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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

GOP Faces Infighting After Misterm Red Wave Fails to Materialize; NATO and Poland Say Missile Strike Appears to be an Accident; Former VP Pence Says GOP Will Have Better Choices Than Trump in 2024; World Cup in Qatar Plagued by Controversy from Day One. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Right now on EARLY START, Joe Biden congratulating Republicans for winning the House as they now vow to investigate the president and his son.

Chilling video just released captures two Idaho college students in their last hours alive before their brutal murder.

And a paralyzing snowstorm underway right now near the Great Lakes. We're talking feet, not inches in some spots before it's all over.

All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with President Biden congratulating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last night with Republicans now projected to win control of the House of Representatives. The president saying in a statement he's ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results, but warm feelings at the White House are bound to evaporate as soon as Republicans launch their promised slew of investigations into this administration.

Joy on the GOP side also likely short lived with turmoil building inside the party in its moment of triumph. More on that now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans winning control of the House after a midterm election that will change the balance of power in Washington. But far less change than they envisioned. With turmoil inside the GOP dampening the party's mood and complicating its future.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm not going anywhere.

ZELENY: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell surviving a threat from Florida Senator Rick Scott, with 37 Republicans voting to keep McConnell at the helm and 10 voting for Scott amid deep infighting over the GOP's failure to win a Senate majority. At the center of broader recriminations among Republicans is former

President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT: Much criticism is being placed on the fact that the Republican Party should have done better and, frankly, much of this blame is correct.

ZELENY: Who took no responsibility for midterm election losses as he pulled a trigger on another bid for the White House.

TRUMP: I have no doubt that by 2024 it will sadly be much worse and they will see much more clearly what happened and what is happening to our country, and the voting will be much different.

ZELENY: His Mar-a-Lago announcement is being met by a collective groan from a broad swath of the Republican Party including many who served in his administration. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who's considering a presidential run of his own saying we need more seriousness, less noise, and leaders who are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood. Those stinging comments a clear reference to this moment Tuesday night.

TRUMP: We must conduct a top to bottom overhaul to clean out the festering rot and corruption of Washington, D.C. And I'm a victim, I will tell you. I'm a victim.

ZELENY: While Trump enters the race as a clear frontrunner, beloved by a loyal base of supporters, he is unlikely to have the field to himself. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who swept reelection by nearly 20 points, drew applause saying the 2024 campaign can wait.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We just finished this election, OK? People just need to chill out a little bit on some of this stuff. I mean, seriously. We just ran an election.

ZELENY: Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper who served under Trump told CNN the party should look forward.

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: A new generation of Republican leaders who maybe are more in line with what I consider myself a Reagan Republican, who can do so without the baggage and the personal attacks and the self-centeredness of Donald Trump.

ZELENY: And former vice president Mike Pence who's also weighing a presidential run said the country should not turn back to Trump.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENT: I think we'll have better choices in the future.

ZELENY: McConnell said Republican candidates turned off moderates and independent voters in the last election. For the next one he said Trump will have company in the Republican race.

MCCONNELL: The way I'm going to go into this presidential primary season is to stay out of it. I don't have a dog in that fight. ZELENY (on-camera): After his election Senator McConnell talked about

the prospect of divided power in Washington, talking about how the House would be controlled by Republicans. The Senate narrowly by Democrats. He said he really thought it would be an opportunity to work with the White House and work on behalf of the American people. Of course, we will see how much bipartisan unity there actually is.

But as for McConnell, starting next year in the next Congress, he will be the longest serving Senate party leader in U.S. history, 15 years, but the Republican Party has changed dramatically under his watch.


Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. Speaking of history in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will address her future plans today. That according to her spokesperson. Pelosi could either step aside or seek another term as Democratic leader, though in the minority now of course that the GOP will gain control. She is still the first and only woman to be speaker of the House.

The Senate is one step closer to passing a bipartisan bill to protect same-sex marriage, voting 62-37 to break a filibuster. The successful test vote signals the bill is on a path to succeed. The measure would not force all states to legalize same-sex marriage but it would require individual states to recognize another state's legal marriage.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, we already have gay marriage in the country. That's a decision made by the Supreme Court, in the Obergefell decision some years ago. This legislation just says that the status which is conveyed by one state has to be recognized by another. At the same time, this legislation provides important religious liberty protections and it's because of that compromise that I think the bill made sense.


ROMANS: All 50 members of the Democratic caucus voted to start debate on the bill along with 12 Republicans. It's unclear when the Senate might vote on final passage.

Former vice president Mike Pence refusing to commit supporting Donald Trump's bid for a second term as president. And in a live CNN town hall last night he left the door open to a White House bid of his own. Pence telling Jake Tapper while he's proud of the Trump administration's accomplishments, it is time for a new direction.


PENCE: People want us to get back to the policies of the Trump-Pence administration. They want to see America strong and prosperous and advancing the policies that we advanced that left America more secure and seven million American jobs created. But the other thing that I've heard consistently is that the American people are looking for new leadership, leadership that will unite our country around our highest ideals.

Whatever role I and my family play in the Republican Party, whether it's as a candidate or simply a part of the cause, I think we'll have better choices.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Better choices?

PENCE: Than my old running mate. I think America longs to go back to the policies that were working for the American people but I think it's time for new leadership.


ROMANS: Pence was also asked about the January 6th Capitol riot and how it affected his relationship with his former boss.


PENCE: I must tell you the president's words and tweet that day were reckless. They endangered my family and all the people at the Capitol. And I was angry. I'm as human as the next guy and I still pray for the president and I pray for the grace to forgive him and all those responsible for that tragic day.


ROMANS: Pence was asked whether he might testify before the House January 6th Committee. He told Jake Tapper, no, and that, quote, Congress has no right to my testimony.

All right. NATO leaders and Poland are in agreement the missile that killed two people in Polish territory Tuesday was likely fired by Ukrainian forces defending against an onslaught of Russian strikes and that the incident appears to be an accident.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whatever the final conclusions may be, the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident.

TOMASZ SZATKOWSKI, POLISH AMBASSADOR TO NATO: The ultimate responsibility lays with Russia.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me be clear, this is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.


ROMANS: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg went on to say that there are no signs Russia is planning to attack any NATO countries. America's top general believes there may be a window for peace talks

to end Russia's war on Ukraine.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The Russian military is really hurting bad so you want to negotiate at a time when you're at your strength and your opponent is at weakness, and it's possible maybe that there'll be a political solution.


ROMANS: Nic Robertson joins us live from Kyiv.

Nic, what does Ukraine make of that, and I guess the Russians as well? Where are they on the possibility of a moment of peace talks?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There's clearly tension between Russia's military and politicians that's why they withdrew from Kherson. It was a political decision that got them in there. President Putin's political decision that got them in there in the first place. That tension exists. There is certainly no doubt on the Russian military side that they are on the backfoot because of that withdrawal. Ukrainian forces are chasing them there.

They're continuing to fight hard and toughen the east of Ukraine, so I think the Russians would dare contest that idea of General Milley that indeed they are suffering or are potentially going to lose.


I think from the Ukrainian perspective, to try to encourage them to negotiate while they have the success in Kherson is clearly a -- would clearly be an international political desire, but Ukraine has very clearly said that they are not going to settle as long Russian forces are on Ukrainian territory.

That position hasn't changed and I think the wind -- Ukraine feels the wind is in its sails at the moment, that it can have further successes on the battlefield and isn't likely to settle for political negotiations that fall short of exasperations at the moment. The battle would have to change around for that to occur.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, so much happening this week. Thank you so much for that.

All right, police in Moscow, Idaho, in possession now of new surveillance video showing two of the four University of Idaho students stabbed to death early Sunday morning. Officials say that this food truck video is helping establish a timeline of events. The Moscow police chief revealing two other roommates were in the home at the time of the killings. Officials say they are cooperating with the investigation. Police still believe it was a targeted attack but have walked back previous assurances that there was no threat to the community.


CHIEF JAMES FRY, MOSCOW, IDAHO POLICE: We do not have a suspect at this time and that individual is still out there. The four were stabbed with a knife but no weapon has been located at this time. There was no sign of forced entry into the residence. We're not 100 percent sure if the door was unlocked. There was no damage to anything and the door was still open when we got there.


ROMANS: Families of the victims are criticizing police and the university for what they say is a lack of information.

All right. Millions of Americans getting hit by paralyzing lake-effect snow. The snow will be measured in feet -- feet, not inches -- across western New York.

Let's get to meteorologist Derek Van Dam. This will be a big snow maker.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning, Christine.

Residents for the Great Lakes, they need to be preparing themselves for, quote, the word crippling use by the National Weather Service. Snowstorm from today right through the course of the weekend. But there's a major caveat to that statement. Not everyone is going to receive the feet of snow. That's because this is the lake-effect snow machine that is going to kick into high gear.

Let me explain. Here it is, already starting. We've had snow reports of over 10 inches downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. You can see that snow band thanks to the westerly wind but you travel a little further to the north by five miles or so or five miles to the south of that, you get literally no snow. But if you're set up right here within that sweet spot like Lake Erie is currently, that is the crosshairs where the heaviest of snow will take place.

And we anticipate the scene to be set here for multiple feet of snow especially near Buffalo, New York, and into the water town area. The stage is set with cold air rushing over the relatively warm lake waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and that is the recipe for the lake-effect snow machine to kick into high gear. It doesn't take much to produce the instability. Clouds condensing into snowfall and snow will be measured again not in inches but in feet.

Already picking up on that on our forecast radar, downwind from Lake Michigan, downwind from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. How much snow are we talking? Well, a wide swath of eight to 12 inches for places like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Michigan, but into Buffalo as well as Watertown just north of Syracuse. And that's where we have the potential for 36 to upwards of 48 inches of snow.

We've already had double digit snowfall totals in place for portions of the New York area. This is, again, downwind from the lakes. And if you look at the wind direction, this is so important and so crucial within these lake-effect snow machines. It is that southwesterly winds that will put Buffalo within that bull's eye for heavy snowfall starting tonight -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. We will watch. Thank you so much, Derek. Nice to see you this morning.

VAN DAM: OK. You, too.

ROMANS: All right. Go hardcore or go home. The deadline for Elon Musk's Twitter ultimatum now just hours away. Plus Republicans in Pennsylvania voting to impeach Philadelphia's DA. Is this a crime or pure politics? And Mike Pence telling CNN he thinks America longs for a new leader.


TAPPER: Would that be you?

PENCE: I'll keep you posted.





PENCE: I think we'll have better choices.

TAPPER: Better choices?

PENCE: Than my old running mate. I think America longs to go back to policies that were working for the American people but I think it's time for new leadership in this country that will bring us together around our highest ideals.


ROMANS: Former Vice President Mike Pence won't say whether his former boss is fit to return to his old job. But at that CNN town hall, he doubled down on saying Republicans will have better choices for president in 2024.

Let's bring in Daniel Strauss, senior political correspondent for "The New Republic."

Good morning. Nice to see you again.


ROMANS: So this is Mike Pence criticizing Trump and his behavior. But he won't directly blame Trump for the insurrection. He refuses to pick fights really with anyone. If Pence were to run in 2024 is he an attractive candidate compared -- to former Trump supporters?

STRAUSS: I mean, I think he's not sure and that's why he's deferring from directly attacking the former president. Right now especially in the first few days after these midterms it's an open question how much and which part of the GOP still has this rabid loyalty toward the former president. And Pence knows that as the former president's vice president and just sort of a member of the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party, that his base when energized can be a very potent force.


STRAUSS: So I think what we're seeing right now besides the fact that Pence is not very confrontational in general is just sort of an attempt to try and survey the landscape until we have a better sense of whether the entire GOP, just the donor class or none at all are really still with former President Trump.


ROMANS: That's interesting, you say not confrontational because, you know, yesterday Ron DeSantis, another potential competitor to Trump, I mean, he was vintage DeSantis when asked about his rivalry. This is his response.


DESANTIS: We just finished this election, OK? People just need to chill out a little bit on some of this stuff. I mean, seriously. We just ran an election.


ROMANS: Seven hundred days to go, he's -- what do you make of his response and of the potential rivalry between Trump and DeSantis?

STRAUSS: I mean say what you will about the Florida governor, he's very smart. And his comments really point to an important fact about where we are in the 2024 presidential cycle. It is early. It is earlier than it is sort of EARLY START this morning. Ha. And I think he knows that right now almost for presidential campaigns that go back decades, the first candidate to jump in is usually not the winner in the end.

DeSantis has time on his side. He has the mystere of being a potential new candidate. And he's right. Like it's only a few days after the midterms. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So there is no sign here that Pence -- excuse me, DeSantis is not interested in running for president. It's very clear that he is, and he probably will, but at this point time is on his side. It is not on the former president's side.

ROMANS: Yes. And telling reporters to chill out is exactly on brand for him, right, and something that people who support DeSantis appreciate, quite frankly.

All right. So Republicans secured this razor thin majority in the House with Kevin McCarthy the next speaker. McConnell secured his leadership position in the Senate. So what roles do these two men have in a potential Trump campaign -- actual Trump campaign because you see it there, and also in holding the GOP together here?

STRAUSS: I mean, they are polar opposites on both these questions. McConnell is no friend of Trump's. Trump is no friend of McConnell's. They don't really like each other, but McConnell is much better at holding his caucus together. We know that McCarthy will be the new majority leader but with a very, very small margin in the House and it's an open question right now how well he can keep his caucus together.

He, in years past, he was not the GOP's first choice to lead their caucus. And so now it's his turn and it's very possible that his tenure as leader of the House Republican caucus will be driven with infighting. The one thing that McCarthy has in his pocket is that he is close to Donald Trump and he has cultivated and continued to retain a strong relationship with him, which he has used to try and bolster his own political fortunes.

He's able to claim that of the potential Republican leaders in the House, he's closest to Trump, and that's a pounding force because many members of the House Republican caucus still really like Trump and are Trump Republicans.

ROMANS: All right. Daniel Strauss, your piece "Trump is Announcing Tonight, and No, Not All Republicans are Aghast," must-read. Thank you. Nice to see you this morning.

STRAUSS: Thanks. Good to see you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now. The Republican-led statehouse in Pennsylvania voting to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Republicans claimed Krasner's progressive policies have worsened the city's gun crisis.

Darryl Brooks sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus hundreds of additional years for the attack at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Brooks drove his SUV through crowds of people killing six.

Karen Bass makes history becoming the first female mayor of Los Angeles. CNN projects the six-term Democratic congresswoman has defeated her Republican rival Rick Caruso.

Next, international finger pointing after an ocean attack on an oil tanker. And a camera crew's tense confrontation at a major international event.


RASMUS TANTHOLDT, TV2 DENMARK: But you can break the camera. You want to break it? OK. You break the camera. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't bring that camera anymore.

TANTHOLDT: So you're threatening us by smashing the camera.




ROMANS: All right. The World Cup begins on Sunday in Qatar but officials are in damage control mode this morning after this vide of a security team threatening a Danish TV crew live on air has gone viral.


TANTHOLDT: We can film with this permit. This is an upgrade pass and this is the accreditation. We can film anywhere we want. There are only of course --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But only in Qatar.


TANTHOLDT: No, no, no. We don't need permit.


TANTHOLDT: No, but this one --


TANTHOLDT: But you can break the camera. You want to break it? OK. You break the camera. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bring that camera anymore.

TANTHOLDT: So you're threatening us by smashing the camera.


ROMANS: Qatar World Cup organizers have since apologized. They admit the guards there made a mistake. Officials say they have taken action to keep it from happening again.

All right. This is just the latest in a long series of controversies that have plagued this World Cup from day one. Here's CNN's Isa Soares.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sport world was stunned when FIFA --