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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

House GOP Bets On Border Strategy As Shutdown Looms; Biden Impeachment Hearing Leaves Some In GOP Frustrated; NATO Nation Could Elect Pro-Kremlin Leader; Storms, Heavy Rain Threaten Flash Flooding In NYC. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Failure. GOP leaders going forward with another House spending vote that's probably going nowhere. Lawmakers scrambling with the government hurdling toward a shutdown this weekend.

Good day to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Kasie Hunt. It's Friday, September 29th. Thank you for getting an EARLY START with us.

Five a.m. here in Washington where the weeks ticked down to days and now hours. There are 43 of them left before the U.S. government shuts down.

And leaders you've elected to at the very least keep the government open, keep paying federal workers, you know, the very basics, they are falling down on the job.

Now, House Republicans are trying to distract by their own in-fighting by making it a battle over border security provisions that are nonstarters it seems in the Senate. It's Speaker Kevin McCarthy's last ditch effort to get enough House Republicans to support a short term funding bill which he still plans to bring to the floor despite opposition from his GOP hard liners.

CNN counts at least 12 members who are either firmly or likely to vote against the stopgap. Remember McCarthy can lose four, not 12. McCarthy says they now face this choice -- a vote against the funding package as a vote with Biden on the border. That's how he puts it.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know those individuals care about the borders. I don't know why they would side with the president on an open border when you have the opportunity here to take the HR2 you already voted for and made it into the bill and send it to the Senate. It would make everybody in this place a stronger hand to actually solve the problem.


HUNT: All right. Let's bring in Mica Soellner, congressional reporter at "Punchbowl News".

Mica, good morning. Thank you so much for being here.

There was a lot of procedure in that HR2, this, the Senate that. The bottom line here, I get what Kevin McCarthy is trying position to do. He is basically trying to say to his Republican hardliners, okay, your choice is, vote with me, get the border you want, that's a politically palatable thing for you to do, or vote no, vote it down and then have to deal with a Senate bill that you're not quite as happy with.

But the bottom line here is that it doesn't seem like it is going to work. Even with this border money. What is the latest from the hardliners and is there any hope that they can pass this bill in the House later this afternoon?

MICA SOELLNER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yeah, you're exactly right. You know, there is a group of Republicans in the House that are never going to vote for a CR no matter what. And they have been very clear. There is multiple members that have gone on the record saying that.

Congressman Tim Burchett, for example, of Tennessee, left at GOP conference meeting saying that the minds that have been made up have not been changed and we're going to have a shutdown. So, the border security package is one thing that McCarthy is trying to do in order to round up people, but it's really not swaying anybody so far that already has their mind made up.

HUNT: Yeah. So let's -- there were tough words that were exchanged in the behind the scenes conference meeting yesterday morning. The F-bomb was apparently dropped, according to reporting from my colleague Melanie Zanona here at CNN, and I'm sure you've done your own reporting on this as well. It is essentially this ongoing fight between Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz. McCarthy saying that, you know, he doesn't spend time or money on Gaetz because Gaetz is a accusing him of attacking him in right wing media.

Is it just this personality conflict, this, you know, anger between these two men that is basically putting pay for millions of federal workers on the line?

SOELLNER: I would say it is a little bit more than that. But like we are seeing that really play out very publicly. I mean, Matt Gaetz has constantly attacked McCarthy in recent weeks and has threatened pretty much throughout the recent months to oust him as speaker, and has really upped his rhetoric, you know, pretty recently.

But I would say it goes beyond that because, you know, beyond Gaetz, there are people that are kind of a little bit more low key who are still saying that we're not concerned about a shutdown, this is not the way government should function, we're principled in our stand against the CR, et cetera. But I would say that the Gaetz/McCarthy battle is probably the most publicly facing that we're seeing right now.

HUNT: Right. Gaetz obviously can't do it alone. But to your point, he has backup from people who are not quite as bombastic or personality- oriented.


Let's talk for a second about the Senate because I think that they sort of looked up late last week, they realized Kevin McCarthy is really not going to be able to get it together so we better do something and Schumer and McConnell, the two Democrat Republican leaders over there, they did crack a deal and then there was some back and forth, a scramble to add some border money. There is Ukraine aid in there which is also causing a flap with Senator Rand Paul.

But the bottom line is that the Senate seems to collectively be saying that we really need to get it together. Here is Lisa Murkowski from yesterday. Take a look and we'll talk about it.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How would this look for your party if there is a shutdown?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I think everybody loses. I think that the Republicans lose. I think that the Democrats lose I think that the administration loses. I think that the country loses. That's why we got to figure out how we do our job here.

RAJU: Uh-huh.

MURKWOSKI: Sit down.


HUNT: Everybody loses. She put it pretty starkly.

SOELLNER: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think this demonstrates the total difference between Senate Republicans and House Republicans who are a little bit more free rolling, bombastic, however you want to describe them, but I talked to even kind of the more conservative Senate Republicans, kind of these America first type senators like Josh Hawley, for example, who said a shutdown is not a good idea and not good to use that as a leverage or kind of strategy to negotiate the spending cuts or fiscal -- you know, principles that you are trying to get.

So Senate Republicans I think in large part also disagree with the House Republicans tactics.

HUNT: It seems so.

All right. Mica Soellner, I know you'll have a long day ahead on Capitol Hill. Thank you for helping us understand how it's going to unfold. I really appreciate it.

All right. House Republicans issuing three subpoenas on Thursday for the personal and business records of Hunter and James Biden, the president's son and brother. They come as they investigate whether the president personally benefited from any of his family's foreign business dealings. It's an allegation that House Republicans still can't prove.

Their first impeachment inquiry hearing Thursday unsurprisingly left some disappointed. The reality is that their whole narrative basically fell apart. They had -- this was an expert witness that they called, they picked him and he testified that there is no evidence of impeachable offenses.


PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that an inquiry has to establish.

BRUCE DUBINSKY, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT: I'm not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing. In my opinion more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.


HUNT: Pretty stark. One Republican aide told CNN that the hearing was an unmitigated disaster. His words.

All right. President Biden issuing a stark warning Thursday in a major speech about the existential threats to U.S. democracy as he calls them.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the United States of America, and although I don't believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening. The silence is deafening.

We should all remember democracies don't have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent. When they fail to stand up or condemn the threats to democracy.


HUNT: Well, his speech was a glimpse of what will likely be the central message for his re-election bid. Stopping the erosion of Democratic values, that, of course, central to his message in 2020. The president also made his most forceful attempt yet at calling out the MAGA movement and Donald Trump's anti-Democratic behavior in the wake of his indictments.

All right. Just ahead here, United Auto Workers could escalate their strike today. The announcement will come at 10:00 this morning.

Plus, a NATO ally may have a pro-Putin leader in power by Saturday. We'll tell you how that could happen.

And Trump's latest legal moves in Fulton County, Georgia. It's a little bit surprising. Stay with us.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Slovakia is getting ready to elect its fifth prime minister in four years. Why should it matter to you? This election has alarm bells ringing in the West.

The NATO ally share as a border with Ukraine and they have been one of the closest allies of Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion. Slovakia was the first country to send air defenses to Ukraine and welcomed thousands of Ukrainian refugees. But once polls own there tomorrow, that could all change and that is because the frontrunner in the election is also a Kremlin sympathizer.

CNN's Max Foster joins us live now from London.

Max, always great to have you. What does it mean for Ukraine if this election goes for Robert Fico who is the frontrunner and could become prime minister of Slovakia?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: He has been clear he wants to stop sending arms to Ukraine. He has been very outspoken as a sympathizer of Russia. Even going as far as going with the narrative that it is Ukraine Nazis who provoked Russia into this war.

So, it's a big change. They are a member of NATO. He also said that he would block Ukraine's NATO membership as well if they wanted to continue with that. And I think that it really speaks to how it is becoming a bit more of a divisive issue, the pressure on all of the economies to keep supporting Ukraine is growing, and I think that he is speaking to that as well.

HUNT: Yeah, so, Max, can you help us understand a little bit of what is going on in terms of the domestic politics there to lead to this? Because I mean, this guy was previously in charge but he got thrown out. A different party got elected. They sort of changed their position so to speak.

But now, it seems like he may be sweeping back into power. I mean, I think a lot of -- when we talk about this here in the U.S., a lot of people kind of understand it in terms of what we deal with here in terms of Donald Trump populism and some of those same like themes and ideas come through on the American right. Is that what is going on in Slovakia or how should people think about this?

FOSTER: Well, always at the core of Slovakian politics seems to be corruption is a theme. So Fico lost his position really as prime minister last time. He's been prime minister twice, because of all stories of corruption directly linked to him.

A journalist who reported on that was actually killed as well, and after that, he lost his position. But since then, other administrations claim that they will fight corruption and hasn't worked, and there's been a series of other leaders, and it's basically very chaotic. So something about Fico that people are looking to as a man of stability and coming back into power and someone they can recognize and know, and we'll wait to see what he says about his corruption But that's what sort of forced him out last time, but seems to be a memory now. It's very interesting where it is working.

One thing to be aware of is he will have to work with the coalition partner, there are multiple parties in the parliament there. Some people suggesting that fight moderate some of his views, just have to work with a moderate partner. Actually he could go for a right wing partner as well which could make his views even more extreme. So, that's still another thing to watch.

HUNT: It's interesting.

I mean, Max, it does seem when you pull this together, if we look big picture here between the right wing here in the United States really jeopardizing funding for -- continued funding for the war against Ukraine, this unfolding in Slovakia, I mean, I think we need to keep our eye on the rest of the Ukraine allies here to see how it unfolds, but it did seem like Zelenskyy is facing a challenge here in terms of public opinion turning against him.

FSOTER: Yeah, I think a little bit does come down to cost of living, doesn't it? The cost of running, you know, governments currently now and huge amount it's causing to support Ukraine. I mean, America's absolute central here because it bank rolls the war in Ukraine for Ukraine. So if they step back, there is no way that the European nations will be able to fill that gap and it has a huge change in the dynamics.

So, the thing that was interesting about Slovakia, was also in Poland recently and a lot of those border countries, obviously you'll on Ukraine's side because they don't want Russia invading other countries like Poland, they don't have the same concerns there. So that is interesting. There is a bit of division setting in on that side of Europe which was so united before.

HUNT: Right. No, and concerning if you are Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Max Foster, thank you very much, m friend. Wonderful to have you this week. Have a wonderful weekend.

FOSTER: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Coming up, will a high school shooter in Michigan get a chance at parole? A judge will decide today.

And they could be star witnesses next week in New York. More on Donald Trump's adult children may be taking the stand, ahead.



HUNT: All right. Quick hits across America now. The two-week-old autoworkers strike might get bigger today. The UAW

president plans to expand the strike if there isn't significant progress in talks with the Big Three by 10:00 a.m. today. Those new walkouts would happen at noon.

And Michigan judge decides today if the oxford high school shooter can be sentenced to life without parole. It is the harsh punishment that the state can hand down. The teen pleaded guilty to killing four students and injuring seven others in 2021.

California raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour for fast food workers. It goes in to effect in April of next year. The new legislation also created a counsel that could approve more raises in the future.

Now to weather. Record breaking heat for part of the U.S., but look at this, New York City is going to be inundated with rain today with more than two inches in an hour, possible in some areas.

Let's get straight to our weatherman Derek Van Dam.

Derek, happy Friday to you.

A not so happy Friday in New York. What should people commuting, trying to get home before this all happens, what do they need to watch for?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Not going to be inundated, currently being inundated. That's what they're going to wake up to this morning. People actually in New York City, they get an early start to their day, the Big Apple.

And this is what they're contented with. You can see a few people walking across Times Square and clearly, Manhattan is waterlogged at the moment because today we have the potential for minor to moderate flash flooding. So this is the latest from the weather prediction center.

We have a level 3 of 4 for the potential of excessive rain leading to flash flooding. This includes Long Island, parts of New Jersey and into Connecticut, and into the city of New York. And this is an area that obviously we have some of the largest population densities, so we don't want to see flash flooding take place, but that is the threat that we're waking up to this morning.

So the very active radar at the moment, there is the I-95 corridor, we zoom in closer and here is the watches, that is a flash flood warning that includes Nassau, kings and parts of Queens County. This encompasses roughly 2.3 million people and it does not include New York County, so just outside of the Manhattan region.

That is because the radar estimated heaviest rainfall band that set up overnight really over the Western section of Long Island, so let's say JFK airport, they have received almost 2 1/2 inches of rain.

[05:25:02] LaGuardia, though, on the other hand, has received just about an inch of rain. Nonetheless, there is still more precipitation to come. You can see the evolution of this heavy rain band throughout the course of the day. A waterlogged I-95 corridor stretching from Boston all the way to the big apple, even towards Washington, D.C. but lighter totals there.

There is the heat you mentioned, summer that never ends across this nation's midsection.

HUNT: Never ends, and sounds like if you are trying to get out of JFK airport, good luck to you. Derek Van Dam, our weatherman, thank you so much for being with us.

Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.

And we're counting down here to a government shutdown at 12:00 a.m. Sunday.

And Bob Menendez meeting with Democratic colleagues. We'll talk about how that went.