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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Judge Denies Georgia Defendants' Request to Sever Cases; Filing: David Weiss to Seek Hunter Biden Gun Indictment This Month; Hurricane Lee to Rapidly Strengthen Over Next 48 Hours. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 05:00   ET




JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days.


DAVID CULVER, CNN ANCHOR: Tight timeline. Right now on EARLY START, the judge there questioning a plan to try all 19 Fulton County defendants at once.

Plus, the Hunter Biden case headed for indictment. The president's son could soon be charged in a gun case that could happen as soon as the end of the month.

And caught off guard. A corrections worker now on leave after a convicted killer did this -- it's incredible video -- crab walked his way out of prison right under the guard's nose.


CULVER: To those of you right here in the United States and around the world, welcome to EARLY START. I'm David Culver.

We want to start you off with the sprawling Georgia election interference case that's starting to take shape and it's playing out on camera. On Wednesday, a televised hearing addressed how the trial will be scheduled. Presiding Judge Scott McAfee said that he's skeptical about the Fulton County D.A.'s plan to try all 19 co- defendants in October. Prosecutors also revealing that they expect the case to last about four months, as they call more than 150 witnesses to the stand.

CNN's Paula Reid starts us off.


MCAFEE: So, based on what has been presented today, I'm not finding the severance from Mr. Chesebro or Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence for either defendant in this case.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee in court Wednesday, giving the first glimpse into how he plans to handle the sweeping election subversion case in Georgia. All in front of cameras allowed in the courtroom. McAfee ruling Wednesday that defendants Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who both filed for a speedy trial, cannot be separated and will stand trial together in a matter of weeks.

SCUTT GRUBMAN, ATTORNEY FOR KENNETH CHESEBRO: Obviously, we're a little disappointed. We filed a motion and it was denied. However, we respect the court's ruling.

REID: Now the issue before the court will be whether it's realistic that all 19 defendants, including former President Trump be tried together.

GRUBMAN: To say that all 19 defendants should be tried together including ones that don't want to avail themselves of the speedy trial demand is really just nonsensical.

REID: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said from the beginning that she wants to do just that.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Do I intend to try the 19 defendants in this indictment together? Yes.

REID: But the judge expressing skepticism in court Wednesday about that plan and whether they can put on a massive trial for all the defendants as soon as October 23rd, the date now on the calendar for Chesebro and Powell.

MCAFEE: Just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we could handle all 19 in 40-something days. Are we even delaying the inevitable? If we say there's no severance, aren't we going to have 17 different attorneys get up here and file motions for continuous and saying they're not ready.

REID: This as some defendants like Trump's former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are trying to get their cases moved to federal court.

MCAFEE: I think we've already had some counsel indicating that they are on trial in other cases in federal court.


REID (on camera): Late Wednesday, the district attorney Fani Willis asked the court to issue protections for any potential jurors who work on this case. This request comes after members of the grand jury, their identities were published in that indictment that went out to the entire world, many of them were identified online and then faced threats. So, the fact that the district attorney is taking this step ahead of a potential trial, incredibly significant.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington. CULVER: So we could really use some legal perspective on this this

morning, and for that, we're joined by CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

Joey, there is so much to this case. I want to start though with the time line. As we just heard, Judge McAfee seemingly skeptical of this ability to hold a joint trial with all 19 defendants and we're talking as soon as next month. Prosecutors also said that they plan to call at least 150 witnesses and they are expecting this trial to last four months. What do you think is reality when it comes to the timing?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, David, good morning to you. Great question.

And so, there are so many variables here that I do not believe that that's realistic beginning on that time table, and here's why. Think about the practical considerations as we look at all 19 defendants. So, we have two defendants that we know with respect to Chesebro, with regard to Powell who will be tried together. Their severance motions that been denied.

But then you have the other issues, will there be any of those defendants that turn state's evidence, that means that they say hey, you know what, I'm pleading guilty, I don't want to move forward, and as a result of that, you know, I'll be supportive of the government's role to convict the others?


Will that happen and when will that happen?

Think about also, David, the removal motion by Mr. Meadows. How many others will make motions to remove including Mr. Trump himself? Removing it to federal court. How many others will come forward as the judge noted and say, hey, I need a continuance, I'm actually engaged in another matter.

And so right now, I think to the judge's point, I don't think that we can expect nor anticipate that many of the 19 defendants will -- or at least some, right, will be tried together. And so, I think there are so many variables and that timeline is just not realistic at this point in my view.

CULVER: And, Joey, how do you separate them? As you point out, Powell and Chesebro are going to be tried together and the other ones looking to move it to other courts potentially, as you point out? You've also got those deciding that they should be severed from each other. So where does it fall?

JACKSON: So it falls in one line that we call the interest of justice. How is the interest of justice furthered as we look there at Chesebro and Sidney Powell? And what does that interest of justice mean. The reality is, is that it needs to fall where are attorneys ready and prepared to go to trial?

You have a right to have a fair trial. Now, these two have indicated that they want to have a speedy trial. That is also your right. So hey move forward.

To what extent are other lawyers just not ready. There is a lot of documentation, are they involved in other matters such that they cannot become ready and move forward? Will the motion for Mr. Meadows be granted such that his case is elevated to federal court? If it is elevated to federal court, does then the district attorney say hey let's try, you know, the other defendants who have made motions to go to federal court at the same time.

So just so many variables and so -- the direct answer to your question, Dave, is we don't know where it falls, but we know interest of justice will be first in mind with respect to where it ultimately does.

CULVER: Okay. Now, let's pick on federal court and another case, another defendant all together, new developments in the Hunter Biden case. Federal prosecutors say they intend to indict the president's son by the end of this month and that's based on that 2018 firearm purchase. Does that surprise you at all?

JACKSON: So it does not. I mean, what did surprise me and everyone else was the fact that there was some initial plea deal you might recall as it related to two tax charges for Hunter Biden and in addition to the gun case and we thought there was nothing to see here, right? It would be resolved, all good. You know, he'll be in this diversion program which means that as long as he abides by certain conditions, the case goes away and then, ba-boom, that's off the table.

And so, now, you have a special counsel who has an interest in moving the matter forward and that interest will result as the special counsel noted in an indictment by at least September 29 and we'll see what that indictment is about. We expect it to relate to the gun charge and we expect as a result of that that, hey, the prior deal would be off the table and what does that mean.

And don't forget, David, that we also have the investigation for five years into the business dealing of Hunter Biden and what is that all going to mean, will those charges be added? And if not by September 9, we've seen super seeding indictments before. Think about Donald Trump and his case, will then that there be some other charges coming down the pike.

So, a lot of legal developments, and ultimately, we'll see where that lands and very soon.

CULVER: And if those other charges are added, I mean, does that delay this even further? I mean, what we think about obviously the political repercussions, that could from this, but just from the legal aspect, where does that put the time line in any resolution when it comes to Hunter Biden and facing what could be multiple charges?

JACKSON: Yeah, without question. Whenever you have charges that are added, obviously, attorneys, well, the defendant first has due process rights. What is due process? Notice and an opportunity to be heard. And that due process usually comes forward as we look at Hunter Biden there with a number of motions.

Was what you did to my client fair? What other legal motions do I have to challenge the evidence at issue? Do I have everything I need to move forward as it relates to discovery to try the case? And so, delay, delay, delay.

But those delays are for good measure. Not just for delay sake, but so that you can ensure that the rights of your client certainly are protected and that if there is a trial, it's fair, it's responsible and that the airing of all the issues is out there for the jury to hear and for the defendant to get the measure of justice that they deserve.

CULVER: Joey Jackson always putting it into a concise context. I certainly appreciate that at this hour in the morning. Thank you, Joey. Good to see you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

CULVER: All right. Another manhunt, it's under way this morning, this time for a dangerous suspect who escaped D.C. police. We're going to have the latest on the search.

Plus, a formal criminal complaint after that controversial World Cup kiss.


And tracking a major hurricane. It is churning in the Atlantic at this hour. We're going to look at where it is expected to make landfall. That's next.


CULVER: At this hour, Hurricane Lee is intensifying. It is getting more powerful as it churns through the Atlantic this morning. Forecasters say it's going to grow into a major storm by tomorrow.

Let's go to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

I know you're tracking this, Derek, and it's been described as extremely dangerous.

What are you seeing as the potential of where and when it could make landfall?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we expect this to actually move north of the Leeward islands, north of Puerto Rico. That's good news. It doesn't mean they are completely in the clear. And I'll get to those details in a moment.

Here is the latest from the National Hurricane Center. Remember, we get a 5:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time update from the NHC. Still a category 1, but they stated in one of their first paragraphs, the discussion, that this is basically off to the races.


We anticipate this storm to rapidly intensify again, and you will see that in the official forecast track.

By the way, gusts, 100 miles per hour. And this is just with that look to it, right? As a meteorologist, you analyze it and you have the spiral bands kind of wrapping around the center of a closed circulation. So this thing is ready to form and ready to strengthen.

So there is the explicit rapid intensification within the next 24 hours, from a category 1 to a category 3 within a 24-hour period. Then from there, it strengthens even further. Category four, right through this entire five day forecast. Notice the cone north of Leeward Islands, north of Puerto Rico. But something important to keep in mind, it's something that the National Hurricane Center continues to stretch, the average error in the forecast cone at day three is roughly 100 miles.

So any jog or deviation to the south and west can bring the outer rain bands and some of the tropical storm winds to the Leeward Islands and perhaps into the Puerto Rico as well by day three and day four. That's Sunday into Monday. So, something we want to keep in mind, not completely out of the woods here with this system. We'll definitely feel the big wave impacts from this as it slides just to the north.

Everybody wants to know, where does it go from here? And you can see that very tight model consensus that we look at, al the various computer models honing in on the next five days. But from there, very important to see where the trajectory takes it as it approaches the Turks and Caicos, and eventually the Bahamas and east coast of the U.S. Whether or not, it will impact us still yet to seen.

Here is the forecast satellite radar. This takes you through the early parts of next week. Getting dangerously close to the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas. There's a look at the wind field that's going to expand in size and things going to produce a lot of energy, but it's going to be impacted by some cooler water. That's very important to note. That was churn up by a previous hurricane.

And, David, you'll see that the system has the potential at least as we head in the second half of next week to bring swells to the East Coast of the U.S. at the very minimum. Back to you.

CULVER: And no question. People down in Florida after having gone through Idalia are looking at this saying keep away.

VAN DAM: Yeah, New England, too.

CULVER: Yeah. All right. I know you're going to be tracking it, Derek. Thanks. We appreciate it.

Good to see you this morning.

VAN DAM: No question.

CULVER: Quick hits across America right now. The manhunt intensifying for a homicide suspect who escaped custody.

It's happened yesterday at a hospital in D.C. The man was last seen wearing handcuffs hanging from his wrist.

A watchdog group has filed a lawsuit to block Donald Trump from the Republican primary ballot in Colorado. The group cites the 14th Amendment ban on insurrectionist holding public office.

The Biden administration will cancel plans from the Trump era to drill for oil and gas in parts of Alaska. The president says it's going to help preserve arctic lands and wildlife and honor the natives there.

A new ruling from a Texas judge about the floating border barrier in the Rio Grande. And Spain's Jennifer Hermoso files an official complaint against the soccer chief. Where this takes the case of the unwanted World Cup kiss?



CULVER: Spanish soccer star Jennifer Hermoso has filed an official criminal complaint over that unwanted kiss after the World Cup final last month. Spain's soccer chief Luis Rubiales claims the kiss was mutual but Hermoso says it was not.

CNN's Amanda Davies joins us from London.

Hey, Amanda, good morning. We know that Spanish courts have already opened up an investigation into Rubiales for sexual aggression, but I guess the question is, how does an official complaint that's happening here really move this forward?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN HOST, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yeah, good morning, David.

Well, this really takes this as a case from outside the football realm into the legal criminal realm as you are talking about. It opens up the possibility that the Spanish football president Luis Rubiales could face criminal charges. You mentioned that last week, the Spanish prosecutors office, the top criminal court in Spain, had opened this investigation saying that they were going to invite Jenni Hermoso to testify in an investigation which could lead to these sexual aggression charges.

They released a statement on Tuesday saying that she has now testified. They plan on processing that testimony as quickly as possible and will provide us with any updates in due course. And really, this now has ramifications in the footballing context as well. You know, this is a man who had been suspended by world football's governing body FIFA from his duties provisionally for 90 days. But up to this point has refused to resign from his post despite calls from players, from other sporting bodies and organizations.

The Spanish sporting tribunal had issued proceedings last week. They, though, had said he had committed a serious offense rather than a very serious offense which is the bar at which they were able to remove him from his post. It will be interesting to see now whether this criminal complaint has been filed, that next step can be taken.

CULVER: All right. Amanda, I know you'll be following it. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Celebrations breaking out in Mexico after its Supreme Court decriminalized abortion nationwide. The court ruled the government's ban is unconstitutional and violates women's rights.


Days of torrential rain have triggered deadly flooding. This is in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. It's forced thousands of people to have to leave their homes.

Video captured numerous rescues, submerged communities and damage to infrastructure.

And you are looking at what happened earlier this morning. Japan launching a new satellite in a lander bound for the moon. The satellite is going to study the universe, while the lander is set to arrive on the lunar surface in just a few months.

New surveillance video that is absolutely incredible. It shows you how a convicted killer broke out of a Pennsylvania prison.

And what Mike Pence said in New Hampshire about the threat from his old boss.


CULVER: Here are the top stories at the bottom of the hour. The Georgia judge denied a motion to sever cases of Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell in the Fulton County election case. The judge also doubts the plan.