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CNN This Morning

Wall Street Scrambles To Stabilize Markets After Two Bank Failures; Major U.S. Banks Throw $38B Lifeline To Struggling First Republic; Arrest Warrant Out For Vladimir Putin For Alleged War Crimes; Sweeping Bank On Abortion And Use Of Abortion Pill In Wyoming. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 18, 2023 - 07:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So happy you could join us and welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is Saturday, March 18th. I'm Amara Walker.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Amara. I'm Boris Sanchez. We're so grateful that you are starting your weekend with us. It's great to be back with you, Amara. She's back off the slopes in Europe. She had a wonderful vacation, it looked like.

WALKER: Thank goodness, I got off the slopes because I wasn't standing most of the time. I was like, seriously tumbling down the time I was there. So, I've got a few bumps and bruises. But I'm happy to be back and I have been watching you, so it's good to be back, Boris.

SANCHEZ: I was watching you're skiing and snowboarding for better than mine. Let's just leave it there.

WALKER: Oh, that means I'm really bad.

SANCHEZ: Here's what we're watching on CNN THIS MORNING. America's largest banks come to the rescue of first republic, throwing out a $30 billion lifeline, the effort's underway to shore up the financial sector and prevent a bigger crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it's possible that one day we will see President Vladimir Putin in the dark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think those, I think, is impossible -- fail to understand history.


WALKER: The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes. Putin's response to the war and, and the odds that he's actually arrested.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he resisting? Is he combative at all in those


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not, not at all. He's not moving. He's apparently lifeless.


SANCHEZ: Several Virginia deputies is facing murder charges in the death of a jail inmate. The prosecutor accusing the deputies of smothering him to death. We'll share what we're learning about the case.

WALKER: And we begin this morning on Wall Street where America's biggest banks are scrambling to shore up the markets after two bank failures. The Dow, the S&P, and the NASDAQ all ending the week down as investors worry the worst isn't over yet. This week, a second U.S. regional bank called a Signature Bank shut down and a third first republic bank was rescued with a $30 billion lifeline.

SANCHEZ: Investors, though, remain worried about European Bank Credit Suisse, despite a $54 billion loan from Switzerland central bank to keep it afloat. Plus, fears of a recession are growing with Goldman Sachs boosting the odds of a recession from 25 to 35 percent. And, of course, inflation is still a major issue hovering over six percent, far above the Feds' goal of two percent. Next week, the Federal Reserve is going to decide whether Americans can stand another interest rate hike. Christine Romans has more.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Amara, a remarkable effort from big American banks to save another bank from ruin. 11 banks, $30 billion dollars that's how much money and how many lenders it took to shore up first republic, preventing another Silicon Valley Bank. Five billion each from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citi. 2.5 billion from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, 1 billion from U.S. Bank, BNY Mellon, Truist, State Street and PNC.

The mega deal from the mega banks included behind closed door talks between the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the Fed Chair Jerome Powell, JP Morgan Chase Chief Jamie Dimon, and the Chairman of the FDIC. The goal, the rescue returns the markets to normal and convinces you at home, your money is in safe hands. It kept a fast-moving week of efforts by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and bank executives trying to inject confidence and capital back into the financial system. Amara and Boris.

WALKER: Christine, thank you. President Biden is calling for Congress to tighten laws and claw back compensation from banking executives by imposing tougher sanctions for banking failures.

SANCHEZ: CNN White House Reporter Jasmine Wright has the details on this. Jasmine, what else did the White House say Congress needs to do?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Boris and Amara, well, President Biden, he wants accountability. And that comes after we saw those dramatic emergency efforts that administration put in place. Now he's saying that Congress needs to do more to expand his administration's ability to really prosecute or hold some of these folks accountable. Now, I want to read you a statement on Friday, President Biden said, "That no one is above the law.

Congress was asked to impose tougher penalties for senior bank executives whose mismanagement contributed to their institution's failings." So, really, Boris and Amara, the President is asking for just about three things. First, he wants Congress to expand the FDIC's authority to claw back compensation, including gains from stock and sales from executives that fill banks like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.


Next, he wants Congress to strengthen the FDIC's authority to bar executives from holding jobs in the banking industry when their banks into receivership. And lastly, he's calling on Congress to expand the FDIC's authority to bring fines against executives of failed banks. Now, earlier in the week, we saw this administration really led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, do emergency efforts really backstop depositors at Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Bank, really trying to make sure that they can meet payroll and other obligations.

And then of course, we saw that $30 billion infusion of cash from most 11 major banks into first republic bank. But of course, concerns still remain here, not only on the practical whether or not more banks will continue to fail, but also on the political for President Biden, what happens if more banks fail? What does he do? We know that bailouts have become really a political liability, which means that President Biden right now is on a tight rope, as his administration really tries to continue to inject confidence for Americans when it comes to the U.S. banking system. Boris and Amara.

WALKER: And it'll be interesting to see what the Fed does. Jasmine Wright, thank you.

SANCHEZ: And big international news, the President of Russia is now a wanted man. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and the country's Children's Rights Commissioner in an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. Of course, Moscow is rejecting these allegations.

WALKER: Kremlin Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, tweeted: "Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law." But Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs says the wheels of justice are turning and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the ICC for its historic decision.

SANCHEZ: Let's take you now live Ukraine with CNN Senior International Correspondent David McKenzie who's in Kyiv for us. David, what is the reaction on the ground to these war crimes charges against Putin?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris and Amara, there's certainly a sense of vindication that the Hague Court, the court of last resort as it's known, and a very serious arrest warrant and allegations against President Putin and his deputies, that this has happened and happened relatively quickly. You know, the wheels of international justice often take years after the alleged atrocities have happened to actually get into gear.

Now, this is still happening according to our sources here on the ground. Children taken away from their parents in some cases, and most seriously out of state-run orphanages across the front lines, into Russian territory, and often given up to adoption to Russian parents, according to these allegations. The prosecutor, the ICC said that these children are being used as a tool of war. And you had President Zelenskyy after this announcement of an arrest warrant speaking about the scale of these alleged crimes.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): This is a historic decision that will lead to historic responsibility. More than 16,000 cases of forced deportation of Ukrainian children by the occupier have already been recorded. But the real, full number of deportees may be much higher. Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the highest leader of the terrorist state.


MCKENZIE: On a daily basis, there are investigators here in Ukraine looking at other possible war crimes, Amara and Boris, and I think this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Now, making accusations and warrants is one thing, of course, getting the accused, in this case, the President of Russia to justice is something else entirely.

SANCHEZ: Yes, important to point out, David, the ICC just announced an investigation into Russia's actions in Ukraine a few days ago. So, this could be the first step in a much longer process. David McKenzie from Kyiv, thank you so much.

We want to turn now to the United States. And new developments this week in Fulton County, Georgia, where a special grand jury recently wrapped its work looking at former President Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the Peach State. The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that investigators now have audio of a phone call that Trump made to the former Georgia House Speaker, a recording where Trump pushes for a special session of the legislature to undo President Biden's victory in that state.

A source has confirmed to CNN that such a recording exists. So, let's dig deeper now with the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Managing Editor Leroy Chapman; and former Federal Prosecutor Michael Zeldin. Gentlemen, appreciate you sharing part of your Saturday with us. Michael, first to you. There are now three, three recorded calls we know of where Trump tried to pressure officials in Georgia. How does that bolster a potential case?

[07:10:20] MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's further evidence Boris, of the effort of the President to undermine the integrity of the vote in Georgia. To prove criminal behavior here, however, you need to have established that the President knew he lost, he objectively knew he lost.

And despite that knowledge, went forward with a plan to prevent the certification of the vote, merely calling members of the state legislature in a good faith effort to have them investigate his belief of fraud will not rise to the level of criminal behavior. So, it's this matter of what was his intention, and what can they prove about what prior knowledge he had, and why this call was an effort to do something that was criminal, as opposed to just inappropriate.

SANCHEZ: Leroy, I'm curious about the timing here. Because the special grand juries were concluded almost two months ago, the foreman of the grand jury went public making very clear insinuations as to what she thought was going to happen. Do you think we're any closer to D.A. Fani Willis issuing indictments?

LEROY CHAPMAN, MANAGING EDITOR, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: We are closer but we really don't know her timetable. So, we've spoken with the D.A. and she said things are imminent. And then she qualified that by saying things are imminent, by the law and its timetable, but it's not reported imminent, as she called it. But we understand that with some of our interviews with members of the grand jury, that their, their work is complete, they're confident in it, and they talked a little bit about what they heard. So, we think that it's just a matter of time before D.A. Willis has something public for us.

SANCHEZ: And Leroy, I wanted to ask you about that, because your papers spoke to at least five jurors who confirm they listened to that third recording. What did they share about their impressions? What details did they give you about the recording itself?

CHAPMAN: So, what they heard is the, the former president talking to David Ralston, who is the former Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and he has arguably the most powerful politician in Georgia, maybe even including the governor because of what the power that the Georgia House has.

So, he wanted the, the speaker to convene a special session, and what he wanted was exactly what he asked Brad Raffensperger for who's the Georgia Secretary of State, which is, this was about making sure that the, the Georgia vote was challenged in a way and so what they heard is they heard speaker Ralston commit to saying, I will do everything that's in my power.

But what Speaker Ralston knew is that he did not have the power to call a special session just for that. So, it was Speaker Ralston, understanding the Georgia law and perhaps the former president not, because he thanked him and said, OK.

SANCHEZ: And Leroy, or rather, Michael, going back to what Leroy said, about Fani Willis and the timetable of the law being different than the timetable for reporters that the difference in the imminence of potential charges, what else do you think she might be considering?

ZELDIN: Well, I think what she has to figure out is, can she prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the president violate the laws of Georgia? What Leroy described is interesting, because what Ralston said was, I will do everything that's appropriate. And then Trump says, OK, thank you very much. A phone call, I guess, standing up in and of itself, to me wouldn't prove criminal behavior would be -- it would prove inappropriate behavior, but not necessarily, necessarily criminal behavior.

So, what the DEA has to do is decide whether or not these phone calls in combination with all the other evidence that she's amassed equals criminal behavior versus just inappropriate behavior. And that's not a simple thing, because you have to prove this to jury, of home county jury beyond a reasonable doubt and it has to be sustained on appeal. So, I think she's taking her time appropriately to determine whether or not she can make a case that will stick and you know, that's not -- she shouldn't have used the word imminent in our initial press conference because imminent for lawyers and imminent reporters as we know, Boris, is very different.

SANCHEZ: Very different. I did want to follow up, Michael, with a question about how other cases might be influencing the timing of this, if at all, because Trump is also now facing a potential indictment from the Manhattan D.A. And of course, we know that the Special Counsel is looking at, at his handling of classified documents. Would those cases have any impact of potential indictments in those cases on an indictment in Fulton County?


ZELDIN: I wouldn't think so. I would think that these would stand independently of them. And of the three that you mentioned, I still think the most troublesome for former President Trump is the obstruction investigation in Mar-a-Lago. We've seen that former, that Special Counsel Smith has expanded the number of people that he wants subpoenas from, that Trump Lawyer Corcoran now has to give testimony that he can't stand behind executive privilege. That obstruction investigation, Boris, I think raises the biggest problem for former president. But to your question, exactly, I think all these things will stand independent of one another.

SANCHEZ: Leroy and Michael, we hope you will stand by with us as we await potential indictments because I feel like there's going to be a lot more to discuss in the coming weeks and months.

ZELDIN: I am always happy to be with you, and Leroy -- both.

CHAPMAN: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, gentlemen. Take care.

WALKER: All right. Still ahead, House Republicans ramped up their investigations into President Biden and his family, this time targeting Hallie Biden, Beau's widow. And this is coming as the President's son, Hunter, goes on the offensive. Also, a major blow to abortion advocates in Wyoming as a state's governor signs new laws that will limit access to abortion as soon as tomorrow. We'll explain.



WALKER: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee say financial record show members of the Biden family indirectly received just over $1 million from a Chinese company. The committee issued a memo earlier this week that names Hallie Biden, the widow of the President's son, Beau Biden, as one of the family members allegedly receiving the money.

SANCHEZ: And it comes as Hunter Biden is going on the offensive. He's suing the owner of that computer repair shop that wound up with his laptop, accusing the owner of wrongfully sharing his personal data with political enemies. Manu Raju has the latest.


MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER (voiceover): House Republicans stepping up their probe to Hunter Biden and other members of President Joe Biden's family, digging into overseas business dealings with a Chinese energy company, hoping to find evidence tying the payments to the President himself, but have yet to prove any link.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): There was a lot of money that transferred from China to the Bidens, and what we want to know is what did China get in return?

RAJU: In a new memo, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee say three Biden family members in 2017 received over $1 million indirectly from a Shanghai-based company, state energy HK Limited. The money came after Biden associate, John Robinson Walker, received a $3 million wire from the same company, a transaction that was first publicized by Senate Republicans in 2020. Walker then transferred a third of those funds to various Biden family bank accounts over a three-month period.

The new information uncovered by the House GOP, $35,000 in payments to Hallie Biden, Beau Biden's widow. $25,000 of which was linked to the Chinese energy company. Republicans also targeting the President's brother, James, and his son, Hunter, and also say they're probing an account linked to an unknown Biden. The memo did not reveal any illegal action by the Biden family members and the President has long maintained he had no involvement in any of these dealings.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses, period.

RAJU: The information quickly dismissed as a conspiracy by Hunter Biden's legal team, which noted Hallie Biden was romantically involved with Hunter Biden after she became a widow following the death of the president's son Beau. In his statement, his lawyer said that Hunter is a private citizen with every right to pursue his own business endeavors. And the money came from a business venture, which he shared with his Uncle James Biden and Hallie Biden, with whom he was involved with the time and sharing expenses.

Today, Hunter Biden and trying to take the offensive, countersuing a computer repairman who released information from his laptop, central to the GOP investigations against him. The filing accused the technician, John Paul Mac Isaac, of invasion of privacy, claiming he sent a hard drive containing data inside a stuffed animal to his father in New Mexico, and also a copy to a lawyer who work with Trump's then-attorney, Rudy Giuliani. All in a bid to help Trump win in 2020. The laptop has become a Trump attack line.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Hunter and Joe Biden's skate, you know, they skate they go, they go away free, what's going on with it? I mean, that laptop is a disaster.

RAJU: Top Democrats are pushing back.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): There's a fixation on the Biden family, by many Republican leaders. And I think there are other issues that are more relevant and important in the lives of ordinary Americans.


RAJU: Now, a lawyer for Mac Isaac, who's the computer technician in the Hunter Biden laptop case declined to comment about that lawsuit Hunter Biden filed on Friday saying that they would respond in court. At the same time, John Robinson Walker, who is that Hunter Biden business associate, who helped direct those payments to those three Biden family members, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee want him to sit down for a transcribed interview in the days ahead, Boris and Amara.

WALKER: All right. A thorough reporting there from our Manu Raju, thank you. Still ahead, seven Virginia deputies and three hospital workers now facing second degree murder charges in the death of a black man prosecutors say was smothered to death while in custody.


We're going to have the latest on that next.


WALKER: Now to THIS MORNING's top stories, starting tomorrow, abortion under most circumstances will be a felony in the state of Wyoming. The sweeping piece of legislation only makes exceptions for cases of incest, sexual assault, when the mother's life is in danger or when the unborn child has a lethal fetal anomaly. Anyone found guilty of violating the law can face up to five years in prison and a possible fine of $20,000. Wyoming is also outlawing the abortion pill making it unlawful to prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use an abortion pill. The punishment, if found guilty, up to six months behind bars, and up to a $9,000 fine. That law goes into effect July 1st.

SANCHEZ: We're sad to bring you the news this morning that actor, Lance Reddick, best known for his work on "The Wire" as Lt. Daniels; and in the John Wick franchise has died. He passed away suddenly on Friday morning. According to this representative, apparently, from natural causes. The Yale graduate star is in the fourth John Wick film which is set to hit theaters next weekend. Lance Reddick was 60 years.


WALKER: It will take about three more months to complete the remaining cleanup at the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

That's barring any weather or site conditions changing, and that's according to the EPA Administrator. Crews are about halfway through clearing out the contaminated soil from under the tracks and hope to be done with that part of the cleanup by early April.

So far, 6.8 million gallons of liquid and more than 5,400 tons of solid waste have been removed.

SANCHEZ: 10 people have now been charged in the death of Irvo Otieno. He's a Virginia man who died while in custody at a state mental health facility.

The additional charges following the state's viewing of the video of Otieno's death. The prosecutor tells CNN that the video shows three hospital staffers at one point, watching with their hands in their pockets while he was allegedly being smothered to death.

The three guards along with these seven deputies are all facing murder charges.

Here is CNN's Brian Todd.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New details on what the video shows of the final moments of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno, who died in custody on March 6th, when he was brought to a mental health facility in Virginia. The video not yet public.

But the county prosecutor in Southern Virginia, telling CNN why she has charged seven Henrico County deputies with second degree murder, as well as three security guards at the Central State Hospital.


ANN CABELL BASKERVILL, ATTORNEY, DINWIDDIE COUNTY COMMONWEALTH: He goes to the ground, and one by one, there end up being 10 people on top of him. All of whom are applying pressure.

Visibly, they are putting their back into it, leaning down.

TODD: Is he resisting? Is he combative at all in those moments?

BASKERVILL: No, not. Not at all. He is -- he is not moving. He is, frankly, lifeless.

TODD (voice over): Another disturbing detail.

BASKERVILL: There are hospital staff that come in and out of the room, as if there is nothing taking place. Nothing. No one tries to help.

TODD: It began with a burglary call. On March 3rd, police showed up at Otieno's house, with what a neighbor says was a disproportionate amount of officers.

BRADLEY MCNAMARA, NEIGHBOR OF IRVO OTIENO: He was very agitated, confused, heightened state of, you know, mental sensibility and everything.

TODD: But his mother calmed him down, this neighbor tells CNN, and he never posed a threat to the officers.

MCNAMARA: Irvo wasn't treated like somebody who was going through a mental health crisis. He was treated like a criminal from the beginning.

TODD: But at the hospital, police say he became "physically assaultive" and he was arrested and jailed. In jail, the prosecutor says video shows he was pepper sprayed while handcuffed and naked alone in his cell.

BASKERVILL: Five or six deputies at the -- at the jail, Henrico jail, tackle him. So, he's then on the ground. And then he's on the ground underneath them for several minutes there, and blows are sustained at the Henrico County jail.

TODD: He was then taken to the mental health facility where authorities say he became combative and where he died. A defense attorney for one of the charge deputies who has not been able to see the video tell CNN --

CALEB KERSHNER, ATTORNEY FOR DEPUTY RANDY BOYER: My client would describe him as violently noncompliant. Constant -- being constant -- regularly violent. He had no idea or had reason to believe in any way based upon his vantage and what he was doing that this man was in any danger of his life.


TODD: Another attorney representing deputy Bradley Disse, tells CNN there's been a rush to judgement in this case, and his client looks forward to being vindicated.

We've reached out to the Henrico Sheriff's Department, to the Henrico police and to the Central State Hospital for a response to the very latest allegations. We have not heard back.

Brian Todd, CNN, Henrico County, Virginia.

WALKER: Coming up, two commercial airplanes were just 14 seconds away from colliding at a Florida Airport last month. That's according to a new report.

And it's just one of seven runway close calls near misses this year. So, what is going on? What needs to change? We're going to talk about that with a flight safety expert. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WALKER: This week in Washington, aviation officials convened for a rare emergency meeting amid a growing number of dangerous close calls between commercial airlines.

WALKER (voice over): The FAA and the NTSB are investigating a total of seven near collisions since the start of this year. And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says, now is the time to act and strengthen safety measures.

Here is what the secretary told CNN's Pete Muntean.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: But instead, what we're finding is that pilots, ground crews, and controllers alike seem to be experiencing this uptick. Some have described it as a kind of rust. But that that needs to turn into a very concrete diagnosis and specific action steps.


WALKER: Here with me now is Hassan Shahidi. He is the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Look, I'll just say, you know, I fly a lot. I'm not really a nervous flyer at all. But I'm so aware now of these incidences, and I'm thinking about them whenever we're landing or taking off. And I never take off my seat belt anymore, even in flight, you know, because of those turbulent -- violent turbulence stories that we've been hearing about as well.

Look, we've mentioned, we've now seen seven instances of serious runway incursions over the past few months. And I think a lot of people are wondering, has flying become less safer?

DR. HASSAN SHAHIDI, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: Well, I think it's important to note that every day, there are 1000s of flights that take off and land safely, and without any incidents. And they are carried out by professional pilots and air traffic controllers, who do their jobs very well.


We have a safe system in this country. And we have many layers of redundancy that is providing the margin of safety that we enjoy today.

But, as you mentioned, we've had the seven serious incidents that are currently being investigated. Each is unique. And the investigators are looking into the underlying causes, the root causes, any patterns that might be suggesting some specific actions or solutions that need to be taken and taken immediately. WALKER: That margin of safety is getting uncomfortably smaller, at least, in my opinion.

From your perspective, what needs to be done, then? And what are the issues here?

SHAHIDI: Well, at this point, there are a number of factors that are being looked at, we are now approaching to pre-pandemic levels in terms of air travel demand, we've had significant turnover in the workforce, specifically, pilots over the past three years.

And so, the question is, is the -- is the system being stressed? And so, the investigators are really looking into those underlying patterns, the causes, and looking into specific issues such as, for example, standard operating procedures.

Is it now important to reinforce those types of procedures, reinforced the training that is needed by air traffic controllers, as well as pilots?

WALKER: You know, I've also heard, I mean, regarding pilots, I mean, that they are now -- I mean, they are feeling a lot of pressure as well. Right? And also, the number of hours that they're working, that it seems to have increased, you know, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

I mean, that's concerning, you know? I mean, you want to make sure that our pilots are rested in, and feel good.

SHAHIDI: Absolutely. There are regulations that FAA has, with respect to the hours that crews work. And so those regulations need to be followed and enforced.

WALKER: So, at the FAA safety summit this week that we were just referring to, the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers union said that there's a staffing issue. I keep hearing about staffing issues on all levels, right?

With 1,200 or 12,000, I believe. 12,000 less certified professional controllers than there were 10 years ago. That's also concerning. I mean, is that -- is this about funding from Congress? I mean, or is it about recruitment? And is it tough to attract people to work as air traffic controllers?

SHAHIDI: Yes, I was at that summit this week, and the number is 1,200 that is -- was mentioned as a shortfall.

Listen, I think it's important that for an agency that is managing the most complex air transportation system in the world to have predictability in terms of the resources available, so they can plan and implement the solutions that are needed.

And so, that is important. That was certainly discussed during the summit, as well as many other things that are important to take action and move forward with.

WALKER: Well, what else is something that's important that you think needs to be immediately addressed? I mean, what about the fact that we haven't had a permanent FAA administrator?

SHAHIDI: Well, certainly, it is absolutely important that there be a permanent administrator confirmed and in place. Meanwhile, the job of safety must continue. And that is why the acting administrator called the safety summit for bringing the professional and experts together to start looking at this and taking action immediately.

And so, in the following days and weeks that to come, there will be a series of teams and activities that will be undertaken to look for solutions and implement these kinds of solutions so that we don't see these things happening again.

WALKER: Yes. We don't want any more near misses nor do we want any near misses to actually turn into accidents. Incidents are OK for now. Hassan Shahidi, thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, the mother of a 14-year-old boy who died after falling off an amusement park ride last year in Orlando, speaks to CNN about the horrific accident and what caused it.


The story is next.


WALKER: The family of a 14-year-old boy who fell to his tragic death at a Florida amusement park nearly one year ago has reached a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

SANCHEZ: Tyre Sampson slipped out of his seat on a 400-foot-tall tower ride at ICON Park during spring break. His grieving mother was at the Orlando site this week before the ride was dismantled.

And CNN's Carlos Suarez has more.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nekia Dodd, making a first and possibly last visit to the amusement ride that killed her 14-year-old son, Tyree Sampson.

Workers began taking apart their freefall drop tower ride in Orlando, as she watched.


NEKIA DODD, MOTHER OF TYRE SAMPSON: This place was my son's last breath. Last place on earth. I mean, last thought, last everything. He took his last everything on that ride.

SUAREZ: Sampson was on a spring break trip last March when he fell from what the rides operators say was the world's tallest drop tower ride at Icon Park.

Nearly a year later, Dodd said the grief is still overwhelming.

DODD: I still talk to him. He is there every day. He is there with me spiritually, just not physically.


SUAREZ: An investigation by Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services determined Samson slipped out of his seat because he wasn't properly secured. The report found operators made manual adjustments to two seats on the ride in order to accommodate "larger people".

According to investigators, the photo on the left shows that the gap in Tyre's seat was nearly 7.2 inches. The photo on the right shows the average gap for the unadjusted seats was 3.3 inches.

The report found, the "mis-adjustments" of the seats' sensor allowed for safety lights to turn on, which allowed the ride to start even though it wasn't safe.

Sampson weighed 383 pounds, according to the family, and was 100 pounds above the maximum weight for the ride, according to the ride's manual.

MICHAEL HAGGARD, FAMILY'S ATTORNEY: They had nothing for weight on a ride that, that was the most important thing because of the velocity of the ride. And they had nothing to warn Tyre.

DODD: Refused at other rides, why not this one? As an adult or the ride attendant, you should have made that call. His feelings would have been hurt, but he would still be here with me today.

SUAREZ: The family's attorney said they've reached a settlement and it's wrongful death lawsuit with the amusement park and the operators of the ride. A lawsuit against the manufacturer of the ride and the company that designed the seat is pending.

And Florida's state legislature is considering a bill that would increase safety regulations for rides. The Tyre Sampson Act would require any ride more than 100 feet tall to have seatbelts in addition to other restraints. It would also increase training standards for ride attendants and inspections.

The attendant who strapped Sampson in, the day he was killed had only been on the job three days and was considered a trainee, according to the state investigation.

Dodd welcomes the changes, but wishes they come sooner.

A year later. Is it easier or is it just as difficult?

DODD: It's difficult because a year later, we are coming across birthdays and holidays and family functions, and we have a spot where there is no Tyre.

SUAREZ: Crews hope to have the entire ride taken apart in time before the one-year mark, this time next week.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SUAREZ: The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. And Tyre's mother tells me, she hopes to start a foundation in her son's honor.

As for the criminal investigation? That is still pending.

Boris and Amara?

WALKER: Carlos, thank you.

Coming up, more than 50 million people under freeze warnings right now in the U.S. Your Saturday morning forecast is next.



WALKER: Still no break for flood ravaged residents of Pajaro, California this morning, a week after they were evacuated from their homes.

Following weeks of storms and atmospheric river caused a levee break. Wreaking widespread devastation last Saturday.

Monterey County officials say the earliest they can return home is sometime next week. Emergency levee repairs have been completed but officials say more work needs to be done before it's safe to return.

And rivers are still overflowing, putting some communities at risk at significant run off.

SANCHEZ: One last blast of winter before the official start of spring, there unseasonably cold temperatures in the east this morning. And more than 50 million people under freeze warnings in the south.

Let's take you to the CNN Weather Center now. And meteorologist Allison Chinchar with the latest forecast for us.

Allison, how cold are we talking?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's certainly not what we would expect for March. It's going to feel more like January or December for a lot of these areas. Clearly, Mother Nature not getting that memo that we are going to see that season change on Monday.

You've got some very cold conditions here across much of the U.S. But anywhere where you've got that moisture to go along with it is now going to be in the form of snow.

So, you've got a significant amount here of winter storm warnings in winter weather advisories across the Midwest as well as portions of the Northeast, where we've got some lake effect enhancement, it's kind of following up from that cold front that sliding through. And that's going to produce some snow showers across much of this area.

Most of the areas we're talking about, about four to six inches total. However, there will be a few places especially east of Watertown, New York, where you could get as much as a foot of snow before this system finally decides to shift out.

Down to the south. It's more just the cold air itself. Freeze warnings in place for a lot of the South. The main concern here is that February was so warm, you've really started to see a lot of the plants and the crops begin to change the seasons.

And now, you're getting that hard freeze on top of it. The cold there also up into the Midwest at 12. Temperatures -- were at 12 degrees right now in Minneapolis, minus one in Bismarck.

But even in a city like Nashville, it's only 30 degrees right now to start off the day.

We are going to start to see some changes, however, by the end of the week. And that a lot of that warmer air finally does at least start to push back in to at least the eastern half of the country. But it's going to take a few days.

Take for example, Atlanta, guys, going from a high of only 47 today, but we'll be back into the 80s by the end of the week.

SANCHEZ: Yikes. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

Good morning. Buenos dias. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is the weekend. Saturday, March 18th, and we are grateful to have you. I'm Boris Sanchez.


WALKER: I'm Amara Walker.

It is the weekend and it is Boris's last weekend. We'll have all weekend to talk about that. I won't get sad now. But I'm going to relish every moment with you.

SANCHEZ: Oh. Oh, that's very sweet. There is no reason to get emotional right now.


SANCHEZ: We've got plenty still to go.