Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Protests, Strikes, Shutdowns Grip Israel; Possible Deal To Pull Israel Back From Crisis; Pressure On Biden WH To Forcefully Respond To Netanyahu; Nashville Police: Shooter Dead After Confrontation; NY Grand Jury Meets Today As Indictment Decision Looms; Trump Warns Of "Prosecutorial Misconduct" In First Campaign Rally; Trump Supporter: "Shoo-In" For President If Indicted. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington. John King is off today. Israel shuts down schools, shops, the airport, embassies, even McDonald's, all closed as demonstrators swarmed the streets to protest a dramatic government overhaul.


PIERS MORGAN, BROADCASTER: It's called checks and balances.


MORGAN: It the only, well actually, it's the only check and balance in Israel to the government.

NETANYAHU: No. No, it's not.


PHILLIP: Plus, all about him. Donald Trump makes his 2024 message, all about his legal troubles while warning of dark forces trying to stop him.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: And 2024 is the final battle that's going to be the big one. Either the deep state destroys America, or we destroy the deep state. They're not coming after me. They're coming after you and I'm just standing in their way.


PHILLIP: And twisters terrorize the south steamrolling from towns, leaving nothing but piles of bricks and heartbreak.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say, you lived right here. What's this like to look at all of this?

ERNEST HALL, SURVIVED TORNADO: No same thing, like it could be - I wish it was our dream.


PHILLIP: Right now, we began with word of a deal to pull Israel back from a full-blown crisis. A far-right power player says that there is an agreement to delay changing the DNA of the Israeli government. And it happens only after there have been weeks of protests swallowing the entire country. Hundreds of thousands standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets, everything from stores, hospitals, restaurants all stopped in their tracks.

Moments ago, we just saw the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the floor of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. CNN is covering the story from the middle of the protests on the ground, and right here in Washington.

But we start first in Jerusalem, where CNN's Hadas Gold. So Hadas, can you tell us about what we know about this agreement to postpone that judicial overhaul?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, I mean protest have been going on for more than 12 weeks, hundreds of thousands have come to the streets, but they've really escalated in the last 24 hours or so. And that's because Benjamin Netanyahu fired his own defense minister for speaking out against these reforms, calling for a freeze on Saturday night. He was fired 24 hours later, that sparked new protests in the streets overnight. Some of them got fiery, some of them got quite angry and even a little bit violent.

And then this morning, something historic, the biggest general strike Israel has ever seen. As you noted, essentially, the entire country came to a screeching halt. Even the airport, airplanes were not taking off. Even Israel's biggest ports were on strike as a result of this general strike. The country had never seen something like this as big as this general strike. And instead, people came to the streets flooding, especially here in Jerusalem to protest against this traditional overhaul to protest against the defense minister's firing.

Now, we had not heard from Benjamin Netanyahu today. Yes, only a tweet asking for demonstrators on both the right and the left to be civil, to be calm. But just in the last hour or so, we actually heard from Itamar Ben-Gvir's party to mark Ben-Gvir is the Minister of National Security. He is considered one of the most right-wing politicians in the Israeli government, if not the most right-wing politician in the Israeli government.

His party came out with a statement saying that a deal had been reached that the government will be given an extension until the next parliamentary session that starts at the end of April, to get the reform through with negotiations. So, that the reforms will still happen, but they will happen just a little bit later with an extension. This is the whole. This is the freeze that the defense minister had to actually call for, because the defense minister said he himself supports these reforms. But it's really interesting, Abby, we have not yet heard from the prime minister himself. This is coming from the minister of national security. And the way things go here, Abby, I would say, we should wait and hear from the prime minister himself before we understand exactly what's happening here. But that's the latest on the ground.

Also, what's happening is actually that the right-wing is now coming out in support of these reforms. Most of the protesters that have been walking by me in the last hour or so, these are people who are in favor of Benjamin Netanyahu, they are in favor of these reforms. And there is a big concern that they're going to clash with the anti- reform protesters on the street tonight, especially as the sunsets. Abby?


PHILLIP: Do you make such a critical point that we do need to hear from the Israeli prime minister to know where this goes from here. Hadas Gold, thank you very much. And now over to the White House where CNN's MJ Lee is. MJ, this is a critical tumultuous moment for the United States' closest ally in the Middle East. And there are eyes now on the Biden White House. What are you learning about the pressure that they are facing to respond more forcefully to this proposal by the Israeli prime minister?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, we've not heard directly from President Biden on these developments, which is worth noting, given the scale of the unrest that we are seeing in Israel. And also given as you said, what a big and close ally Israel is to the United States.

What we have gotten so far is a paper statement from the White House overnight, expressing deep concern about these developments. The NSC saying that the importance of checks and balances is really at play here. They also called on Israeli leaders to get to a compromise as quickly as possible. We can't look at this in a vacuum, we have to sort of acknowledge here.

The decades long relationship between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu that is playing into all of this, we have seen him, of course, watching the prime minister in recent years, lose his power, then be reelected, now facing a criminal trial as well, a corruption trial, I should say. And he is trying to overhaul a judicial system that critics say are meant to sort of help himself politically.

And we do know that the president has come under a lot of pressure domestically, including from Jewish leaders and Jewish groups that have said, look, you need to speak out on this more forcefully that we do know that the last time that the two leaders spoke that we know about was last weekend on Sunday. And that the president did express some of these concerns directly to the prime minister. What we don't know yet is whether there is going to be a call again, between the two leaders, it is likely that that could happen in the coming days. But obviously, whenever that conversation next takes place, there are going to be a lot of sensitive dynamics for President Biden to address in that conversation, Abby?

PHILLIP: That's absolutely right. And this has been quite the balancing act. MJ Lee, thank you. And joining me now Yaakov Katz, the Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post. Thank you for joining us. This is a moment where we are still waiting, perhaps to hear from Benjamin Netanyahu. What is your reaction to the news that this could be postponed, not scrapped altogether? But a judicial overhaul postponed perhaps for a month or two? Does this then just set Israel up to resume these clashes later in the spring or in the summer?

YAAKOV KATZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE JERUSALEM POST: I think, Abby, there's no doubt that the protesters will tell you that they're not going to stop right. They're going to keep going. They will not stop until there is a complete stop to the legislation. And the reforms that have been taking over Israel and have basically ruptured and split and divided this country in an unprecedented way, right?

You have hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are taking it to the streets on weekly basis and are fighting for democracy as they see it. The prime minister has until now defied and ignored all calls to stop including, as Hadas mentioned the - his own defense minister. People in his own security cabinet, the man was supposed to be the closest to him on the issues that matter the most Israel safety and security.

Even him, he just sacked, right fired without even blinking within hours of his call to stop the legislation. It's on yo seems to still be doubling down to go forward. So, this is just a delay tactic. It doesn't seem like it's yet the win that the protesters were looking for.

PHILLIP: And as you were speaking, we were just showing images right, as we are talking now. There are protests happening in the streets, and a lot of the protesters are pro Netanyahu protesters on the streets. Those live pictures there on your screen. I want to play very quickly. Netanyahu was asked about this, and about his moves on the judiciary. Here's his response to Piers Morgan on Sunday.


NETANYAHU: Right now, you have a situation where 15 unelected members of the supreme court effectively govern Israel. They can decide things that affect our military, our economy, our foreign relations, our battling with terrorism. Is that right? Is that democratic? No, it's not democratic. You want to correct it. You don't say that those other democracies are somehow tainted, or somehow not democratic because they have a better balance of power.


PHILLIP: But that's his spin on it, Yaakov. What does it actually do? And why is it prompting not just concerns about the judiciary, but also national security concerns for Israel?

KATZ: Well, I mean, his spin on it is, of course, how he can continue to move ahead with this legislation. But what he ultimately wants to do is, OK, those 15 supreme court justices, he's right, are not elected by the people but there is meant to be a separation of powers. There's meant to be checks and balances in a democracy.

You know that well, Abby, in the United States and other democracies around the world. What they effectively want to do is to basically politicize the court in a way that it won't just be the legislative branch, the executive branch, but also the judicial branch that will be controlled by the coalition.


So, it's not the end of democracy in my view, but it is a slip from a liberal democracy what Israel has been until now to potential authoritarian democracy, would mean that you elect an official that person, that prime minister will have control over all branches, all powers, fallen governments institutions.

And you know, the ultimate thing that's happening here, this outpour, this cry for help and for the democracy to be preserved is a way for people to stand up and continue their service to the country. You mentioned the national security issue as well. Israelis, as you know, Abby, serve a compulsory military service. Most men and women served their country for three years, for two years.

A lot of these protesters were people who came from the ranks of Israel's reserves. The military, the serving military small, this country relies heavily on reservists. And if we don't have reservist, how we'll be able to meet the challenges that we face along our borders, whether it's Hezbollah in the north, Hamas (Ph) in the south, or Iran, which continues with its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. So, if the military starts to fall apart, that could be extremely dangerous.

PHILLIP: And Yaakov, we only have a second left, but just as it's the evening there in Tel Aviv, and you're seeing so many protesters, counter protesters on the street. Are you concerned about the volatility on the streets in the coming hours?

KATZ: I'm very concerned. You're starting to see a right-wing protest that's taking place. There could be a clash. We have to keep this in order because the last thing we want is blood to be shed on the streets of Israel over this democratic argument that's taking place, that should not happen. And I hope it doesn't.

PHILLIP: Thank you for all of that. Yaakov Katz, the Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post, thank you very much.

KATZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next for us. We believe the grand jury discussing the Stormy Daniels' case is now back in action today. We'll have an update on that as Donald Trump continues to rail against the district attorney. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



PHILLIP: We have some breaking news now out of Nashville, Tennessee. Police say a shooter is dead after a confrontation with police at a school. CNN's Amara Walker is tracking the latest developments in this story. Amara, what do we know right now, anything about the victims at all?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: We don't know anything about the victims right now. What we do know is a little bit about this event that took place. We are going with what Metro Nashville police have just tweeted. An active shooter event, that is what they're calling it. This happened at Covenant school.

I'll read you that tweet that was just tweeted out 14 minutes ago. An active shooter event has taken place at Covenant school, covenant Presbyterian Church, on Burton Hills Dr. The shooter was engaged by Metro Nashville police and is dead. Student reunification with parents at Woodmont Baptist Church is happening, 2100 Woodmont Blvd.

So right now, all we know is that the shooter is dead. Apparently, he engaged with police, and he apparently was killed by police as a result. We don't know if there are victims in this. If students were injured. But we do know that Covenant school, it is a private Christian school in Nashville for students in preschool to sixth grade. So, you can know - understand what age range may have been impacted.

But again, as you saw in that tweet, that police are working to unify parents with their students right now, again at Woodmont Baptist Church, just a few blocks away from that school. So, Abby, we'll stay on top of this. We're making calls to get more information. Right now, that shooter we are being told is dead. Back to you.

PHILLIP: And Amara, I know that there is very little information in this moment. But do we have any sense of the timing here when this incident may have occurred?

WALKER: Right now, that is not known at this time. We just started getting some information about it through Twitter. And then of course, this was confirmed through Metro Nashville police. So, we're making some calls right now. And once we get those details, Abby, we will definitely get that to you.

PHILLIP: All right. Amara Walker, thank you very much. And we'll continue to hope that anyone who may have been involved in this incident is safe in this moment. But right now, on to New York and the Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump's alleged role in a hush money scheme. Jurors meet again today as they consider a potential indictment of the former president.

Over the weekend, Trump use the opportunity to ramp up attacks against the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, at his campaign rally in Waco, Texas. CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me now from New York. So, Kara, what are we expecting today from the grand jury?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, as you said, the grand jury is expected to meet this afternoon and it's possible that they will hear from one witness. All of this is taking place behind closed doors, and it's all secret, and that's also exactly how you want it to be. These investigations are confidential.

But in the void, where we're waiting for any details and information, former president is filling it by unleashing these verbal attacks against the district attorney Alvin Bragg over the weekend, calling him a degenerate psychopath. And this statement was condemned by nearly 200 former federal prosecutors who say, it's essential in a democracy to have independent prosecution.

And this also comes as the three powerful chairmen of that House, three chairmen - three powerful chairmen of the House committees, led by Republicans are continuing to put pressure on Brexit. They want him to come in and testify and saying that they may even consider legislation that would stop a local or state prosecutor from investigating a current or former president, that would also affect the case out of Fulton County, Georgia, down the road is something like that in the future.

But all you know, as we're waiting for a decision on whether D.A. Bragg will move forward to seek an indictment. Meanwhile, the grand jury will be meeting behind me and will be hard at work. Abby?


PHILLIP: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you for that update. And joining me now is CNN's Manu Raju, Seung Min Kim with The Associated Press, Margaret Talev of Axios, and CNN's legal analyst Carrie Cordero. Thanks all of you for being here.

So, I want to start with this weekend, with an extraordinary weekend. Trump really kicking off his campaign, his campaign for 2024. But doing so by focusing on the issue of this investigation. Take a listen?


TRUMP: The new weapon being used by out-of-control unhinged Democrats to cheat on election is criminally investigating a candidate, prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool, and they are willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country.


PHILLIP: So, no shock, of course, that Trump is railing against people investigating him. But in this moment, it seems he's going after the idea of the judiciary itself.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right, right. And you have many of his allies in Congress helping him in that effort. And what's been really remarkable about this potential indictment against the former president is just how much his, you know, Republicans in Congress have been willing to use the levers of federal government to go after this, the legal process, which theoretically they should kind of be independent from.

And I thought it was really remarkable when House Oversight Chairman James Comer, was asked about the issue with Jake Tapper yesterday on CNN. And he was grilled repeatedly, you know, this seems to be a state issue. What authority, what interests does the Congress have in investigating?

And he kind of just said, you know, he's clearly doing this for political gain. That's why we want the D.A. to come in and talk to us, but it doesn't seem like they have as like too much of a ground to really talk to him just yet. And that's why you're seeing so much of the backlash from the prosecutors from elsewhere.

PHILLIP: Well, let's - I mean, let's play James Comer yesterday on State of the Union, talking about what exactly something was just referring to it.


REP. JAMES COMER, (R-KY): Local investigation, this is a federal investigation. He's investigating a presidential candidate, not to mention former president of the United States for a federal election crime. We believe tax dollars would be better spent prosecuting local criminals. That's what a D.A. supposed to do.


PHILLIP: So, first of all, the issue of whether or not this is a state crime. I mean, shouldn't a judge decide that, not a member of Congress? And secondly, this idea that because Trump is a candidate, that it is on its face inappropriate to investigate him, your response?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so, first of all, the reason he's mentioning tax dollars there is because one of the arguments that the congressional chairmen are making in their letter back to the New York D.A. to try to get him to broad information about this case, is they are raising what they would call a legislative purpose.

And so, they are sort of threatening in the letter to evaluate whether they want to withhold federal funds from law enforcement. So, what they're trying to do is they're trying - so that's why he's talking about that particular issue there.

Look, there's the political side of this and there's the legal side of this. With respect to the letters from the oversight chairmen, they are trying to make a constitutional argument for why their committees should have oversight of this particular issue. The New York D.A. has a strong argument that while this case is pending, it would be inappropriate for a prosecutor to provide information about a pending case. That particular issue could potentially be litigated between the local authorities and Congress, if they really want to go down the path of litigating these constitutional issues. But that's a different type of engagement than what we're seeing with respect to the threats from the former president, sort of the environment of a threatening atmosphere, which is what the prosecutors want.

PHILLIP: And again, at some point, a judge is going to sort that out, and it's not going to be decided single handedly by James Comer. I want to move on, though, to the politics again. We got a chance to talk to Trump - some of Trump's supporters at his rally this weekend. Take a listen?


MIKE GILBERT, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: About hundred million people are going vote for him. If they do indict him, you're going to get 120 million people voting for him. Because they're just, you know, you can't take an honest man down.

DEBBY CRAVEY, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: Shoo-in, 100 percent. If they do that, he'll be a shoo-in.

TODD CASTRO, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: They've been going out for him since the beginning. They haven't stopped and they're not going to stop. And this is where we have to stand up and fight. And we have to, you know, this is our vote, it's not the government's vote.


PHILLIP: It's fair to say, I don't think anyone knows his supporters better than Trump himself. And that's why he's going down this road. But the bigger question for Republicans is beyond the rally goers. How does this really land?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: Right. I mean, this is not like an unbiased sample of one thousand U.S. adults. It's people outside of a Trump rally. Right now, the former president is playing for the early primary fight. He is not playing a general election strategy. And he's got one big on announced opponent, it's Ron DeSantis. And Donald Trump is using this moment to try to consolidate fundraising, support, momentum, you know, friendships inside the base and the intestinal loyalties of his friends in Congress.


And right now, it's working. We've spent a week talking about an indictment that hasn't actually come. And every minute of that coverage lasses is coverage that he wants for primary campaigning purposes. Now, lot of Republicans worried about a general election that, right?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. Look, again, whip up a frenzy right now because we don't have any evidence. We don't know exactly what the prosecutors are going to say. When the evidence comes out, we'll see how that messaging changes among Republicans, maybe more persuadable Republicans, maybe his Republican opponents.

And also, what about all the other major legal issues he has on the federal level to criminal investigations, well, is this local investigation in Georgia, all of which could add to new problems for him. The question will be what does his Republican opponents do in the primary? They seize on any of those new allegations that come out. Or do they side with Trump and say, he's being treated unfairly?

PHILLIP: I mean, so far, they've sided with Trump, and said he's been treated unfairly. So, we'll see how that message works. But standby for us. We have breaking news. Police say an active shooter is dead. After a confrontation with cops at a Nashville pre-K and elementary school. We'll have much more on that story after a quick break.