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U.S. Diplomats Evacuated from Sudan As the Country Slides Closer to an All-Out War; A Flaming Engine Forces Pilots to Land a Plane Full of Passengers in Columbus Ohio; Florida Governor DeSantis Visits Japan. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, escape from Sudan. U.S. diplomats evacuated as that country slides closer to all- out war. Plus, scare in the sky. A flaming engine forces pilots to land a plane full of passengers right away. And big in Japan? Florida's Ron DeSantis goes global as poll numbers show him trailing Donald Trump here at home.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, it is Monday, I'm Christine Romans. This morning, the U.S. has no embassy operating in Sudan, a country on the brink of civil war. President Biden announcing the U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families have been evacuated from Sudan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, adding that operations at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum have been temporarily suspended.

CNN's Sam Kiley is reporting on the situation from Djibouti for us. And Sam, how was the extraction of U.S. personnel carried out, and are officials saying why it was necessary?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with why it was necessary there, Christine. You say it's on -- Sudan is on the brink of civil war. I think from the American and international perspective, it is a country in the throes of a very violent, actual civil war. There are, for example, Sudanese jets bombarding positions inside their own capital.

And it's that level of violence that provoked not just the United States, but it is enormous in international, military effort centered here in Djibouti or out of here in Djibouti, mainly, to try to get international aid workers and other people, students, and all kinds of internationals out of that country.

Now, when it comes to the United States, they were in the vanguard of the evacuation operations that began over the weekend with a very daring raid effectively by some 100 Americans, mostly special forces, involving three Chinook helicopters that took off from here in Djibouti, flew via Ethiopia, where they refueled in Addis Ababa, and then flew very low, but slow.

They're not that fast aircraft at about 100 miles an hour, all the way to the Sudanese capital itself, the scene of violence where a ceasefire around the Eid Fitr celebrations for the end of Ramadan were not being observed in any serious way. They were able to pluck out just under a 100 people, mostly embassy staffers, plus their families and a few internationals who were co-located with them and take them out of -- out to safety, initially in Ethiopia on the back of that.

An hour or two later, British Special Forces were on the ground, they had anticipated or planned for the worst eventuality, which was having to fight and protect British citizens and others there. They didn't have to do that, but they did have to do an 18-mile, 30 kilometer road moved to a desert air strip where they were able to evacuate people alongside the French, who were also engaged, reportedly in some kind of brief clash, or at least, there is reported to have been minor injuries, perhaps on one person being evacuated there.

Now, the international effort is getting underway. There is extreme violence continuing in Khartoum, the central prison there that includes a large number of senior members of previous administration have been let out. Real concerns that the place is collapsing into violent anarchy, and more evacuations would be necessary.


ROMANS: All right, thank you so much for that report, keep us posted. Any time now, President Biden is set to name his re-election campaign manager, paving the way for the campaign's official launch as soon as tomorrow. Two top Democratic advisors tell CNN, that senior White House aide Julie Chavez Rodriguez will oversee the campaign.

She is the granddaughter of Labor Movement icon Cesar Chavez. CNN's Jasmine Wright joins me this morning live from Washington. What do we know about Chavez Rodriguez and plans for the campaign launched, Jasmine?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christine, well, the selection of Julie Chavez Rodriguez is just the latest indicator that President Biden is likely to launch his re-election bid this week. We've reported that it would happen on Tuesday, the four-year anniversary to when he declared his 2020 presidency announcement for that election.

Now, of course, we know that or we've reported that it would come in the form of a video, and that we know, sources told us that video is almost completed. It's just in the final stages of editing, but it comes with a massive caveat here, Christine, that these plans could change. President Biden is known to punt decisions or change his mind or push them further down the calendar.


So that is something that possibly could happen. Sources tell us whenever you ask him when is it going to happen? When is it going to happen? But of course, the selection of Julie Chavez, who is a close adviser to President Biden, senior adviser at the West Wing, moving her over to the campaign side is just a latest indicator that things are moving along here. We know that President Biden spent the weekend at Camp David, the

presidential retreat, making some of those final operational decisions. We have already reported that he has selected Wilmington as a place for his campaign headquarters. So he was just making some more of those decisions over the weekend.

Now, if President Biden announces this re-election bid this week, that does two things for him. First of all, that opens up fundraising possibilities, as we know this is likely to be a bruising, very long campaign that's going to get expensive. And the second thing, of course, is that it answers the "will he or won't he" questions surrounding his presidency of whether or not he is going to run.

That puts those to bed after he said repeatedly that it was his intention to do so. But of course, the downside here is that, it's going to thrust his age right onto the main stage. President Biden is 80 years old right now, he'll be 82 just a few weeks after the 2024 election.

And it is a fact that voters in this country are not exactly excited for, that's leading to some of this lack of enthusiasm that we've seen in polls over the last few months, including an "NBC" poll that was released yesterday that showed that 70 percent of Americans did not want the president to run, and that included 51 percent of Democrats.

Now, President Trump, former President Trump didn't fare much better there, 60 percent of Americans did not believe that he should run, including a third of Republicans. So Americans aren't exactly looking for a rematch between these two men. But if President Biden officially puts his hat in the ring this week, that is exactly what they will be getting. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine Wright, good morning, Jasmine, thanks for joining us this morning. It will be interesting. All right, the countdown to a catastrophic default on U.S. government debt is well underway. Now a few centrist Democrats are pushing President Biden to make a deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over raising the debt ceiling.

Now, Biden has said he won't negotiate the kind of deep spending cuts Republicans demand, and will only accept a clean proposal, just simply raise the debt limit. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar on CNN Sunday, as saying, of course, Biden should sit down with the speaker, but only to discuss the budget, not to negotiate racing the debt limit.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): A proposal that McCarthy has put forward, that belongs in the budget. We just passed a budget with 18 Republicans voting for it in the U.S. Senate. That's what governs now. Our main goal right now is to make clear that we are going to avoid default.


ROMANS: More now from CNN's Alayna Treene in Washington. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: This is a very consequential week for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a huge test of his leadership capabilities. McCarthy has teed up a vote on his bill to raise the debt ceiling this week. Now, this vote will not be easy, especially given Republicans' slim majority in the house and the divisions within the party. Kevin McCarthy talked about this on Sunday. Here's what he had to say.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We do have a very small majority, only five seats. It's one of the smallest we've ever had. But I cannot imagine someone in our conference that would want to go along with Biden's reckless spending. We will hold a vote this week and we will pass and we will send it to the Senate.

TREENE: Now, despite McCarthy's confidence, the key question is whether he can convince enough conservatives to get onboard with this plan. As of now, many conservatives like Congressman Andy Biggs tell us that they're just not there yet. As for the White House, they're insisting they will simply reject this measure outright.

But going into next week, the president is facing pressure from some Democrats who think negotiations with Congress need to begin immediately. And now, to just quickly break down what's actually in this 320 page bill, it includes a series of cuts to domestic spending, including a plan to block Biden student loan forgiveness program and rescind new funding for the internal revenue service.

But the bottom-line to focus on here is that Congress is running out of time. Current estimates put the deadline for when a deal must be reached at some point this Summer, and that has many members on both sides of the aisle on edge. Alayna Treene, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, some scary moments in the air captured on video over the last few days. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on what you don't want to see when you look up or out your airplane window.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ben Nines, a resident of Columbus, Ohio, speaking to CNN said on Sunday morning, he left his home headed out for a jog, he looked up and he saw and heard this.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): That is American Airlines flight 1958 as it made a safe return to the airport in Columbus, Ohio, early Sunday morning, not long after taking off. Nines, a plane enthusiast, describing to CNN that pulsing sound that made him look up almost sounded like a jet ski according to what he told CNN. The airline confirming the Boeing 737, experienced a bird strike, causing a mechanical issue.

[05:10:00] The flight landed normally and then taxing safely back to the gate,

according to the airline, which was as of Sunday afternoon was efforting an additional flight to get the passengers to their final destination in Phoenix. Video from a separate incidents, this one on Thursday evening, showing some really scary moments aboard American Airlines flight 2288 with service from Charlotte Douglas Airport to Dallas, Texas.

This flight never even got off the ground. One passenger aboard that flight using her phone captured some of the smoke, some of the flames that were spewing from the wing of the aircraft. This is how she described the situation for our affiliate WSOC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody knows what's happening. So it's the first instinct if the plane is going to blow. So everyone's grabbing their bags trying to get up and running the aisle.

SANDOVAL: The Federal Aviation Administration continues investigating to these two separate incidents, which so far don't appear to be related. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: Scary. All right, just ahead, slip sliding away an entire house off a cliff. Plus, a Disney's fire-breathing dragon gets all too real. And Ron DeSantis couldn't be farther from Florida, is any closer to officially running for President.



ROMANS: This morning, Florida governor, a possible GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is in Japan. It is his first stop on a week- long overseas trip billed as a trade mission. Let's bring in Daniel Strauss, he is the senior political correspondent for "The New Republic". So nice to see you bright and early this Monday morning.


ROMANS: You know, Governor DeSantis, his foreign trip kind of turns the page from a rough week at home. What are you expecting?

STRAUSS: I'm expecting a strong emphasis on DeSantis being abroad. This is a tell-tale sign about a candidate looking to run for president. You usually want to burnish foreign policy credentials, and governors generally lack that. There's no foreign policy committee. There's no foreign relations committee for governors. So this is a sign that he wants to highlight that he's been to other countries.

And at the same time, it's clearly a move to turn the page from a tough week for DeSantis. He's had trouble garnering support on the Hill from his former colleagues. And so, this is a clear move to change the conversation in a more positive direction. ROMANS: An interview on "CBS" on Sunday, the former Vice President

Mike Pence says he's going to announce before late June if he decides to seek the GOP nomination for president. And he also said anyone who's serious about running should also announce at that time. Do you think we're going to see a GOP field sort of shaping up by Summer?

STRAUSS: I do, actually. And we've already seen signs of that. Mike Pompeo deciding not to run, and the fact that Joe Biden now has his campaign manager. We and also at this point, we know that donors are being swept up by the existing campaign. So if you are planning to run for president, you only have a few more months before you're essentially locked in.

DeSantis has still -- has strong support among the donor class and so does Donald Trump. So any other candidate Mike Pence has a strong incentive to announce in the next few months.

ROMANS: But is anybody really excited, right? Because "NBC News" has this new poll that shows the American people don't want a 2020 rematch between Trump and Biden. What are the numbers starting to tell us here?

STRAUSS: I mean, that surprised me a little bit, but at the same time, this is a sign that voters want something different in the next presidential election. This is not the same contrast that they were seeking in 2020 with the incumbent president versus someone promising to lower the temperature here. It's clear at this point that voters are still angry, but they want some kind of change in some way rather than straight stabilization, which is what Biden offered in his last presidential campaign.

ROMANS: All right, Daniel Strauss of "The New Republic", thank you so much for laying it all for us at the beginning of the week, nice to see you. All right, quick hits across America now. Police say at least, nine teenagers, separate injuries when shots were fired at an after-prom party in east Texas. Jasper County investigators say the victims range in age from 15 to 19.




ROMANS: Two empty Utah homes near Salt Lake City slid off their foundations, prompting the evacuations of other homes nearby. Officials say the ground has been unstable since October due to melting snowpack and nobody was injured. A fiery end to family fun at California's Disneyland park. This animatronic dragon caught fire during the Fantasmic show.

Officials say everyone was safely evacuated. The cause is under investigation. All right, coming up, we'll see Russia's top diplomat in New York City just a short time from now. And CNN speaks to a Palestinian reporter with a job on Israeli TV.


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: You said you received death threats. Do these come from Israelis? From Palestinians? And how do you deal with that?




ROMANS: Welcome back. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a U.N. Security Council meeting this morning as tensions with the U.S. intensify over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. But Kremlin officials say he is unlikely to meet on the sidelines with his counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me live from London this morning.

Clare, leadership of the council rotates through the member states. What do you expect will happen now that it's Moscow's turn at the helm?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, I think Sergey Lavrov, who is now in New York, will use this moment when Russia is not making a lot of progress on the battlefield in Ukraine to fight for Russia's ideological position on this war. Case-in-point, this morning, he's expected to share a debate of the Security Council, entitled "effective multilateralism through the defense of the principles of the charter of the United Nations".


Several of those principles you could objectively argue Russia has violated in Ukraine, but he is likely to make arguments along the lines of Russia having a legitimate interest in Ukraine, protecting its ethnic people in Ukraine, all the things that we've heard before he went into this meeting, saying that Russia would not forgive or forget, after accusing the U.S. of denying Russian journalists visas as part of his delegation.

But one element that they're going to discuss in a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General of particular consequence for the world is this Black Sea Grain Initiative set to expire on May 18th. That is on particularly shaky ground right now. So those talks will be closely watched. Christine.

ROMANS: Indeed. Also you've got this amazing story about these mysterious Russian tankers carrying oil exports spotted in the Mediterranean. What's happening here?

SEBASTIAN: Yes so, as you know, Russia's war has upended energy market. It has fundamentally changed how Russian oil is transported around the world, where it goes, how it's transported and all of that, because of sanctions. Those sanctions, of course, structured not to remove Russian oil from the markets, but to keep it flowing. And we've been looking at the consequences of that -- of that in terms

of the transparency of those supply chains, and potentially even the environment. Take a look.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): This calm blue sea of southern Greece now a new hub for Russia's oil trade taken in mid March. This satellite image shows oil tankers arranged in pairs, experts say most of them involved in a cargo transfer. Data shows transactions like these have surged in recent months this year, on average five times more per month, dotting the picturesque waters near Greece's Kalamata ports compared to 2021, according to cargo tracking firm Kepler(ph).

MATTHEW WRIGHT, SENIOR FREIGHT ANALYST: It's sort of become a ship- ship hub where smaller vessels come in from Russian ports, they transfer the cargoes onto larger vessels, and then those larger vessels will head off through to Asia.

SEBASTIAN: Matthew Wright says the rise in ship-to-ship transfers is part of a big shift in shipping patterns. A European Union ban on most seaborne Russian crude oil and refined products means Russian exports now travel much longer distances to reach Asian customers. And he says well, smaller vessels are better for docking at Russian ports. They're not ideal for long-haul voyages.

M. WRIGHT: See, the fact that it has loaded HSFO, which is fuel oil --

SEBASTIAN: Though sanctions have also given rise to what Wright calls the grey fleet tankers sold since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and his data shows exclusively now transporting Russian oil or refined products as some western shippers started to avoid it.

(on camera): We're using tracking data and corroborating with experts, we were able to pinpoint. One of those grey fleet ships in this image -- here it is, that larger vessel, and we traced this apparent transaction back in time. The smaller vessel docking in St. Petersburg in late February, where, according to Kepler(ph), it picked up a cargo of fuel oil.

Then we tracked it all around western Europe and back here to the Mediterranean, the Greek coast, at which point Kepler(ph) data shows it unloaded its cargo onto that larger, great tank ship.

(voice-over): That ship, then transited the Suez Canal apparently, en route to Asia.

M. WRIGHT: It's not illegal what they're doing. It's essentially a story of the transfer of ownership.

SEBASTIAN: Oil tanker sales have surged in the past year, and among them, Kepler(ph) says that same tanker, here it is again, tracked to the Russian port of Novorossiysk in December. Think-tank vessels value estimates 105 tankers of a similar size changed hands in 2022, double the volume of the previous year. It also says around a third of sales this year with newly-formed

companies or undisclosed buyers. At the International Maritime Organization in London, that shift in ownership, reinforcing safety concerns around ship-to-ship transfers.

FREDERICK KENNEY, DIRECTOR, LEGAL & EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, IMO: We are unable to determine the level of compliance with the IMO safety and environmental protection regime. The worst case scenario would be a casualty where a transfer line breaks and you have a major spill or you have an explosion and fire. There's myriad things that can go wrong in a ship-to-ship transfer.

SEBASTIAN: It's a situation that's not going away as Russia's war re- draws the global energy map, creating a new logistics system increasingly controlled by lesser-known players and loaded with potential risks.


SEBASTIAN: So this is not black and white, Christine, because, on the one hand, this so-called grey fleet serves a purpose, right? If Russia -- if Russia can't get its oil into the markets, prices would go up for everyone, we would be dealing with even more inflation than we're currently dealing with. But of course, the concern is around this transfer of ownership and the number of ships.

The estimate is that around 400 vessels are now in this grey fleet, and what that means, as I said for the transparency of these supply chains.

ROMANS: Yes, very interesting. And, of course, revenue from oil is how Russia funds its war. So, it has a big incentive to figure out how to get it around the world. Right, nice to see you, thank you so much, Clare. Quick hits around the globe right now, Kenyan police have exhumed 21 bodies thought to be followers of a Christian cult.