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Connect the World

Wall Street Journal Reporter Detained on Spying Charges; Backers of Netanyahu's Judicial Overhaul Block Highway; Source: Trump Facing 30 Plus Counts Related to Business Fraud; Trump Expected to Surrender Tuesday and Face Arraignment; Maz Jobrani Talks to CNN about Performing in the Middle East; Vatican: Pope Francis to Participate in Palm Sunday Mass. Aired 11:18a-12p ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 11:18:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: All right, welcome back, I'm Becky Anderson. You're watching "Connect the World". So Joe Biden speaking

out publicly for the first time on the arrest of the American Evan Gershkovich he's telling the Kremlin "Let him go".

The Wall Street Journal reports were sitting in Russian detention facing up to two decades in prison if convicted on what are spying charges. Now the

paper vehemently denies these allegations and stands firmly behind its report in an op-ed, the Journal says it's more evidence that Russia is

divorcing itself from the community of civilized nations.

President Vladimir Putin is now responsible for Mr. Gershkovich's health and safety, and the Biden Administration has an obligation to press for his

release. So this arrest is ramping up already high tensions between Moscow and Washington, as we hear now from CNN's Matthew Chance who is in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): News of the arrest was brief on Russian state television. A reporter from the

Wall Street Journal was arrested on suspicion of espionage for the United States. The news anchor announces Evan Gershkovich's reads now faces 20

years in prison.


It was in the Russian City of Yekaterinburg an 1100 miles from Moscow that Russia's Federal Security Service the Former KGB say they terminated the

illegal activity of the accredited journalist. They claim he was on a mission from America to accumulate classified evidence on Russia's Military

industrial complex.

Had a brief court appearance in Moscow, the case was designated top secret? And the 31-year-old journalist was remanded in custody for nearly two

months. A lawyer trying to represent Gershkovich says he was excluded from the proceedings.

DANIIL BERMAN, LAWYER: I don't know how long it took 3 or 15 minutes and that's it. After that I assume everything has already been taken away from

here. We don't know anything.

CHANCE (voice over): U.S. comes against the backdrop of appalling U.S.- Russia relations with Washington leading international support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. There's already one U.S. citizen jailed in

Russia too for espionage. Paul Whelan detained in 2018, serving a 16-year sentence.

It's been just a few months since U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner imprisoned in Moscow on contentious drug charges was swapped for notorious

arms smuggler Viktor Bout held for years in U.S. jail. The Russian Foreign Ministry says there's no question of another prisoner swap at this time.

The Wall Street Journal says it vehemently denies the allegations against their reporter and says they're seeking his immediate release. But Russian

Officials are doubling down.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: Under the cover of journalism, this person was involved in a completely different activity.

There are lots of reports that he had accreditation, therefore he's a journalist. No, no, this is what he claims to be.

CHANCE (voice over): He does not bode well for a case threatening to plunge U.S.-Russian relations to new depths and to ruin the life of this young

American reporter. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


ANDERSON: Only military efficient in Kharkiv in Ukraine says 9 missiles were fired on the city last night the same day the war hit the 400-day

mark. That is how long Ukrainians have been fighting and living with this Russian invasion. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the occasion by

addressing everyone in this country who has taken up the fight.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: 400 days of our defense against the full scale aggression. This is a tremendously long way we have passed

all together each and every person who fought in his fighting for Ukraine who took care and still takes care of the country and Ukrainian, the people

who helped and continue to help our logistics those who have strengthened it our strengthening Ukrainian resilience.


ANDERSON: And Today Ukraine is marking the anniversary of the liberation of the town of Bucha near Kyiv that Mr. Zelenskyy calls a symbol of Russian

atrocities. It was a direct result of the war NATO now says that Finland will formally join the alliance in the coming days.

This comes after the Turkish parliament voted unanimously in favor of Finland's membership on Thursday, which cleared the last obstacle in the

way. Sweden has also applied to join the bloc but Turkey and Hungary is still opposed to that membership. Both Sweden and Finland moving twin

decades of non-alignment over Russia's Military threat in Europe.

Well, the war has also affected sporting competitions but things will be changing at this year's Wimbledon. The All England Club says Russian and

Belarusian tennis players will be welcomed this summer, with some conditions including competing as neutral athletes that is out reversal

from a year ago when they were banned from what is considered the most prestigious event in tennis.

Wimbledon is the third grand slam event of course in the calendar year. Well in Israel protests against the right wing government's proposed

judicial reforms have made global headlines but it was supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his core overhaul who came out in force on

Thursday blocking a highway in Tel Aviv.

These days after Mr. Netanyahu announced he was actually delays plans but certainly not canceling them. Well, we saw at least one U.S. flag at this

demonstration. But we've also seen a banner with some harsh language for U.S. President Joe Biden who's urged Mr. Netanyahu to walk back these

reforms. International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is live in Jerusalem.


This hour we are just days away from Passover, of course, Passover coming during Ramadan this year and bumping up against the Easter period as well.

What signs if any, that this holiday period will actually calm tensions amongst Israeli functions and indeed or Israel's Jewish factions and

between Israelis and Palestinians, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's not clear that it will. Those tensions are very real and very present, as you say, on those

protests that were on the streets of Tel Aviv yesterday, in support of the government, taking some of the protesters taking a very anti-U.S. position,

or at least anti-President Biden.

And perhaps that's reflective of some of the comments we've heard coming from some of Prime Minister Netanyahu's hard, right cabinet members. The

National Security Minister, Mr. Ben-Gvir saying that Israel is an independent country, not a star on America's flag.

There is definite pushback among the government supporters that the United States is not being at the Prime Minister's friend, this present time. But

those tensions of which you're speaking about internally, they're doused a little bit at the moment, because there are talks going on between

Netanyahu and opposition leaders to try to find a compromise around the judicial reforms.

Faith in that is not high and that's why people expect tensions to build and out of that, again, in the Old City of Jerusalem today, a lot of

Palestinians going to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, very heavy Israeli security there, perhaps a sign that the tensions that have been playing out

between Israelis and Palestinians earlier this year are at the moment on an even keel.

But I think it underlines a broader sense that those tensions are very real, that there has not been a way found around them. So the fact you had

the confluence of these three big religious festivals around the same time heightens concerns of potential spark for violence.

But it is internally in Israel that some of those deeper divisions are throwing up some of the darker elements and that's a real concern here. We

saw just a couple of days ago, how a Palestinian taxi driver was attacked by right wing pro-government supporters.


ROBERTSON (voice over): Right wing extremists on the rampage, following a pro-government rally in Jerusalem. What you can't see is the taxi driver,

they're chasing.

HAMZA DWEIK, SURVIVED ATTACK: I'm not thinking about the driving. I'm thinking just about to run.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Just to escape?

DWEIK: The first thing that I think about when I was running, it's that odd reason or to this, odd reason is done.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This is where they're hitting a car?

ROBERTSON (voice over): It's three days later, 30-year-old taxi driver Hamza Dweik relives the moment right wing thugs realized he was


ROBERTSON (on camera): This one here is the stone?


ROBERTSON (voice over): They trashed his taxi, a $20,000 writes off.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Oh yes, you can really see it's broken.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Only his quick wits reaching the cops saving his life.

DWEIK: When I arrived at two policemen. I feel I have a new life.

ROBERTSON (on camera): At the same time one of the main pro-government right wing rallies was happening just over there the Chase coming up into

here and the police very quick to begin making arrests.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The police announcing a 17-year-old picked up that night, 2 more suspects a day later for "An act allegedly carried out with a

racial motive". Inside parliament, Palestinian-Israeli opposition lawmaker Ahmad Tibi, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right wing

Ministers of allowing their supporters to search out and attack Arabs that night.

AHMED TIBI, PALESTINIAN MEMBER OF ISRAELI PARLIAMENT: There is an increase in the performance of these radicals in the events and obvious increase in

the head average and the Israeli society.

ROBERTSON (on camera): As a result of the government that's in position now?

TIBI: As a direct result of the composition of this government.

DROR SADOT, B'TSELEM SPOKESPERSON: In 2022, we had 146 Palestinians killed by Israeli army.


ROBERTSON (voice over): Israeli NGO B'Tselem tracks attacks by right wing Israelis in the nearby West Bank sees a similar increasing trend.

SADOT: So if we've seen an increase on attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank from settlers in the past few months and the programming Huwara

and other incidents is a very much I guess, a consequence of the backing that the settlers are getting from the government.

ROBERTSON (voice over): So far this year, already the deadliest for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians in more than a decade Hamza, lucky to be

alive now facing the daunting reality, earning a living driving a taxi.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Do you have more fear now on the streets of Jerusalem then you did?

DWEIK: Of course, yes, but really, when you think about there is nothing to do. I will not close my door and we and we have to live.

ROBERTSON (voice over): To live, not hide.


ROBERTSON: Yes and to your point, Becky, about you know whether the tension stands. There are so many potential flashpoints and that right wing those

extreme right wing elements that feel they're emboldened because there's a right wing. They have their right wing Ministers in the government. That's

just another potential flashpoint.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson on the story for us. Nic, always a pleasure, thank you, sir! Iranian state media say Israeli airstrikes near Damascus have

killed an officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp. Israel has declined to comment on what they call alleged airstrikes.

Previously, the Israeli Military has claimed responsibility for attacks on Iran linked targets in Syria. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has played a

major role in the fight against ISIS inside Syria and has sometimes been very close to U.S. Military positions or for more on what's happening in

this region.

Let's say this region, of course, I'm broadcasting to you from our Middle East programming hub here in Abu Dhabi in the Gulf. Please subscribe to

our, meanwhile, in the Middle East Newsletter, you can find it at, there's a QR code there, you can scan that and

you will get that delivered to your inbox three times a week, folks.

Well you're watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson, an extraordinary moment in the United States for the first time in its

history. A President has been indicted on criminal charges. We'll look at what Donald Trump is facing and the nation is reacting?



ANDERSON: Welcome back, it is just after half past 7 in the evening here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson and this is "Connect the World". Well, it is

unprecedented in U.S. politics for the first time a Former U.S. President is facing criminal charges.

Now a grand jury in New York indicted Donald Trump and what sources that he says, are more than 30 counts of business fraud, tied to a hush money case

out of the 2016 election involving adult film star seeing here, Stormy Daniels. Trump is expected to appear in court in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Now he responded to the news of this indictment on social media calling it I quote him here, an attack on our country the likes of which we have never

seen before. Donald Trump's Former Vice President Mike Pence calls the indictment and outrage. He spoke exclusively with CNN's Wolf Blitzer after

the news broke on Thursday. Have a listen.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think the unprecedented indictment of a Former President of the United States on a campaign finance

issue is an outrage. And it appears to millions of Americans be nothing more than a political prosecution that's driven by a prosecutor who

literally ran for office on the pledge to indict the Former President. The message that this sends to the wider world is a terrible message about the

American justice system.


ANDERSON: Well, Trump's allies in Congress had been rushing to his defense. U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused District Attorney Alvin Bragg

trying to interfere with next year's Presidential election and of weaponizing the Justice Department to go after Trump.

And that is a theme repeated by Steve Scalise as the number two Republican in the House who called the indictment a sham. Republican Senator Lindsey

Graham echoed those same talking points when he spoke to Fox News. Have a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is Legal Voodoo; you got a misdemeanor that's been made a felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever

been prosecuted under this theory, except for Donald J. Trump. This case will fall like a cheap suit under legal scrutiny.

Give the President some money to fight this bill. This is going to destroy America. We're going to fight back at the ballot box. We're not going to

give that in how does this end Sean? Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That's how this wins.


ANDERSON: Let's break down the implications then at the indictment. I've got CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, and I've got Chief Congressional

Correspondent Manu Raju in the House both experts on this and both fantastic for our international viewers to have in house on this.

Manu let me get to you first. You just heard Lindsey Graham there I mean, GOP talking points. Nevertheless, some of what he said is worrying or

certainly will be worrying for many. What do you believe the impact of this indictment will be and what is it already as it were on a polarized


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we really don't know yet because the charges have not been unveiled. We don't know what the

evidence is in this case. And even so Republicans on Capitol Hill are rushing to Donald Trump's defense.

Remember, it was in the aftermath of Donald Trump just a couple of weeks ago, putting out that social media posts saying he expected to get arrested

in this case that led to the Republicans to essentially side with him accused this prosecutor this case of being going after Donald Trump who

tried to interfere in the Presidential race.

Trying to call Alvin Bragg the prosecutor up to Capitol Hill to testify in an ongoing investigation asking for internal communications and documents

and the like they are making it very clear. They're siding with Trump no matter what the allegations, say here, including Kevin McCarthy, the

Speaker who has essentially credited Trump for winning the speakership on the 15th ballot.

He said that Trump's support and lobbying behind the scenes was essential for him to get the job. But not all Republicans are on the same page. In

fact, the top 2 Senate Republicans have so far been silent about this coming indictment, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader

and the number 2 Republican John Thune.

Both of them have been silent about Donald Trump and in large part because both of them are eager to move past the Trump era. They view Trump is not

the way forward for their party, they are wanting to get behind another candidate come 2024.


So you're seeing a divide play out on Capitol Hill. How this plays out politically on the Presidential campaign remains to be seen Trump, of

course using this to rally support behind it. But what will that translate do when this trial takes place and if other charges and other cases also

materialize, Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, it is fascinating and thank you and Manu, we're seeing those who are running against him or likely to be running against him for

Republican candidate for the 2024 election, also coming out and supporting him. You know, this is a really difficult one for some Republicans, isn't

it? Ellie, just explain to us what this indictment actually might contain and what happens next?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So Becky, we've not seen the actual indictment yet. That's important to know. It's filed under seal as we say,

meaning it's confidentially being held by the court. Typically, it would be unsealed at the time of the arraignment, the first appearance in court,

which is scheduled for this Tuesday.

That's what we're reporting. Now, that said, what we do know is that there's upwards of 30 counts in this indictment that doesn't necessarily

mean it's serious. You can't equate numerosity with seriousness, but based on the reporting and based on the Grand Jury witnesses who we know of it

looks like this is focused around the hush money payments that Donald Trump and his companies made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Now important to know, paying hush money knowing about hush money payments is not a crime. The crux of the crime here appears to be the falsification

of business records within the Trump Organization. The theory is that the money that they paid for Stormy Daniels was falsely booked as Attorney's


If prosecutors charged that and if they can prove it, that's a misdemeanor that's lower than a felony. That means the maximum in prison is one year,

but realistically, no one gets any prison time for that kind of misdemeanor. However, and we just heard some of the Republican lawmakers

allude to this.

If prosecutors can prove that records were falsified in order to commit some second crime, and here that would arguably be a campaign finance

violation. Then it gets upgraded to a felony, which is more serious. We're looking at a four year max, although again, the judge has discretion to

sentence to anywhere from no time in prison up to that four-year max. So that seems to be reasonably what we expect to be in the indictment. But

again, we could be in for a surprise as well.

ANDERSON: To both of you, appreciate it. This is ongoing; of course, you can follow the Trump indictment at CNN digital, thanks. Our website has all

the latest news and analysis including why Donald Trump can still run for President after being indicted by a grand jury that is on your

computer or through your CNN app on your smartphone.

Right, sir get you some more, we are keeping an eye on our radar right now. And 36 people were killed and 16 injured in India after a flaw gateway at a

temple. It happened in the City of Indore where people were celebrating a Hindi festival. State Officials say the collapse was due to overload.

Britain's King Charles a third is wrapping up his visit to Germany laid wreaths in remembrance of World War Two victims in Hamburg alongside

Germany's President. The King said he in German leaders is grateful for their unity and friendship after a history of bitter and animosity.

And South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been denied parole. Pistorius is having a 13-year prison sentence for shooting and

killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. A lawyer for Steenkamp's parents says the parole board will be reconvening in a year's time.

Coming up next on "Connect the World", he makes audiences laugh across the Middle East and around the world. My interview with comedian Maz Jobrani is

up next.



ANDERSON: Well, he is known for making audiences around the world how with laughter. Comedian Maz Jobrani mixes his Iranian immigrant experience with

politics and with humor. Well, now he's back with a new comedy special on YouTube. I caught up with Maz earlier this month at the Four Seasons in

Dubai for what was a wide ranging discussion about his tour around this region and his support for the Iranian protest --.


MAZ JOBRANI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Started coming to the region in 2007 with the axis of evil comedy tour. Back then, when we would show up

the promoters would say my friend, you can talk about whatever you want, but no sex, no religion, no politics, maybe like all right, well, then

hello, goodbye.

Or shall I say Salam Alaikum, Alaikum Salam. Now I realized, first of all, when they say politics, and I think around the region, they mean no local

politics. The good news is I don't know a lot about a lot of countries because I live in America. And we don't know.

I mean, you talk to the average American when the Iran protests happened, I tell the American hey, and there are protests in Iran. They go Saddam

Hussein is back. I go, that's the wrong country. You've got the wrong country.

ANDERSON (on camera): You may not know a lot about local politics, you say but you do know a lot about Iranian politics. And you have spent much of

the last six months talking about the women of Iran. But how do you feel about that?

JOBRANI: Well, you know, if you looked at my social media, it was a lot of comedy, jokes up until the killing of Mahsa Amini and the protests when

they started. Then all of a sudden my social media changed and it was supporting the people of Iran trying to amplify the voice of the people of

Iran as the protests were happening. However, I continued to do my shows, live shows.

A 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, she is walking down the street her hair was out of her hijab a little bit. The morality police showed up arrested her

killed her in the process. But then the people of Iran did not stand for it. So this protest is started 3 months ago. And it's been led by the women

of Iran who've been at the forefront. It's amazing, it's Inspirational.

And the reason I continue to do that was number one, I felt like I had a platform, because the other thing you realize is not everybody's aware. So

I said, listen, this is my chance to let the others that aren't part of our community know what's going on. Secondly, it was a therapy session for my

community, because we were all focused 24/7 on videos of brutality against the Iranian people.

And so of course, when you watch that, this is causing deep, deep trauma to the viewer as well. And so when we came together, it was a therapy session.

And it was an opportunity for me to say, let's keep fighting. Let's stay together. Let's support the women of Iran, the people of Iran as they go

through this.

The people of Iran are not fighting just for women. They're not just fighting for the people of Iran. They're fighting for democracy all over

the world. What we can do is keep their voice going keep re-tweeting, keep re-posting, and attend rallies in support of the people of Iran all over

the world.

ANDERSON (on camera): But what you've done for years is used comedy as a way of sort of revealing race racism and politics.


ANDERSON (on camera): But just talk to me about how you develop this material through that lens --?

JOBRANI: Yes, so I think that the number one thing is that listen, I would try to then deliver the news about what's going on the latest and then I

would pivot to the joke that comes with it and the jokes that came with it. Were never at the expense of the people of Iran, but the jokes were at the

expense of myself.

Like one of the jokes I was doing. My parent's generation, they were always afraid of talking about politics. They would always say don't talk about



They're going to come after you know who they them they're coming who are they? The first post I did, I said, I support the people of Iran and your

protest. And then my aunt called me what are you doing, they're going to come after who they them? And so I had to deal with that.

Lot of times your parents if you talked about anything with politics do not talk about them. They will come after you. You'd be like who they, they

will? Who are they? They will find they then will find a way. I was like I'm in the 6th grade in Northern California who's going to come after me?

And the truth is I was on tour in Germany. This is total truth. And my answer voice was in my head that someone's coming after you. And I forgot

to put the Do Not Disturb sign on my hotel room door. 7 in the morning, the German cleaning lady starts. I thought they came I jumped out of it.

She's going I'm sorry. I don't know who are you? Are you them? She goes no, I'm there I go. What does that mean? She goes, that's my pronoun. I go oh,

nice to meet you. This comedy special is about 23 years in the making.

ANDERSON (on camera): The birds and the bees tell me about the new specials. So the new specials called the birds and the bees and we filmed

this at the Comedy Store, which was my home. The Comedy Store in Los Angeles is where, you know, a lot of the big acts went through and it's

where I got my start. And it's an amazing feeling because I got a chance to tell my story.

And it's coming out on YouTube. Is there a reason for that? And I'm also the President of my own YouTube channel. The good thing about YouTube is

that again, it's international. Here I am doing tours in the Middle East. So people here can see it. People elsewhere can see it and it democratizes

the whole process. So really, hopefully you put it out and the cream rises and people see it. I want people to see it.

ANDERSON (on camera): What's the difference between Arabs and Persians? The difference between Arabs and Persians well the way I explained it in my

axis of evil special when Arabs speak they talk very fast, right? When they're speaking English they talk very Habibi, how are you to be here?

And I go they talk so fast. It sounds like they have done cocaine and they are just very much awake. Hello, Habibi, how are you? And I said the

Persian we talk very slowly we talk like that we sound like we've had some heroin we are falling asleep. How are you? Good to see you. And Iranians

don't even say were Iranian. We say we are Persian, like the cat meow. So that was one of my first jokes that actually went viral back in 2007.

And I still think it stands the test of time because when I hear Persian speaking English, they talk variously, Maz, I am a big fan, very happy you

come to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, all these places we love you. And then Arabs, how about Maz, how are you willing to see? I'm even welcome to the region. We

love you and I still hear that.

ANDERSON (on camera): I've played that joke so really --. I wondered if you had a new one.


ANDERSON: The old ones are the best that's Maz Jobrani in the house. And you can catch that again on my social channels which will show you just at

the end of the show. Just ahead on "Connect the World". Some old beat news from the Vatican today on how Pope Francis is doing that is up next.



ANDERSON: Well, the Vatican says Pope Francis is expected to be released from the hospital on Saturday after being treated for bronchitis and he

visited a children's ward just a short time ago and guess what he baptized a newborn baby. He is expected to be well enough to conduct Palm Sunday

Mass at the Vatican - some Parenting Shots.

Well, Iftar diplomacy this week, last year, Saudi Arabia was working on a Ramadan truce to hold the fighting with the Iran aligned Houthi movement in

Yemen one year. And the China broke an agreement later, Saudi and Iranian officials are having Iftars together in multiple countries.

In Iraq, the Iranian Ambassador hosting his Saudi counterpart for an Iftar banquet in Norway, the Saudi Ambassador there hosts an Iranian counterpart

for Iftar. And finally, Spain, the Ambassadors of both countries pose for a photo and Iftar, also hosted by the Saudi Ambassador there. That's it from

us good night.