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The Situation Room

New York Attorney General Takes A First Step Toward Seizing Trump's Assets; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Says He Won't Seek Re- Election Amid Bribery Charges; Police Say, Escaped Inmate and Accomplice Captured After Manhunt; U.S. Sues Apple In Historic Antitrust Case Claiming Phone Monopoly; Interpreter For Baseball Star Shohei Ohtani Fired Amid Allegations Of "Massive Theft" Tied To Gambling. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 21, 2024 - 18:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is possible.

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): Again, just so, if that is the case, I think that would be so out of touch with what people want right now. You're tired of this situation where people are putting their own personal benefit ahead of what's right for the nation.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey, congratulations on all the endorsements you've gotten from the county Democratic parties, and the like. We will check in with you again. Thank you so much.

KIM: Thank you.

TAPPER: You can follow me on Twitter and social media everywhere. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts.

The news continues now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Donald Trump's private real estate outside Manhattan could be one step closer to being seized. The New York attorney general just laid new groundwork to potentially take some of Trump's prized assets with his deadline to cover a mega- million dollar bond just four days away.

Plus, breaking news, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez announcing he's not seeking re-election in the Democratic primary as he fights federal bribery and corruption charges. We'll get reaction from the second- ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin.

Also breaking, police in Idaho say they've captured an armed and dangerous escaped inmate and his accomplice after an intense manhunt. Authorities now investigating two killings potentially tied to the suspects while they were on the loose.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Boris Sanchez, and you are live in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our top story tonight, one of Donald Trump's worst nightmares may be a step closer to reality. Let's get details on new moves by the New York attorney general paving the way to potentially seize some of Trump's properties.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is covering the New York civil fraud case. Evan, how is the state of New York now preparing for the Monday deadline when Trump is under orders to come up with that nearly $500 million bond?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the first action that we've seen taking place is in Westchester County, New York, where the state of New York, the attorney general there, has already entered that judgment, which is one of the initial steps that they have to take should the former president not be able to come up with the bond by that deadline of Monday.

You mentioned it's already four days away from that deadline. And so this is what the state authorities there have now begun doing. They've now entered a judgment in Westchester County, New York. We'll show you just a list of some of the properties that could be at risk for seizure as part of this effort by the New York attorney general.

You see there, Seven Springs, is where -- that's in Westchester County, where that was entered. You see Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, is also part of that. And this is already -- the attorney general has already entered the judgment in Manhattan, where, of course, Trump Tower, 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel are all located.

We haven't seen any effort by the attorney general there in New York to enter the judgment in Florida, where, of course, Mar-a-Lago and the Doral Golf Club are both located, Boris. But it gives you an indication of how quickly things could move once the deadline comes on Monday.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the pressure is on. And, Evan, we just learned that the judge also expanded the role of the monitor that's overseeing the Trump Organization. Tell us about that.

PEREZ: Right. So, there's a monitor that is essentially sitting there looking over the shoulder of the running of the Trump Organization. And what the judge has now ordered is for that monitor to become more involved in looking over the shoulder of the Trump team to see what efforts they have made to try to secure these bonds.

You, of course, know that the Trump team says that they've been rejected by 30 different underwriters in trying to produce this nearly half a billion dollars bond. And so now what the judge wants is for the monitor to essentially check the books and to make sure what efforts the Trump team has actually made to secure those bonds and to report back to the judge. Again, the deadline is fast approaching.

SANCHEZ: Evan Perez, thank you so much for the reporting. The closer that Donald Trump gets to the bond deadline, the more he is lashing out. CNN's Kristen Holmes has the latest on that and another money problem Trump is facing right now with his presidential campaign.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With just four days to pay the at least $464 million bond, former President Donald Trump's panic mode does not appear to be easing up. Posting to Truth Social today that the amount ordered by the judge was too high for bonding companies, adding that, quote, putting up money before an appeal is very expensive.

With New York Attorney General Letitia James already taking the first steps to seize Trump's assets if he's unable to post bond, Trump has been publicly defiant.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're fighting it out with them. We have a lot of cash and we have a great company.


But they want to take it away, or at least take the cash element away, billions of dollars in value, billions of dollars in properties, but they'd like to take the cash away so I can't use it on the campaign.

HOLMES: As Trump seeks solutions, his campaign, also facing a cash crunch, struggling to chip away at President Joe Biden's significant financial edge. Trump's campaign and joint fundraising committee raised a combined $20.3 million in February, ending the month with $41.9 million in the bank.

While an increase from January, the numbers lagged behind Biden's, whose political operation raised $53 million last month and ended February with $155 million cash on hand.

Meanwhile, with Trump's legal fees still looming over him, his leadership PAC spending more on legal expenses than it took in last month.

Biden not only outpacing Trump at the bank, but also on the campaign trail, making an appeal to key voting blocs.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I need you. I need you badly. I need the help. Kamala and I desperately need your help.

HOLMES: While former President Trump has largely stayed behind closed doors since clinching the Republican nomination, swapping rallies for donor meetings and the golf course, Trump has only visited one battleground state since Super Tuesday.

TRUMP: Hello, Georgia. I'm thrilled to be back.

HOLMES: And held a campaign event for his handpicked Senate candidate in Ohio before the primary in that state.

In the same stretch of time Biden has visited every top battleground state, but one.

BIDEN: We're going to be building the future here in Arizona, and Arizona is building the future.


HOLMES (on camera): And I am told that Donald Trump is expected back on the campaign trail in just the next two weeks.

But, Boris, right now the focus really is how is he going to post this bond. And I am told that he has said in private that he is opposed to anything that would result in him filing for bankruptcy. So, at least maybe that rules one thing out.

SANCHEZ: Yes. We've been wondering how his court cases are going to affect the campaign. We're sort of watching that unfold right now.

Kristin Holmes, thanks so much for the reporting.

Let's get some perspective now with CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman. Maggie, thanks so much for being with us.

So, Trump is lashing out at Letitia James on social media as she's already taking steps to potentially seize his properties in New York. In talking to your sources, how consumed is the former president by this threat to his business empire?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, he's very, very concerned about it. It is not the only thing that he talks about, but he does rail about Letitia James in private. He does talk about how unfair he thinks the case is. There's no difference, Boris, between what he's saying publicly and what he's saying privately.

The one thing I would say is I know that he is opposed personally to filing for bankruptcy. He has been very scarred by the bankruptcies that were filed against his companies in the early 1990s. This one would be personal to him in a different way. But it is not something that has been totally ruled out as a possibility. And, again, I don't think it's likely. It's something that could hurt him politically in a campaign. But it is not entirely off the table.

SANCHEZ: But we've seen Donald Trump use things that would seemingly totally derail other candidates, other politicians, to his advantage. I'm wondering if you see that he might find a potential political benefit to effectively forcing Letitia James to seize his properties.

HABERMAN: That's a discussion that's taking place among some of his advisers. I don't think that Donald Trump left to his own devices, wants someone taking his properties. I just don't, just based on everything that we know about him. But I do think that there are people who are telling him that there could be political advantage to it. And it's not clear to me that they're wrong. I think that, you know, if you have somebody who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, they are a former president, and their assets are seized. There are going to be a lot of people who rise against this.

You know, Trump has been leaning in very aggressively to the idea that business people in New York are recoiling from this judgment, because they fear that it could happen to them.

Now, I think he's overstating that. But I think, unlike when he says to his supporters at rallies, you know, if they can do this to me, they can do this to you. In the case of something affecting business, I do think that that concerns business officials and executives a little bit more than, say, the average voter being worried about being indicted.

SANCHEZ: That is fascinating. So, Maggie, you just reported that Trump's new shared fundraising agreement with the RNC directs a portion of donations be used to pay his legal bills before any money goes to the party. Actually, just last month, a senior Trump campaign adviser told ABC News that absolutely none of the RNC funds would be used to pay his legal bills. What changed?

HABERMAN: So, technically, that's true. In credit where it's due, the Associated Press had that story before, Shane Goldmacher and I did. Technically, it is not going to the Republican National Committee to pay his legal fees, but the way that it works with this joint fundraising agreement that he has signed with the national party and then with a bunch of state parties, along with his campaign and along with Save America, the political action committee that's been paying for these legal fees, is, first, a portion goes to the campaign, then $5,000 to Save America, and then after that, money to the Republican National Committee and then the state party committees and so forth.


$5,000 is the maximum that can go to Save America, which is, at the moment, headed to run very low on funds by the end of spring. So, technically, it's true. The RNC is not paying his legal bills, but there is a portion of this fundraising that is going to go to Save America, which has been paying his legal bills.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So, the Biden campaign is having a go at this. They're poking fun at Trump's recent lackluster fundraising numbers. Trump has less than half of the cash on hand as the Biden campaign. And in a statement, they said, quote, if Donald Trump put up these kinds of numbers on The Apprentice, he'd fire himself.

They're really trying to get under Trump's skin. I wonder if you think it will work.

HABERMAN: I don't think that writing headlines about The Apprentice is going to be what, you know, sets Donald Trump off. I think the fact that Donald Trump might have his properties taken is probably likelier to get under his skin than a statement about The Apprentice. I do think that the fundraising disparity is getting pretty wide. And while money differences tend not to matter as much in presidential races, this is a pretty big gap, and we will see how this plays out.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Trump is also on the hunt for a new running mate, right, after his falling out with Mike Pence over Pence's decision to certify the results of the 2020 election.

You have new reporting about a threat that Trump made to Pence that was reported to the January 6th committee from a valet of Trump's, right? Did the valet put forward anything that contradicts what the committee put forward?

HABERMAN: So, Luke Broadwater and I obtained a transcript of an interview that this valet gave to the January 6th committee. And just to go back to your point about the V.P. and Trump looking for a new one, I don't think Mike Pence was especially interested in reviving that role for a third campaign.

But there are aspects of the testimony that confirm a fair amount of other pieces of information that the committee obtained. There are aspects that did not, but not that it contradicts it, it's that, in some cases, that the valet may not have heard it, he says he was not there for the entirety of the conversation that the former president had with the former vice president, but he did say that he heard the former president tell the V.P. that it would be a political killer to certify the election.

And that does not undercut the general thrust of the January 6th committee and its work, so for what it's worth.

SANCHEZ: And, Maggie, quickly, we were talking about the search for a new V.P. Sources tell CNN that Senator Marco Rubio is under consideration, serious consideration as a potential running mate for Trump. What do you make of that?

HABERMAN: That's been our reporting as well, that he is among a small number of people who are being looked at. Senator J.D. Vance from Ohio remains, I think, a pretty top contender for that role. But where the former president is actually going to go with this, I think, is anyone's guess. And I don't think we're going to know for another at least six weeks.

SANCHEZ: Yes, still plenty of time left to go in this general election. Maggie Haberman, thanks so much.


SANCHEZ: Just ahead, the breaking news on embattled Democratic Senator Bob Menendez announcing he will not run for re-election, at least in the Democratic primary. We're going to ask Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin what it means for Democrats and their battle for control of the Senate.

And later, the Justice Department's blockbuster anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, what it could mean for your iPhone. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SANCHEZ: There is breaking news on Capitol Hill this hour, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey announcing he will not run for re-election in the Democratic primary this June as he's deep into fighting a slew of federal corruption charges.

Let's get you out to Capitol Hill with CNN's Melanie Zanona. Melanie, this doesn't preclude him from running in the general election, right?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: No, that's exactly right. I mean, this has been a huge question in Democratic circles. Menendez has been facing questions about his political future ever since he was first indicted on these bribery and extortion charges. And today he finally announced that he was not planned to run as a Democrat, but he did leave the door open to running as an independent this summer if all his legal issues are resolved after his trial in May. Take a listen.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I will not file for the Democratic primary this June. I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election.


ZANONA: Now, over two dozen Senate Democrats have called on Bob Menendez to resign. They do not want to have to spend money defending this typically safe blue seat, and he did step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Menendez has refused to step down from Congress. He has maintained his innocence. He has pled not guilty. And he says he will be exonerated after his trial in May.

And it's very clear that this move that he announced today is a strategic one, because if he was running as a Democrat, he would have had to gather enough signatures for the ballot by Monday. He also would have faced a very competitive primary race with multiple Democrats running against him. And in order to run as an independent, he has until June to collect those signatures. So, clearly, he is not giving up on his political future just yet. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Melanie Zenona, live for us on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Joining us now is the second ranking Democrat in the Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator, thanks so much for sharing part of your evening with us.

First, your reaction to Senator Menendez saying he's not going to run in the Democratic primary, but leaving the door open to run as an independent.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Listen, I don't know the finer points of New Jersey election law, but, certainly, what I heard from Bob Menendez was that he would not run as a Democrat in the primary and that he faces a very serious charge, legal charges, that he hopes will be tried this summer, and if he is exonerated, he would run as an independent Democrat.

That, of course, leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The most important one is how he will fare in that trial.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it is an open question, and there are very serious charges against him having to do with some shady foreign business dealings. Does Senator Schumer, you think, need to bar Senator Menendez from participating in any classified briefings while this case, accusing him of being an agent of the Egyptian government, plays out?

DURBIN: Listen, I don't know the finer points when it comes to just barring anyone from participating, but he is a duly elected senator from New Jersey at this point. He's not been convicted of any crime. He is entitled to the same presumption of innocence as any American.

SANCHEZ: That's fair, Senator, but are you comfortable with him getting these classified briefings?

DURBIN: I don't think there's been any charge that I've heard that goes specifically to that question.

SANCHEZ: Well, we'll pivot to something else, Senator. The House is expected to pass a $1.2 trillion funding bill tomorrow ahead of the Friday midnight deadline. Do you think the Senate is going to pass this bill unanimously in time to avert a government shutdown?

DURBIN: It doesn't have to be passed unanimously but there are votes that have to be taken. And my feeling is that there's a sentiment to try for a number of reasons personal and political to get the job done before midnight tomorrow night. I'll work toward that goal.

SANCHEZ: Well, if there's a single senator that raises an objection, it gets delayed and then it likely wouldn't meet that deadline. Are you confident that's going to happen?

DURBIN: Well, we've been able to work these things out in the past when we negotiate over amendments to the bill. I think that's the plan this time as well.

SANCHEZ: Senator, there's a different issue I wanted to ask you about. There's a key judicial nomination that is in jeopardy after Senators Manchin and Cortez Masto said they would oppose the nomination of Adeel Mangi, who would be the first Muslim judge on a federal court of appeals. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, are you still planning to hold a vote on his nomination?

DURBIN: We don't have any votes scheduled for any nomination at this point other than two or three this week. He's not included in that list.

Let me say the bottom line is this. I went through that hearing. It was one of the meanest hearings I've ever witnessed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This morning, the Republican Senate leader came to the floor and accused this man of being anti-Semitic. That is outrageous. There is no evidence whatsoever that The ADL, the Anti- Defamation League, which stands up for Jewish citizens over and over again, came to his defense and said that the hearing that was scheduled and called last December was totally unfair. I've never seen the treatment that he's received and it shouldn't be the case

SANCHEZ: You alluded to some of your colleagues trafficking in what can be described as Islamophobic rhetoric, Senator Kennedy even asking Mangi if he celebrated September 11th, if he celebrated terrorist attacks on the United States. What message more broadly do you think it would send for your committee to tank his nomination?

DURBIN: Well, I tell you, it would be not only unfortunate, it would be tragic. This is a well-qualified, extremely well-qualified man. The only thing that makes his nomination different than others is his religion and the way he's been treated before this committee and before this Senate.

I hope that my colleagues will think twice if they want to continue this tirade against him. It is totally unfair.

SANCHEZ: Well, one final topic, I wanted to get your thoughts on, Senator, the war in Gaza. Israel submitted a letter to the U.S. assuring it that it uses American-provided weapons in line with international law. Do you believe that's true? And if it's found not to be, should the U.S. stop sending weapons to Israel?

DURBIN: The law requires that these assertions by people receiving our military aid be credible and reliable. The humanitarian disaster taking place in Gaza and the deaths of so many innocent people, including many women and children, belie this assertion by the Israelis. I think we need to challenge them to be more specific in the evidence that they're presenting.

SANCHEZ: Senator Dick Durbin, we have to leave the conversation there. I appreciate the time, sir.

DURBIN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, breaking news, an escaped inmate and his alleged accomplice now in custody. We have details on their capture and a chilling suggestion from police, the fugitives might have been tied to two homicides while they were on the run.

We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: Breaking news, police in Idaho say a dangerous escaped inmate and the accomplice who helped him flee are now in custody.

Let's get straight to CNN's Camila Bernal for details. Camila, this brazen escape set off a frantic manhunt. What do we know about how the suspects were captured?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Boris. Not a single shot was fired during the arrest. No one was injured. Authorities say they found them more than a hundred miles south in Twin Falls, Idaho. They were in a different car. There was a short chase. But then they were arrested.

Now, authorities saying they're investigating both the escape and a number of other crimes, including the killing of two other men.


LT. COL. SHELDON KELLEY, IDAHO STATE POLICE: We are investigating two homicides at separate locations.

These are potentially tied to this incident.


BERNAL (voice over): After an armed assailant opened fire during the transport of an inmate, Skylar Meade en route back to what the Idaho Correction Department classifies as the highest level of maximum security incarceration. Two corrections officers were shot in that brazen getaway. Authorities say was a planned attack.

JOSH TEWALT, DIRECTOR, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: He was in restraints while he was being escorted out of the hospital.

This was a planned event and we're channeling every resource we have and trying to understand exactly how they went about planning it.

BERNAL: Meade was hospitalized on Tuesday night for, quote, self- injurious behavior.

TEWALT: On-site medical determined that he needed to be transported off-site for emergent care.

BERNAL: And escaped just after 2:00 A.M. Wednesday as he was being escorted back to state prison, where he's been incarcerated since 2016 and sentenced until 2036.

The inmate and his accomplice, identified by police as Nicholas Umphenour fled just before responding officers arrived.

KELLEY: We found the vehicle they escaped in up in northern Idaho and they took another vehicle.

BERNAL: Umphenour is now accused of aggravated battery against law enforcement and aiding and abetting an escape. Law enforcement officials say both are members of a white supremacist prison gang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has tattoos on his face, the number one on one side of his face and the number 11 on the other side. He is a documented gang member and with the Aryan knights.

BERNAL: 1 and 11, police say, symbolize A and K for Aryan Knights, a white supremacist prison gang based in Idaho, according to the Department of Justice. Police say they're now looking for links between two suspects who were at one time housed together while in prison.

TEWALT: In addition to both having membership with the Aryan Knights, they also shared some acquaintances, some common acquaintances both in custody as well as in the community.


BERNAL (on camera): So, I asked the deputy director of the state police how they linked the homicides and these two suspects. And he said that the shackles were found at the scene of one of the homicides.

Now, in terms of the corrections officers that were injured, we are told that one of them was released from the hospital. The other two are stable and improving. And we were also told that their spirits were lifted as soon as they were told that these two men were arrested. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Camila Bernal live for us in Boise, Idaho, thank you so much.

And joining us now, CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Commissioner Ramsey, thanks so much for being with us.

The suspects are now in custody, but there's still questions that remain about how exactly they were able to conduct this attack and escape. It seems coordinated.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it was coordinated. I mean, thank God, first of all, they're in custody, although it appears that there were other people whose lives were lost as a result of their being on the loose. But this was carefully planned, obviously. This accomplice had to know that he was going to be at the hospital at that particular point in time.

Now, how did he find out? How did that communication take place? Did it happen through a third party from inside the prison? Was someone who works at the prison involved? I mean, all that's part of the investigation. This didn't just happen at random. Obviously, this was very carefully planned. He feigned an illness well enough to be able to be transported to that hospital where he could then escape.

SANCHEZ: Obviously, you mentioned the two homicides that police are investigating might be tied to these two men. What would it take for police to definitively determine that they were tied to those homicides?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it depends. Maybe they have video, maybe they have other kinds of forensic evidence. I mean, with the one homicide, if they found the shackles there at the scene, and that's a pretty good indication that he was involved in some manner, shape or form with that particular homicide.

But I'm sure they have a lot of information that they aren't revealing now. That's pretty typical. They're going to be charged, not only with escape, but they'll be charged because two officers were shot as a result of the accomplice and whatever the homicides. If they can tie them, then they'll be charged with that as well.

So, they've got to collect the evidence and build a case. But, clearly, these are very dangerous individuals. Thank God they're in custody. I'm a bit surprised they got them this quickly, I thought, because of the way in which this was planned, to be able to pull off the escape that they would have had with that plan, a way in which they could be concealed for an extended period of time with the help of others. But thank God that didn't happen and they got them.


SANCHEZ: That is a good point. I am wondering since you mentioned the potential aid of others in all of this. Stepping back, how do their ties to that white supremacist prison gang potentially inform this investigation?

RAMSEY: Well, it gives them a starting point to start to question individuals, both those that are still in custody at that security prison as well as those it may be out to find out the connections, because, clearly, someone helped him.

This was not a random act. This was well planned. And so someone had to get information to the other individual that he's going to be at this hospital at his particular point in time. And that's how the ambush took place. And so someone was able to communicate that outside the prison.

Now, whether it was an inside job, it could have been someone who works for the prison, it could have been an inmate through another party, it could have been this individual directly. I mean, who knows? But believe me, they'll get to the bottom of it now.

SANCHEZ: Charles Ramsey, I appreciate the expertise, thanks.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Just ahead, exclusive new CNN reporting on the Georgia election interference case. What we're learning about just when Fani Willis will push for the trial against Donald Trump to start.



SANCHEZ: After surviving an embarrassing disqualification hearing, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is trying to get Donald Trump's criminal case back on track. Sources telling CNN that Willis is preparing to ask the judge for a trial date as soon as this summer. CNN's Zach Cohen has our exclusive reporting. So, Zach, walk us through the details. What are you learning?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Boris. Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis continues to push ahead to try to take former President Donald Trump to trial in Georgia before the 2024 election, and that's despite a recent reprimand from Judge Scott McAfee, who even questioned her credibility as a result of those disqualification proceedings, ultimately allowing her to stay on the case.

But Willis, immediately after that ruling, plans to request a trial date be set for as soon as this summer. And that is months before, just a few months before the 2024 election is scheduled to take place.

Now, I'm told that Fani Willis and her office are effectively ready at this stage to take the case to trial. And they only need about 30 days to prepare. But what really makes this seem like a hard pivot by Willis is what we've been talking about for the last two months, and that is these allegations of an improper romantic relationship that Willis had with her top prosecutor, Nathan Wade, who has since resigned from the case.

But this move by Willis would be consistent with what we heard from her when she was forced to take the stand during these hearings in the disqualification proceedings. She had to defend herself against these allegations. But take a listen to what she said just a month ago.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You've been intrusive into people's personal lives. You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.


COHEN: So, we're learning about these plans to re-up her request for McAfee to set a trial date as this threat of disqualification still lingers, an appeals court is going to decide within the next 45 days whether or not it wants to review McAfee's ruling that allowed Willis to stay on the case. That could potentially lead to a reversal of McAfee's decision.

But that's going to happen in parallel with McAfee continuing to allow the case to go forward. He's indicated that he wants to continue to work through the other issues leading up to a trial scenario. And I'm told by sources that McAfee's rolled up his sleeves since the decision came down that he is focused on continuing to move forward even as Willis could still face disqualification, just not from his hands.

SANCHEZ: Zach Cohen, thanks so much for that update.

Let's dig deeper on the story now with CNN legal analyst Michael Moore. Michael, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

This is a bit of a bold timeline from Fani Willis. Is this just wishful thinking that the case is going to continue as if nothing happened and actually get underway before November's election?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I'm glad to be with you. I really think this is mostly just posturing by the D.A.'s office. So, you'll remember that the judge early on before all the scandalous allegations came out, he had suggested that this trial was going to take many, many months. And even the district attorney's office agreed with that both through jury selection and the trial itself listed dozens and dozens of witnesses that they would need to call.

And so I really believe that this is optimistic. You know, it's a bold move, but at the same time, she knows that the court of appeals is going to be considering whether or not to have an expedited appeal or an interlocutory appeal on the issue that Judge McAfee ruled on last week, and that was dealing with her disqualification. And she also knows that she needs to change the narrative. And so this, I believe somebody probably close to her is telling her you need to change the narrative and look like you're moving forward.

But I find it hard to believe that they're going to put a presidential candidate and require them to be in the courtroom during the presidential campaign and election, or at least that close to it. And if you look just down the hall at another court room, there's a trial going on that's a RICO case. There's been a recent filing in that suggestion. The trial could take a couple of years on.

And it just seems to me to be unlikely that the court falls into this trap of this political move to schedule the trial. He may very well schedule and break it apart, schedule some of the defendants, a group of the defendants to go to trial this summer. Whether or not he lets Trump fall within that, I don't know. He's already indicated a willingness to break the group apart. So, it may very well be.

He said, look, we're not getting into this. There are going to be a lot of appeal issues, and you can see how contentious even just the hearing got over the last couple of weeks, how long it took.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I want to go back to the point you made about Willis and her team trying to change the narrative. Sources close to Willis tell CNN that they admit the last two months were enabled by her own actions, but they're accusing Judge McAfee of enabling the defense attorneys.


Here is what one Willis ally said. Quote, this is a two-month sideshow that the judge should have not even let happen.

But given the cloud over the case, Michael, didn't the judge have to go through this process?

MOORE: Absolutely. I mean, I think absolutely. And there was only one reason that we were in the courtroom and that was because of what the choices that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade had made and the fact that in fact, Mr. Wade had been paid that significant amount of money. So we were in the courtroom watching those salacious details come out.

So I think he had to do that, if it was the right move. The decision was well-reasoned. We'll see what the court of appeals does.

SANCHEZ: Michael Moore, we've got to leave the conversation there. Good to see you, sir.

MOORE: Great seeing you. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Coming up, the U.S. today filing a bombshell lawsuit against tech giant Apple. Why the Justice Department says the company is abusing its power and what this could mean for your iPhone.



SANCHEZ: Breaking news on Wall Street, all three major stock indexes hit new highs at the closing, bell, gaining ground the day after the Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged. The Dow Jones Industrials ending the day just points away from hitting 40,000 for the first time in its 128-year history.

While others, stocks rallied, Apple shares took a hit today after a historic antitrust lawsuit was filed against the tech giant.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with the details.

And, Brian, the Justice Department, more than a dozen states, taking on Apple and one of its most popular products.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. The iPhone, Boris, that's at the heart of this antitrust lawsuit. And what America's top prosecutors are accusing Apple of is basically walling off all other products so that Apple completely dominates the market..


TODD (voice-over): It's one of the most iconic, powerful brands in the world, now worth more than two-and-a-half trillion dollars. It sold more than 1 billion iPhones worldwide and Apple's ability to maintain that hold on the marketplace has put it squarely in the crosshairs of the U.S. Justice Department.

Today, justice filing a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing the tech giant of illegally monopolizing the smartphone market.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: For consumers, that is meant fewer choices, higher prices and fees, lower-quality smartphones, apps, and accessories, and less innovation from Apple and its competitors.

TODD: At the heart of the antitrust suit, the allegation that Apple has set up its own closed ecosystem that limits Apple users to only using Apple products. That's also known as the walled garden. At the center of the walled garden, the iPhone. TRIPP MICKLE, NEW YORK TIMERS TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: And that's really,

you know, the centerpiece of Apple's empire. It's -- it's what has made it such a dominant company for so long.

TODD: One example of unfair practices alleged by the Justice Department, that Apple degrades the texts that iPhones receive from android phones. Those green texts iPhones get from non-iPhones.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: The Justice Department says that messages that are sent between iPhones or more secure because they're encrypted. But when you're messaging with a non-iPhone user that -- those messages are not encrypted and thus less secure.

TODD: Also, a difference in picture quality. A picture sent from an Android to an iPhone could be of lesser quality?

FUNG: Yeah, according to the Justice Department, when those messages or images get exchanged, the quality is less -- images might look grainier, videos might look grainier.

TODD: Another example of what the Justice Department calls Apple's, quote, exclusionary conduct these days -- good luck trying to use anything but Apple Pay if you're using your phone at the checkout counter.

GARLAND: Apple has blocked third-party developers from creating competing digital wallets on the iPhone. They use what is known as tap to pay functionality.

TODD: And Justice says Apple watches only work well with iPhones, forcing owners to buy nothing but Apple phones. The Justice Department says, unlocking more competition for Apple products will lead to more innovation and lower prices for consumers.

FUNG: On the other hand, Apple says, look, if the Justice Department gets its way, then that effectively makes Apple device much more like Android devices and consumers don't want that.


TODD: Apple tonight forcefully responding to this antitrust suit by saying that it, quote, threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets. The company says if the suit is successful, it would hinder Apple's ability to create the kind of technology that people expect from it. And the company says the lawsuit is wrong on the facts the law.

Last fall, Apple did announce plans to make texting from android phones just as good as texting from iPhones -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, a major story to watch. By the way, that was a cute dog. I know why we blurred it.

TODD: That's the trusted family dog Reggie, which -- we blurred to kind of illustrate how the quality of pictures --

SANCHEZ: Ah, I see.

TODD: -- this kind of different coming to --

SANCHEZ: The quality of the picture, that makes sense. Brian Todd. Thank you so much.

Still to come, showing -- Shotime in the spotlight, allegations of gambling debt and millions of dollars now linked to one of baseball's biggest stars.

SIT ROOM returns in a moment.


SANCHEZ: Just one week before opening day, a stunning scandal is erupted in major league baseball. The interpreter for L.A. Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani fired amid allegations that he stole millions of dollars from the Japanese superstar to cover a gambling debt.

CNN sports anchor Coy Wire is on the story.

Coy, a lot of questions about this announcement.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, not just interpreter, right, Boris, something like really close confidant and friend. And what really stands out Boris right now is that the explanation of how this all went down changed and it changed quickly.

Shohei Ohtani, spokesman originally told an investigative reporter at ESPN that Ohtani was covering the gambling debts of his longtime interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, to the tune of four-and-a-half million dollars. But then Ohtani's lawyers contradicted that on Wednesday saying Ohtani was the victim of massive theft.

This all came to light because federal investigators are looking into an illegal California gambling operation as first reported by "The L.A. Times". And according to ESPN, Ohtani sent those millions of dollars in wire transfers from his bank account to an alleged bookmaking operation with Mizuhara, originally telling ESPN on Tuesday, that's transfers were to cover as losses, but Ohtani had, quote, zero involvement in betting.

Mizuhara also said that he didn't know gambling was illegal in California and that Ohtani wasn't happy about the debt, but decided to pay for him.

Well, as ESPN was getting ready to publish their story Wednesday, Boris, this is the statement that Ohtani's lawyers sent out, including to CNN, says in the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to authorities.

Mizuhara walked back much of what he said originally to ESPN, saying that he had lied and that Ohtani knew nothing about the gambling activities. So clearly a huge story that will continue to follow right here on CNN. SANCHEZ: A wild story, $4.5 million to cover a gambling debt. Yikes!

Coy Wire, thank you so much.

WIRE: You got it.

SANCHEZ: Hey, I'm Boris Sanchez in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for watching.

The news continues next on CNN.