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CNN International: Trump Facing $464M Bond Deadline In NY Civil Fraud Case; Trump To Attend Hush Money Hearing As Bond Deadline Looms; Huge Crowds Mourn Terror Victims At Russian Concert Hall. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 08:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hi, everyone, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Amara Walker. This is CNN Newsroom.

Just ahead, a major legal day looms for Donald Trump. This morning, the former President heads to a New York court hearing, and this afternoon, he faces a huge civil bond repayment deadline, we will have covered for you. Plus, terror charges are laid against four suspects in a deadly attack inside Russia. We are live at the scene. And more than 100 children taken from this Nigerian school are released weeks after they were abducted. We will have you the latest details.

Donald Trump wakes up this morning facing a pair of very serious legal problems. Today is the day he must pay the nearly half billion dollar bond in a civil fraud trial. Failure to do so will allow the New York Attorney General to begin seizing his assets. And he is also due in court in the next couple of hours for a key hearing in the hush money case involving the film star Stormy Daniels and Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. The judge there could set a trial date perhaps as soon as 30 days from now. That case was actually supposed to begin today, but got delayed in a squabble over some documents that were recently handed over to the defense. We, of course, are covering all of this from a variety of angles.

Let's begin with our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz. Hi there, Katelyn. So, obviously, this is a really big day when it comes to Trump's legal problems. Tell us first of all what we're expected to see in the coming hours at this hearing in the New York courtroom.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: The New York court case right now is in a moment of deciding how soon the trial can start. Right now, the judge is looking at April 15. And the reason that it's not starting today, as was scheduled, is because Donald Trump's team won a lot of records from the federal investigation that predated the investigation into his falsifying business records in Manhattan, and he got those records recently. Because he got those records recently, his team was able to raise their hand and say, Judge, we need time to look through these. The Manhattan DA's Office has said very few of those 100,000 or more records are relevant. There is only a couple hundred that actually will pertain to your case here. And so, we should get to trial as quickly as possible. The judge wants to talk about that in court today. And so, we will see

if an April trial is possible, or if something like what Donald Trump's team is proposing, something as far out as 90 days, maybe June, if that will be the case in that Manhattan criminal case against Donald Trump. So, trial date, trial date, trial date, that's what we're watching for there.

WALKER: Got it. OK. And also, the other pressure that Trump is facing is this massive civil bond that he has to secure, to the tune of $500 million. And his lawyers have said that he doesn't have the money. Of course, Trump, over the weekend or on Friday last week, said, no, on Truth Social. I do have the money. Of course, he loves to brag about how rich he is. What happens if he doesn't pay today?

POLANTZ: Well, Amara, it allows the New York Attorney General to go in and collect what they want, which is $464 million. 30 days ago, that's when Donald Trump lost this lawsuit. And so, the New York Attorney General's Office was putting the pieces in place for today, which is the 30-day mark. That's when he had the window of time to try and post the bond so he could continue appealing. If he doesn't post bond, then the New York Attorney General's Office can take action to try and seize his holdings, his buildings, his houses, his cars, planes, helicopters, bank accounts. That's a big one that might be easiest for them to collect upon. But, all of that process takes time. It just begins today when the AG's Office can start to move because he -- if he doesn't post bond as of today, he misses the window.

But, Amara, there is the possibility that an appeals court could step in. Donald Trump has asked for a lifeline from the appeals court to either relieve him from having to post to the bond so he can continue to challenge that loss of this civil fraud suit, or he just wants them to lessen the amount he would have to post, maybe $100 million or so instead of a half billion so that he could continue appealing.


So, we're waiting to see if the court provide some relief there, and also how soon the Attorney General's Office is going to move on freezing or claiming these assets. It all takes time.

WALKER: And just to be clear, he has to post this bond or these securities just so that he can continue to try to appeal the case. Is that correct?

POLANTZ: That's right. It would keep the solidification of his loss in sort of a limbo, in a frozen zone, if he is able to post the bond and continue appealing.

WALKER: Understood. Thank you so much, Katelyn Polantz. Appreciate it. And of course, we'll talk to you again later in the show.

So, as you imagine, Donald Trump has not been quiet about where he stands on all of the legal activity.

Let's bring in CNN's Alayna Treene to catch up with what the ex- President is saying. Tell us more about what you're hearing regarding his mindset today, Alayna.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Amara, the dueling threats, both in the same city on the same day, really underscore some of Donald Trump's longest-held fears, which is, one, a potential criminal conviction, and then the other is not having as much cash as he claims that he has. Now, this New York Attorney General's civil fraud case, what Katelyn just walked us through, is something that is personally very concerning for Donald Trump. And we heard him really air some of those grievances last night when he railed against Fox News' coverage of this entire case.

I'm going to read for you some of what he said. He said, quote, "Don't Like the way Fox News is reporting the Letitia James Election Interference Scam. They don't want to discuss how ridiculous the Corrupt Judge's fine of 450 Million Dollars is. It should be $ZERO." Now, the post went on to say "THESE ARE NOT THE PEOPLE THAT MADE AMERICA GREAT, THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT ARE DESTROYING AMERICA."

So, Amara, a lot of the rhetoric we have heard from Donald Trump and his team throughout this process. He is claiming it as political. He is claiming it as interference. This is the type of rhetoric he has used time and again with all of his indictments and charges that he has faced to really galvanize the Republican base behind them. But, look, part of the reason that this is so personal for Donald Trump is because he is a businessman. He was a businessman before he became a politician. And this is something that strikes to the core of who he is.

The other part of it is that he has successfully, for several years, really tangled with legal issues regarding his real estate empire, but he has been able to avoid this bond scenario that we're seeing play out today. And the other part, again, is the public perception of him not having enough liquid cash to really post the bond himself.

And as, for the criminal case, the New York hush money case that he is going to be attending a trial for today, that's also a concern. I mean, it's one of four criminal indictments Donald Trump has often lamented, both publicly and in private, that he does not want to be indicted, that despite what his team is doing and successfully, I should say, with fundraising, and really energizing Republicans to come to his aid, missed all his legal troubles, it's still something he does not want. He does not want to be indicted and he does not want to be going to trial.

Now, the other part of this criminal case as well, this New York hush money case, is that it's actually one of the cases that Donald Trump's team feels the most confident about. They think it's the least damaging publicly despite, of course, some of the more mortifying details that come with him, paying allegedly hush money to a former adult film star. Amara.

WALKER: OK. So, you've got that going on. We also mentioned that bond payment deadline of more than $500 million. Of course, his lawyers are saying one thing. Trump is saying another, at least on Truth Social that he does have the money. His lawyers say it's practically impossible that he has this kind of liquidity upfront. Do we know if he actually has the money?

TREENE: It's interesting. He doesn't have as much as he is claiming, and I think that's clear because he cannot post this bond himself. But, from my conversations with his team and others, and others who know Donald Trump very well, he does have a lot of liquid cash for someone who is in real estate. And I do think that's important to note out. A lot of people have their money, people in this business tied up in their properties, which is clearly what we're seeing Donald Trump struggle with.

Now, his issue was that he was trying to find insurers to come forward and help ensure the bond so that he didn't have to put up his own money for this. Clearly, that has not worked. We saw his legal team last week appeal to the judge and to the attorney general, saying that they were having issues with this and that it was impossible for him to put up this money. And so, what they're concerned about now is kind of what Katelyn just walked us through a couple of moments ago, which is could they be seizing some of his properties? One of the first that they put their attention on is Donald Trump's Westchester County property, "Seven Springs", that is something that could potentially be seized depending on how this bond hearing goes today.

And so, there are definitely a lot of concerns about this behind the scenes. And again, I think it's just very important to note that Donald Trump has faced many legal issues in the past, and he has often been able to wiggle his way out of them, and this time it's not the case.


Attorney General Letitia James in New York is someone who has been very firm and aggressive when it comes to Donald Trump and his team. Donald Trump's team, I should say, recognizes that her threats are not hollow and that they could very well see some of his properties be seized this week.

WALKER: All right. Alayna Treene, a lot to stay updated on. Thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney, Joey Jackson, who is standing by in New York. Always good to see you, Joey. So, let's start off with what we're about to expect to happen today in this Manhattan courtroom. It was supposed to be Trump's first criminal trial beginning today, but instead, there is this critical pre-trial hearing that's taking place. What's going to -- I guess, what is the judge considering? What will the judge be considering today?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, Amara, good morning to you. So, I think the defense, that is Donald Trump's team, is going to argue really notions of due process and fairness. What does that mean? Due process certainly has to do with notice and the right to be heard. And in preparing for any criminal trial, what you want is discovery. You want any and all documents that may tend, right, to have some relevance in the case, relevance meaning making any fact a little bit more or a little less likely. And in that regard, when you're missing significant discovery,

thousands of pages in this instance having to do with Michael Cohen, Amara, his fixer, remember, Michael Cohen pled guilty himself in 2018 in connection with a scheme with Mr. Trump. Right? Mr. Trump not prosecuted by the federal government. The feds took a pass on that. They prosecuted Cohen instead. But, there is a lot of information that Cohen passed on to the federal government that his defense lawyers Donald Trump's want. They want evaluate it. They think it goes to the credibility of Michael Cohen. They think it goes to the core of the case.

And so, I think the lawyers are going to be arguing, listen, to the extent that we got this information late, allow us to evaluate it, allow us to review it, allow us to see how it impairs this case, and we need a delay for that. They will also, Amara, be arguing based upon the lateness upon which the discovery was produced to them for it to be a fundamental issue of fairness and for the case to be dismissed. I do not anticipate that the judge will dismiss that nor should the judge dismiss it. I do anticipate that the judge will give the defense team some time that it needs to evaluate the document and see how probative, how relevant, how important it is to their case, and then to come back and be prepared to try the case. So, I would expect a delay, not a dismissal.

WALKER: OK. So, as my little brain tries to keep up with all the legal stuff that's happening, so, this hush money criminal trial, that was supposed to begin today, was delayed because of the disclosure of these new documents that has to do with the 2018 prosecution of Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is expected to be a witness in this case against Trump. Correct? So, first off, why were these documents then produced now, and how relevant do you expect it to be, if at all?

JACKSON: Yes. So, that's the critical question. I think the defense wants to know, listen, when you're preparing the case, right, of course, the Manhattan District Attorney, a state entity, is separate and apart from the federal government, and certainly they will argue that, listen, we can control what our office does. We'll say Alvin Bragg, the district attorney, with regard to the evidence we produce with regard to the documents we prepare with respect to all in our possession. We cannot, Your Honor, have any control over what the federal government does. The defense will argue, listen, you too should work. If you didn't work in tandem, you should certainly know that they have evidence that's relevant to this case, particularly if it related to Michael Cohen.

You should have gotten that evidence, will Trump's team say as to the prosecutors. You should have made it available to us. And there is no excuse for this being presented at the last moment. So, as to why it happened. I think the issue is, is the Manhattan District Attorney's Office operates in its entity. The feds operate as they do. However, there should have been some sharing of information. Prosecutors will argue, we gave it to you when we received it. We weren't trying to hide the ball. And in light of that, you can now review it.

The answer to the question, Amara, in terms of how relevant, it'll depend upon what the materials show. Prosecutors are arguing that it's largely duplicative of what information they have given that as prosecutors have already given the defense team. Let's see. They have a responsibility to produce it. Prosecutors do. Trump's attorneys have an obligation to review it. And with respect to its relevance, once Michael Cohen testifies and is cross-examined, that is confronted with any inconsistencies, confronted with any lies, confronted with any misstatements or inflammation, that's when we'll know the real relevance of this. So, that is yet to come, which certainly will be the case when the trial starts, Amara.


WALKER: Joey, it's glad you're -- you're so intelligent, and I can actually follow what you're saying this time around.

Let me ask you about this bond payment then. OK? So, we're talking about $500 million. As we understand it, there were I think 30 bonding companies that, said, no, we're not going to secure his bond for him or underwrite this. So, what's happening behind the scenes in terms of Trump trying to come up with the money, as you might anticipate? And if he is unable to pay, what is Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, doing to I guess lay the groundwork to seize his assets, property, cash from his accounts, what have you?

JACKSON: Yeah. So, I think already the attorney general has attempted to be fair by allowing for a 30-day grace period before she would move forward in an effort, right, to collect on the judgment. Remember that the judgment could have been owing and due to this point, but she has held off for 30 days. What you might see is the attorney general give the grace to hold off yet again, what am I speaking about? Remember that an appellate court has been consulted, right, not consulted, but certainly they have applied, that is the Trump team, to an appellate court and said, listen, can you do a couple of things for us? Number one, can you reduce the nature of the bond that we owe or stay it in some way, that is delay it?

And I think that what will happen is, is that the attorney general could very well say, listen, I'm not going to move forward. I laid the groundwork. But, until that appellate court decides, I think any day now, perhaps not today, but potentially this week, maybe next week, we'll hear from an appellate court. And I think that that would indicate that the attorney general is being beyond fair. Certainly, we know she has already laid the groundwork to collect by filing judgments in various jurisdictions, Westchester, New York.

But, I think that the prudent course of action may be, yes, he has gotten 30 days. Let's give an additional bit of time. Let's let the appellate court weigh in, and that would go and demonstrate, look, she is not being vindictive. She is simply exercising her rights under the law. But, we'll be guided by what the appellate court has to say with respect to the reduction of the judgment, if any, with respect to lessening the amount of the bond, if any, and with regard to what they say, that is the appellate court, should happen moving forward.

So, you could see that. If you don't see that, then what you'll see is certainly the attorney general moving and looking to seize assets as soon as possible, and that would include banking accounts, because those are liquid funds. And then, you move on to properties, which takes some time. There are certain notice provisions etc. And after you produce those notice provisions, then you can go right in and liquidate the actual property assets, converting them into cash and satisfying the judgment.

WALKER: Yeah. Let's not lose sight of the fact that we are witnessing some extraordinary moves on a former President here. Joey Jackson, really good to see you. Thank you so much.

So, as the clock ticks down for Donald Trump to come up with the bond money, a new fight could be looming between the former President and the New York attorney general. We'll bring you more of our team coverage a little later.

And we're also covering the day's top international stories. We're on the ground in Moscow where four people have been charged over the deadly concert hall attack. That report after the break. Also, Israel and Hamas may be close to a hostage for prisoners swap. We'll take a look at what each side is asking for.




WALKER: Breaking news into CNN, Boeing's embattled CEO is stepping down. Dave Calhoun says he will leave the airplane giant by the end of the year. As you may recall, Boeing has had a series of problems, including the MAX 737 crashes and maintenance problems in the last few years. Of course, we will continue to follow this breaking story and bring you more in just a moment.

Welcome back, everyone, to CNN Newsroom.

So, as the Kremlin defends its intelligence services, four suspects in the deadly Moscow concert hall have been charged, the attack, have been charged with committing a terrorist act. Each had a number of visible injuries as they went before a judge. And a Russian spokesperson would not comment when asked by CNN if these men had been tortured. The death toll from Friday's attack now stands at 137. Inside what's left on the venue, crews are searching debris from the devastating fire which the gunmen are accused of setting. Robots and dogs are also being used in the search in case there are more bodies buried underneath all that rubble.

CNN's Matthew Chance is on the ground near Moscow. He is joining us now live.

Hi there, Matthew. I can see just a huge, long line of flowers that have been placed at this memorial where you are. Can we first focus on what took place in court this morning? I mean, it was really, I guess, notable to see the pictures of the accused attackers and the injuries that they sustained. MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the Russian investigation has been moving pretty quickly in the sense that they say they've arrested so far 11 people in connection with the killing of more than 130 people here at the Crocus City Hall outside of Moscow. The four suspected attackers appeared in a Moscow court earlier today. And as you mentioned, they look battered. They look bruised. One of them appeared to have lost an eye. Another one had what appeared to be the remains of a plastic bag still tied around his neck. The third one was in a wheelchair.

And in the lead up to that, there have been lots of videos that have been leaked about the -- showing the brutal interrogation of these individuals, as they were sort of questioned, etc., by the Russian security services. I think this was -- these videos were leaked on purpose as a way for the security services in Russia that have come under some criticism for not kind of acting ahead of this attack, given the warnings about it, a message that they are taking this incredibly seriously and being ruthless in their pursuit of the perpetrators. And I think that's the evidence of that is what we saw on the faces of those men in the court today.

WALKER: So, the investigation clearly continuing. You're there at the scene of the attack. You can see so many people gathered there behind you. What are they saying? What's it like there today?

CHANCE: Yes. We -- you can see, I mean, there are mass of flowers and stuffed animals, stuffed toys and photographs and candles that have been laid out here, just like we've seen so many times over recent months in Russia. Last month, of course, the memorials like this were for the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Last year, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group had memorials like this to him as well. And it's become like a feature, unfortunately, of everyday life in Russia. And I think that's a sign of just how volatile and unstable this country has been -- has become.

And if you speak to people, some of whom are still here, look, laying their flowers out of respect for the 130 or more people who were killed in the Crocus City Hall, this building just left to the screen. I mean, they're saying, look, they feel incredibly scared and frightened about what happens next. And indeed, there is a great deal of anxiety in the country about whether the security laws are going to be tightened. There is word of a moratorium on the death penalty being lifted, that's not gone to Parliament yet, but it's certainly being discussed in a serious way. And of course, even though ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack, the Russian authorities, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, has tried to link it with Ukraine, something the Ukrainian authorities have categorically denied. Amara.


WALKER: Matthew Chance, thank you very much, live for us there at the scene of the terror attack.

Israel and Hamas could be closer to reaching a deal to exchange hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners. That is according to CNN Analyst Barak Ravid, who says Israel has agreed to a U.S. proposal that would see around 700 Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for the release of 40 Israeli hostages. This as two high level delegations from Israel meet with U.S. officials this week, as the IDF is preparing for a ground operation into Rafah. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will sit down with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

CNN's Paula Hancocks have been -- has been following the talks for us. She is now live from Doha, Qatar. What is the latest? Are we any closer to a deal, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, what we have from this potential U.S. bridging proposal is part of the process. We heard just 10 days ago a counterproposal from Hamas, saying that they wanted as part of this deal between 700 and 1,000 prisoners, Palestinian prisoners to be released in return for those 40 hostages. So, this is within the range of what Hamas had said that it wanted to see. Now, we know that this is one part, a key part of the first phase, but it is just one part of the first phase. And there is agreement between the U.S. and Israel, it appears on this. Of course, there has to be agreement from Hamas as well, and that could take several days.

Here in Doha, the technical teams remain. But, of course, those who make the key decisions, the decision makers, are not physically here at this point. We have heard from a diplomat, who is familiar with these talks, that there are also other outstanding issues where there hasn't been agreement, the entry, for example, of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and also Israel's military positioning once there is a ceasefire in place. We've heard very clearly from Hamas that they would like Israel to pull its military out of the whole of the Gaza Strip or at least move it from certain areas once a ceasefire is in place. But, Israel does not seem willing or able to do that. We've heard from the Israeli Prime Minister consistently that he still wants to have this major ground offensive into Rafah.

So, we heard from one source, briefed on the matter, that there is steady progress, but there are still gaps that remain. Amara.

WALKER: All right. Paula Hancocks, appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

And still to come, former U.S. President Donald Trump is expected in a New York courtroom in a few hours from now. We will have a live report. Plus, with the ransom deadline approaching, more than 100 school children kidnapped earlier this month are back home. The details of the rescue just ahead.




WALKER: It is set to be a busy day for Donald Trump. He is facing not one but two major legal threats in New York today. First is that deadline to post a bond of nearly half a billion dollars in a civil fraud case. If he does not come up with the $464 million, the attorney general in New York is prepared to begin seizing his properties and freezing his bank accounts. Also, a crucial pre-trial hearing in the criminal case over hush money paid to the adult film star Stormy Daniels. That trial is set to begin on April 15. But, Trump's lawyers will argue for a longer postponement or to have the charges dismissed.

Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is in New York, joining me now. Hi there, Paula. Please take us through what we expect to play out at the courthouse over the next few hours.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in just in about an hour or so, former President Trump will be in this courthouse, right behind me, with his lawyers. Now, this was supposed to be the first day or the first criminal trial against Trump. But, instead, Trump's lawyers are going to argue for why they believe this case should be postponed or even dismissed. Now, this comes after 100,000 documents were handed over in recent weeks from federal prosecutors.

Now, this is a state level case, and it's unclear why the Justice Department was just handing over this evidence now. This is all related to the federal investigation and prosecution of Michael Cohen, who is, of course, at the heart of this case. The allegations in this case are that Trump paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. And then, he is charged with falsifying business records to cover up why he was paying Michael Cohen back that money.

Now, his lawyers, Trump's lawyers, argue that this new evidence helps their client and it will take them at least 90 days to review this. But, the district attorney is pushing back on this, saying, look, only a small portion of this new evidence is actually relevant to the case. And if it helps anyone, it helps them. Now, it's unlikely, it's really a long shot that this case would actually be dismissed. But, we do hope today that the judge will set a new trial date.

WALKER: OK. And in terms of this bond repayment deadline that we have been talking about of $500 million, what are we expecting? What does Trump have to do? And how will that process move forward?

REID: Well, this has been so personal and really embarrassing for the former President. He prides himself on his reputation as a successful billionaire businessman. And here so far, he has been able to -- unable to post this $464 million bond. Now, this stems from a verdict in a civil case where a judge found him, his company and his two older sons liable for fraud. He has to post this bond while he appeals that decision. And so far, he has been unable to do so. His lawyer say it's not likely going to happen. Now, he could always sell some property, but his lawyers argue he shouldn't have to do that. So far, dozens of insurance companies have declined to underwrite this.

So, it's unclear how he is going to come up with this money. And if he doesn't, the Attorney General's Office could potentially start seizing his properties. Now, that's a long process. It takes a while. There is also optics and political concerns. But, we know the attorney general has filed the paperwork in Westchester County outside Manhattan to lay the groundwork if she has to do that. WALKER: All right. A lot going on. Paula Reid, appreciate you joining us there from New York. Thank you so much.

Let's get back now to our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, I mean, this is really a big legal day for the former President in terms of the pressure that he is facing. What will you be watching for in the coming hours coming out of that New York courtroom when it comes to this hush money case, because this was supposed to be the day of Trump's first criminal trial?

POLANTZ: Amara, I'm going to be watching for exactly what we've been watching for months now. When will these trials take place? There are four criminal indictments currently on the books against Donald Trump. And at the moment, there is not a trial schedule set for any of them. That's because we have this hearing today in the New York hush money case. It is likely to go to trial first among all four of the cases. And so, we're watching to see what the judge there does today with setting the trial date if he sets it for April 15, as what he has penciled in as right now, or if Donald Trump's team can convince him, they need more time to prepare for trial because of these new additional documents they have received. Does it move somewhere closer to the summer, perhaps?


That's what they're hoping for if they can't get it dismissed outright, which is very unlikely, as Paula said. With that, then there are other cases up in the air that we're waiting to see where they land. It's been 23 and change days since the judge overseeing Donald Trump's case in Florida, Judge Aileen Cannon, heard arguments, four trial dates and proposals, she has yet to set any schedule there in that classified documents case, the federal case against Donald Trump in Florida.

So, every day that goes by is the day that we could get a trial date in that case. And then, of course, as April heats up, we're going to be looking at what judges will be doing, what the Supreme Court will be doing, with Donald Trump's January 6 case, when that could go to trial in federal court, and then, of course, in Georgia, Fani Willis wanting to take that to trial as soon as they can, perhaps before the election, even this summer. We'll see if the judge overseeing that as well will allow it.

WALKER: All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much.

Now, let's turn back to that breaking news coming into CNN this hour. Boeing's embattled CEO is stepping down. Dave Calhoun says he will leave the airplane giant by the end of the year. Now, as you know, Boeing has faced more than five years of problems, including those two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX planes that killed 346 people. More recently, a door plug blew out of the side of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX in January, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.

Let's bring in CNN's Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean. I guess it doesn't come as a surprise to many. But, what are your thoughts on this? What do you know? PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't come as a

surprise to me either, and many had been wondering if there would be major change at the top of Boeing, and now CEO Dave Calhoun stepping down at the end of the year. The irony here is that this is all stemming from the MAX 9 door plug blowout back on January 5, when that plane left the factory at Boeing without those four critical bolts back in October, according to the NTSB, then the door plug blowout happened all on board, uninjured and nobody was killed. That is significant, but it could have been so much worse.

And now the fact that Calhoun is stepping down has many wondering if this is too little too late. There was a huge financial loss reported at Boeing for the fourth quarter of this year. And airline CEOs had been especially critical of Calhoun after these issues that continue to come up. The irony, as I mentioned earlier, is that Calhoun came to power after the Boeing 737 MAX 8 issues in 2018 and 2019, two crashes killing 346 people abroad. Now, he is stepping down at the end of the year.

The other changes at the top, Larry Kellner, the board chair, he is retiring, and also Stan Deal, who is the head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is out of Boeing effective today. Up until now, there has not been a major change at the top at Boeing. The only person who has stepped down in the wake of the door plug blowout was the head of the MAX program, which is somebody that a lot of people really had not heard of, leaving the question that, was this person really a scapegoat, and should there be major change? Now we are seeing it play out.

There has also been a lot of incredible pressure on the workers at Boeing who have wondered whether or not there would be change at the top at the airplane giant. The workers have been especially criticized because of the fact that there was a quality control issue on the production line in the Renton factory, and they've been criticized for some of the work that they do there. The NTSB has really wanted Boeing to produce the records of the work that Boeing did on the factory floor that led the door plug bolts to be not reinstalled. That is so significant. And so, now, a lot of workers are getting at least what they may have hoped for when it comes to the change needed at Boeing. We will see if the company could ride itself. And now, Calhoun is not leaving until the end of the year.

So, there is maybe a chance here for Boeing to sort of turn the aircraft carrier around and write ride ship. But, there is a lot of question now about whether or not he will stay until the end of the year, simply because Boeing has reported these incredible financial losses, and airlines have been really heavily criticized Calhoun. Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci wants $150 million in damages from Boeing. CEO of United Airlines Scott Kirby has also heavily criticized Boeing. They have a lot of Boeing planes on order. One of the only few companies, Ryanair, has heavily supported Boeing through all of this. It's the backbone of their fleet. We will see, though, if orders ultimately drop off, and if Calhoun drops off along with them a bit earlier than planned. And Pete, you mentioned that the pressure that Boeing and of course the CEO, who is now stepping down, Calhoun, has been facing. [08:40:00]

Just in recent days, you had reporting that the FBI was looking into a possible crime. Is that correct?

MUNTEAN: Yeah. The FBI wants to know, and they have sent letters to passengers on board Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, the fateful door plug blowout flight, whether or not they are victims of a crime. And there was a settlement with Boeing and the federal government, deferred prosecution until right around the date of the door plug incident, deferred prosecution from the original Max 8 incidents of 2018 and 2019. And so, now, the FBI wants to know if whether -- and the Department of Justice wants to know whether or not there was a bigger case at issue here. And they're really digging into that.

Of course, this only adds on to the layer upon layer of investigation into Boeing. There is not only the NTSB investigation looking into the incident itself. It's only partway done. They just issued a preliminary report not long ago. But, the final report will take about 18 months. The FAA investigation of Boeing's quality control, they just did an audit of Boeing quality control on the floor of the Renton factory plant that builds the 737 MAX, and now this Department of Justice and FBI investigation.

So, the walls are closing in here on Boeing. And this is really something that had to be relatively swift, although it was not swift. We have seen it's been more than two months, almost three months since the door plug blowout. And so, the company was very slow to respond here --


MUNTEAN: -- at least for changes at the top of the company. And Calhoun made a personal plea on Capitol Hill to top lawmakers overseeing aviation that his airplanes are safe. He also made that plea to CEOs. It seems that now the rest of the company has lost faith in him. We will see if they can continue faith in him for the rest of the year.

WALKER: So, the Boeing CEO stepping down but not until the end of the year, at least for now, and of course, in the meantime, not instilling a lot of confidence for the flying public.

Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

MUNTEAN: Anytime.

WALKER: Still to come, parents of dozens of school children kidnapped in Nigeria are breathing a sigh of relief how they were rescued, just ahead.


WALKER: For hundreds of Nigerian parents waiting anxiously, there was good news this weekend. 137 school children kidnapped from Kaduna earlier this month have been rescued by the Nigerian military. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of over $600,000.

Joining me now is CNN's David McKenzie in Johannesburg. Hi there, David. What more do we know about how the kidnapped school children were released? Was the ransom paid?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, they aren't saying whether the ransom was paid or not. But, certainly the reporting we had just a few days ago was that parents were hearing from the band, as they call themselves, that they were expecting that ransom of more than $600,000.


But, for their part, the governor is saying that it was a search and rescue operation that released 137 children, the youngest of which was eight-years-old. You see those images of them. They looked shocked, tired. They've been on the run for many days with these armed kidnappers who targeted their school in the early morning hours after assembly, both primary and secondary school students, and hold them off into the bush basically. Now, parents are of course celebrating. But, questions being asked about how this trend of ongoing kidnappings, Amara, of students, the children and just private citizens in that particular part of Nigeria, in northwest Nigeria, keep on happening. And so, while the government is celebrating their safe return, the bigger questions are being asked is, why is this continuing to happen? Amara.

WALKER: Yeah. Right. I'm sure everyone -- a lot of people are asking that because this is -- might be reminiscent for a lot of people, the Chibok girls who were taken nearly 10 years ago. I'd imagine this is creating a lot of fear in the community as this continues to happen.

MCKENZIE: It does create fear, and many of these parents are just not knowing what to do because these children are in areas that are in under-governed spaces. They don't have full support of the security services, they feel. And in different parts of the country, in Nigeria, you have different threats, but the same outcome. Just a few days before these children were abducted by gunmen, there were more than 200 people taken in Borno state in the northeast of the country, likely by extremist groups where that continues to be a highly insecure area.

And as you touched on, Amara, it's nearly 10 years since the Chibok girls were taken. That caused a worldwide outcry and a social media campaign to get them freed. There are still some girls, who are now women, who have remained in custody all of that time. So, Nigerians are fed up, and they believe more needs to be done to ensure their safety. And if a ransom is paid, of course, it might fix one immediate problem. But, many fear that this will just perpetuate the issue of kidnappings for ransom, certainly in large parts of the northwest and central parts of Nigeria. Amara.

WALKER: Yeah, which is always a concern of paying a ransom. David McKenzie, appreciate your reporting there from Johannesburg. Thank you. Still to come, a criminal trial and a half a billion dollar bond. It's

a busy pressure-filled day for Donald Trump. We will sort out his legal entanglements after the break.


WALKER: Donald Trump will soon make his way to a court in Manhattan where his lawyers will again push to have his criminal hush money case delayed or even dismissed. This critical hearing is part of a process that could lead to the former President being convicted as a felon before November's election.

We're also tracking developments in Trump's other case in New York today. He has just hours to come up with nearly $500 million. That's the bond required by the court that found him liable for fraud in his recent civil fraud trial. If he can't, the New York Attorney General is poised to begin seizing his prized real estate and freezing his bank accounts.


For more on this truly extraordinary day for the former U.S. President, let's bring in CNN's Stephen Collinson. Stephen. It's great to see you.

Look, as you've been writing, it is an extraordinary day, time really for this country, but an extraordinary day, pressure-filled for Donald Trump. In one of your pieces today, you write "An extraordinary collision between Trump's personal, legal and political controversies, all of which reflect the contradictions of a unique figure who has repeatedly flirted with financial ruin and tested the law but who has an uncanny capacity to dodge, or at least delay, accountability." You're so right on that. And case in point is today's hush money trial, his criminal trial, the first of four was supposed to begin today, but he has managed to delay it at least until April 15, and they're still pushing for an even lengthier postponement. Well, what are you watching for today?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Yeah. One of the things that could come out of this pre-trial hearing today is whether the judge has decided that the case can actually go ahead next month. The reason it was delayed in this particular case was because the Southern District of New York found a bunch of documents that they believe could be pertinent to this case, and they handed them over to the prosecutor here and the Trump legal team. Trump says that this means, that his team needs more time. And in fact, it means that the case should be thrown out. It doesn't look likely that that will be the case. Many of these documents don't, in fact, appear to be relevant to the particular matter in hand.

But, the judge has already delayed this till the middle of April. He may decide today that that is enough and the case would go ahead, in which case, it would be the first time that a former President would go on trial in the United States, or he could say we're going to take a little bit more time and push it forward -- back further into the summer. All of this, of course, is taking place as Trump is trying to delay and prevent three other criminal cases, two over election interference and one over his handling of classified documents coming to trial before November's election. He really doesn't want to go to the electorate with the possibility of a criminal conviction.

WALKER: So, the people at home are trying to keep up with all of Trump's legal troubles. Right? So, there are four criminal cases that Trump is facing. Would you say that this hush money case has the best chance of beginning, the trial beginning before the November election?

COLLINSON: It certainly looks like it, because the federal election interference trial has been put on hold because Trump has appealed to the Supreme Court with a sweeping claim of presidential immunity for acts that he took while he was in office. The court isn't due to hear that case until the end of April. We probably won't get a judgment until probably the end of June at the earliest. That makes it a very narrow window to get that case on before the election campaign really gathers pace, sort of early September.

The classified documents case down in Florida is proceeding very slowly. There is all sorts of pretrial litigation. And it also appears that the Georgia election interference case, which has had its own set of delays, and has a really complicated racketeering case with many co-defendants, it looks unlikely even though the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants to push it ahead this summer. There are all sorts of things that could derail that. So, the hush money case, which a lot of people believe is the least potentially damaging to Trump, probably wouldn't entail jail time, even if he is convicted. That may be the first and potentially the only criminal trial to take place before the election.

WALKER: All of what you just said underscores the point that you made that Trump has had this uncanny ability to dodge accountability. I do want to show those live pictures. It doesn't look like Trump has left for the Manhattan courthouse yet. You can see his motorcade waiting there.

Before I let you go, Stephen, let's talk about this half a billion dollar bond that Trump has to post by today. His lawyers say that it's just practically impossible for him to come up with that kind of money. Trump obviously said the opposite on Truth Social on Friday or Thursday. What avenues are left open to him at this stage?

COLLINSON: Well, this is yet another trial. This is a civil case. He -- his adult sons and the Trump Organization were found to have committed massive fraud in overvaluing their properties to get favorable treatment from banks and insurance firms.


If Trump cannot come up with this almost half a billion dollar bond, the New York authorities will be able to start seizing his property and assets during the time when he plans to appeal this judgment. This is something that poses a very grave threat to the financial empire in which he built his name and his entire art of the deal mythology as a great businessman, which was central to his political ascent. And it's something that's very personal to Trump. What he could do is he could try to sell properties. The problem with that is that he would be doing so at fire sale rates. They wouldn't get the full value for them. He could take -- he is waiting for more appeals to play out, asking for this judgment to be lessened or perhaps put on hold. That doesn't seem very likely to happen.

So, he is in a real difficult fix unless he can find someone of very short notice to help him come up with this bond.

WALKER: Yeah. It really feels like the walls are closing in on him very slowly but surely. CNN Senior Politics Reporter Stephen Collinson, it's always good to have you. Thanks so much.


WALKER: And thank you for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Amara Walker. Connect the World with Eleni Giokos and Jim Sciutto is up next.