Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Georgia Voters Head to Polls for Senate Runoff Election; Kirstie Alley Remembered; Immigration Deal? Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, Warnock versus Walker for a Georgia Senate seat. We could be hours away from finally finding out who won.


KIRSTIE ALLEY, ACTRESS: Don't you stop loving me.


ROMANS: Family, friends, and co-stars pay tribute to Kirstie Alley, Emmy winner, who just died of cancer.

Plus, funding for border security and protection for Dreamers. Can a lame duck Congress somehow cut a last-minute immigration deal?


ROMANS: All right. Good morning.

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

Okay. The campaign is over this morning. This morning, Georgia voters will do the rest of the talking with their ballot.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock sounding confident, urging his supporters not to become complacent in today's runoff election against Republican Herschel Walker. Walker barnstorming across deep red northern Georgia on the eve of the big runoff.

CNN's Eva McKend has the latest.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): With the Georgia Senate runoff in its final hours --

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Hello, Georgia Tech!



MCKEND: The candidates rallying their core supporters to vote for them once again.

WARNOCK: Don't y'all have exams?

MCKEND: Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock focusing Monday on turning out younger voters, campaigning with Gen-Z Congressman-elect Maxwell Frost.

REP.-ELECT MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): We know that young people don't make up the biggest voting bloc right now. But we are the bloc that matters.

MCKEND: Senator Warnock, why this emphasis on young voters in these crucial final hours?

WARNOCK: Young people have little tolerance for inauthenticity. They keep me inspired. They keep me on my toes. And I'm proud of the ways in which young people all over Georgia are showing up.

MCKEND: Republican Challenger Herschel Walker hitting five campaign stops with a focus on deep red North Georgia.

WALKER: You can know you've got a champion in Herschel Walker. You always have a champion in me because I love y'all, and we're going to win this election and get Georgia back together.

MCKEND: Tuesday's fiercely contested runoff coming after neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote during November's general election.

TRAVIE LESLIE, GEORGIA VOTER: There's a sense of accomplishment to come in and get it done early.

MCKEND: Both campaigns now laser-focused on turning voters out Tuesday, after early voting ended with over 1.8 million ballots being cast, including a one-day record of more than 350,000 last Friday.

WARNOCK: Are you ready to do this one more time?

MCKEND: As the candidates make their closing arguments, both campaigns up with new TV ads, making a final push to get out the vote. Warnock touting his work ethic and dedication to serving Georgians, arguing, the race is primarily about competence and character.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Who's more motivated? Is it them or us?

MCKEND: While Walker enlists the help of recently reelected Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to make the case for his campaign, the former football star argues, he would be a necessary check on President Joe Biden.

Democrats have more than doubled Republican ad spending for the runoff, $55.1 million to $25.8 million, as the parties square off for one final Senate showdown of the 2022 midterm election. WALKER: So who all has voted already? And who all has got to vote


WARNOCK: Call Lottie, Dotty and everybody. Tell them it's time to vote.


MCKEND (on camera): Senator Warnock ending his campaign in Atlanta. Herschel Walker's final event in Kennesaw, Walker telling his supporters to get out and vote one more time. Senator Warnock cautioning his voters against getting too overconfident, reminding them that just because the numbers look good for Democrats doesn't mean that Herschel Walker doesn't have a path to victory, a real recognition that this race is going to be incredibly close.

Eva McKend, CNN, Atlanta.

ROMANS: Very close and we are in the home stretch here.

The final election of a surprising mid-term season. Georgia runoff coverage starts today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Looking ahead to the next election, White House chief of staff Ron Klain says he expects President Biden to run for re-election. Klain says the president plans to discuss the matter with his family over the holidays. He expects an announcement shortly after that.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I hear from a lot of Democrats across the country that they want him to run and -- but the president will make that decision.


I expect it shortly after the holidays, but I expect the decision will be to do it.


ROMANS: President Biden's closest advisers have been quietly working on the structure of a re-election campaign for the last few months, buoyed by the fact that Democrats overperformed in the midterm elections.

All right. Tens of thousands are still without power after a gun attack on two electrical substations in rural North Carolina. Schools remain closed and a curfew is in place as authorities investigate what they call an intentional criminal act. Police still don't know who carried it out or why.

Miguel Marquez with the latest from Moore County, North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attacks on to power substations in a central North Carolina County, sending ripples of concern nationwide over the threat of domestic terrorism.

KARIN JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE SECRETARY: The White House is monitoring -- has been monitoring the situation and is in contact with local officials and improving how government communicates and shares threat information with the private sector.

MARQUEZ: The attacks, underscoring how fragile components of the nation's electric grid can be.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): Protecting critical infrastructure like our power system must be a top priority. This kind of attack raises a new level of threat. We will be evaluating ways to work with our utility providers, and our state and federal officials to make sure that we harden our infrastructure where that's necessary, and work to prevent future damage.

MARQUEZ: Officials in Moore County say they don't know who attacked the substations or why but the sheriff says whoever did it knew exactly what they were doing.

RONNIE FIELDS, SHERIFF, MOORE COUNTY NC: I'm not going to jeopardize anything that would might jeopardize the investigation, but it was multiple shots.

MARQUEZ: The attacks follow recent Department of Homeland Security and FBI warnings of possible attacks on critical infrastructure. And in 2020, far right plots were disrupted in both Idaho and Las Vegas, both targeting the electric grid.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT & INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Since 2020, we've seen a real uptick in chatter by accelerationist groups, those who want to topple the U.S. government, by eco terrorist groups, but particularly by the right-wing neo-Nazi movement saying power, the power grid is the way to cause chaos. And their theory is that if you identify the key nodes, and you knock out one, and they divert power to the next one, and then you knock out the next one, and the next one.

MARQUEZ: Shown here, a how to guide any telegram channel by groups seeking to overthrow the U.S. government, featuring instructions on low tech attacks meant to bring chaos, including how to attack a power grid with guns.

Rumors on social media blamed right- wing protesters supposedly trying to stop a drag show in the county from taking place Saturday, but the sheriff says there's no evidence so far to make that connection. And the shows organizers told CNN they received no specific threats before the power station attacks.

FIELDS: Nobody's -- no group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept it. They're the ones that done it. So, yes, I call them cowards.

MARQUEZ: Residents and officials now struggling to cope with a lack of power cut off without warning.

DEBORAH TYNER, LIVES IN MOORE COUNTY, NC: Got no way to heat because we don't have a fireplace. And then we don't have no gas grill or anything like that. So, we're just stranded.

CAROL HANEY, MAYOR, SOUTHERN PINES, NC: There's so many people that are hurting, the revenue stream is been stopped. You know, if you have health issues, it is critical. It is just a horrible, horrible terrorist, in my opinion, at cowardly to do that.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Moore County, North Carolina.


ROMANS: Miguel, thank you for that.

This week, the House is expected to take up the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill would not require all states to legalize same-sex marriage. It would make states recognize another state's legal marriage. The Senate passed it last week. President Biden will sign it into law.

All right. Several conservative members of the Supreme Court sounding sympathetic to arguments from a graphic designer who plans to start a website business to celebrate weddings but she does not want to work with same-sex couples.


JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Why are you right about how you characterize website designers? Why are they different from, say, restaurants?

KRISTINE WAGGONER: Because they're creating speech. In those other examples speech is not an issue.

JUSTICE SAM ALITO: So, if there's a Black Santa at the other end of the mall and he doesn't want to have his picture taken from a child who's dressed up in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, that Black Santa has to do that?



ROMANS: Liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor repeatedly asked, what is the limiting line? She expressed concern about business refusing to work with interracial couples or people with physical disabilities.

All right. This sad story. Kirstie Alley has died after a short battle with cancer. Friends and co-stars are paying tribute to the actress who rose to fame with her Emmy Award winning role as Rebecca Howe on cheers.


KIRSTIE ALLEY, ACTRESS: What's so funny? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we're just talking about nicknames. You know,

different funny nicknames that people have. Did you ever have a nickname?

ALLEY: As a matter of fact, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? Nothing, huh? Not Sparky, or Lefty, or Bubba?

ALLEY: Sorry.


ROMANS: Alley joined "Cheers" at the height of its popularity and stayed until the final season. She also starred with John Travolta in three "Look Who's Talking" movies.


ROMANS: John Travolta posting this on social media. Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I've ever had. I love you, Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.

Kirstie Alley was 71.

All right. More snow is underway way out west while heavy rain is on the way to the northeast. Let's get to meteorologist Britley Ritz.

Britley, plenty of white to go around here today.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You got it, Christine. That is exactly what's happening. You have one system right after the next rolling from the west to the east. We've picked up two feet of snow within the last 24 hours in Mammoth Mountain.

And this is an ongoing situation for the Rockies this morning. Just over the last 24 hours here, marble picked up 24 inches. Winter weather advisories still in effect for the northern Rockies, Central Rockies and back to the Sierras, with an additional foot of snow expected in some of the higher peaks. Nearly 18 to 24 inches, another two feet of snow on top of what we've already dealt with.

A lot of grace popping, and that's the heavy snow continuing to fall to parts of Utah back into Colorado. This will all stretch across the Central Plains, back through the Ohio Valley, down into the southeast, once again today with more rain as that front stalls.

Not a good situation because the grounds have been so dry lately. You add that water on top of it. It can't get absorbed fast enough. It's a good thing when you come down to the drought, but a bad thing before the flooding.

We've already picked up in northern Alabama and northern Georgia, 2 to 4 inches. We're about to add on another 2 to 4 inches in another five days' time. So, there's rain right now across the Tennessee Valley, back to the Carolinas, on up into the mid-Atlantic. This is again an ongoing thing here, through the rest of the week. And it shows you through Wednesday, a slight risk for flooding through parts of Missouri back into Arkansas and back into Oklahoma. It's highlighted in yellow.

Ninety-five percent of Tennessee under some sort of drought. So this is, again, a good thing. The problem is it can't get absorbed fast enough. We have an additional four inches of rain possible just within the next five days. Isolated higher amounts are possible, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Britley, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

RITZ: You, too.

ROMANS: All right. New rules at a hot vacation spot. No sex unless you're married.

Plus, did one of the four murdered college students have a stalker?

And a bipartisan compromise on immigration in the works. Can senators make this stick?



ROMANS: Senators Thom Tillis and Kyrsten Sinema working on a bipartisan immigration deal. The proposal would provide a path to legalization for 2 million immigrants brought to the U.S. as children known as Dreamers. It would extend Title 42 for a year and it includes $25 billion in border security funding. Democrats are looking to tackle immigration reform before they lose the majority in the House.

Let's bring in Caroline Coudriet, an immigration reporter at "CQ Roll Call".

Nice to see you this morning. Thank you for dropping by.


ROMANS: So, explain. It seems like it's tough. How tough Title 42 extension would be for Democrats, especially after a federal court ruled the political illegal last month? How difficult is that to put into this compromise?

COUDRIET: It's incredibly difficult. As you identify, Title 42 is controversial for Democrats. They dislike the policy ever since it was instated in March 2020. And that element is part of the plan in order to bring Republicans on board.

The bill, you need 60 votes to pass. Even if every single Democrat gets on board you need 10 Republicans. The Biden administration is planning to wind down Title 42 by December 31st by court order.

So, extending it could potentially buy some time for Republicans as they seek to streamline activity at the border. ROMANS: And remind voters exactly what Title 42 is.

COUDRIET: Yes. Title 42 is a public directive that Trump and Biden have been using to effectively turn away immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border without hearing their asylum claims. Immigrant advocates say that this runs against the rights of migrants to seek asylum at the U.S. borders.


But it's been used as a way to avoid COVID spread for more than 2 1/2 years.

ROMANS: So, let's talk about the Dreamers. There are 343,000 Dreamers employed in essential jobs, right? So, that could be a real challenge on the economic front if you have all of these people who are not able to work here, if the U.S. were not able to keep them.

Is this something Republicans will consider in negotiating this bill?

COUDRIET: Yes. I think moderate Republicans are very aware of the current labor shortages across the economy and are willing to look at immigration as a solution to that. I do think the politics are very difficult around immigration for Republicans, which is why I don't think you'll see the House Republican majority in January take up an immigration deal and why the timing is so tight here.

There are only a couple of weeks left in the lame duck session and this could potentially be the last chance in years to pass major immigration policy. This is something colleges and universities are advocating for. It's widely seen as one of the more sympathetic immigration groups in the U.S.

ROMANS: So the window really tight here. You say there are very few chances that an immigration bill would pass if the Republicans controlling the House and Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker?

COUDRIET: Yes. I think House Republicans in the majority are very eager to investigate Biden's handling of the border. We've had many members discuss it and I think oversight will be their primary goal when they take the majority rather than an immigration compromise.

ROMANS: All right. Caroline Coudriet, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

COUDRIET: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now. A shootout right in front of a police station in Rialto, California. A police officer shooting a suspect that pointed what looked like an AR-15 at him. The suspect is in stable condition.

Police say they're still investigating whether Kaylee Goncalves, one of four murdered Idaho university students, had a stalker. So far, they haven't been able to identify one and they're asking for tips from the public. A measles outbreak in central Ohio. Dozens of children are sick. Since the beginning of November, health officials report 56 confirmed cases and 20 hospitalizations.

All right. Tourists beware. Lawmakers in a popular spot just banned sex before marriage.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Amanda Davies live in Doha. Brazil have certainly laid down a marker. For the rest here in Qatar, two spots left to fill in the quarterfinals. I'll be back with all the latest in just a couple of minutes.



ROMANS: This morning the death toll has climbed to 34 in western Colombia after heavy rains triggered a massive landslide on Sunday, burying several vehicles on the road way, about a hundred and 40 miles northwest of the capital.

CNN's Stefano Pozzebon has more.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The heavy rainfall that hit the rural Colombian province of Risaralda on Sunday triggered a landslide over an interprovincial road that hit several vehicles, killing dozens of people according to Colombian authorities. The Colombian highway management unit said that over 70 rescue workers were still trying to secure the area as of Monday while at least the six people have been treated in hospital. Authorities vowed not to abandon those who have lost their loved ones.

ALFANSO PRADA GIL, COLUMBIAN MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (through translator): We will launch a comprehensive support plan for the relatives of the victims, psychological support, physical support, social support. Also, we are declaring a high alert across the entire nation due to this winter wave of rainfall.

POZZEBON: The high alert means rescue workers are on standby ready to be activated, in case the rain caused more havoc in the upcoming days.

While on Tuesday, the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, will personally chair an emergency cabinet session to devote more resources to the damaged communities.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


ROMANS: Stefano, thank you so much.

People in Beijing no longer required to show a negative COVID test to go into a supermarket, office building or other public places. The move follows weeks of protesters over -- across China over the government's harsh COVID restrictions.

Steven Jiang joins us live from Beijing.

You know, is the Chinese government bending to the protesters here?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Christine, of course, the authorities would never admit that. I would caution against drawing a direct line between the protests and the recent flurry of changes because obviously the last thing this government want to do is to, quote/unquote, embolden the protesters.

But still, many would argue, at the very least, the recent wave of protests has accelerated a pace of changes. That's why many people are now thanking the people who took to the streets, online in coded language to evade censorship.

As you mentioned, things have been moving very fast. It's almost dizzying to keep up with all the latest announcements from local authorities from around the country, in addition to the new protocols you mentioned, we have also seen in many provinces and authorities telling residents not to get tested. That's obviously a sharp departure from what they have been seeing for months which is incessant mass testing, often city-wide testing.

But the problem remains that is the lack of consistency nationwide, across different regions. But also, the underlying challenges facing the government in terms of dealing with a potential surge of severe cases.