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CNN This Morning

Pope Francis Addresses Israel's War On Hamas And Other Conflicts In Easter Speech; King Charles Attends Easter Service Amid Cancer Battle; Crews Start Cutting Up Pieces Of Downed Bridge; Trump Posts Video Showing Image Of Biden Hog-Tied On A Truck; "Gen V" Star Chance Perdomo Dies In Motorcycle Accident; Turkish Elections To Decided Local Officials For 5 Years; Crucial Dates In Criminal And Civil Trials Coming Up For Trump; Tuesday, The Deadline For Proposed Jury Instructions In The Mar-A-Lago Documents Case; Thursday, The Deadline For Trump To Post Reduced $175M Bond In Fraud Case; Anti- LGBTQ Bills In Alabama Legislature; Alabama Legislators' Anti-LGBTQ Legislation May Harm Children, According To Critics; Biden Faces Criticism From GOP For Observing Transgender Day Of Visibility On Easter; Superbloom Springs To Life In California; Two More Spots In Final Four Up For Grabs; UConn Powered Back To Final Four Defeats Illinois 30-0; Women's Elite Eight: Caitlin Clark Of Iowa, Ranked 1, Advances. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 31, 2024 - 07:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: Hi everyone. Welcome back to CNN this morning. It is 7:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Amara Walker alongside Victor Blackwell. Thank you so much for joining us on this Easter Sunday morning.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Here is what's going on this morning. The Pope just finished presiding over mass at the Vatican just a couple of days after pulling out of Good Friday event. His message to the faithful this Easter Sunday.

WALKER: And these are live pictures from Windsor, where King Charles just attended Easter services. It is his most significant appearance since being diagnosed with cancer. We will take you there.

BLACKWELL: Live pictures out of Baltimore here, where crews are starting to remove the first parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The latest on the cleanup effort and the search for those still missing, that's coming up.

WALKER: Plus the super bloom is back in California is covered in flowers. This spectacular sites and what's causing them just ahead.

And we began this morning with breaking news out of Indianapolis, where at least seven people, all between the ages of 12 and 17 were shot last night. It happened in downtown and police believe it started with a conflict that ended in gunfire.

BLACKWELL: When officers arrived, they found a group of young people with gunshot wounds. All of them were taken to hospitals. They're in stable condition now. Police believe more than one gun was involved. So far, no arrests have been made.

Pope Francis reiterated his calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian access to Gaza in his traditional Easter message to the world. The Pope presided over Easter celebrations at the Vatican this morning, which included leading Easter mass outside of St. Peter's Basilica.

WALKER: The 87-year-old pontiff has canceled many engagements over the past year while recovering from what has been described as cold, bronchitis and the flu. CNN Vatican Correspondent Christopher Lamb is joining us now.

Hi there, Christopher. What else did the Pope have to say in his speech this morning?

CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara and Victor, Pope Francis gave his Easter Sunday, albeit all be blessing which is to the city of Roman to the world. He, as you mentioned, called once again for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

He called for the release of the 7th of October hostages and also for humanitarian aid to get into Gaza. He also called for a full exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine in the Russia and Ukraine war. And his message, in general, was one of a call for peace, for taking the message of Easter, one of new life and hope, and applying that to various conflicts and difficulties around the world.

Now, as you said, Francis has been battling some health difficulties. He pulled out of a Good Friday service due to a desire to preserve his health. But this morning, the Pope seemed on good form. He traveled around St. Peter's Square in the Pope mobile, greeting the thousands of people who'd gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday.

Last night, he was at the Easter Vigil, presiding at that service, which went on for more than two hours. And on Thursday, went to a female prison in Rome to wash the feet of female inmates. So despite some of the fragility that he experiences with his health, the Pope is showing a determination to keep going and he is certainly over this Easter time continuing to preside at the liturgies and to continue with giving his message to the world, one of, at Easter, one of hope, one of reconciliation.

WALKER: Christopher Lamb, thank you.

And King Charles is making his first major public appearance since coming out with his cancer diagnosis back in January. Just moments ago, the King and Queen were leaving Windsor Castle after attending the Easter service.

BLACKWELL: He appeared to be in good spirits this morning, greeted the public with a few waves. Said hello to some people there. We have some video.

CNN's Max Foster is outside Windsor Castle. Max, the question was, after the service, would he greet people a little closer? More than just that wave, we saw that he did that, what is the palace saying about this appearance?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Not very much. I think he's making his own decisions on what he's going to -- how he's going to play it when he leaves the church. So you'll see that he's -- he was in the service and he'll come outside. He's with the queen.


I think the -- there are quite a few members of the public who've been allowed into the castle grounds. We're just outside of the castle walls. So this is technically his first public appearance since he had the cancer diagnosis. And I think this was a reassurance exercise for the public.

He looked really well when he was with the queen. If he then goes out to the members of the public, I think that'll be quite significant in terms of palace messaging. I think the doctors would probably advise him not to do that because they're the ones that have said you can't go on public appearances whilst you're going through the treatment.

But if he does, then I think that's a pretty significant moment in his recovery process. So I understand we've lost our pictures this end, but I understand he is meeting members of the public. So I think that, you know, that's a big message from the palace saying he's well enough to do that despite that recovery process and the treatment that he's receiving.

So he does look well. I understand from my sources that he's really frustrated about the fact he hasn't been able to do any major public appearances, but he is doing lots of work behind the scenes. So I think this is a big step towards him coming back out really into his full public role.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We've had up during your report, Max, as the shot has held, live pictures of the king and queen shaking hands along the rope line. So he is meeting members of the public after that surface. So it's good to see that he's in good spirits and and well enough health to come out and meet some of the people there who have been, of course, wishing him well.

Max Foster for us outside Windsor Castle. Thank you, Max.

Crews are working now on the north side of that collapsed bridge in Baltimore. They're trying to start the process to remove the pieces. They're working to clear the port, find the four victims there, and get critical cargo ships through. Officials think it'll take weeks to clear the damage.

WALKER: Underwater, crews have secured parts of a natural gas pipeline to support the salvage process. CNN's Michael Yoshida joining us now from Baltimore. I know, Michael, you've been saying that officials are calling this what is going to be a marathon. Where do things stand right now?

MICHAEL YOSHIDA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Amara and Victor. And when talking about this long marathon effort, we're just in the first few steps of that journey. You mentioned the north part of the bridge. Crews going to be working to cut up and remove sections of that. That will allow more vessels to get in and around the collapse site.

Now, just over my left shoulder. Now that the sun's up, you can see the Dali there as well as the remains of the bridge on and around it again, we've seen the largest crane on the east coast, the Chesapeake 1000 brought in. We're also going to be seen in the coming days and weeks, more equipment, six more floating cranes, more barges, more tugs, other vessels brought in as crews go through this delicate salvage process.

And as this is all going on, we're still having more than 1,000 engineers here in Baltimore and across the country starting to analyze. The best ways to take these various pieces apart, of course, if you cut and remove one section, it could potentially shift a little bit on and around the water.

So trying to keep everyone safe as they go through this process. You also mentioned that underwater natural gas pipeline. Yesterday, we did get confirmation from Baltimore Gas and Electric Company that they were able to isolate that line. They were able to release some gas from it as a proactive safety measure. Also told no impact to customer safety as a result of that.

But again, just highlights how complex of a process this is. Again going to be weeks to try and get all of this out of here and then try and reopen the port. But as you mentioned, as these officials keep saying a long, long process ahead to clear the port and then eventually get the bridge back open.

Amara, Victor?

WALKER: All right, Michael Yoshida, thank you very much.

Former President Donald Trump posted a video on social media of a pickup truck with an image of President Biden tied up.

The Biden campaign has condemned the post. They say that Trump is inciting political violence. CNN's Steve Contorno has more.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Former President Donald Trump once again drawing accusations that he is encouraging violence against a political opponent, this time for a social media post involving President Joe Biden. In this video that Trump posted to Truth Social on Friday, it shows two trucks driving on Long Island, decked out in pro-Trump decals and flags, and this image of President Joe Biden hog- tied on the back of a truck.

Trump's campaign on Saturday defending the use of that image, telling CNN in a statement, quote, "That picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway. Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him."


President Biden's campaign wasted little time condemning this violence image, telling CNN in a statement on Saturday, "This image from Donald Trump is a type of crap you post when you're calling for a 'bloodbath' or when you tell the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by. Trump is regularly inciting political violence and it's time people take him seriously -- just ask the Capitol Police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6th."

This kind of violent imagery is something that we're used to seeing at Trump's rallies, from his supporters online and from vehicles driven by Trump's most ardent supporters. Still, it is striking to see this kind of rhetoric amplified by a former president, someone who is seeking the White House once again.

But, of course, Victor and Amara, that is something we have seen from Trump going all the way back to his 2016 campaign and through just last week when he attacked one of the judges and the judge's daughters overseeing one of his cases in New York.

BLACKWELL: Steve Contorno, thanks so much.

Culture clash happening over two celebrations today. Transgender Visibility Day and Easter coincide this year, and it has some conservatives claiming outrage over the president's proclamation. We're live at the White House with a response.

WALKER: Plus, voting is underway right now in critical elections in Turkey. How the president is looming large in local races, even though he is not on the ballot.

BLACKWELL: And expansion of Alabama's so called Don't Say Gay Bill sweeps through the state legislature while some parents are calling it dangerous. That's a little later this morning on CNN This Morning.



WALKER: All right, let's going to look at some of your headlines this morning. Tributes are pouring in for actor Chance Perdomo who died in a motorcycle accident yesterday. He was best known for his roles in the "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Gen V". Amazon's spinoff of "The Boys."

He also received Best Actor honors at the BAFTA Awards in 2019. Perdomo was just 27 years old.

And more humanitarian aid arrived in Gaza just a short time ago. In this video, you can see the pallets of aid with parachutes attached falling to the ground. Countries, including the U.S. have been flying airdrop missions. And earlier this week, Hamas asked countries to stop these airdrops, calling them offensive, useless and not the best way to bring in aid.

The Powerball jackpot is moving closer to $1 billion again after nobody won the grand prize in Saturday's draw. It now stands at $975 million, a lottery's fifth largest jackpot. Four tickets matched all five white balls, each winning $1 million. The next drawing is tomorrow on April Fools' Day.

BLACKWELL: Polls open this morning across Turkey and critical races to elect mayors and other officials for the next five years. President Erdogan's name is not on the ballot, but his presence looms large over the election. His ruling Justice and Development Party is trying to win back cities that lost in 2019, including the country's largest city of Istanbul, where Erdogan's primary political rival is running for re-election.

Joining us now from the polls, CNN's Scott McLean. Scott, how's the morning going so far?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Victor. Yes, the ballot box is filling up here pretty quickly. As you can see, this is actually the third time the Turks are voting in an election in the last year. And this is local elections. And normally we might not pay too close of attention.

But in this case, there are some important reasons why we should. First off, let me just show you the view here of where we are. So we are in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul. You can see the view out the window. It's gorgeous. This is where President Erdogan himself was born and was raised. This is his home district.

And as you said, he is playing an outsized role in this election. It is really a referendum on his rule and his popularity and his handling of the economy, which is really sputtering. You have inflation that is out of control. You have interest rates that have hit 50 percent, 50 percent. And Erdogan himself has injected himself into the race.

He is on plenty of posters and banners around town. He's held rallies in the waning days of this race. The other reason why this race is important is who is on the ballot. And you can see for local races there's three of them, but the one that all eyes are on is the white one there. That is the Istanbul mayoral race and there are 49 names on it. And one of them is Ekrem Imamoglu, that is the incumbent mayor of Istanbul.

He is widely seen as one of the very few opposition figures that is strong enough or popular, maybe even the only opposition figure who could take on President Erdogan directly and maybe win in a head to head election. And so, if he wins, then it means Erdogan has some competition for the next few years as we head into the next presidential race.

If he loses, then it is really back to the drawing board for the opposition in this country, which has not, in recent times, fielded a very strong candidate. And so, that is why President Erdogan has put so much effort into trying to defeat Imamoglu before this local election might actually strengthen his hand.

[07:20:08] There is one thing standing in Erdogan's way for running for president one more time, and that is the Constitution of this country. But Victor, there are plenty of pundits who have pointed out the loopholes that he could find which may allow him to run just one more time.

BLACKWELL: Scott McLean for us there, reporting in Istanbul. Thanks so much.

Still to come this morning, a big week ahead for former President Trump's legal team. We could see significant developments in at least four major cases.

WALKER: Plus, flowers and vibrant colors as far as the eye can see. The California super bloom springs to life. Thanks to an extra wet winter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, in New York, one half of the men's Final Four is set. Still ahead, we'll show you who cut down the nets last night and who else will have a chance to climb the ladder to greatness.




WALKER: King Charles and Queen Camilla were smiling and waving as they greeted and shook hands with the public after their Easter service this morning. This is the first major public outing for King Charles after the announcement of his cancer diagnosis and following the cancer diagnosis of his daughter-in-law, Princess Catherine.

Joining me now is CNN Royal Historian Kate Williams. Kate, I mean, we can show those images again of the King, you know, shaking hands with the public. That's quite significant, isn't it, I mean, considering the fact that he, you know, has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: Yes, that is very significant because one of the reasons why we were told he wasn't doing engagements was because he, well, he needs to be isolated. And we've seen a few pictures of him meeting ambassadors and that kind of thing at Buckingham Palace. But here is not just the queen out there shaking hands, but the King as well.

And he really is looking in great spirits, really good health. So I think that what we have here is not a return to public duties. The palace have been clear about that, but he is returning to the public eye. And this is, I think, a reassurance exercise. We've seen a lot of concern, a lot of worry about the King, but particularly, we've seen a lot of concern and panic about Kate.

And I think the King is out there saying, yes, I'm not, you know, I'm not going to open a hospital anytime soon or a school anytime soon. But to a degree, and certainly, you know, online, it's business as usual.

WALKER: Right. But for the public and optically speaking, it's not right, right? I mean, this is really the first time we're seeing just, you know, many fewer and not many, but much fewer numbers of, you know, the royal family out there for Easter service.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it's totally different to the Easter service we saw last year, where Charles led them in. This time he was driven in. We also had Prince Andrew leading the royals walking, which isn't really what anyone would want to see, but he is the senior royal.

The royal family are looking totally different. And, of course, the big loss, the big sort of lack we have is the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children. They are the royal stars. They are beloved by the crowds. Of course, the crowds love the King and Queen, but they love William, they love Kate.

And without William and Kate, the royal family does look very, very slim. I mean, the slimmed down royal family was the project of the King. But we see the consequence of it here when we have two major royals suffering from cancer. And when you were royal, it's not like a job when the rest of us have when you -- if you have cancer treatment, someone else covers for you.

You know, there's no one really to cover for the King. And there's no one really to cover for the princess of Wales in terms of the global mega stardom that she has.

WALKER: Yes. And, of course, as we mentioned, Princess Kate was diagnosed with cancer. She made that announcement just recently. Any indication as to when we will see her again in public?

WILLIAMS: Yes. Well, this is the question. We don't have a timeline of when we're going to see Kate or the King in public. Certainly, the King's trooping, the color birthday parade, we've been told that he'll probably be in a carriage so far, and we don't know about Kate.

In January, when she had the abdominal surgery, before they discovered that there was cancer present, we were told after Easter. And that is going to be up for William. So expecting to see him in sort of late April when the children go back to school. But I don't think we're going to see Kate for quite some time, probably not until the early summer because she is undergoing this treatment.

And as we know, the treatment for cancer is rough. It's rough on the body and mind. And she is, as she said in that very eloquent, very moving statement you were just showing there that she gave last Friday night, she wants to concentrate on getting well physically, and that's going to be her focus at the moment.

WALKER: And back to King Charles, although he is dealing with the cancer diagnosis, he has been back at work.

WILLIAMS: He has been back at work. He's been working online. He's been meeting dignitaries at Buckingham Palace. He is doing his work as a monarch. There's no need for someone else to do it for him. But we are approaching quite a significant year this year in the United Kingdom.

Like the United States, we have an election coming up. This could be a change of government. And the monarch has a key role as the head of the state in this activity. He has to open Parliament, dismiss, Prime Minister, welcoming the new one.

And, you know, these pictures are showing here of the Queen accepting the flowers and that Charles, he's looking in great form, but certainly this is his first engagement, the first time we've seen him in public since early February, since he left the hospital, left the London clinic after his initial treatment.

So I think it's something that you will find quite exhausting when he'll be ready to get back to the actual full time duties of monarch, I think it's a question. I don't expect to see him. This is my guess, I don't know, but until probably after the summer, so probably late summer.

WALKER: Yes, quite a delicate time for the royal family.

Kate Williams, good to see you. Thanks.


BLACKWELL: Former President Trump is facing important deadlines in the several cases, he's working through this week. Monday is the deadline for the Manhattan D.A. to respond to a request for a delay in the hush money trial. And Tuesday, Trump's legal team and federal prosecutors are due to file proposed jury instructions in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Thursday is the deadline for Trump to post his reduced $175 million bond in the New York fraud case and on and on.

Joining me now, CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning to you. So, let's start here with what's happening tomorrow. Manhattan D.A.'s office has to respond to this request for a delay. And the Trump team's reasoning for this round of requests for delays, pretrial publicity. I've covered trials for 20 years and I've never seen a trial delayed simply because of the publicity. How common is it and how strong is their chance of getting that delay?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor. Good morning to you. With respect to the commonality, obviously depends on this -- the nature of the case. In this case, it involves the president.

So, of course, he's going to wax poetic about the fact that you have Michael Cohen, who intends to testify in the case. Doing podcast talking about his guilt. Wax poetic about the papers in the coverage that he's getting about the Weisselberg plea, who, of course, is his former person who dealt with his finances. That plea is going to be on April 10th. Talk about the documentary for Stormy Daniels. This has everything in it, Victor. But I think at the end of the day, the judge has made clear that the trial is moving forward on the merits. Listen, I think it's premature. Why? Yes, it has. That is the motion. A sampling study of the media talking about how the locality, right, in New York County voted against him in 2016 for Clinton, against him for Biden. Again, having everything in there. But what jury selection is about is about picking a jury that could be fair to the case. And you ask the jury questions. If the jury has apparent biases, they're struck from the case for a cause. For cause challenges are unlimited.

The second issue Victor is it's not whether you know about the case or have opinions about it. It's whether or not, with respect to questions for the jury who are qualified to serve, whether those opinions will so overwhelmingly influence you as to not be fair, impartial, and have the ability to base the case on the facts and evidence that you hear. So, I think that motion will be denied and the case will move forward.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk now about the classified documents case. Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Jack Smith and Trump's attorneys, they have to file their proposed jury instructions. Are jury instructions often controversial? What should we look for here?

JACKSON: Yes. So, what happens is, is in terms of jury instructions, what are those? They're very critical. A jury is a finder of fact. The jury makes an assessment at the hearing. All the witnesses who's credible, who's not credible, right? Who's evidentially way more heavily than the other. Who should we disregard? And then, of course, that the jury making those factual findings also has to pair them to what are law. What are they instructed to do with the factual findings?

And so, it's not unusual for you to submit proposed jury instructions, you being the prosecution and the defense. In this particular case, what makes it so unusual is that the judge is asking the jury to make a determination as to whether or not these classified documents could be considered Trump's personal property.

That appears to be contrary to the law, which would suggest in state that nothing the president does really is his personal property. It's a matter of public record under this, you know, Presidential Records Act Law. You can, if you're the president, make exceptions under limited circumstances, birthday cards, other things. But the fact that the judge is even considering an instruction to the jury that they could consider, hey, these were the president's personal property turned a lot of eyes. And I think if the judge does that, we're going to see an appeal to the 11th Circuit and it will be quickly overturned.

BLACKWELL: New York civil fraud trial, that case rather, and we're on bond watch again. It was on Monday when $454 million was due. That was reduced to $175 million, and now this is due Thursday. Trump said almost a week ago that he was going to be able to post this quickly. If he cannot get it done, is further reduction and another delay plausible?

JACKSON: I don't think so. I think -- look, the time is now. And the reality is, is I think it engenders confidence in the system that would reduce the bond. They did that. It seems to be manageable. He should get the funds that would, of course, delay any ability for the New York State attorney general to collect, Victor, and they could then, that is the court to decide the appeal on the merits. But I think he's at the end of the road. We'll see if he posts the bond.


But again, him saying, the system, it's designed against me, et cetera, I think it engenders confidence that they would do that, reduce the bond. It's up to him now to post that bond and for the appeal to go ahead on the merits.

BLACKWELL: Joey Jackson, Happy Easter. Thanks so much.

JACKSON: Thanks, Victor.

WALKER: All right. Still ahead, conservative legislation targeting the LGBTQ community. It's making its way through the Alabama state legislature. Hear from a mother who fought for greater awareness on those issues. That's next.



BLACKWELL: Data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a majority of Alabamans support same sex marriage. And they support anti-discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community. But bills in progress right now at the Statehouse contradict those findings.

WALKER: Critics are slamming, one in particular, that would broaden a law limiting discussions about LGBTQ topics in public schools. CNN's Isabel Rosales introduces us to one mother who fears that bill could undermine her son's legacy.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a sunny spring day, an Alabama mother walks past rows of tombstones.

CAMIKA SHELBY, SON DIED BY SUICIDE AFTER ANTI-GAY BULLYING: Never in a million years did I think I would pull up at home and find my child lifeless.

ROSALES (voice-over): Camika Shelby is here to visit her only son.

SHELBY: Definitely not easy having to plan a funeral for your 15-year- old child.


ROSALES (voice-over): In 22 days, Kamika will mark five years since Nigel, remembered as warm and gold hearted, died by suicide after he was bullied for being gay.

ROSALES: Do you still talk to him?

SHELBY: Yes. Yes. It makes it -- it's like a comfort thing because I believe he can hear me.

ROSALES (voice-over): Last year, she settled a more than $800,000 civil lawsuit with the Huntsville City Board of Education in the death of her son. Part of the deal, required several districtwide policy changes to better acknowledge and protect LGBTQ students. Including an update to its anti-discrimination policy, specifically prohibiting harassment based on a student's sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Now, she questions whether Nigel's legacy is at risk.

SHELBY: Did these bills actually go into play? What was I fighting for? Who are these bills actually protecting?

ROSALES (voice-over): In Montgomery, series of bills are advancing that opponents warn are intended to slowly chip away at LGBTQ rights. One, determines gender as dictated by your birth certificate. Another, bans non approved flags, including pride flags from flying on public property. Then, there's House Bill 130, dubbed as "Don't Say Gay" by opponents.

The bill intends to broaden the 2022 law to all public K through 12 grade levels and flat out bans instruction and discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation.

MACK BUTLER, ALABAMA STATE HOUSE REPUBLICAN: This bill just strengthens the law that's already in place and goes a little bit further, making sure that we keep a political agenda or a social agenda out of our schools, and let children be children again.

ROSALES (voice-over): HB 130 would also prohibit teachers from displaying flags related to sexual orientation. Groups like the ACLU of Alabama fiercely hitting back against the legislation. Saying it would rid Alabama classrooms and students of inclusive discussions.

Republican Mack Butler, who represents the town of Rainbow City, authored the legislation. He argues these conversations belong at home.

BUTLER: We just want the school to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. That's all it's seeking to purify the schools just a little bit.

ROSALES (voice-over): The lawmaker later walking back that purifying of schools' line, saying he misspoke. Camika argues his bill amounts to alienating and erasing students like her son.

SHELBY: It's dangerous. You're basically making it official that they don't have a safe space. School is not supposed to be a place that would make a child want to end their life.

ROSALES (voice-over): Representative Neil Rafferty, Alabama's only legislator who publicly identifies as gay, mourns the bill could seriously interfere with the school curriculum in unexpected ways.

NEIL RAFFERTY (D), ALABAMA STATE HOUSE DEMOCRAT: It is a super problematic bill. It's become so vague that can even talk about Martha Washington being married to George Washington because Martha Washington was a woman, wife, right, who married a man, George Washington. So, that's a heterosexual relationship.

ROSALES: That's sexual orientation.

RAFFERTY: That's sexual orientation. Now, you're talking about gender identity and sexual orientation.

ROSALES (voice-over): And he questions the motivation for these bills.

RAFFERTY: These are not homegrown Alabama issues. Essentially, these are solutions in search of a problem.

ROSALES (voice-over): As for Camika, her pain and loss still fresh. But in Nigel's name, she fights on.

SHELBY: He's no longer here, but there's still a million of him that is here. And it does affect them.


BLACKWELL: Isabel Rosales. Thank you for that story.

The Biden administration is firing back at conservative criticism over the White House acknowledgement of the Transgender Day of Visibility, which coincidentally falls on Easter Sunday today.

WALKER: The presidential proclamation reads in part, transgender Americans are part of the fabric of our nation. They deserve and are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as every other American, including the most fundamental freedom to be their true selves.


Now, House Speaker Mike Johnson blasted the proclamation in a post on X, saying in part, the Biden administration, "Betrayed the central tenet of Easter."

This year, the two days only coincided by chance. The Day of Visibility is held every year on March 31st, while the date for Easter changes year to year.

BLACKWELL: Just ahead, flowers, spring of life in California. What is causing this superbloom and how long we'll be able to enjoy it?



WALKER: All right. Here's a live look at Dallas, Texas. Good morning to you. Dallas is one of the cities in the path of totality during the upcoming solar eclipse. Totality is when the moon's shadow will completely cover the sun, and that will happen for nearly four minutes in Dallas. And CNN will have special live coverage of this rare moment that won't come around again for two decades. "Eclipse Across America" starts live Monday, April 8th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. You can also stream our coverage on Max.

BLACKWELL: I think we missed an opportunity there, audio. There should have been some echo effect on path of totality. totality. We missed it.

WALKER: A little drama.

BLACKWELL: We missed it.

WALKER: Well, right now, California's hillsides are blooming, or we should say superblooming.

BLACKWELL: A wet and cold winter set the stage for a rare spring explosion of color.


BLACKWELL: Look at this.

WALKER: Beautiful.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Stephanie Elam gives us a glimpse of what's starting to take shape there.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A flurry of flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's amazing.

ELAM (voice-over): As spring begins to unfurl in California, flower fans are hoping for another showstopper. A phenomenon known as a superbloom.

EVAN MEYER, BOTANIST AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THEODORE PAYNE FOUNDATION: Superbloom is many, many flowers. Millions, if not billions, of flowers blooming simultaneously.

ELAM (voice-over): Expanses of orange, yellow and purple flowers so densely clustered that they are visible from space. Like in 2023 after one of the wettest winters on record. The thing is, superblooms aren't a guarantee. It takes the right conditions for that riot of hues to appear. During California's devastating drought years, there's no brilliant display.

MEYER: So, when those conditions come together and you get a lot of rain and cool days, you're going to see tons of flowers. And this year I think we're on track for that.

ELAM: All of these beautiful blooms just draw people in, but this is nature. So, naturally there are threats. And here in California, that often is snakes.

ELAM (voice-over): Like 12-year-old Malin (ph) found out.

ELAM: What is the coolest thing you've seen when you've come out here? MALIN (PH): A snake. I got the dog and I started running.

ELA (voice-over): In 2017, some California parks were crushed with superbloom seekers. The town of Lake Elsinore banned visitors to one canyon in 2019 after hundreds of thousands of people trudged off trails, destroying precious petals in their quest to take the perfect picture.

MEYER: These are fragile ecosystems. They're wild ecosystems, and they can be damaged pretty easily by being stepped on, sat on, driven on.

ELAM (voice-over): Yet experts say, respectfully viewing a superbloom is a great way to connect with nature.

MEYER: You'll just see one of the most incredible things that happens in our natural world.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN.


WALKER: And you've been to a superbloom.

BLACKWELL: I have been to a superbloom. It was a magical moment.

WALKER: Yes. We'll leave it there.

Up next, in a matter of hours, the field for the men's Final Four will be set. Who has already cut down the nets and who's got a chance today? That is ahead.



BLACKWELL: The Alabama Crimson Tide rides a wave of threes to reach the first Final Four in school history.

WALKER: Carolyn Manno joining us now from New York with all of the action. Carolyn.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. Well, Alabama does boast the nation's highest scoring offense, and they are at their best when they get really hot from behind the arc. It didn't look like that was going to happen early in this game, though, against Clemson. The Crimson Tide Guard Mark Sears, starting out the game going 0 for seven, including 0 for four from beyond the arc. He scored his first points of the game, which is over four minutes left in the first half.

But in the second half, the floodgates started to open. Sears draining shot after shot. Finishing with a game high 23 points with seven threes. Now, keep in mind, Clemson only allowed 14 threes in its first three NCAA tournament games. Bandwidth Coach Nadeau is cutting down the nets after the 89-82 win, sending the Tide to the Final Four for the first time. MARK SEARS, ALABAMA GUARD: Yes, hard work always pays off. Hard work undefeated, man. Just -- I wouldn't be here without the hard work. I live for those moments, man, you know. This is what March Madness is about, you know. When you're a kid, you want to be in these moments. And it felt like my dream came true today. My dream definitely came true today.

MANNO: Alabama faces UConn next, who's on a mission to become the first repeat national champion in college basketball since Florida won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. The top seeded Huskies scored 30 straight points to power their way back to the Final Four, steamrolling Illinois 77-52. That sets a March Madness record of 10 straight double-digit wins. UConn going to face Alabama in the first matchup of the Final Four next Saturday in Glendale, Arizona.

Two more tickets going to be punched on Sunday afternoon. The action gets started with second seeded Tennessee taking on number one Purdue at 2:20 eastern. Then it's a battle of conference rivals. This year's Cinderella team, the North Carolina State Wolfpack facing number four Duke just after 5:00.

And in the women's tournament, Caitlin Clark in number one, Iowa advancing to the Elite Eight after an 89-68 win over Colorado on Saturday. Clark finishing with a game high 29 and 15 assists. She was subbed out with less than two minutes remaining to a rousing ovation from the crowd.

So, now the Hawkeyes will face number three LSU in a rematch of last year's national championship game. And Clark says the team is excited to play the Tigers again after that loss last year.