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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Report: Iowa Stops Paying For Rape Victims' Abortions Or Contraceptives; Justice Thomas Defends Trips Funded By GOP Donor; Nashville City Council Votes On Reappointing Ousted Rep. Justin Jones. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 10, 2023 - 05:30   ET



CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's dominated the offseason and who his quarterback is going to be in Baltimore because Lamar Jackson requested a trade at the beginning of March. A lot of people saying that he wants out. He's been looking around. And so we'll have to see how that storyline plays out, which has been a big one --


MANNO: -- this offseason.

ROMANS: All right, watch this space.


ROMANS: Nice to see you, Carolyn Manno.

All right, a Texas federal judge ruling to halt the FDA's approval of a widely used abortion pill. What it means for women's health care in the U.S.

And Nashville's city council set to vote on reinstating expelled State Congressman Justin Jones. The likelihood he'll get his House seat back, that's ahead.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

In Iowa, there is criticism and anger from victim advocate groups after the Des Moines Register reported that the state has halted its practice of paying for emergency contraception and, in some cases, abortions for sexual assault victims.

A spokesperson for the newly-elected Republican attorney general said the payments are on hold as part of a -- of a review of victims' services as she evaluates whether this is an appropriate use of public funds.

[05:35:06] In a statement to the Des Moines Register the CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States called the move deplorable and reprehensible.

All right, the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary says the Biden administration is considering all options after a Texas judge ruled to suspend the FDA's approval of a medication abortion drug.


XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I gotta to believe that an appeals, the Supreme Court, whatever court to understand that this ruling by this one judge overturns not just access to mifepristone but possibly any number of drugs.


BECERRA: That's speculation that I think is not worth engaging.

BASH: But are you taking it off the table that you will recommend the FDA ignore a ban?

BECERRA: Everything is on the table. The president said that way back when the Dobbs decision came out. Every option is on the table.


ROMANS: A spokesperson for the department later tried to walk back that comment, saying it would set a dangerous precedent for the administration to disregard a binding decision. But the Justice Department and the drug's manufacturer have begun the appeals process.

CNN's Jasmine Wright live in Washington for us this Monday morning with more. Jasmine, good morning.

Are there any new signs of potential White House action here?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christine. Well, this administration vowed to fight this ruling tooth and nail, and HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra -- he reiterated that commitment in his interview on CNN with Dana Bash.

Now, he called the ruling something that -- reckless, and said the administration wants the courts to overturn it. And also, basically called it un-American. Take a listen.


BECERRA: This is not America. What you saw by that one judge in that one court in that one state, that's not America. America goes by the evidence. America does what's fair. America does what is transparent and we can show that what we do is for the right reasons. That's not America.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WRIGHT: So there we heard from Becerra. But what was missing from his comments were any sort of tangible steps or prevention contingency plans that this administration is planning if after that weeklong pause that was put in place so appeals could be filed, passed, and the drug was then taken off the market. What would the administration do?

Now, we heard that everything is off the table comment. The HHS spokesperson later on to me walked it back and said that would set a dangerous precedent. But that puts the administration back at square one, especially when they're going to come under pressure for advocates really trying to learn the next steps.

Now, of course, the appeals process is underway. That's going to the Fifth Circuit -- what some believe to be one of the most conservative appeals courts across the country. Now, of course -- so the administration is basically going to be having to answer what comes next --


WRIGHT: -- and what they'll do just in case that medication is not put on a stay during that appeals process and that medication is now off the market, or will be off the market after that weeklong pause -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine Wright. Nice to see you this morning. Thank you for walking us through that.

Let's bring in Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University. Good morning, Julian.

So --


ROMANS: -- Jasmine laid it out there. How might the Supreme Court rule on these conflicting decisions, and what does it mean for the FDA's approval process and I guess more broadly reproductive rights?

ZELIZER: Well, in terms of the court -- the highest court, we don't know. Obviously, the Dobbs decision sets a precedent that creates considerable concern by supporters of reproductive rights, although Justice Kavanaugh had given some indication that this would not be a step that he took.

More broadly, reproductive rights -- they're under assault. I think it's very clear we are at a moment when a conservative mobilization to curtail reproductive rights is having an effect and it's getting court legitimation. And this is pretty (audio gap).

ROMANS: Let's see if we can get Julian back. We've got a glitch there. Are you there? All right, we've lost Julian. Trouble -- too bad because a really great conversation. We will bring him back if we can. Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

Let's move to this now. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is recovering this morning following surgery after he broke his leg during the UConn NCAA victory parade on Easter Sunday. He says the surgery was completely successful and that he is planning to return to the Senate for votes next week, but he won't be marching in any parades in the near future.

The Democratic Caucus' narrow 51-49 advantage in the chamber means any absence could affect key votes. The Senate will reconvene next Monday.

Let's bring back Julian Zelizer. I think we've fixed our glitch there. Nice to see you. You were just talking about what this means for reproductive rights overall.

But I want to focus now on something that you wrote this week -- a piece that you wrote about this controversy surviving -- surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. ProPublica, last week, published this deep dive into his accepting private jet rides, yacht vacations, lavish vacations provided by conservative billionaire Harlan Crow and did not disclose these as gifts.


You write it is time the Supreme Court has a code of conduct similar to the one that applies to other federal judges. Talk to me about that, and if they don't adopt one should Congress step in?

ZELIZER: Maybe. The Supreme Court does not have any kind of code of ethical guidelines and I think that's what's very surprising to many Americans about this story. It's incumbent on the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Roberts to take some steps to say what can justices do and what can't they do in these kinds of situations. And if they don't there is room for Congress to step in and pass legislation creating some kind of guidelines as exist for the executive branch and for the legislative branch.

ROMANS: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for Justice Thomas to be impeached. Listen to what she said.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): What we are seeing right now is a breaking of the law. And we have to examine what institutions -- I know that there are calls for -- I know that there are calls for Chief Justice to -- for the Chief Justice Roberts to initiate an investigation. I do not think that this court any longer has the legitimacy and it is the House's responsibility to pursue that investigation in the form of impeachment.


ROMANS: I mean, if the Supreme Court doesn't make any changes here -- I mean, are there repercussions this could have on the court -- certainly, the reputation? ZELIZER: Absolutely. I mean, a battle over Justice Thomas will obviously get into the heart of partisan politics but the questions about Thomas and the question about ethics will affect trust in the Supreme Court as an institution. And so that's why this shouldn't be a partisan issue.

This is a bipartisan issue. It's an issue about the legitimacy of an institution and that's why a code is so important. And I think that's what Roberts needs to think about if he's really an institutionalist this is something that will have great effect on where the court stands in public opinion.

ROMANS: Yes. We should say that he -- in a very brief, brief statement he said that years ago he had asked for guidance from his colleagues and they had said look, this is just spending time with a -- with a trusted loyal friend; not accepting lavish gifts. But we know that ProPublica really laid out the value of this -- hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of vacations and jet rides and the like. So clearly, this is a subject that is not going away.

Julian Zelizer, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right. Happening today, the Nashville City Council is set to convene and possibly vote on reappointing ousted Democrat Justin Jones back to the Tennessee House of Representatives. Jones is part of the so-called Tennessee Three and was expelled last week after leading a protest on the House floor calling for stronger gun reforms.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has more from Nashville.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Monday evening, the Metro Council right behind me here in Nashville will decide the political fate of former Rep. Justin Jones. They are set to make three votes -- one to nominate him, another to suspend a council rule that prohibits nomination and appointments from happening during the same meeting. And if that succeeds then they will go ahead and appoint him. That will take 20 council members. That's a super- majority.

I'm also told by Jeff Syracuse, a council member here, that they have not received any threats of political retribution for reappointing back Jones into his position.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Justin Pearson, the other ousted lawmaker from the Memphis-Shelby County area, he delivered a powerful Easter Sunday sermon at church -- listen.

JUSTIN PEARSON, EXPELLED FROM TENNESSEE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE AFTER LEADING PROTEST ON HOUSE FLOOR ON GUN REFORM: And 55 years ago this week Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by gun violence. And I'll tell you what his words from what he spoke just days before he was assassinated are still true. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in

Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement for justice lives or dies in Memphis.

ROSALES: And when it comes to Pearson's vacancy, that is up to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. We are told by the chairman of that commission that they will not discuss Pearson's situation before the regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday. It is not clear when a special meeting will be set up to address that open seat.

Meanwhile, organizers on social media -- Nashvillians are setting up a day of action. They are organizing a rally before the City Council meeting here in Nashville, and then also doing a march over to the State Capitol after that council meeting -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Isabel. Thank you so much for that.


All right, coming up, the red-hot American job machine may be showing signs of cooling off. What it means for the future of the Fed's aggressive fight against inflation. That's ahead.


ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this Monday morning, 344,000. It's the average number of jobs added each month so far this year -- the monthly average. And in a sign that the red-hot job engine may be cooling down, in March the U.S. added just 236,000 jobs -- the smallest number of jobs added since all the way in late 2020.

Looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets finished mixed this morning. European markets are closed for the Easter holiday. And on Wall Street, this will be the first time markets can react to that jobs report. The market was closed Good Friday. Futures are mixed here.


Markets finished mixed during the holiday-shortened trading week. The S&P and the Nasdaq posting weekly losses, you can see, but the Dow inching higher.

On inflation watch this Monday morning, gas prices held steady overnight. They're now at $3.60 per gallon.

A busy week on the economic calendar this week with a lot of inflation news, by the way. Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index are both due. And major banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup will report earnings this week -- critical because of all of that bank stress that has been slowly fading away.

Let's bring in John Leer, chief economist at Morning Consult. Good morning.

So let's talk about this --

JOHN LEER, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning.

ROMANS: -- first reaction we can have to the jobs report. What does this mean for the Fed and its crusade against inflation? Is this a sign that the strong American job machine is slowing down a little bit?

LEER: Yes, that's exactly right. The jobs machine is, in fact, slowing down. Again, I do think that's consistent with -- you know, we've had a prolonged period of elevated jobs growth really since the pandemic lockdowns ended and so it's not surprising to me that rate of growth has started to slow. I think what is surprising is that jobs growth has remained positive despite all these negative shocks that the U.S. economy has had to absorb.

So, starting with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and then more recently we had this OPEC supply shock and the banking crisis. And across all these different incidents and over the last 2 1/2 years the U.S. economy has continued to add jobs. That to me I think underscores the resilience of the -- of the demand for labor right now.

ROMANS: Yes, that's been just remarkable. When you talk to CEOs and hiring managers they're more worried about losing workers, right, at this point than trying to --

LEER: Yes.

ROMANS: -- lay them off.

Let's talk about that banking crisis. You mentioned it.

Goldman Sachs, this weekend, had a really interesting report saying that the stress from the banking crisis appears to be fading away, which is -- which is good news. We'll know for sure when we start to hear more from these bank earnings.

Talk to me about where we are, you think, in the banking crisis and what that could mean for hiring in the economy.

LEER: It's certainly true that in the near term we've seen sort of all these measures of volatility ease. I think something that a lot of folks expected going into this is that consumer confidence was going to crater following the banking crisis. We didn't see that. Morning Consult's daily consumer confidence data has remained essentially stable. We similarly have a weekly measure of inflation expectations have been relatively stable.

And so I think from the perspective of consumers it's been very, very -- it's been unclear exactly sort of what this all is going to mean for them and for their economic outlook. And as a result, we've seen that stability. There are some broader concerns, which is to what extent can you continue to trust some of these supervisory mechanisms that were set up following Dodd-Frank or following the great financial crisis and have faith that all future issues are going to be addressed in a timely and reasonable way? And I think that's where the really serious concern lies. It's not so much that we're going to see another --


LEER: -- Silicon Valley bank but, rather, that we're going to see some unexpected banking crisis going forward.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit here about the Fed's crusade against inflation. We're going to get a couple of inflation gauges this week, John. And, I mean, I've been calling it sort of the great sacrifice but there is this sense that the Fed would like to see some job loss or at least less robust job gains so that it can help try to cool off the economy. Talk to us about that push-pull here.

LEER: That is a sort of a fundamental belief among a lot of macroeconomists historically. I think recently it's been challenged. But there is this view that inflation and unemployment are inversely related and that, in particular, the ideas that when you have a really strong labor market you're going to have elevated wage gains and that those wage gains are ultimately going to drive price gains and inflation.

And so I think the Fed, in this case, wants to see jobs growth slow because it wants that wage growth to slow. We saw slightly slower wage growth in March but not nearly as low as it would need to be consistent with the Fed's long-term target two percent price growth.

And so, again, I think it is likely that the Fed is going to want to see slightly more subdued jobs numbers. And it's not just one number -- it's going to be a persistent trend over the latter half of this year.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, for perspective, we're saying the economy added just 236,000 jobs in March. I mean, in normal times that is still a very strong job market and a million -- more than a million jobs created this year. I mean, that -- I mean, any economy would be happy to have that kind of job growth. The problem is does it spin off inflation?

John Leer, thank you so much. Nice to see you this Monday morning.

LEER: My pleasure.

ROMANS: All right. We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right. Happening this morning, thousands of faculty across three unions at Rutgers University are expected to strike. It will be the first strike in the university's more than 250-year history. The move coming after nearly a year of stalled contract talks. Union officials say salary increases, improved job security for adjunct facility, and guaranteed funding for graduate students among the sticking points.

All right, the Super Mario Bros. movie scoring a huge hit in its debut week --


Clip from Universal Pictures "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."


ROMANS: -- raking in a whopping $204.6 million since Wednesday, bringing in families to theaters in droves, and making it the most successful video game adaptation ever.


All right, thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans on EARLY START this Monday morning. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.