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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Powerful Storm System Whips East Coast Killing 2; Trump Ally Kerik Meets with Special Counsel Investigators; 7 Killed, 81+ Injured in Missile it on Pokrovsk; Today: Montgomery Officials to Give Details on White Boaters' Attack on Black Cruise Worker; DeSantis on Trump's 2020 Election Claims: "Of Course He Lost". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 08, 2023 - 05:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, deadly weather. At least two people are killed as severe storms slam the East Coast.

Plus, all out legal war. Donald Trump's lawyers fighting on several fronts as another criminal indictment looms.

And have you seen this video? It is everywhere. The violent free-for- all on the waterfront. Police are expected to reveal more about this Alabama dock brawl just hours from now.


SOLOMON: A lot to get to this morning. Good morning and welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Rahel Solomon. Great to be with you this morning.

Well, people from New York to Mississippi are cleaning up after a deadly storm hit the east coast with heavy rain, thunder and raging winds up to 70 miles per hour.

The high winds and falling trees smashed buildings and tore the roofs off of some homes. Two young men were killed. A 28 was hit by lightning in a parking lot and in Anderson, South Carolina, Anderson County, South Carolina, a 15-year-old died when a falling tree hit him and he is got out of his car. Neighbors say the power of the storm at that moment was just breathtaking.


MARCUS NASH, NEIGHBOR: The rain was literally sideways. Trees, limbs hitting truck as you're driving. And, you know, it's one of the worst I've seen. If it wasn't a tornado, it had to be awfully close.

I just certainly feel for them. They are wonderful neighbors. I just can't imagine going through what they are going through.


SOLOMON: Also, 1,600 flights were canceled in the U.S. Monday and there are almost 400,000 customers without power right now on the East Coast.

Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He is live in the CNN Weather Center.

Derek, good morning to you. So, this storm really seemed to come out of nowhere, developed quickly and with surprising power.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED BROADCAST METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, hurricane force gusts in fact some reports over 75-mile-per-hour. But what is most astounding to me, we have over 600 reports of severe weather including one confirmed tornado with the number likely to go up. But look at that, over 500 reports of wind damage and wind reports. I mean, this is blanketing much of the eastern seaboard, some of the heaviest populated areas of the United States.

And so anywhere from Atlanta, all the way to the nation's capital, and just outside of New York City. So, the ongoing threat right now diminishing across the East Coast. We do have another flare up of thunderstorms this morning across Oklahoma, and into southwestern Arkansas, that's where we have a severe thunderstorm watch until about 8:00 a.m. central time. And by the way, some hefty storms moving through Oklahoma city as we speak.

So, the threat today largely across the plains. But also, look at the Deep South, this is kind of the remnants of the cold front that brought the severe storms in the Eastern Seaboard. Jackson, Mississippi, all the way to Tallahassee, Florida. Isolated damaging wind gusts, large hail and can't rule out a possibility of a tornado as well.

Several flare-ups of thunderstorms expected over the eastern half of the country. We also have a flash flood threat. Remember, go back a couple of weeks and we had flooding across much of northern New England. Now we get additional rain on top of very saturated soils. So the potential there exists for some flooding.

Weather Prediction Center has a level three of four, that is a moderate risk and that includes much of New Hampshire and central sections of Maine. That slight risk extends all the way to Boston by the way. And National Weather Service picking up on that, flash flood watches in effect through the day today as a few showers and thunderstorms from the cold front that brought severe weather continues to move through. So, very tumultuous past 24 hours across the Eastern Seaboard -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yeah, Derek. It feels like it's been a tumultuous summer, if it hasn't been the rain, it has been the heat. Feels like it has been an intense summer.

Derek Van Dam, great to see you. Thank you.


SOLOMON: More Republicans are being called in by prosecutors who are building evidence into two separate investigations in to Donald Trump. Rudy Giuliani associate Bernard Kerik and his lawyers speaking Monday with investigators for special counsel Jack Smith. And Georgia's former Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, he received a subpoena to testify before the Fulton County grand jury investigating Trump's alleged election interference. All of this a sign that Trump's legal troubles appear to be growing deeper by the day.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Washington, CNN reporting exclusively that former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik talked to special counsel investigators.

TIM PARLATORE, LAWYER FOR BERNIE KERIK: It was mostly about, you know, all the efforts in between the election and January 6 of what the Giuliani team is doing.


REID: The meeting is the first known investigative step since the special counsel's office filed charges against former President Trump last week. Kerik's attorney Tim Parlatore saying he doesn't think Trump's former lawyer Rudy Giuliani will be indicted.

PARLATORE: No, not a chance.

REID: Also, Trump's lawyers arguing in a new court filing that they shouldn't be restricted from talking publicly about some evidence in the election interference probe.

JOHN LAURO, TRUMP LAWYER: The press and the American people in a campaign season have a right to know what the evidence is in this case.

REID: While so-called protective orders aren't unusual, prosecutors say that it is especially important in this case because of Trump's public statements, and how they could have a chilling effect like this recent social media post that read: If you go after me, I'm coming after you.

Trump also lashing out specifically at his former vice president who could become a witness at trial, calling him delusional and not a very good person. Pence saying that he would testify if asked.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People can be confident. We'll obey the law. We'll respond to the call of the law if it comes. And we'll just tell the truth.

REID: Trump even attacking Jack Smith at a fundraiser in South Carolina just days after his second arrest and arraignment in federal court on the case brought by the special counsel.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMRER PRESIDENT: Jack Smith, he's a deranged human being.

REID: Trump's legal team testing out their defense in the court of public opinion, including arguing that what Trump did was covered by the First Amendment.

LAURO: There was no fraudulent conspiracy. That's part of the really different defense. Biden said in November 2022 that he wanted to see President Trump prosecuted and taken out of this race.

REID: But these defenses were quickly rebutted by some of Trump's former top allies. Former Attorney General Bill Barr drawing a line between speech and conspiracy.

BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. All conspiracies involve speech.

REID: The Trump team also bracing for a fourth indictment in as many months. This time coming out of Fulton County, Georgia.

ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Yeah, I think that we can expect it.

REID: Where the former lieutenant governor just got subpoenaed in that grand jury investigation. And District Attorney Fani Willis is getting ready to announce possible charges against Trump for his actions in Georgia around the 2020 election.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I took an oath and that oath requires that I follow the law and that if someone broke the law in Fulton County, Georgia, that I have a duty to prosecute and that's exactly what I plan to do.


REID (on camera): CNN observing additional security for Judge Tanya Chutkan. She is the judge overseeing the Trump prosecution related to January 6 here in Washington, D.C. She is also the judge who will rule on that protective order and it is unclear when she will make that decision.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

SOLOMON: Now to deadly missile strikes in Ukraine. Authorities say that seven people were killed overnight, at least 81 others injured, this is after two Russian strikes on the city of Pokrovsk.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is live with the latest now.

So, Clare, it is midday now in that region. What more are officials saying?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Rahel. For a second day now, rescue efforts are ongoing. We're told by Ukrainian officials that they have to take a pause overnight because of the threat of shelling. But the scale of the destruction is extreme. Some 2,000 windows were blown out, some 12 multistory buildings affected including a hotel and restaurant that were popular we're told with journalists who had visited the area.

This was a double missile attack using what Ukrainian officials say were ballistic Iskander Russian missiles. It happened around 30 to 40 minutes apart in the early evening of Monday. And the reason why this kind of attack is so destructive is because you have one missile that strikes and then rescuers, police officers move in and the second missile hits and you can see from the injury toll we're getting exactly what is happens. They say some 31 police officer, seven rescuers, four servicemen were among the injured, one high ranking individual emergency service also among the seven killed.

So Pokrovsk is in the Donetsk region. It's some 30 miles from the east. In fact, it has, in fact, been on the edge of this conflict really for the past decade when Russian backed separatists were fighting in that region.

But I think that even for a town like this, this was -- these are startling image as. This was a new level of violence.


And as I say, the rescue efforts are ongoing this morning.

SOLOMON: Yeah, Clare, you took the words right out of my mouth. I'm just looking at the video off screen. You know, even more than a year into this war, the images are still startling, to say the least.

Clare Sebastian live for us in London -- thank you, Clare.

Back here in the U.S., now a video that you may have seen on social media because this story is everywhere. Investigators in Montgomery, Alabama, are expected to reveal more this afternoon about a brawl that broke out on a riverfront dock on Saturday. So video of the fight here shows a Black man identified as a cruise boat crew member attacked by a group of white men who witnesses say were on a private pontoon boat.

CNN's Ryan Young picks up the story from there.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An altercation in a Montgomery boat dock over the weekend between a group of White boaters and a Black employee escalated into a massive brawl that resulted in multiple arrest warrants.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed is calling for justice to be served for attacking a man who was doing his job.

MAYOR STEVEN REED, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: It's an unfortunate incident, and it's something that we're investigating right now. We'll continue to go through that process before we take any additional steps.

YOUNG: It all began when the black employee was trying to clear the dock space with the riverside cruise, the Harriet II normally docks. The cruiser was about to return to shore and needed its space to dock.

LAUREN SPIVEY, WITNESS FROM THE BOAT: You know, just doing his job and for some reason, they didn't like it. They didn't want to move the boat. And he decided to get physical with him. YOUNG: You can see in the video, the Black employee on the dock

arguing with one of the men from the pontoon boat. Then another shirtless white man charging at the employee and hitting him in the face. Soon after that, you can see several others join in on the attack of the dock employee.

In some of the video, which has gone viral, with millions of views, people on the boat can be heard yelling for someone to help the employee.

Then at one point, you can see a young man who has jumped off the boat swimming ashore to help the man who is being attacked.

SPIVEY: The boat got closer. The guys and crews members and everybody got off, and that's when it happened. That's the reason why when they got off the boat, they came right to that smaller boat.

YOUNG: And that's when more fighting ensues, turning into an all-out brawl that included several people getting hit over the head with a folding chair. Soon after, officers tried to take control, handcuffing people in the fight.

SPIVEY: They were antagonists in the whole situation, arrest them because unfortunately, when things happen, people in color are the first to be put in handcuffs.

YOUNG: Many questions remain about the melee that appeared to be very much split across racial lines.

REED: We are fully engaged and we are doing all of our due diligence to find out exactly what took place.


YOUNG (on camera): Yeah, we've learned from police that there are four warrants that have been issued and we're told there will be a Tuesday news conference around 2:00 Eastern. And we should learn more from police and city officials about this. But this really captivated the Internet and people are paying attention to what the next steps are.

SOLOMON: A lot more to watch there.

Coming up for us, Ohio voters at the ballot box today. What's at stake in this special election?

Plus, how extreme heat can also affect gas prices.

But, first for us, President Biden's 2024 campaign strategy. Will Bidenomics really resonate with voters? We'll discuss.



SOLOMON: Welcome back. It's becoming increasingly likely that former President Donald Trump will not participate in the first Republican presidential debate that takes place a few weeks from now. One person who will be there, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who is currently trailing Trump by a wide margin in the polls. DeSantis will join over 2024 hopefuls on the debate stage as they look to try to make a dent in Trump's lead.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saying directly what his chief rival, former President Donald Trump, refuses to. That Trump lost the 2020 election.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, he lost. Joe Biden is the president.

DEAN: DeSantis making the case in a new interview that if the 2024 election is about Trump and his legal battles, Republicans will lose.

DESANTIS: That's not a pathway for success for the Republican Party. I think a lot of our voters understand that.

DEAN: It's a similar line of attack former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been using against the former president.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want Republican voters to know, this is a preview of the election coming up if Donald Trump is the nominee. He'll be talking about Donald Trump rather than Joe Biden and what we should be focused on is talking about Joe Biden and his record, and that's why he cannot be the nominee.

DEAN: Many of the Republican candidates spent the weekend in Iowa, courting voters in the first in the nation caucus state.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa is an important state. Not because of the caucuses, that is an important thing, but for our national security. Food security is national security. You supply us with our food, you supply us with ethanol.

DESANTIS: I'm asking for your support in the January caucus because I could pledge to you this, I will get the job done. I will not let you down.

DEAN: But Trump continues to go after DeSantis.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: DeSantis has fallen very dramatically.

DEAN: And his other rivals, most pointedly his former Vice President Mike Pence, writing on Truth Social, quote: He's delusional and now he wants to show he's a tough guy.

Pence has been sharpening his criticism of Trump following the former president's third indictment, saying Trump put himself before the Constitution and anyone who does that should not be president.

MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump was wrong. He was wrong then, he's wrong now. I have no right to overturn the election. And more and more Americans are coming up to me every day and recognizing that.



DEAN (on camera): Despite all of this, former President Donald Trump continues to lead by a wide margin in polling across this GOP presidential primary. And his opponents are still looking for a way to really break through with voters. So many of them are looking to the first debate in this cycle which is scheduled for about 2-1/2 weeks from now.

And President Trump has not indicated whether he will or won't be on that stage. But what we do know is that so many of those rivals to Trump are hoping that's going to be a big moment for them.

Jessica Dean, CNN, Washington.

SOLOMON: Meantime, President Biden landed in Arizona on Monday, kicking off his three-state trip to the West, that also includes visits to Mexico and Utah. He is looking to highlight his legislative accomplishments ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act.

And one word you should expect to hear in speeches, Bidenomics.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said I didn't name it Bidenomics, I didn't realize the economists and "Wall Street Journal" did, but I think that it is a plan that I'm happy to call Bidenomics.

I'm not here to declare victory on the economy. We have more work to. We have a plan for turning things around. Bidenomics is just another way of saying restoring the American dream.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bidenomics is working. Last month, we created 187,000 new jobs.


SOLOMON: Let's now bring in Akayla Gardner, White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News".

Akayla, good morning. Thanks for waking up to be with us.

So, first, let's just start with Bidenomics. I mean, certainly, the administration hopes that it becomes catchy. But do think that people fully appreciate and understand what it is?

AKAYLA GARDNER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, one thing that we know for us is very few are familiar with the term Bidenomics, but among those who are, about half associate the term with tax increases. And that may be confusing for some because the administration has not imposed any tax increases on individuals. And in fact, Biden has promised not to raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 a year.

But that's likely because of Republican rhetoric around the term and that shows how much the Biden administration has lost control of the narrative over the term. They have tried to tie it to so many of Biden's priorities, that's including clean energy, manufacturing, lowering cost on things like prescription drugs. And people are just frankly confused about what it actually means. But it's a term that the campaign really has to rein in if they want it to be effective moving forward.

SOLOMON: Yeah, one thing we've also heard the administration compared to, tied with is the labor market and I haven't heard anyone questioning the strength of the labor market. The elephant in the room however when you're talking about the economy is inflation, and higher interest rates.

And I just wonder how risky is it to lean into the economy when inflation is still -- it's cooling but still higher than most would like?

GARDNER: It's a balance that the administration has to strike. They are constantly touting things like jobs, that the 13 million jobs added to the economy since Biden has taken off. They are touting things like the Inflation Reduction Act, as you -- as you mentioned there. Infrastructure -- this manufacturing boom that we're seeing.

That's why you're also seeing Biden caveat that by saying there's still more to be done here. And that's really the stress here, is people are not seeing some of the positive economic data, they are still feeling stress when it comes to rent, when it comes grocery, when it comes to buying goods. So they have to strike a balance here.

SOLOMON: Yeah, and I should say that tomorrow, we'll get the Consumer Price Index report, another inflation report which will give us a sense of what prices are doing right now.

Akayla, you've told us that age seems to be the number one factor when you're talking to Democratic voters, President Biden's age. How does he combat those concerns?

GARDNER: Yeah, age is certainly a concern, even among people who I talked to that approve for the president and even planned to vote for him again. They still expressed that they're concerned about his fitness for office, whether he will be able to continue to serve in this role for another four years. He will be 86 at the end of the second term.

But what we've seen Biden do is frankly turn it into a joke. There is practically no speech that you could hear any longer where he does not let everyone know that he knows this is a concern and that he is also in on the joke. Just yesterday, we saw the World Series championships at the White House, we saw the Houston Astros and Biden made a joke about this, referring to himself and comparing himself to Dusty Baker there, 74-year-old manager. And saying people counted him out and he knows something a little bit about that.

SOLOMON: Yeah, we'll see if that resonates with voters.

Akayla Gardner, great to see you of "Bloomberg News".


Thank you.

All right. Time for quick hits across America now.

Ex-Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao has been sentenced to 57 months, more than four years, for his role during George Floyd's killing in 2020. He is already behind bars from federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a rising star among Texas Democrats, is taking a leave to get treatment for clinical depression. She plans to return next month.

New York City's mayor announcing plans to build a new relief center on Randall's Island, in the middle of East River, to try to accommodate about 2,000 migrants. There are still more than 57,000 under city care.

And coming up, the U.K. begins moving asylum seekers to a controversial floating barge.

And a summit in South America seeks to save the Amazon rainforest. What they plan do, just ahead.