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DeSantis Launches First Direct Attacks On Trump In New Interview; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) On Fed's Decision On Interest Rates Amid Bank Fears; Residential Building Apparently Struck By Missile. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 07:30   ET




CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice-over): A friend of Sanderson's who witnessed the accident testified.

CRAIG RAMON, TERRY SANDERSON'S FRIEND WHO WITNESSED THE CRASH: And I hear this scream and then -- and then -- and then I see this skier just slam into the back of Terry. And when -- and she just slammed him.


RAMON: Very hard. I mean, very hard.


MELAS: So everybody's wondering is Gwyneth Paltrow going to take the stand and really explain her side as to what happened.

What we do know, you all, is that her children are expected -- Apple and Moses, and maybe even her husband Brad will also take the stand. They were skiing with her that day and obviously, there are varying recollections of what happened, and this took place seven years ago. But it's very clear that Paltrow -- she's doing this to prove a point, which is why she is countersuing for just a dollar and legal fees.

But it's really interesting. A lot of people have asked me actually a lot of questions about this particular case.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's obvious it's not money for her because $300,000 -- quite honestly, to Gwyneth Paltrow, she could just pay -- settle it for nuisance value. But she believes obviously in her case, so --


LEMON: -- she's not backing down.

HARLOW: And it could happen to anyone in a skiing accident like that in terms of would they face a lawsuit.

Chloe, thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you, Chloe.

HARLOW: Today the Fed will decide whether or not to raise interest rates again. What officials are considering after this banking crisis.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And the gloves are really off. This is what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had to -- has to say about his former ally.




Poppy is moments away from interviewing Sen. Jeff Merkley on the Federal Reserve's looming decision today when it comes to interest rates.

But first, we want to start with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he launched some of his most direct attacks yet at a potential 2024 rival, former President Trump. This is in a wide-ranging Fox Nation interview with Piers Morgan where DeSantis criticized Trump's character, his leadership style, the nicknames Trump has given to DeSantis. He also says that he is certain if he does run for the White House he can win.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, FOX NATION, "PIERS MORGAN UNCENSORED": What is your favorite nickname that Trump has given you so far? Is it Ron DeSanctimonious or Meatball Ron?

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: Well, I can't --

MORGAN: And even he went off Meatball Ron but --

DESANTIS: I can't -- I don't know how to spell DeSanctimonious. I don't really know what it means but I kind of like it. It's long, it's got a lot of vowels. I mean, so we'll go with that -- that's fine. You can call me -- you can call me whatever you want -- I mean, just as long as you also call me a winner.


COLLINS: DeSantis also contrasted Trump with past presidents known for their moral standards saying, quote, "You really want people to look like our founding fathers. It's not saying that you don't ever make mistakes in your personal life, but I think what type of character are you bringing? So, somebody who really set the standard is George Washington because he always put the Republic over his own personal interest. I think the person," DeSantis said, "is more about how you handle your public duties and the kind of character you bring to that endeavor." CNN's Steve Contorno in St. Petersburg, Florida. Steve, I mean, DeSantis is very clearly trying to draw this line on leadership skills, on character ahead of a potential matchup between him and Trump here in these very direct attacks.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Exactly, Kaitlan, and in that quote where he was saying as long you call me winner -- the inference being that Trump is a loser. So really an attempt by DeSantis to draw sort of a distinction between himself and a political figure that he has been closely tied to ever since he was elected governor in 2018 as the Trump-endorsed candidate. And these two men have mostly been allies, as you said, but DeSantis drawing some sharp contrast with Trump.

We saw him talk about how he ran a tight ship as governor versus the chaos of the Trump White House. He is presenting himself as a family man versus Trump who is in legal trouble for allegations that he made hush money -- hush money payments to an adult film star.

And Morgan also asked him about Trump's propensity to mislead and the sort of untruths that we saw from Trump over the years. And DeSantis responded by saying, quote, "Truth is essential. We have to agree that there's a certain reality to the world we live in. It's not your truth or my truth, it is the truth."

Now I think there will be some Democrats in Florida and probably some people in the medical community as well who suggest DeSantis may not be the best arbiter of truth. But nevertheless, it's a -- it's another example of how he is differentiating himself from the former president as he prepares to run for the White House himself.

LEMON: He hasn't even announced, Steve, so I mean it's really early and --


LEMON: -- we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. But I mean it's looking as though he's going to run.

COLLINS: Yes, but you're right.


COLLINS: We should wait until he announces.

LEMON: Yes. We should wait until he announces.

So I wonder if it's going to help DeSantis. Does it hurt DeSantis because there's been no announcement yet?

CONTORNO: Yes. It's been this long, sort of, soft launch. We have the book and the book tour where he's doing a lot of interviews with conservative media. A lot of interviews with Murdoch-owned media which has really wrinkled the feathers of Trump's allies who have attacked DeSantis for giving sort of this unfettered access to someone who has clearly turned the page on President Trump. But DeSantis has used this opportunity to make the case that he is

better positioned than Trump to win the nomination in 2024. He has talked about how much he -- how large his victory was in 2022 in the midterms compared to Trump. You know, he won by 19 percentage points. Trump won by a handful of percentage points.

And he gave this quote as well where he's talking about how well he did with Independent voters, saying, "I won with Independents by 18 points. I think anybody should take the formula like that nationally. You can't win with just Republicans. You've gotta win with Independents."

And what's interesting, too, Don and Kaitlan, is that DeSantis said that if he were to jump in the race he won't even get bogged down in mudslinging with Trump. He is already looking ahead to a matchup with President Biden.


LEMON: That's a tough thing to -- easy for him to say.

COLLINS: Tough to avoid.

LEMON: Yes, tough to avoid -- right on.

Thank you, Steve.

CONTORNO: All right.

HARLOW: All right, thank you, guys.

The Federal Reserve is set to announce a decision today in its yearlong war on inflation. Will it hike interest rates yet again or will the Fed pause its rate hikes in an effort to try to stabilize the banking sector?

The Fed chair Jay Powell has to make this decision and this marks one of the most important meetings and speeches of his career. It will be the first time the world hears from Powell since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and the fire sale of Credit Suisse, and the lifeline extended to First Republic.

The recent stress of the banking system is placing huge pressure on what the Fed does today. Investors are largely pricing in a quarter- point -- 25 basis point hike and will listen to exactly how Chair Powell explains this decision.

Let's talk about this and a lot more with Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He served on the Senate Banking Committee four years. Senator, good morning and thanks for joining us. Good to have you on.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Good morning, Poppy. Good to be with you.

HARLOW: Gosh, an impossible decision, right? What do you think the Fed should do?

MERKLEY: Well, I think we are going to see that quarter-point. They're between a rock and a hard place. They are very concerned if they don't do enough it will look like

they're not fighting inflation, which has consequences. If they do too much and affect the economy too much when banks are a little bit rocky they could figure -- they could cause a little more trouble in confidence in the banking system. So I think we'll see it go down the middle with that .25.

HARLOW: This is what Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said yesterday to the American Banking Association.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Our intervention was necessary to protect the broader U.S. banking system and similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion.


HARLOW: She's basically saying there, Senator, smaller mid-sized banks -- if you fail too, we've got you -- above the $250,000 FDIC insurance threshold. Is that necessary?

MERKLEY: Well, she is projecting absolute confidence because what we had was a classic run on a bank. We had Silicon Valley. It had billions of dollars withdrawn within a few hours driven by kind of internet communication. And the situation with Silicon is very different than most banks. They had a huge investment in bonds, which meant they were incredibly vulnerable to a rise in interest rates.

But now we have people saying well, if this fear -- even if your bank doesn't fit those circumstances, this fear of other people withdrawing, we better withdraw. And she's wanting to say everyone calm down. We're going to protect whatever we need to do to keep the system stable. So she's sending that message of confidence but there is --

HARLOW: And --

MERKLEY: -- danger in that.

HARLOW: Yes, so let's talk about that danger. Is that really what the U.S. government should do -- is say no matter what, we've got you to any limit?

MERKLEY: I think her projection of confidence that we will take care of the problems are they emerge is probably the right message when you're facing a kind of fear-driven possibility of runs on banks.

But the danger of what they did with Silicon, which was to insure all the deposits for the entire level -- in the longer term that presents a situation where banks say hey, we can take more risks --

HARLOW: Right.

MERKLEY: -- which means we have to be looking at the liquidity standards. We have to look at the capital standards. We have to look at better stress tests. All the things that back when I was fighting for the Volcker Rule --


MERKLEY: -- in 2009 were very important.

HARLOW: It sounds like you agree with some of your Republican colleagues who are saying there is a moral hazard here and this is a bailout, and at some point, Americans will foot the bill -- American taxpayers. Do you think they have a point?

MERKLEY: Well, it -- well, right now, there's no risk of us footing the bill because they're going to increase the FDIC deposit requirements in order to cover the risk. But it's a --

HARLOW: Maybe.

MERKLEY: -- a precarious situation. Well, maybe.

HARLOW: Yes. Well --

MERKLEY: I think that's going to be a huge impetus to do that.

HARLOW: So you would support --

MERKLEY: We're not going to let the taxpayer be on the hook.

HARLOW: I'm sorry to speak over you. You would -- you would support then what some of your fellow lawmakers are pushing for -- raising the FDIC insured limit above $250,000?

MERKLEY: Well, not necessarily -- no. Because that does create more hazard on the risk-taking side, but I think it's -- it needs to be wrestled with. It went up from $100,000 to $250,000 --

HARLOW: Right.

MERKLEY: -- back when we were in the 2009 crisis. But the situation in which the smaller or the large regional banks have much lower stress tests -- liquidity standards --


MERKLEY: -- capital standards -- that has to be re-examined.



Just one note. You said the situation with SVB is very different than other banks. I'm not sure if you've seen this new paper that just came out of Columbia, Northwestern, and USC but their analysis is that 190 more banks could fail, and there are 10 percent of all U.S. banks that have larger, unrecognized losses than those of SVB. So there's a real danger here for almost 200 more banks, they say. MERKLEY: Yes. When it's -- when it's -- when we look at that outline risk that is very worrisome. That's exactly why Yellen is trying to project great confidence and discourage any type of runs on the banks.

HARLOW: You are -- let's turn to China-Russia and what we just saw over the last three days. You are not only a member of the Foreign Relations Committee you're a co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

And we just saw Vladimir Putin wining and dining Xi Jinping -- three hours of meetings here, saying they talked constantly. Putin committed to uninterrupted oil supply to China.

What is your biggest takeaway from this visit, which ends today? And are Russia and China more of a threat to global stability now than they were three days ago?

MERKLEY: Poppy, this was a three-day bro fest celebrating authoritarian power. And you have China, which didn't hesitate to run over the top of Hong Kong. You have Russia, which invaded Ukraine. And they're both authoritarian leaders who want to flex their muscles in the -- in the world and they're finding that they're very comfortable being lined up with each other.

So it's that authoritarian bloc is so counter to what we want to see in the world -- a world of freedom of assembly, and speech, and religion. And it is -- it is a threat to freedom everywhere.

HARLOW: I appreciate your time, Sen. Merkley, very much.

MERKLEY: Poppy, it's good to be with you.

HARLOW: Thank you -- Don.

LEMON: All right, thanks, Poppy.

COLLINS: Quite a description of that summit between Xi and Putin.

LEMON: What did he say -- a three-day or two-day -- three-day --

COLLINS: Three-day.

LEMON: -- bro fest --

COLLINS: Of authoritarian power.

LEMON: -- of authoritarian power.

HARLOW: Authoritarian bro fest --


HARLOW: -- or something like that.

LEMON: Nice, Poppy. Thank you.


LEMON: Up next, just in, a missile strike on the residential block -- a residential block in Zaporizhzhia. We're talking about Ukraine and we're live on the ground there for you.



LEMON: So, look at your screen. Look at this video -- wow -- right there. That is the breaking news that is coming out of Ukraine right now. Officials on the ground say that two Russian missiles hit a residential high-rise building and this is in Zaporizhzhia. You can see the moment of impact blowing a hole in that building.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy posting this video to social media saying, quote, "Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery. Look at the flames coming out of there. They're hitting residential areas where ordinary people and children live and they're being fired at." That is the quote.

CNN international correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Ukraine right now. Ivan, tell us what you're seeing. We understand that rescuers are conducting rescue and search operations and extinguishing the fire where this happened. This is just amazing to see.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well and, you know, as you can see here in Eastern Ukraine it is a sunny kind of late-winter, early-spring day. And that's when at least two missiles, the Ukrainian authorities say, hit the city of Zaporizhzhia, hitting two nine-story apartment buildings.

The information from on the ground is that the rescue workers are still working. They're still doing the search and rescue. So we have no information right now about the actual casualties there as they're still trying to put the fires out.

But you can see from the video from the scene just the scale of the destruction. You can just imagine what a horror that must have been like for any residents who may have been in that building at that time.

Now, this isn't the first time that Zaporizhzhia, which is probably 25 minutes drive from the front lines -- active front lines -- it's not the first time it's been hit by large Russian missiles -- that apartment buildings have been hit by them. But the Ukrainians are immediately calling this a war crime.

Don, I think it's important to keep in mind this is one incident. The Ukrainians are saying that there were a number of drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian towns and cities overnight, and apparently launched shortly after the Russian and Chinese leaders embraced each other and bid adieu to each other in Moscow after having declared that they want to create a more just, and peaceful, and democratic international order. Then there were several missiles launched by fighter planes, the

Ukrainians say, at the southern port city of Odesa. That some of those missiles were shot down but at least one got through.

Meanwhile, there were -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, I'm afraid, but more than a dozen Shahed drones -- those are manufactured by Iran and given to Russia as part of this military cooperation between Iran and Russia -- fired from north of Ukraine hitting one town in the Kyiv region about 50 miles out of the capital, killing at least four people. Some of those drones believed to have been shot down over the Zhytomyr region.

Meanwhile, the Russians are saying that they shot down some kind of drones that apparently they're claiming were fired by Ukraine towards the Russian-occupied Crimean city of Sevastopol.

All of this just gives you a sense of the air war that is underway. The civilians who are caught in the middle of it. The innocent bystanders of this savage conflict that Russia launched with its invasion more than a year ago, Don.

LEMON: All right, Ivan Watson reporting for us in Ukraine.

And this is the breaking news this morning. Officials on the ground say that two Russian missiles hit a residential high-rise building in Zaporizhzhia. They are searching now for victims and they're trying to extinguish the fire.


Our Ivan Watson in Ukraine. Again, thank you so much -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And Don, this breaking news coming up. We're going to speak with the former defense secretary Mark Esper about the latest on Ukraine's fight and how a just-completed meeting between Putin and China's President Xi could shape the war.


LEMON: It is a Wednesday so we're halfway through --

COLLINS: It's a Wednesday.

HARLOW: It's a Wednesday.

LEMON: It's a --

COLLINS: It's a busy Wednesday.

LEMON: It's a Wednesday and there's a lot going on. We're going to explain lots of stories. Hello, everyone. Welcome in and welcome back.

HARLOW: Thank you. I'm glad to be back.

LEMON: Poppy has been out.

HARLOW: I'm healed thanks to antibiotics.

LEMON: Yes. Poppy's kids gave her a little bug.

HARLOW: Blame the kids.

LEMON: But we move on.

HARLOW: All right.

LEMON: We truck on.

So we're going to talk about Donald Trump's legal problems mounting. We're now learning that a judge is convinced that he may have used his own attorney to break the law.