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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ron DeSantis to Kick Off 2024 Primary Campaign Today on Twitter; Judge Sets New York Trump Trial to Begin in March 2024; McCarthy: "We Are Nowhere Near a Deal" to Raise Debt Ceiling; Monster Typhoon Mawar Barreling Towards U.S. Island of Guam. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin this morning with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set to launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination today in audio interview on Twitter, conducted by the platform's owner Elon Musk. All part of an attempt to reset the table, as DeSantis pull numbers slip and owners expressed concern. There are other unconventional aspects to the, launch like this dramatic teaser video tweeted out Tuesday by DeSantis's wife, Casey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it worth the fight? Do I have the courage? Is it worth a sacrifice? America has been worth it every single time.


ROMANS: CNN's Jessica Dean has more from Miami.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: News coming on Tuesday that makes it official, something that has been talked about for months and months, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will announce that he is running for the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 race. What is unique about his announcement, we are told by his political team, is that you will be sitting down to do so with the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk. You will be doing that on Wednesday night, and it certainly not typical and not typically how someone would announce their candidacy.

But it goes with what we have been told about what this likely campaign will look like, which is that it will not be typical. It won't be traditionally. They want to really push the envelope and do things in a unique and different way, and this certainly fits the bill in that situation.

We also know that DeSantis will be gathering his biggest donors and bundlers here in Miami on Thursday, to really amp up that fundraising game, and make sure that they turn in big numbers right out of the gate. He's going to set all of them lose to raise as much money as they possibly can to give him big numbers right out of the gate.

And also, on Tuesday night, we saw this video from the Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis is re-tweeted by her husband, and it essentially a height video that then has a code to text the word "launch".

Again, all these pieces coming together which is what we know we've been in the works for months now that has been talked about so much. But now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially getting in the 2024 race, and we will start to see how that shapes up with both his Republican light rivals, chiefly among them former President Donald Trump and the sitting president, Joe Biden.

Jessica Dean, CNN, Miami, Florida.


ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump facing new complications in his presidential run. The New York judge overseeing his hush money criminal case setting a trial date that will fall right in the heat of the GOP primary season.

The latest now from CNN's Kara Scannell in New York.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: A New York judge set a trial date of March 25th for former President Donald Trump's criminal case involving hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. The trial will fall in the middle of the Republican 2024 presidential primary season. During a brief hearing on Tuesday, the judge told Trump and his lawyers that they cannot accept any commitments, personal or professional that could prevent them from appearing for the duration of the trial, putting up a potential snag in Trump's campaign events, or fundraisers.

Trump appeared by video conference, sitting next to his attorney. It was his first visit to this courtroom after pleading not guilty last month to 34 counts of falsifying business records. The judge explained to Trump the protective order, barring him and his defense team from sharing evidence turned over by prosecutors on social media.

Prosecutors requested to the hearing to ensure that Trump is aware of the new rules against him, in the consequences that he could face if you violate the court order. But the judge making it clear that he is not imposing a gag order in this case, saying that he has no intention of anyway impeding in Trump's ability to campaign or publicly defend himself as he makes another run for the White House.

Kara Scannell, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: All right. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has told Republican lawmakers that we are, quote, nowhere near a deal to raise the debt ceiling. At a closed-door meeting you told his members, quote, I need you all to hang with me. McCarthy later told reporters that he is, in effect, offering no compromises to Democrats.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've been asking for the White House to make a number of concessions. What concessions are you willing to make and what are those concessions?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: To raise the debt ceiling.

RAJU: That's a concession.




ROMANS: There are now only eight days until the earliest estimated date the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

CNN's Manu Raju has more from Capitol Hill.


RAJU: Now, there is still a significant gap between House Republicans and the White House to avoid the nation's first ever debt default. Meaning unable to pay the bills of the United States that have occurred over the last many years. In order to avoid that potentially drastic economic consequence, Congress and the White House need to agree on how to raise the national debt limit.

Right now, that debt limit is at $31.4 trillion, and there is significant disagreement between the two sides on how to do just that. Now, what the Republicans have been demanding for sometime are spending cuts, bringing down spending below this year's level of federal spending. Democrats say that is a no go. They want to free spending that is what the White House has offered as a potential compromise.

But the difference is in hundreds of billions of dollars and how much the government can spend on a number of key domestic programs. That's on result as well. There's also policy issues as well. Republicans have been pushing for work requirements on social safety net programs. The White House has been not in favor of that as well.

There've also been a number of Democratic efforts to try to get some Republican concessions, including to give Medicare more power to negotiate drug prices, Republicans have said no. In fact, Kevin McCarthy said they are not going to go offer a single concession. The only concession, he said that Republicans will make would be to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for all of their demands.

Now, this all comes as treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has warned Congress that they may have only until June 1st to raise the national debt ceiling. But, a number of conservatives that I spoke to, earlier in the day, indicated that they did not believe that the June 1st deadline was real.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I don't believe that the first of the month is a real deadline. I don't understand why we're not making Janet Yellen show her work.

RAJU: Aren't you concerned that this could be a roll of the dice?

GAETZ: I do not believe that to be a case.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): She'll extend it. But, right now she's using June 1st -- everybody knows that's false.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The fact is, we pass a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, the fact, is we're going to have cash in June. The fact, is we're not going to default on our debt. That's just completely false. We got the money to do it. So, everybody just needs to be patient.

RAJU: Now, the number of the House conservative simply don't want Kevin McCarthy to negotiate any further with Joe Biden because they believe it will begin their bill that was passed in April and included a slew of spending cuts, that Democrats in the Senate said it was dead on arrival. They don't want to negotiate off that position, so they're saying, don't even negotiate with the White House.

And, on the Democratic side, there's a number of progressives who are asking Biden not to negotiate with Kevin McCarthy. Concern that doing so would only give into the Republican demands, trying to pressure him to either raise the national debt limit, or pressured the president to try to use a constitutional authority. It has never been tested in the courts to raise the debt ceiling on his own, to avoid a default on his own.

The president has been unwilling to go in that direction. But, pressure is growing on both sides for their leaders not to give in, which is racing all sorts of questions about whether a deal can be reached between Biden, McCarthy and whether it can pass Congress.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


ROMANS: They are playing with fire. Playing with fire.

All right. A source tells CNN authorities are looking into what role mental health of that may have played in what they say was a Missouri teenager's attempt to ram a U-Haul truck onto White House grounds, and, according to charging documents, quote, kill the president.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New information on the driver of this 26 foot U-Haul truck that rammed into the security barriers at the park across from the White House. He allegedly told authorities he wanted to, quote, get to the White House, seized power and be put in charge of the nation. He had been planning for six months and he would kill the president if he had to, according to charging documents.

The suspect is identified as Sai Varshith Kandula from Chesterfield, Missouri, 19 years old, who graduated from high school last year. He faces one charge of depredation of federal property after being arrested on more serious charges, including threatening to kill or harm a president, vice president or a family member. Prosecutors can add additional charges as the case progresses.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: That's a pretty violent act all by itself. Clearly, this individual intended some kind of harm by ramming that truck through those pylons.

TODD: Authorities recovered a black backpack and a roll of duct tape at the scene, and a swastika flag. He told law enforcement he admired Hitler and the Nazis for their authoritarian nature and their eugenics, according to charging documents.

JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Investigators are going to key in, was he motivated by some sort of ideological group? And in worst case, was he directed to launch this type of attack? It's too early to tell right now.


TODD: The U-Haul was rented in the suburbs of D.C., a company source says, and there were no red flags against the driver that would prevent him from renting.

An eyewitness says the driver rammed into the barrier more than once.

ALEXANDER GARCIA, WITNESS: He tried the first time and then went to the second time.

TODD: A bomb squad was seen at the site, but charging documents say no explosives or weapons were found. Still, The Hay-Adams Hotel across the street was briefly evacuated.

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: They had to take into consideration, there could be weapons. It could be a truck bomb.

TODD: How much danger was the president in?

KIRBY: Where this occurred was quite some distance actually from White House property. At no time was the president or first lady in any danger.


TODD (on camera): CNN spoke to two former high school classmates of the suspect. They described Sai Varshith Kandula as a quiet young man who never got into trouble. Law enforcement sources tell CNN that authorities are now considering what role mental health may have played in this incident. Kandula has not yet entered a plea, and an attorney for him has not yet been publicly named.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: All right, to the war in Ukraine now. Russian authorities say that they've beaten back the Ukrainian saboteurs who launched recent attacks in the border region around the Russian city of Belgorod. But Ukraine, and those fighters themselves, insist that they are what they claim. They are Russian citizens fed up with Vladimir Putin, the war in Ukraine, and the totalitarian drift of their country.

CNN's Matthew Chance has the story.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a bold cross border raid, exposing the weakness of Russian defenses, and highlighting the increasingly brazen armed groups who say they're Russians fighting against the Kremlin.

Moscow dismisses them as Ukrainian saboteurs, who've now been defeated, a barrage of ferocious Russian strikes carried out on its own soil. Defense officials say, at least 70 of fighters, some in U.S.-made Humvee armored vehicles, have now been killed.

But for the Kremlin, attacks inside Russia, like a series of damaging train derailments over the past year, or attacks on crucial fuel storage facilities, have become an embarrassing feature of its war.

Even the Kremlin itself was targeted with drone strikes, which Russia blamed on Ukraine. But Russian groups, who say that they're fighting against the Kremlin, are increasingly emerging from the shadows.

CNN made contact with a fighter said to be from the National Republican Army, and anti-Putin group operating inside Russia. His voice and features have been disguised.

ANTI-RUSSIAN FIGHTER (through translator): A fire at the military facility, the death of the agent at the regime, or a day of activity on the railway that supplies the Russian army -- for us, these are all successful missions.

CHANCE: Of course, not every attack on Russia is carried out by a member of an organized group. Some Russians are simply furious that the direction the country is going, taking matters into their own hands.

But some of the more shocking, carefully organized attacks have used explosives to kill pro-Kremlin figures, like Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, in April, in a St. Petersburg cafe.

Russian prosecutors say that the suspected bomber acted at the behest of Ukraine, a claim that country denies. But partisan say that they want the Kremlin to feel fear like this, too.

ANTI-RUSSIAN FIGHTER (through translator): Our task is to heavily damage the repressive part of the Russian system. We want to weaken the power that suppresses the people. The main factor in this is fear. This Russian regime fears war against it.

CHANCE: Especially a war increasingly being fought at home.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


ROMANS: All right. Right now, U.S. territory is feeling the worst of a very powerful typhoon.

Plus, two Ohio prison inmates now on the run, one of them, a convicted killer.

And next, Florida's Ron DeSantis, why is he launching his campaign today with Twitter's Elon Musk?



ROMANS: Tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to make his run for president official any Twitter event alongside Elon Musk. The presidential hopeful releasing a hype video in the anticipation of the announcement.


ANNOUNCER: They call it faith because in the face of darkness, you can see that brighter future. A faith that our best days lay ahead of us.


ROMANS: Let's bring in Dylan Wells, political reporter for "The Washington Post".

Good morning. So nice to see you, Dylan.

Twitter I guess is an interesting choice of venue to launch a presidential bid with Elon Musk no less. What do you think is the thinking there?

DYLAN WELLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Good morning. It definitely is not the traditional venue for a campaign announcement of this type. However, DeSantis has always had a distanced relationship from the press and this really allows him to bypass traditional media, go directly to twitter users in this conversation with Elon Musk who has said that he would support a run by DeSantis, although he is not yet officially endorsed.

And you have to remember that this is a platform that Trump dominated for years until he was pushed off the platform after January 6. And so, as this race heats up, between DeSantis and Trump with DeSantis jumping in the race officially, this is really him taking it to what was Trump's home turf.


ROMANS: I don't want to put too much stalk in polling this early because we're the very early stages, but Donald Trump clearly still the favorite among Republican voters for the nomination. So, how does DeSantis I guess change their minds?

WELLS: Well, in what polling we've seen so far, DeSantis is seen as the most viable candidate to take on Trump within this Republican primary. Obviously, he is not yet officially been a candidate in this race and we have to see what happens now that he is jumping in. But he has a better shot right now from what we see than other folks like Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Governor Asa Hutchinson, and he is hoping to increase that amount of momentum as he officially gets into the race and ramps up the number of events he is doing in early states and is able to really share the mission of his campaign as an official candidate now.

ROMANS: Now, you just have come back from South Carolina. You've been covering Republican Senator Tim Scott's bid for the nomination.

Talk to me a little bit about the rivalry that creates with another South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley.

WELLS: Yeah. I was in North Charleston earlier this week where Tim Scott launched his campaign and he is now the second South Carolinian in the race. Nikki Haley announced her own campaign in early February.

And these two lawmakers really have come up on similar tracks in South Carolina. They actually overlapped in the state house, and Haley was actually the one who originally appointed Scott to his Senate seat. And, by all, accounts they have had a positive relationship over the years. They are not particularly close.

But now, they are officially rivals in this campaign. And Republican South Carolina told me that now they are being faced with difficult decisions of who they are going to support in this presidential race after being allies of both of the South Carolinians for the past several years.

ROMANS: It's got to be interesting launching a campaign with Donald Trump looming over everything. He still has so much of the energy of the Republican Party.

WELLS: Absolutely. I mean, DeSantis is seen as the most viable candidate to take on Trump within the Republican Party right now, Trump is still really the party leader when I go out and talk to voters, Trump is really the top choice still for a lot of these folks, especially in the key early states. And that is going to be a challenge for anyone to overcome in this field. Even someone like Ron DeSantis who comes in with a lot of name identification, and a lot of work done in Florida, that really appeals to the same Republican base.

ROMANS: Yeah. All right. Dylan Wells of "The Washington Post", thank you so much for getting up early for us this morning.

WELLS: Thanks for having me. ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

A state attorney general report finds 451 clergymen in Illinois Catholic churches abused nearly 2,000 children over nine decades. This new report identified 149 people previously undisclosed by the diocese.

Police are searching for two inmates who searched from an Ohio prison. One of the inmates, Bradley Gillespie, was convicted of murder.

The South Carolina Senate approved a bill that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks. The measure now heads to the governor who is expected to sign it into law.

All right. Still ahead, how a deadly car crash led to an all out riot.

Plus, the new rule in France. You can't take a plane if you can take a train.



ROMANS: A monster typhoon barreling towards Guam, threatening to slam into the U.S. island territories, the strongest storm in decades. The National Weather Service says Typhoon Mawar is posing a triple threat of potentially deadly category four winds, exceptional storm surge, and torrential rainfall.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout live in Hong Kong with more.

And I guess they are still preparing, and I know that you've just been reporting that their big power outages already.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the storm right now, Christine, is clipping northern Guam. The island is ready, thank goodness, because it has been described as a, quote, extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. That is what we heard from the latest briefing from the National Weather Service of Guam.

Now, this Typhoon Mawar is unleashing a triple threat of torrential rain, of high winds, of storm surge, that poses a major risk of both life and property and extreme wind warning has been in effect for northern Guam. A flash flood warning has been in effect for the entire island, home to about 150,000 people.

We also learned, as you said, power supplies are dwindling. The Guam power authority says that it could provide energy only to 1,000 of its 52,000 customers we. We also learned that the Guam Memorial Hospital is running on a generator.

Now, on Tuesday, that was under this condition of readiness, and the governor she urged all the residents to stay indoors. U.S. military personnel in Guam also ordered to stay indoors, to shelter in place.

The international airport of Guam has been affected, we've been monitoring up the website. There's dozens of flights have been canceled or delay over the last day or so. A number of visitors and residents who are planning to travel are stranded. They just have to wait and sit out the storm.

But, help is on standby. In, fact, U.S. President Joe Biden has already issued an emergency declaration for Guam. Also, before the storms arrival, the U.S. National Guard posted this on Twitter.

Let's bring it up to you. The caption along with the photograph saying, always ready, always there. Guam National Guard members are ready to respond to Super Typhoon Mawar.

Now, I should add that it is no longer a super typhoon, it has weakened, but it will still remain very intense as it passes over slowly over Guam and the area.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: Two U.S. military bases there, 10,000 service members and a lot of people hunkered down right now.

All right. Thank you so much, Kristie Lu Stout.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

According to Guyana's police, a female student is suspected of starting the deadly dormitory fire.