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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

January 6 Committee Prepares for New Hearings this Fall; Russia Hits Port City Hours After Signing Grain Export Deal; Japanese Volcano Erupts Prompting Evacuations. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Monday, July 25th, 5:00 a.m. here in New York, thanks for getting an early start with us, I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We begin with Wall Street and main street bracing for an avalanche of news this week on the health of the U.S. economy.

News that will impact everything from your budget at home to the midterm elections this Fall. Tomorrow, figures on consumer confidence which is already in the dumps as people worry about inflation. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve meets again to try to tame that inflation by jacking up interest rates, raising borrowing costs.

On Thursday, our first look at U.S. economic growth for the second quarter, another decline in GDP is expected. Of course, two quarters of a loss in a row is a sign of a recession, so are we headed there? Here is the Treasury Secretary.


JANET YELLEN, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: The labor market is now extremely strong. We're in a period of transition in which growth is slowing. We're likely to see some slowing of job creation, but I do -- I don't think that that's a recession. A recession is broad-based weakness in the economy. We're not seeing that now.


ROMANS: We're not seeing that now, but here is this from someone who used to have that job, the former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think there is a very high likelihood of recession when we've been in this kind of situation before. Recession has essentially always followed when inflation has been high and unemployment has been low. Soft landings represent a kind of triumph of hope over experience, I think we're very unlikely to see one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: All right, to be clear, forecasting recessions is tricky

stuff, for one thing, the data might not point to it until several months after the fact. In fact, you really don't know you're in a recession until you're basically out of it. And as Yellen points out, the labor market remains strong. The jobless rate just 3.6 percent.

How can you have a recession with such a strong jobs market? And there are signs that inflation may be peaking, gas prices still falling, now down to $4.36 a gallon this morning, a sign potentially that inflation could be easing. We'll get more insight on Friday when the Fed's favorite measure on inflation is released, it's called the PCE index.

Remember, 75 percent of Americans polled by CNN said that inflation and the cost of living were the top economic problems facing their families. This will be a pivotal week in the obsession over recession and forecasting it in this economy. All right, January 6th Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney tells CNN they are prepared to subpoena Ginni Thomas; the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, regarding her push to overturn the 2020 election.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We are. The committee is engaged with her counsel. We certainly hope that she will agree to come in voluntarily, but the committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena if she does not. I hope it doesn't get to that, I hope she will come in voluntarily.


ROMANS: All right, let's bring in Michael Zeldin; former federal prosecutor and the host of "That Said With Michael Zeldin" podcast. So nice to see you bright and early this morning. So, do you think -- do you think that Ginni Thomas will speak to the committee voluntarily or do you think this will have to go to a subpoena?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, PODCAST HOST: I think it depends on the conditions that are set for the conversation. I would hope that she like all others would come in voluntarily, given the importance of what the committee is doing. But if she doesn't, that I think they should subpoena her. I think she has a lot of information that is relevant to the funding of these events that unfolded on January 6th and then the before and after of it.

So she's an important witness and hopefully she will do the right thing, but if not, the committee has to bring her in.

ROMANS: And on that funding, you say the Fall slate of hearings really needs to flesh out the financing and draw those lines. Tell me what you'll be looking for this Fall.

ZELDIN: So, I think that there are two major things that we need to talk about in the Fall. First is, what's going on with the Secret Service, why don't we have these texts? Under what circumstances were they deleted? And why were they deleted, and what do they contain within them? [05:05:00]

And then secondly, we haven't heard much about the funding of these events. Who paid for it? How was it paid? Well, how did the monies move? You know, because in these types of cases, you have a lot of sort of money laundering for lack of a better word of monies moving from discrete accounts across other accounts.

And it's important in fleshing out whether there is a criminal conspiracy to see how monies flowed. We haven't seen that yet. I know they have a taskforce within the committee looking at this, so I'm hoping that we'll see the results of that during the Fall season.

ROMANS: You mentioned the Secret Service text messages, and what -- on the phones of these Secret Service agents. We have this new CNN reporting that shows investigators are indeed honing in on the phones of ten Secret Service personnel that may have deleted text messages on January 6th. How significant is that development and what are they going to be looking for?

ZELDIN: Well, I think they want to know who was speaking to whom and about what. Specifically with respect to the movements of and intentions, if it's discernible, of former President Trump. These Secret Serving -- these secret serving -- service agents -- right, that three times. These Secret Service agents talk between themselves about what's going on in real-time.

And so, it's important to hear what they're saying if the president is saying something and they're relaying it to one another. Hey, the president is saying this, we've got to do that in response, that's all relevant stuff because that helps us understand the intent of the president, his state of mind and what the Secret Service was doing in response to it.

ROMANS: I know you have praised the work of the January 6th Committee, and these hearings, I think last week wrapping up sort of the Summer slate here. Just button it up for me, give me your thoughts on where they are, what they've achieved and where they're going from here.

ZELDIN: Sure. What they said on day one was the president of the United States, then President Trump, engaged in a seven-part conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and defraud the United States. Week-by-week, they showed all of the elements of that seven- part plan, culminating in the president's refusal to act to call it off, which was indicative of his desire to have this go forward.

So, I think they laid out politically a very sound case for what was going on here. I think in the course of that, they also teased out at least three criminal statutes that the DOJ really needs to investigate, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and incitement of a riot.

I think all of those crimes have been presented compellingly in the evidence that the committee has put forward to us, and now it's up to DOJ to see whether or not they can prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt and have that conviction be affirmed on appeal, which is their standard, much higher standard than the committee has, which is just to inform us.

ROMANS: All right, Michael Zeldin, so nice to see you bright and early this morning. Thank you so much for that.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. To President Biden now, his doctor says his COVID- 19 symptoms have improved significantly. The president's main symptom now is a sore throat. He completed his third day of isolation at the White House Sunday. The head of the administration's COVID response team was asked whether they'd be public if Mister -- if Mr. Biden experiences any long-term effects from COVID.


ASHISH JHA, PHYSICIAN: We think it's really important for the American people to know how well their president is doing, which is why we have been so transparent, giving updates several times a day, having people hear from me directly, hear directly from his physician.

And obviously, if he has persistent symptoms, obviously, if any of them interfere with his ability to carry out his duties, we will -- we will disclose that early enough and with the American people.


ROMANS: The White House says President Biden has continued to work virtually since that COVID-19 diagnosis. He won't physically return to work of course until he tests negative. All right, coming up, Donald Trump's favorite newspaper dumps him. Will it make a difference? Plus, evacuations ordered after a volcano erupts.

And Russian missiles strike a Ukrainian port city just hours after the two nations signed an export treaty.



ROMANS: Welcome back. International condemnation this morning after Russian forces attacked the port city of Odessa just hours after signing a grain export deal with Ukraine. CNN's Ivan Watson live in Ukraine for us. You know, Ivan, the timing here curious. What's the reaction from there?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainian government is saying basically, I told you so. You cannot trust the Russians. That hours after signing this agreement that was supposed to allow grain to be shipped from blockaded Ukrainian ports to world markets where the price of food has skyrocketed since Russia's invasion, the Russians carried out cruise missile attacks on one of the very same ports that is supposed to allow these grain shipments.

Russia went from denying it happened to then claiming responsibility for targeting military structures in that port. The Russian foreign minister is currently touring Africa and trying to tell African countries that the skyrocketing wheat prices that are plunging tens of millions of people into starvation now, that they are the fault of western sanctions on Russia. That it is not due to the fact that Russia invaded Ukraine, one of the world's biggest bread-basket-wheat- producing countries.


He's also trying to tell African countries, hey, we are not like those western countries, we don't have that bloody colonial history with African countries, we're your friends. Ignoring the fact that I think most Ukrainians would call Russia's invasion of Ukraine a very colonial act of Russian imperialism, kind of colonizing this country that goes back centuries.

That said, the Ukrainians are saying they're going to try to stick to the grain shipment agreement, but they say they will not sacrifice any of their security to let this happen. Already, the U.S. government, Samantha Power of USAID is saying that there are plan Bs to ship grain if Russia continues to attack Ukrainian ports.

ROMANS: All right, Ivan, thank you so much for that. The U.S. Agency for International Development says there's just no way to trust what Russian President Vladimir Putin says after Moscow launched those missiles at the port city of Odessa just a day after that grain deal was brokered. I want to bring in now CNN's Larry Madowo live in Nairobi, Kenya. Good morning, Larry, you know, the Russian foreign minister now saying that the military will escort ships carrying Ukrainian grain.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And why am I talking about this, what's happening half a world away? Because the greatest impact, Christine, is being felt right here in Kenya and Somalia, and Ethiopia. The region called the horn of Africa has already been suffering through some of the worst drought on record. There has been four failed rainy seasons and, it's projected to be a fifth.

That is why last week, the U.S. announced an extra $1.3 billion in emergency, humanitarian and development assistance to stave off mass starvation and deaths. But this has been exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it's led to an increase in commodity prices here, especially food, fuel and fertilizer. And that is why the U.S. is saying they're working on a plan B to get that wheat and grain out of Ukraine even though it's more expensive to use road and rail and river barges, just to try and make sure that some supply is getting to the world markets.

I spoke to Samantha Power here in Nairobi after she had been touring the north of Kenya and Somalia, which is some of the worst- affected areas with this drought and therefore the impact of the war in Ukraine, this is what she told me.


INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: We are working with the Ukrainians on plan B. Plan B involves road and rail and river, and again, you know, sending in barges and, you know, adjusting the rail system so that they are better aligned with those in Europe so that the exports can move out more quickly.


MADOWO: Samantha Power says there is, therefore, no alternative for Russia to move in the blockade. This is a plan B because he can't trust Vladimir Putin, but the best way to make sure there's supply in the global markets is removal of that blockade. She is off to India now to try and find some other alternative sources.

As the Russian foreign minister is here in Africa, as Ivan was just talking about, in Egypt, in Uganda, in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, trying to tell Africans that we're your friends, but the real impact of their action is being felt right here, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Larry, thank you so much for that. All right, coming up, a national treasure threatened by fast-moving flames and a volcano erupts near a nuclear power plant.



ROMANS: All right. Heat, most definitely a four-letter word for Americans across the country, baking in dangerously high temperatures, over 60 million people are under various heat alerts. Records are falling every day. Sunday was the most oppressive day yet in the northeast. So, is there any relief in sight? Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. A couple of days here, I mean, seriously dangerous conditions across much of the country.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: That's right. You know, Christine, some good news finally to share with you here when it comes to the heat relief, certainly in sight across a large area of the northeast here. And look at these records, we're talking about 102 degrees in Newark, how about the fifth consecutive day temperatures exceeded 100 in Newark, but it never happened before, the best thing your record from 2010 of 99 degrees.

Boston, a new record, Philadelphia 99, a new record, LaGuardia in New York set a record, a tied one at 98 degrees, and even Albany comes in with the upper 90s also a new record. But notice, the heat advisories in place, factor in the humidity into the afternoon hours, some of these areas, Philly included, will feel well over 100 degrees, Boston as well into this afternoon. But this looks -- this looks like it will be the final day here across the northeast where the heat is really in place before the next disturbance cools things off.

Across OKC, Little Rock still looking at heat indices as high as 112 degrees, but notice this disturbance right here pushing right on in into the afternoon, the evening hours, expect some strong storms to push through, with it, gusty winds periods of heavy rainfall and, yes, cooler temperatures on the backside of this into the overnight hours. So we'll climb up to the lower 90s in New York, but notice what happens there come Tuesday, only 86 degrees, down to 84, which is really in line with what you expect this time of year.

And much the same in Philly as well with temps dropping back down from the 90s into the middle 80s. But again, a level 2 severe weather concern here mainly for straight-line winds with these storms, maybe a few pockets of large hail, includes Washington, Philly, New York, all the way up through areas around Boston as well.

The western U.S. also watching certain heat alerts across this region with temps across Portland and Seattle, pushing up into the middle and upper 90s a couple of days, a big time heat here before conditions do begin to finally cool off towards the latter portion of the week. But Summer has arrived for just about everyone here, and if it's dry, it's going to remain very hot.

A few pockets where we have strong storms, will keep your temperatures into the 70s, but just south of that region into OKC, 102, and again around the northeast, one last hot day before we see conditions --

ROMANS: Jeez --

JAVAHERI: Come back down to usual July heat versus unusual July heat that we've seen.


ROMANS: That's a lot of red on that map.


ROMANS: All right, keep us posted. Thanks, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

ROMANS: The eruption of Japan's Sakurajima volcano triggering a level 5 alert. The country's highest prompting evacuations in that region. According to NASA, the volcano is one of the most active in Japan. CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo. Any damage? Any casualties? What can you tell us about this eruption?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the good news here is that there haven't been any reports of damage or injury as a result of this eruption, but of course, as the volcano continues to erupt, that could change. So far, an evacuation shelter has been set up and dozens have been urged to evacuate after Mount Sakurajima, a volcano in southern Japan started erupting over the weekend.

Now, the volcano had been sending up smoke for about a week, but starting last night, things started to escalate around 8:00 p.m. local time on Sunday, a video captured the volcano sending dark plumes of ash in large red hot cinder blocks known as ballistic volcanic bombs flying through the air. At least, one volcanic bomb traveled a mile and a half which prompted the Japan meteorological agency to raise its alert level to a 5 out of 5, as you mentioned, the agency's highest possible alert level.

Now, with the volcano continuing to erupt this morning so far, two communities home to about 50 people have been urged to evacuate from the danger zone located within about 2 miles of the volcano's crater. Now, while Japan's meteorological agency has said that large-scale eruptions aren't imminent measurements indicating a swelling of this volcano, are still being observed, which tells scientists that magma is still building up.

Meaning a large-scale eruption is still possible. It's an event that scientists say that they can't predict, and in this case are encouraging caution as a large-scale eruption could potentially threaten roughly 600,000 people that live just outside of the current danger zone. Now, at this point, a government taskforce has been set up to monitor the situation, Christine, at Mount Sakurajima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes.

ROMANS: All right, Blake, thank you so much. Keep us posted there in Japan. In California, a wildfire exploding in size and raging out of control near Yosemite National Park. More than 15,000 acres have burned forcing more than 3,000 people to flee their homes. Authorities say the Oak Fire began Friday, there is 0 percent containment. Residents describe the fast-moving fire as they evacuated in the nick of time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was scary when we left because we were getting ashes on us, but we could -- we had such a visual of this billowing that -- it just seemed like it was above our house and coming our way really quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's when I went up the hill and looked, and I'm like, oh, my God, it was coming fast.


ROMANS: Yes, that fire has now destroyed at least ten structures, damaged five others. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County. Right, coming up, Pope Francis in Canada on a journey of penance. And why Donald Trump's favorite tabloid says he's unworthy to serve as president again.