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U.K. Lawmakers Grill Boris Johnson As Political Future Hangs In Balance; Today: 12,000 Police Mobilized Against Protests And Strikes In France; Mavericks To File Protest After Loss To Warriors. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 23, 2023 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. U.K.'s former prime minister Boris Johnson sparring with lawmakers during a three-hour hearing into whether he lied about parties in government buildings while the rest of Britain was under strict COVID lockdowns. The "Partygate" scandal led to his resignation last year.

He defended -- he defended his actions on Wednesday.


BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I apologize. I apologize for inadvertently misleading this house, but to say that I did it recklessly or deliberately is completely untrue.


ROMANS: All right, CNN's Nic Robertson live for us this morning in London. Nic, is this finally the end for Boris Johnson's political career I guess, or did he put this to rest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, it could be. Reading the room yesterday, seven MPs doing the questioning -- four from his own party and three from other opposition parties -- he didn't really win the room over. Whatever this committee decides -- we might hear about that in a few weeks time -- it will still get voted on by Parliament.

Look, Johnson could be simply given a telling-off -- a written warning. He could have his pay cut. He could be suspended for 10 days or more. If that happened that would be a pretty big censure. He -- there could be a by-election in his constituency and this really could signal the end of his political career. It's not clear that's going to happen.

But Johnson's defense here was look, I didn't mislead -- that statement, knowingly or recklessly -- because he says he was relying on the advice of senior officials around him to describe those events at Downing Street.

And he said look, it's an old building. He lives in it. It's his office as well. It's an old building.

There's a lot of people working in there. It's not possible to have complete social distancing. That they were following guidelines.

But I think one of the most telling questions from one of the MPs on that committee was when she asked Boris Johnson -- look, there's this gathering -- you're all in a room. You've explained to us that some of the mitigating screening is actually in another room.

But you're all in that room and you say it's the best you can do to follow the guidance and you need to have this gathering at this time. It's in your workplace. This was a workplace gathering. But why is your wife, an interior designer, there? And really, Johnson's assertive defensive really didn't have a strong comeback on that.

And I think there were other cases where similar questions were put to him. Why didn't you listen to other advisors who were telling you other things?

But Johnson feels that the committee has got it wrong. He's a tough political fighter. But yes, this could be it.

ROMANS: All right, Nic Robertson. Thank you so much for that. Nice to see you, Nic.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

Lebanese security forces firing tear gas at hundreds protesting the devaluation of their currency. The lira hit a record low as the central bank governors accused of embezzling millions in public funds.

One of the Citgo-6 executives jailed in Venezuela for five years and released last year is now suing Citgo for $100 million. The lawsuit accuses the company of using the employees as political pawns.

Thirty-three people are injured in Scotland after a 3,000-ton ship in an Edinburg drydock partially tips over. Officials say powerful winds hit the area around that time.

All right, just hours from now President Biden heads north to talk about the border. And 12,000 police officers deployed right now in France.



ROMANS: Twelve thousand police officers mobilizing across France this morning as the country braces for more angry protests and nationwide strikes over a widely hated policy increasing the retirement age from just 62 to 64. Earlier this week the Macron government survived two no-confidence votes after this plan was rushed through.

Let's go to CNN's Melissa Bell live in Paris. This is tough for Americans to understand -- I have to be honest with you here. The U.S. retirement age is 67 and we have our own issues with solvency of that program longer-term. Why is 64 such a big deal there?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a really good question and important to put it into context because even by European standards, Christine, 62 is pretty low. The French are very attached to their system. It goes back to Second World War. They feel these are rights that they've earned -- that the workers cannot be deprived of.

And what we're going to see again is the ninth day of nationwide strike and protests. But what we've also seen is proof of that, Christine, these last few days are spontaneous protests practically every day.


BELL (voice-over): The protests have been unplanned; the scuffles almost nightly ever since the French government announced it would push its pension reform through Parliament without a vote. French lawmakers in an uproar as well last Thursday as the announcement was made. The government narrowly surviving two no-confidence votes on Monday with the retirement age in France now one step closer to being raised from 62 to 64.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): We will not tolerate any flare-ups. We will make sure that life is as normal as possible in spite of those who are blocking normal life.

BELL (voice-over): But since the start of the year there have been demonstrations and strikes across the public and private sector. Ten thousand tons of garbage now piled high on the streets of Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is what is sure that it was the biggest social movement we had since the beginning of the '80s and sure, it's quite complicated. A lot of people went in to strike even if it was hard. And the current condition to go on strike -- to lose a day of wage. But probably, this is pointing out other problems to come.

BELL (voice-over): Unions and protesters now looking beyond Parliament to the streets with a lack of a vote only likely to have further fueled their determination.


BELL: But Christine, in terms of the law itself it's essentially going to become law before the end of the year. That's what Emmanuel Macron vowed yesterday. It has to go to the Constitutional Council but essentially, that's something of a formality. What we expect is that it will become law.

The real question now is how much the unions can continue to --


BELL: -- block France over the coming weeks and, indeed, make it as ungovernable as they can, Christine. ROMANS: It's so fascinating.

All right, Melissa Bell. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

All right, the Dallas Mavericks plan to protest their two-point loss to the Warriors after a confusing sequence led to an easy basket for Golden State.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. What happened here, Andy?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's so confusing to see. Good morning.

So Mavs' owner Mark Cuban -- he actually tweeted this was the "worst officiating non-call mistake possible in the history of the NBA." And it was rather bizarre that this could even happen in the NBA.

So before a time out in the third quarter the Mavs -- they thought they were awarded the ball here on this play. But during the timeout, Cuban said possession was actually changed the words. Watch the ball go out of bounds here. This is where it was questioned.

But the officials apparently never told the Mavs according to Cuban. Dallas lined up on their offensive side while the officials gave it to the Warriors on their side and Kevon Looney just got an easy dunk.

So Cuban said all they had to do was tell them, but they didn't. Now, in the officials' pool report after the game they claim it was always going to be Warriors' ball.

So the Mavs ended up losing this game by two and they were not happy about it afterwards.


LUKA DONCIC, GUARD, DALLAS MAVERICKS: I was surprised. Honestly, I didn't know what was going on. I was like what is that? But I never seen that happen in my life.

STEVE KERR, HEAD COACH, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: When they were down at the other end I got -- I had to stop and think is this right? And so I don't know what happened. You'd have to ask their side. I thought it was pretty clear that it was our ball and that's why I was drawing up a play out of bounds on the baseline.


SCHOLES: We'll see how the Mavs' protest goes.

Now, Ja Morant, meanwhile, returning from his eight-game suspension for flashing a gun at a nightclub. The Grizzlies guard getting a standing ovation from the home crowd as he came off the bench. Ja scored 17 points in the win over the Rockets and said he was happy to be back.


JA MORANT, GUARD, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Obviously, I'm thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time. It definitely helped me a lot and definitely made me feel a little better -- you know, eased -- you know, everything that's going on. It felt good to be back. I'm super excited and glad we was able to get the win.


SCHOLES: All right, the NCAA Tournament is back tonight with the Sweet Sixteen. Michigan State and Kansas State going to get things started at 6:30 eastern on our sister network TBS.

And Kansas State's Keyontae Johnson just continues to be an incredible story. In 2020, while starring for the Florida Gators, Johnson collapsed midgame and was rushed to the hospital. He was placed in a medically induced coma for three days and was eventually diagnosed with athlete's heart, which is an increase in the heart size due to training.

Now, Johnson could have taken a $5 million insurance payout to never play again but he decided not to and transferred to KSU. And now he's hoping to lead the Wildcats to the Final Four.


KEYONTAE JOHNSON, FORWARD, KANSAS STATE: When I was going through the situation we just found the right doctors -- the best doctors in the world to figure out my situation, and every doctor's appointment I went to everything was getting clear. So it just -- faith and trust in God knowing he had the right path for me and we're just following his lead and just taking it day by day.


SCHOLES: Yes, and Christine, so easy to root there for Johnson.


SCHOLES: Man, he's got to love basketball, right, to pass up on that --


SCHOLES: -- insurance payout to continue his career. Good luck to him tonight in the Sweet Sixteen.

ROMANS: Yes, that's a young man who really loves the game. A tough decision but he must really love the game.

All right, nice to see you.


ROMANS: Andy Scholes, thank you. SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" could former Trump fixer Michael Cohen talk again to the grand jury considering Donald Trump's indictment?

And next right here, Lindsay Lohan and the celebs caught illegally promoting crypto.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, two percent. Here's Fed chairman Jerome Powell.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: We have to bring inflation down to two percent. The costs of bringing it down -- there are real costs to bringing it down to two percent but the costs of failing are much higher.


ROMANS: The Fed has raised interest rates to try to control inflation. Yesterday's quarter-point bump was the ninth hike in a row but perhaps the end is in sight. More on that in just a moment.

But looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets finished mixed this morning but some gains there in Hong Kong. The Hang Seng up 2 1/2 percent. European markets are mixed this morning. A policy announcement from the Bank of England is due out later this morning.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures trying to find their footing here today after a rough day yesterday. Look, the Dow fell more than 500 points after being up 200 points earlier in the day. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 each fell more than one percent. Look, investors were considering comments by the Fed chair Jerome Powell and the Fed's decision -- weighing over all of that.


On inflation watch, gas prices held steady at $3.44 a gallon. And weekly jobless claims from the Labor Department are due out at 8:30 a.m. this morning eastern time.

All right, let's bring in Kayla Bruun, economic analyst at Morning Consult. So nice to see you.

Let's listen to how Jay Powell explained the Fed's decision.


POWELL: We longer state that we anticipate that ongoing rate increases will be appropriate to quell inflation. Instead, we now anticipate that some additional policy firming may be appropriate.


ROMANS: So that's sort of the money sound bite there -- "Some additional policy firming may be appropriate."

Is the Fed chief saying that the banking uncertainty might be doing some of the work for the Fed?

KAYLA BRUUN, ECONOMIC ANALYST, MORNING CONSULT: That's exactly how I interpret it actually, and I -- it seemed yesterday that the tone had definitely changed pretty quickly just in the past couple of weeks given what we've seen with SVB and other banks. But how I interpret what he's saying there is really that the whole point of these rate increases is to kind of tighten financial conditions and cool the economy.

And what happens when we have this -- these -- this turmoil in the banking sector is it causes a lot of concern, obviously, and it makes banks a little bit more risk averse in theory. That means pulling back on lending which, in turn, effectively reduces the money supply. Cooling spending, which puts downward pressure on prices.

ROMANS: Yes, it's --

BRUUN: So it's really in some way doing the same thing that the rate hikes could do if it works out as it would theoretically.

ROMANS: Yes, in a more disorderly way. Like, we'd like a little more orderly way to tighten the economy. It's a little disorderly.

But clearly, the banking crisis is helping make this decision for the Fed, right? I mean you can't, on one hand, be opening a new lending facility and doing all of these things to make sure that there is money flowing to the banks, and on the other hand, be trying to reverse that.

BRUUN: It's definitely a pickle. But I think what Powell made really clear in his comments yesterday is that they are not abandoning their goal for price stability. It's very important to bring inflation down. And it was a little bit lost in all the SVB news and the fallout from that. But we did get another inflation report this month and to me there were some worrying signs in there that inflation might be getting a bit stickier. And we're seeing some similar things in our own data.

So in comments yesterday and also just what we're seeing in this inflation reports, and still jobs report too, I think there is still some reason that the Fed might be wanting to remind everyone hey, we're not giving up on this inflation fight. This still needs to be solved.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, before this banking crisis almost all the data since the last Fed meeting has come in stronger than expected, whether it's -- in just about everything except for housing, quite frankly.

All right, Kayla Bruun, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning. Have a nice day.

BRUUN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, eight celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan and influencer, I guess, Jake Paul charged with illegally promoting cryptocurrencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission is fining them $400,000 for failing to disclose that they were paid to promote crypto. Six of them have also agreed to return what they were paid for the promotion.

Two cryptocurrencies, Tronix and BitTorrent, were sold by crypto entrepreneur Jason (sic) Sun, shown there after he paid millions of dollars for lunch with Warren Buffett, who was also charged Wednesday. Not Warren Buffett -- that guy, Justin (sic) Sun.

All right, next, America is about to meet the boss at TikTok. Can he convince lawmakers not to ban the app in the U.S.? And a rare tornado ripping through Los Angeles.



ROMANS: Our top of the morning, the top countries in the world for happiness.

For the sixth year in a row, Finland is number one. The survey uses Gallup polling data on things like health and income, freedom, generosity, low corruption, and social support. Denmark is the world's second happiest country. Iceland is third.

Americans are pretty happy, too. The U.S. apparently moves up to the 15th place this year out of 150 countries.

All right, severe thunderstorms set to hit parts of the south today. Heavy rain and flooding, large hail, and damaging winds are the main threats here, though an isolated tornado is possible.

A tornado yesterday in, all places, Los Angeles.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers in the weather center. You know, they're pretty rare in Southern California.


ROMANS: These pictures show a real doozy.

MYERS: Yes, 115-mile-per-hour, 110-mile-per-hour tornado yesterday. I've got -- I have pictures here in the next second. But to the day before that in Santa Barbara County there was an EF-0 -- a 75-mile- per-hour. California only gets six tornadoes per year. We've had two in two days. And yes, this energy is moving to the Plains.

But look at the pictures here. This is from Montebello, California. Now, the track was only about a half a mile long but if you were in this track that's a long half-mile. This was the top of the building. You can look right down and see the ground floor.

The weather does move into the Plains and really, the severe weather does ramp up in the Plains because you have the Gulf moisture here, you have the cold air coming in from the north, and you have enough instability to go in with this that we are going to see the chance of severe weather. Oklahoma. all the way up toward Arkansas and Missouri for today, but then a little bit farther to the east for tomorrow.

Another tornado day -- maybe not an outbreak today but certainly that possibility really ramps up tomorrow as we get all the way down into parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Memphis, Little Rock. Those are the areas that I'm really most concerned with.

And this is what it looks like for tomorrow. This red area right through here -- the highest degree of severe weather.