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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Sources: Foreigners, Injured Civilians To Be Released From Gaza; House GOP And Senate Clash Over Linking Israel And Ukraine War Aid; Trump Attacks Biden On Age Despite Flubs Of His Own. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired November 01, 2023 - 05:30   ET



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, people are desperate to get to safety. You may recall American officials telling Americans on the ground in Gaza some two weeks ago to go to the Rafah Border Crossing in hopes that it actually might open. That never happened. People have been waiting under some pretty desperate conditions ever since.

So this would be monumental. The question is how many will ultimately get let out beyond today, and whether or not this is a sign of things to come, and whether everyone will be allowed to go.

We are also seeing ambulances at the border. We have those pictures there. These are ambulances waiting on the Egyptian side ready to take about 80 or 81 patients from Palestinian hospitals -- people who need surgery that cannot be performed in Gaza -- to a field hospital just inside the border with Egypt.

This would mark the first Palestinians who are able to leave Gaza since this conflict began. And again, the question is: is this a sign of things to come or is this a one-off?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Scott McLean. Thank you very much for that important update. I really appreciate your reporting this morning.

And the Biden administration is seeking a $105 billion national security budget request that includes significant funding for Israel and Ukraine.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is heading to Israel late this week, and Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin tried to make the case on Capitol Hill for keeping funding for these two crises together.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: If we start to peel off pieces of this package, they'll see that. They'll understand that we are playing Whac-A-Mole while they cooperate increasingly and pose an ever greater threat to our security as well as to that of our allies and partners. LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Today's battles against aggression and terrorism will define global security for years to come, and only firm American leadership can ensure that tyrants, and thugs, and terrorists worldwide are not emboldened to commit more aggression and more atrocities.


HUNT: Of course, the new speaker, Mike Johnson, and House Republicans seem to have other ideas.

Let's bring in CNN's Stephen Collinson, who is up early with us to talk about his new piece looking at Mike Johnson, the new speaker, and kind of this risky move that he is making. Stephen, thank you very much for being here.

He is -- the House Speaker is basically saying not only is he going to separate Israel and Ukraine aid from each other, which is something that Democrats and the White House think means it's less likely that Ukraine will get funded the way they would like to see it funded, but he also is putting spending cuts related to the IRS -- basically, these very right-wing conservative priorities into something that historically would really just go by itself because the recognition would be hey, we urgently need to aid Israel. I mean, that's something that the vast majority of members of Congress agree on.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: That's right, and this is quite a surprising gambit from Mike Johnson as he opens his speakership. What he's doing is -- as you say, he's setting up simultaneously clashes with Democrats by including these pay-fors, as they're called on Capitol Hill, to offset the cost of the $14 billion in Israeli funding.

And he's setting up a clash with Republicans in the Senate and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by splitting this away from the Ukraine package. McConnell favors President Joe Biden's approach of putting them all together.

I think this is really interesting because you never get to see a new political leader almost creating his public persona and the foundation of his power from scratch. Normally, if it's a new president, we've seen them for two years on the campaign trail. Anyone that comes into high leadership in the Senate or the House has generally been in the public eye for years.

So, Mike Johnson is really starting from scratch here and it's going to be really interesting to see how he maneuvers this issue --

HUNT: Yeah.

COLLINSON: -- as he looks ahead to the big government funding clash in a couple of weeks.

HUNT: Right. No -- the stakes are incredibly high on an incredibly short timeline. I'm glad you mentioned McConnell because I want to show -- he was on Capitol Hill yesterday at his usual leadership conference -- press conference, but he talked about this and put himself publicly on the record at odds with Mike Johnson. Take a look at McConnell.


MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That's an opinion many people have. It's not surprising. But in order to make a law it has to pass both bodies and be signed by the president.

My own view I just expressed is that we need to treat all four of these areas -- all four of them -- Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the border.


HUNT: So, first of all, there are some really interesting semiotics there from McConnell, who seemed to be saying -- the message seemed to be to Mike Johnson -- hey, you're inexperience is showing a little bit. Like, don't you know, like, how a bill becomes a law?


But then also, he kind of outlined -- he says Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the border. I mean, the deal that basically, Republicans had sort of made with Democrats here was OK, we can lump this together if you give us border funding. It's a different way of approaching it and one that's much more likely to actually pass.

I mean, Mike Johnson, at the end of the day, is going to have to give up the ghost on this, no?

COLLINSON: That's right. And that gulf of experience there between McConnell, who has been in Senate leadership for years, let alone all of his years in Congress, and Johnson, who is just starting out, is pretty interesting. And it does lay bare these splits in the Republican Party between the old establishment Republicans like McConnell and Johnson, who comes from this pro-Trump far-right wing of the House for whom McConnell is very unpopular.

But at the end of the day, the dynamics of Washington are clear. What can come out of a Democratic House -- a Democratic Senate and will be accepted by a Democratic White House is going to be very different from what comes out of a Republican House.

And perhaps having made an initial stand, Johnson has built the political capacity to then roll back and take these pay-fors out of the Israel package and it will pass the House quite easily and he will have made a political stand that will help him with his own flank as he goes forward.

But ultimately, he still has to get bills through the House that can pass the Senate and will be accepted by President Joe Biden. That was the same conundrum that led to the fall of Kevin McCarthy a few weeks ago. HUNT: Yeah, it's absolutely right. And again, as we've said, this is a first test for the new speaker but the critical one comes when that -- it is now November first, so we are looking at just over --

COLLINSON: Two weeks, basically.

HUNT: -- two weeks or so before the U.S. government is threatening to shut down again.

All right, Stephen Collinson. Thank you very much for being up --


HUNT: -- early with us. I really appreciate you.

All right. Former President Trump's adult children set to begin testifying in their father's New York civil fraud trial today. Don Jr. and Eric Trump are senior Trump Organization executives and also defendants in the case. The New York attorney general accuses them of fraudulently inflating the value of Trump's properties.

Don Jr. is expected to take the stand today. Eric is scheduled for tomorrow. And their sister, Ivanka, set for next week. Their father not expected to be in court for their testimony.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning. It's always good to see you.

What kind of questions do we expect Don Jr. to face today? And it's kind of interesting to me that Dad's not going to be there even though he's made a point of sitting down in that front row for a number of days of this trial.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah, I guess the optics are of concern. Good morning to you, Kasie.

So there's a lot to unpack as it relates to the children and what they knew. And obviously, if you get the children, you want to know what they did in the company, when they did it, and what their specific roles were as it related to really directing others to do the bidding and the business of the company.

Who they were working with. What relationship they had with the chief executive of the business. What strings they were pulling. What applications they were involved. Really, the essence of how closely were they tied with what was going on.

Sometimes Kasie, in these -- in these cases, you see an executive perhaps or people who are vice presidents even, right, who may be disengaged and may leave things to subordinates to get things done.

I think here the attorney general will really tie in to the extent of saying and arguing that this was a family conspiracy. They knew they were filing false statements. They knew they were -- they were inflating values of properties. They knew they were evading, really, their financial obligations and responsibilities.

And so, I think the essence of the testimony will be to determine what level of involvement they had, who they were involved with, and the extent to which they were orchestrating collectively and getting information collectively in order to carry out what, in essence, the attorney general claims is a fraud. And so, expect to hear a lot of information concerning the management and the ongoing dealings that he's had with the company.

HUNT: Can you explain a little bit about why Ivanka's testimony, in particular, has been a point of contention? It seems like the former president really doesn't want her to testify and I'm kind of curious as to your legal take on why.

JACKSON: There are -- so, a couple of things.

So the first thing is that obviously, we know she was dismissed as a defendant. That was really predicated upon her leaving the company -- her leaving the company back in 2016-2017. So to the extent that she was outside of the company. There's the -- the issue came up of the statute of limitations and whether any conduct she engaged in would really afoul of what the attorney general was clawing (PH) back to do.

So, number one, if she's not as engaged and not focused, and not involved in the company, why should she have test -- relevant testimony as the case moves forward? That's number one.


Number two, she's out of the jurisdiction. And so, to the extent that she's no longer there, apparently in Miami or elsewhere, what is the materiality, as us lawyers say? What is the relevance of her testimony? What does the -- value does she add?

And then the other optic is leave my daughter alone, right? I mean, I think there's sort of a protectionist element of why are you harassing -- that, of course, is the claim of Mr. Trump -- my daughter as it relates to her testimony when she has nothing of value?

The other two sons being more directly involved. Eric being, apparently, the most involved. Don Jr. -- or reportedly, more interested in politics.

But the overall legal sense of it is that she doesn't have anything of value to add. I think that's what testimony is for, that's what probing is for, and that's what real critical questions are for. And I think that's what we'll find out if or when she does testify. She'll obviously continue to appeal back but I think she'll be on the stand.

HUNT: Fair enough. Yeah, it does seem -- I mean, Eric Trump -- obviously, when his father came to the White House, was really the person who took the lead with the company. And now, we report that he's on the phone --


HUNT: -- with his father all the time, very involved in the business. So a salient point there.

Joey Jackson, thank you as always for your time, sir. I really appreciate it.

JACKSON: Absolutely. Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Former President Trump, of course, mocks President Biden for his age. Maybe he should think twice. We'll have more on that.

Plus, Nikki Haley rising to second place behind Trump in South Carolina. What it means for her chances to run second place in the GOP primary. That's ahead.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Inflation, abortion, the southern border -- all major policy issues that are likely to dominate the 2024 presidential race. But, of course, this time around we have a specific unique one and that is age.

Former President Donald Trump -- he's only three years younger than President Biden. But it's an issue for voters -- President Biden's age -- and Donald Trump has gone right ahead mocking the current president over it.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, he's totally incoherent. And he goes thank you, thank you.


HUNT: OK. Here's the thing, though. Trump, himself, not immune to making mistakes that could be attributed to his age.


TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, and a very big hello to a place where we've done very well, Sioux Falls. Thank you very much, Sioux Falls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Sioux City, not Sioux Falls.

TRUMP: Oh, it's -- all right.

So, Sioux City, let me ask you --

You know, I was very honored. There's a man, Viktor Orban. Did anyone ever hear of him? He's probably, like, one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. And he's the leader of -- right? He's the leader of Turkey. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Notably, Viktor Orban, not the leader of Turkey. He is the prime minister of Hungary.

This topic is the subject matter of a new article in The New York Times called "How Trump's Verbal Slips Could Weaken His Attacks On Biden's Age." Let's bring in the lead author of that piece, New York Times political correspondent Michael Bender. Mike, thank you so much for being up early, especially after Halloween night with little kids.

But I loved your story. And this obviously has been something that the Ron DeSantis campaign has also, in the kind of last minutes of the Republican primary, really started to focus in on.

What do you think the effect of that is going to be?

MICHAEL BENDER, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via Skype): Well, I think the effect here is going to be or could be pretty harmful for Trump.

One of the new things in our article is we looked at some polling questions that a lot of pollsters are asking now. Do you think Trump is too old to run for office? And then the second question: Do you think Biden is too old to run for office? Now, about two of every three voters say Biden is too old, and about half of America thinks Trump is too old.

What we asked the pollsters to do was to look at the number of people who said both people -- both candidates are too old. And that is a pretty stunning 40 percent of the country. And to dive just a little bit deeper with me here, in that 40 percent, Biden is winning about 60 percent of those voters.

Now, I will say Democrats are much more likely to acknowledge their candidate's age than Republicans are willing to acknowledge an issue with their candidate. But that wide gap -- what that shows is that if more people start to think Trump is too old, which these kind of gaffes and verbal slips could do, Trump could really pay a price in a head-to-head matchup with Biden.

HUNT: What's your sense, Mike, of -- I mean, we have seen voters be willing to forgive Donald Trump --

BENDER: Um-hum.

HUNT: -- for political sins that no other politician would be forgiven for. And I guess my question is how do you think it applies around this question? Because there is kind of a difference in the way Joe Biden and Donald Trump present that -- maybe it's not age exactly, but there is a level of energy that's just different and voters do seem to be willing to say well, you know, Trump's just being Trump.

BENDER: Yeah -- no, absolutely. You're right about that.

Trump's kind of just like the brute force that he speaks with. The bright shades of orange he keeps his hair and skin definitely present younger than Biden.


And the -- some of the flubs you showed earlier. I mean, mixing up cities you're in as a politician who is campaigning regularly. They've never -- voters have never punished candidates for that kind of thing, in particular, but taken as a whole, these kind of episodes are piling up -- the things that you've showed and that we've talked about.

Yeah, he's asked his voters not to vote in a -- in a kind of ramble he gave in Virginia -- in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. He talked about beating Barack Obama in 2016 when it was obviously Hillary Clinton. These were all in the last couple of months, I would say, a).

And b), what makes these important right now is that these are central to Trump's argument against Biden. And what that -- what this boils down to is the capability argument. Trump is saying that he is better- suited and more fit for office. And if he's making the same kind of slips and mistakes that he is mocking Biden for, it undermines his argument and really, what is a central Republican meme (PH) heading into '24.

HUNT: Yeah, no. I think that's a very important point.

And to be fair to politicians, or members of bands on tour, or -- you and I have both been campaign reporters. I certainly have lost track of what city or state, or place in the world I was sleeping in on a given night.

Michael Bender, of The New York Times. I really appreciate your time this morning and I hope you'll come back.

BENDER: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.

HUNT: All right. We are following breaking news here this morning. All eyes on the Rafah Crossing in Egypt. Up to 500 foreign nationals may be released from Gaza under a Qatar-brokered deal. Much more on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: Welcome back.

The Texas Rangers, if you can believe it, are one win away from the team's first potential World Series title.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, always great to see you.

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

So the Rangers -- they're one of six teams that have never won a World Series. The others are the Rockies, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, and Rays. But the Rangers' 62-year wait may be over as soon as tonight. Now, Texas getting brutal news before game four that their breakout star this postseason, Adolis Garcia, would not be able to play the rest of the series with an injured oblique.

But it didn't matter. The Rangers' offense just on fire in this game. Corey Seager at it again. This two-run home run made it 5-0 in the second inning. Then, in the next inning, Marcus Semien comes to the plate and gets ahold of this one for a three-run home run.

The Rangers score five in the second, five in the third, all with two outs. They're the first team ever to score five runs in consecutive World Series innings.

Texas would win easily 11-7. They're the only team ever to go 10-0 on the road in a postseason and now find themselves a win away from a World Series title.


MARCUS SIMIEN, TEXAS RANGERS 2ND BASEMAN: This is where we want to be. It's a one-game-at-a-time mentality, so we get some rest tonight. And understand that we need to focus on what -- you know, what we need to do to win the ballgame, and that's all there is to it, you know? We win the ballgame, we get a ring.


SCHOLES: Yeah, game five tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

All right, to the NBA. Spurs number-one overall pick Victor Wembanyama having some fun dressing up as Slender Man before taking on the Suns on Halloween.

Now, Kevin Durant getting his 27,000th career point in this one with this big dunk here with under a minute to go. He's the 12th player ever to reach that mark.

Now, his Suns had a huge 20-point lead in the third quarter but the Spurs come all the way back. Devin Vassell misses the three here, but Wemby there with the put-back dunk. He finished with 18 points. The

Spurs down just one now. But then Durant -- he gets trapped in the corner here off the inbound. Keldon Johnson is going to eventually steal the ball and take it in for the layup for the go-ahead bucket.

The Spurs rally from down 10 in the final five minutes to win a wild one -- 115-114 the final.

All right. In the NFL, meanwhile, we have our first coach fired this season. The Raiders letting Josh McDaniels go less than years on the job. Owner Mark Davis also firing the GM yesterday. Vegas 3-5 so far this season. They were 9-16 overall under McDaniels.

All right, the first college football playoff rankings coming out last night and the biggest surprise, two-time defending champion and undefeated Georgia -- they were second behind Ohio State. The Bulldogs have been ranked number one in the AP poll all year long. Michigan and Florida State -- they round out the field of four.

The Pac-12, in its final year, doing pretty well. They've got Washington and Oregon right there at 5-6.

All right. And finally, Deion Sanders says that the Rose Bowl should reimburse his players after their valuables and jewelry were stolen from their locker room during last Saturday's game against UCLA.


DEION SANDERS, COLORADO FOOTBALL HEAD COACH: These are college kids. I'm pretty sure they don't think about insurance at this point -- at this juncture in their life. We've talked about NILs and how to really maintain their finances. We've pretty much given them financial planners and given them the resources for that. But the insurance part of it, we slipped.

This is the Rose Bowl. This is the granddaddy of them all, right? I'm sure granddaddy had some money.


SCHOLES: Deion joking there but, I mean, Kasie, it's serious. The Pasadena police say they're investing this. And it's such a shame that while the players are out there on the field giving it their all someone went in their locker room and stole all their stuff.


HUNT: Yeah -- no. It's a really disappointing thing, especially for that team under Deion Sanders.

Andy, can we talk for one quick second about -- I just want to say I don't understand how Ohio is number one at anything. Maybe that's just a little dig for Phil Mattingly. Go, Blue!

SCHOLES: He's listening.

HUNT: But seriously, what's up with that?

SCHOLES: You know, that was quite surprising. I think they're just impressed with their wins so far this season, and maybe there's some Georgia fatigue. I don't know. They were probably just looking for some headlines, Kasie, right? If they just --

HUNT: Fine.

SCHOLES: -- Georgia at one, that's boring, right? Oh, let's put Ohio State there and we'll get people talking.

HUNT: Andy, thank you so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: I am Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.