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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DOJ: Trump Team Wants to Review Classified Info At His Homes; Senators' Episodes Raise Questions of Fitness; Today: Biden to Sign Executive Order on Military Sexual Assault; Heat Indexes in Northeast Could Top 115 Degree Fahrenheit Today; DeSantis Emphasizes Electability on the Road in Iowa. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, former President Donald Trump facing new charges in the classified documents case.

Plus, the capacities of some of the Senate's oldest members are now in the spotlight.

And, a powerful heat dome shifting east, tying and breaking records all along the way.


ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Happy Friday, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It's nice to see you this morning.

We begin with the significant new developments in the special counsel's prosecution of former President Trump for mishandling the classified documents.

Breaking overnight, the Justice Department says that Trump lawyers want to be allowed to discuss classified information with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster homes for the sake of convenience. Prosecutors asking the judge in the case to say no, they argue that classified information should only be reviewed in a specially protected room called a SCIF. Another big development of the case came earlier Thursday, special counsel Jack Smith brought new charges against Trump, his aide Walt Nauta, and a Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker. Smith alleges a cover-up in which the three conspire to try to delete surveillance video from the Florida club.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: New charges and a new codefendant for a former President Trump in the criminal case alleging that he handled classified documents down at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Now, prosecutors have charged him with an additional count of willful retention of national defense information, as well as two additional counts of obstruction, alleging that the former president and two of his employees attempted to destroy surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, from the summer of 2022.

Now, that surveillance footage is really at the heart of this investigation. It is key evidence for prosecutors as they try to put together where exactly classified materials were moved on the Mar-a- Lago property after the former president left office. We also know that witnesses have been asked if anyone try to prevent them from getting all of that surveillance footage, or if anyone tried to tamper with it or destroy it.

Now, according to the superseding indictment, two Trump employees wanted to destroy this surveillance footage because, quote, the boss wanted it gone.

Now, the new charges were filed not only against former President Trump and his codefendant Walt Nauta, but they also added a new codefendant, Carlos de Oliveira. He is a maintenance worker at Mar-a- Lago. He has been seen on surveillance footage with Walt Nauta moving boxes that contain classified information, including one incident where they moved boxes out of a storage closet right before one of Trump's lawyers went to search that closet for classified documents.

Now, Carlos is represented by a lawyer who is paid for by a Trump linked political action committee. His lawyer tonight had no comment, but they are both expected to appear in court next week.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, let's bring in former FBI special agent and professor at the University of New Haven criminal justice, Ken Gray, for all of these developments.

It's so nice to see you this morning. The superseding indictment lists new charges for Trump and indicts a third codefendant, a Mar-a-Lago property manager, claiming there were attempts to delete security footage after the subpoena was issued. How significant is this development, these new charges?

KEN GRAY, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORTER, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN: So this is very significant, superseding indictment in that the decision to try to destroy the videos, the surveillance videos, shows that they are conspiring to try to conceal the fact that boxes were being moved. And so this -- the direction to delete the server with the security video on it is very significant to show that they knowingly were trying to conceal the boxes and move the boxes, and in doing so hiding the information from Trump's attorneys.

ROMANS: So, this new indictment also includes a charge of willfully retaining a top secret document. We think it is about Iran attack plans. It throws cold water on Trump's previous denial about this episode, listen quickly.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything, else talking about Iran and other things.


And it may have been held up, or may not have, but that was not a document. I didn't have a document, per se, there was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.


ROMANS: How significant is this new charge in light of what the president has publicly said?

GRAY: And yet, it is just additional documents that President Trump is claiming is not classified material, but that if the willful retention of national defense information outside of a SCIF, by a person that no longer has the clearance on this, that is a significant charge. So, it really attacks the heart of his defense that he did not have any classified information at Mar-a-Lago, that he had declassified everything.

ROMANS: At the same time, the Trump team is facing another legal hurdle and that is the investigation into whether he works to undermine the results of election, and Trump's attorneys met with special counsel Jack Smith about the other part of that investigation. You could see another third indictment soon, what does that mean for, I want to his 2024 presidential campaign?

He's going to be on the campaign trail while he's got numerous legal obligations that he has to take care of in-person.

GRAY: So, President Trump is going to find himself in and out of the courtroom throughout the political season here for the running up to the election. And so, it's hard to be on the campaign trail and be in the courtroom at the same time. This is -- if this was a strategy at the time to bump president up, to try to take him out of the running for the election, this has been a very successful strategy in that he is facing, what? Four different court dates for criminal charges, and another one for a civil trial. And so this has been a very interesting strategy.

ROMANS: All right. Professor Ken Gray, former FBI special agent, nice to see you. Thank you so much for your expertise.

GRAY: Thank you.

ROMANS: New questions this morning with the mental sharpness of Senator Dianne Feinstein after it took repeated efforts to steer her into casting her vote in an appropriations committee on Thursday. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): Clerk, call the roll.

CLERK: Senator Feinstein.



FEINSTEIN: Pardon me?




FEINSTEIN: I would like to support a yes vote on this. It provides 823 billion, that is an increase of 26 billion for the Department of Defense, and it funds priorities submitted --


FEINSTEIN: OK, just -- aye.


ROMANS: Feinstein's apparent confusion came just today after another concerning moment involving an aging lawmaker, when Senator Mitch McConnell stopped speaking midsentence, pausing for more than 20 seconds.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on the fallout from Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a moment that shook the Senate. It has Republicans unwilling to answer what used to be a simple question -- will they continue to back Mitch McConnell to serve as their leader?

SEN. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-WY): He has a tremendous amount of support.

RAJU: If he ran for leader, he would get the job?

LUMMIS: Well, I think that's speculation that's not necessary right now.

RAJU: Would you support him running for leader again in the new congress?

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-NC): Well, you know, again, it depends on what we -- it depends on what the situation is and what his condition is at that time. Right now, I think he's a great leader.

RAJU: The 81-year-old who led the Senate GOP for the past 16 years and the longest serving party leader ever has faced scrutiny over his health this year, starting in March when he suffered a concussion and broken ribs after falling in a Washington hotel.

CNN has learned that McConnell, a survivor of polio who walks with a limp, has fallen multiple times this year, including while deplaning at Reagan National Airport in Washington this month, slipping in Helsinki during a February meeting with the president of Finland.

One senator who witnessed that fall said --

SEN. TED BUDD (R-NC): It was also very icy at the time so it could happen to any of us.

RAJU: Were you concerned about his health at that moment?

BUDD: I mean, look, any of us could take a fall. I'm older than 50. So, all of us are concerned.

RAJU: An aging Senate is not a new issue. Eighty-nine-year-old Chuck Grassley needed surgery this year after fracturing his hip and questions persist over 90-year-old Dianne Feinstein and her fitness to serve, just today confused over how to vote during a committee meeting.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aye. Yeah. Just say aye.

RAJU: Feinstein, though, plans to retire the end of next year. McConnell is up for re-election in 2026, and recently declined to say to CNN if he would finish his current term to run for leader in 2025.

SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): I was concerned yesterday. He said he got a little overheated, a little dehydrated. That's what it looked like to me.

RAJU: Can you tell us and 48 of your colleagues what happened?

CRAMER: I -- well, he should tell if something bigger is going on.

RAJU: If he does step aside, three top Republicans could vie to succeed him, even as they too sidestep the questions about McConnell's future.

Do you think that Senator McConnell should run for a leader in the new congress?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD), MINORITY WHIP: I mean, the new Congress is 18 months away. I'm trying to figure out how we get the authorization bill off the floor today.

RAJU: Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


ROMANS: All right. This just in, President Biden will sign executive order today moving the key decision-making authority and cases of military sexual assault outside of the chain of command. Instead, cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, murder, and other violent crimes will be decided by newly formed panels of independent military prosecutors. The administration calls it the most significant transformation of the military justice system since the Uniform Code of Military Justice was established in 1950.

All right. This week's blistering heat wave in the U.S. moves further eastward with key warnings for northeastern cities of New York and Philly, and about half of Americans now under some kind of heat alert.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is live in the CNN weather center.

We are learning a lot about this heat dome. We will be getting baked this weekend into his going to see relief?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I was going to say to each of your easier question, maybe is who isn't going to see that extreme heat for the week. Yes, this heat dome is taking up much of the country, now we have seen it shift east in the last few, days and it is going to continue that trend before finally trying to shift to the south, but this is really where a lot of this intense heat is really coming from.

You've got all of this excessive heat warnings and heat advisories out for much of the Midwest, Northeast, although we also do have some across portions of the southwestern tier today as well. The heat index for a lot of these areas well into the triple digits, you're talking 104 in Chicago, 110 for the feels like temperature in Cincinnati, even 107 for Washington, D.C.

One area, however, that is finally seeing their heat index drop below triple digits for the first time in 46 days it was Miami. Yesterday, not quite meeting that threshold thanks to a lot of cloud cover and thunderstorms in the area. But the heat itself is still there, even in south Florida.

All of these dots represent an area that could end up reaching a record high temperature over the next day or two. But we will finally see some relief in a few days. Washington D.C. still well above average today and tomorrow, but then finally starting to see those temperatures drop back to more tolerable conditions by the start of next week. And we are going to see a similar reprieve from many areas of the northeast and a couple of portions of mountains as well, Christine. You've just got to give it a few more days to finally get some relief from that heat.

ROMANS: All right. A few more days, thank you, Allison.

A significant break in Italy's heat wave is helping firefighters there get a handle on the deadly wildfires sweeping the southern part of the country.

CNN's Nada Bashir live in Rome for us, covering the story.

Nada, how much of a difference shift in the weather making? NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Well, it does making a huge

difference at this stage, according to the civil protection agency here, in Italy. There are still small fires burning across the southern parts of the region, but they are, now, all contained. And this is no longer being treated as a fire emergency. In Sicily, we saw those dramatic images of flames edging dangerously close to residential areas.

So, some 2,000 people had been evacuated, but now they have, the vast majority of, them have been allowed to return home. But, of course, we are seeing this fires still across the Mediterranean region, not only in Europe, but in North Africa, in Turkey as well, but the dramatic images in Greece will be familiar to many.

Now, we have learned from the authorities in Greece, as of yesterday, 124 fires were reported. However, for the first time in nearly two weeks, there are no large fires, they are largely contained and controlled. This is a positive indication. Here in Italy, temperatures are expected to drop now into the average, or even below average temperatures.

Look, the situation is not over. We have been hearing pretty stark messages from climate experts, and in fact had a stark warning yesterday from the U.N. secretary general. Take a listen.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended. The era of global boiling has arrived.


BASHIR: We saw those pretty devastating damming statistics coming out yesterday from the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service.


I'll just highlight a few of the key points made yesterday. July already set to become the hottest on record for the planet, every day since July 3rd has been hotter than records set back in 2016. Almost every month this year has been in the top five hottest on record, and, get this, it's almost certain that these temperatures will be the warmest the planet has seen in 120,000 years.

And the message that we are hearing is that these extreme heat events, these wildfires that we are seeing pop-up across the Mediterranean, are only going to become more frequent, and also more severe -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah, that statement, the era of global boiling has arrived really got a lot of attention.

Nada Bashir, thank you so much.

Still ahead here on EARLY START, how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is helping to restarted campaign for the White House.

Plus, a mass shooter in his own words, audio from high school shooter ether crumbly was played in court.

Plus, I'm telling you this right now, you're going to take this and as a lesson at 11 years old. If you do something stupid in the future, you're going to enjoy those cuffs.

ROMANS: Wow. Why deputies in Florida arrested an 11-year-old.



ROMANS: Happening tonight in Iowa, most of the Republican primary field, including Donald Trump, speaking at one of the early marquee events of the campaign season, the state GOP's Lincoln Dinner fund- raiser in Des Moines. Governor Ron DeSantis already traveling around Iowa by bus to meet voters as he resets his campaign.

CNN's Jessica Dean is on the ground with DeSantis in Iowa.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rolling into rural Iowa, taking his campaign refresh on the road.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's very important that you get into rural counties, and so, we're going to hit them all, and this is probably the easiest way to do it.

DEAN: DeSantis back in the Hawkeye State, following an overhaul of this two month old campaign. In the last week, he laid off more than one third of the staff, citing budget concerns as a senior campaign officials pledged to, quote, leaner and more insurgent campaign to take on former President Donald Trump during a gathering of voters over the weekend, campaign officials admitted missteps in fundraising and messaging.

You've made changes to your campaign in the last several days. What do you think that the voters should be taking away from that, based on the fact that you are asking them to make you the top executive?

DESANTIS: So, what I would say is focus on the substance, you know, a lot of this process of stuff that was happening. As an executive you have a commander's intent, and if that commander's intent is not followed, then you have to make sure it's followed.

DEAN: After pledging a national campaign, DeSantis is now laser focused on early nominating states such as Iowa, which is said to hold the GOP primary's first caucuses January 15th.

DESANTIS: It's great to be back in the state of Iowa.

DEAN: A recent Fox Business poll shows Donald Trump with a commanding lead in the state, garnering 46 percent of the vote from likely caucus-goers. DeSantis is in a distant second place with 16 percent.

DESANTIS: The stakes are high, we don't have the opportunity to fritter this one away, and we've got to get the job done.

DEAN: DeSantis's five stop bus tour through rural Iowa, sponsored by Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting him that has raised some $130 million since March and has been focused on building out infrastructure throughout number of states to support the campaign.

KEN CUCCINELLI, FOUNER, NEVER BACK DOWN: We don't feel like we need, you know, Jane Doe at 123 main street in Iowa to know everything there is to know by tomorrow. You know, we have six months to help deliver that.

DEAN: And as his campaign resets, DeSantis is zeroing in on his message of electability, that indicates he is the only one in the primary who can win in the general election, saying this when asked how you will convince Trump supporters to support him instead.

DESANTIS: In Florida, he won by three, I won by 20. We are not getting a mulligan on 2024. You either go, you get the job done or you don't, and so I will get the job done.


DEAN (on camera): And it's really that message of electability that we heard again and again from Governor DeSantis as he continued his bus tour here in Iowa, and we expect to hear more later today as he resumes the bus tour, heading into tonight's Lincoln dinner where we are going to see almost all of the presidential candidates. As a lot of this news swirls about a potential new indictment for the former president, Donald Trump, that is not what we really heard from Iowa voters, the voters I spoke to her more focused on finding a candidate that can beat President Joe Biden in 2024.

And Governor DeSantis is more interested in his message and making sure that he is getting through to those voters -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you.

Quick hits across America right now.


POLICE OFFICER: We will take this as lesson at 11 years old that you do something stupid in the future --


ROMANS: An 11-year-old girl was arrested in central Florida after falsely reporting her friend's abduction for a YouTube challenge. Please say that she said she thought it was funny. She is now facing felony charges.

A Stanford, Connecticut police cruiser struck and killed a 69-year-old pastor who is crossing the road to pick up his mail. The officer is on administrative leave, a press conference is expected later this morning.

The Justice Department begins a civil rights investigation in the Memphis police department after the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols at a traffic stop. They are looking for systemic abuses and violations.

All right. The Michigan school shooter who massacred his classmates when he was 15 years old will be in court for day two of the hearing to determine if he can be sentenced to life in present without parole.

On Thursday, prosecutors showed chilling evidence of Ethan Crumbley's plans.

CNN's Jean Casarez reports.


MOLLY DARNELL, SHOOTING VICTIM: I heard three very loud, physically loud, I could feel them, coming through that door, like the power of it. But it almost sounded like a pop, like a cop gun.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Molly Darnell, school educator and one of the surviving victims, took the stand to describe being shot.


DARNELL: I kind of jumped to the right and felt my left shoulder move back and it felt like someone had burned me with hot water.

CASAREZ: A mass shooter, in his own words, hours before committing a massacre at his high school in Oxford, Michigan.

ETHAN CRUMBLEY, MICHIGAN SCHOOL SHOOTER: I'm going to open fire on everyone in the hallway. I will hit as many people as I can.

CASAREZ: He shot dead four of his classmates that day. Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling. Seven others were shot, but survived. The shooter pleaded guilty last October to one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, and 19 other counts. Prosecutors showed through his journaling that he had planned this for months.

LT. TIMOTHY WILLIS, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: The first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future, so that she can suffer just like me. Killing myself is too much of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). People will just forget about me and I will never make an impact in the world. The only way is to shoot up a school.

CASAREZ: The defense says that the shooter is not irreparably corrupt.

PAULETTE LOFTIN, OAKLAND COUNTY CHIEF PUBLIC DEFENDER: My evil has officially taken over and me and I used to like it, but now I don't want to be evil, I want to help, but my parents don't listen to me, so I can't get any help. KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: We must have the

courage and strength to listen and view the facts, despite how horrifying it may seem. That is what we are called upon to do and it is the only way to do so with the utmost respect that these victims deserve.

CASAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN, Pontiac, Michigan.


ROMANS: All right. Just ahead, the coup in Niger escalates with all political activity suspended.

And, Ukraine claims steady gains as the fighting intensifies in the south.