Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Furious GOP Finger-Pointing Following McCarthy's Removal; Police Report: Nadine Menendez Struck, Killed Pedestrian In 2018; Biden's German Shepherd Involved In More Biting Incidents. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired October 05, 2023 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you for getting an early start with us. I am Kasie Hunt. It is 5:30 here on the East Coast in Washington, 2:30 out west.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Congressman Jim Jordan both now officially in the race for speaker after Kevin McCarthy's unceremonious ejection from his job.

Scalise announcing his bid to replace McCarthy in a letter that he sent to colleagues on Wednesday. He wrote, quote, "I firmly believe the Republican Conference is a family." Well, if that is true it is pretty dysfunctional. It is a pretty dysfunctional family. I guess we all have some of that but, hey, the mounting anger and frustrating -- frustration and finger-pointing -- it's going every which way right now.

A lot of it is aimed at Matt Gaetz who, of course, is the one who filed the motion to remove McCarthy. New York Republican Mike Lawler told CNN that Gaetz should be kicked out of the conference. And then there was Chip Roy of Texas who -- just spend a second digesting what he had to say about Gaetz.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Should he be kicked out of the conference?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): In my opinion, yes.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): You want to come at me and call me a RINO, you can kiss my ass. You go around talking your big game and you're thumping your chest on Twitter. Yeah, come to my office and come have a debate, mother.

I'm not going to go to a nunnery because (bleep) there are people who are buried over in Normandy who deserve us to stand up for what they fought for, so that's what I'm going to do. And all you (bleep) out there who are out there saying what you're

saying out on social media, you stick it. I'm going to go down to the floor and do my job and I'm going to stand up for the people who fought for this country.


HUNT: When we try to explain to you that there is an incredibly high level of anger inside the Republican House Conference right now, that says better than anything I could ever tell you exactly what is going on. That man is angry.

McCarthy ally Garret Graves was especially outraged over South Carolina moderate Nancy Mace. She was fundraising off of her vote to oust McCarthy from inside the Capitol. You see those columns behind her? She is not allowed to do this. It is a violation of the rules -- watch.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): And all of a sudden, my phone keeps sending text messages -- text messages saying hey, give me money. Oh, look at that. Oh, look -- give me money. I filed the motion to vacate. Using official actions -- official actions to raise money. It's disgusting.


HUNT: There's some more of that anger.

And in the meantime, Sen. Markwayne Mullin, who is a former member of the House, aimed his fire at Gaetz and all the right-wing hard-liners who voted to get rid of McCarthy.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): They are Republicans by name and registration only. If they are for the party they would have done what was best for the party. What was the party doing now? We're not able to do anything.


HUNT: "We are not able to do anything."

That, of course, complaint was echoed from other senators who were unhappy with the quote-unquote "dysfunctional family." I really -- I don't -- I don't -- I can't -- I don't buy the family. Anyway, this dysfunctional family has brought legislating to a standstill.

Meanwhile, the president, Joe Biden, just seems glad that you know what, it's not his problem.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Unfortunately, it means we can't do other things which I would like to be doing.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The House can vote on no bills. No appropriations work can get done.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): It's messy. There's no denying that.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): We don't even know what's happening in the House of Representatives.

REPORTER: What's your advice to the next House Speaker?


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (Laughing) That's above my pay grade.


HUNT: Oh, boy. Unfortunately for him, nothing is above his pay grade at this point.

Let's bring in Catherine Lucey, White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Catherine, good morning. I really appreciate you being here.

Let's start off with that. I mean, Biden's laughing there but the reality is our government is at a standstill to the point that our colleague Annie Grayer reporting this morning that it was still actually Tuesday when they opened the House on Wednesday because nobody bothered to even gavel out the chamber. And that's going to be a problem for the White House.


HUNT: It's a problem for our government -- bottom line.

LUCEY: Yeah. I mean, if this is a family, it's the kind of family that maybe needs to skip Thanksgiving this year I think --

HUNT: Seriously.

LUCEY: -- because they can't seem to be in the same room.

And Biden obviously said this was above his pay grade but he also said a number of very serious things yesterday. He complained about what he called the poisonous atmosphere on the Hill. You know, said that bipartisanship needed to happen.

And a key thing that they're really worried about, as you know, is what's going to happen going forward with government funding and aid to Ukraine. There's a lot of anxiety in the White House about whether -- obviously, who is going to be the next speaker or whether the -- you know, how the House gets their affairs in order, but what this is going to mean for the president's promises to support Ukraine going forward. HUNT: Yeah. I mean, the Ukraine question is really a big one. And Jim

Jordan, who has thrown his hat in the speaker's ring -- my Hill colleagues caught up with him yesterday and he essentially said that he doesn't support doing a standalone vote. He suggested anything for Ukraine would have to come with strict, new policy changes around the southern border that it's likely Democrats could not accept.

I think there's a very real possibility that he ends up the one becoming Speaker of the House. We'll see. I mean, we'll see if they can pick anybody for Speaker of the House at this -- at this stage. But the reality is this issue of Ukraine has become, honestly, a central fulcrum in this fight. I don't think that bodes well for the White House and what they want with that.

LUCEY: No. This is a real concern for the White House. I mean, the president, yesterday, was trying to project some hope, saying there are members in both parties in both chambers who want this. He has said he is going to give a speech about the importance of the U.S. commitment here to Ukraine. He spoke with allies this week trying to urge them that the U.S. is in this.

But he is -- he is not able to control what happens with the next speaker. And it's been very clear that there are members in the House who have real concerns about this or don't want to do this. And it's just we do not really know how this is going to play out right now.

HUNT: Yeah, we don't. And our reporting here at CNN is that they're going to run out of money in Ukraine for these weapons as soon as December. And you and I both know -- I mean, we've got another looming government shutdown in mid-November before that's going to happen. First, they've got to pick a speaker and then we're going to get to that. It seems very, very likely that we're still going to be fighting over this by the holidays.

Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate your time.

LUCEY: Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: And we've got new details this morning about embattled New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine. The two, of course, are already facing multiple federal charges, including bribery. And now there's this.

According to a police report, Nadine Menendez struck and killed a pedestrian in 2018. That's an incident that's mentioned in the indictment. We're going to show you a little bit of this but we want to warn you the video may be disturbing because it does show her hitting a person, backing up, and then not checking on him after the crash.

The New York Times reports that she was never tested for drugs or alcohol and she was allowed to leave the scene.


POLICE OFFICER: I just want to confirm that you do not want to give me your phone, correct?


POLICE OFFICER: OK. And that's your statement that you were driving this way, the guy came from this way, and he ran into your vehicle.

MENENDEZ: He jumped on my windshield.


HUNT: Wow.

Let's bring in former prosecutor and current legal analyst for the Law & Crime network, Imran Ansari. Imran, thank you very much for being here.

I mean, this crash -- there were no charges and there was no media attention. We should note this was before they were married. Five years later, though, it does add new context to federal charges that the two are facing. I mean, this is very, very hard to watch on a personal level. But legally, what does the video say or do in the context of the case that they're facing now?

IMRAN ANSARI, TRIAL ATTORNEY, FORMER PROSECUTOR AND ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ON-AIR HOST AND LEGAL ANALYST, LAW & CRIME NETWORK (via Skype): Right. So it's important to recognize that sometimes an accident is just an accident. And if we're taking what we know about what happened that day, there was not enough for police in Bogota, New Jersey to look at this and find reasonable grounds to test her for drugs or alcohol. You do see her in that video refusing to give her phone over.


And what's raising questions marks here or questions is that it was somewhat of a hush-hush investigation. Things were done. This was declared an accident and that was that.

What we see now, though, is providing this narrative to this impactful bribery indictment against Bob Menendez and Nadine Menendez, and it gives you the backstory and the narrative of how some of these bribery charges came about.

We do know that after this accident we saw a -- somewhat of a quid pro quo allegation going on here where a $60,000 Mercedes was given to Nadine Menendez in order to replace the vehicle that was involved in this accident. And that's really giving the framework for prosecutors to make those allegations against the Menendezes for those bribery charges.

HUNT: Right. And yeah, to underscore that, basically, that they -- one of the things that they asked their friends for as they were trying to allegedly help them get what they wanted from Congress was a car to replace this one that was in this accident.

Can I ask you, is there any evidence of preferential treatment here? I know you mentioned that the investigation was hush-hush. We don't see her on camera saying anything about who she is or her connections to powerful people. I mean, what do we know about any of that?

ANSARI: Yeah. I mean, we don't know anything concrete to support that, but I will tell you this as a former prosecutor. When there is a vehicular homicide, whether it be an accident due to negligence or an accident due to intoxication, typically, law enforcement and investigators, and the local prosecutors will look into that, do a thorough investigation, bring the driver in for either testing or questioning and further investigation into what happened.

And what we see here on paper and the narrative happening after this fact, we see somewhat of a swift resolution to the investigation. We know she wasn't tested for alcohol or drugs. You see her not handing over her phone. There was no warrant obtained to see if she was texting or on the phone at the time of the accident.

And, of course, there is nothing concrete -- I need to make that clear -- but it does raise question marks whether if there was any sort of undue influence on local prosecutors or law enforcement that we don't know now because of Bob Menendez's position. And that is a question that is being raised now, particularly in light of the indictment that we see in the federal court.

HUNT: All right, Imran Ansari. Thank you very much for bringing us your expertise this morning. I really appreciate your time.

ANSARI: Thank you for having me.

HUNT: And House Republicans, of course, scrambling to find a replacement for their speaker job that's open after Kevin McCarthy's exit. And Commander Biden, the White House dog, out of the White House and in the dog house.



HUNT: Welcome back.

It has been an unforgettable, unprecedented, historic week in Washington. One person who might want to forget about it, the now- former Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who became the first speaker to be voted out.

McCarthy's downfall detailed in a new piece in The Atlantic -- "The fall of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy today demonstrated again that the one sin that cannot be forgiven in the modern Republican Party is being seen as failing to fight the Democratic agenda by any means necessary."

And the man who wrote that piece joins me now -- CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein. Ron, are you up late or up early because you're out in L.A.?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC (via Webex by Cisco): Exactly. You know, I'm trying to figure that out. We're on the borderline, that's for sure.

HUNT: All right. We are definitely on the bubble.

Well, look, I really appreciate you being here because I read your piece with great interest because the state of our politics really is such that on the base side, honestly, of either party but particularly on the Republican side, the idea that you would work with people that do not -- that are on the other -- in the other party from you is just completely unacceptable. And it leads to a situation where we've seen this week, it makes the country ungovernable.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Well look -- I mean, I think -- and you certainly see this in the rise of Donald Trump -- there is a critical mass within the Republican coalition that feels that the way America is changing -- culturally, demographically, economically -- is marginalizing and displacing them. And what they want above all are leaders who will fight those changes by any means necessary. That is the fundamental way that Donald Trump has surged to become the leader of the Republican Party.

And it is the same emotion, the same sentiment, the same anxiety that fueled the rebellion against Kevin McCarthy.

I mean, in one sense, Kasie, you can trace this back for almost half a century now. I mean, Newt Gingrich and Vin Weber rose to prominence in the late '70s and '80s, and others around them in the Conservative Opportunity Society, which was built on the idea that the Republican leaders of that era -- Bob Michel and Bob Dole -- were two conciliatory towards Democrats. And Gingrich faced his own rebellion on the right when he became speaker. We certainly saw similar dynamics with John Boehner and Paul Ryan when they became speaker.

The difference, of course, is that McCarthy went much further than any of them in trying to placate the right and it was still not enough. And that, I think, is the controlling dynamic in the Republican Party. No matter how much you are seen as fighting -- resisting Democrats, there is a portion of the party who believes you are not doing enough.

And the cycle that that's -- the cycle that's unleashed is going to leave us with a choice -- them with a choice of Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, probably the two most conservative speakers of modern times.

HUNT: Yeah -- no, it's a good point.


HUNT: I mean -- and honestly, I was struck by -- my colleague Annie Grayer was reporting this morning about the level of dysfunction. I mean, they couldn't even say when they opened the House on Wednesday that it wasn't still Tuesday.

But they also have inhibited their own impeachment inquiry. The right -- that -- you know, Kevin McCarthy handed these hard-liners -- he opened this inquiry without holding a vote, basically in concession to them over the objections of his moderates. And now those hard-liners have shut down the House. That impeachment inquiry can't go forward. But at the same time, they are out in front of the cameras raising money much to the -- I mean, it is the anger -- the level of anger over that is just off the charts right now.

I mean, I don't -- I don't understand how any of these incentives ever --


HUNT: -- get fixed.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Well, I mean, it is worth noting that Democrats had the exact same majority -- narrow majority in the previous two years and they passed, essentially, the entire party wish list. I mean, the breadth of the agenda they passed, much of which did not, of course, clear the Senate because of the filibuster. But everything from election reform to assault weapon ban, to Dreamers, to the expansive Build Back Better with no more than two Democrats voting no. I mean, they found a way to coalesce around some ideological -- there was obvious ideological diversity in that party as well.


But I think because of the urgency and the sense of anxiety and threat in much of the Republican base the incentives are different for at least a portion of the Republican Conference. And what you saw in overthrowing McCarthy, you reflect on it.

I mean, the idea that the -- that the offense that failed Kevin McCarthy was that he was too quick to make a deal with Democrats twice to avoid potential global economic uncertainty and instability through a debt ceiling deal, and then domestic economic uncertainty and instability through a government shutdown. That was the offense that took out Kevin McCarthy?

I mean, this is a person who voted not to overturn the 2020 election. Tried to undermine the January 6 Committee. Launched the impeachment inquiry, as you said, on his own authority. And in a variety of other ways gave the right almost everything that it wanted --

HUNT: Yeah.

BROWNSTEIN: -- and it was still not enough. Very different incentives at this point within the two parties.

HUNT: Very quickly, Ron, the president --


HUNT: -- is out there saying this atmosphere is incredibly poisonous. We've got other members of the House saying we're going to lose the elections.

Does this all add up to Democrats potentially having a much easier time holding the White House and potentially winning back the House in November? BROWNSTEIN: I don't know about holding the White House but I certainly think holding the House. I mean, it is true that Americans do not pay a lot of attention to kind of the inside the Beltway fighting, and dysfunction, and chaos.

But the fact is that in 2022, we saw a historically large percentage of voters who said they were unhappy with the economy, disappointed in Biden. Vote for Democrats anyway because in polls they said they considered the alternative too extreme. And Republicans are setting up a dynamic in which they will be vulnerable to that calculation again.

Certainly, there are reports that McCarthy aids are making calls for Jim Jordan as speaker. I would suspect they could recruit a lot of Democrats to join them because Jim Jordan as speaker would be precisely the kind of image that Democrats want to portray.

The Republicans -- on the other hand, either of these choices, as you noted in your previous segment --

HUNT: Yeah.

BROWNSTEIN: -- are going to make life more difficult in a practical sense for Democrats. There is a view the worse, the better in the sense of electoral politics. But in terms of practically getting things done this could make for a long period until the next election for President Biden and Democrats in the Senate.

HUNT: It sure could.

All right, Ron Brownstein. I'm very grateful to you for being here. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: All right. He has been a bad commander. Not the commander in chief, Joe Biden, but his 2-year-old German Shepherd who is named Commander. He's now been removed from the White House. The first dog appears to be involved in more biting incidents than just the 11 that had been reported. According to White House staff, the number is much higher.

And CNN's Betsy Klein joins us now. Betsy, thanks for being here.

This is a sad story but obviously, this is dangerous. What is the bite count?

BETSY KLEIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE PRODUCER: So we know that there were 10 documented incidents back in July. And yesterday -- or last week we learned in the course of my reporting that there had been 11 biting incidents with Secret Service personnel. And as I was talking to White House sources it became clear this week that number is actually much higher. It includes members of the executive residence staff and other White House personnel. And 11 bites is a lot -- but more than that.

And I think there is a recognition inside the White House that this is a problem and that something needs to be done here. I have talked to sources who have said they're very worried about workplace safety. We know that the White House -- it's a home but it's also a workplace for hundreds of people. And the president and first lady really recognized that something needed to be done here.

And so we learned last night as we were asking these questions to the White House about workplace safety that they have actually made the decision to move the dog from the White House until they can find a solution.

We heard from the communications director for the first lady, Elizabeth Alexander, telling CNN "Commander is not presently on the White House campus while next steps are evaluated."

Now, these bites really ranged in severity. We know that some of the bites -- one person had to go to the hospital for treatment. Other people had to be seen by the White House medical unit. And some were not treated and not reported. So we may never really know how many bites there were total.

And I think, you know, the whole situation belies attention between the Biden family and the Secret Service. We know that back in -- during the presidential transition there were questions about Secret Service political loyalty to former President Donald Trump. And that became a bigger issue back in 2021 when the Bidens had a similar situation with their dog Major, who also had biting incidents.

So the Secret Service spokesman says that that's categorically false. But another person categorized the relationship as combustible.

HUNT: Indeed. All right. Well, very sad for Commander but obviously, our hearts go out to those who were injured.

Betsy Klein, thank you very much for that great reporting.

Up next, a manhunt is underway for the gunman in a mass shooting at a Maryland college.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Simone Biles leads Team USA to another gold medal.

Coy Wire is here. Coy, good morning.

The U.S. Women have now won a record seven straight team golds at the World Championships.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

No nation has ever won seven straight Worlds in gymnastics and Simone Biles has been part of the last six of them. Listen to this: her first gold at a World Championships exactly 10 years to the day and in the same place, Antwerp, Belgium -- is this gold. She now has 20 Worlds golds, more than twice as many as any other woman in history.

And despite losing Joscelyn Roberson to injury, Biles, Sky Blakely, Leanne Wong, and reigning Worlds silver medalist Shilese Jones dominating -- finishing more than two full points ahead of second- place Brazil.

Biles had a potential five more events this weekend and even more history on the line. Her 33 medals at Worlds and Olympics are tied for most of all time. So a top-three finish in any of them means she'd stand alone atop of the record books yet again.


MLB ANNOUNCER: And the pitch to Bryson. A fastball hit in the air deep to right field. Going back is Sanchez. He's going to just watch it go. A grand slam for Bryson Stott.


WIRE: They're calling it the "Stott Shot." Bryson Stott's grand slam putting an exclamation point on the Phillies 7-1 win and series sweep over Miami to send them to the NLDS in a playoffs rematch against the Atlanta Braves.

The Diamondbacks, Rangers, and Twins also sweeping their wildcard series yesterday. Minnesota won its first playoff series in 21 years. For Arizona, it's been 16. And for Texas, it's been 12 years.

Here is a look at the division round which starts Saturday. The Rangers get a date with your Orioles, Kasie. And they just won 100 games for the first time since 1980. Let's go!

HUNT: Let's go, O's. Love it.

WIRE: Finally, Chiefs star Travis Kelce says the NFL has taken the whole Taylor Swift thing too far. He told his brother Jason on the podcast yesterday that the NFL needs to calm down. They're being too loud about his potential relationship with Swift.


JASON KELCE, PHILADELPHIS EAGLES CENTER: Is the NFL overdoing it? What is your honest opinion? Not take away -- take away --

TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: I think everybody's just like overwhelmed with --

J. KELCE: -- your feelings for Taylor. What is your honest opinion on how the NFL is treating celebrities at games?


T. KELCE: I think it's fun when they show who all is at the game, you know? I think -- I think it brings a little bit more to the atmosphere. It brings a little bit more to what you're watching.

But at the same time, I think --

J. KELCE: They're overdoing it.

T. KELCE: They're overdoing it.


WIRE: The NFL cut away to Taylor Swift 17 times during that Chiefs- Jets game Sunday night. They posted a bunch about it on social media. And the NFL even had to defend themselves, saying they called it a pop cultural moment in covering the relationship.

HUNT: I mean, it is -- I hear you, Travis, but I've got to tell you the rest of us -- the rest of us just want to see Taylor.

Thank you for joining us, Coy. And thanks to all of you for being here this morning. I am Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.