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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Report: Russia Doubles Military Spending; Trump Campaign: $7.1M raised Since Atlanta Mug Shot; Zimbabwe's President Reelected After Tense Contest; Spain's Soccer Federation To Hold "Urgent" Meeting; Simone Biles Wins Records 8th U.S. Championship. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 28, 2023 - 05:30   ET




OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's today's fast-forward look ahead. In Georgia, the Fulton County District Attorney will unveil some key details and her racketeering case against Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants. One of them former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. He's pushing to get his case moved to federal court or even thrown out.

In Washington, U.S. District Judge, Tanya Chutkan, is expected to announce a trial date in Trump's federal election interference case. Special Counsel, Jack Smith, and Team Trump are years apart of potential start dates.

And in Florida, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he's off the campaign trail today. He's canceled one event. His wife, Casey DeSantis, will fill in at another event. DeSantis is staying in Florida in the wake of the Jacksonville shooting and ahead of Tropical Storm Idaia's potential landfall.

Now to Russia's war in Ukraine, Moscow is accelerating its military spending 18 months into the invasion. A new report appears to show Russia more than doubled its defense budget for the -- for the year.

CNN's Clare Sebastian reports.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Russia today, military production is sacred. Russia's main tank factory is showing off its latest shipment and a choreographed glimpse into the strain of wartime production. Output here has more than tripled over the last year, according to Russia's Prime Minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have seen is that military spending has been much higher than was actually planned for this year. And it looks like that the spending that was planned for this year is already exhausted now that we are halfway through the year.

SEBASTIAN: The Russian budget had earmarked roughly $50 billion for defense. The budget documents seen this month by Reuters suggests Russia has now more than doubled that estimate.

Experts say it could be even higher.

RICHARD CONNOLLY, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, RUSI: It looks as though as expressed as a percentage of GDP. It could be anywhere between 8 and 10 percent of GDP. So we think as a proportion of GDP it could be have almost tripled.

SEBASTIAN: Are you surprised in any way by this?

CONNOLLY: No. It's the honest answer.

President Putin was very clear, there are, he said, last December no limits to military funding.

And yet, as Russia's annual weapons exhibition got underway this month, the Teflon had started to come off its wartime economy. Military spending, helping fuel a resurgence in inflation, and a plummeting ruble, prompting an emergency rate rise from the central bank and putting even the most loyal Russians on edge.

Sanctions and lower prices also sent Russia's vital oil and gas revenues plummeting in the first half of this year. But prices have been recovering over the summer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is still earning a huge amount of dollars in Yuan and Euros by exporting energy and other resources. And it is going to earn these dollars also in the future because, you know, as we have learned we cannot easily push Russia out of the oil market.

SEBASTIAN: There is though another challenge facing Russia's weapons industry.

Do you like playing basketball, asks this recruitment video for the Kazan helicopter plant.

The CEO of its parent company recently told Putin, they need to fill 23,000 jobs this year. Wages are already up 17 percent.

CONNOLLY: This is a very tight labor force for a number of demographic reasons, but also to do which is the war a lot of people have left the country. Some people have been mobilized.

SEBASTIAN: Sanctions have also disrupted supplies of high-tech components for weapons, experts say raising costs even further. And yet, the Kremlin has found a way to justify this, a war with the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Western elite make no secret of their goal, which is, I quote, Russia's strategic defeat.

CONNOLLY: The Russian population of being presented with that view, so they've been prepped, they've been prepared, and shaped to expect that that may be going to happen. Spend more money to take more of a hit on living standards to fight against such a powerful adversary.

SEBASTIAN: The fight is now happening on the front lines and in the factories.


Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


JIMENEZ: Coming up, will Spain soccer federation's stand by its embattled president after that unwanted is on the World Cup Championship stage. There's an urgent meeting on that today.

And France is cracking down on something that Muslim women and girls wear. Why it might be banned in schools? That's next.


JIMENEZ: So we're back now with the state of the Republican presidential field. Last week, you saw two dueling events for the GOP, the first presidential primary debate. And just about 24 hours later, the frontrunner surrender in Fulton County, Georgia.

Donald Trump, maybe unsurprisingly, fundraised off his own mug shot. And his campaign says it's brought in more than $7 million in just a few days. So how is the rest of the field competing with that?

Let's bring in CNN's -- or let's bring in White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Catherine Lucey. So that's -- I mean that's an evergreen question for this primary, by the way. How does the rest of the field compete with former President Trump? So after what we saw from him in Georgia last week, what does the rest of the field do from here politically?


CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Hey, there. Yes. I mean, that's absolutely right. This whole race has been dominated by, how do they compete with Trump? How do they counter Trump? And we saw that in the debate last week that question comes up, how do they -- how do they deal with him?

Certainly, post-debate, we know that some of them, you know, Nikki Haley, I think in particular, Mike Pence say that they've seen some fundraising improvements. They both had pretty strong performances. A lot of people looking at what they said. You know, obviously, Vivek Ramaswamy got a lot of attention. A lot of Google searches, I believe of his name after the debates. Now he's been -- he's been out campaigning.

But the -- to your point that the central question remains, and even those who had a -- had a good night, had some strong lines, you know, got another look. You know, the polling still is makes it abundantly clear that, you know, former president Trump is the dominant candidate in the race. He continues to clearly lead in all the polls. And it's not clear that one debate really changed any of that.

So for these candidates, some of it is staying alive, right? So fundraising attention boosts help, and they're looking for additional opportunities. But we saw Trump really quickly grab attention again and raised a ton of money himself. This campaign says he raised millions off of that mug shot. So he continues to, you know, be the key figure in the race.

JIMENEZ: Yes. Based on polling, marginal progress here isn't going to close that gap. At least --


JIMENEZ: -- we've seen to this point. I want to turn to the VIvek Ramaswamy because he's in the spotlight after that debate performance, but also he was an Iowa over the weekend. He responded to a 2019 comment made by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, where she said we don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice.

And he compared Pressley's comments to the words of a grand wizard of the modern KKK. He defended those comments on CNN on Sunday. But what do you make of the nature of Ramaswamy's comments and his overall campaign arc, especially since the debate?

LUCEY: Certainly, yes, he is defending those comments. And he's drawn criticism for that. And I think part of what's happening is that he is now getting -- as he gets more attention and this happens.

In races, you get more attention, past statements, past comments. Things you've said before come up more and draw more scrutiny. And so he's certainly getting more attention interviews. People are asking more questions about past comments in his books or past comments on the campaign trail, that is likely to continue.

And he certainly in the debate didn't shy away from trying to be provocative, trying to make, you know, through attention grabbing statements, so that's likely to continue.

But Vivek faces the same problem, I think, that we are talking about, which is, he is really trying to present himself as a Trump-like candidate while still praising former president Trump. And like many of the candidates are saying he would support him if he were the nominee, even if you were convicted of a crime.

So it's not really clear how much you can grow your support if you are not going to criticize or take on the former president in any way.

JIMENEZ: Yes. I mean, and like we've talked about over the course of this, as marginal improvements or, you know, little headlines are made here and there, there's still the Trump's shadow over all this.

Catherine Lucey, White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal, thank you so much.

Zimbabwe's incumbent president hangs on to power after a tense elections, with many still questioning the results. The Electoral Commission says he won with 53 percent of the vote, but accusations of fraud, intimidation, and suspicious arrests are keeping the country on edge. CNN's David McKenzie joins us from Johannesburg. David, Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections. But as Mnangagwa has said, he wants peace here. Where will things go from here?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the next thing that happens in this critically important election, Omar, is that the opposition are going to, they say, reveal data that they say shows where there is a disconnect between how people voted and how the Electoral Commission said the election went.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, as you mentioned, said that this was a peaceful election. He said it was transparent and also happened in broad daylight.

Well, election observers from both the Southern African community and the European Union, and also the U.S. government have posed questions about the lead-up to this election, in terms of intimidation.

There is also huge technical issues with the voting that was much delayed the opposition said they didn't even get an up-to-date voters role, which is critical to understanding the efficacy of election in that country.


Here is the leader of the opposition.


NELSON CHAMISA, FORMER MINISTER OF INFORMATION COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY OF ZIMBABWE: And I think it is clear that we are rejecting the election is a sham, the result. The process itself, we disregarded and is in line with what the (inaudible) observers have said. We reject this sham result and flawed process based on the disputed figures.


MCKENZIE: Multiple individuals in Zimbabwe are still under U.S. sanctions. The president coming in said he will reach out to the opposition to work with them, but at this stage, it's very much open to question. Were they willing to do that, Omar?

JIMENEZ: David McKenzie, thank you so much.

Quick Hits around the globe right now. At least seven people are dead in Haiti after being shot during a church-led protests. Human rights groups say hundreds were rallying against gang violence when they were hit by machine gun fire.

Peruvian officials say at least five people have died after wildfires in Peru. They say the fires are fully contained in Peru and 95 percent contained in Bolivia where they spread.

And France is set to ban the Abaya in state schools. That's the -- that's the loose fitting robe worn by some Muslim girls and women. The new rule goes into effect September 4th, after months of debate.

Now in Spain, the soccer federation there is having what's being called an extraordinary and urgent meeting today. It comes after FIFA suspended federation president, Luis Rubiales, for 90 days for kissing women's World Cup winner, Jenni Hermoso. She has said repeatedly that it wasn't consensual.

Reporter Atika Shubert is live in Valencia, Spain for us. So, Atika, obviously a big meeting. What might the federation have to say about all this? And do we know about the scope of what -- of what they're considering here?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that for now, Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA. And he has, as the beginning of being suspended by the High Commission for sport here in Spain. It's quite an involved process.

But what that means is that it's really thrown all of Spanish football into turmoil. We've seen resignations on mass, the Spanish football -- women's football team in a soccer team is refusing to play until Rubiales is either removed or resigns.

And so it's really having repercussions, not just at a national level, but an international level too. And so this is probably why they're having the emergency meeting.

I have to say that until now, the Royal Football Federation here in Spain has been aggressively defending Rubiales. They put out a statement, for example, after his adamant refusal to resign, saying that Hermoso had lied. They quickly took that down from social media, but they were adamant that he has done nothing wrong.

In the meantime, Hermoso has put out a lengthy statement saying that she felt the victim of this sort of aggression. This macho aggression that she feels is still prevalent in parts of Spain here. So this has become a real turning point for Spain, and for Spanish football. So we'll have to see what happens at this meeting today.

JIMENEZ: Atika Shubert, thank you.

Coming up on CNN this morning, former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, is appealing to a Georgia judge why he's looking to be an exception in the elections interference case.



JIMENEZ: Simone Biles does it again, dominating the best the U.S. has to offer and winning a record eighth all around national championship. Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Good to see you, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: What's up, Omar. This was only Simone Biles' second competition after taking two years off. She got married. Now, 26 and already the most decorated gymnasts of all time. She's still beaten the best of the best on Friday. She became the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike in competition Sunday. Biles starting with the safe play, nailing the Cheng on vault, earning a 14.85. And from there, gold was all hers. Scoring at least one full point better than the runner up in vault beam and floor, finishing third on uneven bars.

In the end, Biles soaring past reigning World silver medalist, Shilese Jones, winning by 3.9 points to claim her eight all around national title.

SIMON BILES, 8-TIME U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPION: It's really amazing. Everybody in here believes in me and my teammates believing, my coaches, my family, everyone. So I just need to start believing in myself a little bit more, but I don't think about numbers. I think about my performance. And I think overall, I hit eight for eight. It's eight. I guess it's a lucky number this year.


WIRE: Viktor Hovland capping off one of the most dominant displays in PGA Tour Championship history. The 25-year-old from Norway sinking it like Stewart on 18, to win by five strokes. Hovland didn't start playing golf until he was 11 years old.

He said his bus rides to school were 45 minutes each way. And he dream of playing on the PGA Tour. This was his second one in a row, third of the year, winning a cool $18 million.

And how does Hovland celebrate with a 10-figure paycheck, Omar? Chipotle, of course. Our Don Riddell asked, Viktor the Victor what his younger self would have thought of all this.


VIKTOR HOVLAND, 2023 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER: I don't think I would have believed it. It's super special, but it makes me just cherish those days a lot more, you know, when it's almost like it's a weird analogy, but it's almost like a video game. Feel like my video game -- or my character has gotten pretty advanced and sometimes you want to start the video game all over to see if you can do it all again. But, yes, I mean it's been an incredible journey.



WIRE: Finally, a Little League World Series for the ages. El Segundo California, up by four against Curacao in the fifth inning. But Nasir El-Ossais launching a game tying grand slam. His teammates swarming him at the plate. It's a tight ball game, but in the bottom of the sixth this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Challenge that, and this game is over.


WIRE: Imagine the feeling. Louis Lappe, legendary stuff. A walk off home run making El Segundo the eighth team from California to be crowned champs. But the coolest moment might have been when the team from Japan who were eliminated last week stuck around to give high fives and take us ease with winners.

Omar, the team there from California got messages from LeBron. Several of the Dodgers players. They must be riding high.

JIMENEZ: Sounded that that was so sweet. Coy Wire, thanks so much.

WIRE: You got it.

JIMENEZ: That's it for us.

Next on CNN this morning, two court hearings today that could determine the path forward for prosecuting Donald Trump.