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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senate Votes to Suspend Debt Limit, Averting Default; White House: Biden "Fine" After Tripping Over Sandbag at Air Force Commencement; Trump Denies Knowing Anything About Prosecutors' Recording; Ukraine: Air Defense Shot Down 36 Drones & Missiles; More GOP Candidates to Jump in Primary Next Week. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 05:00   ET




SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): The 60-vote threshold having been achieved, at the bill is passed.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, crisis averted. Senators stop the default clock with a late night vote to suspend the debt limit.

Plus, Donald Trump tells his side. The former president's first comments on CNN's report that he admitted on tape to taking the secret documents.

And --


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why didn't he do it his first four years?


ROMANS: Florida's Ron DeSantis taking direct aim at Trump just days before three more candidates are set to join the already crowded GOP race.


ROMANS: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States, and around the world. Happy Friday, everybody. We made it. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with government default averted. A bipartisan vote in the Senate late last night to suspend the nation's debt limit through 2024, President Biden praising Congress for its work in a statement, adding he looks forward to signing the bill as soon as possible.

The president is set to deliver his first ever Oval Office address to the nation tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

More now from CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, after weeks of intense negotiations, and with just days to go before the default deadline, Congress has averted an economic disaster. The Senate on Thursday night passed a bill that would raise the debt ceiling until 2025, and also limit future spending. And the final vote tally in the Senate was 63-36. They needed 60 Republicans and Democrats to come together to pass this bill, and they did.

Take a listen to Chuck Schumer talking about this bill after the vote.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Default was the giant sword hanging over America's head, but because of the good work of President Biden, as well as Democrats in the House, Democrats in the Senate, we are not defaulting. Democrats said from the start, we must take a default off the table. For a long, time, Republicans, many Republicans in the House resisted, House Republicans were ready to take default hostage, in order to pass a radical, hard right agenda that never could have passed with the American people. So, tonight's outcome is very welcome news for our economy, and for American families.

ZANONA: And the bill now heads to President Biden's desk for his signature, but it was not always an easy road to get here.

First of all, they had to hammer out the deal, which took weeks. Usually, they try to do these things in a matter of months, it was a very complicated fiscal agreement. There were blowups. There were points where it looked like it was going to go completely off the rails.

And then the other half of the battle is that they had to settle this deal to their members. And there was opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats don't like the stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients. They don't like some of the energy permitting reforms.

And Republicans thought the bill does not go far enough to cut spending. They also don't like that it will hike the debt ceiling for two years, until after the next presidential election.

But ultimately, a coalition of members came together in middle to get this done and avoid what would have been the first ever default.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.


ROMANS: All right. A bill blocking President Biden's student loan forgiveness program also passing the Senate Thursday. The measure has also been approved by the House, but President Biden has vowed to veto it. The program promises to cancel up to $20,000 of debt for millions of borrowers, but has been held up by the courts. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in late June or early July, and guess what? Student loan payments are expected to resume by the end of summer after years long pandemic pause.

The White House says President Biden is fine after tripping over a sandbag at the Air Force Academy commencement.

Here is the moment he felt leaving the stage after giving the address and handing out diplomas. Right after the president was held up, he pointed to the sandbag he tripped over which had been used to keep a teleprompter in place. He returned to his seat unaided, and seemed in good spirits, even joked about it after returning to the White House.




ROMANS: I got sandbagged, he said there. You can see he even followed up with a little jig.

All right. Former President Trump claiming he knows nothing about a 2021 meeting that federal prosecutors have on tape. CNN reports that Trump acknowledged in the meeting is New Jersey golf club, he still has a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack plan on Iran.


This was his denial last night on Fox.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You know, I don't think about it, all I know is, everything I did was right. We have the Presidential Records Act which I abided by 100 percent. It's a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all-time, it's a hoax, and it has to do -- it has to do more than anything else with trying to interfere with the election.


ROMANS: For more on the meeting, and the federal investigation, let's turn to CNN's Paula Reid in Washington.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump campaigning in Iowa, refusing to take questions on the bombshell revelation he was recorded discussing classified information.

REPORTER: Mr. President, why did you take classified documents?

REID: But continued to claim he's a victim of federal investigators. TRUMP: I'm a victim of it. They have come after me. They come after

me on many things.

REID: This after CNN's exclusive reporting that prosecutors now have an audio recording of Trump talking about a classified plan to invade Iran while he was at his Bedminster golf club months after he left the White House.

Among those attending the meeting, several Trump aides, and two people working on an autobiography for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. None of them had security clearances.

During this time, Trump had aides record his conversation with journalist and writers.

TRUMP: They have become automatically declassified when I took them.

REID: Trump, under investigation for his handling of national security secrets, has previously insisted that he declassified any sensitive material in his possession.

TRUMP: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassified just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it.

REID: But sources tell CNN, on this recording, Trump claims to still be in possession of a Pentagon document, suggests he would like to share it, and acknowledges the limits of his ability to declassify it. All of this undercutting his own defense.

Asked if he had ever shared any information at CNN's town hall --

TRUMP: Not really, I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN MODERATOR: What do you mean not really?

TRUMP: Not that I can think of. Let me just tell you, I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them.

REID: This summer 2021 recording comes out of Trump's New Jersey golf club, it is now the second confirmed state where he has had classified information, after the FBI walked out of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida with boxes of top secret documents.

The Trump campaign saying, the DOJ's continued interference in the presidential election is shameful, and this meritless investigation should cease wasting the American taxpayers' money on Democrat political objectives.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: When we search Bedminster, there were no classified documents or marked documents there.

REID: Former Trump lawyer Tim Parlatore who left Trump's legal team in recent weeks, says the classification status of the document Trump is heard talking about is irrelevant, based on the laws that are cited in the search warrant that was executed in summer 2022.

PARLATORE: Really, what DOJ investigating is willful retention of national defense information. Whether it's classified or declassified is not an element of that offense.


REID (on camera): Former President Trump's lawyers have asked for a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland to express their concerns about the special counsel's investigation. One of Trump's attorneys tells CNN, there have been some communications between the DOJ and Trump legal team about the possibility of this meeting. But the fact that there is this recording in the hands of investigators, really undercuts their key concern which is an allegation that this is just a politically motivated investigation, but, if they do get this meeting with the attorney general, or some other Justice Department official, it will clearly have much to discuss.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: All right. To the war in Ukraine now. Two people were hurt, one of them an 11-year-old child in an airstrike on Kyiv earlier this morning. Resident of the city taking shelter in the subway as they have so many nights in the last few weeks. Officials say 36 missiles and drones were launched to Kyiv during the attack, all were destroyed, although falling debris damaged several homes.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live in London.

And, Salma, officials say nearly all these jobs and missiles are being shot up the sky, they keep coming. Are they're having an effect?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are having a massive effect. First of all, they are terrorizing the residents of Kyiv. This is the sixth wave of attacks in just as many days. Some of them deadly. Of course, you have to remember yesterday, a nine-year-old girl and her mother were killed waiting outside an air raid shelter.

And then it also serves to stretch the resources of Kyiv. Ukraine is preparing for this much anticipated counteroffensive, right on those front lines, in the east of the country.


Yet it also has to defend its citizens, its families, all the way in the west, and in the capital. And, finally, you have to remember those drones being fired by Russia, the Iranian-made Shahed drones. They are an extremely cheap technology.

The missiles it requires to take out one of those drones cost 20 times as much as the drone itself. So you can begin to see how Moscow strategy here is not just to terrify the residents of Kyiv, but to also force Ukraine to use its valuable resources.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you so much for that, and other terrifying night in Kyiv.

A New Mexico judge has approved a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Halyna Hutchins. She's, of course, the cinematographer who was fatally shot in the set of the movie "Rust" when star Alec Baldwin rehearses the shot with a prop gun that somehow fired a live round. The settlement was announced last October, but not approved by the court until Thursday. Financial details of the settlement have not been made public.

All right. Just ahead, is a time to add more cheers to the 2024 table? And will be expanding GOP field benefit Trump?

Plus, heavy rain in Texas lead to major flash flooding and rescues.

And the dramatic final moment of the National Spelling Bee. The winning word, next.



ROMANS: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu set to announce his decision on a run for the White House next week. Speaking to Fox Thursday, he shared his opinion about the growing field of Republican candidates.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Come November, December of this year, if you're not polling well, get your butt out of this race, that's narrowed down to a couple of candidates. That's more fair to the process. I think that's going to be the discipline, not just for candidates but for the donor base. They have to tell their candidates to get out, right? They -- and I think they will. This is not going to be a repeat of 2016.


ROMANS: Indeed. As the GOP primary field gets more crowded, it's starting to look like former President Trump is getting advantage.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So far, Donald Trump is getting almost everything he wanted from the Republican presidential campaign.

TRUMP: There's no way I can lose Iowa. Let's see what happens, I don't think so. We'd have to -- we'd have to do some really bad things to lose it at this point.

ZELENY: Including a list of rivals that is growing by the, week would beat anyone -- the race remarkably crowded.

JULIE MARLAY, IOWA VOTER: I think it's advantageous to Trump. I don't like that.

ZELENY: Julie Marlay is a loyal Republican who came to see Florida Governor Ron DeSantis the other night, and is sizing up several contenders. But she offered pointed words of advice for those entering the race.

MARLAY: Stay for a while, see what happens, but then don't stay too long, because we need -- we need to beat the Democrats.

ZELENY: As summer approaches, the Republican field is starting to burst into seams, with former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said to jump in next week, joining former Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who are already in the race.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is also poised to announce next week, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu promises a decision soon, and Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin is not ruling out a run later this year, if some contenders flame out.

BOB VANDER PLAATS, PRESIDENT, THE FAMILY LEADER: Well, if that many candidates stay in the race, that benefits Trump. Trump will win by the power to the division. And that's why we'll see if we learned our lesson, we learned our lesson well.

ZELENY: Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical leader in Iowa, said the party should not repeat the mistakes of 2016, when Trump claimed the nomination with a divided Republican electorate, rather than facing ahead had match with one strong opponent.

VANDER PLAATS: My concern is how many get, in it is who when do they get out and when do -- when they give America a clear choice between the former president and an alternative.

ZELENY: A big field is precisely what Trump is banking on, and basking in, as he shook hands and took questions at a series of small events in Iowa, while making clear he is fixated on one rival above all.

TRUMP: Ron, as I call him Ron Desanctimonious --

ZELENY: The former president seized upon a leading argument DeSantis made to voters here this week.

DESANTIS: We could bring back George Washington, I don't know that he would be able to get it done in just four years.

ZELENY: And sought to mark the Florida governor's pitch that his eligible for two, terms not simply one more like Trump.

TRUMP: You don't need eight years. You need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. Who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don't need eight years.

ZELENY: And in New Hampshire today, DeSantis hitting back at Trump. DESANTIS: Why didn't he do it in his first four years?

ZELENY: As the campaign intensifies, signs are emerging that it's far too early to presume it's a two-man contest, as candidates begin blanketing the state that begins the Republican nomination battle early next year.

Lorri Hartson also believes the field is cluttered. In her mind, it's already a one-man race.

LORRI HARTSON, IOWA VOTER: President Trump already made America great, now we need him back to fix it.

ZELENY: She drove for hours to catch a glimpse of the former president outside one of his Iowa stops.

Do you think others should step aside and let him run, and focus on President Biden? Or do you think that a competitive Republican primary is fine?

HARTSON: I wish they would step aside, but they won't. And I don't know if it's ego, they won't. And more keep coming down. It's like Mike Pence -- really, Mike? Give it up.


ZELENY (on camera): And the sentiment from that Trump supporter there certainly underlines the challenges for Mike Pence as he enters this race. He and most of that field will be back here in Iowa, making their case to voters. Polls show a majority of Republicans are looking for a new direction, a new candidate. The question, of course, is who?

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Des Moines.

ROMANS: All right. A quick programming note: Sunday night live from Iowa, Jake Tapper moderates a CNN Republican presidential town hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. That's Sunday at 8:00, only on CNN.

Also live from Iowa next week, Dana Bash moderates another CNN Republican presidential town hall.


This one with former President Mike Pence this Wednesday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

All right. Quick hits across America.

Right now, Arizona is pausing new construction in the Phoenix area, because of a severe water shortage. Officials say water over use and climate change driven drought is causing a shortfall in regions available groundwater.

Heavy rain triggers major flash flooding in northwestern Texas near Lubbock. Traffic was closed on several highways as emergency crews work to rescue people who were stranded.





ROMANS: Fourteen-year-old Dev Shan wins the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee with that final word. The middle schooler beat some 11 million other kids, taking home the $50,000 price.

All right. Coming up, forget about digging a hole in China, Beijing is now digging a hole, a really deep one.

And a royal wedding in the Middle East -- why it's much more than one couple's marriage?



ROMANS: Long lines and frustration at gas stations as fuel in Nigeria right now cost nearly triple. It's sparked by seemingly off the cuff remark from newly-elected President Bola Tinubu. During his natural speech Monday, he said a critical fuel subsidy would be removed because it was unsustainable.

CNN's Stephanie Busari joins us live from Lagos.

The last time Nigeria, Stephanie, tried to remove fuel subsidies I think back in 2012, it sparked nationwide protest. What's the government doing now?


So, yes, I remember those protest in 2012 so well. I covered it, then and the country was at a standstill for two weeks while people were very angry that the subsidy was being removed, gas prices were going to rise. But, there is a better understanding this time in the country that this subsidy is very expensive, it is costing the government $867 million every month just to keep gas prices artificially low for Nigerians.

And, many understand it has to go, but it is the manner in which it was announced, and this was an ad libbed moment from the president who was trying to say that he does not have capacity beyond the end of this month to continue to fund subsidy, because he was not left any money in the budget to do so. But it sent shockwaves through the nation, people are panic buying, long lines, people waiting in their cars to stock up gas for their cars. We've been talking to people on the streets of Lagos. Take a listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we were given time before they fully remove the subsidy, it would have helped us in a way, because I believe the government is heading towards the right direction. The only difference is the manner with which they told us the subsidy was removed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Subsidy removal, it's a good thing, in a way assuming our leaders have been proactive in everything. What I mean by proactive, certain things in place, they understand that it will ease this suffering.


BUSARI: Yes, there's a lot of suffering ahead, unfortunately. Transport fears of a spike, in some cases as much as 200 percent, and essential commodities are going to get more expensive, at a time when Nigeria's are grappling like the rest of the world where the cost of living crisis, and a very high inflation.

So things are about to get, harder people are wondering why this could not yet done in a much more measured, and well-planned out manner. Look, trade union, largest labor union has vowed to have a showdown with the government who, it has said, is bringing, quote, tears and sorrow, and not hope to the people of Nigeria -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Stephanie, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted.

All right. A lavish ceremony and the joining of two important nations in the Middle East, Jordan's crown prince has married his architect bride who has links to the Saudi royal family. It was a celebration of love, but the union could also increased stability in the region.

Becky Anderson has more.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major royal wedding, Jordanian style.

Crown Prince Hussein and his Saudi bride, Rajwa Alseif tying the knot in a lavish ceremony in Amman.

Crowds of Jordanians waved flags along the 10-kilometer motorcade route across the capital. The star-studded event attended by world leaders, by celebrities, and by royalty, including the prince and princess of Wales, the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, also in attendance.

The ceremony taking place at Zahran Palace, where King Abdullah and Queen Rania were married in 1993.

The royal couple were expected to greet more than 1,700 guests at the son's reception.

Rajwa is the daughter of a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, and with her, sent the Jordanian throne comes hopes of a new era of stability between two of the most important countries in the Middle East.