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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

With House Paralyzed, GOP Scrambles to Find New Speaker; U.S. to Transfer Seized Iranian Weapons to Ukraine; Heavy Rains Drench Texas and Oklahoma Overnight. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 05, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Help wanted. A divided House seeks new speaker, must be a uniter. RINOs need not apply. Must handle high stress environment.

Job security, low. Very, low.


HUNT: Good day to our viewers here in the United States, and around the world. I am Kasie Hunt. It's Thursday October 5th.

Five a.m. here in Washington, where the race for a new House speaker is on, with two lawmakers already throwing their hats into the ring, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and Congressman Jim Jordan. There is, of course, I'm concerned that Jordan might be a bit too right-wing for more moderate members tastes. He says that will not be a problem.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think we're a conservative, center-right party. I think I'd be the guy to unite that. I think my politics are entirely consistent with where conservatives and Republicans are across the county.


HUNT: OK. So, meanwhile, Steve Scalise says that Republicans', quote, strength as a conference comes from our unity, end quote. Uh-huh.

This -- this conference is extraordinarily divided. And the reality is that getting to 218 votes to the speaker, it simply is not the case right now. And it has gotten so bad that some House Republicans rightfully fear it could ultimately cost them the election.


REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): This move does endanger our majority. I think the coverage in how -- and the chaos exists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it definitely puts the majority in jeopardy when you see this disunity.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you worried that it could cost the majority? Could it cost you the majority?



HUNT: It could. And there are other Republicans, Congressman Garret Graves, for example. He is a very close McCarthy ally, and is very, very frustrated with the man who led the charge against McCarthy. That, of course, Congressman Matt Gaetz. Take a look.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): Effectively someone threw a grenade right in the middle of the House floor. There's a reason this hasn't been done in well over 100 years. The House is frozen. They can't refer bills to committees right now. You can't actually legislate on the House floor right now. So this effectively has frozen the country.


HUNT: Frozen the country.

Let's bring in CNN Capitol Hill reporter Annie Grayer.

Annie, good morning. It's always wonderful to see you.

And since we just heard Mr. Graves there talking about the country being essentially frozen, you have some really great new reporting out this morning about just how bad this all is. Just the sheer level of -- I mean, they can't do anything. Tell us about it.

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Kasie, they really can't do anything right now. I can't emphasize this enough. Without an elected speaker, they can't bring bills to the floor. The interim speaker, Patrick McHenry, has extremely limited power.

So without being able to bring the bills to the floor, that means that Republicans can't make progress on government funding. Now, that deadline is November 17th. This was a critical time when the House was supposed to be passing bills, and conferencing with the Senate, trying to come to a deal so that we don't come right up until the deadline like we did on October 30th.

You also have the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, that is really called into question right now. This was another key time where, you know, Republicans are really trying to build momentum, this has been a top target of their since they took over the House back in January, and they were really trying to bring reluctant Republicans who did not see the evidence, and weren't necessarily on board with the inquiry effort.

This was the time when they were really trying to do all that. And without an elected speaker, there's really a question of whether or not they have the power to enforce their subpoenas, sources tell me. I mean, we are in untested legal territory here. While the committees and jurisdiction leading the inquiry technically can hold hearings, and maybe issue subpoenas, it's just really unclear what they can do right now.

And, you know, there's an irony to all of this, Kasie. That the eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy, these were some of the most vocal proponents of focusing on government funding, single subject spending bills, and trying to impeach the president.


And their actions have turned the House into chaos, and essentially stopped all the business that they wanted to happen from happening.

HUNT: Yeah.

GRAYER: And I'll just tell you one anecdote that kind of encapsulates all -- encapsulates all of this, a little wonky. But after McCarthy was ousted on Tuesday night, McHenry took over. McHenry never officially gaveled out the House, which is what is required to kind of end the legislative day. So when we came back on Wednesday, we actually were still on Tuesday, October 3rd legislative day.

I mean, that shows you like the twilight zone that we are in the House right now.

HUNT: Yeah, that's crazy. And, I mean, we should take their Friday away for this. It should just be Thursday forever until they figure this out. And they, that's really, it's really fascinating.

And the impeachment stuff I have to say, everyone head to to take a look at the story, just out a couple of minutes ago. But that was really the thing that stood out to me, it's like these guys, who stood in McCarthy's way. They were given this impeachment inquiry, and it's their actions that suddenly, actually, they can't execute on any of it. I think you use the word irony, which is the right one.

You also had some really great reporting that stuck out to me about Liz Cheney, who, of course, no longer in the House after she had a primary challenge he lost. She and Kevin McCarthy have, there is a lot of bad blood between the two of them, and it goes back to January 6th.

And you have new reporting about what she did as McCarthy was trying to convince Democrats to help him save his speakership. What did she do?

GRAYER: Yeah, Kasie. So, in the days leading up to the votes to oust McCarthy, Liz Cheney saw Congressman Dan Goldman, a Democrat from New York, on TV talking about what Democrats were weighing at the time, and sources tell me that Cheney called Goldman to discuss the threat that McCarthy presented to the country after everything that she felt like she had learned from her work on the January 6 committee. She talked about her -- McCarthy's relationship with former president, Donald Trump, and all of the work that she had done to uncover Trump's involvement with January 6th. And then Goldman shared that conversation with the entire Democratic

Caucus when they met behind closed doors on Tuesday, shortly before the vote to oust McCarthy. And that Tuesday meeting, Kasie, is really where Democrats came together and united behind this idea that they were not going to help McCarthy.

Up until the point, there have been some conversations about, maybe there are some concessions we should get. Maybe there's a power sharing agreement we can do. That meeting was a decision, absolutely not, we're staying unified and that conversation between Cheney and Congressman Goldman was just one of the motivating factors that got Democrats united.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's just the texture here behind the scenes is just really so interesting. And I think underscores the way, you know, Cheney obviously is in the minority in her conference, in terms of how she feels about January 6th but then she sticks her entire political career on it and stand up to this.

Now, I mean, the one wrinkle here, too, is that Jim Jordan is obviously running for speaker of the House. You know, he tried to help in what -- I mean, if you watched how it play out on the floor, it would've been a gentlemanly thing to do, and Liz Cheney was a gentleman. She said to him, you f-ing did this. And he may end up speaker of the House. It's just -- what a disaster.

All right. Annie Grayer, thank you very much for being up with us this morning. I really appreciate you bringing us and your reporting.

All right, just ahead here. We've got new attention on the deadly car crash in New Jersey. The driver involved? The future wife of Senator Bob Menendez.

Plus, the U.S. transfers weapons to Ukraine. What's the twist? They were seized from Iran.

And, he has been a bad first dog. The latest on Commander Biden's biting incidents.



HUNT: Welcome back. We go now to a CNN exclusive. The U.S. transferring weapons they seized from Iran to Ukraine. The move could help alleviate some critical shortages of the Ukrainian military, as it awaits more money and equipment from the U.S. and its allies, it could also help to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia.

CNN's Nada Bashir is live in London with more.

Nada, how much does this help Ukraine?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kasie, this isn't going to answer all of Ukraine's battlefield maids, but it could be a boost to troops on the frontline, particularly as questions continue to swell around the long term supply of NATO and U.S. weapons to Ukraine.

Now, we are talking about thousands of weapons, more than a million rounds of seized Iranian ammunition, which has been transferred to Ukraine already, according to the U.S. central command. These weapons are said to have been seized back in December of last year by the U.S. Navy. They were en route from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen.

Of course, there are questions about the sourcing, the legality of transferring these weapons to Ukraine. We know that of course Iran is facing sanctions. It is under a U.N. arms embargo, and typically, the U.N. would require these weapons to either be destroyed, or stored.

And up until these point, these weapons have in fact pinched stored at the facilities in the Middle East. But we have heard from the state department, defending the legality of the move. Take a listen.


VEDANT PATEL, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: In the legislative language, authorizing the Department of Defense is Ukraine security assistance initiative which they, of course, I'm sure, would be happy to speak to you more about. The secretary of defense is authorized, with the concurrence of the secretary of state to make available to the government of Ukraine, weapons and other defense articles from the United States and other sources.


This obviously is one of those other sources.


BASHIR: Now, of course, Kasie, the intention here as you mention is to alleviate some of the pressures that Ukraine is facing when it comes to shortages in ammunition and weapons. We have heard the warnings, the concern from NATO officials that the supply of weapons, readily available to be supplied to Ukraine is running out.

We heard that warning from the Pentagon earlier this week, that while funds in the U.S. budget at this current point in time are sufficient, there is long term concern with Congress's decision. So, of course, this will be a positive indication. Positive for Ukraine. But in terms of the long term viability, there are other issues on the table of course -- Kasie.

HUNT: Nada Bashir, thank you very much for that.

The U.S. transfer of Iranian weapons to Ukraine also comes as Western allies becomes increasingly divided over to continue sending their own supplies, as Nada just touched on.

CNN's Max Foster joins us live in London with more.

Max, good morning. I can't imagine why there might be nerves about whether the U.S. government can't get it together enough can continue funding this. Let's talk a little bit about that. But I also have to say, I see kind of in this, yes, we're going to

help Ukrainians and, there's the tactical battlefield discussion to be had around that. But they're also kind of twisting the knife a little bit for the Russians and the Russians we have to remind everyone are so tight with Iran, it's likely a lot of these weapons came originally from Russia. What's going on?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: One analyst describing it as poetic justice because we've got the situation as you described. Iran has been sending drones in particular to support Russia. So they are allied. And now, it's Iranian weapons are going to be used on the Ukrainian side.

I think the other optics here really is how desperate the situation has become that, you know, NATO is effectively having to send Iranian weapons to Ukraine because it hasn't got enough of its own. We heard earlier this week from a senior member of NATO saying that staring at the battle of the battle of the weapons cache if you like, they're just running out of ammunition to send to Ukraine.

So, it's a really desperate situation. And it has been very complicated, as Nada was suggesting the legality around this using these Iranian weapons and then sending them off to Ukraine. But it has been an interesting one. But as notices as well, it's not a game- changer. It's just useful weaponry for the Ukrainians right now.

HUNT: Right. So, let's talk about the politics of the situation because President Biden was asked about the House speaker race on Wednesday. It obviously is challenging for the United States government to do anything at the moment.

My colleague Annie Grayer was just reporting that, you know, everything is functioning frozen, including this piece of it. Biden is -- President Biden is going to give a big speech they've said about Ukraine aid.

But I know European leaders are meeting, they're very worried about this. And, you know, I will say, this Ukraine question is becoming central in the speakers race. Jim Jordan, who is a top candidate, already saying he doesn't want to do, it or want to tie two very significant policy, conservative policy changes in other areas here in the United States. It honestly isn't looking good.

FOSTER: No, there's been a lot of coverage about this in the U.S. But I have to say, you know, in Europe, I think people are so confused and befuddled by what's happening in Washington right now, that they don't really understand fully what's happening. But the reality is, you know, this money could potentially be running out from America to Ukraine, and that's going to have a huge impact on the war, and all of the alliances across Europe are also supporting Ukraine in that war.

As you say, leaders are meeting, prime ministers, presidents are meeting in Spain today, and President Zelenskyy is right there as well. Behind the scenes, I wouldn't quite describe it as panic, but the only conversation is what on earth are we going to do if America stops sending money to Ukraine, because Europe is going to have to try to make up for it.

But if you look at the finances, there's no way that they can. I don't think there's any answers right now. But there is real worry about how they are going to respond if America can't keep providing that money. And certainly, they will be looking at the Biden speech to see how he explains it.

HUNT: Right, no, for sure. I know some of our reporting coming from international teams yesterday said that some of this money runs out in December. I mean, we're facing a government shut -- another possible government shutdown here in mid November.

I mean, the timeline is very tight as you point out for Zelenskyy in trying to keep his troops supplied with weaponry. And the dysfunction over here, I could very easily see it, even if Congress wants to do it, I can see them, you know, basically running out the clock, which is obviously tough.

FOSTER: I also to say, you know, the bigger challenge that Zelenskyy is facing, is he's looking at what topping in America. He's concerned about what other right-of-center governments in Europe are thinking, wow, that's happening in America, maybe we should pull back as well. So, there's a lot of dynamics going on.


HUNT: For sure. All right. Max Foster, wonderful to see you, my friend. See you tomorrow.

Rudy Giuliani, now suing President Biden. We will tell you why.

And New York's attorney general warns Donald Trump.

Stay with us.



HUNT: All right. We've got quick hits across America now.

New York Attorney General Letitia James blasting Donald Trump's attempts to turn the civil fraud trial against him into a political stunt and fundraising expedition.


LETITIA JAMES, N EW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I will not sit idly by and allow anyone to use a press the law. Lastly, I will not be bullied.


HUNT: The case threatens his businesses in New York state. The court resumes today with a cross examination of Trump's ex-accountant. President Biden has approved another nine billion dollars in student

debt relief, and what the White House calls fixes to a broken system. It comes days after payments restarted following a three year pause.

And Rudy Giuliani is suing President Biden for calling him a, quote, Russian pawn, end quote, during a debate that happened three years ago. The move comes as he faces multiple lawsuits for his alleged interference in the 2020 election.

All right. We had extremely heavy rain overnight in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

Take a look at this -- a soccer match just rained out in Frisco, Texas, after the skies just opened up. Let's go straight to our weatherman, Derek Van Dam.

Derek, good morning.

What is the situation there?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Look, I played soccer all my life. I think I played in heavier rain than that. But, I mean, look, if there's lightning involved, you do not want to be on the soccer pitch.

HUNT: Definitely not.

VAN DAM: Yeah, right, that's just frankly dangerous. It's dangerous to be a spectator in that weather as well. And guess what, that's all about 2 to 4 inches of rain in a matter of a two-hour period in and around Frisco, which is just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

This is a bigger part of a system, that brought severe weather. Wind and hail reports throughout Texas and Oklahoma, as you mentioned. Here's the latest scenario. This is the current radar, and you can see, lighter rain stretching across Arkansas, but it gets heavier the farther south you travel. Interstate 45, Interstate 20, running east and west of the heaviest, fell to the northeast near the Texarkana region.

That's where the radar indicated totals were upwards of ten inches. There were some flash flood warnings. In fact, there is still one ongoing right now, impacting about 20,000 people, including a camp in Marion County region of northeast Texas. This is the storm system responsible.

Remember, yesterday, we talk about a one-two punch of cold front. Here's the first one. There's the second one, that's a big game changer, right? That's going to be bring us our autumn weather. That we've been previewing for the past couple of days.

It is advancing through the Midwest. It's got its eyes set on the Northeast. Check on how the temperatures cool down dramatically for the weekend, just in time to do a little bit of a fall color leaf peaking. I like to do that. Casey, I don't know if you're into that. But I just love seeing the colors this time of year across northeast. This week it will be ideal for that. HUNT: I do too. As we discussed at length, I am dying for it to be


Tomorrow, Derek, I need a weather report for the first ALDS game, because I'm going to go see the Orioles play 1:00 in the afternoon. So just, just for your information for tomorrow. Thank you very much.

VAN DAM: Seventy-eight and sunny. You got it.

HUNT: Perfect, I'll see you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: Up next here, new video services of an old accident involving a senator's future wife. How it could've triggered a bribery scandal.

And, furious finger-pointing following McCarthy's firing. We'll tell you who is doing what, into whom, on Capitol Hill.