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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Trump Set to Testify in New York Civil Fraud Case; Battleground Polling Shows Biden Trailing Trump in Key Swing States; Blinken Makes Surprise Stops in the West Bank and Iraq to Keep the Israel-Hamas War from Spreading. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 06, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, taking the stand. Former President and current candidate Donald Trump about to testify in his New York fraud case. Plus, big flashing warning signs for Joe Biden. Battleground polling shows him trailing Trump in key swing states.

And Antony Blinken's diplomatic dash. The Secretary of State makes surprise stops in the West Bank and Iraq, to keep -- in a rush, keep the Israel-Hamas war from spreading. Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Kasie Hunt, it is Monday, November 6th, tomorrow in election day in America.

But right now, it's 5:00 a.m. in New York, where in just hours, former President Trump will testify in a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general. He and his company are accused of repeatedly inflating the value of his assets to get better terms on loans and insurance. The suit poses an existential threat to the Trump organization.

The state is seeking $250 million in damages, and to bar Trump from doing business in New York. But he goes into court this morning buoyed by some good news for his presidential run. New polling from "The New York Times" that showed him ahead of President Biden in a hypothetical matchup in four battleground states, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan.

There's no clearly, leader in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the results were within the margin of error. A Biden campaign spokesman tells CNN, quote, "predictions more than a year out turn to look a little different a year later. We'll win in 2024 by putting our heads down and doing the work, not by fretting about polling."

OK, let's bring in Shelby Talcott; she's a reporter for "Semafor", and she is on the campaign trail in Florida. Shelby, good morning. They say that they're not fretting about a poll which, you know, as we often tease Democrats about their hand-wringing, and yes, we do have about a year until the November election. But the reality is that, this is telling us, something that isn't insignificant in terms of where the electorate stands right now. And you know, the biggest -- well, the big difference is if we get

this hypothetical rematch, if it is what we saw in 2020, is that this time, you know, if it's a referendum and when I talk to sources, you tell me what your sources tell you, if it's a referendum, they say to me on Biden, they're likely to lose if they can make it about Donald Trump, that's going to be better for them. Right now, clearly, it seems like voters are saying, hey, this is about Joe Biden and I'm not happy about it.

SHELBY TALCOTT, REPORTER, SEMAFOR: That's exactly what the Biden campaign is trying to do, it's trying to make it not only about Donald Trump, but about these major issues that are going to be on the ballot, abortion, and all of these other topics.

And so that's kind of the angle that team Biden is going to try to coax out in the next year, and sort of make the argument that it doesn't matter about Joe Biden's age, it doesn't matter how you think he did, he's accomplished X, Y and Z, we have a bunch of major issues on the ballot, and if the other guy gets into office, it's going to be really bad.

And so, that's kind of the focus that team Biden wants the voters to come away come 2024 with. The problem is so far, it's clearly not resonating.

HUNT: Yes, and you know, on the issues, too, the numbers inside this poll, not great for Biden. Who would do a better job on the economy? Trump is up 20 -- is plus 22 for Trump. Immigration, you see plus 12, national security, plus 12. Abortion, the one issue that he has the Democrat in the race seems to be polling better on than Trump.

With the president running on Bidenomics, it sort of raises some questions about whether that's the right message for him, no?

TALCOTT: Yes, and it's been interesting because I've talked to Democrats who sort of argue that it's a wait-and-see game, and that, eventually, voters will start to feel the results of what Joe Biden has done in the past four years of office, but certainly, so far, they are not, and that's the big problem.

And the other big problem is these issues like the economy and the border are issues that Republicans are really honing in on. And so that's been really effective for them so far as we've seen in these polls. And so, the question is, can Republicans continue to hone in on this and make the argument that Joe Biden is not the person for these kitchen table issues, or will Joe Biden's initiatives and what he's done in office for the past four years start to resonate with voters.


HUNT: So let's talk about the Republican primary, because obviously, these Trump-Biden matchups are -- they assume that Trump is going to win. But there is still a race going on in this primary. You were covering the Florida Freedom Summit, and the Trump campaign released a list of endorsements including Florida lawmakers that flipped from DeSantis to Trump. I want to show a little bit of what DeSantis had to say about that, and then I'll ask you about it. Watch.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): No, look, this happens, and these things -- I mean, we've had flips the other way in other states. It's a dynamic thing. I mean, politicians do what they're going to do. But I would say, taking a step back and looking across the country, we've got more endorsements from state legislators than any other candidate by far.


HUNT: So, you know, DeSantis, I get what he's trying to do there. But the reality is, his campaign is kind of in a really rough spot heading into this third debate as Nikki Haley seems to be eclipsing him in the race for second place. What did you hear over the weekend that you think is worth noting?

TALCOTT: Yes, so, I talked to some people close to DeSantis' campaign, and they actually thought that this incident in Florida over the weekend where Donald Trump was able to flip all of these endorsements is a really worrying sign because Florida is DeSantis' home state. And this is the place where he's really made his mark, and he really came up in the conservative world during COVID.

And so, the fact that Donald Trump has been able to kind of flip all of these local legislatures, state legislatures, is a major deal. And it's not a major deal in terms of moving the polls, I think, but it's a major deal because it sort of adds on to the already existing theory that Ron DeSantis has struggled to gain momentum in this race.

And so, going into the third debate, now, he is expected to get an endorsement from Kim Reynolds today, which is going to be arguably really big for his campaign. But the question is, how big of an impact can she make in a place like Iowa? Is it going to make up the 30- something points that he's down in that state?

HUNT: Yes, I was so surprised that Kim Reynolds; the governor of Iowa decided she's going to weigh in at this hour, but you know, we shall see. Shelby Talcott from "Semafor", thank you very much for being up with us this morning. I really appreciate your time.

TALCOTT: Thanks.

HUNT: And just ahead here, Antony Blinken's surprised diplomacy, what did the Secretary of State accomplish with unannounced stops in Iraq and the West Bank. Plus, could it be a Hollywood ending? The final offer that may finally stop the actors' strike.



HUNT: Welcome back. The Israeli military intensifying their offensive overnight with a significant strike on Gaza. IDF soldiers reached Gaza's Mediterranean coast as part of an effort to encircle Hamas. The military says they're targeting Hamas infrastructure both above and below the ground. Elliott Gotkine is live in London for us with more. Elliott, what more do we know about this strike?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: So, there was quite a lot going on overnight. Israel saying that it hit more than 450 targets overall in the Gaza Strip including a Hamas military compound, which it said included things like observation posts, anti-tank firing missile posts, and also a fair few militants as well. And we know that over the weekend, Israel said that it has now bisected the Gaza Strip in two, saying that there was essentially now a northern Gaza and a southern Gaza.

And that it has also encircled Gaza city, which it describes as a Hamas fortress. Now, there was one particular strike at the Al Maghazi Refugee Camp where local doctors and also the Hamas-run health ministry are saying that dozens of people were killed. We asked the IDF spokesman Peter Lerner earlier on CNN, if he could shed more light onto as to what the target was, but he wouldn't even say that it was the IDF that carried out this airstrike, let alone what the target may have been.

What he did say is that outside event, northern part of the Gaza Strip, they are carrying out in his words a precision-based activities. And he also said that the kind of scenes of carnage and destruction that we saw at Al Maghazi, in which we have seen during the past month or so of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, that we would -- should expect to see more such scenes because he says Hamas embeds itself within a civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip.

And to make that point, the IDF also showing videos earlier this morning, saying -- showing what they say are Hamas tunnels which are specifically dug underneath some hospitals in the Gaza Strip as well. So, we don't know specifically what the IDF may have been targeting at Al Maghazi, but we do know what the result was, and that is, according to doctors and health officials there, dozens of people being killed. Kasie?

HUNT: Very tough news. All right, Elliott Gotkine, thank you very much for that report. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Turkey this morning as part of his whirlwind diplomatic trip to the Middle East. Blinken also made a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, where he and the Iraqi prime minister discussed making sure the Israel-Hamas war does not spread into the wider region. After their meeting, Blinken reaffirmed U.S. support for a humanitarian pause in the fighting.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I think everyone would welcome humanitarian pause, there's no doubt about that. There are obviously different views including on the question of the ceasefire, but there's no doubt from my conversations with all of our colleagues who were in Amman yesterday, that everyone would welcome a humanitarian pause because again, it could advance things that we're all trying to accomplish.


HUNT: All right, CNN's Max Foster joins me now from London. Max, good morning, always good to see you.


For our viewers who may have missed you last week, you were on a royal -- tour with the royals of Africa. You'll have to come back and tell us about it later.


But let's talk about this Blinken's extended -- you know, the surprise stops that he made in the West Bank and in Iraq, his continued presence in the region really sending a pretty strong signal about where, you know, where America stands right now.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, there's this semantics involved, isn't there? So very clearly, saying he's not calling for a ceasefire that might undermine the view that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas. Also, saying a ceasefire now would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October the 7th.

So, not wanting a ceasefire, but many of these Arab leaders do. So he's suggesting this halfway house, if you like, some people say, and this is just semantics, which is a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid and perhaps some -- to release some hostages and release some people from Gaza as well. But there's an issue here, because there's a big disconnect between what these Arab leaders want and what he wants. So, I don't know quite what success he's having there on that. So, I don't think we can call it as --

HUNT: Right --

FOSTER: A success quite yet.

HUNT: Yes, I mean, it's certainly, the domestic political situation here in the U.S. is also influencing how the administration is talking about this overseas. Because to call for a ceasefire would be basically politically untenable in terms of how they, you know, view the support that is necessary for Israel. But at the same time, President Joe Biden is under quite a bit of pressure from the progressive left increasingly, on this topic, it, you know, spilled out into the open last week.

What is your sense of, you know, how as this kind of war wears on, where European leaders ultimately start to come down? Do you get the sense that they're going to begin to pressure the Israelis and the Americans for more on this front, or is the status quo still tenable for right now?

FOSTER: Well, you know, America touts itself as the broker in this region. Some Arabs -- speaking to some, you know, very well-placed people in the Arab world in the last 24 hours, and they're really questioning that when they so clearly sided as they see it with Israel. Can there really be an honest broker in the region with Arab leaders. So, does that question -- there's -- I think there's a growing sentiment in Europe that perhaps European allies of America don't necessarily have to completely sign up through the way they're handling it.

Maybe there is a way they could have a more critical role in this process, perhaps pushing more of a ceasefire policy and getting more involved in the process. That way, I just think there's an apprehension about crossing messages with the United States. So, at the moment, you know, countries like the U.K. and France firmly behind Israel and the United States.

It will be interesting to see whether or not internal pressure here will bubble up to -- perhaps there's a role for European nations to be more critical about the current negotiations under way, being a bit more critical of Israel as well, without showing any sort of lack of support for what they went through, and longer-term, sort of allied status with Israel.

HUNT: Certainly, any conversations along those lines currently being held in private. We'll see if that -- if things start to spill over in the public view. Max Foster, thank you as always my friends, good to see you.

FOSTER: All right, Kasie --

HUNT: See you tomorrow. All right, just ahead here, George Santos, the embattled congressman trying to answer this question. Would he really run again?



HUNT: Welcome back. Quick hits across America now. Sources tell CNN that Iowa's Republican Governor Kim Reynolds will endorse Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the 2024 Republican primary expected to happen later tonight at a pre-debate rally in Des Moines.

Embattled Republican Congressman George Santos sat down with CNN's Manu Raju for a wide-ranging interview, including summing up what 2023 has been like for him, and his plans to run for re-election.


MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, if they expel you, and then they put someone else in the seat, you're going to run in 2024?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Absolutely.

RAJU: Can you win a primary given all of these --

SANTOS: Yes --

RAJU: Things that are lined up against you?


RAJU: And the general election. This is a Biden-leaning district, I mean, with all these issues against you.

SANTOS: Could I have won the general election last time? Nobody said I could, but I surprised --

RAJU: It was a different situation. Tell me what this year has been like for you.

SANTOS: Hell. Hell in the most profound way.


HUNT: OK, the House Ethics Committee expected to announce an update to its report on Santos by the end of next week. And negotiating committee for the Film and TV Actors Union on Saturday said it received a last, best and final offer from the Hollywood studios including Disney, Netflix, "NBC Universal" and "Warner Brothers Discovery", which is the parent company of CNN.

Even if a deal is reached, it would still need to be ratified by union members. All right, record-breaking warmth spreading eastward this week, only to apparently be followed by a whiplash, inducing cold front right behind, and the persistently dry weather across the southeast has also created dangerous fire conditions for the Carolinas.

Let's get straight to our weatherman, Derek Van Dam. Derek, good morning, happy Monday. Looks like --


HUNT: We got some tough possibilities based on what I'm seeing behind you.

VAN DAM: Yes, a wide range of things happening across the country, but I want to focus in on what's unfolding across the Carolinas, particularly just outside of the Asheville region. This is the Appalachian Mountains and it is extremely dry.


We're located in Atlanta, we're feeling the persistently dry conditions, but the winds picked up kind of unexpectedly yesterday, so unfortunately, there was a bit of a trigger that caused wildfires and it continues to grow, very little containment with this. The winds yesterday exceeded 20 miles per hour, that doesn't seem like much, but when you have such bone-dry weather at the moment, it doesn't take much to spread a fire.

So, there's about 34 structures that are threatened, no injuries at the moment, but Henderson County now, and parts of North Carolina under a state of an emergency. Now, here's a look at the latest fires, the Collett Ridge Fire at 0 percent contained, and the Poplar Drive Fire which you saw a video of just a moment ago, 5 percent containment.

Roughly between 500 to a 1,000 acres burned so far. But what's interesting to note, it's located across the severe drought category, it's a level 3 of 5 over western North Carolina. And that continues to degrade as we get these weekly updates from the U.S. drought monitor, because it is so dry, the relative humidity are low, and of course, the warmth has been persistent for this area as well.

And we're going to see the mercury and the thermometer climb over the coming days, potential record-highs, from Tuesday into Wednesday, that is going to be a big story, we'll feel it across much of the east coast as well. But yes, dry conditions leading to fire weather across the southeast.

HUNT: All right, let's be -- let's be careful out there as we --

VAN DAM: Yes --

HUNT: Continue up here in the northeast, our roller coaster of a Fall, back and forth, back and forth --

VAN DAM: Right --

HUNT: Derek Van Dam, thank you very much, I'll see you tomorrow my friend --

VAN DAM: All right --

HUNT: Appreciate it.

VAN DAM: Yes, me too.

HUNT: All right, just hours from now, Donald Trump will raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth in court. More on that fraud case in New York. And the Biden campaign claims it's not fretting about the new battleground polling, showing Trump ahead in key states. Do we believe them?