Saturday, March 18, 2023 - Transcripts

March 19, 2023

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Former President Trump predicts his arrest in hush money case and calls for protests; Adult film star Stormy Daniels at center of probe into Trump; Putin tours Crimea on anniversary of annexation from Ukraine and more on tonight’s broadcast.


Breaking news tonight, former President Donald Trump says he is going to be arrested within days. Mr. Trump announcing he could be indicted as soon as Tuesday. The former president under investigation for allegedly and illegally paying Stormy Daniels hush money in 2016. His supporters blasting the possible indictment has politically motivated. His critics fear his calls today to protest could incite violence. It sounded reminiscent of January 6th. New details on how an unprecedented arrest could play out. The major earthquake in South America, buildings, crumbling cars crushed, people running for their lives, these TV anchors scrambling. The death toll is rising. President Putin's defiant surprise appearance, touring a part of Ukraine Russia took over years ago, just a day after an arrest warrant accusing him of war crimes, terror in the streets, a surge in illegal car racing across the country, racers taking over neighborhoods, why it's turning deadly more often. This is NBC Nightly News with Jose Diaz-Balart. Good evening.

If former President Trump is correct, we are on the verge of something unprecedented in American history. A former U.S. president arraigned before a judge facing criminal charges. The case against Mr. Trump involving hush money payments to Stormy Daniels has been simmering for months. Today, Mr. Trump said it to a boil. In an early morning social media post, he announced that from media leaks he has seen, he believes he will be arrested this coming Tuesday. His allies came to his defense, criticizing the New York City-based case as purely political. Others fear the part of his announcement calling on his followers to protest was too reminiscent of calls before January 6th. There is still no official word that any indictment really is forthcoming, but we have new reporting on how law enforcement agencies in New York are preparing for just that.

We have all of this covered tonight, and we begin with Garrett Haik at Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump tonight predicting his own arrest next Tuesday, calling on his millions of followers to protest on his behalf and quote, take our nation back in the face of what could be an historic first, the indictment of a former president. Mr. Trump making his claim on social media, citing what he called quote, illegal leaks from a highly political Manhattan district attorney, repeating that call to action in a later post writing, protest, protest, protest. Republicans quickly rallying to his defense. It reeks of the kind of political prosecution that we endured back in the days of the Russia hoax. The speaker going even further, tweeting that he was directing relevant committees to investigate what he called the pursuit of quote, political vengeance against the former president. And while Mr. Trump did not call for violent action today, Democrats were quick to condemn

his rhetoric. And he first incited violence on January 6th to prevent his removal from power.

And now he's attempting to incite political violence to prevent his prosecution. NBC News was first to report Friday that law enforcement officials in New York are preparing for the possibility of Mr. Trump's indictment and arrest as soon as the coming week.

If the former president were to be indicted, he likely won't be going through the front doors of the courthouse here in lower Manhattan. Instead, he'll likely enter through the district attorney's office with media and onlookers crowding in on both sides.

He will have to go through the normal processing that includes fingerprinting and having photographs

taken. The Manhattan DA's case centers on whether then candidate Trump in 2016 directed his attorney Michael Cohen to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed they had an affair a decade prior. Trump allies tonight arguing that a New York City indictment would only help catapult him

back to the White House. The prosecutor in New York has done more to help Donald Trump get elected president than

any single person in America today. And Gary joins us now from Mar-a-Lago. You saw there Senator Lindsey Graham thinking this could be a big plus for the former president.

Well, Mr. Trump is doing everything he can to turn this moment to his political advantage, fundraising off of his prediction and pressing even his Republican rivals to defend him against a Democratic DA. But Jose, the specifics of the charges against him, if they come, could determine the long-term

2024 impact. Garrett Haik in West Palm Beach, Florida, thank you. We're going to take a closer look now at the actual legal case that could lead to that indictment. The Manhattan DA has been investigating hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, a case that has already landed Mr. Trump's former lawyer in jail.

Ali Rafa has the details. Adult film star Stormy Daniels is at the center of the Manhattan grand jury probe into the former president that could lead to an indictment. The crux of the investigation, a $130,000 alleged hush money payment Mr. Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen made on his behalf to Miss Daniels less than two weeks before the 2016 election. Cohen says he made the payment at Mr. Trump's direction to keep Daniels quiet about an alleged affair and the former president later reimbursed him for it. The Trump team labeling the payment as legal expenses and not reporting it in campaign

finance records. It seems like charges are likely to include the fact that Mr. Trump falsified business records concealing hush money payments as legitimate payments to a lawyer. There may well be a second charge, which is using those hush money payments to conceal

a second crime, which is election fraud. Mr. Trump was caught on tape in 2016, acknowledging a different alleged hush money payment.

I spoke to Alan about it when it comes time for the financing, which will be, we'll have to pay.

No, no, no, no, no, no. The former president and his lawyers concede the payment to Daniels occurred, but deny the alleged affair and any wrongdoing. The longest running of several ongoing probes into Mr. Trump has faced heavy skepticism

since it began. If Trump is charged in connection with the Stormy Daniels payoff, it would be the weakest case of all the investigations, federal and state that are pending against him. The big question arises if these facts occurred six or more years ago, why is Trump being

charged now?

Ali Rafa, NBC News. And we have breaking news from South America. A deadly earthquake is hit off the southwest coast of Ecuador. We're getting our first look at the catastrophic damage left behind and the death toll is rising.

Guad Venegas has the latest. Terrified people running in fear in downtown Guayaquil. The deadly earthquake leaving at least 12 dead felt early Saturday afternoon across the coastal Huayas region in Ecuador. Inside this supermarket, customers rushing outside fearing for their lives. And these anchors reacting on live TV getting up to evacuate the studio. The USGS reports a 6.8 magnitude with the shock's 150 miles south of Guayaquil. In nearby Cuenca, a street covered in rubble falling from structures and smashing this white car, crowds desperately rushing in to help. The Ecuadorian government reporting at least one person dead trapped inside the vehicle.

Solange Goyago was in her apartment nearby.

And then all the windows started shaking a lot and all the lights were moving so fast. In Majala, this pier sinking into the water along with an entire structure trapping people inside. The government says rescue teams have been sent to the area to help evacuate.

A lot of people always care. They have a lot of business closing right now.

People crying. Initial government reports say the damage to structures includes homes, schools and hospitals along with power outages for some of the affected areas.

Vlad Vinagas, NBC News. Now to the war in Ukraine and that arrest warrant issued for Vladimir Putin. The Russian president striking a defiant posture just one day later.

Matt Bradley is in Kiev and Matt, what did we see from Putin today? Yeah, well, from what we just saw, Jose, it looked like it was just business as usual for Vladimir Putin. Only hours after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president accusing him of war crimes, he spent the day touring Crimea, marking the ninth anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of that Ukrainian peninsula. The trip was planned in advance, but its timing looked like a slap in the face for the global legal institutions that Putin has repeatedly defied. Now, the ICC said Putin bore individual responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. But from Putin's side, we just saw total disregard for these charges.

Moscow noting that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Russia. Jose? Matt Bradley in Kiev, thank you. And now to breaking news and the violent protests spreading across France tonight. The outrage fueled by a new plan to raise the retirement age. In Paris, protesters are clashing with police, fending off tear gas and setting fires.

Megan Fitzgerald is in the middle of it all. Tonight, chaos in the streets of France for the third night in a row, with police making dozens of arrests. Earlier in the day, activists posting videos of protesters storming through a major shopping center, and throughout France, clashes with police. Last night in Lyon, protesters rants at the town hall, smashing storefront windows. Police are trying to block off streets to try and corral the crowd, but you can already see dumpster fires already happening, debris all in the grass here, and you can still smell that there's tear gas in the air. French people angry after President Emmanuel Macron forced through a pension reform bill without a vote, increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64. Frustration fueling strikes, airlines to railway service disrupted, garbage piling up. Why is 62 to 64 a deal? To be able to work and as well to have our proper life and good health. She's talking about a quintessential French value of work-life balance, and French citizens say they pay more in taxes than most. So the return, an early retirement, but Macron and his supporters say with a lower birth rate and people living longer, the pension program is in jeopardy of running a deficit. Now this hallmark of French life hangs with the opposition, who will hold a vote of no confidence in the coming days that could collapse Macron's government and overturn the bill.

A vote from lawmakers could come as soon as tomorrow or Monday, but these protesters say they're not letting up.

In fact, a national strike is scheduled for Thursday, Jose. Meghan Fitzgerald in Paris, thank you. Back in a moment with the communities living in fear as illegal straight racing takes over. We're back with a terror in the streets, taking over towns and cities across the country. It's illegal racing and it's a menace, police say, is getting more dangerous and deadly.

Sam Brock reports. The chilling scenes, playing out on streets across the country, entire screeching, donuts dominating intersections, it looks like an action movie, but this isn't a film set. It's Austin, Texas, passengers dangling out of windows. It's also West Palm Beach, Florida, and nearby Broward County, packs of drivers blocking roads and doing stunts. You can see this car nearly careening into onlookers nationwide, incidents like illegal street racing and takeovers where cars block intersections and perform dangerous tricks

and maneuvers are spiking, and too often they're deadly.

He'd love me and good at something, he was like my person. In 2021, Jaden Johnson was in the backseat of a car on a date, just riding normally. When two street racers flew through a red light at what police described as very high rates of speed and did this to their car, killing Jaden and two others. Jaden's mother, Nicole Richardson, says he was a gentle person, an aspiring music producer. How much did your life change?

Pardon me, died.

I'll never be the same person again, ever.

My apartment is right there and it's all happening right here. Others fear what could happen. Kat Thomas says her town of Windermere, Florida, is under siege. Thomas has videos of cars ripping through this roundabout near her home. She says she's complained to police so far. There's been little action to stop it.

How this affects you on the day to day, does it change anything? It does, absolutely. I'm a stage four cancer patient and it's really hard on my tired weeks when I need to get a good night's sleep.

I'm waking up multiple times a night to hearing screeching sounds. The Orange County Sheriff's Office tells NBC News this type of activity can be hard to address since drivers often flee when law enforcement arrives and fleeing makes the streets even more dangerous. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has launched a statewide street takeover task force and

back in Florida, the Broward County Sheriff's Office giving this new warning. We're not going to have any moments of giving someone a break.

We're going to take your vehicles and we're going to take you to jail. Now parents like Nicole are raising their voices to point out tragedy isn't likely.

It's inevitable. You keep doing it, you keep doing it, the chances are going to go higher and higher that you're going to kill somebody. You're going to kill somebody's loved one or your parents are going to get the call

that I got. It's a Russian roulette. It really is.

Sam Brock, NBC News, Sorrento, Florida. That's NBC Nightly News for this Saturday. Kate Snow will be here tomorrow night. I'm Jose Diasbola. Thank you for the privilege of your time and good night.