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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Sources: Biden to Announce Re-Election Bid As Soon as Tuesday; Supreme Court Decision on Abortion Pill Expected Today; U.S. Deploying Troops, Aircraft to Secure Embassy in Sudan; Prosecutors Throw Out Manslaughter Charges Against Alec Baldwin. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 21, 2023 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, Joe Biden ready to run, launching his reelection campaign and just days.

Plus, the Supreme Court on the clock with a ruling do on abortion pills before midnight tonight.

And, Alec Baldwin off the hook as prosecutors dropped the charges in his movie set shooting, but that doesn't mean the case is over.


JIMENEZ: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Happy Friday. We did it, everybody. We are here. I'm Omar Jimenez, in for Christine Romans.

Just because it's Friday, though, doesn't mean the news has taken the day off. So let's get to it.

We begin with President Biden set to make a 2024 election bid official. He's been hinting at it for a while. But now four sources are telling CNN that he will formally announced his bid for a second term with a campaign style video as soon as next Tuesday.

The timing could still change pending on foreseen events, which is typical in that job. But one senior Democratic official telling CNN, it is no longer helpful or necessary to avoid stating the obvious that he's running.

Here is more from chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For months, President Biden's top advisers have privately made clear he is going to run for reelection in 2024. What they wouldn't make clear what exactly he was going to announce that. The president repeatedly saying he intended to run in Ireland last week, saying that he'd made the decision and announcement would be forthcoming soon. But when is very much something that people couldn't literally figure out. Very small group of advisers kind of in control of that timeline of that process of building a reelection campaign, a campaign officials now say is likely to be announced next week.

Next week, marking the four year anniversary from when President Biden launched his first campaign for presidency to defeat Donald Trump. He was successful in that endeavor, and in the years since he has these, based on the view of White House officials, based on the president's political advisors built a very real very substantive agenda, legislative accomplishments -- accomplishments that are now being implemented across the country, and that more than anything else. So they say the president is going to be focusing on in the months ahead.

The model is kind of out in the open. The president has been making very clear those priorities. These accomplishments and also a very clear contrast between Republicans that he knows he will certainly be running against, whether or not that's Donald Trump or somebody else, advisors don't necessarily want to weigh in, but they feel confident that based on that agenda, and based on those contrasts, they have a winning formula.

But it's a formula that will certainly take developing over time. And they also underscore when you talk to White House officials and the president's political team that this will be a year of building -- building up on their campaign, whether or not that's the president's travel, how they try and focus things but also building behind the scenes.

The infrastructure of the campaign has largely been put together behind the scenes over the course of the last couple of months, but they will spend 2023 testing digital strategies, testing data strategies, testing voter messages and watching the Republican primary play out, and that last point is a critical one, because it was one of the drivers behind the president's decision to wait until next week to launch that campaign, recognizing that there's no real pressure on the Democratic side from any potential primary opponent, there's a recognition that the president was likely to run again. And certainly there was plenty of fighting that they were happy to watch from the sidelines on the Republican side of things.

But now, the president ready to engage. Major donors are expected in Washington at the end of next week to meet with the president's senior team. This is all building towards what people knew it was coming. They just didn't know when. The when appears to be next week.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


JIMENEZ: Thank you, Phil.

Right now, we are waiting to hear from the Supreme Court on the fate of the abortion pill mifepristone. Justice Samuel Alito set a deadline of midnight tonight for a decision on whether to uphold and appeals court ruling that would restrict access to the pill. The court could also extend its delay on implementing the ruling, while a lawsuit by anti-abortion doctors works its way through the court system, or theoretically, at least the Supreme Court could uphold or strike down the Texas judge's decision effectively banning access to the drug.

Bottom line, we will know by midnight unless the court extends its self imposed deadline once again.

In North Carolina, the suspect accused of shooting a six-year-old neighbor and her parents after a basketball rolled into his yard is now in custody 600 miles away in Tampa, Florida. Twenty-four-year-old Robert Louis Singletary turned himself in after a two day manhunt.


An extradition hearing is set for today.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more from Gaston County, North Carolina.


KINSLEY WHITE, 6-YEAR-OLD: Why did he shoot my daddy and me?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An incomprehensible question from a six-year-old.

Kinsley White stitches in her cheek from where doctors had to remove bullet fragments, was just riding her bike while other kids played basketball when gunshots rang out in her North Carolina neighborhood.

JONATHAN ROBERTSON, NEIGHBOR, WITNESSED SHOOTING: It was rapid as he was running across his yard. He had his arm outstretched and it was like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.

GALLAGHER: Witnesses say when a basketball rolled into Robert Singletary's yard, he began yelling and cursing at the kids, which neighbors say wasn't unusual. But what happened next, when the father of one of the kids playing basketball came to talk to Singletary was.

ROBERTSON: The guy was standing on his porch and the dad that had had words with him about, you know, saying stuff to kids. He had started walking back down the street and he started -- the shooter just started running across the yard, shooting just shooting.

GALLAGHER: That man surprisingly got away unharmed. But then neighbors say that Singletary started walking in the direction of the other kids and parents on the street and began shooting.

ASHLEY HILDERBRAND, MOTHER OF KINSLEY WHITE: He started shooting. With my daughter standing right there, beside of him and several other kid, around them.

GALLAGHER: Kinsley's father ran to protect his daughter.

HILDERBRAND: He looked at my husband dead in the face, and he said I'm going to kill you.

GALLAGHER: Kinsley and her father were both shot while trying to run away. Bullet grazed his mother's arm.

HILDERBRAND: She had a big fragment of a bullet in her cheek.

GALLAGHER: According to a man who lived at the same house, Singletary's girlfriend rented a room there, and the 24 year old suspect begin staying with her a few weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have too much interaction with them. I had no idea anything like this was going to go on.

GALLAGHER: Neighbors said Singletary was often yelling at kids about playing in the yard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's acting like he just hated children.

GALLAGHER: According to police, Singletary was arrested on assault and kidnapping charges in December, accused of hitting a girlfriend in the head with a mini sledgehammer. He has not entered a plea. CNN has contacted his attorney.

Gaston County police chief put out a statement letting the people of Gaston County know this sort of violence will not stand.

HILDERBRAND: They let all the kids sign it.

GALLAGHER: This incident on the heels of a week already plagued by several gun violence tragedies, leaving a community in utter fear.

HILDERBRAND: It's very scary. Very scary.


GALLAGHER (on camera): According to officials here in Gaston County, Robert Singletary turned himself into police those day night in Hillsborough County, Florida. He said that he didn't have identification on him at the time, and it took a little while to determine who he was.

But right now, he is in custody in Florida. He is scheduled to have a hearing on Friday in reference to his extradition.

Diane Gallagher, CNN, Gaston County, North Carolina.

JIMENEZ: Thank you, Dianne.

Well, outside the U.S., with Sudan sliding to the brink of civil war and security conditions rapidly deteriorating, the Pentagon says it is deploying what it calls additional capabilities nearby. It says the aim is to secure the U.S. embassy and help with a potential evacuation if the situation calls for it.

CNN's Larry Madowo is monitoring the story from Nairobi, Kenya, and joins us live.

Larry, good to see you. We've seen attempts at a truce here in the past. We've seen calls for

ceasefires. Clearly, security for many has been an issue. But as far as the Pentagon goes what are these additional capabilities that they're talking about deploying and how might they be used?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Omar, the thinking here is that this is a contingency planning in case it becomes necessary, and this includes about hundreds of marines that are stationed in next door, Djibouti, hundreds of them are at Camp Lemonnier, which is the U.S.'s only permanent military base on the African soil. But also this contingency planning, this additional capabilities include aircraft that could bring in on the ground units that could secure an embassy and helped evacuate stuff if that were to be necessary.

So far, the thinking is our on staff because there's about 16,000 Americans in Sudan, but many of them are dual nationals, so that's the second stage has not been discussed at this stage, but the thought of evacuating U.S. embassy staff is becoming more and more critical. Just two days ago, a U.S. assistant secretary of African affairs told congressional staffers that the situation is so volatile. That is not possible to evacuate. But this is fast moving. That's what this thinking keeps evolving.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been working the phones again. After a meeting yesterday, he spoke to both of these generals involving a power struggle, appealing to them to agree to a ceasefire is not happened. It's supposed to be Eid today, they're still fighting.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, in the region are telling CNN that that the Russia's Wagner mercenary group is now arming one side in the Sudan conflict with missiles. So what can you tell us about that?

MADOWO: This is out of an investigation of our colleague Nima Elbagir, who has found that Sudanese and Regional Diplomatic Forces telling CNN that the Wagner Group has been supporting the Rapid Support Forces. this is the powerful paramilitary group, with surface to air missiles.


This has helped the RSF in their fight against the Sudanese military and according to investigations, there's been an uptick in activity in eastern Libya, which neighbors Sudan, in Wagner supported military bases. There is a Wagner supported Libyan general there, who has previously been allied with General Hemitte who leads the Rapid Support Forces and this uptick in activity would prove that there is indeed increased activity and support directly for the Rapid Support Forces in their fight against the Sudanese military.

We need to point out that I did speak to General Hemitte a few days ago. He said he has no foreign support and this general in Libya also denies being affiliated with General Hemitte. But the status of the ceasefire, the real problem here, Omar, especially with the Eid beginning and people still having bombs raining down on them and gunfire.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, Larry, I mean, you think about all the residents caught up in the middle of this as well.

Thank you so much for your reporting, as always.

Just ahead, what's next for the movie set shooting case now that prosecutors are dropping charges against Alec Baldwin?

Plus, a tough lesson for a school bus driver who used his brakes to educate some kids, as he says.

And a multimillion dollar mystery at Toronto's airport. Who stole a six foot crate full of gold?



JIMENEZ: Later today, prosecutors -- special prosecutors in New Mexico are set to drop involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin for the deadly "Rust" film shooting. The shooting happened back in 2021 while Baldwin was rehearsing with a prop gun. It fired a real bullet, killing the film cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

CNN's Chloe Melas reports.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: My only question is, am I being charged with something?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice-over): Baldwin soon will no longer be accused after New Mexico prosecutors plan to file a motion dismissing involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor, a move they called, quote, temporary, pending further investigation.

Baldwin reacted on Instagram, posting a photo of his wife saying, quote, I owe everything I have to this woman, and to you, Luke, his attorney.

Baldwin admitted to holding the gun that fired a bullet killing Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer on Baldwin's film "Rust", but told police he did not know he was handed a loaded gun. Baldwin resumes filming on "Rust" this week, with production moved to Montana.

This was Baldwin last year.

BALDWIN: If someone is responsible for what happened and I can't say who that is, but I know it's not me.

MELAS: The dismissal is a win for Baldwin's legal team, which challenged the motives and politics of one of the original prosecutors.

ANDREA REEB, FORMER NEW MEXICO SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It doesn't matter if he's a liberal Democrat, and I'm a conservative Republican. My job has always been to prosecute crimes.

MELAS: In February, Baldwin's lawyers filed a motion to remove special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, who at the time of the investigation, was running for state representative in New Mexico.

In an email later revealed in "The New York Times", Reeb suggested being involved in the case, quote, might help in my campaign. Both Reeb and the district attorney who hired her ultimately recused themselves. Their replacements dropped the charges against Baldwin, his attorneys saying they quote encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there live animal that's kept on set?


MELAS: The film's weapons handler, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, is now the sole defendant in the case, facing 18 months for involuntary manslaughter. Her attorney says she will plead not guilty and that Gutierrez Reed, quote, has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.

MATTHEW HUTCHINS, HALYNA HUTCHINS' HUSBAND: Are we really supposed to feel bad about you, Mr. Baldwin?

MELAS: Halyna Hutchinson's husband has been a vocal critic of Baldwin, saying he should face charges.

HUTCHINS: The idea that the person holding the gun, causing it to discharge is not responsible is absurd to me.

MELAS: But now, justice for Halyna Hutchins moves forward without a star defendant.

BALDWIN: And she was great at her job and she died, and she died, and that's -- that hurts me every day.


JIMENEZ: That was Chloe Melas reporting for us.

Now for more on this, let's bring in trial attorney, Imran Ansari.

Imran, great to see you.

Now, for the -- for the non-legal minds watching this, I think some would say okay, it makes sense that outboard one would be in a situation where he'd face charges. But now we're here. What do you think, prompted prosecutors to now drop the charges against Baldwin?

IMRAN ANSARI, TRIAL ATTORNEY: I think there's a problem with the case. Prosecutors don't just drop cases they especially don't just drop cases when it's a highly publicized matter involving someone who is in the public eye, because all eyes are on that prosecution, so I think it's indicative that they had real problems with their evidence and their ability to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

We were weeks coming up to a trial in this matter. There were preliminary hearings already scheduled, so the prosecutor to come out now and say they're dropping these charges because that there need more investigation and there may be an issue with the firearm and their argument that he pulled the trigger, shows that there was a real problem with the evidence, and I think it's going to be indicative that Alec Baldwin, maybe taking this home as a win in that court.

JIMENEZ: And to your point, you know, the statement from prosecutors is new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis. So I guess now my head goes to do you think this is where the legal drama ends for Baldwin? Or do you think that this is really, you know, we don't have enough to charge right now, so we'll drop it and then potentially file more charges later.

ANSARI: So, Omar, at this stage, the prosecutor really should have all the evidence that they feel they need to come out at this late stage in the game, and this prosecution has been marred with problems from the get go, with recusals from the D.A., from a special prosecutor, the firearm enhancement charge of being dropped because that statute was not even in effect at the time.


I think it's indicative that there's a problem with the evidence. And is Alec Baldwin out of the woods with these criminal charges yet? Well, the statement from the special prosecutor was guarded. She said that more further investigation is needed and that it doesn't mean necessarily that they won't bring new charges.

But I would suspect that if there was a problem already with the evidence regarding that firearm and their ability, most likely to prove the case before a jury beyond reasonable doubt, I think that Alec Baldwin may not be pacing further criminal charges. We have to wait and see, of course.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, of course. Imran Ansari, thank you. And one of the special prosecutors says this decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability. We'll see. We'll see what that means. But for now, it's great to see you.

ANSARI: Thanks for having me.

JIMENEZ: Quick hits across America now:

The Kentucky bank shooter who killed five coworkers, also leaving behind too revealing notes. Law enforcement sources say he wrote about mental illness and the ease of buying a gun in the U.S.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is ordered to pay $5 million to an expert who debunked 2020 election data that Lindell claimed was proof the election was stolen. The experts sued after winning Lindell's 2021 challenge to disprove his findings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys need to be in your seat. You guys want to see how dangerous that is? That that's why you need to be in your seat.


JIMENEZ: That Colorado bus driver now facing 30 child abuse charges for intentionally slamming on the brakes, he says he was trying to educate the kids. I guess that's one way to do it, which is worth (INAUDIBLE).

Coming up, kids hunting cats. It's a strange contest just scrapped in New Zealand.

And Vladimir Putin calling for real men to fight Russia's war on Ukraine. We'll explain, coming up.



JIMENEZ: Russia is stepping up recruitment for its war on Ukraine with a new social media video.

It appears to mock men into leaving their everyday jobs like security guards and taxi drivers to become, quote, real men in combat.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is live in London.

Uh, okay, Clare. Great to see you. I don't have much reaction there except for it seems, you know, whatever they think will work. But what's the response been online and in real life?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Omar, this is a pretty new campaign. That video came out just two days ago. So, it's hard to assess at the moment, its impact as a recruitment tool, but it's very clear that this is designed to recruitment directly into the war in Ukraine. The ministry of defense uses the tagline which in Russian translates roughly as join your own and plays on the Russian acronym for special military operations.

So there's no doubt there. Look, I think to be fair, a lot of armies do use recruitment videos that play on the ideas of confidence, of strength, of manhood in some ways, but this also speaks to Russia's challenges that it's having in recruiting trained personnel for the battlefield. We saw with that recruitment drive back in the autumn, they recruited 300,000 untrained personnel. I think this is an entirely different kind of recruitment that we're seeing now, using the special military operation, the war in Ukraine as a recruitment drive, in itself.

We know they're trying to swell the ranks of their professional army by about 400,000 men. So, clearly, they are committing also these kind of PR resources to that.

Obviously, it's jarring looking at it from outside of Russia, knowing what we know about the kinds of casualties they're facing on the battlefield. The latest leaked Pentagon documents suggesting that about 43,000 Russians have been killed in combat. That's just an estimate.

But I think inside Russia it's worth noting that, A, public service announcements are pretty common, and secondly, that it is a country with very defined gender roles. So I think that play on the idea of manliness may be more effective than hat it seems from the outside.

JIMENEZ: And you touched on the very serious aspect of this, which is there is a marked difference from what is being displayed in ad versus the reality on the ground of the battlefield.

Clare Sebastian, thank you so much.

Quick hits around the globe, now.

Uganda's president congratulating lawmakers for passing a controversial anti-LGBTQ bill, but sending it back to parliament for amendments. The bill has been condemned worldwide.

And a New Zealand contest for children to hunt and kill feral cats has been axed after backlash from the public and animal rights groups. It was part of a fundraising drive to protect native species.

And in Toronto, an air cargo container worth more than $15 million in gold and other valuables were stolen at the city's airport on Monday. Police say they're looking at all the angles to determine how it was stolen. They'll never catch me.

The Starship rocket from SpaceX blowing up.