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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Travels to the U.K. to Meet with Prime Minister Sunak; A Suspect Under Arrest After Killing Six People with a Knife Outside a School in China; Historic Rainfall Causes Deadly Flash Floods Just North of New York City. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 10, 2023 - 05:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Right now on EARLY START, President Biden just minutes away from a face-to-face meeting with the U.K. Prime Minister and later, King Charles. Plus, a suspect under arrest after killing six people with a knife outside a school in China. And this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's up to my knees!



SOLOMON: Historic rainfall causing deadly flash flooding just north of New York City. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, I'm Rahel Solomon in this morning for Christine Romans. We begin this morning in London where President Biden is set to make his first visit to 10 Downing Street as president. He will meet one-on-one with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The two are expected to tackle issues like the war in Ukraine, among other things before then heading to Lithuania for the start of tomorrow's two-day NATO Summit. CNN's White House correspondent Arlette Saenz is traveling with the president, and live in London. So, Arlette, what else is on the agenda today for this face-to-face meeting?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rahel, President Biden will arrive here at 10 Downing Street for the first time in president -- as president in just a short while. They literally just rolled out the red carpet for the president's arrival. It will mark the sixth meeting that President Biden has had with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in as many months.

The two men are expected to consult and talk ahead of that consequential NATO Summit in Lithuania starting tomorrow. Now, they will be discussing -- included in their agenda is discussions relating to the war in Ukraine. Of course, a hallmark of the U.S. and U.K.'s relationship has been providing that support and assistance to Ukraine throughout this war.

But the meeting that President Biden is having here today does come at a pivotal time as the president just approved sending controversial cluster ammunitions to Ukraine. That is a type of weaponry that is opposed by over a 100 countries, including the United Kingdom. Rishi Sunak, just over the weekend had stated how the U.K. has signed on to a ban that prohibits the use of cluster ammunitions.

Now, the White House has tried to downplay any type of rift with allies over this, saying that there are different ways that allies can provide support and weaponry to Ukraine. Now, in addition to the conversation about Ukraine today, we also expect the two leaders to discuss climate, technology and also China. And after the president finishes here at 10 Downing Street, he will travel over to Windsor Castle where he will meet with King Charles.

This will be the first time the two men are meeting since the king's coronation in May. President Biden did not attend that coronation, instead sending his wife, first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. And as they are at Windsor Castle today, the president and King Charles will have the opportunity to discuss climate issues. That is something that has been a personal issue that King Charles has worked on over the years and President Biden has lauded him for his efforts when it comes to climate change.

They will also be meeting with some philanthropists and investors relating to climate issues. And after these meetings here in the United Kingdom today, President Biden will travel on to the NATO Summit, where the future of the alliance will really be on display, as there are questions about when they might allow Ukraine to join the alliance.

And also questions about whether Sweden will be accepted into the alliance, as there are some objections being put up by Turkey. But these are all shaping up to be very consequential issues that President Biden will be dealing with at this NATO Summit as he gathers with leaders in the coming days.

SOLOMON: Certainly, a lot to discuss. Arlette Saenz live for us there in London, we'll check back with you later in the show, thank you. President Biden meantime signaling one major discussion is likely off the table ahead of the NATO Summit in Lithuania. Biden sitting down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria and making clear, he is not ready to discuss Ukraine's interest in joining NATO, at least not yet.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it's ready for membership in NATO, but here's the deal. I spent as you know, a great deal of time trying to hold NATO together, because, I believe, it has had an overwhelming objective from the time it launched 185,000 troops into Ukraine, and that was to break NATO. He was confident in my view, and many in the Intelligence community, he was confident he could break NATO. So holding NATO together is really critical.

I don't think there's unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now at this moment in the middle of a war.


For example, if you did that, then, you know, we -- and I mean what I say, we're determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It's a commitment that we've all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we're all in the war, you know, we're in a war with Russia if that were the case.


SOLOMON: CNN's Clare Sebastian live for us in London. So, Clare, on this issue of Ukraine membership, of course, we know where Ukraine stands based on that interview last week with CNN's Erin Burnett. But where do other NATO leaders stand on this issue?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rahel, the stance of President Biden has actually also being echoed by the Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who has said that because in part of Article 5, Ukraine cannot join, well, it's in the middle of an armed conflict. And President Zelenskyy has said that he accepts that.

You find that some other mainly eastern European nations are more bullish on this, the Lithuanian President, in fact, the host of the summit had said that he thinks it would actually improve Ukraine's battlefield chances if they were given a quicker path to NATO. The Estonian Prime Minister has said that it should be a question of when, not if, there's a delicate balance, of course, because if you say clearly to Ukraine or if it gets a guarantee that if this war ends or when this war ends, they will be granted accession into NATO.

That then sets up an incentive for Russia to try to drag out this war, which is of course, something that no one wants. But Ukraine, the problem for Ukraine, is that really, their status as regards to NATO has been the same for the last 15 years when the alliance in 2008 said it welcomed their aspirations to join. They want some kind of advance beyond that.

Some kind of recognition that did not work as a deterrent security guarantees, some clarity on that path to membership. Take a listen to how Zelenskyy approached this in an interview with "ABC" that aired on Sunday.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): It would be an important message to say that NATO is not afraid of Russia. Ukraine should get clear security guarantees while it is not in NATO. And that is a very important point, only under these conditions our meeting would be meaningful, otherwise, it's just another politics. I don't want to go to Vilnius for fun, if the decision has been made beforehand.


SEBASTIAN: So, he has been invited to the summit in Vilnius, but has not yet confirmed he's definitely going to go, I think his rhetoric on this is getting more and more strident. He's made it extremely clear, and certainly, on a tour of a number of European countries over the past week that he does not want to come home from the summit empty- handed. Rahel?

SOLOMON: And Clare, as you mentioned, Article 5, just to remind our viewers, essentially saying that an attack on one is an attack on all. Something that the president has said that, yes, he's thinking about moving forward. Clare Sebastian live for us in London. Thank you, Clare. Well, coming up for us, the heavy downpours pounding the northeast have turned deadly. The latest on flooding concerns and who is getting drenched, coming up next.

Plus, the manhunt intensifies for an escaped inmate considered armed and dangerous in Pennsylvania. And just minutes from now, President Biden will arrive at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with the U.K.'s Prime Minister, something we've been following this morning, and we will continue to follow throughout the show. We're live in London for more, coming up next.



SOLOMON: Welcome back. We are awaiting a highly-anticipated meeting between President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Later today, Biden will head to Windsor as well for his first meeting with newly-coronated King Charles. Let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson who is outside 10 Downing Street in London.

Nic, look, this is the sixth time in six months that the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.S. President are meeting. Lots of issues for them to discuss. What do you think takes priority?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, one of the things that we heard from Jake Sullivan on the flight over was that, this would be a sort of a continuation of some of those many discussions they've already had over the past few months. I think obviously that, one of the most pressing things is alignment on Ukraine and keeping NATO unified.

And to that end, cluster ammunitions may come up. It was interesting the British Prime Minister put out a statement about that at the weekend, that the U.K. is a signatory, not to produce, not to -- not to provide and also to discourage the use of cluster ammunitions. And then, there's the question about how to align over what kind of security guarantees to give to Ukraine going forward.

Obviously, they're not going to get full immediate NATO membership for several reasons. But it's what will -- what will the terms of the agreement that emerges from this summit in Vilnius look like. And I think that will get the conversation. But there are other issues, too. The U.K. is a huge contributor in military terms to supporting the United States in the -- in the Pacific.

One of the U.K.'s only two aircraft carriers is always at the ready for that region of the world to support the United States. So China is expected to be part of the conversation, working together on green technologies, another part of the conversation, A.I., working together on A.I. technology, combating potential threats. So from Downing Street's perspective, they talk about the Atlantic Declaration.

You remember when Prime Minister Sunak was in Washington D.C. recently, this was what the U.K. called a first in its kind economic deal that the U.K. has struck with the United States, not the full unfettered free trade agreement they were hoping for after Brexit. But it's what they got. So the British Prime Minister want to follow up on elements of that, and included on that would be things like the -- in terms of A.I. technology, Britain's position as being -- as being a -- taken at the same level in terms of defense supplies as a domestic U.S. supplier.


So, there were things in the relationship there that are good, and these will probably get discussed as well.

SOLOMON: Nic, you know, it's been no surprise, a bumpy few years for the U.K., I'm thinking about Boris Johnson, I'm thinking about Liz Truss. I mean, now with Rishi Sunak, have relations stabilized? Have things stabilized there. And walk me through from the U.K.'s perspective what the relationship seems like now between Sunak and President Biden?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think from a British perspective, it feels like it's in a better place. Witnessed these many meetings, the San Diego meeting recently with the Australia, United States, U.K. defense agreement. The nuclear submarine is frustrating. This was a big deal that the U.K. got pulled into that.

Remember, for the U.K., they thought that President Barack Obama kind of favored Germany and France more than them. But this took that submarine deal away from France, and gave it to -- gave it to the U.K. So that was, you know, that was a significant thing, I think in terms of the relationship. But it's generally seen as a more stable situation right now.

That there's a positive dialogue, that special relationship is still important, maybe not as special as the British would like it to be. And of course, that was something that Boris Johnson and Liz Truss also talked about a lot. But there is a very big and significant military inter-dependence, sharing of Intelligence, sharing of no-how, and working together very closely, particularly on the weapons for Ukraine.

So, I think at the moment, it's seen as being in a good place, and I don't get the sense that the cluster ammunitions issue is something that's going to break that up at the moment.

SOLOMON: Nic, we know once the president actually gets to 10 Downing Street, a little later today, he will then meet with King Charles at Windsor. What might that conversation look like? ROBERTSON: You know, I think it's going to look like a conversation

between two men who clearly have a very common vision on the need to deal with climate change, the need to put into action some of the political decisions and statements that have been made. You know, President Biden was there at COP 26 in Glasgow.

Interestingly, the U.K., the government has been judged by its own watchdog to be falling short of the climate change commitment that it has made over the past couple of years, which is an interesting position to be in. King Charles, this is something that he's been doing for many years. Paying an interest to that issue.

Obviously, he's now king and he can't get involved in politics. But this is an area where he has a keen interest, so there's a lot of trust over there. So, the meeting will have this flavor of trying to find a way to broaden initiatives out of just government initiatives into the private sector and philanthropists as well, trying to find a way to -- you know, to broaden out, and get more money involved and more movement and momentum involved in dealing with climate change.

And this is an issue here, but perhaps the king, and he would never say it, perhaps he's also looked at that reporting of the government's actions so far and feel somewhat let down. That's not something he would ever or could ever say.

SOLOMON: Nonetheless. Nic Robertson live for us there at 10 Downing Street as we continue to wait for U.S. President Joe Biden's arrival. Thank you, Nic. Well, back here in the U.S., at least, one person has died in New York's Hudson Valley, this is after historic rainfall triggered flash-flooding across the state. Look at this video turning roadways into rivers, prompting a state of emergency.

Vermont's governor meantime also declaring an emergency ahead of even more storms threatening New England this morning. Meantime, dangerous triple-digit temperatures continue in the south. Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Derek, look, a lot of severe weather in lots of parts of the U.S. What are you watching?

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: OK, so we're focusing on Vermont today for the heaviest of rainfall, and we'll get to that in just a moment. But first, we have to show you some of the images coming out of the Hudson Valley. This is across certain sections of New York, just as you said, roadways turned into rivers as just too much rain fell in such a short period of time.

In fact, we had a nearly 1 in 1,000-year event occur in West Point, New York, with just under 8 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. And what is the likelihood of something like this happening in any given year, while only a 0.1 percent, percentage point is the likelihood of an event like that with that much rain in a short period of time in that particular location?

Other locations all seeing over half a foot of rain, you can see into the West Lawn area, but there it is, the high risk that we're monitoring very closely, that shading of purple, that is from the Weather Prediction Center with a high risk of excessive flash flooding. And that includes the city of Burlington. So, into northern sections of Vermont, northern New England, that's where we have ongoing flash flood warnings.

You can see some of the flash flood warnings that are ongoing across the Hudson Valley as well with flood watches and alerts covering over 25 million Americans just across New England alone.


Now, this is the latest radar, kind of lighting up like a Christmas tree. But I want to focus in on a more immediate threat that the Weather Prediction Center has highlighted right along this 495 corridor, stretching across Long Island, and extending into portions of Connecticut and into Rhode Island. This is an area that is expected to see extremely heavy rainfall.

So, the I-95 corridor this morning could see some ponding on the roadways, please, turn around, don't drown. Make sure if you see a flooded road, you want to go the other direction because you do not want to be one of the statistics. Rahel?

SOLOMON: Derek, can I ask really quickly, in terms of that triple- digit heat, I mean, June and July do tend to be the hottest months, right? But it feels like it has been stretching in terms of time for quite some time?

VAN DAM: Yes, it's peaked, right? It's gone from the deep south, and then now we're starting to see that heat dome move over to the southwestern parts of the U.S. So Phoenix into Albuquerque, these areas are going to see the triple-digit heat today, extending through the rest of the week. An area that we'll be monitoring very closely for this excessive heat alerts, and we do anticipate those to continue, you can see them --


VAN DAM: On our maps here, the extreme heat continues across the four quarters.

SOLOMON: All right --

VAN DAM: Rahel?

SOLOMON: Derek Van Dam, thank you so much.

VAN DAM: All right.

SOLOMON: Now, time for quick hits across America now. The NYPD have arrested a man accused of a series of shootings over the weekend while riding a scooter. One person was killed, three others injured. Police say Thomas Abreu faces multiple charges including murder.

The manhunt for an escaped Pennsylvania inmate intensifying. State police discover camp sites near a northern wooded area connected with survivalist escapee Michael Burham, they say he is armed and dangerous. And out west in California, fire officials evacuate 12 homes just west of Long Beach because of a sliding hill-side that ended with massive cracks inside and outside houses. Geologists say that the area has been unstable for years.

Coming up, a man with a knife goes on a deadly rampage outside a school in China. And Ukrainians defiant in the face of Russia's war.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Five hundred days of war have left this town and so many others a wasteland of wreckage and rubble.




SOLOMON: Welcome back. Three children are among the dead in a knife attack outside a kindergarten in southern China. Chinese state media say that a 25-year-old suspect is under arrest. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout live in Hong Kong for us. So, Kristie, what more do we know about this attack?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Rahel, it happened earlier on Monday, six people were killed and one wounded from this knife attack. It took place outside a kindergarten in Lianjiang County, that's in China's Guangdong Province. And according to state media, three children, one teacher, two parents were killed.

The identities of the victims have not been released. Police are calling the assault intentional. And a suspect has been detained, a 25-year-old man with the surname Wu(ph), from the area, from Lianjiang County, and he is now in police custody, an investigation is under way, and we have this video of the aftermath of the attack. It is disturbing.

Our editors have earlier blurred out the lifeless bodies that are seen lying on the street. They're outside the school where there's a sign that partially reveals the name of the kindergarten. And police and emergency responders also on site with the entire area cordoned off. This video has been shared on Chinese social media.

And one netizen called the attacker "hateful, shameless and despicable". And sadly, this is not the first time that school children in China have been targeted by knife-wielding attackers. In fact, in recent years, there have been a number of knife attacks targeting schools. In August last year, three people were killed and six wounded in a stabbing at a kindergarten in China's Jiangxi Province.

And in June of 2020, 37 children and two adults were wounded in a knife attack spree at an elementary school in southern China. Look, China has low rates of violent crime compared to the west, but with guns strictly controlled and out of reach for most people, knives have become the most common weapon used in a mass assault in China including the latest one at a kindergarten in southern China. Rahel?

SOLOMON: Certainly, a troubling pattern unfolding there. Kristie Lu Stout --

LU STOUT: Yes --

SOLOMON: Live for us in Hong Kong, thank you, Kristie. Well, this weekend marked the 500th day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and despite the blackouts and despite the constant threat on their lives, some elderly and retired Ukrainians continue to live on the frontlines, refusing to leave their battered homes. CNN's Ben Wedeman has more now from eastern Ukraine.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): A small flash light is all that illuminates the cellar Olga(ph) calls her home. Her bedroom, a cramped windowless storage space.

"I'd like to live under normal conditions" says Olga(ph), a retired school teacher. Retired and 78 years old. She's been living like this since shortly after the war came to her town of Siversk, battered to smithereens by months of Russian bombardment.

(on camera): Five hundred days of war have left this town and so many others a wasteland of wreckage and rubble. Despite that, some people refuse to leave.

(voice-over): We met 70-year-old Nina(ph) last March, when she told us happier days seemed a world away. "What do we feel?" She asks? "Pain. When you see something destroyed, you tear up. We cry. We cry." Summer has improved her mood, I showed Nina(ph) and her friend Valentina(ph) pictures of the potatoes I grow back home in Italy, prompting Nina(ph) to show off her tiny garden of herbs and onions.