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Isa Soares Tonight

Israel Accused Of Killing Iranian Generals In Syria; Israeli Forces Leave Al-Shifa Hospital After Two-Week Siege; Turkey's Opposition Party Sweeps Local Elections; Opposition Wins Major Cities In Blow To Erdogan; U.S. Secretary Of State Traveling To France & Belgium; Alex Murdaugh Sentenced To 40 Years For Financial Crimes. 2-3p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, Iran's ambassador to Syria says at least

five people have been killed in an attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, and Israel is being blamed. We'll have the very latest on this

breaking news story for you.

Then Israeli forces leave Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after a deadly two-week siege. We'll have more on the devastation that is been left behind. Plus, a

major blow for Turkey's President Erdogan after the main opposition party claimed victory in this weekend's local elections. We are live in Istanbul

with all the reaction.

But first, this evening, we are tracking breaking news out of the Middle East, an attack on Iran's consular building in Syria. Iran's ambassador was

not hurt, but he told reporters in Damascus, at least five people were killed and blame Israeli warplanes for the strike.

Now, CNN cannot independently verify those claims. Our Nic Robertson though is here and is following all the breaking news story on this. And Nick,

this is a significant target. What more are you learning about this attack?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the ambassador says he was an eyewitness to it, because the embassy is right next to the

consular building. The consular building destroyed. He says at least five people were killed, one of them according to Iranian state media was

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who is a very senior IRGC top military commander.

He's commanded the IRGC army, lacked ground forces before, the Air Forces before, and it is believed that this time that he has the most senior IRGC

figure to be killed since the Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani was killed by the United States in a drone strike early 2020. Take that with

the fact that this was a diplomatic building --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: That was hit, that hasn't happened before, now, the ambassador, Syrian media, Iranian media are blaming Israel, typically in these

situations because there have been situations like this before where Israel has been blamed, and has actually accept responsibility for some strikes

against Iranian targets inside of Syria.

Typically, the Israeli government at the moment is saying that we don't comment on what foreign media saying, the Iranians and the Syrian media.

So, this is a sort of a statement that we can expect Israel to give, but the indications are that this would be a target of high-value to Israel,

and the ambassador said that it was, as you mentioned, Israeli fighter jet, F-35, 506 missiles.

SOARES: I mean, broaden this out, then, if it is Israel, and we don't know at this stage, if it is Israel, the implications here for a region that

already is, you know, on the edge. What will this mean? How will Iran, you know -- how will Iran react to this?

ROBERTSON: To set the scene from Israel side for a moment. They've been talking about the northern, border -- then northern border, the southern

border of Lebanon as being a place that needs a diplomatic solution in their tensions with Hezbollah, that's a proxy of Iran.

And they've been saying that window opportunity has been closing, and they've been saying that the window opportunity is going to be closing soon

and their discussion has been about mid-April. So, Israel at the moment is really on the front foot in terms of wanting to have powerful strikes

against Hezbollah.

If they are responsible for this strike on such a significant Iranian target, and the ambassador said that there would be a decisive response.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, according to Iranian media, is saying that they have a right to take a response.

The Iranian Foreign Minister said the international community should do something. This potentially stokes up the tensions between Iran and Israel.

And in that context, Israel would anticipate that, that response could very likely come from Hezbollah. And if it did --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Then, that would give Israel a rationale to strike Hezbollah harder. And this is what the United States fears. This is what European

Union officials fear. This is why Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting tomorrow with the --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: French President in Paris, and they would discuss this issue of Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iran.


It's in this context. The tensions on it are very high right now.

SOARES: Yes, the risk of escalation here clearly very high. And this is something like you said that Secretary Blinken has been going to the

region, I don't know how trip numbers, five, six, I can't remember.

ROBERTSON: Yes, could --

SOARES: Trying to --


SOARES: Keep a lid on this. So, we're looking -- I mean, what is the U.S. saying at this juncture then?

ROBERTSON: I haven't heard what they've said so far. And it's not clear if Israel was to take responsibility --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: For it, then I think we could expect to hear something publicly from the United States. If you go back to just after Christmas, there was a

senior IRGC figure not anywhere near a senior as this one, an advisor to Syrian forces who was killed by a strike in and around Damascus just after


Again, Israel at that time said they weren't responsible, but later on, Israeli officials admitted that they were responsible for that strike. The

United States is trying its best to de-escalate those tensions.

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: It wants the ceasefire in Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel's got a 100,000 people who can't go home alone, northern border, because it's too

dangerous, because the escalation and tensions. And there's some in the military and political establishment in Israel who believed that this is a

necessary time to take out -- to take out Hezbollah's military capabilities.

So, it's coming -- is this a spark to set off the tinderbox? Everything we've seen so far, Israel has calculated, knows, just looking at --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: An interview I did with a former head of Israeli military Intelligence a few months ago. And he said, so far, everything Israel has

done, has been within a red line, not to cause Iran to escalate because Iran knows it has a lot at stake at the moment. Is this another calculation

by Israel taking it right --

SOARES: Quite much, yes --

ROBERTSON: To the wire? We don't know. And what is Iran's response?

SOARES: How will it retaliate?

ROBERTSON: It's going to be a very big response --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: When Qasem Soleimani was killed --

SOARES: Indeed. And the political divisions we have been seeing on our end. Of course, we've got images -- live images, I believe from Jerusalem about

political divisions at home. Thank you very much Nic Robertson for the very latest.

Well, the U.S. is trying once again to convince Israel not to carry out a long threat and ground invasion of Rafah, where more than a million

Palestinian civilians are sheltering. The U.S. and Israeli officials are meeting virtually today to discuss what the White House calls an

alternative, alternative ways to go after Hamas.

Israel's Prime Minister meantime is under increasing pressure at home to step down. Protesters are calling for new elections, angry over the

government's failure to secure the release of the remaining, of all remaining hostages in Gaza. Some demonstrators, you can see there, have

even set up tents outside the Knesset, vowing to stay there for at least several days.

I want to bring our Melissa Bell who is life for us in Jerusalem this hour. Melissa, pressure clearly growing on Netanyahu, speak to the visible as I

can see there, visible, but also political divisions and growing anger across Israel. What do these protesters want?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, we'd seen for several weeks, Isa, protests in Tel Aviv these last few weeks of people

angry about the way the war is going. This is the first time that the protest movement that had been growing before the war started has returned

to these streets of Jerusalem.

And with a great deal of determination, what you can see behind me is this great line of tents that the protesters intend to keep here until

Wednesday, which is the day the Knesset stopped sitting, goes off to recess for its Spring break. And whilst the crowds are petering out here, we have

heard from a great variety of people.

There are those who are out on the street because they're angry at the fact that nearly six months on, more than 130 hostages remain in the hands of

Hamas. There are those many former soldiers, I think that's been interesting to hear today. We've been speaking, for instance, to one former

deputy head of the IDF saying, look, of course, we were all for this war when it began.

Speaking to that extraordinary mobilization that saw 300,000 reservists heed the call to come and help Israel in those early days of the great fear

that October 7th had led to. Now, he told us, it's just gone on for too long and there's no political pan. That's the point about this rally, Isa,

it is highly political and politically-charged and very much focused on Benjamin Netanyahu and calls for him to go.

But there are amongst the 18-year-olds as well here in Israel, those that have found the courage to say that even though they're meant to go out and

serve, join the military as their mandatory military service expects them to in this country, a very small handful of young men and women who have

actually said no to that.



BELL (voice-over): In Israel too, there are those who object to their government's handling of the war in Gaza. Among them, Ben Arad, who as an

18-year-old, is due to enlist this week for his mandatory military service. Instead, he tells the crowd he's choosing to go to jail.


We caught up with him in Tel Aviv on his very last day of freedom.

BEN ARAD, ISRAELI REFUSENIK: I don't refuse because I'm afraid of being hurt or killed in military action. I have a very deep-disgust of the things

that I'm seeing happening.

BELL: Things he says that Israeli media doesn't dwell on, but that he seeks out on international networks and online.

ARAD: I think something that really broke my heart was the flour massacre. So, seeing people trample each other to get food. I mean, you just can't

deny that point that there is a famine going on and people are hungry.

BELL: So, on Monday, Ben will hand himself in, becoming one of only a handful of so-called refuseniks to make their decisions public since the

war began. In a country where military service marks the start of every Israeli's grown-up life, aside from those exempt on religious grounds, the

war has made avoiding it a political act.

ARAD: I've been called a traitor, I've been told that I need to be deported or I've been asked why I don't just move. I mean, but it's not such

terrible stuff. I haven't gotten that yet. Like I'll get that when I go to jail.

BELL: Yet, Ben says he's determined to give up his freedom in order to remain free of a war that he simply doesn't believe in.


BELL: I think it's important to point out the young man like Ben are extremely rare. The drums of war, the propaganda that we've seen in Israel

for the last few months has been pretty big as, Isa, has the unit. The point about this protest is that it's starting to show the cracks in that

unity with people from the left, people from the right now becoming critical of Benjamin Netanyahu.

And bear in mind, of course, Isa, the pressure that he and his war-time coalition are coming under in terms of the outside pressure. Again, today,

we know that there were virtual talks between Israeli officials and American officials, with the United States leaning heavily on Benjamin

Netanyahu, not to go in with that ground invasion that he's threatened to go to do in Rafah.

So, a lot of pressure even at a time when the hostage negotiators are picked up again, and we know that the Israeli Prime Minister is hoping to

use that threat of an invasion of Rafah to bring more pressure to bear on Hamas in order to bring them back more firmly to the negotiating table.


SOARES: Melissa Bell there for us on the streets of Jerusalem, thanks very much, Melissa, appreciate it. Well, as the calls from protesters for

Benjamin Netanyahu to step down grow louder, so do the calls for the release of hostages held by Hamas. We are joined by Yarden Gonen; her

family has gone through agony after his sister was taken hostage by Hamas militants.

Yarden, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. You've been marching, I believe calling for hostages for your little sister to be

released. Do you feel Yarden, that the government is listening to you?

YARDEN GONEN, SISTER OF HAMAS HOSTAGE ROMI GONEN: So, first of all, thank you so much for giving me the stage, it's so important to us to raise our

voice. My sister was -- I can't speak for her, so -- and yes, I was on Saturday night, we had the rally, the main rally at the Hostage Square when

we said enough to the polite rallies, we need to go and march on the streets, gather people together. If you can go near the hostage square,

just go to the nearest intersection.

And please, scream and shout with us, for the most important thing is for human rights and for human lives to be the most important thing. And of

course, there are immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and we will continue to do that up until they'll be here.

We know that they're listening to us. We know that they heard us, and even if they didn't hurt us up until today, which I don't believe it is, but

after Saturday, I guess they did. And we will continue to do anything in our power to gather people together to this important and righteous, and

only thing that truly matters.


And that the release of hostages, it not just symbolize human rights, it also symbolize the win of the free world against terror, and this is so

important for this world, this humanity to continue to prosper.

SOARES: And Yarden, you would have seen, of course, we've shown our viewers this -- Melissa Bell, our correspondent was in Jerusalem just now, many

people taking to the streets angry over Netanyahu -- the fact that he's failed to bring hostages home over -- angry over his handling of this war.

I mean, you remember, the goals he said, were, you know, to end Hamas, to bring the hostages home. Neither it seems have been achieved in its

entirety. How do you think he has fared as a prime minister?

GONEN: I think that these people -- I heard the Hebrew sentence that they were screaming. And fortunately, I can't see the picture, but the first

sentence that they were saying is one was alive. We want them alive. And that was the most important thing I've heard, and that I have been

screaming all the time that we want them alive.

We have people alive there, and we have to give anything in our power to fight for them and for those who are not alive anymore to claim for proper

burial in Israel. And I know that some of the people are trying to think that to gain their protests towards Netanyahu is the best.

But for me and for a lot of other families and my family specifically, we think that the only thing that we need to show and continue talking and to

get to as many as decision-makers as we can, or even the simple civilians in Israel or outside, is to continue to speak about the hostages and their

release, and that only.

Everything that we talk about, every other thing that we will talk about, it would be like we were pushing them to the second option, and I'm not

going to let that happen. So, for me, this is what I'm screaming. Just imagine to yourself, it's something that we can't even imagine, I'm

experiencing on myself for 178 days.

I am feeling her absence so fiercely in my heart, in my bones, and I can't understand that. So, it's so hard to pass it on to someone else to

understand what we're feeling. You can't imagine that someone can come in the middle of a festival and destroy so many good things, and to kidnap so

many people, and it's something that is unbearable and it's unbelievable.

And we need the world help, especially after Amit Soussana testimony last week that was horrifying, and I'm really --

SOARES: Yes --

GONEN: Disappointed from all women communities and women organizations that are not saying anything on her behalf. It's like ignoring it.

SOARES: And Yarden, as you were speaking, we were looking at photos of your little sister, I mean, we're nearly towards six months or so of this war,

and I can't imagine what this has been like for you and for your family. As you wait, of course, for your sister to come home, to have your sister

back, as you wait for that moment, what do you want to see from this government?

Do you want to see a more conciliatory tone, conciliatory approach in relation to negotiations? Because they've hit some sort of stalemate right

now. Where do you stand on this?

GONEN: I would expect them to treat those hostages -- is like they were their own family, and that they would do anything in their power, anything

they can and beyond that to gain their freedom again, as soon as possible. We need to remember that we're facing a terror organization, Hamas is not

an organization that is supposed to free the Palestine people. This is not their ideology.

They're saying it everywhere. Their ideology is to rule the world with radical Islam, they want to destroy everything, and they're starting from

Israel, and they're saying it over and over again that Israel is just the star, so, we need the world's help. They are enjoying our suffering, so, we

truly can't fight it alone.

And I really -- approaching from the bottom of my heart to anyone that listen to us now, if you really believe in human rights, if you really

believe in equality, every time that you're screaming and demanding ceasefire now, condition it with the demand of immediate and unconditional

release of all hostages, they've done nothing wrong.


They need to be released for their freedom as much as the Palestinian citizens should get their own freedom as well. And for me, as a nurse in my

profession, these are the most important thing for me that people will live in health and in -- prosper, but they need to be released from the hands of

terror organization first.

SOARES: Yarden, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, and we hope of course, all of us here hope --

GONEN: Thank you so much, Isa, I appreciate it --

SOARES: That your sister --

GONEN: Very --

SOARES: Comes home to you safely. Thank you, Yarden. Thank you. Well, the full scale of the destruction of Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital is still

unfolding this hour after Israeli forces entered a deadly two-week siege. These small during ruins are what's left or what used to be Gaza's largest

and most advanced hospital.

Medical teams and witnesses describe finding hundreds of bodies after the IDF withdrew. Some of them, decomposing, others crushed by bulldozers into

the dirt. The Palestinian Medical Relief Society says women and children are among the dead. Israel says Hamas and Islamic Jihad had been using Al-

Shifa as a base.

It says it conducted a precise mission to eliminate -- to eliminate them. A government spokesman calls the operation the gold standard of urban

warfare, their words that will be studied by future generations. Well, Al- Shifa had been sheltering thousands of civilians when Israeli forces stormed the complex, Gaza's civil defense says, what happened there is

quote, "a heinous crime that defies human comprehension."

Our Nada Bashir has more, and we warn you, her report contains some graphic images.




NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): As dawn breaks over Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital, the full extent of this latest nightmare becomes clear.


Buildings scorched, some still ablaze, others riddled with bullet holes or completely destroyed. Below, bodies been crushed and decomposing. Under

torchlight limbs are found tangled amid earth and rubble. This is the aftermath of the Israeli military's 14-day siege on what once was Gaza's

largest hospital. "Please, God, enough", this woman screams.

"How much more can Gaza civilians be forced to endure?" Medical crews tell CNN they arrived on Monday morning to find hundreds of bodies scattered

around the complex, others have been left wounded, starving and desperate for help.

"We spent days without food or water until the military gave us a few food cans, but they were not enough to feed all the patients", Jenna(ph) says.

"They would give each patient just a quarter of a water bottle each day. The bombardment and shooting was constant".

The scale of the destruction wrought by the Israeli military here seems impossible to quantify. In the surrounding area, entire families were

trapped in their homes for two weeks under near constant bombardment. Upon the Israeli military's withdrawal, Arafat Alulu(ph) was finally able to

return home, only to find that his wife and seven children had been killed.

The Israeli military has described the siege on Al-Shifa as a precise operation, targeting Hamas militants. Some 200 of which they say were

killed. Though CNN is unable to verify this figure. Weapons and Intelligence documents are also said to have been found on the complex,

which had been housing hundreds of civilians when the siege began.

The IDF maintains that soldiers distinguish between militants and civilians, but such claims stand in stark contrast to the troubling

testimonies and videos CNN has received from countless civilians and medical staff who are trapped in and around the hospital.

"We can't estimate the number of medical staff who were targeted, and what we can only call executions." This medical official says. In earlier

testimonies shared with CNN, civilians describe being stripped, bound and blindfolded in the cold before facing interrogations by Israeli soldiers.

Reports of beatings are also widespread. For days, medical staff within the hospital told CNN they couldn't even move between buildings on the complex

for fear of being targeted by Israeli snipers.


"Every day, a patient will die", nurse Mousa says. "The occupation soldiers use us as human shields inside the hospital." More than 300 bodies have so

far been recovered according to authorities in Gaza. But that figure will likely only rise. Warnings that Al-Shifa could soon be turned into a

graveyard, now, a gut-wrenching reality. Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


SOARES: And CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment on our report, and we are still waiting for a response. And still to come tonight, a blow for

Turkish President Erdogan as the opposition party scores major wins in elections. We have the latest from Istanbul next.


SOARES: And it's a stinging defeat for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the main opposition party claim victory in this weekend's

local elections. Turk can see -- Turkey, I should say, CHP is celebrating a number of key wins, including Istanbul and Ankara.

It is a major blow to Mr. Erdogan, even though he wasn't on the ballot. The elections are seen as a referendum on his leadership. Our Scott McLean

reports from Istanbul.



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there were any doubts about this man's ability to win, they were put to bed last night. Ekrem

Imamoglu; the mayor of Istanbul from the secular opposition CHP Party was re-elected by a comfortable 11-point margin, a gap few polls could have



MCLEAN: "Hello Istanbul", he says, "16 million Istanbul lights have won, congratulations! There are no losers in this election." But Imamoglu's win

is a huge blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious conservative AKP Party, which not only failed to win back Istanbul, but even lost

Erdogan's home district.

Imamoglu is widely seen as one of the few perhaps the only opposition figure strong enough to beat Erdogan in a presidential race. Originally

from the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Imamoglu's move to Istanbul for university, then worked with his family's construction company.

Two decades later in 2014, he was leading a small district of Istanbul, then five years later in 2019, won the race for city mayor by a razor-thin

margin after a court overturned the results and ordered another vote, Imamoglu won the second time around by an even wider gap. He later faced

charges of insulting public officials stemming from the aftermath of the bitterly contested race. He's been convicted and sentenced to more than two

years jail time on the charges that many believe are politically motivated.


Erdogan has denied any link. The appeals process is still winding its way through the courts. Turkish electorate has a tendency to side with the one

who is being victimized and probably Imamoglu would be regarded as such.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Erdogan has been in power for two decades but now perhaps the biggest threat to his rule has just gotten stronger.


SOARES: And our thanks to Scott McLean for that report.

Well, in just a few hours America's top diplomat will head to Europe. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with French President Emmanuel

Macron in Paris as well as native foreign ministers in Brussels. Funding for Ukraine is a high on the agenda. This comes amid heavy fighting west of

Avdiivka where a key Ukrainian defensive line has weakened after Russia took control, if you remember, of the city back in February.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy warned on Friday that his troops could be forced to cede more ground to Russia if additional U.S. military aid does

not arrive soon.

And still to come tonight right now, crews are working to clear channel for chips that -- near the collapsed bridge in Baltimore. The latest on the

cleanup efforts, that is next.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. A complicated cleanup process is underway in Baltimore. Nearly one week after a cargo ship struck the Francis Scott

Key Bridge causing it to collapse. The first pieces of metal and debris have been removed from the water and crews are preparing to open a

temporary alternate channel for crucial commercial ships of course in the area.

Meanwhile, the bodies of four construction workers who were on the bridge when it collapsed have still not been recovered. Pete Muntean is following

all the latest developments for us from Baltimore and joins me now.

And Pete, what more do we know at this stage about this alternate route, the temporary channel to get around the wreckage?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT: Well we'll likely hear a lot more about that, Isa, at the top of the hour from Maryland Governor Wes

Moore who's expected to address the media here.

You can see the wreckage behind me and they are right now trying to clear this temporary alternate channel that you describe. The unified command

here, the group that is sort of leading this all together of multiple different agencies that have sort of joined hands to try and make this

happen, have said that they have laid out this plan for this alternate channel that's about 11 feet deep, 250 feet wide, about 100 feet of

vertical clearance, but all of that really pales in comparison to the channel that used to be here before.

Eleven feet deep, five times less than the 50 foot deep channel that now is being blocked by the MV Dali still crippled there in the center of the Key

Bridge and pinned under so much of the wreckage of the Key Bridge.

Its bow now on the bottom of the Patapsco River here as crews swoop in and try and move the debris off of the Dali so the Dali can be moved and then

they can remove some more debris. These are the blow by blows, the numbers of all of the vehicles and vessels that will be coming in here. Seven

floating cranes in total, nine or ten tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels, five coast guard boats.

That is when this recovery operation hits full steam. Right now there are three heavy lift cranes here. This is the latest update from the United

States Navy. The Chesapeake, that is the 100-ton heavy lift barge and then also the Ferrell that can lift about 200 tons and then the Oyster Bay which

can lift 150 tons. But consider the challenge here. A lot of the debris that is in the Patapsco River now, officials say that weighs between 3,000

and 4,000 tons.

So, they have to chunk it up into smaller sort of bite-sized pieces, then they can move those. But really it is a cut, then move operation, then they

can try and get this temporary channel open, then they can move the Dali, then they can make real headway here in moving this port to full steam.

About 8,000 to 15,000 people have their jobs directly impacted by this closure right now.

And this is a huge spot for the import of cars, the import of things like commodities, salt and sugar. It is really, really critical. This is not

just a Maryland or Baltimore problem, this is a global and worldwide issue.

But there is real no definitive timeline just yet on getting this port fully back open and running, Isa.

SOARES: Yes, indeed. The supply chains involved and the complex nature of the logistics that you've just outlined, Pete, are very clear.

In the meantime, we are hearing that President Biden is going to be traveling to Baltimore on Friday. What more can you tell us, Pete?

MUNTEAN: President Biden will be here on Friday. Just the latest federal official to be here, the Department of Labor Secretary was here earlier

today. Also, the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, was here almost directly after this horrible disaster here took place.

So, this is something that is really getting a lot of attention from federal officials, and they have already green-lighted $60 million in

federal funds to try and get this operation moving. Money and people power will be critical, not to mention all of the infrastructure that is now

descending on the Port of Baltimore here to try and get this port open and running again.

SOARES: Pete, appreciate it. Pete Muntean there for us in Baltimore.

Well, a judge is making sure convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh spends the rest of his life behind bars. In federal court, Murdaugh has just been

given a 40-year prison sentence for a long list of financial crimes.

And this will run concurrently with the 27 years he got in state court after pleading guilty to similar crimes, including money laundering and

fraud. The former attorney from South Carolina is already serving two life sentences in state prison for the murders of his wife and son.


Donald Trump spent the Easter weekend ramping up dangerous rhetoric on social media. "Crooked, deranged, and evil." As you can see there, those

are some of the attacks the former U.S. president used on prosecutors leading criminal cases against him as he gets ready for a critical month.

Trump will hit Michigan and Wisconsin this week on the campaign trail, but he'll also be preparing for his hush money trial in New York, where he is

being charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. That trial, on a fourth that Trump is facing of course, is set to begin in just two weeks


And still to come tonight, dengue fever is triggering a health crisis in the Americas. We'll look at why it's creeping up outside tropical climates.

That story next.


SOARES: On this first day of April, Mother Nature is lashing out across the U.S., bringing severe weather to millions of people.

Some areas could see hail, strong winds, as well as tornadoes. Others could see spring snowfall as well as record high temperatures. Hashing it all out

for us is meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, good to see you. Just break it down for us.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is a volatile day today. Severe weather across the middle part of the country, it's a level four of five. Doesn't

really matter where you live in the world, you have these warnings or at least these watches that you know the levels, this is as high as we've been

all season so far for the first time. Tomorrow will be the second time. Just a little bit farther off to the east. So yes, severe weather will fire

up today.

The threat, a grapefruit-size hail. Now, you need to protect yourself, your pets, your livestock, your cars. Can't do much with your house just kind of

sitting out there. But this is a volatile event that's about to get going. It is very warm. The humidity is coming up. Spring wants to be spring.

Winter says, ah, not so fast. I want to come back down here and cool you off just a little bit. And that warm and that cold, that is the real


That's the clash of how we get to the severe weather events like this across all of North America here throughout the spring in the south and

then all the way up even into Canada by the time we get into July and into August.

So, here's our level four or five today.


Oklahoma City, Tulsa, all the way down toward the Red River. Tomorrow, a few more people get in the way of this. Cincinnati, Columbus, all the way

back down to almost Lexington. But keep your eye on the orange, not just the red. The red is a significant threat, but there is orange and yellow

around it. And storms will be in those areas. Take you to 5:00 central time here in the middle part of the country. Notice the radar, what it is going

to look like. It's not 5:00 yet, so it doesn't look like this right now.

But we will see the storms continue from Kansas City all the way down toward Little Rock and even to Fayetteville, Mena, Arkansas. Some of those

storms will be rotating. Some of these storms will have tornadoes. Nearly all the big ones will have significant hail. Big time hail here. A lot of

wind, could be 80 miles per hour, 125 kilometers per hour if you're watching from abroad.

But this is the area tomorrow that moves to the east, severe weather as far south there as the Gulf Coast, as far north all the way even into Michigan.

And I talked about the cold air saying, wait a minute, not so fast. Well, that cold air causing the heavy rainfall, causing flood watches to be in

effect. So they're going to be two to three inches, 150 millimeters of rainfall.

But that's still snow. At the end of the week, the cold air says, hey, I'm going to win. I know you had your chance with the severe weather, but look

how much snow I'm going to put down up here into parts of Ontario, into Quebec, all the way from Michigan and as far east as Maine.

And there will be spots that will see a half a meter. So, 12 to 18 inches of snowfall to come after we have this severe weather event to the south,

the snow and significant shoveling effect to the north, Isa.

SOARES: Chad, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Now, Canada's Niagara region is expecting thousands of visitors for next week's solar eclipse and officials are declaring a state of emergency in

advance. They say it's just a precaution to make sure they can handle the influx of people. Niagara Falls, Ontario is in the path of totality. It's

one of the best places in Canada to view the once in a lifetime event.

And be sure to join us next Monday for the eclipse as it travels from Mexico across the U.S. and into Canada. Experience it from numerous

locations along with plenty of science as well as excitement along the way, as you can imagine. Our special coverage starts at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Well, the Americas are facing what could be the "The worst dengue season ever." That is according to the Pan American Health Organization. So far,

2024 has seen 3.5 million dengue cases with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay being the hardest hit. The mosquito-borne disease is typically found in

tropical climates, but more outbreaks are spiking in every corner of the region.

Stefano Pozzebon explains why climate change could be to blame.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): The lines are back at Argentina's hospitals with confirmed cases of the notorious infectious

disease soaring to record level. Inside, patients receive treatment in a waiting room because the wards are full.

The vibe is very much 2020. The virus is different. "It started with a headache. I thought I had migraine, then the fever, and then I've decided

to come to the hospital to do the exams and confirm the virus."

Dengue causes fever and pain. It can be lethal. Most worrying, there is no cure for it. Patients should hydrate and can take painkillers, but must

wait to write out the symptoms.

The scenes of hospitals overflowing with patients have brought back for many Argentinians the nightmares of the COVID-19 pandemic. The difference

this time, many experts are saying, is that tropical diseases like dengue will be more and more common, and scenes like this will become the new


The mosquitoes that carry it thrive in hot, humid environments. Common in the tropics, but research suggests these conditions are spreading to more

temperate climates because of global warming, and mosquitoes are following.

In the U.S., the majority of cases are in Puerto Rico, but last year, Miami-Dade County was placed under alert after a handful of cases tested

positive. Buenos Aires sits on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. These wetlands, perfect for the mosquitoes now that it's the end of the summer.

Confirmed cases are more than five times what they were just five years ago, one of them on our own team.

CNN journalist Veronica Paje is recovering from the virus. "It sucks the energy out of you. You can't get out of bed or even say hello."

Dengue has a low mortality rate. For now, authorities have ruled out emergency measures to prevent the spread.


Argentineans are advised to use insect repellents and wear long sleeves and light trousers.

Also, get rid of standing water, where mosquitoes can gather and breed. But for someone who lost a dear one, that is not enough. Giselle Piedrabuena

died on March 17. She was diagnosed with dengue six days before.

What Vallejos would like to see is a widespread information campaign warning the population about the disease. "We need to learn how to live

with it. And the first step is taking it seriously," she says.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Buenos Aires.


SOARES: And still to come tonight. Spring has some come knocking really on California's door, covering the state in blankets of super blooming

wildflowers. Look at that. We'll explain this breathtaking natural phenomenon after this short break.


SOARES: It's an annual sign of spring in California, wildflowers blooming up and down the state. This year, thanks in part to a very wet winter,

residents and visitors are hoping they're even more spectacular than usual. Here's our Stephanie Elam with more for you.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A flurry of flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's amazing.

ELAM (voice-over): As spring begins to unfurl in California, flower fans are hoping for another showstopper, a phenomenon known as a super bloom.

EVAN MEYER, BOTANIST AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THEODORE PAYNE FOUNDATION: A superbloom is many, many flowers, millions, if not billions of flowers

blooming simultaneously.

ELAM (voice-over): Expanses of orange, yellow and purple flowers so densely clustered that they are visible from space. Like in 2023, after one of the

wettest winters on record. The thing is, superblooms aren't a guarantee.

It takes the right conditions for that riot of hues to appear. During California's devastating drought years, there's no brilliant display.

MEYERS: And when those conditions come together and you get a lot of rain and cool days, you're going to see tons of flowers. And this year, I think

we're on track for that.

ELAM: All of these beautiful blooms just draw people in. But this is nature, so naturally there are threats. And here in California, that often

is snakes.

ELAM (voice-over): Like 12-year-old Malin found out.

ELAM: What is the coolest thing you've seen when you've come out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A snake. I got the dog and I started running.

ELAM (voice-over): In 2017, some California parks were crushed with superbloom seekers.


The town of Lake Elsinore banned visitors to one canyon in 2019 after hundreds of thousands of people trudged off trails, destroying precious

petals in their quest to take the perfect picture.

MEYERS: These are fragile ecosystems. They're wild ecosystems, and they can be damaged pretty easily by being stepped on, sat on, driven on.

ELAM (voice-over): Yet experts say respectfully viewing a superbloom is a great way to connect with nature.

MEYERS: You'll just see one of the most incredible things that happens in our natural world.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN.


SOARES: Absolutely blooming.

Well, Easter has hatched in the White House. President Joe Biden hosted some very excited children today at the annual Easter Egg Roll. The event

featured more than 60,000 eggs.

About 40,000 people were invited to participate. Many of them, the families of military veterans or people who work as caregivers. Besides the iconic

egg quest, this year's celebrations revolve around an egg-ucation theme, pun intended there.

It turned the South Lawn into a schoolyard. As you can see, a very wet schoolyard. And that does it for us for today. Thank you very much for your

company. Do stay right here. "NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto is up next. I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.