Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Russian & Chinese Leader Meet for 2nd Day of Talks in Moscow; House GOP Wants New York D.A.'s Testimony, Seeks to Discredit Probe; Team Trump Puts Forward Ally to Undercut Cohen Testimony; Global Markets Buoyed by UBS Takeover of Credit Suisse. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go. It's Tuesday. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

In just a few hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts China's leader Xi Jinping in Kremlin. It'll be their second meeting after an initial face to face yesterday. This is Xi's first visit Russia since Putin's launched his unprovoked war on Ukraine. Today, they'll be getting to the main topic of Xi's visit with Ukraine a key item.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me this morning from Hong Kong.

So, what is on the agenda today in Moscow, Kristie?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this is the main day of the talks on the agenda you have an official meeting ceremony with negotiations, signing of documents, a media statement then a formal lunch. And so far, the leaders of China and Russia, they have been presenting this united front in Moscow. Just days after the ICC issued that arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, Xi and Putin greeted each other, calling each other dear friends. They held these informal talks in the Kremlin that lasts nearly four and a half hours.

And Xi Jinping said that Russia and China have similar goals. Listen to this.


XI JINPING, CHINESE LEADER (through translator): It is true that both of our countries share the same or similar goals. We have exerted efforts for prosperity of our respective countries. We can cooperate and work together to achieve our goals.


STOUT: Now the U.S. has denounced the visit but the U.S. secretary of state saying that China was giving Russia, quote, diplomatic cover to commit crimes in the Ukraine. The White House expressed concerns that China would call for a cease-fire that would let Russian troops stay.

Here's John Kirby


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: The cease-fire called right now would basically just ratify rushes concordance and give Putin more time to break with and retrain, and restart operations at a time and place of his choosing.


STOUT: Now, to China, the state visit to Moscow is a journey of peace, trying to claim this neutral party, despite having that no- limits relationship with Russia, and the tendency to speak with one side more than the other. In fact, since the invasion, Xi Jinping has spoken to Vladimir Putin four times, but Xi is yet to have a single phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Now, meanwhile, Christine, we have learned that Japan's prime minister is visiting Ukraine today. He'll be meeting with Zelenskyy. This is the first visit by Japanese leaders since the invasion. And last year, Kishida made that warning. He said, quote, Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Kristie Lu Stout, thank you so much for that.

All right. The White House maintaining a skeptical stance on that meeting between Presidents Putin and Xi. Officials say there is no evidence one where another that Beijing is moving ahead with providing weapons to Russia to use in Ukraine.


KIRBY: We still don't believe that China has taken it off the table. We still don't believe or haven't seen any indication that they're moving in that direction. They made a decision to provide or that they're actually going to do that. We continue to believe, it's not in China's best interest to do that, to help Mr. Putin slaughter innocent Ukrainians.


ROMANS: Officials say the U.S. is concerned Xi will repeat calls for a ceasefire in place. That will allow Russia to keep its forces inside Ukrainian territory.

All right. Three House Republican chairmen are trying to intervene in a New York DA's investigation into the Stormy Daniels hush money scheme. A New York grand jury is expected to decide at anytime whether to indict former President Trump in connection with this payoff.

Now, Trump's allies in the Congress want Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to testify about whether federal funds were used in his investigation. Republicans calling the probe an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.

Bragg's office is responding: We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process.

And this isn't the only GOP effort to push back on Bragg's investigation this week, and CNN's Paula Reid has more on that.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Manhattan D.A.'s investigation into Trump's alleged role in hush money payments made to an adult film star ahead of the 2016 election is moving ahead full steam.

ROBERT COSTELLO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: I went in there today to tell these people the truth about who the real Michael Cohen is and what he was actually saying at that moment in time.

REID: Attorney Robert Costello appeared before the New York grand jury after Trump's legal team requested he be called to testify about the credibility of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.


Costello spoke to reporters today.

COSTELLO: He said maybe every three or four minutes he'd be talking to us while pacing like a wild tiger in a cage, back and forth, back and forth. He was really frazzled. He looked like he hadn't slept in three, four, five days.

And he just suddenly stopped in the middle of talking about something, pointed at us and he'd say, I want you guys to know I will do whatever the F it takes. I will never spend one day in jail. He must have said that close to 20 times. This was his mantra all day long.

REID: Costello previously represented Cohen who, according to a letter the Trump team sent to the D.A., waived attorney/client privilege. Cohen, who has met with the D.A.'s office 20 times and appeared before the same grand jury twice, is a key witness in this case, which centers around a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. She was paid by Cohen in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

Now, almost seven years later, the grand jury is looking at crimes that include whether Trump falsified business records when reimbursing Cohen for that payment. Cohen was sentenced to jail time after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges stemming from his involvement in the payments.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: This case is not going to be predicated on any one individual but rather it's going to be predicated on the documents, the evidence, the text messages, the emails.

REID: On Truth Social over the weekend, Trump predicted he would be arrested Tuesday, and in an echo of January 6th, called for his supporters to protest. But his spokesperson said they have received no indication from the D.A. that he will be arrested Tuesday.

Is your client speculating about an arrest to incite political violence?

ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't think he's speculating at all.

REID: Trump denies the affair and any wrongdoing. One of his Attorneys, Alina Habba, warning that Trump supporters will lash out if he is charged.

HABBA: If they choose to do so for a misdemeanor, which, frankly, he didn't even do, it is going to cause mayhem.


REID (on camera): It is not clear if the grand jury will be hearing from any additional witnesses or when the grand jury may vote on a possible indictment what we are hearing from sources that the former president's legal team does not expect anything to happen on Tuesday. And if there is an indictment this week, they do not expect any self surrender or initial appearance until next.

Paula Reid, CNN, New York.

ROMANS: All right. The Federal Reserve meets starting today with a decision expected tomorrow whether to raise instrument rates again to fight inflation and if so by how much?

In the last week or so, that job became a lot more tricky in the wake of two huge bank players that many blame in failure, on part on the Fed's sustain campaign of rate hikes.

At the moment, U.S. markets seeming somewhat optimistic.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me live from London.

And, Clare, is there a sense that the takeover of ailing Credit Suisse by its larger rival UBS has a least calm the waters for now?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, it is certainly playing into it. We saw Asia looking a little brighter overnight, the European markets have opened quite solidly higher this morning. Banks leading the way, the UBS should be noticed up pretty sharply o more than 4 percent when I just checked just now.

And that is really playing into sort of -- I don't want to say confidence, because this is still a volatile market, but stocks are finding some footing as of now. But there are still nerves out there, there are two sides to the coin with this takeover, there are nerves around the integration itself how messy and complicated and drawn out it could be for UBS.

Standard & Poor's, for example, downgraded the outlook on UBS to negative, citing potential concerns around that integration. Moody's made a similar on Monday, and there are significance in the bond market after the decision by the Swiss authorities rather to wipe out $17 billion dollars in risky bonds in the Credit Suisse takeover, while at the same time, giving some money back to shareholders, really upsetting the usual pecking order in this.

The European Banking Authority was forced to come out later in the day and reassure investors that if this were to happen again in Europe, they would not be doing that. So that is certainly playing in.

But for now, we certainly are seeing a brighter today on the markets, all eyes, though, as you say, pointing to the Federal Reserve decision on Wednesday, and then we have the Bank of England as well on Thursday -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah, there's -- I think you are right. You know, you don't declare that this is all over this could take weeks or months, but stabilization is what we are looking for in terms of making expectations there.

Clare, thank you so much.

So, 11 banks rushing to the aid of First Republic were apparently not enough. Stop in First Republic Bank has tumbled and new reports looking for another financial lifeline.


CNN's Rahel Solomon has the latest.


RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Investor jitters continue for First Republic Bank. Shares continue to fall on Monday on fresh reports that investors seem to view as troubling. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is leading discussions on how to further stabilize First Republic. That's after 11 banks last week, including JPM, banded together to provide the bank $30 billion in uninsured deposits.

Friday night, credit reporting agencies Moody's and S&P also cut the bank's rating to junk status. A lower rating signals a riskier investment and therefore makes it expensive to the bank to borrow. First Republic shares are up 70 percent over last week on concerns about its depositors rushing to move their money out of the bank.

First Republic trying to push back saying in a statement that deposit outflows how slow considerably, and insured dispositive have been rain steady. And yet, judging by the reaction from Wall Street, it seems investors still aren't convinced that First Republic has stabilized.

Rahel Solomon, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: All right. Western allies announced a new commitments of firepower for Ukraine. Eighteen European nations agreeing to jointly purchase ammunition to aid Ukraine and replenish their own stockpiles.

And Biden administration authorizing an additional $350 million in ammunition and military equipment for Ukraine.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live for us this morning in London.

Salma, what's on the menu here? What will Europe and the U.S. be sending to help the Ukrainians?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An announcement that's, of course, being welcomed in Kyiv, important to know here on the U.S. offer for assistance that $350 million security assistant package, that is the drawdown package. That means it's going to be polled exactly from Ukraine stockpile and get to Ukraine quickly.

On the European support, that 17 E.U. countries plus Norway that are pledged to broker 1 million ammunition rounds, 1 million rounds of 150 millimeter artillery ammunition to get to those frontlines in Ukraine. We have a graph to show you didn't give you understanding what's on the way.

Ammunition for HIMARS, for Howitzer, for Bradley fighting vehicle. Separately, there are also be HARM missile sent. Those are anti-radio missiles. Anti-tank weapons, and riverine boats. And this all comes at a very critical time for Ukraine, you will remember that fight for the city of Bakhmut all the way in the east of the country.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group has which has been leading the charge in that fight says that he is now in control of 70 percent of the city but even he admits this fight is difficult for Moscow. He has a appeal to Russia's defense ministry to step up their attacks ahead of what he expects to be a counteroffensive from Ukraine, Ukraine admitted that they are on the back foot in Bakhmut they are in need of help and support so this announcement will absolutely be critical at this time.

President Zelenskyy used his nightly address to thank his allies for this new support saying it brings confidence in their unity it is too early to tell if that will make a change on the ground, that is absolutely needed at this time when the Ukraine is desperate for the support on the battlefield.

ROMANS: All right. Absolutely.

All right. Salma in London, thank you so much.

All right. School workers walking off the job today in America's second largest district. The latest from L.A. ahead.

Plus, the South Carolina teen's death now being re-examined after that Alex Murdaugh murder tell.

But, first, Florida's Ron DeSantis breaks his silence on Donald Trump's possible indictment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence of over some type of alleged affair, I just -- I can't speak to that.




ROMANS: All right. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis breaking his silence on that into the vast against into Donald Trump. With Trump awaiting possible indictment in the Stormy Daniels hush money scheme, DeSantis criticized Manhattan district attorney but stopped short of offering his support to the former president.



DESANTIS: I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair, I just -- I can't speak to that. But what I can speak to, is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, you know, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.


ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in Daniel Strauss, senior political correspondent at "The New Republic".

So nice to see you this morning -- excuse me.

I see what he did there, needling Trump first and then attacking -- attacking the D.A. Trump and his allies attack DeSantis on social media, House Republicans are demanding Alvin Bragg's testimony. Is this how DeSantis should be playing it?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I mean, there is a strong incentive for him to keep the spotlight on Trump right now, but not annoy the base of the party, or the wing of the Republican Party that feels that they have to side with Trump to some degree.

We've seen that with top investigative officials on Capitol Hill, who sent a letter about, to Alvin Bragg about donations from George Soros, that DeSantis mentioned. At the same time, though, he doesn't gain much by criticizing Trump, if he runs for president which he seems extremely likely to do. He needs the supporters that Trump has, to move over to his side.

So, in this way, as the audience chuckled, because they are in on the joke, too, apparently, this is DeSantis sort of walking a fine line here, and not criticizing Trump entirely, but noting that he is associated and embroiled in a situation with hush money and a porn star and an affair.


ROMANS: Yeah, it's interesting because Stormy Daniels on Twitter will say it's not an affair, it was an awkward sexual encounter, not actually an affair. But that is just her trying to edit the conversation.

Look, Nikki Haley is running for president and she reacted to the possible indictment of the former president on Fox and said the country would be at or off talking about things the public American public cares about. Listen.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: From everything I've seen about this New York district attorney, this would be something he's doing for political points. And I think what we know is when you get into political prosecutions like this, it's more about revenge than it is about justice.


ROMANS: How does a Trump indictment affect Nikki Haley's base?

STRAUSS: I mean, I'm a little unclear on who Nikki Haley's base is right now. She doesn't poll very high. But it is more curious, it doesn't distinguish her from DeSantis or from any other Republican.

And to a degree, again, if you want to lead the Republican Party right now, you have to align with the rest of them on big events like this. At the same time, though, Haley just sort of echoing the same criticism that DeSantis, that Trump, that other lawmakers that are already in the position or poll higher than her, it doesn't help her that much.

ROMANS: Meanwhile Mike Pence said in a indictment is politically charged, and not what the American want to see. He defended any peaceful protests that may arise.

How do these comments playing?

STRAUSS: I mean, we know that Pence is in a different situation here, where he is sometimes defied Trump and he had this extremely important and pivotal moment on January 6th on Capitol Hill, where he refused to follow Trump's request to hold up the certification of the 2020 presidential election. So here, Pence is trying to once again, have it both ways.

When the cameras aren't on him, he's eager to criticize his former boss. When there is a spotlight on him, he doesn't want to ignite the fury of Trump against him again, and Trump consumes most of his media through television. So, this is Pence's strategy here.

But again, like Haley, Pence doesn't poll well right now in the Republican primary. He's going to have to do more to build his own base or move supporters away from DeSantis and Trump toward him.

ROMANS: All right. Daniel Strauss, nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

STRAUSS: All right. Quick hits across America right now police in Arlington, Texas, say a juvenile suspect is in custody following a shooting outside Lamar High School that killed one student injured another.

The family of Stephen Smith has raised money to have his body privately exhumed some eight years after the teen was found dead in the middle of a South Carolina wrote, the case was reopened based on information uncovered in the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

A large fire destroyed a New Jersey church firefighters managed to stop the flames to spreading to a school building next year. No injuries and no word yet on a cause.

All right. By the end of the day, the U.S. will have two new national moments and scathing report on London's police force.



ROMANS: All right. A stunning independent review funding officers in London's Metropolitan Police Force are racist, sexist, and homophobic.

The agency was investigated after a wave of scandals over its treatment of women and minorities. And now the pressure increases for a department overhaul.

CNN's Katie Polglase joins us live from London.

This, Katie, report also describing the MET police defensive and resistant to change. What are the next steps here?

KATE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Christine, London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he hopes that the recommendations in this report will be implemented in full and quickly. It is notable as well the prime minister here in the U.K. that he hopes for an overall cultural change to London's MET police.

But it is worth noting, Christine, that these reports happened before. There have been other reviews into London's MET police over the years, and a lot of the issues identified in the Baroness Casey's review have been identified before. And there is this cultural of denial as she calls it, resistant to change as you describe that is prevented these recommendations to being and limited in the past.

And so, the question is really whether they will be implemented this time? Whether they will finally be listened to and whether this is a turning point that London's Met police may need.

ROMANS: All right. Fascinating. Thank you so much. The report is just -- it is just a what not to do for policing and a real stain there. Thank you so much, Katie.

All right. Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu softening his government's plan to overhaul the judiciary, a plan that sparked a wave of protests across the country. The changes give lawmakers less power but still more power than they have now.

Opposition leaders rejected the changes.

Let's go to CNN's Hadas Gold live in Jerusalem.

Hadas, where does this leave I guess chances for compromise?