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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Israelis Remember The Fallen Amid Tensions Over Judicial Overhaul; Jury Selection Resumes In Pittsburgh's Synagogue Massacre; Is There Really A New Mortgage Tax On Those With High Credit? Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 25, 2023 - 05:30   ET




MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF INVESTIGATIONS, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: The Russian army has destroyed -- demolished 70 percent of the apartment blocs in town. They had to build new ones and they did. So that company that built those display houses in Mariupol -- it is the same company that pays for Timur Ivanov's personal bills.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite claims of such brazen corruption, Putin toured the construction project last month. A request for comment on the investigation from the Russian Ministry of Defense received no reply.

In France, though, the pressure may be mounting. On Sunday afternoon the Anti-Corruption Foundation organized a small protest outside the Paris apartment it claims Maniovich still rents, demanding to know how she is allowed to spend the profits of Russia's war in the heart of France -- a question, so far, without any satisfactory answer.

WARD (on camera): CNN has reached out to the French foreign minister who responded, saying, "We do not comment on individual situations. France, with its EU partners, has ended visa facilitation for Russian citizens and has also adopted targeted individual sanctions against 1,499 Russian officials and their supporters."

We also attempted, of course, to reach out to Svetlana Maniovich, sending her an e-mail, but as of yet we have not received a reply.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Excellent reporter there, Clarissa. Thank you.

All right. Millions of Israelis honor their nation's fallen today but tensions over the government's plan to overhaul the judicial system are disrupting Memorial Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Sirens sounding for nation's fallen.


ROMANS: Sirens sounded a short time ago to mark the solemn occasion as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog attended state services.

CNN's Hadas Gold is live in the military cemetery in Be'er Sheva. Hadas, some fallen soldiers' families have boycotted ceremonies. What can you tell us?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine. I'm standing amongst the graves of those fallen soldiers. These are, many of them, young men. Right around me I see one was age 22, one was age 19.

And amongst the flowers and the candles that families have left here some of them have signs, and these signs say "Dear my loved brother, my loved son, we will not attend the ceremony today." And it's essentially in protest of the politicians, some of whom have still chosen to attend these ceremonies despite the protests from the families of the fallen -- some of whom are protesting the ministers themselves because of their positions; others because they fear that the ministers' presence at these ceremonies unnecessarily politicizes what should be such a solemn day.

At this cemetery, one of the most controversial figures in the Israeli government, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir spoke. And even before he showed up there was tension -- some scuffles between the families of the fallen, and as he started to speak there were some people who started to protest, shouting at him. Some people turned their backs and left. Other people started singing songs of protest. And there were expectations that this would happen.

Some ministers heeded the call to not attend the ceremonies but Itamar Ben-Gvir was defiant. And some families, in particular, were offended by that by Ben-Gvir himself has some -- some people consider more extremist positions and he, himself, actually never served in the military here. Despite the compulsory draft he was essentially denied from serving because of some of his extremist views even at a young age.

But despite some of the protesters here, there were others who were in support of him who said may God bless you. And Ben-Gvir, in his speech, said let them yell. They are patriots as well. He said that he was going to bow his head.

And some of the tensions even continued after the ceremony ended. Outside of the cemetery there were some further scuffles between families. This, despite the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and opposition leader Yair Lapid, and the Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that this day should be above politics. That people should come together and act as one nation.

But it goes to show you that, of course, the emotions are high today -- Memorial Day. This is a very emotional day for so many people in Israel, but also tensions and emotions have been so high here now for at least 16 weeks after 16 weeks of regular protests against this judicial overhaul plan that has been paused for now. But the Israeli Parliament will be starting up again in the next few days and that judicial overhaul plan could come back onto the table -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Hadas Gold for us. Thank you so much for that.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

China is walking back comments made by its ambassador to France who suggested that former Soviet republics don't legally exist during a T.V. interview. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have asked Chinese representatives to clarify exactly what they meant by that.

Italy's Coast Guard has rescued 1,200 Tunisian migrants from rough seas in just one day as more boats remain in distress. Officials say at least one person has died and 23 others are missing.


Mexico's navy intercepts 11,500 bottles of tequila that were actually full of nearly 10 tons of concentrated liquid meth. Officials say the bottles were found -- bound for export.

All right. Just ahead, a civil lawsuit against Donald Trump goes to trial. And future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers trades green and yellow for green and white.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

Jury selection resumes this morning in the trial of the accused gunman in the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue.

CNN's Danny Freeman reports from Pittsburgh.




DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than four years after the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history the trial is underway for the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue. In a crowded federal courtroom in downtown Pittsburgh Monday, defendant Robert Bowers sat attentively listening, unhandcuffed, and passing notes to his lawyers as jury selection began.


Throughout the day federal prosecutors and Bowers' defense team took turns questioning potential jurors about their knowledge of the case and their beliefs on the death penalty.

Bowers is accused of killing 11 Jewish worshippers and injuring others at the Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27 in 2018.

MICHAEL EISENBERG, IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT, TREE OF LIFE CONGREGATION SYNAGOGUE: I just saw what was going on and I just could not believe it. To see this penetrate that community is -- I want to say jarring. I'm just shaken by it.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Prosecutors allege Bowers brought multiple guns to the synagogue that Saturday morning while three congregations were worshipping. The criminal complaint says Bowers started shooting outside and then inside, targeting people praying, and expressing his desire to kill Jews.

Bowers faces 63 felony counts and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in this case. His defense team offered a guilty plea with life in prison in exchange for taking capital punishment off the table.

One of his defense attorneys is Judy Clarke. She has represented other federal death penalty defendants like the Unabomber and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the Boston Marathon bombing.

But federal prosecutors have not budged and the judge prepared potential jurors if they make it to the sentencing phase they should expect to weigh the death penalty in this case.

Ahead of the trial, congregants from the Tree of Life synagogue gathered Sunday to pray as their fellow worshippers' day in court has finally arrived.

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE CONGREGATION SYNAGOGUE: We cannot, we must not permit one day out of 25,993 days to define us nor outweigh all of the good. This is not a final moment.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Danny Freeman, CNN, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


ROMANS: All right, here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

President Joe Biden is expected to announce he is running for reelection this morning. Today marks four years exactly since Biden announced his 2020 run for the White House.

Jury selection begins today in E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against former President Trump. Trump denies Carroll's allegations that he raped her in a department store, then defamed her by denying it, saying she wasn't his type.

Opening statements today in the copyright infringement case against Ed Sheeran. A lawsuit claims Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" rips off Marvin Gaye's 1973 classic "Let's Get It On."

All right, a historic night for LeBron James lifts the Lakers to a 3-1 series lead over the Grizzlies.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning, Andy.


So, you know, LeBron James has played 20 years in the NBA, nearly 1,700 games, but last night was the first time he's ever had 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. And LeBron also coming through in the clutch big-time in game four. Down two, six seconds left in the fourth, LeBron drives to the basket and gets it to go with less than a second on the clock.

So we would go to overtime. Then up three in the extra period, under a minute to go again, LeBron drives and gets the bucket to go, plus the foul, then flexes for the crowd. LeBron, 22 points, 20 rebounds. He's the oldest player to ever go 20-20.

The Lakers win 117-111 to take a 3-1 series lead.

And here was LeBron after.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: That's always been me. You know, whatever it takes for the team to be successful. I'm just trying to be as great as I can be offensively but even, more important, our defensive end. So that's -- that was the kind of the mindset tonight and I was able to make a couple of plays to help us be successful.


SCHOLES: The Heat, meanwhile, roaring back from 14 points down in the final quarter to stun the Bucks 119-114 last night. Jimmy Butler exploding for a career-high and Miami playoff record 56 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. That ties him for the fourth-most- ever in a playoff game.

The Heat, the eight seed, now take a 3-1 series lead. They can close it out with a win tomorrow in Milwaukee.


JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: It's not easy. They've got some hellified (PH) defenders that are making me work for every basket. But I've got some hellified teammates that tell me to keep going, keep being aggressive, and keep attacking. It feels good to be the Miami Heat right now.


SCHOLES: Yes, it certainly does.

Three possible elimination games on the schedule tonight starting with the Celtics hosting the Hawks. Tipoff set for 7:30 eastern on our sister station TNT.

All right, the Maple Leafs are now one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it didn't look like that was going to be the case last night against the Lightning. Toronto was down by three goals in the third period before mounting a rally for the ages. Auston Matthews scored twice and Morgan Rielly tied it at 4- 4 to force overtime. Then Alexander Kerfoot scored a powerplay goal in overtime to seal the 5-4 victory just stunning the Tampa crowd.


The series shifts back to Toronto for game five on Thursday.

All right, the Kraken, meanwhile, looking for their first playoff win at home in Seattle in just their second season. They got off to an early 2-0 lead to get the crowd there roaring, but it would take overtime to beat last year's Stanley Cup champions. Jordan Eberle finding the back of the net just three minutes into that extra time to even this series at two apiece.

And you've got three more games on tap tonight, including the Wild at the Stars. That's at 8:00 eastern on TBS.

All right, and finally, after weeks of waiting the New York Jets yesterday agreed to trade for longtime Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. As a part of the deal the Jets get the fourth-time league MVP and the 15th and 170th picks in this week's draft. Green Bay gets the number 13 pick, a second-round pick, and conditional 2024 second-round pick that can become a first-round pick if Rodgers plays 65 percent of New York's snaps next season.

Now, Rodgers can't wear number 12 for the Jets because it's retired for Joe Namath. Namath actually did give Rodgers the blessing to wear it but it's expected Rodgers is going to end up wearing number eight, which is what he wore in college.

So I'm sure, Christine, you'll see a lot of those jerseys --

ROMANS: Oh, yeah.

SCHOLES: -- roaming in New York City soon. And Jets fans -- you know, they have the longest playoff drought in all of American professional sports. It's been 12 years since they made the playoffs.


SCHOLES: So they're hoping that finally ends now with Rodgers.

ROMANS: All right, we shall see.

All right, nice to see you. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Just moments ago, sounds of gunfire and fighter jets in Sudan with a fragile ceasefire hopefully still in effect.

And next, right here, is there really a new mortgage tax penalizing you for having a high credit score? We separate fact from fiction.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 41 percent. First Republic Bank revealing deposits fell 41 percent in the first quarter. That's about $100 billion that walked out the door to other banks as it teetered close to collapse. That's even with $30 billion of help from larger banks. Bank execs claim the situation has since stabilized but they still plan to cut its workforce by as much as 25 percent.

Looking at markets around the world right now, European markets are lower at this hour. Asian markets finished mixed here. The Hang Seng fell nearly two percent despite better-than-expected GDP figures in China. And on Wall Street, stock index futures right now all leaning lower here.

Markets finished mixed in the busiest week of earnings. Banking fears are percolating again after that First Republic news.

Microsoft, Alphabet, and McDonald's all set to report today.

On inflation watch, gas prices fell a penny overnight to $3.66 a gallon.

New home sales and consumer confidence data are due out later this morning.

All right, a change in mortgage fees became the hot topic this past weekend. Now before you stop paying your credit bills in the hopes of getting a better deal on your mortgage let's go over what's fact and what's fiction in these mortgage fee changes.

Joining us now is Bill Corbet, managing director at BlackFin Group. Good morning. Thank you so much for dropping by here.

So let's set the stage. May first up-front fees for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- they're going to change. And in some cases, Bill, borrowers with higher credit -- higher credit scores -- they may pay a little bit more in fees, and lower credit score people will pay less. This is what sparked the unfairness debate on the internet.

Is there a new unfair mortgage tax?

BILL CORBET, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BLACKFIN GROUP (via Webex by Cisco): So let me break it down into two parts, first.

The changes are effective for loans sold as of May first, but lenders built these price changes into their rate sheets back in the end of February-early March. So the pricing has been in effect now for several months.

And what changed in there is the rate of add-on for different credit attributes. So while the credit premium, if you will, increased slightly for high-quality borrowers and was reduced for higher loan- to-value lower credit score borrowers, it was the rate of change. There is still a fairly steep difference in price add-ons between a high-quality borrower and a lower-quality borrower.


CORBET: So, no -- a lower-quality borrower is not getting a better price than a higher-quality borrower.

ROMANS: Yes. When I was seeing people talk about I'm just going to stop paying my bills so I have a lower credit score, then that's going to -- I was like oh my God, don't -- that is just not what this is -- this is about here.


ROMANS: So don't listen to that hysteria on the internet.

The administration's goal here is to lower the huge gap in homeownership. To lower costs for first-time homebuyers and low-income buyers. That's what the agenda is here, right?

CORBET: It's absolutely the agenda. And the challenge with it is you're increasing demand without increasing supply, and all that does is turn around and ultimately drive up home prices even further. So it's a -- to me it's a failed approach -- it's a failing approach and a problem.

ROMANS: Yes. The question is will it work? Will there be unintended consequences? Because we have incentivized high-risk homebuying before with bad results.

CORBET: Well, we have, and this is very, very different than the great financial crisis.

First of all, it's playing with pricing at the margins. It's not compromising credit standards. So there are a lot of reasons to criticize this plan but I don't think the path to 2008 type of environment is the right argument.

ROMANS: It's so fascinating.

All right, Bill Corbet. Thank you so much for walking us through all that. Nice to see you this morning.

CORBET: Great. Thank you very much.


ROMANS: All right. Just head on "CNN THIS MORNING" President Biden about to make a big announcement on a second term in the White House. And more potential charges against Donald Trump -- this time in Georgia.


ROMANS: Welcome back this Tuesday morning.

Our top of the morning, the top states for middle-class wealth. Number one, Maryland is the wealthiest state to be middle-class in

America. Median household income there, $180,406 a year. Close behind at number two, Washington, D.C. And number three, New Hampshire with a median household income just under $180,000 a year.


At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi -- $32,640 gets you middle-class status there, the lowest figure of all the states.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.