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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden & Trump Criss-Crossing The U.S. With Four Days Until Vote; As Trump Inches Closer To Declaring, DOJ Mulls A Special Counsel; Today: Elon Musk Begins Laying Off Twitter Employees; Kyrie Irving Posts Late-Night Apology Amid Antisemitism Controversy; Today: Storm Threat From Missouri To Texas; Final Stretch: 30M Plus Votes Already Cast; Democrats Struggle For Support From Voters Of Color. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 04, 2022 - 05:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now in Early Start, deja vu. Days before the midterms, Biden and Trump looming large over the races with one teasing a rematch. Help Wanted, Democrats need good news on the economy. Will this morning's jobs report give them any? And mass layoffs at any moment. Thousands of people who work at Twitter this morning might not work there anymore by noon.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Just four days now left until the high stake's midterm elections, control of the House, the Senate and dozens of state governors offices are on the line. President Biden waking up in California. He's on a swing across the West Coast trying to rally Democrats in key races.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you have a message to the American voters?



ROMANS: Tonight, the President will be in Chicago for another campaign event. Former President Trump also on the road. He held a rally there in Sioux City, Iowa, backing Republican candidates, all that upstaging them with big hints about his plans for 2024.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get ready. That's all I'm telling you very soon. Get ready. Get ready.


ROMANS: Let's begin with the President with CNN's Jasmine Wright. Jasmine, what's the President been talking about in these final days?

JASMIN WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the President has been focused on playing up the contrast between Republicans and Democrats in this last stretch until the election. Now that's not to say that he hasn't been talking about the economy or talking about his achievements while in office, he has, but it's really been about trying to reframe the -- this election not as a referendum on who currently holds control of Washington, the Democrats, but instead a choice between the two parties.

Now yesterday in California, you can see him on the screen here, the president, he talked about -- which we haven't really heard so far from him -- what could happen if Republicans did take the House and what's at stake here. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Everybody talks about a referendum. It's not a referendum. It's a choice. A choice between two fundamentally different versions of America. If they went back on House and Senate, they're going to impeach me. I don't know what the hell they'll impeach me for.

No, I'm not joking. And then moving on -- and recently, they said, we should stop talking about that until we win. Well, all kidding aside, think about it. So much is a stake.


WRIGHT: So obviously, we do not hear the President talking about his own impeachment very often. It's interesting that that is something that's on his mind in these last four days. Now, other things that the President talked about was a women's rights, protests in Iran and WNBA star Brittney Griner as she remains detained and Russia.

Now still telling those, the President is playing defense and these reliably blue seats obviously now that they are really in high profile race is just showing kind of how much on the defense that Democrats are in these reliably blue states. So today we will see the President as he stays for the morning time or afternoon time in California. He will talk about the CHIPS and Science Act that he believes that helps his party in the upcoming races.

And, of course, that's going to be hours before that jobs report comes out something that the White House has been bracing for as they look for good news on the economy just four days before the election. Christine?

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

So as you heard, Donald Trump almost but not quite declaring a 2024 run to return to the White House.


TRUMP: I will very, very, very probably do it again, OK? Very, very, very probably. KELLYANNE CONWAY, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think you can expect him to announce soon. He's been urged by some people to still have a surprise in November surprise. But we're trying to mitigate November surprises for all the candidates.


ROMANS: With Trump clearly readying a run, CNN has learned exclusively that Justice Department officials have discussed whether a special counsel will be needed to oversee these two sprawling federal investigations into first, the January 6 insurrection and the Mar-a- Lago documents.

Sources tell CNN no decisions have been made. But officials have debated whether a special counsel could insulate the DOJ from accusations that President Biden is using the department to target his presidential opponent. Even assuming, Trump declares how the race will shape up is still an open question.

More on that from CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Iowa.



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To say Donald Trump is coming back to the campaign trail would suggest he's ever gone away.

TRUMP: Make America great again.

ZELENY (voice-over): He's back in a new way for rallies in five days in a sprint to election day.

TRUMP: Hello Iowa.

ZELENY (voice-over): Iowa is hardly the hottest spot on the map of 2022 battlegrounds. But the state has something even more enticing. It hopes to ring the opening bell of the next Republican presidential race.

As Republicans ride a wave of optimism in the final days of the midterm elections, the 2024 campaign is about to burst from the shadows and the former President is eager to solidify his role as the party's top leader, inching ever closer to announcing another bid for the White House.

TRUMP: In order to make our country successful, safe and glorious again, I will probably have to do it again.

ZELENY (voice-over): The question is whether potential rivals would join him or step aside. A parade of Republicans with presidential ambitions have already visited Iowa this year, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and outgoing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Aren't you glad you live in the free state of Florida?

ZELENY (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is eyeing an Iowa trip of his own after his reelection campaign is complete, CNN has learned, further fueling and intensifying duel with the former president. While his loyal base of supporters is already lining up behind him, a Trump candidacy would test the full party's appetite for reliving the 2020 campaign and litigating a string of his legal challenges.

Susan Stewart is an Iowa Republican who voted for Trump.

SUSAN STEWART, IOWA VOTER: The Republicans have never supported him in the first place. There are others who have mixed feelings about him. But, by and large, I would say there's more diehard Trump supporters in any of those other categories.

ZELENY (voice-over): Conversations with Republicans in other states reveal a measure of hesitation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am perplexed because I was a Trump supporter. And I don't know where I stand now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we got betrayed and especially when you attack the Capitol, that's for sure.

ZELENY (on-camera): So you wouldn't want to see him run again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, definitely not.

ZELENY (voice-over): But many Trump loyalists do and the former President has repeatedly signaled he's poised to launch a new campaign built around false questions about the last one.

TRUMP: May just have to do it again. Stay tuned, everybody. Stay tuned.


ZELENY: As the former president holds four rallies in five days leading to election day, there is no question he is trying to step into what he believes will be a Republican wave next Tuesday. The only remaining question is what his next move will be. Aide say expect some type of announcement before the end of November.

Jeff Zeleny CNN, Sioux City, Iowa.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff, thank you for that. A notable endorsement in the Pennsylvania Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz.


OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST: If I lived in Pennsylvania, I would have already cast my vote for John Fetterman. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oprah Winfrey helped turn Dr. Oz into a household name. He was a regular guest on her show. Winfrey later back to his own spin off, the Dr. Oz Show.

All right, Elon Musk will start laying off Twitter employees this morning. A memo sent to staff says workers will be notified if they still have jobs by noon Eastern time. CNN's Clare Duffy joins us. Clare, we understand he is -- Twitter has closed its offices temporarily. Workers must be bracing for those layoff notices today.

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: That's right, Christine. Workers received this memo last night that basically told them that layoffs are coming today that they would be closing Twitter's offices preemptively out of a, you know, concern about safety. And this memo basically told employees if you're at an office, if you're on the way to an office, go home.

You know, I think it's worth saying that regardless of how you feel about Elon Musk, regardless of how you feel about Twitter, it seems like this is going to be a really sort of sad day for the company. Employees have been dealing with months of uncertainty related to this acquisition, you know, hearing the world's richest man criticize the company, and through all of that continuing to work and continuing to launch products and now they're left to sort of find out their fate whether they have a job via an email today.

ROMANS: Yes. And, you know, some of these workers really care about safeguarding, you know, the public conversation, right, against hate speech and against misinformation. I mean, some of these people are doing really important work for democracy. So they're going to get an email by noon. That's how they'll find out?

DUFFY: That's right. They're expected to get an email by noon that with the subject line, your role at Twitter. It said that if their job is intact, they'll receive an email to their Twitter email. If their job is not intact, they will receive a personal email. And, you know, I think it's worth mentioning just that, you know, we're running up to the midterm elections.

As you say some of these employees are so important to protecting the platform. Running up to the midterms, it'll be -- we'll have to watch what kind of impact it'll have.


And also on some of these really ambitious products that Elon Musk wants to launch, you know, this $8 a month subscription platform. Depending on how many employees he lays off, you know, it could have a major impact on his ability to fulfill some of these things.

ROMANS: Yes, I guess we really don't know what Elon Musk's Twitter is going to look like yet. You know, we're all kind of just -- we're going to -- I guess we're all riding on this ride with him. All right, nice to see you, Clare Duffy. DUFFY: (INAUDIBLE) make or break moment for him right now.

ROMANS: Yes, I think so. It does. All right, nice to see you. Thanks for getting up early for us. Have a good weekend.

All right, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been suspended for at least five games over what the team says is his failure to disavow antisemitism. He has come under fire for tweeting a link to a documentary that's been criticized as being antisemitic. He has defended his decision and did so again to reporters Thursday.


KYRIE IRVING, BROOKLYN NETS POINT GUARD: So I take my full responsibility, again, I'll repeat it, for posting something on my Instagram or Twitter that may have had some unfortunate falsehoods in it. But I also am a human being as 30 years old, and I've been growing up in a country that's told me that I wasn't worth anything. And I came from a slave class. And I come from a people that are meant to be treated the way we get treated every day.


ROMANS: So given the opportunity there with reporters to clearly state that he disavowed antisemitism, he didn't. Then late last night, Irving did post an apology on social media saying, "To all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I'm deeply sorry to have caused you pain and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled antisemitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish brothers and sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in that documentary."

All right, to weather now. 35 million Americans across northern Missouri, to the Gulf Coast of Texas are now facing a severe weather threat today. 12 million of them could see severe thunderstorms which could produce tornadoes.

Derek Van Dam is tracking the system for us this big system. Where is the biggest risk? What's the timeline here, Derek?

Derek Van Dam, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Christine. This is going to be a dangerous day that will unfold and it's all because of this collision of air masses in the nation's heartland. It's going to set the stage for strong to severe storms to form right along this advancing cold front and associated low pressure.

Cold air dryer to the northwest, that's going to interact with that warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. That's the collision zone that will fire off these thunderstorms later this afternoon and evening. Already a few stronger thunderstorms developing across central portions of Kansas and into the Texas panhandle heads up which a time got some storms just to your West.

Storm Prediction Center has an enhanced risk where you see that shading of orange damaging winds, large hail. They've explicitly used the words strong tornado or two possible within this area. So keep an eye to the sky, Oklahoma City all the way to Shreveport and into Houston and Dallas Fort Worth.

In terms of the timing, we do anticipate the thunderstorms to form through the afternoon but it is potential we could see some of these tornadoes develop after sunset tonight. That means nocturnal tornadoes are particularly dangerous for this area because they catch people off guard typically when they are sleeping.

Greatest risk of tornado, greatest probability, Dallas Fort Worth to the east. And again, that's for later tonight and into the overnight period. Some of these tornadoes could form overnight and into the early morning hours of Saturday as the storm system advances eastward. It's not only the severe weather threat, Christine, it's also the potential of flash flooding. We have 2 to 4 inches in the rainfall forecast for this particular area.


VAN DAM: Back to you.

ROMANS: Thanks so much for the warning. Nice to see you this morning.


ROMANS: All right, next, vulnerable Dems outperforming President Biden in the polls. Can they win on Tuesday? Plus, a Russian flag removed in Ukraine, signs of retreat or a trap? And the moment, a gunman opened fire, wounding a former prime minister.




SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA: Georgia deserves a United States senator who understands the struggles of ordinary people and who will stand on their side. And I promise you, if you will stand with me for the next five days, I'll stand for you for the next six years.

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE NOMINEE: It is time for us to get people in Washington to do the right thing. And as my office linemen, they used to tell me sometime, Herschel, follow me. I take you to the promised land. So I'm going to tell all you vote for me. We all get to the promised land. That's how we get there. We get there together.


ROMANS: The Georgia Senate race, one of the most closely watched contests in this final sprint to Election Day. According to the latest data, more than 30 million pre-election votes have been cast in 46 states.

I want to bring in Eli Yokley, a Political Reporter with Morning Consult. Nice to see you this morning. Gosh, these early voting numbers are really strong for the midterms. Georgia turnout is shattering records, Eli. What do you think it means for both parties on Tuesday?

ELI YOKLEY, POLITICAL REPORTER, MORNING CONSULT: It's huge. I mean, in 2018, we thought we set a record for midterm turnout. It seems like this year might be on track to do the same thing. I think it means right now Democrats might be looking like they're ahead. It seems like Republican voters are more inclined to vote on election day. But on both sides of the aisle, a lot of these people are showing up for these pretty consequential midterms this year.

ROMANS: The President's been stumping for Democrats across the country. He's going to wake up in California, he'll end up in Chicago later today. In his avoiding visiting some of the states with the closest races, what do you make of that?

YOKLEY: California, Chicago is pretty blue territory. I mean, it sounds like Joe Biden is focusing a lot on the Democratic base this year. I mean, he's not showing up in Georgia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, these huge states, when it comes to control of the United States Senate and a lot of really consequential governor races.

You know Joe Biden's net approval rating has fallen underwater in about 46 states since he's taken office, that's not great, that is a bad environment for his candidates.


The one thing maybe working toward them is about -- only about a third of voters say they're thinking a lot about President Biden this year. Half of voters said that back in 2018, it seems like the issues are taking a bit more prominence. But that's not great for the Democratic party this year, either.

ROMANS: Yes, they still have over overhanging everything. You know, these polls that show the economy, inflation are the things that matter most to them. And, you know, history shows you punish the party in power, right, when you don't feel good about the economy.

Democrats are seeing a dip in support from Black and Hispanic voters, what's that going to mean for the party this cycle and in the future, do you think?

YOKLEY: Well, I mean, it's not good when you're thinking about some of these contests in places like Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida, even Texas. There's a lot of consequential House races for the small margins matter. I mean, one thing we've noticed since 2017, it's just an ideological shift away from the left among Hispanic voters and among Black voters. A lot of it is base on education, some of the same educational fissures that have helped the Republicans with white voters.

I mean, one thing Democrats relied on a lot in 2020 was just pulling back some of those white voters, white working-class voters, they lost. All sides this year, like saying that some of those gains are going away, that's not great for the midterms, and that's also not great for Democrats prospects in 2024 if those trends continue. ROMANS: All right, Eli Yokley of Morning Consult, thanks for dropping by this morning. Great conversation.

YOKLEY: Yes. Anytime.

ROMANS: All right, have a good weekend.

Quick hits across America right now, Paul Pelosi released from a San Francisco hospital six days after an attacker fractured his skull in his home. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her husband has a long recovery ahead.

Gabby Petito's parents are suing the Moab Utah Police Department for $50 million. The suit claims officers could have saved her life when they responded to a domestic disturbance involving her fiance Brian Laundrie two weeks before her death.

Police near San Francisco say they've solved the mystery of the buried car in the backyard of a mansion. Detectives now say the Mercedes convertible was put there 30 years ago as part of an insurance fraud scheme.

Still ahead, voters in a key swing state fearing fraud after falling for Republican misinformation and confusion on the ground in Ukraine. Our Russian troops really retreating from a key region.



ROMANS: Confusion on the battlefields of Ukraine, a senior Russian official announcing his troops will most likely withdraw from the port city of Kherson. But so far, there's no sign of movement from Russian forces raising fears that they could be setting a trap here.

Salma Abdelaziz has the latest from Kyiv for us. Salma, are we seeing any sign of a Russian pull-out from Kherson?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The short answer to that is, no, you are not seeing any signs of a pull-out from Kherson and do not expect one. This is a very important city for President Putin, an absolutely strategic prize for President Zelenskyy to gain back for Ukraine. For weeks and months now, we've seen a build up to this big battle for the city that President Putin has illegally annexed. So you can imagine he's not going to let go of it easily.

It's really important to know here, Christine, that there are really tough reporting restrictions in Ukraine. There's very little access given to the media to those front lines. So it's very unclear what's happening there. But Ukrainian officials accusing Russia of muddying the waters, of sending sort of disinformation with these reports that troops are going to pull out to lure Ukraine's forces into the city of Kherson, lured them into getting into that city.

But Ukrainian forces, of course, digging, fortifying their positions, don't expect anything to change overnight. This is going to be an extremely tough battle for Ukraine, especially looking at the winter months. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, keep us posted there. A lot of developments.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now, a 23-ton unmanned Chinese rocket launched Monday is plunging back to earth as we speak. Chances are slim that anyone will be hit by debris but no one knows exactly where it will land likely sometime this morning.

A suspect is in custody after Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the leg during a political rally. One person was killed, Khan is in stable condition.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. Both men emphasizing the need for their two countries to work together in a volatile international environment.

All right, an election's official in Milwaukee fired for alleged ballot fraud. And voters in Arizona fearing fraud as GOP candidates cast out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to trust anybody anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we have honest elections, there's no question that Kari Lake will win.