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CNN International: U.S., U.K. Accuse Beijing of Backing Cyberattacks; FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Sentenced to 25 Years; King Charles Celebrates Friendship Amid Cancer Treatment; Donald Trump's Georgia Criminal Trial is Back On; Japan's Rintaro Sasaki Following in Footsteps of Greats. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 04:30   ET



POLINA IVANOVA, FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTER, FRIEND OF GERSHKOVICH: You see Putin talk about it in, you know, very clear terms that this is what they want to see happen that that they are looking for a deal. You know, it just gives you hope that at some point this will, this, you know, that he will be home. He needs to be home. He needs to be back with his family with his friends.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): FRED PLEITGEN, CNN Berlin.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. and Britain accused Chinese hackers of carrying out years of cyberattacks against Western targets and infrastructure. And they say it was done on behalf of Beijing. But China says the West is playing politics.

Plus, the man behind one of the biggest white collar crimes in history learns his fate.


COREN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. If you're just joining us, here are some of today's top stories.

The International Court of Justice says the catastrophic conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate with famine setting in. It says Israel must do more to get humanitarian aid into the territory and provide access to food, water, shelter and medical supplies.

And Maryland's governor admits the state has a long road ahead as salvage operations get underway after the collapse of the Key Bridge. Governor Wes Moore told reporters that recovery efforts for those still missing are a main focus as divers battle murky water conditions.

Plus, it's been exactly one year since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. The newspaper will mark the anniversary in its print edition Friday by leaving part of its front page blank. Well, China's president is urging American CEOs to throw their support

behind the world's second largest economy. Xi Jinping met this week with more than a dozen U.S. academics and corporate leaders as part of Beijing's renewed effort to win back foreign investors and repair relations with the U.S.


XI JINPING, CHINES PRESIDENT (through translator): Differences will always exist. This is because people are different and even people from the same family are not the same. But we should seek common ground, let small differences exist and build more consensus. This is true between nations as well as between family members.



COREN: President Xi is encouraging global businesses to continue to invest in China as direct investment in the country has dropped sharply in recent months. Mr. Xi's attempts to bring new investment into China comes as Beijing faces new sanctions for alleged government-backed cyber attacks. Will Ripley has the details.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China in the crosshairs. The U.S. and Britain accusing Beijing of cyber espionage, hacking into the heart of Western democracy, targeting critical military and civilian infrastructure.

CHARLES LI, CHIEF ANALYST, TEAM T5: The Chinese government, they have intentionally developed their cyber capability for the past decade. We are tracking like hundreds of three actors and some part of them, we can trace them back to a military unit belonging to PLA.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The People's Liberation Army linked to ongoing Chinese cyber warfare, says the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.

AVRIL HAINES, U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: We expect the PLA will field more advanced platforms, deploy new technologies and grow more competent in joint operations.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The latest accusations from the U.S. and the U.K. claiming elite Chinese hacking units are infiltrating America's power grids, stealing voter registration lists for tens of millions of British citizens. Working on behalf of China's powerful security ministry, the accused hackers now facing sanctions in both countries.

Just months ago at their summit in San Francisco, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden, China won't interfere in the November elections. Two people familiar with the conversations tell CNN.

But U.S. intelligence believes Beijing is improving its ability to spread disinformation and may try to use social media platforms like TikTok to sow doubts about U.S. leadership, undermine democracy and extend Beijing's influence.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Director Haines, you cannot rule out that the CCP could again, just like they did here, use TikTok as a platform to influence 2020 -- 2024 elections, right?

HAINES: We cannot rule out that the CCP could use it. Correct.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Beijing's malware may also be designed to wreak havoc on America's food, water and power supplies. The New York Times reports, citing U.S. intelligence, part of a plan to create chaos and distraction if the U.S. tries to defend Taiwan from a hostile Chinese takeover.

TSAI SUNG-TING, FOUNDER AND CEO OF TEAM T5: I think the purpose of this kind of cyber attacks, especially targeting critical infrastructures, I mean, the goal is probably to cause some disruption.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The U.S. Justice Department also indicting individual hackers working for Beijing for what the attorney general calls a 14 year global campaign to target and intimidate critics of China's Communist Party.

Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says: This is purely political manipulation. We urge the United States and the United Kingdom to stop politicizing cybersecurity issues, stop slandering and smearing China.

RIPLEY: Beijing has long accused the West and especially the U.S. of hypocrisy and digital deception, waging countless campaigns of cyber espionage against China. Experts say hackers on both sides are likely silently searching for online vulnerabilities with the potential to paralyze and disrupt daily life during times of geopolitical crisis.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


COREN: The founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, who carried out one of the largest white-collar crimes in history, has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. Sam Bankman-Fried, once known as a crypto whiz kid, was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy last year following the collapse of FTX.

He was convicted of stealing $8 billion of his customers' money. His sentence, far less than the 110 years allowed by sentencing guidelines, and also less than the 40 to 50 years prosecutors wanted. Well, that did not stop his lawyers from calling the sentence medieval.

But the judge said Bankman-Fried never showed, quote, a word of remorse for his terrible crimes and that there's a risk he could do something very bad in the future.

Earlier, we asked a criminologist if the punishment fit the crime. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SCOTT BONN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Based upon the tremendous harm that this man did through his fraud, theft and corruption, I think that 25 years and $11 billion forfeiture hits the mark.

He didn't take responsibility, personal responsibility for it in terms of his own defense. So that is that is highly sociopathic.


And the fact that he had essentially no expression and no reaction even to his sentencing, they said he sat there completely stoic with, you know, with no emotion. I mean, those are sociopathic trademarks right there.


COREN: Well, to commemorate Maundy Thursday in the U.K., King Charles recorded an audio message about the power of friendship in times of need.

It's his first public remarks since his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, was diagnosed with cancer and comes as the King himself undergoes treatment for the disease.


KING CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: Ladies and gentlemen, it is for me a great sadness that I cannot be with you all today. The Maundy service has a very special place in my heart. It has its origin in the life of our Lord, who knelt before his disciples and to their great surprise, washed their trouble-weary feet.

And as we have just heard, in doing so, he deliberately gave to them and to us all an example of how we should serve and care for each other.


COREN: Well, the King's statement was recorded last month, and while it did not directly refer to the health of himself or Princess Catherine, he made a point to recognize the work of public health and welfare services in the U.K.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more on why his message feels so poignant right now.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, typically, the King would be in attendance at this church service himself, but he is, of course, undergoing cancer treatment, so has instead shared an audio message.

Now, this message was recorded in mid-March, and while it did not directly address his cancer diagnosis, nor that of the Princess of Wales, it did address the importance of acts of friendship in times of need and touched on the King's gratitude for welfare services and organizations in the country.

KING CHARLES: In this country, we are blessed by all the different services that exist for our welfare. But over and above these organizations and their selfless staff, we need and benefit greatly from those who extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need.

BASHIR: Now, this was the King's first public address since Catherine, the Princess of Wales, shared her shock cancer diagnosis last week. At the time, the King said he was proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did and confirmed that the two have remained in close contact over the last few weeks.

The King, of course, revealed his own diagnosis in January, and has since taken a step back from public facing royal duties as he undergoes cancer treatment.

Thursday's church service marks another engagement in which Queen Camilla has appeared on behalf of the King, but he is expected to be at the Easter church service on Sunday morning at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, though it will be a smaller event, with the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children not attending.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


COREN: Three U.S. presidents, one huge fundraiser, and new messages about the war in Gaza. That's just ahead.

Plus, the Trump team's latest effort to get the criminal case against him in Georgia thrown out.



COREN: The war in Gaza looming large over a star-studded fundraiser for the Biden campaign.

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside Radio City Music Hall in New York demanding a ceasefire.

During the campaign event, the U.S. president said Saudi Arabia and Arab countries are, quote, prepared to fully recognize Israel for the first time, but stressed that there has to be a post-Gaza plan.

The fundraiser was billed as an armchair conversation with Democratic predecessors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, all three presidents calling for a two-state solution.

Pro-Palestinian protesters who interrupted the event several times were scolded at one point by Obama, who suggested they talk less and listen more. The fundraiser is believed to have raised more than $25 million for

President Biden's battle against Donald Trump, who was referred on stage as the other guy.

And the Trump campaign is trying to top that figure with its own fundraiser early next month. Sources say they hope to rake in at least $33 million.

Donald Trump was also in New York on Thursday attending the wake of a police officer killed this week. During brief remarks, Trump called for a return to law and order.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A sad event, such a horrible thing and it's happening all too often and we're just not going to let it happen. We just can't. 21 times arrested this thug.

We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently because this is not working. This is happening too often.


COREN: Well, Officer Jonathan Diller was killed during a traffic stop on Monday. New York's Governor ordered flags on state buildings to be lowered to half staff.

Well meanwhile, Donald Trump's criminal trial is back before a judge in Georgia and his lawyers are arguing that the former president is protected by the First Amendment.

Nick Valencia is following the case in Atlanta.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump's criminal case in Georgia back underway. Trump's attorney in the sprawling racketeering case arguing in court that the indictment must be thrown out.

STEVE SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Statements, comments, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Steve Sadow objecting to the charges against Trump, arguing his client was protected by the First Amendment when he spread lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen.

TRUMP: We won the state.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Noticeably absent from Thursday's pretrial motions hearing, Fani Willis, who spoke out Saturday at a community event.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The Fulton County D.A. narrowly survived staying on the case after more than two months of hearings and court filings on an effort to disqualify her over her romantic relationship with the former lead prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade.

WILLIS: I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.

VALENCIA (voice-over): But today the focus was back on the facts of the case. In the first hearing since those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, her team, minus the recently resigned Wade, arguing Trump was not being charged for lying, but rather because the lies he told incited a crime under Georgia law.

DONALD WAKEFORD, FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: An act which is illegal because it does harm to the government. There's nowhere to go because all of the speech is pled as integral to criminal conduct and therefore it's not protected by the first.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Attorneys for Trump co-defendant David Shafer also argued to get his charges dismissed. The former Georgia GOP chair was charged with multiple counts, including for impersonating a public official when he and others showed up to the Georgia Capitol in December 2020 to act as so-called fake electors for Trump. Shafer's attorney argued the term should be dropped, calling it, quote, really nasty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a just a pejorative statement.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Shafer argues he was not participating in a shady scheme when he tried to cast a vote as an elector, saying Trump won the 2020 election in Georgia. Instead, he argues he was simply following novel legal advice to give his candidate legal options to challenge the election.

VALENCIA: Court ended without a decision, and the judge gave no indication as to when he would give one.

It is very important to note that previous co-defendants have tried First Amendment arguments and failed. Now that this case is back on track, there are still very big questions surrounding this case. Perhaps the most important, will Fani Willis be able to get this case for an August trial, like she's hoping?


Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


COREN: Well, the wait is over for Beyonce fans. Cowboy Carter is here. We'll have a small sample from her new county music album after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COREN: The 2024 Major League Baseball season is finally underway in the U.S., and Shohei Ohtani did not disappoint in his first game as a Dodger in Los Angeles.

Well, fans greeted the Japanese superstar with a standing ovation in his first at-bat. He finished the day with a walk, a single and a double as the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1. Ohtani is the highest paid player in the major leagues, with a 10-year, $700 million contract.

And from an icon of baseball today to a rising star of tomorrow, teenage Japanese slugger Rintaro Sasaki is following in Ohtani's footsteps in a way that's very close to home. Ohtani's high school coach is Sasaki's dad. The teen recently signed a letter of intent of play for Stanford.

Hanako Montgomery reports.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At just 18, Rintaro Sasaki is a baseball phenomenon, hitting a record 140 home runs in high school, far surpassing Japanese baseball legends Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi, both graduates of Sasaki's alma mater and icons he grew up with.

MONTGOMERY: Right now, I'm in Hanamaki Higashi, a high school known for its elite baseball team. It's been the birthing ground of some of the biggest Japanese baseball stars in recent years, including Shohei Ohtani, Yusei Kikuchi and soon-to-be Rintaro Sasaki.

RINTARO SASAKI, BASEBALL PLAYER (through translator): I was a big kid in elementary school, so I used to wear hand-me-downs from Yusuke. Shohei-san also gave me a lot of baseball equipment to use, which I really appreciate.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Sasaki is the projected number one pick in Japan's professional baseball draft, but this letter is forgoing all of it to go to Stanford, a decision his father, who's coached Ohtani, Kikuchi and now his son, advised him to make.

HIROSHI SASAKI, HEAD COACH AND RINTARO'S FATHER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Japan, people tend to focus more on shortcomings, but in the U.S., they develop individuality. I think this is a very good choice for him.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): This unassuming high school, tucked away among Japan's snowy northern mountains, now boasts three baseball stars. So what's the secret? Coach Sasaki tells me it's not about the power in the arm, but in the mind.

H. SASAKI (through translator): I think the most important thing is to not blame others or to make excuses. Once I stopped doing that, my life changed. And the other thing is to set a firm goal.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): And of course, practice, practice and more practice.

Still, Sasaki has a way to go before reaching the heights of Ohtani, his dad tells me.

H. SASAKI (through translator): I'd never seen such a level of athleticism before. From the moment they joined the team, I knew they'd be tremendous athletes once they got stronger.


MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Ohtani and Kikuchi, forever legends for this Japanese high school and a source of motivation for Sasaki.

R. SASAKI (through translator): One day, I want to be playing on the same field as Ohtani and Sasaki.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Hanako Montgomery, CNN, Hanamaki city.


COREN: And the story is in the spotlight this hour.

Queen Bey, also known as Beyonce, has dropped her highly anticipated country album, Act II: Cowboy Carter. It's been releasing at midnight local time Friday around the world.


BEYONCE: Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene I'm warning you, don't come for my man ...


COREN: Well, that's Jolene, Beyonce's take on the classic Dolly Parton song. Well, Parton has said she's a big fan of Beyonce and does a voice intro before the song.

There are 27 tracks on the album, including two previously released singles, Texas Hold 'em and 16 Carriages. Well, Cowboy Carter features collaborations with a host of artists, including Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus and rapper Post Malone.

One of the most memorable and controversial props from the 1997 hit movie Titanic has been sold at auction for almost $750,000.


KATE WINSLET, ACTOR, TITANIC: Jack, there's a boat. Jack.


COREN: An anonymous buyer paid more than $700,000 for the door frame that helped Kate Winslet's character Rose to survive the icy North Atlantic waters after the ship sank.

For years, movie fans have debated whether the door could have safely held both Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack. Experts concluded it could not.

And reports say the director and the producer of last summer's hit movie "Oppenheimer" are up for a knighthood and damehood in the United Kingdom for their contribution to film.


CILLIAN MURPHY, ACTOR, OPPENHEIMER: We're in a race against the Nazis.


COREN: The duo not only work together, they're also married. Director Christopher Nolan and his producer wife, Emma Thomas, won Best Picture at this year's Oscars for the biopic. The film also took six other awards, including Best Director.

Well, thanks so much for your company on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. CNN "THIS MORNING" is up next after this quick break. Stay with CNN.