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Massive Protests, Strikes Rock Israel Amid Political Crisis; More Storms Today After Weekend Tornadoes Kill 26 in South; FDIC Says, First-Citizens Bank Has Bought Silicon Valley Bank. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 07:00   ET



SEGUN ODUOLOWU, HOST, BOSTON GLOBE TODAY: Because we're not as slimy and we're not as sharmy (ph) and we're not as dysfunctional as this family, or at least we hope we're not, right? Like we're not as neurotic as Shiv (ph). We are not as calculating as Logan Roy. We're not -- you know, we're not as messed up --

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Speak for yourself. Segun.

ODUOLOWU: We are -- well, like I said, we think that we're not. But it is great theater. It is theater of the absurd, but it's like watching a car crash. You can't help but slow down, and then you feel that much better that I wasn't in that crash. Oh, my gosh, I'm not as bad as this. I guess it's like watching reality T.V. and watching people debase themselves, and then you get to say, oh, my God, look at them doing that. I would never do that. And you get to eat your popcorn and enjoy it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I can't wait to see what the evolution of what happens with Tom this season. We will stay tuned. Segun, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ODUOLOWU: My pleasure. You all be safe out there. Have a good week.

LEMON: You too.

COLLINS: We will. And CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protests engulfing the streets of Israel over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to weaken the Supreme Court. He fired a key minister who opposed the move.

COLLINS (voice over): This morning, will Netanyahu pushed forward with the overhaul?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mood is terrible. It feels as if the prime minister has lost control. It feels as if this country is going down a very dangerous road.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like no notice. We didn't know what was happening. LEMON (voice over): Mississippi cleaning up from a devastating tornado, at least 26 people are dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's very little of this community that was untouched by the storm. My city is gone, but we're resilient and we're going to come back.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Grand jury in New York is set the reconvene as District Attorney Alvin Bragg weighs indicting a former president for the first time in American history.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We believe this is a political stunt by Mr. Bragg.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It's not for me to tell the district attorney who to charge or what charges to break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Putin said is that Russia is planning to station a number of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ukraine has reacted angrily with the foreign ministry here, calling for an extraordinary meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've, in fact, seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons, period, inside Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't allow that to be a cause for delaying critical weapons system that we need to deliver to the Ukrainians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: March Madness has been wilder than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure there were people doubted we could do it but we never doubted for a minute.


COLLINS (on camera): Good morning. As you are waking up today, Israel has been engulfed in turmoil. There is a live look right now in Jerusalem as massive protests are rocking the country. Now, a huge nationwide strike is grinding Israel to halt. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is under intense pressure to back down from his controversial plan to overhaul the nation's court system.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of protesters blocked a highway and Tel Aviv after Netanyahu fired his own defense minister for coming out publicly and criticizing the plan, saying that he opposed it. Those protesters were blasted with water cannons as they were blocking that major highway.

LEMON: Look at all of that and listen to it. It's unbelievable.

Israel's largest union has called for historic strike. Flights have now resumed Israel's main airport after they were grounded for hours. We had a live shot at the top of the last hour of someone just getting into place and taking off. Workers at the country's biggest seaports have joined the strike, even McDonald's is closing all of its restaurants in solidarity there.

Israel is one of America's closest allies and the White House says it is deeply concerned about the political crisis. So, you see the president, the first lady returning to Washington last night.

The world is watching and they're waiting to see what Netanyahu will do. We were expecting to hear from him earlier this morning, but that did not happen, perhaps will happen a little bit later on.

So, let's check in now with CNN's Hadas Gold. She's among the crowd in Jerusalem and she joins us now by phone. Any sign of -- is Netanyahu going to speak? Is this forcing him to change his position?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Yes, guys, I'm joining by phone because there are so many people here at the protest outside of the Supreme Court that our signal for our camera is just so weak just because there's a massive of people.

As you noted, the country has ground to essentially screeching halt because of this massive general strike. This is the largest general strike, I think, ever announced in Israeli history, even affecting the airport. And the last time the airport was closed this way was during war in 2021 when rockets flying in the air.


But today has come to a halt over these protests against this massive judicial overhaul that I'll remind everyone essentially would allow the Israeli parliament to overturn, to clean court decisions with a simple majority. That's according to the legislation, as it's currently being proposed.

Now, all of this started Saturday night when the defense minister, the first minister in Netanyahu's own government, came to come out against this reform, calling for a halt. He was summarily fired 24 hours later. That sparked massive street protests. You guys were showing videos of that, the police using water cannon on the protesters in the middle of the night on the main highway.

And now we're just waiting to hear from the prime minister, from Benjamin Netanyahu himself. So far, he has not made any sort of statement about this. There are reports that he was going to call for a halt, make a big speech to call for a (INAUDIBLE) legislation. So far, we have heard absolutely nothing from him or from the prime minister's office. Guys?

COLLINS: Hadas, I mean, just watching this play out and how this is impacting daily life in Israel, I mean, with the strikes with what we saw at the airport earlier, the flights have now resume, the fact that this is even reaching to places like McDonald's, I mean blocking the highway, the pressure is so intense on the prime minister here. I mean, what is the expectation of what he's going to do?

GOLD (voice over): Well, I mean, the pressure for him to at least announce for a freeze over legislation is absolutely massive, and now we're even hearing threats of violence from Netanyahu's groups, some of these are far right-wing extremist groups, some of them have vowed to come out on the streets later tonight. That is incredibly worrying because this is something the Israeli president had been warning about now for weeks. He is warning that there could be bloodshed on the streets between Israelis, he is warning about a civil war.

And so there is an incredible amount of pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu, even hearing from other members of his own government, saying they will support Netanyahu if he announces a freeze. There are some Israeli media reports that he's currently in consultations with members of his right-wing government. These are the people who used to be the fringe politicians in Israeli politics.

Now, they are sitting ministers. There are some reports that some of them are still holdouts and want him to push through this legislation, but I honestly cannot see how we could stand. It's just the way the state of Israel, as I'm seeing it today, I've never seen anything like this.

COLLINS: Wow, never seen anything like this. Hadas Gold, thank you for being there. Again, Hadas noted, she can't actually appear on camera because given the size of the protests that you're seeing on your screen right there, it is blocking CNN's camera signal from being able to go live. We will continue to check back, though, with those live updates you're seeing on the ground.

LEMON: We'll get Aaron David Miller on just a little bit later on. He's a former Middle East negotiator for the U.S. State Department. It's going to be interesting to hear what he has to say about that.

In the meantime, back here at home, more than 20 million people across the southeast or under threat of severe weather today. It comes after a deadly tornado outbreak tore through Mississippi and Alabama, killing at least 26 people.

Our Nick Valencia resides in a hard hit town of Rolling Rock, Mississippi this morning where there is devastation. That's what you're seeing this morning, I'm sure, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Don. There is grief here, a lot of it. More than two dozen people were killed by that powerful EF-4 tornado that ripped through this portion of the Mississippi Delta on Friday night. And just look at the force of the winds here, the power of this storm that came through here, wedging this car, picking it up, turning it on its side and wedging it right between this vehicle. Just behind that, there's a semi that's crashed into a tree, the roof of this home just entirely gone.

This community, a lot of -- many of them here don't have home insurance, many of them here are poor, it's a predominantly black portion of the Mississippi Delta. But what's really striking to us in our time here in the last several days, it's just even those who have lost their homes chipped in to help out people who were worse off.

LaDonna Sias is the vice mayor of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. We'll hear more from her in just a little bit. She was telling us over the weekend that her home was just destroyed, and yet she was out over the weekend, delivering hot meals to her constituents.

We also met Antoine Jones. He's a hometown, born and raised here and Rolling Fork, he has been on the police force of the last five years. He was in a bathtub with his girlfriend picked up literally floating in the air, crashed down, survived with just a few scratches, put on his uniform and then went to work. It's stories like that that are really standing out here in this community.

Last night, more salt in the wounds as another round of severe weather tore through here. Many people here holding each other extra clothes, and you could tell scenes like this, it's going to be a long time before things get back to normal her, Don.

LEMON: Nick Valencia in Rolling Fork this morning, thank you, Nick, I appreciate that.

COLLINS: Also new overnight, First-Citizens Bank has now officially purchased Silicon Valley Bank after SVB collapsed in the largest U.S. bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis. First-Citizens Bank is now going to take on all deposits and loans of SVB. That means it will operate the 17 branches that previously said SVB. They will now be First-Citizens Bank.

CNN's Christine Romans joins us now.


She's been tracking all of this morning.


COLLINS: Good morning. And, you know, this was the big question of when a purchase like this would happen. What does it mean for people who were formerly customers of SVB?

ROMANS: It means when they wake up this morning, they will have a new bank named for Citizens Bank and everything stays the same for now while First-Citizens from Raleigh, North Carolina, integrates this bank.

Look, it's really interesting here because First-Citizens says that it has these innovation hubs and they'll be leveraging Silicon Valley's strengthen private equity, venture capital and tech services. So, there is some overlap here that makes sense for both of these companies.

It's also super interesting, because tomorrow, you're going to get a hearing at the Senate about what happened with SVB. And May 1st, we will get the first look at what the Federal Reserve's own internal investigation into what happened at Silicon Valley Bank. So, we're learning more about what brought this bank to its knees even as we find a new buyer here.

I think this is good news for the stability of the American banking system, no question. This is the healthy way to do it. When you have a weak bank, you have a stronger bank that buys it. So, we'll closely be watching to see what happens next. But you have stability and banks really around the world. Deutsche Bank is up in Europe. European shares are higher, so there is some feeling that the worst is behind us in terms of the banking sector. So, this is just the latest in that sort of banking threat here.

LEMON: And it's hard to keep track of the names. It was First Republic and then SVB, and now, it's First-Citizens.

ROMANS: That's right. That's right.

LEMON: Who cares about the name, as long as your money is safe, right?

ROMANS: And your money is safe. When you go -- those Silicon Valley Banking customers, when they go today, they will have a new name on their bank. But everything should work. Their cards, their access points, their digital banking, all of that will still be working.

Great, nice to see you, guys.

LEMON: So, let's get back to the turmoil happening in Israel over the government's controversial plan to overhaul the judicial system there. Aaron David Miller is a former Middle East negotiator for the State Department and a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment. He spent decades working on American efforts to broker agreements between Israel and its neighbors. Good morning to you, Aaron, we appreciate you joining us.

Much of Israel is at a standstill right now. The options for Netanyahu at this hour?

AARON DAVID MILLER, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: First of all, Don and Kaitlan, thanks for having me. Look, we're on terra incognita, unprecedented. You now have a general strike, which hasn't occurred, I think, since the British mandate period of this size.

We've been waiting for three hours for Mr. Netanyahu, the prime minister, to make an appearance. His justice minister was out earlier, basically saying that he would accept any decision that the prime minister made, and Mr. Levin, the justice minister, is one of the hardest line on its of this judicial reform. I call it a judicial coup, actually.

So, I think Benjamin Netanyahu risk ready on trial for bribery, fraud breach of trust, wanted this judicial reform to neuter the court, and I think he may have no choice given the pressures that we've witnessed, which are extraordinary, basically at least to push fervently.

COLLINS: Yes. It's remarkable to hear from the justice minister coming out and saying that given he was part of the architect of all of this, but, you know, one thing that I've been thinking of in the bigger picture of this is how much does this have to do, in your view, with Netanyahu himself. Because you can't ignore that all of this is coming as he's fighting his own corruption charges and part of this new package, the courts would no longer be able to bar politicians who were convicted of crimes from serving in top government jobs. How much do you think this does have to do with his own recent trial?

MILLER: You know, Tip O'Neil's famous (INAUDIBLE) said that all politics are local. When it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly given the fact that he's under indictment with a trial in Jerusalem district court that's now three years of continuing to run, all politics are personal.

For him, I think this is existential. And I think it explains the risk readiness, the abandonment of caution and prudence that have characterized so much of Benjamin Netanyahu's career, one step forward, one step backward. He really needs this judicial reform.

And I think he now has begun to understand that he's not going to get it. I think five elections the Israelis have had in almost four years, driven by the fact that Mr. Netanyahu did not agree to the formation of any government in which he did not have a majority in large part because of his trial.

LEMON: Listen, it's not just Gallant there, at least two more Israeli ministers, both of the same party as Netanyahu, they suggested halting this controversial plan as well. The former prime minister, Yair Lapid, called Gallant's dismissal a new low. And I think what he's saying is what's happening now. He wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu may be able to fire the minister, but he cannot fire the people of Israel who are standing up to the insanity of the coalition. That appears to be true.

MILLER: You know, Don, it's such a crucial point. And, you know, what's the takeaway for us? Israel and the U.S. are fundamentally different countries, and it's hard to compare our circumstances.


But, you know, the reality is indictments, impeachments, investigations, all of that, notwithstanding what is happening in the streets of Israel struggling for what many Israelis believe is the soul of their country is people power. And it's extraordinary. It may well be one of the takeaways despite the differences that divide us and Israel, the type of system we have, largeness and smallness of this country one takeaway that maybe Americans ought to consider.

LEMON: what do you -- Aaron, what do you think is going to happen? I know you don't like to predict things. Do you think he's going to have to back down or at least freeze it for a moment?

MILLER: I don't know, you know, Don, and I think the Oracle at Delphi probably couldn't make a prediction right now. But I think if I had to predict, it's just seems to me it's straining the bounds of credulity to the breaking point that he won't push for some sort of delay. The country is in the verge of a crisis. And while there hasn't been violence, that's always a real possibility the longer that this goes on.

COLLINS: Yes. Aaron David Miller, thank you for that. I mean, just the fact that the justice minister is saying that he'll accept whatever Netanyahu decides could be an indication that he may he may back off it, even if it's temporarily delays it. We'll see.

LEMON: Well, We'll be watching.

Former President Trump's legal troubles back in focus this week, the grand jury hearing testimony about his role in a hush money scheme is expected to reconvene today. Where things stand in the investigations, next.

COLLINS: Also, we're tracking Russian President Putin now claiming that he is planning to move tactical nuclear weapons and deploy them to Belarus. We have the former Trump national security adviser, John Bolton, here to weigh in, ahead.



LEMON: This morning, the Manhattan grand jury in the Trump hush money investigation is expected to reconvene and it's possible they could hear from an additional witness. That is according to CNN's latest reporting.

Now, Trump railed against the investigation during a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, this weekend. Afterwards, he told reporters that he thinks the case is being dropped, didn't give any evidence to back that up. It's still unclear, though, the grand jury will bring any charges.

So, joining us now to untangle all of these lingual legal entanglements, the ones facing Donald Trump, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Mr. Elie Honig. Good morning, Elie.

So, let's start with the Manhattan here because there are a lot of them. The grand jury is back in session today. What should we expect at least this week?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Don, so many different legal issues swirling around Donald Trump. Now the grand jury is back in session 3.1 miles from where we stand right now down at the courthouse in Lower Manhattan looking at this hush money payments scheme. Of course, this focuses on the $130,000 that Donald Trump paid through Michael Cohen, his attorney at the time, to Stormy Daniels in hush money.

Really important to understand, paying hush money is not a crime. So, what could the crimes be here that they're potentially looking at? We are in state court here. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg is in charge of this case. So, under New York State law, there's a potential misdemeanor crime here for falsification of business records. The thought would be if they falsely classified these hush money payments as attorney's fees, that could satisfy the misdemeanor.

Also this could become a felony if they falsified those records in order to commit some other second crime. So what could that be, what second crime? It could be a violation of campaign finance laws.

Now, to that extent, Donald Trump's team has been saying they may use a defense like the one used by John Edwards. John Edwards was charged federally with a similar offense back related to his 2008 campaign. He was acquitted in the federal courts. The case was then dismissed. He beat the case by arguing the payments were not related to the campaign. They were related to avoiding personal embarrassment.

Now, here's what the process is going to be. When Alvin Bragg has done putting his witnesses in the grand jury, he can decide whether to ask the grand jury to vote on an indictment. If they do vote, that will happen quickly. This is not a trial jury where these things take days. If the grand jury votes, it will be quick. If they do vote, yes, we will have an indictment. That's a sample indictment from another case.

But that indictment will be under seal, meaning we won't see it in the public until the time of Donald Trump's arraignment in court. That's typically when these things get unsealed. So, there could be a brief period of time here where we know there's an indictment but we can't actually see what's in it.

COLLINS: Well, we'll be hearing from Trump once they find out that the indictment has happened. So, there's the other side of this where we might like -- just like with the search on Mar-a-Lago last --

LEMON: Can I ask something before you go? Could you just -- real quickly, can we go -- I'm not understanding the argument with John Edwards. Are they arguing for it to be adjudicated, because John Edwards was adjudicated and then he was acquitted? So, why are they making that comparison? It seems like it's doing exactly the opposite of what they want to occur.

HONIG: So, John Edwards' defense was these payments were not campaign related.

LEMON: I know, but he had to go to court. He had to go to work prove that.

HONIG: And so Trump, if he has to go to court and defend himself on a similar campaign finance charge, this would be state instead of federal. You can see that he's gearing up to make a similar --

LEMON: But I thought they don't want to go to court.

HONIG: Right. But if he -- I mean, he can't avoid going to trial on that. That's a trial defense, ultimately.

LEMON: All right. Okay.

COLLINS: Okay. Well, that's what's happening here. We're still going to wait to see what the grand jury does today.

There's the other investigation, that is the special counsel's investigation into January 6th and what's happening. We've now got this ruling from a federal judge that the people you see there, Mark Meadows, Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, the others, they basically can't cite executive privilege to not go and testify. That's really significant for someone like Mark Meadows.

HONIG: This is a big deal. You're right, Kaitlan, because a federal court rejected executive privilege claims relating to all of these high level former White House officials, most importantly Mark Meadows. So, that that ruling came from a U.S. district court.

Now, this may be appealed up to the Court of Appeals. I don't think there's any real chance of success here. The courts generally reject executive privilege claims when it comes to a criminal grand jury subpoena. And what this means, as a practical matter, is that Mark Meadows and all those other people you just saw, they have to testify in front of the grand jury.


Now, they can take the Fifth Amendment, everyone has the right to do that, if they want to say their testimony might tend to incriminate them. If they do that, though, prosecutors, Jack Smith, has a potential countermove, he can immunize them, saying you have to testify now, we're not going to use your testimony against you. That's not optional, by the way. If they do that, Meadows has to testify.

COLLINS: All right. Elie Honig, a lot of investigations to keep track of. Thank you for doing so clearly. We appreciate that.

All right, also this morning, the White House is responding to Russian President Putin's plan, he claims his plan, to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: We have not seen any indication that he's made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around. We've, in fact, seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons, period, inside Ukraine.

We've seen no -- nothing that would cause us to change our own strategic deterrent posture.


COLLINS: That's John Kirby from the National Security Council. This comes as Putin has escalated his rhetoric several times since he invaded Ukraine. He has warned of the increasing threat of nuclear war. And Ukraine believes that these plans show that Russia is not making progress on the battlefield and is instead trying to distract. A top Ukrainian adviser tweeting that Putin is admitting his afraid of losing and all he can do is scared with tactics. Joining us now is former National Security Adviser to former President Trump John Bolton. Good morning, Ambassador, and thank you for being here. Do you think Putin is bluffing when he makes these comments?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think he's been bluffing when he's trying to rattle the nuclear saber before. He may not be bluffing here. In a sense, he may actually move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus, which is its own separate problem, something I don't think we're paying enough attention to, which is the potential re-absorption of Belarus into Russia.

But, militarily, even if he did that, it really wouldn't make that much difference, in my view, because of what we know our extensive nuclear supplies, missiles, cruise missiles, drones and warheads in Kaliningrad, an exclave, a piece of Russia that separated from Russia itself by Lithuanian Poland. That's a place which has long been basically a Russian military facility going back to Soviet Union days, and it's had missiles there which were actually in violation of the INF treaty, which the U.S. withdrew from some years back.

So, the capabilities Russia already has in the Kaliningrad enclave are the ones that that could be most threatening. I don't think the idea of moving some tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus changes that balance.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see if he actually follows through with that.

I also want to ask you about what we are seeing these remarkable images coming out of Israel this morning and the massive wave of protests against this attempt by the prime minister to overhaul the judicial system. I mean, what do you make of what you're seeing on the ground?

BOLTON: Well, I think this is really an epical clash between the left and the right in Israel. There are huge philosophical differences here. I think it goes beyond judicial reform, it goes beyond Netanyahu himself. The one thing, I must say, I cannot understand is how people believe that Netanyahu's effort to change the judicial nomination process is a threat to democracy.

I think the way Israel has its judicial nominations set up now is undemocratic. It's the new judges are picked by a panel of existing judges and lawyers. So, it's a self-perpetuating oligarchy unaccountable to elected representatives. It seems to me to be about as far from a democratic way to pick judges, as you can imagine.

Some of the other proposals I think are more controversial, would certainly be controversial in our country, but the idea that the judges select their successors I just think strikes me as fundamentally anti-democratic. Maybe somebody can explain how it's consistent with democratic theory, as we know it in the west as a whole, but I don't see it.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, that's certainly the argument you're hearing from Netanyahu himself. He's arguing that with these changes, it aligns them more with western governments. But do you expect that he's going to have to compromise on this given the outrage you're seeing? I mean, they're shutting down the highways, planes were temporarily halted from taking off, stores are closing, even the justice minister is saying that he would accept whatever decision Netanyahu would make here. That's significant because it could, say, give him some space to back off of what he was pushing ahead with.

BOLTON: Well, certainly, the speculation in Israel this morning is that that's what he's going to do, and I assume he's going to speak literally almost any minute now, and we'll find out.

COLLINS: Ambassador Bolton, obviously, you worked for former President Trump. We were just talking to Elie about the investigations that are happening here. You made a comment recently that stood out to me. You said that if they indict and failed to convict Trump here in New York, you think historians will look back and say it helped Trump get reelected?