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CNN International: Biden Facing Fraying Coalition of Voters as Election Ramps Up; U.S. Sanctions Violent Israeli Settlers in West Bank; School Shooter's Mother Takes the Stand While on Trial. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like two, just the two old white guys duking it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen four years of Trump. We have seen four years of Biden. And people don't really see a difference between their presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the hardest thing I had to stomach, is that my child harmed and killed other people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen the level of extremist settler violence come down somewhat. Not come down enough. We want to see more. But the interventions that we've made have, we believe, made a difference.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Max Foster.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Bianca Nobilo. It is Friday, February the 2nd, 9 a.m. here in London, and 4 a.m. in Michigan, where U.S. President Joe Biden has been working to consolidate support from a critical bloc in a battleground state.

FOSTER: He met with members of the United Auto Workers on Thursday, including some who were making calls for his campaign ahead of the state's Democratic primary on February the 27th. The powerful union endorsed Mr. Biden last week.

During his remarks, he said the country's current economic strength relies on organized labor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We now have, in large part because of you and organized labor, the strongest economy in the whole damn world. We do.


FOSTER: As he seeks a second term, Mr. Biden is facing a fraying coalition of voters ahead of November. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more on how certain voters feel about the president.


REV. CHARLES WILLIAMS, SENIOR PASTOR, KING SOLOMON BAPTIST CHURCH: It's like two -- just the two old white guys duking it out.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverend Charles Williams is bracing for a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, exhausted at the notion of a nine-month battle for the White House.

WILLIAMS: Some may feel, I don't have any hope in a Donald Trump or I don't have a hope in a Joe Biden.

ZELENY (voice-over): As pastor of King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, Williams was on the front lines of soaring turnout among Black voters four years ago. He believes Biden can't win reelection through fear of Trump alone.

WILLIAMS: It's almost like your big brother, or your big sister saying, the boogeyman is under the bed, the boogeyman is under the bed. Sooner or later, you figure, you know, is it really a boogeyman? You realize isn't -- maybe, maybe this guy ain't the boogeyman.

ZELENY (voice-over): One of the biggest tests facing the president is piecing together a vast frame coalition, particularly in Michigan. Trump carried the state in 2016 along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But Biden flipped off all three in 2020, a blue wall that led to victory.

CROWD CHANTING: Cease fire now!

ZELENY (voice-over): His challenges are complicated by anger among Muslims and Arab Americans over the Israel-Hamas war made clear by relentless protests, including as the president visited Michigan.

ADAM ABUS SALAH, MICHIGAN VOTER: He's just not somebody that I can trust.

ZELENY (voice-over): Adam Abu Salah worked as a field organizer for the Biden campaign four years ago. He said he will not vote for the president again, seeing him as complicit in deaths of innocent Palestinians.

ZELENY: By taking this stand, do you wonder if it will help elect Donald Trump? ABU SALAH: It probably will. We have seen for years of Trump, we have seen for years of Biden, and people don't really see a difference between their presidencies.

ZELENY (voice-over): It was nearly four years ago when Biden pointedly presented himself as a bridge to the future.

BIDEN: Look, I view myself as a bridge not as anything else. There's an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country. They're the people who are running.

ZELENY (voice-over): Those cheers rang out in the gymnasium of Detroit's Renaissance High, where these students are now following the presidential race.

EMANI WILLIAMS, MICHIGAN VOTER: I don't feel like he represents the young voter demographic at all.

ZELENY: It's the first time that Emani Williams and her friends can vote. Dante Parker said a vote for Biden is hardly guaranteed.

DANTE PARKER, MICHIGAN VOTER: We've been stuck in the system for far too long, you may even to venture outside of it to really make some progress now.

ZELENY (voice-over): The Biden campaign tells CNN it will draw sharp distinctions with Trump and earn the support of voters concerned about their rights, their pocketbooks, and our democracy.

NORMAN CLEMENT, FOUNDER, DETROIT CHANGE INITIATIVE: We are not happy with Biden. But we understand that the other option is not an option that's favorable to us.


ZELENY (voice-over): Norman Clement said voters are eager to hear what Biden would do in a second term, not simply what he's done or tried to do.

ZELENY: Are you more worried about people voting for Trump or more worried about young voters and others not voting at all?

CLEMENT: I'm worried about the protest vote. My message is to them is that we did that in 2016. We held our vote. Folks didn't come out.

ZELENY: And Biden campaign officials tell me they know they must earn votes, not simply ask for them. It's one of the reasons that the president stayed here in Detroit on Thursday, a few extra hours meeting with voters.

Of course, the election is in November. But an early test could come on February 27. That is the date of the Michigan primary.

Some Arab-American supporters here are saying they intend to write uncommitted on their ballot as a protest against the president. Of course, he has a long campaign, likely with Donald Trump, for the next nine months.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Detroit.


NOBILO: A new CNN poll is looking closely at the 2024 presidential race. It has former President Donald Trump ahead of Mr. Biden. 49 percent of registered voters in the survey conducted by SSRS backed Trump and 45 percent backed the president.

FOSTER: Interesting, isn't it? Trump's lead slightly larger than the margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent. That's essentially unchanged from previous CNN SSRS findings from October and November of last year.

NOBILO: The poll also found that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley beat Mr. Biden in a hypothetical matchup.

FOSTER: Registered voters in the survey said they'd support her over the president by a 13-point margin, 52 percent to 39 percent.

NOBILO: But among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters in the poll, Haley trails former President Donald Trump by a whopping 51 percent.

FOSTER: Nikki Haley vowing to stay in the race for the Republican nomination despite those polls showing her trailing Donald Trump.

NOBILO: The former South Carolina governor is courting voters in her home state with a little more than three weeks until the primary.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to be anywhere and everywhere all over South Carolina. We've had thousands of people show up at our rallies. Our events have been strong.

So, we're just going to remind them again what we did as governor and then show them that we can do that same thing as president.


FOSTER: Haley is also ramping up her attacks on Trump in a bid to close that gap. In an interview with CNN, she went after Trump and his allies for spending more than $50 million of campaign donations on paying his legal bills.


HALEY: It is unconscionable to me that a candidate would spend $50 million in legal fees. It explains why he's not doing many rallies. He doesn't have the money to do it.

It explains why he doesn't wanna get on a debate stage because he doesn't want to talk about why he's doing it. It explains why he had a temper tantrum, you know, the election night

of New Hampshire. It's because he wants me out of the race and he wants to be the presumptive nominee so that all of that cash starts going to him and he doesn't have to spend any more.


FOSTER: After weeks of pressure in Israel to scale back its military tactics in Gaza, the U.S. is now turning its attention to the West Bank. The Biden administration is announcing sanctions against four Israeli settlers for their violent acts against Palestinians.

NOBILO: The State Department says one man initiated a riot with cars and buildings set on fire and a Palestinian civilian killed. Another was part of a group that attacked Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists with stones and clubs.


MATTHEW MILLER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have seen the level of extremist settler violence come down somewhat, not come down enough. We want to see more, but the interventions that we've made we believe made a difference, but we want to see it continue to come down which is why we have taken the actions today.


FOSTER: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office disputed the need for sanctions saying, Israel acts against all lawbreakers everywhere so there's no room for exceptional measures in this regard. The absolute majority of the settlers are law abiding citizens.

NOBILO: U.S. officials say new intelligence indicates Iran's leaders may have been caught off guard by the deadly attack on American service members in Jordan.

FOSTER: And maybe nervous about the actions of Iranian proxy groups and allies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen who are raising the risk of direct confrontation with the United States. The U.S. has yet to respond to the killing of its troops.

NOBILO: But the Pentagon chief has confirmed that a multi-tiered response is coming. Lloyd Austin issued this warning about the rising tensions in the region.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East. We will continue to work to avoid a wider conflict in the region. But we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests, and our people.


NOBILO: Elliott Gotkine is standing by here in London. But first we go to our Paula Hancocks who's live in Abu Dhabi. Paula, what more do we know about this intelligence suggesting that Iran was caught off guard and how much control does Iran have over its proxies in the region?


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, that's really the key question and it really depends which proxy you're talking about. But it is interesting what we've heard from multiple people familiar with this U.S. intelligence saying that Tehran has been caught by surprise by the attack last Sunday which killed three U.S. service members and injured dozens more just on the Jordanian Syrian border. Also suggesting that it was not expecting this to happen and is concerned about what the repercussions could be.

Now, of course, the U.S. is not specifying that the people familiar with this intelligence are not specifying what details they have. In the past, they've had intelligence from human intel, also from eavesdropping on Iranian communications. But they also suggest that there are concerns with Tehran that they may not have control over the Houthi rebels and what they are doing with targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

There are concerns that Iran's allies, notably China and India, are being targeted as well. We've heard just a few days ago from China the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson saying it's an international trading route and it has to be the fact that these attacks stop. So, we've certainly seen that some of Iran's key allies are concerned by what's happening.

Interestingly though, the same people that CNN spoke to also say that they don't expect Tehran to change its tactics in any shape or form because they are potentially very pleased with the distraction that is happening for the U.S. and its coalition forces. There have been more than 160 attacks whether rocket, missile or drone against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since October. So, there had been a concern that loss of life on the U.S. side would be just a matter of time.

NOBILO: Paul Hancocks in Abu Dhabi for us, thank you.

FOSTER: Elliott, these sanctions against four Israeli settlers for violent acts against Palestinians, wondering what impact that'll have or it's just a symbolic move, really?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Practically, I don't think it's going to make much of a difference for a couple of reasons. First of all, they're already being processed by the Israeli judicial system. Some of them have been charged already. Hence Netanyahu's comments that Israel, you know, can deal with these matters on its own and these additional sanctions are unnecessary.

At the same time, they're Israeli settlers. They don't have U.S. citizenship. And indeed the U.S. has said that it's not going to be imposing sanctions on Israeli settlers who also hold U.S. citizenship. Although there are more settlers who are likely to come under sanction in the future.

And so practically it's hard to see what impact there's going to be on the settlers or other settlers who may be predisposed to violent acts against Palestinians. And it's worth noting that the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said that since the Hamas-led massacre of October the 7th, violent acts by settlers, there have been just under 500 recorded violent acts by settlers in the Israeli occupied West Bank against Palestinians. So practically I don't think there's going to be much of an impact there.

But as you say, and as we were hearing from Jeff just a few moments ago, perhaps another reason for this happening now. I mean, President Biden is in Michigan right now where Arab American voters are an important part of the voters there. This is also to show them that despite America's support for Israel's war against Hamas, that it is still trying to be even handed in the region and to take actions where it feels it can follow suit.

Now, this is an unprecedented move by the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Israeli settlers. And it goes much further than the dozens of visa bans that it imposed back in December. But as I say, although there are more to come, practically it's hard to see what impact this is going to have.

And Israeli settlers, let's not forget, they now have two of their own. The finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of whom are settlers. They have two of their own now in the governing coalition.

And in a way, that's kind of emboldened some of them to carry out violent acts because they feel they have a measure of cover by having two of their own in the highest echelons of government.

FOSTER: That's interesting, Elliott. Thank you so much.

NOBILO: Just ahead, here from the mother of the Oxford, Michigan high school shooter as she defends herself at trial.

FOSTER: Plus, Trump's former money man talking to prosecutors about another guilty plea, this time in the civil fraud investigation.

NOBILO: And after flooding and breaking rain records, California braces for a second storm in a week.



FOSTER: In the coming hours, the prosecution is expected to cross- examine Jennifer Crumbly, the mother of the Oxford, Michigan high school shooter.

NOBILO: She's facing manslaughter charges in the deaths of four students. Prosecutors are accusing her of gross negligence for disregarding the risks when she and her husband bought their son a gun days before the shooting. Jean Casarez has the latest.


JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, MOTHER OF OXFORD SCHOOL SHOOTER: That was the hardest thing I had to stomach is that my child harmed and killed other people.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mother of the Oxford, Michigan shooter who killed four high school students in 2021 for the first time, defending herself in court.

CRUMBLEY: I've asked myself if I would have done anything differently and I wouldn't have.

SHANNON SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR JENNIFER CRUMBLEY: If you could change what happened, would you?

CRUMBLEY: Oh, absolutely. I wish he would have killed us instead.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Jennifer Crumbley charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after she and her husband got a gun for their 15-year-old son days before the massacre. She has pleaded not guilty and appears to be shifting blame to her husband in her testimony.

SMITH: Who is responsible for storing the gun?

CRUMBLEY: My husband is.

SMITH: OK, explain why you say he's responsible for that role.

CRUMBLEY: I just didn't feel comfortable being in charge of that.


It was more his thing, so I let him handle that.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Crumbley maintained she had no reason to believe her son was a danger to anyone else.

CRUMBLEY: As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers. You never would think you have to protect your child from harming somebody else. That's what blew my mind.

CASAREZ (voice-over): She recounted the moment her husband called telling her the gun was missing.

CRUMBLEY: Instantly, it just, I'm like, oh my gosh, he's got the gun. I didn't actually think he was at the school shooting it. I thought maybe he walked home and got the gun and was in the field by the school shooting.

I didn't imagine my son actually going to a school and shooting. And then when we got more updates, I was like, oh my gosh, he's a school shooter, he's going to kill himself. Because in my mind, that's what school shooters have done. They've killed themselves after. So, I yelled in my talk to text, Ethan, don't do it, because I thought he was going to kill himself.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Revealed in court before Crumbley took the stand, journal entries of the shooter just days before he opened fire killing four classmates. He writes: I have zero help for my mental problems, and it's causing me to shoot up the effing school. My parents won't listen to me about help or a therapist.

The journal seen here was found in the shooter's backpack that he brought with him that morning, spilled out on the school's bathroom floor.

However, Jennifer Crumbley testified her son never asked her to get help for mental health issues.

SMITH: Do you recall there ever being a time where he asked you for go to go to a doctor or get help? And you said no?


SMITH: Or laughed at him?


CRUMBLEY: There was a couple of times where Ethan had expressed anxiety over taking tests, anxiety about what he was going to do after high school, but not to a level where I felt he needed to go see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional right away. No.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Crumbley described threats she says she and her husband received after the shooting.

CRUMBLEY: I was feeling pretty scared.

SMITH: OK, scared of what?

CRUMBLEY: Well, scared that somebody might hurt us.

CASAREZ (voice-over): The defense also attempted to portray Jennifer as a normal mother.

CRUMBLEY: Every year around Thanksgiving, I always cook Thanksgiving dinner. The day after, we would go cut our Christmas tree down.

He was a big history buff. We can play trivial pursuit, and he would get me in history every single time.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.


NOBILO: The former chief financial officer of the Trump organization is in talks to potentially plead guilty to a perjury charge. This is related to the civil investigation into the real estate company's finances.

According to people familiar with the matter, Allen Weisselberg is negotiating with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, but no deal has yet been finalized. Trump's former longtime lieutenant pleaded guilty in 2022 to 15 criminal charges related to tax fraud and spent 100 days in prison.

FOSTER: Climate activist Greta Thunberg is in a London magistrate's court on Thursday over public disorder charges. Thunberg was arrested in October, along with other protesters who were blocking the entrance to an oil and gas conference. She addressed the charges by raising concerns about the need to protect the environment and human rights.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Even though we are the ones standing here, and climate, environmental and human rights activists all over the world are being prosecuted, sometimes convicted, and given legal penalties for acting in line with science, we must remember who the real enemy is.

What are we defending? Who are our laws meant to protect?


NOBILO: Thunberg and her four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face a maximum fine of more than $3,000 each.

California will get some relatively calm weather today and Saturday before the second storm in a week hits the state on Sunday. The National Weather Service says the new storm is expected to dump what it describes as unprecedented amounts of rain across a widespread area.

FOSTER: That comes on the heels of another storm that caused flooding and broke several rainfall records. The Los Angeles airport got more than two inches of rain on Thursday, where it usually gets about three inches for the entire month of February. Residents weren't taking any chances with the flooded streets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is normally about a six- or seven-foot-wide sidewalk with an excellent draining system right here. And it usually drains into a major drain right here, but obviously there's been so much rain that the drain can't keep up with it.

So, the city I see has closed the street as far as Electric Avenue, because I'm sure it's very unsafe to drive down on that.


FOSTER: Weather officials say the upcoming storm is expected to stall as it moves onshore, bringing rain for a much longer period of time and causing flash flooding and mudslides.

Just ahead, an apology and a warning from the U.S. Defense Secretary in his first news conference since leaving hospital.


NOBILO: Plus, Ukraine's top general writes an exclusive op-ed for CNN amid reports that he's about to be fired. What he believes Ukraine needs to do to turn the tide in the war against Russia.


NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. If you're just joining us, here are some of today's top stories.

President Biden got an enthusiastic reception at a United Auto Workers Training Center in Michigan on Thursday. He met with union members at a phone bank for his campaign ahead of the state's democratic primary on February the 27th.

Plus, the mother of high school shooter Ethan Crumbley took the stand in her own defense on Thursday in a historic case that tests the limits of criminal liability for a mass shooting. Jennifer Crumbley told the court that her husband was responsible for storing guns in the house.

And the Biden administration announced sanctions against four Israeli settlers for their violence and acts against Palestinians. The State Department says one man initiated a riot with cars and buildings set on fire and one Palestinian was killed. We'll have more on those top stories in the coming hours for you.

FOSTER: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologizing for not disclosing his recent hospitalization to the president and senior officials sooner. He's been receiving treatment for prostate cancer. CNN's Oren Liebmann has the details.