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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Feds Decides on Interest Rates Amid Inflation, Bank Fears; Today: NY Grand Jury Reconvenes As Indictment Decision Nears; U.S. to Send Patriot Missiles, Tanks to Ukraine Faster than Planned. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. This is EARLY START.

Just hours from now, one of the most important Federal Reserve decisions in years. We'll hear from Fed officials for the first time since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the sale of Credit Suisse, and the lifeline extended to First Republic.

The big question, will the Fed raises interest rates to try to fight inflation, even in the midst of global banking turmoil, and if so, by how much. Today's decision could affect the interest rates on your loans on your credit cards, the price you pay at the store and even potentially the bank where you keep your money.

CNN's Anna Stewart live in London for us.

Anna, we've been saying this is a delicate balancing act for the Fed here. I mean the options are they pause, they raise rates 25 basis points, or they follow in the footsteps of the European Central Bank and fight against inflation by raising a big 50 basis points.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, big hike. Little hike. No hike is where I see it right now.

So let's talk about the big hike react on the data because the labor market is too tight and inflation is too high. So that is certainly one of the options out there. But the risk, of course, is you spoke with markets, particularly with the uncertainty around the banking sector.

That middle option the smaller hike a quarter of a percent. That seems to be what is priced in by investors, and certainly what I'm seeing in terms of analysts' notes in terms of their expectations. Which is act on that data, but maybe also kind of read the room of the markets.

So, the third option do absolutely nothing. This would be perhaps the fed deciding that really going to take this seriously, they're going to pause while they focus on the banking sector. But, of course, that suggests that maybe they're not taking inflation seriously enough, so that could also have a negative impact on the markets. It's not just the rate, though, is it? It's the messaging around it

that will get today and also the so called dot plot, the quarterly summary of economic projections, if they release it. There was a suggestion that they might hold off, but I think that's going to be really interesting in terms of where people are seeing rates go beyond this.

ROMASN: Yeah, I think what the Fed chief says, how he says it and how it's received, you know, that's going to be just as important, I think is the size of that of that rate hike. If it comes.

Anna Stewart, thank you so much. We know you'll be following it all afternoon.

All right. The grand jury investigating former President Trump's hush money case set to reconvene today. The Manhattan district attorney's office appears close to a decision on whether to indict the former president is also just received communications between Stormy Daniels and an attorney who now represents Donald Trump, raising the possibility that he could be sidelined from Mr. Trump's defense.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the day former President Trump claimed he would be arrested on charges related to a hush money probe, but there is no sign yet of an arrest or even an indictment.

Still, law enforcement continues to prepare for possible protests. In Washington, D.C., barriers erected around the capital. In New York, police officers told to be in uniform and ready for deployment.

So far, officials say there are no credible threats despite online chatter calling for civil war if Trump is indicted. Today, small groups gathered outside Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.

There has been no word from the Manhattan district attorney after a last ditch effort by Trump to avoid charges.

Attorney Robert Costello appearing before the grand jury Monday to attack the witness at the center of the investigation, Michael Cohen.

ROBERT COSTELLO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: My obligation is to bring the truth to both the district attorneys and to Trump's lawyers, that's exactly what I did.

REID: Costello previously represented Cohen.

COSTELLO: If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, so be it but Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence.

REID: It is unclear whether the grand jury will hear from more witnesses as it investigates a $130,000 payment to porn 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.

REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


REID: Now, seven years on, the D.A. is looking at whether Trump may have falsified business records when reimbursing Cohen for the payment.

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: Cohen has made countless public statements about the investigation.

COHEN: The D.A.'s team are spectacular. They are well-versed. They are well-informed, and we just will continue to cooperate each and every time that they ask.

My goal is to allow Alvin Bragg and his team to do what they need to do.

At the end, the grand jurors, have an opportunity to ask me some questions as well, and I'm looking forward to that.

REID: While he usually says he cannot talk about what happens in the grand jury room, he has been advised to stop talking about the case on TV, after drawing the ire of prosecutors for appearing on TV Monday night to rebut Costello's testimony.

COHEN: If in fact, that I waived attorney/client privilege, I'd like to know when, how, where, I don't recall waiving anything, but again, this is -- I don't know -- I don't know what he's talking about.


REID (on camera): Prosecutors here in Manhattan have a deadline. The statute of limitations in this case expires in May. So it's now or never for the district attorney.

Paula Reid, CNN, New York.

ROMANS: All right. Paula, thank you so much for that.

All right. The U.S. ramping up efforts to send patriot missiles and Abrams tanks to Ukraine, faster than originally planned. Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive against Russian forces, largely relying on the more advanced systems Western countries have agreed to send.

CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London with more for us this morning. Clare, how soon can Ukraine expect to receive those weapons now?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well in the case of the Patriots, Christine, it could be in the coming weeks, according to defense officials. The idea is that the 65 Ukrainian soldiers they say that a currently training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on us Patriot systems, they will wrap up that training in the coming days and then subsequently moved to Europe to train on the actual Patriot systems, two of them that will then be deployed to Ukraine, they say, in the coming weeks. So that is coming up pretty fast.

In terms of the reason why they were able to accelerate, well, they're saying that the Ukrainian soldiers already had a baseline knowledge of air defense systems, and we're quick at learning, so they're able to whittle down that 10-week training period eight weeks and get this done faster, so it's sort of public praise for Ukrainian soldiers also good news for Ukraine.

In terms of the M1 Abrams battle tanks, those main battle tanks that were so sought after by Ukraine, that timeline also being accelerated, according to U.S officials. That was originally thought to be set to take more than a year to get those tanks to Ukraine with the most sophisticated model needing lots of refurbishment, perhaps even building from scratch lots of training.

They have now decided to send a slightly older model, which will need less training less preparation, and that will mean they say they can get those tanks to Ukraine by the fall. So that is another boost for Ukraine. Now, of course, the reason not such good news is that the U.S. believes that Russia may be getting ready to mount a new offensive in the coming weeks.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson telling CNN, he thinks the next weeks and months will be crucial and overnight Christine yet more evidence of the need for sophisticated air defense in Ukraine, the air force there saying that 21 drones were fired at the country of which they shut down 16.

ROMANS: Amazing. All right. Thank you so much for that.

All right. Chinese Leader Xi Jinping, wrapping up his three day visit to Moscow for talks with the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Xi promoted Beijing's peace proposal for Ukraine, which Putin says could end the war. But he claims the West and Kyiv are not ready for that.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, live in Hong Kong, following this with more.

Kristie, Putin and Xi are convincing anyone that their peace brokers here?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, in a word, no. Look, Xi Jinping has already left Russia. He's on route to China. But while in Moscow, him and his Russian counterpart posed as peace brokers, playing up China's plan for peace in Ukraine. That plan calls for a ceasefire, calls for talks. It does not include any calls for Russia to withdraw from occupied

territory. This plan was drawn up without the involvement of Ukraine. It has been roundly criticized by the west, including the U.S and NATO. And on Tuesday, we heard from the Ukrainian president added that a ceasefire is not in his country's interest.

And in addition to making these overtures about peace in Ukraine, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin while having that state visit. They also emphasize their deepening relationship, and it was on full display. At the start of the state dinner, the two leaders raised a glass, they had a toast, and Putin proclaimed that Russia Chinese relations are at the highest point ever.

We also heard from Xi Jinping, tattered, they're close economic ties. Take a listen to this.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): We've signed a joint statement to deepen our comprehensive partnership and strategic engagement as we enter a new era, and a joint statement on the development plan for key areas of Chinese Russian economic cooperation for the period up to 2030.


STOUT: China has been buying up Russian energy, softening the impact of Western sanctions, and Putin says Russia is ready to increase uninterrupted oil supplies to China.


He points out that Russia is the fourth largest supplier of liquefied gas to China, and that those supplies will expand. Putting also said that Moscow will support Chinese business in replacing the Western businesses that left Russia.

Now, there will be another meeting. That's very likely because Xi Jinping invited Putin to make a return visit to China this year and separately, a senior Ukrainian official tells CNN that talks are underway for a possible called between Xi and Zelenskyy, but nothing has been booked. Nothing locked in -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much for that, Kristie Lu Stout for us in Hong Kong.

The defamation lawsuit against Fox News goes before a judge today. Will the case be decided before trial?

Plus, Gwyneth Paltrow on trial for a crash on a ski slope.

And later, a dentist accused of poisoning his wife. Police lay out a chilling timeline.



ROMANS: All right. A high stakes hearing in Dominions defamation lawsuit against Fox News continues today. Both sides are now arguing that the judge should declare them the winner before the case even goes to trial.

Here's Jessica Schneider.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Fraud is something that is real that just took place two weeks ago.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The on-air words of Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts at the center of a $1.6 billion defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Systems.

Lawyers for the voting machine and software-maker telling a Delaware judge today the fix was in, arguing that Fox producers and hosts knew the claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 election were false.

Even when they continually booked guests like Sidney Powell, who perpetuated the falsehoods.

SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: The dominion voting systems, the Smartmatic technology software and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.

SCHNEIDER: Fox News maintains that it is proud of its 2020 election coverage and that it is fully protected by the First Amendment, arguing it can't be held liable for airing newsworthy allegations from public figures.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: And there are other aspects of this fraud that, at this point, I really can't reveal. This is really enough. It's enough to overturn any election.

SCHNEIDER: A judge will now determine whether to decide the case on the claims already presented to him or if the case will go to a jury trial next month.

The decision comes as a Fox News producer is suing the network for allegedly coercing her into giving misleading testimony during a deposition for the Dominion case. Abby Grossberg's lawyer saying Fox News had its lawyers misleadingly coach, manipulate and coerce Ms. Grossberg to deliver shaded and/or incomplete answers during her sworn deposition testimony.

Fox News responding that attorney/client privilege prevents it from commenting on the claims. But the producer is now on administrative leave from the network. If the defamation case goes to trial, Dominion wants to put Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch on the stand as well as his CEO son Lachlan. Both have already given depositions in the case, with Rupert Murdoch acknowledging Fox News hosts endorsed election conspiracy theories and then saying, I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Fox News is resisting efforts to put Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on the stand. They're saying it would create an undue hardship for both of them and would only result in a media circus. Both sides will be back in court on Wednesday.

If this case does go to trial, that trial will likely start sometime next month.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.

ROMANS: All right, Jessica, thank you for that.

Let's bring in Julius Kim, former district attorney in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

Nice to see you this morning. So you know what can we expect today?


I think we're going to see a little bit more of the same that we've seen this past week with the lawyers for both sides making arguments on this summary judgment motion. Both sides have put in motions for summary judgment and the judges basically continuing to let them make the arguments today.

ROMANS: So that means essentially the summer judging means they're the case will be over, there would be a decision and then it doesn't go to trial?

KIM: Well, the main issues could be resolved through the summary judgment process. Now there could be other issues regarding damages, etcetera that could end up getting in front of a jury. But, yeah, it could be that the judge looks at the case and rules one way another that the case does not have any merit under the law, or that the issues and facts are so obvious that, you know, there's no reasonable defense that could be made.

One thing that we've seen is all of these text messages, private conversations, private emails between people who work at Fox News. How critical are Tucker Carlson's private text in Dominion's case here.

Kim: Yeah, I think those were powerful pieces of evidence for Dominion. Not only Tucker Carlson statements, you know that he passionately hates Donald Trump. But the other employees of Fox News hosts and whatnot because one of the things that Dominion has to overcome is this notion that Fox News acted with actual males, which means that the knowingly put out false information or did it with reckless disregard for the truth.

And when you have people like Tucker Carlson basically saying that they're not sure that what has been put out there is really true or not, that's pretty powerful evidence.

ROMANS: Dominion wants Rupert Murdoch on the witness stand. What would that add?

I think that would help level of drama. But it also shows that Fox Corporation may have been involved with what Fox News was up to. You know, they want to go for the deep pockets here.

Clearly, this is the $1.6 billion lawsuit, and so I think they want to tie Rupert Murdoch being the chairperson. The high person on the kind of the line here to say he managed what was going on.


He approved of what was going on with these lies being perpetuated on Fox News.

ROMANS: Julius, can Fox -- can Fox legally make the claim that we knew that these were falsehoods, but it didn't matter, we were just putting people on and they were saying it was falsehoods?

KIM: Yeah, I think -- well, that's what they actually are doing right now. Christine they're making that claim and trying to say hey, listen, we're just neutrally reporting the news. We're just allowing people to make their claims.

But I think that the judges expressed some skepticism because the clips that Dominion has been presenting shows that the Fox News hosts aren't just letting people you know, see what they want to say. The Fox News hosts are embracing what these guests are saying, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani in the like, and I think that that's where the question comes in.

ROMANS: Right.

All right, Julius Kim, so nice to see you. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.

KIM: Great to see you. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

A lawsuit against Gwyneth Paltrow goes to trial in Utah. A 76-year-old says she crashed into him while skiing back in 2016, causing a brain injury. Paltrow is countersuing for $1. She says he crashed into her.

A grand jury indicts seven sheriff's deputies and three hospital workers on second degree murder after a man died at a Virginia mental hospital. Prosecutors say they smothered Irvo Otieno to death.

Thirty thousand Los Angeles school workers striking for a second day, shutting down classes for half a million students. They're fighting for wages above poverty level and increased staffing.

All right. Next, a disturbing mystery who mailed bombs to journalists in Ecuador. And later, the costly truth for cat and dog owners. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: All right. Lawmakers in Uganda just passed a bill that would punish people with up to 20 years in prison for just identifying as LGBTQ.

CNN's Larry Madowo live in Lagos, Nigeria, for us.

Larry, now we're hearing that an amendment to the bill goes even further? What can you tell us?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine that is right. Lawmakers in Uganda passed this anti homosexuality bill that defines a life sentence for anybody convicted of the crime of homosexuality for the offense of aggravated homosexuality. That would be a death penalty.

It's likely that President Yoweri Museveni who the bill goes to now will ascend to it because his prime minister and his attorney general were in parliament when this past, and he said that the government fully supports. President Museveni has called homosexual people deviants.

But this law goes a lot further than many anti-LGBT legislation in Africa because it criminalizes even identifying as LGBT or nonbinary in the country. The man who proposed this bill, the opposition mp, calls himself a human rights lawyer, and he took a love of honor when the bill passed in parliament, in fact criticizing Western nations.



ASUMAN BASALIRWA, MOVER, UGANDA ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL: Being threatened with the visa restrictions, travel restrictions, these homosexuals have been jamming my phone, with the new detail, profanities and abuses thinking that we would relent. I know what I've gone through is what all of you have gone through in one way or the other.


MADOWO: Ugandan lawmaker stated that protecting traditional family values if that sounds familiar, it's because a lot of the lobbying around these anti-LGBT legislation in Africa, including in Uganda, is sponsored and supported by us conservative Christian groups. They have previously worked on similar legislation in Ghana and Uganda in other parts of the continent.

And so this builds on that. I wasn't Uganda just last week, and there's a lot of concern within the queer community and their allies within civil society organizations and the ways this could be weaponized or abused to affect sexual minorities in the country, and this criticism from Human Rights Watch and other human rights bodies that said, this is using sexual minorities for political capital, Christine.

ROMANS: Larry, it's just it's just so chilling. I mean, is there a viable opposition at all in the government to this, or is this going to happen.

MADOWO: It looks very likely Christine that this will happen because this was a build by an opposition MP that had bipartisan support people from the government, including the prime minister, the AG said. We support this. It will likely get contested in court, but it's unlikely to stand. And the laws of this builds up on his colonial law, British colonial 1950 law that criminalized the same sex relations and then this has a lot of public support.

Uganda's a deeply Christian conservative nation, so this looks like it will happen.

ROMANS: All right. Larry Madowo, thank you so much for that.

All right. Quick hits around the globe right now.

At least 13 people have died in Pakistan and Afghanistan after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. Officials say the quake also triggered landslides in northern Pakistan.

Ecuador opening a terrorism investigation after five journalists received the letter bombs one that went off. Nobody was injured, but officials say it's a clear message to silence reporters.

Saudi Arabia releasing a dual Saudi U.S. national more than a year after he was arrested for tweets critical of the government, he had been sentenced to 16 years behind bars.

All right. Just ahead, why cheap is the new premium for shoppers and Japan winning its third world baseball classic, beating Team USA.