Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: Same-Sex Marriage Under Threat if Roe V. Wade Overturned; Key Vote to Protect Access to Abortion Fails in the Senate; Finland's Leaders Announce Support for NATO Membership; Fire Damages or Destroys At Least 20 Los Angeles-Area Homes. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 05:00   ET


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday, May 12th. It is 5:00 a.m. here in New York.


Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

With the Supreme Court appearing poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Biden is warning other landmark rulings could also be jeopardy.

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser Wednesday, the president made his strongest comments yet on that leaked draft majority opinion on Roe v. Wade, saying, quote: If you read the opinion, it basically says there's no such thing as a right to privacy. If that holds, mark my words, they're going to go after the Supreme Court decision on same- sex marriage.

This just hours after the Senate Democrats failed to advance a bill protecting abortion rights across the country.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol for us this Thursday morning.

And, Daniella, where do -- where do Democrats go from here to try to preserve abortion rights?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Christine, even though Democrats have the White House, have the House, have the Senate. We watch in real time yesterday, that vote failed, that vote that would codify Roe v. Wade. In fact, not every Democratic senator supported that legislation. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia, also voted against the legislation with every single Republican senators.

So it's unclear what Democrats can do going forward if they don't have the votes in the Senate to be able to codify Roe v. Wade. And they're going to continue to try -- you know, there are actually two Republican senators, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who also are pro-choice. And they have their own bill, but it's unclear where Democrats will sign on to their legislation.

So, really what it appears what's going to keep happening, is Democrats are going to use this as a message on that ahead of the 2020 midterms to convince voters to elect more Democrats in the Senate, in the House, so that they might be able to do something about Roe v. Wade, should we expect that the Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

But, of course, again, we have to emphasize that that is just of draft opinion that we saw. It is unclear whether that will actually happen. And we won't really know, Christine, until June. So a lot is up in the air. But it doesn't mean that Democrats are going to stop, as they say, to try to codify Roe v. Wade. Their efforts are going to continue.

That's why Democratic leadership continues to say, again and again. As you guys cited, of course, President Joe Biden at that fund-raiser last night.

ROMANS: All right. Daniella, thank you so much for that.

JARRETT: New this morning, NATO is about to expand right up to Russia's doorstep. Just a short time ago, Finland took a significant step toward applying for membership after decades in neutrality. The country shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Helsinki for us.

Nic, Vladimir Putin has warned Finland not to do this. What's at stake here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There is a lot at stake. Finland's security, how comfortable the people feel here in their lives. All of that is at stake, a momentous today. Not the final decision in joining NATO, but the prime minister and president setting out in a joint statement that they both believe that now is the time to move, that Finland will be more secure as a member of NATO. That they will add -- Finland will add to the strength of the NATO alliance. Therefore, the Finish authorities, the parliament, the other councils who are reviewing the decision, should now act without delay.

They said that they have taken time to allow consultation within parliament, within society to consult with NATO itself, to consult with other NATO members.

But this very clearly sets out a path now for an expected vote by the Finnish parliament early next week. And it sends a very clear message to Vladimir Putin that Finland doesn't feel safe. It looks for its security in NATO. The president of Finland yesterday said that this wasn't a step against Russia, but he said very clearly, he said to Vladimir Putin, if question about it, he would say to Vladimir Putin, you have caused this. He said he would hold a mirror up for Vladimir Putin to see what has happened here, and interpreted that way.

JARRETT: All right. There you have it. Nic Robertson, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. A fast-moving fire burning right now in a Los Angeles suburb, damaging or destroying at least 20 homes.

People in the Laguna Hills area of Orange County are being told to get out of the flames. So far, no reports of deaths or injuries. The fire started in the afternoon as a brush fire, windy, dry conditions turned it into a dangerous, 200-acre disaster by nightfall.


BRIAN FENNESSY, FIRE CHIEF, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I mean, we're seeing it spread in ways that we have not before. Again, five years ago, ten years ago. A fire like that might have grown of in a couple of acres. We've gotten there very quickly, it was skulking around. The fire is spreading very quickly in this very dry vegetation. It is taking off.


JARRETT: Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Pedram, any hope of the wind there dying down soon?


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just these next couple of hours. These morning hours, generally, where the winds are quietest, and then you get into the afternoon hours, they really pick up in intensity, and that's the concern.

And this particular fire is a terrain-driven, wind-driven event. The biggest concern with this is once you get to the afternoon, we're going to have winds of 25, 30 miles per hour. You see the scenes play out here you.

And of course fire seasons are getting long person the burn intensity of the fires also getting stronger. So you are getting the wide ranging fires that are developing and it is not just the Santa Anas that you see where you have winds coming out of the northeast and humidities are very low. This is near the coast, just a few miles from the coast. So humidity is relatively high, but we know the moisture content in the soil is really what is the biggest concern.

Fuels are extremely high. So any fire that is ignited as this one was about 12, 14 hours ago, you get these conditions that become explosive and that is the biggest concern. Current winds generally 5, 7 miles per hour. But you get up to these canyons into the afternoon hours, it is an entirely different story.

In fact, you look at the spot fires, very elevated terrain, really helps this development of the spot fires that essentially are carried downstream. You get embers that are carried downstream and set up new fires further downstream, allowing these fires to expand quicker than any firefighting efforts can halt them.

And you will notice the entirety of the state is dealing with drought conditions. Southern California, southern orange country, we're talking about severe drought in place there. And you notice containment, of course, currently sets at zero, 200 acres consumed. And these are the general coastal winds in place every day because this fire is so close to the coast.

And you get the sea breezes that kick up and the fires will continue to expand. And just out of curiosity, I looked at some of the closest observations. We know it has been dry, but since the beginning of the year through May 1st, Long Beach, California, just a few miles to the north as only picked up a little more than one inch of rainfall.

On average, they should have about 8 inches in the bucket. That's 14 percent of normal in what is their wet season. And, of course, they don't get much rainfall to begin with, but when you only get 14 percent of that, that is why this becomes such a dire situation across portions of California -- guys.

JARRETT: That's pretty stunning to see. Pedram, thank you for that.

PEDRAM: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Biden praising American farmers for being the bread basket of democracy and tying Russia's invasion of Ukraine to price hikes here. The president on a family farm in Illinois, Kankakee, highlighting Russian-driven food inflation and the potential for food shortages ahead. He promised to support American farmers who he said have helped pull Americans through first the pandemic and now the Ukraine crisis.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is fighting on two fronts. At home, it is inflation and rising prices. Abroad, it is helping Ukrainians defend their democracy, and feeding those who are left hungry around the world because Russian atrocities exist and Jeff and the American farmers understand Putin's warhead has cut off critical sources of food.


ROMANS: White House really trying to hone this message this week that fighting inflation is a top priority. For the first time since August, the pace of inflation has leveled off. The consumer price index was up 8.3 percent in April from a year ago, cooling off a bit from that 8.5 percent rate in March. But still hot, no question.

The big question, is this a sign that relief from high prices is in sight?


MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Inflation is peeking. I think the high inflation -- the painfully high inflation is due to the pandemic and to the Russian invasion. If those things don't go off the rails, then I think that we will see inflation lower by the end of the year and certainly by this time next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Hopefully that is true. So, inflation is still near a 40-year high. The president telling Americans I feel your pain and pivoting to criticism of Donald Trump and Republicans.


BIDEN: Under my predecessor, the great MAGA king, the deficit increased every single year he was president. They don't want to solve inflation by lowering the costs. They want to solve it by raising taxes and lowering your income.


ROMANS: Strategy and message has been --

JARRETT: Much more direct and outspoken.

ROMANS: It is shifting from we'll get through this inflation crisis to, yes, we feel your pain and now what is the GOP going to do about it, where are they.

JARRETT: Yeah, it's interesting.

Well, coming up next, new video evidence of potential Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

ROMANS: Plus, President Biden marking a difficult milestone in the pandemic.

JARRETT: And passengers run for their lives from a burning airliner, that's next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Ukraine's top prosecutor has announced indictment of a Russian military commander in the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian. That soldier will be the first to stand trial for war crimes, they likely won't be the last.

Sara Sidner gives us another stark example of a potential war crime, and we want to warn that you this video is graphic.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a stark example of a potential war crime perpetrated by Russian forces -- an example the world has not yet seen -- Russian soldiers shooting into civilians in the back.

CNN obtained a surveillance video taken from this vehicle dealership that sits along the main highway to Kyiv. The video is from the beginning of the war, as Russians tried and failed to shell their way to the capital. The fight along this road was clearly fierce.


But what happened outside this business was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians.

It was a cowardly, cold blooded killing of unarmed men by Russian forces. The soldiers show up and begin breaking in. Inside of a guard shack, two Ukrainian men prepare to meet them.

We tracked down the men's identities. One is the owner of the business whose family did not want him named. The other was hired to guard it.

YULI PLYATS, FATHER KILLED BY RUSSIANS: My father's name is Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats.

SIDNER: His daughter, Yuli, wanted the world to know his name and what the Russians did to him. Both civilians, both unarmed. We know this because the video shows them greening and getting frisk by the Russian soldiers. And then, casually walking away. Neither seem to suspect what it was about to happen.

That is when a member of the civilian fighting force who talked to the men a couple of days before the attack told CNN. He did not want to be identified for security reasons.

VOLUNTEER CIVILIAN FIGHTER (through translator): We came there earlier, warned people to leave that place. We also hope for the humanity of Russian soldiers. But unfortunately, they have no humanity.

SIDNER: You see the two men walking in the shadows towards the camera. Behind them, the soldiers they were just talking to emerge. A few more steps, and their bodies dropped to the ground, dust shoots up from the bullets hitting the pavement. The soldiers have opened fire.

Minutes later, the guard, Leonid, gets up, limping but alive. He manages to get inside the guard booth to make a call to the local guys for help. This is one of those guys. A Ukrainian truck driver turned civilian soldier.

VOLUNTEER CIVILIAN FIGHTER (through translator): First of all, we felt a big responsibility. We knew we should go there because a man needed our help. He was still alive.

SIDNER: He's the commander of a ragtag team of civilians who took up arms to fight for Ukraine and try to save the men. When the guard called them, he explained what transpired with the soldiers. He said the soldiers as who they were and asked for cigarettes, then let them go, before shooting them in the back.

When his men finally got to Leonid, he had lost massive amounts of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One man from our group went there and the guy was still alive. He gave him bandages, try to perform first aid, but the Russians started shooting.

SIDNER: They tried to fight back but were unsuccessful. They didn't have the firepower to save the countrymen.

Yuli, have you seen the video?

PLYATS: I can't watch it now. I will save it to the crowd and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know about this crime, and always remember who our neighbors are.

SIDNER: Her neighbors to the north, these Russian soldiers, showed just how callous they are, drinking, toasting one another and looting the place, minutes after slaying the two men.

BURNETT: What were the last words that you remember he said to you?

PLYATS: Bye-bye, kisses, say hello to your boys.

SIDNER: Her boys will be left with a terrible lasting memory -- the death of their grandfather now being investigated as a war crime by prosecutors.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Kyiv.


ROMANS: CNN asking for cigarettes, and then shooting them in the back.

All right, just ahead. A baby formula shortage has parents scrambling and shelves bare in some places. We'll show you where the states are hardest hit.

JARRETT: And next, with the high stakes January 6 hearing could reveal about the assault on the U.S. Capitol.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

This morning, empty shelves and frightened parents, a nationwide shortage of baby formula widening this morning. Eight states have now been hit particularly hard -- Tennessee, Delaware, Texas, Montana, Nevada, West Virginia, Arizona and Kansas, along with the District of Columbia, all facing 50 percent or more of its formula out of stock. Twenty-eight other states seeing between 40 percent and 50 percent of normal inventory leaving parents in a state of panic.


CARRIE FLEMING, MOTHER STRUGGLING TO FIND FORMULA: We can go without a nice fancy dinner for a night or two, but our babies literally do not have the formula that they need to survive. It is unbeknown to me how this could possibly happen in our nation. Why is this happening? How do we not have a backup plan to make sure that this never happens? Like what are we going to do to help get our babies fed?


ROMANS: Manufacturers and the government frankly scrambling to fix this problem. The formula shortage primarily driven by supply chain challenges, staffing shortages and a major, major product recall. You have major facility in Michigan that has been offline for some weeks now and that is all together a perfect storm.

JARRETT: Yeah, and some of that is coming back online, but they are still trying to make up. And you don't want them to cut corners on this stuff. They have to get it right at the same time.

ROMANS: That's right.

JARRETT: All right. Now to this, the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is gearing up for a series of high stakes public hearings, the first less than a month away. The committee now finalizing its witness lists.

CNN's Annie Grayer is live in our Washington bureau with this story.

So, Annie, what do we know about the committee's plans?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Laura.

The committee is in crunch time and working around the clock ahead of its first hearing, which is now less than a month away, trying to turn what its months-long investigation behind closed doors into a compelling narrative for the American people in the form of hearings.


Now, we know that the committee is still working on the witness list and hearing topics for the hearings in June, but we do know four of the themes that will be covered in this hearing. One of which has to do with what former President Donald Trump was doing on January 6, pushing of baseless claims that the election was stolen that led people to the capitol on January 6, how law enforcement responded to the attack on January 6, and the financing of the rallies that occurred on January 6.

We also know that members are going to be assigned at least one of the hearing topics to lead that day. And we also know that these hearings are going to be really multimedia presentations that include a lot of video which some could even include tapes from some of the committee's high profile interviews. We know that two of its most recent high profile interviews with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were videotaped. So we could expect to see clips of that next month.

But in terms of individuals who could be called as witnesses, the committee is still working to finalize that list. But individuals who have previously spoken with the committee such as people from Trump's White House, people close to former vice president Mike Pence, people who worked under Trump in the department of justice, and individuals who were involved in rally planning, a lot of them are expecting to be called.

Now, two people who we shouldn't expect to see in front of the committee for hearings next month, sources tell us, are Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The committee is not calling to hear from them directly in these hearings. But as you can see, you know, a lot still to be worked out, but the basic parameters have been set ahead of that first hearing June 9.

JARRETT: Interesting that they decided to go ahead without Pence, at least for now.

All right. Annie, great reporting.

ROMANS: All right. Moments ago, the president marking a tragic milestone in the fight against COVID.

JARRETT: And the women of Afghanistan defiantly speaking out on life under the Taliban.