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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.S. Troops Restricted To Military Base: France Denies Rescue Plans For President Bazoum; All 15 Israeli Supreme Court Judges To Hear Overhaul Challenge; DeSantis Unveils Economic Agenda As He Refocuses Message. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 01, 2023 - 05:30   ET



MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people having to be taken out of flooded areas because their cars are stuck. And even in city streets, people are being taken away from buildings, going through water that is well above their waist.

So Beijing is a city of more than 20 million people. It has impacted, as you mentioned, the airports. One airport, in particular, has dealt with some flooding. Train service has been impacted. Even some well- known landmarks in Beijing have dealt with this flooding.

There is a venue from the Winter Olympics in 2022 that is dealing with damage. There's a brand-new shopping mall that has a big hole in front of it where the earth basically sank in because of all of this water. In addition, a new hotel is also dealing with damage.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been speaking out about this, really talking about the need to get forces together to deal with these infrastructure issues, to get transportation back on track, and to make repairs as soon as possible.

I should point out where I am right now, in Tokyo, if you go to the south to Okinawa here in Japan there is the threat of yet another typhoon -- another severe weather threat. Depending on how things transpire, Omar, it could be a problem not only here in Japan but, really, across Asia.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Marc, based off those images, hopefully, it's not nearly as bad as we're seeing there. But, of course, we'll have to wait and see.

Marc Stewart, thank you so much.

About 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in Niger are being restricted to their military base this morning nearly a week after President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted. Coup leaders have now arrested six senior members of his party and accused France of planning to free Bazoum. France is getting ready to evacuate French and EU citizens from Niger, including its embassy staff.

CNN senior editor for Africa Stephanie Busari is in Lagos, Nigeria for us. Stephanie, what's the latest here? STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: So, Omar, as you say, we're hearing that the French is planning -- French embassy is planning to evacuate its citizens and staff from the country. They said is because of attacks on the embassy. A few days ago, the anti- French protests that we saw in the aftermath of this coup that happened last week and people just gathering outside saying "Down with France." And the anti-French (audio gap) and they're responding swiftly to get their citizens out.

And ECOWAS, the regional body, has said that it is going to -- it's threatening force if the -- if the coup leaders don't reinstate President Bazoum and his administration. This is the first time that the ECOWAS body has threatened this kind of force. There have been coups in this part of Africa, of course. Burkina Faso and Mali -- neighboring countries to Niger had coups recently. So people are wondering why this -- why this has happened now. Why has ECOWAS taken such a hard line?

And -- but Niger is a very strategic country in this region. It's allies to the U.S. and the U.K. They both have military bases here -- there and they're helping to fight the Islamic extremism that we're seeing in this region. So Niger is a very, very strategic country and needs this -- needs to be aligned with the Western -- the allies in this region. So that is perhaps why the ECOWAS body has responded so swiftly.

But Marli and Burkina Faso say if this happens it's a declaration of war, and nobody wants to see a war in this region, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yes, Stephanie Busari, implications not just in that region but, of course, in the EU, France, and beyond.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

This weekend, Saudi Arabia is set to host Ukraine peace talks with the U.S. Several European countries, China, and India. Russia has not been invited but says it will, quote, "keep an eye on the meeting."

The Indian government has blocked the internet in the northern state of Haryana and it's deploying police and military troops to the region after deadly religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

And a Chinese zoo is reassuring visitors that its sun bears are real and not humans in disguise. I honestly don't -- I mean, I honestly feel like it's a human in disguise but I'll take their word for it. It comes after a video of this animal standing up like a literal person went viral. I mean, yeah, that's uncanny.

The man charged in the Gilgo Beach serial killings about to make his first court appearance in a matter of hours. And a historic move for Israel's Supreme Court after a law passed stripping them of some of their powers. We have the details just ahead.


(COMMERCIAL) JIMENEZ: Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

The grand jury in the special counsel's January 6 investigation is expected to meet today. The panel is preparing for a vote on potential charges against former President Trump.

The suspect in the Gilgo Beach serial murders set to be in court today. It'll be Rex Heuermann's first court appearance since his indictment earlier this month. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jury deliberations will begin today in the death penalty trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. If the jury is not unanimous, Robert Bowers will be sentenced to life without parole.

Now, a historic first in Israel after all 15 Supreme Court judges are assigned to take part in a September hearing listening to petitions against a controversial law that strips the court of its power to declare government decisions unreasonable.

Now, the Israeli Parliament passed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bill last week, spawning massive protests across the country.


Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us live from Tel Aviv. Now, Elliott, this sets the stage from my vantage point here, it seems, for a constitutional crisis -- or constitutional showdown, I should say. And based on protests, one that will be closely watched.

How is this going to play out?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: The short answer, Omar, is we don't know how it's going to play out, much less the constitutional showdown would only come into effect if the Supreme Court strikes down this reasonableness bill. Because this bill was one of Israel's -- or is now one of Israel's so-called basic laws, which is the closest this country has to a constitution.

What we do know for now is that the Supreme Court judges -- all 15 of them, as you say -- for the first time that this many judges have gathered -- all of them in one go -- all 15 of them to hear these petitions. We know that's going to begin on September the 12th. What we don't know is how long their deliberations will take and we don't know what the result of those deliberations will be.

Now, we heard in the interview with Wolf Blitzer -- between Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Netanyahu refused to commit to abide by a Supreme Court decision were it to strike down this bill. He was asked again on NBC yesterday. Again, he refused to commit to abiding by a Supreme Court decision that would strike down this bill. Because if the Supreme Court were to do so it would be the first time that it has struck down a so-called basic law -- one of these quasi-constitutional laws.

So it's a very big deal and eyes will very much be on September the 12th. We don't know how long these deliberations will take but the result will have profound implications -- the protests for the government's judicial overhaul plans, and, of course, the balance of power between the government in Israel and the Supreme Court -- Omar.

JIMENEZ: Eliott, thank you so much. A lot to keep an eye on there. Appreciate it.

This just in. The U.S. has punched their ticket to the knockout stage at the Women's World Cup but it wasn't pretty.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy --


JIMENEZ: -- they didn't make advancing easy here.

SCHOLES: They certainly did not, Omar. And once again, this is just not a great performance from the team -- not what we're used to seeing.

The game was a nail-biter because the Netherlands were beating Vietnam handily. A Portugal goal this morning and the U.S. would have been out of the Women's World Cup, and they were inches away from that happening in the 91st minute.

Portugal's Ana Capeta gets loose here and a strike right off the post, though. The U.S. had six shots on goal but they were unable to score in this one. And this was just the fifth time in 52 World Cup matches that the U.S. fails to score. But a 0-0 draw good enough to get second in the group and advance to that knockout round.


ALEX MORGAN, USWNT FORWARD: It's tough to be second. We wanted to go through first. I mean, this team gave everything. We just didn't put the ball in the back of the net. And in the last few minutes, we just had to hold it down. We had to get the result and move on.


SCHOLES: Yes. So this was the U.S. Women's worst-ever performance in the group stage, winning just one game. It's the second time in nine World Cups the U.S. has failed to win their group, making their path to a historic three-peat even more difficult. So next up for them is likely a match-up against Sweden, who beat the U.S. 3-0 at the 2021 Olympics.

All right, in the NFL, an emotional moment for Bills safety Damar Hamlin, putting on the pads and hitting for the first time almost eight months to the day after collapsing on the field and suffering cardiac arrest. The 25-year-old said even though he's back he'll always be thinking about that game.


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS SAFETY: It's just another milestone as far as the journey. It's going to be a long, long, long, long, long journey. You know what I'm saying? Like I said, some of these emotions will never leave, you know? Whenever everybody's not paying attention to me no more I'll still be processing these emotions myself.


SCHOLES: All right. The Denver Broncos, meanwhile -- they got bad news yesterday. Wide receiver K.J. Hamler announcing he's stepping away from the game because of a heart condition. The 24-year-old posting on Instagram that he was diagnosed with pericarditis after he started experiencing chest pains during workouts ahead of training camp.

And that wasn't the only wideout the Broncos lost yesterday. Tim Patrick reportedly tore his Achilles tendon and is expected to miss the entire season. And super tough for Patrick. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

All right, how about some baseball? The Orioles were up 4-2 against the Blue Jays. They had two runners on in the bottom of the ninth. Left fielder Austin Hays, though, a potentially game-saving catch. What a grab there robbing Whit Merrifield of a hit. The Orioles would hold on to beat the Blue Jays 4-2.

Baltimore 65 and 41. They've got the best record in the American League on August first for the first time since 1997. So, Omar, you know those fans there in Baltimore have been waiting a long time for this kind of moment and this kind of season from their team.

JIMENEZ: Hey, don't sleep on the O's, as they say. AL East looking incredible, too.

Andy Scholes, great to see you as always.

SCHOLES: All right.


JIMENEZ: Coming up "CNN THIS MORNING" Ukraine takes the war to the heart of Moscow, hitting a high-rise again. A live report from Ukraine.

And next, right here, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis laying out his economic agenda. Details on how his plans target China and wokeness.


JIMENEZ: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiling his economic agenda Monday. He's seeking to refocus his messaging from his past victories in Florida to offering voters his vision for the country. DeSantis stands in second place in GOP polling but he's still way behind his main rival, former President Trump.

CNN's Steve Contorno has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis returned to the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Monday where he is looking to reset his presidential campaign after a slow start and stalling poll numbers. DeSantis, on Monday, unveiled his economic agenda, which is focused on cutting ties with China, rolling back President Joe Biden's policies, and slashing the federal bureaucracy.


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are, today, declaring our economic independence from the failed elites and policies that have harmed this nation's middle class. Biden's job-crippling and ideological regulations and executive orders will be reversed by me on day one.

CONTORNO (on camera): However, a new poll shows Gov. DeSantis has an uphill climb in trying to convince Republican voters that he is better suited to be the nominee than former President Donald Trump. That poll from The New York Times-Siena College showed 54 percent of Republican primary voters would choose Donald Trump as their nominee if the election was today.

What's more troubling for DeSantis is what some of the underlying poll number shows. DeSantis has argued for weeks that he is more electable in a general election than former President Donald Trump. Republican voters disagree. Fifty-eight percent said that Donald Trump would be a better nominee against Joe Biden than Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has also said that he would be a more effective executive than Donald Trump. Again, Republican voters disagree, saying that Donald Trump would be better at getting things done 67 to 22 percent.

Steve Contorno, CNN, Concord, New Hampshire.


JIMENEZ: So, to talk about it all, let's bring in CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, Jackie Kucinich. Jackie, great to see you as always.


JIMENEZ: Let's start right there with DeSantis rolling out his economic agenda. It included items like fighting spending, China, taxes. To use his words, woke corporations.

Is that a type of message you think that will resonate with GOP voters?

KUCINICH: I just -- I think it was Gov. Sununu who said don't focus on the policy stuff. Because just at this stage of the campaign this is not what's going to beat former President Trump who is his main rival.

Yes, there are voters in the early states who are kicking the tires. It's very true. However, this is not something that's going to leap you, what, 37 points or something behind like he is. Because it's buoyed by his inability to do retail politics.

His inability to connect with people. We've seen time and time again where DeSantis also won't take comments from the press. It's obviously not why GOP voters don't like him but it shows that he's not being forthcoming when these voters do want to kick the tires about these various policy proposals.

So it just -- he really -- and his lack of willingness to come at Trump at all really shows that he's not -- he hasn't quite figured it out yet how to make an impact.

JIMENEZ: And you touched on it a little bit. I mean, there's a lot of ground to make up here. Polls aren't an exact science but it still -- it's still got to be eye-opening for DeSantis and the rest of the candidates to see the latest New York Times-Siena poll showing 54 percent of likely GOP primary voters supporting Trump, with DeSantis at just 17 percent.

And this is coming even as Trump has had all of these legal troubles in various jurisdictions.

If all of those things aren't slowing down Trump's campaign -- I mean, is there anything that can at this point?

KUCINICH: I mean, your guess is as good as mine. I think we'll know a little bit more after the Republican debate on the 23rd. We'll see which of these challengers are really standing out.

But to your point, the two times, so far, that the former president has been indicted he's just galvanized his support. He's fundraised off of it. He's managed to turn what would normally be a negative into something that his most ardent supporters have really rallied around him.

So it's a very hard nut to crack for these folks because this isn't a rounding error. I mean, this is 10, 20, 30, 40 points in some polls that most of these candidate are trailing behind.

JIMENEZ: And we recently learned that Trump's leadership PAC has spent more than $40 million on some of those related legal fees. I mean, do you think that revelation would affect future donations at this point? I mean, there's been enthusiasm.

KUCINICH: You'd think, but no, it hasn't. I mean, he has -- the RNC was paying his legal bills when he was president. So former President Trump finding someone else to pay his legal bills is kind of like death and taxes at this point in American politics. And it certainly hasn't slowed down his donations even from those small donors that really have -- again, that's where we've seen that enthusiasm is from those small-dollar donations.


Jackie Kucinich, we will have plenty to look for in the coming months here and, of course, as we count down to that August GOP debate. We'll see if that moves the needle at all. Thank you so much.

KUCINICH: All right. Thanks, Omar.

JIMENEZ: A nail-biter puts the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team into the knockout round. Two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion Julia -- Julie Foudy joins "CNN THIS MORNING."



JIMENEZ: Hollywood and everyone who knew and admired him are saying goodbye to actor Angus Cloud, best known for his role in the HBO drama "EUPHORIA."




JIMENEZ: Man, Cloud was a rising star who had a big role in "EUPHORIA" as a sweet-natured drug dealer named Fezco. He was great.


Cloud's family says, quote, "Last week he buried his father and intensely struggled with this loss. The only comfort we have is knowing Angus is now reunited with his dad who was his best friend."

Angus Cloud was 25 years old.

Also, family, friends, and fans are mourning the loss of beloved actor and comedian Paul Reubens, best known for his famous alter ego Pee Wee Herman.




JIMENEZ: "PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE" earned 22 Emmy Awards from 1986 to 1991. Reubens, himself, was nominated for 14 Emmys, winning twice.

In a social media, post, Reubens' publicist announced that he bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.

Paul Reubens was 70 years old.

And movie news. This week and today, "Barbenheimer" delivering a new record of AMC Theaters.


Clip from Warner Bros. Pictures "Barbie."

Clip from Warner Bros. Pictures "Oppenheimer."


JIMENEZ: The world's largest theater chain scoring its biggest single-week ticket venue -- revenue since the company's founding in 1920. It's all thanks to the incredible opening weekend of both "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" and the momentum that followed from July 21 to July 27. Worldwide, in just 10 days, the two movies combined have earned more than a billion dollars.

Thanks for hanging out. I'm Omar Jimenez. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.