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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Two U.S. Army Helicopters Crash in Kentucky, Fatalities Expected; Russian State Media: Wall Street Journal Reporter Arrested in Russia on Suspicion of "Espionage"; Pope to be Hospitalized for Several Days with Respiratory Infection; First Lady, Sheryl Crow at Candlelight Vigil for School Victims; Biden-Netanyahu Trade Barbs Over Israel's Judicial Overhaul; Taiwan's President Visits U.S. on the Way to Central America. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Two Black Hawk helicopters crashing overnight in Kentucky. Hear from a witness about the moment they went down.

The pope hospitalized. What we're learning this morning about his condition.

And Biden and Bibi trading barbs. More on the leaders' rare and public back-and-forth over controversial judicial reform plans.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin this morning in Kentucky, where two Black Hawk helicopters crashed overnight. Officials say they went down and Trigg County, which is just north of the Kentucky-Tennessee state border. The crew was flying a routine training mission at the time. The Army has just confirmed several casualties. We don't have an exact number yet.

This photo from WKDZ Radio shows flames from the crash.

Here's what one witness who lives about a half a mile away from the crash site saw and heard.


JAMES HUGHES, EYEWITNESS: Two helicopters came over pretty low and all of a sudden, soon as I got older house, something loud banging everything shut down just all of a sudden, so we jumped the truck came over here. That's what we've found two helicopters.


ROMANS: So still waiting for more information from the Army about how many people were on board, each of those helicopters. And how many casualties they expect. No residential areas were affected by that crash.

Okay. Now to other breaking news this morning, a journalist working for an American newspaper is under arrest right now in Russia.

Let's get right to CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live in London.

Salma, we know Evan Gershkovich from "The Wall Street Journal", is the reporter here. He was a guest on this show several months ago. What can you tell us?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is just breaking. So forgive me because we're just getting new information in. But what we understand from Russian state media is that he was arrested on, quote, espionage, suspicion of espionage.

I want you to read the statement from the FSB, the federal security services, that was published in state media just a few moments ago. It reads, quote, the illegal activities of bureau of the American newspaper, "The Wall Street Journal", U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich, accredited to the Russian foreign ministry, suspected of espionage in the interest of the American government have been suppressed.

This is huge news, of course. We are talking about an American citizen who has now been arrested for what you can assume is doing his job doing the job, the very important job of being a journalist reporting the news on the ground. We understand that he was detained in a town on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains. The FSB statement that was published in state media goes on to say that he was trying to, quote, obtain secret information. Again, that's from the FSB relating to the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.

Again, this is a very prominent journalist, as you said. He was on CNN just a few months ago. He's someone who has reported in the past for the "AFP", for "The New York Times", absolutely something that you can expect. Right now, the State Department is scrambling to respond to and you can expect very strong statements from the White House.

A reminder here, if you remember at the very beginning of the conflict, the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Moscow put into place this rule, put into place this law that it said was to counter fake news, but that activists and media organizations simply saw as a censorship law and it required journalists, even Western journalists to use the language that Moscow uses to not acknowledge that this is a war in Ukraine, but rather a special military operation as President Putin has called it time and time again.

So huge concern now that potentially around those reporting restrictions, what activists would actually call censorship restrictions put into place that this American journalist has been detained. And again, you can expect U.S. officials now scrambling to find out the status, the safety of this journalist and trying to get that release, that condemnation as quickly as possible.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, Salma. Keep us posted on any developments this morning in his case. Thank you.

All right. This morning, Pope Francis is being treated at a hospital in Rome for a respiratory infection. The Vatican says the 86-year-old pontiff has been having some deep breathing difficulties in recent days. Does not have COVID, we're told.

This is the busiest time of the year for Pope Francis.


He has a Palm Sunday mass scheduled this week and Holy Week and Easter celebrations next week.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau live in Rome with more.

Barbie, do you know? Do you expect the pope to miss Easter celebrations this year?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's the big question. Everyone's mind here now. He's supposed to officiate over big mass on Palm Sunday and they've told us that he will be in the hospital for several days. It looks a little bit if he whether he'd be able to participate on Sunday.

It may be that he'll be well enough to take part in some of the regular things he does during Easter Holy Week, which is so important, but it's just too soon to tell. You know he's been ailing for the last couple of years. He had colon surgery a couple of years ago. He's in a wheelchair because of knee problems.

He's missing part of his lung. That was something that happened when he was in seminary in Argentina and so respiratory infection for someone with that sort of compromised health is worrying. He's 86 years old.

We're expecting some more news from the Vatican about his condition, but everyone certainly in Rome is waiting to see what happens -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely, and wishing him the best as he tries to recover here. Thank you so much.

First Lady Jill Biden was in Nashville for a candlelight vigil honoring the six victims of the latest school shooting.


ROMANS: She was joined by Sheryl Crow and the city's leaders on Wednesday.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE: Our hearts are heavy as we join all of Nashville and mourning the deaths of Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, Cynthia Peak, Mike Hill, and Katherine Koonce. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: CNN's Carlos Suarez has more on the investigation.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The motive for why 28 year old Audrey Hale shot and killed six people at the Covenant school is still unclear. Nashville police chief John Drake spoke to CNN today about the investigation.

CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, METROPOLITAN NASHVILLE POLICE: What we know is the suspect actually went to that school, and as I said once before that there may be some resentment, but we haven't been able to confirm that.

SUAREZ: The chief said detectives are still going over a notebook that Hale left behind with writings inside. Authorities believe Hale had weapons training and may have stopped somewhere between leaving home and arriving at the school. According to the chief, Hale did not have problems at the school while a student.

DRAKE: The suspect was under doctor's care. For any emotional disorder of some type of right now, we don't have any indication that there was any problems at the school or at home.

SUAREZ: The chief said detectives believe the parents did not know about the seven weapons Hale legally owned.

DRAKE: The parents felt like she should not own any weapons. She did have one weapon that they encourage her to sell, which she did, so they thought she didn't have any more.

SUAREZ: An art instructor who taught Hale for two semesters in 2017 at Nossi College of Art told CNN Hale had an emotional outburst on the first day of class.

MARIA COLOMY, TAUGHT HALE IN 2017: During the creation of the password where it asks you for a non alphanumeric character, meaning a special character. She didn't know what it was asking for, and she got really flustered, and she just like turned, red started crying.

SUAREZ: Maria Colomy said that was the only outburst Hale ever exhibited in class.

COLOMY: I just think that. Audrey had easier access to guns and rage than she did to compassion or proper mental health care.

SUAREZ: We're also learning more details about the six victims. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released a video statement saying his wife, Maria, had a close relationship with one of the victims, Cynthia Peak.

GOV. BILL LEE (R), TENNESSEE: Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends, Cindy Peak. Cindy and Maria and Katherine Koonce were all teachers at the same school and have been family friends for decades.

SUAREZ: However, Governor Lee said right now is not the time to discuss and debate policy.

LEE: There will be a time to talk about the legislation and the budget proposals that we brought forth even this year, and clearly there's more work to do.


SUAREZ (on camera): A city council member tells CNN that the head of school, 60-year-old Katherine Koonce may have died protecting the children. The city officials said that a witness said that Koonce was on a Zoom call when the shooting began. And that coots left that call.

Now, according to police, where Koonce's body was found leads them to believe that Koonce encountered the shooter in the hallway.

Carlos Suarez, CNN, Nashville, Tennessee.


ROMANS: Awful. Awful.

All right. This morning, President Biden's recent reproach to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his controversial high court overhaul now escalating into a rare public disagreement.



BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: You know, Israel and the United States have had their occasional differences. But I want to assure you that the alliance between the world's greatest democracy and a strong, proud and independent democracy, Israel, in the heart of the Middle East, is unshakable.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like many strong supporters of Israel, I'm very concerned.

REPORTER: Are you inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House, sir?

BIDEN: No. Not in the near term.


ROMANS: The proposed judicial changes have drawn an unprecedented backlash in Israel.

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

Hadas, these two men have known each other for decades. You know what do you what do you make of this? HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not a very good

status of the relationship if they've known each other for more than 40 years and often talk about it, but then you have the president of the United States, saying he won't be inviting his good friend to visit anytime in the near term.

Now, yesterday, senior Israeli officials were briefing reporters left and right, essentially trying to do damage control. I was one of the reporters in one of those briefings with a senior Israeli official who will remain unnamed, and they were trying to tamp down on the situation, saying this isn't a crisis, they said this is a tempest in a teapot. They labeled it a level two out of 10 on crisis and relationship between the United States and Israel.

That's not all how it's being portrayed in Israeli media and by the opposition who are saying that the Israeli government as it stands now is threatening to destroy one of the most important relationships for Israel, for its security and for its status in the world, because of this judicial overhaul.

Now, one thing that the senior Israeli official did tell reporters is they chided the Americans for essentially trying to get involved in another democracy's internal affairs, saying a democracy should let other democracies figure it out. And he did say that they think that they expected the White House to sort of clarify the president's comments. And we did hear from John Kirby later in the day talking about how you know even the best of friends can have disagreements and how much of a supporter of Israel the United States remains, and they just want Israelis to come to a broad consensus on these reforms because that will be what last.

But whatever, you know, the spokespeople from the State Department, for the White House might say, that frustration from President Biden -- we all saw that on very clear display -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Hadas Gold, thank you so much for that.

Taiwan's president has arrived in New York City. Tsai Ing-wen is expected to also visit Los Angeles and Central America. Her trip could even include a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. She has been defiant in the face of the recent condemnation by China.

CNN's Anna Coren joins us live from Hong Kong.

Anna, I imagine the Chinese are furious about this trip. How are these tense relations between the U.S. and China making this visit even more contentious?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christine, that's to put it mildly.

China's ministry of foreign affairs has responded to President Tsai's stopover in the U.S., expressing outrage at what they call a collusion between Taiwan and the United States. Let me read you some of what was said. China strongly condemns the

U.S. for insisting on arranging for Tsai Ing-wen to transit across the border, disregarding China's solemn representations and repeated warnings, the United States and Taiwan colluded with each other and arrange for Tsai Ing-wen to engage in political activities in the United States under the guise of transit.

Now, earlier, President Tsai praised her country's bond with the United States, saying it's never been closer. But what is really upsetting the Chinese is Tsai's expected meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as you mentioned Christine, in California on the way back to Taiwan. McCarthy, of course, would be the highest ranking U.S. official to meet a Taiwanese leader on American soil.

China has threatened to, quote, resolutely fight back if they meet in Los Angeles.

China believes Taiwan belongs to China. It has refused to rule out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. And while the U.S. acknowledges China's position, it maintains that Taiwan's status should be settled peacefully between Beijing and Taipei.

And, of course, you know her trip comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, but U.S. officials say China shouldn't overreact. This is simply routine. Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, NSC STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR: This transit is consistent with our longstanding unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and it is consistent with the United States' One China policy, which remains unchanged. It is Taiwan's decision to make these transits based on their own travel. Transits are not visits. They are private and unofficial.


COREN: Christine, I always believe that her visit is designed to obviously strengthen diplomatic and economic tires with the West, but they also believe she wants to project strength at home.


She is stepping down as president next year, and she wants to bolster confidence in her party before elections in January -- Christine.

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

Okay. The FDA has approved the first nonprescription over the counter sales of Narcan, the active agreement in the nasal spray naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Right now, consumers can buy it from a pharmacy. But it's behind the counter. You have to ask the pharmacist for it. Soon, it can be sold in vending machines and grocery stores, gas stations. Deaths from opioid overdoses have increased dramatically in the last decade. No word on exactly when it will be available. Still ahead here on EARLY START: Viral video shows a man clinging onto

a drawbridge in Miami as it was going up.

And what to expect as the Gwyneth Paltrow ski accident trial heads to closing arguments.


ROMANS: All right. Today, closing arguments are expected in Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial.


Paltrow is being sued by a 76-year-old man, Terry Sanderson, who's accusing Paltrow of crashing into him from behind on a ski slope in 2016 and causing him mental deterioration. On day seven of the trial, Paltrow's defense team called multiple medical experts to the stand in an attempt to disprove Sanderson's claim about brain damage.

Let's bring in Lexi Rigden, a criminal defense attorney.

And let's be very clear here, she says he skied into her. He says she skied into him, and we've seen all kinds of different evidence here. Paltrow's defense team brought a radiologist, a neurologist and a neuropsychologist also the stand -- all suggesting that the cognitive deterioration is not caused by any accident.

Was that a good strategy from the defense?

LEXI RIGDEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He was 69 when this accident occurred, and now he's 76. So you know that's the that's the prime age when some people are mentally declining, and that's kind of what they're going with. They're basically saying that he had certain brain injuries and issues that predated this accident. He had a stroke. He had -- was drinking too much and that affected his brain as well.

And like I said, the jury is not going to be able to ignore that he is 76, not to sound ageist, but that's just the reality. And that's a point that all of the experts have hit.

So I think that the defense has done a really excellent job and what we have in this society now, which we didn't have in the past, is people like me and people on social media. Everybody commenting on this case, which was a nice palate cleanser from Murdoch.

And it seems to be the consensus is that even the people that don't really like Gwyneth Paltrow don't believe Terry Sanderson.

ROMANS: Mm. Yeah. The defense team created this animation. Excuse me, please, based on Paltrow's version of events.

Do you think that that animation, you know, it will influence this case?

RIGDEN: I think so. But I think what's more influential in this case is, I think, Gwyneth did a really great job and everybody, you know, testified for her and on her behalf, but a lot of everybody was saying the same thing that essentially she was really upset. She said, you skied into my back and a more colorful way that I'm seeing it here.

And so I think, her testimony and the testimony of the witnesses, which some of which were read into the record by lawyers because they didn't have time to call them which was quite frankly bizarre if you were watching it, but I think that that's more important and I think that the animation is more like window dressing, because ultimately the only people that really know what happened are Gwyneth and Terry, and everybody else is really just hypothesizing.

So that's kind of what that animation is, really. It's a hypothesis of what had happened, but I think her version is much more credible than his version.

ROMANS: In another celebrity trial, two new attorneys were appointed a special prosecutor after the previous attorney resigned after Alec Baldwin accused her of using the case to advance her political career in this "Rust" movie set shooting.

What do you make of such a setback in a high profile case like this?

RIGDEN: Well, the prosecution has taken a lot of body blows because the first prosecutor stepped down over an alleged conflict of interest of being not being able to be a prosecutor and a lawmaker at the same time, and then the D.A. came in and said, I can't handle this case on my own. We don't have enough manpower. So I want to bring in these two ringers to help me and Baldwin's defense team very smartly said not so fast. It's all or nothing. You either appoint these two people to help you or you do it on your own.

And so basically, she pretty much had no choice. Apparently, they have a manpower shortage at the office. So they have these two people coming in, and we're just weeks away from a preliminary hearing and the other win that the Baldwin team got was, they dropped the most serious charge that carry the most serious penalty, too.

So this prosecution is kind of hobbling along at this point.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. Lexi Rigden, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

RIGDEN: Thank you. You, too.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

Thirty-three people could face federal penalties for harassing a protected dolphin pod in Hawaii. New conservation rules prohibit anyone from disrupting spinner dolphins' daytime resting patterns.

Police say two teens who tried to carjack a vehicle in Maryland couldn't actually drive the car away when they realized it was a stick shift. The pair has been charged as adults.

Yeah. Miami police are searching for this man hanging onto a raised drawbridge captured on viral video. He climbed to the top did a celebratory push up as a bridge went down, then left the area.

Just ahead, it's the final day of hearings for Prince Harry's lawsuit against a U.K. newspaper publisher.

And relentless western storms are now pushing east with potentially dangerous tornadoes.



ROMANS: Right now in London, a hearing is underway in Prince Harry and Elton John's lawsuit against "The Daily Mail's" publisher. This is the final day of arguments before a judge rules on whether to send the case to trial.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo live in London for us this morning.

Both celebrities, Bianca, turned -- turned out publicly for the case, this case about privacy. Fair to say they want the media to cover their case against the media.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, you're highlighting the Janus faced approach that sometimes we do see from the duke of Sussex, which obviously, the media and many of the public have been at pains to point out. That's the fact that even though he has deep issues with the way that the media behaves, and that's indeed the purpose of this hearing, that he still knows they can be helpful in furthering his aims and his personal campaign.

So the hearing has begun. We're expecting this to last about 2-1/2 hours, wrapping up around 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

A reminder of the arguments here, Prince Harry is saying that he feels it is his duty to expose what he alleges are the criminal practices of the journalists of the associated newspapers.