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Fulton County DA Continues Push For Trump Case; Less Than 24 Hours For Trump To Secure $464 Million Bond; Senator Lisa Murkowski Declines To Say If She Would Consider Leaving GOP; FAA Ramps Up Oversight Of United Airlines; Israel Agrees To U.S. Proposal For Prisoner-Hostage Exchange; Hostage Exchange; Gambling Scandal; Chinese Bottled Water; Former RNC Chair. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 24, 2024 - 16:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. The countdown is underway for Donald Trump. The former president is just hours away from two major legal threats colliding in New York. Tomorrow is the deadline for him to post a nearly half billion-dollar bond in his New York civil fraud case. His attorneys have asked an appeals court to allow him to post a smaller bond or none at all. But the court has not reached a decision yet.

On Friday, Trump claimed he has the cash to cover the bill, but his lawyer told CNN that Trump does not actually have that cash on hand. Meanwhile, New York's attorney general has already filed judgments in Westchester County and New York City where Trump owned properties. The first indication the state is preparing to seize his assets if he can't pay up.

This all playing out as Trump is expected to appear in a New York courtroom tomorrow where a judge may set a date for his hush money trial involving a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

All right, let's begin with exclusive CNN reporting on yet another Trump legal case. This one, the Georgia election subversion trial. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is speaking to CNN about the timeline in that major trial and efforts by the former president to get it delayed.

CNN's Zach Cohen joining us now.

So, Zach, what is Willis saying?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, Fani Willis is adamant that her case against Donald Trump and his fellow co-defendants in Georgia remains on track despite the fact that we spent the last two months wondering if Fani Willis could even be disqualified from this case. She has for now seemed to survive that. Judge McAfee has said that she can remain on the case. But it's still an open question as to whether or not an appeals court will take up that ruling and could potentially overturn it. But for now Fani Willis is trying to shift attention back to the case

itself, back to the criminal charges against Trump and the co- defendants in Georgia. Take a listen to what she said when she spoke exclusively to CNN yesterday about the state of the case as it stands.


FANI WILLS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: No, my things were continuing to work it and I think the media and especially organizations like you are all been paying attention. All while that was going on we were writing response and briefs. We were still doing the case in the way that it needed to be done. I don't feel like we've been slowed down at all. I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.


COHEN: So Willis insisting that work had continued behind the scenes the last two months and that things are still moving forward. She still has a lot of legal hurdles ahead of her, and as I mentioned earlier, that disqualification question is still lingering out there. But for now, Fani Willis trying to push this message that things are back on track in Georgia and wants a trial date set. She's previously asked for a trial to start on August 5th of this year.

My source is telling me that she still wants that trial to begin, and -- before the 2024 election and wants the judge to put that on the calendar.

WHITFIELD: All right. And then to New York, Zach. Trump is facing a deadline tomorrow to secure nearly half billion dollars for bond for his civil fraud judgment. What is expected? What does everyone bracing for?

COHEN: Yes, it's a great question, Fred. And honestly barring some legal maneuvering from the state prosecutors and some countering from Trump's legal team, we expect that the prosecutors could begin the process or setting the stage to start seizing some of Trump's assets if he can't come up with the cash. He owes about $454 million plus interest in this civil fraud judgment. You know, Trump insisting that he had the cash in a Truth Social post last week.

His lawyer then kind of contradicting that to CNN saying, no, he didn't mean that he had that money on hand. But if he can't come up with the cash, you could see prosecutors moving to take and seize some of his properties, whether that's properties in New York or elsewhere, remains to be seen.

WHITFIELD: All right. Zach Cohen, thanks so much.

All right. Joining me right now to talk more about all of these legal developments is Jeffrey Jacobovitz. He is a white collar criminal attorney and an adjunct law professor at American University.

Jeffrey, great to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about that Georgia case first.



WHITFIELD: District Attorney Fani Willis says she's ready to go. You know, the train is coming. And already that trial was set for August 5th. Is it likely to stay on that schedule?

JACOBOVITZ: Well, what's interesting is Fani Willis is moving forward aggressively. People were saying, what should she do after the decision by Judge McAfee. She's charging forward, the train is on the way. And it's not clear whether the Georgia court of appeals will even take this case. So if it moves forward, what's interesting is she wants to pick a trial date, which could in fact conflict with the January 6th trial date if the court -- the Supreme Court rules on absolute immunity and denies Trump's motion.

So right now, it's not clear when the trial date will be, but she's moving forward. Judge McAfee allowed discovery to continue and so she is on her way.

WHITFIELD: OK. So now let's talk about that New York fraud case, Trump's half-a-billion-dollar bond is due tomorrow. A few days ago, you know, he claimed he had the cash to cover the bill. His attorneys then tried to correct and said no, he doesn't. So if he doesn't come up with the cash tomorrow what kind of movement do you see on seizing his property? Is that immediate or does it trickle, you know, trickle in throughout the week?

JACOBOVITZ: Well, you know, Fred, first of all, it's interesting, somebody may need to file an affidavit because Trump is saying one thing, his lawyers are saying another thing, and it could impact on the court of appeals' decision as to whether in fact he has the funds to meet the bond, but Trump is coming -- trying to come up with the money. He's trying every which way. His Truth Social is going public allegedly. It's not clear where the transparency will be, whether the SEC will be looking at it.

I don't think Letitia James wants to go into the real estate business. She may have the -- she may file leans on these properties and have the New York Supreme Court hold it. But she's looking for cash as well, which is easier to monetize obviously. But it's a fairly complicated situation. It's easier for her to put liens on properties in New York than it would be for her to go out of state, for example, in Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

But she is moving expeditiously. She already is posting leans in Westchester and she's showing she's not going to back down.

WHITFIELD: Well, wouldn't her office already know whether he has the cash?

JACOBOVITZ: Well, you know, that's interesting because now with the judgment against him, she could take a discovery deposition, an asset deposition, to find out really what cash he has because he says one thing, his lawyers say another thing. We don't know what the truth is. And --

WHITFIELD: Because it seems with that judgment --

JACOBOVITZ: And she will know --


WHITFIELD: That would allow whether the AG's office or really, you know, if it were the IRS, you know, for that matter, you know, would be able to access his accounts to know and see what's there because of this judgment, no?

JACOBOVITZ: Well, you would think so and I think once they start enforcing the judgment, if they're able to do that, they will find out for sure but, you know, and for example, on real estate some of it is held. There are leans by other people, or by insurance companies, or by real estate companies. So we don't know how much cash he really has available for his real estate. And we don't know what assets he has.

I mean, for years, he said how rich he is and for years others have said he's not as rich as he says he is. So now we will find out.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Jeffrey Jacobovitz, thanks so much. It's going to be an interesting week.

JACOBOVITZ: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: It's the best word I can come up with. Interesting. All right. Thank you.

JACOBOVITZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Is Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski leaving the door open to potentially leave the Republican Party? She spoke to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I don't think that it can be defended. What happened on January 6th was an effort by people who stormed a building in an effort to stop an election. I wish that, as Republicans, we had a nominee that I could get behind. I certainly can't get behind Donald Trump.

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you considering being an independent at this point?

MURKOWSKI: I think I'm very independent minded.

RAJU: Officially, though. Officially.

MURKOWSKI: I just regret that our party is seemingly becoming a party of Donald Trump. RAJU: Yes. You becoming an independent caucuses with Republicans. Is

that something you're open to?

MURKOWSKI: I am navigating my way through some very interesting political times. Let's just leave it at that.



WHITFIELD: There's that word interesting. All right. I want to bring in two congressional reporters right now. "The Hill's" Mychael Schnell and "The New York Times'" Luke Broadwater.

Good to see you both. All right. So, Michael, you first. How do you extrapolate what she's saying?

MYCHAEL SCHNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE HILL: Clearly, Lisa Murkowski right there struggling with the trajectory that the Republican Party is headed towards. Of course, Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, the presumptive GOP nominee, someone who she did not support. Lisa Murkowski endorsed Nikki Haley shortly before she dropped out of the race.

And we've seen a number of other Republicans who haven't been supportive of Trump in the past. For example, Mitch McConnell careened into the direction of the former president as he goes on and clinches the nomination, but Lisa Murkowski right there, you heard her standing her for ground saying that she can't get behind him. Thats sort of leaves her in political no man's land. She's struggling to find a home as Republican Party moves away from her.

She's clearly grappling with that predicament right now. Obviously leaving the door open to potentially being independent and leaving the Republican Party.

WHITFIELD: Luke, do you think that sense tremors?

LUKE BROADWATER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Lisa Murkowski has always been very independently minded. Donald Trump has tried to defeat her in her last election, and she turned back his chosen candidate. The hard right tried to take her out two cycles ago and she ran a write-in campaign and won in Alaska. So she has independent political power in Alaska, and that gives her some freedom from Donald Trump because she is so powerful in her home state.

But what she's saying is something that a lot of senators. Republican senators will tell you quietly. They just don't want to say it out loud that Trump has not been good for their party and has led them in a bad direction. But Lisa Murkowski is the rare one who will actually go out and say that.

WHITFIELD: OK. Luke, let me also ask you about this sort of new drama, new drama again, around the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson? Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene this time, you know, holding a motion to vacate over his head. Are you surprised to see this happening again or was it, you know, bound to happen again?

BROADWATER: Yes. No, I'm not surprised. The current makeup of the Republican Party and the one-person motion to vacate, which is the rule in the House means that any member at any time can essentially call for the speaker's head. And especially any member who wants to get attention. And so Marjorie Taylor Greene has done this. She's not actually called for the vote, but she's made it known that she has this hanging over Speaker Johnson's head.

I think what's different this time is you've had a number of Democrats pro-actively come out and say, if Marjorie Taylor Greene or anyone on the far right tries to take out Speaker Johnson over something he does that we think is sensible, such as sending aid to Ukraine or keeping the government open, that they would motion to table it and perhaps put their votes on the line to save a Republican speaker even though they disagree with most of his policies.

WHITFIELD: And Mychael, real quick, does Johnson keep his job?

SCHNELL: I think at the end of the day he doesn't. It's because of that reason of what Luke said is that we're seeing a number of Democrats who don't, A, want to repeat the chaos and the paralysis in the House that we saw back in October following Kevin McCarthy's ouster, and this time around, Democrats are saying, well, if you give us this and if you cooperate with us on these terms, particularly sending additional aid to Ukraine, which Speaker Johnson said is going to be next up on the legislative to-do list when lawmakers returned from recess.

If they can send aid overseas, I think that would be a big incentive for Democrats to, as Luke said, table this motion to vacate and let Speaker Johnson live another day in the job.

WHITFIELD: Right. That's quite the bargaining tool. All right. Luke Broadwater and Mychael Schnell, good to see you both. Thank you.

SCHNELL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Federal regulators are clamping down on United Airlines. New details on the measures the FAA is considering following nearly a dozen flight safety incidents in the last month.

And amid scandal brewing, baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani and his Dodgers are set to play at home tonight. And we've just learned that he's on the lineup.



WHITFIELD: All right. More than 260,000 people are without power in the northeast after a winter storm brought heavy, freezing rain and snow.

CNN meteorologist Elisa Raffa is tracking these storms. Burr. ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We've got colds snow and blowing

snow up on the top of this storm, but then it has a warm side where we've got severe thunderstorms that are really firing up right now, watches and warnings are in play, and you can just see just how dynamic this storm has rolled. The snow popping up in Minneapolis and then you've got the showers and thunderstorms that are stretching across Oklahoma.

And that's where we're finding this severe part of this, too, where we're looking at severe thunderstorm watches that are in effect across most of Oklahoma and Texas. We're looking at some tornado warnings that we have found as well, because some of these storms can continue to kind of rotate with this storm just being so potent, has such a big wind field.


So that will create the severe storms and that will also blow around some of that blowing snow as well. That's what's going to create the blizzard conditions. So pretty typical for March to see everything with the kitchen sink in a storm like this, even some fire weather conditions in parts of Texas, Fred.

WHITFIELD: I guess people forget, you see the calendar and it's like, spring time. Start bringing out, you know, the lighter fabrics. No, not yet.

All right. Thanks so much, Elisa.

All right. After a slew of troubling incidents, the Federal Aviation Administration is taking a closer look at United Airlines. Over the past month 11 incidents made headlines, including a plane sliding off the runway and a tire falling off a plane during take-off. The agency is also warning United that it may have to put its future plans on hold.

I'm joined now by former NTSB managing director and CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz.

Peter, great to see you. So what's the significance of this kind of increased oversight?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think it shows that the whole industry has been under the microscope over the past couple of months. And United has been at the forefront unfortunately. And the FAA, United has, you know, 950 aircraft, they're the third largest carrier in the world. And they've had a number of troubling incidents.

I think some of them, the importance has been magnified because of just the general scrutiny of the industry. But the FAA is taking no chances and they've instructed their certificate management offices that oversees United to step up the oversight.

WHITFIELD: So how might this impact United? Might it cause, you know, delays, certain number of planes that won't be up in the air as scheduled? GOELZ: Well, I don't think it will impact delays, but they may have

certain regulatory decisions online, whether to drop or expand route, whether to increase the number of flights to a city. Those kinds of decisions may be pushed back. But I think the key thing is for the FAA to look at these, you know, 12 or so different events to see if there's a connection. Can they connect the dots?

I have a sense that the industry really lost a lot of their senior people after COVID, who retired, and they may have lost a lot of their institutional knowledge that provided safety oversight. And there may be a problem there. We'll see what the FAA has to say.

WHITFIELD: And then might this end up being an extension of the ongoing investigations involving Boeing since, you know, Boeing is the manufacturer for many of United's jets?

GOELZ: Well, if any of these events tracked back to the actual manufacturer then there will be a problem, but the ones that I've looked at, the engine issue, that certainly is not necessarily a Boeing issue. Engines are made by GE or Rolls Royce or the going off the end of the runway that going to look closely at the condition of the runway, and the crew. But they'll see if the emphasis of safety is at the highest levels throughout the organization. And sometimes that slips.

WHITFIELD: All right. Peter Goelz, good to see you. Thanks so much.

GOELZ: Good seeing you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Amid a scandal brewing baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani and his Dodgers are set to play at home tonight. More on that next.



WHITFIELD: All right, this just into CNN, we have new details on the U.S. proposal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for every hostage released by Hamas.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Doha, Qatar following negotiations. What have you learned?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this latest information coming to us from CNN affiliate Channel 11 citing a senior Israeli government official saying that Israel has accepted and agreed to a U.S. proposal on Palestinian prisoner releases as part of this wider deal that has been discussed here in Doha, those indirect talks between Hamas and Israel.

So this deal apparently according to Channel 11 means that they have agreed to release 700 Palestinian prisoners, 100 of them have -- are serving life sentences at this point for having killed Israeli nationals. Now, in return, we understand through Channel 11 that it will be 40 Israeli hostages currently being held in Gaza. Now this senior source that they are quoting says that they are -- Israel is willing to make significant compromises in order to try and bring these abductees home.

Now we do know that to just 10 days ago, Hamas' counterproposal had suggested between 700 and 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to be released. And we also know that one of the significant gaps over recent weeks, and in fact months, between these two sides when it comes to the mediated talks was exactly not just the numbers of Palestinian prisoners to be released, but which Palestinian prisoners.

And the fact that, according to this report, there have been 100 serving a life sentence that have been approved to be released is really a move forward at this point. Hearing from the source that there is steady progress being made.


WHITFIELD: And you said Israel has agreed but, still, what's hanging in the balance, potentially?

HANCOCKS: Well, this is Israel agreeing to the U.S. proposal. Of course, Hamas has agreed to it as well. The technical teams are still here in Doha, so, presumably, there were talks going on behind the scenes to figure out if this is to Hamas' is liking as well -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, keep us posted as you learn. Paula Hancocks in Doha. Thank you so much.

All right. Still to come. Time is running out. The dire warning from the U.N., as the humanitarian conditions worsen in Haiti's gang ravaged capital, and the threat of famine increases.



WHITFIELD: All right, both Major League Baseball and the IRS are investigating a gambling scandal around L.A. Dodgers star, Shohei Ohtani. His team is accusing his, now fired, interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, of stealing millions from the baseball star, to pay off gambling debts that he had run up with a bookie in California, where sports betting is still illegal. But that story contradicts what Mizuhara said, earlier this week or last week, that Ohtani knowingly paid Mizuhara's debts for him as a favor.

Well, Camila Bernal joining us right now in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers will play ball tonight. Camila, what's the latest?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Yes, this is a day that a lot of Dodgers' fans were waiting for, watching Shohei Ohtani play here at home. But, as you mentioned, it comes with so much controversy. You know, we're talking theft, millions of dollars, lies and gambling. And, like you mentioned, two investigations, the IRS and Major League Baseball.

Let's, sort of, recap where we are right now. Shohei Ohtani's longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired, after Ohtani's lawyers accused him of massive thefts, millions of dollars, and placing bets with bookmaker that is currently under federal investigation. This is according to ESPN and the "L.A. Times," who first reported on all of this.

CNN did speak to a spokesperson with the IRS that confirmed that Ippei Mizuhara, and a man by the name of Mathew Bowyer, are under investigation. Now, Mathew Bowyer is a former bookmaker, and we did speak to his lawyer and here's what she said.


DIANE BASS, ATTORNEY: What we've learned, during the course of the investigation, is that Ohtani's name was on one of the wire transfers to Mr. Bowyer's organization to cover a bet. But, as far as Mr. Bowyer understood, the bet was from Ippei or it was being covered by Mr. Ohtani for Ippei.


BERNAL: Now, the problem that a lot of people have is the changing stories, right? Because Ohtani's representatives first said that, yes, he was aware of that gambling debt. And then, later said, no, he had no knowledge of all of this.

ESPN also saying, look, we spoke to Mizuhara who said, yes, he was a -- that he was aware of the debt and that he offered to pay the debt. And pay it, himself, because he didn't want any more problems with gambling. Then, he came back and said, I lied. Ohtani had no idea, essentially walking back everything he told ESPN.

So, it's these changing stories that really are conflicting and getting a lot of people confused over what exactly is happening here. There are a lot of media outlets right now saying that Ohtani will speak to the media tomorrow. So, we'll see what he has to say about it.

WHITFIELD: Well, that will be interesting and intriguing indeed. All right, Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

And we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: It's the harrowing story of a wrongfully convicted man and the decades-long effort to exonerate him. CNN Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper reports justice delayed the story of C.J. Rice on the whole story with Anderson Cooper -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER. CNN HOST: Fred, I've been reporting on C.J. Rice's case for years, including a cover story for "The Atlantic" in 2022. And my dad, one of his fiercest advocates, who was actually his pediatrician, testified in court, back in 2013. that C.J. Rice was not physically capable of committing the crime that he was accused of. He was wounded. He had been shot a few weeks before and could barely walk. Unfortunately, C.J. had a horrible defense attorney, and he ended up in prison for a crime that he did not commit.

I have finally gotten to meet him in person as a free man. On Monday, he was officially exonerated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

One of the most moving parts of tonight's documentary, about C.J. Rice and his imprisonment and exoneration, deals with the relationship between C.J. and my dad, who's 83, and their correspondence since 2016. Take a listen.


C.J. RICE: (INAUDIBLE) in 2017. Dr. Tapper: hopefully, as this letter reaches you, everything is as good as can be, given any and all circumstances.

DR. TAPPER: May 2019. Dear C.J.

RICE: April the 12th, 2020.

DR. TAPPER: December 2021.

RICE: February 13, 2022.

JAKE TAPPER: These letters from my dad, did you look forward to getting them?

RICE: I did.


RICE: I did, like a lot.


RICE: Yes, because it's a -- it's a constant. So, you get used to constants in jail. But most of them are demeaning or not so personal.


RICE: But a letter with ink on it from somebody on the other side of the wall, that's personal. That makes you feel human. It was genuine. The caring concern that your father had for me was genuine.


JAKE TAPPER: It sure was. We'll have much more of my conversation with C.J. Rice tonight on "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER" at 8:00 p.m. -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Jake. We look forward to that. Be sure to tune in to the all-new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER." One whole hour, one whole story. Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, right here on CNN. All right, still to come. NBC, the network is facing backlash for hiring former RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel, from one of its own. The stunning rebuke from former "Meet The Press" moderator, Chuck Todd, next.



WHITFIELD: A possible lightning strike may be to blame for a fire aboard a Carnival Cruise ship. A passenger shot this video from the cabin, where you can see the flames and smoke pouring out of the ship's exhaust funnel. And it took about two hours for the fire response team to actually put the flames out. There were no reported injuries to guess, but two firefighters were treated for minor smoke inhalation. The cause is still under investigation.

And in case you're March Madness bracket is totally busted, you may consider shooting your shot with two lottery jackpots up for grabs. No tickets matched all six numbers last night for this $750 million Powerball prize which means even more is up for grabs tomorrow. Powerball says it's the 35th drawing without a jackpot winner.

And since there weren't any winners for the Mega Millions drawing on Friday, the jackpot there jumped to an estimated 1.1 billion for Tuesday night. That's a combined total of nearly $2 billion. Who's going to be lucky?

All right, one of the most popular brands of bottled water in China has become the target of an online boycott, but it has nothing to do with taste or price tag. CNN's Marc Stewart explains.


MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): If you live here in China, there's a good chance you're drinking Nongfu Spring bottled water. It's the country's biggest maker of bottled water and sold on almost every street corner, including here in Beijing.

The company is owned by China's richest man, but his wealth has been shrinking fast in recent weeks, thanks to an unexpected backlash. Zhong Shanshan is facing online attacks, accused of being not patriotic enough, in part, because of the designs of some of his product packaging.

On the bottles, you can see a temple. You can see a crane. Some Chinese people feel these images are inspired by Japanese culture. Now, that's upsetting to some people, because of longstanding animosity between the two countries.

Some Chinese people even claim the red bottle tab resembles the shape of the Japanese national flag. CNN has reached out to Nongfu Spring for comment.

(voice-over): A perfect storm that has triggered a nationwide boycott, with people uploading videos of themselves pulling Nongfu Springs water off stores shelves, all in the name of patriotism. All of this is proving to be a heavy blow to business. The online campaign has cut into Nongfu sales as well as its share price, wiping about 3 billion off its market capitalization since the end of February, according to a CNN calculation. But views on the streets are much calmer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): We should have a fair and just attitude. We shouldn't be intensifying conflicts. That serves no good for our own government either.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it is inspired by Japanese architecture. But it could also be inspired by traditional Chinese architecture. If you look back in history, didn't Japan learn from China, too? I think it's wrong to be connecting product design to politics.

(on camera): As Beijing tries to rally behind the private sector, in the midst of an economic slump, many worry this war on bottled water could see the business community's confidence dry up even further.

Marc Stewart, CNN, Beijing.


WHITFIELD: All right, new today. If it's Sunday, a very fiery moment today. Former Republican National Committee chair, Ronna McDaniel, made her first appearance on NBC, since being hired by the network as a paid political analyst. And she's fielding (ph) some tough questions about her time with the RNC.


KRISTEN WELKER, ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: Do you disagree with Trump, saying he's going to free those who've been charged for conducting this?

RONNA MCDANIEL, FORMER RNC CHAIR: I do not think people who committed violent acts on January 6th should be freed.

WELKER: So, you disagree with that? He's been saying that for months. Ronna, why not speak out earlier? Why just speak out about that now?

MCDANIEL: When you're the RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team, right? Now, I get to be a little bit more myself, right? This is what I believe. I don't think violence should be in our political discourse, Republican or Democrat.


WHITFIELD: "Meet The Press" moderator, Kristen Welker, disclosed at the top of her show that McDaniel scheduled this interview before NBC News announced her hiring.


WHITFIELD: The show's former host, Chuck Todd, who is now the network's chief political analyst, well, he was on the invited panel today. And he didn't hold back blasting the networks decision. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: Look, let me deal with the elephant in the room.


TODD: I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation, because I don't know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. I have no idea whether any answers she gave to you was because she didn't want to mess up her contract. She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC, when the RNC was paying for her.

And, look, there's a reason why there's a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this. Because many of our professional dealings with the RNC, over the last six years, have been met with gaslighting. Have been met with character assassination.

So, it is -- you know, that's where you begin here. And so, when NBC made the decision to give her NBC News' credibility, you got to ask yourself, what does she bring NBC News?


WHITFIELD: If it's Sunday, it's "Meet The Press" being very candid.

All right, the U.S. State Department has evacuated more than 230 Americans from Haiti, while all the capital Port-au-Prince faces mounting chaos and gang violence. Many Americans are struggling to escape, due to safety concerns. While others are choosing to stay behind with their loved ones.

CNN's David Culver has this exclusive look at the difficult escapes.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The challenge for U.S. citizens trying to leave Port-au-Prince begins as soon as they start driving to the U.S. Embassy. Getting their involves driving through either gang- controlled or gang-contested territories. It's dangerous and it's unpredictable.

In armored vehicles, we saw that firsthand. And, yet, this is the only way out for some. The airport has shut down and many feel trapped. In recent days, the U.S. Embassy began evacuating citizens who could make it to the Embassy. Managing the safety of those evacuations is regional security officer Steve Strickland.

CULVER: How does Haiti -- how does Port-au-Prince today compare to your past 19 years?

STEVE STRICKLAND, SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, U.S. DIPLOMATIC SECURITY SERVICE: There is nothing like Port-au-Prince. The security situations here are nothing like anything I've experienced before. I've spent time in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, in Africa. And the unique -- the unique circumstances here, I have not seen a parallel to those in any other security environment that I've served.

CULVER (voice-over): Amid these challenges, there are some who fear Americans are being abandoned and gang field war zone.

STRICKLAND: The truth of the matter is, literally, on a daily basis, there are phone calls that we're engaged with at the highest levels of us government, where the number one topic is safety and security. How do we help get our U.S. citizens out of -- out of the country to a safe place?

CULVER: Launching these evacuation flights from the capital is a critical first step. Jenny Geom (ph) and her five-year-old son, Conrad, registered a few days ago. She's had to leave behind her mom and other loved ones, so as to get back to their home in New York.

(on camera): Getting to the Embassy is terrifying. It's a potentially deadly commute. Some who had confirmed their spots canceled last minute, either emotionally unable to leave behind loved ones, or just unable to get to the Embassy safely.

So, is there an option to go from here and go pick them up? Is that even a reality?

STRICKLAND: It just really isn't, unfortunately. The security resources that we have are stretched so thin. The ability to do that is -- it's really a non-starter. We just don't have that capacity to do it. We'd love to do it. It's just simply an impossibility, unfortunately.

CULVER: With some seats unclaimed at the last minute, our team, as U.S. citizens, is able to travel out with them and chronicle their journey.

(voice-over): We board in gang-controlled territory on a patch of land that's secured and surrounded by a robust and reassuring American military presence. We take off for the Dominican Republic.

There are a lot of mixed emotions for those who get out. Gratitude and relief for get in here safely. As well as guilt and fear for those still in Port-au-Prince, knowing that what's happening on the other side of this border is getting worse with each passing hour.

David Culver, CNN, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


WHITFIELD: And Kensington Palace is speaking out on behalf of the prince and princess of Wales, after receiving a flood of support and well wishes, following Princess Kate's announcement of her cancer diagnosis Friday. A spokesperson from Kensington Palace says the couple is, quote, "enormously touched by the kind messages from people here in the U.K., across the commonwealth, and around the world, in response to her royal highness' message. [17:00:02]

WHITFIELD: They are extremely moved by the public's warmth and support and are grateful for the understanding of their request for.