Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Police Identify Suspect In NYC New Year's Eve Machete Attack; Russian Drones Hit Kyiv Infrastructure; Ukraine Strikes Back; Epic Flooding Leads To Water Rescues In California; This Morning: Public Wake For Global Soccer Legend Pele. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 05:00   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, HOST, "EARLY START": Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kristen Fisher, in for Christine Romans. Disturbing new details about the suspect accused of attacking three New York City Police officers with a machete in Times Square on New Year's Eve. The officers have now been treated and released from the hospital. Last night, investigators searched the teen suspect's home in an ocean resort town in Maine. More from CNN's Gloria Pazmino in New York.

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're learning more about that suspect behind the attack on three Police officers last night at the New Year's Eve celebration in New York City, near Times Square. We can now confirm the suspect is Trevor Bickford, 19-years-old from Wales, Maine. That's according to multiple law enforcement sources, who also tell CNN he was carrying a handwritten diary, and in it, he expressed his desire to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and die as a murderer.

Now, investigators also believe that Bickford arrived in New York City on Thursday and checked into a hotel in the Lower East Side. He then traveled to the Times Square area on New Year's Eve, and that's when, Police tell us, he approached one of the security checkpoints where thousands of people who were trying to get into the area were being screened for security. Once at that point, Bickford approached a Police officer and tried to strike him with a machete. He struck him on the head, injuring him. He then struck a second officer. That is when a third officer, who was also on the scene, pulled out his service weapon and fired a gunshot. The suspect sustained a gunshot wound on his shoulder, and he is recovering at the hospital.

Now, multiple law enforcement officials also tell us federal authorities at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and the Manhattan District Attorney, have been discussing whether to charge the suspect federally or under state law or possibly both. So far, the suspect, Trevor Bickford, has not been charged formally. We also - it is also not clear to us just yet whether or not he has retained a lawyer. Now, law enforcement sources telling us investigators are seeking search warrants to look into his phone and other online activities. Those three Police officers that were injured near the Time Square celebration are making a recovery. And, I should just note that should this be deemed as a terror attack, it would mean that there was an attempted terror attack at one of the most crowded and popular events here in New York City, on one of the biggest nights of the year, New Year's Eve. There is a massive Police presence every year in the area of Times Square. And, even though Mayor Eric Adams said last night there is no credible threat to the City of New York right now, certainly, we will be looking to learn more about the suspect and exactly the motivation behind his attack. Gloria Pazmino in New York, CNN.

FISHER: The suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho students plans to waive extradition from his home state of Pennsylvania. The lawyer for 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger his client is eager to be exonerated as soon as possible. The latest now from CNN's Veronica Miracle in Moscow, Idaho.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bryan Kohberger's family has now put out a statement through his public defender saying, "First and foremost we care deeply for the four families who have lost their precious children. There are no words that can adequately express the sadness we feel, and we pray each day for them. We will continue to let the legal process unfold and as a family we will love and support our son and brother. We have fully cooperated with law enforcement agencies in an attempt to seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence rather than judge unknown facts and make erroneous assumptions. We respect privacy in this matter as our family and the families suffering loss can move forward through the legal process."

Bryan Kohberger's attorney, his public defender in Pennsylvania, also says that Bryan's father came to Washington State to make that cross- country drive in that white Hyundai Elantra that Police had been looking for all the way to Pennsylvania so that Bryan could be home in time for the holidays with his family at his parents' house, and that is where he was apprehended, according to his attorney, and at that time, both his father and Bryan were cooperative with police, his attorney says.


It is important to note that Police have not yet said and made any indication that Kohberger's father is at all implicated in these murders. And, here in the community of Moscow, there is an incredible sense of relief. For the last seven weeks, the community truly has been on edge. Businesses have been closing down early. Some businesses have lost employees as this is a college town and there are students who work for local businesses, and those students didn't feel comfortable being in this city. They went home to study virtually. Now that an arrest has been made, there is just such a sense of relief here in the community of Moscow. Veronica Miracle, CNN, Moscow, Idaho.

FISHER: The skies over Ukraine glowing overnight with what officials in Kyiv say were Russian drone attacks on critical infrastructure. The Ukrainian Military says it is giving as good as it gets, attacking Russian Military positions using American made rockets. International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson joins us live in London. So, Nick, what are officials on both sides saying about these new strikes?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Ukrainians are saying that 39 drones were shot down in the early hours of today during a raid on the capital Kyiv. However, some critical infrastructure in the capital was hit, and energy companies there are telling citizens to use electricity sparingly. This is a message sadly they become all too familiar with just the day before the first of January, the first day of the New Year. Again, there were multiple attacks on the city that day, 45 drones, according to the President, were fired on the capital, and it's been a holiday season, if you will, ramped up strikes by Russia.

Now, the Ukrainians say that they hit a Military base containing Russian troops in the Donetsk region in the east of Ukraine, Russian- controlled area of eastern Ukraine, causing multiple fatalities there according to claims by the Kyiv - Ukrainian officials. Hundreds of Russian troops were killed in a strike using the U.S.-made Himars, very accurate multiple rocket system, on a Military base there or a base that was being used by the Military, a vocational training building is how it's being described on the Russian side.

And indeed, some Russian Military bloggers are criticizing their own government for allowing so many troops on New Year's Eve itself to be congregated in a structure that wasn't safe. They're saying the death toll there in the tens of soldiers. Either way, that was a strong strike for Ukraine, and deadly, obviously, for those Russian troops.

FISHER: Yes, absolutely. Nic Robertson live in London for us, thank you.

So, 17 million Americans at risk for severe weather today as the storm system that caused dangerous flooding along the West Coast moves eastward, truly epic rainfall slamming California after years of severe drought. More now from CNN's Camila Bernal in Los Angeles.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER: Thousands were left without power because of the wind and the rain. And, in addition to these power outages, we also saw epic flooding not just in the urban areas but we saw creeks and rivers overflowing. Many were told to evacuate their homes. Others were told to shelter in place because of how dangerous it was to drive under those conditions. The National Weather Service even saying there were too many roads that were close to even count. At some point on Saturday, Highway 101 in South San Francisco was closed in both directions.

There were many rescues in the California area. In Sacramento County, for example, officials saying that they had dozens of rescues, and had to rescue about 40 people from their cars. Here is what some residents here in California had to go through.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a little concerning, for sure. When you see the water moving this quick and rising like this, it's a little unsettling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I opened one of my gates, there was so much water, it was gushing in and it knocked me over, and I got stuck and my phone - I lost my phone in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started raining, but it just kept getting - the water kept getting deeper and deeper. And, it's really - I've been here about six years and that's the deep - that's worse than it's ever been.


BERNAL: And, rainfall exceeded eight inches here in California, according to the CNN Weather team. Despite how difficult it was for a lot of people, this is much needed rain. It's unclear how this will impact drought conditions in the state, but nonetheless, the water here is always welcome. Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


FISHER: In just a few hours, Brazil begin saying goodbye to global icon Pele who put Brazilian soccer on the map back in the 1960s and 70s. Overnight, his coffin was transferred from the hospital where he died to the stadium where his wake begins at 8 a.m. Eastern. So, let's bring in reporter Stefano Pozzebon who has been covering this story for CNN. A sad day for everybody there. How is the nation planning to honor the legend that is, Pele?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Kristin, definitely a sad day for Brazil and a sad way to enter the year. We understand that Pele's casket will be brought into the stadium, behind our back, in about a couple of hours. The gates of the stadium will open at 10 a.m. local time, which is 8 a.m. in New York, to allow really a multitude of people to come in and pay their respect. They will be allowed to walk on to the pitch to say one last goodbye to this soccer star that really changed the game in the 1950s and 60s, expanded it by going to play in New York at the end of his career. And, the right here, he is regarded simply as a god.

And, we had the privilege over the last two days which had been really a roller coaster here in Brazil with New Year's Eve and the celebrations but also the death of a global icon. We had the privilege, I was saying, to spend a couple of days with the people who knew him the most, and here is how they are preparing to say goodbye to Pele. Have a listen.

POZZEBON: How do you mourn a legend, a person, who always brought so much joy to everyone who saw him? These football fans in the Brazilian city of Santos do it their own way, by laughing and cheering. This is the old guard, those who had the privilege of watching Pele play more than 60 years ago, now are preparing to say goodbye. Some show off their tattoos. Others hold on to old tickets as if they were relics.


JANUARIO ORNELLAS, SANTOS FC SUPPORTTER (TRANSLATED): In his last match, the stadium was jammed. Everyone is screaming, chanting. When Pele left the pitch, it all went quiet. There was silence, and then half the people left because why stay if you don't see Pele.


POZZEBON: But, in a city where everyone has a story about the legend, here is someone who knew the man himself, a true lover of the game. Cosmo Damiao founded the first supporters' club in the city back when Pele was playing.


POZZEBON: It's a mixed feeling of celebrating the life of the player for being sad because your friend died.

COSMO DAMIAO, FOUNDER, SANTOS FC SUPPORTERS' CLUB: (TRANSLATED): Yes. You have no idea how much I would like to say come back King and be with your people. This piece of land is your house.


POZZEBON: The city of Santos has declared seven days of mourning to remember Pele. And, outside the old football stadium, the tributes are endless. Inside, everything is ready. Here is where Pele's body will lie for 24 hours.

Like a circle that comes to a full close, Pele's final farewell will be in the same ground where he gave so much joy to his fans. Back then, hundreds of them will be cheerful in these stands that are now silent, mourning the king of football. As a new year begins, one last Beget history, one more final whistle for the greatest of them all.

And, the stands, of course, are still silent, will be a very silent and emotional day here inside the stadium where Pele will be mourned. We understand that the VIPs of the words football will be heroes, starting with Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, and we hear the President of Brazil himself, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, might come by the end of the day. The actual funeral will be tomorrow, Kristin, in a private ceremony that the family wanted to keep before themselves. So, today is actually the chance for the people to say goodbye one more time. Kristin.

FISHER: Yes, and so fitting that that public wake is being held in that stadium. Stefano, thank you so much.


FISHER: So, Republicans are due to vote tomorrow on who will be the next Speaker of the House, and it's still unclear whether Kevin McCarthy is going to get the job. McCarthy is the top choice of the most House Republicans, but the GOP only holds a very slim margin, giving a small group of hardliners the power to block him. And, on a conference call, Sunday, McCarthy said that he was willing to change the rule so his opponent could get rid of him later but more easily. But, he admitted on the call that even that may not be enough to bring hard right lawmakers on board. [05:15:00]

Well, next, a big challenge for President Biden in 2023. How to deal with a House led by Republicans? Plus, Brazil's former president takes off to Florida before his opponent takes office. Ad, the California community hit by a second earthquake in as many weeks.


Well, 2023 is supposed to be what they call an off year in Washington, no presidential election in November, no midterms either. But, what happens this year with key figures like Biden and Trump should help set the course for 2024 and beyond.

So, joining us now is Princeton History Professor and CNN Political Analyst, Julian Zelizer, and his new book is titled "Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past", and it's out tomorrow. So, congratulations on that, Julian. But, first,--


FISHER: --yes, of course, that's a big deal. And so, in your recent opinion piece, in addition to some of the other - books that you write, right, you note that major questions that could determine the future of U.S. politics. So, let's start with, I think what a lot of people are wondering as we head into the new year, and that is will President Biden run again for a second term in 2024?

ZELIZER: Yes. That's obviously the big question in presidential politics. What we're hearing is that Biden is planning on running. He is intending to run, and a lot of the discussion of challenging him in a primary has diminished, but there is still doubts. There is stories that he is still yet to make that final decision and figuring out how he feels about a second term. So, that will set the playing field for 2024.

FISHER: Yes, it sure will. And so, how about any other Democrats? Do you think they'll challenge a potential reelection bid by Biden if he does indeed decide to run?


ZELIZER: It's less likely than it was a year ago. He has had a lot of success legislatively in terms of his approval ratings. It's very difficult to challenge an incumbent president. So, it's unlikely, but there is many names out there of people who are thinking about it, and a primary could really hurt the Democratic Party if that unfolded.

FISHER: Yes, absolutely. There is always a list of people that could be on the shortlist to run for a primary against an incumbent. But, as we look at this New Year, President Biden has a bigger new challenge here in Washington. What will a House Republican majority mean for the sitting president?

ZELIZER: Well, it will clearly stifle his legislative agenda. It's going to be very hard to get any kind of major bill and minor bill, to be honest, through a Republican House. But, one of the political questions is, does that help the Democrats? Meaning, does the ability of House Republicans to exercise power push them in the public mind toward a kind of extremism, an inability to govern that becomes the argument of the Democratic Party in 2024? Or, does their ability to stop Biden help the Republican Party by making him appear as a president who can't move forward? And so, that's what we're going to watch in 2023.

FISHER: And then, the other thing, of course, that we're watching in 2023 is the Republican side and how it shapes up heading into, what, 2024, and of course, how former President Donald Trump is going to handle his reelection campaign in the midst of all of these investigations and everything that's happened with the January 6 Committee. How do you think he has done so far, and what do you think his strategy is going to be going forward?

ZELIZER: I think he is struggling. Clearly, the rollout of his campaign was not what he intended or it didn't go as intended. He is facing multiple major investigations at this point which is not what the Republican Party wants from its candidate, meaning, they're just calculating who is the best bet? And, there is other people who can do what the former president did now, such as a Governor DeSantis, who might appear to be a safer bet. So, we'll see how he handles it. He clearly will try to weaponize the investigations and the attacks, that's what he does, to present himself as an embattled figure. But, it's going to be a tough year for him, I think, to really regain the ground that he is losing as he faces all these investigations.

FISHER: All right. Julian, thank you so much for giving us this preview of 2023, and congrats on the new book out tomorrow.

ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

FISHER: You bet. So, some quick hits across America now. One man dead, nine other injured - nine others injured after a New Year's Eve mass shooting in the downtown area of Mobile, Alabama. Police say a suspect is now in custody and will be charged with murder.

Some parts of Northern California without power and water, after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck on Sunday, the second one in less than two weeks. Two people died in the town of Dell Rio after a 6.4 magnitude quake on December 20.

And, one man is dead after an avalanche struck outside a Colorado ski resort, about 80 miles west of Denver on Sunday, crews rescued his father who was partially buried while skiing.

Right now, 900 passengers stuck on a cruise ship that's barred from docking in Australia. We're going to tell you why.

And, millions mourn the passing of former Pope Benedict, the beginning of his final goodbye, next.




FISHER: Tens of thousands are expected to pay their respects in Vatican City today to former Pope Benedict. He passed away at age 95 on New Year's Eve. His coffin lies in state right now at St. Peter's Basilica. Public viewing has begun. So, let's go to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live at St. Peter's Square. Frederick, in a final published letter, the former Pope asked for forgiveness from those he "wronged", quite the choice of words from a former Pope. Tell us about that.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right, Kristin. And, first of all, it is quite a remarkable scene here at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. As you can see, there is thousands of people who are already lining up to pay their final respects to Pope Benedict. I would say, the folks that are lining up here, a lot of them are affiliated with the church. There is some regular sort of Romans, Italians and tourists, but also some people coming in from Germany. The Pope, of course, was German, but very much affiliated with Bavaria, the southeast of Germany, where he came from. He was very much someone who really loved his homeland.

But, you're absolutely right. He did leave behind that letter, and there were several pretty remarkable passages in that letter. But, first and foremost, there was the one that you were talking about, where he asked for forgiveness for anyone that he wronged. And, there is a lot of people who are sort of debating what exactly he means by that. He didn't further elaborate on what exactly he meant. But, some take that to mean that he possibly meant the fact that while he was Pope, and even before that, when he was a very powerful figure within the Vatican, there were, of course, those abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and there are many people who did feel that Pope Benedict did not do enough to address that and to come to terms with that and to punish those who were responsible.

One of the things, of course, that he did in the final months of his life is that he acknowledged that there were severe mistakes made, not just the time that he was Pope, when he was here in the Vatican, but before that as well when he was the Archbishop of Munich in the late 70s and early 80s. So, possibly, it has something to do with that, but pretty remarkable words in that final letter from Pope Benedict that was released after his death. And, of course, now, as we move along, things were all gearing up towards Thursday when we are expecting or when the funeral for Pope Benedict will happen.

It certainly isn't going to be a huge event like when the funeral of Pope John Paul II happened, I was actually here when that took place as well. Pope Benedict himself asked for a smaller funeral to take place and that is certainly the wish that will be granted. That funeral, though, will be presided over by the current Pope, Pope Francis. Kristin.

FISHER: Yes. So unusual that here you have a current Pope presiding over that service for a former Pope, something that obviously hasn't happened in hundreds of years. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you so much.


FISHER: So, new Brazilian President Lula.