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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Death Toll in Maui Inferno Rises To At Least 55; 10 AM: Hearing on Evidence Handling in Election Subversion Case; Officials: Missile Strikes Overnight in Kyiv; GOP Presidential Candidates Descend in Iowa State Fair. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2023 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Rahel Solomon.

We began this morning in Hawaii, where authorities have increased the death toll caused by the wildfires there. At least 55 people are now confirmed dead from that raging inferno that swept through the town of Lahaina, in Maui. The community there is just devastated from the loss.


MAYOR RICHARD BISSEN, MAUI COUNTY, HAWAII: We are going to try, our very best, to identify those that have perished so that the families can have closure and can have that understanding.

CHIEF JOHN PELLETIER, MAUI POLICE: When the mayor said it's all gone, it's all gone. It's all gone. It's gone.


SOLOMON: The governor estimating Thursday that 80 percent of the overall Lahaina area was destroyed. County officials in Maui says that the fire is mostly contained.

The federal government also swimming into action with President Biden issuing a disaster declaration for Maui and parts of the big island.

Meantime, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is traveling to Hawaii today to meet with state and local officials.

I want to now bring in Keisha Pagdilao. She is safe in Oahu, Hawaii, but she's also separated from her family who are in Lahaina. Her parents' home has burned down and her sister is a firefighter there.

Keisha, I mean, just first of all, how are you doing? I mean, looking from afar at the pictures and hearing from officials, it's just been really hard to watch. How are you doing? KEISHA PAGDILAO, PARENTS LOST THEIR HOME IN LAHAINA: You know what? I

feel this immense amount of guilt for not being in Lahaina to help my hometown and the people that I love the most. I'm okay, I'm safe. I have electricity. I have resources. I have my husband. I have my family. I'm grateful. I have my mom and dad and my sister, who is a firefighter, alive.

So, I'm good.


PAGDILAO: Thank you for asking. I know a lot of people in a Lahaina, they're -- they're not doing good. So thank you.

SOLOMON: Keisha, walk me through what's happening with your family right now in terms of communication. What can you tell us about the communication you've had with -- with all the people that you are connected to in Lahaina?

PAGDILAO: So, going back to the night of the major fire, having connection to anyone was nonexistent. Finding my mom, my dad, my sister who is a firefighter, it was impossible. No one would answer, there's no reception, still to this day, there's no reception.

My mom and dad are safe. I can contact them. They're on the other side of the island, the south side of Maui, which has resources and it has electricity, but I'm telling you, the west side of Maui has nothing.

And so, contacting my sister is -- I'm lucky to reach her and contacting my friends. I have friends, many of them, if not all, are displaced. No homes. They're hard to reach.


PAGDILAO: Near impossible. So --

SOLOMON: When you talk to your sister, I'm sorry go on --

PAGDILAO: No. go ahead. I'm sorry, go ahead.

SOLOMON: I'm just curious. You know, when you talk to your sister, as you said, a firefighter there. I mean, what has she told you about the extraordinary amount of work ahead that they are still dealing with right now?

PAGDILAO: So anyone who knows my sister, Natasha (ph), she is even- keeled, she's cool, calm, collected. She's a female firefighter. We were born and raised in Lahaina and she -- I remember the call. She said that I'm okay, everything is gone. Lahaina is gone.

And when she said that, my heart dropped because I knew it was serious. She has seen, what she has told me is that she has seen devastation beyond belief. I mean, bodies everywhere, our hometown is gone -- buildings, homes.

We grew up in line. I can't even begin to describe what she has talked about because the trauma that our firefighters and first responders are facing is enormous.


And I don't think anyone understands. I don't think anyone can grasp until they see it firsthand. Pictures, videos, will not do justice. I'm -- I'm -- I am believing that.

SOLOMON: Yeah, I mean -- the pictures and comments coming out of Lahaina have been so incredible to hear and witness. Tell me a little bit more about the Lahaina community for those who have not been there, for those who have not been to Hawaii. What can you tell us about the community and the people there?

PAGDILAO: It -- so Lahaina is the strongest group of people you will ever meet. They hold true to the Lahaina strong belief that -- you are a family there. There is nothing like ever -- you're ever going to exist -- if you have visited Lahaina, if you have experienced Lahaina, if you were born and raised in Lahaina, you're proud -- you are a proud human being. You're a proud person.

And all my family, my community, all my friends in Lahaina, I know you are suffering and I am so sorry for all the loss. I'm so sorry for all of the pain and suffering, and I just -- Lahaina is strong. And we will recover, we will rebuild, but it is going to take a really long time and I can't even begin to explain how long.


PAGDILAO: I know from what I have seen on social media, I can't get a hold of a lot of people, so what I've seen on social media, what I've seen on the news is what I can see. But what I see is that they are with strong and they are withstanding and they're resilient, and they will come back from this.


PAGDILAO: And my dad -- my dad is born and raised in Lahaina during -- he is born and raised in Lahaina, and he is adamant. He said I will not leave, I will rebuild.


PAGDILAO: I will stay here and a lot of Lahaina residents will. And if you see the devastation, it is unimaginable. You think that this is apocalyptic. This is -- a bomb hit Lahaina.

But people in Lahaina, this is how strong they are connected to the land, to the island, to the people. They want him to stay. They will stay until the end. And that is Lahaina.

SOLOMON: And, Keisha, we are hoping that the people of Lahaina and Hawaii get everything they need to rebuild as quickly as possible, but we appreciate your time today. We know it wasn't easy to talk about, but we are glad that you're safe. We're glad that your sister and family are safe, and we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you. PAGDILAO: Thank you.

SOLOMON: All right. In other news this morning, federal prosecutors and lawyers for Donald Trump will appear before a judge. This is in the special counsel case for election subversion against the former president.

Now, both sides will argue about restrictions that prosecutors want to impose on what Trump can say publicly about sensitive evidence in the case. Trump is not expected to be in court for today's hearing.

Meantime, on Thursday, prosecutors filed their proposed trial schedule for the case and their ambitious calendar would have the trial began the day after New Year's.

More now from CNN's Katelyn Polantz in Washington.


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Justice Department now has their hopes for a trial schedule outlined in the new filing of federal court on Thursday. For Donald Trump, what the Justice Department and prosecutors want to do is take Donald Trump to trial in this January 6 criminal case in federal court by January. They would like to have jury selection in December and then the case kick off with evidence of being presented beginning on January 2nd of 2024.

Now, that is the date that Donald Trump and his lawyers are almost certainly going to be pushing back on quite harshly. They are not going to have to respond in court to this until next week, but when they do, they've already signaled that they are very likely going to want to claim that they have a lot of legal arguments to make that are not going to allow for a trial that quickly in 45 months from now. Things about presidential immunity, things about the First Amendment.

Also, they've argued in other cases and hear that Donald Trump is quite a busy individual right now who is running for president, not only is January and February going to bring about the beginning of voting in the 2024 primaries for president, he's going to be running there. Iowa caucuses will be on the calendar.

But also, there are other things that he needs to do at the beginning of the year, including prepare for other trials, both lawsuits that are taking him to trial. There's already one scheduled in mid-January. E. Jean Carroll, the columnist in New York, taking him to trial on a defamation case for the second time, and then other criminal trials that he is preparing for now that he has been indicted multiple times in multiple courts.


So that is going to get hashed out. It is not going to get hashed out right away, though.

On Friday morning, there will be a court hearing in this case, the federal coronal case against Donald Trump related to the 2020 election and in that hearing, it's going to be the first before a federal judge, Tanya Chutkan, in the D.C. District Court. She's going to be talking to the lawyers about how evidence should be handled in this case. There's been some disputes over that, how much Donald Trump actually will be able to share publicly as he learns information that the Justice Department gathered and handed over to him so his team can prepare for trial. She is going to be determining that.

And she also may be responding to some of the things both Trump's lawyers and the Justice Department have said in court filing so far about his social media posts, that he has been quite aggressive on social media talking about Mike Pence, talking about the judge, talking about the prosecutors, and so a lot to watch for -- exactly how the judge responds and what the tone will be in this very first hearing before the federal judge will oversee the trial of Donald Trump related to the 2020 election.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.


SOLOMON: This just in, missile strikes in the last few hours in Kyiv. Military officials in Ukraine's capital city say that missile fragments fell in the area of a children's hospital and in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.


SOLOMON: At least 16 people, including four children, are hurt this morning after Russian missile strike on a hotel Thursday.

I want to bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz. She's following the story live from London.

Salma, good morning.

What more can you tell us about this hotel, officials have said that it was the site of a children's day camp. I mean, what more do we know about the site?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an attack that the United Nations is calling utterly inadmissible and appalling. This hotel in Zaporizhzhia was used -- frequented by NGOs, humanitarian groups, United Nations itself. It was used as a day camp.

And just by a stroke of luck, the children had finished their session there just an hour before this missile strike. We now understand, according to Ukrainian officials, two people killed in that attack and several others wounded. Among them, several children including a three-year-old girl who was still in hospital, being treated for her injuries.

As you can imagine, this is yet another illustration to the U.N. and to Ukrainians that civilians are not off limits to Russia's assaults. It comes as Ukraine makes marginal gains in the south of Zaporizhzhia, that is a key frontline for Ukraine. But, Ukraine's military says that Russia is working on a distraction.

They are trying to pull Kyiv's troops towards the north, towards Kharkiv region by sending reinforcements there, including for their tank decisions, for they're airborne decisions. In fact, officials there say that in some areas, strikes are occurring 50 to 80 times a day. Airstrikes from Russia, of course, using its air support superiority yet again to push back Ukraine on that counteroffensive.

And that is, again, the problem that we are seeing all along those front lines. It is hundreds of miles of active fighting, forcing Ukraine's forces have to stretch thin all along it and, of course, a stretch of the resources thin. This coming as President Biden asked for billions -- $24 billion to be exact in more aid, with very few successes in hand.

SOLOMON: Yeah, it comes as even Zelenskyy admits that the counteroffensive has not exactly gone the way they would've hoped, at least not yet.

Salma Abdelaziz, live for us in London, thank you, Salma.

Well, this could be a more active hurricane season in the Atlantic than officials initially predicted. A new forecast just came down from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the breakdown.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's the battle between the record ocean temperatures that helped fuel stronger hurricanes, versus a strong El Nino that helps limit hurricane activity. Just yesterday, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration actually upped the ante. They increased the likelihood of an above average hurricane season just a week before we get into the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

So these are the latest numbers from NOAA and you can see, after already having four main storms, they are anticipating for the entire season, up to 21 main storms. That's a big difference from what they had forecast in May. Hurricanes between six and 11, and get this, 2 to 5 major hurricanes, that is category three strength or greater anticipated across the Atlantic basin.

Now, typically, when we have a strong El Nino developing like we do now, we see increased wind shear as the jet stream kind of shifts across parts of what we call the main development region.


And that inhibits hurricane potential. It really kind of tears apart a hurricane.

Now, we do have these water temperatures that are running 2 to 4, even 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average. So, we believe, and so does NOAA, that this will actually win in this battle between El Nino and record warmth. So, it's going to help bring in above average season as we get into the coming weeks and months.

Here's our four named storms so far. Remember, we did have Hurricane Don across the Atlantic, and remember, the peak of the hurricane season is still to come. September 10th, but it's really the weeks starting from next week, all the way through to the end of September where we keep all eyes on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico for hurricanes.

Back to you.


SOLOMON: All right. Derek, thank.

And still ahead for us on EARLY START, another person has been charged in the Montgomery riverfront brawl. Plus, we will take you to India with the global impact of their new ban on rice exports.

And, what President Biden plans to make a key part of his reelection fight, we will discuss, coming up next.



SOLOMON: Welcome back.

And quick hits across America now.

A Brooklyn grand jury has indicted a 17-year-old on murder and hate crime charges. That's after he allegedly stabbed to death professional dancer O'Shea Sibley.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer on the "Rust" movie set, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and tampering with evidence charges. She's accused in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

And a fourth person has now been charged with assault. This is in that Montgomery, Alabama, riverfront brawl that the video has been everywhere. Mary Todd, who you see here, turned herself into police Thursday and CNN's Laura Coates spoke to the captain last night. Listen.


JIM KITTRELL, CAPTAIN OF HARRIOTT II: Damien, he is actually my first mate. And I've been mentoring --

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: He was the one who is struck?

KITTRELL: Yes, he was the one that was struck. And he has been a dear friend of mine for a long time. And when the first guy hit him, I said oh my god. He threw his hat up and I said oh no, we have got problems. Another guy got involved. And three more guys, three or four more guys came down the dock and I said, thank god, they're going to stop this. But they did not stop it, they jumped in as well.


SOLOMON: More to come there.

Well, it wouldn't be campaign season without a trip to the Iowa state fair. Republican presidential candidates are looking to drum up support ahead of the first debate, now less than two weeks away.

As of now, four candidates have met all three requirements for the debate stage. That includes hitting certain polling and donor requirements, plus signing the RNC's loyalty pledge to back the eventual nominee. Several candidates, including the current front runner, former President Donald Trump, have met the polling and donor requirements, but have not signed the pledge or at least publicly announced it.

Discussing the pledge, Ron DeSantis -- well, he didn't hold back. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I signed the pledge to support the team going forward in 2024. We've had that is what you do, there is no way I would ever just to take my ball and go home and pout. You've got to continue to fight, and fight for you believe in.


SOLOMON: All right, let's bring in Akayla Gardner, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Akayla, twice in one week, great to see you.

All right, so Trump status in the upcoming debate is unknown, right? He hasn't said for sure whether he will participate or not, but we do know where he stands on the pledge. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I wouldn't sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn't have. I wouldn't of certain people as someone that I would endorse.


SOLOMON: So, Akayla, what does the RNC do if the current front runner decides that he wants to be on the debate stage, but doesn't sign the pledge?

AKAYLA GARDNER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: The answer is there's not much that they can do and that is the problem with his pledge to begin with, is it's very difficult to enforce. In 2016, Trump signed the pledge and later said that he would no longer honor it and, this is something that Chris Christie has pointed out, that even if somebody signed the pledge, the RNC cannot force them to eventually support them as the nominee.

But this is part of Trump's narrative that he is untouchable. He knows that he has a sizable lead over his opponents, and all indications right now is that he will skip. But one thing that I want to focus in on is DeSantis committing to this debate is significant because there was a time where his team avoided saying at all whether he would join the debate. And in fact, his super PAC implied that, if Trump did not join the debate, that he may not either.

So this is just one side again taking a 360 with his campaign strategy and no longer following Trump's blueprint, which was not talking to mainstream media, not committing to the base, not focusing on kitchen table issues. We see this campaign really change that strategy in the recent weeks.

SOLOMON: Right, perhaps another sign of the reboot in his campaign strategy.

Akayla, presidential candidate Nikki Haley, she posted her signed pledge. I want to post it for you. She said: All right, fellas, your turn. But you can see how she notably crosses out Biden's name and replaces it with Vice President Harris. Now, we haven't seen a lot of the other GOP candidates targeting Harris. We have seen Haley targeting Harris.

But do you think that changes, that we'll see more of a direct attack on the VP?

GARDNER: DeSantis is also somebody who is doing this, but this goes back to an original pitch that Haley made when she first announced, which is that she believes the Republican Party and the nation in general needs a new generation of leaders, and in that category is not only Joe Biden, but she is also putting Donald Trump or implicitly implying that Trump is a part of that, too. She believes that they need a younger generation of leaders.

And she's bringing up something here that we all know is a vulnerability for Joe Biden, which is his age.


And she's implying that Harris does not have the leadership qualities in this scenario, where Biden could no longer serve. And she is really targeting an easy target.

Harris cannot directly defend her leadership capabilities. She is not at the top of the ticket, and he cannot entertain this scenario. And so, we are seeing people like Haley, like DeSantis, point it back to Vice President Harris as a way to undermine Joe Biden.

SOLOMON: It's interesting because, Akayla, you and I spoke earlier this week about Biden leaning into the jokes about his age, in terms of the next generation concerns. But we also appeared to be understanding that to his campaign may be leaning into certain social issues.

I want to play for you what his campaign manager told our colleague, my colleague Dana Bash on CNN Thursday. Here's part of what she said when talking about abortion, specifically.


JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, BIDEN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: When he and Vice resident Harris are reelected, it is something that we will continue to ensure that Roe is codified in this country.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: And he's going to lean into it on the campaign trail?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, we've seen it as a motivating factor for our coalition of voters and our base of support.


COATES: So, two questions on this, Akayla. One, is that a smart strategy for the Biden campaign? And two, what -- what do Republican candidates do about the fact that, I mean, you think about, for example, the Ohio ballot measure, that they may not be on the right sides of this in terms of public support?

GARDNER: Abortion is arguably an issue that has really hurt DeSantis. Obviously, he signed that six-week ban in Florida and we have seen donors really push him to focus on more moderate issues. That's been a concern for him. But of the Biden campaign and Democrats at large are really betting that abortion will have the same effect that it did in the midterms, that it will galvanize people like suburban women, like independents, and really get a difference maker here, especially when Joe Biden is still suffering low approval rating, especially because of a people's perceptions about the economy.

And bringing up Vice President Harris again, she has really taken the lead on this issue and that has allowed the campaign to be very dynamic and that you have Biden going on the trail, focusing on Bidenomics, and you have her taking on more of these social issues like abortion, like education, like gun reform, and she is really trying to paint a contrast with Republicans on issues that they really share no ground with Republicans.

SOLOMON: Yeah, it has been interesting as of late. I want to say the last few weeks or so to see Vice President Kamala Harris take a more vocal, more active role in campaigning, moving forward.

Akayla Gardner, "Bloomberg News", it's great to see you. Have a nice weekend.

All right. Coming up for us, Iran and the U.S. moving towards a new deal. What that means for five Americans that are detained there?