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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Hearing On Scheduling Of Georgia Election Subversion Trial; Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Receives 22 Years In Prison; Secretary Of State Blinken Now In Ukraine For Unannounced Visit. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 05:30   ET




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

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to address his health in a closed-door meeting with GOP senators today. He has frozen up twice while talking to reporters in two months.

Opening statements begin today in ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro's contempt of Congress case. The trial will likely be quick. Prosecutors will call three witnesses and the defense will call just one.

A hearing is set in the Georgia election interference case today. Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee will address questions about trial scheduling and possibly splitting up the case.

Now, it's set to be a big day in Atlanta and there is a lot to digest with this. So let's bring in an attorney and legal affairs commentator, Areva Martin. Areva, good morning. Thanks for being with us.

So, scheduling going to be the focus today, which sounds pretty routine. But it's got a lot of implications in this case, in particular, because you've got certain defendants, like Trump, seeking separate trials.

How do you see this playing out?

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR (via Webex by Cisco): You know, this is a big day, David, in the Fulton County court because you have the judge asking the prosecutor, Fani Willis, to tell the court how many days she expects this trial to last, how many witnesses she expects to call, and if she continues to assert that she wants to try all 19 of these defendants together.

We know that five or six of the defendants have asked for their cases to be removed to federal court. Some have asked for their cases to be severed from the rest of the defendants. And some of the defendants have even asked for a speedy trial. So you have these 19 defendants, all of which -- or at least some of them have already indicated a preference to have their cases either removed to federal court, have them tried on a different calendar, or to have them severed from the rest of the defendants.

So this is going to be a big day as the judge tries to make sense of how to move forward with the scheduling of this case.

CULVER: And Areva, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, spoke with CNN's Abby Phillip last night. And I want you to listen to this. He had this recommendation for those indicted in the Georgia case.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: My recommendation for them would be speak now. Because as soon as the guy next to you or the woman next to you starts speaking and spilling the beans your information is not as important and it's not as significant. So the person, really, who starts to speak first is the one that will get the benefit.


CULVER: All right. So you hear his recommendation there.

I guess the question is with so many co-defendants do you think it's likely that some here are already think -- trying to think of different ways to cut deals?

MARTIN: Undoubtedly so. When you have a case with this many defendants, particularly so many -- what we'd call low-level defendants -- it's not uncommon for some of them to start seeking some kind of plea deals to try to separate themselves from the individual that is, in this case, Donald Trump, who is alleged to be the ringleader. We see this happening.


Many of these defendants are already pointing the finger at Donald Trump saying look, he is responsible for what happened. Jenna Ellis, for example, one of the lawyers that has been indicted -- she's been very vocal about this case. She is even supporting Ron DeSantis and has made statements about supporting him, who we know is Trump's rival in the presidential nomination campaign that's happening now.

So I would not be surprised that we didn't see many of these defendants trying to get plea deals before this case actually moves into the trial phase.

CULVER: And while we've got you, Areva, I want to switch to the federal 2020 election subversion case. And you've got special counsel Jack Smith who says that Trump has made, quote, "daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury."

So does this essentially here draw a legal line in the sand when it comes to Trump expressing his opinions on the case?

MARTIN: Well, we know, David, that this judge -- Judge Chutkan in the D.C. federal court -- has said that she set this trial -- the federal trial involving the case where Trump tried to overcome the 2020 election -- she set it in March because she had concerns about Trump's repeated statements -- attacks on the judiciary, attacks on the prosecutor. Attacks that she believed could have an impact -- a negative impact on the jury and make it very difficult to have an impartial jury for this case.

I think that this judge is listening to the prosecutor. She's listening to these repeated comments made by Trump on a daily basis. And I would not be surprised if this judge didn't take some more aggressive and immediate action with respect to Trump's conduct. This judge has made it very clear she will not tolerate the kind of conduct that Trump has engaged in with his daily attacks on both herself, the court, and the prosecutors.

And the prosecution -- Jack Smith, in this case -- has made it very clear that he is going to call out -- or his office is going to call out Trump's conduct.

So I think this is one case where we should look very carefully and closely at because this might be the case where a judge enters some kind of contempt order against Donald Trump if he continues to engage in the kind of conduct that he has been engaging with respect to attacking the judiciary.

CULVER: I guess if that order goes ahead we'll see how President Trump responds, if at all, listening to what the judge would order there.

I want to get you on this case as well because it's gotten an increasingly amount of attention and a lot of folks are following it closely. We're talking about the developments with Alex Murdaugh. So this is the South Carolina man convicted earlier this year of murdering his wife and son.

His lawyers filed a motion seeking a new trial. What they're alleging here is that there was jury tampering by a county clerk.

So what do you think the chances of a retrial happening are?

MARTIN: These are shocking allegations. And again, this is not a clerk that worked for the judge in this case. This is a clerk that was elected by the people in this particular county in South Carolina, so this is an elected official.

And the allegations are that this elected official engaged in, essentially, jury tampering. That she had inappropriate conversations with the jury foreperson. That she gave instructions to the jury that could have led this jury to come back in just three hours with respect to its deliberations. And that she did this conduct -- that she engaged in this conduct for the sole purpose of writing a book about the trial. So I don't think the state's attorney general that is now considering these motions is going to be able to dismiss the allegations made in the motions by Murdaugh's attorney, primarily because there are two or three affidavits that have been signed by jurors attesting to this conduct by the clerk.

So this is a really shocking development in this case and could result not only in a new trial for Alex Murdaugh but also potential criminal charges against this clerk.

CULVER: Areva Martin, up early, up late -- however you look at it -- from L.A. We really appreciate your time and legal insight this morning. Have a good one.

MARTIN: Thank you, David.

CULVER: Staying on the legal theme here, a lawyer for ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio signaling that he plans to appeal his 22-year federal prison sentence. It's by far the longest for any defendant in the January 6 attacks. Tarrio was convicted of seditious conspiracy and leading a failed plot to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden back in 2021.

The judge called the former Proud Boys chairman the ultimate organizer of the attacks who has not shown, quote, "any remorse." Tarrio hung his head as his sentencing was handed down on Tuesday.


Meantime, his lawyer said the court's decision caught them off guard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sentence -- we respectfully disagree, but yet we respect it. There will be a day and a time when an appeal will come and we expect that the appeal comes soon.


CULVER: Tarrio was not at the Capitol on the day of the attacks. He'd been arrested days earlier and banned from entering Washington, D.C.

All right, get you to his breaking news this morning. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seen here. This is new video just coming into CNN. It's on the ground in Kyiv where the secretary has just arrived for an unannounced visit to Ukraine.

Kyiv, we should remind you, is an active war zone. Proof of that was overnight as Ukraine says it blocked Russian cruise and ballistic missile attacks on the capitol. And that happened just hours before the secretary arrived.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz -- she's in London. She's following this. Salma, the secretary is there to hear the latest, obviously, on the counteroffensive. What's he likely to be listening in on, and what's he likely to do as he's making this visit? SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and he will be meeting with President Zelenskyy later on to get that battlefield update directly, rather.

You have seen and you have heard from Ukrainian officials in recent days this big talking up of some gains, particularly in the south. And that's exactly what the Secretary of State is going to listen to is the major updates that Ukraine has along the Zaporizhzhia access, particularly the win -- the success of getting the small village of Robotyne. But for Ukraine's military, they say this is significant because it has allowed Ukrainian forces to pierce through the first line of defense -- the first line of Russian defensive positions considered to be among the, if not the most heavily fortified.

The word I think that he's going to hear over and over again is consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. That's what Ukraine says it is doing on the ground, trying to expand and deepen those gains on the ground as it pushes further south. Remember, the ultimate goal here -- the big prize here is to push further south towards the Black Sea coast and ultimately, disrupt or severe Russian supply lines from the coast and from Crimea.

But Ukraine is still very, very far from that goal and that's exactly why he is there on the ground expressing those concerns, essentially, that the counteroffensive is going slowly. You're going to hear from President Zelenskyy who is going to say to him yes, but slow and steady wins the race.

CULVER: Salma following this from London. We really appreciate it. We know you'll stay across the breaking news for us. Good to see you, Salma.

Quick hits across America now as we bring you back to this country.

A federal court has blocked a newly-drawn Alabama congressional map because it did not create a second majority Black district as the Supreme Court had ordered back in June. Alabama officials say they're going to appeal the ruling.

Georgia's attorney general has indicted 61 activists on racketeering charges, alleging the defendants are militant anarchists. It follows a year-long protest against the construction of a police and firefighter training center in Atlanta dubbed "Cop City."

A three-legged bear known as "Tripod" broke into a mini fridge on a Florida property and had what looked like a party for one. He enjoyed some refreshments but was ultimately scared away by, of all things, the owner's barking dog.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," minority leader Mitch McConnell addressing concerns about his health when he meets with Republicans. That's later today.

And next, right here, just because former President Trump is polling out front in the GOP primary does not mean this race is over. We're going to look at what some New Hampshire voters say they are looking for in a candidate.


LARRY ROCHA, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I'm just waiting for someone to step up so I can feel comfortable voting for someone; not against someone.




CULVER: Former Vice President Mike Pence in New Hampshire today to deliver a speech warning Republicans about the dangers of populism while painting himself as the only classical conservative in the GOP primary.

Even though former President Trump leads the race, as CNN's Jeff Zeleny shows us, many voters in this critical state say they're still weighing their options.


BOB TILTON, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: To catch up to Trump --


B. TILTON: -- it's a big climb.

ZELENY (voice-over): Bob Tilton has a front-row seat to the Republican presidential contest. He likes a few options, but he loves former President Donald Trump. His wife, Crystal, does not.

CRYSTAL TILTON, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I think he's had his time and there was enough controversy over it, and it's time to move on.

ZELENY (voice-over): Their disagreement brings to life a monumental divide inside the Republican Party.

B. TILTON: They were attacking him constantly. How can anybody do a good job? I mean, he did, but he was constantly attacked and it was all fake.

ZELENY (voice-over): Here in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the- nation primary, a summertime campaign has given way to a fall fight for survival in a race dominated by signs of Trump's strength.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu insists the GOP contest is still competitive.

ZELENY (on camera): You don't believe that this primary is effectively over?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Oh, God no. Oh my God, not even close. Not even close.

Was it over when Clinton was leading Barack Obama by 20 points at this point back in 2008? No one could beat the Clinton machine, remember?

ZELENY (on camera): (INAUDIBLE).

SUNUNU: No, not at all.

ZELENY (voice-over): Sununu believes Trump will be unable to win back the White House for Republicans. He points to the general election in New Hampshire where, in 2016, Trump fell short to Hillary Clinton by fewer than 3,000 votes. But four years later, he lost to Joe Biden by nearly 60,000. A big reason, he believes, is Independent voters turned away from Trump.

SUNUNU: Here in New Hampshire, though, I think they'll play a big role. I think a lot of Independents will come out and vote in the Republican primary.


ZELENY (voice-over): At a campaign stop for former Vice President Mike Pence, Larry Rocha introduced himself as one of those Independents.

ROCHA: I was a Republican from the first day I could vote. Many, many years later, I went Independent.

ZELENY (voice-over): He later told us he is looking for a candidate who can turn the page from Trump.

ROCHA: And I'm just waiting for someone to step up so I can feel comfortable voting for someone; not against someone.

ZELENY (voice-over): Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is staking his candidacy entirely on New Hampshire.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And this is the state in the country that can get it rolling.

ZELENY (voice-over): His Republican challengers are also urging New Hampshire voters to keep their minds open. Today, Pence had this quip at the ready.

MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, what did Indiana Jones say? Never tell me the odds.

ZELENY (voice-over): Linda Russell is sizing up the Republican field in hopes of finding a fresh face.

LINDA RUSSELL, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I do like the thought of either DeSantis or Vivek -- someone that's younger. We definitely need younger.

ZELENY (on camera): Trump's not your first choice at this point? RUSSELL: He's not. I mean, I like -- yeah, I think everything was great when he was here but there's just so much baggage with him. And people are going to vote for Biden just because they don't like Trump, and we don't need that again.

ZELENY (on camera): Trump looms large in this race. There is no question about that. But talking to so many Republican voters here this week they see this contest as far more than a one-man race. They are still studying the candidates and listening to what sounds good to them.

Now, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley holding events like this across New Hampshire, making the case why she believes there should be a new generation of leaders inside the party.

The vote here in New Hampshire comes right after Iowa early next year. The question is what the race looks like then; not now.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Claremont, New Hampshire.


CULVER: This morning, a German man has been detained in Florence, Italy after allegedly damaging a 16th-century statue of Neptune. Police say the 22-year-old breached a protective barrier, climbed the statue, and posed for pictures.

You're looking at surveillance video in which you can see the man climbing down. He broke off a piece of red marble attached to Neptune's carriage. The city estimates that the damage there -- it's about 5,000 euros.

So here's something you probably don't see every day -- flamingos in Ohio. Since Hurricane Idalia, an unprecedented number of flamingo sightings have been reported in really unusual places, including Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, and more.

The birds are native to Florida but scientists think they were flying between Cuba and the Yucatan and got diverted by the storm. Officials are asking folks to give them space. Flamingos fly thousands of miles over open waters so they should have no trouble getting back home once it's too cold.

President Biden awarding the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, to Vietnam war pilot Larry Taylor on Tuesday. At the ceremony, Biden told the story of how, in 1968, Taylor risked his life to save his fellow soldiers caught in a firefight.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He learned that any attempt to save the men had been called off. The rescue helicopter was not coming. Instead, Lt. Taylor received a direct order -- return to base. His response was just as direct -- I'm getting my men out. I'm getting my men out.


CULVER: The president went on to explain that Taylor decided to extract the four-man team using his two-man Cobra helicopter -- something that had never been attempted before.

Taylor says 90 percent of flying a helicopter in Vietnam was making it up as you go along. But he also says it must have worked because they never lost a man.

Unseeded American Ben Shelton on to the U.S. Open semifinals after pulling off another upset.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleach Report. Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, David.

So, Ben Shelton -- he's only 20 years old. He won the men's singles national title in Florida just last year before turning pro. And Shelton, hands down, the biggest American rising star we've got right now in men's tennis.

His dad, Bryan, is a former pro. He was the Florida Gators men's tennis coach. Now, he's watching his son battle Frances Tiafoe in the quarterfinals last night. And this was the first major quarterfinals match between two African American men in the open era, which dates back to 1968.

The two splitting the first two sets. That third set goes to a tiebreak and Shelton with the incredible return there to save set point, and that was big as he'd end up winning the set.

And this is what he said about that amazing return afterwards.


BEN SHELTON, ADVANCES TO FIRST GRAND SLAM SEMIFINAL: Sometimes you've got to shut off the brain, close your eyes, and just swing. And maybe it was a little bit of that down set point but it ended up working out. Some may say clutch but I don't know about all that.



SCHOLES: Yeah. Shelton would end up winning in four sets to become the youngest American man to make it to the U.S. Open semifinals since 1992.

Now, waiting for him in that semifinals match is going to be none other than Novak Djokovic. The 23-time Grand Slam champ easily beating Taylor Fritz in three sets yesterday.

And after the match the Joker celebrated by leaving the crowd there in New York with a little courtside karaoke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 23-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: OK, everybody ready? You've got to fight for your right to party. Whoo!


SCHOLES: Now, they'd been playing that earlier in the match.

So on the women's side, Coco Gauff, meanwhile, cruising into her first-ever U.S. Open semifinals. And it only took the 19-year-old 68 minutes to beat Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets. Gauff was the first American teen to make it to the semis since Serena Williams did back in 2001. She's going to face 10-seed Karolina Muchova tomorrow.

All right, New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart, meanwhile, setting a new WNBA record for most points scored in a single season. She scored 40 points in last night's win against the Dallas Wings to give her 885 for the season. That's 25 more than Diana Taurasi had in 2006. Stewart still has two regular season games to add to that mark as well.

All right, and finally, Jose Altuve is just on an incredible run. The Astros second baseman hitting a home run in the first inning last night, then another in the second, and then another in the third. And this all comes after he hit two home runs on Monday. So over the last seven innings of ball for the Astros, Altuve has five home runs. No other player in baseball history has ever done that. Altuve homering in four straight at-bats as well.

The Astros -- they ended up beating the Rangers, David, 14-1 to win first place for the -- sole possession of first place for the first time this season in the AL West.

CULVER: I still have Djokovic singing along in my mind. All right, thanks, Andy. Good to see you. Have a good day.

SCHOLES: All right.

CULVER: And thanks to you for joining us this past hour. I'm David Culver.

"CNN THIS MORNING" up next with special counsel Jack Smith accusing former President Trump of making daily statements that threaten to prejudice the jury. How it affects the status of the 2020 election interference case. That's ahead.