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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Biden to Speak About Abortion Rights With 3 Weeks to Go; U.S. Trying to Speed Up Delivery of Air Defense System to Ukraine; Chinese Workers Express Frustration Over Faltering Economy. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, October 18th. I'm Christine Romans.

Just three weeks to go until the mid-term elections. Today, President Biden will zero in on abortion rights when he speaks at a speech in Washington. The White House hopes the issue will continue to galvanize voters.

The latest CNN poll finds it's the economy, inflation, voting rights, guns all ranked ahead of abortion in the minds of voters.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live for us bright and early in Washington.

Jasmine, what do you expect the president's message on abortion to be?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the president is going to talk about how he believes there is an assault on women's bodies and their right to choose. The president, officials say, is going to make the choice clear for voters, that they can go with the Republican Party who wants to ban abortion, he's going to say, or go with Democrats who don't, who want to codify Roe v. Wade.

Now, of course, the president has talked about abortion since the ruling came down over the summer, really trying to drum up the Democratic base, hoping that they'll come out and support their candidates, of course, because control of the Senate and control of the House for the Democratic Party is on the ballot come November.

Now, of course, two things stand in contrast here. First, we talked about a majority of voters are not listing abortion first as their main voting issue. It's the economy. Something you can see on the screen here, something the president and his White House have struggled with inflation.

Second, what today is going to look like. We're not expecting him to show up with a major candidate that's on the ballot on November. He's only event with the candidate this week we know will be with John Fetterman of Pennsylvania when he comes there for finance vote. That is likely to be closed door. Now, kind of folds into this series the president has been doing, not

holding major Democratic rallies with candidates ahead, of course, last week, we saw him on the West Coast. The White House defended his schedule even though it's right on showing up with races that are very, very tight across the country. Take a listen.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOSUE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is going to get out there, as we have said multiple times, to make sure he's talking directly to the American people about how we are delivering -- for delivering on our promises, delivering on how we're taking inflation seriously, delivering on making sure we're creating the jobs that the American people need at this time. So, he's been on the road nonstop and he will continue to be on the road nonstop.


WRIGHT: So, the White House says we can expect to see the president trying to talk about how he's delivering to the American people on the trail. First today what the choice is when it comes to abortion come November -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jasmine, nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much.

It was a big night on debate stages across the country. In Ohio last night, Senate candidates Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance picked up the same flame throwers they used in the first week ago. The attacks were fiery, often very personal and abortion, immigration, and replacement theory.



REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I think it is grounded in some of the most racial, divisive -- racially divisive writings in the history of the world and this is who he's running around with talking about replacement theory. There's no big grand conspiracy. This country has been enriched by immigrants from all corners of the world. There's no -- the problem, the danger that --


JD VANCE (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: It's shameful for you to accuse me that.

RYAN: My turn, pal. My turn. My turn.

VANCE: You are so desperate for political power, you'll accuse me of the father of biracial babies of racism. We are sick of it. You can believe in a border without being a racist.

RYAN: This guy has invested in dozens of companies that use foreign workers. This is -- this is why JD Vance, with all due respect, is a fraud.

My Italian grandmother had a saying when she met somebody like JD Vance, you have two faces. One for the camera and one for the business meetings.


ROMANS: Standing up to party leaders, also a central theme. Vance repeatedly attacking Tim Ryan for voting with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time, and Ryan shooting back that former President Trump has said Vance has been kissing his butt to get Vance to campaign for him.


Sharp barbs in Utah as well as independent Evan McMullin challenged Republican Senator Mike Lee on their only debate. McMullin accusing Lee with aiding former President Trump's efforts to overturn Joe Biden's election.


SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Yes, Joe Biden is our president. He was chosen in the only election that matters, the election held by the Electoral College. Now, as to whether there were errors, as to whether some states might have conducted their elections better than others, there's always room for debate and questions about that.

EVAN MCMULLIN (I), UTAH SENATE CANDIDATE: For you to talk about the importance of the Electoral College is rich. You knew how important it was when you urged them to find fake electors to overturn it. You were there to stand up for our constitution, but when the barbarians were at the gate, you were happy to let them in.


ROMANS: McMullin trying to unite a coalition of Democrats, independents and anti-Trump Republicans. Got a big boost from Utah Democrats who chose to endorse him rather than field their own candidate.

In Georgia, Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams facing off in a rematch of the 2018 race for governor. The two candidates clashing in their first televised debate which unfolded on the first day of early voting in the state. The most contentious came when discussing the economy, crime and abortion rights.


STACEY ABRAS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: We live in a state of fear and this is a governor who for the last four years has beat his chest but delivered very little for most Georgians. He has weakened gun laws and flooded our streets. He has weakened our privacy rights and our -- and women's rights. He has denied women access to reproductive care. The most dangerous thing facing Georgia is four more years of Brian Kemp. GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: I'm so optimistic about the future of

our state. The lowest unemployment rate in the history in the state, the most people working and economic opportunity in all parts of our state no matter your zip code or neighborhood. Stacey Abrams said Georgia is the worst state in the country to live in. Well, Marty, the girls and I disagree.


ROMANS: The candidates were also joined by third party candidate libertarian Shane Hazel who at many points sparred aggressively with both of them.

Let's bring in Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast". The closing arguments underway in this -- on the debate stage. The economy brought up the most in many days. Listen to this.


VANCE: I wish he had stood up to the party because it might have made the inflation crisis we've been seeing a lot better if he hadn't done which he always done which is vote with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden 100 percent of the time.

KEMP: Georgians should know that my desire is to continue to help them fight through 40 year high inflation and high gas prices and other things that our Georgia families are facing right now quite honestly because of policies in Washington, D.C. from President Biden and the Democrats that have complete control.


ROMANS: The Republicans are trying to coalesce around the Bidenomics story, right, this idea that it's Biden's policies that caused this inflation, and the people feel every single week. At the same time, you got the White House, you know, unveiling student loan reform over the counter hearing aids, trying to make their case that way.

Should the White House be talking about abortion or should be talking about the economy, stupid?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, so the reason Republicans talk about you said economy, crime, abortions, like rinse, repeat in all of these debates across the country, particularly in these pivotal races. But the Biden administration zeroing in abortion, like we're expecting in the speech later today like he's supposed to give is something that's a motivating factor of Democrats of which there aren't a lot right now.

I mean, they tried to motivate them based on what the Biden administration sees but it seems like they're really putting all of their faith in the abortion issue and it really is an X factor. You haven't seen voters mobilize like this before because they haven't had this right removed before. On inflation or on the economy, the Republicans are zeroing in on that. The number one thing on voters' minds, in poll, after poll, after poll.

Rare gas prices are getting better. You're seeing Democrats start to do a little better. But inflation, as you know, Christine, remains an enormous problem across the country and Democrats you're seeing sometimes not really having an answer to that.

ROMANS: Right. I mean, you know, presidents don't set gas prices, you know, they get too much credit.

KUCINICH: You're right.

ROMANS: And inflation is a global story. No question there. But when you walk into a voting booth and you feel like you have less money than a year ago, that's got to be a to factor.

KUCINICH: Table kitchen issues right there.


ROMANS: So, the president is going to spotlight abortion rights in this Democratic National Committee event tonight. We've been just talking about the most recent CNN polling that voters think abortion comes after the economy, voting rights, guns issues. Is he jumping on this too late with the Election Day only three weeks away?

You say it's an X factor. I mean, it's hard to -- I don't know -- it's hard to overstate how this could animate young voters, especially young women voters?

KUCINICH: I mean, I think they're having some criticism within the Democratic Party that the White House has behind the trend on this one. It's not a comfortable issue for the president.

However, you are seeing it on the state level, particularly somewhere like Michigan where across the country you're hearing Democrats say abortion is on the ballot. Michigan it already is. There is a separate ballot issue that Democrats from the time that that decided it was going to be on the ballot have been mobilizing behind it. While candidates are more nuanced, they have lots of reasons that voters go for one candidate or another. As we saw in Kansas, the up or down on something like that can drive turnout for Democrats saying it will help them get over the line particularly in competitive governor's race in Michigan and some of the House seats that can be critical for Democrats trying to hold on to every seat possible in that majority.

ROMANS: All right. Jackie Kucinich, nice to see you bright and early this morning. Thank you, Jackie.

KUCINICH: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. If it's not the cold, it's the heat. Weather-wise, it's a tale of two seasons nationwide.

Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


Yes, we're watching about 70 million Americans underneath the cold weather alerts. In some spots, believe it or not, down to 18 degrees across the Central Plains and across certainly portions of the Midwest as well, and even the Carolinas down to the lower 30s. And yes, winter weather to be had in the northern areas of Michigan. The U.P. of Michigan up to a foot of snowfall as the disturbance goes by this region. The people are getting snowfall, they're surely taking note here that we're just a couple of months away from winter officially getting underway.

And you notice these temperatures, upwards to 95 in the locations. Could see record low temperatures generally in the eastern half of the U.S. in Atlanta, should be 74 degrees. Aiming for 54 in the afternoon hours of Tuesday.

This generally warming trend over the next several days where we climb up above average. If you're not a fan of the colder air over the next few days, expect temps to be above average by this time this week. So, false fall across the area of the eastern U.S. which sparks a rebound in the coming several days.

But notice the western U.S.,. we've touched on how warm it's been here. Fire weather conditions have been active. Up to 97 large fires the vast majority across the Pacific northwest. Generally wet weather pushes in. Friday, Saturday, Sunday we expect to see wet weather across the northwest and improving fire conditions there as well. But for now, aiming for the 70s across Seattle and Portland which is well above average for this time of year.

ROMANS: All right. Tale of two seasons. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

All right. The Trump Organization charged the secret service exorbitant rates to stay at properties they owned while they were protecting the former president and their family. According to documents released by the House Oversight Committee, the Secret Service was charged $1.4 million over the course of Trump's presidency.

On some trips agents were charged $1,185 per night. The statement that they were provided at cost, heavily discounted or for free. The committee has been trying to obtain a full accounting of Secret Service staying at Trump properties but hasn't received full information.

All right. Just ahead, the arsenal of weapons brought to the capital by the Oath Keepers.

Plus, the moment Russia and Ukrainian officials came together and shook hands as the war raged.

And China delaying the release of critical economic data. What could Beijing be hiding?



ROMANS: All right. Welcome back.

The Pentagon is trying to speed up the delivery of two advanced surface-to-air missile defense systems to Ukraine. Russia has stepped up the use of Iranian supplied drones to pound Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. With new attacks over the past few hours, four people were killed in the drone attacks in Kyiv, Monday including a pregnant woman and her husband.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): In just 12 hours from 9:00 p.m. Sunday, 37 Iranian Shaheds and several cruise missiles were destroyed. The world can and must stop this terror. When we talk about Ukraine's need for air and missile defense, we are talking about real lives that are being taken by terrorists.


ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson live in Ukraine's capital.

Nic, what do we know about the new strikes?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They are targeting, it appears, electrical supplies, the power generating plants. Two plants hit here in Kyiv.

When they were struck a couple of hours ago, actually knocked our signal off air here, there's been strikes in Kharkiv in the east as well and in an industrial zone there, Dnipro, power plants hit there. And 100 miles west of here, strikes there again hitting the power plants, knocking out the electricity.

But in many cities, I mea, the east of this city here, what you can see behind me, water and electricity is out, where the electricity goes, that affects the water pumping stations.

So, authorities say they're working to repair those services.


But Russia seems to be embarking on a war of attrition against electrical power generating facilities around the country, trying to wear down the infrastructure that will keep the country warm during the winter, Christine.

ROMANS: Civilian targets caught in the crosshairs as well. All right. Nic, thank you so much.

Ukrainian and Russian human rights officials meeting on a deserted highway in an unknown location on Monday during a swap between the two countries of 200 prisoners of war.

Salma Abdelaziz is tracking the developments live from London.

How did this exchange come together, Salma?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A true milestone yesterday, Christine, for the first time we saw Ukrainian and Russian human rights officials meeting face to face, shaking hands as you said, alongside this deserted highway. The Russian side releasing this video showing this brief moment. There was a conversation between the two sides where they said they would work on further prisoner exchanges for the Ukrainian side, this was an all female release. They received 108 Ukrainian women, a majority of them members of the Ukrainian military but some were civilians, mothers and daughters as one official said.

Nerve racking as it was described by one Ukrainian official. For the Russian side, they received 110 civilians, 80 sailors and 30 other service members. Over 200 POWs in total exchanged between Russia and Ukraine.

Now, it's not the first exchanged. These have happened in the past but they happen in a murky and mysterious way. So, the hope is, that there's a clear channel of communications there. President Zelenskyy hailing the POW exchange, saying we will not forget any of our people. We will release all of them.

So, signs for people still missing loved ones that there could be progress, particularly when you think of the accusations that the POWs have been mistreated, this gives hope to some of those families.

ROMANS: All right. Salma, thank you so much for that.

Back here, members of the right wing militia group oath keepers brought an arsenal ahead of January 6. Prosecutors in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four other members citing evidence the group spent thousands of dollars on firearms, ammunition and other equipment. They say Rhoades went on a cross-country weapons buying spree building the arsenal as they tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power on January 6th.

All right. Ahead, hear an apology from the new prime minister of United Kingdom and workers in China struggling as the country's economy falters.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How has this whole experience changed your perception of your country, of China's leaders?

I'm like an ant that they can trample on. I have no hope.



[05:27:19] ROMANS: All right. China is indefinitely delaying the release of a critical economic report, economic data that was supposed to be announced overnight. This comes as the country's ruling elite gathered in Beijing for a week-long, twice a decade national congress of the Communist Party.

Let's bring China's Selina Wang.

Selina, is China trying to hide something here?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, some experts are saying they're doing the last-minute data of the GDP release because, well, the data doesn't look so good. It's clear that China is dealing with a sharp economic slowdown, but experts are saying Beijing doesn't want anything distracting from this ongoing communist party congress when Xi is expected to step into the unprecedented third term. They want the focus on Xi and his successes, not the multitude of challenges that China's economy is facing.


WANG (voice-over): Migrant workers like Mr. Hu moved from China's villages to Beijing in search for better job prospects. On a lucky day, he can make the equivalent of a few dozen U.S. dollars from construction work, anything left over he sends home to his kids in the village.

He says the pandemic has made it harder to find the work and China's economy is in bad shape because of all of the COVID restrictions. The world's growth engine is sputtering. After decades of unstoppable growth, China's economy is cracking.

Constant COVID lockdowns wrecking businesses and lives.

He shows us his rental home in Beijing, just 4 square meters. It's really small, he says.

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he's pledged to reduce income inequality but workers like Hu aren't seeing the benefits. He says, I don't think it's a good idea for him to continue to serve.

SUSAN SHIRK, CHAIR OF 21ST CENTURY CHINA CENTER: I think there are a lot of people in China who have lost confidence in the pragmatic judgment of their leader. It could become a big challenge to Xi Jinping.

WANG: Unemployment is skyrocketing, not just because of the pandemic. China's once vibrant private sector suffocating under Xi Jinping's crackdown to bring companies under tighter party communist control. Beijing insists the moves protect consumers and reduce economic inequality. But instead, mass layoffs are sending youth unemployment to a record high of nearly 20 percent.

Protests also erupted this summer in central China. Thousands of depositors lost access to their savings at several banks in the region. As police violently quashed the protesters, Beijing arrested hundreds of suspects allegedly.