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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Soon: Biden And Israeli Prime Minister To Hold Joint News Conference; Today: WNBA Star's Lawyers In Moscow To Argue For Light Sentence; New Developments In Federal And State Fights Over Abortion Rights. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 14, 2022 - 05:30   ET



TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: More records were broken. Waco, 108 yesterday. It broke it by one. The record went back to 1933. College Station, 106. That record went back to 1901.

Advisories, Erica -- a good chunk of real estate in central -- east central Texas just in the last hour, extended northward. We're looking at triple digits again for the next several days. Look at this. Dallas, get ready -- a heat index near 110 once again.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, find your air conditioning --


HILL: -- and check on those older folks who you may know as well.

SATER: Yes, good point.

HILL: Tom, appreciate it. Thank you.

Does religious freedom protect your right to an abortion? More on a Florida rabbi's legal challenge just ahead. Plus, what is at stake in Brittney Griner's next court appearance? That is just two hours from now in Moscow.



HILL: About 90 minutes from now President Biden set to hold a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The two leaders likely to face questions about not just their different views on Iran, of course, but also the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live in Jerusalem this morning with more. Kaitlan, we know those differences are there. What more do you expect to hear this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica, if yesterday was the warm welcome for President Biden here in Israel, today is when they're actually going to get down to brass tacks and talk about the much tricker issues between the two of them. And you just saw President Biden and the prime minister of Israel,

Prime Minister Lapid, briefly as they were meeting. At the end of their meeting they joked that they had talked about American baseball but obviously, there's more on the agenda between the two of them.

And one of the number one issues that they will be discussing today is Iran and countering Iran slowing down its nuclear program, which is really one of the main tenets of why President Biden is making this trip to the Middle East and one of the core issues that he is going to be -- to be discussing with the world leaders while he is here.

And so, the issue at hand is that they agree that they both want to counter Iran, but the disagreement is over the strategy and how exactly to do that. Because, of course, you've seen as the United States and this administration has tried to get Iran back to the table when it comes to that nuclear agreement that the former president, President Trump, withdrew from.

Israel disagrees. They think a new deal would not do enough to restrict Iran's activities not just when it comes to enriching its nuclear program but also when it comes to their other activities that Israel says are destabilizing in the Middle East.

You saw this interview President Biden gave yesterday where he said he would force against Iran but only as a last resort. And that's a hardening of language that we've seen from President Biden from the way he's spoken, but aides say it's not really a policy change.

So that is just one of many issues that is going to come up today and that President Biden and the prime minister will likely be asked about when they come in this room just moments from now to take questions from reporters. But, of course, there's a whole slew of them, including President Biden's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, which he is going to tomorrow.

But he does still have a full day of meetings here, Erica -- not just meeting with the Israeli prime minister, he's also going to be meeting with the president of Israel, the head of the opposition party. That is Benjamin Netanyahu as is customary given they have got elections coming up here in Israel as well.

So, yesterday was the warm welcome where you saw the celebrations and the briefings. He went to Yad Vashem as well to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors that he met with in person there. Today is going to be really the business meetings of the focus of the trip.

HILL: It certainly will and that will keep you busy as well, my friend. Kaitlan, appreciate it. Thank you.

Happening today, WNBA star Brittney Griner's legal team will be arguing for leniency in her sentencing. This, after she pleaded guilty to drug charges last week in a Moscow courtroom. Griner, of course, was detained and has been in a Russian jail since being charged with smuggling cannabis oil inside her suitcase in February. She faces up to 10 years behind bars. CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London this morning. Clare, what specifically will they be arguing as they push for that lenient sentence?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica, they're going to try several different tacts here.

One is the fact that she pleaded guilty -- so, sort of, standing up and accepting responsibility for this. The fact that she said that this was a crime without intent. She said that she didn't intend to pack these vape cartridges containing cannabis oil; she was just packing in a hurry. So that's one side.

They're also going to be talking about her character, we expect, and her contribution to sports, both in the world and in Russia where she has, for a number of years, played basketball in the WNBA off-season like a number of her colleagues. So that is one thing.

They're going to try to push for a more lenient sentence -- very important, of course, when charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.

But, of course, the bigger issue is really how to get her out of Russia. Russian officials have said that they don't think any kind of next steps can be discussed until the trial is over. We don't know if there's going to be a verdict today. Her lawyers have said they expect it to be over by early August and then, perhaps, we can move to the next steps.

We know, for example, that former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who has been instrumental in previously getting detained Americans out of foreign countries, including, recently, Trevor Reed, who was detained in Russia. He is expected to travel to Moscow in the coming weeks to talk about the case of Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, who is also detained in Russia.

So the trial -- you know, we watch today to see what would happen. They are going to be discussing the sentencing but we don't know if this will be the conclusion as of yet.

HILL: All right, Clare, appreciate the update. Thank you.

Just ahead here, the Biden administration warning pharmacies that refusing to fill prescriptions for medication abortions could violate federal law.


Plus, a man who once sued Boston's police department is now running it.


HILL: New developments this morning in the battle over abortion access. The Biden administration says turning away patients with prescriptions for drugs that could be used to end a pregnancy actually violates federal law. Now, some of the drugs the administration lists may also be prescribed for other conditions, including arthritis.

In response, CVS said it would evaluate that guidance while noting that it currently instructs pharmacists in certain states to make sure those drugs are not intended to terminate a pregnancy.

In South Carolina, abortion providers filing a lawsuit to challenge the state's 6-week ban on abortion claiming that parts of that law violate several parts of South Carolina's state constitution.

Meantime, an update out of Ohio where a man has now been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion. The girl was three days past that state's 6-week ban on the procedure. Her story garnering national attention. Twenty-seven-year- old Gerson Fuentes is now being held on $2 million bond.


In Florida, a rabbi is challenging the state's law banning abortion after 15 weeks, arguing that it infringes on religious freedom. In his suit, which was filed last month before Roe was overturned, Rabbi Barry Silver notes that in Jewish law, life begins at birth and that a fetus is part of a pregnant person's body.

Time Magazine staff writer Abigail Abrams joining me now. Abigail, you've been covering this. As we look at the reasoning that's laid out in this lawsuit what are you hearing from legal experts? Could this push looking at things through a religious lens -- through a separation of church and state lens -- actually have some merit?

ABIGAIL ABRAMS, TIME MAGAZINE STAFF WRITER (via Skype): Yes, it's a really interesting argument they're making here.

So, as you said, in Jewish law, it's a really different idea of when life begins. Then we're seeing lots of Christians say what lots of these laws are premised on. And legal experts are saying that these -- this lawsuit and potentially, future lawsuits, could stand up.

There is precedent around this. In the '70s, actually, people tried to challenge abortion restrictions based on religious liberty grounds.

And now, we're hearing that other religious groups and faith groups are planning similar litigation after this Florida case. So people are planning in other states, like Florida, to try to push back on the idea that in their -- that the -- that these laws define when life begins for one religion, they're saying. But in Judaism, potentially, Muslims could file cases --

HILL: Yes.

ABRAMS: -- and other Christians as well, saying that these laws infringe on their ability to practice their own religion.

HILL: As we watch what develops in that arena there's also been more of a push in a number of states by groups -- among them, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood -- depending on where you are, filing suit, alleging that certain state laws actually violate the constitution -- the state constitution of those states. The most recent one in South Carolina, which I just mentioned.

And one part that stood out to me was that this suit mentioned -- so, there's a 6-week ban. Now, there are exceptions in South Carolina for the life of the mother -- rape or incest -- but this lawsuit, in particular, says that because the abortion seeker's information would have to be provided to law enforcement because the provider has to let them know what happened if somebody was a victim of rape, that infringes on privacy protections in South Carolina.

We're seeing a lot more of this and it's led, actually, in some cases to some temporary injunctions. How much has that become a focus -- going after, at the state level, privacy that is actually engrained in state constitutions?

ABRAMS: Yes. These state constitutions are a huge focus now because they -- we don't have the federal protection that was there under Roe v. Wade. Now, abortion rights advocates and these lawyers challenging the new laws have really turned to those state constitutions and are fighting that on a number of fronts. And in many cases, the states actually have more protections in their state constitutions than there were at the federal level. So they're really getting creative in trying to make new arguments there.

HILL: The politics, obviously, is always a big part of this. I know you cover a lot of politics as well.

Is there a sense yet of how much this is really starting to influence what we will hear on both sides of the aisle as we move into November?

ABRAMS: Absolutely. In some cases, it's going to be pivotal in races for November. There are a lot of governorship races where it's going to be really important -- in Michigan, in Wisconsin, and in Pennsylvania. In particular, those states where there is divided party control, abortion has become a real top issue in elections that we're going to see.

And that will be true at the attorney general level now --

HILL: Yes.

ABRAMS: -- because those positions have a lot of control over whether these abortion laws will be enforced. So this is going to be a top issue in a lot of key states.

HILL: Yes, it certainly will.

Abigail Abrams, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

A former employee of the CIA convicted for carrying out the largest leak of classified data in the agency's history. Joshua Schulte worked as a computer engineer within the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence. He is accused of giving WikiLeaks a huge trove of classified data in 2016, which detailed how the CIA breaks into computers, smartphones, and even TVs. WikiLeaks published the leak, known as Vault 7 in 2017.

A federal jury in New York found Schulte guilty Wednesday of all nine counts he was facing, including illegal gathering of national defense information.


Boston's newly-named police commissioner once sued the department and won. Michael Cox is a former Boston officer. He was mistaken for a suspect and severely beaten by other officers back in 1995. He then successfully sued the department, claiming it had tried to cover up that incident.


MICHAEL COX, INCOMING BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: After this incident happened, I had a choice -- either quit, leave, or stay -- and I chose to stay because I believe in policing in a community-friendly way. My goal was to learn and grow and be a model for the police department and the people in the police department to make sure that kind of incident never happened again.


HILL: Well, in terms of staying, Michael Cox is a 30-year veteran of the force.

And just ahead here, frustration over a lack of access to the monkeypox vaccines. And why 10 Kansas City Royals will miss the next series in Toronto.



HILL: A cheaper version of Netflix is coming but, perhaps not surprisingly, there's a catch.




HILL: Fans of "INVENTING ANNA" and other Netflix hits could save money if -- and here's the if -- you're willing to sit through some commercials. Netflix says it's teaming up with Microsoft to launch a cheaper version of its streaming service with ads. Reports say Netflix told employees that the new service could actually launch by the end of the year.

The 150th British Open is underway in Scotland. All eyes on Tiger Woods. He tees off in a few hours.

Andy Scholes joining us now with more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, good morning.


So the old course at St. Andrews -- you know, it's considered the home of golf. That's where golf started in the early 1400s. And this year, the course holding the 150th Open Championship.

Tiger Woods set to tee off in just about four hours from now. He's won two of his three Open Championships at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005. And Tiger says he feels stronger now than he did going into the Masters and the PGA Championship, and he has had this tournament circled on his calendar.


TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: For the most part of my rehab was just that I was hoping that I could -- I could walk again. But lo and behold, I'm -- I've played championship golf this year. And once I realized that I could possibly play at a high level, my focus was to get back here at St. Andrews to play in this championship. I just didn't want to miss this Open here at the home of golf. This has meant so much to me.


SCHOLES: And here's a look at the early leaderboard. A good day to be named Cameron. You've got three Camerons right now in the top 10. Rory McIlroy, the favorite this year -- he's one under through three.

All right. The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, will be without 10 of their 26 players for a series against the Blue Jays starting tonight because Canada requires the COVID-19 vaccination for entry. The 10 players, including the team's only All-Star, Andrew Benintendi, were all placed on the restricted list yesterday. They won't be paid for the games missed and they're going to be replaced with some Minor Leaguers.

Manager Mike Matheny says he's disappointed but it's a personal decision made by the players.


MIKE MATHENY, KANSAS CITY ROYALS MANAGER: It is -- it's an individual choice. The organization has done a real good job of bringing in professionals and experts to just talk guys through tough conversations and then put it in their hands to make the decision they believe is best for them and their family.

Do we want our Major League team on the field? The answer is yes. But right now, this is the situation that we're in and we're looking forward to somebody else stepping in and making the most of the opportunity.


SCHOLES: Elsewhere, Shohei Ohtani just continuing to dominate. He joined Nolan Ryan as the only Angels pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters in four straight starts. Ohtani fanning 12 Astros last night. He also tripled in the game -- the first Angels pitcher to do that since Nolan Ryan back in 1972. The Angels won that one 7-1. Ohtani has now his last six starts. All right -- and there have been three walk-offs on wild pitches this year -- two of them happened last night. D.J. LeMahieu capping off his 34th birthday by sliding across the plate on Alexis Diaz's second- straight wild pitch in the 10th inning. We're seeing a home run here, though. The Yankees did rally from a 4-run deficit to beat the Reds 7- 6 to stop a 3-game losing streak in that one.

In Miami, Pirates pitcher David Bednar with the wild pitch in the 10th inning. And the Marlins' Jesus Aguilar didn't slide for some reason but he came back to tap the plate for a walk-off win.

And Erica, both the Orioles and Mariners getting their 10th win in a row last night. It's Baltimore's first 10-game winning streak since 1999. Cal Ripken was still on the team then. So you've got some excited fans right now in those two cities.

HILL: Yes, you certainly do.

Good to see you this morning, Andy. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

HILL: Thanks to all of you for joining us on EARLY START. I'm Erica Hill. Stayed tuned. "NEW DAY" starts right now.