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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Primary Night Sets Big Races in Florida and New York; Judge Orders Trump to Clarify Why He's Requesting Special Master; Ukraine Marks Independence Day, 6 Months After Russian Invasion. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 24, 2022 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now has a Democratic challenger. Can Charlie Crist derail him in the fall?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And clash of the Democratic titans, Nadler versus Maloney, two congressional heavyweights fighting for one New York seat.

JIMENEZ: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, August 24th. I'm Omar Jimenez with the one and only Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Nice to see you again this week.

JIMENEZ: Even if it's early, always great to see you.

ROMANS: But, you know, the early bird gets the worm.

Let's talk about this matchup here. Crist is a former Republican governor turned Democratic congressman. He's now facing the colossal challenge of taking on DeSantis in the fall.

And the Florida Senate race now has its final matchup. Val Demings won the Democratic primary to face off against incumbent Republican Marco Rubio. It's a race the GOP believes it can win easily. But also where Democrats have been widely outspending Republicans, and think they have a chance to flip the state blue.

JIMENEZ: Also a big night in New York. Two powerful house Democrats capping off a highly competitive race.

CNN projects Congressman Jerry Nadler will unseat Representative Carolyn Maloney. Redistricting force them into the same upper Manhattan congressional districts, one of the nastiest primary races of the year.

And Democrat Pat Ryan campaigned on abortion rights in his upstate New York special election, beating the Republican in a swing district.

So let's bring in CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich. She's the Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast".

So much talk about with Christine here.

ROMANS: All right. So, Jackie, in Florida, Democrat Charlie Crist won his primary and will face off with Governor DeSantis in November. Chris is a former governor, of course, and a former Republican. Is his past experience a name recognition enough to walk knock off the GOP powerhouse like DeSantis?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really is going to be a tough uphill battle. As we now, Democratic portions statewide have been a bit mix, a bit challenging over the past year. Chris has not been a governor since he served in 2006. And he's had a mixed record -- a record running statewide himself.

That said, he is a prolific fund-raiser. He is someone that as you noted, has very wide name recognition, but taking on DeSantis is really, I mean, he had a tough primary and now, it gets even tougher.

JIMENEZ: Well, as you mentioned, so many races to talk about from last night. Up in New York, Jerry Nadler winning over Carolyn Maloney in New York's 12th congressional district. But, of course, it became a nasty battle from what many people saw were some candidates.

What do you think was the biggest factor here?

KUCINICH: So it would really be these two individuals, chairmen, they're both powerful members. What is different about them in terms of the record? But as you mentioned, it really got nasty in the final days with Carolyn Maloney questioning Nadler's competency, whether he's senile on camera.

So it's really been devolved. But Nadler it's someone who really campaigned hard, laid the groundwork here and, ultimately one. We will see what happens. And Maloney really made abortion a big part of the pitch, but it wasn't enough in this very liberal district to get her over the line.

ROMANS: Yeah, that is two sides of Central Park suddenly fighting it out, with very little daylight between the ideologies, right? But that's how it goes I guess in politics.

In New York's 19th district, Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election against Republican Mark Molinaro. Molinaro was expected to win, Jackie. And this is a district that narrowly went for Biden in 2020 and for Trump in 2016.

So, what role did abortion and the Roe decision have in this race? And it kind of has some of the conventional wisdom about midterms there.

KUCINICH: Sure, this was a race that I think a lot of us were watching to see why potentially, Democratic portions could look like. In someone who viewed the abortion issue a lot throughout the campaign. And it turns out it actually worked out for him.

As you mentioned, this was Obama, then Trump, then Biden. And it was a very, very narrow margin so. I think that they will have a lot of Democrats looking at Ryan's playbook and seeing how it can be applied in some of these narrower districts going into the general elections.


ROMANS: All right. Jackie Kucinich, thanks for getting up so early this morning. Thanks, Jackie.

KUCINICH: Thanks, guys.

JIMENEZ: Well, back down in Florida, a federal judge is now giving President Trump's legal team until Friday to refine their legal arguments. And by that, the judge means explain why they are requesting a special master to oversee the evidence that was seized in the Mar-a-Lago search. The judges also asking Trump lawyers to clarify why they believed the court even has the ability to step in at this time.

So, joining us here this morning, criminal defense attorney Andrew Cherkasky. He is also a former federal prosecutor.

So, the court is criticizing the nature of Trump's motion because of legal deficiencies. So, the main question here is, how could they possibly refine the argument by this Friday? Not to mention that we are still waiting on the deadline for the potential unseal meant of the FBI search affidavit, which maybe this would have affected if it had been filed earlier.

ANDREW CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the most interesting thing that we are waiting for is information about the affidavit. What are we going to see from it? It is it going to be able to tell us anything?

I think people on both sides of the aisle want to know everything that they could possibly know about what is in there. It's going to come within dribs and drabs. And it will be a long time before we really have an idea of all the evidence that supports that affidavit.

Now Trump's filings I think show that he is struggling with his legal team. The court responded, showing that there were deficiencies and filing. So I think that they are trying to be creative in the legal approach to say it nicely. I don't think that they have a lock to go on in terms of asking for what they're asking for. They are asking for a special master, an external resource to come in and review everything that is going on. It's not unprecedented, but they've got to have an uphill battle.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the media, you've got media, you've got the public. You've got Congress wondering what is in this document. What is the intel assessments? What is the damage potential here?

We know that in a letter to Trump's legal team, in May, the national archives actually sought to share these classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year with the intel community, months ago. What does that tell you?

CHERKASKY: Well, it tells me that it is really important to them. And I think that that is what we have to look at and everything going on right now is that, the FBI and DOJ going into Mar-a-Lago, is communicating very clearly that this is something very serious, and something that could have an impact on national security.

On the other side, Donald Trump is saying that he had the right all along to declassify these documents. And maintain possession of those documents, ultimately, I think that's going to be the battle. Did the former president, while he sitting in office, have the right to take these documents and effectively turn them into not classified documents so that he could keep them for his own presidential records and his own historical motivations?

JIMENEZ: And this time of year, it's almost hard to ignore the politics backdrop of things. When it's all said and done, obviously, a strictly legal. These are strictly legal proceedings. But when you step back for a second, do you think this is going to end up as a MAGA versus the world sort of momentum leading up to a potential presidential announcement by president Trump?

CHERKASKY: I think it, of course, is going to. You know, the DOJ has a relatively strict policy of not political styled investigation close to election. Now, this is approaching that but it is going to be an impact on it.

Frankly, I think those who believe in Donald Trump and believe in the MAGA type of policies are never going to see it in the way that others see it. And so, they are always going to think that there is some sort of conspiracy, or some sort of injustice going on in running these types of investigations. And hopefully, what we have to leave back on our reports that we'll have the transparency necessary to instill confidence in the public that they are going about this investigation, this potential prosecution fairly. And through a process that is dignified of a former president.

ROMANS: Certainly, the former president using it to fund-raise, and also using it to continue this narrative that they are out to get him. The FBI is out to get him.

So, Andrew Cherkasky, nice to see you.

CHERKASKY: Nice to see you, guys.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, in-person this morning.

Well, just ahead on EARLY START, we have a lot to talk about this morning. Six months of a bloody war. Ukraine is bracing for a Russian onslaught.

Plus, President Biden ordering airstrikes against Iranian -backed forces in Syria.

ROMANS: And big news coming today for Americans burdened by student loan debt.


[05:13:41] ROMANS: Ukraine is celebrating 31 years of independence. But it is a somber holiday as it's been six months since the start of the Russian invasion. After months of attacks, the UN reports more than 6 million refugees have fled, now with Ukrainian officials worried the world is getting fatigued by the war, the U.S. is set to announce a huge, new security package of up to three billion dollars.

CNN's David McKenzie live in Kyiv, Ukraine, with more for us.

David, a powerful anniversary message from the president, and a symbolic show behind you, a symbolic show of strength. Tell us about that.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's extraordinary. I counted some 50 tanks, artillery pieces, other heavy firepower that Russia lost already during the war.

And this is an important anniversary for Ukrainians. They told people to stay away because of the threat of possible strikes. But they couldn't keep them away. And you look at the messages that are scrawled on this tanks from earlier on in this conflict.

Six months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine. At least 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed, according to the ministry of defense this week. It tells you the intense impact that this is had on Ukraine. Christine.

And if you look here, the Ukrainian officials said, while the Russians wanted to have a parade in the center of Kyiv when they won the war.


So they gave them one. All of these burnt of tanks, artillery pieces, it's a power for message about the resilience of Ukraine. Even with the threat of those strikes in the last 24, to 48 hours.

President Zelenskyy was near to the spot where I am standing released a speech just a short time ago. And it wasn't emotional plea for Ukrainians to steadfast.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): We are holding on for six months. It's difficult for us, but we clinched our fist, fighting for our faith. Every new day is a new reason not to give up because, having gone through so much, we have no right not to reach the end. What is the end of the war for us, we used to save peace and now, we say victory.


MCKENZIE: You know, I ask President Zelenskyy yesterday, whether he feared people and particularly the Western nations and the U.S. will get fatigued as this war drags on, as soldiers sit defending at the line that hasn't moved for many weeks now in earnest. And, Christine, he said they need the support, still people need to

remember the plight of Ukrainians and that at least three billion dollars announced by U.S. officials officially announced later today most likely is something that we really appreciate here, because they are still fighting this kind of hardware on the frontlines in the east, the northeast, and the south. They have paid dearly for this war of choice by Russia but Ukrainians say they will fight on -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. David McKenzie for us, powerful images indeed. Thanks, David.

JIMENEZ: Elsewhere, President Biden ordering retaliatory airstrikes against -- housed U.S. troops last week. Now officials say the goal of the strikes was to destroy ammunition bunkers, no one was killed, but a lot of implications here.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz as live in London with more for us.

So, Salma, as I mention, lots of implications here, could these strikes hurt progress on the nuclear deal revival, for example?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Omar, this is a very complex battlefield, so let's start with what happened in the early hours of this morning. U.S. precision strikes on series of bunkers, nine bunkers to be exact in -- this is a province in the east of Syria, the United States says that these bunkers were being used by militant group, a militant group that operates on the ground backed by Iranian revolutionary guard -- of course, aligned with president Assad.

Now, that the United States says that the intention of this was not to kill anyone, that these workers were taken out because they were being used to store ammunition. They have been used for logistical support, but as you mentioned there, a retaliatory attack, and that is because on August 15th, the United States, a base in Syria but along the Iraqi border it is very important for U.S. troops and their allies Syrian defense forces, that based on August 15th struck by multiple rockets. There was no damage, no injury, no one killed in the August 15th attack, and the attack that happened in the early hours of this morning it does not seem that area that was hit, those bunkers had anything to do with the August 15th attack.

But again, new message from the United States here is clear. You cannot attack U.S. personnel on the ground in Syria, that message to Iran without expecting repercussions. But as you said, this has wide- reaching implications, far beyond the battlefield. Or months, now the United States and its allies and the EU have been trying to bring Iran back to the table, trying to revive the all-important nuclear deal.

Now the question is with these-for-tat attacks, does the folder those efforts? Omar?

JIMENEZ: I think you laid out best, complicated battlefield. Thank you for laying that all out for us. Salma Abdelaziz in London.

Now, after days of torrential rain and flooding, the threat is still not over in the Southeast. An extreme weather forecast, next.

And --


OFFICER: I really don't want you to fall over and -- right, but that defeats the whole purpose of grabbing on.


ROMANS: New dash cam video from Nancy Pelosi's husband's a DUI arrest, what we are learning, ahead.



JIMENEZ: Widespread heavy rain and flooding is expected to continue in the southeast. This comes on top of the millions of Americans in the region this week, that have been facing torrential rain falling, even life-threatening conditions as a result.

CNN's Pedram Javaheri live in Atlanta with more.

And it just seems like it's been constant at this point?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has. It's been a remarkable amount of rainfall across portions of the south. Of course, we have parts of Texas that have dealt with the brunt of this wet weather. But the energy is shifting towards of south and east away from Texas, to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, certainly to areas of Arkansas was well. And that's the area that we are watching this morning where strong thunderstorms have been developing over the last couple of hours in central Mississippi on alert here after warnings that flooding was imminent across portions just east of Jackson.

But certainly a lot of activity this morning but Dallas quieting down as far as the weather is concerned. But there are things to note, because over the 24 or so hours, you've seen as much as two and half to about four inches, that have been observed across Arkansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, and isolated pockets have seen as much as 5 to 6 inches across the region as well.


You notice, for eastern Texas, maybe a few showers have popped up. Dallas is generally part of the past 24 hours. But the consumers are not done. Yet eastward of Houston, that is the area that we are watching throughout the dawn, and throughout the early morning hours really for these stories to develop, between 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. in the morning here, where we see these storms really flourish. But flood potential will increase as a result of this.

But the bulk of the energy shifts away from the region. And really begins to finally taper off throughout the afternoon, as the system moves through. JIMENEZ: Pedram Javaheri, thank you so much. It seems like the rain

has been nonstop over the past week.

But another big story that we are looking at, many stories really. Charlie Crist wins the Democratic nomination for Florida. But he'll now face Ron DeSantis. Will he get his old job back? It will be an up here climb.

Plus, one year after his disappearance and death, Jelani Day's mother is still searching for answers. She joins us next on EARLY START.

ROMANS: And caught on video, a luxury super yacht sinks off the coast of Italy.