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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: "No Regrets" For Not Revealing Document Discovery Earlier; U.S. and Germany at Odds Over American Refusal to Send Tanks; Nikki Haley's Choice. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 05:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no there or there. Thank you.


ROMANS: Right now on EARLY START, no regrets and no patience. A frustrated President Biden questioned about the secret document scandal.

The U.S. and Germany in a tank standoff, who will blink first over sending crucial firepower to Ukraine?

And, former Ambassador Nikki Haley now says it's time for a new generation to lead. Guess who she has in mind for 2024?


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Happy Friday, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

President Biden saying that he has no regrets over the way the White House handled the discovery of classified documents at his private think tank office and Delaware home.


BIDEN: As we found a -- we found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place, we immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department. We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly.


ROMANS: The president's first remarks in a week on the classified documents discovery.

CNN's Jasmine Wright, live in Washington, this Friday morning for us.

Jasmine, Mr. Biden spent about 30 seconds addressing the documents, at the very end of those remarks on storm recovery in California. What is the White House strategy on dealing now with this controversy?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the strategy has been in place for the last week, Christine, which is to talk about it, but not to get into the specifics here. But, also talk about how they are fully cooperating with the Department of Justice.

Now, to be clear here, to the day, for about two years into the presidency to take office and now they are facing the worst controversies that they have had so far. And the president is clearly frustrated about it, not just because of the limited amount of things that he's allowed to say because of his lawyers, as seen in previously reported. But, also just because of the impact that he has day today because he can't say much.

Of course, that means reporters are going to ask about it I want to hear about it with every appearance. So, you're, right this is the first, time as you can see on the screen here, here in California. He addressed it to reporters as he was touring some of that storm damage in California, and I want to play this part of his response to reporters question because, he really railed on the impact that this questions are having for his day today reality. Take a listen.


BIDEN: You know, quite frankly, it bugs me that we have a serious problem here. We are talking about what's going on. And the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask any questions about that.

I have no regrets at following while lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There is no there there. Thank you.


WRIGHT: So, there we heard clearly from the president saying that there was no there or there. He has no regrets. But, of course, nothing about specifics really falling into line with the White House strategy providing no specific saying that they're fully cooperating with the department of justice, but also part of that, Christine, has been to downplay the political severity of this case that is happening on the White House, especially when we think about the fact that the president is expected to announce a run for 2024 in the next few months.

His officials basically say that this is another storm that the White House has the weather in barring any major developments that they will get through it. But, of course, it has major implications more down the road if, in fact, he does announce a run for presidency in the next few months -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely. Jasmine Wright, thank you, Jasmine.

Right now, Western allies supporting Ukraine's fight against Russian invasion are meeting in Germany at Ramstein Airbase. Ahead of today's meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the Pentagon announced a new two and a half billion dollar military aid package for Ukraine that includes, for the very first, time Stryker armored vehicles along with Bradley and MRAP vehicles, ammunition for the HIMARS rockets system and a whole lot of other military hardware.

Let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir in London.

There has been some tension between the U.S. and Germany over the U.S. refusal to send its own tanks to Ukraine. What is this tank disagreement about?

NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Absolute tension is the way to describe it. That would be the key focus of today's meeting. We've already heard from the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, speaking during his opening remarks in the last hour that he warned that Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equipped on the call of the international partners to dig deeper.

And that may be seen as targeted towards Germany, because of, course it has been growing international pressure on Germany to supply Ukraine with its Leopard 2 tanks.


Now, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as other officials have been urging for these tanks. They say it is crucial and integral into allowing Ukraine to gain victory over Russia. They say they need more support when it comes to offensive weapons rather than the defensive which has been the primary form of support from members of the international community.

And, of course, others have purchased the German made Leopard 2 tanks and they're also calling on Germany which holds the export license to the tank to allow their countries to themselves supplied these tanks to Ukraine. And now, Germany has hesitated it has expressed that it wouldn't do so unless there were similar commitments from the United States.

And, of course, we have seen that package from the U.S., and extensive package, that has to be sent $2.5 billion. But crucially, it did not include those M1 Abram tanks, of course. They say it's too complicated, logistically complex and difficult to maintain. It wouldn't be suited to that ground offensive in Ukraine.

But, the U.S. maintains its firm stance that Ukraine does need those modern western tanks. And it's urging Germany to offer that support. Now that will be the key focus of discussions of today.

And we heard from the Dutch prime minister speaking to CNN just yesterday saying that while there needs to be a coalition and a concerted offer of support when it comes to transferring tanks from these international partners, he is fairly confident that this meeting will bring about some sort of conclusion and in fact we heard from the Polish prime minister as well earlier in the week segment that regardless of whether Germany chooses to offer the supply of these tanks that Poland will do the right thing in his word so it could well be a transfer of tanks regardless of Germany's position -- Christine. ROMANS: All right. Nada Bashir, thank you so much in London for us.

Actor Alec Baldwin facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter and the shooting of cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on the set of the movie "Rust". The armorer who was in charge of all weapons used in the production will also be charged. Baldwin, calling the decision to prosecute him a terrible miscarriage of justice.

CNN's Josh Campbell has more from Santa Fe, New Mexico.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Set in the old West, "Rust" was filming outside of Santa Fe. Baldwin and crew members were rehearsing inside a church when a prop gun in the actor's hand discharged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have two injuries from a movie gunshot.

CAMPBELL: Killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

MARY CARMACK-ATWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This was a really fast and loose set that nobody was doing their job. There were three people that if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened and that's David Halls, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and Alec Baldwin.

CAMPBELL: Assistant director Dave Halls who handed Baldwin the gun has already pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed served as the armorer, and prop assistant. Baldwin has repeatedly claimed that he pulled the gun's hammer as far as he could without cocking and released the hammer.

Telling CNN and others --

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: So you never pulled the trigger.

BALDWIN: No, no, no, I would never point a gun at anybody and pull the trigger, never. That was the training that I had. You don't point a gun at somebody and pull the trigger.

CAMPBELL: District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies disagrees.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they're going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone. An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor.

BALDWIN: I was the one holding the gun, yeah. CAMPBELL: Safety expert Steve Wolf has a theory as to why Baldwin says he didn't pull the trigger.

STEVE WOLF, MOVIE GUN SAFETY EXPERT: If your finger is on the trigger and you're not aware that you're pressing it and you pull the hammer back, and release it, the gun will also fire. And, I believe that that's why he saying he didn't press the trigger.

CAMPBELL: Baldwin's attorney says he will fight the charges, calling the decision a miscarriage of justice and Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.

An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed calls the charges wrong and believes the armorer will be found not guilty by a jury and did not commit manslaughter. She's been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.

JENNIFER ROGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not clear there is criminal liability. Given all the circumstances I'm not seeing that. I'm looking forward to what they are going to prove, because this is an aggressive charge and I'm not sure they have it.


CAMPBELL (on camera): And as far as what happens next, the district here tells me that she expects charges against Alec Baldwin to be filed by the end of the month after which, time, he will receive a summons to appear either here in person or via video conference. Of course, we expect Baldwin's legal team to aggressively fight these charges.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Santa Fe, New Mexico.


ROMANS: All right, Josh. Thank you for that.

Nikki Haley says it's time for a younger generation to lead the Republican Party. Back in 2021, Haley said she would not face -- not challenge former President Trump if he decided to run.


But it appears that the former human ambassador has had a change of heart.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: We have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. Seven out of eight Republicans have lost. Something is wrong.

And, so I think that it's time that we bring in a new generation that can bring in more people to our party that can really talk about this solution that we need to do. If I run, I'm running against Joe Biden. That's what I'm focused on, because we can't have a second term of Joe Biden.


ROMANS: Haley also denies claims by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that she plotted Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to become Trump's vice president, she calls the claim lies and gossip.

Supreme Court investigators releasing their report on last year's leaked draft opinions on Roe v. Wade, they still don't know who did it but they have determined at least 90 people had access to that document at one point. And that is unlikely the result from a computer hack.

Investigators conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of them denied closing the opinion. They also conducted fingerprint analysis and looked closely into any connections between employees and reporters. The report does not say outright, but does imply that the justices and their spouses were not interviewed.

The music world is mourning the death of folk rock pioneer, David Crosby.

Now, that's Crosby, Stills and Nash lived in 1985. Crosby was a founding member of the legendary band and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Byrds in 1991, and again with Crosby, Still and Nash in 1997 alongside Steve Stills and Graham Nash. In 1994, he received a liver transplant and also had multiple hard procedures was struggling with diabetes. David Cosby was 81.

Just ahead, should South Korea might have its own nuclear weapons?


REPORTER: Kim Jong-un wants bigger and --


ROMANS: And why the idea has both China and the U.S. nervous, next.

Plus, the search for a Hollywood actor missing in the mountains.

And some superheroes back in action or they haven't been seen in a while.




CARMACK-ALTWIES: An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they are an actor, and that's what's so important is that we're saying here in New Mexico, everyone is equal under the law.


ROMANS: Alec Baldwin is, of course, the actor that the Santa Fe prosecutor is referring to there. He now faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter on the 2021 shooting on the set the movie "Rust" that killed the cinematographer and injured the director.

Baldwin's attorney says he feels blindsided by these charges.

Let's bring in trial attorney and former prosecutor, Imran Ansari.

So nice to see you this morning, thanks for getting up early for us.

So, in -- two involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin were at his capacity as an actor and producer. Which of the two charges do you think will prosecutors make a stronger case for?

IMRAN ANSARI, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yeah, Christine, will both charges are very aggressive. And we all know. That there is concessions in the legal community that this prosecutor has taken an aggressive stance.

Now, both charges, I believe, would be charred hard to prove in the context of what we have and what we know from this case. The easier of these charges for prosecutors to prove is the one related to Alex Baldwin's role as producer, and why do I say that? They are saying that Alec Baldwin departed from the standard of care and that his actions rose to criminal negligence in that he was in charge, or that he had the responsibility, to make sure that that films that was safe and particularly so, that the firearms on set were being maintained safe, as his role as a producer, sort of overseeing the production on that set.

The harder of those charges is related to Alec Baldwin's relation as an actor. The involuntary manslaughter charge there is related to him being an actor or that he should have known or should have checked whether that gun was loaded before he pulled the trigger. Of course, we know that Alec Baldwin is denying that he pulled that trigger, but that is going to be the harder of those two charges for prosecutors to prove.

ROMANS: So, if Baldwin is seen as a responsible for as a producer of the film, why weren't other producers charged, do you think?

ANSARI: I think it is the role that Alec Baldwin had as a whole in this particular production. We look at Alec Baldwin in this production as being really the lead producer, added to that, is his role as the actor. So he is having these two dual roles on set.

And I think that gave the prosecutor the motivation to go charge out Baldwin. Of course, he keeps receiving criticism for this. They think it is an aggressive move, and the criminalization of negligence to this effect is not warranted in this case.

ROMANS: All right. The national executive director for the Actors Union called the charges, wrong and an informed. So who is an informed about this prosecution, the DEA or who? What does this say about the film industry's standards for safety on set? ANSARI: Yeah, no matter how this plays out, Christine, I think it is

going to be a resounding and having a lasting effect in a presidential sort of weigh in how film sets are looked at, in how safety is maintained on a film set, particularly so when it is dealing with firearms.

SAG-AFTRA is putting their support behind Alec Baldwin. They came out, as you said, backing him. They said that this was too extreme for charging in actor under these charges and that an actor doesn't have the responsibility to make sure that a firearm is unloaded.


That is the firearm expert which is on set.

I think they are speaking to the prosecutor being uninformed in terms of what the role is of an actor on the set, and what the role of a firearm expert is on the set. Of course, this is the most dramatic events of the many legal cases in waves coming out of this "Rust" shooting tragedy, and we have seen various individuals as a part of this pointing the fingers to one another, and, of course, you've heard that Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on the set, is also facing these manslaughter charges.

And I expect as we progress into this litigation, into this prosecution, we are going to see Alec Baldwin's attorneys also pointing the finger at armorer, saying that it was not his responsibility, it was hers.

ROMANS: All right. Imran Ansari, former prosecutor, thank you. So nice to see you this morning, have a great weekend.

ANSARI: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

All right. Quick hits across America now.

British actor Julian Sands has been identified as the hiker missing in California San Gabriel Mountains, missing since last Friday. Heavy snow is preventing ground search operations.

Sands is, of course, known for films like a room with a view, and the TV show "24".

At least one person has been injured after shots were fired at an Evansville Walmart in Indiana. Police say the suspect fired at them and officers fired back, killing the gun man Thursday night. No motive has been given for the shooting.

Governor Ron DeSantis has blocked an AP African American studies course from Florida's high schools, he says it is contrary to state law and lacks educational value. It follows DeSantis's value to limit teaching about critical race theory.

Just ahead, what's next at Netflix, now the top bosses stepping up and down but not stepping away?

And what happens if South Korea gets its own nuclear weapons to counter the North?



ROMANS: All right, the U.S. could have another new color problem in Asia, the president of South Korea recently said his country would consider building its own nuclear arsenal as threats from North Korea grow, adding he may ask Washington to redeploy some U.S. nukes to South Korea.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong-un wants bigger and better nuclear weapons, calling for a, quote, exponential increase in North Korea's nuclear arsenal, a compelling reason for a growing number of South Koreans to believe that they too should have nuclear weapons.

BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It is very striking how it has gone from really a fringe discussion to very mainstream.

HANCOCKS: South Korea is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But for some conservatives, the pledge to come to Seoul's aide up to an including nuclear weapon if under attack is no longer enough.

Not help by former U.S. President Donald Trump who turned traditional alliances on their head, suggesting that the U.S. shouldn't be defending South Korea, citing an expense.

ANKIT PANDA, STANTON SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: The alliance was on thin ice during the Trump administration. And so, on some level, it's a national response for South Korea to see got ways in which to enhance its autonomous defense capability.

CHEONG SEONG-CHANG, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR EAST ASIAN COOPERATION (through translator): Of course, North Korea doesn't want south Korea to have nuclear weapons. Now, they can ignore the South Korean military. But they will be nervous if they have enough nuclear weapons as we have enough nuclear material to make more than 4,000 weapons.

HANCOCKS: A poll conducted by Korea last September found 55 percent of those polls supported South Korea having its own nuclear weapons. Other polls show even higher support. But some experts say that the reality would be very different.

JEFFREY LEWIS, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, the funny thing about nuclear weapons is that your weapons don't offset their weapons. And the best example I could think of that is, look at Israel. Israel has nuclear arms and it is terrified of Iran getting nuclear weapons.

So, Israel's nuclear weapons don't, in any fundamental way, offset the threat that they feel from Iran's nuclear weapons.

HANCOCKS: South Korea's president, Yoon Suk-yeol, also flooded the idea of a nuclear program last week, speaking to his defense ministry. Comments walked back by those around him.

Yoon has been calling for stronger extended deterrence for months. Some conservatives favor redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula.

KLINGNER: Putting U.S. nukes back on the peninsula makes no military sense. They currently are on very hard to find, hard to target weapons platforms. And to take the weapons off of them and to put them into a bunker in South Korea, which is a very enticing preemptive target for North Korea, what you've done as you degraded your capabilities.


HANCOCKS (on camera): Washington says that the extended deterrence is solid. And, the nuclear umbrella is intact. And it also points to the fact that some 28,500 U.S. troops are permanently stationed here on the peninsula, which could have a very real trip wire effect.

And the last thing that the U.S., want for China, for that matter, is a nuclear arms race among America's allies in Asia.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


ROMANS: All right. Paula, thank you for that.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

In Peru, thousands of protesters clashed with police calling for the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and general elections. Fifty- four people have died in protests sparked by the impeachment and left left-wing former president, Pedro Castillo.

The Colombian navy has rescued a Dominican man lost at sea since December.


ELVIS FRANCOIS, LOST AT SEA FOR 24 DAYS: I had no food. There's just a bottle of ketchup that was.