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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Makes Last-Minute Push To Keep Newsom In Office; South Carolina Police Investigate Missing Money From Murdaugh Law Firm; Biden: Climate Change To Blame For Rise In Extreme Weather Events. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Tuesday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York, and it's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

California voters head to the polls to decide whether to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Some Republicans are already laying the groundwork without any evidence at all the claim that the result will be flawed. We have more on all this in a moment.

ROMANS: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says cities and counties will be fined $5,000 for each employee required to get vaccinated. Several school districts and local governments are already defying DeSantis on COVID mitigation measures. Over 10,000 Floridians are in the hospital with COVID.

JARRETT: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says proposals to fund the president's massive reshaping of the social safety net head to the budget committee today. That will set up more negotiations over the $3.5 trillion bill, but Senate Democrats are divided on the cost and it's not clear all 50 will unite behind the package.

ROMANS: Hurricane Nicholas weakening to a tropical storm early this morning, still expected to generate significant flooding. More than 10 inches of rain in the forecast from Galveston, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

JARRETT: Boston on the verge of history. A preliminary vote today will choose two finalists for November's mayoral election. The five candidates include city councilor Michelle Wu and acting mayor Kim Janey. The eventual winner will become the first non-white person elected to Boston's highest office.

ROMANS: Former presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama teaming up to help a bipartisan effort to support Afghan refugees. Their mission, to engage all Americans to help with the resettlement of more than 60,000 Afghans. The three former first ladies are also serving as honorary co-chairs.

JARRETT: Apple issuing an emergency security update. A newly- discovered flaw could allow hackers to install spyware on iPhones and other Apple devices without the user even clicking on a link. Apple is expected to introduce its newest crop of iPhones later today.

ROMANS: Former Minnesota senator Al Franken says he's keeping his options open about a return to politics. Franken resigned from the Senate in 2017 after seven women accused him of sexual misconduct. The former "SNL" star says for now, his focus is on a 15-city standup show.

JARRETT: Well, President Biden in California making a last-minute push to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of you know that last year I got to run against the real Donald Trump. Well, this year -- this year, the leading Republican running for governor is a -- the closest thing to a Trump clone that I've ever seen in your state.


JARRETT: On the surface, today's recall vote is about coronavirus, health policies, and California's homelessness crisis, but there are also national implications for policy and the sanctity of U.S. elections.

So let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, so nice to have you this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: You are, of course, in California.


JARRETT: In your mind, what's the most important thing on voters' minds today?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes -- in a word, it's COVID. It was COVID at the beginning and it's COVID at the end, but in a completely almost inverted manner.

The recall got on the ballot in the first place because of a backlash in the most conservative parts of the state against Gov. Newsom's stringent policies on COVID in 2020, punctuated by his ill-fated decision to attend a dinner at a very fancy restaurant while most of the state was still on lockdown.

But it's ending almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction with the broader electorate expressing support for the touch measure that he's now taking to try to get the Delta virus -- the Delta variant under control. And that is really what has allowed him to take control of the race in the last few weeks.

ROMANS: Yes. Your new analysis is up on CNN this morning and you say the recall is poised to send precisely the opposite political message that his proponents initially intended, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well look -- I mean, like I said, originally, this was designed to show the power of the backlash against cracking down in various ways to try to get the virus under control.

But, Christine, what we've seen is really, the governor, this summer, once Delta took off, he imposed a mask mandate in schools. He imposed a vaccine requirement for healthcare workers, for government employees, for educators. And he has pushed all of those mandates to the center of his campaign. He has made it the central point of contrast with the Republicans, particularly Larry Elder.


Even the president, when he was here yesterday -- the first thing he mentioned -- he talked about to support his case about Elder as a Trump clone was coronavirus.

And what's really important is that Newsom has tied the Republicans not only to former President Trump but specifically, to the policies of the governor -- Republican governors in Florida and Texas.

And I think he has sent a clear signal -- if he does as well as seems possible today, it will suggest there is an audience -- a kind of silent majority among the vaccinated that are ready for tougher steps to get that vaccinate rate up at a time when Republicans are focusing almost entirely on what they call the rights and the choices of the quarter of Americans who are unvaccinated.

JARRETT: Well, as you point out in your piece, people are just in a different place than they were even just -- even a couple of months ago on this stuff. People who are fully vaccinated want to be around other people --


JARRETT: -- who are fully vaccinated.


JARRETT: And we'll see whether this galvanizes Democrats in other races. But it has clearly been Newsom's strategy.

If he, in fact, wins this recall vote it's clear that the top GOP candidate, Larry Elder, is going to use the Trump playbook, right? His campaign website, whether it's a Freudian slip or on purpose, is now linking to a page --


JARRETT: -- that is talking about fraud, even though the results aren't even -- they're not even announced yet. They're not even in yet.

So, you have a top --


JARRETT: -- strategist for Gov. Newsom saying this. "We have a Democratic Party and an anti-Democratic Party. They're trying to throw battery acid on our Constitution." But the truth is they've been trying to do that for a while now.

So, Ron, how are supposed to run elections going forward if you have some version of heads, you win -- tails, I lose as the GOP party platform?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, this is a very ominous development and one I think that very few officials, very few in the media, and certainly, very few in the business community are grappling with to the full magnitude that it -- that it deserves.

Donald Trump is now the leader of an anti-democratic (small d), authoritarian movement that has become the largest faction in the Republican Party. It doesn't mean that every Republican agrees with this, but the number of Republicans who are willing to openly oppose is it vanishingly small.

And you see in the comments by Elder -- in a race that could be decided by well over a million votes -- maybe two million votes -- the idea that a two million-vote election could be rigged. You know, you could make that case really says that Republicans are going to make this argument in almost every race that they lose. That this is now a routine feature of our politics.

And this has real consequences, both in terms of undermining confidence in our election but also becoming the predicate -- the pretext for these restrictive anti -- restrictive bills that make it tougher to vote. And also, the measures that are -- that are advancing in states to increase partisan control over the counting of results.

And that's why I think Democrats in Congress face an existential choice. Do they pass a federal floor of voting protections and voting rights through some version of HR-1? And we'll see -- that's coming to a head. Chuck Schumer said yesterday possibly as soon as next week.

ROMANS: All right, Ron Brownstein. It's going to be an interesting day. We know you'll be following it. Thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

JARRETT: A lot to chew on there.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right, more on that silent vaccinated majority. Whirlpool is offering workers $1,000 to join that group -- to get vaccinated -- the latest push by corporate America to encourage employees to get the shot -- $1,000.

The Biden administration set to require large companies to ensure their workforce is vaccinated or face weekly testing. Overall, corporate America welcomed Biden's vaccine push. Companies need vaccinated employees to get back to normal. The White House essentially giving the green light to what companies have already been doing -- mandating or encouraging vaccinations through incentives like bonuses, and then using testing if you don't get vaccinated.

In fact, Goldman Sachs forecasts Biden's vaccine mandate will be positive, ultimately, for employment. Why positive? Well, higher vaccination rates will make more workers willing to take close contact jobs. That will bring Americans concerned about the virus back into the workforce, especially into leisure and hospitality -- the areas where we've been seeing shortages of workers.

JARRETT: That's an interesting observation.

All right. Another twist in this bizarre story unfolding in South Carolina. Authorities now saying they're investigating whether this prominent attorney, whose wife and son were found fatally shot three months ago, misappropriated funds from his law firm.

In the last couple of weeks, Alex Murdaugh claimed that he was shot in the head, quit his job at that firm over accusations of this missing money, and said he was going into rehab. Now, his lawyer claims he has an opioid addiction.

There have been no arrests though in the deaths of Murdaugh's wife and son.

ROMANS: Two Florida middle school students arrested after allegedly trying to recruit other students for a school shooting. According to the arrest report, the two boys, ages 13 and 14, told classmates Columbine was their inspiration and they had a map with surveillance cameras, a natural gas line, and shooting locations marked. A search of their homes turned up guns and several knives.

We'll be right back.



BIDEN: We have to think big. Thinking small is a prescription for disaster.


ROMANS: One message, many objectives. President Biden making his first trip out west since taking office. The president assessing the damage from wildfires that he says are being supercharged by the climate crisis.

CNN's Jasmine Wright live in Washington. Jasmine, the president trying to advance his economic agenda, he's trying to help California's governor, he's trying to support the environment, all at once here.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Christine. It's a three-pronged mission, all on the west coast.


And this moment really comes at a critical time for the president -- a critical week because it once again seems like his economic agenda -- that $3.5 trillion social spending package -- is facing an uncertain fate because of differences in the Democratic Party. Remember, that package is one that has components of his climate change plan and one that has components of his social agenda in there.

And so, Democrats, really in the House and the Senate -- some say that it doesn't do enough. Others say it does too much and the process is going too fast, all before that package is supposed to come up for a vote next week.

So we see President Biden reverting back to something that he did during that American Rescue Plan process -- during the infrastructure process before it went before the Senate -- trying to drum up support outside of Washington, D.C. to bring some of it back home.

So yesterday, an official told me that we would see President Biden tying those extreme weather events that we've seen across the country over the past summer back to his economic agenda. And alongside Gavin Newsom, we saw President Biden doing just that. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We can't ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change. It isn't about red or blue states, it's about fires -- just fires. Scientists have been warning us for years that extreme weather is going to get more extreme. We're living it in real time now.


WRIGHT: So, President Biden -- we saw him yesterday not only talking about climate, but we also saw him alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom -- as he faces that recall vote -- tying his opponent, Larry Elder, back to former President Donald Trump.

And today, we will see President Biden focusing, once again, on that Build Back Better agenda, as he calls it, in Colorado -- once again, tying those climate issues before he heads back home to Washington, D.C. -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine. Nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, some COVID news just in. Russian President Vladimir Putin is self-isolating after several people in his inner circle tested positive for the virus. Putin, who is vaccinated, has tested negative so far. The news came just hours after Putin met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Moscow. All right, back here at home, a Georgia school board is investigating

anti-Semitic graffiti painted on a high school bathroom wall. This happened just days before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Two swastikas were found at the Alan C. Pope High School in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta. The Cobb County district spokesperson calls the incident unacceptable.

ROMANS: Virgin Galactic is delaying its next crewed test flight because of a potential manufacturing defect. Another setback for the company after its space tourism program was grounded by the FAA. The suspected defect is a flight control system for SpaceShip Two.

Two weeks ago, the FAA launched an investigation to find out why founder Richard Branson's flight in July veered outside of its designated airspace for nearly two minutes.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning. Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares closed mixed, and Europe has also opened mixed with London leaning lower. On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour, also narrowly mixed after a mixed day on Monday.

Out today, the closely-watched Consumer Price Index. It measures what Americans pay for food, gas, and other goods. Prices likely jumped 5.3 percent in August from last year -- that's the forecast. That's a slight drop but still near a 13-year high.

Investors are concerned about inflation and about a flagging economic recovery because of the variant -- the Delta variant. Goldman Sachs, though, warns in a note to its clients that corporate tax reform, not slowing growth, is the biggest risk to U.S. stocks this year.

All right. You might want to start your holiday shopping right now. A top official at UPS says supply chain problems that clogged U.S. ports this year will continue into 2022. Scott Price tells AFP low vaccination rates in some developing countries will hurt logistics.

Shipping companies like UPS tend to be bellwethers of the broader economy. Price says consumer costs shouldn't rise too much next year after surging demand and higher operating costs led to increases last year.

JARRETT: The Raiders stunned the Ravens in a wild overtime thriller on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL." Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


Last game of week one of the NFL turned out to be the best and we might look back and say this is one of the best games of the season. The Raiders were playing their first regular-season game in front of fully-vaccinated Las Vegas fans on Monday night and they got their money's worth.

Vegas rallying to score 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a career-long 55-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson with just two seconds left, to send the game to overtime. And it looked like the Raiders had it won after Derek Carr hit Bryan Edwards, stretching over the goal after the score. But the celebration was short-lived as he was ruled to be just short.


Just a few plays later, Carr was picked off in the end zone after his pass bounced off a Ravens' defensive back before landing in Anthony Averett's arms.

But the Raiders' defense -- well, they came up with some big plays, too. Carl Nassib making history as the first openly gay player to play a regular-season NFL game. He sacks Lamar Jackson, forcing the fumble. Carr cashes in the turnover, connecting with a wide-open Zay Jones for a 31-yard touchdown.

Raiders win it 33-27.


DEREK CARR, QUARTERBACK, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: On both sides, we made plays to help us lose and to help us win it. But the only thing that matters at the end of the day is that score, as we've talked about. So I'm glad that we won.

JON GRUDEN, HEAD COACH, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: It didn't look pretty and it didn't look good, but if you can come back and find a way to win against a team like that, that's saying something. That's an impressive victory. And like they say here, just win, baby.


WIRE: Let's go to baseball where the San Francisco Giants became the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. They took care of business early last night against the Padres, scoring five runs in the first inning. They hit four home runs in the 9-1 win.

And you know that when the players bring the goggles out onto the field the celebration is going to be wild -- and sure enough, bottles popping in the locker room. And this may just be a warm-up, Laura and Christine. The Giants still have 18 games left to play, with a chance to win the division.

The Yankees went into yesterday one game behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays for one of the American League wildcard spots. But the Bronx Bombers were down by five early against the Twins. They fight back to take the game into extra innings. And Gary Sanchez steps up in the bottom of the 10th and rips (ph) a walk-off single to left field, driving in that winning run.

Before this, the Yankees had been 0-35 when trailing by at least four runs this year.

Finally, the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets have fired assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre after he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the league's protocols, every team's coaching and operations staff are required to be fully vaccinated. There is not a mandate for the players to do so, Laura and Christine.

In a statement, the Blue Jackets general manager said, quote, "While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well."

Now, Lefebvre was hired by the team less than two months ago. The Blue Jackets training camp starts today.

JARRETT: Coy, do you know -- have most players been vaccinated so far?

WIRE: You know, in the NFL, I know it's up to about over 90 percent.


WIRE: NHL, I'm not quite sure on that.


WIRE: But I will get back to you --


WIRE: -- later this week with those numbers.

JARRETT: Yes. I was just interested to see where this has taken hold.


JARRETT: All right, Coy, thanks so much.

WIRE: Yes.

JARRETT: Finally this morning, after 18 dark months, Broadway, officially back.


Scene from "Hamilton" on Broadway.


JARRETT: Some of Broadway's most popular shows are welcoming audiences back today at 100 percent capacity. Hamilton, Wicked, The Lion King, and Chicago are raising the curtain for fully vaccinated mask-wearing audiences.

While New York is doing better than much of the country in terms of the virus, the city is still facing a sharp drop in tourists and the appetite for live theater remains to be seen.

Would you go to a show right now?

ROMANS: I would because you have to be vaccinated.

JARRETT: Yes. ROMANS: And I would -- I would.


ROMANS: I haven't -- I haven't made a reservation yet but I will.


ROMANS: We should do a -- we should do a matinee one day.

JARRETT: We should, although I sort of feel like if I have three hours to kill in the day, I want to sleep. I don't want to go to a show. I want quiet.

ROMANS: The exciting life of a -- of a mom with a young kid, right?


ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


Scene from "Hamilton" on Broadway.




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 14th, and I am Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Literally, alongside.

KEILAR: Lovely to see you this morning.

And there is a growing amount of evidence that the assault on American democracy is before us that started with the big lie -- that it is far from over.

In California, polls open in just a few hours in a recall election that could remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. Already, former President Trump and Larry Elder, the leading candidate to replace Newsom if he is recalled, have started to lay the groundwork to baselessly dismiss a Newsom victory as a product of Democratic cheating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether or not you win or lose, will you accept the results of the election tomorrow?

LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I think we all ought to be looking at election integrity.

We have lawyers all set up, all ready to go to file lawsuits in a timely fashion.


KEILAR: Now, Elder's campaign website now features a link to this site here that urges residents to sign a petition, quote, "demanding a special session of the California Legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of the recall election."

The problem, there are no results yet and there are no problems as of -- as of yet, for sure. Trump --