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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

New U.S. Military Aid Package to Ukraine Worth $675 Million; Hurricanes in Atlantic & Pacific, Heat & Wildfires Devastate California; Official Obama Portraits Unveiled at White House. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired September 08, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. It is Thursday, September 8th, 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with me. I'm Christine Romans.

Just into CNN, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announcing a new $675 million aid package for Ukraine. Austin right now is in Germany, meeting military leaders from around the world to discuss a growing crisis in Ukraine the continued shelling near the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant. There are growing fears the fighting could trigger a nuclear disaster.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins me this morning live from Ramstein airbase.

What do we know about this new aid package, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Christine, the secretary of defense with those remarks a couple minutes ago here in Ramstein, you are absolutely right it comes at a really decisive time as the war is dragging on in Ukraine. On the one hand, that fighting around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, but then also, of course, you do have the Ukrainians making some gains in the south of the country, and also in the northeast of the country as well.

The secretary of defense says, the U.S. wants to make absolutely clear that they remain strong and their commitments to Ukraine and are going to give the Ukrainians what they need to succeed. Now, he was saying that the new package from presidential drawn out is around $675 million and he listed some of the main items on that new drawdown.

Here's what he said.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETTARY: The latest package includes more GMLRS, 105 millimeter howitzers, artillery munitions, HARM missiles, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems, small arms, and more.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: And just to translate, one of those military speaks into what we can understand, he talks about GMLRS, he means GMLRS which stands for guided multiple rocket launching systems, which, of course have been so successful for the Ukrainians in the Ukraine so far. The HIMARS systems are the ones we keep talking about here on air, Christine. Of course, the U.S. has different multiple rocket launch systems on offer as well.

The big question now for the U.S. is, are the allies also going to remain as committed and strong as the U.S. says it is willing to stay, there do seem to be some -- there does seem to be some fatigue on the part of some allies, but certainly the message that the U.S. today wants to stand, not just to Ukraine, we saw the Ukraine defense minister also sitting there with the secretary of defense, but also to the Russians is that the allies remain strong, remain committed, and will give Ukrainians what they need to defend themselves -- Christine.

ROMANS: Heading into what will no doubt be a tough, and maybe cold winter in parts of Europe. All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much, Fred.

The State Department says members of Russian -- Vladimir Putin's Russian administration are personally overseeing and coordinating so- called filtration camps for Ukrainians. What are these? These camps are allegedly used to interrogate, and then forcibly transport Ukrainian citizens to Russia. The State Department will not say whether Putin himself is involved in these efforts, or whether the program constitutes a war crime.


VEDANT PATEL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: Russia has systematically used the practice of forced deportations, previously, and the fear and misery it evokes for people forced to live under the Kremlin's control are hard to overstate.


ROMANS: So, Melissa Bell has the latest live from Kyiv. You know, what else does the State Department saying about these filtration camps? I mean, we're talking about adults, but also children, some of whom will be moved deep into Siberia?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There are different figures. Ukrainians say that it is 2.5 million Ukrainians that have been forcibly taken to Russian territory after those a filtration camps with 38,000 of those children.

Now, the State Department figures are slightly less, something behind 900,000 and a million and a half, but still, it gives you an idea of what has been going on on the other side of that line, the one that divides this part of Ukraine to the part of Ukraine that is now in the hands of Russian forces. And this says the State Department, is something we have been seeing and hearing from state officials who have managed to flee as well, Christine. It is a systematic attempt to try and clear the lands ahead of

referendum of people who might not vote in the right way. The plan is that in these parts of the country that have been taken over by Russian forces, referendum are being prepared in order to test the public opinion and ask the people whether they want to join Russia.

So the first steps of annexation essentially in parts of those -- of the country that are now in Russian hands.


Now in order to get the right vote to prepare the ground for these referenda, these filtration camps, forcible removal of many hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of Ukrainians to Russia ahead of that, but also those details that we've been hearing from the State Department more, the details of what goes on in those filtration camps, family separated, people strip naked, humiliated, tortured, and sometimes, Christine, disappeared entirely.

ROMANS: Just really troubling there.

Okay, Melissa Bell, thank you so much for that from Kyiv.

All right. The second suspect in that deadly stabbing spree that terrorized Canada has died. Ten people were killed, 18 others injured. Police say Miles Sanderson went into medical distress yesterday. He died shortly after being arrested. That means both suspects wanted in the mass dubbing are now dead.


RHONDA BLACKMORE, COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE SASKATCHEWAN RCMP: People were saying, I haven't slept, I can't sleep, I can't close my eyes. Every time I close my eyes, I hear, noises that him, is he coming back. So I hope that this brings them some sense of closure, unfortunately, you know, now that miles is deceased, we may never have an understanding of that motivation.


ROMANS: The other suspect, Sanderson's older brother Damien was found dead one day after the attacks. Police in Memphis have arrested a suspect in a murder rampage across the city that left four people dead, and three others injured.


CHIEF C.J. DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: So first, I want to reassure the community that 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly is in fact in custody. This has been a horrific week for the city of Memphis, and the Memphis police department. We extend our sincere condolences to all the victims who have been affected in this sequence of violent acts today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The crime spree began shortly after midnight Wednesday, and ended at noon pm after a shooting event. Ezekiel Kelly was taken into custody following a high-speed chase, police say two weapons were visible inside the vehicle at the time of his arrest. He is expected to face several felony charges.

A suspect has been arrested in the stabbing death of "Las Vegas Review Journal" investigator Jeff German. Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was arrested Wednesday in connection with German's death. "The Review Journal" says German was working on a story about Telles the week he was killed.

A maroon SUV connected to German's death has been towed from Telles home after "Review Journal" reporters say they saw him in his driveway standing next to the vehicle. Telles is being held on a murder count and has a court appearance this afternoon.

All right. Two critical storm systems are churning, one in the Atlantic as Hurricane Earl strengthens. The other Hurricane Kay in the Pacific could bring major flooding over the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, sweltering heat wave and devastating wildfire.

Let's get right to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Just -- what's happening on the West Coast it is real tough there, and now these two tropical storms. What can you tell us?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, Christina, the storm system is a category one, in the past 24 hours. They did make it up to category two. It has weakened a bit but hurricane watch over the west central Baja.

And notice, even on the U.S. Mexican border, any tropical storm watch has been issued there across portions of the far northern Baja. The storm, 85 mile hour winds, kind of -- makes landfall there around the -- region which is really a sparsely populated area of the Baja.

But notice what happens here, as we go through, Thursday to Friday, we could have ourselves a tropical storm very near areas of southern California there before our model kind of suggest the system shifted a bit farther from land. But the last time we had a storm system or hurricane that was within 250 miles of San Diego was back when Hurricane Nora pushed within this radius in 1987. Hurricane Kay comes into very close proximity of the same region, the closest past of any tropical system with category one winds to push to San Diego.

Notice, the impact certainly going to be indirect at the very least here in southern California, from Friday into Saturday because we've seen significant rainfall out of, this Christine, with 2 to 3 inches of parts of the Mojave desert, parts of northern Baja could also see some significant rainfall. What it will do is break down that massive ridge of high pressure that was firmly in place.

So with the heavy rainfall, the potential for flooding and certainly some relief from the fire activity across this region, there's going to be a flood risk across parts of California, in fact we do have flood watches -- but notice these temperatures, not often you see this happen in Palm Springs where you go from 10 4 to 83 in a matter of a couple days. Death Valley from the one teens down to 89 degrees and a couple days, Sacramento from 113 down to 92 degrees.

So again, some relief on the horizon here with this incoming tropical system.

ROMANS: Yeah, when 92 degrees in Sacramento feels like a relief, you know, how hard it's been?


All right. Thanks, Pedram. Nice to see you.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Later today, Steve Bannon expected to surrender. A new indictment in New York.

Plus, busing migrants north from the border. Democrats are now doing it, too.

And a bill to codify same-sex marriage headed to a vote, will enough Republican support it?


ROMANS: In just a few hours, longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon is expected to turn himself into face criminal charges in New York state. The charges are related to alleged scheme to raise money for construction of a border wall.

Bannon is expected to plead not guilty at his arraignment. The state charges mirror what federal prosecutors were charged within 2020, defrauding investors into that crowd funding before he was pardoned by then President Trump. Presidential pardons, of course, do not apply to state investigations.

We still do not know why classified documents were found at Donald Trump's Florida country club.


It should be noted that Trump has been accused of handling sensitive information on more than one occasion when he was president.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If Donald Trump is in hot water over potentially mishandling sensitive, classified information, it's not the first time.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: I think it was very disdainful of the whole construction system, or are we on the subject to his pretty disdainful of the intelligence community.

TODD: In 2017, his first year as president, he was criticized for telling Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in Washington right in the Oval Office about intelligence the U.S. cut from another country about ISIS plots. Trump defended his comments, but in doing so he gave away even more information.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel.

TODD: CNN later reported that that Oval Office gap in 2017 with the Russians was what led U.S. intelligence to extract one of its highest level covert sources inside the Russian government that same year, out of concern for the person's safety. CNN sources said that spy had access to Vladimir Putin, and could even provide images of documents on Putin's desk.

DOUGLAS LONDON, RETIRED SENIOR CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER: Danger is not just a physical danger, the asset and loss of information. It's also going to cause search to look back at everything you have access to.

TODD: Also, in 2017, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump and then-Japanese leader Shinzo Abe or consulting on a sensitive national security issue, word came of a North Korean missile launch. Guests at Mar-a-Lago or close enough to take photos like these, in view of the guests on the patio, documents were eliminated by the light of a cell phone.

AKI PERITZ, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERORRISM ANALYST: The fact that he had these documents flying around, and shares it with a four national who happens to be a prime minister, and who knows who else, is incredibly serious. It shows a general lack of understanding of how our national security system works.

TODD: And in 2017 phone call with the president of the Philippines, Trump revealed that the U.S. had positioned submarines near North Korea. That information had previously been so closely held that even some top aides inside the White House were caught by surprise.

And in 2019, Trump bragged to journalist Bob Woodward about building an ultra secret nuclear weapons system.

TRUMP: But I have built a weapon system, weapons system that no one has ever had in this country before.

LONDON: He seems most interested in the intelligence that House spoke to him personally, that advances personal agenda, or said something about him. Obviously, he wanted to use for his own personal and political gains.


TODD (on camera): Donald Trump has denied mishandling classified information, claiming that he had declassified many of the documents found in Mar-a-Lago without getting proof of declassification. Former Trump aides denied he ever declassified those documents. Trump has called the Mar-a-Lago investigation a weaponization of the justice system, and one of Trump's lawyer says also criticized the leaking of information on what was found at Mar-a-Lago.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: Yeah, helpful primary there. OK, thanks, Brian.

A challenge for educators in the post-pandemic era, how to make up for COVID-19 learning loss.

And Barack Obama's punch lines about his official portrait.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: He also talked me out of wearing a tan suit, by the way.




ROMANS: Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer promising a bill to codify same-sex marriage into federal law soon.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Let me be clear, a vote will happen. A vote on marriage equality will have been on the Senate floor in the coming weeks. I hope there will be ten Republicans to support it.


ROMANS: So the Senate push comes after the House passed legislation back in July to protect same-sex marriage with support from 47 Republicans. Some Democrats have suggested attaching the bill to a short term government funding bill, but Schumer says he would prefer to bring it to the floor as a separate piece of legislation.

All right, a boost for Democrats two months out in front of the crucial midterm elections. A source tells CNN, former President Barack Obama plans to campaign for a variety of candidates including those down the ballot running for secretary of state in key battleground, indicates the level of concern for election integrity and the importance of those positions for 2024.

In the meantime, it was homecoming there for the Obamas. The former first couple finally unveiling their White House portraits.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Barack and Michelle, welcome home.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a hollowed White House tradition renewed.

BIDEN: Portraits are going to hang in the walls in this sacred place, the people's house forever.

MATTINGLY: The official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled, bringing within the customary nostalgia and humor.

B. OBAMA: Thank you so much for your hospitality. Thanks for letting us invite a few friends to the White House. We will try not to tear up the place.

BIDEN: President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

MATTINGLY: Obama's former vice president, now leading the country, serving as host to an event filled with former Obama staffers.

B. OBAMA: I'm a little disappointed I haven't heard of anyone naming their kid Barack yet, or Michele. But there is still time.

MATTINGLY: The former president's portrait painted by Robert McCurdy.

OBAMA: What I love about Robert's work is he paints people exactly the way they are, for better or worse. He captures every wrinkle on your face, every crease in your shirt, and you will note that he refused to hide any of my gray hairs.


Refused my request to make my ears smaller.

MATTINGLY: The former first lady's, Sharon Sprung.

B. OBAMA: I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle. Her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she's fine.

MATTINGLY: Each striking as they are distinctive, captured the nation's first Black president and first lady.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: For me, this day is not just about what has happened, it is also about what could happen, because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison.

MATTINGLY: For Biden and Obama, two men intertwined for history.

BIDEN: This is a big fucking deal.

MATTINGLY: With a deeply personal, if complex relationship.

B. OBAMA: Someone once said, if you are looking for a friend in Washington, get a dog. Our family was lucky enough to have two wonderful dogs. But I was even lucky or to have a chance to spent eight years working day and night with a man who became a true partner, at a true friend.

MATTINGLY: Heightened by the realities of an office few can understand.

OBAMA: I've always described the presidency as a relay race. You take the baton from someone, you run your leg as hard, and as well as you can, and then you handed off to someone else.

Each of us tasked with trying to bring the country we love closer to its highest aspirations.

MATTINGLY: Partaken and a tradition that for decades transcended partisan divides.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I'm also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wondering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze into this portrait and ask, what would George do?


MATTINGLY: Four years in between the 44th and 46th presidents not mentioned, at least, not explicitly.

M. OBAMA: The people, they make their voices heard with their vote, we hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power, and at once our time is up, we move on.

MATTINGLY: Instead, an east room reunion.

M. OBAMA: What we are looking at today, a portrait of a biracial kid with an unusual name, and the daughter of a water pump operator and stay at home mom.

MATTINGLY: A tradition, and it's meaning revived.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


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

Just ahead, America's teachers now dealing with the challenge they haven't seen in decades. And a Democratic mayor in Texas busing migrants to blue states just like the Republican governor.


REPORTER: Are you worried about political backlash?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely not.