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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Russia Extends Wall Street Journal Reporter's Pre-Trial Detention By 3 Months; Police In Portugal Renew Search For Madeleine McCann; Time Running Out For Debt Limit Deal As Both Sides Dig In. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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 that killed 19 people. Police indicate that it could have been because the student's cell phone was taken away by dormitory supervisors.

There were riots in Cardiff, Wales after two teenage boys died in a road accident. Police in South Wales have now obtained surveillance footage that shows a police vehicle following a bike ahead of the deadly crash. What exactly happened is still under investigation.

France's ban on short domestic flights was signed into law on Tuesday. The environmental measure bars journeys possibly if less than 2 1/2 hours by train.

All right. Coming up, a new court decision on a jailed Wall Street Journal reporter. And the brand-new search for Madeleine McCann underway today.


ROMANS: A Russian court extending the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months. Gershkovich was reporting on the war in Ukraine when he was arrested in March on espionage charges, which he strongly denies. The judge's ruling means he will continue to be held in a Russian prison until August 30.


CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live in London with more for us. Why did Russia's domestic intelligence agency ask to extend this detention by three months?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly the reason why the court did extend this detention. It was supposed to end around May 29, now extended to August 30 because the FSB -- the intelligence agency of Russia -- put this petition to the court providing no explanation, requesting that his detention be extended.

Now, the United States, just last month, was accusing Russia of playing silly games, saying they were flouting the norms of access when it comes to officials reaching this journalist in prison, saying it was difficult even to get paperwork to him.

You'll remember that just last month -- last month, rather, Gershkovich put in a request to change his pretrial detention terms to allow for house arrest. That was denied as well.

And as fears and concerns increase around the first arrest of an American journalist since the Cold War, U.S. officials say they are looking at all options, even creative and challenging options.

That raises the possibility, of course, of a prisoner swap but experts say that Russia may potentially want these proceedings -- the court proceedings to play out before they engage in any negotiations. And, of course, there is concerns that another prisoner swap -- where there has been a couple of these before -- that another prisoner swap could lead to potentially more arrests in the future -- incentivize this type of action.

The United States continues to say that this is an unlawful detention and they're doing everything they can to get this Wall Street Journal journalist out.

ROMANS: Yes, all right. Salma, thank you so much for that. We certainly wish him well as he waits three more months now.

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

Today, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is finally set to announce he is running for president. He's expected to make it official tonight during a live discussion with Elon Musk on Twitter.

The families of Uvalde, Texas school massacre victims holding a candlelight vigil tonight marking one year since the shooting. President Biden will also deliver remarks from the White House.

Later today, the National Weather Service will be on the scene of a deadly storm just north of Houston, Texas. Two people were killed when a home under construction collapsed during a severe storm in Conroe. There was a tornado warning in effect at the time.

A new search underway for British toddler Madeleine McCann who disappeared in Portugal in 2007. Officers are digging and scraping the land next to a dam located not far from where the toddler went missing while on vacation with her family.

CNN's Scott McLean live in London with more. And Scott, what are investigators saying is new about this search?


So the searches resume today. Our colleagues at CNN Portugal say that they are searching a defined area based on information that they have from German investigators. They also have the benefit of ground- penetrating radar.

Now, part of the reason that they are here is because photos of this area were found on the computer of the prime suspect. He came here often when he lived in Portugal. Authorities have also reported finding material that they say will be examined by experts, but they won't say what it is.


MCLEAN (voice-over): Improbably, once again, a remote reservoir in southern Portugal is the center of global attention. Madeleine McCann would have turned 20 this month. Her family last saw her when she was three. The British girl disappeared from her bed in 2007 during a family holiday in the Algarve region of Portugal. She was with her younger twin siblings when her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort town of Praia da Luz.

The mystery of her disappearance gripped many across the U.K., Portugal, and Germany -- the home of the top suspect in her disappearance.

Portuguese police, at the request of German authorities, have begun to search the land around a reservoir near the city of Silves, around 50 kilometers from Praia da Luz. The German prosecutor says the search is not in vain.

HANS CHRISTIAN WOLTERS, GERMAN PROSECUTOR (through translator): We are investigating there in Portugal on the basis of certain indications. I cannot disclose the background at the moment. That is why we are searching there and what we hope to find. That is to remain our secret for the moment.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Over the past 16 years, investigators have searched numerous wells and properties in the area, including this one, which was searched in 2008 turning up only animal bones.

The primary suspect, Christian Bruckner, a convicted sex offender, lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, about a mile away from the resort where the McCanns were staying. He is currently in prison in Germany for the rape of an American woman in Portugal. He hasn't been charged in McCann's disappearance and denies any involvement.


But the German prosecutor didn't deny the suggestion that there have been evidence tying him to the crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What makes you so certain that Madeleine McCann is dead?

WOLTERS: We have some evidence for this. We have no forensic evidence but we have other evidence.

MCLEAN (voice-over): McCann's family clings onto the hope that she could be found alive. GERRY MCCANN, FATHER OF MADELEINE MCCANN: No parent is going to give

up on their child unless they know for certain that child is dead and that just we don't have any evidence.


MCLEAN: Now there are divers on standby but at least, for now, the search has focused on land. The last time that the reservoir itself was searched was back in 2008 but it wasn't done by police. It was actually done privately-hired divers organized by a Portuguese lawyer who hadn't even met or spoken with the McCanns. He said that he had gotten a tip from quote-unquote "underworld sources" that the body was stashed in the reservoir.

That search, though, was far from exhaustive. They searched parts of the reservoir that they figure the body might have settled in, but they also reported that they had virtually no visibility down there -- Christine.

ROMANS: Just a mystery. All right, thank you so much, Scott McLean.

All right, to sports now. The Celtics beat the Heat to avoid the sweep and keep their season alive for at least one more game.

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


So, you know, the Celtics' Jaylen Brown warned before game four don't let them get a win because that would change their confidence. Well, we may now have a series that shifts back to Boston for game five on Thursday.

Now, the Celtics' season -- it was looking grim in the third quarter of this game as they fell behind by nine. But instead of folding and going one, two, three, Cancun, Boston went on an 18-0 run and the threes really started falling. The Celtics making 18 of them in game four. Jayson Tatum leading the way with 33 points.

Boston wins 116-99, the biggest win ever by a road team facing a sweep.


JAYSON TATUM, BOSTON CELTICS GUARD: As cliche as it sounds, we just try to take it one game at a time. We tried to break it down. We didn't play well those first two games. We didn't deserve to win. But we didn't want that to define us and define our season. And we've still got a long uphill battle to go but tonight was a good start, right, and we'll just try to carry this momentum towards Thursday.


SCHOLES: Yes. So the Celtics are going to try to stave off elimination again tomorrow as the series shifts back to Boston for game five. Tipoff 8:30 Eastern on TNT. All right, to the NHL now. The Dallas Stars trying to avoid an 0-3 hold against Vegas but it was not their night. Jonathan Marchessault scoring just over a minute into the game.

Then 43 seconds later, Stars captain Jamie Benn ejected after cross- checking Mark Stone here on the head while Stone was down on the ice. He's likely going to get a suspension for that.

Vegas then scored two more goals in the next five minutes. It got so bad that Dallas fans started throwing trash onto the ice after the second period.

The final of this game 4-0. The Golden Knights going to go for the sweep tomorrow night.

The Florida Panthers, meanwhile -- they go for the sweep tonight. Only four teams have ever come back from down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoff. Game four of that series tonight at 8:00 Eastern on TNT.

All right, how about some baseball? The Yankees' fans got an unexpected visitor at last night's game -- a squirrel running along the outfield wall. Look at those fans' faces -- just priceless. Maybe the squirrel was good luck, too. The Yankees were down to their final two outs when Aaron Judge coming through with his 14th home run of the season. That tied the game and they would end up beating the Orioles in 10 by a final 6-5.

All right. Finally, Michael Block's week -- it just keeps getting better after stealing the show at the PGA Championship last weekend and getting an invite to the PGA event this week. The 46-year-old golf pro from Mission Viejo, California says he got another surprise -- a text from Michael Jordan.


MICHAEL BLOCK, CLUB PRO WHO FINISHED 15TH AT PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Getting a text from Michael Jordan today -- that's -- I'm a big Jordan guy my whole life. I was a little kid in Iowa saving 100 bucks for a pair of Jordans back in the day. And pretty darn cool to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Michael, did Jordan get a response from you?

BLOCK: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.


BLOCK: Oh, yes. I said --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. He's one of the ones that got one.

BLOCK: Yes. I told him that I just want to be in one of his 36-hole games.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: And by tying for 15th at the PGA Championship, Christine, Block gets to go back to the tournament next year. I'm sure a lot of people are going to be tuning in this weekend to see how he does.


SCHOLES: I mean, if you guys -- I mean, they could make a movie out of this already. But, I mean --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

SCHOLES: -- if he keeps this up it would just be incredible.


ROMANS: Yes, and he just seems like just a decent, regular guy, you know? Like, he's enjoying every minute of it. He knows this is sort of like the peak for him and he loves it.

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

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" Donald Trump gets his trial date in the hush money case right smack in the middle of primary season.

And next, right here, Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy under pressure as their parties resist a debt limit compromise. What will it take to make a deal?


ROMANS: Your Romans' Numeral this morning is 27. It costs stores $27.00 on average to handle a roughly $100 online return. That high cost hurts profits. It's why more online retailers are now charging for returns or they're shortening the return windows. Others offer incentives for in-store returns or they give you a discount if shoppers promise not to return the items.


Looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets finished lower amid concerns on a latest wave of COVID-19 cases in China. European markets are lower this hour. Inflation in the U.K. finally fell below 10 percent for the first time since August but, still, core inflation remains stubbornly high.

On Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning lower here. I mean, debt ceiling worries are sinking in. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500, yesterday, fell by more than one percent.

On inflation watch, gas prices rose two pennies overnight to $3.56 a gallon.

The minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting earlier this month -- those come out later today. They could provide clues into the central bank's next move on interest rates.

All right, no debt limit deal in sight and time running out. Sources involved with ongoing talks expressing optimism a deal could get done, but will a compromise be able to garner enough support on Capitol Hill?

I want to bring in James Pindell. He's a political reporter for The Boston Globe. Good morning. Nice to see you.


ROMANS: So we're hearing these increasing calls from conservatives and progressives in Congress they don't want their leaders to budge in negotiations. I don't see where they're willing to compromise.

What is the likelihood that they can find a path forward here?

PINDELL: I think it's pretty high. I mean, we're negotiating two tracks here.

One is simply just the money. How much are we going to cut? Will there be work requirements added on to government programs -- other smaller things? But those are the details in which they can actually compromise and they're actually not that far off. Even Kevin McCarthy, himself, has said that repeatedly.

But then we have the gamesmanship in terms of what people are saying. And Republicans -- it's not that they demand a certain amount of cuts. It's not that they demand the bill that they passed a few weeks ago or last month go forward and be the bill that actually raises the debt ceiling. What they demand is that their speaker use leverage.

And what progressives are demanding is that the White House is not getting rolled. The White House has shown any particular wins. It looks like the conservatives are getting some wins in these negotiation deals.

And so it's the theatrics and it's the political pressure and gamesmanship that has been driving a lot of the feelings about whether we should pass this debt ceiling or what kind of compromise we should have instead of the actual particular parts of what a compromise would look like.

ROMANS: You know -- so, we have this new CNN polling that shows a majority of Americans believe --


ROMANS: -- that the debt ceiling should be raised but with spending cuts.

I wonder, did the White House underestimate Republicans on the messaging war here?

PINDELL: Well look, they certainly have not been engaging in the messaging war as well. I mean, we're going to talk about process here and not exactly the policy.

But look, Kevin McCarthy and his deputies have been out every single day almost framing this debate, and conservatives have been out framing this debate that clearly spending is out of control and that something needs to be done with it. Maybe this is the right vehicle.

Democrats have not explained well enough that this probably is not the right vehicle in which to debate the budget, which obviously should be debated. So I do think that Democrats have lost the messaging war and it does appear that the White House will just pretty much do what they need to do to avoid a collapse.

As you know more than anyone else, this economy right now is in a really unique, weird, precarious position and something like this could make -- could really have a huge, huge --


PINDELL: -- impact not just on the economy but certainly on the Biden presidency.

ROMANS: Oh, but they're absolutely playing with fire. I mean, there's no question there. And there's also no question that if you want to talk about America's debt and deficits and potentially choking off important investments in the decades ahead, that is an important spending conversation to have in the budget process or at the ballot box. This is the least efficient and most dangerous place to be having that conversation, which is what is so maddening to people on Wall Street, to small business owners, to investors, to anybody who is like making money outside of the D.C. Beltway.

And meantime, you have some Republicans who are disputing the Treasury secretary's deadline of the end of the month and saying oh, no, no, no, no -- June first -- that's not a real -- that's not a real deadline.

That's also pretty dangerous because I'm looking at what's supposed to go out in June and the money that's coming in -- we have $68 billion in the bank account. I mean, there is, as one of my producers says, $125 in your bank account and you've got a lot of bills coming to pay. I mean, to put it in household terms.

PINDELL: Yes. Yes, that's right. And obviously, we're waiting for the money to come in on those June 15 quarterly payments, too.

But look, the idea here is that if there is going to be a deal it will always be at the last minute. Any parent knows that if you're driving by the ice cream place and your kid is begging for ice cream you don't actually give them -- you don't actually say yes until you're in the store. Because then they'll say -- as we're worried about by the hardline conservatives right now saying OK, well, can I have two scoops and then you say yes, or OK, well, can I have sprinkles?

So this is always going to the last minute because we're worried about what may happen if there is a compromise and that deadline is not tight. And so, obviously, what the Republicans are trying to do right now is extend exactly that deadline so they can ask for the second scoop.


ROMANS: OK, bringing in toddlers to the equation. I can understand toddlers better than I can understand lawmakers.

PINDELL: Well, it is Congress, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, I know.

James Pindell, Boston Globe political reporter, thank you so much.

PINDELL: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis set to announce his candidacy for president tonight.


ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning this Wednesday morning, the top TV shows.


Clip from MGM+ "FROM."



ROMANS: "FROM" is number one on Reelgood's trending list.

Here's number two.


Clip from Freevee's "JURY DUTY."


ROMANS: "JURY DUTY" with a fake trial, real actors, and one regular guy who is oblivious to it all.

And here is number three.


Clip from Apple TV+ "SILO."


ROMANS: That's "SILO" from Apple TV.

All right, thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.