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Trump Post Shows Image Of Biden Hog-Tied In Pick-Up Truck; Federal Judge Rebukes Trump's Attacks On Courts; Bodies Of Four Missing Victims Yet To Be Recovered; Father Of Slain IDF Soldier Pleads For Return Of His Remains; What Arizona Voters See at the US- Mexico Border; Pope Leads Easter Vigil After Missing Good Friday Service; Cocoa Prices Jump. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 19:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hi everyone, welcome to the CNN Newsroom. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Tonight, the Biden campaign is calling out Donald Trump for, quote, "inciting political violence" after he shared a video on social media that shows President Biden tied up like a hostage in the back of a pickup truck.

CNN's Steve Contorno joins us now with more. Steve?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Alisyn, former President Donald Trump once again facing accusations that he is encouraging violence against a political opponent, this time for a social media post involving President Joe Biden. We're only going to show you a clip of this briefly, but take a look at this video captured on Thursday in Long Island.

It shows two trucks decked out in Trump flags and decals. And on the second truck, there's this image of President Joe Biden hog-tied on the back of the truck. Trump posted that video to his social media site, Truth Social on Friday.

On Saturday, his campaign defended it, telling CNN in a statement, quote, "That picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway. Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him."

The Biden campaign, meanwhile, wasted little time responding to this. They told CNN in a statement, quote, "This image from Donald Trump is the type of crap you post when you're calling for a bloodbath, or when you tell the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by. Trump is regularly inciting political violence, and it's time people take him seriously -- just ask the Capitol Police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6th."

Now, Alisyn, these are images that we are used to seeing from Trump supporters at his rallies, certainly online, and yes, sometimes even on vehicles. But it is striking to see the former president and someone who aspires to be president once again, amplifying these kind of images. Of course, that has become commonplace for Trump going back to his 2016 campaign and through this week, Alisyn, when he attacked the judge who is overseeing one of his New York cases.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Steve Contorno, thank you for that.

Joining me now is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein, and defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. Shan, posting a violent image of a sitting president, is that legal?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The answer is it depends but what would normally happen if any regular person like me or you posted that is, we would get a visit probably from the Secret Service. The visit itself isn't bringing charges, not an arrest, but they need to do a threat assessment.

And certainly, the people who created the image and those displaying it are deserving of such a visit. Now, the Biden administration's response, I thought Ron can speak to this, you know, very political response, of course, they can't tell DOJ or law enforcement to do something because they want to appear hands off.

But really, DOJ should make an inquiry. They should make sure that these things are being checked out. And frankly, they could talk to the former president's campaign and say, hey, this kind of thing is very dangerous. Doesn't mean they're investigating him or bringing charges, but that's a proper thing for them to do to keep the peace.

CAMEROTA: Ron, why isn't the Secret Service paying a visit to Donald Trump's house?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I -- we -- with Shan, I mean, if it was you or me they would be. And certainly, they are hesitant. And as we have seen many institutions in American life are hesitant about fully grappling with something we have not faced in our political history, which was the, you know, the leader of one of our -- the undisputed leader, of one of our two parties regularly, routinely and seemingly as part of his strategy encouraging political violence.

When he says he's going to pardon the January 6th rioters and he calls them patriots and hostages, he is sending a very clear signal, when he tweets what he has -- about the various judges and law enforcement officials involved in these cases. He is sending a very clear signal.

And as we know from January 6th, this does not all just, you know, dissipate into the air. There are people who will hear this in a very specific way.


And I think, Alisyn, all of this is a reminder to voters that there is a lot that comes with Donald Trump. And at this point in the campaign, there are a lot of voters who are kind of looking at him and his presidency and saying things didn't cost as much when he was president.

But this is a reminder that that is not all you get if you get -- even if you do get that at all with Trump, you also get a routinization of threats of violence that we have not seen before in American history in which no institution, I think, is grappling with fully.

CAMEROTA: Shan, one of the judges involved in one of his criminal cases in New York, Judge Merchan issued a gag order against President Trump this week not to threaten jurors or witnesses. Do you think that's working?

WU: Not at the moment, but the latest threats, I'll use that term that Trump has done, is actually very carefully designed to avoid the language of the gag order because it's talking about members of the judge's family. And that gag order, like others before it have actually accepted the judge themselves or the main prosecutor.

I think, frankly, that's a mistake somewhat echoing what Ron's saying. It's a failure of the institutions, in this case, the judiciary, to really grapple with what's happening with this kind of platform that Trump can use to harass and impugn the integrity of the system.

CAMEROTA: But Shan, just so I understand, the gag order is they cannot threaten the jurors or the witnesses but he can threaten judges? I mean that, in other words, there's a loophole in that?

WU: There is a loophole. I think I'm using the term threaten a little bit too loosely. If he actually threatened the judge, like I'm going to hurt them or something, that would not be encompassed. But saying disparaging things about the judge, about Alvin Bragg, Jack Smith, in this case, the judge's adult daughter, that is a loophole within the gag order right now.

And it sounds like the district attorney, Alvin Bragg's office, has started the process to maybe ask the judge to expand that. The judge, being a judge, is probably unlikely to take that on himself to expand it, so it really is up to the prosecution to ask for that change.

CAMEROTA: Ron, your thoughts?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, you know, as I said, I mean, I don't think there's really any institution from the media to the legal system to the executive branch that really has been able to wrap its arms around what we are now facing. I mean, Donald Trump is the dominant figure in the Republican Party.

There are a lot of people who support him for a lot of reasons, including legitimate policy disagreements with the current administration. But part of the package that he has presented throughout his political career going back to 2016 when he when he offered to pay the legal fees of people who beat up demonstrators at his rallies, if you remember, is that he brings a threat of political violence into the day to day life of American politics in a way that we have not seen probably since the run up to the Civil War. You know, I remember one of the experts on domestic terrorism saying to me toward the end of Trump's presidency that we could be heading toward a period like the troubles in Ireland, not at the same level of violence, but where there are threats routinely. I mean, you know, it's not just January 6th.

I mean, there was a kidnap plot on Gretchen Whitmer. What we saw during the, COVID pandemic with public health officials and school board meetings, there is a whiff of violence that has now been introduced into our politics in a way that simply was not there before.

Maybe in the Jim Crow South to defend segregation, but on a nationwide basis, we have not seen anything like this. And no one, no one is responding fully to the magnitude of what we are seeing.

CAMEROTA: Shan, speaking of that, a sitting federal judge sat down with our Kaitlan Collins because he was so moved to talk about how this is basically an attack on the rule of law. So let me play you if we have it that clip.


JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I think it's important that as judges, we speak out and, you know, say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process. Because if we don't have a viable court system, that's able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny. And I don't think that would be good for the future of our country and the future of democracy in our country.


CAMEROTA: Shan, what about a judge, a sitting judge, going to that length?

WU: Well, I applaud what Judge Walton said. I've been before him many times, both when he was in Superior Court and in Federal Court. And I think the key distinction here is he's not commenting on the merits of the case, saying that the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

He's really talking about the threat to the institution that's happening by allowing this type of escalation of harassment, of impugning the integrity of the courts.


It's one thing to come out to the courtroom steps and say, I disagree and I still think I'm innocent. I think the judge made a bad ruling. It's another to say that the judge is corrupt, to call them names like thugs. And I think Judge Walton is very properly pointing out, that is a big problem for the way that our institutions function, and I applaud him for speaking out that way.

CAMEROTA: Ron, let's move on and talk about politics and all the numbers that you've been crunching and the different demographics -- BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- and how they'll affect the election. So you wrote a piece this week for CNN that talks about the huge role that the Hispanic and black vote could play. So tell us more.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Yes. You know, for good reason, there's been a lot of attention to the polling this spring showing Trump not only winning more support among black and Hispanic voters than he did in 2020, but more, Alisyn, than any Republican presidential nominee since the civil rights era.

I mean, he's running consistently in polls around 20 percent to 25 percent nationally among black voters, 45 percent or so among Hispanic voters. George W. Bush didn't do that. Ronald Reagan didn't do that. But for all of the deserved attention that is getting the other side of the racial ledger has largely been ignored, which is that Joe Biden in the same polls is somewhat surprisingly running as well, or maybe even a little better than he did in 2020 among white voters, despite all of the headwinds he's facing.

And if Biden can do that, can hold that support that he now has where he is at or above the 2020 number with whites, it kind of turns around. It flips the main question in this election. I think the decisive question becomes, can Trump continue all the way through November to maintain the elevated historic level of support he's posting now among black and Hispanic voters, given everything else that he is talking about.

Mass deportation, internment camps, unilateral military action against Mexico, pardoning the white supremacists who attacked the Capitol on January 6th. I mean, he, at this moment, is getting the best of both worlds. He is energizing his social conservative base with some very polarizing ideas about race and policies and also winning an unprecedented number of nonwhite voters on other issues, primarily the economy.

And the question of whether he can stay on that tightrope all the way to November could be decisive if Biden stays where he is now among white voters.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for explaining all of that. Ron Brownstein, Shan Wu, thanks. Great to see you, guys.

WU: Thanks.


CAMEROTA: Right now, the first cuts are being made to start removing the pieces of the Francis Scott Key Bridge from the water. The very latest from Maryland coming up next.


[19:17:27] CAMEROTA: The cleanup effort is underway at the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Soon, crews will try to lift the first piece of the bridge out of the water. You can see here, power saws working to cut the metal into smaller pieces, but it is slow going.


GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: This is going to be a remarkably complicated process. Even after that initial lift takes place, there still needs to be an understanding of what forms of adjustments have happened, how has lifting that one piece since begin the removal process, how does that impact the remainder of the bridge that still sits inside of the bay.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Gloria Pazmino has been with us here live from the scene. Gloria, any word on if they think they will be able to recover the bodies of the four victims that are still in the water?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, that is certainly the top question for those families who are waiting for the first responders to be able to get back into that water. The governor told us earlier today that it's not safe enough for them to do so just yet.

That's why the removal of the debris lifting that metal and that concrete off of the vessel and clearing the area around it is so critical. Because one of the most important parts of this mission is for those divers to be able to get back in and continue the search for the bodies of those four victims.

A total of six people were killed during this terrible incident. They were six workers who were on the bridge in the middle of the night working to fix potholes. We know that they plummeted into the river. Two of them have been recovered, but four more are still yet to be found a new.

I do just want to highlight the fact that we have four families, both here in the United States, but also in Mexico, in Honduras, in El Salvador, people who are waiting to hear the fate of their loved ones. In fact, our CNN colleagues in Mexico were able to speak to the uncle of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes.

He is one of the bodies that has been recovered, but his family is in Mexico, and they're pleading with the Mexican government asking to be granted a humanitarian visa so that they can come here and join the rest of the family in this moment that they're going through. They want to be able to be together to say goodbye.


And they have questions, frankly. They want to just be able to get some closure. So we were able to get to that family in Mexico and speak to them directly. So as we focus on the mechanics of the cleanup, which are critical and a really complicated mission involving hundreds of people and a lot of machinery.

We also want to highlight the fact that there is a human factor in the middle of all of this, people who want some closure, and of course, the people of Baltimore and the larger community who have lost, you know, an essential piece of their skyline and something that is essential to their economy and their way of being and living here in Baltimore. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes. Gloria Pazmino, thank you very much for being there reporting for us.

Coming up, a father's plea for the body of his son to be returned by Hamas. Stick with CNN Newsroom. We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: Tonight, Egypt's state run media reports a new round of talks set for tomorrow in Cairo between Israel and Hamas. Negotiations for a ceasefire and a hostage deal are on the table, we're told. In Israel tonight, protesters accused their government of misleading the public and failing the hostages who are still being held inside Gaza.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in Jerusalem with more.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day of violence, Alisyn, in the Gaza Strip as this war nears its six-month mark. All eyes very much on Rafah, that southernmost point of the Gaza Strip, where 1.2 million Gazans are currently seeking refuge, many of them in tents. The fear that the threatened Israeli ground invasion would have a huge cost for the civilians that are seeking shelter in that part of the Gaza Strip.

That, of course, will be at the heart of conversations that will now take place. We expect as early as Monday when an Israeli delegation finally makes its way to Washington to hear the U.S. administration's fears about what that ground invasion would mean. These talks will come at an extremely delicate time, of course, because it's also the hostage talks that are picking up again.

We know that an Israeli delegation is on its way to both Qatar and Cairo to continue those indirect conversations with Hamas to see how close they can get to negotiating the release of the remaining more than 130 Israeli hostages in exchange for some 700 Palestinian prisoners. We understand those talks could start as early as Sunday in Cairo.

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, huge emotion as family members of the hostages gathered with many thousands of people, very angry scenes that spoke really to the frustration and the fear here in Israel that these hostages may not come home at all. More than 130 of them still there when we're coming up, as I said, to the sixth-month mark of their captivity in just a week's time. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Melissa, thank you. The family of an IDF soldier, 19-year-old Itay Chen, only recently learned that he was killed on October 7th during the attack by Hamas. Chen's body was taken into Gaza that day and has not been returned to his family for burial.

Earlier tonight, I spoke to his father, Ruby, about where things stand almost six months later.


CAMEROTA: What is the Israeli government telling you about those negotiations?

RUBY CHEN, FATHER OF ISRAELI-AMERICAN IDF SOLDIER KILLED BY HAMAS: First of all else, Alisyn, thanks for having me. And good evening. 176, 176 days of this hell that we are living through each day all over again. We had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two days ago.

The message is more or less the same from the Israelis government perspective. And there's a lot of frustration as you see today, and we are a democracy, which is legitimate to be able to have an opinion that might be a bit different than the government when it comes to the pace of the negotiation and the gap that still exists.

But I would also look at the people in Gaza that they should go to the elected officials, Hamas, which is similar to ISIS, and tell them, we demand that there will be a ceasefire. And the way to get to a ceasefire is the release of all of the hostages, and Hamas have been so difficult in just trying to talk to them, and have been so stubborn in their negotiations.

This has been going on for six months, and I'm looking at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which I feel for, as well. And look at the people then, and ask them, and urge them, go to your elected officials, go to Hamas. Pressure them to get to a deal, similar to what we are doing to the Israeli government.

CAMEROTA: Yes. We will get to Hamas in a second. But, first, I just wanted to ask you a little bit more about that meeting that you had with the prime minister. Did you confront Netanyahu directly? And what did you say to him? And what did he say to you?


CHEN: The prime minister has had the same strategy for the last five months, you know, with the same components about push on Hamas. And looking at it all fall off, it's not the main item on the agenda in my opinion, again, the way the events, Israel going into Rafah is something that Israel has been very consistent on, which is saying that the ceasefire will not happen until all the hostages come out and there is a need to put more pressure on Hamas to get them to the negotiation table.

So that will continue according to the prime minister and they are trying to be creative as possible, and try to find ways to get to a deal done and we need that deal. I would like to also reach out to the Muslim viewers on the show and wanting to wish them a Ramadan Kareem for their celebration, and would like to approach them and ask them the way in that Hamas are dealing with the deceased, is this part of Islam? To use dead bodies as bargaining chips?

I am pretty sure it is not and I would be more than happy to hear the Muslim leaders in the United States calling to Hamas to have some dignity for the deceased and maybe start negotiations around the deceased and let the families, US families where over 40 US citizens were killed on October 7th to have the minimum, which is being having a place to mourn for our son, a US citizen, as well as many others.


CAMEROTA: Ruby Chen also expressed his thanks to the White House for its efforts to resolve the hostage crisis and he said that he believes Benjamin Netanyahu needs to step down.

Coming up, CNN goes to Arizona to talk to undecided voters. With all the talk on immigration here are why some voters say things are not what they seem.



CAMEROTA: Throughout this presidential campaign, CNN's John King is traveling the country, speaking to Americans about what matters to them.

His series is called "All Over The Map," and this week he is in Arizona talking with Arizonans about their border concerns.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A wall as far as the eye can see. This is the Tucson sector, by far, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. Smuggling is a big problem, and a big business Faith Ramon knows all too well.

FAITH RAMON, MEMBER OF THE TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: I needed money. I needed money quick. And because of my alcohol and my addiction, I just went to a party, met some friends, they offered me some quick money, I took it. And it was so easy. It was so easy. I did it again, and I did it again. Sure enough, I was doing it for years because of it being so easy.

KING (on camera): Then you got caught.

RAMON: And then I got caught. My luck ran out.

KING (voice over): A felony conviction set Ramon in search of sobriety, and the 2018 Tohono O'odham tribal ritual would again put the border front and center.

RAMON: A sweat large ceremony. And I walked in, and that was the very first time I heard that there was a border wall that was going to be built on the reservation, separating and destroying some of our sacred sites.

KING (voice over): Ramon is now an activist who registers voters and is eligible to have her own voting rights restored. Her first choice for president would be this November in battleground Arizona.

RAMON: I will vote for Biden.

KING (voice over): Donald Trump is not an option.

RAMON: I don't like the fact that our reservation was destroyed by a racist wall.

KING (voice over): To win here again, Biden needs big margins here in South Central Arizona, Tucson, and south to the Mexican border.

Ray Flores is no fan of Biden nor Trump, thinks both are too old to be president.

RAY FLORES, ARIZONA VOTER: At this juncture, they both had four years, and I'm just eight years more frustrated than I was before.

KING (voice over): Flores runs El Charro, a family business for 102 years. A Tucson landmark famous for carne seca and the chimichanga. Washington's immigration paralysis hurts business.

FLORES: I mean, a clear process for work visas would be amazing. You're a technology company, you can get an engineer and you can get them immigrated and you can get a work visa. Why shouldn't I be able to do that with a chef? Or with a really good waiter?

KING (voice over): The immigration conversation tends to be different in places at or near the border. More polite, more nuanced. Focused on solutions, not slogans.

EVAN KORY, ARIZONA VOTER: It's a unique situation where you have two countries that create a community and actually it's mutually beneficial for both countries.

KING (voice over): Walk through the Nogales Border Crossing and the first business you see is Kory's bridal shop. Evan Kory is fine with the wall, but didn't like it when Trump added the razor wire. He bristles when the former president talks about the border and Mexicans.

KORY: We've always depended on our Mexican neighbors to support our local economy.

KING (voice over): Kory, a Democrat, also bristles though when liberals oppose more money for the Border Patrol and other security measures.

KORY: Yes. I mean, that's equally frustrating too, because you have to have a balance between all the needs and find a way to somehow work together. [19:40:08]

KING (voice over): Handmade boots are a specialty at David's Western Wear. For 44 years, a favorite of customers on both sides of the border. David Moore says 99 percent of his business was from Mexico before the COVID shutdown. It's about 70 percent now.

Moore says the wall helps stop illegal crossings. He wants more agents to cut long wait times that discourage Mexicans from making day trips to shop. And he says the asylum process is broken.

DAVID MOORE, ARIZONA VOTER: I don't know how that works, that people from Africa are coming in through Mexico, up through the Mexican border. I would want them to regulate that a little more.

KING (voice over): Moore is a registered Republican, but a likely Biden voter, because Trump offends him.

KING (on camera): He said that, you know, the immigrants are poisoning our blood. What would you say?

MOORE: I'd say my mother was born in Mexico and she came across the border, legally. So, you know, that's poison I can deal with, I guess.

KING (voice over): Moore says the way Trump and allies talk about the border is exaggerated and alarmist, and he says he pays the price. Customers call and say they're worried about making the trip to Nogales.

MOORE: People from everywhere do that. Because when they say on the news that the borders are a war zone, you know, that's -- those are the images they get. They think it's unsafe, but --

KING (on camera): Your home is not a war zone.

MOORE: My home is not a war zone. No, we've been here for a long time.

KING (voice over): A long time, at what is now a major line of America's political divide.

John King, CNN, Nogales, Arizona.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to John King, always enlightening reports.

All right, Pope Francis celebrating an Easter vigil inside St. Peter's Basilica. What we know about the Popes health tonight.



CAMEROTA: Today in Rome, Pope Francis took part in the Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica. But on Friday, he canceled his appearance at the last minute in The Way of the Cross Procession. The Vatican said that was "to preserve his health for Easter events."

Let's bring in religious commentator and author, Father Edward Beck.

Father, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: So does Pope Francis's last-minute absence worry you?

BECK: Not really. I don't know if you remember, but he did the same thing last year because it was a particularly cold evening in Rome, and again, Holy Week is very packed with Holy Thursday and then the Easter Vigil, which he celebrated tonight and tomorrow and Good Friday services at three o'clock, he was there.

So I think it was just prudent for a man who is 87, to just say, you know what? This is a little bit too much. I think I am going to watch. He wrote the meditations for the evening and just like last year, he decided to sit the evening out and just let it go on as it would.

CAMEROTA: And conserve his energy. Because as you say, he is expected to preside over the Easter Mass tomorrow in St. Peter's Square.

And so we understand that he will deliver this message of Prayer for the End of Global Crises. How important is his Easter message to Catholics around the world?

BECK: I think it is very important, Alisyn, because look at what is happening in the world right now. We know that the Pope is very concerned about what has been happening in Gaza, in the Ukraine, all over the world. I mean, there is conflict we see in our own country here.

I mean, people are at their wits' end with the division right now, and I think the Pope tries to take all of this into his own heart in prayer and pray for peace, and pray for justice.

And so I think what the message to the world will be is that Good Friday is not the final word. That suffering and death is not, that the hope of the resurrection gives us a newness of life that we all desire.

And so I think it is a really important message right now, especially with what has been happening in our world.

CAMEROTA: I was going to ask you about that just personally, how are you feeling about the state of humanity on this Easter eve?

BECK: I've been a little discouraged, too, as you watch the news, as you watch CNN, of course. I just think that there is so much hatred and division and violence right now. And so it is kind of hard to say where is the light in this?

You know, tonight at his homily for the Easter vigil, Pope Francis talked about the women who were grieving and went to the tomb wondering who would roll the stone away? And when they got there, it was rolled away, so they didn't have to and that it was empty.

And so I think that's really what this is about. Yes, it there's a lot of struggle, there's a lot of suffering. No one is going to deny that. That's what Good Friday is about. But the real message for us is that Good Friday is not the final word. That's what we are celebrating this evening with the vigil. That's what we will celebrate as Christians tomorrow with Easter. That there is the potential and possibility of new life if we embrace it.

And so I am hopeful for that. I mean, that is my faith. That's what I hold onto, but I'd lie to you if I said I wasn't discouraged at times, at what I see and at the amount of division right now, especially in our own country, because we are so close to it right here and it is discouraging, but my faith does give me hope.


CAMEROTA: Well, that is the secret to be able to hold discouragement and optimism and hope in your head at the same time.

Father Edward Beck, thank you very much for your words. Great to talk to you.

BECK: Thank you, Alisyn. Happy Easter to you.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

Well, there is some sticker shock this Easter. Anyone shopping for chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs has noticed that the price of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate has soared to levels apparently never seen before.

The rise is being partially blamed on El Nino, that's the weather phenomenon that's bringing dry weather to West Africa, which produces the bulk of the world's cocoa supply.

CNN's Ivan Rodriguez is following this for us.


IVAN RODRIGUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For chocolatiers, the last several months had been nonstop.

JOCELYN DUBUKE, OWNER, JARDI CHOCOLATES: You get Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, a little bit of break, Easter, and now things kind of slow down a little bit.

RODRIGUEZ (voice over): Jocelyn Dubuke is the owner and chef of JARDI Chocolates. She is tasked with making chocolate confections of different flavors, shapes, and colors.

But this year, since the price of cocoa has gotten significantly more expensive, she is rethinking the kind of treats she makes and how she makes them.

Like this marshmallow chocolate bunny. DUBUKE: It is a chocolate cookie with a vanilla bean marshmallow, and then it is covered in milk chocolate. So for the you know, 30 grams that you're getting, only 18 grams of that is chocolate, which means it is a much lower ingredient cost for me, much lower labor for me as well, which means that I can pass along those lower costs.

RODRIGUEZ (voice over): In January of 2023, Dubuke was paying $13.50 a kilo for chocolate. This week, she has paid $15.71 a kilo.

DUBUKE: So that's a 16 percent increase. The white chocolate, like I said, has gone up 35 percent in less than a year.

RODRIGUEZ (voice over): And with no end in sight for when prices could normalize, Dubuke will have to continue finding creative ways to create delicious chocolate while keeping her business afloat.


RODRIGUEZ (on camera): And Alisyn, I am personally a fan of that marshmallow chocolate bunny, but you know, it is also a bit of an uncomfortable situation sometimes for these chocolatiers, Chef Dubuke told us that at times, consumers feel like they are the only ones saying these price increases, especially at a time when everything feels like it is getting more expensive, but she does say that she is lucky to have the customer that she does because they've been so understanding.

CAMEROTA: Ivan, I feel like that marshmallow chocolate bunny never expires. So I really think you can eat from last year.

RODRIGUEZ: No. you can hold on to it for years.

CAMEROTA: You can, so you can also eat last year's if you can't afford this year. So thank you. Thank you for that report. Ivan, great to talk to you.

Well the super bloom is here and California is awash in wildflowers, there.

All right, we're going to show you more when we come back.



CAMEROTA: After a wetter than average winter, California's deserts are awash in wild flowers.

CNN's Stephanie Elam reports.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A flurry of flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is amazing. ELAM (voice over): As spring begins to unfurl in California, flower fans are hoping for another show stopper, a phenomenon known as a super bloom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The super bloom is many, many flowers, millions, if not billions of flowers blooming simultaneously.

ELAM (voice over): Expanses of orange, yellow, and purple flowers, so densely clustered that they are visible from space like in 2023, after one of the wettest winters on record. The thing is super blooms aren't a guarantee. It takes the right conditions for that right of hues to appear.

During California's devastating drought years, there is no brilliant display.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When those conditions come together and you get a lot of rain and cool days, you're going to see tons of flowers and this year I think we are on track for that.

ELAM (on camera): All of these beautiful blooms just draw people in, but this is nature, so naturally there are threats. And here in California, that often is snakes.

ELAM (voice over): Like 12-year-old May Lyn (ph) found out.

ELAM (on camera): What is the coolest thing you've seen when you've come out here?

MAY LYN, 12 YEARS OLD: A snake. I got the dog and I saw it running.

ELAM (voice over): In 2017, some California Parks were crushed with super bloom seekers. The town of Lake Elsinore banned visitors to one canyon in 2019 after hundreds of thousands of people trudged off trails destroying precious petals in their quest to take the perfect picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are fragile ecosystems. They're wild ecosystems, and they can be damaged pretty easily by being stepped on, sat on, driven on.

ELAM (voice over): Yet experts say respectfully, viewing a super bloom is a great way to connect with nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll just see one of the most incredible things that happens in our natural world.

ELAM (voice over): Stephanie Elam, CNN.


CAMEROTA: Very beautiful.

And before we go, I hope you'll allow me a quick mention of my new memoir, "Combat Love." It is just out this week. It is about my turbulent teenage years and how my challenges during those days paved my path to becoming a TV reporter and a news anchor.

So whether you are a Gen X'er yourself, or you just want to know how I overcame some obstacles, I hope you will check out "Combat Love." Available at all bookstores nationwide.

Thank you for joining me this evening. I'm Alisyn Camerota, wishing you a peaceful Easter Sunday.

Join us again tomorrow night. CNN NEWSROOM starts at five Eastern, and an encore of "Real Time with Bill" is next.