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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Police: Four Sightings Of Escaped Killer Reported Near Prison Site; Putin Offers Terms For Reviving Black Sea Grain Deal; Day 2: African Leaders Work To Raise Voice On Climate Crisis. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 05, 2023 - 05:30   ET




DAVID CULVER, CNN ANCHOR: Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

The impeachment trial of Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton starts this morning. The Statehouse will consider whether he abused his office to help a donor, among many other accusations.

Jury selection begins today in the trial of former Trump adviser Peter Navarro. He is charged with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6 Committee.

Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio will be sentenced this afternoon for seditious conspiracy connected to the Capitol riot. Prosecutors have asked for a sentence of 33 years in prison.

So we've got a lot of different legal angles to unpack on those stories, and to help us get to it we've got Lis Wiehl, a former federal prosecutor, joining us this morning. She's also the author of "A Spy In Plain Sight."

Lis, we know we've got to go through a few things and we appreciate your help breaking all of this down for us.

We'll start with what's been lengthy sentences for other Proud Boys ranging anywhere from 10 to 18 years, but prosecutors seeking more than 30 years for Tarrio. What do you think the likelihood of that happening is?

LIS WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, AUTHOR "A SPY IN PLAIN SIGHT" (via Skype): I don't think he'll get the first -- the whole 33, David, but I think look for at least 18 years. Because the guys who were sentenced before them, with the exception of David Rhodes, were mostly foot soldiers. I mean, they were there. They were carrying out the orders of the conspiracy.

But Tarrio has been charged with and been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, you know. He was the chairman of the Proud Boys. This guy was not there on the scene of January 6 but orchestrated it, right? And the only reason he wasn't there on the scene is because he'd been arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter banner. So this guy looking at a harsh sentence -- at least 18 years, David.

CULVER: All right. A judge ruled last week former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro is not going to be able to argue that Trump asserted privilege to shield him from a House January 6 subpoena.

Do you think this is a big blow this his defense strategy?

WIEHL: Absolutely. I mean, unless he can get the former president to come and testify and say at his trial that oh, yeah, I exerted executive privilege and that's why he didn't testify -- unless he gets that, David, he's looking at he has no defense, right? Because he can't rely on the executive privilege when in the -- in the face of the fact, it's just a fact, right? It's a fact he did not reply. He did not -- you know, he is contempt.

So he's got to -- he's on the defensive, which is a little bit odd -- but he is on the defensive on this because the evidence is so strong against him and the only allegation he can make is executive privilege. And if the guy who apparently asserted it is not there willing to say he did it, and there's no other evidence of the fact -- yeah, it's not looking good for Mr. Navarro.

CULVER: Yeah -- you see it as highly unlikely that Trump is going to testify on his behalf.

On this Alex --

WIEHL: Yeah.


WIEHL: It's a good bet.

CULVER: So let me -- let me get your take on this Alex Murdaugh case that's -- we know him as a convicted murderer now but his lawyers are actually filing a motion for a new trial. And they're basing this on what they call discovered evidence.

So is it fair to say it would've -- it's got to be really pretty substantial for this to even be considered here?

WIEHL: You know, I think you've been going to night school here -- you know, law school -- because you got it. It's got to be material, right? It can't just be impeachment of a particular witness. It can't be cumulative. It's got to be brand new and, by the way, that it couldn't have been discovered by his lawyers before or reasonably discovered.

And then the key is it's got to be material -- substantial, as you said -- and that really would lead to an acquittal. I mean, because courts don't want to go around willy-nilly just having new trials, right? So they're not going to do it unless they're going to say look, this evidence, had it been brought to the court -- had it been brought in front of a jury, probably would have led to his acquittal. Now, David, you're talking about a guy who admitted on the stand that

his alibi was a lie and there was a ton of other evidence around him. This is not an easy case, I mean, for the defense. So unless this is a slam dunk -- a smoking gun -- proverbial smoking gun, I don't think we're going to see a new trial.

CULVER: And not an easy case but it's one that's got so much attention.

Hey, Lis, I also have to point out --

WIEHL: Yeah.

CULVER: -- given you are on my time zone -- that's the West Coast -- I'm always impressed that you're able to bring the legal mindset and analysis this early in the morning your time, so we really appreciate it. Good to see you.

WIEHL: You know, it's just always churning in there.


CULVER: I'm glad yours is. All right, thanks, Lis.


CULVER: Well, this morning, police hoping escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante is going to listen to one person in particular, his mom. They're even broadcasting a message from her asking her son to surrender. Officials say there have been four sightings of the convicted killer since he escaped an eastern Pennsylvania prison and that was last week.

CNN's Brian Todd brings us the latest on the manhunt.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An escaped convicted murderer who police say is desperate, who they now say they have had four credible sightings of, still remains on the loose. The most recent sighting of 34-year-old Danelo Cavalcante was on Sunday when a Pennsylvania state trooper had eyes on him.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: It was a trooper, actually, that observed him at some distance and gave chase but was unable because of the terrain and some other obstacles there -- was unable to get to him before he disappeared.

TODD (voice-over): Officials say all four sightings of Cavalcante have been within a 1.5 to two-mile radius of the Chester County Prison in eastern Pennsylvania, which he escaped from on Thursday morning.

A residential surveillance camera picked him up at 1:43 a.m. Saturday emerging from a wooded area less than two miles from the prison. Police say they've also investigated two burglaries in the area, while they can't confirm the burglaries were committed by Cavalcante. Residents nearby are getting increasingly nervous. Lance Leman says he returned from a holiday trip concerned about his home.

LANCE LEMAN, WEST CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: And we want to make sure everything is clear and nothing is going on. He's not hiding in our structure.

TODD (voice-over): And a new tactic from law enforcement. Residents near the prison are hearing a message from helicopters and patrol cars -- a message recorded in Portuguese by Cavalcante's mother from her home in Brazil urging him to surrender peacefully.

ROBERT CLARK, SUPERVISORY DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: As desperate as he is, maybe he has a change of thought and hears his mother telling him to surrender and his family cares about him. He's desperate. He's hungry. He's been in the woods. He's dirty. Perhaps this is what puts him over the edge where we can get a peaceful surrender.

TODD (voice-over): Cavalcante was recently sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2021 murder of his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao. Prosecutors say he stabbed her 38 times in front of her two young children. The motive for that killing, according to investigators, Brandao had discovered that Cavalcante was wanted for another murder in Brazil.

MICHAEL TABMAN, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He has nothing to lose. He's looking at a life sentence without parole. And he's out and he has another taste of freedom. He's not going to want to give it up. So when someone has a violent tendency and they're desperate that's a formula for danger.

TODD (voice-over): Officials telling local residents don't play hero. Cavalcante remains extremely dangerous, they say, and citizens should not approach him. The pressure, police say, will come from them.

BIVENS: I intend to stress him. I want to push him hard. He'll make mistakes. He'll show himself. He's already shown himself, we believe, a few times. We'll contain him and we will eventually catch him.

TODD (on camera): There's a $10,000 reward for information leading to Danelo Cavalcante's capture. Lt. Col. George Bivens, of the Pennsylvania State Police, says if law enforcement finds Cavalcante and he is not actively surrendering, they're authorized to use deadly force.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CULVER: Quick hits across America right now.

Six people hurt after this pier collapses -- look at it right there -- into a lake. This is in Madison, Wisconsin and it happened on Labor Day. Fire officials say 60 to 80 students from the University of Wisconsin were crowded onto that pier when it gave way. More than 20 people hurt after a car crashed into a Denny's restaurant

outside of Houston. The 30-year-old driver of the Jeep did not get hurt. The cause of that crash still under investigation though.

Firefighters in California rescuing a driver trapped for five days inside a pickup truck that plunged 100 feet into a ravine near Bakersfield. They used a human pulley system and a basket to raise that person to safety.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will consider reviving the Black Sea grain deal if restrictions on Moscow's agricultural exports are lifted. But he's apparently working on a separate grain deal with Turkey's President Erdogan, whom he met with in Sochi on Monday.

Meantime, Erdogan says Ukraine must soften its approach in order to work with Russia.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joining us from London this morning. And Salma, Ukraine's foreign minister reportedly called Putin's statement a classic blackmail. And clearly, there's a lot to parse through this morning. Can you help us understand what exactly is happening here?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a great deal of diplomatic wrangling here. What's important to know, David, just in the wider picture here is President Erdogan was a key mediator -- a key negotiator in this Black Sea grain deal that for months allowed tons of grain to be exported from Ukraine to countries, particularly across Africa and the Middle East and also across Europe. But that deal expired over the summer -- it collapsed.


President Erdogan was in Sochi with President Putin to try to revive the deal. And you have to remember President Erdogan, toeing the line here, did appear to side with President Putin on some of his misgivings -- on some of his complaints. President Erdogan saying that much of the grain -- and again, this is according to the Turkish president -- is being exported to Europe. He wanted to see more of it go to Africa and that Ukraine was being too tough in its stance.

President Putin, you'll remember, is blaming the West for the collapse of the deal, saying that they did not see promises through, particularly when it comes to Russia's agricultural exports.

The bottom line to take away here though, David, is that President Putin seems to be acting unilaterally, taking matters into his own hands. He says Russia is working on a deal to export grain, rather, directly to six African states for free. Now, unclear how that would happen or how that would take place.

But what's important to note is there's a little bit less urgency around this deal because global food prices have stabilized since the deal collapsed in the summer. It's still very important.

You'll remember the United Nations, a few months ago, was essentially accusing President Putin of using food as a weapon. Countries like Egypt and Somalia have seen inflation rates skyrocket because of the issue around grain. And President Putin continues to use it as a bargaining chip.

You'll remember many of those ports along the Black Sea -- well, there's been an uptick in attacks on those ports -- on those ports that export grain as President Putin negotiates as to whether or not he's going to be a part of this deal, which really doesn't look likely right now.

CULVER: Yeah, it doesn't. It seems like a lot of blame going around but not much movement forward.

Salma, thanks for all that context -- appreciate it. And good to see you.

It's day two of the historic African Climate Summit. This is happening in Nairobi, Kenya. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry joins heads of state, climate experts, and industry leaders who have gathered to raise Africa's voice on the climate crisis. Organizers say the continent is not just a victim of drought, famine, and floods, but a place for climate investment.

CNN's Larry Madowo is in Nairobi. Hey, Larry, good to see you. So, African leaders -- they're aiming to address what are devastating natural disasters that affect the continent the most, even though -- and it's interesting to point this out -- their part in the human- caused climate crisis -- it's really minimal compared to wealthier countries. So how do they plan to address this?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, David. Africa contributes only about three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions but the impact of the climate crisis here is devastating. And so, these African leaders are coming together hoping they can convince the rest of the world why there is need -- urgent need for financing for adaptation.

And I want to hear from one of Africa's leading environmentalist. Wanjira Mathai is here with me. What is Africa asking for in this conversation?

WANJIRA MATHAI, AFRICA AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS MANAGING DIRECTOR, WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE: Well, Africa is asking for equal access and fairness to markets, to finance, liquidity, debt relief, knowledge, technology -- a lot of baskets of things. But those are all part of a legal system to make a few things happen.

MADOWO: Right.

MATHAI: Two realities are happening at the same time. You had just mentioned one, Larry -- the reality of climate change. We didn't cause it. We're suffering from it. We can't do much about it.

But at the same time is the reality of a confluence of amazing opportunities. The youngest and fastest-growing workforce. Abundance of renewable energy. Abundance of critical minerals. These things have been there but our reality should be different if we could unleash that. It's about unleashing the potential.

MADOWO: John Kerry, the U.S. president's climate envoy, just announced an extra $30 million for climate resilience and food security efforts. Is this a drop in the ocean?

MATHAI: Well, it's something -- but it's the speed and scale of what we need Larry, right now, huge -- $500 billion in this decade alone for adaptation, so we are far from close to it. But we need signals like that 100 times over.

MADOWO: Africans often complain that the Global North makes all these commitments about loss and damage and adaptation but the money never comes.

Are you feeling that there's a momentum here? There's a difference?

MATHAI: Well, I think Africa is leading and that's the difference, but I don't see the same reciprocity from the north. But we have to keep -- that's why the climate justice movement is alive and well. We have to keep pushing --

MADOWO: Right.

MATHAI: -- for that -- those promises made to be kept. Because we need both sides. We need the justice, we need the finance --

MADOWO: Right.

MATHAI: -- but we absolutely have to have some agency and optimism.

MADOWO: Wanjira Mathai, thank you so much.

And it's an important gathering. John Kerry is here, like I mentioned. Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission president. So a real important gathering, David, of some of the most important voices in this climate conversation.

CULVER: Yeah, Larry, it really is crucial and it's obviously going to involve a lot of stakeholders to come together and agree on things. And also, as she pointed out there -- your guest -- a lot of money -- $500 billion short.

So we appreciate you keeping tabs on this and we'll look for your updates in the days ahead. Thank you, Larry.


Civilian leaders of the Navy, Army, and Air Force issuing a stark warning to Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has been blocking hundreds of military promotions, and this has been happening for months -- as a protest against the Pentagon's policies easing abortion access for service members.

Right now, three of the five military branches do not have a Senate- confirmed chief in place and, instead, they have acting officials. In a Washington Post op-ed, the three service heads say Tuberville's

actions are putting our national security at risk as the acting officials do not have the legal authorities to make decisions that will sustain the United States' military edge.

Coming up here this morning and on "CNN THIS MORNING," first lady Jill Biden testing positive for coronavirus. We're going to tell you how the White House is responding.

And next, right here, thousands of festival-goers beginning the mass exodus from Burning Man after, you'll recall, they were stranded in the muddy desert for days. Why some say it wasn't really all that nightmarish as you might expect.



CULVER: Burning Man setting the man on fire overnight to officially conclude the festival after it descended into a muddy mess. Now, thousands of revelers are finally making their way home after intense rain caused thick, ankle-deep mud and trapped them in the desert for days. There's no doubt getting stranded and missing flights was stressful and unsettling, but as CNN's Nick Watt shows, many felt the weather issues actually brought the community closer together.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The exodus underway. That sunshine you see is the savior, drying the mud just enough for tires to grip, not sink into sludge.

PAUL ROMERO, ATTENDED BURNING MAN FESTIVAL: It was impossible to function, impossible to move around. A lot of struggling people in what became very cold, very storm-like conditions. People's tents and entire camps became pretty much destroyed.

WATT (voice-over): More than 70,000 people were basically trapped for days. Trapped in this makeshift desert city that pops up in Nevada every year around Labor Day filled with campers and creators, fun lovers, and those with their freak flags flying that culminates in the man burning.

ZOHAR KENNARD, ATTENDED BURNING MAN FESTIVAL: And we planned on leaving right after the burn, which is Saturday night, and then it started raining on us. Everybody took their shoes off and started dancing in the mud -- it was great -- and then the reality sunk in that we couldn't leave.

Chris Rock and some other celebs decided to take the only uncomfortable exit available.

THOMAS WESLEY PENTZ AKA "DIPLO", DEEJAY AND BURNING MAN ATTENDEE: He had his New York Knicks jacket on and we -- he just got up with us and started walking. And we walked about three hours in the mud and he was happy it was me. I think Cindy Crawford walked with us, Kaia Gerber, Austin Butler. It was a challenge but it was honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip.

WATT (voice-over): Thousands of others stuck it out -- many embracing the ethos of self-reliance that surrounds this festival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was waiting for the looting, honestly. I thought that would have been great. But no -- like, it's really beautiful, actually, when you go into the camps. Everybody was helping each other out.

WATT (voice-over): Burning Man. Raining man. Suck it up. Stick it out.

BOBBY WHITE, BURNING MAN ATTENDEE: I have my RV here and all my other campmates have either RVs or big rental trucks, so -- or things like that. And getting those out was basically impossible. I mean, sure, you could have walked out but what am I going to do with all my stuff?

WATT (voice-over): All this chaos caused by less than an inch of rain.

Even just the slightest bit of rain makes everything super slick. Then you walk around and your feet -- you have like five pounds of mud on your feet.

WATT (voice-over): Why? Well, this is a desert. Nothing much grows so the soil isn't lovely, loamy, and absorbent. It's just miles of gray clay. Most years this is a dusty, not a muddy mess.

And under an inch of rain -- well, that's still two or three months' worth of rain in this arid land within just 24 hours.

WATT (on camera): Noon on Monday, organizers said about 64,000 people remained on the site. That was just a couple of hours before they officially opened the road. They advised people to wait until Tuesday to try and get off the site but by the look of the long, slow-moving lines a lot of people were ignoring that advice.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CULVER: The popular rock band Smash Mouth mourning the loss of their longtime lead singer, Steve Harwell.


SMASH MOUTH, ROCK BAND: Singing "All Star."


CULVER: Yeah, you know that song well. Harwell co-founded Smash Mouth in 1994. They rose to fame with hits such as that one, "All Star," and "Walkin on the Sun." Harwell retired from the band two years ago over health issues.

He died after receiving hospice care at his home in Boise, Idaho. Steve Harwell was 56.

Week one of the college football season ends with a huge Top 10 upset in primetime. Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


If there's one thing you can expect in college football it's the unexpected. Duke went into last night's game as 12-point underdogs at home against number nine Clemson but somebody must have forgotten to tell the Blue Devils.

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard's mom texts him -- I quote -- "You suck" before every game as motivation. So he wears a wristband with those words on it. Well, mom's mind games work. Her little boy made the biggest play of the game in the third quarter, breaking loose from a would-be tackler and taking off down the sideline, tip-toeing to stay inbounds. A 44-yard touchdown and the lead.

On defense in the second half, Duke serving up a deviled goose egg. Two goal line stands, three turnovers, including Dorian Mausi's interception. They outscored Clemson 22-0 in the second half.


Duke wins 28-7 with fans rushing the field to celebrate like they'd just won the Final Four.

Afterwards, the quarterback, Leonard, had a simple request.


RILEY LEONARD, QUARTERBACK, DUKE BLUE DEVILS: Professor Taylor, if you're seeing this, please let me turn in my homework late because it's due tonight, I think at 12:00, so it may already be 12:00.


WIRE: Publicly -- public policy major not wanting to mess that up. I think Duke -- their first game against a Top 10 opponent in 29 tries might warrant an extension from the teacher.

All right, a late-night Labor Day thriller for reigning Olympic champ Alex Zverev and world number six Jannik Sinner last night. Four hours, 41 minutes. Sinner got the cramps and had to go take a load off his feet. He rallied though to force a fifth set.

And his Italian fans, the Carota Boys, who follow him around everywhere, were jumping around to give him life. Apparently, Sinner snacks on carrots during matches.

But at 1:40 in the morning Eastern time, Zverev finally triumphed, calling it the longest match ever but saying he's back and that this is what he lives for -- an absolute battle. His face in his hands as he walked off. Zverev and the crowd applauding him. He'll face world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the quarters. Finally -- turn your head if you get queasy -- competitive eater Joey Chestnut tastes defeat at the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship. Australian James Webb setting a new world record in Buffalo, New York, home of the chicken wing. He devoured 276 wings in just 12 minutes. That's about 23 per minute, David. Chestnut had 36 fewer than Webb. But Joey "Jaws" says he'll be back next year hungry for revenge.

David, you look like you could throw down some chicken wings, so I challenge you to a duel -- you and me. We're going to throw down. We've never met but we're going to have a little chicken wing-eating competition. Wing it on, big boy.

CULVER: Count me in. I can do a solid dozen. I always feel like those competitions, Coy, should be, like, sponsored by some indigestion or heartburn medication. I don't know. Makes me uneasy to see it.

WIRE: That's what our match will be. We'll set it up.

CULVER: Exactly.

WIRE: All right.

CULVER: And the Tums right after. All right, good to see you, Coy.

WIRE: You, too.

CULVER: That does it for me. I'm David Culver.

But next, on "CNN THIS MORNING," North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un planning to meet Russia's Vladimir Putin for face-to-face arms talks. They'll look at when it can happen. That's just ahead.