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Michael Cohen's Former Lawyer to Testify Before Grand Jury; Top Swiss Bank UBS Buys Credit Suisse to Stop Banking Crisis; Republicans Defend Trump Before Potential Manhattan Indictment. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 06:00   ET




A legendary sports spin-off franchise takes No. 3.


MICHAEL B. JORDAN, ACTOR: You see that man right there? Do you remember him?


ROMANS: Michael B. Jordan's "Creed III" has already out-earned the first two "Creed" movies.

Thanks for joining me this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We are following several major developing stories this morning.

Here are the five things you need to know for Monday, March 20.

Former President Donald Trump making an 11th-hour push to avoid criminal charges. In the Stormy Daniels case, one of his allies will testify before a New York grand jury today, in a bid to discredit the prosecution's star witness. That is Michael Cohen.

And this all comes as Trump claimed that he will be arrested tomorrow, but the timing of any potential indictment remains unclear.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a lot more on that. And another roller coaster week for financial markets began as a major bank takeover is announced. Swiss regulators say that UBS is buying Credit Suisse for $3.2 billion.

Well, the markets moving on the news this morning. Asian and European markets are down. Same with U.S. futures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin playing host today to Chinese President Xi Jinping a short time from now. The two leaders are set to meet in Moscow, a critical moment for Russia's war in Ukraine, days after the International Criminal Court issued war crimes arrest warrant -- a war crimes arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, a state of emergency has been declared in Miami Beach. Unruly spring break crowds and at least two shootings have led to a curfew. The city's mayor is calling the situation intolerable.

Also today, Ted Lasso is headed to the White House. Jason Sudeikis and the rest of the cast will be there to promote the importance of mental health.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

LEMON: Good morning.

COLLINS: It's interesting "Ted Lasso," Jason Sudeikis, obviously, but better known as Ted Lasso now is going to the White House. Because this is actually a plot in the show. They talk about mental health. They talk about therapy, and now he's going to be doing it from the White House today.

LEMON: See him from the -- Don't be surprised if you see, like, a guest appearance from the podium today. Look, "Believe" is right there.

Welcome back, by the way, Poppy Harlow.

HARLOW: Good to be there.

LEMON: Hope you had a good day off.

HARLOW: And a lot happened over the weekend.

LEMON: It did.

HARLOW: I think Kaitlan was on --

LEMMON: We saved it all for you.

HARLOW: Kaitlan was on TV very early Saturday morning with some very big news that she broke. Let's begin with the latest legal moves playing out here in Manhattan as a possible indictment looms over Donald Trump.

The former president says he expects to be arrested as soon as tomorrow in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case here in Manhattan. Trump's legal team is making a last-minute push to discredit the district attorney's star witness, and that is Michael Cohen.

Just hours from now, the Manhattan district attorney is bringing in Cohen's former lawyer to testify before this grand jury. This is at the request of Trump's legal team.

Our Kara Scannell is live outside the courthouse in Manhattan.

Kara, good morning. Is this unusual that this is happening today? The former lawyer of Michael Cohen is Robert Costello. KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Poppy.

So Robert Costello, Cohen's former attorney, is set to appear before the grand jury today. Now, sources tell me that this is because Costello reached out to the district attorney's office and lawyers for former President Trump saying that he had information that would contradict what Michael Cohen is saying.

Of course, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges a couple years ago, has testify -- has said under oath that he made these hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels in coordination with and at the direction of former President Donald Trump.

So the key question here is what will Costello be telling the grand jury today when he appears before them later today.

Now, this -- he's appearing at the request of Trump's attorneys. Now, Trump's attorneys, though, believe that the D.A. is bringing him in for optics, more than for having an impact. Michael Cohen was told by the district attorney's office to be on stand-by.

He said on MSNBC over the weekend that he was asked to be on hand today, in case they needed him as a rebuttal witness, but Cohen said that he wasn't sure if he would go before the grand jury or just meet again with the prosecutors.

HARLOW: Is the idea that Costello is going to refute what Michael Cohen has said?

SCANNELL: Yes. the idea here is that he's going to contradict what Cohen has said.

Remember, Costello represented Cohen when Cohen was still aligned with former President Trump. Cohen had many meetings with him. And so whatever he told him at the time, you'll remember Michael Cohen had said publicly that he made these payments on his own. He did it, you know, because he didn't want the former president to be embarrassed.


Now, of course, Cohen has since pleaded not guilty to federal crimes relating to that, and prosecutors have brought in a number of witnesses.

But that is the idea, that Costello would come in and say what Cohen had told him privately that would sort of contradict what he is saying now.

HARLOW: Right. Because to be successful in any prosecution here on this, the D.A.'s team needs to prove it was Trump, who directed that payment and that it violated federal election laws, et cetera.

So there's a lot to get to Trump here.

What do we know about Trump claiming that he's going to be arrested tomorrow? Because the D.A.'s office is saying that they never said anything of the sort to Trump's team.

SCANNELL: Well, I think there's just a lot of anticipation seeing a number of these witnesses going in before the grand jury. Michael Cohen was in two days last week as we've been discussing. He's the star witness here, the person that connects the dots.

There is no decision that has been made yet by the D.A.'s office. So I think a lot of that is just sort of anticipation and speculation of what might happen.

But Trump made these comments over the weekend. The D.A.'s office, Alvin Bragg, the district attorney sent an e-mail to his staff, saying that they will not tolerate any attempts at intimidation, and that they're preparing, you know, contact with local, state and federal officials to make sure security is in place, that no one from the office should be intimidated or threatened.

HARLOW: Kara Scannell, thank you for that reporting.

COLLINS: As Kara noted, lots of speculation about what could happen. But we do have new reporting this morning on two different Trump investigations, starting with the hush-money case that we have been talking about.

Don, you have been talking to a source about what this is going to look like if Trump is indicted. You know, he said arrested on Truth Social Saturday. But obviously, the likelihood is he'll be indicted.

What are you hearing that -- what that's actually going to look like, how it's going to play out?

LEMON: And Kaitlan, as you know, this is like a poll. It's a snapshot in time. At the time when we speak to these sources, very fluid. Things could change.

But at the time that I did speak with my source, my source says that if -- if this indictment does happen, Trump is expected to surrender. He would be processed and arraigned at the courthouse, just like any other person who has been arrested. That includes finger printing, and it also includes a mug shot.

And there could be accommodations in place to process Trump very quickly, getting him in front of a judge as soon as possible. Now, Trump is calling on his supporters to protest.

My sources telling me that there's extreme concern about security, and New York City officials are actively making plans to handle potential crowds after the former president said that he had possibly -- would be arrested. And the Manhattan district attorney is saying his office will not be intimidated. They're taking every single precaution that they can.

COLLINS: Yes. And so that's what's happening here in New York, which everyone is watching closely. But we've talked about the merits of this case. There's also the Georgia investigation that is very much still underway. And your reporting on that is what that could look like coming out of Fulton County. What are you -- what are you hearing?

LEMON: As you know, they believe that this is the one that poses the bigger risk to Donald Trump, the one in Manhattan they don't think is as big a risk. People already know about that.

But this is a new one, I spoke with a source with knowledge of the investigation. And here's what they say, and I quote: "Prosecutors are thinking about bringing racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia."

They have been looking at phone calls. They've been looking at e- mails, texts, documents, and testimony from inside and outside the state. Why is that important?

Because my source says this underscores the idea that the push for Trump was not just an organic grass roots effort that started inside of the state, that it was something other and possibly others who are involved, much bigger people who are involved.

Remember, investigators have at least three recordings of Trump pressuring Georgia officials including this one. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


LEMON: So the question is, why then potential racketeering charges? Those racketeering charges allow prosecutors to bring charges against multiple defendants.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could use the law to try to make the case that Trump and his allies were part of a criminal enterprise. And Willis does like using RICO charges, which were originally designed to take down the mafia.

And here's what she said about it. This is over the summer in an unrelated case. Watch.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The reason that I am a fan of RICO, is I think jurors are very, very intelligent. They want to know what happened. They want to make an accurate decision about someone's life. And so RICO is a tool that allows a prosecutor's office and law enforcement to tell the whole story.


LEMON: I need to say, Trump denies any criminal wrongdoing, and claims that Willis is politically biased.


My source says that the D.A. could make decisions on charges this spring. So expect them by spring.

The AJC, the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," recently spoke with five grand jurors anonymously. And one of them said a lot is going to come out sooner or later, and it's going to be massive. So --

COLLINS: What I was interested by, Marc Short, who was the chief of staff to Pence when he was vice president, said yesterday the fact that this New York case is going forward benefits Trump in the short term, because then it may set Trump up to argue that the Georgia investigation, maybe the federal investigation into January 6th are politically --

LEMON: Motivated.

COLLINS: -- based. Yes, politically motivated.

LEMON: And that's, you know, you saw what Trump released this weekend, saying that the Manhattan district attorney's investigation and possible indictment, that's politically motivated.

He's also said that about Fani Willis. He's even called the D.A., I believe, racist or whatever.

But he's going to use every every tool that he can use to try to downplay these -- these two incidents. And then, of course we have the documents, as well, that's coming up. So there's a lot here.

And again, just remember, these are a snapshot in time. When we speak to these sources, that is what's happening at the moment. But this is unprecedented. So this is all being negotiated at this point. And we'll see how it actually does play out.

COLLINS: Yes. It all remains to be seen. Good reporting.

HARLOW: We're also following another major story this morning. Shares in Credit Suisse have plunged after it agreed to a take over from their rival, Swiss bank UBS.

In the opening minutes of trading in Europe, Credit Suisse fell as much as 62 percent. UBF shows also lower by 8 percent.

UBS is Switzerland's largest bank. It agreed over the weekend to buy Credit Suisse in a bid to slow this banking crisis. UBS is paying just $3.25 billion for its ailing rival. That's just 60 percent less than what the bank was worth when markets closed on Friday.

For context, Credit Suisse has facing a crisis in confidence for years among investors and customers. It all comes -- it all came to a head, I should say, last week when we saw shares collapse, some 30 percent.

That, in turn, prompted Swiss authorities now to backstop for the nation's second largest bank. Fears of its collapse gripped global markets, which brings us to this news conference yesterday when the Swiss finance minister said this.


KARIN KELLER-SUTTER, SWISS FINANCE MINISTER: The bankruptcy of a global, systematically-important bank would have cased irreparable economic turmoil in Switzerland and throughout the world.

The federal council is convinced that the UBS take-over of Credit Suisse has laid the foundations for greater stability, both in Switzerland and internationally.


HARLOW: So let's bring in our chief business correspondent and anchor of "EARLY START," Christine Romans. This is so astonishing.


HARLOW: To follow this all weekend, a 167-year-old institution, Credit Suisse.

ROMANS: A household name.

HARLOW: Soon to be no longer.

ROMANS That's right.

HARLOW: In a fire sale to its biggest rival, percent on the dollar. And by the way, the Swiss government said, You don't need to ask the shareholders.

ROMANS: That's right.

HARLOW: They overrode any rights the shareholders had.

ROMANS: It will just happen, because it has to happen.

You heard her say stability. I heard confidence and stability over and over again. That was almost two hours of press conference yesterday, explaining how that they were going to take credit Credit Suisse and sell it to UBS, inject stability back into the Swiss banking system and the global banking system.

And then again and again, you heard how important Credit Suisse is to the global system. It is a systemically important bank with ties to all the different major economies and industries.

So really incredibly important they did this. The Fed issuing a statement yesterday, saying that they welcome this.

Look, U.S. regulators, U.K. regulators, international regulators, up all weekend watching these developments. And when making this point, I think it's important. About U.S. banks, the capital liquidity positions of the U.S. banking

system are strong, and the U.S. financial system is resilient. Close contact again between all of the banking capitals, and the financial capitals of the world.

HARLOW: It's amazing. They got here for different reasons, SVB so different from Credit Suisse. But this just fear leading to this, really, around the -- around the globe.

ROMANS: And Credit Suisse had had a lot of problems and scandals over recent years. But it was the current moment of flailing confidence that is how we got here.

Can I show you what we've done here? This is only over two weekends. The FDIC backs SVB and Signature Bank deposits. Remarkable there, trying to stop a run on U.S. banks.

The Federal Reserve, that offers this new lending facility, this fatal loan window that's underwater investments. Then the Swisse national bank last week backstopping Credit Suisse before UBS finally takes it over.

And then overnight --

HARLOW: Yes, explain this. This is important for people.

ROMANS: The central bank, an intervention there among central banks and currency markets. This is basically liquidity swaps. This is making sure that all the banks around the world have an access to U.S. dollars so that you can keep the financial system going.

We always have this, but this is making more of it available. It's a sign, a vote of confidence, and letting the world know there will be liquidity in the banking system.


HARLOW: Christie Romans, thank you. What a stunning weekend.

ROMANS: Yes. It's going to be a rocky, rocky week, I think, too. So --

HARLOW: No question.

All right. We have much more on how the Biden administration is handling this banking crisis that is ahead.

And Donald Trump is also calling for protests if he is indicted here in New York. But other top Republicans have a different message. What they're saying ahead.

COLLINS: Plus, Chinese President Xi Jinping has just landed in Russia for his three-day meeting with President Putin. What could come from this high-stakes sit-down?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So Donald Trump urged his supporters to protest and take our nation back, claiming that the Manhattan D.A.'s office will be arresting him tomorrow for Stormy Daniels, the hush-money case.

One of Trump's lawyers warning of, quote, "mayhem," but some top Republicans have different messages. Watch.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think people should protest this, no. And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn't believe that either. He's not talking in a harmful way, and nobody should. Nobody should harm one another in this.

ALINA HABBA, TRUMP LAWYER: It is going to cause mayhem, Paula. I mean, it is just a very scary time in our country. If this is what we're doing in this country, you better secure the premises, because it's dangerous, you know. People are going to get upset.


LEMON: Let's bring in now CNN political commentator, Errol Louis. Errol, good morning.

HARLOW: Good morning.

LEMON: So you have some Republicans saying, Don't protest, don't do it. Then you have the attorneys sort of saying, well, you know, what they -- this is wrong, and that's what you should expect. What do you make of this, and the NYPD is preparing for a possible --

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, look, my first instinct -- and you know, not to be too much of a cynical New Yorker, but you know, what they call mayhem in the streets is what we call, you know, Tuesday.

Anybody who's thinking about coming here to cause disruption should be aware that there were 2,000 Capitol Police on January 6th. There are 35,000 members of the NYPD, and they've got drones and submarines.

And, you know, so you know, if people want to come and protest, that is their right. If they want to cause disruption, they can try. But, you know, just as a matter of simple fact --

LEMON: It's the NYPD.

LOIS: It's the NYPD, and yes, if you do come here to do that, you'll be out-numbered. You'll be out-gunned. You'll be out-manned. You will be out-fought.

So I wouldn't expect, you know, mayhem in that sense. But, you know, look, I've seen a lot of demonstrations. A lot of people have protested outside the New York courthouses.

And the NYPD, which routinely handles over 400 parades a year, they -- they know how to do mass demonstrations. They do them quite often. And so at minimum, I don't think we'll have disruption that stops the

city from functioning or anything like that. But obviously, there will be a lot of people who are upset if, indeed, the former president is arrested.

COLLINS: Yes. And there's a concern inside Trump's circle, even, amongst some of the members, maybe not all of them, as we saw there from Alina, that it does resemble January 6th. That there is a recreation of that. That's a fear.

They said don't call for protests. Of course, he did that on Saturday.

What about this idea, though, we are hearing from people like Marc Short or even other lawmakers that they do believe that, in the short term, this could politically be beneficial to Trump. That he gets to have this image of him walking into the courthouse. I'm told he might make a speech after.

LOUIS: Well, it's an interesting idea. I mean, if they really believe that, though, they should celebrate the prospect of an arrest, if they really think it's going to help him politically.

I don't think it will help him politically. Look, on -- on January 6th, however misguided people may have been or factually sort of off- base or riled-up by the rally that proceeded the attack, they thought something important was at stake, which was the outcome of an election and the leadership of the country.

In this case, what are you going to risk your freedom for, so that, you know, Trump can get away with hush-money payments to lie about cheating on his third wife? I mean, this is not serious stuff on one level. This is not really a public dispute on another level.

It's really just a question of did he break some laws in the context of doing what is broadly admitted to have been some pretty sleazy personal behavior?

Now, if people want to go to jail for that, OK, you can do that, but I don't -- I don't think of it as sort of analogous to January 6th in that sense.

Now, there are a lot of people who think that, you know, any other person than Donald Trump would have, you know, sort of been able to do this, and there would be no misdemeanor charges. There would be no particular investigation.

Falsification of business records. If you do a Google search, there are a lot of people who get in a lot of trouble for doing that, at least in New York. And so, you know, if at a minimum that's what happened here, and you know, the evidence is overwhelming, it seems that that's -- I don't think that that's in dispute, that there -- you know, there were false entries made about whether payments to Michael Cohen were actual legal expenses.

He says it didn't happen, and he went to prison to prove the point on one level. I think it was Rudy Giuliani who first disclosed to the public that these payments had been made.

So a lot of this is not in dispute. It's very document-heavy. I don't -- I don't know if this is going to be one of these long, dragged-out, you know, sort of cases where we wonder what was in people's minds or anything like that. It all seems to have been laid out.

HARLOW: Switching gears to how the Biden administration has been handling this banking crisis. Christine just explained what happened over the weekend with Credit Suisse.

But the reason -- one of the big reasons Credit Suisse came to the brink over the weekend is because of what happened here in the United States. And a real fear about the stability of the banking sector.

I want your response to what Republican governor, potential 2024 presidential candidate, Governor Sununu, said to Jake yesterday morning about how he thinks the administration has handled this.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It really says to all the other banks that are out there, is if you take risky investments, if you don't manage your investments wisely, don't worry. The federal government will back your play. So that actually incentivizes worst -- worse management, higher risk by other banks down the road, because now we've set this precedent going forward.


HARLOW: Jake asked him how he thought the administration was handling it. He was very critical, and this administration, the Biden administration does not want anyone using the word "bailout" around this. They're very sensitive to that.

LOUIS: It's not -- I mean, it's not a bailout. It is, though -- I mean, there's something wrong here, sure. Putting aside the political spin that, you know, you just heard, there is a problem here, because if you're doing business with a small or medium-sized bank, you now have an incentive to go to a big money center, too big to fail, systemically-important bank.

And so it's going to be those megabanks -- the Citibanks, and the JPMorgan Chases and the Banks of America that are going to start getting a whole lot of business.

HARLOW: They already have.

LOUIS: They already have. That's why they're systemically important.

And so it's going to cause even more concentration. It's going to make it harder for smaller and medium-sized banked to do business, and ultimately, you know, that kind of concentration will lead to higher fees, worse deals.

HARLOW: Because you have -- I mean, I think it's amazing. Look at the front of "The Journal" today. First Republic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the regulators.

Would you ever have imagined a bank like First Republic would be in this position right now?

LOUIS: You know, look, there was always a situation in the United States where we'd have hundreds or even thousands of banks. And then you look at European countries, countries like Germany, and there would be like seven banks.


LOUIS: So we're moving more toward that -- that European model.

Now to see that they can have problems in a place like Switzerland tells you that, you know, yes, the crisis can creep into -- and this is the problem with having all of your eggs in only a few baskets. What if you drop that basket?

That's kind of a larger question for economists and business leaders to try and figure out. And indeed, if wed shift more toward that European model where there are a handful of systemically-important banks that have an overwhelming amount of the business in this country.

And yes, the government is, in effect, a partner because you cannot let that all fall apart. You cannot risk, you know, tipping the country over into recession or even depression. You can't have millions of people who have uninsured deposits that are going to put their money at risk. We're not going to be back to 1933.

But if -- in some ways that's a question for another day. We are where we are. And anybody watching this, you know, your deposits obviously are going to be safe. You might want to think about going to one of those systemically-important banks, though, if you really want to -- want to worry about it.

LEMON: Hey --

LOUIS: I should say if you don't want to worry about it.

LEMON: I want to ask you -- We have to go, but the question, the big question that many New Yorkers have for this week, Tuesday, or Wednesday, or if it does happen, is what do I do? That's what people ask me: what do I do?

Do I go to work? Do I take the subway? Do I -- you cover New York specifically. That's why I'm asking. I know you're not law enforcement.

LOUIS: Yes. In Specter News, I mean, not to be cynical, but it becomes sort of a traffic question, like, you know, which subway lines are going to be running, or which streets might you want to avoid.

We've had very, very big disruptions here. And, you know, you remember if you were -- if you were in town on September 11th, I mean, within a week or two, people were, you know, back at work. I mean, you know, the city -- the city moves on.

LEMON: Yes. And we do.

COLLINS: Errol Louis, thank you so much for joining us here this morning on set.

Also, we are tracking major news on the international stage. Just moments ago, China's President Xi Jinping -- you see him here, descending the stairs. He's arriving in Moscow to meet with President Putin. It is the first time he's been there since Russia invaded Ukraine.

And it comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Putin. What the two leaders are set to discuss. That's next.