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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump's Delay Push Denied, Hush Money Trial Now 21 Days Away; Diddy's Homes Raided; Musk Software Helping Russians?. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Trump heads to trial. The date of his first criminal case now set as a judge shoots down efforts to delay it, yet again. The former president, though also scoring an important lifeline today.

Plus, breaking news, federal agents descending on at least two homes of rapper Sean Diddy Combs. Just what would Homeland Security be looking for?

And a special report tonight at how one of Elon Musk's companies is helping Russians on the battlefield.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, denied. A federal judge, rejecting Donald Trump's efforts to further delay what will be his first criminal trial, and the first ever for former president of the United States. The so- called hush money case is now slated to start three weeks from today on April 15.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know how you can have a trial that's going on right the middle of an election. Not fair. Not fair.


HILL: Well, today was certainly a blow to Team Trump's time tested legal strategy of attack and delay. The judge in the case really laying into Trumps attorneys for making what he called incredibly and unbelievably serious allegations without the evidence to back them up, saying, quote, you're literally accusing the Manhattan D.A.'s office and that people assigned to this case of engaging in prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it. And you don't have a single cite to support that position.

The judge clearly familiar with Trump's tactics and also ready to get this case started. And it may be the only criminal trial Donald Trump faces before the election. Here are the other three at play right now. There is, of course, the

classified documents case in Florida, which was supposed to begin in May, but the judge has said she's now considering a new date. In Georgia, the election subversion case is slated to we begin in August, that date though also in jeopardy. And the January 6 cases on hold at the moment pending the Supreme Courts decision on Trump's claim of presidential immunity.

Which makes the Stormy Daniels hush money case, the only one likely to be tried before November's election as a former president prepares to go to trial. He's also celebrating a victory in a different case today, that New York civil fraud trial. An appeals court today, throwing Donald Trump a lifeline, reducing that massive $464 million bond by more than half. He now has ten days to pay $175 million, which means that Trump for now will not have to sell nor worry about authority seizing his properties or is he referring to them today his babies.

CNN's Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live outside the New York City courthouse.

So, Paula, all in all, a good day in some respects for Donald Trump if we look at that figure at least.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think it was a relic. Good day, Erica. He had that bond reduced and you today was supposed to be the first day of his first criminal trial and he still has not faced a criminal prosecution yet, even though one is now, once again on the calendar.

So overall good day, but even by Trump standards today was dramatic. Trump was in the courthouse, right behind me when he found out that a different court, the court of appeals, had dramatically lowered that bond that he was struggling to pay. Now, he later said that he will now be able to post that bond since it has been reduced, and that will stave off enforcement of that civil fraud case until later this year.

But, Erica, he was not able to stave off this first criminal case, the judge saying the jury selection will begin in three weeks. This case is expected to last around six weeks. It'll go four days a week with Wednesdays off and Trump is required to attend. That's going to stretch into the heart of campaign season so we expect to Trump is going to try to turn this into a campaign event continuing to try to paint himself as a victim of an unfair or corrupt system.

But it's interesting today to watch the judge, Judge Juan Marshawn, who'll be overseeing this case. He made it pretty clear that any sort of political stunts need to stop at the courtroom door because one of the reasons that we were in court today, not to begin the trial, but to have a hearing is because Trumps lawyers had accused the district attorneys office of prosecutorial misconduct, something the judge said was extremely serious and significant, accusing them of withholding documents, working with federal investigators to withhold documents from the Trump team.

But under questioning from the judge, it was clear that Trump team really didn't have anything to support that.


And the judge was clearly angry. He raised his voice and said, I cannot believe that you don't have a single citation. No case law, no evidence to support this accusation.

He was clearly a shot across the bow, a warning not to try to score political points by making baseless the tax in this courtroom. But, Erica, as you've seen in the other two Trump trials that we've covered here in New York over the past few months, Trump can't help himself and often his lawyers cannot either. So this is going to be a challenge not only for the former president, but also for this judge, how do you rein this in?

There will certainly be a campaign season, unlike any other.

HILL: That is, yes, indeed it will. That's for sure.

Paula, thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.

OUTFRONT now, Erik Larson, legal reporter for "Bloomberg News" and Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal analyst.

So, Ryan, lets start with just a couple of practical questions as we move into this. The fact that this is supposed to start in April 15th. Jury the selection is supposed to start then.

What's the over-under on that? Do you believe were actually going to see this trial start April 15th?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I think so. And I think the judge things so as well. One of his parting words to everybody in the courtroom was "see you on the 15th."

Even though the Trump attorneys did say they're going to try one more last ditch to say that they want to postpone it, it doesn't look like its going to be postponed. I think were going to be here together on Tax Day, April 15, yes, when they open for jury selection.

HILL: Tax Day also Patriots Day in Massachusetts, very important for the marathon.

Donald Trump said today, he would testify. This is not the first time that we've heard that from Donald Trump. If you're his attorney, Ryan, would you put the former president on stand?

GOODMAN: I would advise him mightily not to do that, because generally speaking, defendants do not go in the stand. But he's not a very good witness or he wouldn't be very good witness in the box. He seemed too out of control when he was in the deposition for E. Jean Carroll, as one example. There's actually an adverse finding against him in the civil fraud trial when he did testify, saying that he wasn't credible.

So the idea that he would go forward in this trial, I don't think its a good idea. And if anything, it could actually cement some of the evidence that the prosecutors need to prove and might have difficulty proving without his testimony.

So I think he would even hand them something.

HILL: Erik, you have followed so much of this so closely, you've spent a whole lot of time in courtrooms covering Donald Trump. The fact that this judge today was so clearly irritated and really called out Donald Trumps legal team, right, that they couldn't cite case law. They didn't have anything essentially to backup these very serious allegations.

Based on what you've seen from Donald Trump's legal team, does it surprise you that they got to that moment in the courtroom where the judge said, you really should have been better prepared here?

ERIK LARSON, LEGAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: No, it really doesn't surprise me only because we've seen this sort of thing happened in the earlier trials that we've had so far with the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, the New York attorney general case, his lawyers clashing with the judges at times, especially when Trump has been on the witness stand.

So it actually is not too surprising. His lawyers like to show him that they're earning their money by making these arguments. They made a big deal last week about saying that this evidence had been handed over too late. Why had this happened? The judge today said to them, when did you request this evidence? When did you subpoena it? Why didn't you do it months ago?

The implication being that there's delay strategy might have been intentional, or at least that they were at fault. And the judge obviously shot it down.

HILL: Part of that and shooting it down, too, is also calling out what of Donald Trump's attorneys saying, hey, your formal federal prosecutor and I'm obviously paraphrasing here. And this is how you're presenting things? And this is the work you've done?

That I think says a lot and also raises questions for people about what can we expect from this judge at trial.

GOODMAN: It's a great question and just to put the record straight and like the judge, the judge or what do you head to trial? He was the judge in the Trump Organization criminal trial and widely respected for the way in which he manages the courtroom. And in fact, Allen Weisselberg, Trump's former CFO, said of Judge Marshawn that he showed them the utmost respect, understood their role as advocates.

So this is a judge who is even-keeled, doesn't lose it in any sense. And here he was obviously quite upset very much with the lawyers and how they're making claims that were outrageous in a certain sense, needed to be supported because of how exceptionally they were criticizing the prosecutors, basically saying the prosecutors are engaged in a conspiracy of hiding evidence from them without any support. So I think this is a remarkable setting of the table for the trial by the judge who's well-respected for being able to control this room. HILL: Ryan, Erik, I just want to bring in now, we have made Mimi

Rocah, who's with us, the D.A. in Westchester County, New York, also former division chief for the SDNY.

And, Mimi, you know Todd Blanche very well. You worked together. Was it surprising at all to you to see your former colleague called out in that way?

MIMI ROCAH, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, I think it was appropriate the -- as Brian, I think explained the defense here went beyond just saying, hey, we got a lot of documents and we need time to go through them, which of course is an appropriate argument and prosecutors always should be as transparent as possible and turn things over.


But he really -- they, the defense team, really accused I think unfairly, based on what the judge said today the prosecutors of misconduct and that's so serious.

I mean, for any lawyer, but particularly prosecutors and to throw them at around in a way that according to the judge, was not warranted.

This judge who really calls balls and strikes, said, in fact, I think the D.A.'s office here seems to have gone above and beyond. In other words, they not only fulfill their obligations under the law, but they went beyond that.

And so I was not surprised in that sense because I think that is part of a judge's job is to sort of police if you will, the rhetoric and accusations that get thrown around in heated cases like this.

HILL: I mean, we want to take with you for me because I want to get your take two and what we saw from the appeals court to de reducing this judgment to $175 million for that bond. I also found it interesting that the order basically said that there had been an order barring Donald Trump and his sons from running a business in New York, also from obtaining a loan from a financial institution in the state of New York.

They put a pause on that. Was that surprising at all to you, that stay?

ROCAH: No, in the sense that appeals courts do in general things to preserve the status quo as much as possible until the merits of the case are rolled on. I mean, it probably everyone who has been following these cases you its not by now because we've seen that in other cases as well, but that's kind of a tried and true principle of appellate courts to preserve the status quo as much as possible. And -- because once there is harm, once there to a party, it's harder. You can't undo it. And so they tried to from home things in place and I'm obviously don't know why they did what they did, but I know it is consistent with that principle of appellate courts.

HILL: There's been some talk about the number, too, that we got you. So it was $464 million. This bond reduced to $175 million, which means that it is unlikely Donald Trump will have to sell it one of his properties at anything will need to be seized, a 60 percent reduction from the appeals court.

Did that surprise you?

GOODMAN: It's surprised me a little bit and it's now returned to read the tea leaves of what that might mean on the part of the appeals courts. So it might mean --

HILL: Didn't give us much information. It's about a paragraph.

GOODMAN: Yes, no accompanying opinion. So, they told us the how they ruled.

I think that it could be that they are a bit skeptical of Judge Engoron's ruling in terms of how much he found that needs to be disgorged from Trump's companies. So it's not about the underlying ruling of systematic fraud, but it might be that the scope, the $464 million might be to them too high. So it's better to just choose a lower number going into the appeals process.

HILL: Erik, could that be seen as a setback for the A.G.?

LARSON: It's definitely a setback for the attorney general today. This is not what they wanted to have happen. They had told the appeals court that if Trump was not forced to post the entire bond, that there was a risk that he wouldn't pay the award if his appeal failed, that he just simply could not be trusted.

And they were very adamant about that. They wanted 120 percent of the judgment put up front in order for him to appeal. So it is a big setback for the attorney general. I think they've probably are perhaps making peace with it and ready to move on.

But it also remains to be seen whether Trump well actually post the bond. He did say he will, but we he also has to follow through on that and he has ten days to do so.

HILL: I know were all waiting for the next ten days. So well be watching for that.

Erik, Ryan, Mimi, really appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, Trump claiming his mounting legal fees are hurting now his reelection chances.


TRUMP: I would also like to be able to use some of my cash to get elected.


HILL: Which is interesting because its been awhile since Donald Trump use his own money to get elected.

Plus, breaking news, homeland security raiding the homes of Sean Diddy Combs in California and Florida. We have new details about this investigation just coming in here.

And RFK Jr. flirting with the libertarian party, now, meeting with the chair of the organization, could that be his ticket to make sure he gets on the ballot in dozens of states.



HILL: New tonight, Donald Trump baselessly claiming the money he owes and the Trump work fraud cases, part of a plot to hurt his presidential election campaign.


TRUMP: I have a lot of cash. You know, I do because you looked at my statements. I mean, you've been examining my statements for a long time and I have much more than that in cash. But I would also like to be able to use some of my cash to get elected. They don't want me to use my cash to get elected. They don't want that.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, David Urban, former senior advisor to the Trump campaign, and Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Nice to see you both tonight. So, David, the last time the Donald Trump actually use his own money for his campaign was all the way back in 2016. It was far less than he had promised. Not surprisingly, he began fundraising off of today's developments almost immediately, calling this bond reduction a huge victory but also warning now is not the time to celebrate.

He has to use some of his own money for that bond, right? But that's not just a hit to his bank account, David. It's also a hit, isn't it, to his ego.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I would say, you know, Erica, look, this is -- the Trump Organization is the crown jewels. This is what Donald Trump created.


He created Trump Tower, all these properties, Mar-a-Lago and, you know, Letitia James going after this is really, really kind of I don't want to say angers the president, but angers him. He sees that this is -- this is a fraud with no fraud, and so, it really does make them angry.

HILL: So it makes him angry. I found it interesting, Karen, that the Biden campaign was really

quick to weigh in today, calling Donald Trump, quote, weak and desperate, both as a man and as a candidate for president. So, Trump is repeatedly invoked Biden saying when he talks about his legal troubles, claiming without evidence that the president is somehow calling the shots here, even when it comes to state cases.

Karen, would you have advised the Biden campaign to jump on this or is it better to stay away, especially given how Donald Trump likes to connect Joe Biden to his legal issues?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. You know, I think they took the opportunity today because it does as you pointed out, it cuts to the very heart of who Donald Trump believes that he is, and the image of himself that he is built over many decades. It also his statements today, he did sound weak because he sounded like he was actually affirming the charge in the case, which was he overinflate it his investments, therefore, he does not actually have the money and he is not interested in spending and he his own money.

So I would say that, you know, normally with someone like Trump, you would want to be mindful of how often you're going to let yourself get dragged in. But I think they took this opportunity today because again, it was a cut at exactly what we've been seeing on fold and the fact that many people do think he's a fraud and do think that look, if you have the money, just go ahead and pay for it. Don't whine about it.

HILL: There's been a lot of questions about where the money would come from over the last several days. Of course, that really came to a head last week. And then with this ruling from the appeals court, made it a little easier.

But David, Donald Trump does that specifically this afternoon, whether he would accept money from a foreign government or for his bond or other legal fees. I want to play that exchange for you.


REPORTER: Would you ever accept from a foreign government to pay the bond or your fines or any of your legal bills?

TRUMP: No, I don't -- I don't do that. I'd been -- I think you'd be allowed to possibly. I don't know. I mean, if you go borrow from a big bank, many of the banks are outside of this. As you know, the biggest banks frankly are outside of our country. So you could do that, but I don't need to borrow money. I have a lot of money.


HILL: To be, clear, the question wasn't about a bank. The question was specifically, would you ever accept money from a foreign government to pay the bond or your fines or any of your legal bills. His attorney telling CNN last week that he would not take money from a foreign government.

Do you believe, David, that is really off the table?

URBAN: Yeah, clearly, you heard -- you heard the former president there say, no, I wouldn't do it. And he talked about how most of the big banks are outside. I'm sure his mind skipped immediately to Deutsche Bank where he's -- he did lots of business in the past. So, he clearly took it off the table, is not going to happen. Everybody can relax.

President Trump is not going to be borrowing money from some foreign country as many people, you know, what if he borrows money to pay the debt? Then there'll be on the hook. What did he borrows money?

He's not going to do it. He said he's not going to do it. There's a meme going around now on social media where he says, how are you going to post the bond? And he says cash, right? And so, let's see what happens in ten days.

HILL: How many days are you putting on this? How long do you think until he pays up, David?

URBAN: How many days until -- he's got ten days to until posted. Is that what do --

HILL: No, I know how many days he has. What I'm saying is --

FINNEY: That will be the tenth day.

HILL: When do you see -- when do you see -- yeah. Do you think it will be the tenth because if the cash is there, why not just, you know, check this box, it's done?

URBAN: I think it'll be a date -- I think -- I think it would be day ten.

HILL: Okay.

Karen, when you look at all this, some of the concerns that people were raising about potentially foreign money were concerns about if he becomes president again, could there be a national security issue. Again, his attorney saying, no, oh, we hear Donald Trump say there. Do you believe it's fully off the table?

FINNEY: No, I don't because that answers sounded like Trumps speak for -- well, maybe because he said, well, no, but I could -- you could because the big bank. You know, that's that kind of permission structure he tends to grant himself after he hell say one thing and then kind of open the door. Look, I think regardless there will be open questions. It is a national security risk for someone to be this much in debt, but I think it opens the question between now and election day, who and where will he get the money?

And even if its not a foreign dollars, who in this country is what group of donors will help to put up the money and what will they expect for those dollars and those a very legitimate question that will be asked between now and election day.

HIILL: Karen Finney, David Urban, good to see you both.


URBAN: Come on, come on, Karen. I'm just going to say, yeah. I just going to say like if you're going to talk about donors and the same goes true for Joe Biden, who is out begging for money in Hollywood, begging for money in New York, begging for money in Silicon Valley. Same holds true there.

HILL: Money and politics, what a marriage. Thank you both. Good to see you.

OUTFRONT next, you do have this breaking news that we want to share with you. Live pictures out of Miami where federal agents are raiding the home of hip-hop moguls, Sean Diddy Combs, and we have new details at this hour about what homeland security may be searching for.

Plus, Putin responding tonight to the terror attack at a concert hall, using that bloody assault to justify his assault on Ukraine.


HILL: Breaking news, federal agents raiding two homes belonging to music mogul Sean Diddy Combs. The raids are being carried out simultaneously. So these are pictures actually out of Los Angeles. I believe those might be live pictures and then we also have pictures of what's happening outside of his home in Miami Beach, both of those being searched. We're told both rates are being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Josh Campbell is OUTFRONT.


So, Josh, what more do we know about what these federal agents are actually looking for?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erica, you know, when that first video that we just showed there in Los Angeles, there's a key tell there and that is the agency that is leading the investigation in this raid as you mentioned, this is the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigation Agency, which if people aren't familiar with, they are primary investigative arm of DHS, typically involved then transnational criminal issues, but they also have significant experience and work really with a lot of effort towards countering human trafficking.

And so again, we specifically don't know what the criminal violation or potential criminal violation is at play here. But the very fact that it is HSI that is leading this investigation gives us some indication. Otherwise, we would see, you know, perhaps the FBI or IRS and other agencies.

Now we did get a statement in just a short time ago from HSI confirming their involvement at both of these residents. I'll read you part of that statement. They say that earlier today, HSI, New York executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation, with assistance from HSI L.A., HSI Miami and our local law enforcement partners.

That appears, Erica, that these two law enforcement actions happen simultaneously. You can imagine the amount of coordination that would go into that from coast to coast with federal agents proceeding to descend on these particular locations. Now, right now, no indication that Combs himself is a specific target or subject of the investigation, but serious a breaking news today, federal agents on his property now, at least according to these aerials, it appears that they will be there for quite some time.

This looks I just from my background, law enforcement as this was a search warrant execution that is likely at play here, just with the number for personnel, how they're set up. Of course, we'll wait and see the key reason they're there, Erica.

HILL: And this is really for a lot of people. This is jumping to the top of their headlines at this hour because there have been several legal issues that Sean Combs has faced in recent months.

CAMPBELL: No, exactly. I mean, if you look, go back and look just in last November, he was sued for rape and abuse by a former partner, and both parties quickly settled that civil lawsuit after it was filed. But then in December, he faced sexual assault allegations that according to a complaint that was filed in the Southern District of New York, it was a soup brought by a woman who was known just as Jane Doe in court documents who said that she was 17 at the time of the alleged assault back in 2003.

Now, Combs, of course, has vehemently denied any allegation, but as you look at some of the past allegations, particularly indicating alleged sex trafficking, again, we're not connecting the dots between the race its in that activity, but at least a wave of those allegations. Now, seeing this particular federal agency, the lead here, does give us some indication of where this is possibly leading.

HILL: Yeah. All right. Josh, we know you'll stay on it and bring us any updates as they come in. Appreciate it. Thank you.


HILL: Also tonight, Vladimir Putin claiming without evidence that Ukraine was involved in the Moscow terrorist attack that left at least 139 dead. Putin is finally acknowledging that, quote, radical Islamists carried out that attack three days after the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility. It also comes after the men allegedly behind that attack arrived in a Russian court heavily bruised, bandaged, bloodied. One of them in a wheelchair, appearing unconscious. This is images on social media also appear to show some of the men being tortured.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As search and rescue crews sift through the charred remains of the concert hall outside a sea of flowers continues to grow as thousands more in the victims of the worst terror attack to hit Russia in decades.

No one should remain indifferent in such moments, this woman says. We must honor their memory and understand we are all facing this tragedy. I say tears flow, but were all here together.

Eyewitness videos show the brutality as the attackers swept the Crocus City Hall entertainment complex. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The terror group released this video through the ISIS affiliated AMAQ news agency, allegedly filmed by the attackers themselves as they killed more than 130 people.

Also setting the building on fire, leading to a massive blaze that caused the roof to partially collapse.

The U.S. says it has no reason to doubt ISIS's claim, and Russia has been at war with the group during Moscow's brutal aerial campaign in Syria, supporting the Assad regime.

I traveled to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria with the Russian military in 2017 as the battle raged.

Even though the Syrian and Russian armies have managed to push the ISIS back, there still are a lot of ISIS fighters here in this area. That's why taking the helicopter is the safest way to get to Deir Ezzor.

The alleged gunmen, al of them are from Tajikistan, are now in Russian custody. Three of them pleaded guilty in a Moscow court this weekend.


But the Russians still won't acknowledge an ISIS link. Vladimir Putin instead claiming the attackers had ties to Ukraine

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We know that the crime was committed by the hands of radical Islamists, follows of the ideology that their Islamic world itself has been fighting against for centuries. Of course, it is necessary to answer the question, why after committing the crime, the terrorists tried to go to Ukraine?

PLEITGEN: The suspects bore signs of abuse as they were arraigned, one seemingly semi-conscious in a wheelchair. And this video on social media seems to show Russian security services mistreating another one of the men.

When confronted with questions about possible torture of detainees, the Kremlin refusing to reply here.

No, the spokesman said, I leave this question without an answer.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PLEITGEN: And, Erica, a Russian court ordered three additional people placed under arrest today. One of them is the former owner of the car that the alleged attackers use to try and make a getaway. And, of course, the Russians continued to claim they were heading towards Ukraine -- Erica.

HILL: Fred Pleitgen with the latest for us tonight, Fred, thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov; and Seth Jones, he senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It's good to see both of you.

So, Andrei, following these attacks and now these really graphic images of the suspects, how is all that landing for the Russian people? I see Putin trying to show some strength in those moments, is that the message that they're getting?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Certainly, it is. The problem is that there is a general feeling of xenophobia towards Central Asian migrants and Russian society, which has been cultivated for quite some time by the Russian authorities and which means that a lot of people do not believe that people from Central Asia actually are capable of organizing such an attack. And there is also a general feeling of mistrust which is a fertile ground for all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories.

Putin knows how to play his game. He knows how to use these feelings. Now he is churning intelligent, failure into an ammunition to attack the West and attack Ukraine

HILL: The fact that he finally acknowledged, Seth, that radical Islamists were actually behind this attack was interesting. But he went on to continue claiming with no evidence that Ukraine was still somehow involved. You've noted that Russia is actually a top target for ISIS.

Why is that?

SETH JONES, VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, there are several reasons why. One is that starting in 2015, the Russians were involved directly in the war in Syria backing the Assad regime against a range of militant groups. One of them was ISIS.

So over the course of 2016, frankly through today, they've been involved in attacks against ISIS in Syria.

But we've also seen just because of the Russians have conducted attacks -- sorry, ISIS has conducted attacks against Russia, the U.S., and all major governments in the region and just because they consider these kinds of governments infidel. So we saw it in 2022, ISIS-K, ISIS-Khorasan conduct a major attack against the Russian embassy in Kabul.

So they've been a target as an infidel regime for years.

HILL: When we look at how this is playing out inside Russia, I think it's really important to show what were seeing from Russian state media, which is, of course, following Putin's lead, I want to play just a little bit of what folks are saying at this moment.


SERGEY KARNAUKHOV, PRO-KREMLIN BLOGGER: It's set up in a very simple way nowadays, it's Ukraine. Ukraine is a proxy force of American and British military and intelligence services. Does anyone have any doubt as to who did this?


HILL: So, Andrei, you know there's his grip on the narrative that we were just talking about that Vladimir Putin has. There's been a significant crackdown on dissent and outside media, of course, since Russia invaded Ukraine.

You talk about the narrative that had been there in terms of Central Asia, what about this persistent narrative of it's all -- all ills sort of stem from Ukraine and the United States?

SOLDATOV: Well, it should be part of a broader narrative for the crammed and Russia is a besieged fortress, which has been under attack from the West for many, many years. And Putin today, much on that attack started at less than 2014 basically claiming that revolution in Kyiv was part of his conspiracy against Russia.

Unfortunately, because of all this propaganda, lots of people in the country believed that and would accept that. When we look at what is happening here, Seth, this ISIS offshoot known as ISIS-K pulled off the attack. What are you hearing about their other ambitions, their capabilities to conduct additional attacks like this? Perhaps in Western capitals

JONES: Yeah, let's just say there is no evidence, zero, zilch, that Ukraine has been involved in any way, shape, or form along these lines.


In fact, quite the opposite.

But what we have seen is ISIS-Khorasan which looks like the number of attacks in Afghanistan and that's where it is based has come down somewhat over the last year. But we've seen plotting in Germany, and we've seen plotting in France, and the Netherlands, and a range of other European countries as well.

There are huge arrests last year in a joint German, Dutch operation in response to this major plot in Germany. So, they've got ambitions. They've got also ambitions against the United States. And we've heard the head of U.S. Central Command say this within the past few days that the U.S. is also a major target primarily oversees. HILL: Seth, Andrei, really appreciate having you, both of us with us

tonight and thanks for your perspective and your insight.

JONES: Thanks, Erica

HILL: OUTFRONT next, Elon Musk's Starlink technology has been crucial for Ukraine in this war. Now, it's being used by Russia and Ukraine is taking action.

Plus, it was meant to save lives, but a controversial drug treatment program ended up turning into something a cult.



HILL: Tonight, new video into CNN from the front lines in Ukraine. A Ukrainian drone targets and destroys a Russian tank. Ukraine is relying heavily on drone warfare as it tries to push Russia back. Those drones also rely on Elon Musk Starlink internet technology, technology that is also now in Russian hands, giving their troops and advantage on the battlefield.

Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's newest target is something they've long cherished themselves, small, whites, rectangular satellite internet terminals from Elon Musk Starlink apparently in Russian hands and hit by Ukrainian drones. They're not supposed to be there at all, according to Musk and U.S. sanctions.

Here, a Russian soldier explains frontline damage to one of their Starlink units connecting attack drones and command centers.

While Russia has officially denied their use, their army of crowd funders openly flown styling purchases in third countries.

There is one key supplier showing off store bought drones, and five Starlinks, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): The next batch will be bigger, 30 pieces.

WALSH: But look on their faces and does not suggest there too confident in coming home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): Take care of yourself.

WALSH: She has posted other images of Starlinks and drones bought.

Ukrainian troops we met across the eastern south of the frontline, said Russia has near copied their system of attack drones, using Starlink's Internet signal to control dozens of single use first- person view devices to swarm Ukrainian positions.

Here is even an intercepted signal, one unit told us they had hacked from a Russian drone. You can see it maneuvering into a Ukrainian target.

Near the heavily contested village of Robotyne, down in the bunkers where the drone wars are fought. This change is huge and has come with an apparent complication for the Ukrainians, too.

Their Starlink speeds have been getting slower said this commander.

ANTON, UKRAINE'S 65T MECHANIZED BRIGADE (translated): Before New Year, the speed was much higher. Now it decreased by half. I saw information about the Russians, through neutral countries, bringing Starlinks, and using through neutral countries, bringing Starlinks, and using them on the Zaporizhzhia front lines for their purposes.

WALSH: Another operator in the same area reported problems in the last month.

MISHA, COMMUNICATIONS OPERATOR IN UKRAINIAN ARMY (translated): What we really started to notice is a constant drop of speed and connection. We need to reboot the Starlinks all the time to make them work properly, but eventually speed starts to drop and connection breaks.

WALSH: And is it messing your work?

MISHA: Yes, it brings rather unpleasant complications.

ELON MUSK, BILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN: Nine thousand active space lasers. So sort vaguely reminds me of Dr. Evil.

WALSH: A lot rests on Musk, while Ukrainian officials went public with their concerns six weeks ago and they've since gone silent, that perhaps quietly pressuring Musk, who experts think can vet who uses terminals even if that's trickier and contested areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's possible SpaceX important each terminal and they know who is who, but the problem is to identify actual owner of the account. Last is a big (INAUDIBLE), so it's important to talk to him and to fan (ph) here because he might do some good decisions, might be not very good for everyone.

WALSH: Musk's SpaceX and Starlink did not respond to requests for comment. They said previously they do business with the Russian state or military. And if a sanction party uses Starlink, we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed.

But as Ukraine's other lifelines wobble or dry up, space-based Internet is one they cannot afford to see slow, lose to the Russians or lose a tool.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HILL: OUTFRONT next, an incredible look tonight at how a controversial drug treatment center ended up turning into a cult-like community. The director of this new documentary is next.

Plus, RFK Jr. making moves that could boost his chances of getting on the ballot nationwide.



HILL: Tonight, "Master Manipulator", a new HBO original docuseries looks at the controversial drug treatment center, the "Synanon", which started as a first of its kind, residential program to help get people off of drugs in the '50s. It quickly descended into a cult-like community as its leader, Chuck Dederich, gained power and fame.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The population grew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chuck began to amass wealth

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They started to see Chuck as a god.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were rules on which Synanon was founded and those were solid until they weren't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Learn to live the way we do. If you don't, go somewhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chuck started mandating behavior.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then you were in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone must participate in the establishment of a church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violence became a solution for Chuck at some point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a master manipulator in so many ways.


HILL: OUTFRONT now is Rory Kennedy, director an executive producer of HBO's "The Synanon Fix".

It's good to have you tonight. I have to say I watched the first episode earlier today, and these opening scenes are so jarring. It's a sort of group therapy that been evolved into this violent, harsh, it was yelling.

What prompted you to want to tell this story? It's so gauging.

RORY KENNEDY, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Well, thank you. Thank you for watching and thank you for having me on the show.

I thought this was just an incredible story and I was shocked that nobody really knew about it. This is a -- it was really the first drug treatment program in the United States. It was helping heroin addicts in Santa Monica in 1958, very marginalized community. There's lots of stigma with these drug addicts.

Chuck Dederich welcomed them in and he had this innovative program where they did this kind of confrontational therapy, where people could scream at each other and call each other out and they loved it.

And it was very effective. It got drug users off the street. It got them to stop using. It was incredibly visionary and, you know, over that, over time with power and money, it evolved into as you showed in the clip, there what many consider to be a cult.

HILL: Yeah. It was -- I hadn't heard of it until watching this and I was really struck by it. One of the people that you spoke to for the documentary is Chuck Dederich's daughter, who actually helped her father collected money for the group.

I just want to play a little bit of what she told you.


JADY DEDERICH MONTGOMERY, DAUGHTER OF CHUCK DEDERICH: That's terrible. Yeah, it's terrible. People suffered, people were hurt and he did bring Synanon down around him but all of this in Synanon, he couldn't have done it without us enabling him


HILL: She talks about the enabling. I mean, people did initially come in for help. And then at one point as this evolved, it seemed like it was really tough for them to leave. How did Chuck end up with so much power over them?

KENNEDY: I mean, I really encourage folks to watch this series because it's so nuanced and complex and it didn't happen in just one instance. And I really don't think it was the initial intention of the organization.

I think that Chuck was somebody the who had his own limitations and he was a former alcoholic. He led this organization and I think like many alcoholics who are in families, they go back to drinking and there's massive dysfunction. And as one of the character says, in the film, he just had a much bigger family to impact.

So it's hard to know exactly what was the moment where its switched. It kind of evolved where there were mandates and they started shaving their heads initially, it was not eating sugar and going on diets and then I was head shaving and then it led to more extreme behavior, like forced abortions and vasectomy is and swapping partners. But it happened over years.

And I think, you know, what's fascinating to me is interviewing the people who lived through it and getting their perspective of how they came to make sense of these changes I mean, this is an organization that was founded on two principles. One was no drugs and alcohol, and the other was no violence. And by the end, it had bought more firearms than anybody in the history of California, and they had an open bar in the facility.

So how it goes from one extreme into this other extreme, and how the folks who lived through it made sense of that --

HILL: Yeah.

KENNEDY: -- is a fascinating story.

HILL: It certainly is.

I do want ask you about your brother, Robert Kennedy, who was running for president. I know you do not support his campaign. You've called a dangerous.

A CNN poll from just last weekend, the key state of Michigan found more than half of voters have an unfavorable opinion of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We know there's voter fatigue with these two candidates.

When you say you see your brothers campaign as a danger, is it more about siphoning votes away from Joe Biden or is it because of his policies?

KENNEDY: It's really about siphoning votes from Biden. The polls I'm seeing, Bobby takes 70 percent of the votes from Biden and 30 percent from Trump. And I feel strongly that this is the most important election of our lifetime. And there's so much at stake and I do think its going to come down to a handful votes and a handful of states.

And I do worry that Bobby just taking some percentage of votes from Biden could good shift the election and lead to Trump's election.

HILL: Rory Kennedy appreciating with us tonight. Thank you.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

HIILL: You can catch the HBO original documentary series "The Synanon Fix". It debuts Monday, April 1st, at 09:00 p.m. Eastern on HBO Max.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.