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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Car Bomb Kills Daughter of Ideologue Known As a "Spiritual Guide" to Putin's Actions in Ukraine; Three Arkansas Officers Suspended After Arrest Video Goes Viral; Judge Orders DOJ to Send Him a Redacted Affidavit of Mar-a-Lago Search By Thursday. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2022 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, it is Monday, August 22nd, it is dark and it is early.


JIMENEZ: But I'm Omar Jimenez in this week for Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, welcome to this time of the clock. You know, it is early.

JIMENEZ: That alarm came fast.


ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, a lot to get to this morning, and we're going to get you up to speed on everything you need to know for the day. Questions this morning about who was behind a car bombing that killed the daughter of a Russian ultra-nationalist who has been described as a philosophical architect of Russia's imperial ambitions.

State Media reports Darya Dugina died when an explosive device went off last night as she drove her Toyota Land Cruiser near Moscow. Dugina is the daughter of author and ideologue Alexander Dugin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the latest, let's turn to senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow. Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Christine. Well, first of all, the reason by the way why I'm standing here is because today is also Russian Flag Day, and there's a big celebration going on here obviously, people coming out and are told to show their patriotism here in central Moscow.

But of course, the killing of Darya Dugina really is something that continues to dominate the headlines here in Russia. And especially, the question that how it could happen, and second of all, who might be behind it, which is really something that a lot of people are debating here. What's becoming clear, guys, is that there does seem to be a pretty

high degree of sophistication behind all of this. Of course, we know that her car blew up on a Moscow highway late on Saturday night, and then engulfed in a fireball, she crashed and was dead on the scene.

The latest that we have this morning is that the investigative committee says that there was a remote-controlled explosive device on that car. So, it was detonated remotely, which does indicate that there was a higher degree of sophistication. Now, throughout the past 24 hours or so, we've had finger-pointing going back and forth, we've had the Russian Foreign Ministry come out and essentially implying that they believe that the Ukrainians might be behind all this.

They were saying that this is something they might consider state- sponsored terrorism. Ukrainians, absolutely denying that, calling Russia a criminal state, and saying they were not behind all this. There are many people here in Russia who believe, who very strongly believe that Darya Dugina was not the actual target of this -- of this killing.

But that it was actually her father, Alexander Dugin who was at the same event that she was in, but then decided to take a different car, as both of them were heading away from that event in Moscow. So, a lot of open questions about all this, who might be behind this?

Of course, Alexander Dugin, a very prominent figure here in Russia, and as you guys mentioned, someone who's seen as sort of the intellectual architect behind a lot of the things that Russia is doing right now, that expansionist policy, especially towards Ukraine.

His daughter, however, also has been, you know, rising in the echelons a little bit, and also is quite prominent here in Russia as well. So still, a lot of open question here, really a mystery and a lot of questions being asked in the upper echelons of Russian politics, guys.

ROMANS: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow, thanks, Fred.

JIMENEZ: Now, our coverage continues on with the other side of things with David McKenzie live in Kyiv. Now, David, we can understand why some eyes might point their direction, but what are the Ukrainians saying in all this?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Omar, despite what nationalists in Russia are saying, Ukraine is pushing back and pushing back hard at any insinuation that this murder had anything to do with Ukraine. I'm going to read a quote here, "Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state which the Russian federation is. And even more so, we're not a terrorist state."

And that comes from an adviser to the president's office very much pushing back on this insinuation. This is an important time for Ukraine, and in just a few days, there will be a big commemoration of 31 years since Ukraine became independent from the then Soviet Union. I do say -- I do think there is a level of nervousness in the country. Senior officials have been hinting at a possible strike or series of strikes from Russia in line with this anniversary.

And they're putting in several measures. In the northeast, they are in Kharkiv, at least, a 36-hour blackout of movement is happening, a curfew because of the fear of missile strikes coming from Russian territory close to that area.


And here in the capital, which hasn't been struck for several weeks now, there is some level of warnings, people are told -- reminded not to have mass gatherings, major celebrations like you would normally have over independence day celebrations. And there is a sense, a worry that there could be some kind of strike from Russia in the coming days.

On the war front, it has been several weeks without major movement in the frontlines in the northeast, the east and even the south. Though, today, Ukraine did admit that there were some modest gains from Russian forces in the south. Omar, Christine?

ROMANS: All right --

JIMENEZ: David McKenzie in Kyiv, thank you so much.

ROMANS: So let's bring in Shawn Turner; CNN national security analyst and former director of communications for the U.S. -- director of National Intelligence. Thank you so much, nice to see you here, Shawn. You know, you think it is unlikely that Ukraine has anything to do with this attack. Why?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I do. You know, look, Darya Dugina did have in her own right nationalist views. She believed in the idea that Russia should reunify states that were Russian- speaking states. But in reality, her views, her perspective on this, despite the fact that she had a platform, they weren't all that different from what you see when you turn on nationalist television in Russia.

So it's just unlikely that she would have been a significant-enough voice in what's happening in Ukraine and sort of the rhetoric that we hear in Russia to be the target of this. So I tend to agree with those views. When you look at the relation between Vladimir Putin and her father, you know, there's much more that there is to see with regard to why he might be a target of this attack. So I think it's unlikely that she was a target here.

JIMENEZ: Yes, well, the Kremlin says it believes this attack was pre- planned, but what do you think Russian investigators are looking for? I mean, at this point, why should anyone have faith that Russia would give an honest assessment of the bombing?

TURNER: Yes, you know, Omar, it's a good question. I think there will be two lines of inquiry here with regard to this investigation. On the one hand, Putin will be interested, keenly interested, in understanding who is responsible for this bombing. And I think that interest will come from a place of wanting to understand whether or not this was an attempt to send him a message.

Look, you know, there are lots of people who understand the influence that Dugina had on -- that Alexander Dugin had on Vladimir Putin, and those people are in Putin's orbit, and they're people who are not very happy with the way things are going in Ukraine.

So, he will want to understand whether or not someone is trying to send him a message. On the other hand, this investigation will certainly from Putin's perspective seek to assess what narrative will be best for Russia.

And what I think we can expect to see there is, without regard to the facts, we can expect to see Putin look at this situation and make a determination as to how best to blame, to shift blame to either to Ukraine as we're already seeing based on some of the reporting or even to the United States.

So I think that when we do have an investigation report, when we do have results, we should be circumspect in how we receive those results, because it's certainly the case that Putin will look to use this as just another tool to hold up his narrative in the war --

ROMANS: Sure --

TURNER: In Ukraine.

ROMANS: Leverage the event. First try to figure out if it was someone trying to send a message to him, and then leverage the event for, you know, the best possible spin for the Kremlin. Give us a sense of how the U.S. Intelligence will be going, trying to find their own -- their own answers to this -- to this killing.

TURNER: Yes, and I think that's why we should be cautious in how we handle any results that come out of Russia. This is something United States Intelligence community will be keenly interested in understanding. Look, if the first scenario that I laid out is true, if someone is trying to send a message to Vladimir Putin, that would be a significant bit of information for U.S. Intelligence, for western Intelligence across the board.

And so, while this is a -- you know, this is a crime inside of Russia because of the individual involved, U.S. Intelligence will be -- will be watching, they'll be listening, trying to understand whether or not there's an opportunity here or whether there's a crack in that -- you know, in that circle around Vladimir Putin.

If that's the case, then that certainly could signal that, you know, the fact that this war is stretching out, and the fact that Putin has been so steadfast, certainly, could signal a weakness in that.

JIMENEZ: Shawn Turner; CNN national security analyst, thanks -- thank you for getting up with us.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

TURNER: Thanks. ROMANS: All right, right now, more than 14 million people in two

states are under flood watches and warnings. Plus, the Justice Department racing to get a redacted Mar-a-Lago affidavit to a judge this week.

JIMENEZ: And President Biden preparing a big announcement on student loan debt, coming up.



ROMANS: Three Arkansas law enforcement officers have been suspended and are now under investigation after a bystander captured them on video violently punching and kneeing a suspect during an arrest on Sunday. A warning to our viewers, this video you're about to see is graphic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God -- this is bad.


ROMANS: Two of the officers are Crawford County sheriff deputies, the third is an officer with the Mulberry Police Department. The sheriff says the suspect was wanted for allegedly threatening a clerk in a different town, in a nearby town. The suspect faces a slew of charges including assault, battery, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and terroristic threats.

JIMENEZ: A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to send him a redacted version of the affidavit that was used to obtain a search warrant for Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.


The deadline is Thursday at noon. Trump and his legal team support releasing the document, prosecutors though, not so much. Claiming it contains sensitive information that could compromise their investigation. Let's bring in Michael Zeldin; former federal prosecutor and host of the podcast, "That Said With Michael Zeldin".

So all that said, it seems the judge is trying to split the difference between the public demand for full transparency and the DOJ's resistance to releasing this affidavit. What do you think will happen this week?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, PODCAST HOST: So let me just say at the start, Omar, that, I don't like this splitting the difference. I think the integrity of the investigation should supersede the right to know at this point. And so, I just want to make it clear, I don't like it, I don't think it's good policy and I don't think it's good precedent.

That said, the likelihood is, is that, the DOJ is going to operate in good faith, it's going to send the judge a proposed redacted version, and then the judge has some choices.

He can review that document and say, fair enough, you did a good job, I'm going to release it as is, or he can say, I've looked at this redaction and it doesn't make any sense to the public if they look at it, and so I'm changing my order and I'm just not going to release it at this point, or he could say to the DOJ, I've looked at this, you didn't do a good-enough job, try again.

And that leaves the Justice Department with a choice to try again or take an appeal to the district court judge if he hasn't looked at it or she hasn't looked at it or pursue other options to try to prevent the release of this document, which is I think their true desire.

ROMANS: You know, Trump seems to be pushing for the release of the affidavit, but we've played that game before with him. You know, could that be another bluff? What do you -- what do you -- what do you expect from the former president here?

ZELDIN: So, I think he is bluffing. I think that the tell of that is that during the first hearing when the media sued for the release of this document, Trump's lawyers were in the court, they were invited before the hearing to enter officially in a position on the merits, and they chose not to. Instead, they held one of their little pressers out front, screaming about how they're a victim, and this is political and that they favored release.

But if they favored release, they would have entered an appearance and told the court that. They still haven't done so to my knowledge. And therefore, I think they are just, you know, bluffing in the legal sense and running a PR campaign to raise money off the backside of this, while again presenting themselves as victims of, you know, police over-action.

JIMENEZ: Now, Michael, elsewhere but in the same universe, a federal appeals court has agreed to temporarily put a hold on a lower court's order requiring Senator Lindsey Graham to testify before a special grand jury. Why would we see this? And point blank, is this a win for Graham or does this complicate things a little bit more for him?

ZELDIN: Well, so, to back up again, the speech and debate clause of the constitution says that legislators shall not be held to account in court for their activities during their legislative activities. Graham is saying his phone calls to Georgia and his other activities were quote/unquote, "legislative activities", and therefore, speech and debate should prevent him from having to testify.

The judge who ruled in this case initially said, no, this is not legislative activity, this is political activity and it's not covered by speech and debate. Full stop. The court of appeals, again sort of like splitting the difference at the moment, have said to the district court judge, why don't you see whether there are aspects of what Graham has done, which is legislative and therefore protected.

And he'll talk about only the political stuff, but not the legislative stuff. So they're going to take a second look at this to see whether any aspect of this is covered by speech and debate or the judge was correct that none of it is.

So, it's a temporary win for Graham if of course, they decide in the end that this is all legislative activity or Graham keeps pursuing appeals and this keeps getting delayed, that delays the prosecution's ability to reach a final determination about what to do about this case.

So it complicates it, and it's -- you know, a temporary win for Graham, but I think in the end, there are aspects of what he's done that he should have to testify about.

ROMANS: Michael Zeldin helping us make sense of all of these legal developments in these what? Four, five, six different --

JIMENEZ: It seems like unlimited --

ROMANS: Orbits --


ROMANS: Where there are investigations in the Trump orbit. Thank you so much, former federal prosecutor, nice to see you.

JIMENEZ: Now, just ahead --

ZELDIN: Good to see you.

JIMENEZ: Dozens killed in a bloody siege at a hotel in the capital of Somalia.

ROMANS: And a dangerous warning for 14 million Americans who face the threat of flooding.



ROMANS: Student loan relief, a holy grail for progressives in a campaign promise of then candidate Joe Biden, a decision expected from President Biden in the next week, student loan payments have been paused, of course, since March 2020. The big question, will that moratorium be extended again, come August 31st, the deadline, or will the president do something bigger? Will Biden forgive some student debt?


MIGUEL CARDONA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, UNITED STATES: We know August 31st is a date that many people are waiting to hear something from. We've been talking daily about this, and I can tell you that American people will hear within the next week or so.


[05:25:00] ROMANS: Jasmine Wright joins us live from Washington. Jasmine, are they expected to extend that moratorium again or do we think the White House could be leaning towards something more permanent forgiving some student debt?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christine, I think that, that is a million-dollar question here, and it's on a lot of people's minds. The White House and the Biden administration has about ten days to come to a decision, as they have said that President Biden will say something on this by August 31st.

Now, of course, he is under massive pressure to forgive $50,000 in student loans, and it's something that outright, he said he's not going to do. But the White House said that he is considering forgiving about $10,000 per borrower for those who make $125,000 or less. That is something that he promised to do in 2020 of course.

Now, internally, the discussion about forgiving that amount of student loan has been focused a lot of on inflation and those high prices, and whether or not the persistence of inflation and the high prices will draw attacks on the right by forgiving these student loans.

But of course, we know, Christine, that just in the few weeks, that the White House has managed to get some handle at least temporarily on those high prices. Now, of course, President Biden has forgiven the most amount of student debt of any president, he's forgiven about up to $32 billion, mostly for those who have been listed and then were defrauded by those for-profit colleges, and of course, the permanently disabled.

That's who he's forgiven. And now, just as you said, he's also paused those student repayments for four times, so folks haven't paid since 2020 really arguing that folks need more time to get on their feet. So, of course, Americans will be looking, all eyes will be on the White House and President Biden to see what he makes for this consequential decision that of course, will come just a few months before the Midterm elections here.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely --

WRIGHT: Christine, Omar?

ROMANS: All right, nice to see you. Thank you, Jasmine.

JIMENEZ: Well, more than 14 million people remain under flood threats today, spanning parts of Texas and Louisiana as rain pummels the southwest and flash floods at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. You see that footage down there, forced the evacuation of about 160 people on Sunday.

So I want to get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. We've seen a lot of rain up until this point, but how much rain are we actually talking about?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, in some places we're looking at 4 to 6 inches. So, at least, 3 to 4 inches has come down across portions of this region, and we're talking about Texas right now, on into Oklahoma, Arkansas. This region has really been hard hit just the past 24 hours, Omar.

And you look at how much rainfall potentially is in store, it's going to be problematic. In fact, radar estimates this morning bring tremendous rainfall across this region. If you look at the forecast, enough rainfall to bring Dallas, a city that has spent most of the Summer into the middle 90s and low 100s, down into the 70s for the afternoon high temperature.

So gain, speaking to just how soggy this particular landscape is, and shows you the weather that's been in place. So, that is at least one piece of good news, unfortunately, with 4 plus inches that has come down in the last couple of days, flood alerts are in place for almost 15 million Americans.

On top of this, of course, about 2 to 3 inches possible, Dallas, later on this morning, some heavy rains certainly possible, and that energy shifts on into areas around New Orleans. It's when we think some afternoon rainfall is possible across that region as well. So, with all of that said, flooding is going to be a major issue.

And when we talk about major cities, urban environments versus say suburban area outside where you have kind of the natural soil versus concrete, of course, that water, a lot of it becomes runoff as well. So that's something we're watching here carefully with the flood alerts there in place.

JIMENEZ: That's obviously going to be a huge factor for so many people. Pedram, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, coming up, American farmers forced to kill their own crops, sell their cows because of extreme drought.

JIMENEZ: And women in Finland post dancing videos, but to support their prime minister, coming up.