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CNN This Morning

Two Dead, Thousands Evacuated As Torrential Rain Inundates CA; Biden Touts Jobs Report As Regulators Seize Silicon Valley Bank; NY Prosecutors Invite Trump To Testify In Hush Money Probe; McConnell Eager To Leave Hospital After Fall; Paul Flores Sentenced To 25 Years To Life For Murder Of Kristin Smart; SpaceX's Dragon Endurance Headed to Earth After Five Months in Space. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 11, 2023 - 06:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Buenos dias. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Boris Sanchez.

PAULA REID, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Paula Reid in for Amara Walker. Boris, good morning. It is great to be with you.

SANCHEZ: Paula, great to be with you as well. I was looking at Amara's social media. It looks like she's skiing somewhere in Europe with her family. Great for her. We're glad that you drank some coffee, got up bright and early to be here with us this morning, Paula.

REID: I'm thrilled to be here. I got my coffee right here, ready to go.

SANCHEZ: Fantastic. There is a lot to get to. Here is some of what we're watching for this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just came in. He's like, wake up, wake up. And you're like, your house is flooded. And I looked on the ground, and it was like there's flood in.


SANCHEZ: He seems to be in a good mood for a natural disaster. California is soaked by another round of storms. Those atmospheric rivers washing out roads, collapsing bridges and prompting evacuations.

We have the latest on the damage and where this severe weather is headed next.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Overall, we've created more jobs in two years than any administration has created in the first four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: President Biden takes a victory lap following a strong jobs report where we're seeing those jobs.

Plus, the stunning bank collapse that has some small business owners wondering how they'll pay their employees.

SANCHEZ: Plus, in politics testing the waters, presidential hopefuls swarming Iowa this week as the GOP race heats up. We've got new reporting about when Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis might announce a presidential run.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've just been trying to make sense out of it for a whole week.


REID: CNN speaks to the families of two Americans killed in Mexico, how they're coping. Plus, the apology letter from the Mexican cartel responsible for their deaths.

And we begin with that powerful storm inundating California with water. Some parts of the state saw over a foot of rain Friday. That torrential rain is causing dangerous and widespread flooding. The Weather Prediction Center issued a level four excessive rainfall warning for the Bay Area and Central Coast for the first time in a decade.

Fast-moving water, downed trees, and collapsed bridges are just some of the issues residents are facing. Yesterday, President Biden approved emergency assistance for California in response to the flooding and landslides.

SANCHEZ: And more evacuation orders came down overnight because the water just kept rising. In Fresno County, there were three elderly women, including a 104-year-old, that had to be rescued after they were stranded in a home. Officials are now warning residents to stay alert and to try to keep themselves out of harm's way.


SHERIFF JOHN ZANONI, FRESNO COUNTY: Don't put yourself in a situation where you're going to need to be rescued. Don't create a problem because we have a lot of emergency personnel out there. But we need to make sure that they're available for actual rescues and people that are, you know, in distress. Don't put yourself in a bad situation and create an emergency.


SANCHEZ: I just want to mention, we're actually going to be speaking to a sheriff later this morning whose region has been impacted by this disaster. So stand by for that.

Look, it's not just the rain, higher elevations are already hammered by ferocious snowfall earlier this winter. And they're going to get hit even harder. Potentially 8 feet of powder today. CNN's Nick Watt is taking us to the hardest hit areas this morning.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Water, everywhere, causing chaos across central California. Some 25 million are under flood warnings. The Kern River usually runs at about six feet, it's up over 17th. Snow is the issue up at altitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a quick sick when I lost control but I caught that bad boy.

WATT: In SoCal, they're rushing to rebuild some sort of road for 450 households. This is their only way out. Springville's Pleasant Valley Road now anything bad. In my 40 years, never seen it like that, to the man who shot these images. A major artery in Oakland closed at rush hour nearby a peach coffee warehouse roof collapsed, killing one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Longtime employee, beloved by everyone.

WATT: Around 25 times the volume of water that flows in the Mississippi is flowing through the air and this is the 10th so-called atmospheric river to hit California this winter. Low pressure from the north meets moist air near Hawaii. They call it a Pineapple Express, sounds fun? It's not. Essentially a fire hose aimed at this state usually famed for its sunshine.


Throw in a couple of other winter storms that dumped a couple of years' worth of snow on some upland areas. And this is the result. Today's storm is a warm one. So along with all this rain, some of that snow is melting. The residents of Felton flooded in January once more told to evacuate here and elsewhere yet more upheaval.

ALISA, NEWMAN, CALIFORNIA: Now, we have to go home, pack our stuff and leave once again when we were just able to come back a couple of weeks ago.

WATT: Good news, all the water this winter is significantly rolling back. The years long drought suffered in the West. Bad news yet another atmospheric river's forecast to hit this state early next week.


WATT: Well, Boris and Paula, some parts of California have had more than a foot of rain dumped by this storm alone. This little Farmington back six inches so far but it's not over. And look at the damage already. The rain is going to carry on here on and off until sometime in the middle of next week. Boris, Paula?

SANCHEZ: Nick Watt, thank you so much for that report. Right now, more than 15 million people are still under flood watches across California. We want to get to your forecast. So let's go to the CNN Weather Center with Britley Ritz. She is the very latest for us. Britley, these atmospheric rivers, a bit too many of them, I think, for folks in California?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, absolutely. This one finally starting to wind down. But just as we mentioned, another to follow here in the upcoming week. While this one winds down, we've added on nearly a foot of rain, as we mentioned, Anderson Peak, 13.6 inches, just over the last 48 hours. The flood threat continues even though this atmospheric river has wound down. We've got the westerly winds kicking in now, so scattered showers hold on to that slight risk of flooding for the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada and along the coastline as well as we roll into Sunday.

Look at how much more rain is expected. You're seeing the yellows, the oranges, that's two to three more inches of rain. And then of course, the Sierra Nevada. Over 36 inches of snow expected just through Sunday. Feet of snow, even more so. And then that whole system pushing eastward brings in two more threats not for the west coast, now for the plains, the Northern plains and the central and southern part of the country. Severe storms and blizzard conditions, all depending on your location.

Blizzard warnings across the Northern Plains into the upper mid-west where we're highlighting an orange. And then of course, winter weather advisories spread out throughout the rest of the area where we are seeing already snowfall.

And then the severe weather threat across the southeast where hail is expected, late Saturday and into Sunday. Gusty winds and even isolated tornadoes are a possibility as well.

REID: Britley Ritz, thank you.

And turning now to the economy, U.S. markets ended the week lower after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Yesterday set investors on Wall Street scrambling.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, and the fallout from that collapse upstage what was said to be the biggest financial news of the day, the February jobs report came out.

CNN's Christine Romans has more on how the U.S. economy may have beat expectations last month, but how this is complicated picture.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Boris, Paula, another strong month of hiring in American offices, malls, restaurants, hotels and construction sites. Despite headlines of layoffs in tech and finance employers added workers at a brisk pace cooling from January's huge half a million jobs, but still historically strong. The tight jobs market bringing bigger paychecks average hourly earnings up 4.6% on an annual basis. Economist and Fed officials anxious to see wage growth cool because it feeds into inflation.

The jobless rate ticked up to 3.6%. Still near the lowest levels in more than 50 years. Leisure and hospitality lead payroll gains adding 105,000 jobs. Every report another piece of evidence for investors and the Fed in its quest to slow down the economy and bring down inflation. The consumer price index for February retail sales, the Producer Price Index and consumer sentiment all on tap this week. Boris, Paula?

SANCHEZ: Sounds like the potential for more rate hikes soon, Christine Romans, thank you so much.

Meantime, President Biden is touting this February jobs report as proof that his economic plan is working.

REID: But after federal regulators seized control of Silicon Valley Bank, Friday, White House officials were out reassuring the public that the banking system is stronger than it was during the 20 -- the 2008 financial crisis.



CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: But we do know that our banking system is in a fundamentally different place. We put in guardrails which and our regulators have much more visibility into the banking sector than they did a decade ago.


REID: CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright is with the President in Wilmington, Delaware this morning. All right, so what else is the President saying?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, Paula. Well, the President seemed excited to tell 311,000 jobs that the U.S. economy added. President Biden said that it was really evident that not only is the economy reliable, durable, really able to bounce back, but that the economic recovery plan that he spearheaded over the last two years is working.

Now, Paula, Boris, President Biden, he used the opportunity of that job support really to link his efforts on the economy with the ongoing fight that both key Washington Democrats are having against House Republicans when it comes to priorities just a day after the President released his new budget. Take a listen.


BIDEN: You know, they're threatening to fall on our national debt. In fact, planning to fall as some Republicans seem to be doing puts us very much at risk. I believe we should be building on our progress, not go backwards. So I urge our extreme MAGA Republican friends in the Congress to put their threats aside, join me in continuing the progress we built. We got a lot more to do. So let's finish the job.


WRIGHT: Now, the President is using this data point here, this job support, as another point in the way that he is going to try to wage this battle against House GOP trying to make some progress on his economic vision.

Now, something that when you talk to White House officials, though, they're aware of concerns that the fact that the job report just this month released yesterday impacts probably could possibly link to something of a too hot economy.

Now, of course, that comes as the Federal Reserve is thinking about whether or not to raise or continue to raise interest rates. White House officials won't talk about it directly, but of course, when we hear them talk about this job support yesterday, it's very clear that they are excited about where the economy remains right now. Boris, Paula?

REID: Jasmine Wright, thank you so much.

A source tells CNN that former President Trump is meeting with his legal team this weekend to consider his options after being invited to appear next week before a Manhattan grand jury.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, the panel is investigating Trump's alleged role in a hush money payment scheme involving adult film star Stormy Daniels. That invitation from the Manhattan D.A. is a sign that a decision on indicting Trump is probably next. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports.



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: In what would be a historic case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg one step closer to bringing criminal charges against former President Donald Trump in a long running investigation.

BRAGG: We're going to look at the facts and the law and let the investigation and justice and what justice requires, you know, will dictate how much time we take.

SCHNEIDER: Prosecutors are now giving Trump the chance to testify before a grand jury investigating his alleged role in that $130,000 hush money payout to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to cover up their alleged affair a decade earlier.

Since potential defendants in New York are required by law to be invited to appear in front of a grand jury, it all indicates a decision on whether to charge Trump could come soon.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: It's one thing to turn around and to lie on Truth Social. It's another thing to turn around and lie before a grand jury. So, I don't suspect that he's going to be coming.

SCHNEIDER: Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen meeting with prosecutors again Friday. He was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his role, paying off Stormy Daniels and then getting reimbursed by the Trump Organization. That reimbursement would be at the heart of any case brought against Trump. Prosecutors could charge Trump with falsifying business records for improperly recording his repayment to Cohen. That would be a misdemeanor. Prosecutors could also charge Trump with a felony for falsifying business records in connection with violating campaign finance laws. It could be a risky case to proceed with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the prosecutor's plan is to rest their case on Michael Cohen, that's a pretty big gamble.

SCHNEIDER: Though, some argue it's straightforward.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: It's pretty simple, I mean, he paid money to keep her quiet. They took the money. They laundered it and hid it in the papers of the Trump Organization. And ultimately it meant that the Trump Organization paid tax on something and filed an income tax return that was false in New York state law. That's a felony.

SCHNEIDER: Several key people have already testified before the grand jury, including former top White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks.

Trump has repeatedly denied any affair with Stormy Daniels or any involvement in the payoff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?



SCHNEIDER: And it's spokesman blasted the DA's investigation, saying the Manhattan District attorney's threat to indict President Trump is simply insane. For the past five years, the DA's office has been on a witch hunt, investigating every aspect of President Trump's life, and they've come up empty at every turn and now this.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Trump has already said he will not leave the race if he's in indicted. And legally, he wouldn't have to, since there's nothing barring presidential candidates from running if they're charged or even convicted.

But of course, Trump would be the first former president ever indicted. And this isn't the only case that Trump is facing. He's under investigation in Georgia for allegedly working to overturn the 2020 election.

And, of course, Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump for his involvement in January 6, and also Trump's handling of classified documents after he left office. Paula and Boris.

SANCHEZ: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that. Still ahead this morning, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis was in Iowa

yesterday promoting his book, a bestseller. But that might not be the only sales pitch he was there to make. What we're learning about the timing of a potential presidential announcement.

REID: And the bodies of two Americans killed in Mexico are back in the U.S. This is we're learning, more about what happened to them and the apology letter a cartel sent following their deaths.



SANCHEZ: It feels like we just wrapped up the midterm elections, but already we're talking about 2024. And in the 2024 race, Iowa is ground zero right now for Republicans. Those declared candidates and potential candidates are flocking to the Hawkeye state.

REID: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and of course, former President Trump all made stops in Iowa. CNN Reporter Steve Contorno has the details on DeSantis' first visit to the state.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held two events in Iowa on Friday, his first ever trips to the Hawkeye State and fueling speculation that he intends to run for President later this year. During his visit, he was greeted by too enthusiastic standing crowds where he talked about the culture wars, he has been leading from Florida. Take a listen to what he had to say.


GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: We're not teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other with your tax dollars, no way. But you know what we are doing? We're putting out a positive vision. We are emphasizing and reintroducing American civics into the schools in a very big way. People need to be taught what it means to be an American.


CONTORNO: Of course, the big question coming out of these two events in Iowa is, will Ron DeSantis run for president? Now, the timeline we have been given is that he plans to make a decision by May or June. But he was not just here to speak to Iowa voters, he was also talking to Republican senators, lawmakers, and even some operatives laying the foundation in the groundwork for a potential campaign if he decides to run.

Now, he's not the only one fighting for the hearts and minds of Iowa voters. We also have Nikki Haley making an appearance in the state this week. And then former President Donald Trump will be here on Monday. Boris and Paula?

REID: Steve Contorno, thank you. Let's talk politics now at Daniel Strauss. He's the Senior Political Correspondent for The New Republic. Thanks so much for being with us.

I want to kick off by asking you to just give us a sense of how the 2024 race is shaping up as we're seeing all these candidates flocking to Iowa?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I mean, right now, the two major heavyweights in the Republican primary are former President Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. And that's no surprise why? On the one hand, Trump is the last Republican president, and he still has a strong, very energized support base among the activist wing of the Republican Party.

And then there's Ron DeSantis, whose credentials are sterling. We're talking like he served in the Navy, he was a lawyer, he served as a congressman, he was a member of the House Freedom Caucus. These are all attributes that are very appealing in the Republican primary.

And then there are a few other candidates. I put in something like the second tier Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and the former ambassador to the U.N. And then candidates who are likely candidates who haven't announced, like Senator Tim Scott, also of South Carolina, or the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

One interesting thing in this shadow primary right now is that many of the would-be candidates are ones who served under Donald Trump, who served in his cabinet. It's very rare that you see both a former president and his cabinet officials buying in the same primary for president, but that's what it's shaping up to look like here.

And I think that in the next few months, as this primary continues, it's going to be about culture wars. It's partially going to be about education. It's going to be about, as Republicans like to say, fighting woke culture, and it's going to be less about foreign policy or the economy. And that's what we're going to see in the next few months.

REID: But one evergreen campaign issue that we are seeing is, of course, Social Security and Medicare, they're shaping up to be hot topics as they are every campaign season.

Now, former Governor Nikki Haley had to clarify her call to raise the retirement age. She said she was talking about people in their 20s. So how do you see the debate over Social Security playing out in the race?

STRAUSS: This is one of the more interesting threads of this primary right now. Donald Trump is looking to differentiate himself by promising to protect entitlement programs. At the same time, though, both in Congress and on the campaign trail, there are a number of Republicans who feel the need to argue very directly that entitlement programs need to be reformed or even cut.


Haley's proposal is interesting, though, because she's not directly saying that spending for Social Security needs to be scaled back. Her argument is somewhat like that, though. It's that as a new generation of voters get older, their retirement age should be higher, and that's because they're are living longer. This is an argument that I've seen candidates may make in previous Republican primaries, but not too much success. So let's see how it works out this time around.

REID: And as of course you're aware, New York prosecutors have invited former President Trump to testify before a grand jury investigating the hush money payment to a former adult film star to some legal experts say that this could potentially mean that a charging decision is likely to come. That remains to be seen. But what impact do you think, if any, there will be on the campaign? He's made it clear he's going to campaign even if he's indicted. But how do you think this will play out politically?

STRAUSS: For Trump himself, he's going to argue that this is just the latest example of a witch hunt against him, that there's some sort of massive deep state out to prevent him from becoming president again.

I doubt that his Republican opponents in the primary or supporters of his Republican opponents will attack him directly. That really hasn't been what they've done so far. But they're going to be subtle contrast.

There are going to be statements and census like DeSantis will say something like, I don't have the legal woes that other candidates in this primary have, or we don't have the liabilities that other candidates have. And I think that's going -- what we're going to see in the coming months. If he's charged, that's an entirely different situation. But we're not there yet.

REID: Now, you make a great point hearing Governor DeSantis talk about not having any palace intrigue. Clearly a dig at the -- one of the most intriguing palaces of all time, the Trump White House. Daniel Strauss, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Still to come this morning, the bodies of the two Americans killed during a kidnapping in Mexico are now back in the United States, and Mexican authorities are making more arrests in the case.

The latest on the fallout from this terrifying incident when we come back.



SANCHEZ: All right, quick check now on this morning's top stories. Senior advisors say that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is itching to go home. He's eager to be discharged from a hospital after his recent fall. Remember that doctors are treating the 81-year-old for a concussion.

He fell and hit his head during a fundraising dinner on Wednesday in D.C., and he was taken to the hospital. His advisors say the Senate's top Republican is acting normally and working from his hospital room. REID: And Paul Flores, the man convicted of killing Kristin Smart in

1996 was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison without parole. Smart vanished in May 1996. Prosecutors argue Flores raped or attempted to rape Smart and then killed her in his dorm room. Her body was never found and she was declared legally dead in 2002 in 2021. New evidence led authorities to arrest Flores and his father. His father though was eventually acquitted.

SANCHEZ: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance is headed back to earth after more than five months in space. The spacecraft and its crew undocked from the International Space Station very early this morning, carrying a crew of four. Endurance is expected to splash down off the coast of Florida at some point later tonight.

All right, we have got an update for you now on this tragic story we've been following all week. U.S. officials are speaking with the two Americans who survived being kidnapped in northern Mexico last week. And authorities say the survivors are back in the U.S. as the bodies of two of their friends who were killed in the incident have also been returned to U.S. soil.

REID: Now, there have been arrests in the kidnappings. CNN's Carlos Suarez reports.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Paula, good morning. News of the arrest came a day after the cartel released a letter apologizing for the kidnappings and the murders. CNN obtained a copy of the letter from a source who is familiar with the investigation. It reads in part, quote, "the gulf cartel apologizes to the society of Matamoros, the relatives of Miss Areli" -- that's a Mexican national who died in the incident -- "and the affected American people and families.

The Gulf Cartel, Scorpion Group strongly condemn the events of last Friday, for this reason, we decided to hand over those directly involved and responsible for the acts." On Friday, authorities in Mexico announced the arrest of five men, bringing the total number of people taken into custody to six. It's unclear if the five men arrested are the same group of men the cartel said they were going to turn over to Mexican authorities.

Now, the family of one of the victims who survived the kidnapping reacted to the news. The mother of LaTavia Washington McGee told me they want to see more arrests, quote, they need to keep getting them until they get them all. The father of one of the victims who died, Shaeed Woodard said, he had not read the letter, and that the family was still trying to get their son's body back to South Carolina where the family lives.


JAMES WOODARD, FATHER OF SHAEED WOODARD: I just been trying to make sense out of it for a whole week. Just restless. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't eat.

[06:35:00] Just crazy to see your own child, you know, taken from you in such a

way in a violent way like that.


SUAREZ: The body of Zindell Brown has been turned over to U.S. authorities. Eric Williams, the other American that was shot in this incident, he is recovering at a hospital in Texas after being shot several times. Boris and Paula?

SANCHEZ: Carlos Suarez, thank you for that report. Still ahead, saying goodbye to a fallen hero, Ukraine mourning the loss of the country's youngest battalion commander killed in the battle for Bakhmut, how the nation honored his sacrifice and the latest from the frontlines in just moments.



REID: Now, to the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine. President Biden met with the President of the European Union, Friday at the White House. Two leaders pledging security, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine for, quote, "as long as it takes."

SANCHEZ: This coming as Ukraine's military says that Russia has unleashed a barrage of missile attacks in the east over the last few days, leaving dozens injured and nearly half a million people without power at one point in Kharkiv. We want to take you now to the ground in Kyiv with CNN's Ivan Watson, who has been tracking the latest developments for us.

Ivan, Ukrainian officials say that Bakhmut is still the hottest spot on the frontline with both sides dug in.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That grinding battle over a small southeastern city, pulverizing the city and just causing incredible casualties on both the Russian and the Ukrainian militaries. And we had a grim reminder of that here in central Kyiv where a national hero of Ukraine was laid to rest with a funeral service in St. Michael's golden dome cathedral over my shoulder there, attended by the Ukrainian president. Take a look.


WATSON (voice-over): Funeral for a fallen warrior, an honor guard, and thousands of mourners gathered to remember junior lieutenant Dmytro Kotsiubailo, better known by his code name Da Vinci. He was the youngest battalion commander in the Ukrainian army killed this week in the battle for Bakhmut. A month's long deadly test of wills between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries over a small city of questionable strategic value.

(on camera): This is how Ukraine is honoring one of its fallen heroes and also proof of the terrible cost that the Ukrainian military is paying in the battle for Bakhmut. In 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy officially declared Da Vinci a hero of Ukraine. On Friday, the president paid his respects to Da Vinci's surviving family members, accompanied by the prime minister of Finland.

Mourners gathered on their knees around Da Vinci's coffin in the Maidan, the square in central Kyiv where in 2014, Da Vinci then just a teenager joined thousands of demonstrators in a bloody battle against Ukrainian security forces. They ultimately sent the country's pro- Russian president fleeing to Russia. Soon after, Da Vinci joined a nationalist militia and fought for years against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region, before formally joining the Ukrainian armed forces.

Many of the people attending Da Vinci's memorial never met the young commander face-to-face.

SERGIY IVANNIKOV, KYIV RESIDENT: He lost his life for us, for me, for my children, for my family. And we want to live good life. And I am here to celebrate his life and to say final respects to him.

WATSON: What did Da Vinci fight for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Ukraine. For freedom. For us.

WATSON (voice-over): This woman knows the stakes all too well.

(on camera): Your husband is fighting in Bakhmut right now?


WATSON (voice-over): "There is a price for freedom", she says. "One life dies, so that other lives may be born." Though, only 27, Da Vinci knew the risks he was taking. "I'm ready to go to victory with you", he told his troops. "And if need be, to give up my life for you." Nearly everyone in Ukraine has lost something since Russia's invasion one year ago. A war in which far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice.


WATSON: Now, the Ukrainian military does not publish official statistics for casualties in this terrible, more than one year long war, nor in this battle of Bakhmut that is still so intense right now. There was another memorial yesterday here in Kyiv, not just for this one young commander, but for a father and son, Oliak(ph) and Mikita Kamuk(ph), they were serving together, also fighting in that battle of Bakhmut.

Both killed apparently by an artillery shell and bid farewell here in central Kyiv. More of the terrible price that Ukrainians are paying in this war against Russia. Back to you.

SANCHEZ: More names and more stories added to chapters and chapters of tragedies because of this needless invasion. Ivan Watson reporting from Kyiv, thank you so much.

[06:45:00] Let's expand the conversation on the situation in Ukraine with Colonel

Cedric Leighton; he's a CNN military analyst and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Colonel, thanks so much for being with us bright and early this morning. Let's start with the battle over Bakhmut because we've been talking about it now for months.

And it's an area -- it's a small town that isn't of tremendous strategic importance, but the symbolic importance that it's taken on because of Ukrainian sacrifices especially is huge.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it sure is, Boris, and good morning to you. There are so many aspects to this that, you know, it's really difficult I think for a lot of people to get their heads around this. But when you look at the eastern city of Bakhmut, and the very fact that you have all these Russian forces coming against it, but yet, after seven, eight months now, almost nine months of fighting in that area, the Russians have failed to capture the town.

The town is reduced to rubble, it looks like a mini version of Stalingrad from World War II, but the very fact that the Ukrainians have been able to make this stand at Bakhmut and really make a tremendous sacrifices on their part, but also, in essence stop the Russian war machine there is very significant. And that's I think why President Zelenskyy has decided not to withdraw his forces.

You know, there are a lot of discussions about the tactical wisdom of doing this, but the very fact that they're standing has definitely made a big impression on Ukraine and frankly, the rest of the world.

SANCHEZ: And colonel, I wanted to get your thoughts on the aerial assault that we saw, a barrage of missiles hitting Ukraine, actually from land, air and sea, some 90 missiles in a span of 24 hours hitting all sorts of targets. The Ukraine's top Air Force commander says that Ukraine doesn't have the ability to counter a specific hypersonic missile that Russia has launched.

At least, six of them just this week. How big of a concern is that for you that Ukrainians don't have the capacity to counter those missiles?

LEIGHTON: Well, frankly, almost no one has the capacity, Boris, to counter these missiles. This is the Kinzhal missile, and it is a hypersonic missile, it travels anywhere from 10 to 12 times the speed of sound. And it is launched by a MiG 31 fighter aircrafts. So these aircrafts and the missiles that's associated with this become a very important part of the Russian war effort.

But the key thing to remember is, as bad as the destruction is from these missiles from the other weapons, that the Russians have used against Ukraine, their supply appears to be quite limited, that's not very much solace to the people that have been hit by these missiles, but the very fact that they're using them also shows a degree of weakness on the part of the Russians.

So, you know, we need to really develop air defense systems, missile defense systems that can take these missiles out. But even with the Patriot system, it would be better for the Ukrainians once they get that deployed there, but it's not going to be a panacea when it comes to the -- and similar hypersonic missiles.

SANCHEZ: Had plenty more questions for you, colonel, unfortunately, we have to leave it there because of time. Thank you so much for being with us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Boris, any time.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

REID: And still ahead, a blockbuster trade in the NFL. The Chicago Bears sending the number one overall pick in the NFL draft to Carolina. Details on the haul they brought in for the rights to the top spot after the break.



REID: A blockbuster trade shakes up the top of next month's NFL draft.

SANCHEZ: Andy Scholes joins us now with this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Andy, the Bears making some moves.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, guys, you know, after weeks of speculation about what the Bears were going to do with that top pick, we finally got our answer yesterday. A league source confirms to CNN that Chicago has agreed to trade the number one overall pick to the Carolina Panthers. Now in exchange, the Panthers are going to send wide receiver D.J. Moore, the number nine overall pick and the second rounder of this year's draft, next year's first round pick and a second round pick in 2025, quite the haul.

Now, the Panthers will likely take a quarterback with that first pick when the draft begins on April 27th. Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio state's CJ Stroud widely regarded as the top two prospects. Now, D.J. Moore being a part of that trade in Chicago, well, it came as a surprise to many including Moore himself after the news broke of the trade. Moore took to Twitter to share his reaction with a pair of shocked face emojis.

All right, to the NBA where 76ers big man Joel Embiid, he scored 39 points against the Blazers last night, but his last two proved to be the ones that mattered the most, down by one, clock ticking down, Embiid spins away from Portland's Jusuf Nurkic and drains the fade- away jumper, that gave Philly the lead with 1.1 seconds on the clock. That was the first time the '6ers had led during the entire game. Here was Embiid after the 121-119 win.


JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: To be able to come back in a game like that, especially down one, you've got to make those plays. But you know, my teammates and the coach, they trust me, and you know, I've got to do my job.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Yes, and college basketball after 18 years in the Big East,

Marquette will finally play in a conference tournament championship game for the first time. The Golden Eagles holding off UConn 70-68 on Friday night in a metro basketball, Madison Square Garden, Marquette, the top seed in this tournament for the first time has now won eight in a row, they'll go for number nine in an automatic bid into March Madness against Xavier this evening at 6:30 Eastern.


Vanderbilt meanwhile may have played into an off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament last night. The Commodores rallying from an early 10-point deficit to beat Kentucky 80-73 in the SEC quarter finals. Coach Jerry Stackhouse's team peaking at the right time, winning 10 of their last 11 games. Vandy hasn't been to the big dance since 2017. They're going to face Texas A&M in the semifinals this afternoon at 3:00 Eastern.

The Aggies taking care of business against Arkansas, digging their way out of a 13-point hole to win 67-61. Now, Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman was not happy during this loss, he had to be held back by his assistants a couple of times during this game. And check out what happened after the game. A student journalist tweeted that a staffer walking behind Musselman grabbed his phone and threw it to the ground.

And you know, guys, I'm all against people putting phones in other people's faces, but it didn't even look like the journalist was that close. And never a good idea to grab someone's phone and throw it to the ground because --


SCHOLES: They're recording, and it's going to be -- it's going to be out there.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you're making it go viral by doing that. Not very friendly, Andy, I've got to say coach Jerry Stackhouse, that one made me feel old. My back started hurting when you said that --

SCHOLES: Yes, right.

SANCHEZ: Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

SCHOLES: All right --

SANCHEZ: Still to come this morning, another round of storms drenching California, leaving at least, two people dead and thousands out of their homes. We're going to have the latest on the damage and where this severe weather is heading, next.