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CNN This Morning

At Least 21 Killed As Powerful Storms Rip Through Mississippi; Judge Orders Top Trump Aides To Testify To 1/6 Grand Jury; Trump Lawyer Appears Before Grand Jury; L.A. School District and Workers Union Reach Deal After Strike; California Eases Some Drought Restrictions After Storms; U.S. Stocks End the Week Higher Despite Lingering Banking Fears. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 25, 2023 - 06:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a great morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN This Morning. It is Saturday, March 25. I'm Amara Walker and I'm in a great mood. And that's because we have Victor Blackwell back with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm so happy to be back.

WALKER: Is this for real.

BLACKWELL: This is real.

WALKER: And this is like for good?

BLACKWELL: This is for good. Yes, I am so happy to be back. We'll talk more about that in just a moment because there's a lot going on today.

WALKER: There sure is. Well, here's what we're watching this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he came through it sounds like helicopter real, real fast. And they came so fast. We can do number get up on the cup.


WALKER: Severe storms ripping through parts of the south, more than 20 people are dead and more than 100,000 customers without power. One Mississippi town described as, quote, gone. Our Isabel Rosales is there.

BLACKWELL: Another legal blow for former President Trump. Some of his closest advisers are forced to testify in to Justice Department investigations. Why a judge says Trump cannot claim executive privilege to keep them from testifying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does not, does not emphasize seek conflict with Iran. But be prepared for a strike forcefully protect our people.


WALKER: President Biden heading back at Iranian militias after U.S. troops are injured in a drone attack. The questions now being raised about how that drone was able to get that close to the base.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a CNN exclusive. You're going to hear from two people who say they were injured by the now recalled eye drops. The damage is so severe that they will likely never regain their full vision. Their stories are just ahead.

But we begin this morning with the breaking news in the south. Powerful and deadly storms have reportedly spawned multiple tornadoes. At least 21 people are dead in Mississippi.

WALKER: The National Weather Service has confirmed a large tornado caused significant damage in several towns and now search and rescue teams and first responders are on the scene in that area of Northwest Jackson.

As you can see in the video there just devastating the storms flattening homes and buildings and knocking out power to more than 100,000 customers across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.


AARON RIGSBY, STORM CHASER: There was just a constant scream for help while it was pouring down the rain, thunder and lightning still around. And we just went to the nearest homes that, you know, that we could find and we were pulling people out of homes. There was debris that had rained down from where their houses had collapsed on them.


BLACKWELL: Well, now those storms are moving east with severe thunderstorm warnings and are up across several parts of the southeast. CNN Isabel Rosales is in Rolling Fork. Would they break still hours away? It's a while until we really see the full scope of the damage. But what can you see there now and tell us about the injuries and of course we're getting the climate number of deaths.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning to Victor and Amara. We -- as soon as we were driving into Rolling Fork, we knew that this was going to be large scale just by the sheer number of first responders and ambulances that we were passing by on the road.

And as soon as we got into the city here, the scene, it is just like a bomb went off. This tornado has been devastating and just awful for this community of Rolling Fork and nearby communities as well. In fact, take a look right behind me, right over here. You can see just the sheer devastation, twisted metal, power lines just put all over the middle of the ground, buildings that seemingly have been wiped off.

And right in the back over there, you see that silver truck and a position it's not supposed to be in. That was a restaurant that's beloved here. This is where people would come and get their lunch, their dinner. This is known to this community and now it is just utter debris. It has -- this tornado, the strong winds just (INAUDIBLE) from the ground and really snap power poles like they were toothpicks.

You mentioned, Victor, the -- you mentioned injuries and deaths and that growing death toll, right now standing at over 20 people that have been dead. As the sun comes up, these daylight hours, they are going to be crucial.


We're seeing all over here first responders with lights looking at this devastation left behind trying to see if there's anyone that is trapped. We know from the Governor Tate Reeves that they've activated medical support, additional ambulances.

And a scene like this every single second counts when there's people buried under the debris, buried in homes, every moment is going to count. As soon as the sun comes up, this is going to kick even into higher gear.

Meanwhile, we do know from the National Weather Service, they are surveying the damage of this tornado throughout the day trying to determine if this was one long track tornado that came across here or the storm system spouted off and spawned multiple tornadoes.

We're looking to get a lot of answers today. And a lot of fears, frankly, from this community about whether that death toll will only continue to increase.

WALKER: Yes, that fear is clearly warranted. And the devastation there just so clear, even though it's still nighttime right now. Isabel Rosales, thank you very much.

Let's go now to Meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, tell us more about what happened overnight. I mean, was there any warning?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, there were, there were numerous tornado warnings that went through and severe thunderstorm warnings that went through a lot of these areas. In total, 11 tornado reports so far. You've got about 53 wind reports and then two large hail reports.

You can kind of see some of the outlines here of where most of them were. In fact, when you zoom in, it's really these two main paths where we had the bulk of those tornado reports likely going to be some of them that were on the ground for maybe 60, 70 plus miles before finally being lifted up. But that's what we'll find out later today, once the National Weather Service goes out and surveys a lot of the damage from the storms.

But it's not over yet. In fact, we still have some very strong storms down to the south. On the north side of this system, you've got heavy rain, but also snow and ice across areas of the Midwest and the Northeast. But the best chance for severe storms still exists right now across Alabama and then Georgia, and even a couple spots have some stronger thunderstorms into the Carolinas.

Here's the focus for today. And you've got this region of the southeast where we could have some potential isolated tornadoes and damaging winds. But damaging wind also will be a factor across areas of the Mid Atlantic, especially up around Pennsylvania and Virginia. The good news is by late this afternoon, the bulk of this system finally begins to push back out of the area allowing for cleanup.

The problem is we've got a stationary front that sets up along the southeast, Amara and Victor, meaning that an additional area of severe weather is possible yet again tomorrow across some of the same areas that were just hit.

BLACKWELL: All right, I know you'll be watching it for us. Allison, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to the investigations into Donald Trump. On Friday, a federal judge ordered some of the former President's closest aides to testify before a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

WALKER: Yes, the decision came on the same day that a key Trump attorney was ordered to appear before another grand jury probe and this went into the -- in Trump's handling of classified documents. CNN's Jessica Schneider with more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump's closest advisers order to testify in two Justice Department probes. A federal judge rejecting Trump's claim of executive privilege ordering former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior aide Stephen Miller and others to answer questions from a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOWS: I remember leaning against the doorway and saying -- said an interesting conversation as Rudy and Mark sounds like we're going to go to the Capitol.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.

HUTCHINSON: He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of -- there's a lot going on Cass, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Separately, Evan Corcoran, a top Trump attorney and a crucial witness and Special Counsel Jack Smith's classified documents probe spending nearly four hours testifying behind closed doors to a federal grand jury on Friday. Trump also fought in court to stop his testimony, but several judge's ruling Corcoran must divulge information about the conversations he had with former President Trump leading up to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last summer. And that Corcoran must turn over handwritten notes documenting their interactions.

FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August.

TRUMP: They should give me immediately back everything that they've taken from because it's mine. It's mine.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): FBI agent sees more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August. And in November, the Attorney General appointed special counsel Jack Smith to investigate among other things, whether Trump obstructed the government's attempts to get back all of the classified material still in his possession after he left office.

Evan Corcoran crafted a statement in June 2022, claiming a diligent search had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago and that all classified documents had been returned.


A source tells CNN prosecutors wanted to ask Corcoran about that statement and a June phone call between him and Trump that took place the same day a subpoena was issued for Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage that showed boxes being moved out of a storage room.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You still have the surveillance tape, is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, Sean --

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Sources tell CNN prosecutors have made clear that they believe Trump used Corcoran to advance a crime. A Trump spokesperson has fired back accusing the Justice Department of "continuously stepping far outside the standard norms and an attempt to destroy the long accepted, long held, constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege."

TIM PARLATORE, TRUMP ATTORNEY: From the beginning, he has tried to cooperate.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Trump attorney Tim Parlatore tells CNN he also testified before the grand jury in December, divulging details about additional searches for classified documents keep organized at several Trump properties last year.

PARLATORE: They would rather make this into an adversarial fight and try to make it into a criminal case.


SCHNEIDER: Special Counsel Jack Smith will now be getting an influx of new information, both from Evan Corcoran being forced to testify in front of the grand jury on Friday, and from the array of top Trump administration officials who will now have to testify to the grand jury about what they know about what transpired on and around January 6.

Now our team is told that Trump's legal team is expected to appeal the decision that says that these top officials can't claim executive privilege. Amara and Victor?

WALKER: Jessica Schneider, thank you.

Let's get some analysis now from former federal prosecutor and defense attorney Shan Wu. Good morning to you, Shan. First, I just want to get your reaction to the federal judge rejecting Trump's claims of executive privilege ordering several former aides like Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff, to testify. I mean, how significant is that especially to this case, when it comes to the investigation into the January 6 attacks?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's very significant. And it really shows that Jack Smith's probe here is moving along at a good pace. I mean, I'm a little bit disappointed that it took so long to get here that DOJ hadn't done more beforehand. But these are really important witnesses.

I wouldn't expect that they'll all be happily cooperating with the inquiries. But the court system saying that you can't -- that Trump's people can hide behind executive privilege. That's very important. I mean, it makes perfect sense legally, because the United States versus Nixon really established that you can't use executive privilege as a complete shield in the face of a criminal inquiry.

So this way they can move forward. Even if these folks are not true cooperators, having to testify under oath, they can give a lot of information to corroborate what was really going on that day, and what was Trump doing, and importantly, what he was not doing.

WALKER: Do you expect Jack Smith to get, I don't know, some information, especially from aides like Stephen Miller, or, you know, Mark Meadows? I mean, as we've seen in the past, I mean, many have refused to say anything at all.

WU: I think they'll have a hard time refusing to say anything at all. Now, they could try to take the Fifth Amendment for themselves. But Jack Smith's people will be able to get some things out of them. I mean, they'll be able to testify as to what they were doing, what instructions they did or didn't get from the former president.

And I think that'll be very critical for that particular day's events. And it may shed a lot of light on his intent through circumstantial evidence, but it's not as though they're going to be able to come forward with smoking gun saying, oh, yes, the former president said this to me or that and he knew that we were trying to incite violence.

It's not going to be that much of a smoking gun --

WALKER: Right.

WU: but it will be very valuable and they have to ask. WALKER: So where do you think, you know, special counsel Jack Smith is in this investigation, as we're seeing him closing in on Trump's inner circle?

WU: It's hard to predict if he's near the end of it or not. Certainly, this is very much active in the middle part because you're speaking to very higher up people and you want to be prepared. But he also would have anticipated that there would be a lot of litigation fighting against him being able to speak to these people. So they'd have to start things early.

I think it's hard to know where they are in terms of amassing the evidence and making decisions about charging or not.

WALKER: OK, so let's -- so we've just talked about January 6. I mean, there's so many investigations to keep track of don't want to confuse our viewer. So let's talk about the classified documents, the handling of them especially specifically at Mar-a-Lago.

So another thing that Trump will not be able to hide behind is the attorney-client privilege in the classified documents probe, and now we know Evan Corcoran, his, you know, main attorney, testified on Friday before a grand jury. Obviously a highly unusual to see that happen. Do you see this to be a make or break moment at least for this case?


WU: Again it's hard to know what Evan Corcoran who I used to work with is going to say here. He's in a terrible position. It's very rare to have the attorney-client privilege pierced by this crime fraud exception. And in many ways, I don't really understand how he was able to stay on the case at all, once he was converted into a witness.

He's trying to navigate a real minefield here. And his information could be extremely valuable because it's contemporaneous. These notes that he took at the time, his recollection of talking to the former President about this issue with them looking for the documents, him making a representation, that there had been a diligent search, those are all really critical to determine whether or not there was obstruction.

And I think it's important to stay focused on the obstruction part, because that's what really distinguishes this from a innocuous accidental mishandling of the documents is the enormous amount of effort that went into refusing to comply --

WALKER: Right.

WU: -- with requests to get the documents.

WALKER: Yes, a lot to keep track of. Shan Wu, always appreciate your expertise. Thanks so much. Good to see you.

WU: Good to see you. BLACKWELL: The U.S. retaliates against Iranian-backed militias after several U.S. service members are hurt in a drone attack in Syria. What we know about the attack and the questions being raised over how the drone was able to make it onto the base in the first place.

Plus, banking jitters continue to rattle Wall Street and the global economy. The next major bank investors are keeping a close eye on -- we'll talk about that coming up.

Plus, a pair of upsets on the road to the final four. Our Andy Scholes is standing by with the highlights coming up on CNN This Morning.



BLACKWELL: President Biden is sending a message to Iran and it's that the U.S. is not seeking conflict but we'll do what's necessary to protect Americans. Those comments come after a U.S. strike in Syria. It was in retaliation for an attack by an Iranian-backed group in the country.

WALKER: Now that drone strike killed an American contractor, injured five service members. President Biden says those kinds of attacks require a strong response.


BIDEN: the United States does not, does not emphasize, seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared to strike forcefully protect our people.


BLACKWELL: CNN National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand has more on the escalating tensions.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): President Joe Biden ordering a U.S. airstrike in eastern Syria Thursday after an American contractor was killed in a suspected Iranian drone attack on a coalition military base. Video circulating widely on Syrian social media appearing to show the aftermath of the airstrike, which Biden authorized against facilities being used by Iranian proxy groups to store munitions and gather intelligence, a U.S. official told CNN.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We're going to continue to do whatever we can to defend themselves. And if we have to retaliate, like we did yesterday, we'll do that.

BERTRAND (voice-over): Questions now being raised about why U.S. forces were unable to stop the drone before it crashed into the base in the northeastern Syrian city of Al-Hasakah, wounding five U.S. service members and another U.S. contractor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't there a contingency to shoot down the drone if it was coming into the base?

BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Again, look, we take a variety of measures to safeguard our people. But again, it's an inherently dangerous place. And again, we'll look into the details of that actual tech.

BERTRAND (voice-over): Another Iranian proxy attack targeting a separate U.S. base early Friday morning resulted in no injuries to personnel, but it did strike a civilian house causing significant damage and injuries to two women and two children, the Pentagon said.

But the skirmishes are just the latest in a series of dozens of attacks that Iranian proxy forces have carried out against U.S. personnel since early 2021. That's according to the commander of Central Command, General Erik Kurilla who spoke to lawmakers on Thursday.

REP. DON BACON (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Can you give us a feel for how often you're being attacked?

GEN. MICHAEL "ERIK" KURILLA, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: There has been a number since 1 January 2021. The number is about 78 times that we have been attacked.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The U.S. maintains about 900 troops in Syria as part of the anti-ISIS coalition. But Iran also has proxies in the country were fighting Syrian rebel groups on behalf of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They want to make sure that the U.S. and allied forces don't forget that they're there. And they also want to make sure that they can, in essence, control certain parts of Syria on behalf of the Syrian government.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The Iranian strike comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, with the U.S. accusing Tehran and Moscow of supplying each other with weapons and with Iran racing to bolster its nuclear program. But the White House emphasizing on Friday, that the U.S. is not looking for a war.

KIRBY: We don't seek a war with Iran. We're not looking for an armed conflict with that country or another war in the region.


BERTRAND: Now we are told that Iran-backed groups did target U.S. forces for a second time on Friday targeting U.S. forces that were stationed near an oil field in northeast Syria that would mark the third such attack by these Iranian groups in just two days, marking a significant escalation of these kinds of attacks by Iran-backed groups against U.S. forces in the region.

And now the big question is whether the U.S. is going to retaliate, of course, they have said that they reserve the right to do so in order to protect U.S. personnel in the region. But at the same time, they say that they do not want a direct war or an escalation of this conflict with Iran. So it's going to be a very delicate balance for the U.S. to strike here. Victor, Amara?

BLACKWELL: Natasha Bertrand, thank you for that.

Let's bring in now Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, CNN Military Analyst. So let's talk about the retaliation. Some are disappointed with the degree of retaliation from the U.S. This is Senator Lindsey Graham. He says letting America down, the President is. He tweeted, "America has only one path available when attacked, respond swiftly and vigorously with overwhelming punishing force." What's your assessment of the U.S. response thus far?


LEIGHTON: Well Victor, I think the U.S. response has been actually pretty proportionate to what we've seen. Now, of course, we never like it when anybody is killed, like the U.S. contractor was killed and that's a tragedy that didn't need to happen. But in the response that we made, you know, against the Iranian proxies, reports are that several have been killed, several of them have been killed in these attacks.

So, you know, the response was definitely proportionate to what happened. And in the laws of war, you go with a proportional response, that really is the right thing to do.

BLACKWELL: But a proportional response to a -- what's the threat or the danger of a rapid escalation, even with what we're seeing from the President?

LEIGHTON: Yes, so that actually is one of the key things. And I think you hit on a key aspect of this, Victor, because proportional responses can be misinterpreted by the other side. And in this particular case, you know, as with the attack on Friday on the oilfield, that does show that they're kind of responding in kind and ratcheting things up a bit.

So usually, what happens is, you know, when a situation like this occurs, you have a case where not only do you have the response, but then you have the response to the response. And that goes on for a bit. But in this particular case, I think it's very important for the Iranian proxies to understand that we won't let ourselves be attacked.

There are a lot of attacks that went unanswered, you know, as General Kurilla, the CENTCOM commander, just said in this particular case, I think it was time for us to answer. And, you know, wait for them to respond, but also let them know that if any response would result in a response from us.

BLACKWELL: There are plenty of attacks that go unanswered. He actually said 78 attacks either by drone or rocket since the start of 2021, an average of nearly one attack every 10 days. Let me get you to weigh in on the question that General Ryder was asked, the spokesman at the Pentagon, about why the drone that crashed and killed the American contractor was it shut down if they saw it coming. And obviously, these U.S. bases are protected, able to shoot down drones, why it was able to get to the point where it crashed and killed an American? LEIGHTON: Yes, Victor, that's, you know, that's, of course, something that has to be assessed. And as General Ryder did mention, CENTCOM is assessing that, and they'll have a, you know, which is called an action report on this kind of a situation. So what I think might have happened is that either the radar that is designed to protect the Hasakah base was down for maintenance, or somebody misinterpreted what they saw.

Those are, you know, possibilities that could have happened. But, you know, we have to keep in mind that these are pretty small objects in the sky when they come to our database. And sometimes it is difficult to pick them up. We don't always get what we need out of our equipment, although our equipment is very, very good.

BLACKWELL: So what do you think this episode between the U.S. and Iran and these Iranian-backed militias, these proxies, how that informs other adversarial relationships the U.S. has? What does Putin see here? What does Xi see here in this this exchange?

LEIGHTON: Well, that's an excellent question, Victor, because Syria has actually become a microcosm of all of these different conflicts between the various powers in the United States. So, for example, you know, you mentioned Putin, Russia has become far more aggressive in their movements in Syria. They're protecting Assad.

Xi is not as active as the Chinese are not as active in Syria as the Russians are. But the Iranians are certainly active. And so both the Iranians and the Russians have become a, I think, a bit more dangerous. You know, as far as the Russians are concerned, you see them flying their aircraft in much closer proximity to U.S. aircraft reacting in an offensive way to U.S. aircraft that's flying over parts of Syria that we use as our patrol zone against the ISIS.

So there are certain things that I think embolden these actors. And we have to remember that China brokered a peace deal, basically, between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a basically enacted a way for them to reestablish diplomatic relations. So there's this realignment that's occurring, and that's on the strategic level.

And then on the tactical level, what you see is these kinds of actions to try to get the U.S. to either respond and in an essence prick the bearBut on the other side, you are trying to get to those people or trying to get the U.S. out of some of these areas as well. So, it's a very dangerous situation that could ratchet up fairly easily.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see if there's some U.S. response to these latest attacks. Colonel Cedric Leighton, thanks so much.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Vic -- time.

WALKER: All right, just ahead, relief for thousands of school workers in the nation's second largest school district. A tentative deal reached after a three-day strike canceled classes for half a million students in L.A., we'll have the details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: Top stories now. The L.A. school district reaching a

tentative deal with the union representing 30,000 workers.


This is after a three-day strike this week that canceled classes for more than a half million students in the nation's second largest school district. And that deal increases salaries, expands health benefits and invests in professional development for bus drivers and janitors and cafeteria, special-led and other support staff. Union members need to vote on that agreement.

WALKER: And staying in California, the state removing some of its most stringent drought restrictions after a wave of storms pummeled the state over the last few months, boosting water and area reservoirs. Governor Gavin Newsom has lifted some of the restrictions on outdoor watering and water usage, but the ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial grounds continues, as does the emergency order preserving groundwater.

And it was another brutal week on Wall Street, the U.S. markets rebounded and ended higher despite fears over the stability of another European bank.

BLACKWELL: Stocks at Germany's Deutsche Bank plunged 8.5 percent Friday after a surge in the cost to ensure the bank against defaulting. And that, triggered the latest market sell off as investors are still on edge about the state of the financial sector. CNN's Matt Egan has more, Matt?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey Victor and Amara, so banking jitters, they continue to rattle U.S. markets. Wall Street experience that yet more volatility on Friday as investors, they just wait for the next shoe to drop in this banking crisis. Investors are essentially going from the weakest link to the weakest link in the financial system.

Remember first, it was Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Then First Republic and Credit Suisse, and now all eyes are on Deutsche Bank, and Deutsche Bank shares, they tumbled almost 9 percent in Germany amid concerns about a spike in the cost to ensure the bank's debt against the fault. Of course, that is never a good sign.

I would note, though, that much like Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank has been in turmoil for literally years, but the bank failures in the United States earlier this month, they really caused investors to take a tougher look at banks everywhere. Officials in Europe, they were quick to come out on Friday and say, look, there's nothing to see here. Everything is fine. The chancellor of Germany, he said, there's quote, "no reason to be concerned about Deutsche Bank.

And U.S. officials, they've also been keeping very close tabs on all of this banking turmoil. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen held a closed door meeting with America's top financial regulators on Friday, and you've got to believe that Deutsche Bank came up. All of this comes after the Fed pushed ahead with this warm inflation, despite calls from some experts to pause and avoid adding to the stress in the banking system.

On Friday, I asked Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin about why the Fed raised rates in the face of all this turmoil. And he basically said the focus right now is squarely on fighting inflation. Listen.


TOM BARKIN, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF RICHMOND: Inflation is high, demand hadn't seemed to come down, and so, the case for raising was pretty clear, and the one thing that I hear loud and clear from everybody is that they hate inflation. And they find inflation to be unfair. You get a raise, and then you have to go spend that raise at the gas station. They create uncertainty. It's frankly exhausting.


EGAN: Of course, there are costs to getting inflation under control, potentially job loss. Also turmoil in the banking system like we're seeing now. And Barkin, he conceded that there is a risk that the stress in the banking system hurts the real economy by making it more expensive and harder for all of us to borrow.

And he can see it, that, that could cause the Fed to stop raising interest rates soon. But at this point, no one, not even the Fed knows exactly how all of that's going to play out. Victor and Amara.

BLACKWELL: All right, Matt, thanks so much. Still to come, an alarming trend, the CDC reports two additional deaths linked to recalled eye drops, and other users say they have permanent vision problems after infections.



WALKER: So, the CDC reporting two more people have died from a rare strain of bacteria found and recalled eye drops. The EzriCare Artificial Tears lubricant eye drops were recalled back in February.

BLACKWELL: Listen to this. The CDC has identified dozens of people who have reported infections. At least, eight lost their vision, four had their eyes surgically removed because of infections caused by these drops. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN has spoken exclusively with people who say that they were injured by EzriCare eye drops. Now, these are the eye drops that have been recalled because of bacterial contamination. But before they were recalled, you could buy them over the counter at a drugstore.

These three people, they had dry eyes, and so they bought the eye drops thinking that they were closed and they were secure, and they were safe. So, the first person, her name is Renee Martray, she says that she now has corneal scarring, and she has filed a lawsuit because, she says, her vision, it's as if she were looking out of glasses that were lined with oil. Let's take a listen to Renee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENEE MARTRAY, VICTIM OF EZRICARE EYE DROP: He said, you're probably not going to get any more vision back in that eye. And I mean, I cried for days. I would wonder how they could let something like this happen. I mean, I trust when I see a box sealed up, I would -- I'm thinking it's sterile. I'm thinking it's good.



COHEN: Another woman, Nancy Monsoon(ph), Ohio, she was hospitalized. She has an ulcer on her cornea, she's lost vision in her -- in her eye. Her doctors have written a medical journal article about her. And Claro Leva(ph) in Florida, she had to have her right eyeballs surgically removed and she's now legally blind. She's filed a lawsuit against EzriCare.

The CDC says four people have had their eyeballs surgically removed and three people have died. And their latest statements in February, they said, as of today, we are not aware of any testing that definitively links the pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to EzriCare Artificial Tears. Nonetheless, we immediately took action to stop any further distribution or sale of EzriCare Artificial Tears to the greatest extent possible.

We have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product. CNN has learned of several people who filed lawsuits against EzriCare. Back to you.

WALKER: Oh, yes, very disturbing. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. Coming up, a pair of stunners on the road to the final four, two underdogs take out number one seeds in the Sweet 16. We're going to catch you up on all the action. And actress and activist Eva Longoria is proud of her Mexican roots and deeply connected to the country she calls her second home.

BLACKWELL: Well, now, in the new CNN original series, "SEARCHING FOR MEXICO", Longoria is taking us on a journey across the country to see how its people, culture and landscape and history has shaped its diverse cuisine. Here's a look.



This is Elmoro(ph), it's an institution in Mexico City. It's -- you have to come here when you're in Mexico City. Churros and chocolate are a dream come true for my four-year-old son, Sandy.


LONGORIA: This one, but softly soft! So soft! Slow. This is the chilango in the family. When it comes to food, we all have our guilty pleasures, for my son, it's chocolate and churros. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is it for me, too.

WALKER: Yes --

BLACKWELL: You can catch "SEARCHING FOR MEXICO" tomorrow at 10:00, right here on CNN.



ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. Well, I'm Andy Scholes with your sports this morning. and for the first time in March Madness history, all of the number one seeds are eliminated in the NCAA tournament before the elite eight. Never happened before, and as a Houston grad, I've got March Madness blues this morning, but, hey, that's how it goes in the NCAA tournament.

And Crimson Tide fans. they're feeling it too. It was five seeds, San Diego state pulling off the big upset last night, taking down number one overall seed, Alabama. The title actually up by 9 with under 12 minutes to go, but the Aztecs then just turned it on. They went on a 12 overrun, holding Alabama scoreless for five minutes.

Famous are Brandon Miller, really struggling in this one, made just three of his 19 shots for 9 points, San Diego state, hold on to win 71-64, pulling off that massive upset. Houston meanwhile, keep their dream of playing a final four at home alive, well answer is no, Miami crushing those hopes and dreams in impressive fashion.

The Hurricanes just dominant second half, Nijel Pack, putting on a shooting exhibition, made seven threes in this one. Miami back in the elite eight for the second straight year, winning that one, 89-75. Check out the dance moves from Miami's 73-year-old coach Jim Larranaga in the locker room. Coach, he's getting down.

His players were certainly enjoying that. And it was a big day for Miami, their women's team as a 9 seed, upsetting Villanova to reach the elite eight as well. Miami and Yukon, the only schools with teams remaining in both tournaments. All right, March Madness has already given us so many special moments and introduced us to amazing athletes who are making a difference on and off the court.

And one of those being Texas Tech's Rhyle McKinney, who was born with a cleft palate, severe sinus issues and is legally deaf, doctors told her, she wouldn't be able to play sports at a high level. Well, three state championships later and now in college, she's proving them wrong.



RHYLE MCKINNEY, TEXAS TECH BASKETBALL PLAYER: I have had 21 surgeries, I usually have one every year and a half, so I have gone through a lot of hard times with my surgeries, a lot of them, I can't eat for six weeks. And so, I lose a lot of tremendous weight, and that's hard when you're playing basketball.

So, this recent one, I was really worried because I just got to Texas Tech, and I was like, I'm just getting in the weight room, I don't want to lose what I've gained. And so, to be able to overcome that, it was really hard for me mentally and physically. I've had a lot of doctors tell me, you know, that I wouldn't be able to do the things that I'm doing today.

And so, that's just something I always put in the back of my head when I struggle some days. You know, people doubted me, a lot of people still doubt me, but I just want to be an inspiration to the young girls out there, that see the things that I've gone through, and they may go through the same things, and that you can do it, you can do anything you put yourself to.

So, I just want to shine a light on those young kids, to just be inspired to just feel that they could do what they want to do and set their goals high. I definitely set my goals high. I actually started training a young girl at Lubbock, and she was born with a cleft palate also, and so we became really close. I got super close with her family, and she started an amazing job, that it was just nice for her to be able to come to the Lady Raider Basketball Camp and just put herself out there at such a young age.


Because that's what I inspire for younger kids, men or women, you should be able to do what you want to do, don't be ashamed if you have any features that are different from anybody else.


SCHOLES: Yes, Rhyle McKinney certainly is a difference maker. And the women's Sweet 16 continues today with four games on the schedule, including the number one overall seed, an undefeated South Carolina facing number four UCLA. All right, CNN THIS MORNING continues after this short break.


BLACKWELL: Good morning, good morning and welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is so good to be back with you at this hour, It's Saturday, March 25th, I'm Victor Blackwell.