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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden to Make "Moral Case" For Voting Rights in Major Speech; Pfizer Meets with U.S. Officials on Need for Vaccine Booster; Haitian Police: Arrested Plotter Planned to Become President. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Hours from now, President Biden will warn the right to vote is under assault as Texas Democrats try to beat Republicans at their own game.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Ninety-nine percent of coronavirus deaths since January all have one crucial thing in common. Why getting the vaccine more important now than ever. We have entered the optional phase of the coronavirus pandemic, folks. The vaccine --

JARRETT: Preventable phase.

ROMANS: That's right. Vaccine is the way out, guys.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, we have reports this morning from Washington, Haiti, South Africa, Virginia, France, Japan, Los Angeles and Havana, Cuba, as only EARLY START can. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: So we're basically everywhere.


JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Tuesday, July 13. It is 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

And today, President Biden will make a major public push for voting rights in the birth place of American democracy, the president heads to Philadelphia as Democrats across the country plead for federal protection from new laws making it harder to vote in states dominated by Republicans.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live for us at the White House this morning in Washington.

Jasmine, good morning.

So what is the president's plan here? He doesn't have 60 votes in the Senate. What's he going to do?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Laura, in this highly anticipated speech, President Biden will make the moral case for protecting voting rights. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday that President Biden will redouble his commitment to protecting voting rights across the country. And now of course his speech will come as Republicans state controlled legislatures around the country have been trying an often succeeding at passing re restrictive voting laws.

The Justice Brennan Center in New York says that 28 laws since November have been passed this about 17 states and they are all fueled by former President Trump's big lie, right, that the election was stolen from him. And now of course that is incredibly false and President Biden plans to call that out, the irony of that argument.

Now, President Biden will also speak really just a day after as we talked about those Texas Democrats fled from the state of Texas trying to stop just the latest case of one of these restrictive voting laws from being passed in their state, they took two chartered flights to D.C. looking to put pressure on D.C. lawmakers.

Yesterday in Detroit, Vice President Kamala Harris who has been tasked with leading the effort at the White House for passing voting rights really commended them on their efforts, expressed support while she was at her own voting rights listening session in Detroit. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say that they are leaders who are marching in the path that so many others before did, when they fought and many died for our right to vote. I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie. It is so fundamental to fighting for the principles of our democracy.


WRIGHT: So, pressure is clearly mounting on the White House to do something and respond to these calls on voting rights. And we'll see President Biden today. This is after a couple meetings that they have had with civil rights advocates over the last few days.

But the question that really is still kind of unclear, Laura, is what exactly the White House will do, what will be their strategy. We know that after watching the For the People Act, that voting rights law fail along party lines that there is frankly not much that they can do without kind of changing the filibuster, something that President Biden hasn't thrown his full support on.

So we'll watch of course. His speech will be later today to see what President Biden says but also watching long term to see what the White House does -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Jasmine Wright live for us in Washington, thanks so much, Jasmine.

ROMANS: All right. "Show me the data," that was the message last night from U.S. health officials meeting with Pfizer about whether a vaccine booster shot will be needed. Now, Pfizer is worried about waning immunity in the face of the delta variant, but a source who was there in that meeting tells CNN nothing has changed. One infectious disease expert says he was surprised no discussion about boosters at least for people with compromised immune systems.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, CHAIR, TROPICAL PEDIATRICS, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Israel said that they are now recommending a third immunization for patients receiving immuno-suppressive therapy, bone marrow transplants, solid organ transplant. That makes sense from the data that I've seen. So, I think the only thing I'm surprised is that there was not a comment about immuno-compromised individuals.



JARRETT: So, Israel is already doing this, but for some all the talk of booster shots is premature given where vaccination rates for even first shots currently stand. Look at this.

Half of the country remains unvaccinated. Half, the daily pace of people becoming fully vaccinated, down 84 percent since mid-April. Last week, average case rates were about three times higher in states where fewer people were vaccinated. More 99 percent of U.S. coronavirus deaths in June were among people who are unvaccinated.

ROMANS: The problem, of course, the virus mutates among unvaccinated people and forms new variants, endangering everyone. In Missouri, a St. Louis county executive said, quote, a tidal wave is coming towards our unvaccinated populations.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MORRISON, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, COX MEDICAL GROUP: The patients I run into are past that point where the vaccine could help them and they're very regretful. And, you know, even if they're not critical in the ICU or to the point where we're having to transfer patients five to six hours away from their family to get care, with because we're beyond our capacity to care for them. And, you know, there's a financial strain and being separated from your family, it's a bad deal.


JARRETT: All of this as the top vaccine official for the state of Tennessee said Monday that she was fired after an argument over vaccinating children against coronavirus. And a new CNN analysis this morning shows some state have actually passed laws, get this, prohibiting schools from requiring students to get vaccinated. Health officials worry that if a new variant emerges that is more dangerous or directly impacts children, these laws will mean that the virus will continue to spread unabated while that law is challenged in court. Meanwhile, in California, updated state guidance says K-12 students

will be barred from their school campuses if they refuse to wear masks inside their classrooms and school buildings.

ROMANS: And, by the way, Laura, kids already have to be vaccinated to go to school.

JARRETT: Right! We know how to do this.

ROMANS: I mean, every August, aren't you going to the doctor and getting all your forms filled out. This is how you keep young people safe from measles, mumps, rubella, from meningitis, from all kinds of things, including the flu every year. How this became a culture war is just beyond me.

All right. Six -- seven minutes past the hour. The downside of a hot economy, inflation. But just how much is the Federal Reserve willing to tolerate higher prices? We'll get a brand-new reading on the consumer price index in June for just a few hours.

Reminder, the bombshell reading from May, core inflation, that strips out food and energy, that rose 3.8 percent. That's the fastest pace since 1992. Overall in May, consumer prices rose 5 percent over the year. The biggest jump since 2008.

You know, prices have been rising everywhere you look. You've seen it. Used car prices at a record high. Airline fares are rising. The price of paint and toilet paper going up. Drivers are paying more at the pump with summer road trips in full swing.

Your next cup of coffee, by the way, could be more expensive. Global coffee prices on the way demand soars. And production in Brazil has slowed because of our record drought there.

The Fed has repeatedly said, price spikes will be temporary, but increases aren't showing any signs of slowing down just yet. Inflation concerns have rattled markets throughout this recovery. Looking at futures ahead of this inflation report, you can see narrowly mixed here right now.

And remember, all of these markets hit record highs yesterday. So, kind of priced for perfection.

JARRETT: Even the price for coffee. It just shows you nothing is safe.

ROMANS: You know, we shut down, now we're roaring back opening. So, these year-over-year comparisons will look big, because last year, they were at such a low level.

JARRETT: It makes sense.

ROMANS: All right. Still ahead, the plot to kill Haiti's president came together over several months in multiple countries. CNN has all of the exclusive details on how the wild chase for the gunmen went down. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: Welcome back.

New developments this morning on a suspect accused of orchestrating the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. Now, police claim Christian Emmanuel Sanon intended to become president and hired a Florida-based security firm to make that happen. Haitian authority say CTU hired men to provide security for Sanon in a mission that seems to have later changed.

ROMANS: (AUDIO GAP) gone wrong. Local officials believe the assassination plot spanned multiple countries and involved former military officers and months of planning. Then everything seems to have gone wrong for the plotters, including their fierce pursuit by Haitian security forces.

And CNN has obtained exclusive information about how that all went down.

CNN's Matt Rivers reports from Port-au-Prince.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire echoing through Port-au-Prince after the president was assassinated. Then, just 36 hours after a group of more than two dozen Colombians and two Haitian Americans allegedly killed the president, most would either be detain ordinary declared dead. This is how that happened, according to a source with knowledge of the operation to track them down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation, everybody back up! Stand down!

RIVERS: Nighttime video from around the time of the president's death, quickly went viral, where you can hear a suspect claiming there was a DEA operation ongoing.

Later, a convoy of five cars, seen leaving the area with ease, but down the road, a trap was being set.

As the convoy traveled down Kenscoff Road, a roadblock was ready. Heavily armed security forces would not let them pass without a fight. Arriving and seeing they couldn't go any further, the convoy stops, part of which you can see here.

Our source says the suspects jumped out and saw this building across the road.


They raced toward it, immediately taking the stairs to the second floor.

It's in this building that these alleged mercenaries will begin defending themselves but at the same moment they are coming in here, according to our source, Haitian security forces are making a crucial decision. They know that these alleged attackers have limited food, water, ammunition and no power. So, they essentially decide to wait them out.

About 12 hours later, after baking in 90-plus degree Haitian heat, authorities throw tear gas in front of the building and it's enough to force negotiations and the Colombians inside eventually send out four people, including this man, one of two Haitian Americans whom authorities have detained. He's joined by the other Haitian American and two Haitian hostages, a pair of police officers who were at the president's house.

According to our source, at some point during the negotiations, a group of Colombian still here come out of this building and start heading up this hill on the back side of the building. And eventually, they make their way to a seemingly strange destination. Just about 100 meters up the hill from the building lies the Taiwan embassy. Our source thanks to Colombians went there because it wasn't an easy place for police to enter given its diplomatic immunity.

In order to get all the way here to the embassy however they had to walk through a pretty residential area. According to our source, somebody tipped off authorities that this group of heavily armed men with here. When they arrived at the embassy they found a largely empty building except for two security guards whom they tied up.

Security forces quickly surrounded the embassy and then turned their attention back to the building below, where they believe a few suspects remained. It was time to go in.

A small assaulting went in on the ground floor and were met with fierce fire that you can hear from a handful of Colombians that were still inside. The hour-long firefight shattered windows, scarred concrete ceilings and walls, and in the end, the government says at least three Colombians died in the fighting.

The next day, with Taiwan's permission, authorities went into the embassy. Our source says authorities check CCTV cameras and found nearly a dozen Colombians in a room who ended up giving up without more fighting. Nearly a half dozen still have not been found.


RIVERS (on camera): And the more time that goes by, the more we learn about these suspects. For example, my colleague, Evan Perez, came out with some fascinating reporting last night where he reported that several of the suspects in this assassination actually have direct ties to U.S. law enforcement agencies as informants, with at least one of them being an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agent, and the DEA actually confirming that to CNN in a statement. And you remember, in that piece that we just played, at one point, you hear a suspect shouting, DEA operation. The DEA say that they are aware of that, but at no point were any suspects acting on behalf of the DEA in this assassination here in Haiti.

But still, the links between the United States and what happened here on this island seemingly growing by the day -- Christine, Laura.

ROMANS: All right, Matt Rivers.

JARRETT: All right. Matt --

ROMANS: And the American English spoken by the people on that tape, too, on the assassination squad.

JARRETT: Yeah, good reporting there, Matt.

All right. Violence, protests, and riots in South Africa, all in response to the jailing of the country's former president. CNN is live in Johannesburg, next.



JARRETT: South Africa's president is deploying the military to restore calm there after days of violent protests. The unrest was sparked by the imprisonment of former Leader Jacob Zuma. At least six people were killed and hundreds others were arrested.

Let's go live to South Africa and bring in CNN's David McKenzie.

David, good morning.

What is the latest there?


The military was just passing through this area in Soweto, south of Johannesburg, trying to restore calm, surveying the damage and destruction of days of looting and rioting here in South Africa. We spoke to a shop owner who said that he'd lost everything. He doesn't have anything to eat. How will he live?

Earlier today, we were at a shopping mall in Soweto where looting was going on with impunity. Not a single police officer on the scene, despite being right opposite a major police station.

Just a short time ago, the police ministry head said they didn't want to be made a mockery of. Well, that's too late. Unfortunately, that has been happening here in Johannesburg, the commercial capital of South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal province, where widespread looting has been going on for several days. South Africa's president got on to a national address late last night saying that there needs to be calm, saying there needs to be a stop to this. But so far, they haven't managed to do it, as the firefighters and EMS walk behind me, there really a sense that they need to calm the situation quickly. It's the worst looting of its kind I've seen in South Africa for many, many years -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: All right. David, stay safe out there. Thank you for all of your reporting.

ROMANS: All right. To Texas now, where Democrats have fled the state in an effort to block GOP-backed voting restrictions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the second time we've done this. As you mentioned, we're risking arrest. We're risking a whole lot to be here.


ROMANS: Will they be able to stop that Republican elections bill?



ROMANS: All right. Good Tuesday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's almost 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And later today, President Biden will lay out the moral case for voting rights in a major speech in Philadelphia. Civil rights advocates have been pushing the president to do more, as GOP-led state lawmakers try to pass new laws making it harder to vote.

ROMANS: In recent days, voting rights advocates have focused on Texas, where Republican lawmakers are mounting another push for restrictive voting laws. And Texas Democrats are arguably trying to save.