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IDF Withdraws From Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital; U.S. Virtual Talks Today With Israel To Discuss Rafah; U.N. Says Israeli Authorities Denied 30 Percent Of Humanitarian Aid Missions To Northern Gaza In March; Turkey Opposition Wins Major Cities In Blow To Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Israelis Choosing Jail Over Military Service; Biden Campaign Focusing Efforts On Reaching Black Votes; Judge Sentencing Alex Murdaugh For Financial Fraud; Russian Prisoner Database Stolen To Avenge Navalny. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 10:00   ET




Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome to our second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi.

This hour, after a two week siege, Israel has withdrawn from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where medical crews are now working to recover

hundreds of bodies scattered around the complex. It's described as a horror movie.

Turkey's local election this weekend marking a major blow for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the main opposition party claimed victory in key


This hour, a federal judge will sentence Alex Murdaugh for nearly two dozen financial crimes. The former attorney already serving two life sentences

for the murders of his wife and son.

Welcome to the show and we start inside what remains of Gaza's largest hospital. Now, almost unrecognizable as what a functioning medical

facility. The IDF says its 14-day siege day is over. In a statement it said the operation had been precise, and that its troops killed terrorists while

preventing harm to civilians.

But a local journalist working for CNN says entire families have been found dead, describing bodies crushed into the ground by bulldozers. He says the

scene, "feels like a horror movie". CNN has asked the IDF for comments on accusations of crushed bodies.

Meantime, Gaza civil defense says at least 300 bodies have been found at the hospital since Israeli troops withdrew and that ambulances trying to

reach the complex of finding it almost impossible. CNN is also hearing that senior U.S. and Israeli officials will meet virtually today to discuss

Israel's proposed ground offensive in Rafah. A U.S. official says the two sides are still working towards an in person meeting on the issue.

Now, face-to-face talks were abruptly called off last week by the Israeli prime minister after Washington refused to block a U.N. resolution calling

for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Meantime, there's growing pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu, protesters are back on the streets of Jerusalem calling for him to step down. They blame

him for failing to secure the release of hostages in Gaza.

Let's stay now across these very key issues playing out. CNN's Melissa Bell is in Jerusalem. We've got Natasha Bertrand standing by for us in

Washington D.C.

Melissa, I'd like to start off with you and of course what we've been seeing out of al-Shifa, we've seen images now coming through. A lot of them

far too graphic for us to show here on CNN, but it's giving us a better sense of what the last 14 days entailed.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pictures are apocalyptic, really quite appalling pictures of what was, as you quite rightly said a moment ago, the

al-Shifa Hospital complex, with those very harrowing scenes that we're hearing both from the civil defense that's trying to get into rescue whom

it can, and from those who've managed to see already the many hundreds of bodies that have been found, the crushed bodies that you mentioned, and

also the state of some of the patients that have been found inside the hospital two weeks after the start of this surge, dehydrated, with no

medical supplies, flies on their wounds, horrific scenes that we're hearing from now.

From the IDF, we've also been hearing about the necessity of this operation. As you say, they call it precise and deadly. They say that

they've managed in the course of those two weeks, Eleni, to capture 900 people, 900 terrorists as they call them, of which they say they've

confirmed that 500 belong either to Hamas or to Islamic Jihad, and that several of them are key commanders.

I think beyond the appalling pictures and what they mean for the further pressure that's likely to be piled on Benjamin Netanyahu, not just by the

outside world, by the way, but by people here in Israel are holding this demonstration outside the Knesset angry, that six -- nearly six months on

on more than 130 hostages remain in the hands of Hamas. And this war, as they see it has been run as catastrophically as it has, and for a number of


But beyond what the images are likely to bring in terms of pressure. I think what is important about what's happened at the al-Shifa Hospital is

that this is a hospital complex, Eleni, in the north of the Gaza Strip. This was a part of the Gaza Strip where the most intense operations were

meant to amended, then what the IDF said happened is that Hamas fighters reconvened in this hospital complex to start using it as a base again,

hence the necessity, they said, to go back and take it on more fully and more intensely than they had before, hence the necessity for this two month



And I think that gives you an idea of the difficulties that they're having in achieving their stated ambitions, which is rooting out Hamas, they

failed to do it in the north, hence their necessity to go back.

The fear now, of course, is what happens in Rafah. We heard again from Benjamin Netanyahu last night, doubling down on the idea that the IDF has

been given the all clear to go ahead with our ground invasion, and what that would mean for the more than million civilians that are currently

huddled in tents in and around the city, but also the wider area, Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Melissa Bell, good to have you on. Thank you so much, Melissa, there on the ground in Jerusalem as anti-government protests sweep

across Israel.

We've also got Natasha Bertrand standing by and I want to talk about these talks that the U.S. and Israel is going to have virtually in the least --

at least for now. And here's the sticking point, the U.S. might have allowed the U.N. Security Council resolution to pass last week and we know

that that derail the talks.

But the U.S. has been drawing a red line with Rafah. However, still selling arms to Israel even over the past weekend. So, when the U.S. says there

will be consequences of the siege in Rafah, what does that actually entail?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question Eleni, because the U.S. is obviously urging the Israelis to take

bigger precautions when it comes to an invasion of Rafah, and come up with a plan to protect them more than million civilians -- the more than one

million civilians that are currently sheltering there.

But the Israelis so far have not provided that plan to the United States. And it's unclear to U.S. officials whether they actually have such a plan

at all.

And so, the U.S. has been working really fanatically to try to get Israel to come up with what they're calling an alternative plan, one that focuses

more on precision targeting of the senior Hamas leaders that are in the area. And importantly, increasing talks with Egypt to try to seal the

border between Egypt and Gaza in a way that would make Israel feel as though they're not just allowing these senior Hamas leaders to escape

across the border and therefore, are able to carry out this more precise operation without having to put the civilians in danger.

But the question now is, what happens if the Israelis don't actually take the Americans advice? And we have not seen any signs to date that the U.S.

is prepared to, for example, limit the amount of weaponry that it it's providing to the Israelis, condition the aid in any way.

In fact, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser said that reports to that effect are uninformed.

And so, it seems as though the U.S. and particularly President Biden are still standing by their belief that Israel has the right to defend itself

and that the U.S. is going to continue to support the Israelis, really, to the extent that they need it in order to carry out these operations inside


There are no signs at this point, that the talks last week included any kind of discussion about not providing Israel with what it has requested.

In fact, we are told that Yoav Gallant who's the Israeli Defense Minister came with a wish list of weapons that he wanted from the United States. And

those were received fairly well. And the Israelis were told that the US is currently working on providing them with that equipment.

And so, we'll have to see what the actual red line here is. Because the U.S. has warned in the past, of course, that if Israel does not do more to

take care of civilians, then there will be consequences. But so far, we have not seen any of those ramifications play out.

GIOKOS: Yes, indeed. Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much for that context and breaking that story down for us.

Tanya Haj-Hassan is the co-founder of Gaza Medic Voices and a pediatric intensive care doctor with Doctors Without Borders. She was just in Gaza

and said on a post on X on Wednesday, and I quote, "Having just left Gaza and in the wake of all the horrors I witnessed firsthand, I can testify to

the worst of what humanity is capable of."

She joins us now from Jordan's capital. Amman. Tanya, it's really good to have you with us. And look, you've just returned from Gaza. And perhaps

you've witnessed realities that are a truly hard for a lot of people to understand and can't really be captured with a camera lens. Could you

articulate for us what you felt and what you saw and what's important for the world to know?

TANYA HAJ-HASSAN, CO-FOUNDER, GAZA MEDIC VOICES: Yes, absolutely Eleni. So, the first thing, just to clarify is I was in Gaza with a charity called

Medical Aid for Palestinians. Although I do also work for Doctors Without Borders.


And it's really difficult to describe what we saw in words. I think listening to the program right before I came on, you described what some of

your colleagues on the ground were saying. You know, apocalyptic, horrific, difficult to put into words. And I think I think that's exactly how we

would describe what we're seeing.

And then, you know, to hear that coupled with the message thereafter, of, you know, this is a strategy of precise targeting of military activity or

militants. That is not at all the reality of what we're seeing on the ground.

What we're seeing on the ground is a massacre of human life, of civilian human life. And it's layers upon layers of ways of essentially eliminating

the population, be it through forced displacement, direct indiscriminate bombing, targeted bombing of dense areas of you know, refugee camps,

schools, hospitals, direct assassinations, we've been seeing a lot more of that lately, assassinations of civilians, young, old, children, women.

We've seen video footage of even handicapped people being assassinated and executed, I think it's probably a better word, have executed.

We know the population is being starved. We know the population is being deprived of access to health care, we know that health care has been a

predominant target of this strategy. You know, and if you think about yourself, and what you and your children and your family need to survive,

you need safety, food, water, and health care. And those are the four things that are targeted for civilians in the Gaza Strip. It's the basics.

And what we saw in reality in the E.R., just --

GIOKOS: Yes, please go ahead -- please go ahead.

HAJ-HASSAN: What I was going to say is what we saw in the emergency department was entire families being killed, maimed, dismembered, burned,

and I can tell you story after story and name the family members, the one family member that survived and all of his children and wife who had been

killed, the one child who survived and all of his siblings and parents who had been killed with the exception of his badly burnt sister who was in the

bed next to her but she was so maimed, he didn't recognize her, and he kept calling her name.

He himself had half his face blown off and is undergoing reconstructive surgery as we speak. She died two days later, and he is the sole surviving

member of his family, a young boy. This is a young boy I cared for, that arrived under my care as part of one of the mass casualties.

But this is not a story. I share the story so that your viewers can actually connect with a single human life. This is two million lives who

are experiencing what this little boy experienced.

GIOKOS: It's so difficult to hear, it really is. And the fact that you saw it, and people are going through this right now.

You know, another doctor that was on the ground in Gaza, Ghassan Abu- Sittah, who's also conducting lifesaving work just like you and your teams have been. He responded to what we saw happening in al-Shifa in particular,

and he said this, he said al-Shifa Hospital constituted 30 percent of the capacity of the health system in Gaza. The Israelis have blown up or

torched all of its buildings to ensure that it is irreparable and needs to be rebuilt from scratch. The aim was and remains making Gaza uninhabitable

and he says, genocide. How would you describe what you've heard from al- Shifa and based on what you're seeing?

HAJ-HASSAN: Al-Shifa, the word al-Shifa means healing or to heal, and it's over 70 years old. It is the -- as one of my colleagues when a very senior

intensivist said, it is the beating heart. He's a Gazan doctor. It's the beating heart of Gaza's healthcare system.

If you want to take out the healthcare system, you take out the beating heart of the health care system. And that is what it feels like. It is --

you know, it has a capacity of 700 some beds, many of us have been there. It's a specialty hospital.

The fact that that hospital was targeted once and we found no plausible evidence of all of the accusations that was -- that were made, that we then

proceeded to finally get to the point where we got a Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, we finally got to the point where the

International Court of Justice, you know, stated plausible genocide, put in preliminary measures, put in more preliminary measures to see the world

standby as the hospital was besieged again, the population including physicians, nurses, patients, internally displaced people were starved and

deprived of food and warm water for the entire two weeks of besiegement.


And then to see the horrific photographic evidence of what remains of that hospital and the testimonies of rapes, of executions in the tens of people.

I don't know the exact number. But I've heard over 40 to 80 people executed in the hospital.

In the hospital, like, the fact that I'm even articulating these words is so hard to believe. There is no atrocity that will prompt governments to

act against Israel. If the world was serious about human rights, about humanity, about all the international laws that we put in place to protect

human life, we would have never allowed this to happen.

And to be very frank with you, I am ashamed. I'm ashamed because I'm an American citizen, I pay American taxes, the same taxes that are going

towards all of these weapons that are being whitewashed with conversations about aid, this is not an issue of aid. This is a massacre of an entire

civilian population under the world's watchful eye. We have seen it happen in our history, we are ashamed that we allow this to happen in our history.

And now that we have video footage, social media, live T.V., all of these ways to document what's happening in real time, we're allowing us to do

exactly what we did with every genocide in history.

And I'm ashamed to be part of a society that is allowing that to happen. And I urge every single viewer on your program today to do everything in

their power to make this stop. This is a demise of our collective humanity. And I hope that anybody with an awake conscience watching this hears these

words and translates them into action.

GIOKOS: Dr. Tanya, I can't thank you enough for spending time with us today. And, you know, your emotions, I can -- I can feel it as you're

speaking. I thank you so very much. And thank you for the work that you're doing on the ground as well and sharing the stories. We appreciate you

appearing on the show today. Thank you.

Hi, we're going to a very short break and still to come on the show, in Israel, there are some who would rather go to jail than go to war. We speak

with an 18-year-old Israeli who's handing himself in rather than fight in Gaza.

And a blow for Turkish President Erdogan as the opposition party sweeps local elections. The latest from Istanbul, that is coming up next, stay

with CNN.


GIOKOS: Welcome back, local elections in Turkey on Sunday brought a major defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party. The main

opposition claimed victory in a number of key cities including Istanbul and Ankara. Mr. Erdogan wasn't on the ballot but consider defeat on behalf of

his party. And he says he'll respect the will of the Turkish people.


We got Scott McLean in Istanbul for us covering the story. Scott, great to have you on the ground there. This is a big blow for everyone's party. It's

not just Istanbul, it's other key cities as well. What more can you tell us?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is actually the first time, Eleni, that President Erdogan's AK party, Justice and Development Party has

lost the popular vote across the country since its formation.

And last night, as you said, he was pretty reflective about what went wrong in all of this, and this must be especially painful because he had really

invested himself in this race. His face was all over banners and billboards. He had campaigned his himself, but he was also battling against

the topic that was on the top of everyone's mind, and that is the economy. You have inflation in this country that's out of control. You have interest

rates that have hit 50 percent.

And while Erdogan's party was able to double the national minimum wage to give people some relief, he could not give the same relief to pensioners,

and we heard from many of them on the campaign trail that they were feeling it.

And clearly the opposition took advantage in all of this. This is the very first time since the 1970s that the opposition CHP Party, Republican

People's Party has won the popular vote. They won the big cities Izmir, Ankara, Istanbul and they won some places you wouldn't expect either like

the southern Turkish conservative religious city of Adiyaman.

And here in Istanbul, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu won reelection by 11 percentage points, he is widely viewed to be one of Erdogan's perhaps the strongest

opposition figure to take on President Erdogan or his party in the next presidential race. And with this win, that view has been solidified.


MCLEAN (voice over): If there were any doubts about this man's ability to win, they were put to bed last night. Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul

from the secular opposition CHP party was reelected by a comfortable 11 point margin, a gap few polls could have predicted.

Hello Istanbul, he says. 16 million Istanbul lights have won. Congratulations, there are no losers in this election.

But Ekrem Imamoglu's win is a huge blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious conservative AK Party, which not only failed to win back

Istanbul, but even lost Erdogan's home district.

Imamoglu is widely seen as one of the few perhaps the only opposition figures strong enough to beat Erdogan in a presidential race.

Originally from the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Imamoglu moved to Istanbul for university, then worked with his family's construction company.

Two decades later in 2014, he was leading a small district of Istanbul. Then, five years later in 2019, won the race for city mayor by a razor thin

margin after a court overturn the results in order to another vote, Imamoglu won the second time around by an even wider gap.

He later face charges of insulting public officials stemming from the aftermath of the bitterly contested race. He's been convicted and sentenced

to more than two years jail time on the charges that many believe are politically motivated. Erdogan has denied any link. The appeals process is

still winding its way through the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkish electorate has a tendency to side with the one who is being victimized and probably Imamoglu would be regarded as such.

MCLEAN (voice over): Erdogan has been in power for two decades. But now perhaps the biggest threat to his rule has just gotten stronger.


MCLEAN (on camera): And with those criminal charges against Ekrem Imamoglu, many people see parallels with the -- with the time that the President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the mayor of this city, and he served four months in jail for the crime of inciting religious hatred by reading from a poem

and many people view those charges at the time as politically motivated.

It's also worth mentioning that the 1990s, when Erdogan was mayor of this city, he actually crossed paths with Imamoglu in a very different context.

At that time, Imamoglu was in his early 20s. He was running a coffee shop or a Turkish meatball shop, and Erdogan during his campaign dropped in for

some coffee. He never saw the bill and Imamoglu says that he will never be able to repay that very small debt as long as he lives, Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Scott McLean, thank you very much. Good to see you.


We've got Seda Demiralp, who is a professor of political science at Isik University joining us now from Istanbul. Great to see you, Seda. Thank you

so much for joining us.

I want to talk about overall these election results. And whether this was a surprise. I mean, this is incredible that you've seen Erdogan losing the

popular votes, but not only in, you know, one city, you've got major cities and even a city that was predominantly AK Party. Also moving over to other


SEDA DEMIRALP, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, ISIK UNIVERSITY: Yes, well, it is a surprise to many and you can tell that it is a surprise by looking

at what a turnout. Turnout has -- turnout is very low in Turkey standards obviously, Turkish people do go vote, because that's pretty much the only

way people can show express their political preferences.

But this time, turnout was really low. Showing people didn't really care that much. They didn't care it would make a huge difference. Opposition

voters pretty much lost hope after 2023 elections, hopes about changing incumbents from office through elections declined significantly.

And -- but incumbent voters were apathetic and alienated at the same time for different reasons. They were very frustrated about continuing economic

problems. They felt like they'd been given credit to the government again and again, election after election but economic problems continued.

So, there were -- I've been working on political apathy and I've been measuring alienation on both sides, but we solve that it turns out like

incumbent voters stayed at home more than opposition voters which led to this big blow to the incumbent party.

GIOKOS: Interesting. I mean, but here's the thing. I mean, you know, Erdogan's party winning general elections has been a while, obviously. But

what do you think has changed since then that can explain the shift in voter behavior?

I mean, I want to take a look at the inflation figure right now, which is I think 67 percent, which is an enormous number. You were talking about

erosion of spending power. Is the economy very much entrenched in terms of what people are feeling and why they would want to vote for the opposition?

DEMIRALP: Yes, like what changed in 10 months, right? There's two factors to understand, to make sense of the situation.

One, well, economy did matter. I mean, two -- after 2023 election, some people thought, do economic dissatisfactions don't matter? And how come

people didn't vote for Erdogan despite of the, you know, economic problems they had?

Well, I always believed that economic problems mattered. But Erdogan was able to frame general elections as a matter of national security and

convinced his voters that if the opposition came to power, that will jeopardize Turkey's national interest, opposition could not defend national

interest internationally, or even at home, they will not tough on terrorism.

So, a lot of AK party voters felt like they shouldn't be placing their pragmatic economic interests on top of national interests.

But this time, it was only local elections. So, people felt more free to share their discontent, their unhappiness, without worrying that they're

putting national security at risk, because it's only local elections. In fact, it's more about metros and bus lines, and day cares, right? So, that

felt -- that made people feel more relieved to vote for the opposition.

But that's not the only thing.

GIOKOS: That's really interesting because yes, I mean, I'm just curious in terms of, you know, what will happen in 2028? I mean, you've got Imamoglu

winning Istanbul for second time in a row, right? So, 2019 and now again.

Does this give Imamoglu a lot more power and strength in terms of what we could see down the line in the next general election? I mean, that's many

years away. So, we don't know how that will play. But what are you foreseeing?

DEMIRALP: It does -- it does. And that was actually going to be my second point. Many of us, many people thought the reason opposition lost in 2023

is the leadership opposition candidate in 2023 was weak, so people did not want to add party voters, especially did not want to replace Erdogan with

someone like Kilicdaroglu who they show as a more like a weaker figure, you know what, he's not the typical showman type, couldn't compete with

Erdogan. A lot of people thought Imamoglu was the candidate, even 10 months ago, opposition stand a chance to win.

So, now, Kilicdaroglu is gone from the picture, (INAUDIBLE), a different leader, and the new leader is willing to open more room for Imamoglu into -

- in the next presidential elections.



DEMIRALP: He is clear about that. And Imamoglu proved himself one more time that he is -- he has leadership skills and he could mobilize voters not

just opposition voters --


GIOKOS: Yes, yes.

DEMIRALP: Not just bringing the opposition leaders from different parties together, but he could even attract voters from the A.K. Party.

GIOKOS: All right. Seda, great to have you on Thank you very much for that context. Interesting times, much appreciated.

Well, still to come, black voters will be crucial in this year's election. So, how is President Biden trying to reach them?

Plus, a federal judge is set to sentence former attorney, Alex Murdaugh, for ripping off his clients to the tune of millions of dollars. That is

coming up straight ahead. Stay with CNN.


GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos, live in Abu Dhabi.

U.S. officials are telling CNN that senior American and Israeli negotiators will meet virtually today to discuss Israel proposed ground offensive in


Meantime, there is growing pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu, where protesters are back on the streets of Jerusalem, calling for him to step down. They

blame him for failing to secure the release of hostages in Gaza. It's not just in Jerusalem where protests are taking place; from London, to Paris,

to New York.

Over the weekend, crowds around the world gathered calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as war approaches its six month.

In Jordan's capital on Friday, thousands gathered near the Israeli embassy for a six night, demanding the government close the embassy and cancel its

peace treaty with Israel.

Protests continued on Saturday, the 48th anniversary of Land Day. Marked also by rallies in Tunisia, Land Day is one of the most important dates for

Palestinians globally. It commemorates a day in which several unarmed Palestinians were killed while protesting Israel's confiscated --

confiscation of their land.


Israel is, in the meantime, admitting its forces shot and killed two Palestinian men in Gaza, and then buried their bodies with a bulldozer.

The admission comes after the news outlets Al Jazeera published a heavy edited video, which it says shows the incident. We have to warn you though,

this video is disturbing. And you can see, one man walking along a beach. Al Jazeera reports that this man and another were waving what appear to be

white flags. And then, at one point, the man raises his hands in the air.

Later, he falls to the ground, apparently, being shot.

While for many Israelis, military service, in the meantime, marks the start of grown-up life, but there are some appalled by what they have seen and

heard in the past few months, like that incident we just mentioned.

Who would rather go to jail than to war? CNN's Melissa Bell speaks to one man on his final day of freedom. Take a listen.


BELL (voice over): In Israel too, there are those who object to their government's handling of the war in Gaza. Among them, Ben Arad, who as an

18-year-old, is due to enlist this week for his mandatory military service.

Instead, he tells the crowd, he's choosing to go to jail.

We caught up with him in Tel Aviv on his very last day of freedom.

BEN ARAD, ISRAELI REFUSENIK: I don't refuse because I'm afraid of being hurt or, or killed in military action. I have a very, very deep disgust of

the things that I'm seeing happening.

BELL (voice over): Things he says that Israeli media doesn't dwell on, that he seeks out on international networks and online.

ARAD: I think, something that really broke my heart was the flower massacre. So, seeing people trample each other to get food. I mean, you

just can't deny at that point that there is a famine going on, and people are hungry.

BELL (voice over): So, on Monday, Ben will hand himself in becoming one of only a handful of so-called refuseniks to make their decisions public since

the war began.

In a country where military service marks the start of every Israelis grown up life, aside from those exempted on religious grounds, the war has made

avoiding it a political act.

ARAD: I've been called a traitor. I've been told that I need to be deported or I've been asked why I don't just move. I mean, but it's not such

terrible stuff. I haven't gotten that yet, like, I'll get that when I go to jail.

BELL: Yet, Ben says he's determined to give up his freedom in order to remain free of war that he simply doesn't believe in.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Tel Aviv.


GIOKOS: All right. I want to go now to the White House. We've got live pictures coming through where President Joe Biden is hosting about 40,000

people for the annual Easter Egg Roll, as well as the traditional quest for eggs this year. There is an egg education theme, if you will, the South

Lawn has been turned into a school yard, with children taking part in educational games.

But it's the quest for voters that is preoccupying the president's time at the moments, in particular black voters.

There'll be crucial in deciding the outcome of this election. I want to bring in our political analyst, Errol Louis, who is in New York for us.

Great to see you. I mean, interesting survey that has been released, showing the Trump is really doing very well among black and Hispanic voters

in any Republican presidential candidates in decades.

I mean, the question is, what is the reason for this shift? Is it immigration? Is it the economy? And what can we put it down to?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is a question as to the accuracy of those polls, to be honest with you, because, in 2016, Donald

Trump got eight percent of the black vote, in 2021, he lost, he got 12 percent of the vote.

Black voters have been in the Democratic camp for generations now. And I'm looking diligently to try and find a reason that he would have somehow

doubled his black support over the last four years, there have been no programs announced, there is been no particular outreach to speak up.

In fact, the Republican National Committee just disbanded their outreach desks. They had special programs to do outreach to black and Latino voters,

and the new leadership of the party actually just disbanded those efforts.

So, I'm not sure if what we're seeing is as with many snapshots -- a snapshot that just happens to look a little strange from an odd angle.


What we know for sure though is that Democrats will have to turn out the black vote in solid numbers, if they do hope to win. It's the most reliable

section of the Democratic vote.

And if they don't go to some efforts to make sure that, that is solid for them, that's where upsets happen.

GIOKOS: Yes, that's really interesting, because, you know, even if you take D.I. for example, and reversing of those policies, potentially by the Trump

camp, it does bring in just so many questions.

And you mentioned Biden, that he will, you know, need the backing of black and Hispanic voters and how crucial that will be. You know, his policies

and his rhetoric right now resonating with that electorate -- that part of the electorate.

LOUIS: Well, the policies are there, the policies are solid, both substantively and symbolically. When it comes to black voters, for example.

This is a president who has a black vice president. This is the president who named the first black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is somebody who has put a ton of money into historically black colleges and universities. So, the policies are definitely there. We've got

black unemployment at an all-time low, lowest ever recorded.

Now, the question though becomes, do you -- how do you let these people know? How do you let the constituency know that this is what you've done?

And that you need them to be mobilized and ready when election day rolls around in 219 days? And that's always a big question.

If they don't have the troops on the ground, if they don't do the door knocking, the outreach, the advertising, if they don't have surrogates out

campaigning for them, like Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, that's where -- again, that's where you get upside sets, that's where you get problems.



LOUIS: That's how Hillary Clinton lost, where some states just didn't turn out for her.

GIOKOS: So, this -- you know, this different view that black voters, of course, as you mentioned, unemployment amongst black voters are

historically low. But here is the other end of the spectrum is that inflation under Biden, of course, has gotten out of control. And it's

basically eroding purchasing power, and that could be one of the reasons that Trump could be getting sort of more attention. What do you think of


LOUIS: Well, you know, look, Donald Trump has a core of support that has never really dipped below 44 percent, 45 percent. Right now, it's at around

47 percent. He has got a very solid based.

On the economic question that you're raising, black Americans, like other Americans are chasing after rising prices. And even though the inflation

rate is coming down, the prices have gone up. And while they're not going up any higher, they are still pretty high compared to where they were just

a few years ago, when the pandemic and supply chain problems really drove prices very high.



LOUIS: So, folks are not happy. And that's reflected in the polls, no question about it. The only question is, when how do we go from a

preference to a choice, because while everyone would love everything to be better, what it -- what it's going to really come down to is which vision

and which candidate you are going to actually vote for.

GIOKOS: Yes. This, absolutely spot on, Errol. Great to have you on the show. Much appreciate some few insights.

LOUIS: Thank you.

GIOKOS: All right. Happening now, convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh is back in court in Charleston, South Carolina to hear his sentence, this time, for

nearly two dozen financial crimes, Murdaugh has pleaded guilty to stealing millions of dollars from his clients.

The plea was part of a deal with prosecutors, but they are saying he breached his side of the bargain by lying on a polygraph test. He is

already saving two life sentences for the murders of his wife and son.

CNN's Diane Gallagher has more for us.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the third time and just over a year, a judge will sentence Alex Murdaugh to prison.

CLIFTON NEWMAN, AT-LARGE JUDGE, SOUTH CAROLINA CIRCUIT COURT: That is the sentence of the court, and you are remanded to the State Department of


GALLAGHER (voice over): The ones prominent, now disgraced attorney's fall from grace, a fixation in the true crime industry and the subject of

several documentaries. Monday's federal sentencing likely won't immediately impacted the current situation of the one-time heir to a low country legal

dynasty, who theft and death seemed to follow.

NEWMAN: I sentence you for a term of the rest of your natural life.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Already serving two consecutive life sentences for the gruesome murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

ALEX MURDAUGH: Nobody, they are not -- neither one of them is moving.

GALLAGHER (voice over): His dramatic six-week murder trial captivated the nation last year.

CREIGHTON WATERS, LEAD PROSECUTOR, ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL: We couldn't bring you any eyewitnesses because they were murdered.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Prosecutors painted Murdaugh as a desperate thief, living a lie in fear of being found out, who killed his own family to

distract from a decade-long scheme of stealing millions from his clients, law firm partners, and other victims.


MURDAUGH: I'm innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son, Paw Paw.

GALLAGHER (voice over): It took the jury less than three hours to find him guilty.


GALLAGHER (voice over): He attempted to get a new trial this year, when his attorneys claimed the clerk of court tampered with the jury, which the

clerk denied. But a judge, while critical of the clerk's conduct, determined it did not affect the outcome.

JUDGE JEAN H. TOAL, RETIRED SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: I find the defendant's motion for a new trial on the factual record before me

must be denied, and it is so order.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Murdaugh maintains his innocence in the murders and plans to restart his appeal. He is also currently serving a 27-year state

sentence, after pleading guilty in November to 22 counts of fraud and money laundering, prosecutors estimated he stole around $12 million from clients

and his law firm.

MURDAUGH: I hate the things that I did. And I am so sorry.

GALLAGHER (voice over): A fraudster who claims he embezzled from vulnerable people to support a crippling opioid addiction, like the family of the

Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died after an alleged trip and fall at his home in 2018. Murdaugh encouraged her sons to sue him,

setting them up with an attorney who then worked with Murdaugh to pocket millions in insurance settlement funds that her kids should have received.

TONY SATTERFIELD, GLORIA SATTERFIELD'S SON: I really don't have words. You lied. You cheated. You stole. You betrayed me and my family, and everybody



GIOKOS: Well, that was Dianne Gallagher, reporting for us.

And coming up, a CNN exclusive. How hackers hit back at the Russian authorities, just hours of the death of Alexei Navalny? We'll have the

details. That story for you.


GIOKOS: Within hours of the death of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny in February, CNN has learned that a group of anti-Kremlin hackers

gained access to the Russian prison system.

The hackers plastered a picture of Navalny and his wife Yulia with the message, "Long live Alexei Navalny," on the prison contractor's web sites.

In an unusual security breach, the hackers were also able to steal a large database, containing information on Russian prisoners. Hackers claimed to

have information on 800,000 prisoners. However, CNN review of the data found that some entries were duplicated.

Joining me now to discuss his findings is CNN cybersecurity reporter Sean Lyngaas. Sean, great to have you on. And this, of course, exclusive

reporting and incredible story. Firstly, the way that the Russian prison system was hacked, and of course, their big message.


Tell me how you discovered the story and the reason behind this hacktivism?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Right. Well, it's a -- it's a bit of an interesting behind the scenes tale, Eleni. The -- I mean, I was

reached out to by a source who was familiar with what went down and put me in touch with the hacking group.

And we were able to, as you said, CNN was able to verify the data. We went through a lot of it and saw matches with prisoners' names that were able to

confirm were actually in prison.

And the prison contractor, this is a company that is state owned, and that prisoner's families used to order food for them while they're incarcerated.

The prison contractor, they confirmed that they were indeed hacked and that the prices went down in the store because of the hack. So, that was strong


But yes, it's another one of those stories, where hackers is kind of working in the shadows that are not willing to go public with their names

and identities, but are trying to make a big statement about, in this case, the Ukraine war and the state of government in Russia.

These hackers said they were from multiple countries, Russia, Ukraine, we were not able to verify their nationality, but it's clear that they had

pretty unfettered access to the prison computer network system, the contractor that is. And they were able to show us how they got in and the

type of data that they got, and it was really all about trying to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. Sean, great work. Really fascinating. Reading -- you can feel read the full article at Definitely worth taking some time after

that. Sean Lyngaas, great to have you on. Thank you.

We're going to short break. I'll see you right after this.


GIOKOS: The cherry blossoms are in bloom in Japan and it's a dazzling display of pink and white colors. And here is the view from Tokyo, where

tourists and locals are flocking to see the famous flowers reach peak bloom. Absolutely beautiful as they head into spring.

Now, I want to turn to California where colorful wildflowers are blooming up and down the state this year. Thanks, in part, to a very wet winter,

they could be even more spectacular than usual.

Here is CNN's Stephanie Elam with more on this important story.


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: A 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 are not 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: But 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 Maylin (PH) found out.

ELAM: What is the coolest thing you've seen when you've come out here?

MAYLIN, VIEWING SUPERBLOOM (PH): A snake. I got the dog, and I started running.

ELAM (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 are wild ecosystems, and they can be damaged pretty easily by being, you know, 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.


GIOKOS: Oh, that was absolutely beautiful. And what a way to end the show. It is the start of the second quarter of the year. I wish everyone very

well. And that is it for CONNECT THE WORLD from me, Eleni Giokos. I will see you tomorrow. Stay with "CNN NEWSROOM" is up next.