Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Hush Money Grand Jury Set to Reconvene Today; Federal Judge Orders Trump Aides to Testify in January 6 Probe; Trump Lashes Out at Investigations, Democrats and DeSantis at Rally. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 08:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I think it kind of looks like me. Not exactly, but I can see the resemblance. The scary part is --

LEMON: Who is that person that's up? OK, maybe I should do this. That is Don -- no, no that is Lon (ph) Demon (ph).


COLLINS: The scary part is as the technology gets better, though, as like when it's more realistic. Photo is like the Pope.

All right, anyway, we'll move on from our astronaut photos. CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Words can't express what I'm feeling. This is broken and I'm not. And knowing that my little boy could have been in if I hadn't kicked them up in heaven. But I know that they are in heaven right now. And I was told that they passed away in each other's arms.


LEMON: Oh my goodness, I can't even imagine.

COLLINS: And these were nocturnal tornadoes, meaning they happened at night, which is the worst because they're often deadlier because people are asleep. The warning systems don't seem to go off as soon, and people just don't have time to get in place.

LEMON: And then just in an instant, everything is gone, including loved ones.

Good morning, everyone. Sorry to come on the air this way, but we appreciate you joining us. Poppy is off today. That man lost both of his parents after a deadly tornado outbreak in the south, killed at least 26 people. And now more than 20 million people across the southeast are bracing for more severe weather. Today the head of FEMA touring the devastated town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, she's going to join us live.

COLLINS: Also, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing massive protests and nationwide strikes. The big question that remains this morning is, is he going to back down from what is driving people to the streets.

LEMON: And the Feds have found a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank after its stunning collapse set off a banking crisis.

We've got a lot to get through this morning, but we're going to start with the massive protests in the turmoil that are engulfing Israel right now. Live look. This is Jerusalem. You can hear people folks are speaking there. There are speakers. There's huge demonstrations going on. They continue to rock that country. They want the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back down on his controversial plan to weaken the country's Supreme Court.

This is a scene, check this out. This is earlier at Jerusalem's central bus station where protestors have been arriving from all over Israel to make their voices heard. That's the central bus station. Israel's largest union has launched a nationwide strike that is grinding the country to a standstill. Departing flights were halted for hours at Israel's main airport. Workers that Israel's biggest seaport also joined the strike.

COLLINS: Meanwhile nurses across the country are now set to walk off the job tomorrow. Even McDonald's has closed all of its restaurants in solidarity with the protests that you're seeing. Dozens of local mayor say they're going on a hunger strike because of this.

We are waiting to hear from the prime minister. He has not spoken publicly, but he did tweet just a few moments ago, calling on those who are in the streets to, quote, behave responsibly and not to act violently. In an interview that he did with Piers Morgan over the weekend, the prime minister defended his plan. He argued that Israel's Supreme Court is essentially too powerful. He said he is not trying to destroy democracy with these reforms.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And the opponents of this judicial reform, raise, and I think it's a valid concern, and that is you want to go from one extreme to the center. You don't you don't want the pendulum to swing to the other side where the Knesset, or parliament, can nullify any decision of the Supreme Court. And I think that requires a balance. I agree with that. So it has to be --

PIERS MORGAN: So you are going to rein back then, on this current proposal.

NETANYAHU: Yes. I said that.


COLLINS: CNN's M.J. Lee is live at the White House with White House reaction to what's happening. But first we want to go to Hadas Gold who is on the ground in Jerusalem. Hadas, we heard from the prime minister in that tweet, warning about violence. Are you seeing that play out on the streets? What is it actually looking like as these protests are only getting bigger?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think you see behind me protesters continue to stream down. This is the road that leads down to the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israel Parliament. We were in the middle of the protesters, but the numbers were so massive that we couldn't get a signal in the middle of it. We have to come up here, but as you can see, we're probably a good half-mile up from the Israeli parliament, at least, and we still are seeing just this massive wave of protesters coming in today. The Israel economy, the country essentially grinding to a halt, this massive strike now. And now there are fears that it could become violent, because we are hearing from some far right extremist group calling for counterprotests.

And I have to say that the protests we saw in the last 24 hours, especially last night last night, overnight, especially in Tel Aviv, blocking the highway, going late at night, the Israel police ended up using water cannons on them, they felt different. They felt angrier, and it does feel as though the tensions are boiling over.


And that's why we're hearing from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nothing yet actually on whether he will call for a halt to this massive judicial overall he's planning. That's what everyone has been waiting on him for. He was supposed to actually give a speech in the morning. And essentially all the Israeli media was saying that he was going to call for an alternate.

Instead, we get this tweet from him saying that he calls on the demonstrators in Jerusalem here on the right and the left to behave responsibly and not to act violently. We are brotherly people. We are also now hearing that Israel embassies around the world are also going on strike. That means including the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. There are no consular services. I have never seen anything like this, the entire country including the airport for some time, the ports, the nurses, the malls, McDonald's, are all on strike as a result of this massive judicial overhaul.

LEMON: Hadas, can you talk to us a little bit more about that? Because you mentioned the nurses, you mentioned McDonalds, and we saw the main bus station there, not to mention the airports, devastating financially, economically. So everyday life, earlier you had trouble even getting on the air because of the Internet service is being used by so many people to get out their tweets and social media and such. The impact it's having on daily life in Israel.

GOLD: Well, it's been having an impact on daily life now for weeks. For weeks on a regular basis, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets to protest. They've been blocking the highways. They've at times even slowed down arrivals for people trying to get to the airport to get out. But today, this is the pinnacle of it. I have never seen an action like this in Israel. I've never even seen wars in Israel shut down a country the way this this, these strikes over this judicial overall has shut down the country, because Israelis when there tends to be some sort of security situation or a war, they pride themselves, saying life goes on as normal, restaurants are open. The malls will be opened. The airport will be open as much as possible.

But this is something different, and the divisiveness that it is really gripping Israeli society is something that has never been seen before. And I do have to say, the voices that are calling for this judicial overhaul to continue, the legislation to continue as planned, their growing smaller and smaller. It's not clear why or how much longer Benjamin Netanyahu can stay quiet on this. What is going on? He's likely behind the scenes right now having talks with the far right wing fringes of his government, because without them there is he can no longer be in power. He can't have a sitting government.

Everyone is now waiting to hear from the prime minister who is so far silent now, it is now 3:00 p.m. local. The Israeli economy has now been ground to a halt now for hours.

LEMON: Hadas Gold, we'll continue to check back. Thank you so much.

COLLINS: We want to get reaction now from the White House. CNN's M.J. Lee is live there tracking this. M.J. obviously, President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke, I believe it was March 19th or so, and now they are weighing in on what we've seen play out over the weekend. What are they saying?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, there's no question that the White House, of course, has been watching these developments in Israel really closely, including Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision over the weekend to fire his defense minister. And then, of course, the scenes of the massive protests that have spilled out onto the streets that Hadas has been reporting on all weekend. The White House said in a statement overnight that it is deeply concerned by these developments, and an NSC spokesperson said that democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances. And that spokesperson called on Israeli leaders to reach a compromise as quickly as possible.

Kaitlan, keep in mind that President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu, they have a working and personal relationship that goes back decades. And in recent years, President Biden has watched Prime Minister Netanyahu be removed from power, go through a corruption trial, be reelected to power, and then, of course in recent weeks try to get through this overhaul of the judicial system that critics have, of course, said was aimed at basically personally and politically benefiting him.

So we are sort of seeing President Biden balance this relationship that he has had with Netanyahu for a long time. And of course, the real concerns that he has about some of the actions that the prime minister is trying to take, we know that the president expressed these concerns both in public and in private, including in that conversation you mentioned last Sunday. But of course, in that conversation, too, he was urging the prime minister to get to a resolution quickly, and that, of course, was to no avail.

COLLINS: Yes, and that hasn't happened yet. We'll see if we hear from him and what they do. M.J. Lee, thank you.

LEMON: The protests we want to talk about this morning, the world famous Louvre Museum in Paris is closed amid nationwide strikes against a government decision to raise the pension age. Hundreds of demonstrators, many carrying flags, gathered outside blocking the museum entrance. The CGT union blocks and says that its members are taking part in this action with the with the striking move staff.

Last week, protesters descended into the fires and chaos, a protest, I should say, descended into fires and chaos. More than a million people demonstrated across France, including 119,000 in Paris.


COLLINS: And we'll continue to track those worldwide developments, but more from the storms in the southeast this morning. Right now, there's heavy rain in Alabama and Georgia overnight. It led to widespread flood threats for at least 20 million people. There was a tornado watch that has been issued for parts of central Georgia, and that comes after a series of powerful tornadoes killed 26 people over the weekend. The worst of the damage was here and Rolling Fork, Mississippi. It completely leveled entire homes, streets and homes. The before and after images are just stunning. It has decimated the community.

We're going to be joined now by the FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, who is one of the federal officials that toured the damage at Rolling Fork on Sunday. And good morning and thank you so much for being here. You were there on the ground, Louisiana, Alabama, we know just how devastating these storms can be. And we're looking at it this morning. What did you see on the ground when you were there yesterday?

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Kaitlan, it's always surprising to me when we watch these images on television, and then I get on the ground and I see firsthand just the amount of destruction. And it's just always so much worse. And then talking to many of the people in the community of Rolling Fork and hearing their amazing stories of survival, but then how after they came out, they immediately went to check on their neighbors to help other people get out of the rubble.

What it really does is it gives me hope and it gives the community hope for how these neighborhoods come together and how communities that are so proud like Rolling Fork really bond together to start this recovery process.

LEMON: I was speaking to the vice mayor of Rolling Fork earlier, and then in the beginning of the show, I think -- I'm not sure if you heard this, Ms. Criswell, but there was a man who said his family members, he lost them in one fell swoop. And I'm just wondering at this point, do you know if it's still a search and rescue operation? Is there the possibility at this point of people being found alive?

CRISWELL: When I was there yesterday, and I would defer to the state for any specifics, but when I was there yesterday, there was nobody else that was unaccounted for. And so that tells me that everybody that could have been potentially in this rubble has gotten out of the rubble. And it's just amazing when I talked with the mayor of Rolling Fork and the role that he plays and how he's really leading this community. They turned to him and he provides so much inspiration to help this community now start the grieving process.

But also the mental stress that everybody is going to be going through over the next several days and weeks as they really start to let the gravity of what just happened sink in and start to determine what their next steps are going to be.

COLLINS: And it impacts different communities differently. If you look at the numbers for Rolling Fork, which is a place of about 2,000 people, 21 percent of people there live below the poverty line. That's higher than the state average. About 30 percent of them are in mobile homes. They are going to need a lot of help. Are you committed to making sure that they get everything that they need on the ground there?

CRISWELL: Absolutely. And with the major disaster declaration that President Biden granted from the governor's request yesterday, that gives FEMA the ability to bring the entire federal family together to support this community. We know that they're going to have a lot of needs, and that's a very rural community, right. The next closest town where there is even hotels is like 40 miles away.

And so we're going to work really closely with the governor and his team and what we can do to provide that safety and that shelter right now for individuals, partners like the American Red Cross that have already surged a lot of staff in to provide that immediate shelter, and then what we're going to do in the interim while we're helping this community and helping these individuals rebuild their homes.

COLLINS: And you're also dealing with this, but you are still dealing with the aftermath of what happened to hurricane Ian and Florida. And we had Congressman Byron Donalds from Florida, southwest Florida, on last week, and he was critical of FEMA. He said that there are 1,300 people who are homeless in his district. He said FEMA does not want to put trailers for those people because they are in a flood zone. Can you respond to that? And what are the latest on the efforts with hurricane Ian Florida?

CRISWELL: One of the things that we always have to look at is, are we putting people back in harm's way? And whether or not we can put some of our mobile homes in the flood zone is one of the considerations that we have to take. But we were able because of the impact of those communities in southern Florida and the lack of housing in that area, we were able to do a waiver in some parts of it, so we are able to put some of these mobile homes into some of the special flood hazard areas.

We're continuing to work in Florida. We have got out of full team that is still on the ground, fully engaged with Governor DeSantis's team, and we're continued -- continue to work and committed to supporting these communities recover. [08:15:00]

COLLINS: If you're doing a waiver for some places, though, why would it not be for all of them? Is it accurate that there are 1,300 people who are unable to get this kind of housing because of the lack of a waiver for these flood zones?

CRISWELL: I don't have the exact number in front of me, but every community is different. Every community has unique needs.

Our number one goal is to make sure we're not putting people back in harm's way, but we also want to make sure that we're understanding the unique needs of communities. These disasters affect everybody differently.

And so there is no one-size-fits all approach. We need to approach each community separately and independently, understand what their unique needs are, what their barriers to getting assistance might be, so we can create solutions that help that community.

COLLINS: All right, FEMA Administrator, Deanne Criswell who was in Mississippi yesterday, seeing the damage there. Thank you for joining us this morning and for your time.

LEMON: Thank you, Administrator.

CRISWELL: Good morning, and thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, also this morning, we are following the battle that has escalated between top Republican lawmakers in the Manhattan District Attorney who is investigating Trump, Alvin Bragg over that investigation, we'll bring you the latest.

LEMON: Meanwhile, Prince Harry is in Court this morning is a group of celebrities accuses a publisher of "abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy."


COLLINS: All right, welcome back.

You see New York there. The grand jury here is investigating former President Trump and the hush money payments that were made to Stormy Daniels. That grand jury is set to meet again today.


COLLINS: What remains unclear as of this morning is if and when they may vote on what would be a historic indictment. The Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg has accused House Republicans of interfering with his investigation or at least trying to, after they demanded that he testify and turn over documents.

CNN's Kara Scannell is live outside the courthouse for CNN this morning.

Kara, essentially what everyone wants to know is what we're expecting today.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kaitlan.

So the grand jury is set to meet today. They meet in the afternoon. And it is possible, we're told that they may hear from one witness, at least one witness. But all of this is taking place in secret, so we don't have a lot of sense of what exactly is going on behind the scenes.

You know, this process is normally secretive. This is a normal course of events. But there's just such a big spotlight on this as we wait to see whether District Attorney Alvin Bragg will move forward and ask this grand jury to indict the former President.

Now in the void though, Trump has been unleashing a stream of verbal attacks against the DA over the weekend saying that he was a degenerative psychopath. House Republicans are also going to the DA's office saying they want Bragg to come testify.

They are also saying that they are considering legislation of whether to pass a law that would prevent a State or local prosecutor like Bragg from investigating a current or former President.

Now Bragg's office has struck back. He has said that this is an unprecedented inquiry by Congress, a Federal body into a State and local investigation. We've also seen over the weekend, nearly 200 former prosecutors coming forward denouncing the attacks on Bragg and saying that, you know, for democracy to function, there should be an independent prosecution -- Kaitlan, Don.

COLLINS: Yes, and notable to hear Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina saying over the weekend that those tweets calling for death and destruction would happen were ill-advised.

Kara Scannell, thank you.

LEMON: We're going to shift now to the DOJ's criminal investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A Federal Judge has ordered several former Donald Trump aides, including Mark Meadows to testify before the grand jury rejecting the former President's claims of executive privilege.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has been following this for us.

Good morning to you, Katelyn. So who are the witnesses and what happens now?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE SENIOR REPORTER: Well, it's a whole group of witnesses that would be close to Donald Trump at end of the administration.

Mark Meadows is the top name, clearly there, a person who has not wanted to provide answers to any investigators about what happened in the White House leading up to and on January 6, but he's going to have to now. That's the bottom line here.

The Judge's ruling that we are learning about is that if these witnesses are called back to the grand jury or called for the first time to the grand jury and they don't want to answer or Donald Trump doesn't want them to answer a question, they have to. That is a different situation than what happened in the House investigation, and it is a situation that has this investigation has been moving towards for several -- in many different iterations.

The Judge that has been overseeing this grand jury has now several times said witnesses called who are not going to answer questions, they have to answer. And in one swoop, the Judge came in and made a ruling about several top people right around the President, including Mark Meadows, the Chief-of-Staff in the White House.

LEMON: All right, Katelyn, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Joining us now for more on all of this is CNN senior political commentator and the former Republican Congressman from Illinois, Adam Kinzinger, who as you know served on the January 6 Select Committee. Also with us is former Trump White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, Stephanie Grisham.

Thank you both for being here.

You know, Adam, I want to start with you.

We heard from James Comer, who is the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee yesterday trying to essentially justify their attempts to get Alvin Bragg to testify. This is what he told Jake Tapper.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We believe this is a political stunt by Mr. Bragg. I don't believe that Bragg would be doing this if Donald Trump were not running for President, and that is something that we would like to ask Mr. Bragg as well.


COLLINS: What do you make of his attempts to justify their demands of Bragg?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think first off, you've got to wait to see if he is indicted and what that incitement reads.

They're jumping the gun and just like, okay, any investigation of the former President has to be political. Well, maybe it isn't. Right? Maybe if you do read the indictment, it does come down and it's like, okay, well, why are they indicting him? And I think that's a different story.

But they're jumping the gun on this and that's my purpose. I mean, because, you know, if this turns out to look like a pretty bad indictment, which it very well may, they will have already been kind of seeding the ground for saying this a political prosecution.

I'm disappointed in Mr. Comer, because I know him. I never thought he would kind of be like full in on this kind of stuff, because he's a fairly reasonable guy, but it's just too bad to see.

LEMON: He doesn't even know what's there, Adam. He doesn't know -- and if there's anything there, if it's going to happen. I mean, Stephanie, he is the one who suggested last week that an indictment was going to come on Tuesday, right, and now he is telling reporters, well, I think the case has been dropped with no evidence.

You know him, you worked with him. What is going on here?


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I mean, this is just typical him trying to deflect and get people to just pay attention to him. Honestly, this is what he does, he distracts people. You've said it best, he has no idea what's going on. So he's going to continue to play the victim and fundraise and take advantage of the people who really, really believe in him.

LEMON: Well, that's the sad thing, though, is because he's raised a lot of money off of this, especially since last week when he said it's going to happen on Tuesday, and now it has been dropped.

He is continuing to raise money here, and using people who, you know, believe him to get their money. I mean, why do they continue to believe him when he has no evidence of any of it, but his pockets are getting heavier?

GRISHAM: You know, I mean, as somebody who worked for him and believed in him for a while, I think that there are still so many people out there who see him as a regular person, and it is like a brainwashing. I can't even describe it to you, as I've been out of it for two years and I sit back and watch, I feel the same disbelief that I just heard in your voice.

But there are so many people who believe that he really wants the best for this country and that aren't seeing for whatever reason that he really just wants the best for himself.

COLLINS: I think it's also important to highlight though what we're seeing on the ground, because you know, Adam, he had this rally in Waco, Texas on Saturday, the former President did. There were a lot of people there. There was a lot of enthusiasm around it.

So we hear, you know, a lot of Republicans, not a lot, but Republicans who predict Trump's influence over the party is fading, it's clearly still there. This was the message Trump had for his supporters in Waco.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 2024 is the final battle, that's going to be the big one.

Our enemies are desperate to stop us because they know that we are the only ones who can stop them.

All of the hatred, rage, and contempt, the radical left has for you and your values and this nation, has been very much directed on me.

Either the Deep State destroys America or we destroy the Deep State.

They're not coming after me, they are coming after you and I'm just standing in their way.


COLLINS: Does that kind of messaging work though, with Republican voters, still?

KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, it does work. And I think the thing to keep in mind, and I'll say this to my fellow, you know, Republicans and Christians is, beware of false prophets, and I mean that very sincerely, because what you have now is this kind of Trump as Jesus movement, I'm calling it where it's like, there are people comparing, you know, Jesus being crucified and rising again in three days to this allegation from Alvin Bragg.

And I'm serious, this is like, what's happening out there. And so, you know, it's very effective. I mean, half of the Texas delegation has already endorsed Donald Trump. I say this to all my friends that are like, hey, Trump is going to go away. Like there has been this constant hope for six years or longer, that there is going to be some magical unicorn that comes down from heaven, that's going to sweep Trump off the field, so nobody has to personally attack him.

Only like Liz Cheney, myself, and a few of us are the ones that ever have to speak out, because something's going to come down and do it. It's not going to happen until you speak out. You know, Ron DeSantis is not going to roll in and magically save this without attacking Donald Trump. It's just the reality. And, man, the country, and particularly my party is at real threat by this right now.

LEMON: But how much of it is, Stephanie, the media? Because I was with a group of people who know Donald Trump very well, this weekend, and they did not talk that much about Donald Trump and even what was happening in Waco, kind of, they were like, "Ugh. I don't even want to talk about that guy, whatever." They just kind of want him to go away.

Are we doing this? Or is it you know, you get the point of my question. Is it us in the media?

GRISHAM: I mean, I think the short answer is no, because I think that because of the media, and because of the people just like Adam said, there's people like Adam or Liz or some people that are speaking out more and more. I think that that is why the Midterms happened the way that they did and I think it's why he is fading from people's minds.

People are tired of his drama. People are tired of, you know, the baggage and the corruption that comes with him. So, I think the media is doing a good job. And unfortunately, it's what he craves, too.

And so as long as everybody is staying focused on reporting exactly what is going on with him without, you know, showing his larger than life persona all the time, I think it's a good thing.


LEMON: All right.

COLLINS: And he is still the frontrunner.

Adam Kinzinger, Stephanie Grisham, thank you both very much for your time this morning.

LEMON: Thanks, guys.

So the man suing Gwyneth Paltrow for allegedly hitting him on the ski slope expected to take the stand today, we're going to bring you the highlights of the case and explain why the actress was asked about Taylor Swift.