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Russia President Vladimir Putin Claims Suspects in Recent Moscow Terrorist Attack Attempted to Reach Ukraine Afterwards; Catherine, Princess of Wales in U.K., Now in Early Stages of Treatment Following Cancer Diagnosis; Donald Trump Reportedly Struggling to Raise Funds to Pay $454 Million Bond in New York Fraud Case. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired March 23, 2024 - 10:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. THE CHRIS WALLACE SHOW starts in just a few minutes, but we want to begin with some breaking news. Just moments ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the country, calling Friday's concert hall attack a barbaric terrorist attack and expressing his condolences. Fires are still burning at the complex outside Moscow. And a warning, the video we're about to show you is quite disturbing. Witnesses captured the attack as gunmen fired shots, and then set the venue on fire. The death toll is now at 133, and authorities say it's likely to keep rising.

Now, Russian authorities say all four of the people directly involved in the attack are now under arrest, along with other suspects. ISIS took responsibility for the attack, which is the deadliest terror incident in Moscow -- in the Moscow region in decades. This comes just days after the U.S. embassy warned it's citizens to stay away from large gatherings like concerts, saying he was monitoring reports that extremists were planning attacks.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is falling the story now from Berlin. Hi there, Fred. Tell us more of what you learned. And of course, the headline here is that we're finally hearing from Putin.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we heard from Putin earlier this morning. He came out with essentially an address to the Russian people where, as you mentioned, he called all this a barbaric attack. He offered his condolences. I think one of the most important things, though, are Vladimir Putin did say is he said, look, the authorities there were working obviously overtime all night to try and apprehended the suspects, as the Russians put it. And he said that they were apprehended. And he also made a link, which now many Russian officials are also making as well, and people in Russian state media, to Ukraine. I want to listen to some of what Vladimir Putin had to say.

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


PLEITGEN: So we have to digest that a little bit and sort of see what Vladimir Putin is saying there, because they are some pretty strong allegations that he was making. He was claiming that the perpetrators and their accomplices, which is 11 people in total, four gunmen and seven people that the Russians said that they also apprehended who allegedly were helping them, were trying to make their way to the Ukrainian border.

Now, of course, Amara, what we know is that there is a war going on on that border. There's a lot of fighting going on. There's obviously minefields and the like. That is not an open border. And he's then saying that he believes or the Russians believe that a window was prepared for them, which could mean some sort of opening on the Ukrainian side and from the Ukrainian side. So it's certainly seems as though the allegation there is, is that they had help from the Ukrainian side.

And the Russian authorities came out earlier and said that the people behind this had relevant contacts, as they put it, towards the Ukrainian side, which obviously could mean official Ukrainian contact, for instance, from Ukrainian intelligence services.

What we've heard today, and I think it's very important to point out, is that Ukrainians continue to say that they had absolutely nothing to do with all of this. In fact, a spokesman for Ukraine's military intelligence service came out and said that it's absolutely not true. They are, in turn, blaming Russia special services for allegedly having this to be a false flag operation. But again, the Ukrainians completely denying that they had anything to do with this attack.

WALKER: Yes, and of course, as the world is watching, the concern is will Putin use these allegations against Ukraine to scale up his operation in the Ukraine war? Condemnation is rolling in as well, right? What other countries saying, Fred?

PLEITGEN: Yes, so accommodation rolling in from the United States, also from France. Emmanuel Macron ripping into this attack. Also, late last night, we already heard from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. We've heard from European officials, all of them condemning the attacks and obviously offering their sympathies to the Russian population, of course, anybody who was hurt in this attack as well. So that's definitely rolling in on a large scale.


But again, the Russians now seem to be changing the narrative on all this somewhat, and it seems to be moving towards not saying what the United States, of course, has been saying, that they believe this claim that was made by ISIS late last night where they came and they took responsibility for these attacks. The Russians are not saying that they believed that ISIS is behind all of this. They are saying this was a terror attack, but they are saying right now that their indications are that possibly, at the very least, that those who are behind the attack had some sort of links towards Ukrainian territory, Amara.

WALKER: Got it. Frederik Pleitgen, appreciate you live for us there in Berlin.

We're also following new developments in the U.K. Catherine, Princess of Wales, says she is now in the early stages of treatment following a cancer diagnosis. In a video message to the public Friday, Kate revealed that doctors found the cancer when she underwent abdominal surgery in January, but she did not say what type of cancer she had or its severity. Kate has been out of the public eye since Christmas. Despite the palace initially announcing she wouldn't return to her royal duties until after Easter, of course conspiracies about her condition were going wild, especially on social media. And attempts to quiet those rumors only added to the frenzy.

CNN's Max Foster is joining us now from Buckingham Palace. Obviously now, those rumors have quieted quite a bit. What are people saying? I mean, what's the atmosphere like there in the U.K.?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, notably one those rumors was never cancer, was it? So I think that was part of the shock yesterday when we had that news about her diagnosis combined with a really powerful video, a situation that Kate is never comfortable with in front of the cameras, particularly talking about something personal. And I think there's been a massive rollback, frankly, here, a realization of actually what was happening, why the family wasn't speaking, and a huge amount of sympathy, because a lot of that video was really focused on the children.

So I think by the time this was filmed, she had come to terms with it as much as you can herself, and so has William and what it means for their marriage. But now the focus is very much on the children and supporting them and giving them as much normality as possible. So I think all the conversation now is about respecting that call for privacy, allowing them to rebuild as a family as they go into the school holidays.

And I think, frankly, a bit of guilt about not just the conspiracy theories and buying into them, but also the memes that people were laughing at when we now know how deeply serious this was. No one saw cancer coming. Of course, it was different for the king with his age, but no one saw such a vibrant young person even vaguely likely to get cancer. There's no indication of it at all.

WALKER: As a mother herself of three children, the timing of this announcement seemed to have been carefully planned, right?

FOSTER: The timing, absolutely. They refused to reflect or react to any of the speculation on social media, which was extreme, but also in the media where there was a genuine awareness, I think, certainly amongst our audience that people care. They're worried. We wanted to get them answers, and we weren't getting responses to that. Always at the back of my mind was that there must be a big reason for that, to put up with this massive backlash whilst not responding to it. And now we know why, because the couple didn't want that story about cancer in the news whilst their kids were at school. They wanted to wait until term broke up, which was yesterday. Once they were back home after school, the issue, video was released, and the kids were completely aware about what was coming, but they were in a position to protect them from all of the media speculation out there and the rumor and the gossip.

WALKER: So I guess what happens now for Kate? I mean, the palace did indicate at some point that she would return to her royal duties after Easter, but that didn't seem very likely, understandably so. She's got priorities, and of course, her children also to protect and reassure.

FOSTER: Yes, a priority, it's the treatment. It's the chemo. That continues. We're not sure how long that will be. It's also, as far as the palace is concerned, allowing Kate and William to just focus on their kids and protect them. So they're the priorities. I'm sure, knowing Kate, she will be trying to do some work behind the scenes, keeping up with her charity work. But I don't think that's going to be the priority.

You've got to be aware that there are four senior royals in what is a slimmed-down royalty. And they're now only two senior royals fronting, public facing the British monarchy, and they are the Queen and Prince William.


So there's a massive amount of pressure on them. So I think William accepts that. He is going to be going out doing public engagements, the queen is going to be doing more public engagements. The king is doing what he can without going out in the public because he's been advised not to. Kate will go back to work when the doctors clear her. It has been suggested to me that Kate will try to make the odd engagement. But it'll be a last-minute decision if she feels well enough, and it'll be a big surprise when she does do that. But we're not going to see her for weeks, if not months.

WALKER: All right, yes, understandably. Max Foster, really appreciate you on the story. Thank you so much for the update. And of course, you will continue to follow these developing stories throughout the day, right here on CNN.

THE CHRIS WALLACE SHOW starts right after a quick break.



AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR: CNN will continue to bring you the latest on today's breaking stories as soon as anything new develops. For now, I'm Audie Cornish. Chris Wallace is off this week. We're

going to break down the biggest stories with the smartest people we know.

Today we're asking, with Donald Trump desperately trying to find a way to pay his $454 million penalty by Monday, why won't any of his billionaire buddies bail him out?

Then out of control, the new nickel and diming we're all seeing, and it might never go away.

And saddle up. Beyonce's new country album could lead to a costly face-off.

The panel is here and ready to go. So sit back and relax. Let's talk.

Up first, Donald Trump has until Monday to pay his bond. He owes nearly half-a-billion in penalties in the New York fraud case, and if he doesn't pay up, the state of New York could seize some of his most prized assets. And while Trump may soon get $3 billion in a merger deal involving his Truth Social platform. The money won't come in time to solve his current cash crunch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where' the lobby?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Down the hall and to the left.

CORNISH: Trump built his name and his persona in big gold letters all over some of the Big Apple's most high priced addresses.

TRUMP: Trump Tower would be the thing I'm really married too in terms of real estate.

CORNISH: Now, he's at risk of having some of them taken away.

TRUMP: I built a net worth of way over $10 billion.

CORNISH: Despite those claims, a New York court ruled last month Trump lied for years about his wealth, and it's ordered him to pay $454 million in penalties.

TRUMP: We have a lot of cash and we have a great company, but they want to take it away.

CORNISH: So far, Trump hasn't been able to pony up the money or find lenders willing to underwrite the fine. And while he hopes the state appeals court will give him more time, the attorney general is ready to start collecting, with her eyes set on a particular Trump asset.

LETITIA JAMES, (D) NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, Trump's friends are passing the hat for the former president, with no takers so far. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you loan him the $460 million?

CHARLES GASPARINO, FOX BUSINESS: None of his billionaire friends are posting up money, from what I understand. I've been asking them.


CORNISH: Here with me today, "New York Times" contributing writer Jane Coaston, Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute and contributing writer at the "National Review", Catherine Rampell, a "Washington Post" opinion columnist and special correspondent at "PBS Newshour," and editor of "The Dispatch," and "Los Angeles Times" columnist Jonah Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Dispatch." He's also a columnist or on this at the la times. Welcome back, everybody.

OK, so Catherine, you saw the hat passing, the shaking of the jar.


CORNISH: Exactly. Why won't anyone bail him out? We heard 30 bond company saying no.

RAMPELL: I think the better question is, why would anyone bail him out? I mean, how much money do you want to light on fire, basically, for this guy? It turns out that if you get in trouble for fraudulently inflating the value of your assets, then nobody wants to accept those assets as collateral for effectively alone to you.

And beyond that, beyond the fact that his property is questionably valued, we don't know how indebted he is. We don't know how much equity he has in these things. If he becomes president again, presumably it would become very difficult to collect. He's also a guy who is known for not paying his bills. If you try -- he brags about not paying his bills. If you tried to collect once he's in office, who's to say he won't sick the DOJ or Treasury on you? I just think that there's no upside stepping up her.

CORNISH: Reihan, you're wearing a very nice suit. Let's pretend you are an insurer or a multibillionaire. Would you want to give Trump the money?

REIHAN SALAM, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, if someone who believes that Donald Trump realistically can win the presidency, I would argue that actually the attorney general of New York trying to seize his landmark properties would actually be something that will help him rather than hurt him in his effort to win the presidency. Exactly, exactly.

And also, look, another thing is that if I were someone who is going to make a $500 million in kind campaign contribution to a very controversial presidential candidate, I might think that the spotlight gets turned on me terms of whether or not prosecutors in New York City, New York state, other blue jurisdictions might start looking at my finances and otherwise putting me under the microscope in a way that I might find uncomfortable. [10:20:12]


SALAM: So it's not obvious to me that it would make sense.

CORNISH: It's interesting, you're bolstering an argument from "The Wall Street Journal", because the editorial board calls the bond inflated. They say it denies him due process. So Jane, from your point of view, does this play into his ongoing argument this is a persecution, this is a witch-hunt, this is going after me unfairly.

JANE COASTON, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Donald Trump losing at tiddlywinks would play into his argument that he's being treated unfairly. Anything can be part of an argument that he is being treated unfairly. So I think that --

CORNISH: But is seizing his properties the right move.

COASTON: I think seizing his properties is likely what is going to take place if he doesn't make this payment on Monday. I think that whether it is material to how he will spin this for the media or spin this for the people who wish to support him, I think that's a separate issue.

But something I do want to note here also, something you didn't mention, Reihan, is Trump is, shall we say, easily convinced, and we've seen on the recent TikTok debate that he received a large donation from one of the major funders of ByteDance and suddenly seemed far more enthusiastic about the platform that he was previously.

CORNISH: Right, in this moment when it's about to be banned.

COASTON: If I had $500 million and needed someone to loudly talk about how great it would be if I had more power, than maybe I might loan him some money.

CORNISH: OK, well, we're going to leave that there because we'll know on Monday, right. We'll have an answer. That's his number one legal problem.

Let's turn to his number two problem, which is his number to pick running mate. So this week, a surprise name was added to the list his potential vice president list, and it's especially surprising because of the way he's spoken about this person in the past.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I call them little Marco, little Marco. Hello, Marco.

They hate him in Florida.


CORNISH: OK, so CNN reporting that Marco Rubio, his stock is up on the V.P. list. Jonah, talk -- OK. That face.


CORNISH: How do you feel about this choice?

JONAH GOLDBERG, "THE DISPATCH": I think it's kind of sad. I think it's not entirely surprising. I don't think the fact --

CORNISH: For Rubio or for Trump?

GOLDBERG: It's more -- for either. I think that Rubio, he came to Washington as a Tea Party guy and now he's basically sort of an industrial policy kind of guy. And I suspect that he'll, if offered, he would take it, and I don't think he would be a bad pick. I generally think, though, this is my own pet theory, is that Trump's advisers, maybe not Trump himself, recognize the fact that he's actually a pretty odds-on favorite to be impeached once he becomes president. He's going to be on a shorter leash than people think. And they need a vice president that scares the Dickens out of people. It has to be -- it can't hurt his chance at getting reelected, but they need to have somebody that they can hold up like a Medusa's head and say, hey, look, you kick me out, you get this person.

CORNISH: OK, well, stop there, because the next question makes sense on this. Someone else who looks like she's kind of auditioning or a public audition, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene on Friday. Out of nowhere, she decided to file a motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson. And it's interesting because she's really popular with the small donors. She's out there with Trump as a great surrogate. Reihan, is she the kind of person who we should keep an eye on?



SALAM: I don't think so, just because Donald Trump is very shrewd politically. He understands where are his vulnerabilities, where does he need to shore up his support. And Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks squarely to folks who are going to crawl over broken glass to vote for him in November.

What he's going to do is find who are folks that he can draw into his coalition rather than find someone who is going to repel people that he might need in those seven swing-states.

CORNISH: Right. The part of this is who, going by the old metrics or the Trump metrics of who to choose. Lightning round, who do you think he should pick, and who do you think he will? Jane?

COASTON: I think he will pick someone like Governor Kristi Noem, someone who is a face, quite literally. He likes people who are attractive and presentable. She is a --

CORNISH: And will?

COASTON: And will -- I am out of the predictions game. I gave that up eight years ago. Out of the game.

CORNISH: Respect, respect. Catherine, you -- should, will?

RAMPELL: I was going to say probably both should and will Kristi Noem for similar reasons, although I would also add that it might be helpful at a time that with the Republican Party is facing challenges with suburban white women voters in the wake of Dobbs. Having a woman on the ticket might be helpful.

CORNISH: All right, Jonah, should, will?

GOLDBERG: Should would probably be someone like Tim Scott or Marco Rubio.



GOLDBERG: Will -- probably someone like Nancy Mace who fills that sweet spot of being appealing to women voters, or at least that would be the theory, but also scary enough that people aren't going to want her to be president of the United States.

CORNISH: OK, lots of times to talk more about this.

President Biden also hit the campaign trail this week. He's talking a lot about the economy. Meanwhile, a historic week on Wall Street, but Main Street is struggling. So can Biden run on his record?



CORNISH: This week, optimism on Wall Street with all three major indexes soaring, each hitting record highs after the Fed projected three rate cuts this year. But let's be honest. There's main street where polls are now showing that most Americans aren't feeling it. Confidence in the current economy, though still rising, it hasn't recovered from the pandemic. And major expenses are actually adding up. So car insurance up more than 20 percent, housing up almost six percent. That's compared to last year. And those are just two examples.

So Catherine, I want to start with you, because you were actually talking about Trump' record and the economy in the past. And what's your understanding of, like, his case for this?

RAMPELL: For Trump's case or for Biden's case?

CORNISH: Well, I mean, stack them.

RAMPELL: Well, if you look at how Americans remember the Trump economy, they remember it much more favorably than the Biden economy. Everybody has memory hole 2020, we can debate about whether any of that's relevant.

CORNISH: Or they consider it exceptional, right?

RAMPELL: Right. Trump didn't cause the pandemic. I think he mishandled a bunch of things, but that's a separate issue.

What's interesting is that even if you look at the metrics from, say, 2019 verses today, on paper, we're doing about as well, and in some ways, better, right? If you look at, for example, unemployment rates, we've now had unemployment rates below four percent for two years. We hadn't seen that since the Nixon administration. The black unemployment rate hit its lowest level on record last year. So there are a lot of metrics that are good. Inflation, obviously, is the big but here. Inflation has cooled a lot, but Americans are still very frustrated by the price growth that they have seen to date.

CORNISH: Let me bring you in here, right, because she's giving all the numbers right. And this is what the White House does. They say look, look, it's pretty good. And the business community has been saying there's going to be a recession for like three years now. There isn't one. So talk to me about whether or not Biden does basically have a case here. Can it be made?

SALAM: Well, I'd say that the Democratic grandee, Larry Summers, President Clinton's treasury secretary, made a really important point. It's not just the price of the goods you're buying at a supermarket or the price of gas. It's also the price of money. What are the interest rates you have to pay on your credit card bill for your mortgage? And those are things that really make sense of how negatively people are feeling about the economy right now.

And I've got to say that Biden's critics have an argument to make. That argument is that the American Relief Plan was unnecessary, that the Inflation Reduction Act was also unnecessary. And that these things have effectively --

CORNISH: Unnecessary because it's creating demand, or?

SALAM: Massive, massive boost in demand when demand was already recovering. And what that has meant is that the Fed has had to make monetary policy a lot tighter than it would have been otherwise. So basically, Biden's profound mishandling of the economy has created this incredible economic pain for working in middle-class families.

CORNISH: Jonah, I saw that, but pumping the brakes on the economy, this is the lever that the fed has, right? Raise the rates, make everyone stop spending.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I took a solemn oath not to get into arguments about Fed policy. And I think politically it just doesn't resonate one way are there? I mean, I agree your points are good.

SALAM: -- able to afford --

GOLDBERG: Oh, no, for sure. I just don't think that it's -- it's a pretty complex political argument to make. And I think Biden's real problem is he's not a reassuring salesman at this point. He's got an argument -- I think if Bill Clinton had this economy he could make the case much more effectively. People are associating, and I think it's kind of magical thinking, the state of the economy, the state of the direction of the country with Biden's physical presence. And it's not reassuring.

CORNISH: Interesting. OK, so I'm going to throw in another thesis you can knock down, right? Consumers are getting hit with a lot of little fees. So here's an example. You've got shrinkflation, right? So your toilet paper companies, they're selling us fewer sheets per roll, same price, new fees from the doctor's office. They're charging on average of $39 per email to answer a patient's questions. And then there are all these little penalties here and there, right? Like restaurants, at least Resy is saying that restaurants on the platform, 17 percent of them have charged a cancellation fee for a missed reservation. That's up from 13 percent a year ago. So, sorry, Jane, it's a little bit like death by 1,000 economic cuts. And does that stuff have impact?

COASTON: I think it absolutely does. There was a post going around online last week that was someone, they took a picture of their Uber Eats order, and it was an Uber Eats order from a burger place. And it was incredibly expensive. And then obviously half of the people are -- we want full socialism. This should be free. And half the people are like, wait, you bought this on Uber Eats. Of course --


CORNISH: But when Biden talks about fees, do you think those voters are like, oh good, he's doing something, or?

COASTON: I think that they're not seeing it, because all of these platforms, you even mentioned Resy. You mentioned like a lot of the means by which we get at a dinner reservation or buy something, whether we do it on Amazon, it's not a straightforward as like, oh, I will ask this one entity to reduce fees, because you are going through three to four different levels to purchase any product. And you're thinking about like, who is charging me what? When did those charges come in? Who is getting tipped? Do I have to include a tip? Why do I need to include a tip?

I think that because there are all of these little things everywhere in everything that you're purchasing, it's so difficult to just be like, well, good news, I'm reducing the fees over here. But you can't reduce the fees over here. And also, those fees are going to something. I think it just it gets overwhelming for individuals, and it gets overwhelming for even the people who study this.

CORNISH: Catherine, last word to you. So what does that mean, right? Like, how do you talk about this in a way that is helpful?

RAMPELL: This whole subject drives me nuts. So first of all, look, I'm in favor of more transparency about fees. I think what the administration has done on that is a good thing. I don't think they should be setting prices. I think that's a very bad idea. There are a bunch of legislative proposals that would effectively set prices in various ways. On shrinkflation. This is another hobbyhorse of mine.

In fact, the share of companies that are reducing their product sizes has declined. It's much more salient today, like people notice it more when the cereal box is smaller or the role of toilet paper is smaller, has fewer sheets or whatever. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually checks this stuff, monitors this stuff, and it was much more common 10 years ago.

SALAM: Tech companies that used to have tons of free money from investors don't anymore, they have to actually be profitable. So the millennia lifestyle subsidy is now gone.

CORNISH: I don't know if they're going to be excited to hear that, but it is a very good point.

OK, so this economy is also creating a new wedding trend. We'll find out who on the panel is saying "I do" to it.

Plus, from something that's new to something that's old and new again, the Facebook feature that's making a comeback, next.



CORNISH: Time now to get our groups yea or nay, on some fun stories of the week. First up, a lot less green for a white wedding. According to a company that tracks wedding data, couples this year are actually cutting back on high price nuptials. So last year, the average wedding price tag broke 30 grand for the first time. Now, industry experts blame the economy and dating slowdown during the COVID for people wanting to spend less. So Jonah, are you a yay or a nay on lavish weddings?

GOLDBERG: I think people should spend less on the Veblen consumption of weddings, but spend more on having more people attend them. Marriage is a public thing where you're making an oath, and having more people there to witness it and take part in it is good. Serve less expensive food.

CORNISH: OK, so shrinkflation on the weddings. Jane, where you on cheaper weddings?

COASTON: I'm thrilled. I think for the past 20 years, weddings have become increasingly performative, performative for almost everyone that isn't a couple. Any person you know who has had a big wedding, they barely remember it until they see the photos like a month later. Spend on being married, spend on a house, spend on your relationship, do not spend on the wedding. My wedding cost like $800. You can do it. It's possible to be done.


CORNISH: OK, you're part of the trend.

Next, we're going to talk about the poke making a comeback on Facebook. After years of obscurity, Facebook says younger users are embracing the once, frankly, unpopular feature, and they've done this after the app made some changes. So if you're wondering, what is the poke, we're here to tell you it's the feature that we use to get someone's attention, and sometimes it's flirty or friendly or vaguely annoying. So Reihan, for you, yea or nay on the poke?

SALAM: I'm all for bringing it back. I think that it's a neat, nonintrusive way to let someone know, hey, I'm thinking about you.

CORNISH: It's sort of neutral, frankly, right? Like it's not the heart or the thumbs up or thumbs down.

SALAM: You also get to guess and be anxious about it. I think it's a lot of fun.

CORNISH: You brought a lot to that. I appreciate it.


CORNISH: Ready to poke?

GOLDBERG: I do not use Facebook. I have not used Facebook. I will not start using Facebook. It sounds to me like one step below having to wear a pain collar that some stranger can activate. I have no interest in it whatsoever.

CORNISH: OK. Finally, the world's happiness list is out, and it looks like Americans are the unhappiest they've ever been. Topping the list, several Nordic countries with Finland in first for the seventh straight year, followed by Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. So the U.S. is in 23rd place. That means we dropped out of the top 20 for the first time. And the survey looks at a bunch of factors. So life expectancy, social support, and freedom.

Jonah, I don't even want to ask because of your cynicism, but --


GOLDBERG: Not liking lutefisk. I don't really want to move to Finland. I will say that the numbers are so bad because people under 30 are miserable. People over 30 and certainly over 60 are doing fine. I think that has a lot to do with Internet, social media, the state of anxiety for young people today.


CORNISH: Or how they are experiencing the economy. Catherine, how do you feel about this?

RAMPELL: Finland is too cold for me, so I'm a nay.

CORNISH: That's literally how you're choosing this?

RAMPELL: Yes, pretty much.

CORNISH: We're like three don't support --

RAMPELL: I will say on the young people being more down, that's unusual in the United States. In most countries around the world, actually younger people are happier than older people, but not in the U.S. and a couple of other countries like New Zealand and Australia. So I don't think it's social media, because they have social media in all of these other countries as well. My guess is that maybe it has to do with the fact that the United States long ago made a commitment to maintain some minimum set of living standards for the old, but not for the young.

CORNISH: Interesting. Jane, over to you?

COASTON: Finland is also too cold. I also am always generally -- I have a lot of questions about how people are attempting to calibrate happiness. What's the most happy you can ever be? There are lots of societies that have different ideas of what constitutes happiness. I don't know.

CORNISH: Yes. I'm sure that, in fact, 22 of them are feeling better than us.


CORNISH: All right, so speaking of unhappy, country music stations aren't exactly crazy in love with Beyonce, and it could have a big impact. That's the underplayed. We'll talk more next.



CORNISH: Today's over/under about an artist who is being underplayed, sort of. Beyonce this week unveiled the cover and title for her newest album, "Cowboy Carter," writing on Instagram, she said it was created after, quote, "An experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcome." So everyone thinks that's her alluding to her 2016 Country Music Awards performance where some of the audience members actually left the show in protest.

So now here we are eight years later, the Houston native is proving who runs the world with her "Texas Hold Em" single landing at number one on the country streaming charts.



BEYONCE, SINGER/SONGWRITER: This ain't Texas, ain't no hold 'em. So lay your cards down, down, down, down.


CORNISH: As catchy as it is, some country radio stations, who's airplay actually helped determine award nominations, are limiting how often they play the Queen Bey. So I want to talk to you guys about it briefly. Jane, can Beyonce actually buck the establishment, and for that genre country radio is the establishment.

COASTON: Right, it is. And I think that we've seen time and time again, there's a reason why Taylor Swift needed to literally name a wing of the Country History Museum in Nashville after herself to guarantee that she would have a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame, quite literally. And so I do think she's going to be able to buck the establishment because I think that those radio stations which, yes, play a huge role in who gets awards. We saw back with a Lil Nas X a couple of years ago, he was able to get radio play because of grassroots support from people asking for it over and over again, people putting it on Soundcloud. And I --

CORNISH: Yes, but Catherine, let me jump in here because with Lil Nas X, he was actually yanked from the country chart. Billboard said because there weren't enough elements. I don't know how much you're into the intrigue of the Beyonce terminology, but like, what is your thinking about this? Can you break an industry?

RAMPELL: You know, I am just perplexed why it matters so much who gets on the radio, because so many people now consume their music via streaming.


RAMASWAMY: You know? And it just doesn't seem as significant to me as it once had been the case. As long as she has fans out there who are listening and who are streaming, that's what matters.

CORNISH: Interesting moment because she's number one on streaming, 42 on airplay.

So when we come back, the panel will be back with their takes on the hot stories, including what could make news before it's news. That's next.



CORNISH: It's time for our panel's special takes on what's happening or predictions of what we should be looking for. So Reihan, hit us with your best shot.

SALAM: Donald Trump is looking to shore up his establishment support, looking to shore up donor support. And one way he is doing that is by conveying that his national security cabinet is going to include heavyweights like Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Bill Hagerty, folks who are really respected by Republican foreign policy grandees and respected by our allies overseas.

CORNISH: Catherine, I want to come to you because we're actually in the middle of tax season. I know you're excited. What are you thinking about?

RAMPELL: The IRS's new direct file system, which is a free online way to the file directly to the agency rather than going through TurboTax or submitting a paper form, et cetera, is live. It now has a grand 60,000 users.

CORNISH: So it's working.

RAMPELL: It's a very small pilot. It's working so far. I think it's a very good development. I hope it gets scaled up to the rest of the country.

CORNISH: Jonah, what's your prediction this week?

GOLDBERG: Well, I want to be very careful and not give CNN legal migraines. So I'll just say the story that Shohei Ohtani's interpreter stole all this money, and he's got --

CORNISH: The biggest story in baseball, the biggest player in baseball.

GOLDBERG: That's right. I think in time we will find out that he was something of a scapegoat, that he was taking one for the team. But we'll see.

CORNISH: OK, hot take, you're saying it wasn't the interpreter.

GOLDBERG: I'm saying the story is more complicated than we've been led to believe.

CORNISH: OK, I'll be on your social media checking.

Jane, I understand you actually have gambling on your mind as well.

COASTON: I do. It's March Madness and I am positively convinced that this week we will see another college betting scandal in men's or women's basketball. So far we've only seen a scandal that hit Alabama baseball last year and a couple of college football players who got caught betting on other college teams. But this is the -- this is the betting Olympics. And if you haven't seen a betting ad in the last two weeks, it's because your eyes were not open. I would be stunned if that does not take place over the next week.

CORNISH: All right, Chris is going to be back next week, and you can catch me on CNN's "The Assignment" podcast that drops twice a week wherever you get your podcasts. Until then, thanks for spending part of your day with us. We'll see you back here next week.