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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

2 Killed, 5 Wounded in Richmond, Virginia Shooting; Chris Christie Launches Presidential Campaign with Brutal Attacks on One- Time Ally Trump; Mark Meadows Has Testified to Grand Jury in Trump Probe; Vatican: Pope Francis to Undergo Abdominal Surgery; Blinken Meets with Saudi Crown Prince MBS. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Good morning.

Horror at a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, Tuesday evening, a gunman opening fire in the city park, killing two people, wounding five.


JASON ALEXANDER, WITNESS: Just everybody started running. And I pushed her down in the ground, we got down on the ground and it was chaos from there. You just kept hearing shots, and it's like eight, nine, ten shots.

RICK EDWARDS, RICHMOND INTERIM POLICE CHIEF: We have hundreds of people in Monroe Park. So people scattered, it was very chaotic at the scene.

MAYOR LEVAR STONEY, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: They should not be happening anywhere. A child should be able to go to the graduation, and walk at the graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and their families.


ROMANS: Other people were hurt as a crowd fled in all directions, including a nine-year-old girl who was hit by a car. Police arrested a 19-year-old who they think may have known one of the victims, and he's expected to face two counts of second degree murder.

All right. A big day today for former Vice President Mike Pence. He is set to launch his 2024 campaign for the White House later today. At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, he will give a speech in officially unveil his announcement video in Iowa.

And then tonight at 9:00, CNN will host a Pence town hall at Grand View University in Des Moines moderated by Dana Bash.

Another Republican set to make a big reveal today, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has scheduled a, quote, special announcement for 12:30 Eastern in Fargo. Burgum has previously said that he is considering jumping into the 2024 presidential race, believing there's a hunger for an alternative candidate.

CNN will host another town hall next week with Republican Chris Christie after his big announcement last night.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And that's why I came back to New Hampshire to tell all of you that I intend to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2024. And I want your support.


ROMANS: At a town hall launch event, the former New Jersey governor took a different tact from some of his rivals, launching a brutal takedown of Donald Trump, a former ally he now says he regrets supporting.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has more from Goffstown, New Hampshire.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a town hall event that lasted more than two full hours, but former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said those critical words: I intend to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. He joins what has been an ever growing GOP field trying to break through and be the one to again secure that nomination.

Over the course of the hours' long event, former Governor Christie took questions while also making remarks and while there were a lot of laughs, he highlighted the seriousness of the moment he believes the country is in, on the precipice of getting bigger or getting smaller in his words. And he pointed to moments throughout United States history going back to the revolutionary war where he saw leaders on the precipice of making decisions that made the country bigger or made it smaller.

And he believes former President Trump is one of those people that would make the country smaller. He also in regards to the former president said the rest of the field has treated him like he who must not be named for Harry Potter enthusiasts like Voldemort.

Take a listen to some more of what Christie had to say about the former president.

CHRISTIE: A lonely, self consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader.

Well, let me be clear in case I have not been already, the person I am talking about who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault and who always finds someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right is Donald Trump. And if we don't have that conversation with you, we don't deserve to ask for your vote. We don't deserve the mantle of leadership. We don't deserve to have you think of us as people worthy of leadership.

JIMENEZ: Now, up to this point, former President Trump polled the highest among the candidate and the same polls show Christie needing to do a lot of work. That said, Christie said that the polls at this point of the campaign season are not usually indicative of who actually gets the nomination, or at the very least, could be very different from who eventually gets the nomination.


And that dynamic is one that he intends to capitalize on. He also said if you are looking for the perfect candidate, you should leave the room speaking of himself. Instead, he says that throughout his campaign, the voters will know him and know what he stands for. And it will be something that we look out for as his campaign officially kicks off.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Saint Anselm College.


ROMANS: All right. Omar, thank you for that.

CNN has learned that Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former chief of staff, has testified to a federal grand jury. A source familiar with the matter says Meadows' testimony came in special counsel Jack Smith's ongoing investigation of the former president. A lawyer for Meadows declined to comment but said in a statement that Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.

CNN's Paula Reid has more for us this morning from Washington.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is not just a witness for special counsel Jack Smith, he is the witness. Why? When it comes to the January 6 investigation, he was at the center of everything. The House Select Committee that looked into the event surrounding January 6 came to the conclusion that all roads led to Mark Meadows in and around the events on that day and the so-called pressure campaign on states and officials to try to overturn the results of the election.

Now, when it comes into the investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, Meadows increasingly appears to be a possible critical witness there as well. Not only would he have been at the White House present when things were being packed up towards the end of the administration, but recent CNN reporting on a bombshell audio recording where Trump talks about having a classified document reveals that that conversation was recorded by Meadows' autobiographers. So, clearly, investigators could have a lot of different questions for

Meadows in either investigation, but at this point it is unclear if he has spoken to investigators about both probes or just one. But this certainly solves a long swirling question in Trump circles. They have been wondering what exactly is going on with Meadows.

The former president tried to block Meadows from being able to testify, citing executive privilege. He lost that fight. So, it is expected that Meadows would testify, but there had been no communication between meadows' attorneys and those for the former president leading to some concern about whether Meadows was indeed cooperating with investigators.

But at this point, the fact that the special counsel has spoken to Meadows strongly signals that at least the classified document investigation is not only in its final phase but likely wrapping up sometime soon.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. This just in this morning, the Vatican says Pope Francis is returning to the hospital for abdominal surgery.

CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen joins me live from Rome this morning.

John, what do we know about the pope's condition here and prognosis?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, we know Pope Francis made a surprise visit yesterday to the hospital. Only there about 40 minutes. At the time, it was characterized as a routine checkup, but we now know it was in preparation for what the Vatican has announced as a surgery that the pope will undergo this afternoon, early afternoon, Rome time, under general anesthesia to repair a hernia in his abdomen.

This is apparently related to a surgery the pope had two years ago where he had half of his colon removed. And where the incision was made, a hernia has developed which the Vatican described as worsening and painful.

So this is a surgery intended to repair that, the Vatican is suggesting that while it is a relatively minor procedure, nevertheless, the pope is going have to be in the hospital for several days to recover, Christine.

ROMANS: Eighty-six years old, so there is no minor surgery at 86. That is why people are obviously so concerned.

ALLEN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you can play it down all you want, but when you are talking about an 86-year-old man who suffers from aggravated sciatica, who had part of his lung removed, who's had half of his colon removed, who was recently hospitalized for four days for bronchitis, I mean, you can forgive us if our blood pressure goes up a little bit when we hear that he will have to go under the knife yet again, Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly wishing him well and hope everything goes well.

John Allen, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

Skies across all across the Northeast expected to have the same sooty, yellow cast today as they did yesterday. The result of more than 100 wild fires burning in Quebec, Canada. This is rural Upstate New York and this is Yankee stadium in New York City.

Oh, my gosh, worst air quality in the world yesterday of a major city was in New York. One of the Yanks' minor league team had to cancel games in Pennsylvania due to the smoke.


And here, you are looking at suburban Boston -- or I mean, I guess you could see suburban Boston if you didn't have all of that haze there.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in the CNN weather center.

And I mean, is this going to lift? I mean, at my house in the suburbs of New York, I mean, you could see the smoke swirling in the air, and it blocked out the sun.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you could probably taste it and smell it, too, I would imagine, Christine. You know, we're going to see more scenes like this across New York and some of the major metropolitans along the East Coast. I mean, to me, this looks like some type of dystopian climate change movie playing out in real time behind us. I mean, that's just incredible to see.

And as you rightly mentioned, New York was battling Delhi, India, one of the notoriously most polluted cities in the world as a top ranked worst air quality in the world. Detroit and New York because of the wildfire smoke have been continuously in the top five. And they remain in the top five this morning.

Now, the smoke has been visible from space. We talked about the wall of smoke that literally traveled across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. And you see it there on the satellite imagery, it shows you how much that dark, kind of hazy smoke has drifted and it continues to drift, impacting not only the quality of the air but also the visibility.

We're dropping below on two miles in some locations, Syracuse to Watertown. Several visibilities expected today across the major East Coast cities, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, all the way to the nation's capital.

And look at this, anywhere you see those red or kind of magenta colored dots on the screen, well, that is where you see unhealthy to very unhealthy air, that means anyone who is sensitive to this type of smoke, fine, particulate matter, is going to have a problem and you want to stay indoors today. We've heard all the warnings.

But we have millions of Americans under this air quality alert, some code red for locations along the East Coast. So, I want you to see this, but this is a projected near surface smoke forecast and there is another plume kind of coalescing across the southern sections of Quebec that will drift into the Northeast. So we're going to see more scenes like we've seen unfold over the past 24 hours across the Big Apple -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah, and I'm sure more canceled soccer practices and outdoor events cancelled.

VAN DAM: Without a doubt.

ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you, thanks.

There are signs this morning that Ukraine's long anticipated counteroffensive has begun. U.S. and allied officials say there have been an increase, substantial increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine in the last 48 hours.

CNN's Clare Sebastian following developments for us live from London.

And, Clare, what kind of attacks are officials seeing right now that suggest this counteroffensive is under way?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, these Western officials telling our colleagues in Washington that that they are seeing a substantial increase in artillery and ground attacks targeting Russian positions. They're talking about the East and we're hearing Ukraine claiming this morning making small gains in the Bakhmut direction which, of course, Russia claimed victory over a couple of weeks ago.

And they are also point pointing officials to the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian backed officials there this morning saying that several towns way behind the frontlines in Russian controlled areas are coming under fire. This fits a pattern we've been seeing over recent weeks. So that is what officials are saying.

I think the question now given the images that we're seeing of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Kherson region and flooding, this is a before satellite image and we're about to get an after, showing the scale of the flooding there, how will it affect Ukraine's counteroffensive, given that Ukraine hasn't actually said that it started yet. This is a big question.

If the plan is for them to cross the Dnipro River and head south towards Crimea or even to the Azov Sea to try to cut Russia's land bridge in half, then this kind of flooding will of course significantly complicate that.

I think worth noting as well the scale of the disaster is still unfolding. Ukrainian officials who, of course, only control some of the Kherson region say that 1,400 people have been evacuated, more than 1,800 homes flooded. And, Christine, this is still a warzone. Shelling continues in Kherson. One person, according to Ukrainian officials, killed there in the last day.

ROMANS: All right. Clare, thank you so much for that.

All right. Prosecutors this Boston say a public genealogy database was crucial in solving a cold case more than a decade old. They have charged a New Jersey man with the rapes of four women.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew Nilo, an attorney by trade, in a Massachusetts court defending himself against allegations he is a serial rapist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plead to those offenses, guilty or not guilty?


CARROLL: Nilo stunned at times as prosecutors laid out their case, alleging that about 15 years ago, he raped three women and tried to rape a fourth. Prosecutors say that the attacks occurred in Boston's historic Charleston neighborhood. The victims they say between 23 and 44 years old at the time. The prosecutor detailing how she says Nilo trapped some of his victims.

LYNN FEIGENBAUM, SUFFOLK COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Once outside, he said shut up or he would kill her and then he had a weapon.


He flashed a small knife at her. He then drove to Terminal Street in Charleston where he ordered the victim out of the car, knocked her to the ground and raped her.

CARROLL: Nilo, who is now 35, faces three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of kidnapping, one count of assault with intent to rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery.

KEVIN HAYDEN, SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Investigators never stopped analyzing evidence, collecting information and running down leads in order to bring dangerous offenders to justice.

CARROLL: Prosecutors say the investigation went cold for over a decade until last year when investigators were able to link DNA from the crimes to a genealogy database and zero in on Nilo who had since moved from Boston and was living in New Jersey. They put him under surveillance and got the DNA sample that they needed to make an arrest.

FEIGENBAUM: FBI agents were able to obtain various utensils and drinking glasses they watched the defendant use at a corporate event.

CARROLL: Nilo was arrested at this apartment building in Weehawken, New Jersey, last week. We tried to speak to his fiancee who lives here at the building, but we were escorted off the property and told by the building's management that we were not allowed to speak with her.

Nilo's attorney says his client maintains his innocence and may fight how investigators obtained evidence in the case.

JOSEPH CATALDO, MATTHEW NILO'S ATTORNEY: It seems that they obtained DNA evidence without ever obtaining a search warrant. If that turns out to be true, that is an issue that will be pursued vigorously.

CARROLL: Legal experts say publicly accessible genealogy databases have become an effective source for investigators to link DNA from crime scenes to individuals. Law enforcement officials in Boston say without it, the arrest of Nilo may not ever have happened.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: All right. Just now, Prince Hrry arriving to the courthouse for a second day in the witness box.

Plus, Secretary of State Blinken in Saudi Arabia for talks, who he is meeting today.

And thousands of UPS workers set to vote on a potentially historic strike. What it could mean if they choose to walk out, coming up.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

Prince Harry is back in a London courtroom testifying for a send day against U.K. tabloid publisher, the Mirror Newspaper Group, accused of illegally accessing private information.

During a lengthy cross-examination by the defense on Thursday, the Duke of Sussex said many articles brought up what he called it is stressful memories.

CNN's Nada Bashir is live outside the courthouse for us in London this morning.

And, Nada, what are we expecting today?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Christine, we saw a fierce round of questions from MGN's defense lawyers. Yesterday, Prince Harry placed under cross-examination. And that is set to continue today. We saw 23 of the 33 articles submitted by his lawyer, articles dating back to the early 1990s to 2011 which his lawyers say show the telltale signs of unlawful information gathering.

That is set to continue today. We have another 10 or 10 articles to get through. Prince Harry yesterday detailing the impact that this intrusion into his private life and matters impact it had on his life, his mental health and those around him. He spoke of the paranoia he developed, his circle of friends growing smaller and smaller and the bouts of depression that he suffered because of the tabloid coverage that he endured during the period.

Now, he is set to continue facing those questions from MGN's lawyer Andrew Green. And his allegations, of course, are centered around that unlawful information gathering through phone hacking, through the interception of his voice mails and those around him including other senior members of the royal family as well as the use of private investigators against him -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nada Bashir, we know that you will follow it live for us today. Thank you.

Overnight, Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah. Just hours after arriving in the country, he meets with Saudi officials today on security issues and economic cooperation ahead of a month long cut to OPEC oil production set to start July 1st.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live from London.

What is the objective here for the U.S., Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: One of the objectives is clearly to sort of try to improve relations with Saudi Arabia given restraints, concerns about human rights abuses within Saudi Arabia. But the oil issue, the fact Saudi is cutting production and forcing up costs, that won't help at the gas pumps in the United States, and it will be counterproductive to what the United States wants in Ukraine because it gives more money to Russia to fund the war in Ukraine. So that is another issue.

Normalization of relations with Israel, that is what the United States wants Saudi Arabia to do. How can that be achieved? Well, can it be achieved through better economic cooperation. There seems to be cooperation discussed on cleaner energy. There is talk in the past that Saudi Arabia would like a domestic nuclear power energy program, clean energy, if you like, potentially part of a deal to normalize relations with Israel.

None of this is being discussed in detail publicly. These are some of the topics that are coming up, undoubtedly Iran. Saudis have allowed Iran to reopen its diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia. So, that is another issue on the agenda.

Yemen, where the two countries worked closely together. On ISIS, they worked closely together. On Sudan, they worked closely together.

So, bridge-building on the areas where there's cooperation, but clearly, objectives where the countries tell disagree to make progress.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

[05:25:02] Quick hits around the globe right now.

At least four people have been killed in Haiti after a 4.9 magnitude earthquake Tuesday. This follows heavy rains that triggered deadly flooding claiming at least 42 lives this weekend.

And a four-lane concrete bridge under construction in India's eastern state of Bihar collapsing for the second time in just 14 months. No confirmed reports of injuries. The investigation is under way.

Arctic Sea ice could completely disappear a decade earlier than projected. A new study reports the ice could all melt as early as the 2030s even if the world makes significant cuts to planet heating pollution.

Coming up, no civil rape trial for Cuba Gooding Jr. We'll tell you why.

And could a she-cession be ending? Working women leading America's pandemic jobs recovery.