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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

New Sanctions on Russia Unveiled, Zelenskyy Speech Announced; U.S. Signals It Would Allow Allies' Export of F-16 Jets to Ukraine; GOP House Speaker, Dem Senate Leader Optimistic About a Deal; Disney Scraps Plans for New $1 Billion Florida Campus. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A year ago, he could barely leave the bomb shelter. Now, Ukraine's president is going to the G7 in Japan in person.

Plus --


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Where we were a week ago and where we are today is a much better place.


ROMANS: New hope for staving off a U.S. debt default as both sides send positive signs about the talks of top negotiators.

And Disney now scrapping plans for a new billion dollar campus in Florida. Did its war with Ron DeSantis or his with them have anything to do with it?


ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Happy Friday. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with President Biden and other world leaders unveiling tough new sanctions against Russia at the G7 Summit in Japan that started just hours ago.

They'll be joined later in the weekend by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, making a surprise trip halfway around the world to speak at the G7 in person.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is live on the ground in Hiroshima for us.

And, Kevin, what more do we know about these sanctions and the last minute appearance by the Ukrainian president?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTERR: Yes, source familiar with the planning telling me that the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will be making his way here, I'm told in the last couple of minutes that will be on Sunday that he is meeting face to face with these other world leaders.

And, certainly, he won't be making this quite dramatic audacious visit if he didn't think there was something real to be gained in meaning these leaders face to face. Certainly, he will be making the requests that he has been making for the last 14 months which is for more advanced weapons, more sanctions on Russia and certainly the hope among the leaders here is that in that counter offensive that is coming up that Ukraine will be able to regain some of the territories that it has lost, provide Zelenskyy leverage at an eventual negotiating table with Russia.

The leaders did convene a special session on Ukraine today. They emerged from them and announcing these tough new sanctions, the United States sanctioning 300 additional individuals entities, really trying to close them with the loopholes in the sanction regime, trying to prevent Russians from evading the sanctions that are in place.

Something interesting you saw from the United Kingdom today as well, placing a restriction on imports of Russian diamonds. That had been one of the last Russian industries that hadn't been touched by sanctions. So, really trying to choke off the Kremlin war machine.

But there was a potent moment earlier today as the summit kicked off, the leaders all laying wreaths at the Hiroshima peace memorial. This, of course, is a city that was obliterated by an atomic bomb in 1945, the leaders really seeing up close what that meant to the city, what it meant to the world, and providing a backdrop for these diplomatic talks, really laying down the stakes of diplomacy and showing to them what happens if diplomacy can fail.

And so, leaders, they are on their way now to an island nearby. They will participate in a leader's dinner. But, certainly, these talks really taking on new drama with that news that Zelenskyy will be coming here. That will be really kind of the high point of this summit on Sunday when he meets with them face to face here in Japan, Christine.

ROMANS: You know, I know they're going to take a big class photo as they do for G7, I'm reminded, Kevin, it wasn't long ago that Russia was an invited guest to the table. For some 20 years, it was the G8 with Russia, right, and Russia's aggression, invasion of Crimea was kicked out of the group and now it will be Zelenskyy who will be there at the G7.

It's just a remarkable turnaround for -- when you think about it from the Russian president's perspective that he always felt snubbed by the G7. He has just isolated himself even further.

LIPTAK: Yeah, it's incredible you hear the talk about potentially removing Russia from the G20 sort of history repeating itself, that's the larger group. The G7 is the kind of smaller, more exclusive group.

But G7 Summits are actually held in Russia. It's almost impossible to imagine President Obama actually attended a G7 Summit in St. Petersburg I think it was. So, it is almost incredible. It's incredible to see how the G7 has transformed over the last seven years or so.

The conflict in Ukraine has really reinvigorated this grouping providing it a sense of purpose it had been adrift in the years intervening and so I think that the summit is the culmination of two years maybe one year worth of effort to try to consolidate support around this attempt to support Ukraine and it will be a striking image when all the leaders are meeting with Zelenskyy on Sunday, Christine.


ROMANS: An emboldened G7, exactly what just irritates the Russian president.

Nice to see you. Thank you so much, Kevin Liptak. Great reporting there from Japan.

Another sign of substantive support for Ukraine. Sources tell CNN the Biden administration has signaled it will allow America's European allies to export U.S. made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

A National Security Council spokesman says F-16s are not on the agenda at the G7 but may come up inside line discussions.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is following the story live for us out from London.

How close, Salma, or any European countries from transferring these advanced fighter jets to Ukraine?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the paperwork, if you will, is yet to be underway. Yes, we understand that the United States is showing a willingness to transfer those F-16s but we don't yet have any European partners that have put in formal requests and, of course, as you know D.C. has to prove those transfers, rather, and the State Department has yet to engage in any of that bureaucracy.

But as we know with Ukraine, things can move very quickly, just remember the tanks a few months ago there was a huge debate about whether or not to provide a tack tank on the ground. Those are already on the front lines. And time and time again, that's why you see President Zelenskyy show up, will look his partners in the eye, shake hands, he knows that being in person at the G7, that matters.

Think about the red lines from the HIMARS to the Patriot air defense systems, to those battle tanks, all of those now are in use in the conflict. So, by being there in person, in Japan, on Sunday, President Zelenskyy is going to hope that he can push for more from his allies.

And it's not just that. Of course, President Zelenskyy is also going to want to see the noose around Russia tightened. He wants to see the sanctions increase. The U.K. has already announced sanctions just today against more than 80 entities and companies in Russia.

But President Zelenskyy is going to want to see more of that. Remember, Japan, the host nation, other countries, continue to receive imports from Moscow. He's going to want to make sure that his allies don't have any fatigue set in especially ahead of this counteroffensive.

ROMANS: All right. Salma Abdelaziz in London, thank you.

Two days after that ceiling talks in the Oval Office, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is sounding more optimistic a deal can be reached. There are just, what, 13 days until June 1st, the earliest -- and even fewer legislative working days, Speaker McCarthy says direct talks between the White House and congressional teams have made a difference, even praising the lead White House negotiators by name.


MCCARTHY: It is important to try to have the agreement, especially in principle by sometime this week.

REPORTER: In the negotiations, you guys fill the gap.

MCCARTHY: Well, look, we're not there. We haven't agreed to anything yet, but I see the path that we could come to an agreement, I think we have a structure now, everybody is working hard and we're working two or three times a day, and going back, get more numbers, I mean, I think -- I have the greatest respect for Shalanda and for Ricchetti. And I just believe where we were a week ago, and where we were today is a much better place.


ROMANS: Okay, so progress. He -- we're not there but he sees a path. President Biden held a call with the White House negotiated team last night. Officials say he was told the sides are making, quote, steady progress toward a deal.

House Republicans putting three self-described FBI whistleblowers front and center at a hearing Thursday on claims of federal law enforcement has been, quote, weaponized against conservative.

CNN's Sara Murray has more.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two FBI employees who were stripped of their security clearances.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the kind of retaliations they have faced for coming forward and telling us the truth.

MURRAY: Now, star witnesses for Republicans, as the House Judiciary Subcommittee tries to drive home the GOP narrative that the FBI is unfairly targeting conservatives.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Activists in the FBI, and the Department of Justice, have weaponized the full weight of their agencies against everyday Americans. MURRAY: Democrats slammed the premise of the hearing.

REP. STACEY PLASKETT (D-USVI): My colleagues on the far-right are on a mission to attack, discredit and ultimately, dismantle the FBI.

MURRAY: And question the credibility of Republicans so-called whistleblowers.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): You'll have employment grievances. That doesn't make you whistleblowers. The enumeration of grievances does not constitute whistleblower status.

MURRAY: The hearing comes a day after the FBI said in a letter that certain FBI employees had their security clearances revoked after espousing alternate theories about the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The witnesses claimed that's retaliation.

MARCUS ALLEN, SECURITY CLEARANCE REVOKED BY FBI: It appears that I was retaliated against because I forwarded information to my superiors and others that question the official narrative of the events of January 6th.


MURRAY: Among the reasons FBI staff operation specialist, Marcus Allen, had his security clearance call pulled? Trying to hinder investigations into January 6th rioters, the FBI wrote.

ALLEN: The claim that I obstructed a lawful investigation is dubious, and I do not recall ever being admonished for such an infraction.

MURRAY: His clearance was first suspended in January 2022, according to the FBI. In one email, Allen told colleagues to exercise extreme caution indiscretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events of January 6th. He also suggested, federal law enforcement infiltrated the January 6th crowd.

The committee also heard today, from former FBI agent Steve Friend. His clearance was suspended in September 2022, and later revoked.

The FBI says Friend objected to a SWAT team arrest of a January 6th rioter, used an unauthorized flash drive to download documents from FBI computer systems, and participated in unauthorized media interviews.

STEVE FRIEND, SECURITY CLEARANCE REVOKED BY FBI: My whistleblowing was apolitical and in the spirit of upholding my oath. Nonetheless, the FBI cynically elected to close ranks and attack the messenger.

MURRAY: Republicans also featured FBI special agent Garrett O'Boyle who says he expressed concern about wrongdoing in the FBI, only to see his security clearance suspended. That suspension, which began in September 2022, is still under review.

JORDAN: Mr. O'Boyle, why do you think they came down on you so darn hard? GARRETT O'BOYLE, SECURITY CLEARANCE SUSPENDED BY FBI: The agency as a

whole wants to get rid of people who simply just don't toe the line that they want.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, what Republicans are really trying to do with these witnesses as they are trying to convince Americans that this is a dubious claim that the FBI which has, you know, a history of being a conservative law enforcement agency is actually full of liberals who are out to get conservatives across the country. And you can bet this is not going to be the last hearing on the subject.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: All right. Disney upping the states and it is back and forth battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Disney says it is scrapping plans to build a $1 billion office complex in central Florida, a facility that was expected to bring 2,000 high-paying jobs.

CNN's Natasha Chen has more.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a memo written by the Disney chairman of parks experiences and products, Josh D'Amaro, said that given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with the construction of the campus. This was not an easy decision to make but I believe that it was the right one.

This memo does not mention Governor Ron DeSantis. This does refer to the Lake Nona campus that was supposed to be the site of this office complex, east of Walt Disney World.

Now, 2,000 people were supposed to move there, but now, they are going to stay in southern California.

Some people had already moved to Florida, and the chairman in that memo said that they would work on an individual, case by case basis on their options, including the possibility of returning to Burbank here in the Los Angeles area.

Governor Ron DeSantis office spokesperson gave a statement to our colleague, Steve Contorno, that read: Disney announced the possibility of the Lake Nona campus nearly two years ago. Nothing ever came of the project, in the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition.

Given the company's financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures. Now, on the same day, Disney did announce that they are shutting down the Star Wars galactic cruiser at the Walt Disney World resort. That is a premium experience where families paid thousands of dollars for a two- night voyage through the galaxy. That has only been open for a year. Despite that announcement, D'Amaro, in his memo did say that they are

still going to invest $17 billion dollars and add 13,000 jobs to that Florida resort in the next ten years. The Orange County mayor said that these 2,000 jobs not moving to Florida was a result of not having an inclusive and collaborative work environment. The Florida Democratic chair said that this loss happened because of DeSantis's unhinged personal vendetta against Disney.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Los Angeles.


ROMANS: All right. Deutsche Bank just settled a multimillion dollar lawsuit with Jeffrey Epstein's accusers. Could another big bank also be on the hook?

Plus, new mystery surrounds four kids lost after a plane crash in the Colombian jungle.



ROMANS: Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $75 million to settle a lawsuit brought by victims of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Another mega bank JPMorgan Chase faces a different lawsuit filed by the deceased financer's victims. CEO Jamie Dimon will sit for a deposition in that case, and billionaire Elon Musk has also been subpoenaed for documents.

For more context, let's bring in Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney.

Good morning, Joey.

Walk us through this suit. What was the basis for suing Epstein's banking partners?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, good to be with you, Christine.

So what happens is the bank has to comply with numerous banking regulations and the bank has an obligation, absolutely, when you're holding the money to ensure that you are in compliance with everything that is out there to protect consumers, to protect the public.

Essentially, what the argument is, is we look at the Deutsche Bank they settled because he has the essence of the suit was that you are an enabler, you are an enabler to Jeffrey Epstein with respect to his sex trafficking. You cannot just take on a client and because that client is financially wealthy and is bringing you other individuals to decide to side with profit and ignore suspicious activity which if you could have and should have and would have reported could have made a difference with respect to Epstein's criminal enterprise.

[05:20:09] So the essence of that again as we get Epstein who committed suicide as we know in 2019, they were saying that because the bank was asleep at the switch and other knew or should've known of his activities and did nothing about it he was allowed to engage in all of these activity, criminal activity in which he was engaging human trafficking and abusing underage girls.

And so, the essence of it is that, and so the bank initially saying we have nothing to do with this, we have no obligation or duty to know what Jeffrey Epstein is doing and we couldn't have known what he did do but at the end of the day, Deutsche Bank said, we will agreed to settle and resolve this case for $75 million but there has been no admission of liability and now of course we know Deutsche Bank took on Jeffrey Epstein after Chase got rid of him after a 15-year relationship.


JACKSON: Deutsche Bank got involved with him in 2015 to 2018. So, that's about the summary with respect to what happened.

ROMANS: Yeah, he had a guilty -- I mean, he had a conviction of Florida in 2008 so this was somebody who had been convicted of a crime and I think that's what a lot of people look at before 2008, before the conviction, after the conviction, what were the banking relationships and where the any red flags. You know, these banks have a responsibility to follow on red flags, money laundering, other kinds of illegal activity. This -- they haven't admitted wrongdoing does this just go away for them?

JACKSON: So, that -- it'll settle and otherwise resolve the obligations of Deutsche Bank, remember we should note that it also, that is the bank, had a responsibility to regulators and agree to pay out a significant amount of money, I believe it was $120 million because of being asleep at the switch and not being in full compliance. Now with resolving this for $75 million and ensuring that many of his victims receive compensation, they also -- his victims, Jeffrey Epstein's victims that is, receive compensation from the estate Deutsche Bank will otherwise resolve this and move stage left.

That then brings in and makes the centerpiece now, JPMorgan Chase, which is now the subject of a lawsuit itself by the Virgin Islands and by the victims here, saying that you too had an obligation, you already raised it, if in 2008, Jeffrey Epstein in Florida was convicted of the sex crime, you then Chase Bank would know even though you cut off ties with him in 2013, you had this 15-year relationship and you didn't do enough.

So, as you noted, Mr. Dimon, the chief executive, will sit next week for a deposition and have to answer with respect to what he knew and what he knew if anything and, of course, Chase is saying we didn't know anything about this, and if we're liable, then one of the executives who used to work with us, it's not us it's him and so chase is trying to say that we didn't know, he concealed that is our executive information.

ROMANS: Watch this space.

Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst, thank you so much, nice to see you this morning. Have a great weekend.

JACKSON: Always, you too. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

The man accused of fatally stabbing Cash App cofounder Bob Lee pleaded not guilty on Thursday. Nima Momeni's lawyer said the killing was a combination of accident and self defense.

More than 90 firefighters in Charlotte, North Carolina, rescued 50 construction workers from the side of a five alarm fire. Two construction workers remain unaccounted for.

A school district in Michigan said it will cover hundred percent of college tuition for students, that will create public schools to pay for any four year school in Michigan -- or certain historic Black colleges and universities.

All right. Later today, Florida's Ron DeSantis speaks just days before officially announcing his presidential campaign.

And frightening moment as a car rams through the Vatican gates.



ROMANS: The death toll rising to 11 as devastating flood sweep in northern Italy. More than 20 rivers have overrun their banks forcing thousands of Italians from their homes, six months of rain fell there in a day and a half.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau live in Rome with more.

Barbie, how are the rescue efforts going right now?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's really, really harrowing, and we're just hearing that the death toll is rising up to 14 people now they are still evacuations ongoing because the rivers are cresting now and people can't get out in some cases they are saying go to the top floor of your house, take some food, try to get some, you know, batteries and things like that. They just can't reach these people and there is more rain on the way, Christine.

ROMANS: Just more rain on the way. What is this going to mean for the economy? What does this mean going forward here? This is a devastating scene there, Barbie.

NADEAU: Yes, it is devastating. And, you know, just six months ago, we were talking about drought in this area, the economic impact of severe drought. And part of the reason these floods are bad is because of the drought, the land can't absorb the water. This is a very important agricultural area for the country, for fruit

and vegetable, the markets will be very, very affected. They're telling us, so far, millions, billions of dollars worth of damage. They can't even begin to count it yet because everything is still underwater. It will take days, weeks to even start cleaning that up, maybe months before they know the real economic impact, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Barbie Nadeau, thank you so much. The pictures really tell the story. Thank you.

All right. A desperate search in Colombia underway for four children after the plane they were on crashed in the Amazon jungle. Colombia's president has announced, first he announced, then he retracted a claim that the young have been found alive, but rescuers, they still have hope.

CNN's Stefano Pozzebon has more.