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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Trump-backed J.D. Vance Projected to Win Ohio GOP Senate Primary; Biden Urges Congress to Codify Roe v. Wade After SCOTUS Leak; European Union Proposes Ban on Russian Oil Imports; Russian Forces Make Few Advances in Donbas Region; North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile into the Sea. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Laura Jarrett has the morning off.

We begin this morning with a win for JD Vance in Ohio's Republican Senate primary and former President Trump who endorsed him, a win for him I guess. CNN projects the venture capitalist and author of "Hillbilly Elegy" pulled off a come-from-behind victory in what looks to be the first confirmation of Trump's kingmaker status in the GOP heading into this primary season.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is live in Cleveland for us this morning bright and early.

Kristen, a source telling us Trump was relieved at Vance's projected win.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Well, that's absolutely right. And he should be. This was the first in a series of primaries that's not only testing his ability as Republican kingmaker, but also testing the strength of the hold he has over the Republican Party. And after last night, it is clear, at least here in Ohio, which is a critical state, he still has an enormous amount of power and influence.

Make no mistake that JD Vance could not have gotten here without the endorsement of President Trump. Before that, he was trailing in the polls and he knows that. Take a listen to his victory speech last night.


JD VANCE, OHIO STATE NOMINEE: Thanks to the president for everything, for endorsing me. And I got to say, a lot of the fake news media out there and there are some good ones in the back there, there are some bad ones, too, let's be honest, but they wanted to write a story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump's America First agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen, it ain't the death of the America First agenda. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now the other thing we heard in that speech was him attacking Congressman Tim Ryan, that is the Democrat who won last night and will be up against Vance in the fall. This of course is former, or excuse me retiring Senator Republican Rob Portman's seat, a critical seat here in Ohio. Republicans need to hold on to the seat if they want to take the majority.

Now one thing looking forward, I talked to a lot of allies of President Trump last night who are absolutely thrilled. They believe that this win could actually give other Trump endorsements -- endorsed candidates the momentum they need to win in their primaries, specifically celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz who has a critical Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania in the next couple of weeks.

ROMANS: All right. A lot to chew over this morning. Thank you so much, Kristen Holmes for us in Cleveland.

President Biden is urging Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade after that leak of an explosive Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn abortion rights. The president calling a woman's right to have an abortion fundamental.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this decision holds, it is really quite a radical decision. It basically says all the decisions to be made even in your private life, who you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child or not, whether or not you have an abortion, a range of other decisions, whether or not how you raise your child, that's a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence.


ROMANS: Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us this morning.

Daniella, good morning. How are lawmakers reacting to this leaked draft?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good morning. Lawmakers are really split on this issue. Democrats deciding to rally around the issue of abortion rights of Roe v. Wade possibly ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to putting a vote, a bill on the floor that would ratify Roe v. Wade, but remember the Senate is split, Christine. It's a 50-50 split, 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans. And Democrats would need 60 votes to be able to break that filibuster to pass that bill. They know they don't have the votes. But really they want all senators to go on record on this issue, which is why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer committed to putting that bill on the floor.

And look, Democrats were struggling ahead of the midterms on issues of inflation, of rising gas prices. And now they can really rally behind this issue of abortion rights and convince voters to put more Democrats in the Senate, in the House, in the 2022 midterms. And that's a major concern for Republicans, Christine.

Instead of discussing the issue and the substance of this leaked draft that we saw on Monday night, instead they are focusing on the issue of the fact that this draft was leaked in the first place. They're discussing investigating how this came to happen. And that is what they are focusing on in these days following that leaked draft appearing.

But really, Christine, it's important to note that the formal opinion wouldn't have been issued until June and a lot can change between now and then on this how Capitol Hill reacts to this leaked draft -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Daniella Diaz, for us on Capitol Hill, thank you so much for that, Daniella.

Let's bring in Alayna Treene, congressional reporter at Axios.

Good morning. You know, an overwhelming majority of Americans support and recognize Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. We've seen these polls. And we've seen protests across the country here. How do you think this could scramble the 2022 midterm elections?

ALAYNA TREENE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, AXIOS: It will definitely scramble them, Christine. I mean, abortion is just such a salient issue across the country. I mean, obviously in battlegrounds, but nationwide as well.

I spoke with Gary Peters yesterday, chairman of the Democratic -- the Democrats campaign on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and he told me that, you know, it's frustrating that really Congress doesn't have any real legislative way to try and get around this decision if it is what ends up happening and what the Supreme Court decides to do.

But it will be a key energizing factor ahead of 2022. And he brought up some key states like in New Hampshire where Senator Maggie Hassan is facing a tough re-election battle. That's a very pro-choice state that could give her a leg up ahead of November. Same thing with Mark Kelly in Arizona, or Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. All states where senators are very vulnerable, these incumbents, and having this be one of the -- be at the forefront of voters' minds could help them in November.

ROMANS: Let's talk about these key GOP senators, Susan Collins, for example, Lisa Murkowski, on the defensive this morning with regard to this leak because both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch promised then they would uphold Roe v. Wade. Here's what Senator Lisa Murkowski said yesterday.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Roe is still the law of the land. But if it goes in the direction of this leaked copy has indicated, I would just tell you that it rocks my confidence in the court right now.


ROMANS: What is the GOP most worried about, the ruling here or the leak?

TREENE: As of now, it's the leak, Christine. I mean, and when Senate Republicans came out of their lunch yesterday and held their press conference, several reporters, and I was there, tried to press Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on this and he didn't want to talk about the substance of the potential decision. He wanted to talk about the leak. And he said that is what is driving the news.

And it was a very -- you know, it was in very stark contrast with what Democrats were doing, which is of course trying to make very clear how this decision would rock the country. I did however obtain a memo from Senate Republicans campaign, the NRSC, that did lay out talking points for Republicans and candidates about how to maximize messaging on this.

Rick Scott, the head of the NRSC, laid it all out in a memo that essentially said, you know, try to make Democrats look like more radical on this issue and try to look like the compassionate more sober people in this fight and with the rhetoric that they would be using. And so I think that there is no question that depending on how this debate moves forward, it's going to be a very crucial part of the midterms and both sides are really trying to maximize what they can do here and make sure that they keep voters with them and stay united.

ROMANS: It certainly energizes the conservative base and it energizes progressives and Democrats here who are seeing what could be a generation of rights eroded.

Let's talk about Ohio quickly. JD Vance's victory there. What does it mean for Trump's influence in galvanizing voters? Do you think that it's a sign we're going to see more of Trump in future primary battles?

TREENE: For sure, Christine. I think that it was a massive win for the former president and it really does show the influence of his endorsement. And Ohio was such a great example of this. Really a test for other potential Trump endorsements and other candidates that he's backed. Because Ohio was such a crowded primary, JD Vance really did not have the support that people thought he would need to get him over the hump until Trump came in and threw his support behind him.

And also, I mean, Club for Growth, a lot of these other massive conservative groups were going against him. And so it was a body blow really to any anti-Trumpers or any groups that tried to, you know, come up against Trump. And it's going to be I think a crucial thing that shows others across the country right now that Trump still is the kingmaker, he is still incredibly influential in Republican politics.

And it's going to keep him -- I covered him for several years during the Trump administration, he's going to want to keep throwing in his hat into the ring and putting his support behind key candidates. [05:10:07]

And this will only embolden him further as the midterms continue to ramp up.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Alayna Treene. Nice to see you this morning. Thanks.

TREENE: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 10 minutes past the hour. Millions of women in more than 25 states may be facing an abortion ban before the end of summer. For many of them, employer benefits may be the only option to secure a safe legal procedure. Amazon the latest company confirming it will pay for employee travel costs to obtain abortion care up to $4,000. Citigroup, Yelp, Uber, Lyft, also plan to help their workers bypass Republican-led efforts to ban abortion.

Corporate America increasingly being drawn into the abortion issue in response to pressure from investors, customers but especially their employees. Companies are also struggling to attract and retain talent and worrying about the effect anti-abortion laws could have on their workforce.

Up next, brand-new plans just announced to say no to Vladimir Putin's oil. Plus North Korea's Kim Jong-un testing the West's patience once again by testing a missile. And how the families of Americans held overseas plan to band together just hours from now.



ROMANS: All right. The European Union now proposing a total ban on oil imports from Russia, a major move backing Ukraine against Moscow.

CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London with more.

And this is -- I mean, this is critical here. Russian aggression is paid for by the sale of Russian gas and oil.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, and this is a very significant move. For Europe, this takes their share of Russian oil from about 25 percent of all their oil at the beginning of the invasion down to zero by the end of the year. It will be a phased approach. Ursula von der Leyen, the E.U. Commission president, outlined that they would phase out crude oil imports from Russia completely within six months and refined products things like petroleum and diesel by the end of the year.

So it's phased, but this is still a big, big generational shift redrawing the map of where Europe gets its energy. And this hits Russia really hard as well. Russia makes more money from oil than it does from gas even, which is even more difficult for the E.U. to diversify away from. The IAEA says that OECD Europe bought about 60 percent of Russia's oil exports before this happened. So this is really painful for Russia.

This wasn't the only measure announced in this sixth package of sanctions by the E.U. They are also going to sanction several other Russian banks including Spare Bank which is the biggest, that accounts for about 37 percent of the Russian banking sector. And they are listing individuals who they say were involved in war crimes in Bucha. So a serious amount of packages still being debated by E.U. members yet to be fully adopted -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Clare Sebastian, we know you'll stay on top of it for us. Thank you.

Ukrainian military says despite heavy shelling on several fronts, Russian forces have failed to make much progress toward their goal of taking all of those separatist southeastern regions.

CNN's Isa Soares joins us this morning from Lviv.

Isa, where has Russia been trying to hit Ukraine over the last 24 hours?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A very good morning to you, Christine. What we have seen is several regions right across Ukraine, very spread out being hit by missile strikes. I think we have a map to show you just how widespread that they are. Includes really the city of Lviv where I am which until now has been pretty -- largely unscathed and has been a refugee for so many people of course running away from the Russian onslaught in the east of the country.

But I spoke to the deputy mayor of Lviv about two hours or so ago and he told me that about 19 missiles were fired from the Caspian Sea across to Ukraine, facing Ukraine. He said nine were shot down air defense system. He did say that three power stations were hit here in Lviv, left many of them leading to the fires that you're seeing on your screen. That hit (INAUDIBLE) hampering infrastructure of course and railways.

This is something, Christine, that we have seen time and time again. In the last several weeks in fact, really Russia targeting key supply routes, key infrastructure to try and delay of course the armory and what's needed to get to the front lines for Ukrainians.

Now this comes as well as we've heard from Ukrainian officials, Ukrainian military saying that Russians are failing to take their goal of taking Luhansk and Donetsk. The similar message that we are getting from British intelligence this morning. Meanwhile in terms of the evacuations that you and I were talking about yesterday in the besieged city of Mariupol, a very dire situation of course for so many, we saw 156 people evacuated according to President Zelenskyy.

We have seen this morning, Christine, another convoy of buses, we've been told, have left Mariupol. We do not know whether those are just for the entire city of Mariupol or whether that includes of course those that have been inside the Azovstal steel plant. Worth remembering several hundreds are still inside and they are facing constant bombardment according to those inside the Azovstal steel plant. But very a good sign indeed, although it's taking a very long time to get these convoys to Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia -- Christine.

ROMANS: I mean, that Mariupol, those pictures, just it's a hell scape. It is a war hell scape there.


ROMANS: Isa, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General, thank you so much. Your thoughts here on these furious Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure but not making much ground headway. What do you make of that?


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, when you take a look at the explosions on the map that you showed a minute ago, Christine, you see what seems like arbitrary strikes. What isn't showing is overlaying a map of roads and railroads in all of those key cities like Vinnytsia, Lviv, Zakarpattia, all of those places are locations where key transportation hubs come together.

So it's not as arbitrary when you see that. What the Russians are attempting to do is stop the supply of equipment from NATO countries that are coming across Ukraine's border. And it is interesting because it doesn't seem to be massing of the strikes of these precision strikes against those key locations. And at the same time, if you transfer to the frontlines in the east and the south, the Russian artillery is not as damaging as one would think it was -- as I thought it would be in terms of the Russian wave war.

They are used to conducting barraged artillery on key locations. They have done some strikes, they have conducted some barrage, but it hasn't been as massed as one would think based on the way their doctrine says it should be.

ROMANS: You know, this Russian aggression is funded by sales of its oil and gas, right. If the E.U. bans Russian oil imports, do you think this will deter Vladimir Putin?

HERTLING: It certainly will. Not only will it deter him psychologically, but it will deter him financially and the ability to regenerate forces. What you're seeing is not only the sanctions starting to kick in after two months, but these increasing financial sanctions from the European Union is going to be devastating on Mr. Putin. But it's going to take a while as Isa just mentioned, until the end of the year.

This will slowly drain him of his resources that support the fight. And at the same time he's losing an awful lot of soldiers in these attacks in the east and the south. So it is draining and bleeding the Russian society dry both economically and from the standpoint of the soldiers that they have fighting the fight.

ROMANS: You know, General, I've heard so much talk about whether Russia should be removed from the G-20 group of nations. The 20 largest economies in the world. Honestly, over time, they could drop out of that group simply because their economy will shrink so much they won't be in that group of big countries anymore because the economy will shrink so much if they get all of these sanctions right.

Let's talk about Mariupol. I just a moment ago called it a hell scape. I mean, these pictures are just terrifying. Right now evacuations are under way from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. Give us a sense of the complexities of this kind of operation, removing -- getting these people to safety when you have Russian forces so aggressively literally trying to destroy this part of the country.

HERTLING: Yes, the bestiality and the barbarity of the Russian forces in this particular town against civilians are indicators of how they have done it in other cities across the border in Ukraine. But it seems like Mariupol is going to become the symbol of a Russia that continues to fight. This town, the name of this town, will go down in Ukrainian and world history as people who stood up.

Unfortunately right now, everyone wants to help. Everyone wants to get those people out. But it is extremely difficult to do. And the responsibility of the Russian government saying yes, we can do that. So the first group that came out, very good. There is still a lot of people there. But the battalions, the Ukrainian battalions in that city continue to fight.

ROMANS: All right, we're going to leave it there. Thank you, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you so much for your analysis and expertise this morning.

HERTLING: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the sea between its east coast and Japan overnight. That's according to the South Korean military.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us this morning from Seoul.

Paula, what do we know about this missile launch?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, what we have at this point is the altitude and the length it traveled from both the South Koren and the Japanese side. It appears to be shorter range than we have seen before but we don't know exactly what kind of missile it is yet. Both sides, South Korea and Japan, have said it appearing to be a ballistic missile meaning it's violating United Nations Security Council resolutions.

And it's actually the 13th missile launch that we have seen from North Korea this year. Just to put that into context last year there were just eight and in 2020, there were just four. So there's no doubt that North Korea has a significant uptick in the amount of missiles that it is putting into the air at the moment.

We're just less than a week away here in South Korea from an inauguration of a new South Korean president. That could be one reason why they are being so active. And of course in just a few weeks' time we have U.S. President Joe Biden coming -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Paula, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted.

Just ahead, a new phase of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial gets under way. And next, what Joe Biden said to the family of an American journalist being held overseas.


ROMANS: It has been almost a decade since American journalist Austin Tice was kidnapped in Syria. His parents just met with President Biden at the White House. They tell CNN that they liked what they heard about his efforts to finally bring their son home.


DEBRA TICE, MOTHER OF AUSTIN TICE: We were astonished at how up-to- date he was on Austin's case and how committed he is to getting him home.