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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Soon: China's Xi To Meet With Russia's President Putin In Moscow; Macron Facing No-Confidence Votes Over Hated Pension Plan; 16- Seed Fairleigh Dickinson's March Madness Run Ends. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR, MILITARY TIMES (via Webex by Cisco): And they're also getting the opportunity to position themselves as the peacemaker between Moscow and Ukraine.

That's a positive role because arguably, Moscow isn't going to be influenced by anyone else because Putin relies on Xi so much at this point to circumvent sanctions that they're increasingly suffering under -- for trade. Trade between Moscow and Beijing has risen by about 30 percent just over the past year. So that's the kind of thing that going forward professionally for the survival of the country that Putin needs.

Also, Putin wants weapons supplies. It's not clear that Beijing is willing to provide that. Perhaps you might see or not see the invisible kind of supplies like the silicone chips to run some of the more sophisticated weapon systems that Russia reportedly is having a harder and harder time accessing because of those sanctions.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Kim, how does Washington view this meeting?

DOZIER: As a whitewashing of Beijing's attempts to set up some sort of a peace deal because in Beijing's so-called peace plan or peace proposal it never talked about Russia having to withdraw back to Ukraine's internationally recognized borders. It had several different points that were somewhat positive.

From the Ukrainian point of view they've been very neutral. There's been talk among Ukrainian officials that they would like Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Xi to talk after this meeting. They're not turning anything off because remember, Ukraine and China still do have some trade ties.

But from Washington's point of view this is about Xi trying to allow Putin to freeze things right where they are to keep the territory he's already seized. And the White House says if you let them do that then Russia will just pause and keep attacking another day. It will have learned nothing.

ROMANS: CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier, thank you so much. All right, President Biden getting candid with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his concern with the planned judicial reforms that have sparked a wave or protests across Israel.

CNN's Hadas Gold live in Jerusalem for us this morning. Hadas, what do we know about this phone call between the two leaders?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this was the phone call -- first phone call that these two have actually had in months and I think what was really notable is what we didn't see in the readout, which is an invitation to Washington. There had been some reports certainly after Benjamin Netanyahu and his government were sworn into power at the beginning of this year that he would be heading to Washington rather quickly. But I think it's a reflection of not only the situation in Israel -- the internal situation over these judicial reforms and other issues related to the security situation on the ground here that Benjamin Netanyahu still has not received that invitation to Washington to visit somebody who he calls a great friend of Israel -- somebody that he's known for more than 40 years.

But in terms of what they actually discussed, the White House readout specifically focused on concerns -- American concerns over this massive judicial reform that would change how Supreme Court judges are selected and would even potentially have the Israeli Parliament able to overturn Supreme Court decisions. That's why you're seeing hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets now for more than two months -- almost three months now -- and on a regular basis protesting this overhaul.

But today, actually, for the first time, the government issued a change -- an amendment -- a softening a bit of these reforms and a potential delay. A softening to what the judicial selection committee would look like that would still give the parties in power a majority over how to pick the judges, but a smaller majority and some other changes to it.

And they also announced they're going to delay the implementation of the other reforms until the end -- after the Passover holidays until the next Israeli Parliament session at the end of April. This is the first time after months of protests that we're seeing any sort of changes from the Israeli government -- any sort of reform to their reforms.

But the opposition -- the protest leaders -- they have rejected these reforms, calling -- the protester leaders actually issued a statement saying this is not a softening but a declaration of war -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Hadas Gold. Thank you so much for that from Jerusalem for us this morning.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

At least 13 people are dead and more than 460 injured after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck southern Ecuador this weekend. U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake was nearly 41 miles deep. Kim Jung Un saying North Korea must be ready to launch nuclear counterstrikes as he watched simulated nuclear drills. State media said a ballistic missile with a mock nuclear warhead was launched Sunday.

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan's hearing on corruption is delayed as clashes between his supporters and police broke out this weekend. The hearing is now set for March 30.


All right. Coming up, one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. And a very different kind of TED Talk, this one at the White House.


ROMANS: All right, here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

Today, Michael Cohen's former legal adviser will testify to the grand jury investigating former President Trump's role in a hush-money scheme. This, at the request of Trump's legal team.

China's leader Xi Jinping will arrive in Moscow in the next hour to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be a core part of their talks.

The cast of "TED LASSO" will visit President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House today. They will hold a conversation about the importance of mental health.

All right, a weekend of angry protests in France -- fury over the government raising the retirement age two years to 64. Literally, dumpster fire over this. The French Parliament is set to vote on two no-confidence motions against the government his morning for doing that -- for raising the retirement age.


CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live from Paris. Melissa, take us back a couple of steps. Tell us how we got here.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a very controversial reform in and of itself. The idea of raising that retirement age here in France -- it's a pretty unpopular reform, Christine. But it is the manner in which Emmanuel Macron has chosen to drive it through, pushing it through a very fast legislative timetable and then ultimately deciding -- the government on Thursday -- that he would force it through with this particularly controversial parliamentary device. That is what has led us to this particular vote of no-confidence that we will have later today in the French Parliament but it's been months in the making.

This is a controversial reform that Emmanuel Macron had from his very first time in office, Christine, and said he was determined to push through. He tried and failed once before under pressure from the street. This time he said he was determined that 2023 would be the year that France would see the retirement age raised from 62 to 64.

We've had weeks now of protests and strikes, Christine. The ninth nationwide strike is planned for Thursday with the unions fairly unanimously in a very unified way determined to act against this reform.

This vote today may pass; it may not. We're not sure whether the parliamentary arithmetic is on the government's side or against it. It's mostly likely it will not pass.

Either way, it is many more days and weeks, no doubt, of protests that we're likely to see as a result of this given the amount of popular anger there is out there amongst the wider public when you look at the poles -- not just against the reform itself but again, the manner in which the government has chosen to push this through.

And the streets of Paris --


BELL: -- are a testament to it. There is 10,000 tons of rubbish out there uncollected as a result of these strikes and that is what keeps getting set on fire once again, today, in the city of Rennes as those protests kick off again, Christine.

ROMANS: I mean, from where I'm sitting, 62 -- wow, that is a really young retirement age. I mean, we -- I think in the U.S. we don't realize just how generous the French retirement system is. But that generosity, according to Macron -- the math must have its limits. I mean, you can't give these kind of benefits to 60 -- at 62 when you have the life expectancy rising.

BELL: That's exactly right. The government's point is that there is this huge deficit within the pension system, Christine, and that it has to be addressed. And, of course, you're right. Sixty-two is relatively young and it's one of the youngest also when you look at other countries within Europe.


BELL: But this is an issue that's always been tricky for governments to get through. The French hold very dear to their hearts the idea of their retirement age --

ROMANS: That's right.

BELL: -- as we've seen these last few weeks. Still, as you say, for reasons of public finances, Emmanuel Macron says we have to hold firm, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Melissa Bell. Thank you so much for that.

All right, the bell strikes midnight on Cinderella at March Madness. Sixteen-seed Farleigh Dickinson now out of the NCAA Tournament.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy. COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine.

Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history when they beat number-one Purdue on Friday to become just the second men's 16-seed to win a game at March Madness.

Last night they could have become the first to reach the Sweet Sixteen and they did hang tough against Florida Atlantic. Cameron Tweedy hitting the circus shot to give the Knights the lead halfway through the second half. But Fairleigh Dickinson -- they just couldn't seem to muster that magic down the stretch. The Owls pulling off a 12-2 run. Johnell Davis dunking to seal the deal.

A 78-70 win for FAU heading to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history.

And afterwards, Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson reflected on his team's special place in history.


TOBIN ANDERSON, HEAD COACH, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON: I couldn't be more proud of a basketball team -- a bunch of guys -- the name of my guys right here. My guys here -- my guys in the locker room. What a historical run. We went toe to toe the last few days with two great teams and didn't back down, didn't go away. It was an incredible run and we're proud of what we did.


WIRE: Shockwaves in the women's bracket. Stanford becoming the first one-seed to fall, stunned on their home court by Ole Miss who made less than 30 percent of their shots but won with swarming defense, forcing turnovers.

On Stanford's final three possessions, the Rebels would become just the fifth team in 29 years to beat a one-seed before the Sweet Sixteen, overcoming the odds, a lot like their head coach affectionally known as Coach Yo.


YOLETT MCPHEE-MCCUIN, HEAD COACH, OLE MISS: This is for the people with a dollar and a dream. I'm a little girl from the Bahamas that was given an opportunity. I wasn't Ole Miss' first choice but I was the right one. And I was naive enough to think that I could do it and that's what no ceilings means -- that there's no limit.


WIRE: Controversy coming at the end of Marquette and Michigan State. The Spartans up five with two minutes to go and Mady Sissoko comes up with the big-time block, or does he? Is this goaltending? The two-seed Marquette -- they're pleading for the call but they do not get it.

[05:45:10] And that was as close as they would get. Michigan State, the seventh seed, holding on for the win. It's the sixth time the Spartans have made it to the Sweet Sixteen as a five-seed or higher under Tom Izzo. That's the most now by any coach in tournament history.

The Spartans will face red-hot Kansas State next. The three-seed taking down Kentucky with Markquis Nowell leading the way. Just five- foot-eight, Christine, but he plays bigger than anyone on the court -- 27 points, including this here to bring Kansas State within one. And then look at that dish. Nine assists on the night. He has scored or assisted on 62 percent of his team's points in this tournament.

From Harlem, Christine, but hasn't been home in three years so he could stay at school to work and improve his game and his studies.

And now, Kansas State -- they're headed to Madison Square Garden into the Sweet Sixteen. So how sweet will that be to be playing at home in front of family and friends?

ROMANS: That is so cool. All right, Coy Wire. Thank you so much.

WIRE: You got it.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" Donald Trump calling for protests and expecting arrest. And next right here, fears of a global bank crisis. Is the worst behind us?



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning is 84. Credit Suisse shares have lost 84 percent of their value in the past two years. Shares of rival UBS climbed 15 percent over the same period. UBS is now buying Credit Suisse in an emergency effort to stabilize the global banking system.

The remarkable takeover and intervention by central banks has not soothed jitters around the world. Asian markets ended lower. Europe opening down led by weak bank stocks, although Paris and Frankfurt have now turned higher.

On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are also barely mixed here searching for stability after a down week last week for the Dow, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed up despite anxiety surrounding those bank stocks.

On inflation watch, gas prices fell a penny overnight to $3.44 a gallon. Watching oil prices after a down week last week.

And this is a critical week for investors. New and existing home sales data. A Fed interest rate decision. That is the most important item on this agenda. Jobless claims Thursday, durable goods -- a lot to give us information about the state of the economy. I want to bring in Lori Bettinger, president of BancAlliance and former director of the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP.

OK, Lori, a lot has happened the last couple of weeks with UBS agreeing to buy Credit Suisse. The Fed, along with major central banks, announcing an effort to boost the flow of U.S. dollars. That was last night just before Asia markets opened. And the FDIC selling most of Signature Bank's deposit to a subsidiary of New York Community Bank.

Where are we in the bank jitters? Are they behind us or we're still in the middle of it?

LORI BETTINGER, PRESIDENT, BANCALLIANCE, FORMER DIRECTOR, TROUBLED ASSET RELIEF PROGRAM (via Skype): I really hope that they are behind us. That said, I think we're going to have to get through the next days and weeks to know for sure. I mean, I think I probably had that same hope last Monday after all the interventions of the prior weekend.

And I think we made it through the week, right, but continue to see a lot of uncertainty. For example, in Europe, you mentioned what happened with Credit Suisse and UBS buying it this weekend. So I feel like it's our second -- our second week in a row of having a lot of activity over the weekend and then really waiting to see how the market reacts on Monday when everything opens up again.

But I do think the banking system in the U.S. is fundamentally in good shape. I think we have really strong community banks, regional banks. You know, the country's largest banks have certainly been stepping up to do what they can to stabilize the system.

But clearly, there's a lot of noise, there's a lot of heightened attention on things like deposit --


BETTINGER: -- and interest rate risk. So we're going to see where this week takes us.

ROMANS: You know, the fundamentals are one thing and then fear is this other thing, and that's what regulators have been --


ROMANS: -- up the last two weekends really working to contain fear in the global financial system. I mean, when I listened to that two-hour press conference yesterday from Switzerland, they kept saying again and again it was Twitter. It was worries in the U.S. There were all of these things that were sort of taking down Credit Suisse after a couple of bad years of tough management decisions.

Talk to me about the fear part of the banking problem.

BETTINGER: It's a great point because if you think about what's -- you know, in a way, the opposite of fear is confidence and we talk so much about the role that confidence plays in our economy. And nowhere I think is it more important than the banking sector, right?

You have confidence that when you got into the bank and you make those deposits they are going to be there when you need them. And you should have confidence. We have a great banking system. We have depository insurance.

But I think in today's world given the speed at which news is moving it's sometimes really hard to sort out what is reality. What is reality that's going to affect you personally as a consumer, as a business? And what is sort of news that interesting but you don't necessarily need to take action on immediately?

And I think it's really hard when you see stories of a particular issue at a bank. Everyone's trying to figure out what does that mean for me? What actions do I need to take to protect, again, my family, my company? And all of these actions -- these press conferences, these statements we're seeing, I think are trying to really weigh on the side of confidence and make sure that we can feel comfortable with that.

But it's hard, as you pointed out, when we keep seeing all of these things that --


BETTINGER: -- would sort of imply otherwise. But it's this permanent battle right now.

ROMANS: All right, buckle up. It's going to be quite a week. I just know it.

Lori Bettinger of BancAlliance, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

All right, China's Xi Jinping about to land in Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin. And flight attendants against lap babies in the cabin.



ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning this Monday, the top movies at the box office.


Clip From Warner Bros Pictures "Shazam: Fury of the Gods."


ROMANS: Superhero sequel "Shazam: Fury of the Gods" debuts at number one.

A favorite horror franchise takes number two.


Clip from Spyglass Media Group's "Scream VI."


ROMANS: That's "Scream VI," last week's number one. Jenna Ortega stars in this one.

A legendary sports spinoff franchise takes number three.


Clip from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Creed."