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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Calls for Assault Weapons Ban, Tougher Background Checks; Senate Dems Search for "Incremental Deal" on Guns; Tropical Storm Watch in Effect for Both Coasts of Florida; Zelenskyy: 20 Percent of Ukraine is Under Russian Control. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 03, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go, it is Friday. It is June 3rd, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.


Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We begin this morning with President Biden now directly calling on Congress to toughen up America's gun laws.

In a rare primetime address surrounded by candles honoring the victims, President Biden spoke to a nation that has seen many leaders call for action after mass shootings only to fall short.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the last two decades, more school age children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active duty military combined. Think about that. More kids than on-duty cops killed by cops, more kids than soldiers killed by guns. For God's sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept?

It is time to do our part, time to act for the children we've lost. The children we can save. For the nation we love.

Let's hear the call and the cry. Let's meet the moment. Let us finally do something.


JARRETT: Speaking of doing something, the Senate debate has gun.

Daniella Diaz reports that Democrats though are prepared for failure. But, first, Jasmine Wright joins us live from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Jasmine, good morning. It's notable here. The president is meaningfully changing his approach now explicitly calling on lawmakers not just do something, but he has meat on the bones, he has specifics.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, the president outlined a wish list of sorts, specific things that he wants Congress to take up. And he started with assault weapons. He called on Congress to reinstate that 1994 assault weapons ban that he helped pass back then, as well as ban high capacity magazines.

Now, he said, if Congress can't do that, they should at least raise the purchasing age of assault weapons from 18 up to 21 and limits the amount of rounds a weapon can hold. He also called on Congress to repeal -- excuse me, to strengthen background checks, to pass safe storage laws and pass red flag laws which he said would keep weapons out of the hands of felons and fugitives.

Now, he also called on Congress to repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability, while also addressing mental health. And you're right, Laura, it is notable, because up until now, even after this back to back, frankly, to back mass shootings, the president really avoided really giving Congress policy prescriptions, letting the talks go on unimpeded. But here, clearly, after the Tulsa shooting this week, the president felt moved to say something, really trying to jump-start these negotiations.

Now, the president also, he spoke directly to gun owners when he said this. Take a listen here.


BIDEN: I want to be very clear. This is not about taking away anyone's begins. It is about -- it is not vilifying gun owners. In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave. I respect the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners.


WRIGHT: And so here we have Biden talking directly to gun owners but also talking to Republicans. I should note that right after the president finished speaking last night, the NRA came out immediately and rejected all proposals. But the president made it clear last night that he is not necessarily expecting Congress to pass everything he laid out, though he wished they would, but he said that he hopes that at least 10 Republicans find it in that you were heart to pass something on this, make some sort of federal progress.

And without that, he said that it should really outrage voters enough that they make this their main voting issue come November -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yeah. The assault weapons ban in particular seems more aspirational than realistic, but he's clearly trying to put a stake in the ground.

Jasmine, thank you. ROMANS: All right. Senate Democrats say they are ready to drop some of their demands for gun safety reforms just to get even an incremental deal with Republicans.

But key Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut tells CNN that he is prepared for failure.

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

You know, what is the temperature in the room I guess, Daniella? Can Congress meet the moment as the president put it?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: They are trying. You know, this bipartisan group has been meeting during this congressional recess here on Capitol Hill.


Senate lawmakers are not here this week. They are in their home states. And so, they have been meeting virtually to try to reach some sort of deal that could get 10 Republicans on board so that they could break that filibuster, that 60 vote threshold to pass any sort of gun safety legislation in the Senate because that is where the bills get stuck.

But, look, Senator Chris Murphy the Democrat leading the negotiations, he acknowledged that any sort of change will probably have to be, quote, incremental even these there could be though there could be some sort of deal reached by the end of next week. That is what he is hopeful for. And, look, Senate Democrats are also conceding that there probably won't be any bill that expands background check, that they probably won't be able to raise the age to 21 to purchase the semi automatic weapons. These are things that House Democrats are pushing for.

Look, the makeup in the House is, of course, different in the Senate. The House only needs a simple majority to pass bills. They've been able to pass several bills on gun safety. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee actually met yesterday to try to pass a wide ranging bill that would force -- gun safety legislation and many acknowledge, many House Democrats in this committee hearing acknowledged that they even know that they are passing these bills, they are likely to get stuck in the Senate because there are not 10 Republicans that can get on board, but that is not stopping them from trying.

Take a listen to what one House Democrat said on this issue about how these bills are passing the House but not the Senate.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): First of all, I dispute that. Look, the American people --

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know the reality. CICILLINE: People are demanding that Congress take action. And if the

measure was we are only going to pass those that we had confidence the Senate would pass, we could go home because we have dozens of bills that are sitting in the Senate awaiting action.


DIAZ: So as you heard there from Congressman Cicilline, a house Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, he is saying that even though the bills passed the House, Christine, they are sitting in the Senate but that is not stopping them from trying any way to pass some sort of gun safety reform. And, of course, as we know, Senator Chris Murphy is still trying to reach a bipartisan deal with those Republicans that he is working with -- Christine.

ROMANS: Chris Murphy whose home state Connecticut saw the Sandy Hook shooting a decade ago. And really nothing new -- meaningful done since then as the shootings continue.

Daniella, thank you so much.

As I said, while lawmakers talk, shootings continue across the country, from Fresno to Philadelphia. Take a look at this, 20 mass shootings in America just since the Uvalde school shooting, just ten days. More than 100 victims.

JARRETT: It's incredible.

More questions this morning about failures in that police response to the Uvalde school massacre, the Texas department of pin safety is expected to release the police time line as soon as today. At least that is what we're told. Meanwhile, Uvalde State Senator Roland Gutierrez says 911 from insides the school may have not been relayed properly to officers at the scene of the shooting.


STATE SENATOR ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS: Uvalde PD was the one receiving the 911 calls for 45 minutes, while officers were sitting in the hallway for 19 -- 19 officers sitting in a hallway for 45 minutes. We don't know if it was being communicated to those people or not.


JARRETT: Court records show that search warrants have been issued for the teen gunman's cellphone, the truck he was driving and his grandparent's home.

ROMANS: New details about the deadly mass shooting at that hospital building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Police say the shooter, Michael Louis, legally purchased the AR-15 style rifle he used three hours before that rampage. When Louis entered the building, he shot and killed his surgeon, Dr. Preston Phillips, he shot and killed other people before fatally shooting himself. Officers say they discovered evidence on Lewis that points to a motive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have also found a letter on the suspect which made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way. He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.


ROMANS: Authorities identified the other three victims as Dr. Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn, and a patient there, William Love.

JARRETT: And in New York, Buffalo shooting suspect Payton Gendron has pleaded not guilty to a 25 count indictment. Also included in the indictment, a charge of domestic terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree. Now, this is the first time that charge is actually being used since it became law in New York in 2020. Prosecutors will have to prove that at least five people were killed with a racial motivation.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, how a diplomatic breakthrough could help the White House tame oil prices.

JARRETT: Can you count on Social Security? New estimates on when some funds could run dry.


ROMANS: And South Florida bracing for what could be a tropical storm.


JARRETT: Welcome back.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for southwest Florida. A potential tropical cyclone near the Yucatan Peninsula is expected to develop into a tropical depression or storm and it could move across southern and central Florida on Saturday.

Meteorologist Gene Norman is tracking the system from the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Gene, it sounds like Florida is going to get it.

GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. They're going to get a lot of heavy rain, some wind, but really, rain is the big, big problem, with this system.


It's not yet become a named storm, it is kind of lopsided. Hurricane hunter planes were just in there within the last couple of hours, and all they found was that the winds have increased a little bit from 35 to 40 miles per hour. But we expect this storm to become a tropical storm and that is why the Hurricane Center has issued warnings now which do extend over to Miami and just from Ft. Myers all the way down to Key West.

So the areas in blue are places that will see the tropical storm conditions within the next 12 hours. So that is why the warnings have been hoisted.

The latest track from the Hurricane Center shows that the system will become a tropical storm later today and then cross southwest Florida sometime Saturday. Maybe from 10:00 to around 12:00 and then continue harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean.

But this big system will be bringing heavy rain and it will start in about 12 hours, it won't stop until programs late on Saturday night. And we talking about rainfall that could be a flooding amount. Anywhere from 6 to 10 inches in this red shaded area from west palm back to Naples.

Laura, there could be someplace places get almost a foot. So it will be a real mess down there.

JARRETT: Anything continuing harmlessly is what you want to hear though, Gene. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. In Texas now, a convicted murderer on the run for weeks since escaping from a prison bus has been killed in a shoot-out with police. Authorities say 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez killed a Houston family of five, including one adult and four children, and then fled with their truck. Lopez was serving a life sentence for a 2006 murder conviction.

JARRETT: Now to this, President Biden is planning to meet with Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. This is as OPEC agrees to boost oil production with energy costs skyrocketing around the globe.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live in Washington, D.C.

Natasha, this OPEC deal is really significant because behind the scenes the White House had really been working on this. So when is it likely to take place and where?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, that's right. So the White House has been working for months to convince OPEC to increase production because they say it could stabilize oil markets globally and it could help drive prices down. Saudi Arabia had been extremely reluctant to do that, so the White House is now viewing this as a major diplomatic breakthrough, not only showing that they convinced the Saudis of course to ramp up that production, but also just in the broader relationship that had been so strained over the last year since Biden took office.

So this meeting now is expected to take place in Riyadh, and the capital Saudi Arabia later this month. Now, details are still being worked out and finalized, but what we're told, this is likely to coincide with a meeting of the Gulf Corporation Council. And Saudi Arabia is the president right now of the GCC, which is why president Biden would be traveling to Saudi Arabia for the GCC meeting. And so, what the White House telling us, they are framing this as, you know -- our sources are telling us I should say that this is not just a trip that is being planned so that Biden can meet one-on-one with MBS, this is a broader meeting of all of the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia chair has that council. So, of course, the president would have to heat with MBS directly.

But it is such a dramatic shift from what we've seen from the White House over the last year especially even before Biden took office when he promised to make Saudi Arabia a global pariah. Of course, he had been highly critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, of course, for his role, according to the United States, in the murder of that "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as Saudi Arabia's litany of other human rights abuses.

And so this is really kind of a turnabout and recognition within the White House that they need Saudi Arabia to help isolate Russia and, of course, also on the oil issue.

JARRETT: All right. Natasha, thank you so much for your reporting.

ROMANS: So OPEC's boost an important win for the White House, the Biden White House. But it hasn't stabilized oil prices at least not yet. Oil prices spiking after the announcement. U.S. crude jumping 1.9 percent to $117 a barrel.

Gas prices breaking records almost every day now. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of unleaded is now $4.76. Look how much it's up in just the last week.

The head of the International Energy Agency's watchdog group says we have an oil crisis, a gas crisis and an electric crisis all at once, and this energy crunch is much bigger than the 1970s and '80s, and will, quote, probably last longer. So, which is one reason why you're seeing it very difficult to stabilize energy prices right here.

JARRETT: Coming up next for you, day 100 of the war in Ukraine. It's hard to believe it has been 100 days. But what does Vladimir Putin have to show for it?

ROMANS: And saving America's safety net. Why Congress needs to act or else.



JARRETT: Today marks the 100th day of Russia's war on Ukraine. The capital Kyiv has not collapsed and the will of the Ukrainian people has not been broken. But still, President Zelenskyy confirms about 20 percent of his country is now under Russian control with the Donbas region, quote, almost entirely destroyed.

CNN's Matthew Chance joins us from Kyiv.

Matthew, you have been covering this from the very beginning. So set the table for us.

Where do things stand after 100 days and where is the conflict headed?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a difficult question to answer in terms of where high school heading, because the outcome of the war obviously has not been decided yet. They are still fighting ferociously to, you know, each other in various parts of the country, particularly in the east of the country.

But the toll so far has been absolutely heartbreaking and enormous, in terms of the casualties. And we haven't got exact figures, but number of dead on both sides will go into the tens of thousands of people, whether soldiers of civilians. And in the Kyiv region alone, just right the Ukrainian capital, according to the Ukrainian government, 1,300 Ukrainian civilians killed, hundreds others that are missing and haven't been able to locate them, so a proportion of them will be dead as well.

There has been a massive movement of people outside of Ukraine, 5 million -- 13 million are internally displaced, 5 million out of the country, many to Russia. And, of course, there's been vast areas of this country of Ukraine that have been occupied by Russian forces. Take a listen on what Volodymyr Zelenskyy had to say about that issue on the eve of this 100 day anniversary of the conflict.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As of now, nearly 20 percent of our territory is under the control of occupiers, almost 125,000 square kilometers. There is more than the territory of all Benelux countries together. Nearly 300,000 square kilometers are polluted with mines and unexploded ordnance.


CHANCE: And that is about the size of the area of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg put together, the size of New York state essentially. So, a lot of territory has been taken by the Russia. There's still fierce fighting taking place particularly around Severodonetsk which is the last city that is still -- at least a part of it under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas. And so there is a fierce fight for that.

But there are also counterattacks taking place elsewhere in the country as well. Ukrainian forces taking back dozens of villages they say from the Russians who had occupied those territories earlier in the past couple of weeks. So still an ebb and flow in this conflict and its outcome yet to be decided -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Well, Matthew, thank you for your reporting. Appreciate it.

Meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the head of the African Union today. Putin's war on Ukraine is accelerating the food insecurity in Africa.

And CNN's David McKenzie is live for us in Johannesburg.

David, can African leaders really convince Putin to solve a problem that he basically helped create?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are trying to, Laura. It is really hard to underestimate the impact -- or overestimate the impact that this could have. As the war drags out as Matthew was describing, there will be a severe impact on global food security.

Russian warships and mines are blockading key ports particularly Odesa on the Black Sea coast that are stopping millions of tons of grain from Ukraine to get exported out. Many countries on the African continent especially are heavily dependent on Ukrainian and Russian grain, fertilizer, oil from seeds. And that is not getting out in the volumes that it needs to get out.

That means in the short term, economists say that there will be more increasing prices. In the medium to long term, it could actually be a lack of supply of food. That is why the head of African Union is in Sochi to meet with Vladimir Putin to try to figure out a way to possibly unblock that port that might be a long shot in the short term.

There has also been complaints from African nations that the sanctions including the squeeze on the SWIFT payment system is complicating the ability to buy grain itself. So there is an opportunity that Putin sees to those non-aligned or ambivalent countries about this conflict, to try to force his agenda to get the food out and look like the hero when in fact he caused the issue, as you said -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: David, thank you. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. So here in the U.S. the clock is ticking on Social Security. A new estimate says that money runs out for full Social Security benefits in about 13 years unless Congress acts. Looking just at the fund that covers retirement survivors benefits, Social Security can only cover full benefits until the year 2034. Payroll taxes only cover about three quarters of benefits owed.

The fund for disability insurance looks much better. There is enough money there for at least the next 75 years. Trustees now estimate fewer workers will end up on disability than they previously briefly thought.

There's also new estimates for Medicare, the fund for Medicare part A that covers inpatient hospital benefits that can only pay full benefits.