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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden's Wins Have Democrats More Hopeful Ahead Of Midterms; Taiwan Foreign Minister: "We Are Not Scared" Of China; Anne Heche In Stable Condition After Near-Fatal Car Crash. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Despite desperately low poll numbers and painfully high inflation, Joe Biden turning out to have a pretty consequential week here with a legacy-building week, frankly. The Senate just passed the president's Inflation Reduction Act -- a landmark piece of legislation that tackles climate change, lowers prescription drug prices, and raises some corporate taxes.

President Biden's recent string of wins, including the killing of al Qaeda's longtime leader, has some Democrats more hopeful heading into the midterm elections.

I want to bring in CNN White House reporter John Harwood and I just want to talk about this major win yesterday and this string of wins for the president. This is legacy-building stuff.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, and a lot of the declarations that the president was ineffective and the Democratic leaders on the hill couldn't get the job done obviously were very, very premature. This is a very big deal.

The president has combined some of those bipartisan achievements -- the infrastructure law, for example; the investment in semiconductors that has passed the -- and the president is going to sign into law; the burn pit legislation. And now, on the economic front, you combine the semiconductor investments with the investments in climate change, you see a whole -- a broad effort by the government to steer the economy in a more positive direction -- a more forward-leaning direction facing the future. And that's something that the president and the narrow Democratic majority deserves credit for even though a lot of us thought it wasn't going to get done.

So the president has had a very effective time. And the irony is this came while he was suffering from COVID, but he managed with the benefit of vaccines and boosters to be in healthy enough shape to continue working.


ROMANS: I know Democrats are clearly energized by this. Can they translate this into success in the midterms? I guess, John, it matters how well they sell this. I mean, how they explain to the American people how it will affect the breaker box in your basement, the car in your driveway, the drugs in your medicine cabinet.

HARWOOD: This has limited ability to change the midterm outlook. Democrats remain strongly likely to lose the House. They can only lose four seats and still retain control. That is way below the historical average.

Midterms are always a referendum and it's almost invariably a negative referendum on the incumbent president, as you mentioned. His approval ratings are low. The mood of the country generally is sour.

In the Senate, they've got a better chance of hanging on and this will help them do that.

And when you combine these developments -- you mentioned the killing of Zawahiri, the fact that gas prices have gone down for a couple of months in a row -- all those are positive. They have a chance of lifting the mood -- the energy of Democrats around the abortion issue after the Supreme Court ruling.

So there's a chance -- their prospects are getting better. It's still likely to result in a change of power in the House but we'll see.

ROMANS: We're showing those gas prices right now, down again overnight. It doesn't get quite the same attention as when it was skyrocketing, as you know.

HARWOOD: That's right.

ROMANS: But some of these states -- you've got gas prices in the last month down 80 cents, 90 cents over the last month in Ohio. That's real relief for people.

Let's talk about the Republicans here. Congresswoman Liz Cheney said the race for her stopped being about political survival months ago. She has been very critical of her own party, calling it, quote, "very sick."

And when asked about the 2024 election she said this, John. "I think that Ron DeSantis has lined himself up almost entirely with Donald Trump, and I think that's very dangerous."

Looking ahead, what does the future look like for Liz Cheney and her party?

HARWOOD: Look, Liz Cheney is highly likely to lose her primary and not be in the House of Representatives, but she's gained a national voice by virtue of standing up for democracy and the Constitution in the January 6 committee hearings.

And it is -- it is a very difficult and lonely thing for a member of any political party to stand up against a president of their party. She has done that. And I think she might launch an effort in 2024 in the Republican primaries -- in the presidential race -- to make a statement. It's impossible to see her getting a Republican nomination.

But she's standing up for the abuses that she's identified. Her father, of course, cut that campaign ad in the last few days eviscerating Donald Trump. And they've got very strong conservative credentials.

So, she's going to make an impact. It's just not going to be in the House of Representatives and it's not likely to be in the White House either.

ROMANS: All right, John Harwood. Nice to see you bright and early this Monday morning. Thank you.

HARWOOD: You bet.

ROMANS: All right, now to a CNN exclusive.

Taiwan's foreign minister telling CNN that the people of Taiwan are not scared of China's threats, even as the Chinese military is exercising around Taiwan. Taiwan fighter jets circling the island for a fifth day in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last week.

I want to bring in CNN senior international correspondent Will Ripley there for us in Taipei. And the Chinese saying that they will pay for hosting that meeting.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They've said that this meeting, which was something that any democracy should be allowed to do -- to bring in leaders from other countries to visit, to exchange views -- but China says that because they claim Taiwan as their territory even though the communist rulers in Beijing have never controlled this island, that the visit of Nancy Pelosi is going to have a really severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations. And China is accusing Pelosi of undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

But the foreign minister here in Taipei, Joseph Wu, told me that he has no regrets about welcoming Nancy Pelosi. He says he would do it all over again because Taiwan has a right, he says, to engage with other democracies.


JOSEPH WU, TAIWAN FOREIGN MINISTER: China has always been threatening Taiwan for years, and it's getting more serious in the last few years -- and it's always been that way. Whether Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan or not, the Chinese military threat against Taiwan has always been there and that is the fact that we need to deal with.

RIPLEY: Has Taiwan's democratic system ever been in more danger than it is today?

WU: I can tell you that Taiwan is more resilient than before. Look at Taiwan these days. China is trying to impose trade sanctions against Taiwan, trying to attack from military or non-military aspect. The life goes on here in Taiwan and Taiwan shows its resilience.


RIPLEY: Should people in Taiwan be more worried than they are about China?

WU: Well, what I can say is that the people here in Taiwan -- they worry. If you ask me, I worry a little bit.

RIPLEY: What do you worry about?

WU: I worry that China may really launch a war against Taiwan. But what it is doing right now is trying to scare us and the best way to deal with it, to show to China that we are not scared.


RIPLEY: These drills were essentially designed to simulate what an attack on Taiwan's main island and navy would look like, with these sites for the drills essentially encircling this island.

But Taiwanese officials didn't have a say as to the timing of Pelosi's visit. She was actually supposed to come back in April and she came down with COVID. And as a result, they rescheduled it for now.

Now is a very sensitive time because Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is just months away from a party congress where he is likely to be securing an unprecedented third term basically paving the way for presidency for life of Xi. He wants everything to be under control, including here on this island that he claims.

So, Christine, had there been some input on the Taiwanese side, perhaps they could have said maybe choose another time. But they didn't have that option.


RIPLEY: It was Nancy Pelosi's decision when to come and Taiwan said yes, OK.

ROMANS: Yes, usually diriger (PH) in a democracy, but causing a stir there.

All right, Will Ripley. Nice to see you. Thank you so much.

Anne Heche's injuries are so severe police say they can't ask her what happened. What we're learning about this fiery car crash and what the actress said she was doing earlier that day.

And a mass shooting in downtown Cincinnati. Why police say one officer's actions saved lives.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Monday morning.

It's another big week ahead for the economy, coming on the heels of the bombshell jobs reports and President Biden's win on his climate and tax package. Major corporate earnings reports this week, and key inflation readings on Wednesday and Thursday. And a look at how consumers are feeling on Friday.

Look, this is after the aftershocks still being felt from Friday's jobs report. As one economist put it, obliterating recession paradigms. The jobless rate falling to 3 1/2 percent, tying the lowest since 1969. Nearly 3.3 million jobs created this year.

A strong job market in a sea of concerning headlines. Headwinds, like surging global inflation, a war in Ukraine, an energy crisis in Europe, and a pandemic that still disrupts basic business and daily life. Really, any good news in the U.S. is overshadowed by that biting inflation, by the way.

The big question, will falling energy prices now signal a peak in consumer inflation? Look at gas prices. They fell again overnight to $4.06 a gallon on average. Gas prices down some 54 days straight now.

GasBuddy crunched the numbers last month. Gas prices fell 92 cents in a month in Ohio, 81 cents a gallon in Wisconsin, 84 cents in Michigan, 86 cents in Iowa. Arizona and Texas, 80 cents a gallon in a month. Twenty-five states now with average gas prices back below $4.00 a gallon.

By the way, it was the third winning week in a row for the Standard & Poor's 500, up 0.4 percent three weeks in a row, even as the Fed is aggressively raising interest rates.

Let's take a look at markets around the world right now. On Wall Street, you can see -- markets around the world are higher. Europe has opened higher. Asia has closed mixed. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are barely mixed this morning. Dow futures up just a shade.

All right, another weekend of airline flight cancelations and delays. According to the flight-tracking site FlightAware, more than 900 U.S. flights were canceled on Sunday and there were more than 6,300 flight delays. On Saturday, a total of 657 flights canceled. More than 7,200 delayed.

Actress Anne Heche remains hospitalized this morning after a near- fatal car crash. She was trapped in a burning car for more than an hour Friday before rescuers were able to get her out. New details have emerged that may shed light on the car wreck.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas is following the story.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (on camera): Christine, there are still so many questions surrounding the fiery crash involving actress Anne Heche that took place in Los Angeles on Friday. A representative for the actress telling CNN in a statement, quote,

"Anne is currently in stable condition. Her family and friends ask for your thoughts and prayers and to respect her privacy during this difficult time."

Now, Anne remains hospitalized and we do know that as of now, police have not been able to question her due to the extent of her injuries.

Something that raised some eyebrows was on Friday, just hours before this awful car crash, a new episode of her podcast published. Now, it's since been removed from its Apple landing page. In it, she talks about drinking alcohol -- drinking wine, drinking vodka -- and that she was having a uniquely bad day.

ANNE HECHE, "BETTER TOGETHER" PODCAST: Today has been a very unique day. I don't know what happened. Sometimes days just suck. And I don't know if you ever have them but, you know, some days, mama says, are just going to be like this. Some days are those no good very bad days.

I drove Atlas to tennis and I'm a little bit shaken, whatever that means. It's not a very exciting story, it just (bleep) me up, so I'm drinking some vodka and wine."

MELAS: It's unclear when this was recorded. Was it done that day? Earlier in the week? And it's unclear if she actually was drinking during this episode.

We at CNN -- we've reached out to her representatives for further comment on that.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Chloe. Thank you for that.


Sentencing hearings begin later today for the three white men convicted of killing a Black jogger in Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father Greg, and their neighbor Roddy Bryan were all found guilty last year of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Earlier this year, they were convicted in a separate federal hate crimes trial. Today's hearing will involve sentencing for the federal case.

According to a court statement, Travis McMichael is afraid of being killed in a state prison and wants to remain in federal custody.

Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico say there is reason to believe the recent killings of four Muslim men are linked. They say the homicides have several things in common and right now they're trying to connect the dots. The city is increasing its police presence near mosques and Muslim schools. Police saying the victims were ambushed with no warning.

Officials are also calling on the public to help locate this vehicle of interest. They say it's a dark sedan, four doors, tinted windows, possibly some type of Volkswagen.

President Biden reacted on Twitter, writing, "I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims' families, and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America."

In Cincinnati, police are searching for at least two gunmen after nine people were injured in a downtown shooting early Sunday. Police say more than a dozen shots were fired into a large crowd after two separate groups were involved in a physical altercation.

An officer who was on the scene fired at one of the shooters who then fled. Police say there's no question that officer's actions saved lives.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: "Bullet Train" rolled into the station with a $30.1 million opening weekend in the U.S.


Clip from Sony Pictures Entertainment "Bullet Train."


ROMANS: Brad Pitt headlines the action-comedy about an assassin roaming a high-speed Japanese bullet train in search of a briefcase. The film -- mediocre reviews from critics.

The other new release, "Easter Sunday," starring comic Jo Koy, won praise for its Filipino representation but it drew even worse reviews, opening with just $5.3 million in ticket sales.

I wonder if people who read reviews -- bad reviews, right? Reviews be damned. People just want to go to the movies again. Both of those happen to be on my list.

And this -- a big promotion and a place in history. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley raised his right hand this weekend and was sworn in as a 4-star general. When he lowered that hand he became the first Black 4-star general in the Corps' 246-year history.

General Langley said he hopes his achievement will inspire others.


GEN. MICHAEL LANGLEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Let's all think about the significance of what this means to our Corps and our country because it's not about me. It's about the symbolism and what is going to sow the seeds of inspiration on those young captains (INAUDIBLE) row as we embark into global security.


ROMANS: General Langley has served with the Marines since 1985. He will lead the U.S. Africa Command.

All right, a lot ahead today to get to on "NEW DAY." We're going to dig deep into the president's legislative victory here and what it means for consumers -- for the breaker box in your basement, the car in your driveway, the drugs in your medicine cabinet. Real-world impacts for all of this.

And an important week ahead on the economy. What it means for inflation. A reading on consumer sentiment. An awful lot of earnings reports as well. So a lot happening this week that will give us more clarity on the state of the American economy.

You know, last week, it was all about recession fears until that jobs report on Friday that showed a booming job market still. So, as one economist said, recession paradigms have been obliterated here and every day is sort of a guessing game on the direction of the U.S. economy 2 1/2 years after COVID really, really sent shockwaves through it. A big week ahead.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.