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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Trump Testifies In New York Civil Fraud Trial; Israel Intensifies Offensive With Significant Strike On Gaza; Tomorrow: Ohioans To Vote On Abortion Access. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 06, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is 5:30 here on the East Coast.

And in only a few hours, former President Trump takes the stand in the New York attorney general's civil fraud lawsuit. Trump and his company are on trial for repeatedly inflating the value of his properties to get better terms on real estate loans and deflating them for insurance purposes.

Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to bar Trump from doing business in his commercial home base of New York, along with getting $250 million, potentially, in damages.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, it's always good to see. Thanks for being here.

The stakes today for Trump are incredibly high. The business -- his whole business is on the line. I mean, Trump is obviously now known for being faithful to the truth on the regular but he is going to be under oath today. And we know things are going -- he can get touchy when things don't go his way.

What should we be looking for today?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah, Kasie, good morning to you.

So, to me, it's all about knowledge, direction, and control, right? And that, to the extent that we're talking about that -- to what extent was he knowledgeable as to the affairs of his company? By the way, I'm running the free world. To what extent was he directing the operations of the company? And to what extent was he controlling it?

And in doing that, Kasie, what I'm really looking to see is whether he's testifying or campaigning. Remember, he always embraces the narrative that this is a witch hunt. That the attorney general indicated during her campaign that she would get him, and here she is doing so.

But in doing that and in having that narrative, and in campaigning, that's something that could play to a jury. There is no jury here. And so, to that extent, you have to really answer questions. The judge is going to be focused in on the facts of the case -- not so much the grievances but the facts.

So I want to know how he embraces it, how he spins. Is he going to say he runs a perfect company? The Trump brand is very significant, valuations are subjective, and how dare you challenge the fact that I'm not worth the billions of dollars that we indicated that we are worth?

So I'm looking for all of those things as he testifies today, Kasie.

HUNT: So let's talk about his relationship with this judge a little bit because we've already seen him interact with him around questions of this gag order and the former president's attacks on one of the judge's clerks on social media.

How do you expect that dynamic to play out today because this judge is clearly trying to send a message like look, I'm not afraid of you?

JACKSON: Yeah, there's no question about it. And in sending that message, this is a judge who has held him essentially in contempt inasmuch as finding him not to be credible and fining him, right, twice already.

In addition to those fines that were imposed and him saying that the former president was incredible, there was some issue prior to trial because the Trump team wouldn't hand over discovery, right? That's information that's needed for a case to move forward that has evidentiary value and it needs to be seen, scrutinized, and analyzed even before a trial continues. So there's some concern leading up to the trial.

So certainly, the dynamic is tense and will the judge and will Mr. Trump be able to coexist in that regard? Will Mr. Trump be able to answer the questions directly posed? Will he be spinning and campaigning or will he be answering specific things about his property -- the knowledge he had as to its value and the control and direction that he was engaged in?

And so, I think the judge has to be and will be in every effort, right, to be impartial and listen to the testimony. But I think he'll have Mr. Trump on a short string and want him to answer the questions and not be really giving a narrative to the seats and people who are not in the courtroom, and that of the voters who will be deciding the campaign.

HUNT: Unprecedented territory we are in.

Joey Jackson, I have a feeling you and I are going to be speaking a lot over the course of the next election year, so thank you very much for your time, sir. I appreciate it.


JACKSON: Looking forward, always.

HUNT: Cheers. See you soon.

All right. With 2024 shaping up, it seems to be a Trump-Biden rematch. Battleground states like Nevada and Georgia are going to decide who wins the White House.

New polling from The New York Times and Siena College shows former President Trump holds an edge over President Biden in hypothetical matchups in key swing states like Michigan and Arizona. In swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the poll margins are extremely tight. Look at that.

Let's bring in Michael LaRosa. He's the former press secretary to first lady Jill Biden and special assistant to President Biden. Michael, good morning. Very happy to have you here today.

We've got this quote from the president's campaign spokesman, Kevin Munoz, who downplayed these polls, saying that predictions more than a year out tend to look different a year later -- OK. He also says that they're not fretting about these polls.

TEXT: "Predictions more than a year out tend 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 a poll."

HUNT: Do you think that they should be fretting about these polls if, in fact, that statement is accurate and they are not actually fretting?

MICHAEL LAROSA, FIRST LADY JILL BIDEN'S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, two things can be true. One, the poll -- the polls are concerning. Yes, they're all -- it's hard to say the sky is red when it's blue, right? It's a bad poll.

But polls are a report card, right? They're a report card for this moment in time. The grade you get today does not mean it's the grade you're going to get next week or next year.

So, we should be organizing and putting their heads down. They're raising a ton of money. If the election were held today -- one thing that I would say is that voters in the last three national elections have always proven the polls wrong.

And if the election were to be held today -- based on voting behavior in recent years and the hard data that we have on Independents, if the election were held today between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Joe Biden would win. I am 100 percent confident of that. And if it's held next year --

HUNT: Hmm.

LAROSA: -- I feel the same way.

HUNT: OK. I am not sure -- I mean, look, when I talk to Democrats off the record I think they are very quick to acknowledge, like, hey -- like -- in fact, here. Senator Blumenthal --


HUNT: -- was on CNN yesterday --


HUNT: -- and sort of summing this up. Take a look.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I was concerned before these polls and I'm concerned now. These presidential races over the last couple of terms have been very tight. No one is going to have a runaway election here. It's going to take a lot of hard work, concentration, and resources. And so, we have our work cut out for us.


HUNT: Michael, I guess my question is -- I mean, the strategy that's being run from the White House right now, it's a bit of a Rose Garden strategy. The president's not out on the road. And as you note, they're raising a lot of money.

Is that the right way to approach it right now?

LAROSA: Well, just in response to Sen. Blumenthal, he didn't say anything that wasn't true; he just didn't say anything that wasn't new either. Whether it was the last election or this election, of course, the election is going to be close. That's a given. That cake is already baked. It's a divided country.

But what the president needs to do -- he's going to have the money. He is traveling a lot. He is raising a lot of money and he is focusing on his accomplishments.

Now, personally, I would recommend that we start moving away from the economic messaging. It's not working. I don't know if saw yesterday there was a piece in NBC where the president's -- one of the president's pollsters, Celinda Lake, said look, Bidenomics -- we've done everything we can. It's just --

HUNT: Yeah.

LAROSA: -- not breaking through. They can't make that happen, right?

So they need to start doing what Republicans do best. The reason why Republicans won in New York, in Florida, and Virginia -- why they were so successful is that they are using the issue that illicit visceral reactions and motivate voters. The economy just isn't -- no matter how successful the president has been -- and he has been, by the way. We are better off than we were four years ago. It's just a complicated nuanced message --

HUNT: Nobody feels that way.

LAROSA: -- to sell. And nobody feels it -- that's right.

HUNT: Right.

LAROSA: Perception is reality.

HUNT: Right. And you know what? Let me -- let me put this up, too, because the economy numbers -- who do you trust to do a better job on the economy? And this is -- we should not this poll is registered voters. Biden, 37; Trump, 59. That's a difference of 22 percent, which I think underscores what you are saying here in terms of how people --

If Biden is going out there and talking all about Biden -- it actually does feel a little confusing because it's kind of like wait a second -- voters don't actually -- if you're saying oh, yes, this is Bidenomics that you're feeling, that doesn't seem like the -- what you're trying to convince people of.

LAROSA: Yeah. There's two big problems here.

First, like you said -- first of all, politics is a lot more emotional than it is rational. In the end, this is not going to come to the economy. I know a lot of people like to -- like to say that, but that's just not true. Otherwise, John Kerry would have won Ohio and Democrats would have been punished in 2022 with record high inflation. But that wasn't the case.


Elections come down to a choice between two different human beings. And in the end, that's what voters will be deciding on. And all of the indicators -- all of the data that we have -- the voting behavior, the voting trends that we know of trend towards Joe Biden when it comes to a head-to-head during Donald Trump.

Now, I would also say if you are going to talk about the economy, let's start talking about all this -- all the industries that people are actually working in. There is a kind of an odd sole focus on just manufacturing and labor jobs. I think if you look at the last elections in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, less than 15 percent or around 15 percent of voters actually identify as union households.

I come from a working-class, middle-class family in a swing district --

HUNT: Yeah.

LAROSA: -- in Pennsylvania. We just -- we didn't -- I can't -- my family can't relate to the manufacturing industry. They worked in middle-class jobs but it wasn't just the manufacturing industry. That only represents eight percent of jobs. They have to start speaking to a broader middle class.

HUNT: All right, Michael LaRosa. Thank you very much for coming on to share your perspective. I hope you'll come back soon.

LAROSA: Yeah, of course.

HUNT: All right, cheers.

All right, now this.

Israeli Forces announcing a significant strike on Gaza overnight as the IDF intensifies its assault on Hamas. Israel says its soldiers reached Gaza coast Sunday in their effort to encircle Hamas and target the militant group's infrastructure both above and under the ground.

CNN's Gustavo Valdes is live in Tel Aviv with more. Gustavo, good morning. What more is Israel saying about this strike?


The spokesperson for the IDF just said that their army continued to move into Gaza City. That they continue to gain territory inside the Gaza Strip, and that overnight the hit about 450 targets, including compounds, tunnels, observation points, and they keep this advance into Gaza.

What they have not said yet is if they are responsible for the explosion that we saw Saturday overnight -- Sunday -- in a refugee camp in which dozens were killed or wounded. Local witnesses blame the Israeli -- on Israeli attack, but Israel, so far, has not made any comment regarding this particular incident.

The attack overnight also damaged telecommunications inside Gaza. This has made some aid -- international aid groups complain that they cannot get in touch with their personnel inside Gaza.

Another reason why more people in the region, especially Arab leaders that have been meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, keep asking for a ceasefire. The U.S. and Blinken insist that a ceasefire would give Hamas an opportunity to regroup and they -- the U.S. would rather see a pause in the offensive. But Israel says that pause or any break into the offensive will not happen unless all the hostages are being released.

And also, within the last hour, the U.S. military announced that a missile submarine is in the Mediterranean. This is a rare move by the U.S. because typically, they don't want the presence known of their submarines. So, certainly, they are sending a message with this sub in the Mediterranean.

HUNT: All right. Gustavo Valdes for us in Tel Aviv. Sir, thank you very much for that report.

All right, up next here, many Americans are going to get their chance to cast a ballot tomorrow in some of the most critical issues facing the country. Details on Ohio's high-stakes vote on abortion coming up next.



HUNT: If it's the first Tuesday in November, voters are voting. State elections being held across the country tomorrow won't draw the attention that next year's presidential and midterm vote will, but that doesn't mean that they don't matter, especially on issues like abortion.

On Tuesday, Ohioans will vote on Issue 1. That will decide whether Ohio enshrines certain abortion rights in their Constitution. If not, the state faces a period of uncertainty as the Ohio Supreme Court considers allowing a six-week abortion ban to be enforced.

Let's bring in CNN political reporter, Arit John. Arit, good morning. Thank you so much for being here.

So, the -- this particular issue has been an incredibly emotional one and we have seen over and over again voters, even in conservative states like Kansas and Kentucky, voting to maintain the status quo -- to keep abortion rights. In this case, voters in Ohio are going to have to go to the polls and affirmatively support abortion rights if that's what they want to do.

What's the landscape look like for this tomorrow?

ARIT JOHN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, Kasie. I mean, we saw in 2022 that when voters were faced with the question of abortion rights they overwhelmingly voted to protect or expand access. And so, that's what's at stake in Ohio this year. The difference is that this is the only abortion rights ballot initiative on the ballot right now so both sides have directed all of their attention. We are seeing a lot of money coming in and we're also seeing both sides sort of, like, make a more sophisticated argument about what's at stake.

I mean, obviously, the abortion rights supporters are saying there's the six-week ban. Ohio's experienced it. It could come back. And then we have the anti-abortion side saying well, if we enshrine this in the Constitution, that ends the debate.

So this really going to be a test case for both sides of whether or not abortion really is an issue that can hurt Republicans and help Democrats, and a test of what sort of arguments are going to work next year when we see a lot of other red states -- we see a lot of other abortion rights groups in red states trying to put these ballot initiatives on the 2024 ballot.


HUNT: Yeah -- no, it's a really good point. We should note, obviously, Ohio was a swing state for so many years. It really has trended Republican. So if they do pass this and put it inside the Constitution it's going to be telling us -- telling us a lot.

Let's talk big picture here about President Biden because, of course, abortion -- one spot where he's ahead of Donald Trump in some of this recent polling. Other areas, he's really very far behind.

And there are some really interesting questions playing out right now about the coalition that he put together in 2020 of young people, voters of color, and whether or not he can actually keep that together and what impact it will have in 2024.

I want to show you a little bit of what Pramila Jayapal -- she's the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives -- had to say over the weekend. Take a look.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I will tell you this is the first time, Jen, that I have felt like the 2024 election is in great trouble for the president and for our Democratic control, which is essential to moving forward. Because these young people -- most of them Americans and Arab-Americans, but also young people -- see this conflict as a moral conflict.


JAYAPAL: -- and a moral crisis. And they are not going to be brought back to the table easily with -- if we do not address this.


HUNT: So, Arit, she's obviously talking about the Israel-Hamas war and the impact that it's having on some specific communities.

But you see this more broadly in the polling. Black voters, in particular, showing that they are more willing to support Donald Trump than they were in the past.

What do you make of it, and what's the imperative for the Biden campaign here if they want to try to remedy some of this?

JOHN: I think the Biden administration is really in a tough spot. I mean, you look at a state like Michigan where Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and Joe Biden won in 2020 because more people voted. And particularly, Muslim and Arab-American voters came out in strong numbers in Michigan.

And now they're saying we don't like the way the administration is handling the Israel-Hamas war right now. And they -- like, this idea of how can they vote for Joe Biden again -- how can they support him again after everything that's happened in the last few weeks.

And he's sort of stuck between trying to -- I mean, this argument of should he call for a ceasefire, which he said that he's not going to. His administration has said that they don't support that. He's sort of instead tried to argue for a humanitarian pause -- a -- sort of a compromise position that for these Muslim and Arab-American voters isn't enough.

And we see that on issue after issue where he sort of -- his administration is sort of trying to make the case for everything that they've done while they've been in office -- trying to sort of appease a bunch of different groups. But, I mean, the poll numbers show that it's maybe not working the way they're hoping.

HUNT: All right, Arit John. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. I hope you'll come back soon.

JOHN: Of course, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. See you soon.

All right, President Biden set to talk about Bidenomics in Delaware today. More on the big red flags in that new polling up next.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Ten months after nearly his life on the football field, Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin makes an emotional return to Cincinnati.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kasie, good morning to you.

You know, he's remained so positive throughout this entire process. And he announced a new scholarship fund yesterday that's in honor of the men and women who saved his life last January. He says it's going to go to kids in Cincinnati to help them chase their dreams.

Out on the field before the game, he got a lot of hugs from all the Bengals players. He was just absorbing this incredible welcome back. I mean, he's only played in one game this season. He did not play last night. But it was so much bigger than that.

At kickoff, the focus did shift to Cincinnati. Joe Burrow finding Drew Sample. And the bit tight end here doing all the dirty work, hurdling the defender and diving in for the score here to go up by 14 before halftime.

The Bengals held on 24-18 to pick up their fourth-straight win. So, Buffalo has lost three of five. But a great welcome back for Hamlin.

An NFC showdown here between the Cowboys and the Eagles. This was wild. It turned into a game of inches with Dallas coming up short after already having a touchdown overturned earlier in the fourth. Dak Prescott finding Jalen Tolbert for his third touchdown pass of the game, cutting Philly's lead to five.

On the two-point conversion, Dak scrambling. He's going to end up reaching for the end zone here. After a review, look how close this was. His foot touched the sideline just before the ball crosses the plane -- no good.

So instead of it needing just a field goal to tie, it would take a touchdown to win. And look at how close this was. The final play -- Dak hitting CeeDee Lamb. But even this was not quite enough. Philly holding on for the win. They are 8-1 for the second-straight season. Elsewhere in the NFL, if you need a quarterback, call Joshua Dobbs. He was traded for a second time this season this past week to Minnesota. He did not take a single snap in practice. But he clocked in on Sunday right after Vikings rookie Jaren Hall was knocked out in his first career start.

And look what Dobbs did. He goes for three scores, including a dramatic game-winning touchdown pass. This was a remarkable drive. Brandon Powell, with 22 seconds left, picking it up.

Dobbs admitted after he didn't know his teammates names. He had to have the playbook spelled out in real time so that he could understand what he was doing. I mean, you would have to be a genius to step into this situation. Luckily for Dobbs, he graduated Tennessee with a perfect GPA and a degree in aerospace engineering, so he is a rocket scientist and he launched Minnesota to four straight wins. Incredible story there.


And Texans running back Dare Ogunbowale called on for emergency field goal duties after their kicker got hurt yesterday. He hit a huge 29- yarder in the fourth quarter -- check and check.

So, cue CJ Stroud, the second overall pick leading Houston onto a six- play 75-yard drive, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Tank Dell with six seconds to go, capping off a 475-yard touchdown performance -- are you kidding me -- for the rookie, Kasie.

It was a wild weekend in the NFL. Back to you.

HUNT: It sure was. Fly, Eagles, fly. You've got to love a win over the Cowboys.

Carolyn Manno, thank you very much. I appreciate your time this morning.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.