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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Joe Biden Delivers Sober Warning Against MAGA Extremism. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 02, 2022 - 05:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It's Friday. It's the second day of September. Happy Friday, everybody. Jobs day. I'm Christine Romans.

President Biden delivering his toughest attack so far against the Trump wing of the Republican Party. During this primetime speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia last night, months ahead of the midterm elections, the president sounded an urgent alarm against what he characterized as the threat to democracy posed by Trumpism.

Mr. Biden performing not just one, but several balancing acts at the same time, a presidential address with an overtly political theme, rebuking MAGA Republicans without alienating all Republicans, and delivering a dark warning tempered with an uplifting vision. Listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise. So tonight, I've come to this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can, to the nation, about the threats we face, about the power we have in our own hands, to meet these threats, and about the incredible future that lies in front of us, if only we choose it.

MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards, backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love. They promote authoritarian leaders and they fan the flames of political violence, that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.

Now, I want to be very clear, very clear upfront. Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I've been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But there's no question that the Republican party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country. MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth, but in the shadow of lies. But together, together, we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path forward to the future. A future of possibility, a future to build a dream and hope. And we're on that path moving ahead.


ROMANS: All right, let's bring in Daniel Strauss, Senior Political Correspondent for The New Republic. Daniel, nice to see you again. Good morning.


ROMANS: We see the president treading this line between calling out the Far Right without provoking Republicans. Listen.


BIDEN: Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.


ROMANS: Is he making that distinction, you think? Because you hear from Republicans that he is the one being divisive. He's painting all Republicans as anti-American?

STRAUSS: I mean, look, it's not surprising that Republicans are going to accuse Biden of being the real problem in this. That's going to be their MO when the leader of the opposing party gives some kind of speech like this. I did think it was interesting that President Biden both called out Donald Trump by name in the speech, but the White House really didn't intend this to be an attack on Republicans as a whole, just a more, a warning or a stark contrast with the strain of the Republican Party that as Biden said, is dominant within the GOP, the MAGA Republicans.

You know, this is a speech that I think at its core is about what President Biden felt motivated him to run this time for president. He feels that democracy in America is at a tipping point, and he wanted to in this speech, impress that sense of urgency right before the midterm elections to Americans across the country.

ROMANS: I see this brand new poll in the Wall Street Journal this morning. It's got Democrats with a three point edge over Republicans when asked what party they would vote for. Democrats are entering in the homestretch here in the midterms in better shape, the Journal points out than earlier this year. And why do you - why do you think?


STRAUSS: I mean, so strategists I've talked to will say part of it is just the Dobbs ruling. Part of it is missteps by some of the most prominent Republican candidates across the country. And part of it is candidate quality on their side. I am skeptical that this slim lead will hold, we're right before Labor Day, and after that a lot of voters start to pay more attention to politics. And I think those margins in races across the country will shrink again. But right now, Democrats are in a better position than they usually are in a midterm cycle after they've won the White House. Traditionally, what happens is that the party that is out of power makes substantive gains before - after an election, that where they do not control the White House.

And frankly, another thing, Christine is that, as you've noticed, inflation and gas prices have gone in the right direction. And Americans may be noticing that, that was a key point of Republicans critique about Democrats a cycle and it's going in Democrats direction.

ROMANS: Yes. And some of the time that Republicans could have spent talking about gas prices or inflation or the economy, which really is in their best interest to talk about that. They're talking about Mar- a-Lago and Donald Trump and they're talking about the president's legal problems and trying to sort of distracted on that front. Senior officials in the White House also insisting that the Biden's message last night wasn't political.

But given the timing and the content, was that a political speech? Was that a presidential speech? Was it both?

STRAUSS: Look, I mean, I think the White House is going to stress it. This was not a political speech, politics isn't everything. I think it is interesting that the one thing that Biden was not focused on in the speech and that the White House has been consistent about is not weighing in too closely on the Mar-a-Lago search and seizure of top secret documents. They are very clearly not interested in making that seem like one of their major political pillars, and for the investigation to proceed without any kind of heavy handedness from the White House.

ROMANS: You can't see what we just show, but we had video behind you. And they had sort of highlighted two marines who are against Independence Hall. What do you make of the venue there, Independence Hall?. This was a presidential address, but it wasn't at the White House. It was in a battleground state, red, white and blue lights, Marines there? What do you make of the location?

STRAUSS: I think they wanted to seem presidential without doing it from the White House, which is more norm that harkens back to the pre- Trump era of campaigning. And I think that's what this was. There was some mockery among Republicans about that it was too severe that the red was a weird color. It's a venue. Independence Hall is a venue that we've seen president speak out before.

And this is a state that former - that Biden's former boss, Barack Obama gave major speeches on during his presidency, so I'm not too surprised by it. I - you know, it's a memorable setting.

ROMANS: Right. All right, Daniel Strauss, The New Republic. Thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

STRAUSS: Nice to see you.

ROMANS: All right, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy delivering a prebuttal to the president's speech from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden's hometown.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Instead of trying to bring our country together to solve these challenges, President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans. Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies. That is not leadership. When the president speaks tonight at Independence Hall, the first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists.


ROMANS: According to McCarthy, it's not Trump, it is Biden who has launched an assault on American democracy. Just ahead, awaiting the judge's decision after a legal showdown over the Mar-a-Lago search. Also, what Newt Gingrich could tell the January 6th committee and the moment a gunman pointed a loaded pistol at the head of Argentina's vice president.



ROMANS: We are now waiting on a federal judge's ruling after a hearing Thursday on former President Trump's bid for a special master to review evidence seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago last month. Trump's legal team fighting the Justice Department over the search that netted 33 boxes of material, including more than 100 classified documents.

During the hearing, a Trump lawyer compared the battle over whether classified materials were illegally kept at Mar-a-Lago to a dispute over an overdue library book. That's right. Let's bring in criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Katie Cherkasky. So, nice to see you this morning.

That argument surprises me here, there are documents with some of the highest levels of classification. First, we heard from the Trump team that it could have been planted, insinuations that it could have been planted by the FBI. And then we heard that no, all this was declassified. Now, it's an overdue library book. What do you make of the defense team here and their strategies?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I'm surprised by it. I think that their own strategies contradict their best defense here. I mean, really, the president, any president does and did have plenary declassification authority, but when the defense team is conceding that these are classified documents, that they are sensitive documents, and that it's just not a big deal. I think that ultimately is very devastating for Trump's defense in this case.

ROMANS: Now the Trump team wants a special master appointed, someone who can I guess stop the clock and see - overview what the investigators have been looking at. What is the likelihood of that and how does it change materially the course of this investigation if at all?


CHERKASKY: Well, it doesn't necessarily change the big picture here. I think that Trump's team does want this transparency or that's what they say they want somebody outside the DOJ to look at the seized materials, and make sure that it was something that was supposed to be taken under the warrant and not somehow otherwise privilege. But really, the special master won't be able to determine the ultimate question of executive privilege, or what type of authority a former president has to retain these documents. So, it's really more of, in my mind, a delay tactic. But perhaps there is some sort of transparency that's - there's looking for with that.

ROMANS: What we now know also as the judge is considering releasing more and more detailed inventory of what was taken there, what was seized at Mar-a-Lago. I wonder and the government and the Trump team have not objected to that. So, I wonder what more we could learn from what was taken from the location?

CHERKASKY: Well, we're certainly not going to get any actual classified information or anything like that.

ROMANS: Right.

CHERKASKY: So certainly, it could be more of the personal items in the specific - in the boxes that were kind of commingled together from what we understand. There were some things that were classified, some things that were maybe not, some things that were actually personal items of Trump. So perhaps that is what they're looking for, just to show, I guess, the public exactly the extent of this, but I don't really know that that is ultimately going to help his defense either.

Look, I'm not a criminal defense attorney, but I'm struggling to see what is the coherent line through of the defense for the president from all of this?

ROMANS: Do you see it from his team?

CHERKASKY: I really don't, and I think it wouldn't have been difficult to suggest that these were declassified documents, because there really is no constitutional requirement or procedure for a president to declassify. So, if he had maintained that from the beginning and said, look, I took these out, they have been declassified by virtue of that, and it's a dispute about the ownership of the documents. I think that would have been totally different story. But the attorneys have conceded that all or part of these documents were classified. So, they're undercutting their own defense there in my mind, and I just don't know exactly what their strategy is.

ROMANS: Right.

CHERKASKY: Perhaps they don't really have one at this point. ROMANS: Jared Kushner spoke to Sky News about the Mar-a-Lago search, listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took top secret documents home, potentially risking the security of the United States.

JARED KUSHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, I think that it's something that again, this seems like it's an issue of paperwork that should have been able to be worked out between DOJ and him. I don't know what he took or what he didn't take. But I think right now we're relying on leaks to the media, which is the same thing that we--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen the photograph, haven't we where it says top secret.

KUSHNER: Yes, like I said, I've seen a lot of allegations made by the media over my four years that turned out not to be true.


ROMANS: Allegations made by the media; it strikes me as sort of interesting. We wouldn't be talking about this, if Donald Trump didn't go on his Truth social and talk about how he was raided by the FBI and use it to fundraise. We might never have known about this investigation.

CHERKASKY: That's very true. And I think that Donald Trump and his team have done more damage to this than really would have been necessary. And ultimately, I think any sort of indictment that's coming out, and a lot of people have been talking about this obstruction issue. I think that's very real possibility for him at this point, and it wouldn't have ever happened if the dispute about the documents was all this was, if they hadn't involved themselves and inserted themselves in a way that was untruthful and misleading, then I think that this actually could have been resolved in his favor. But the way it's going, I do think that the DOJ is looking to indict.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right, Katie Cherkasky, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning. Have a great weekend. All right, former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his former deputy Patrick Philbin will appear today before a federal grand jury investigating January 6th. The Justice Department subpoena signals a more dramatic escalation in its criminal investigation of the Capitol attack with Cipollone and Philbin have already testified before the House January 6th committee.

Donald Trump is promising full pardons and a government apology to Capitol rioters if he becomes president again.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I met with and I'm financially supporting people that are incredible. And they were in my office actually two days ago. It's very much on my mind. It's a disgrace what they've done to them. If I decide to run and if I win, I will be looking very, very strongly about pardons.


TRUMP: Full pardons.


ROMANS: A judge just handed down the longest sentence for any January 6th defendant so far. Former New York City Police officer Thomas Webester received 10 years in prison for assaulting an officer during the Capitol attack. Video shows him swinging a metal flagpole at the officer. He claimed unsuccessfully that he was attacking and acting in self-defense.

The January 6th committee wants to talk to former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich about his role in promoting false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The House panel wants his voluntary cooperation and one committee member asked for it on CNN last night.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): If he's watching, let me just say I hope you come in and we can have a discussion about these important matters for our country.



ROMANS: The committee says emails from Gingrich in December 2020 offered a Trump advisors talking points and directions for TV ads on alleged election fraud. Newly obtained emails revealed Ginny Thomas press lawmakers not only in Arizona, but also Wisconsin to help overturn the 2020 election. She is the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She emailed at least two Wisconsin lawmakers; she urged them to unilaterally choose what she called a clean slate of presidential electors who would vote for Trump. They're nearly identical to messages Thomas sent to more than two dozen lawmakers in Arizona in the weeks after the election.

All right, coming up, updated COVID booster shots now just hours away and right now, out in the Atlantic Ocean a storm that could become the first hurricane of the season.



ROMANS: Updated COVID booster shots could be given out as early as today. The CDC just cleared the Pfizer shots for those 12 and up and Moderna shots for those 18 and older. The CDC says it plans to recommend boosters for younger children in the coming weeks. The updated boosters protect against the original COVID strain and two Omicron sub-variants. All right, tropical storm Danielle building over the Atlantic expected to become the first hurricane of the season in the next few days. The storm has been strengthening northeast of Bermuda with sustained winds of 65 miles an hour. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam, easy for me to say here with the latest. Two questions, will it make landfall on the East Coast and am I right that August, we didn't see a major storm in August. That's really rare.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: OK, your answers are no and yes. OK, if that helps. It will not make landfall along the East Coast of the U.S.; this is going to be remained fish food. And this particular storm is the first named storm since the beginning of July. So yes, we went the entire month of August without a name storm. And we are waiting for that first Atlantic hurricane to be named as well. So, it wasn't the case with the 5 AM update. Although Danielle has strengthened to 70 miles per hour, remember a hurricane is officially at 74 miles per hour. So, not quite there just yet.

Official forecast track and path and intensity from the National Hurricane Center has this actually edging up to a Category 2 hurricane, but again, it'll stay across the open Atlantic lots of warm water across this region above average temperatures for that area.

Speaking above average, so is the heat out west. I mean just incredible amounts of heat, triple digit heat with over 45 million Americans under heat alerts right through this extended holiday weekend. Plan accordingly, if you're going to spend time outdoors, it is hot for many locations breaking records. And you bet, there will be more records broken today right through the peak of this heatwave, which actually expected to peek on Sunday and Monday right into Labor Day. Look at these triple digit temperatures--

ROMANS: I can't believe it--

DAM: Bakersfield all the way to Vegas, as well as Los Angeles. Here's look at your - Labor Day forecast.

ROMANS: Wow. My little nieces are going to school in Phoenix and I've got to tell you, I keep thinking and I'm getting out of the car and walking into the building when it's so hot, you know, wow.

DAM: No one needs to cook an egg on a windshield.

ROMANS: Exactly. Exactly. Derek, thank you so much.

DAM: All right.

ROMANS: All right, Serena and Venus Williams give tennis fans one last chance to see them play doubles together. Carolyn Manno was there for all the action and joins us on this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. This was so fun to watch. I mean it ended far too soon, but I was thinking so much about their legacy and we've all seen the movie but it was just so great to kind of watch them have one last go at it. There's been so much attention on Serena likely playing her final singles tournament that this is probably the last time we're going to see her on the court with her big sis Venus. I mean the pair won 14 major doubles titles together, dating all the way back to 1999. But last night's first round match under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium was their first match together in four and a half years and that's really tough, especially at 42 and 40 years old.

I mean, they were hoping that they could recreate some magic from previous grand slams. The sisters had never lost a grand slam final coming into this contest, but it really just wasn't to be and give their opponents some credit. They played really well. The Williams sister eliminated by a check pair and straight sets. Earlier Serena spoke about the fine line balancing the competition with appreciation of the outpouring of support that she's received.


SERENA WILLIAMS, 14-TIME GRAND SLAM DOUBLES CHAMPION: I've been doing a little bit of both, I think I've most - mostly been kind of blocking everything out. But then at the same time, I've been embracing a little bit of it because I also want to enjoy the moment because yes, I think these moments are clearly fleeting. So, for me, it's really about having a little embrace, but also understanding that I'm here to focus and do the best that I can at this time.


MANNO: She's here to win and while this might be the end of the road for the iconic duo, Serena is not finished yet. The 23 time Grand Slam champion back again tonight for round three of singles play, she's going to play Ajla Tomljanovic, one of the most highly anticipated matches that we have seen in some time. The Australian says it's more than a little intimidating to play the greatest of all time and everything that comes with that.


AJLA TOMLJANOVIC, TENNIS PLAYER: I think it's hard to block out when she's standing across the net like I know who she is. No matter the fact that I've been a Serena fan since I was a kid on Friday night. I'll just be a competitor and I'll try my best to win, but it will definitely be something I have never experienced yet.