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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Soon: Biden & Zelenskyy Meet on Sidelines of NATO; Historic Rain Causes Catastrophic Northeast Floods; North Korea Fires ICBM After Threats to U.S. Planes; Police: Prison Escapee Likely Still in the Area. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 12, 2023 - 05:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, a frustrated President Zelenskyy about to meet face to face with President Biden.

Plus, Kim Jong-un's North Korea launching what is thought to be another intercontinental ballistic missile.

And, homes become islands as devastating floods put some neighborhoods in the Northeast underwater.


SOLOMON: Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Rahel Solomon, in this morning for Christine Romans.

Up first this morning, President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy preparing to have a face to face on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania. They are meeting comes in the wake of Russian airstrikes on Kyiv for a second consecutive night.

And Zelenskyy's frustration over NATO's decision to provide guidance, but not provide a specific timeline on when the alliance will be ready to bring Ukraine membership.

CNN's Melissa Bell live at the summit in Vilnius now with the latest.

So, Melissa, what are some the expectations heading into this meeting?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if yesterday was all about the frustrations of President Zelenskyy on one side and the limits of what NATO allies can do on the other, today is much more about the actual deliverables. What the Ukrainian president is going to go home with.

And they are very concrete measures that are being announced today. He is just come out of a bilateral meeting with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, thanking him on his Telegram channel for some of those extra launch pads for the Patriots systems, the missiles as well. All part of the 700 million euro package that Berlin announced yesterday. So, concrete military aid, that is going to be at the heart of the bilaterals that continue. He is now meeting with the British prime minister, and we expect him

to meet with a number of key NATO leaders ahead of his meeting with President Biden. And beyond those actual bits of military equipment and aid packages that he is getting from several NATO allies, there is also what's being dubbed a NATO light package being announced by G7 leaders later on. That is going to be beyond the military aid itself, as crucial as it is for the counter offensive, Rahel, much more about the political, financial, economic support that can be given to Kyiv as Western allies try to help it to be integrated into their world -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: As you put it, it's the near and long term support of Ukraine. To that end, in terms of long term support, Melissa, remind us where things stand in terms of the conversations about Ukraine's ascension into NATO.

BELL: Well, for the time being, these were the limits of what NATO could do. What they have announced and Jen Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, was very clear about this, that it was a substantial step. You understood it had it taken a lot of negotiation because there had been a lot of division between NATO allies, even on what has been offered, which is turning what was a two-step process for Ukrainian exception into the group into a single step process, the removal of the so-called map, the membership action plan for Ukraine.

But it is, of course, the lack of a calendar that is so frustrating. Ukraine, even as it tries to pursue its counteroffensive, and that was likely to dominate as well in this bilateral meeting with President Biden later. You are also going to be hearing a lot more about the concrete support that the United States is giving, and specifically I think of those cluster munitions that have been so controversial to other NATO allies, dividing as they do the alliance.

Remember, these are mutations that are banned by about 100 countries in the world, including several NATO allies. And yet, the United States is delivering them, it says, because it wants to help specifically with the counter offensive, helping Ukraine get past those Russian defenses.

So crucial, something that Ukrainians welcomed as potentially a game- changer, Rahel.

SOLOMON: We shall see. Melissa Bell live for us there in Lithuania, thank you, Melissa.

Back here in the U.S., historic and catastrophic flooding in the Northeast after more than two days of intense rain and storms. These dangerous flash floods in Vermont left entire communities submerged, triggering hundreds of rescues and forcing thousands out of their homes and businesses.

CNN's Chad Myers has more on what all of this means for the U.S. and for the globe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Countless people displaced, thousands of businesses and homes under water, rescues under way. More than a month's worth of rain pounding down in just hours.


These are the scenes in storm-battered New York, where officials say federal assistance has been offered.

New Hampshire, where flash flooding washed out roads, and Vermont, where torrential rain has poured since Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to keep up when it's coming down so hard.

MYERS: In the state capitol, the Winooski River flooded, and the Wrightsville dam threatened to spill. City officials advising nearby residents to move to higher ground. Ground.

In Chester, former New York firefighter Don Hancock watched his belongings float away.

DON HANCOCK, FORMER NY FIREFIGHTER: I've been there many times to help people out, but I've never lived this side of it.

MYERS: And he is not alone. Across the country, one in one thousand year rain events are happening more and more. This kind of weather event is called that because it has a one in one thousandth, or 0.1 percent chance of happening in any one year.

The national climate assessment says the climate crisis increased these downpours by more than 25 percent between 1958 and 2012 in the eastern half of the United States, with the Northeast seeing the greatest increase in intense precipitation at more than 70 percent. But these extreme weather events, a signature consequence of a warming climate had been observed in every U.S. region.

Warmer air can hold more water vapor, making storms capable of dropping increased amounts of rainfall. The devastating situation is evidenced by other torrential rainfalls in the past year, in Dallas, eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, and Yellowstone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God, I can't get home.

MYERS: In April, six months' worth of rain fell in Fort Lauderdale in just 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's absolutely heartbreaking. I mean, you can see how shaken up I am.

MYERS: Until rising global temperatures are under control, experts expect more catastrophic events like this one rocking the Northeast now.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SOLOMON: Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Oversight Committee this morning. It comes amid Republican accusations that the FBI slowed down the investigation into Hunter Biden among other issues.

In an expert of Wray's opening statement, he seems eager to try to sidestep partisan concerns, which raised in part: I want to talk about the sheer breadth and impact of the work of the FBI's 38,000 employees are doing each and every day, because the works of men and women of the FBI do to protect the American people goes way beyond the one or two investigations that seem to capture all of the headlines.

North Korea test-firing yet another intercontinental long-range ballistic missile just days after Pyongyang's threatened a shoot down U.S. reconnaissance planes. The Japanese defense ministry said it landed between the Korean peninsula and Japan, and this comes as the U.S., Japan, and South Korea discuss security issues at the NATO summit.

CNN's Marc Stewart joins us live from Tokyo.

Marc, good morning.

Look, the timing of this is really interesting. I mean, what are we to make -- what message do you think North Korea is trying to send with these threats?


Yes, none of this is a coincidence. As we have seen time after time, North Korea is always making an effort to try to stay relevant on the global stage. Right now, the NATO meeting in Vilnius is dominating the headlines. Yet, this missile launch has prompted response from the sidelines of that NATO meeting from both the president of South Korea and the president of -- and the prime minister that is, of Japan.

Here in Japan, we have been hearing from the chief cabinet secretary who actually said that he will make an overture to Beijing and protest as to what happened in North Korea. Again, North Korea wants to stay relevant.

As far as the specifics of the launch, there are some things that are worth noting. First of all, this missile was in the air for 74 minutes. That is seen as a long period of time, and perhaps a suggestion that the North Korean military program is having some kind of advancement, having some kind of success.

In addition, this is a missile that has the potential to cross the Pacific Ocean. In the case today, it was launched at a degree, at a trajectory, that ensured a shorter range flight. But it certainly illustrates the potential.

We also have heard from Japanese official who expressed concern that now, North Korea indeed does have the potential to strike Japan, where I am now, with nuclear warheads. As far as how this is all being received, Rahel, I wouldn't say it's

one of alarm, but as we have seen over time, it is awareness that North Korea is again trying to assert its power.

SOLOMON: Certainly something to watch. Marc Stewart, live for us there in Tokyo, thank you, Marc.

Just ahead for us, a hostage standoff on the Vegas Strip. A SWAT team confronting the suspect holed up in a hotel room.

Plus, a manhunt in Pennsylvania, an escaped inmate leaving clues behind.

And a judge giving R-E-S-P-E-C-T to a hand written will found inside the couch of the late Aretha Franklin.


We'll be right back.


SOLOMON: Welcome back.

And all eyes remain in Lithuania as day two of the NATO summit kicks off. President Biden is set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly where, near and long term support for Ukraine is on the agenda.

Let's bring in Zolan Kanno-Youngs, a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times". He joins us from the site of the summit.

Zolan, welcome and good morning.

I want to start with, on top of the meeting that we know president Biden and Zelenskyy will have in just a few short hours, Biden also expected to deliver a foreign policy speech that is being described as a major address. What do you expect here?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a major address. The president, remember, campaigned on not only restoring competency, normalcy, but also America's reputation on the global stage. And when you ask White House officials, administration officials, the thing they point to is how he has united the Western allies against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


So, in this speech, after the meeting with President Zelenskyy today, how can he not only speak to Western allies, reassure President Zelenskyy, but also assure, say, people in Europe that have been dealing with an energy crisis? Also, Americans as well, continuing to boost engagement and attention on this war and tell them why it matters. It's a central hallmark of his administration, and this speech is not only speaking to NATO members and Western allies as well, but also to people back home.

Remember, this is something that is being debated right now when it comes to funding for Ukraine, that is being debated right now by some members of Congress, as well as some presidential candidates.

So I see the speech as the priority, to speak to NATO allies and speak to the global stage, but also you can imagine the subtext of speaking to folks back home, as well.

SOLOMON: Well, speaking of funding, we are also learning and hearing more about its new security package that will apparently be heading Ukraine's way. What more have you learned about that? What can you tell us about that?

KANNO-YOUNGS: Yeah, let's remember this coming just today after this communique, a written statement agreement by the NATO members was issued. And, basically, it did not have, it doesn't have automatic membership for Ukraine. Remember that President Biden told CNN as well that that is not something he felt Ukraine was ready for.

What he -- what he and the administration would rather be preparing folks for is a pathway for Ukraine, an action plan that could be in there. However, there was no timetable yesterday. When we saw President Zelenskyy anticipating that language without the timetable and specifics, into a blistering statement criticizing NATO allies before his arrival.

Now, this security package can assure Ukraine and, speaking to administration officials, they feel it will assure Ukraine. This is coming after the administration also delivered cluster munitions as well to help Ukrainians defend their civilians. That is the administration's argument. And the security package, we expect, will be even more assistance to continue to assist that Ukrainians in the short term, as well.

We know that the Biden administration has released many different arms as well as funding packages, this will be the latest step in that effort.

SOLOMON: Zolan, take a listen to what former Vice President Mike Pence told CNN's Kaitlan Collins last night regarding NATO membership for Ukraine.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I honestly believe that it is important, as leader of the free world and the arsenal of democracy, that America continues to provide the Ukrainian military what they need to fight and win and repel that unprovoked Russian invasion.

But the question of NATO membership and, I spoke about this with President Zelenskyy, I think should all wait on after the war is won.


SOLOMON: And, Zolan, of course, the question of NATO membership is not necessarily unanimous among NATO members, but among Republicans and Democrats, are they largely aligned on this issue?

KANNO-YOUNGS: I mean, when you look at Republicans and Democrats throughout Congress as well as the administration, there is overwhelming support for Ukraine, but let's remember that this still continues to be a sensitive issue here.

The administration has been saying that pathways should still be established for Ukraine. But one argument that we heard, even on the heels of the summit here yesterday, was that when you immediately admit Ukraine into NATO, remember that an attack against one NATO member basically is an attack against all.

And throughout this entire process, throughout since Russia since invaded Ukraine, the president of the United States has had to have a balancing act here of providing assistance but committing to not sending troops on the ground. When you admit a member into Ukraine and attack against one is an attack against all, and one of the primary kind of concerns of the president here is not to bring the United States into a direct conflict, an escalation with Russia. That's on the minds of folks when we talk about this ongoing debate around NATO membership.

SOLOMON: Yeah, Article Five. as you mentioned there. I think Zelenskyy would argue, you know, we know it would not be admit it right away, but at least give us the invitation now. That's least what he has been saying.

Zolan Kanno, it's great to have you here today. Zolan Kanno-Youngs there.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Thank you.

SOLOMON: Well, the manhunt for an escaped prison inmate continuing this morning. Pennsylvania state police say that Michael Burnham likely isn't far but may still be in the area of Warren County. Please turn searching for the murder suspect for six days now. Burnham is described as a self taught survivalist with military reserve experience.

CNN's Danny Freeman reports.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 200 law enforcement officers have joined an intensifying manhunt for prison escapee Michael Charles Burham.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: The pace and scope of this investigation has continued to dramatically increase as we investigate leads in this area and adjacent states.

FREEMAN: New court documents obtained by CNN detail how 34-year-old Burham and fellow inmates were going in and out of his prison cell in the hours leading up to the escape. Then, at around 11:30 Thursday night, as three other inmates were

seated on the ground in the recreation yard, security camera footage showed Burham standing on a pull-up machine. He slipped through this metal-gated roof and then rappelled down the side of the prison using these bed sheets tied together and fled.

SHERIFF BRIAN ZEYBEL, WARREN COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: I would say that Burham saw red and blue lights within two minutes of leaving that jail. It's -- they were that close. The corrections officers were literally within two minutes in the parking lot.

FREEMAN: But not close enough. More than 15 local state and federal agencies are now looking for Burham. Tips have come in from six states.

BIVENS: We continue to find items. Those lead me to believe that there is still a likelihood that he is here.

FREEMAN: In Pennsylvania, the search area spans more than 500,000 acres of forest in rural Warren County.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're covering a lot of ground out there. And there are many public and private cabins. There are structures associated with oil and gas wells.

FREEMAN: But this is at least the second time Burham has allegedly run from the police.

Burham is the prime suspect in a recent homicide investigation in New York, according to authorities. Court documents say while New York law enforcement was seeking to question Burham about the homicide in May, he carjacked and kidnapped an elderly couple in Pennsylvania and fled to South Carolina.

Police believe that Burham was watching the property of his Pennsylvania victims for a week before kidnapping them at gunpoint, driving them to South Carolina, and leaving them at a cemetery.

A plastic tarp, camouflaged clothing and water bottles were all found near their home.

BIVENS: I do believe it's fair to say he's a dangerous individual, and people need to be alert to that.

FREEMAN: Burham was captured and brought back to Pennsylvania on the carjacking and kidnapping charges. He hasn't been charged with the New York homicide yet. As the search for Burham continues, residents of Warren and surrounding communities remain on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully nothing happens. Hopefully they catch him soon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work at the hospital, Warren General. We're under, like, complete lockdown. Every night we got to make sure the windows are locked, make sure both front and back doors are locked.

FREEMAN: Danny Freeman, CNN, Warren, Pennsylvania.


SOLOMON: Quick hits across America now.

An hours-long standoff at the Caesars Palace Resort in Las Vegas Tuesday ends with a suspect arrested and a hostage freed. Police say a man threw several items at the top floor window before he was finally arrested.

A former follower of Charlie Manson, Leslie Van Houten, has been released from a Californian prison after 53 years behind bars to a three-year parole terms. She was part of the Manson family.

And a jury has decided to respect of the 2014 will signed by Aretha Franklin. It was found under a sofa cushion after her death in 2018. Her sons were fighting over how her estate should be divided.

Well, coming up for us, did Chinese spies hack into U.S. government emails? And two Russian generals killed over two consecutive days. What does it mean for the Russian military?

We'll be right back.



SOLOMON: Welcome back.

Ukraine's military is reporting that it shot down 11 Iranian made drones that Russia launched earlier this morning as Ukraine continues its slow counter offensive and the east.

Meantime, a former Russian for submarine commander was shot to death while jogging Monday. According to state media, he may have been targeted via a popular running app.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us live from London.

So, Clare, Ukrainian officials are also saying that a second Russian commander was also killed, this one happening in the Zaporizhzhia region on Tuesday. That's two commanders in two days, what are you learning here?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, two very different sets of circumstances there, Rahel. The second commander that we talked about, Oleg Tsokov, if true, that would be the most senior Russian military commander to have been killed in this war so far. This is coming from Ukrainian officials not verified and not commented on by the Russian ministry of defense officially yet.

But Ukrainian officials saying he was killed by a strike on a Russian headquarters in the occupied city of Berdyansk, in Zaporizhzhia region, a key area focused on the counter offensive. So, again, a true blow to Russia. But this is a clear cut case in this war. Much less clear cut is what happens to Stanislav Rzhitsky, who is a former submarine commander killed, it seems in a premeditated killing at a public par, T Tracked not by any military intelligence or drones, or anything like that, but it seems that according to Russian media, by the popular running app Strava. There is a profile on that app under his name which shows that he did regularly run through this park.

Now, he was a former commander, he was working at the time of his death, we understand, in the military administration of Krasnodar in Russia, in the mobilization department. Russia says it now is arrested the suspect in its case. The investigative committee has released a video they say of the arrest. They have named the suspect as well, the 59-year-old man.

This is a video that was placed on the Telegram page of the investigative committee. We cannot independently verify this. Of course, they say they found a pistol as well in his home in the Krasnodar region.