Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

E. Jean Carroll Wins $83 Million In Defamation Case Against Donald Trump; Candidates Criss-Cross the U.S. Ahead Of Primaries And Caucuses; House Speaker Suggests Border Bill May Be "Dead On Arrival;" Italy, Australia Temporarily Pause Funding U.N. Agency After Allegations Of Staff's Role In October 7th Attacks; Vince McMahon Resigns From WWE Amid Sex Trafficking Allegations; U.S. Marshals Say Escaped Juvenile Inmate Accused Of Murder In Philadelphia Caught. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 27, 2024 - 06:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to CNN This Morning. It is Saturday, January 27. I'm Amara Walker.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Thank you for joining us. Here's what we're worth watching for you.

Donald Trump is vowing to appeal that monumental jury verdict in the defamation case. This involves writer E. Jean Carroll. What both he and Carroll are saying about the $83 million judgment and how Nikki Haley is hoping to capitalize on.

WALKER: A deal to help stem illegal border crossings could be unveiled as soon as next week. But it's already facing hurdles. Why House Speaker Mike Johnson describes it as, quote, dead on arrival.

BLACKWELL: Israel is demanding an urgent investigation after claims that U.N. workers were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack and knew this morning at least two countries are now pausing funding to the agency.

WALKER: Alabama officials say the first of its kind, nitrogen gas execution, was, quote, textbook. But some who witnesses say that's not the case. We'll explain why.

BLACKWELL: And we're tracking a major flood threat across parts of the country. Your weekend forecast is just ahead on CNN This Morning.

WALKER: Donald Trump says the verdict in his latest legal loss is, quote, absolutely ridiculous. And he is promising to appeal. Yesterday, a New York jury determined the former president should pay writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million for defamation.

BLACKWELL: In 2019, Trump made disparaging comments about Carroll after she accused him of sexual assault. Carroll's attorney says their courtroom victory sends a message to other women who have been victimized by powerful men.


ROBERTA KAPLAN, E. JEAN CARROLL'S ATTORNEY: She is overjoyed. She cried. She showed more emotion. And I've known her for a long time now than I've ever seen her show. She feels that she got justice from the jury today and from the court. And she feels she's really stood up. And she has stood up for almost every woman who's been defamed, who's been kicked down, who's been shut up.


BLACKWELL: Now, Trump was not in the courtroom when that verdict was read. CNN's Kara Scannell reports.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Amara, Victor, a significant win for E. Jean Carroll. The jury deliberating for just about three hours and delivering this verdict, awarding her $83.3 million. The way that they broke this down was that they said that for emotional harm, they would award Carroll $7.3 million to repair her reputation, $11 million. And for punitive damages, that's to punish Donald Trump. They awarded her $65 million.

Carroll's attorneys had argued to the jury in closing arguments on Friday that was the only way to send a message to Donald Trump. They said that he didn't respect the previous jury's verdict, finding these statements defamatory because he continued to make them within 24 hours at a CNN town hall and continuing through this very trial.

And during his brief testimony on the stand on Thursday, the jury clearly hearing that, Trump's lawyers argued to the jury that he shouldn't be held responsible for mean tweets. And they said that Carroll had asked for some of the attention that she received. Clearly the jury rejecting that argument.

Now, Trump had called this judgment ridiculous. His attorney, Alina Habba called it a witch hunt. Take a listen.

ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: So many Americans are so proud that he is running again and so excited to run to the ballot box. But don't get it twisted. We are seeing a violation of our justice system. This is wrong. But we are in the state of New York. We are in a New York jury. And that is why we are seeing these witch hunts, these hoaxes, as he calls them.

SCANNELL: Habba also said they plan to appeal the verdict. E. Jean Carroll's attorneys, who left the courthouse today with smiles across their face, did not speak to the cameras. Inside the courtroom when the verdict was read, they held E. Jean Carroll's hands and the three of them embraced. Now the judge will issue a final judgment in this case in the coming days. Victor, Amara.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: All right, Kara, thank you so much. Yesterday's verdict was another example of what we expect we'll see over the next several months. Trump's court and campaign calendars colliding.

WALKER: CNN's Kristen Holmes reports on his reaction to the verdict.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, well, Donald Trump was not in the courtroom when that verdict was read. He was actually waiting to get out of New York. And while he was sitting in his plane on the tarmac, he started firing off on social media, unsurprisingly almost immediately making this a political issue, linking this to President Joe Biden.


And of course, as we know, there is absolutely no evidence that Joe Biden is involved in this case at all. It is a civil defamation case in New York. But this is instead what he posted. Absolutely ridiculous I fully disagree with both verdicts, and we'll be appealing this whole Biden directed witch hunt focused on me and the Republican Party. Our legal system is out of control and being used as a political weapon. They have taken away all First Amendment rights. This is not America.

Again, no evidence that this is linked in any way to President Biden. But this is something that Donald Trump has sought to do, which is connect all of his legal cases and then say that they are election interference.

And essentially, when I'm at these rallies, I hear from his supporters that it is working, that they do believe that this is some kind of political persecution.

Now, the other thing to note about this statement is that there's absolutely no mention of E. Jean Carroll. This comes after days, weeks, months of Trump repeatedly attacking Carroll. So perhaps he got the message that, the $83.3 million message that the jury sent on attacking E. Jean Carroll.

But the question is, as heads to his political event in Nevada, is he going to be able to continue not to attack her? As we know, when he is in these crowds speaking to his supporters, he often is unfiltered and says whatever he is thinking. And I can tell you from talking to sources, he has been absolutely livid after this verdict. Victor and Amara.


WALKER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, $83 million, that's eight times more than what E. Jean Carroll was asking for. It's a massive judgment. Were you surprised by it?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Amara. Good morning to you. I was absolutely surprised. The verdict was swift and it was significant. But then when you examine potentially why the jury did it, we, you know, shouldn't be a surprise. Why? Because of the fact that I think they took it to him, they being E. Jean Carroll's legal team in terms of you're a person who apparently doesn't understand the dynamics of what justice looks like for all, how rules should apply to all, how this is, you know, you are and everyone is equal in the eyes of the system.

And to the extent that you have your own rules, you don't follow them, perhaps this should make Donald Trump follow them. And I think that was the mantra of E. Jean Carroll's team throughout, showing malice, showing that he just disregards everything. And perhaps this sends him a message not to do so, Amara, in the future.

WALKER: So E. Jean Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, she asked for an unusually high punitive award in her closing statements. So the jury came back with 18.3 million in compensatory damages and, what? 65 million in punitive damages. Just curious in terms of how they arrived at such a number. Was it solely at the discretion of the jury to come up with this? Was there a ceiling? What was the guidance?

JACKSON: Yes, so, great question. And so this is the dynamic. So just to break it down, what happens is you have compensatory damages, and those damages are designed, Amara, to compensate you, to put you in the position you would have been in, absent the harm that was caused upon you.

And, of course, we know they were broken down into reputational damages. When someone who has a bully pulpit, like the president, impugns you like that, it takes a toll, it impairs you, you know, reputationally, economically.

So they did that in terms of compensatory damages. Emotional damages, again, not exactly to quantify, but it causes harm, it causes great distress. And she, of course, E. Jean Carroll testified as to that.

To the core of your question, the punitive damage element is designed to send someone a specific message to stop them, to deter them, and to deter others who might engage in similar conduct. So there's not specific guidance quantifying and tethering numbers exactly like a science.

But I think the issue is whether or not the amount is appropriate and proportionate to the conduct and whether it will stop the individual from engaging in it again. And apparently, this jury, Amara, felt that was the appropriate amount to do so.

WALKER: Well, this will obviously be appealed by Trump and his team, as they are vowing to do. Will E. Jean Carroll ever see the money? And also in terms of finances for Trump, I mean, is it correct that he's going to likely have to post millions of dollars in security as he is making this appeal?

JACKSON: Yes, Amara. So starting with that, what happens is when you're appealing, you post an appeal bond, and as a result of that, and that's usually 20 percent of the total, which is pretty significant when it's $83.3 million. And so that's the first issue. The second issue is, I do think that she will see substantial amount

of not all of this money. Why?


The reality is that, yes, there will be an attack. Usually appeals, Amara, have a lot to do with inside baseball. Did the judge make rulings appropriate to what were in the case? Did the judge allow us to admit evidence we wanted to admit? Did the judge exclude evidence that should have been excluded? Those are inside baseball things, right, in terms of motions that are made.

The other thing that we can see is, I think the verdict, in terms of the nature of the verdict itself, was the conduct that egregious to deserve and demand that, was the verdict proportional to what it should have been? What have similar cases demonstrated? And that's going to be hard. What similar cases there, Amara, where you're attacked by the president of the United States.

And so I think at its core, they're going to look at, was it proportionate to the compensatory damages, that is, the punitive? And was it designed because you could consider someone's wealth to stop the party at issue? And I think to that extent, Trump's team is going to have some problems. And so she may very well see this money that has been awarded by this jury.

WALKER: E. Jean Carroll released a statement through her publicist saying, this is a great victory for every woman who stands up when she's been knocked down and a huge defeat for every bully, excuse me, who has tried to keep a woman down. Of course, Trump calling this absolutely ridiculous, saying this trial was a political weapon.

Just quickly, your thoughts on his behavior in the courtroom. I don't want to go through all of it, but let's say the last day when he stormed out of the courtroom during E. Jean Carroll's attorney's closing statements, did it hurt him?

JACKSON: So, you know what, Amara, that's a quick answer. I think the jury evaluated the conduct. I think the jury found it deplorable. I think the jury found it not in keeping with respect and the quorum and the appropriateness upon which someone should conduct themselves.

And when you storm out of the court because you don't like things, it goes into the narrative of this guy doesn't follow the rules. And I think that's what the verdict spoke loudly and clearly. Potentially, he'll follow them moving forward. And as we saw in his tweet, E. Jean Carroll's name was nowhere to be mentioned.

WALKER: So you think it played a role in the verdict?

JACKSON: I definitely think that it played a role in it. And the jury just saw it and said, you know what? We do something about this. And Amara, they really did.

WALKER: Joey Jackson, great to have you. Thanks. BLACKWELL: All the major candidates for president will be out speaking

to voters this weekend. Out west, former President Trump will hold a rally in Las Vegas. That's this afternoon. Nevada's Republican caucuses will award delegates on February 8.

Now this is his first campaign event since yesterday's verdict. His last primary competitor Nikki Haley has already commented on the verdict to bolster her own campaign. She posted on X that the case is distracting from tackling border issues and inflation. Nikki Haley will be in South Carolina today and tomorrow.

Also in South Carolina, President Biden and Representative Dean Phillips, they'll be in Columbia. Independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., he will be in West Virginia. South Carolina's democratic primary comes first on February 3rd, and then the republican primary is on the 24th.

President Biden is already gearing up for a repeat of the 2020 campaign versus Trump. He's looking ahead to the general. But Biden already faces some growing tensions on the campaign trail.

WALKER: Yes, his team has a laser focus on reproductive rights, but protesters and shifting support from his base are making for some uncomfortable moments. CNN's Camila DeChalus joining us now from Washington, D. C.

And, Camila, as Victor was saying, the president will be in South Carolina today. Why is he focusing on the Palmetto state today?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOSUE REPORTER: Well, Amara, Victor, good morning. The president really wants to use this opportunity in South Carolina to rally up more support for him among black voters.

Now, at this time, polling shows that Biden is doing pretty well with this demographic. I want you to take a quick look at this recent Quinnipiac poll that shows that support for Biden, especially of his approval rating among black voters, is at 62%.

Now, it's important to note that even though some of these polls show that Biden's doing well with this demographic, there's other polls that say that black voters feel and are telling them that they feel disengaged with the political process at this point in time.

So, Biden really wants to use this visit to South Carolina to try to find new ways to reconnect and reengage with black voters, not just in this state, but in the country in general. Amara and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Camila, the president has been frequently interrupted during events. These are protests of the administration's handling of Israel's war with Hamas and Gaza. What does this highlight for his challenges as he faces reelection?

DECHALUS: Well, look, this could be a potential really big issue for Biden's reelection efforts. I've talked to several progressive groups and Arab American and Muslim voters who say they feel frustrated and angered. Biden's continued support for Israel and his refusal to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.


Now particularly this could be a problem for Biden winning battleground states like Michigan, which is home to more than 200,000 Muslim American voters. And the campaign realizes this, and they're now trying to strategize and find ways to engage and connect with voters in this state.

But so far, those efforts felt. Just yesterday, a group of Arab American and Muslim leaders in the state announced that they declined a meeting with Biden's campaign manager. And so they're really trying to strategize now and find potential ways to just quail these concerns. Victor, Amara.

BLACKWELL: And the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, will be with us in the 08:00 hour on first of all, to explain why he declined that invitation. Camila DeChalus there for us at the White House. Thanks so much.

Still ahead, House Speaker Mike Johnson says a Senate border deal could be dead on arrival. President Trump is actively working to keep it that way. So what happens next?

WALKER: Plus, international court of justice orders Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide from being carried out in war torn Gaza. How Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responding? That's next.



BLACKWELL: President Biden is calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan border bill for, as he calls it, tougher border control. Sources say that bipartisan Senate negotiators have agreed to a plan that would empower the White House to crack down on illegal migrants crossing at the southern border.

But House Speaker Mike Johnson warned a Senate border deal could face some strong headwinds in his chamber. He wrote this, if rumors about the contents of the draft proposal are true, it would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway.

Donald Trump is actively working to dismantle the deal. He says Republicans should not concede to a victory to President Joe Biden. With me now is Mica Soellner, Congressional Reporter for Punchbowl News.

So let's start here with this statement that came out from the president overnight in which he says this, of the proposal, it would give me as president a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I signed the bill into law.

The characterization of a democratic president, especially this one, saying that he would shut down the border, that rhetorical evolution, what does that suggest about strategy here and where the White House is going?

MICA SOELLNER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Well, good morning and thank you for having me on. I think that the border has become a huge political problem for Democrats, and the Biden administration knows it. They're getting blasted on Capitol Hill by House Democrats, Senate Democrats saying the border is out of control, the migrant crisis is getting out of hand, and it's all under President Biden's watch.

And many House Democrats that I spoke to said know the Biden administration should have acted sooner. They seem to have lost the narrative on the border. And Republicans are hammering this campaign message, calling Democrats that they're weak on the border, they're advocating for open borders. All of this is not going to bode well, especially in these southwestern states and states in close proximity to the border.

BLACKWELL: All right, so before we talk about the House, let's talk about the Senate, where these negotiations are happening. As we said, former President Trump does not want this bill to pass. He calls it meaningless and says they should wait for a perfect bill.

Republican senators are not immune to the pressures of the former president. So is it clear that this will pass through the Senate, even make it to the House? And what are these Republican senators doing to placate former President Trump?

SOELLNER: Yes, that's a great question. The bipartisan negotiations that have been going on for four months now on getting this border deal done seems to be on very thin ice. And it's all thanks to former President Donald Trump, who doesn't want to give Joe Biden a victory on the border.

But I'm going to add also that conservative Republicans have been very, very critical of any negotiations on this bill. We're seeing House Republicans saying that it's already set on arrival, unless it's something that mirrors a very hardline immigration and border security bill that they passed last year or something, or that exact bill.

So, there's a lot of tension and division among the Republican Party. But now Trump's outward opposition to this bill is really going to make it even more difficult to get anything done on this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, HB2 is the one you're talking about that the House passed. It sent to the Senate, which was dead on arrival when it reached there last year. Is this an existential fight for Speaker Johnson? We saw what happened to former Speaker McCarthy. Any movement on border security before the election could cost him a seat.

SOELLNER: Yes, Speaker Johnson is in a very difficult position. I mean, we're already seeing the House Freedom Caucus, most conservative faction of the House, become extremely irritated with him. And they've tied the border to basically every fight on Capitol Hill. They're going to be angry if he chooses to do another short term government funding bill, which is likely what he's going to have to do again in March.

And they're saying that, you know, the border is going to be this top issue and that Mike Johnson has to do something. They try to get something attached. The HR2 bill attached last minutes on the last CR government funding bill. So there's no doubt that these hardliners are going to continue to push Johnson and that might ultimately end in the end of his speakership.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the rest of this bill, because the border funding, about 13 and a half billion dollars, was added as a sweetener to try to get some Republican support for the tens of billion dollars of aid for Ukraine and Taiwan and Israel.

There are Republicans who believe that funding must be passed to turn the spigot on back to some us allies. These can't be decoupled now. So what happens to all the foreign aid?

SOELLNER: Yes, the foreign aid is definitely also in question. There's already growing sentiment on Capitol Hill that's expanded widely by Republicans both in the Senate and the House, saying that they don't want to give any more money to Ukraine. I think there's a little bit more consensus on Israel, but foreign aid has been difficult.

And I think a lot of this is due to the rise of some of the populist Republicans that have come to office in the wake of Trump's first presidency, where he started his America first movement that relies mostly on an isolationist foreign policy approach.

And that's now widely what Congress is. So, you know, I think Ukraine aid is definitely in know whether or not anything gets done on this is going to be really challenging, especially combining these two very different and difficult issues.

BLACKWELL: Mica Soellner with Punchbowl News. Thanks.

WALKER: Coming up, a U.N. agency fires staff members allegedly involved in the October 7 terror attacks on Israel. And now at least four countries are pulling funding as a result.



BLACKWELL: Italy and Australia have now temporarily paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. This comes after Israel accused staffers at the principal aid agency inside Gaza are participating in the October 7th terrorist attacks in southern Israel.

WALKER: UNRWA's Commissioner-General says he immediately terminated the contracts of the accused workers and is launching an investigation into the matter. The U.S. State Department also announced they would temporarily pause additional funding to the agency while this investigation plays out.

CNN's Scott McLean is joining us now from Istanbul. What more do we know about these allegations, Scott?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Amara, we actually don't have that much information about what is being alleged here beyond the fact that the Israelis have informed the Americans and also informed UNRWA that, it believes that there were 12 UNRWA employees that were involved in the October 7th attacks.

Now, we don't know who they are or what their involvement might have actually been. And so, the Americans are seeking more information from the Israelis, more details from the Israelis. As you mentioned, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini says that he is launching a full scale investigation, and there will be criminal accountability if it is warranted.

And he said this in part, "anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations also betrays those whom we serve in Gaza across the region and elsewhere around the world." UNRWA is hugely important in the humanitarian response to what's happening in Gaza. It has been around for more than 70 years.

And the funding of it comes partially from the U.N. budget, but also largely from voluntary donations from U.N. members. And now, it's not only the State Department that's pausing funding. It is also Canada, Australia and Italy. And potentially, there could be more as well.

The organization itself has been controversial in the United States for some time. The Trump administration actually cut off funding for it in 2018, calling it in their words, "irredeemably flawed". The Biden administration reinstated that funding back in 2021, but even yesterday, we heard from the ranking member -- Republican Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch saying that, look, this is evidence of how corrupt this organization is.

And he says that he has warned the Biden administration about that before. The Israelis are even much more -- are even more harsh in their criticism. Listen, this is an adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister.


MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: So the UNRWA leadership would want you to believe that what happened on October 7th, and the involvement of UNRWA employees, United Nations employees in the massacre, in the atrocities, that that's an aberration. Unfortunately, it's not an aberration. It's systematic.


MCLEAN: So, Israel has not only long been critical of UNRWA, but the U.N. in general and their issue particularly with that agency or that part of the U.N., as they believe that it perpetuates the Palestinian refugee issue. Because as long as the descendants of those who lost their homes in the 1948, '49 Arab-Israeli war are considered refugees, it means they have the right to return, which is one of the most difficult issues to negotiate in any potential peace negotiations. We have also heard from the Israeli Foreign Minister just today,

saying that UNRWA serves as a civilian arm of Hamas in Gaza. He says that the organization must pay a price. He's also calling on the U.N. to take action against the organization's leadership. Victor, Amara?

WALKER: Scott McLean, thank you. Joining me now is CNN's global affairs analyst Kim Dozier, quite disturbing allegations there. I mean, what kind of impact are we talking about on the agency's credibility with these allegations, especially as it pleads for additional help in Gaza?


KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the Israelis must have presented some pretty strong evidence. The charges that are being reported in the Israeli press include using UNRWA vehicles to breach Israel on October 7th using an UNRWA staffer's house to house one of the hostages.

So it goes from there. But the fact that the U.N., which doesn't have a great relationship with Israel, reacted so strongly to this, and that the U.S., Canada and even Italy at last report have paused funding to the U.N. agency tells you, it was pretty strong evidence.

And that is going to lend credence to Israel's charges over the years that the U.N. has been cooperating in some ways with Hamas and probably lead to a root and branch investigation of how the organization does its job. At the same time, that's not going to change the opinion across the Arab world, that is forming of Israel and the U.S., anyone who supports Israel, that atrocities are being committed by the Israeli side in the daily bombing that has displaced and killed so many civilians as well as Hamas fighters.

WALKER: Kim, as you know, the headline on Friday was the ICJ, the U.N.'s International Court of Justice issued this ruling that Israel must act immediately, take all measures within its power to prevent genocide in Gaza, but of course, stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire.

That is exactly what the South Africa -- South Africa wanted when it brought this case. What do you make of this ruling? Is it a blow to Israel even though it doesn't seem like it will have at least an immediate or significant effect on the ground?

DOZIER: Well, each side is claiming a certain measure of victory, and that, this is an interim ruling. Israel has a few weeks to get a report back, showing the court how it's complying with some of the court's demands. And the court will take up to years to decide whether or not genocide actually happened, but the most important part of the court's ruling from the Israeli perspective is that, it acknowledged that this is a two-sided war.

The court condemned the taking of hostages, for instance, and the atrocities that happened on October 7th. So -- but from the South Africa side, they said it was good that the Israelis were warned to stop incitement. Some senior Israeli officials were quoted throughout the proceedings where they've said things like Gaza should be flattened, that Palestinians should leave the territory.

And so, you know, each side has claimed some amount of victory. Israel has now several weeks to prove that it is taking measures to protect civilians, which is the same thing the White House and Britain have asked for in recent weeks.

WALKER: I want to play some sound for you from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and him calling this ruling outrageous.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself. The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.


WALKER: You know, you mentioned to our producers, Kim, just how important perspectives and context is, because when you talk to both sides, I mean, they're talking about two different realities from their perspective. So explain to us why, you know, at least, on Israel's side, well, they don't see the charges of genocide as being valid.

DOZIER: Well, from Israel's perspective, I mean, just about every Jewish person grows up with a history of the holocaust where people who were not attacking anyone were singled out because of their race and religion, and systematically gathered up, rounded up, tortured and killed.

Whereas, from the Palestinian perspective, they hear senior Israeli officials say we're going to flatten Gaza, and then they look at their television screens or they look out the front door and they see it happening. So that's why in many ways, each side feels entirely justified in their perspective.

And the Israelis feel like they're being targeted by the world, that -- but when you turn on Israeli television set, what you see are Israeli soldiers in operations, the October 7th aftermath, the hostage families and the families of fallen soldiers suffering pain, and they don't feel that they're committing genocide, they feel like they're committing acts of self-defense against an entrenched enemy that has sworn to do it again if it gets a chance.


WALKER: Yes, and sworn to destroy Israel. Kim Dozier, appreciate your time, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Up next, wrestling executive Vince McMahon steps down after some disturbing allegations. And this is not the first time he's had to do this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WALKER: To our headlines this morning. WWE founder Vince McMahon

steps down as chair of the wrestling company's parent organization TKO.


It comes after a former staffer accused the 78-year-old of sexual assault, trafficking and physical abuse in a lawsuit filed on Thursday. Janel Grant says McMahon gave her a job and promotions in exchange for sex, and then trafficked her to other men. Reports that McMahon paid out settlements to multiple women have been circulating since at least 2022 when he stepped down briefly from the WWE, also amid misconduct allegations.

BLACKWELL: A 17-year-old murder suspect who escaped police custody in Philadelphia three days ago has been caught. U.S. Marshal says Shane Pryor broke free while being transferred to a children's hospital for a hand injury on Wednesday.

They say he had help from an 18-year-old accomplice who is also now under arrest. Pryor was spotted on surveillance camera in a blue sweat shirt earlier this week, he's accused of killing a woman in 2020, and has been in juvenile detention since he was 14 years old.

Alabama's Attorney General is standing by the method of execution used to put inmate Kevin Smith to death this week. He says that nitrogen gas will continue to be used in executions in his state. Thursday's execution in Alabama was the first time a controversial method was used for an execution in the U.S.

WALKER: And Alabama is one of three states, Oklahoma and Mississippi, to approve the method. Critics say it is violent and it is a cruel punishment and should not be used in state-sanctioned killings. A warning, some of the details in this next story may be disturbing. CNN's Isabel Rosales has more.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Victor, Witnesses describe Kenneth Smith as writhing and shaking in his gurney for two minutes. This is contrary to what the state argued in court documents would happen. Now, experts saying that executions via nitrogen gas would result in being unconscious in seconds.

Now, when reporters asked the Attorney General Steve Marshall about that at a press conference, he doubled down, saying that everything was consistent with their expectations in this execution. And in fact, invited other states to follow the lead of Alabama, saying that Alabama would help them implement nitrogen gas executions.

And I spoke with an independent journalist Lee Hedgepeth, he was invited by Kenneth Smith to witness his execution. And he deeply disputes the Attorney General's characterization of what happened. Listen.


LEE HEDGEPETH, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: This is the fifth execution that I've witnessed in Alabama. And you know, I've said previously and will say it again, it's definitely the most violent execution that I've ever witnessed. It can't be a textbook execution because there is no textbook for nitrogen hypoxia execution, right.

This was the first nitrogen execution to happen anywhere in the world, so it's difficult to say what the attorney general was referring to when he says it's a textbook execution.


ROSALES: So, the big question here is, will other states follow the lead of Alabama. We know that Mississippi and Oklahoma have also permitted the use of nitrogen gas in executions. Oklahoma did respond to CNN. A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections there saying that they have no plans of doing a nitrogen gas execution.

And that is because of the way that the law is written there, only permitting the use of nitrogen gas if they can't find the drugs for lethal injection. We asked whether there is a shortage of that, as so many states have struggled to find those drugs, and they say that they are not having any issues finding those drugs.

The only other path forward there in the state of Oklahoma to doing a nitrogen gas execution is if lethal injection is suddenly deemed unconstitutional. Amara, Victor.

WALKER: All right, Isabel Rosales, thank you. Still to come, as a storm system moves to the northeast, millions are facing a serious flooding threat. We'll show you who is at risk.



BLACKWELL: The storm that brought heavy rain and flooding to the Gulf Coast this week is beginning to move to the northeast. And now, more than 35 million people are under flood risk in the southeast and mid- Atlantic.

WALKER: I think that includes us, yes -- no? CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar tracking this for us. What are we seeing?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST: A lot of rain, and unfortunately for some of these areas, they don't need any more of it. They've already had plenty. For others, it's welcome rain. Now, here's a look at where we've got right now. You can see rain across Littlerock, starting to spread into Nashville, other areas of Huntsville and even some thunderstorms down there right along the Gulf Coast, spreading from New Orleans off to the east.

You do have some flood watches and even some flood warnings in effect. These are some areas they've already started to see flooding and others that are going to expect it as we make our way through the day. Now, by Sunday, that system really kind of focused right over the Ohio Valley, spreading a lot of that moisture into the mid-Atlantic and eventually into northeast. And yes, even some snow on the western side of that, up around the Poconos, up into the White and Green Mountains. Even Boston, likely to end up picking up some snow out of this particular system. But by the time we get to Monday, other than a few lingering showers right there along the coast, the bulk of that moisture finally spreads out.

Now, another concern for today is going to be the potential for severe weather. That's really going to be limited across the south, basically, Chattanooga all the way, down into the Gulf Coast. The main threats here are damaging winds, also a few tornadoes and possibly some large hail as we go through the afternoon hours.

Another concern is the flooding that we've talked about. Because for some of these areas, they've seen a lot of rain in just the last few weeks, so that ground is saturated, and now any moisture we put on top of it is just going to exacerbate that flooding concern.

You'll see it's mostly rain down to the south, but we do also have the potential for some of that snow off today, just not quite in New York. It's been very warm there. Fun fact, guys. Memphis has had more snow so far this year than New York.

BLACKWELL: OK, Memphis. Allison Chinchar for us, thanks so much. In this Sunday's episode of "THE WHOLE STORY" with Anderson Cooper, Alisyn Camerota examines the booming business of the world's largest private boats. We're talking super yachts here. Some of them are bigger than a football field, a lot of them outfitted with pools and discos and spas, the highest level of service imaginable.


And today, there are more of them than ever before. Here's a look.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So obviously, to propel a 210-foot boat, you need a lot of fuel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need about 35,000 gallons of fuel, over three semi-truck full of fuel.

CAMEROTA: So when you fill up this yacht, what is the price tag?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually about $80,000.

CAMEROTA: Eighty thousand dollars. How often are you filling it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably about seven times a year.

CAMEROTA: Eighty thousand dollars, seven times a year?


CAMEROTA: And that's just one of the maintenance costs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's relatively small on the spectrum of how much money we spend to keep the vessel to a high standard.

CAMEROTA: Using the 10 percent industry standard annual maintenance on this yacht would be roughly $6.3 million a year, but that's not why the owner wants to sell it. This yacht is for sale.


CAMEROTA: Because the owner wants to upgrade?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct, yes.

CAMEROTA: The owner wants a bigger yacht than this 210-foot yacht?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, slightly larger.


BLACKWELL: Be sure to watch an all new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY" with Anderson Cooper airs tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Pacific, right here on CNN. Still ahead this morning, Boeing 737 Max-9 back in the sky for the first time since a door panel flew off mid flight. But did its return go off without a hitch? We'll talk about it.