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China's President Xi Set to Arrive in Moscow for Talks with Putin; Trump Team Fire Up Base As Trump Faces a Possible Indictment Within Days; World's Biggest Central Banks Team Up to Keep the Cash Flowing and Stave Off a Possible Financial Crisis. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, ANCHOR, EARLY START: All right, right now on EARLY START, Moscow-bound, China's President Xi about to arrive in Russia for a major summit with Vladimir Putin.


ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: It is going to cause Mayhem, Paula. I mean, it's just a very scary time in our country.


ROMANS: Asking for trouble. Team Trump trying to fire up his base, as he faces possible indictment within days. And joining forces, the world's biggest central banks team up to keep the cash flowing and stave off a possible financial crisis.

All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans. Good Monday morning to you. In just 90 minutes, China's leader Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow for a state visit, including a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Overnight, the two leaders published articles written for audiences in each other's countries.

The pieces highlight their growing mutual trust and cooperation, and credit China for promoting peace in Ukraine. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz following the story live from London for us. And Salma, what's the purpose of Xi's visit? And what is Putin looking for from China?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, for President Xi who has, of course, just secured that unprecedented third term, this is his chance to step out on the global stage, demonstrate that he is a statesman, the chief of a powerful country and capable of really shaping world offense. For President Putin, his role is going to be to woo President Xi to get him on-side and get him even closer.

Remember they're already very close allies, and to make President Xi see the world the way President Putin sees the world. Ahead of this visit, President Putin seemed to be preparing, by making this visit to Mariupol, the first visit to that war-torn region since the conflict began. He could be seen touring the damage there, demonstrating his strength in leadership, despite the fact that there's been arrest warrant issued for him by the ICC.

He laid out his vision in a Chinese state paper. I want to read you one quote that really shows you just how close the global view here is aligned between these two world leaders. The crisis in Ukraine, he writes, which is -- "was provoked and is being diligently fueled by the West is the most striking, yet not the only manifestation of its desire to retain its international dominance.

It is crystal clear that NATO is striving for a global reach of activities and seeking to penetrate the Asia Pacific." Look, for D.C., this is going to be a concerning meeting, two global leaders who seem to hold anti-American views, who seem to want to counter American hegemony.

Meeting at a critical moment in a conflict, and the big question here is, will there be an announcement coming out of this? Will there be some sort of agreement out of this? The United States has already preempted that with a great deal of skepticism, and said anything coming from Beijing and Moscow on the back of this meeting, that will be one-sided.

ROMANS: Indeed, all right, Salma, thank you so much for that. Let's turn to Anna Coren now, she is live in Hong Kong for us. Anna, how does Beijing view Xi's visit to Moscow? What is -- what is China getting out of this?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this trip is very much being framed as an opportunity to promote peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. And the U.S. and Europe as we know are highly skeptical of that. But Xi Jinping says he's committed to finding a resolution to this war that's being dragging on now for more than a year.

He wrote an article in a Russian newspaper which was published this morning. Let me read you an excerpt of that. He said I have put forth several proposals, i.e., observing the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, respect of the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and ensuring the stability of global, industrial and supply chains."

Now, China has proposed a 12-point peace plan. They did that last month, calling for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia, an end to western sanctions. But it does not address Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory. And this, of course, is a sticking point for Zelenskyy and for the West. China, as we know has been positioning itself as a pacemaker.

It helps re-establish those diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this month. You know, the Kremlin, Christine, is saying it's giving great attention to Xi's proposal. The Ukrainian president has said he's willing to speak to Xi and virtual talks are expected, although nothing has yet been confirmed.


But as we know, you know, the U.S. believes Xi's trip is to show solidarity with Russia. And it's also a sign, it's seriously considering Putin's request to supply it with lethal weapons. This is something that China firmly denies. These two leaders, Christine, have met 40 times since Xi came to power. And as Salma says, Xi has just cemented an unprecedented third term in power.

Both these men have positioned themselves as leaders for life. You know, this is a partnership about creating a new global order with China firmly at the helm, Christine.

ROMANS: Fascinating. All right, Anna Coren, thank you so much for that, in Hong Kong for us this morning. All right, an attorney who once advised Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is set to appear today before the New York grand jury investigating the Stormy Daniels' hush money scheme. Robert Costello tells CNN, he is testifying to the grand jury at the request of Trump's legal team.

A source tells CNN Costello contacted both the Manhattan prosecutors -- prosecutor and Trump's lawyer saying he has evidence that contradicts what Cohen has said about the alleged hush money payments. When Cohen pleaded guilty, he said he facilitated those payments at Trump's direction. A Manhattan district attorney saying he will not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.

D.A. Alvin Bragg sending that e-mail to staff after former President Trump posting on social media that he expects to be arrested Tuesday in connection with that hush money scheme, and he urged his supporters to protest. A lawyer for Trump warning on CNN that arresting Trump could, quote, "rightfully trigger security concerns."


HABBA: Let's see if they arrest him, but I'll tell you what? What if they choose to do so for a misdemeanor which frankly, he didn't even do. It is going to cause mayhem, Paula. I mean, it's just a very scary time in our country.

I do think security should be in place if that is what they choose to do. I would never want to see anybody get hurt, and that the president would neither -- and if this is what we're doing in this country, you better secure the premises because it's dangerous. You know, people are going to get upset.


ROMANS: More from CNN's Gloria Pazmino in New York.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Law enforcement sources here in the city have confirmed to us that they have been discussing plans around this potential indictment of former President Donald Trump. Law enforcement agencies, everyone from the NYPD to the Secret Service to federal agents, as well as court officers which are responsible for safety inside the courtroom have all been coordinating in recent days ahead of this potential indictment.

Now, Donald Trump, taking to his social media channel, to say that he would be arrested on Tuesday, and calling on his supporters to protest. That is creating another layer of logistical challenges for authorities here in New York City. Because should protests happen here in the area, it would complicate the security and the logistics.

We expect former President Donald Trump to turn himself in, if he is in fact charged with a crime, arrested and indicted. He would have to show up here to Manhattan Criminal Court here behind me, just as anybody else who is accused of a crime. He would have to go before a judge. He would be finger-printed, his mugshot would be taken, and he would go through the criminal justice process, like anyone else facing a crime.

The one big and obvious difference here, of course, is that we are talking about the former president of the United States, not only that, but also a current candidate for the presidency, adding a whole layer of history to this potential event, and also adding to the complications around safety and security that local enforcement has to provide for him.

So local authorities preparing for the possibility of that indictment. Former President Donald Trump saying that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday, but of course, all of it remains to be seen. Reporting in New York, Gloria Pazmino, CNN.


ROMANS: All right, Gloria, thank you so much for that. Another remarkable weekend of efforts to shore up confidence in the global banking system. Overnight action by the Federal Reserve and several of the world's top central banks to keep dollars flowing through the global financial system. This comes with the world's banking system in crisis following the collapse of SVB and Signature Bank.

Earlier Sunday, a remarkable move in Switzerland. Swiss officials orchestrated the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse; a 167-year-old bank by its rival, UBS.CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me live from London. What a remarkable weekend. It has been two weekends in a row now where regulators have been up -- bank executives have been up, everyone on pins and needles about stability in the banking system.

And then this overnight scramble by the Fed and other central banks hinging on something called liquidity swap lines. Explain to our viewers what that is and why they're important here for stability.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, this is a mechanism, it's not a new thing, it's been in place for a long time. And It's a system whereby essentially the Fed can swap dollars with foreign currency issued by other central banks. This is really designed to give dollar liquidity to these other central banks so that they can in turn funnel it into their financial systems at a time when their banks might be having trouble for accessing funding in a normal way, like on the open markets.

So, it turns to happen at a time of strain in the financial system, we saw it during COVID. So that's what that is. It was not changed on Sunday, it was just made more frequent. The facility will now be available daily, instead of weekly, until at least the end of April, say these central banks. So it's sort of a temporary measure designed to shore up liquidity and in turn, confidence in the banking system.

As we know, confidence is key. But as you say, that came -- that announcement came just hours after we learned that UBS would be essentially acquiring its rival Credit Suisse in a deal backed by the Swiss government. That move, along with the move of the central banks, both designed to prevent contagion. No one wants to see this banking crisis spread.

But the interesting thing about the move by the central banks, was that, that's not just about financial contagion, that's about economic contagion. They either want to see banks tighten lending, and that spread into the economy, which is a very fast way, as you know, to slow down an economy if banks pull back on credit.

But in terms of the reaction in the markets, Christine, let's take a look at the European markets, they have opened lower. We're seeing that any kind of relief rally that you might have got after back of this move by the Swiss authorities to have UBS acquire Credit Suisse has not materialized. Credit Suisse's stock has dropped by about two- thirds.

That is sort of a material at this point, given that the bank will cease to exist. But UBS, which has taken it over also down very sharply. They have said they don't expect not to turn a profit until 2027.


SEBASTIAN: They're going to take years to mark this up, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, I mean, we looked -- those -- what's happening with the share prices, overall markets in Europe, but when you look at the banking stocks, the banking stocks are all down, Asia closed lower, and in the U.S., stock and its futures right now also leaning down, although less so, I'm looking at First Republic shares in the pre- market.

They are down, that's the bank we're watching in the U.S. Another working weekend for regulators around the globe -- bank regulators around the globe, and frankly, for us. Nice to see you, Clare Sebastian, thank you. All right, just ahead, a defiant Vladimir Putin surprise visit to captured Ukrainian territory. Plus Miami's mayor cracking down as Spring break turns violent.

And next, the Trump ally taking on Michael Cohen. Dual testimonies today, as a possible indictment looms.



ROMANS: All right. Today, former President Trump is having one of his allies testify before a New York grand jury. It appears to be a last- minute effort to discredit the testimony of Michael Cohen, with the possibility of an indictment looming in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. The former president announced Saturday, he expects to be arrested as soon as tomorrow in that case.

Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. You know, Michael, on Truth Social this weekend, a social media, Trump wrote, protest. Take our nation back. Speaker McCarthy spoke out against this. Listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think people should protest this, no. And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn't believe that either. He's not talking in a harmful way. And nobody should. Nobody should harm one another in this.


ROMANS: So, the district attorney, Alvin Bragg sent a -- sent out a press release -- a memo, actually, releasing a memo, telling his staff that their safety is a top priority. What do you make of the former president, you know, releasing a statement, asking the country to protest what he says is an impending indictment?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, PODCAST HOST: Well, it's be there and be wild part two, it would seem. You know, he has a right to say, this is not a good prosecution. I did not do this. And I will take my case to the court, now, I'll take that case to the American people. And the American people should stand by me. He can say all those things, and he's entitled to say all those things. But in the aftermath of January 6th, he used the words, be there and protest, seems ill-considered to me.

ROMANS: If the president is indictment -- indicted, what happens next? What does that process look like? I mean, does he arrive at the court house, and he's fingerprinted, he gets a mugshot, what happens?

ZELDIN: It would seem so if in the ordinary course, an individual is arrested, that's exactly what happens, Christine, they go get fingerprinted, they get a mugshot, they enter the court, they plead or not plead according to what type of charge they're charged with, and then they go home. And it's usually about a 15-minute process, it should be, in his case, very short.

He should be able to get in and out through a back door and be gone. So, this shouldn't be a spectacle. But the former president tends to make these things spectacles. And that's what I think, Bragg and his people are concerned about. What will he say and how will it implicate the safety of everybody in the courthouse and the outside environs.

ROMANS: Does this all happen in isolation here? And does this somehow feed into any of the other investigations the former president is involved in?

ZELDIN: Well, if you're a prosecutor in one of the other cases, you'll be watching this, of course. But it won't make a -- it shouldn't impact your decision whether to charge or not charge the president. That should be done on the facts and the evidence that you have amassed in your individual case. Personally, I don't like this case, I don't think it is from what we know in the public domain, the evidence of the public domain, the type of case that should go forward criminally.

I think these cases tend to resolve themselves civilly. But we don't know what Bragg has, and we'll have to --

ROMANS: Yes --


ZELDIN: You know, see whether there's an indictment, and if so, what it says.

ROMANS: I wonder what your thoughts are, you know, if -- and it's a big "IF", if Trump is charged, what kind of position does that put President Biden in?

ZELDIN: Well, you know, President Biden has the power of pardon. And he could decide that it's not in the interest of the country to have this ongoing. And that, he could decide that he like Gerald Ford with respect to Richard Nixon wants to pardon this, so that we can all move forward. It's complicated because Biden is the president and Trump is running against the president.

And Biden has the power of pardon or clemency if he were ever convicted of something. And the president has to figure out what to do about the former president in respect of these things. And he has to make decisions not based simply on the merits of this case, but what's in the greater best interest of the country.

ROMANS: All right, Michael Zeldin, thank you so much for getting up early for us. Thanks.

ZELDIN: Any time, thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, quick hits across America now. Miami Beach issues a state of emergency and curfew until 6:00 a.m. today after a second fatal shooting during Spring break festivities. The city will discuss further restrictions this afternoon. Two people have died, four injured after being caught in two separate avalanches in Colorado this weekend, one in Marble, the other near Aspen.

The suspect accused of shooting a college baseball player in Ohio after a game, Friday, has now been charged with attempted murder. The player was treated and released from the hospital. Just ahead, Joe Biden on line one, what he told Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone. And lunch with Putin, what's on the menu when China's Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow almost an hour from now.



ROMANS: All right, welcome back. Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest. The Kremlin says this spontaneous visit was to plan the city's rebuilding. Mariupol was subjected to some Moscow's most brutal strikes before it was captured in a hard-fought battle last May. CNN's David McKenzie joins us this morning live from Ukraine. How do -- how do Ukrainians view, David, this visit from Putin?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, first off, there's nothing spontaneous about this visit. Though the authorities describe it as that. You see Vladimir Putin arriving by helicopter into occupied territory into Mariupol. The image, I think he's trying to project, is that things are getting back to normal ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Of course, they're not normal. Many people have evacuated those areas. Large parts of that city still lie in ruin. The Ukrainians, at least, one official saying, Putin acted like a thief, coming in the night. Both for his safety, they say, and also, it indicates they didn't want to show the devastation in that city. In general, this would be viewed very harshly by Ukrainians, of course.

Another official saying it was a cynical move. And I think it is the timing is important. I think the Russian president is trying to say things are getting back to normal, even though they're not. Right as we expect, the Chinese president in the coming hours to arrive in Moscow and have these very important meetings with the Russian president.

Earlier today, there was an article published in the name of X Jinping in Russia. That is also quite unusual. Many people have been wondering how China will end up standing on this conflict . They have to a certain extent, stood on the sideline though, doing brisk trade for Russia, particularly for its oil. There could be some meeting -- or there certainly be meetings, but some agreements, and it will be very interesting and significant to watch how China actually plays us, and whether they make a more explicit support of Putin in the last 24 hours.

There have still been several people killed in strikes across this country. This war is still grinding on, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, you know, the propaganda machine there at Mariupol showing rebuilt apartments -- you know, apartments and show and tell if the president -- and just a reminder to Ukrainians that, oh, by the way, they built new apartments because they've destroyed the other -- the first -- their apartments in the first place. All right, David McKenzie, thank you so much.

For more on this, let's bring in Kim Dozier; CNN global affairs analyst and Senior Managing Editor at "Military Times". So nice to see you this morning. Kim, what message does this trip by President Xi to Russia send?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST & SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR, MILITARY TIMES: Well, it really is the combined forces of two authoritarians, saying this is going to be the new world order from here on out. Xi thinks many decades ahead. And he is planning to supplant the United States as the global first world superpower.

And part of positioning himself for that is showing that he can make peace deals, be a power broker, and Russia needs Beijing so badly at this point, that basically, this is laying the groundwork for how it's going to work from here on out, the longer this war in Ukraine goes on, the more Moscow is going to be reliant on Beijing.

ROMANS: Kim, in this article, published in Russian state media, remarkable. Xi wrote that China and Russia had, quote, "cemented political mutual trust." What are the two countries, I guess, respective goals? What do they each want to take away from this meeting?

DOZIER: Well, from Beijing's perspective, they're getting cheap oil and they're also getting the opportunity to position themselves as the peace-maker between Moscow and Ukraine.