Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Faces Foreign Policy Challenges At U.N. General Assembly; CIA Warned Civilians Were Present Prior To Deadly Drone Attacks; Putin's Party In Line For Big Victory Amid Claims Of Voter Fraud. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 31 minutes past the hour -- time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

The FBI says it has found human remains in Wyoming that appear consistent with missing New York native Gabby Petito. An autopsy is set for tomorrow. The 22-year-old had been on a road trip through the west with her fiance. Authorities are now looking for him in a Florida nature preserve.

ROMANS: A crushing blow to Democrats. The Senate Parliamentarian ruling they cannot include pathways to citizenship for immigrants in their $3.5 trillion budget package that would have allowed them to pass landmark changes with 50 votes instead of 60.

JARRETT: The Biden administration has started flying some Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border back to Haiti. Thousands of migrants are seeking asylum. They're huddled near a bridge over the Rio Grande River. Officials have now closed that crossing.

ROMANS: Twenty twenty one on pace to be the worst year for gun violence in America in decades. The Gun Violence Archive says more than 14,500 people were killed with guns as of September 15th. That's up nine percent from 2020. This weekend, three people were shot and wounded at a baby shower in Pennsylvania after an argument over gifts.

JARRETT: A pilot instructor and a student miraculously surviving this crash after being ejected from a military jet in Lake Worth, Texas. No word yet on the cause of that crash.

ROMANS: A Jersey City police officer is being hailed as a hero after catching a one-month baby thrown from a second-floor balcony. Authorities say the child is OK. The man who threw the infant is charged with attempted murder.

JARRETT: Sam Adams' new Utopias beer is so strong it's illegal in 15 states. With 28 percent alcohol by volume, it's going to cost you about $240 for a 25-ounce bottle. The company says the brew will be available starting October 11th.

ROMANS: The comedy hit "TED LASSO" scoring many of the top awards at the Emmys last night. It was also a big night for Netflix. More on the night's big winners, if you were sleeping, coming up.

JARRETT: All right, drama overseas laying bare two major vulnerabilities for the Biden administration ahead of his first U.N. General Assembly.

The White House confirms President Biden will speak this week with French President Macron. The U.S. deeply angering France by convincing Australia to pull out of this multi-billion-dollar deal with the French government for nuke-powered subs. The move is part of President Biden's strategy to take on China.

Our Jim Bittermann is live in Paris on this. Jim, good morning to you.

France pulled its ambassador for the first time over this. A 240-year alliance facing real strain. What is France's next move?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a big question. We're going to be watching that because we want to see what happens with this Biden-Macron -- President Macron of France -- the phone call that's supposed to take place sometime in the next few days.

The fact is we don't know how far France is going to go with this but we've gotten some indication already this morning, just a few minutes ago. The minister here in charge of European affairs has said that the Australian E.U. trade deal -- big trade deal worth a lot -- could be in jeopardy because of this lack of faith between allies. He said keeping one's word is a condition of trust between democracies and between allies. Clearly, the French are very insulted about this.


And this is a test for Mr. Biden as well. The French seem to think because he named Antony Blinken as Secretary of State that they would have an in with this new administration, and it certainly got off to a good start. But now, they're not so sure.

Tony Blinken, of course, has a long track record with France. In fact, he grew up here and speaks excellent French. So the French believe that they've been kind of betrayed by this -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Jim Bittermann in Paris. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Family members of the 10 civilians killed by that U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan -- they are demanding justice. The Biden administration has now admitted it was a tragic mistake. And CNN has learned the CIA was warned that civilians were present seconds before the U.S. missile hit its target.

CNN's Nic Robertson has more for us this morning from Kabul. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Christine, Laura, I've been to the house now where the drone strike took place. I've spoken with the family there and they still can't understand why the drone operators didn't know that there were children playing in that area. They'd come out to see their father as they did every night when he came home from work. They were in the car. They were playing with him, having a bit of fun.

The family does say that they're happy that the Pentagon has announced that this was a mistake -- that they were all innocent victims -- because the families say that they knew all along that he wasn't a member of ISIS-K, so they're -- so they're pleased to see that.

What they do say they want, however, is justice. They would like whoever was to be held responsible for this -- for it to go through a thorough investigation -- to go through the court system, and for somebody or some people to be held to account for what happened.

They're still in a lot of pain and they told us -- look, you know, whatever has happened here -- whatever is done for us -- the offer of reparations for the family, the help rebuilding the houses, the payment for funerals -- all of that -- they say that's never going to bring their loved ones back. They're still hoping themselves that perhaps because many in the family worked for U.S.-based charities -- NGOs -- they're still hoping that perhaps they can even leave Afghanistan, possibly even go to the United States.

But really, right now, they're in shock. They're in a lot of pain and still struggling to understand why it happened in the first place.

JARRETT: And Nic, it's been about a month since the Taliban took over Afghanistan and now, the acting mayor of Kabul says about the only job that women can do for the government is clean women's bathrooms.

Meantime, female judges are in hiding, fearing reprisal attacks from the men that they jailed. It seems the role of women is being redefined and badly diminished -- yes?

ROBERTSON: There really is a lot happening for women at the moment and none of it's good. Their rights to work are being taken away from them.

We heard from the mayor of Kabul on Sunday saying that the only women that they need to work in the city's administration are women who are doing jobs that men cannot perform. That means potentially thousands of women will be out of work in the city of Kabul that worked for the city. Many, many more women are being stood down by the government and the government is telling women who are in level one, level two, level three government jobs to stay at home.

Girls are not being allowed to go to school in years six through 12. So all the teachers of those girls -- the female teachers -- they're all being stood down as well and told to stay at home.

The Taliban say from their point of view that this is a process that they're going to put in place -- the right things -- to allow women to work, to allow girls to get their education. But women point out -- and they were protesting over the weekend. They point out that this is what the Taliban said when they were in power 20 years ago, and six years went by and nothing happened.

So women are really afraid and worried and the sort of -- for all of those people who thought this might be a Taliban 2.0 softer on women, I think that absolute clarity on that point came over the weekend when the Taliban redesignated the Ministry of Women's Affairs as the ministry of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice. Essentially, the moral police. Those who will enforce and ensure Sharia religious law in the country. There is no more women's ministry of affairs -- Laura, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Nic. Thank you so much for that.

All right, it's become in Washington, D.C. a predictable and self- inflicted routine crisis. Congress has spent past its credit card limit and now the Treasury secretary has to remind lawmakers you've got to pay the bill.

Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen penned a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed reminding Congress to raise its debt ceiling. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt, something that would damage America's sterling credit and undermine the public health emergency.


Yellen writes it "...could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices, and other financial turmoil."

Yellen says not raising the debt ceiling would make America a more expensive place to live, with borrowing costs for millions of consumers rising.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged a bipartisan solution. But Republicans are threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, essentially vowing not to pay the bills Congress has already racked up. Some of that spending, by the way, under a Republican president.

JARRETT: Out west this morning, red flag fire warnings are in effect for much of Northern California. Evacuation warnings were just issued for some residents near the Kings Canyon National Park. Wildfires now threatening to destroy some of the world's oldest and largest trees.

CNN's Camila Bernal reports for us.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Laura, unfortunately, the KNP Complex fire has already reached a small area of the giant forest in Sequoia National Park. Over the last couple of days in Northern California, firefighters have been wrapping these trees in burn-resistant material. And they do this hoping to save these trees or essentially, so that they have a chance at survival if that fire reaches the area. They, of course, have done it to the world's largest tree, General Sherman tree. It is 275 feet tall. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and 36 feet in diameter. Firefighters say they will continue to do everything they can to save this tree and the many others in the area. But unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating. We're still under red flag warnings and this fire continues to have the potential to grow and expand in this area -- Laura, Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Camila Bernal. Thank you so much for that.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right.

President Vladimir Putin's political party is in line for a big win today in Russia's elections, but it comes amid claims of voter fraud.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with the very latest for us. Matthew, ballots stuffed in boxes caught on video. What's going on?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, this was by far nowhere near perfect when it comes to a democratic exercise and that's the understatement of the year, I think.

There have been widespread allegations of election fraud. We've talked about ballot box stuffing that's been caught on the election officials' own closed-circuit television cameras. People laughing as they were stuffing votes apparently into ballot boxes.

There have been allegations of people being forced to vote by their employees for various, kind of, handpicked candidates.

The fact that the election spread out over three days, ostensibly for -- you know, because of the pandemic, has meant that it's been much harder for observers to monitor exactly what's been going on. It's been a much more complicated process.

It's also a system of electronic voting been introduced, which has raised suspicions that online it's much easier to manipulate results if -- without the actual physical ballot paper. And so, all of this has undermined the credibility of the vote.

But in addition to that, of course, opposition figures -- opposition candidates in this -- in this election were not permitted to stand. Alexey Navalny, the Kremlin's most ferocious critic -- he's still languishing in a prison camp. His supporters have been barred by association from standing in this election -- to anybody who even made it onto the ballot paper had essentially been sort of preapproved by the Kremlin. It's left the governing United Russia Party with a -- with a big

proportion of the vote -- more than half, it seems. It will give them a two-thirds majority in the country's Parliament.

And so, this has not been a day of significant change in the country -- more just a consolidation of Vladimir Putin and his grip over Russia -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Matthew Chance for us in Moscow this morning. Thank you so much for that -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right.

Voters also heading to the polls today in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a gamble by calling for an election two years earlier than necessary hoping his handling of the COVID crisis can keep him in office.

CNN's Paula Newton is in Montreal for us.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning, Christine and Laura. And yes, it is Election Day in Canada. And look, you can call this the shock kind of (ph) election.

Justin Trudeau called it about two years before he had to call an election. He was looking at the polls and his handling in the pandemic and thought he could win through some more seats in Parliament. And for that reason, he called this election. It's gone on just over five weeks and, quite frankly, it's already been too long for so many Canadians.

There's been an uncharacteristically ugly side to this election and that has included protesters that have dogged Justin Trudeau. And the main issue there has been actually the anti-vaccine movement -- the anti-vaccine mandate movement. That has angered so many people in Canada.

Now, Justin Trudeau's main rival, Erin O'Toole, is a Conservative Party leader. He has tried to seem, certainly, a kinder, gentler version of the Conservative Party. He says he is firmly pro-choice and has a plan for the environment.

The polls are tight. At the same time here, Justin Trudeau is still betting that he will be able to take more control in Parliament. And that could also be something that the Biden administration watches very carefully. It will mean that if Justin Trudeau gets that majority that he's looking for, he will be able to fashion his relations with the United States much more to his liking without having to get the approval of other parties in Canada -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Paula. Thank you so much for that. Now let's get a check on CNN Business this Monday morning. Looking at markets around the world, a mixed performance in Asia. And you can see a big move in Hong Kong as shares of Evergrande, one of China's largest real estate developers, continues to fall there. You can see that European shares have also opened sharply lower here this morning.

On Wall Street, stock index futures also looking like a big decline this morning, more than 1 1/2 percent. That's more than 500 points on the Dow, giving back that 34,000 level.

The big event this week will be the Federal Reserve's interest rate meeting Wednesday. The U.S. economy has come a long way from its pandemic lows but is it strong enough to stand on its own? When the pandemic hit, the Fed began buying $120 billion worth of bonds every month to prop up the economy. Investors will be waiting for any insight from the Fed chief Jerome Powell about when the Fed can start dialing back those purchases -- the propping up the financial system.


Investors will also get earnings reports from FedEx, Nike, and Costco this week.

But we're also watching Evergrande and what's happening there in those Asian markets and whether there will be any spillover -- limited, hopefully, in the rest of the -- of markets.

Another tech crackdown for kids in China. Douyin -- that's China's version of TikTok -- it's limiting users under 14 years old to only 40 minutes a day. The teenage mode blocks kids from using the app from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. This is the latest move to curb screen time for younger users in China.

Last month, China banned gamers under 18 from playing games -- video games on weekdays and limited the time that they can play to just three hours most weekends.

JARRETT: Finally this morning, a feel-good comedy scoring big at last night's 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Emmy goes to Hannah Waddingham for "TED LASSO."



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series goes to "TED LASSO."


JARRETT: You heard it. Apple TV+'s "TED LASSO" dominating the top prizes, winning Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Comedy Role. And, Jason Sudeikis won for Lead Actor in a Comedy. The show also won Outstanding Comedy Series.


BILL LAWRENCE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "TED LASSO": We'd like to thank Apple, which is Zach, Jamie, Matt, Eddie, T-Dog, which is my new nickname for Tim Cook. He does not know that yet.


ROMANS: "HACKS" star Jean Smart won the Emmy for the amazing performance -- the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy. She paid tribute to her late husband who died earlier this year.


JEAN SMART, ACTRESS: I would not be here without him -- without his kind of putting his career on the back burner so that I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I've had.


ROMANS: And after three previous tries, "THE CROWN" finally won Best Drama as part of a seven-trophy haul there.

Netflix had 10 wins last night coupled with 34 wins at the Creative Arts Emmys. That ties the all-time record for wins in a single year.

JARRETT: And for the first time, women swept both directing categories in the same year. "THE CROWN's" Jessica Hobbs, and "HACKS" Lucia Aniello won the awards for Outstanding Director -- Directing for a Drama Series and Comedy Series.

And for the most part, the Emmys failed to capitalize on its historic and diverse nomination field. No nominees of color won awards in the lead and supporting acting categories. But, Michaela Coel, the talent behind HBO Max's "I MAY DESTROY YOU," became the first Black woman to win for Best Writing in a Limited T.V. Series or Movie.


MICHAELA COEL, ACTRESS: Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn't comfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible -- for visibility, these days, seems to somehow equate to success -- do not be afraid to disappear from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.



The awards returned to a crowded indoor audience this year. Presenters didn't pass up the chance to joke about returning to normal during the pandemic.


SETH ROGEN, ACTOR: Let me start by saying there is way too many of us in this little room. What are we doing? They said this was outdoors -- it's not. They lied to us. We're in a hermetically-sealed tent right now.

This is insane. I went from wiping my groceries to having Paul Bettany sneeze in my face.

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER, EMMY'S HOST: You know, it actually feels amazing in here unlike what Seth was talking about. It feels good. We all vaxxed. We had to get vaxxed to come here, you know what I mean?

I got vaxxed. I did not have a reaction like Nicki Minaj's cousin's friend, OK?


ROMANS: Oh, no -- no more about Nicki Minaj's cousin's friend. It's so laughable but also makes me want to cry.

JARRETT: And you knew he had to call her out for that.

ROMANS: I know.

Look, I -- two things I realized. I watched a lot of television this year --


ROMANS: -- in this pandemic world, and there was a lot --


ROMANS: -- of really good television to watch. And the streamers are -- wow, they are really -- they have really invested the money and they have -- are reaping the rewards of that investment.

JARRETT: Oh, absolutely. Think about it. HBO Max, Apple, Netflix -- they all are sweeping and they're just making really, really good content. It's undeniable.

JARRETT: Yes, a lot of good content.

All right, thanks for joining us, everybody, this Monday morning. I hope you have a great day. I'm Christine Romans.


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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, September 20th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. This morning, a major development in the case of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, missing for weeks.