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California Pounded by Powerful Storms with Intense Rain, Flooding; Secret Documents from Biden's Time as VP Found in Private Office; Bolsonaro Supporters Storm Brazil's Key Government Buildings. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Right now on EARLY START, roads literally turned into raging rivers by epic rainfall in California. America's second largest city slammed by flash floods and bracing for more.

The Justice Department looking into classified documents found into a private office once used by Joe Biden.

And a huge celebration in the streets of Georgia as the Bulldogs go back to back in the college football championship.


ROMANS: Here we go. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

Good morning, everyone.

Right now, 90 percent of the population of California under flood watch. America's second largest city is slammed by a relentless storm. Flash flooding, mudslides, wind damage all across central and southern California.

This is video just in from Santa Clarita. Firefighters pulling a person out of that car as water rushes around them. There are scenes like these all over the Los Angeles area. Roads now closed. Firefighters rescuing people caught in these flash floods.

Santa Barbara County alone responding to some 200 calls like this. In some cases, it's better to leave the car home. All water and no pavement in the worst hit areas.

Mudslides also blocking roads. Nearly 60,000 customers are without power and right now the entire community of Montecito is under evacuation.

TV show host Ellen DeGeneres shared this overflowing creek near her home.


ELLEN DEGENERES, COMEDIAN: We are having unprecedented rain. This creek next to our house never flows, ever. The probably about 9 feet up. It's going to go another 2 feet up, forcing people to evacuate. We need to be nicer to mother nature.


ROMANS: CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has more.

And, Chad, what can we expect here? I mean, the story for California for so long has been drought and now all of this rain.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly how the switch is flipped. That's always it. Even if you are in the southeast part of the United States or the west, that's how the switch flips. We have more rain coming in today. There was such relentless rain yesterday.

Some spots in the state of California had more rainfall yesterday than on any day in history on record. More rainfall coming in today. Widespread flooding. More impassible roads. More mudslides.

They started yesterday but I believe there will be more of them today because the ground is already saturated and more rainfall is coming. That little purple area there to the east of Santa Barbara, 10 inches of rainfall estimated by radar and the radar gauges and the rain gauges are matching up here from Three Peaks to Dewey all over 10 inches of rainfall in the past one day.

So where do we go from here? Well, by 4:00 in the morning Pacific time more rainfall is really in the same place falling all the way down into southern California. Heavy snow in the Sierra. Could be four to five feet in the highest elevations.

That's great news for the drought because the snow doesn't run off like this rainfall is going to run off. That's not it just yet. There's another storm behind this one. These are just relentless pieces of atmospheric river running on shore. It's that river of air that has so much humidity in it coming from the tropics that will run straight into California proper.

We will get some snow in the Rockies, that's beneficial. Really the problem here is the rain and even the potential for some onshore water spouts coming in as tornadoes. There will be more rainfall in places that simply don't need it from Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and North Bay and Sacramento as well.

These places are wet. Everything is running off. There's no place to soak in.

ROMANS: Yeah, and dangerous seeing those rescues -- water rescues. Be careful out there, folks.

Thank you so much. Chad Myers, keep us posted.

MYERS: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. Classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president found last fall in a private office in Washington used by Mr. Biden. Sources tell CNN fewer than a dozen documents were found, among them some top secret files.

Attorney General Merrick garland has asked the U.S. attorney in Chicago to investigate.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington.

How is the president responding to this, Jasmine?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christine, we haven't heard from the president directly on this, in part because this is a president who has tried to seem impartial and not weigh in on these things, trying not to seem like he is pressuring the Department of Justice.


So, news broke of these documents after President Biden was in Mexico City sitting down for an important bilateral with his Mexican counterpart. And I want you to take a look when reporters were in the room and they asked him about it.


REPORTER: Any information on the documents, sir?


WRIGHT: So we've got a little facial expression from the president but no real answer as he tried to stay focused on the meeting. So, while the president has remained silent, the White House has put out an on the record, very detailed time line of exactly how they feel this went down, what exactly happened. The point of this, Christine, is to show just how differently they are handling this classified document issue versus the former president, President Trump.

Now, the office said they are fully cooperating with the National Archives and Department of Justice after a small, less than a dozen amount of classified documents were found in that Penn Center office that President Biden used a few years ago. After being closed down, those documents found by lawyers. They immediately notified the National Archives and just next morning the national archives came and picked those documents up.

Now, a source told our own Phil Mattingly that Biden wasn't aware those documents were in that room and he's not aware what those documents are.

Now, another difference that the White House pointed out here was that the fact that these documents were not requested. They were not sought after. Instead, they were willingly given over to the national archives immediately after they were found.

Now, of course, this is something we haven't yet heard from the president about, but -- and it really is unclear how much he is going to talk about it in the future, but we know that the president is going to return to D.C. this evening and this is going to be an issue that looms over him, is waiting for him when he arrives as it made big news yesterday and it's likely to continue dominating news cycles in the future -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Jasmine, thank you so much, Jasmine.

Former Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani has been subpoenaed for documents he received around the 2020 election. A source tells CNN the subpoena was part of special counsel Jack Smith's sweeping criminal probe into Trump's fundraising and spending as he tried to overturn the 2020 election.

A Giuliani spokesman and the special counsel's office both declined to comment on the subpoena.

All right. Police in Massachusetts now searching for the remains of missing mother Anna Walsh at a trash transfer station. Investigators have also put crime tape around dumpsters at the home of her mother- in-law. Anna's house, Brian Walsh, was arrested for misleading investigators. Police also say they found a bloody knife in the Walsh's basement.

Police in Brazil found five hand grenades in Congress and the Supreme Court, that according to a Brazilian senator. The president is accusing police of negligence. About 1,500 people have been arrested after supporters of the former president stormed the three branches of Brazil's government.

CNN's Isa Soares reports from Brasilia.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stunning attack on Brazil's seat of power, as supporters of former far right President Jair Bolsonaro broke through security quarters in Brasilia, roaming the presidential building, vandalizing congress, smashing windows, stealing presidential documents and destroying invaluable works of art -- simply running riot through Brazil's halls of power, in scenes eerily similar to the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol two years ago.

One week earlier, the scenes were of democratic triumph as Bolsonaro's left-wing rival Lula da Silva was inaugurated following a tight election result. Bolsonaro never explicitly conceded and neither did his most ardent followers.

This, this is my hero. I'm at his home, our home, our home a Bolsonaro supporter said from inside the presidential palace. Protestors dressed in the colors of the Brazilian flag now a symbol of Bolsonaro's far right movement. Unfell banners from the congressional building rooftop demanding the result of Brazil's most fraught election in a generation be overturned.

More than 1,000 arrests were made after security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to regain control of the congressional building, the Supreme Court and presidential palace. But by the time they did, the damage had already been done. The president's chief of communications showed destruction inside his own office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable what was done in the palace. Look at the state of the rooms, equipment, computers. Look at this.


SOARES: World leaders condemned the attack as an assault on democracy. Brazil's new president pinned the blame on his predecessor, accusing him of encouraging rioters through social media through Florida. He promised no stone will be left unturned vowing to find those responsible.

LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will find out the financiers and they will pay with the force of the law for this irresponsible gesture, this anti-democratic gesture of vandals and fascists.

SOARES: Bolsonaro denounced the actions of his supporters from the U.S. where he traveled after the election. The former president already facing at least four Supreme Court investigations. The latest scenes will only add to further calls at home into Bolsonaro's influence on his base, a conservative fire brand politician who for years has been taking cues from the Trump playbook pushing election fraud conspiracies and casting doubt on the integrity of the electoral system.

Isa Soares, CNN, Brasilia.


ROMANS: All right. While all of this plays out in Brazil, Bolsonaro is spending time in an Orlando hospital. He posted this picture Monday. He says he is being treated from complications from a stab wound he received in 2018 at a political rally. It's unclear if he has been discharged.

House Republican lawmakers passed their very first legislation as a new majority in a party line vote.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: On this vote the ayes are 221, the nays are 210, the bill is passed.


ROMANS: The bill would roll back $80 billion in IRS funding. That money would have funded 87,000 new agents in an effort to crack down on big companies and high earners who cheat on their taxes to the tune of billions of dollars a year and to replace the 50,000 IRS agents expected to retire in coming years.

The White House says President Biden would veto it and he'll probably never -- he'll probably never see it. The bill is considered dead on arrival in the Senate. Just in to CNN, the Biden administration announcing new proposal to

make student loans affordable. Key elements include an option for single borrowers making $30,600 to stop making payments altogether. Borrowers with higher income would have their payments cut in half from 10 percent of income to 5 percent. The Department of Education would also stop charging monthly interest on unpaid balances and shorten the time for smaller loans to be forgiven from 20 years to 10. This new proposal does not include the loan forgiveness President Biden announced in August, which is still tied up in the courts.

Ahead, classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president found at a private office. How is this different from what Donald Trump did?

Plus, the big city school system is suing a bunch of big tech companies.

And the Georgia Bulldogs romp repeating as college football national champions.




REP. DAVE JOYCE (R-OH): If it's illegal, then it's illegal for Democrats, Republican, any citizen who would happen to take those documents outside the controlled facilities in which they're normally kept. But I would hope that they're going to -- one thing about the law is it's enforced equally to all-Americans.


ROMANS: Republican lawmakers seizing on revelations that several documents, classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president were discovered in his former private office. Now, does this compare at all to Donald Trump's hoarding of secret records at Mar-a- Lago? And what is the fallout here?

Let's bring in criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Katie Cherkasky.

Good morning, Katie.

Compare and contrast for me I guess this investigation and what happened with the former president at Mar-a-Lago where you put them side by side, 160-plus secret, 60 top secret found at Mar-a-Lago. These are less than 12 total, some top secret documents found in this office from the former vice president.

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, obviously I think the truth sometimes is stranger than fiction here. This has been a story we've been talking about with Donald Trump and now we have something that seems very similar with President Biden and be there are some differences but there's a lot of key facts that are very similar. There are classified documents that were held after the point of being in office it appears and we have to remember that the vice president, unlike the president, does not have the same authority to declassify documents and they are subject to those laws regarding the handling of those.

Now in this case with President Biden, it doesn't seem as if there's any obstruction efforts, the documents were readily turned over and certainly there hasn't been any claims he owns them or has any right over them. There seems to be Cooperation there. In terms of the obstruction which for president Trump's purposes is the much more significant legal issue, that does not seem to be an issue in this case. Still, the handling of the documents is at issue.

ROMANS: No surprise that supporters of the former president jumped on this and the former president on his social media site say when is the FBI going to raid all homes of Joe Biden? I guess the point here is that the Biden team is cooperating and they were the ones to reveal this?

CHERKASKY: Well, that's very true. The basis for the search warrant was there was a dispute about the refusal to turn over the documents, and that did not occur here. So, I think in terms, again, of the obstruction, that is not present in this case. Mishandling of classified documents, if that is an offense that is being looked at, that happens at the time the documents are removed potentially if they're done so under inappropriate circumstances.

So, that part of it is more nuanced. Legally I think those analyses are much more simpler.

ROMANS: Attorney General Merrick garland has asked the U.S. attorney to investigate. This is now in the hands of the U.S. attorney in Chicago. What happens next?

CHERKASKY: I think Merrick Garland is in a difficult position. Obviously, he wants to ensure the law is enforced fairly and have the appearance and optics of fairness. But there's going to be a lot of questions about the comparisons here.


So, I believe that he assigned this U.S. attorney outside of the local jurisdiction to have some appearance of fairness. They seem to be a Republican appointee and there is also the optics that go along with that.

But, ultimately, I think there's going to need to be a special counsel appointed whether this is a criminal offense and whether this is something that is prosecutable even which sounds ridiculous. Ultimately, that is the big question here is what to do with these allegations.

ROMANS: One thing we've heard from people who have handled these kind of documents, you have as well, maybe there's a problem with over classification. Talk to me about that. CHERKASKY: Well, I do think when you hear the term classified

documents, that can refer to any number of things and certain things are more important than others, if you will.

So in terms of government agencies, there is a significant amount of classification. There are things that happen on a regular basis with people being mishandling them in some ways and those are handled sometimes administratively. There's not always criminal prosecutions involved with this because there is a high volume of documents.

Again, the president has the declassification authority ultimately. Every other government employee, including the vice president, is subject to very strict requirements of handling those documents. It can be the subject of disciplinary action or even criminal prosecution in some cases.

ROMANS: Katie Cherkasky, nice to see you this morning. Thank you for clearing it all for us.

Quick hits across America right now.

A Georgia grand jury has completed its work to overturn the 2020 election and they will issue a final report on whether the Fulton County D.A. pursue indictments.

Virginia police say a 6-year-old boy who allegedly shot his teacher, used a gun that was legally purchased by his mother. Police have yet to determine if those parents will be charged.

Seattle public schools are suing big tech companies saying they are harmful to their students' mental health. The suit claims they impede student's ability to fulfill their educational mission.

Prince Harry's highly anticipated new book "Spare" is now on sale. How is it being received so far?



ROMANS: Okay. Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" officially goes on sale today. People lined up early this morning in the U.K. to get their hands on a copy. Of course, a lot of the explosive details are already out.

Harry has promoted the tell-all in a series of interviews detailing the split from the royal family and the riff with his father and brother.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo joins us from London.

The book dropped, Bianca, in the U.K. several hours ago. It's number one on the Amazon bestseller list. Some columnists write about over saturation but some people keep reading about Harry and are buying his book. BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are. Book stores in

London, some of which opened early around midnight to cater what they perceived would be huge, overwhelming demand for the book. It's no surprise given the media blitz and any PR agent's dream scenario. Nobody really has stopped talking about it, least of all me this week.

But I think what will be so instructive to witness, Christine, is whether or not when people can read Prince Harry's story, do they become more sympathetic towards him? So far we've had excerpts taken out of context. This time people will be able to read all 410 pages of the British version and make up their own mind.

And that might be what's concerning Kensington or Buckingham Palace because it is a war of words at the moment and Prince Harry in his "Good Morning America" interview said something which I thought was one be of the most significant statements he's made throughout this media campaign. When asked if he felt that the monarchy was still relevant, still important, he said, yes, but not in the form that it is now.

That might give us a clue to his over arching motivation here. We know he wants to inform and improve the antagonist of the British press and tabloids. Clearly, he feels the monarchy needs to modernize and free itself of unconscious bias. Hearing that from the person who's fifth in line to the throne has to be damaging. So, it's too soon to tell exactly what the impact constitutionally in the U.K. is going to be but given that the monarch is the head of the nation, the person that the country's supposed to have pride in and identify with, these damaging allegations are sure to have impact, Christine.

ROMANS: Okay. Bianca, thank you so much for that.

All right. Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan just walked into a Romanian courtroom. These are controversial influencers. They're kick boxers, people your kids have probably seen online. Some would call them misogynist provocateurs. They're trying to be released from preventive detention.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is following this live from London.

And over the New Year, Salma, my nieces and nephews were riveted to what happened to the Tate brothers. Explain to us who they are and what they're accused of.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so interesting. I think it was a conversation at so many dinner tables. It was at mine during the holiday period as well. These two brothers yet other chapters here in their saga, the self-professed misogynist who've gone so far on social media as to advocate for male dominance, as to advocate for the subjugation of females, to go so far as to promote violence of women.

On December 30th, they were ordered by a court in Romania to be detained for 30 days.