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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Dems Plan to Vote on Spending Bill Today After GOP Delay Tactic; Biden's Burden: Getting Bill Through Senate with No Votes to Spare; Defense Rests in Trial for Men Accused of Killing Ahmaud Arbery; WTA Threatens to Pull Business From China Over Missing Tennis Player. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 19, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it is Friday, November 19th, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: You made it to Friday. I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

We have reports this morning from Capitol Hill, Hong Kong, Georgia, Istanbul, Charlottesville, Paris, and the Pentagon.

And we start in Washington where lawmakers will meet again this morning to consider President Biden's signature social safety net bill. If you went to bed thinking last night that they were going to vote on it, you're not alone. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been commandeering the floor there for over eight hours. You are looking at live pictures. He's been doing this rambling marathon speech, breaking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's record for the longest speech in history, and he's still going.

ROMANS: That's right. Technically, it's not a filibuster, but it did block action on the $2 trillion Build Back Better Bill.

Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill.

How do we expect it, Daniella, to play out this morning? Again, reminder, McCarthy is still talking.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That is a really important thing to know right now, Christine and Laura, because it depends when he stops. The plan was to have the House Democratic leaders reconvene the House at 8:00 a.m., but you know it's 5:00 a.m., McCarthy is still speaking and sources tell me it doesn't seem like he's going to let up any time soon. He got a new binder of material just an hour ago. He keeps eating mints to keep him going.

And the reason he's able to do this, it's not a filibuster. We're in the House technically. He has a magic minute which basically means because he is a leader of the house, he can speak on the floor for as long as he wants, which is exactly what he's doing. He's been speaking for these eight hours on a various amount of topics.

He's been slamming the Build Back Better Act. Democrats saying the Republicans are going to take the midterms, at some point targeting the presiding chair of the house, Sarah Jacobs of California, a Democrat who is managing the House floor right now, also a California congresswoman.

So, this has been really interesting to watch, but yes, he did beat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's record of 8 hours just a few minutes ago.

Now, the plan is right now that the House will reconvene at 8:00. House Democratic leaders say that they have the votes to pass the Build Back Better Act when they reconvene, which is major because now that means it will go to the Senate, which is, of course, where all of the drama is expected to play out these next couple weeks as they try to get Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to sign on. He is the one senator that still has not offered his assurances for this bill, and Democratic leaders need all Democratic senators to support this bill so they can pass it using a process using budget reconciliation.

Take a listen to what Senator Joe Manchin said as recently as yesterday. Still voicing concerns for what this bill could do to inflation in this country.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You haven't made a decision whether to vote for the bill to begin?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, I'm still looking at everything. Inflation is real. The president has acknowledged that's correct we all should be very much concerned about the toll it's taking on the American people.

I mean, I can tell you in West Virginia, people drive and they see that -- paying $1.20 more a gallon and paying more for food every day and paying more for their utilities. I mean, that's a fact of life. We have to make sure we get through this and put no more burden on them.


DIAZ: Still, the House passage over this bill is major especially after these past couple weeks when it seemed like some moderate Democrats were going to hold up this bill as well as holding up the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this week. That is a major achievement for his administration.

Look, this Build Back Better Act, the bill that they plan to vote on later today, could boost enthusiasm for Biden's administration among grassroots Democrats as he tries to stave off the disaster of the elections just a couple of weeks ago. And while it has been roughly halved in size, the price tag went from $3.5 trillion to about $1.75 trillion. It still seems that this bill will be a major achievement for Democrats, especially if the House passes it later, but bottom line is still everything held up with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continuing to speak on the House floor right now.

ROMANS: White House supporters make the point if you're worried about inflation, the things in this bill would lower costs for American families for health care, for education, for preschool and the like, and for drugs, and that's the point they're trying to make.


That it's not inflationary, in fact, it helps blunt inflation. That is their point of view. We'll see if that sway Senator Manchin on the Senate side.

Nice to see you, Daniella. Thank you.

JARRETT: I always wonder about the bathroom situation. Eight hours, how do you do that, right?

ROMANS: Magic minute is my parenting. Five more minutes. It's really not five more minutes.

JARRETT: It never works.

ROMANS: Right, exactly.

JARRETT: All right. So, assuming the bill passes today, the burden falls squarely on the President Biden to sell it to the Senate and American people.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington on that angle.

OK, Jasmine, what's the plan?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, look, you're right, Laura, that President Biden will be one step closer if the House does pass, of course, barring that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stops talking, right? The fact is this win for the president may not seem so sweet because of all of the other factors that he is facing. Remember, he has until the holiday. With bad poll after bad poll on his approval numbers, of course, those inflation concerns we just heard, Senator Joe Manchin talking about from higher gas prices to higher everyday goods as Americans start buying presents for the Christmas season.

Now, of course, over this week as you saw on the screen right now, we saw President Biden traversing the country selling that bipartisan infrastructure bill that he signed on Monday, a big achievement for him, selling it to Americans after the fact trying to show them about what a massive investment that this public works bill is. But the fact is that polls are showing that Americans are having trouble understanding exactly what the president is doing in terms of his economic agenda. They're kind of blaming him for their economic concerns right now despite the fact that he is moving forward with his agenda kind of inch by inch.

So the bottom line here is that it is going to fall on the president and the vice president who will see in Ohio today touting the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as cabinet members who will be traveling through the weekend, really trying to show Americans, kind of shaking them and saying, look, we are moving forward on the economy. Look at all the things that we are doing, because right now, polls are showing that that message is not effective and it's not getting to voters. So, that is going to be the goal for the Biden administration for these last months of the year.

JARRETT: All right. Jasmine, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Speaking of inflation, inflation watch, the White House deploying COVID relief funds toe lower Americans' heating home costs. President Biden calling utility companies that receive public funding to not shut off heat and speed up aid to families.

Inflation, of course, is the downside of the COVID recovery, the Farm Bureau forecasts Thanksgiving dinner will cost 14 percent more this year. Last year prices crashed because no one was gathering. The USDA pegs the higher cost at more like 5 percent. Still, prices for just about everything are rising.

And you'll be getting a caffeine headache, too. Your cup of Joe will cost more months ahead. Coffee is the highest level since January of 2012. Coffee spiked more than 80 percent so far this year. Blame bad weather for that, but it adds to this mix of supply chain hiccups, soaring demands, weather factors wreaking havoc on your shopping list just in time for the holidays.

A new U.N. report finds the surging cost of shipping could drive up costs for some consumers by 10 percent. Speaking of supply chain, by the way, nearly half of Victoria Secret's holiday goods are stuck in ports or on a ship. That's right, floating in transit. Love those PJ sets? Well, the company says there are 30 percent fewer in stock this year. They are floating offshore somewhere.

It is a wake up call for companies that have outsourced their products far and wide. Ford announcing a deal to find new computer chip sources. Few details on that, but it is more evidence that the global supply chain has buckled as the economy bounces back, leaving consumers and companies scrambling here in the near term.

JARRETT: Who is going to Victoria's Secret for the PJs? That's like saying I read it for the articles.

ROMANS: It is a big seller for the holidays.


ROMANS: My husband said the same thing. He's like, PJs, who buys PJs? They do buy a lot of PJs, believe it or not.

JARRETT: Still ahead for you, dramatic scenes playing out in court rooms across America. High stakes testimony, jury deliberations underway and some decisions years in the making.


[05:13:40] ROMANS: Welcome back.

Closing arguments are expected Monday in the trial of three white men accused in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Lawyers for the three defendants rested their case Thursday afternoon after two days and half dozen witnesses.

JARRETT: Earlier in the day, the gunman Travis McMichael who fired the fatal shots that killed Arbery returned to the stand in his defense as the prosecution hammered his conflicting stories about whether Arbery grabbed McMichael's gun that day.

CNN's Ryan Young is on the ground in Brunswick, Georgia.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, day ten in court was a very busy day. Travis McMichael was back on the stand. The prosecution really hammering home parts of what he said in terms of his testimony, trying to draw his story out. They actually got him to admit that he never said to Ahmaud Arbery, this is a citizens arrest. They even questioned him about the fact of when he decided to fire the gun for the first time.

There was some back and forth that even played out in a way where he was asked a very specific question. The prosecution wanted to know what Travis McMichael heard when his father was in the back of the truck, in fact, take a listen.


PROSECUTOR: You stop, you get out. He yelled, stop, stop. That's when your father yelled at him stop or I'll blow your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head off?

TRAVIS MCMICHAEL, DEFENDANT: I don't think so, no.

PROSECUTOR: You don't think so? I mean, you were standing right there. You heard your father say this, yes?

MCMICHAEL: I don't think I heard him say that, no ma'am.


PROSECUTOR: But you know that's what he told the police he said?

MCMICHAEL: Being in here in court is what I heard, yes, ma'am.

YOUNG: Yeah, Laura and Christine, the defense actually rested at the end of all that testimony. But outside the court, we can show you some of this video, hundreds of people showed up.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough basically said he didn't want any more Black pastors showing up. How many showed up? Hundreds showed up and they actually marched through the streets. They wanted their voices heard. This happened throughout the day in

terms of them making sure their voices were heard, again, the defense rested and on Monday we believe there will be closing arguments.


JARRETT: All right. Ryan, thank you for that.

In just a few hours, jurors will begin deliberations in the civil trial against a group of white supremacists accused of planning that violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly four years ago. In closing arguments Thursday, attorneys for nine people hurt that day told the jurors the defendants prepared for what they call, quote, the battle of Charlottesville. It started as a racist protest. You can hear them chanting there, ended, of course, in deadly violence.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on this case.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, Thursday was an exhaustive day of closing arguments in this civil trial. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, nine people who were injured during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017, argued that the defendants white supremacists conspired to commit racial violence on that weekend. The plaintiffs' lawyers saying that these defendants used private communications to discuss the possibility of violence, and even to discuss whether it was legal to drive a vehicle into a crowd of protesters which is, of course, what we know did occur that weekend when James Fields drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather Heyer.

The defendants, these white supremacists, say that they did not plan this violence and that they never wanted violence. Two of the defendants, white supremacists Christopher Cantwell and Richard Spencer defended themselves during this trial.

Now, during the trial some of the white supremacists even turned on themselves in court, confronted each other in court, and used the trial as a soap box to spout off their views on racial hatred. It is important to note that the jurors have to weigh just a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it's not necessary for them to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that these defendants conspired to commit racial violence. They only have to determine whether there was about a 51 percent chance that they did that.

One interesting note, too. One of the plaintiffs' attorneys Roberta Kaplan has asked the jurors to award the people who were actually hit with James Fields' car that weekend $7 million to $10 million each in compensatory damages and has asked for the jury to award others who were injured that weekend $3 million to $5 million. Now, as for punitive damages, Roberta Kaplan did not put a figure on that, saying to the jurors, just consider what it would take to make sure these defendants never do anything like this again.

The jury is going to get the case today -- Christine, Laura. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Brian, thank you for that.

A dramatic lifesaving reprieve for death row inmate Julius Jones. Oklahoma's Republican governor put a stop to the execution just hours before he was scheduled to die, commuting his sentence to life without parole. Jones has been behind bars for 20 years for a murder he says he did not commit.

JARRETT: Yeah, the Oklahoma parole board had recommended life with a chance of parole for Julius Jones earlier this month. Supporters and family members of Jones say they are not giving up hope that their efforts to free him will work.


MADELINE DAVIS-JONES, MOTHER OF JULIUS JONES: We may rest for a moment, but the fight goes on. I was told that, you know, we have homework.


DAVIS-JONES: Meaning that we will fight another day.


JARRETT: The family of Paul Howell who was shot to death in front of his two young daughters still believes that Jones is guilty of this murder. They say they take comfort that the governor's decision will keep Jones behind bars.

Coming up for you, major news overnight from the head of the Women's Tennis Association. What he tells CNN could happen if this missing Chinese tennis star isn't found.



JARRETT: Breaking news overnight about missing tennis star Peng Shuai, the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association, Steve Simon, tells CNN he's willing to pull all, all business out of China until he gets proof of Peng's safety. Peng disappeared after she accused the former vice premiere of sexual assault.

Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong on this story.

Kristie, a decision like this could cause women's tennis millions, but he seems to suggest to Erin Burnett last night it's a moral issue, they have to take this stance.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Laura. That is what he said. Look, women's tennis is taking a stand against China. In an interview with CNN, we heard from the CEO and the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association. He said that they have been trying to contact the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, that they are deeply and strongly concerned about her, and that the WTA is willing to lose its very lucrative business in China if Peng Shuai is not safe and if the serious allegations that she's made are not properly investigated.

Now, Peng Shuai is a national sporting icon in China, a two-time grand slam champion. It was two weeks ago on November 2nd when she made that accusation of this very powerful man, a former vice chairman of China, forcing himself to have sex with her in his home. She made this accusation on her verified Sina Weibo account.

It was 1,600 words long.

Shortly after, it was taken down. She's been under blanket censorship. Peng Shuai has not been seen or heard from since. Rising concern about her safety from the international tennis community as well as from the WTA and this statement from the chief of the WTA saying that they are willing to put their business in China on the line for her.

Take a listen.



STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN & CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: We're at a crossroads with our relationship obviously with our -- with China, and operating our business over there. There's no question about it. It's something that's actually very sad because we have some amazing relationships over there and have developed some unbelievable programs there, really introducing the sport to a lot of young Chinese players.

I think that when you look at this, though, there's too many times in our world today when we get into issues like this that we let business, politics, money dictate what's right and what's wrong.


STOUT: And a number of observers are pointing out that that forceful statement from the WTA is something that we simply had not heard before from other organizations, let alone other governments -- Laura.

JARRETT: Certainly notable and, of course, President Biden here considering this boycott of the Olympics now potentially bolstered by this missing tennis star and what happens to her. Still a lot of questions there.

Kristie, thank you for staying on top of this.

STOUT: You got it.

ROMANS: This weekend, Fareed Zakaria taking an in-depth look at Beijing's leader, "China's Iron Fist: Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America" begin Sunday night at 9:00, only on CNN.