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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Fierce Temperatures Trigger Fires, Drought Around the Globe; Jury Selection in Steve Bannon Contempt of Congress Case; Former Trump NSC Official to Testify at Next January 6 Committee Hearing; White House Struggles with Americans Discontent over Economy. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2022 - 05:00   ET



KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, July 19. I'm Kristin Fisher in for Christine Romans.

And we begin with extreme weather all over the world. In the U.S., more than 60 million people are expected to see a high temperature above 90 degrees in the next week. Record highs have forced the Texas power grid operator to warn people to cut back on the ac or face possible blackouts.

Extreme heat also roasting southern Europe with wildfires raging in France and Spain and a worsening drought in Italy and Portugal. And in the U.K., Monday was the third hottest day on record and today promises to be even hotter.

And China is experiencing a massive heat wave with dozens of cities announcing heat alerts.

We have live reports from North America, Asia and Europe and our coverage begins with Melissa Bell in France.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Southern Europe in flames. Vast swathes of the Mediterranean engulfed by wildfires driven by the sweltering temperatures of Europe's second heat wave this summer, from Portugal through Spain, Italy and France, where one of two massive fires near the city ten to rage and spread.

Down here on the ground, you get a real sense of what the firefighters are facing. These parched conditions, the earth already dry for so many months of high temperatures and hose high temperatures still continuing. What the firemen in this case, French air force firemen are having to do is find those parts of the fire inside the contained zone and put them out as quickly as they can.

For nearly a week now, temperatures across Europe have soared. In Spain and Portugal, more than 1,000 people have died amid record heat with temperatures set to rise further and as far north as the United Kingdom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear message to the public is to take the sensible steps in terms of water, shade and cover. We're asking people to keep an eye out for their neighbors and those who may be vulnerable.

BELL: The Rome region has declared a state of emergency. After several weeks of drought, some Italian towns now banning the use of water for washing cars and watering gardens with fines up to $500.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's ridiculous because the population tries to save money by having a vegetable garden and then you prevent them from watering it. I understand not washing the car, but the vegetable garden, it is absurd.

BELL: These are the beaches of southwestern France, the Atlantic coast where so much of France is accustomed to coming to spend its summer holidays. And yet the beach is completely evacuated, the camping grounds as well. Many of those thousands of people who have been asked to go elsewhere were people who come here on holiday.

To places like Cazaux, now the scene of a battle being waged day and night in the face of record temperatures and changing winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is no let up in our efforts. It tests our equipment and our men, but we have to hold the line for as long as it takes.

BELL: A desperate battle against time and temperatures that are set to rise further still.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Cazaux, France.


FISHER: Thank you, Melissa.

Well, temperatures in Britain hitting a new nighttime record and could easily break more records today. Excessive heat is melting tarmacs and roads and even buckling train tracks. For the first time ever, the UK has issued a heat warning.

CNN's Nada Bashir is live in London.

And, Nada, I mean, this extreme heat really pushing top government officials to meet.

What are they hoping to achieve, what do they want to come out of these meetings?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: This is an urgent situation for the UK because of course figures like 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit might be typical for other parts of the world during this time of year, but this is unprecedented in the UK, well above average.

And, of course, there were those emergency government meetings to see those contingency plans put in place and what else needs to be done in order to tackle the heat and ensure that people are safe during this intense heat.


And there has been a significant focus on the National Health Service, on ensuring that ambulances and hospitals are well staffed and prepared and equipped to deal with what is expected to be an influx of calls relating to heat exhaustion.

But, of course, there are significant infrastructure challenges in the U.K. that the government is looking at. The U.K., of course, not prepared typically to deal with this level of heat. We're at kings cross station, one of the busiest stations typically in the capital, today though it is pretty quiet compared to a usual day. There were several delays, several cancellations all because really the national rail service is buckling under the pressure put in place by this intense heat.

FISHER: Thank you so much, Nada.

So from Europe to China, China is also in the middle of a blistering heat wave, as it continues to deal with that surge in COVID.

Let's go to CNN's Selina Wang in Beijing.

And, Selina, you know, you don't always think about heat impacting public health in terms of things like the coronavirus, but in this case it really is. How so?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL C ORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristin, it has been absolutely brutal for COVID health care workers. Dozens of cities across China have reported record high temperatures, some cities last week surpassing 110 degrees Fahrenheit. There have been an increasing number of reports of COVID workers collapsing and fainting on the job due to heat stroke.

This is the kind of weather that is suffocating even in a t-shirt and jeans. Now, imagine wearing a full body hazmat suit covering you from head to toe, your feet and hands, wearing that all day, that is what COVID workers across China are dealing with as they administered the COVID tests. And it is also rough for residents too that have to frequently wait in extremely long lines in the heat oftentimes without shade to get those mandatory COVID tests, this is as China has reported nearly 700 COVID cases, highest since May. There have been an increasing number of snap lockdowns and it is ruining some people's summer holidays.

Just this past weekend, thousands of tourists were trapped in a resort town after they reported a flare-up in COVID-19 cases. All of this also is bad for China's economy. You've got the threat of inflation rising as this heat wave destroys crop fields across China.

So, this heat wave not just bad for the economy, but also threatening people's lives -- Kristin. FISHER: Selina, that's a great point. I mean, a full body hazmat

suit, probably the last thing that you want to wear in a heat wave like this. Thank you so much.

So here in the U.S., more than 70 million Americans are also in the grip of these very high temperatures today. Wildfires covering thousands of acres are burning in Texas. Heat alerts cover most of the Plains, the Southwest and parts of the Mississippi Valley.

And today, some cities face forecast highs above 110 degrees. Let's get to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Pedram, how long is this heat wave going to last?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Kristin, it's a long duration heat wave. And really important to know when it comes to heat, it is the top weather killer in the United States. It is not tornadoes, not hurricanes. They get a bit of attention, but it is all about heat.

And when you are talking about this threshold of 108, 109, 110 degrees, yes, records are falling, but these are temperatures that are measured in the shade. And you factor in the humidity, you bump that up to really dangerous territory. 115 or warmer in a few spots is what it will feel like for 70-plus million Americans. And, of course, you work your way toward areas of the Northeast, eventually the heat arrives across this region, Philly, New York and Boston to push up close to 100 degrees over the next 24 to 48 hours.

But again, you notice how expansive of a coverage it is and frankly, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. It looks like a long duration setup with temps running 5 to 10 degrees above average for the foreseeable future, and essentially being becoming the new normal for a lot of areas. When it does cool off, you notice Dallas 109, 108, still well above the average of 96 which this is the hottest time of year.

But we're bumping it up a notch which is what makes this setup very dangerous and again a long duration one. And notice looking ahead to July 24th to July 28th, just about every corner above average with the extension of the Southwest, where we know it's already plenty hot there. The reason they're not above average, the monsoon season in place, Kristin, and they are seeing plenty of rainfall that is keeping the temperatures slightly cooler, but incredible coverage of heat.

FISHER: Yeah, I mean, Pedram, totally red. Well above average. Not just in the U.S. but really over most of the word. Thank you so much, Pedram.

So, just ahead, we've got new polling on inflation that could spell some big problems for the Biden White House.


Plus, new witnesses in the January 6 hearings just revealed.

And Steve Bannon standing trial for defying Congress. What to expect today in the courtroom.


FISHER: Day two of the contempt trial for Trump ally Steve Bannon. He is charged with defying subpoenas from the house committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

Here is what Steve Bannon said after court on Monday.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It was a very good first day, a long day for jury selection. I really want to thank all the jurors for being truthful and blunt. I thought that was great. We look forward to tomorrow, we're coming back and we'll get into it tomorrow. So we're looking forward.


FISHER: CNN's Katelyn Polantz is live in Washington.

Good morning, Katelyn.

So what are you expecting today in terms of opening statements?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kristin, as much as Bannon in that clip there seems pretty scroll jolly, he's tried a lot of things to stop this trial from happening.


But this morning, it is off to the races. Yesterday I was in court and the lawyers involved, they interviewed potential jurors for almost nine hours. They were able to find 22 who pledged to be unbiased and had no apparent conflicts of interest. So, they will be able to see the jury first thing tomorrow, today I'm sorry. That will start pretty early today and then we're going to be into opening statements. So, we will get to opening statements pretty quickly this morning.

And on the prosecutor side, we are expecting them to give a pretty straightforward case. So far, they believe it is Bannon got a subpoena and he chose to ignore it, he didn't show up, he didn't turnover documents. That is not going to be a long case. We expect them to present two or three witnesses and that should probably begin today, we'll start seeing witnesses.

On the defense side, we still are waiting to see exactly what Bannon's defense strategy will be from some of the questions from the lawyers yesterday on his side, it appeared that they were going to try and say that perhaps that deadline was movable, that deadline he needed to respond to those subpoenas by. But I should say this is not expected to be a very long trial. We do expect though to be in court all day today.

FISHER: Perhaps not a long trial but, Katelyn, I know you'll be there for every day of it. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much. So, CNN has learned that an official who served on Donald Trump's

National Security Council, Matthew Pottinger, will testify publicly at the next January 6 committee hearing in primetime on Thursday. Pottinger resigned after the Trump tweet attacking Mike Pence during the Capitol riot. He is set to appear long side former Trump White House aide Sarah Matthews and she too resigned shortly after January 6 saying that she was, quote, deeply disturbed by what she saw.

And Thursday's primetime January 6 committee hearing will focus on President Trump 's conduct during the Capitol attack, what happened in the White House during those critical 187 minutes. Tune into CNN's live special coverage on Thursday starting at 7:00 p.m.

Well, a new CNN poll shows Americans are very unhappy with the state of the country, especially the economy. And they don't believe that President Biden has a handle on the problem, 75 percent call inflation and the cost of living the most serious economic problem facing their family. That is way up from 43 percent last summer.

And only 25 percent approve of the president's handling of inflation. With the midterm elections approaching, the White House is trying to turn those perceptions around.

White House reporter Jasmine Wright is live in Washington.

Good morning, Jasmine.

You know, of course, the White House is trying to turn these numbers around, but they only have five months until the midterms, not a lot of time to get that done.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, that's right, Kristin. And, look, the White House is doing is what they normally do in these conditions. They're trying to tout the positive things. They tried to when President Biden was abroad and continued into yesterday and will likely go on for day and days, where they have really zero heed in on gas prices and talking about the dip in the national average of gas prices.

You can see on the screen here, today, it is $4.50. Just a month ago, it was $4.98. That is what the White House is talking about, trying to tie to what President Biden has done saying that because he is taking control in these areas, this is the reason why you are seeing some savings at the pump.

But, of course, we know how pessimistic Americans are about the economy. So that will be a tough sell. Listen to White House adviser Jared Bernstein here.


JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: We're happy to report that the current drop in the price of gas down 50 cents per gallon over the past 34 days is one of the fastest declines in retail gas prices in a decade. And since gasoline prices affect the prices of other goods and services through transportation costs, food a good example, both households that drive and households that don't yield some benefit from lower gasoline prices.


WRIGHT: So there was some positives spin from Bernstein. But we just saw the numbers, 75 percent of Americans see inflation as their top economic concern, only 25 percent of them approve of Biden's efforts trying to turn it around really.

So there is a real messaging gap between what the White House wants to say it is doing and what Americans are perceiving every day when they go to the pump or when they go to the grocery store. Now, of course, Biden campaigns on just this thing, being able to take control of the economy, being able to turn the nation around after the pandemic.

And the pessimism around the country, it seems hard that Americans believe that he is doing that right now. And any of the solutions that they have put forward including a potential bill on lower prescription drugs after Senator Joe Manchin really torpedoed a larger package do that plus climate perspective, it would not have immediate, immediate impact which is something that the White House needs because we're only 120 less days from the midterm election.


So something that is top of mind for the White House, they want to really remind Americans of, but of course this is going to be something that the White House is dealing with from now until November -- Kristin.

FISHER: Great points. Jasmine, thank you so much.

So let's bring in historian and professor at Princeton University and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer.

Good morning, Julian.


FISHER: And, you know, as Jasmine just pointed out, I mean, these are historically low numbers. Is there anything that President Biden can do to get them back up?

ZELIZER: It's going to be very hard. The time from now to the midterms, it is pretty short. You don't usually see a big reversal in how people think of the president. Obviously the big factor would be some rapid change with inflation overall that might soften some of these numbers. But this is probably what Democrats are going to be dealing with going into the midterms.

FISHER: And I think it is fair to say that the current polling isn't going to shape the 2024 election, right? That is just too far out. But the president's poor approval ratings, it really could impact these upcoming midterms.

So what can Democrats do to keep the president from dragging down the party in the midterms even though he himself is not on the ballot? ZELIZER: Well, traditionally, what you see are -- is the party trying

to separate itself from an unpopular president and one thing that they will do is focus on the positive news as we heard the administration talking about lower gas prices.

They're also going to focus on the Republican Party, they will try to make this, Democrats, as much about the GOP and what it would mean to have the GOP in control of Congress as they want to make it about how Biden is doing. That is hard to do. Midterms are usually about the president and some kind of response to the president's record. But that is what you're going to see in coming months.

FISHER: Yeah, and abortion will likely be a big talking point for Democrats heading into the midterms.

On the Republican side, Senate candidate in Pennsylvania Dr. Oz, he recently said that, quote, the MAGA movement is dying. And then you also have the popular podcaster Joe Rogan, he is also blasting the former president.

What do you think, do you think that the MAGA a movement is g dying here or is there perhaps a new leader of it?

ZELIZER: I think it is the latter. I think what is referred to as MAGA is what the Republican Party generally is in 2022. So the question in the GOP, is does the former president still carry that banner, is he still the leader of the new party, or does someone else do it differently, maybe more effectively politically?

But I don't think that the party that has been around in the last couple years that has been the center of the discussion is really changing anytime soon.

FISHER: Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, thank you so much for your time this morning.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

FISHER: So coming up, the GOP's evolving position on abortion when it comes to saving the mother's life.

And next, gut-wrenching moments in court from survivors of the Parkland School shootings.



FISHER: Emotions running high in a Florida courtroom as the sentencing trial for the Parkland high school gunman Nikolas Cruz gets under way. This penalty phase comes after months -- a few months after Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in that 2018 shooting.

And so the jury will now decide really just one question, does he get life behind bars or does he get the death penalty? CNN's Leyla Santiago has more.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tears were wiped. Disbelief could not be masked. Closed eyes and deep breaths, some even forced to leave the courtroom to escape the horror of their reality. Family members of the Parkland shooting victims hearing in some cases for the first time the harrowing and graphic details of how their loved ones died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Wang was shot 13 times.

SANTIAGO: Twenty-three-year-old Nikolas Cruz pled guilty in October to killing 14 students and three staff members on Valentine's Day in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Now a jury must decide his fate, life in prison with no parole or the death penalty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2:21:33 the massacre begins.

SANTIAGO: Prosecutors began the penalty phase, laying out how it unfolded minute by minute, walking jurors through every detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant fires through the glass window and shatters it, and fires into classrooms.

SANTIAGO: It was an emotional day for both the families of the victims and survivors, reliving agonizing moments.

A teacher's frantic 911 call.

DISPATCHER: 911, what's your emergency?

SANTIAGO: Students trying to hide from the gunman.

The gunman, who sat in the courtroom covering his face for much of the testimony, had to listen as prosecutors recounted word for word from a video he made bragging about how he was going to kill 20 people just days before the shooting.

TONY MONTALTO, FATHER OF MURDERED STUDENT, GINA MONTALTO: This is the worst thing that can happen to a family, having a child murdered at school.