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Trump Narrowly Leads Biden in Hypothetical Rematch; Ex-Trump Org CFO in Talks to Plead Guilty to Perjury; Michigan School Shooter's Mom Testifies in Her Own Defense. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 07:00   ET


SCOTT STEIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNET: Like that all together, and I've looked at almost everything.


So I think once you do that in glasses, you could potentially use that for simulations, for training, for, you know, looking -- for helping someone fix something and guiding them through things in the real world or assistance. There's like so many wild ideas there, but we're only -- like we're only at the very beginning, even after all this time.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it is wild. It certainly is.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: The avatar is slick.

HILL: And slick. Scott, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Scott.

HILL: CNN This Morning continues right now.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We now have, in large part because of you and organized labor, the strongest economy in the whole damn world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New CNN poll numbers just in. They show America's deep pessimism about the economy might be easing up.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reality is 70 percent of Americans don't want to see a Biden-Trump rematch. We need someone who can work eight years to get our country back on track.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Allen Weisselberg could be on the verge of pleading guilty for the second time, this time to a perjury charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump creates a culture of lying, and if you are associated with him, you have to be very, very careful. You're taking a risk.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Four of the seven migrants charged in this attack last week on two New York police officers may be fleeing to Mexico.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We don't touch our police officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're seeing is a collision of themes that have really deeply affected New York and the country.

JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, MOTHER OF CONVICTED SCHOOL SHOOTER: I wish he would have killed us instead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mother of the Oxford Michigan shooter defending herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is responsible for storing the gun?

CRUMBLEY: My husband is.


MATTINGLY: Well, a good Friday morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Erica Hill in New York, and a week that's on Donald Trump and President Biden squaring up for a likely rematch in November, we have new CNN polling. And it shows Trump's narrow lead has not actually budged at all. He's up just four points. That's identical to what it was months ago in the fall.

The findings underscoring what advisers on both sides readily acknowledged, it is going to be a very, very tight race come November.

The polling also gives us a fresh look at the issues where each is gaining ground and where they're most vulnerable. That includes the economy. President Biden now seeing a small uptick in voters who think his policies are improving the economy instead of hurting it.

HILL: Nikki Haley continues her defiant campaign to stop Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee. She has some new ammo now just weeks before the South Carolina primary, thanks to that same CNN polling, which shows Nikki Haley beating Joe Biden by 13 points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

Now, one of Haley's biggest sales pitches has been she's the only one who could actually defeat Biden in a general election. Here she is reacting to that poll.


HALEY: If Republicans decide that they want to nominate Donald Trump, the same thing that happened in 2018, 2020 and 2022 will happen again in 2024. You can't keep doing the same thing and think you're going to get a different result. Donald Trump will lose the election for us.


MATTINGLY: CNN Political Director David Chalian leads us off this hour. David, when you dig into these numbers, at least on the top line, where do you see momentum here? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Well, as you noted, there isn't much momentum. It's a pretty static race. 49 percent Trump, 45 percent Biden, a narrow Trump lead just outside the margin of error in our brand new CNN poll. Look at that. It is identical to what we had the race at at the end of October, beginning in November.

So, this is our first look after the Iowa caucuses in New Hampshire primary of a national political landscape, and it hasn't much moved.

You noted in the Haley Biden matchup that she has a 13 percentage point lead, 52 percent over Biden's 39 percent. She wallops the president. The problem for Nikki Haley, of course, is she has a rough road of getting there. She is 50 points behind Donald Trump nationally for the Republican nomination and 26 points behind him in a new Monmouth poll in South Carolina, the next big primary, guys.

HILL: So, those are the numbers on the candidates. What about the voters? When it comes to the mood of voters, how they're feeling, how do things look right now?

CHALIAN: So, we asked this basic question, how do you think things are going in the country? And look at the percentage of those that say things are going well in the country today. Only 35 percent say that, Erica. That's not a big number.

But, look, it has grown. We've seen a slight uptick of 7 percentage points from October and November on that same question. And, in fact, you see, we haven't been at 35 percent of Americans thinking the country -- things are going well in the country, since December of 2022.

And look at it by party, I think this is instructive, we see growth on this score across all party types. So, Democrats see things going well in the country today. There's an uptick from 53 percent to 62, an uptick among independents thinking that things are going well, and even among Republicans, a 7 percentage point increase on that score.


You noted this at the top, guys. How have President Biden's policies affected U.S. economic conditions? 55 percent, a majority of Americans, think Biden's policy have worsened economic conditions in the country. That's about where it was last August. He has not made up much ground here. Same thing here, only about a quarter of Americans think Biden policies have improved economic conditions.

MATTINGLY: You know, David, everyone knows how close this is going to be. If it ends up being Donald Trump and Joe Biden, issues will matter. How do voters think Biden's handling the big issues?

CHALIAN: So, on the big issues, we're talking about the economy, that sits right here, he's at 37 percent approval on the economy. His overall approval in our poll, Phil, is at 38 percent.

We just lost our graphics there. I'm not sure what happened. There we go. But you see here that on protecting democracy and the situation in Ukraine, he is overperforming his overall approval. Israel-Hamas War, he's at 34 percent approval. And the immigration continues to be President Biden's worst issue, he's only at 30 percent approval there.

I want you to look at the issue of immigration, guys. You can see sort of the more hard line approach, if you will, taking hold with more Americans. So, back in 2019, the top priority for dealing with undocumented immigrants, 80 percent of Americans said it's a path to legal status. That's down to 68 percent now, still two-thirds of Americans think, that's the priority. But look here. Now, those that say deportation of these undocumented immigrants should be the top priority, it's 31 percent of Americans who feel that way now.

That has doubled in support since 2019. And in terms of those that say the situation at the border with Mexico is a crisis across Republicans, independents and Democrats, we see growth. More and more Americans think the situation at the border is indeed a crisis.

Guys, the Israel-Hamas War, this is a clear pain point politically for Joe Biden. You see here, 37 percent of Americans think U.S. assistance to Israel is about right, 33 percent says it's too much, 29 percent too little.

This is a divided American people. Look at it by party, and you see Joe Biden's problem. Among Democrats, 41 percent say U.S. assistance to Israel is about right, 38 percent, roughly the same amount here, says the U.S. is doing too much to assist Israel, only 19 percent, too little. This is in Joe Biden's home turf, and he's got an issue there that he's got to resolve.

HILL: David Chalian, I appreciate it. Way to work through those technical issues too, my friend. Thank you.


HILL: Well, in a new development, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization is negotiating with the Manhattan D.A. and could be pleading guilty to perjury charges.

Allen Weisselberg has already served 100 days in jail on tax fraud charges. The potential perjury charge is related to his testimony for the New York Attorney General's Office at Trump's civil fraud trial last year.

CNN's Kara Scannell joining us now with more. So, there's also the question of the possibility that he committed perjury. What is the impact there on the judge's verdict?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, we're waiting for the judge to render his opinion. That's expected this month. I mean, if you potentially committed perjury, that doesn't help your credibility. He's a defendant in this case, so it wouldn't be good for him or for the case writ large.

But this is kind of the next step for Allen Weisselberg. He has already pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges. Now, he could potentially be pleading guilty, according to sources, to perjury charges. And it relates to testimony he gave in this case.

But it's important to note that as part of this deal, you know, he has been a central figure in Trump's life for 40 years. He is not expected to be cooperating with the district attorney's office in their upcoming investigation and trial of former President Donald Trump. And that's related to the hush money payments and the reimbursements. And he's charged with falsifying business records. Trump has pleaded not guilty to that. But Weisselberg is not expected to be cooperating in that investigation.

MATTINGLY: Two things on that. One, does that surprise you? And, two, does that mean that there's no effect on Trump or his legal issues coming out of this, or is there a connection?

SCANNELL: I mean, it's an interesting thing. It could cut both ways for the former president. I mean, Weisselberg, if he reaches this deal before the trial, would be an admitted liar. And so, you know, he's someone that then it would make it harder for Trump to call as a witness if he was going to do that.

You know, it's kind of -- this trial will come down to the credibility of Michael Cohen, who is also an admitted liar. He's pled guilty to lying to Congress. And Weisselberg is someone that was involved in concocting this scheme to reimburse Cohen to cover up the alleged allegations of an affair before the 2016 election.

So, it would take him out of the mix, which could help the D.A.'s case in some respects, but it's one of these things that it is -- it also takes the potential witness out of the realm for Trump as well.

MATTINGLY: Like the converging dynamics constantly on what you (INAUDIBLE) unbelievable to me.


Kara Scannell, great reporting, thanks so much.

Well, this morning, an update on the group of migrants arrested for attacking two New York police officers last week. An official telling CNN that four of the seven suspects have left the city on a bus to California, might be planning to flee to Mexico.

Joining us now is CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. John, what are your sources telling you about how this is playing out?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, as you know, Phil, they were released without bail, so released on their own recognizance, much to the outrage of the police unions and many of the police officers, since it was a bailable offense, and, obviously, as people who got here a month ago without family, they have no root to the community. But that was the decision that judge didn't hold them on bail. The D.A. didn't ask for bail. So, yesterday, we learned that they went to a Catholic charity that helps migrants. They got four bus tickets under false names and got on a bus headed for Calexico through St. Louis.

Now, normally, we probably wouldn't even be talking about this because the U.S. Marshals and detectives would be waiting for them in St. Louis, but they were released on their own recognizance, which means police have nothing to arrest them on, on the assumption, which they have to operate on, that they'll be back for their March 13th court date.

The chances of that happening when four people get on a bus with false names and head for the city that literally you can cross the street into the Mexican border is probably unlikely. So, that stirred a lot of controversy about the criminal justice reform and the assault on the police officers.

HILL: It's also fascinating what we're hearing from officials specifically. I want to play what Governor Hochul had to say. Take a listen.


HOCHUL: Get them all and send them back. You don't touch our police officers. You don't touch anybody.


HILL: I mean, we're hearing a change when it comes to immigration in general from President Biden on down, to hear her talk about that. It is also directly related to the fact that these were police officers. Does that have any impact? Does that change anything?

MILLER: Well, it's so complicated because you're a New Yorker. You move through the city every day as I do. We see these people. We touch these people. They're out looking for work. They're delivering our food. They're at the gas stations and the car wash. I mean, these are people who came in waves, 170,000, probably to New York City.

But within that group, these hard-working throngs of people in search of hope and a better life, there is this one-percenter criminal element that looks at a different opportunity here. These individuals, I went over their rap sheets yesterday, multiple charges, grand larceny, robbery, attempted robbery, grand larceny, grand larceny.

This particular crew operated on mopeds and scooters. They were doing organized retail theft. They were doing snatches on the street, iPhones, iPads, clothing, so on and so forth. One of them that they are still seeking has ten charges on one day because he's part of a pattern that's been going on.

And I'm looking at the dates that their arrest started, which is probably close to when they got here. They've only been here a couple of months. So, what the detectives are telling me is they have crews here that operate in New York, do all their stealing, then go to Florida to spend the money and then come back. And I'm like, well, why don't they just stay and steal in Florida? And they said, because there, you go to jail.

MATTINGLY: Great reporting. Keep us posted on this.

HILL: I appreciate it, John. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Thank you, John.

HILL: The Oxford, Michigan high school shooter's mother taking the stand, defending herself from involuntary manslaughter charges, what she told the court, just ahead.

MATTINGLY: And a small plane crashing into a mobile home park in Florida, several people were reported dead. New details about what could have caused it, that's ahead.




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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could change what happened, would you?

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


HILL: That is Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of convicted school shear Ethan Crumbley, taking the stand in her own defense. She and her husband are charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four people in November of 2021, four teenagers. Prosecutors say the couple made it too easy for their son to access guns, and that they also ignored warning signs about his mental health.

It's the first time the parents of a school shooter are standing trial.

MATTINGLY: The defense finished questioning Jennifer Crumbley yesterday. Prosecutors are expected to begin their cross-examination this morning.

Joining us now to discuss all of it, CNN Correspondent Jean Casarez, who's been covering this case throughout, and Clinical Psychologist Rebecca Berry.

Doctor, I want to start with you. Were you surprised that Jennifer Crumbley, the mother, said she wouldn't have done anything different? I was surprised, but professionally, were you surprised?

REBECCA BERRY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I was. I was. I think you would expect a parent who's, you know, youth who would do something like this to really express some remorse and empathy. And I'm not sure if this is part of the defense for herself, but certainly after such a tragedy or horrific acts, one would expect that there would be some explanation or accountability for that.

HILL: To your point about whether this is part of the defense, that was one of the things that I thought of when I saw that moment was, well, I guess if you're going to get up there on the stand and you're being charged with involuntary manslaughter, you probably don't want to say, that, yes, I should have done something different.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, her whole -- as she testified, I mean, she talked about just, you know, I would take him to soccer practice, he was on the bowling league, and she said, you know, I didn't see any mental issues at all.

He was sad. He lost his grandmother in the last few months. He lost his dog, and his best friend was moved out of Michigan very quickly. And I saw sadness, but I never saw it. So, when she says I'd never do anything differently, she believes they were a normal family. And she also says, I wish my husband and I had been the ones killed.

MATTINGLY: Can I play some of the sound, kind of underscoring the concerns that were raised by Ethan Crumbley? Take a listen.


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, whether it was college, military.


So, he expressed those concerns to me, but not to a level where I felt he needed to go see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional.


MATTINGLY: To that point, I think every parent wonders, what's the threshold? What's the line? When should something like that be triggered? What's the answer to that?

BERRY: Well, I think that you really want to know your child's -- their typical behaviors and if there's anything that they're reporting or demonstrating that seems like an aberration from their norm. And, of course, when you start to see behaviors such as changes in their mood, sleep, changes in appetite, changes in their engagement with school or poor progress academically, you might think, okay, there's something that's happening within them is causing more of a dysfunction or a disruption for them.

And she's saying, okay, he was reporting what we would maybe refer to as some normative teen sort of challenges or worries about what's to come next, but to your point, Jean, there were also some indications that he was undergoing other types of stressors.

HILL: And there's this journal, right, that came out, which also -- so these are excerpts from his journal shown in court, one reading, I want help, but my parents don't listen to me and I can't get any help. Another, I have zero help for my mental problems and it's causing me to shoot up the effing school.

I mean, the juxtaposition of those things, Jean, is something.

CASAREZ: Here's the challenge.

HILL: Yes.

CASAREZ: The parents didn't see that.

Now, will the prosecution cross-examination try to bring out that they did see it or should have looked in his journal? We know his father referenced the journal when they went to school that morning and it was talked about that he was sad and his dad said, with the counselor and everybody, you know, you might want to just write in your journal.

But the fact is, what the defense is trying to show is that there are -- a text that comes into trials these days, it can be out of context. You need to know what happened after, before, you need to -- surrounding it. That's the point they're trying to make.

MATTINGLY: I always want to step back, Jean, when we talk about this. This is unprecedented. If this leads to Ethan Crumbley's being convicted, what does that change?

CASAREZ: I think even the charges themselves are unprecedented and prosecutors around this country could look at these charges. But if there is a conviction that tells every -- of course, the authority is in Michigan, right, because that will be the case, but prosecutors around this country can look at where a teenager gets a gun and shoots, could be in the middle of the street, right, at passerbys, where did they get it? What were the parents doing? Were they grossly negligent? Because the theory is that they were grossly negligent with their child.

Also, the theory they had a legal duty to exercise caution, and it was foreseeable in the eyes of the prosecutor that, beyond a reasonable doubt, these parents knew that a mass shooting could happen.

MATTINGLY: So, much more to come on this. Jean, Dr. Berry, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Well, new overnight, a fiery plane crash into a Florida mobile home park, leaving several people dead. Video showing a giant pillar of flames and smoke, you can see right there, as police say, they found four trailer homes on fire, and that the plane crashed inside of one of them. Officials say the pilot reported an engine failure just before the plane went off radar.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is covering this for us right now. Omar, what are authorities on the scene saying?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, one, they're trying to put out some of these hot spots and actually try to figure out and piece through how many people and now potentially bodies are at this particular scene. This is a crash that happened last night in Clearwater, Florida. As we understand from officials, people were killed Not just in the plane but in the home that this plane crashed into.

Now, the pilot did report an engine failure, according to the FAA while they were in the air, and the local fire chief says that the pilot was able to get out and mayday call to air traffic control before going off radar just a few miles from the runway of the nearby airport. Where they went off the runway is the location of this mobile trailer park where at least four mobile homes were on fire as part of the crash and as part of what witnesses described as hearing an explosion.

Take a listen to some of what the local fire and police chief had to say.


SCOTT EHLERS, CLEARWATER FIRE CHIEF: I can confirm that we have several fatalities both from the aircraft and within the mobile home. We're still working to make sure that there is no additional.

ERIC GANDY, CLEARWATER CHIEF OF POLICE: The scene is turned over to law enforcement and we coordinate with our federal partners, the NTSB and FAA, to continue the investigation.


JIMENEZ: Now this was a smaller plane, as you can see the remnants of the scene there, but still, again, multiple people were on board. We're trying to piece together just how many at this point. And as you heard from some of those officials, they're trying to really get through the scene and make sure that they can investigate what happened as best they can.


But, obviously, a really shocking situation happening here in Clearwater and, again, as one witness described, hearing an explosion before coming out and seeing the wreckage that we know at this point killed not just people on board but, again, on the ground as well.

MATTINGLY: Omar, I know you're going to keep reporting on this. Please keep us posted, as you learn more.

Well, happening right now, the genesis of the most annoying nickname I had in elementary school, Punxsutawney Phil making his annual prediction. Are we in for six more weeks of winter or will he call for an early spring for the first time in four years?

HILL: And can you actually trust that Phil in the same way you can trust Mattingly?

MATTINGLY: I love that.

HILL: Harry Enten is here to break it down with the accuracy of America's favorite groundhog.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON: There's now a conspiracy that Punxsutawney Phil is a government operative who's going to endorse President Biden. So, I will see what happens.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentlemen, gather around.


HILL: There it is, Punxsutawney Phil.


So, the big question, of course, more winter, early spring?

MATTINGLY: And I'm here to break really important news, the most important news of the day. There was no shadow.

HILL: Wow.