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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senate Republicans Open Door to Some Gun Reform; National Average Hits New Record of $4.92 Per Gallon; Proud Boys Leader, 4 Others, Charged with Seditious Conspiracy; British PM Johnson Survives No Confidence Vote Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, June 7th.

I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A lot to get to this Tuesday.

ROMANS: Yes, indeed.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett.

And we begin with Senate Republicans opening the door to a deal on gun reform, but signaling they're only going to go so far.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): We're not talking about banning a category weapons across the board, a ban for certain high capacity magazines, or changing the background check system by adding additional disqualifying items. If we're going to be actually serious about finding common ground, and building consensus, those sorts of things will stand no chance of passing the Senate.


JARRETT: You hear a lot of what they're not going to do --

ROMANS: What's on the table, we know it's off the table?

JARRETT: Yeah. So that's Texas Senator John Cornyn, of course, chief negotiator for the Republicans in these bipartisan talks on a gun safety deal, a limited deal to be clear, but one that is now building momentum in the wake of the Uvalde school massacre.

So, what's already off the table here, raising the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic weapon, like an AR-15 that we've seen in so many of these shootings, raising that age to 21. But Republicans say they are looking at changing criminal background checks to include essentially scouring the juvenile records which would create an enhanced waiting period. So what's on the table in the bipartisan talks? Well, creating

incentives for states to pass red flag laws. Those are the laws that are actually used properly can keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a danger to themselves, or others. Also an issue here, improving the background check system that already exist, more money for mental health and beeping up school security.

ROMANS: What we know is that there is not one single thing that would fix all the gun violence, right? It has to be some kind of --

JARRETT: Package.

ROMANS: -- package of little things, and big things together that would change, you know, our relationship with gun violence in this country. Red flag laws I find so interesting. Listening to our -- our Steve Contorno from CNN wrote an amazing piece about Florida, for example. Judges in Florida who had taken away for 8,000 people in Florida over the past couple of years since Parkland. He said, you can't have a weapon because the police and of course I found that you are a danger to yourself, or somebody else.

So you can see where these red flag laws in New York in some casers as well, have actually been working. So fascinating to see if red flag laws get more prominence here, and the national incentives for states to do them.

JARRETT: Well, that's the question, how do you make it politically advantageous for someone like Rick Scott in Florida, a Republican, to figure out that, no, actually this is going to work for me and I'm actually not going to lose my seat, and it's the right thing to do.

How do you get all those things done?

ROMANS: And how do you do with the NRA, with a gun lobby that is almost against any of these measures?

All right. Three minutes past the hour, let's talk about gas prices quickly. I want to show you, up another nickel overnight. Yeah, AAA says tonight's national average for a gallon of regular, $4.92. Ten states are now averaging over $5 a gallon. The question is what to do about it?

Our Phil Mattingly asked the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE CORRESPONDENT: Are there new initiatives, new policy proposal that your team is working through right now that could possibly have an effect and you could roll out in weeks ahead if prices continue where they've been?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS ECRETARY: So everything is on the table, as you heard us say over the last couple of weeks, but we're going to continue to do everything that we can. I don't have anything to preview for you.


ROMANS: Everything is on the table but no new specifics there. What we do know is that the president, President Biden, plans to visit Saudi Arabia as part of a bid to encourage OEPC to pump more oil, that big cartel.

The White House also emphasizing high gas prices are a global issue. More than 100 countries have gas prices higher than the U.S. as of last week, highest gas prices in the world Hong Kong, $11.20 a gallon, followed by Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and the Central African Republic. The lowest, Venezuela, eight cents a gallon, and then Libya, Iran, Syria, Algeria and Kuwait.

American gas prices are among the lowest in the industrialized world because of fewer taxes for consumers and tax breaks for big producers. That is interesting that that has been a push from the White House that this is a global energy problem. But in the United States when you are filling up the gas tank and you are paying $40 more --

JARRETT: You don't care what is happening in Venezuela.

ROMANS: No, it just -- it just hurts. So that is why the polls show that there is so much pessimism about the economy.

JARRETT: Coming up, the military investigating whether a U.S. service member was behind an attack on an American base in Syria.


ROMANS: Plus, the far right extremist now facing the most serious charges to emerge from the January 6th attack.

JARRETT: And later, fake friends? We have an expert who are going to tell us how many of your friends on social media are really robots.


JARRETT: Welcome back.

Continuing our coverage, negotiations in the Senate toward a deal on gun security and safety. As we've been discussing Republicans are open to incentives for red flag laws and better background checks but ruling out increasing the minimum age for assault weapon purchase or banning assault-style weapons all together.

Let's bring in CNN politics writer Zachary Wolf.


Zach, good morning. Nice to see you.

You've been doing some reporting on this and you write that the key to gun legislation is all about messaging. So what's missing from the current conversation?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: You know, I think that you hear a lot of Democrats talk about this, Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, talks about how he'd much rather have an assault weapons ban, he'd much rather ban high capacity magazines, but can he accomplish what he can get enough votes for and that is essential essentially getting enough Republicans to buy in.

And if you listen to the way Republicans refer to this, Mitch McConnell doesn't even want to use the word guns when he refers to this legislation. It is mental health legislation. Senator John Cornyn says that he can't buy into anything that restricts the Second Amendment. So they are just saying that it can't appear at least to them do anything about guns, which is a difficult way to approach gun legislation from the outset.

But I think that there is something there. When you look at the end of the day, that is how you get to the ten votes.

ROMANS: So, a common denominator, not all of them, but in so many of these shootings, mass shootings are the weapon, the assault style, AR- 15-style weapon, that for some reason has an aura in the brain of a potential school shooter, a mass shooter, right? We know that there is something about that gun that is very attractive to people who want to hurt as many people as quickly as possible. And we know that the damage it ask to these little bodies in schools is horrific.

Now, GOP senators though have signaled had raising the age to purchase one of those is most likely off the table. Why?

WOLF: Again, I think it goes back to not wanting to restrict rights. And it doesn't in a lot of ways make any sense because those same people 18 to 21 can't buy handguns.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: They can buy AR-15s. So because of this strangeness of the law where back when we made gun laws we made it illegal for people under 18 to buy handguns although there are loopholes for that as there are for everything else, we said that they could buy rifles. AR-15 is considered to be a rifle even though it is high powered.

People who know a lot about guns always get on you about, well, you technically said this wrong, you technically said that wrong. These are large, you know, guns that are high powered and as you said, can do so much damage. But they are the ones that are legal for younger people to buy.

ROMANS: It is so fascinating. We had a behavioral profiler, somebody who has spent her career studying the behavior progression of school shooters and mass shooters, Zach. And it was so interesting, she said so many of them are sort of ambivalent, they are waiting for something to cause them to stop the shooting before it happens. And one of those things is not getting a hold of the weapon so young.

That might be literally just the little road block that could stop a shooter, but that doesn't seem to be what they are talking about.

JARRETT: Yeah, even just a longer waiting period might be thing. Zach, thank you so much. I know you are working a lot on this, so we'll have you back soon.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. The leader of the far right Proud Boys and four top associates now charged with seditious conspiracy related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. They are the second group tied to the Capitol siege to face this rare and serious charge.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is live in Washington.

Katelyn, what does it mean for the case against the extremist group?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Christine, we are just having now a longer and more complex court battle than we thought we were going to have against the Proud Boys. So these five Proud Boys that we saw a new charge against yesterday, the seditious conspiracy charge, it is five Proud Boys who are leaders, including Enrique Tarrio, all of those people were charged before. They were previously charged with this conspiracy to obstruct the congressional proceedings on January 6.

Now prosecutors are just upping the ante here in court. They are filing that making it a seditious conspiracy charge. And the difference there is that it is a little more complex for prosecutors to bring against the Oath Keepers -- sorry, against the Proud Boys. It is also politically has a lot more oomph. It is more ambitious to bring a case like this against a group.

And it is also very rare charge. We don't often see this charge in federal court. And the last time the Justice Department tried to bring it against a militia group, it was against a group in Michigan in 2010 and it ultimately was unsuccessful.

So this Proud Boys case, it is new, because it is a new and more serious charge, but we do have a long road ahead in court for prosecutors to have as they push forward against the Proud Boys.

ROMANS: You know, Katelyn, members of another group called the Oath Keepers are also facing this charge, right?

POLANTZ: That's exactly right. We do have a case against another militia group that was involved on January 6, the Oath Keepers. That case is a little bit more mature already. They too have a long road ahead before trial.

But the Oath Keepers are indeed facing this. There is a little bit more cooperators that we know of that the Justice Department has signed up already. Their lawyers are already arguing against this case.

The Proud Boys are not there yet. We haven't even seen them formally respond to the case in court. They're going to be in court later this week.

ROMANS: All right. We know you'll be following it for us. Thank you, Katelyn. Thanks for getting up early for us this morning.

POLANTZ: Thanks.

JARRETT: All right. Let's dig a little deeper and bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. He's the host of the podcast "That Said with Michael Zeldin", and is also a former federal prosecutor.

Michael, so nice to see you again. Always great to have you break down these types of cases. A seditious conspiracy, explain to our viewers exactly what that is. You heard Katelyn talk about how rare these cases are. The Justice Department has lost these cases in the past, but if not this case, when else would there be one that would probably stick as on point as this?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, exactly right. They allege that this group of people, these Proud Boys and previously the Oath Keepers, conspired to essentially interrupt the workings of the government by force, by violence. And that is an act of sedition and that is a conspiracy because they were a group of people.

And so the charges essentially you, Proud Boys, you Oath Keepers, conspired to essentially overturn our government by force and you will be charged with that as a criminal law violation.

JARRETT: Now, the witnesses who interacted with the Proud Boys are going to be featured in the hearing we understand. But we still haven't really seen actually at all a link between this group, this fringe group, or the Oath Keepers, and the Trump campaign or the former president himself, right?

ZELDIN: Correct. We have not seen that link, though there is an interesting thing that has happened as well, which is that there is new information out there that the Trump campaign, Trump administration, was trying to get this false electors scheme underway in seven different states. And that false electors scheme was instrumental in the overturning of the election as aspect of it.

So if there is a connection between the false electors and Proud Boys all conspiring together to prevent Vice President Pence from certifying this election, then you are an inch closer to a broad conspiracy to interfere with the functioning of our government and that could be the link that you are asking about.

JARRETT: OK. So I'm glad you made that connection because we have these new emails that are coming to light to show the Trump campaign actually told these fake electors in Georgia to use complete secrecy regarding the plans.

Doesn't that speak volumes to you about their intent here if they are trying to cover it up?

ZELDIN: Sure, it speaks to whether or not they had a state of mind which indicated that what they were doing was improper, perhaps even illegal. So when you say to somebody, please do this illegal act secretly, then sure, it indicates the possibility that you knew clearly that what you were doing was improper, that it was part of this broad scheme to prevent the certification of the Biden win, to throw this back to the states where they were hoping that the Republican legislatures would then decertify the Biden electors place instead the Trump electors.

It is complicated but that is exactly what they were trying to do and it looks like perhaps as I say there is an inch closer for the Proud Boys to be part of this broad effort.

JARRETT: All right, we'll see whether that link is made. Michael Zeldin, thank you so much. Appreciate it, my friend.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, another Russian general falls on the battlefield in Ukraine.

JARRETT: And ever send a text you wish you could take back? Well, it might be finally possible on your iPhone.



ROMANS: Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

The United States military now investigating whether an American service member set off explosives during an insider attack against a U.S. base in northern Syria. Four service members were injured in this April incident. U.S. officials say they have identified a suspect but do not believe that person is still in Syria.

They initially thought the explosions were caused by rocket or mortar fire from militia group. Now they believe explosive charges were deliberately placed at an ammunition holding area and a shower facility.

JARRETT: In the U.K., British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has narrowly survived a no-confidence vote by lawmakers in his own Conservative Party. Dismissing the cliffhanger, he vowed to press on for the people.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What this gives us is the opportunity to put behind us all the stuff that I know the media quite probably wanted to focus on for a very long time and to do our job, which is to focus on the stuff that I think the public actually want us to be talking about, which is what we are doing to help the people in this country and all the things we're doing to take this country forward.


JARRETT: Let's go live to London and bring in CNN's Nina Dos Santos.

Nina, good morning.

Johnson has survived this, but he's got to be weakened by the fact that this vote in his own party even happened.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDTOR: Yeah, that's absolutely right, Laura.

What this does is this shows just how many of his own members of parliament are against him and it is most resounding rejection of a conservative prime minister that we've had in recent living memory. This is the worst confidence vote result that we've seen in a British conservative prime minister have back to the 1990s when even Margaret Thatcher had to leave office despite the fact that she got a little bit more of a showing of support. Theresa May back in 2018, she managed to muster more support from her unruly MPs after her much stewardship of Brexit, if you like, and their discontent with that. She still had to resign from office despite getting more support than Boris Johnson and she did that within months.

So the real question here, is the prime minister fatally wounded or is he just chastised? Well, we'll have to see how the cabinet that is meeting at the moment comes out and whether we can read their faces, see what kind of messages that we'll see on Twitter, support of discontent that continues. There are a few hurdles for Boris Johnson to overcome over the next weeks and months. One, we've got two local bi-elections taking place, seats in Southern England and Northern England likely to be taken by opposition parties according to the polls. And then further down the line, by 2024, the conservatives have to hold an election and that will be difficult do if 41 percent of Boris Johnson's own party don't want him as leader of his party. They are likely to try to frustrate his legislative agenda.

In theory, according to the conservative party rules, he is now safe and dry for the next year, but there is already talk of changing those rules so he could face another vote of no confidence if this dissent continues -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. We'll see. Nina, thank you.

Just ahead for you, the U.S. tries to put a squeeze on a Russian oligarch through his billion dollar airplanes.

ROMANS: And Elon Musk promises to take aim at fake Twitter bots. How big is that problem on social media?