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Trump's Team Seeks More Delays in Trials; House GOP's Biden Impeachment Inquiry Stalls; At Least 2 People in Ohio Killed after Tornadoes. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 06:00   ET


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Friday, March 15. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


A Georgia judge, just hours from revealing whether D.A. Fani Willis will be removed from Donald Trump's election subversion case.

Plus, breaking news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a huge tornado. Wow! Oh, my God!


HUNT: A deadly tornado outbreak. The latest on widespread damage in two states, and the storms on the move right now.

Plus, new reporting on what may have sent a Boeing 787 full of passengers plunging into a nosedive.

All right. It is 6 a.m. here in Washington. It's also 06:00 a.m. in Indian Lake, Ohio. That is one of several places waking up to scenes like this after violent tornadoes overnight. At least two people have been killed in this region after the twisters hit.

Our meteorologist, Derek van Dam, tracking the damage and storms still out there right now. He will be with us later on in the hour.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to be with you on this Friday morning. Happy Friday.

It is decision day for the Fulton County D.A. Just hours from now, Georgia Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will announce whether Fani Willis can resume her prosecution of Donald Trump. She is facing disqualification for having a romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor.

If Willis is removed, it is highly unlikely that the case would be tried before the November election. And there's questions about whether it will be tried at all. There is also a delay in the New York hush-money case. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, agreeing to delay that trial for up to 30 days, pushing the start date into late April.

In another case, Trump was in a Florida courtroom yesterday, trying to convince the judge that he appointed to throw out the classified documents case against him.

Judge Aileen Cannon shot down Trump's chief argument. We're going to see whether the former president still feels this way about her.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud to have appointed her, but she's very smart and very strong. And loves our country.


HUNT: All right. Here to break it all down with us, Laura Barron- Lopez. She's White House correspondent for the "PBS Newshour." Republican strategist, Sarah Longwell is here. And CNN political commentator Karen Finney also joins us. Thank you all for being here this morning.

Never a dull moment, as they say. Big picture here, Laura. Let me just kind of start with you on -- on these cases. I mean, Donald Trump has been very clear about what the strategy is here. In fact, why don't we just -- why don't we just play that? This is from February, but it's where he kind of says out loud exactly what he's doing.


TRUMP: We don't know what's going to happen. We want delays, obviously. I'm running for election. I get -- how can you run for election and be sitting in a courthouse in Manhattan all day long?


HUNT: "We want delays, obviously."

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Yes. I mean, that is the big strategy here. And even though this one motion to get the classified documents case dismissed was rejected, he has others.

So there are others that still have -- she has not decided on. She's -- she's kind of really -- all the legal experts I've talked to you say that,, you know, this judge who he appointed, Aileen Cannon, is really taking her time with these motions, ones that other judges, a lot of other judges maybe would have dismissed almost immediately if they had reviewed them.

And so this is a tactic in this case. It's a tactic in the other cases that he's facing, where over and over again as many motions as possible, as many attempts to delay and make sure that the trials don't start until after the election.

HUNT: I mean, the other piece of it, Sarah, is just muddying the waters.


HUNT: Confusing people, making it all seem like the same thing. Is he succeeding at that?

LONGWELL: He's succeeding right now. I will say when I listen to voters talk, they know the number, 91 indictments, but they have a really hard time separating out which case is which.

And, you know, this is why I was always worried about the New York case going first, because if the first case is about porn star, that is a thing that sticks in voters' minds. When you are dealing with two men where age is a big issue, it actually gives one of them quite an advantage if what everybody is talking about is an issue with a porn star.

There's a lot of -- I don't know what to tell you about voters, but that is --

HUNT: I hadn't thought about it that way. Yes.


LONGWELL: That is just the way people -- people think.

And so I think, obviously, there are cases that are better and worse for Trump. What is much worse for Trump is if January 6 is a case that people are hearing about right before the election, because that is one of the main things that I hear from Republican voters who are reluctant to vote for Trump that makes them want a break with the president.

But the New York case is one where the entire right-wing media will sort of rally around to be, like, this is stupid, this is silly, and a lot of voters will feel that way.

HUNT: And basically, there is a manly vim and vigor on display that --


HUNT: -- Biden doesn't have, is that the argument?

LONGWELL: That's -- I'm not making an argument so much as I'm saying, how --

HUNT: No, no, I understand. Right.

LONGWELL: -- voters perceive it.

HUNT: Is that the perception?


2016, the fact that he'd had some affairs, and there was, you know, the porn star stuff was out there, for male voters, that was something of a plus, I'm sorry to say. You know, of course, we were like we cannot compete with that.

But -- But something that Sarah said --

HUNT: Sorry. It's real early for this.

FINNEY: I know. It's so bad. This is your coffee. Sorry, everyone.

LONGWELL: We're having coffee right now.

FINNEY: Yes. But it -- something that Sarah says is really important that I'm thinking a lot about, which is I think one of these Democrats have to do is form a narrative about why these cases matter and why they matter to you at home.

And to me, as part of why you're seeing the New York case re -- kind of framed as election interference, because I think there's a narrative there that says in 2016, in 2020, this is a man who was willing to do anything to win.

If it meant spending money to silence people, if it meant inciting a riot on the Capitol. Right?

You've got to start to give people a little more of a narrative around why does it matter? And a way to remember. Great that they remember the 91. Maybe we should get T-shirts made. But you know, again, because so much of how people feel about both of these men is pretty baked in.

So again, it's got to be OK. So -- because I think some of his supporters think, yes, he's -- maybe he's -- he's got some stuff in his closet, but I still like him.

So if -- we've got to do a little bit more work on that.

LONGWELL: And I'll just say, you know, the Stormy Daniels thing, that's a 2016 issue.

HUNT: Right.

LONGWELL: And so people who voted for Trump twice voted for him with that acknowledged.

The January 6, that is after people voted for him. And so it gives them a reason to say that was new information, and I'm not -- and look, we've launched a campaign recently, Republican Voters Against Trump, with -- with just exactly that. People who voted for Trump before, aren't going to vote for him again. No. 1 reason: January 6 and lies about the election.

HUNT: Yes. Really interesting. So there's one thing that came out of this Newsmax its interview that

Trump did earlier this week that I don't think got a ton of attention, but it caught our eye here.

You know, a big part of what we're discussing is how Trump has been sort of Teflon from normal political scandal, basically since the beginning, right? Since he was insulting John McCain's, you know, time as a prisoner of war.

I want you to pay attention to how this -- this question was asked. And again, this is taking place in this conservative media ecosphere that has developed. And also a part of Trump's answer. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These cases were designed to destroy you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've helped you. And some of us actually, we see -- I know my audience and me, too, we see that you're protected, maybe even by the hand of God.

Has that ever crossed your mind?

TRUMP: There is some kind of a protective force, because you look at what I've been hit with, these are horrible people.


FINNEY: Yes. So interestingly enough, I will say Tim Alberta talks about -- in his book, talks about this, and how among evangelicals, there is this narrative that has emerged around -- about Trump. And we saw the ad that he did in Iowa that sort of likened him to Jesus and God. Some folks thought it was over the top. I would tend to agree with that.

But this narrative is out there, actually. And again, I think we have to take it seriously in the way that, you know, in 2016 we thought, when he said I can, you know, murder someone on Fifth Avenue. That seemed ridiculous.

No, we have to take it all really seriously.

HUNT: Quick final thought.

LONGWELL: Well, the only thing I'll say is that that is true for his base voters. It is not true for the swing voters to make -- he has lost every election cycle since 2016. And it is because there is a group of people who reject it.

HUNT: Yes, for sure.

All right. Our panel is going to come back later in the hour.

Coming up here, the father from a school shooter convicted for failing to stop his son's murder spree.

Plus, a frightening night of tornadoes in the Midwest. We are tracking more storms right now.

And the GOP's push to impeach President Biden is apparently going nowhere. What's the next move?



HUNT: All right. Welcome back. It's been six months since an impeachment inquiry into President Biden was launched by House Republicans.

This morning, the investigation is stalled. There are not enough votes to successfully impeach the president.

But Republicans fear ending their inquiry would essentially clear Biden of any wrongdoing. And that's a political message they don't want to send heading into the November election.

CNN's Annie Grayer joins me now. Annie, good morning.

Just that set of sentences. Well, they don't want to end this investigation, because they don't want to act like they're clearing him. But on the other hand, they don't seem to have enough to actually show that he's done something wrong enough that's worthy of impeachment. Like, oh my gosh, what is going on?


ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's a great question, I think. When Republicans took the majority and got their committees in January 2023, investigating the president and his family was a top priority for them.

But 15 months or so in, they've received over 100,000 documents. They've interviewed over 40 people, including Hunter and the president's brother, their business associates, Department of Justice officials, IRS whistleblowers, and they don't have evidence of wrongdoing.

And so the question is, how do you land this plane when the expectation was you were going to be able to deliver some -- some evidence of wrongdoing and then impeachment articles against the president?

And so one conversation is about criminal referrals. House Oversight Chair James Comer, who's co-leading this investigation, very much wants that. He's on television talking about it. I've talked to him about it many times.

But the two other stakeholders in this decision-making process -- the speaker, Mike Johnson, and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan -- are less committal when it comes to criminal referrals. And they said there's still more conversations need to be had.

Beyond that, Comer says he wants to do legislative reforms to address so-called influence peddling. But you know, Kasie, this is just not where Republicans thought they were going to be this far into their investigation.

HUNT: Well, I mean, Annie, you've covered, like, every single step of this, all the way along the way. And there were high-profile missteps at a series of points.

I mean, their first hearing. Then this issue with the key witness who was arrested for, you know, lying, basically. I mean, in terms of a criminal referral, I mean, what leg is there to stand on?

GRAYER: I mean, that's unclear. And they don't say who these criminal referrals would be for.

And remember, Hunter Biden was so key to their investigation. All of the allegations around the president was built around him. And Hunter came in for his deposition on February 28. He sat for six hours. He answered every question Republicans had for him about his business deals, phone calls, his surface-level interactions that his father had with his business associates.

And some Republicans even say, you know, Hunter answered our questions. He was well-prepared. There is no more to really get out of him.

HUNT: There's no "there" there (ph).

GRAYER: What is the point? What is the point of doing a public hearing?

But Comer is trying to bring Hunter in for a public hearing. Hunter refused to do that. He's -- they're still trying to go after Hunter, though. They just quietly subpoenaed him for his bank records at AT&T. So they're going to try and keep finding new avenues, but nothing has turned up.

HUNT: And the broad policies -- I mean, I should note, you did -- this reporting did generate a very lengthy letter from the White House, saying that -- that they write today to -- "It's clear the House Republican impeachment is over." This was sent to Speaker Mike Johnson.

The politics of this, I mean, they -- they basically can't -- there aren't the votes for it.

GRAYER: They don't have the votes, but the politics and the 2024 election looms large over all of this.

Some Republicans I talked to say, We know we don't have the votes; we don't have the evidence. Let's focus on things we can deliver to Republican voters, and getting Republicans and Donald Trump elected in 2024. Essentially, let's move on. Then you have another camp of Republicans saying, Let's drag this out

as long as possible. There's no incentive to end this. We can continue to just, you know, find little lanes here and there. and just continue to try and hurt President Joe Biden politically.

So those are the kind of two camps that are actively discussing this right now. And they haven't come to a consensus about what their timeline is.

HUNT: I mean, I think it's just worth noting that, you know, the -- whatever artifice used to be around these things that said, We're doing this for the good of the country and not for, like, raw politics, it's gone, right? I mean, that used to be something that was required here, and it just no longer exists.

Annie Grayer, it's great reporting. Thank you very much.

GRAYER: Thank you.

HUNT: Have a great weekend.

All right. Coming up next here, violent twisters overnight, nearly a dozen touching down across the Midwest, with more possibly on the way.

Plus, Aaron Rodgers responds to CNN's reporting that he shared Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. We'll tell you what he's saying now.


HUNT: All right. Breaking news: at least two people have been killed after deadly tornadoes hit the Midwest. Those deaths in Logan County. RVs were flipped over and buildings destroyed in the town of Indian Lakes.

Severe storms hit several states, injuring dozens, destroying homes. Officials in one Indiana town say 50 percent of the structures there are damaged.

Our meteorologist, Derek van Dam, joins us now.

Derek, good morning.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Heartbreaking morning for people waking up to the damage left over from this significant outbreak of tornadoes across the Ohio River Valley.

Here's one of such tornadoes that struck Winchester, Indiana. Look at how lightning illuminates the funnel cloud right there. That is not what you want to see when you are sitting outside your home, perhaps in your balcony, watching a line of storms move through.

This is really interesting. We just put this graphic together. See that first line of storms that move through? Right there, near the border of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, right along the Ohio Reiver, a tornado spawned. This is not associated with the late evening dusk tornadoes that you saw the footage just a moment ago from Winchester, Indiana.

But here it is, Carrollton, Kentucky. Daylight footage confirms tornado on the ground. And some of the resulting damage is just horrific: homes completely wiped off of their foundations, roofs taken off of buildings. I mean, scary stuff.

All in all, we've had eight confirmed tornado reports, and the National Weather Service is talking about that tornado near the Ohio River that spawned low-end EF-2 wind damage. So that's roughly 111 miles per hour to upwards of 135 miles per hour.

That current band of thunderstorms that produced the tornadoes, moving South. It is moving into a more stable environment. So we're not anticipating the widespread tornado outbreak.

But you can see, just in Western Alabama, there is a tornado warning right now. Lots of lightning associated with this.

By the way, a flash flood threat ongoing across Southern Arkansas as these storms continue to progress East. Here's our chance of severe weather today, greatest across Mississippi and Alabama -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our meteorologist, Derek van Dam. Derek, thank you very much for that.

All right. A cockpit seat mishap may have caused a Boeing 787 jet to nosedive on Monday. That's according to "The Wall Street Journal."

At least 50 passengers were hurt. Some hit the ceiling. LATAM Airlines called it a technical event.

"The Journal" reports a flight attendant may have hit a switch on the pilot's seat, pushing it into the controls and forcing the jet to plunge.

All right. Up next here, in just a matter of hours, a judge will reveal whether Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis will be kicked off Donald Trump's election subversion case.

Plus, taking over TikTok. A former Trump cabinet member says he's got the cash to buy it.