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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Prosecution Links Ghislaine Maxwell To Jeffrey Epstein; South African Scientists Caution Against Panic Over Omicron Variant; Barbados Becomes A Republic, Removing Queen As Head Of State. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, it is Tuesday. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes -- almost 32 minutes past the hour -- time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

At least 19 countries and territories now have confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant. There's still a lot we don't know about the variant but scientists are racing to determine its severity, how easily it spreads, and whether it evades current vaccines.

JARRETT: Today, a 3-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear former President Trump's latest bid to block the national archives from turning over documents to the January 6 House committee. Trump is claiming executive privilege but the current president says that's not his call to make anymore.

ROMANS: Prosecutors say Ghislaine Maxwell created a pyramid scheme of abuse coercing young girls to recruit other victims for abuse by Jeffrey Epstein and then paying them finders fees. In opening statements, the defense told jurors that Maxwell is just a convenient scapegoat and she is a victim of Epstein's manipulation.

JARRETT: In Chicago, jury selection is now complete in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett. The former "EMPIRE" star is accused of staging a fake hate crime attack to persuade his producers on the show to take a separate earlier threat that he received more seriously. Smollett has pleaded not guilty to six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly making those false police reports.

ROMANS: Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will be back on the witness stand today to face cross-examination at her criminal fraud trial. In court Monday, Holmes testified that she was raped in college, which drove her ambition to create her failed blood-testing company. She also claims she was emotional and sexually abused by her former business partner.

JARRETT: Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin ordering a review of the 2019 U.S. airstrike that killed an unknown number of civilians in Syria. The Pentagon only recently admitted civilians died in that strike after a report in "The New York Times." The review will be conducted by Gen. Michael Garrett with a final report expected in 90 days.

ROMANS: The army is reviewing some 50 new submissions for purple hearts for U.S. troops who suffered brain injuries in an Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq nearly two years ago. It's the same attack then-President Trump dismissed as not that serious when it was first reported.

JARRETT: South African health officials are urging the public not to panic over the new Omicron coronavirus variant. They say it is still too soon to tell if this variant has a higher rate of transmission or will cause more hospitalizations or severe illness.

CNN's Eleni Giokos is live in Johannesburg with more on this. Eleni, what are South African officials actually providing by way of information? I understand that they're saying not to panic but are they providing any more data right now?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's fascinating to be here at the epicenter of all the drama -- to be honest with you, Laura -- and to see the information that is filtering through from government officials from experts here in South Africa. And every day, there is a press conference explaining the clinical data and what we know.


There is anecdotal evidence right now to show that Omicron might not cause severe illness and specifically, for those under the age of 40. But this is still anecdotal and it came from one doctor in Pretoria. But the message has been clear vaccination is one key tool to try and fight this variant.

Just taking a step back here and seeing the travel bans that have been implemented in southern Africa, it has been absolutely debilitating and just to see the chaos that it's caused. President Biden said that the Omicron variant is, of course, of concern and not panic, but I think we've reached far beyond that now. Omicron has been found in over 17 regions around the world. Around 70 countries have instituted some kind of travel ban.

And interestingly, the Omicron variant has been identified in South Africa and Botswana but there's been a lot more travel bans against southern African countries where it has not been identified as yet.

There are unknown factors here and the fear is that Omicron might have already spread. But scientists here that have been so ahead of the curve in genomic sequencing have helped the world in terms of understanding this variant and will continue to do so. And that's the key message that we're hearing from authorities here.

JARRETT: And it was their quick reaction that really helped get everyone to have a hold on this as swiftly as they did.

Thank you for your reporting, Eleni.

ROMANS: All right. In Spain, a hospital in Madrid just announced the country's first detected case of Omicron. Earlier, Portugal discovered its first cases in players on a local soccer team. One of those players had just returned from South Africa.

Many other European nations have also detected the variant, including the U.K., Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, and now, Germany.

So, let's go to Berlin and bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. Nice to see you this morning, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Christine. And you're absolutely right. I mean, the European continent, right now, really concerned about this Omicron variant. Obviously, a lot of the countries that have detected it so far, which is really a lot of western European countries in total -- the people who it was detected in there were by and large travelers from the southern portions of Africa -- mostly from the country of South Africa itself.

However, since last night, Germany has had its fourth confirmed case and this was a person in southeast Germany without any sort of travel history to the southern portions of Africa or from South Africa as all of the others have had. So, obviously, that raises big alarm bells here in this country, in Germany.

And all of this comes, by the way, not just in Germany but in large portions of Europe as the coronavirus itself -- the variant that we've had so far -- the Delta variant -- is really running wild. Germany has had record infection rates for several weeks running now. They've had record daily new cases for many weeks as well.

And so, Germany is now, indeed, talking about a possible full lockdown for the entire country. Of course, Austria has already gone that way.

What's going to happen here in this country in just about two hours from now is that Angela Merkel, who is still chancellor here in this country, is going to meet with her designated successor, Olaf Scholz, and they are going to start debating measures with the representatives of the German states to see what can be done. It's not clear whether or not they're going to decide on some sort of further lockdown measures today, but it is certainly something that many people here feel might be in the cards very soon as Europe is generally struggling with the coronavirus and now the Omicron variant on top of it, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Meanwhile, here at home, President Biden tried to calm fears of the unknown about this virus, addressing the nation Monday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This variant is a cause for concern; not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day.


JARRETT: The president also suggested he won't impose any further travel restrictions -- at least not yet.

For more, let's bring in White House reporter Jasmine Wright, live from Washington, D.C. So, Jasmine, what are you hearing behind the scenes right now? How worried is this White House?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Well look, the president is trying to reassure Americans that they want to stay vigilant in the face of this potential new threat, but not to panic, as we just heard from him just now.

And yesterday when he spoke, he spoke after meeting with his medical officials -- medical advisers, including Dr. Fauci -- being briefed. And he said that they were learning more and more about the variant every day, every hour. But there was still a lot that was unknown, including the transmissibility and the severity. And, of course, that could take weeks for them to find out.

But the president was really firm in saying that folks need to get their vaccines because it's only a matter of time until a case pops up in the U.S. He said that they need to get their vaccines and get their boosters. And after he spoke, the CDC even updated their guidance, saying that if you have had a vaccine before June first it is now time for a booster if you are 18 years-plus.


But the president -- he was asked about the potential of new travel restrictions. Because as we just heard from my two colleagues before, it's not just South Africa and those seven countries around the region that have reported new cases. It is all over the world -- really, five continents.

And so, the president was asked whether or not there would be more travel restrictions put in place. He said he didn't think so at this point because he said the point was not to prevent any of the variants from coming to the U.S. but was to buy time for Americans to prepare. Take a listen.


BIDEN: The reason for the immediate travel ban is there are a significant number of cases unlike any other country -- well, the few around South Africa -- in the world. We needed time to give people an opportunity to say get that vaccination now before it heads -- it's going to move around the world. I think it's almost inevitable there will be, at some point, that strain here in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WRIGHT: So, that inevitability the president just spoke of -- that is what federal officials are bracing for now. But the president said that he did not believe that for now there would be any more lockdowns. He said that he would present to the American people a larger case about how he wants the country to prepare for the wintertime in the face of the pandemic -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Jasmine Wright. Thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, will Tiger Woods ever play professional golf again? Hear from him in his own words, next.

ROMANS: And see the moment when Rhianna was declared a national hero in her homeland.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The island of Barbados is officially a republic. In a ceremony last night, the queen's standard lowered for good. Queen Elizabeth removed as head of state and Barbados swore in its first president.


SANDRA PRUNELLA MASON, PRESIDENT OF BARBADOS: I, Sandra Prunella Mason, do swear that I will well and truly serve Barbados in the office of president, so help me God.


JARRETT: The Caribbean island cutting 400 years of British ties -- many British fortunes made from sugar and slavery.

Prince Charles on hand to reflect on the island's journey as well.


PRINCE CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: The creation of this republic officer a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum; a milestone on the long road you have not only traveled but which you have built.


JARRETT: And a different sort of queen honored there. Pop star Rhianna was named a national hero.




JARRETT: The move by Barbados marks the first time in nearly 30 years that a realm has removed the British monarch as head of state. However, the new republic does intend to remain a part of the commonwealth.

Rhianna, always a hero.

ROMANS: Yes. I love everything about Rhianna. Oh, and an amazing businesswoman, by the way.


ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Global markets lower after Moderna's CEO suggested that vaccines will struggle -- could struggle with the Omicron variant.

You can see Asian shares mixed right now. Europe has opened lower -- at least one percent lower. stock index futures in the U.S. also having some trouble here, losing their footing. You're looking at maybe almost 500 points down on the Dow when the opening bell rings if this holds.

Of course, uncertainty, as we always say, is the enemy of investors and there's plenty of uncertainty right now. There's still so much we don't know about the Omicron variant. It'll take a couple of weeks for the scientists to sort this out.

Stocks rebounded slightly Monday after that big slide on Friday. Monday, the Dow closed up 236 points. The Nasdaq had a really good day -- its best day since May.

This morning, all eyes on the Fed chief, Jerome Powell. He will testify before lawmakers and we know that he will say the new variant could threaten the economic recovery. He'll explain how. We have seen his testimony.

All right, fed up with high gas prices? JPMorgan says you ain't seen nothing yet. The investment banking giant predicts the oil spike is just getting started.

This is the prediction from JPMorgan. Brent crude, $125 a barrel next year; $150 a barrel in 2023. Today's price, just over $73.00. If JPMorgan is right, prices at the pump could top $5.00 a gallon.

The company says OPEC nations have plenty of oil in the ground but they don't have the capital or the logistics to deliver it quickly.

Twitter announcing co-founder Jake Dorsey stepping down as chief executive effective immediately. Dorsey's departure comes six years after he returned to the chief executive role to help turn business around.

During his tenure, Twitter achieved profitability, posted its first billion-dollar quarter, and began releasing new features to draw in users. The site, like its peers, has also found effective content moderation a challenge under growing scrutiny from lawmakers and the public.

The company's chief technology officer will take over as CEO.

JARRETT: To sports now, and Tiger Woods speaking out for the first time since his car accident about his health and his future in golf.

Andy Scholes has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


In his first interview since that devastating leg injury he suffered back in February, Tiger Woods told "Golf Digest" that he hopes to play on the PGA tour again but he accepts that being on top isn't realistic.


TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: But I can participate in the game of golf. I can still maybe -- if my leg gets good enough -- maybe click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain to get all the way to the top, I don't think that's a realistic expectation of me. But I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day. Never full-time, ever again.


WOODS: I can choose just like what Mr. Hogan did. He'd pick


WOODS: -- and choose a few events a year and he'd play around that. He practiced around it and for years felt pumped for that and he played. And I think that's kind of how I'm going to have to play it from now on.



SCHOLES: Yes. Last week, the 15-time Major champion posted a video of himself on social media taking practice swings, with the comment "making progress."

Tiger is slated to speak with the media later this morning at this invitational tournament in the Bahamas.

All right. In college football, the coaching carousel continues to turn. And yesterday, it was LSU making the splash. According to multiple reports, the Tigers hiring Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame to be their next head coach. Kelly's been with the Fighting Irish since 2010 and is the winningest head coach in school history.

Notre Dame is 11-1 this season. With its lone loss to Cincinnati. It could still potentially reach the college football playoff.

All right, USC, meantime, introducing its new head coach, Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach says he will return the Trojans back to the national spotlight.


LINCOLN RILEY, USC HEAD FOOTBALL COACH: I can promise you that you're going to get the best out of myself, you're going to get the best out of our staff, out of our players, and we're going to put something on that field that you're proud of. And I -- and I agree with chairman Caruso this place is going to be full. This is going to be the mecca of college football.


SCHOLES: All right, "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" between the Seahawks and Washington Football Team coming down to the final seconds. Russell Wilson, on his 33rd birthday, finding Freddie Swain up the middle for the touchdown with 15 seconds left. Seahawks then needing the 2-point conversion to tie it, but Wilson's pass right here picked off by Kendall Fuller.

Washington holds on to win that one 17-15.

Cowboys' coach Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, will miss Thursday night's game against the Saints after entering the NFL's COVID protocols. The team says McCarthy will still be involved with the game preparations virtually. The 58-year-old coach said in June that Dallas' entire coaching staff was fully vaccinated. The Cowboys have eight players and coaches currently in the protocols.

All right. Finally, more baseball free agents cashing in big yesterday.

Shortstop Corey Seager reportedly signing with the Rangers on a 10- year, $325 million deal. Seager's deal comes one day after the Rangers signed second baseman Marcus Semien to a 7-year contract worth reportedly $175 million. The Rangers, the first team ever to spend half a billion dollars on two or fewer players in a single off-season.

And just hours earlier, the Mets and pitcher -- 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer agreed to a record-setting 3-year, $130 million deal. That means he's going to make $43.3 million annually, easily breaking the record set by Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. And to put that in perspective, Scherzer's salary for next season is more than the current opening day payrolls for the entire rosters for the Pirates and the Orioles.

But, Christine, lots of desperate teams out there. Mets are one of them. They want to win badly and they're certainly trying to pay for it.

ROMANS: That kind of money just blows my mind.

JARRETT: Not bad. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: We should pay our virus researchers that much money, but that's not how it goes.

All right, thanks, Andy.

JARRETT: All right.

You can call him Mr. Freedom. NBA star Enes Kanter is now a U.S. citizen with a new legal last name. The Boston Celtics center shared a video Monday of his citizenship ceremony. As he recited the oath, he used his new name, Enes Kanter Freedom.


ENES KANTER FREEDOM, CENTER, BOSTON CELTICS: I waited for this moment like six years now and it's finally happened. It's like a dream come true. America gives you opportunity, freedom, and human rights, and you can have anything you want here.


JARRETT: The NBA star who was raised in Turkey has been outspoken about human rights violations in China. His new last name will be on his jersey tonight when Boston takes on the 76ers in Philadelphia.

ROMANS: Congratulations. Welcome aboard.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. More on what we know and what we do not know about Omicron variant on "NEW DAY." That's next.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, November 30th. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

And breaking overnight, the Omicron variant is spreading with lightning speed. It is now on five continents. Japan just detected its first case hours ago and that means that 19 countries or territories have now diagnosed at least one case of Omicron. There are no confirmed cases in the U.S. as of now.

And with so much still unknown about this new strain, President --