemeanor that's been made a felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever been prosecuted under this theory except for Donald J. Trump. This case will fall like a cheap suit under legal scrutiny. Give the president some money to fight this bull -- this is going to destroy America. We're going to fight back at the ballot box. We're not going to give in. How does this end, Shawn, Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That's how this wins.


HOLMES: CNN's Alayna Treene joins me now live from Washington. Good to see you. By all accounts Team Trump was blindsided by this news. What about that and what's been the reaction in Trump world?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, they were blindsided. I spoke with some of Donald Trump's advisors tonight, and they're scrambling to deal with this news. They had expected that a potential indictment could be coming in the coming days, or in the next month or so. But they were not expecting it to come tonight. I'd also argue that in the past several days or a week or so they actually thought that the Manhattan DAs case could be falling apart.

We know that Donald Trump tweeted about a week and a half ago that he thought an indictment was coming, the Tuesday before last. Clearly that date came and went and there was no indictment. And so there was increasingly this thought that maybe is this actually happening. We saw Donald Trump himself put out on truth social less than 48 hours ago, saying that he has great respect for the Manhattan grand jury and thought that they were no longer going to be a rubber stamp and thought that maybe the tide was changing for him. But clearly, that was not the case.

And I'll also just argue on the mood, I think within Mar-a-Lago and within Trump's team tonight, yes, they're all scrambling after this indictment. And I think we're seeing Donald Trump himself and his statement, try to project confidence and say that he's going to come out on top at the end of this. But really, as much as they think this could politically benefit him in the long run, I do think that his advisors, as well as Trump himself, are worried about an indictment.

It reminds me of reporting I did around impeachment where Donald Trump did not want to be an impeached president. He didn't want to have that on his resume. And I think it's holds true now he does not want to be indicted. But he also recognizes that he has to project competence and put on this front that he thinks will be victorious in order to keep his supporters in line and to rally his base.

HOLMES: Yes. And to that point, how were Republicans shaping up their strategy to tackle this politically?

TREENE: Well, we did see as you showed a number of top Republicans in the House and the Senate, coming immediately to Donald Trump's defense, arguing that this is a politically motivated prosecution and investigation. And I think that's going to be what we continue to see in the next few days. I will say though that there has been some silence from key people in Congress. We see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not weighed in yet. His number two Senator John Thune, the Minority Whip also has been silent so far in wake of the indictment.


But by and large, a lot of people, even those who don't entirely love Donald Trump, we saw Governor Asa Hutchinson earlier tonight, a potential 2024 rival to Donald Trump say that even though he doesn't think Donald Trump should be president, he thinks that this investigation in this indictment is unwarranted and potentially politically motivated. And I think you're going to continue seeing that.

Another potential 2024 rival, Governor Ron DeSantis, also coming out issuing a statement of support for Donald Trump and just railing against the Manhattan DA for these charges that are being brought forward, so the Republican Party is really coming around Donald Trump and rallying around him and it could we've seen this in the past week or so the polls are looking better for Donald Trump, in light of the potential news of an indictment. And so I think you can expect to see that bump potentially in the next week or so as well.

HOLMES: An indictment bump. Alayna Treene, good to see you. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

TREENE: Thank you.

HOLMES: Now political analyst Michael Genovese is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He joins me now live from Los Angeles. Good to see you, sir. This of course has never happened to a former U.S. president criminal charges. And of course, he is a candidate in the next presidential election. Aside from the legal, what do you think are the potential political shockwaves to come?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think in the short run, this will help Donald Trump. It will help him with his base, energize the base will get them all revved up. And so Donald Trump will gain in the short run, it will probably help him win the nomination of his party. But it will in the long run hurt him because in a general election, this indictment and if there are others that follow, which it is likely that will be the case, that's going to have a dampening effect on him. And so within the party, it helps, in the nation, not very much.

HOLMES: When he thought he was going to be indicted last week he called for protests. I mean, do you think that will be a tactic of his now it's actually going to happen, rile up his supporters? We know he's fundraising off it already.

GENOVESE: He is fundraising off of it. And we know what Donald Trump does. He goes on the attack. He goes 100 miles an hour. And yes, it's basically a three prong strategy, which is attack, attack, and then attack some more. And he'll do that he will go after you with all guns blazing. That's the way he always is. The problem for Trump, though, is this is going to be a different venue. This will be a legal setting where throwing a tantrum and screaming will not work.

A legal setting will require evidence and evidence will require that you come with facts. And that's where Donald Trump's case really is going to fall apart. It fell apart when he tried to claim that he won the 2020 election. And it will be a problem for him in the in the different cases that he's facing. And so the venue is going to be different. And that's going to hurt him. It's not television, it's the courts.

HOLMES: And, you know, when it comes to the party, we've just been discussing loyalists circling the wagons. I mean, the term weaponization of the legal system has become the go to talking but the Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, said that the DA Alvin Bragg, quote has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in a presidential election. I mean, how do you see this indictment being used politically and are Republicans taking a risk by jumping in so fulsomely so soon before they've even seen the indictment?

GENOVESE: We're accustomed of seeing Republicans rally behind Donald Trump. And always at the moment, and when you think that Trump's support will collapse, somehow he's able to pull it together. So give him credit for that. He is able to dominate the party to make the party his own. And so he is in charge. And so his supporters we'll you heard Lindsey Graham in your little segment, when he just blew a gasket. That's the way Donald Trump's supporters are. They go for the jugular, they scream and shout. But again, that's great for television. It works. I mean, it's fascinating T.V. In a courtroom, it doesn't work.

HOLMES: You touched on this and it's interesting to revisit that, you know, all of this could rouse the base behind Trump, but the base isn't enough to win an election isn't that when imagines, you know, an indictment over hush money to a porn star isn't going to bring independence over to Trump. How do you think voters in the big picture will view all of this?

GENOVESE: Well, you know, I think two things. One, will this take down the Republican Party and will Donald Trump ticket down out with him? And two, how could this possibly play to a general audience to a non- base audience to non-Republican audience? Will independents, will swing voters look at this indictment or others and say, well, that's OK, you know, they're after Trump? But if they have evidence, or they can support the indictments, that's going to not play well with independents and with, you know, moderates and with people who are on the fence. So I think as I said, it's going to help him a lot within his party, but it's going to hurt him a lot in the nation.


HOLMES: Yes. And of course, this is before any other indictments come from his other legal perils, of course. Michael Genovese we're going to leave it there, unfortunately. Good to see you. Thanks so much.

GENOVESE: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Easter preparations are already underway at the Vatican, but it's unclear if Pope Francis will be able to take part. An update on his health as he recovers from a respiratory infection. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: A jury in the U.S. state of Utah has found actress Gwyneth Paltrow not liable for a ski accident back in 2016. Terry Sanderson sued the Oscar winning actress over injuries he said he suffered when the two collided at a ski resort. Paltrow argued that he skied into her. The jury deliberated for little over two hours before returning with a verdict in favor of Paltrow. She also won her counter suit and was awarded the $1 in damages she asked for plus the attorney's fees. Paltrow's attorney said the case was about right and wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE OWENS, GWYNETH PALTROW'S ATTORNEY: We're pleased with this outcome and appreciate the judge and juries thoughtful handling of this case. Gwyneth has a history of advocating for what she believes in. This situation was no different and she will continue to stand for what she believes is right.


HOLMES: Sanderson said he was disappointed by the outcome. He also rejected suggestions that he sued for fame and attention.

The Vatican says the Pope Francis' health is improving and he could leave the hospital within the next few days. The Pope is being treated for bronchitis after being admitted to the hospital on Wednesday. Prayers for the 86-year-old pontiff are coming in from every corner of the globe. CNN's Delia Gallagher reports.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN ITALY AND VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the Pope on Wednesday morning seemingly in good health at his general audience in St. Peter's Square. But by Wednesday afternoon, he was admitted to Rome's Gemelli Hospital. The diagnosis respiratory infection. The Vatican said he'd been complaining of breathing difficulties for the past few days.

On Thursday evening, more details from the Vatican, the Pope has bronchitis and is receiving antibiotics intravenously with clear improvement in his health. If his recovery continues to progress they say, he will be released in the next few days.


(on camera): Pope Francis is 86 years old. He has a certain vulnerability to respiratory issues because when he was 21, he had part of his right lung removed for a respiratory illness. He's also no stranger to this hospital. His rooms are here on the top floor, those five windows with the white shutters pulled down. He was last here in the summer of 2021 for 10 days when he was operated on for diverticulitis and they removed part of his colon.

(voice-over): The Vatican said on Thursday that Francis was able to have breakfast, read the newspapers and even do some work from his hospital rooms. He also managed to send a tweet saying I'm touched by the many messages received in these hours, and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer. The Pope's hospital stay has put into doubt whether he will be able to participate in Easter Week events, which begin this Sunday, Palm Sunday, one of the busiest times of the year at the Vatican.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


HOLMES: United Kingdom is joining a major Trans Pacific trade partnership, the British Prime Minister's office calling it the biggest trade deal since Brexit. The U.K. becomes the first new member of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership since it was established in 2018.

Now as part of the deal, more than 99 percent of exports to the 11 member states would be eligible for zero tariffs. The U.K. says the deal would support jobs and economic growth in the country.

King Charles has become the first British monarch to address Germany's parliament. In his speech switching between English and German, Charles described it as a great honor. Currently on his first trip abroad as king the monarch later met with displaced Ukrainians at a refugee center. Our royal correspondent Max Foster has the details.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Day two of King Charles' first official state visit overseas and the

Germans continue to roll out the honors. King Charles meeting the chancellor behind closed doors, and then coming here to the Bundestag for the first address to the German parliament by a British monarch. He talked about the historical cultural links between the two countries, and also how they used to be adversaries during the world wars, but are now very much working together to support Ukraine in their war against Russia.


KING CHARLES, KING OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (through translator): The security of Europe, as well as our democratic values are under threat.


FOSTER: King Charles going on to meet Ukrainian refugees being housed here in Germany, there are about a million of them and he's very keen to emphasize what Germany continues to do, support Ukrainian refugees but also in the military efforts, the military support is offering Ukraine. He continues the tour by going on to Hamburg. A brief tour, which ends on Friday, but so far is going down incredibly well. Max Foster, CNN, Berlin, Germany.

HOLMES: Former President Jair Bolsonaro is back in Brazil for the first time since violent riots in the nation's capital. Bolsonaro arrived in Brasilia under tight security. He's been in self-imposed exile in Florida for three months after losing last year's presidential election. Despite being the subject of several investigations, dozens of supporters greeted the far right politician outside his party's headquarters.

Still to come here on the program, Ukrainian civilians struggled to survive in a town battered by the Russian military, but they have a helping hand delivering water that's hard to come by. We'll be right back.


ANDRE ANDERSON, VOLUNTEER, AQUEDUCKS.ORG: It was just a calling that I couldn't refuse to do. I can't sit at home and allow this to happen without helping the people who need help. (END VIDEO CLIP)



HOLMES: Welcome back, local officials say at least 35 people are dead after falling into an intricate well at a Hindu temple in central India. Grounds were at the temple celebrating a religious holiday. Official say that a floor covering the step well, which has stairs leading down to the water collapsed due to a heavy load, 16 people were injured in the collapse one person is missing.

A team of U.S. military investigators has arrived at the site where two Blackhawk helicopters crashed in the state of Kentucky late on Wednesday. Investigators continue to work into the scene into the night on Thursday at the scene trying to determine what might have caused the crash, which killed all nine soldiers on board the two choppers. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more now from southern Kentucky.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne Division in mourning, nine of their own killed when two Blackhawk helicopters crashed over neighboring Trigg County, Kentucky after a routine training mission late Wednesday night.

BRIGADIER GEN. JOHN LUBAS, DEPUTY COMMANDER FOR OPERATIONS, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION: I would like to express our deepest sympathies to the families of our fallen soldiers.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Debris from the helicopters can be seen in photos from near the crash site, where investigators from an aircraft safety team out of Fort Rucker, Alabama will now be tasked with determining the cause of the crash.

LUBAS: They do have something very similar to the black boxes that we see on the larger aircraft. And we're hopeful that will provide quite a bit of information of what occurred.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): CNN learning there were originally four aircraft on the exercise with one stopping to refuel, leaving one Blackhawk flying ahead of the two helicopters that crashed. One had four service members on board the other five. Brigadier General John Lubas saying Thursday that the crews were training on flying a multi ship formation with night vision goggles, adding that the helicopters were training for medical evacuation.

LUBAS: We believe that they were, the action occurred when they were doing flying not deliberate medical evacuation drills.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): A witness and Trigg County describing the crash to WKDZ Radio.

JAMES HUGHES, WITNESS CRASH: Two helicopters came over pretty low and all of a sudden, you know, as soon as they got over the house something popped loud, loud, bang and everything shut down just all of a sudden.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin releasing a statement Thursday afternoon, saying I'm saddened by this tragic loss and I am working with Army leadership to make sure our troops and their families receive the care that they need in the wake of this accident.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear rushing to Fort Campbell Thursday morning, offering support to the military community.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We're going to wrap our arms around these families. And we're going to be there with them not just for the days but the weeks and the months and the years to come.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Diane Gallagher, CNN, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


HOLMES: The Pentagon says six U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury after attacks by Iranian backed groups in Syria. A spokesperson says all six are in stable condition, two in fact have returned to duty. The drone attacks killed an American contractor in Syria last week. The U.S. launched retaliatory airstrikes, which the Pentagon says killed eight militants.

Four hundred days and counting, that's how long Ukrainians have been fighting the Russian invasion. The war hit the 400 day mark on Thursday, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the occasion by addressing everyone who took up the fight against the aggression.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Four hundred days, 400 days of our defense against the full scale aggression. This is a tremendously long way we have passed all together each and every person who fought and is fighting for Ukraine who took care and still takes care of the country and Ukrainian, the people who helped and continue to help our logistics, those who have strengthened and are strengthening Ukrainian resilience.


HOLMES: Some of that resilience is in full display in a frontline town in eastern Ukraine ravaged by Russian attacks. Drinking water has become hard to get. But as Ben Wedeman reports for us now, residents still carry on with some help from the outside.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Without water, there is no life and the clean water pouring into these plastic jugs is a vital lifeline for people in the battered eastern Ukrainian town of Sivers'k, just six miles from Russian lines. Retired building contractor Andre Anderson from Oregon is an unlikely carrier of water.


ANDERSON: It was just a calling that I couldn't refuse to do. I can't sit at home and allow this to happen without helping the people who need help.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): He's part of a volunteer group called Aqueducks, their routine simple, but essential.

ANDERSON: We turn up, they turn up with our little jugs and we just fill up that jugs or the buckets or the cow pails and they go away happy and we empty our tank, we drive home and then we come back in the afternoon we do the same thing and we repeat on every day.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The few remaining in Sivers'k tell the usual story. Dog had attachment to their land and no other options. How can I leave asked Tanya (ph), my son is buried here. And where would I go with my small pension. Andre's colleague Silvia Pavesi from Austria was a tour guide.

(on camera): Why are you doing this?

SILVIA PAVESI, VOLUNTEER, AQUEDUCKS.ORG: To help. Just the right thing to do.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Seventy-three-year-old Nicola (ph) appreciates the water but thirsts for quiet. I'm fed up with this shelling. Nobody needs it, he says. What passes for daily life and did long ago. The center of Sivers'k is a wasteland. The early spring snow softens but can't hide the jagged edges. Andre shouts out water, Voda in Ukranian. Soon residents emerge from their basements, their bomb shelters.

(on camera): Basic humanitarian services like this are critical. There hasn't been any running water or electricity since the beginning of the war.

(voice-over): With no end to this war in sight, they're resigned to a fate bleak. It's fine says Valentina (ph). We put up with everything. What can we do? Yet, 70-year-old Nina (ph) despairs of what has become of her town? What do we feel, she asks? Pain, pain. When you see something destroyed, you tear up. We cry, we cry. Bottles now full they returned through streets, cold, muddy and ravaged to their shelters.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Sivers'k, Eastern Ukraine.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Kim Brunhuber picks up our coverage right after this.