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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden To Focus On His Irish Heritage For Final Day Of Trip; Jury Selection Resumes Monday In $1.6 Billion Fox Defamation Lawsuit; Biden Administration Asks Federal Workers Back To In-Person Work. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 14, 2023 - 05:30   ET




RONALD LAMOLA, SOUTH AFRICAN MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: -- a chairperson to apologize to the victims of the convicted rapist, a Mr. Thabo Bester, and to all the people of South Africa that day. This dangerous criminal was let loose in the public by the G4S officials.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): G4S has a contract to run the Mangaung Correctional Center until 2026 but lawmakers want it canceled accusing it of whitewashing Bester's prison break and breaching its contract.

COBUS GROENEWOUD, G4S SOUTH AFRICA DIRECTOR: We were not aware of an escape and we did not have the right to talk to third parties about the activities of the correctional center.

MADOWO (voice-over): Bester's girlfriend, Dr. Magudumana, has been charged with murder, fraud, as well as aiding and abetting his escape. Her 65-year-old father is also named as an accomplice and has been arrested, but has not entered a plea.

Bester is now under 27/4 surveillance at another maximum security prison.

Larry Madowo, CNN.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: What a story there, Larry. Thank you.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

North Korea claiming the goal of a new type of solid-fuel ICBM launched Thursday was to confirm its performance. State media reports that leader Kim Jung Un guided the weapons test.

Tropical cyclone Ilsa setting a new wind record, smashing into Australia's west coast overnight. Wind speeds reaching about 150 miles an hour as it made landfall. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A volcano was never on my list.


ROMANS: Reaction from a passenger after at least 31 Alaska Air flights canceled due to the eruption of a Russian volcano. Officials say it is a safety precaution against the volcanic ash that could cause problems.

All right. Just ahead, President Biden digging down to his ancestral roots on his final day in Ireland today. And is it lucky 13? The undefeated Rays match the baseball record for best start.



ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

The suspect in the U.S. military classified leaks -- documents leak expected to appear in court in Boston today. Jack Teixeira is 21 years old and a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

France's Constitutional Council set to rule on the pension reform bill to increase the retirement age to 64 years old after a 12th day of strikes and protests. If approved, the reforms will begin in September.

President Biden wrapping up his Ireland trip today. He'll visit relatives in western Ireland and deliver remarks outside a cathedral his great-great-great grandfather supplied bricks for.

All right, CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak live in London -- in Dublin for us this morning. Kevin, nice to see you.

The president is also expected to meet with a genealogist. What is he expecting to learn about his ancestors that he doesn't already know?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Well, I think he's looking for what a lot of Americans are looking for when they come here to Ireland is some kind of connection to their past. Something in their past that they can kind of identify with in their own lives.

And it's been so interesting. Most of these foreign trips usually have a big policy objective. There is no huge policy objective on this trip. The president's aides aren't even really pretending that there is. In fact, the biggest piece of background that they sent out ahead of time was this five-page genealogical table of the president's roots here in Ireland.

And you really see him so comfortable and so at ease in this country when he spoke to lawmakers yesterday. He entered the Parliament and he said in the Irish language, "I feel at home." And there are some moments that he really goes places that he doesn't really go at home, and the most interesting to me was when he started talking about his age. He said he's at the end of his career and he said his age sort of lent him a wisdom and an experience that helps him navigate these political situations.

So I think later today we will probably see some more of that sentimental President Biden as he's touring these sites on his way back to Washington.

ROMANS: All right, Kevin Liptak for us in Dublin. Thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

All right, jury selection is underway in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The curtain officially raised in what could be an explosive trial. Jury selection started in the $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Potential jurors asked if they regularly watched Fox News programs and whether they can still be impartial if they do.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Simply knowing a story isn't enough to get someone kicked off of a jury because judges often instruct or will instruct jurors to put aside anything they know about the case beforehand and pledge to be fair.


TODD (voice-over): The case centers around Fox's decision to allow strange, inaccurate claims about Dominion onto its airwaves after the 2020 election to promote the false theory that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

CARLSON: Electronic voting machines didn't allow people to vote, apparently, and that -- whatever you think of it -- the cause of it -- it shakes people's faith in the system and that is an actual threat to democracy.

TODD (voice-over): Host Tucker Carlson part of an array of high- profile Fox hosts and executives expected to take the stand -- a roster including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. But analyst Erik Wemple says much of Dominion's case will likely center around second-tier stars like Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.

ERIK WEMPLE, WASHINGTON POST MEDIA CRITIC: Those people -- their state of mind is going to play a really big role in this. What did they know and when did they know it? There's going to be situations where they're going to be red back their text messages, the text messages of their producers -- all kinds of correspondence saying you knew this was B.S., didn't you?

TODD (voice-over): On Thursday, audio recordings of previously unaired conversations between Bartiromo and then-Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were made public after being played in court. Giuliani and Powell, two of the most vociferous promoters of election lies.


RUDY GIULIANI, THEN-TRUMP ATTORNEY: We have more than enough unobserved ballots in Michigan and in Pennsylvania to overthrow the election.

BARTIROMO: OK, perfect.

TODD (voice-over): The discovery process has already been bruising for Fox with Rupert Murdoch saying under oath of the election denialism on Fox, "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight."

WEMPLE: With Rupert Murdoch, he is where the entire organization rots from. He confessed in a deposition that he could have stopped this madness but he chose not to. That's a tremendously incriminating comment, at least journalistically.

TODD (voice-over): Fox says it hasn't defamed anyone and says the Dominion suit is a breach of its First Amendment rights.

TODD (on camera): Fox News is not the only entity that Dominion is going after regarding misinformation following the 2020 election. Dominion has also filed suit against Trump ally and My Pillow CEO, Mike Lindell; against former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell; and against two smaller right-wing networks, Newsmax and One America News Network.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: A fascinating case. Thanks, Brian.

All right, to sports now. The Tampa Bay Rays have matched the best start in baseball history.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, you've got to go back to the '80s to see anything like this.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine, and will they ever lose again? They completed the four-game sweep of the Red Sox yesterday to get to a perfect 13-0 to start the season and that matches the '82 Braves and the '87 Brewers for the best start in modern baseball history.

Now, most of the Rays games haven't been very close. They've won all but two of them by four runs or more. So far this season Tampa has outscored their opponents 101-30. That's the most runs scored and the fewest allowed. Keep in mind the Rays have the third-lowest payroll in all of baseball.

And here is manager Kevin Cash after yesterday's record-tying win.


KEVIN CASH, MANAGER, TAMPA BAY RAYS: Pretty amazing. I mean, congrats to all of our guys. And I'm glad that we did it at home because we had tremendous fan support throughout this entire homestand. They really got loud when we needed them to and it seemed like our guys were energized by that. But no doubt, when you do something like that you're playing really well and there's not one part of our game right now that we don't feel good about.


SCHOLES: The Rays go for the record in Toronto tonight.

Now, one of the fans in attendance yesterday was 106-year-old Agnes Ingles. She's been a fan since the team started but this was the first she'd ever watched them in person. So the staff at her assisted living home reached out to the Rays to tell them about Agnes, who watches every game, sometimes twice. The Rays invited her out.

Agnes wore a custom-made jersey with her name and number, 106. Agnes said she also wore a blue-beaded necklace that she made so people wouldn't get confused and think she was a player.


AGNES INGLES, 106-YEAR-OLD RAYS FAN: I just don't want anybody to think that I'm going to be out there playing with beads on. I'm a -- I'm not a member of the team but I'm a fan of the team.


SCHOLES: So good.

All right. After nearly 30 years, the tenure of one of the NFL's most controversial owners is about to come to an end. A person familiar with the matter tells CNN Daniel Snyder has reached an agreement to sell the Washington Commanders for a record $6 billion.

The team is being bought by a group that is led by billionaire Josh Harris and includes NBA legend Magic Johnson. Harris is already the co-owner of the NBA's 76ers and NHL's Devils.

A deal for the Commanders likely won't be approved until the league meeting scheduled for next month in Minneapolis.

All right. The NFL and its players union, meantime, are taking a big step to help prevent concussions. They're introducing a newly-designed helmet specifically for quarterbacks to wear in an effort to cut down on head injuries. Last season the number of diagnosed concussions went up by 18 percent league-wide. The NFL says about half of quarterback concussions happen when their helmets hit the ground.

The new helmets are going to be available for the upcoming season but players will not be required to wear them.

All right, and finally, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews played his final game with the franchise last night. The team announcing they will not resign the three-time Stanley Cup champion for next season. And Toews gave the home fans one last incredible moment, scoring a goal in the second period.

He received a big standing ovation before leaving the ice there for the last time. Even members of the opposing Flyers stayed out there out of respect for the 34-year-old.


JONATHAN TOEWS, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS CENTER: And I don't know what to say. Thank you. I love you, Chicago. This is my home and you'll always be in my heart. Thank you so much. I love you.


SCHOLES: And I'll tell you what, Christine -- pretty cool, I think, the way they did that. They made the announcement before the game so that they could have this big ceremony there for Toews and it was quite the sendoff.


ROMANS: All three of my kids have his bobblehead on their dressers, you know? Chicago loves him and he loves Chicago.

SCHOLES: A legend, yes.

ROMANS: Yes, all right -- yes. We wish him well.

Thank you so much. Nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" hundreds of rescues in the Fort Lauderdale area as historic floods swamp South Florida. And next right here, why you might want to show your face around the office more often.


ROMANS: All right, looking at markets around the world, optimism that inflation has peaked lifted Asian markets, and Europe opened higher here this Friday morning.

On Wall Street, stock index futures still processing that dramatically cooling inflation number yesterday, giving back a little bit. Those numbers yesterday launched the Nasdaq up nearly two percent. The S&P notching its highest close since February. Here is the news. U.S. inflation at the wholesale level fell to 2.7 percent on an annual basis.


The big news today, bank earnings. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citi will report before the opening bell.

On inflation watch, gas prices rose two pennies overnight to $3.66 a gallon. The national average, folks, has risen every day since March 29.

Retail sales data due out at 8:30 a.m. eastern. It will be the first chance to look at the consumer since the banking stress locked markets and the economy last month.

OK. So, really, it is time to return to the office. That's what the Biden administration is telling federal employees, making clear they must, quote, "substantially increase in-office work." The new guidance directed at federal agencies comes as the COVID-19 public health emergency is officially set to end next month.

Let's bring our friend, chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture partners, Jessica Kriegel. So nice to see you this Friday morning.

This new guidance, I guess, is mostly directed toward workers in the D.C. metro area. That's about 15 percent of all federal employees. A lot of other parts of the country have already been more in-office.

What kind of signal does this send?

JESSICA KRIEGEL, CHIEF SCIENTIST OF WORKPLACE CULTURE, CULTURE PARTNERS (via Webex by Cisco): It's a negative signal to employees that what they want, which is clearly to work from home, does not matter. And that what the business wants -- and by business I mean leaders -- is most important.

And this is cognitive bias in action in the workplace. Leaders believe that perhaps productivity is suffering because people are working remotely. And as a result they're trying to take the only action that they know how, which is to force people back into the office.

And unfortunately, it backfires. We've already seen what happens. People have been trying this for the last two years and it does create negative consequences for the organizations' culture.

ROMANS: Yes, they're getting creative, too, because they have to retain workers but their workers have new expectations in the world post-COVID.

The Wall Street Journal reports the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell is saying that bonuses could be cut if employees do not come to the office as often as required. JPMorgan, this week, also says bankers should work five days a week in the office.

Is this a good strategy, especially when you look at this survey that finds almost a third of hybrid workers -- they're willing to take a pay cut to be fully remote?

KRIEGEL: Well, it's the classic carrot versus stick strategy approach. They are using the stick, unfortunately, which means they are saying we're going to take your pay if you don't show up.

What about the alternative? What if they said we will increase your bonus and give you extra compensation if you do show up more often? That would be a very different experience which would lead to less attrition; less quiet quitting, which is one of the consequences of forcing people back into the office; and perhaps less reduction in diversity, which is another major consequence of this action.

So it doesn't make any sense. It's not the kind of boss I would want to work for.

ROMANS: It's so interesting. There's such a disconnect between what bosses feel and how employees feel. I can't remember a time in my career when there's been such a difference. So many bosses want people back in the workplace, in the office -- and sometimes they say it's for equity and diversity reasons. It's for a lot of different reasons but that -- you're saying that there's kind of a new reality here.

And we have this recent poll that shows that fewer people are working fully at home, but more people are working a hybrid schedule compared to last year.

What does that tell you about the workplace trend, I guess, post- pandemic?

KRIEGEL: Well, we're balancing out right now at around 30 percent of people working from home, but what did the Fortune 500 just release? That last year was the most profitable year for the Fortune 500 and the highest revenues in the history of those -- of that study.

So what we're seeing is productivity did not affect our ability to create profits and yet, people are being forced back into the office for fear of lack of productivity, not for the reality of it. And so many studies have shown that our productivity actually increased when we started working from home.

ROMANS: All right, Jess Kriegel, nice to see you. Have a great weekend. Thanks for dropping by on a Friday.

KRIEGEL: Thank you so much for having me again.

ROMANS: All right.

The man suspected of leaving a trove of classified U.S. military documents online and arrested by the FBI is set to appear in court today. What to expect, ahead.

And Bud Light's week from hell, boycotted over its partnership with a transactivist. How the company is responding coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."

(COMMERCIAL) [05:58:50]

ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning, the top artists of the week on Spotify.




ROMANS: Taylor Swift is number one in the U.S. That's her latest, "Lavender Haze."

Here's number two.


MORGAN WALLEN, SINGER: Singing "Last Night."


ROMANS: That's country superstar Morgan Wallen with his smash hit "Last Night."

And number three --


DRAKE, RAPPER, SINGER, SONGWRITER: Singing "Search and Rescue."


ROMANS: That's Drake with his latest "Search and Rescue."

All right. The White House is about to get a star-studded boost.




ROMANS: President Biden is tapping Lady Gaga to co-chair the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She'll share the spotlight with the likes of George Clooney, Jennifer Garner, Shonda Rhimes, and musician Jon Batiste. The committee was brought back after being disbanded during the Trump administration.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great week and a great rest of your Friday, folks. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.