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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

French President Macron And Challenger Le Pen Square Off In Debate; Florida Governor Moves To End Special Status For Disney World; DHS Planning For Migrant Surge After Title 42 Ends. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 20, 2022 - 05:30   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian invasion has turned the lives of millions of ordinary Ukrainians upside down. Whatever they were doing before, their lives now revolve around the war.

Like our next two guests, a couple, both theater artists in Kyiv. Oleksandr, a stage director and teacher at a children's theater studio. And Antonina, a performance artist and director. When Putin invaded they both joined Ukraine's volunteer militia, the Territorial Defense Force. Oleksandr, Antonina, thank you both so much for joining us this morning.

You know, Oleksandr, I'd like to start by just asking you to describe that moment. When was the moment that you and Antonina decided to completely upend your lives and join the Territorial Defense Force?

OLEKSANDR ZHUGAN, THEATER DIRECTOR AND MEMBER, UKRAINE'S TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCE (via Skype): It was actually on the 25th of February. So, the 24th was very difficult and we just watched the news nonstop and we spent the night in the bomb shelter. And then, on the 25th, we woke up and just looked at each other and said OK, so we are joining the Territorial Defense Forces. And that's how it started.

FISHER: And so, Antonina, it looks as though you all are in a forest outside of Kyiv. Can you tell us a bit about roughly where you are and what you're doing now, and what specifically you do in the -- in the Territorial Defense Force?

ZHUGAN: Antonina's English is not very good so I'll do the translation, OK?

FISHER: OK, sure.

ZHUGAN: (Speaking foreign language).


ANTONINA ROMANOVA, PERFORMANCE ARTIST AND DIRECTOR, TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCE MEMBER (via Skype): I am OK, I am fine. (Speaking foreign language). ZHUGAN: Yes, Antonina says that we are not in the forest; we are in the suburbs of Kyiv and this is the sort of place that we've been so far. And it's hard because we are not used to it but that's pretty much OK. It's not as dangerous as it could be.

FISHER: And so, Oleksandr, I understand that you proposed marriage to Antonina while you were both working at a checkpoint recently, and I believe Antonina accepted. So, congratulations are in order to you both.

What -- why did you decide to do it at a -- at a checkpoint? And are you waiting until this war is over to get married?

ZHUGAN: Well, actually, same-sex marriages are still illegal in Ukraine, but we are hoping that it's going to be legal sometime soon. And actually, it was vice versa. Antonina proposed to me and I agreed. So, yes, I suppose that we are going to get married one day.

FISHER: Oh, well, congratulations. That's quite a story.

ZHUGAN: Thank you.

FISHER: You know, I'm really struck by the fact that you all spent your daily lives as artists working in the theater -- a stage director, an actor on stage. Just how different your lives must be now. I mean, you're living, working outside, fighting to propel an invading Russian army.

What has been probably the most strange and surreal aspect of these last few weeks for you?

ZHUGAN: Well, frankly speaking, everything has been strange to us. And I think that the most unusual thing was holding a gun for the first time in my life. And it was the same for Antonina, too.

Because we have compulsory military service but Antonina and I didn't go to the Army due to health conditions. And it was the first time here when we took guns -- weapons in our hands and were taught how to shoot. How to disassemble it and to clean it. And we had some tactical training as well.

FISHER: And so, Oleksandr, do you feel comfortable holding a gun now?

ZHUGAN: No, but it's much more comfortable than it was, like, at the beginning when we got the guns on the 25th. And it's been 56 days of war now. So, yes, it's much more comfortable now.

FISHER: Well, that's good to hear, at least.

Oleksandr and Antonina, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on your engagement and please stay safe out there.

ZHUGAN: Yes, thank you. Thanks for all the support.

ROMANOVA: Thank you.

FISHER: Of course. Thank you.

So, French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen are about to square off in their only debate ahead of Sunday's high-stakes runoff election. Macron's supporters are warning against voter complacency now that he's opened a solid lead in the polls.

So let's go to Paris, live, and bring in CNN's Jim Bittermann. Good morning or -- yes, it's still morning in Paris. Good morning, Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It still is. Yes, that's right, Kristin, absolutely. But we're looking forward to this evening because, in fact, this debate is going to be crucial I think for both candidates. Neither one of them can screw this up. They've both been worried about the debate ahead of time.

In the case of Marine Le Pen, she faced off against Emmanuel Macron in 2017 in exactly the same sort of circumstance. Back then it was kind of widely believed that she fumbled the ball. And she admitted to herself that she could have done much better, and she said because she was tired. So, she's taken the last two days off of the campaign trail just to get in shape to debate Emmanuel Macron tonight.

He, on the other hand -- unlike 2017, he's got a track record now. He's been in the presidency for five years. And because of that, he's criticized a lot for some of his policies and there's a lot of anger out there against Emmanuel Macron. So he's going to be anticipating what kind of criticism he's going to get during the debate tonight and it should be something to watch.

Last time, in 2017 when these two faced off, about a quarter of the entire French population watched it on television. So, a lot of stakes in what's happening tonight -- Kirstin.

FISHER: Yes, absolutely. And I -- you know, I think it's probably a good idea to take two days off before a big debate and rest up. Maybe she's clearly learned some lessons from the previous debate.

Jim Bittermann, thank you so much.


So, up next, the head of Homeland Security speaking out on new rules for migrants at the border. And Florida's Ron DeSantis now putting the squeeze on Disney.


FISHER: Florida's Republican governor putting the squeeze on Disney. Critics say he is retaliating for the company's criticism of the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law limiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Ron DeSantis urging state lawmakers who are meeting in special session this week to end Disney's self-governing district in Orlando.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering this week. And so, yes, they will be considering the congressional map, but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.



FISHER: So the Reedy Creek Improvement District allows Disney to control zoning and public services in a 40-mile area -- that's huge. That includes Disney World and the company's other Orlando theme parks.

Democrats accuse Republicans of undercutting Florida's largest private employer in ways that could damage the state's critical tourism economy.

Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas tells CNN that they are preparing for a new surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border when Title 42 ends next month. Now, the decision to lift the Trump-era pandemic border restriction has drawn strong criticism from members of both parties.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live in Capitol Hill. Good morning, Daniella. So, what are Republicans and Democrats saying about this move?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Kristin, it's not just Republicans that are upset, it's just, as you said, moderate Democrats are slamming the Biden administration for this decision to end Title 42 -- that Trump-era protocol that allows the United States to send migrants back to their home countries for processing.

This meant that you wouldn't see those photos along the border of migrants camping out. There wouldn't be any sort of crisis that they're expecting -- that influx of migrants they're expecting if this Trump-era protocol ends -- expected to end on May 23.

And the Biden administration has pointed to a plan by Alejandro Mayorkas, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, that they're prepared to deal with this influx. And also, has blamed Congress for not passing that $10 billion COVID relief package before they went on Congressional recess. They've been in recess last week and this week.

But look, Democrats are incredibly worried about his influx of migrants. They say that the administration needs a proper plan to deal with that influx.

And a lot of these Democrats are up for reelection in the 2022 midterms and they've actually signed on to a bipartisan bill that would delay Title 42 -- the repeal of Title 42 for another 60 days. Those Democrats being Mark Kelly. He's the senator of a border state, Arizona. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. They are very, very concerned that this could be a huge issue ahead of

the midterms. Immigration always tend to be a hot-button issue Kristin, so this is a concern of theirs because voters really care about this. And, of course, no one wants to see those images on the border of migrants camping out -- that influx that always deals -- because it does turn into a humanitarian crisis. So that criticism is mounting against the administration for that issue -- Kristin.

FISHER: Yes, this is going to be a big issue heading into the midterms.

Daniella Diaz, thank you so much.

So, from Capitol Hill to sports. The New Orleans Pelicans shocking the Phoenix Suns in game two, and the loss extra worrisome for the Suns as their best player gets injured.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Morning, Andy.


So, the Suns -- they had the best record in the NBA this season. This first-round series against the Pelicans not supposed to be their biggest challenge but it might be now if Devin Booker is out of action for a few games.

Booker was incredible in the first half last night. He's the only player in the past 25 years to score 30 points in a half of a playoff game without taking a free throw. Here he is making a buzzer-beater in the first, then he dabbed up a baby sitting courtside. That was pretty cool.

But in the third quarter, he injures his hamstring trying to run down this play. Booker left the game and did not return.

The Pelicans' Brandon Ingram, meanwhile, scoring 26 of his 37 points in the second half as the Pelicans get the win 125-114 to even that series at a game apiece.

The Hawks, meanwhile, trying to even their series with the Heat but this was Jimmy Butler's night. Butler was basically perfect, scoring 45 points with zero turnovers. And he's the second player in playoff history to score that many with no turnovers and no fouls.

The Heat won this one 115-105.

Teams that take a 2-0 lead in the best of seven go on to win more than 92% of the time.

And Ja Morant and the Grizzlies were hoping to avoid an 0-2 hold to the Timberwolves. Morant's 2-year-old daughter Kaari showing off the skills before the game, and her dad showed off during. He had 23 points and 10 assists as Memphis evened the series with a 124-96 rout of Minnesota. Morant's daughter enjoying that win, showing off the dance moves afterwards. Game three of that series tomorrow night in Minneapolis.

All right, tonight, Kyrie Irving and the Nets are going to try to even their series against the Celtics. Kyrie fined $50,000 by the NBA for flipping off Celtics fans twice during game one. Kyrie said he was just responding to what he heard from the crowd and that he would have the same energy for those fans in Boston that they had for him.

Game two is at 7:00 eastern on our sister network TNT. Sixers and Bucks also trying to take 2-0 leads in their series tonight.


And I'll tell you what Kristin, I can't wait for that Nets-Celtics game two. I mean, this is looking like it's going to be one of the best first-round series ever. Here's hoping it shapes up that way.

FISHER: Andy, you had some solid kid content in there. You had that little girl dancing, and then -- did I hear this right? You said that one of those players dabbed up a baby. I love it. You don't get to say that much.

SCHOLES: Yes. You don't see that very often -- yes.

FISHER: All right, Andy. Thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

FISHER: So, coming up, we're counting down to a new surrender deadline. But defiant Ukrainian troops are refusing to give up. But first, Johnny Depp's real-life role as a courtroom witness.



FISHER: Getting underway right now, an administrative hearing in the U.K. that could bring Julian Assange's extradition to the United States -- a big step forward. The U.S. accuses the WikiLeaks founder of conspiring to obtain and disclose national defense information.

Clare Sebastian joins us live from London. So, Clare, good morning. What do we expect to happen today?


The hearing is now underway. We've heard Assange, himself, has dialed in virtually from Belmarsh prison, which is a high-security prison in London where he has spent the last three years.

This is a hearing where the Westminster Magistrate's Court, which is a district court in London, is expected to issue an order for his extradition. This comes after the highest court in the U.K. denied an application for an appeal last month.

This case, after this order is issued today, will now move to the Home Sec. Priti Patel for a final decision on whether to extradite him to the United States where, as you said, he faces charges under the Espionage Act for the release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq that was released in 2010.

So this moves him -- or will move him once the order is announced one step closer to extradition. He does have another chance to appeal -- that his team can launch an appeal on specific legal grounds. The deadline for that is May 18. And the Home secretary can choose to approve the extradition or deny it at any point. So after a decade or so of waiting for a resolution in this case, this hearing today should take us one step closer.

FISHER: Clare Shipman (sic) live in London for us. Clare, thank you.

Well, actor Johnny Depp will be back on the witness stand today for cross-examination in his defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp testified for three hours on Tuesday. He accuses Heard of lying about him abusing her during their brief marriage.

The suit centers on Heard's Washington Post essay in which she didn't name Depp but referred to herself as a survivor of domestic violence. Depp says that led to financial losses, and he says the allegations are simply not true.


JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: There were arguments and things of that nature, but never did I, myself, reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.


FISHER: Depp says he's fighting to clear his name for the sake of his children.

And for the first time in more than a decade, the king of the streaming services has reported losing subscribers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dearest Rita, it has been said that competition is an opportunity for us to rise before our greatest of challenges.


FISHER: Netflix losing 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter when the company was expected to add 2.5 million. It also predicts losing another two million subscribers in the second quarter.

The company blames several factors, including more competition now that traditional media companies have gotten into streaming, and widespread password sharing by an estimated 100 million households. Netflix says it plans to turn the tide on subscriber losses by continuing to improve the service.

Wow, widespread password sharing by an estimated 100 million households. It's just - it's just so easy to do, not that I've ever done it.

Well, thank you all so much for joining us and getting up early with us for EARLY START. I'm Kristin Fisher and "NEW DAY" starts right now.