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Today: Trump Expected In Court For New York Hush Money Case; Putin: Some Detained In Concert Attack "Moved Toward Ukraine"; Sources: House Dems Could Save Speaker For Ukraine Aid. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a live look this morning at New York City, the site of Trump Tower, of course. Good morning. Thanks for waking up with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Today was supposed to be day one of Donald Trump's first criminal trial. Instead, lawyers in his New York hush money case will get the chance to argue for a lengthy postponement or even a dismissal after the trial was delayed last week. The judge is holding a pretrial hearing in Manhattan to discuss discovery issues that caused this delay. If the trial were to start in April it would be the first of Trump's four criminal trials to begin and potentially, the only one to take place before the election.

Joining me now to discuss, Stef Kight, politics reporter for Axios. And, Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for The Atlanta Journal- Constitution. Good morning to you both.

Tia, let me start with you. The president -- or the former president, we expect to be in the courtroom for this. This, in many ways, was an error on the part of prosecutors who had to turn over all of this additional information here.

What do you expect to play out here as Trump, honestly, has used this delay strategy pretty effectively?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. And we do know that the prosecutors have somewhat agreed to a limited delay -- this 30 days -- but I think Trump wants more. That's what he and his attorneys are going to argue. But the prosecutors are saying they've looked through the documents. It's not as bad as Trump's attorneys are trying to say as far as what they haven't received and how crucial it is to the case. So it will be in the hands of the judge, of course.

But we know Trump wants more. That's been -- as you've noted, his play has been to try to buy more time and delay these trials, hopefully, until after the election is over.

HUNT: Right. So, of course, the other thing that's playing out today, Stef, is that this is the deadline for the bond in his civil fraud trial and we could start to see his assets being seized today. It's a lot more complicated to seize property than it is to seize bank accounts. But, of course, that hasn't stopped the former president from blasting out these emails -- Trump Tower is mine -- trying to raise money off of it.

STEF KIGHT, POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: Exactly. I mean, it's very interesting and maybe expected to see the way the former president is reacting to this deadline, already kind of drawing attention to, again, justice officials coming after him and trying to paint himself the victim in all of this.

As you point out, this is probably going to take some time. We're not sure exactly how quickly Letitia James is going to move on this -- whether we just get an indication of which properties she plans to take ownership of and how this is going to go down.

But we know that the former president is already drawing attention to it -- already trying to spin the narrative -- and that's another one of his tactics. It's delay and also paint yourself the victim as often as possible all the way through November.

HUNT: Yeah.

Tia, how do you think this cuts up politically? I mean, we've sort of discussed this a lot just because obviously, his base really bought into the argument that the system was targeting him, right, and the more problems he seems to face the more they seem to kind of come home and defend him. But now he's running against Joe Biden in a general election.

MITCHELL: Yes. So I think it plays out differently in a general election season slightly differently than it did in the primary. We know his base is locked in and all of this just kind of further confirms what they believe about this being part of a political attack on Trump. And quite frankly, they consider it a political attack on them and their right to choose Trump as their leader.

But we know that there are voters in the center that are persuadable and the more -- the longer these cases bog him and if these cases start -- and particularly, if he is found guilty -- that tends to draw support away from Trump in the center, which he would need if he's going to win the White House.

HUNT: Right.

So, speaking of drawing support away from Donald Trump, I want to show you Lisa Murkowski, the senator from Alaska, who spoke to my colleague Manu Raju on Capitol Hill about her lack of support for Donald Trump and what she may do about it -- watch.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I wish that, as Republicans, we had a -- we had a nominee that I could get behind. I certainly can't get behind Donald Trump.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you considering being an Independent at this point?

MURKOWSKI: Oh, I think I'm very independent-minded. I just --

RAJU: Officially, though. Officially, though.

MURKOWSKI: I just regret that our party is seemingly becoming a party of Donald Trump.


HUNT: So, Stef, what do you make of that? She said she's very independent-minded. She certainly is one of probably the few members of the Senate who could potentially make a decision like this and hang onto her seat. I mean, she has --

KIGHT: Um-hum.

HUNT: -- proved she can do it in the past. She convinced people to spell out her name -- to write her in after a snafu on the ballot in Alaska. With the Senate so narrowly divided, what do you think the potential impact is there?

KIGHT: Yeah. I mean, I think my first reaction was just that there are fewer and fewer voices like hers at this point. We have seen the vast majority of Senate Republicans kind of come around and rally around former President Trump as the nominee. But there are a handful of senators who are willing to kind of say out loud that we don't support Trump as president, and that could be huge depending on how November plays out and depending on whether Trump ultimately does win the election in November.


Having even just a handful of voices who are pushing back, especially when the chambers have had such slim majorities, could make a difference. We see that in the House with the more conservative voices taking power from the slim majority. We could see, potentially, similar dynamics at play in the Senate with a more moderate bloc.

HUNT: Yeah.

Tia, what do you see here?

MITCHELL: Well, I do -- I think it's interesting that there are so few Republicans who are willing to say I am not willing to fall in line just because Trump is our party's nominee.

The fact that even Mitch McConnell felt the pressure to say hey, now that Trump's the nominee -- or I won't just say pressure -- he, on his own volition, said now that Trump is the nominee that's who I'm going to get behind. Where Murkowski is saying even though he is the leader of the party, that means I might not see myself in the party anymore.

But those voices are few and far between. I think, still, we need to realize that she is now the outlier in her party, which she kind of seems to be realizing as well. The Republican Party is, by and large, the party of Donald Trump.

HUNT: All right. So let's talk for a second about Democrats because obviously, Joe Biden is running for reelection and faces some of his own challenges.

And Stef, your writing about how the current president is thinking about the challenge on the border, which is a massive political problem for him, what have you learned?

KIGHT: I mean, he is still considering some very serious executive actions that have been floated over the past few months. We've heard about it and in the press, we've covered it. But after the State of the Union address, some people thought maybe they had given up on these executive orders to really crack down on people who illegally cross the border.

But based on my conversations with numerous sources this is something that he is still considering and kind of holding onto to see 1) how the border numbers change. Over the spring and summer, they tend to rise. And also, of course, there's the political calculations here as well. Whether this again becomes a really central target from -- for Democrats.

And we've seen, briefly, Democrats being able to go on offense on this issue following the failure of the bipartisan border deal. So I think for now, they're kind of riding that Democrats are using that to their advantage, but that could change and they are considering pretty drastic measures if so.

HUNT: One Democrat, Tia, who is now not running as a Democrat because of his many problems, is Bob Menendez, the senator from New Jersey. There is a primary on the Democratic side for his seat that had been contested. The governor's wife, Tammy Murphy of New Jersey, had been running against Andy Kim, who is a progressive congressman who has become a darling kind of on the left to the point that Tammy Murphy announced over the weekend she's not going to actually follow through and run for this seat -- watch.


TAMMY MURPHY, FIRST LADY OF NEW JERSEY: I have been genuine and factual throughout but it is clear to me that continuing in this race will involve waging a very divisive and negative campaign, which I am not willing to do. And with Donald Trump on the ballot and so much at stake for our nation, I will not, in good conscience, waste resources tearing down a fellow Democrat.


HUNT: So I thought this was really interesting and kind of shows you how Kim really managed to kind of consolidate --


HUNT: -- things and kind of come out -- he's been fighting against -- there's a case where he wants the ballots to be redone because of the way that the sort of party machinery in New Jersey was really lining up behind her at his expense.

MITCHELL: Yeah. I think it's been interesting to see it play out. When Menendez first had his problems and Democrats kind of made it clear they were going to try to push him out, I think a lot of the conventional wisdom was that the governor's wife was going to get the inside track to the nominee.

And then Rep. Kim launched his campaign and was getting kind of the grassroots support -- not necessarily the establishment but it became clear that he was in the driver's seat. And then I think the establishment kind of followed suit. And the governor's wife, Mrs. Murphy, began to realize that there wasn't really a path forward. That he was able to coalesce that support.

So, to me, it's kind of interesting because usually, you think the machine kind of pushes down on the every man. But it seems in this race, kind of the every man of New Jersey picked their person, so to speak, and the machine had to follow suit.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. They pushed back for sure.

All right, Tia Mitchell, Stef Kight. Thank you, guys, both very much. I really appreciate it.

All right. So, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack at a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 130 people -- but without any evidence, President Vladimir Putin is claiming that Ukraine is linked to the attack.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack -- all those who shot and killed people were found and detained. They tried to hide and move towards Ukraine where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border. A total of 11 people were detained.


HUNT: All right. So let's again underscore the lack of evidence for those claims.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is live for us in London with more. Clare, what do we actually know about these suspects?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So they were brought to a Moscow courthouse on Sunday -- quite late Sunday evening, Kasie -- and have now been taken into pretrial custody. All four of them arriving very clearly in varying states of injury -- bruises to the face. One had a bandage to the side of the head. One arrived in a wheelchair and a sort of hospital gown, basically unresponsive.

Now, CNN has just asked the Kremlin about their condition and about videos that have surfaced online suggesting that they may have been tortured. A very resounding no comment. The Kremlin spokesperson saying, "I leave this question unanswered."

Now, on the question of the Kremlin and other Russian officials refusing to address that ISIS claim of responsibility, that was also put to the Kremlin. And they simply said that they are -- the investigation is ongoing and there is only preliminary data at this point. But it is striking that they aren't mentioning running with this idea of a connection to Ukraine in the face of that claim from ISIS itself.

And in that vein, we have also learned from Russian state media that all four of those suspects have been -- that have been arrested are Tajik nationals. Now, they would have blended in in Russia. There are a lot of Central Asian migrants, particularly in big cities like Moscow there and are an important part of the workforce.

But we do also know that ISIS and, in particular, ISIS-K, has been active in recruiting Tajik nationals. And the U.N., recently in a report, suggesting that has been increasing.

Now, look, in terms of the Ukrainian argument, the only thing we have from the Russian side to potentially back that up is that they say that these four suspects were arrested in the Bryansk region, which is on the border with Ukraine. CNN has geolocated one video around 150 kilometers from that border but, of course, that's not conclusive evidence. Ukraine strenuously denying any connection -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Clare Sebastian for us live in London. Clare, thank you very much.

All right. Coming up next here, House Democrats looking to make a deal that could save the Republican speaker's job? Plus, the Sweet Sixteen is set as the nation's number-one team survives an upset scare. The Bleacher Report ahead.



HUNT: All right, welcome back.

Congress is out of session for the next two weeks but House Democrats may have a new strategy to pass the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine aid package, and they have Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to thank for it. She has filed a motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson over his government funding bill. Sources say Democrats could vote to save Johnson's speakership but only if he outlines a path to getting the Senate's $95 billion aid package approved.


REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): If he does the responsible thing, which is allowing members of Congress to vote on a bill that will pass and that is in our national security interest -- and then subsequent to that, a non-serious actor who doesn't want to govern brings a motion to vacate -- yes.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I will make common cause with anybody who will stand up for the people of Ukraine. Anybody who will get desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza.


HUNT: Joining us now, the former State Department spokesperson under Donald Trump, Heather Nauert, who warns that dysfunction in both political parties is enabling America's enemies. Heather, good morning. Thanks for being here.

HEATHER NAUERT, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON (via Webex by Cisco): Hey, great to be with you. Good morning.

HUNT: So let's talk about this option that Democrats have put on the table here. You heard there -- that was Abigail Spanberger who formerly worked for the CIA. Someone who does a lot of serious thinking in the national security space. Obviously, Jamie Raskin as well.

Do you think this is something that the House Speaker should be taking seriously?

NAUERT: Well, I think the House Speaker is taking this seriously. He's in a really tough position with such a slim margin in the House. And, in fact, even if Democrats were in control of the House right now, they would have difficulty passing the supplemental legislation. It's just the majority and the margins are just that slim.

But I think -- and I've said this to folks very often -- we have a lot of debates in America. There can be a lot of chaos in Congress. But when push comes to shove we ultimately get things done or do the right thing in the end. And I think that we will end up passing some form of the supplemental legislation.

Seventy percent of Republicans support aid to Ukraine and assistance to Ukraine which, by the way, includes not just military aid but also humanitarian and economic. And 80 percent of Democrats support it as well. We should be able to work together in a bipartisan fashion to get this done.

It is a very dangerous world out there as we are seeing each and every day. Our adversaries are watching. We have to work together in a bipartisan fashion to secure our national security interests.

HUNT: So, Heather, the way that you're talking about this, in many ways, has fallen out of fashion with the Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party. It's very different from the way the Republican Party was kind of uniform in talking about issues like this certainly when I came to Washington and it was still really very much the party of Ronald Reagan.


I mean, what's happened? NAUERT: Yeah. Look, there's a debate in the Republican Party over this as we see chaos at the southern border. And I understand why so many Americans are concerned about it. They are right to be concerned about what's happening with our southern border. But we have to keep our eye on multiple things at the same time, and that includes Ukraine, that includes Israel, and that includes what's happening in Taiwan.

Oh, and by the way, we don't talk about Kim Jung Un that often. There's some very dangerous things happening over in North Korea right now.

So we have to be able to balance multiple things at the same time and remain focused on that. But we can still have a robust conversation about the level of funding that goes to some of these governments and also about our border security.

And I think the White House has a big job to do over the next few weeks. I hope that President Biden will speak to the American public about why support for Ukraine is so important.

Look, Vladimir Putin doesn't intend to stop at Ukraine. Moldova, Poland -- they're very concerned. Other countries could be next. He does not intend to stop here. This is serious and we have to get serious about it now.

HUNT: Heather, if Donald Trump gets elected in the fall, do you think that spells the end of American support for Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Ukraine?

NAUERT: Yeah. I don't necessarily think so. I worked for the president for just over two years and often, he will say certain things but the policies can be very different. I think he is playing to the base. I think, again, mid-America, by and large, does the right thing in the end.

We want to keep U.S. troops at home. We don't want to have to send them over to Europe. I often say I have a baby brother who is a Marine. I want to keep him here at home. I don't want to see him sent to -- over to Europe someplace or anywhere else.

And this is the best way to do it, by supplying Ukraine with the weapons that they need to get the job done, providing humanitarian support, and providing limited economic support. Because if Ukraine can't keep the lights on they can't fight this battle against Putin.

And so, we need to support them in a bipartisan fashion -- Republicans and Democrats working together -- for the safety of our national security and our U.S. forces. It's in our best interest.

HUNT: All right, Heather Nauert for us this morning. Heather, thanks very much. I really appreciate your time.

NAUERT: Thanks. Thank you.

HUNT: All right, time now for sports. March Madness delivered more madness as we almost saw the first one-seed in the men's tournament go down, needing overtime to avoid the upset.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. I assume Andy is recovering from the shock of all of this. Carolyn, good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I haven't checked on him. I -- somebody has got to go make sure that he is still functioning properly.

Houston -- his team -- they've been one of the best teams in the country all season and Texas A&M pushing them for 40 minutes and then some last night. The Cougars were up by 12 with two minutes to go before the Aggies went on a run for the ages. Wade Taylor draining a long two to cut the lead to single digits. This is a couple of possessions later -- hits a three. All of a sudden, we have got a 5- point game here.

And a little bit later on now, a one-possession game with one second left. Andersson Garcia inserting himself into Aggie (INAUDIBLE). The buzzer-beater from deep forcing overtime. The senior from the Dominican Republic coming up so clutch but Houston hunkered down in the extra period. Jamal Shead -- a nice little baby hook with 30 seconds to -- sealing the win as the Cougars survive 100-95 advancing to their fifth-straight Sweet Sixteen.

Marquette is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 11 years, but not before a scare from the 10-seed Colorado. The Buffaloes erasing an 11-point halftime deficit before Tyler Kolek put the Golden Eagles up for good. The two-time All-American finishing with 21 points and 11 assists in the 81-77 win.

The other two one-seeds had no issues. Purdue getting the biggest tournament win in school history, steamrolling Utah State by 39. And the reigning champs, UConn, dominated Northwestern from start to finish. They cruised to a 17-point win looking really good.

Unfortunately, though, Kasie, the clock struck midnight on the Cinderellas, at least at this year's big dance. You had Grand Canyon, James Madison, and Yale losing to Alabama, Duke, and San Diego State respectively yesterday.

So that sets up a championship game rematch as the Aztecs and the Huskies are going to meet in the Sweet Sixteen. We're tipping off the action Thursday on our sister channels TBS and truTV.

But there is a lot going on in the women's game, too, to look forward to. Another overtime thriller late on the West Coast between 7-seed Iowa State and number two Stanford. Senior Emily Ryan had a career- high 36 points for the Cyclones. She hit a three to put them up in overtime. Kiki Iriafen did her one better. The junior scoring 41 in what was a career night for her.


So you've got 30 seconds to go and Addy Brown draining the three to give Iowa State the one-point lead. But the Cardinal would not be toppled. Brooke Demetre delivering the final blow, answering with a three of her own as Stanford holds on -- 87-81 the final there.

Seven-seed Duke shocking Ohio State in Columbus. The Blue Devils trailed by as many as 16 at one point but they still found a way to win this game. The last time the Duke women made the Sweet Sixteen was back in 2018.

And Kim Mulkey's LSU squad surviving a first-half scare against Middle Tennessee State. The third-seeded Tigers trailing at the half. Everybody thinking could this be? But they really turned it on in the second half. They went on a 39-8 run during the third and fourth quarters to put that game away.

Undefeated top-ranked South Carolina -- they continue to roll after beating Presbyterian by 52 in the first round. Dawn Staley's squad topping North Carolina 88-41 as they prepare for a 10th-straight Sweet Sixteen. They look unstoppable.

Eight more games tonight, including Iowa and Caitlin Clark playing her final game at home as the Hawkeyes take on West Virginia at 8:00 Eastern.

So things slowing down a little bit, Kasie, but you've got a lot of women's basketball all day to look forward to.

And I will go check on Andy Scholes just to make sure he's OK. I think he's back tomorrow. But if he's not, we might have a problem.

HUNT: I think it would be wise -- yes. I'm -- congrats to him and fingers crossed for Houston going forward.

Carolyn, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next here, Donald Trump in a New York courtroom today while the D.A. prepares to begin seizing the former president's assets.

Plus, how a severe geomagnetic storm is about to impact us here on Earth.