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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Shutdown Looms As Congress Struggles To Pass Stopgap Measure; Chinese Olympic Officials Seek 'Perfect' Games; Major League Baseball Announces Player Lockout. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 02, 2021 - 05:30   ET




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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 33 minutes past the hour -- time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden speaks this afternoon about his plans for fighting COVID as Americans spend more time indoors for winter. Meantime, the first case in the U.S. of the Omicron variant was confirmed yesterday in San Francisco.

JARRETT: The 15-year-old suspect accused in that shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and terrorism. This, as a fourth student, a 17-year-old, has now died. Officials say there is no indication that the victims were specifically targeted.

ROMANS: The defense in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial trying to discredit a key accuser on cross-examination. The woman, identified only as Jane, testified that Maxwell helped Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse her for years. Maxwell's defense lawyer pressed her on previous statements she gave authorities that she wasn't sure Maxwell ever touched her.

JARRETT: He wanted me to fake beat him up. That testimony coming from one of the two men prosecutors claim helped former "EMPIRE" star Jussie Smollett stage a hate crime against himself. Abimbola Osundairo told the court he went along with the actor's request because he felt indebted to him.

ROMANS: In California, Elizabeth Holmes, on trial for bilking investors in her blood-testing startup Theranos, admitted on the stand she tried to kill an expose in "The Wall Street Journal." She called the News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. The media mogul was one of Theranos' largest individual investors. Holmes conceded her unsuccessful effort to quash the story was a disaster.

[05:35:00] JARRETT: Symone Sanders is stepping down as chief spokesperson and senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris. She's expected to exit at the end of the year. Its marks the second departure among Harris' top communications staff in recent weeks.

ROMANS: Stacey Abrams announcing she'll make another run for governor of Georgia. She faces a possible rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who won a close race against Abrams in 2018. Abrams says she's running because quote "Opportunity in our state shouldn't be determined by zip code, background, or access to power."

JARRETT: Well, for the second time this year, the U.S. government is on the brink of a shutdown. Lawmakers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on a stopgap measure before funding runs out Friday at midnight.

Let's bring in CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz, live on Capitol Hill. Daniella, good morning.

This feels like deja vu. Here we go again. Anything different this time around?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Honestly, yes, Laura. Look, the problem here is there's two different scenarios that are happening right now -- one, obviously, more likely to happen than the other.

On one hand, Republican and Democratic leaders cannot agree on a deadline to fund the government through. Of course, they don't know if they want to do this continuing resolution -- excuse me -- or the stopgap measure through January-February. They cannot agree on that deadline.

Now, the more likely scenario that's going to play out that we will see happening these next two days that could possibly cause a shutdown through the weekend or through next week is that there is a group of very conservative Republican senators that want to force a vote on an amendment to this funding bill that would defund Biden's vaccine mandates through -- in the administration that he has signed.

So that is something that these Republicans are trying to force -- of course, these Republicans, including Mike Lee of Utah, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and even Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

The way they were hoping -- the Senate was hoping to pass this stopgap measure is to have a quick vote where all 100 senators would agree to pass the bill, which means it would happen quickly and it would prevent a shutdown from happening tomorrow night.

However, with these senators threatening to block that, it could be possible that there would be a shutdown through the weekend and into next week, which is why that is a likely scenario and it could push the shutdown to possibly happening.

However, bottom line here is multiple other Republican senators are very optimistic that if there is a shutdown, Laura -- a big if -- it would only be for a short time because really, these conservative Republicans are just trying to send a message to voters back home that they just don't agree with these vaccine mandates even though in the end, they'll still be included because Democrats have the majority.

So, bottom line, there could be a shutdown but it wouldn't be for that long. That's a big if, of course, Laura.

JARRETT: Always a big if on Capitol Hill. Daniella, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, we are two months out from the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Organizers are striving to stage the perfect games but the pandemic and politics, of course, are getting in the way.

Let's bring in CNN's David Culver. He is live for us from Beijing. Good morning, David.


It's getting messy on multiple fronts. Right now, you've got, obviously, this variant that's going around the world. It hasn't yet surfaced here within Mainland China. But the reality is they have a very, very difficult zero-COVID approach policy that they're trying to keep on and it just doesn't really seem sustainable because you have one outbreak and that really could just mean one confirmed case of the virus and suddenly, you're shutting down apartment complexes that home -- are home to thousands of people.

But as we look at these upcoming games it may be that COVID is the least of the big worries.


CULVER (voice-over): Two months before the start of the Winter Olympic Games, a new COVID variant is surfacing globally, but Beijing is hoping its strict COVID defenses will keep Omicron away. It won't be easy.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I do think it is cause for concern. This is the last thing that organizers would want. This is just not the big question mark that anyone would want at this moment.

CULVER (voice-over): While the new variant has not yet been reported within Mainland China there are several confirmed cases in neighboring Hong Kong.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson saying that the Omicron variant will pose some challenges but they're confident the Winter Olympics will be held smoothly and successfully as scheduled.

China already has some of the toughest containment measures in place. Mass testing by the tens of millions, strict digital contact tracing, and targeted community lockdowns all part of our daily lives here.

CULVER (on camera): This is as close as we can get to some of the iconic Olympic structures from 2008, repurposed for the Winter Olympics but now sealed off in a COVID bubble of sorts.

CULVER (voice-over): On top of the health concerns, growing calls for Olympic boycotts as Beijing continues to deny widespread allegations of human rights abuses.


The Women's Tennis Association suspending tournaments within China as it reiterates calls for Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai to be able to speak freely and openly. Peng briefly disappeared last month after she accused a top Communist Party official of forcing her into sex.

SIMON CHADWICK, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR THE EURASIAN SPORT INDUSTRY: We are now in the early stages of what I think is a full-scale ideological battle that ultimately could culminate in the United States and other Western nations engaging in a full boycott of the Beijing Winter Games in 2022.

CULVER (on camera): But it seems here within China most folks are unaware of the controversy surrounding these Olympic Games. Instead, you've got stores like this filled with Olympic merchandise.

CULVER (voice-over): And folks here shopping, seemingly filled with a lot of excitement and joy -- even national pride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are very excited. Beijing just hosted the 2008 Olympic Games and now it's the Winter Games again. This is truly accelerating.

CULVER (voice-over): Even with mounting uncertainties, much like 2008, China is expected to put on a spectacular show. The question is will folks watching from the outside be wowed or see it all as a fancy facade covering up an increasingly authoritarian state?


CULVER: Getting back to those COVID concerns here within Mainland China Christine, travel, domestically, has gotten really difficult. I mean, I get tested pretty much every other day just to have a negative test on me when you're getting --


CULVER: -- out and about. I mean, if you look at China as a whole being sealed off from the rest of the world. Then you've got Beijing that's a bubble in and of itself. Then within Beijing, we're talking about the Olympic venues, so it's a bubble within a bubble within a bubble.

A lot of restrictions in place likely to continue for several weeks leading up to the Olympics, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Well, keep us posted, David. Thank you for all your good work there.

All right, 41 minutes past the hour.

He says he never pulled the trigger. Alec Baldwin's surprising explanation for the fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust."

In an ABC News interview, his first since the tragic shooting in October, the actor fought back tears as he talked about beloved cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed when a gun Baldwin was holding discharged.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: She was someone who was loved by everyone who worked with and liked by everyone who worked with, and admired.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: It wasn't in the script for the trigger to be pulled.

BALDWIN: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you never pulled the trigger?

BALDWIN: No, no, no, no, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them -- never.


ROMANS: Baldwin says he has no idea how a live bullet ended up in the gun he used in the scene.

Laura, I'm wondering --

JARRETT: I have so many questions.

ROMANS: There's an investigation underway. I'm wondering what is the impetus for an interview giving details about the moment that is being investigated by authorities.

JARRETT: And he has said before that he couldn't talk about it because it was being actively investigated. And his own role is being actively investigated. So it's interesting that he has chosen to sit down. Obviously, revealing.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- and you want to hear more, but interesting.

All right, Major League Baseball players locked out overnight. What does it mean for fans?

ROMANS: And another chance to be a Toys "R" Us kid.



JARRETT: Welcome back. Major League Baseball announces a lockout as players and owners fail to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

Andy Scholes has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, this is really significant.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, Laura. But, you know, no reason for baseball fans to panic just yet. They do have a few months to try to figure this whole thing out. But this does show the state of the relationship between the players and owners. This is the first work stoppage in baseball since the players went on strike back in 1994.

So, the two sides meeting in Irving, Texas ahead of the deadline this week. But according to ESPN, their final meeting yesterday last just seven minutes before they decided to go their separate ways. And at midnight, the owners locking out the players. Commissioner Rob Manfred says it was necessary despite the league's best efforts to make a deal.

The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement saying, in part, the shutdown is a dramatic measure and it's not required by law. It's the owner's choice.

Now, the lockout freezes all league business until an agreement is reached. That means no trades, no more free agency signings, and no players are allowed inside club facilities. And if you go to or your favorite team's website you'll notice all images and videos of players have been completely removed.

All right, the Women's Tennis Association, meanwhile, is suspending all tournaments in China and Hong Kong effective immediately. The WTA says the decision was based on the lack of transparency by Chinese officials following tennis player Peng Shuai's allegation of sexual assault against a retired senior Communist Party leader.

Chinese state media posted several videos of the tennis star but the WTA says it has serious doubts Peng is free, safe, and not subject to censorship.

And appearing on CNN last night, WTA chairman Steve Simon says they're willing to take a significant financial loss in order to uphold their principles.


STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: This is something we can't walk away from. If we walk away from this, we're basically telling the world that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK because it's difficult to do. That's something that we simply cannot happen and it's not what we stand for as an organization.


SCHOLES: All right, to the NBA. The Bucks playing a thriller with the Hornets. Second quarter, Miles Bridges catches the alley-oop and throws it down over Giannis. You don't see that happen to the reigning finals MVP very often.

But Giannis would get his revenge. Game tied with six seconds left, the Bucks drop a great play. Giannis, a tough finish there. Bucks go up by two. Giannis had 40 in the game.

No time-outs for Charlotte. Bridges nearly wins the game from half- court but the ball rims out. Bucks win that one 127-125.


And finally, college basketball. Wisconsin Badgers senior Brad Davison trying to save a ball from going out of bounds here last night and slams into a Georgia Tech fan sitting courtside. And guess what? He was holding his beer. It went flying.

And guys, the fan there may have lost his beer but he did get a nice hug right there from Davison.

JARRETT: He seems fine with it.

SCHOLES: It makes up for it, right?

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Andy. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Thursday morning. Looking at markets around the world you can see Asian shares have closed up mixed here and Europe has opened lower. On Wall Street, stock index futures, though, leaning up a bit.

Look, epic reversal in the stock market yesterday. A big rally early and it just couldn't hold. The Dow fell 461 points. The S&P and the Nasdaq also closed lower.

Even with a pretty strong private payroll report from ADP adding 534,000 private-sector jobs in November, there's just so much out there to be concerned about. The Omicron variant, gridlock over the debt ceiling, a looming government shutdown, and a Fed more aggressive fighting inflation, which could mean higher interest rates sooner.


JENNIFER GARNER, ACTRESS: What's in your wallet?


ROMANS: Ahh -- good morning. Well, Jennifer Garner, more money in your wallet for one thing.

Capital One getting rid of overdraft and nonsufficient fund fees making it the first top 10 bank to ditch those fees. And their overdraft protection remains free. To transfer money from savings to checking or a free one-day grace period. Or you can have the bank automatically decline any overdraft, which no matter what bank you go to, you should do that. Automatically decline the overdraft.

We know banks pocketed nearly $15.5 billion in overdraft fees in 2019 --


ROMANS: -- with renewed scrutiny of the practice in Washington. Analysts tell us other banks will likely follow Capital One's lead or they risk even tougher restrictions from regulators.




ROMANS: Doesn't that commercial bring you back? Geoffrey the Giraffe trying to make a comeback again. Toys "R" Us is opening a new store at New Jersey's American Dream Mall. It should be opening in mid- December. That's about a year after a planned relaunch of its stores failed.

The new store will include an ice cream parlor, a multi-level slide, and, of course, rows of toys. It will be the only standalone location of the iconic brand within the U.S.

JARRETT: I want to go to this mall.

ROMANS: You know, the brand -- it's a huge mall out in Jersey and it's -- I haven't been but --

JARRETT: Field trip.

ROMANS: Maybe we should do a field trip there.

Anyway -- but that company imploded --


ROMANS: -- and went through bankruptcy. So now, you've got sort of this standalone location where they're going to try to make a go at it with the -- with the brand.

JARRETT: If that works.

All right, now to this historic moment at the White House.


First gentlemen Doug Emhoff at White House menorah lighting ceremony.


JARRETT: The first and second families holding a menorah lighting ceremony last night. It is the first time the holiday has been celebrated at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president.

And the moment was not lost on second gentleman Doug Emhoff.


DOUG EMHOFF, SECOND GENTLEMAN OF THE UNITED STATES: It's humbling and it's not lost on me that I stand before you all on behalf of all the Jewish families and communities out there across our country. I understand that and I really appreciate it.


JARRETT: Emhoff said the history of the Jewish people is an essential part of who we are as Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.


JARRETT: Well, the holiday season has officially begun. The Christmas tree in New York's Rockefeller Center is all lit up, as you can see there. The 79-foot-tall Norway Spruce is decorated with 50,000 LED lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star.

And if you can't get enough of holiday decorations you can catch the lighting of the national tree in Washington, D.C. by President Biden at 5:30 eastern.

ROMANS: Is your tree up?

JARRETT: Oh, yes. I'm all into the holiday decorations this year.

ROMANS: Yes -- me, too. Are you going to take James to the -- to the big tree in Rockefeller Center?

JARRETT: I think I have to. I think it's an iconic moment. We didn't, obviously, go last year.

ROMANS: I don't love the crowd experience but it is beautiful.


ROMANS: It is beautiful.

JARRETT: I think we've got to.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

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


[05:59:27] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Thursday, December second and I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

It is here. The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant detected in California in a traveler who recently returned from South Africa. Now, we know that this person was vaccinated. They're now in self- quarantine with mild symptoms that are improving.

That's about all we know, though. Just listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci at a CNN town hall last.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: And having a single person who had what would be considered a breakthrough infection because the person was fully vaccinated, doesn't really tell you much at all.