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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Pence Won't Appeal Court Order for Him to Testify Against Trump; Ex-National Security Officials Testify They Told Trump Government Did Not Have Authority to Seize Voting Machines; Putin, Lukashenko Meet for 2nd Day of Talks in Moscow; Israeli Forces Clash with Palestinians as Ramadan, Passover Overlap; Cash App Founder Killed. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 06, 2023 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, former Vice President Mike Pence will testify against his old boss. What dropping his appeal means for the case against Trump.

And more bad news for the former president. Top national security officials testify against him in the 2020 election subversion probe.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands up in some noise for Brandon Jason!


JIMENEZ: Ahead, we're going to have my interview with Chicago's new progressive Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, about how he pulled off his upset victory.


JIMENEZ: What's going on, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Omar Jimenez, in for the wonderful Christine Romans.

A lot to get to this morning, so let's get to it.

We're going to start with former Vice President Mike Pence deciding not to appeal a federal judge's order for him to testify in the case against Donald Trump. We don't know what date -- the date yet, but Pence will now testify to a grand jury in a special counsel probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has more from Washington.


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR REPORTER, CRIME AND JUSTICE: Mike Pence, the former vice president, is going to comply with an unprecedented subpoena that he received in a federal investigation to testify about Donald Trump, the man that he served under during his presidency. Now this subpoena came in the special counsel's investigation related to January 6th. Pence, they had been seeking Pence's testimony. But he went to court, as did Trump to try and block it.

At the end of the day, a judge had ruled that Pence would need to show up to testify. Donald Trump wouldn't be able to draw a line of secrecy around the presidency, and even though Pence was able to successfully argued that some things he did on January 6th may be protected because he was then operating as a member of Congress or a quasi member of Congress as he was presiding over the Senate on January 6th as they certified the presidency, he is not going to be able to hold off talking about conversations where Donald Trump may have been acting corruptly and talking to him about what could happen on January 6th.

We know that Donald Trump wanted to block the election's result, and he wanted Mike Pence to be the person that stood up and said to Congress, no, Donald Trump should be president, Joe Biden should not be president, even though that is the result of the election.

And we know that the special counsel's office has been looking very closely into that wanting testimony directly from Mike Pence, the vice president at the time. Now, Pence with this statement is saying also that he's not going to be appealing. And that means we now wait to see when the special counsel's office will call him before that grand jury in Washington, still investigating Donald Trump for possible crimes related to January 6th.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.


JIMENEZ: All right, Katelyn, thank you.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that same grand jury has heard testimony from two top Trump administration, national security officials. Multiple sources say, the officials told Trump repeatedly their agencies did not have legal authority to seize voting machines after the 2020 election, which Trump advisers were pushing the former president to order.

More now from CNN's Zachary Cohen.


ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Multiple former top national security officials have testified to a federal grand jury that they repeatedly told former President Donald Trump and his allies that the government did not have the authority to seize voting machines after the 2020 election. Now, sources are telling CNN the former officials, detailed conversations with Trump and those closest to him, with the idea of seizing voting machines was raised.

Now, the new details offer a rare window into one of the two ongoing criminal investigations overseen by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Chad Wolf, Trump's former Department of Homeland Security secretary and his then deputy Ken Cuccinelli have both testified in Smith's probe, focused on efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Both Wolf and Cuccinelli told the grand jury that they told Trump on multiple occasions, their agency did not have the authority to seize voting machines.

Now, prosecutors also heard from Trump's former national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, who recounted conversations were seizing voting machines was discussed, including one Oval Office meeting that Trump participated in. Now, this coming is several former Trump officials will likely be forced to testify before the grand jury after a judge rejected Trump's claims of executive privilege.


Zach Cohen, CNN, Washington.


JIMENEZ: All right, Zach. Thank you.

Well, a lot to analyze here. No one better to do it with than state attorney from Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg.

Dave, thanks for waking up with us. I always have to say that because you know it's early.

But what we're going to talk about a lot here. First of all, former Vice President Mike Pence has already spoken out about January 6th, just not under oath. He's got a new book about it, but what new information are you -- are you expecting to learn from his testimony and your experience? How do stories change if at all when they're told out in the world versus under oath?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yeah, good to be with you, Omar. Yeah, it's amazing how people get so much more truthful when the alternative is wearing a pair of steel bracelets, because that's what happens if you commit perjury. So, we'll know more about the conversations between Pence and Donald Trump. Now, a lot of it has already been revealed in Mike Pence's book, but there's still some stuff we don't know.

And, you know, if you ask me, I think this is all for performance art. This is Kabuki Theater, because Mike Pence always knew he would have to testify, and I think he's okay with it because he wants to pay back Trump for some of the stuff that Trump put him through.

But, you know, Mike Pence is running for president and he cannot be seen as a willing accomplice here. He can't be seen as working with the deep state. He wants to get that MAGA based on his side, or at least not have them actually against him.

So he put up this fake fight, fight the subpoena, even though he knew he would be dragged into court anyways, a dragged into the grand jury anyways. And now, he's going to have to testify, and I think he's okay with that. And the DOJ is getting everything it wanted, because although the court said, yeah, you've got some speech or debate protection, the court also said that it does not shield Mike Pence's conversations with Trump related to overturning the 2020 election.

So both sides got what they wanted. And it's now go time.

JIMENEZ: Well, it's interesting your point, at least the theater part of it as well. It's all happening in the context of who is running in for 2024. How does this play out with voters? What is the best move politically on top of what I'm sure is legally as well.

Now, I want to move to this at CNN has learned from Trump's former national security officials that he was repeatedly warned that the government has no authority to seize voting machines, despite calls for him to do so.

So how big of an issue do you see that being for Trump in this DOJ investigation?

ARONBERG: It's an issue, although this is not a surprise. Giuliani previously told congressional investigators that they looked into getting these voting machines seized and he realized that this was a nonstarter. You know, when Rudy Giuliani is your voice of reason, then you got to obviously reconsider the people you're hanging out with.

The most important part of this, though, Omar is that Trump's advisers repeatedly told him that there was no evidence of widespread fraud or foreign interference in the voting machines. So that gets to Trump's intent. That's going to help prosecutors when they inevitably charged him with federal crimes, and possibly, they could then move ahead with the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding or conspiracy to defraud the United States or both.

I think those are the two most likely charges stemming from January 6th and this testimony get some further down the line because it goes to Trump's intent.

JIMENEZ: Now, while all that is happening behind closed doors, a grand jury testimony, we did get a little daylight into the case here in New York, and you said Trump's indictment in the hush money case is incomplete and makes a weak case compared to other investigations against Trump. And you're not the only one saying that, that's an opinion that that's out there, especially in the legal world from a lot of minds.

But, how so? Elaborate on that point.

ARONBERG: Yeah, although I think it's the weakest of the four cases, I think that Mar-a-Lago document cases, the strongest case for prosecutors, followed by the Fulton County case, followed by the January 6 cases. I don't think it's necessarily a weak case. It's just -- there's some problems here.

And that is that you've got to get this to a jury by showing that a state prosecutor can use a federal statute to piggyback on, to take this misdemeanor of falsification of business records up to a felony. We're not sure that you can do that.

Also, the alternative is to use a state statute. There's a state election law statute at play here, but we're not sure if that's preempted by federal law. And then, Alvin Bragg referred to potential other fraud when it comes to taxes here, but there's no indication that the government was defrauded because Michael Cohen paid the taxes on the reimbursement he got for the hush money payments. That's why he got more in the reimbursement than he laid out.

So there's some theories here that are novel and whenever you're here novel when it comes to legal theories, that means it's uncertain and uncertain is something that gives us prosecutors the willies.

So, I think the -- if this case goes to a jury, I think that Trump is likely to be found guilty. It's just -- I'm not sure this case will make it to a jury.


We'll see.

JIMENEZ: Dave Aronberg, thanks for waking up with us. Thanks for waking up us with that analysis. It was amazing.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me.

JIMENEZ: Of course.

Now, a judge says Dominion voting systems can force Fox Corporation executives, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, to testify in person, the Delaware judge says if Dominion subpoenas the Murdochs, he would not quash it and would compel them to come. The ruling is a blow to Fox, which tried to block Dominion from forcing the Murdochs onto the witness stand.

Dominion is suing Fox for defamation after the networks host and guests claimed in 2020 that it's voting systems illegally rigged the election. It's demanding $1.6 billion in damages. The trial is scheduled to begin April 17th.

It's day two of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. What it could mean for the war in Ukraine.

Plus, violence erupting again between Israeli forces and Palestinians at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque. The latest on the rising tensions, ahead.



JIMENEZ: This morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin begins the second day of talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow. The summit kicked off Wednesday, with the two presidents sharing and embrace as military and economic ties deepen between the countries. They have not discussed Ukraine -- at least that's what they say publicly so far.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is live in London.

So, Clare, last month, Putin said he plans to place nuclear warheads in Belarus. Lukashenko said he would allow it. What's the latest you're hearing on that plan?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Omar, this is why this meeting and these meetings are not unusual, Putin and Lukashenko have met many, many times, mostly in Russia. But this is why this meeting is going to be so closely scrutinized.

What we know as of now about that plan is that President Putin announced towards the end of March that a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons was being built in Belarus and would be finished by the beginning of July. Tactical nuclear weapons, of course, have limited battlefield usage, still something that the West would see as a major escalation, but not strategic nuclear weapons, which can take out a whole city. So that's what we're talking about there.

He also said that they had already sent a Iskander short range missile system, which can fire nuclear warheads to be stationed already in Belarus. Lukashenko as you say, welcomed this and then in a recent speech also suggested that this could be expanded to include strategic weapons. He said this would be good for the security of Belarus and proceeded to accuse the West of planning an invasion through Poland without, of course, presenting evidence of that.

So that is where we are as of now. This meeting will be extremely closely scrutinized for clues as to how that particular situation will develop -- Omar.

JIMENEZ: Clare Sebastian, thank you so much as always.

In Israel, clashes erupting for a second time between Israeli forces and worshippers at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque overnight. This follows a violent raid less than 24 hours earlier that drew widespread condemnation from the Arab and Muslim world. Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets, arresting more than 300 Palestinians.

CNN's Hadas Gold has more.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The holy sites of the old city of Jerusalem that you can see behind me are often the site of tensions, and there were expectations that something could happen once again this Ramadan, especially as it once again overlaps with Passover. But I think the events of overnight and the aggression seen from the Israeli police, that was at a new level, that was a bit unexpected.

(voice-over): Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem early Wednesday, where Palestinians worship during the holy month of Ramadan.

Video put out by the Israeli police shows officers entering the mosque by force as fireworks are launched at them.

Videos on social media appeared to show officers striking people with batons. Eyewitnesses telling CNN police also fired stun grenades and rubber bullets. The police said in a statement that they went in because hundreds of what they called rioters and mosque desecrators barricaded themselves inside in a violent manner and, quote, through fireworks, hurled stones and cause damage.

The authorities arrested more than 300 people during the incident. The Palestinian Red Crescent saying at least two dozen Palestinians were injured. Israeli police say two of their officers were also wounded.

The holy sites behind me are known as the Al Aqsa mosque compound, or Haram al Sharif, the third holiest sites in Islam. You can actually hear the call to prayer going on right now, but it's also known as Temple Mount to Jews, and it's the holiest site in Judaism.

Now, there is a status quo that governs these holy sites and Israeli police entering the Al Aqsa mosque. Which is this building right here with the black roof behind me, that is considered a violation of the status quo and then not only them entering, but then them entering in the way they did firing stun grenades and rubber bullets that brought it to a whole other level.

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have denounced Israel for what happened, the Jordanian foreign minister, saying the world must clearly condemned the attack.

Shortly after the raid, rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, the militant group Hamas, saying Israel's actions in Jerusalem wouldn't go unanswered. Israeli military said it had struck Hamas weapons sites in Gaza in response.

Israeli forces entered the mosque again late night Wednesday. Stunned grenades deployed as they ordered worshippers out. Police claimed they needed to break up a large group of what they call juveniles who were once more trying to barricade themselves inside.

It's a further escalation of tensions at a volatile time.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


JIMENEZ: Hadas Gold, thank you.

In Brazil, four children are killed and four injured after a horrific acts attack on a Brazilian daycare on Wednesday.


The children who died were between five and seven years old. Police told CNN that a 25-year-old suspect has been arrested and that he likely jumped over a wall to get into a playground before attacking the children.

Officials say the man fled but later surrendered to police. Brazil's president expressed his condolences over the tragedy.

The tech community is mourning as well after the founder of the popular money transfer service Cash App was killed in a brutal stabbing attack in San Francisco. How friends and families say Bob Lee would be remembered, next.



JIMENEZ: Tributes are pouring in after the death of Cash App creator Bob Lee in a fatal stabbing. No arrest has been made in the killing. Lee's friends and family expressing shock and grief and tech leaders are slamming the city's approach to public safety.

CNN's Veronica Miracle has more.


VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A crime scene blocks from Google's San Francisco office. The victim, 43-year-old Bob Lee, a tech executive himself, the founder of Cash App and the first chief technology officer of Square.

Lee was stabbed Tuesday, friends and police say, while walking in downtown neighborhood around 2:00 a.m.

JAKE SHIELDS, FRIEND AND MMA FIGHTER: You know, we were supposed to hang out tomorrow night. So, that's a little strange. It just happened, so my mind still processing it, you know? I know he had two daughters as well that he loved.

MIRACLE: Lee's father honored his son on Facebook writing: Bob would give you the shirt off of his back. Bob Lee had recently moved to Miami with his father, who wrote, I'm so happy that we were able to become so close these last years.

Lee was known in the industry as crazy Bob for his tenacious energy. His latest employer, the crypto firm Mobile Coin, tweeted this photo, calling Lee a child of dreams and whatever he imagined, no matter how crazy, he made real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a city where anybody should fear for their lives at 2:30 in the morning.

MIRACLE: The killing has renewed anger in San Francisco over perceptions that the city isn't safe.

On Twitter, Elon Musk claimed: Many people I know have been severely assaulted, then push the district attorney to do more to incarcerate repeat violent offenders.

JOEL ENGARDIO, SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISOR: For too long, the leaders of San Francisco have ignored the basics.

MIRACLE: Joel Engardio worked on the successful recall campaign of the previous progressive D.A. last year, then won a city supervisor seat, defeating the incumbent by running on a public safety agenda.

ENGARDIO: Residents are feeling like the city is not working for them, and they just want clean streets, safe streets and good schools. And they don't understand why the city hasn't been able to deliver.

MIRACLE: Still, violent crime overall is falling in San Francisco compared to previous decades. This is the 12th homicide this year, according to police data. Baltimore, with fewer people reports, nearly 70.

But property crime is high in San Francisco. In 2020, there were more than 4,000 incidents per 100,000 people. That's nearly three times the rate of New York City.

Friends of Bob Lee say all that matters now is the one crime that has them in mourning.

SHIELDS: The humble, nice guy, you know, talked about kids a lot, family, just a generally good guy.


JIMENEZ: Veronica Miracle, thank you for that report.

Coming up, a progressive Democrat clinching a come from behind victory in a city that has struggled with violent crime. My interview with Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, next.

And Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley's campaign, claiming she's raised even more money than former President Trump in just six weeks. The eyebrow raising number, ahead.