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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Abortion, Crime Key Issues In Races Across The U.S.; Trump Spars With Judge During Nearly Four Hours Of Testimony; Netanyahu: No Ceasefire In Gaza Without The Release Of Hostages. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 07, 2023 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

It is just before 5:30 here in the east, which means it is just about half an hour until the first polls open across the country. Voters are voting in America.

Abortion rights playing a big role in many of these races. In Ohio, Issue 1 would enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution and block six-week bans now being considered by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Abortion rights also a huge factor in Virginia where every seat in the state legislature is on the ballot. Democrats and Republicans believe it's possible they could win control of both chambers. It could go either way.

And there are two notable governor's races. Popular Kentucky Democrat Andy Beshear hopes to hold onto his job in that deep red state.

And Mississippi looking at an Elvis flashback.




HUNT: That is the walkout music used by Democrat Brandon Presley, second cousin to the king. Presley is posing a surprisingly strong challenge to incumbent Republican Tate Reeves in a crimson-red state, although it's not really fair if you're related to Elvis -- let's be honest.

Let's bring in CNN national political reporter Daniel Strauss. Daniel, good morning to you. Thank you for being --


HUNT: -- up with us on this election day. Lots at stake in these elections. Obviously, the key test here, abortion rights. We don't often pay so much attention to these off- year elections but the issue is going to get an up-or-down test in the state of Ohio, and it's also going to play a huge role in Virginia.

What are you looking for?

STRAUSS: I'm actually looking for what's going on in Mississippi where Democrats have leaned on focusing on abortion as a contrast in a lot of elections to great success in Mississippi. And the Mississippi governor's race you have a Democratic nominee who is anti-abortion, and that's a playbook that Democrats have used in the past to more mixed success.

But we should also just keep track in general of the other races you've mentioned.

In Virginia, for instance, Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to have some kind of record of a pathway for Republicans to address abortion that he can apply to the national level. At the same time, in Ohio, this is something -- this is a red state or a state that's trending red that Democrats are hopeful that discussion of this topic will reverse the trajectory or the lean of the state in the coming weeks and months.

So abortion in general is one of the most important topics tonight that I'm going to be paying attention to.

HUNT: For sure.

And you know what, let's dig in on Youngkin for a second because he really has done this a little bit differently than some other Republicans in that he basically has been putting abortion front and center in Republican campaigns throughout. He's basically been saying look, this 15-week proposed limit in Virginia is reasonable. He's been trying to convince voters that it's reasonable.

He does seem to have shifted his tone on it just in the last, basically, week of the campaign. He seems to have nodded that -- you know, the final ad doesn't mention abortion. It's about issues like crime, and immigration, and inflation -- the other things.

Do you think the Youngkin team is going to look back and say hey, like, we shouldn't have done this -- Democrats were really happy that we did this, or do you think we're going to be having -- sitting here tomorrow talking about Glenn Youngkin for president because they sweep and all the donors say look, we've got to do this and not Donald Trump?

STRAUSS: I mean, I'm terrible at predictions so I don't -- anything -- any prediction I would make would probably not be worth it.

HUNT: It can and will be used against you later, Daniel.

STRAUSS: It can and will be used against me. And so, Michigan is going to beat Ohio State this weekend. But look, crime, in particular, has been a topic that Republicans have enjoyed to great success. And even though Youngkin has embraced as much of national attention on abortion as he can, in the final days it -- no candidate -- no governor, no scion of a state party wants to make their entire electoral fortunes about one issue in the final days before voters go to cast their ballots.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. It's -- that's fair, although Democrats certainly have been -- have been happy --


HUNT: -- to do that, quite frankly.

Let's talk briefly about Kentucky. This is another place where abortion is playing a big role, but both Andy Beshear, the Democrat, and Cameron, the Republican are thought of as potential national figures down the line. Cameron, kind of a scion of Mitch McConnell, who is one of his mentors.

What are you watching for in that race?


STRAUSS: I mean, I want to know if Beshear can get over the finish line. Publicly and privately, I've heard from both Republicans and Democrats that it seems that Beshear is unsurprisingly in the driver's seat. And this is pretty -- this is pretty unusual in a state that trends red that is Mitch McConnell's home state.

At the same time, though, one of the most keen observations I've heard in the past few weeks is that it is extremely hard to knock out an incumbent governor when their approval ratings are over 50 percent, and that's exactly where Beshear is.

Beshear is partially buoyed by the fact that he is a Beshear. His father was a popular two-term governor of the state as well. And the view among both voters of Beshear -- supporters of Beshear and his father is that this is a -- this is a politician who is not overly partisan. This is someone who is interested in providing for their voters and not interested in toeing the party line and that seems to be working in Kentucky -- but, like, let's wait to see.

HUNT: Yeah -- no, it's a good point. I mean, in a -- in a world where all politics is national, it's worth remembering that Democrats in Kentucky -- it's really left over from southern Democrats and this trend has persisted there of them electing Democrats statewide in a way it hasn't in other states. So we don't necessarily want to overread this as a set of national tea leaves. I think it's important.

Daniel Strauss, thank you very much for getting up early, my friend. I know you've got a long night.

STRAUSS: Thank you.

HUNT: Thank you. STRAUSS: Yeah.

HUNT: All right.

Donald Trump testifying Monday in the New York civil fraud case against him and the Trump Organization. The former president's signature bombast confrontational style -- chaos, generally speaking, that we see on the campaign trial -- was on full display in the courtroom.

He was -- clashed with Judge Arthur Engoron during the nearly four hours of testimony. Trump said, quote, "I'm sure the judge will rule against me because he always rules against me." Judge Engoron responding, quote, "You can attack me, you can do whatever you want, but answer the question."

Judge Engoron warned Trump that it wasn't a political rally and asked one of Trump's lawyers to control his client. Quote, "Mr. Kise, that was a simple yes or no question. We got another speech. I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can't I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can. Do you understand that?"

Here is Trump speaking after his testimony.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it went very well. I think you were there and you listened to what a scam this is. This is a case that should have never been brought. It's a case that should be dismissed immediately. The fraud was (INAUDIBLE) the court. The court was the fraudster of this case.


HUNT: The case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. They are seeking $250 million in damages and to bar the president from doing business in the state of New York.

Let's bring in former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland. Jeremy, good morning. There is a lot to get and to dig into here.

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning -- yes.

HUNT: Let's start with your overall reaction to Trump's testimony. I mean, what do you see in this, and what do you see in how the judge handled him?

SALAND: Well, I've never been beseeched so it's a little difficult for me to fully comprehend. But as an outside observer looking in, it was bombastic. It was not helpful. It really hurt him, though at times you could see his strategy or what appeared to be his strategy to enrage the judge and hopefully, on his part, get the judge to do something that might result in reversible error.

But as the attorney general's office went along, slowly but surely -- and they let Trump on that long leash after challenging him -- slowly but surely he said some things of value -- not to Trump but to the state of New York.

So, overall, it certainly wasn't what you would expect in an average day in a courtroom in any courtroom in the United States, but I think that there were some points scored by Team James.

HUNT: So let's dig into that -- the points scored. I mean, you said that there were some things that were said that were valuable to the state of New York. What are they?

SALAND: Yeah. So, for example, we all probably heard about the apartment that was either 11,000 square feet or 30,000 square feet in the valuation of that property. And we heard from Donald Trump that he was possibly or probably involved in that alteration, ultimately, when there was a change to that. So there's true knowledge there.

We also -- there was an addressing of some loans from Deutsch Bank, which have been at issue here --which you may even hear involving Ivanka Trump later this week. There was acknowledgment that he signed off on those loans.

So, sometimes the former president -- let me take that back. Routinely, when the former president talks and talks and talks he eventually finds himself in a bad spot. So he said some things that go to the heart of the case.

And last but not least, I would argue and say that his own defiance did not help him because you're not introducing any evidence that further supports your position and challenges the attorney general's position. You're just fortifying your lack of credibility.


HUNT: That makes so much sense from a legal perspective.

But I will say, Jeremy, I keep thinking about this from a political perspective. And one thing that Trump has really done -- and we saw this from him going in when he talked about how this was all about his election and the system was after him -- is that he's really trying to sow doubt in the system and say the system is out to get me.

Do you think -- and one of the things we noticed is that the judge really went after his team in the first part. Then they took a break and the judge seemed to kind of pull back.

And I guess I wondered is there a sense there that if the judge gives him too much it'll essentially hand him a card that he can play in the political arena when this trial is over to basically say again hey, the system is rigged against me?

SALAND: You know, despite what Trump has railed and said, Engoron strikes me as a straight shooter. We'd like to think that all judges are straight shooters. Despite the claims of bias and things like that. And I would hope that was not part of Engoron's calculation, meaning -- that meaning this greater political picture. And I would hope that the attorney general's office, in the courtroom

-- in the court -- in that courtroom were only concerned about justice -- whatever that ultimately means. That's not for me to decide. It's for the court to decide. Not a jury, but the court.

So I would hope Engoron realized let the man blow out his hot air. Let him do what he's going to do. He's going to do it anyway. And then, eventually, let the prosecution or let the attorney general's office find what they need.

So is there a political calculation? I don't know about from the court. But unquestionably, from Donald Trump, that was a win on his part to get out those I'm the victim card.

HUNT: Yeah, all right.

Jeremy Saland, thank you very much as always, my friend. I really appreciate it. I hope you'll come back soon.

SALAND: My pleasure. You're welcome.

HUNT: All right, now let's go overseas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking out on the war against Hamas. He says he's open to short humanitarian pauses but not to a ceasefire absent the release of hostages.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, there will be no ceasefire -- general ceasefire in Gaza without the release of our hostages. As far as tactical little pauses -- an hour here, an hour there -- we've had them before. I suppose we'll check the circumstances in order to enable goods -- humanitarian goods to come in or hostages -- individual hostages to leave.


HUNT: CNN's Jim Sciutto is live with more for us in Tel Aviv. Jim, thanks for being here.

Tactical little pauses. That does seem distinctly short of what the Biden administration has been pushing for.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. Listen, it shows the gap here between the Israeli position and certainly, the position of many in the Arab world. But also, perhaps, what Sec. Blinken was seeking when he was out here doing his shuttle diplomacy.

Many of those observing this -- they want something longer than a tactical little pause, as described by the Israeli prime minister there. They want something that relieves the pressure on civilians. Prevents civilian casualties. The death toll has now surpassed 10,000.

And we heard quite strong language, for instance, from the U.N. Secretary-General describing Gaza now as a graveyard for children. So there's a gap on what kind of pause ceasefire is desired by folks outside this country and the Israeli leadership. But there's also, frankly, a gap on really the way forward on this. Not just the ceasefire but for how long. Whose responsibility it is.

And you wonder how you're going to bridge that gap because you also have a gap on what the demand is. Because the Israeli prime minister is demanding the release of all hostages before there's any ceasefire. That just does not seem to be -- while understandably desirable, does not seem to be a realistic option in the short term.

The negotiations -- as they were carrying out with Blinken and the Jordanians in Amman, and others -- was, for instance, releasing women and children first as a step forward. It doesn't seem that anyone involved in those negotiations believes that all the hostages will be released in any short time period.

So you've got a gap on what kind of pause you're willing to carry out, and you've got a gap on what the demand is prior to any ceasefire like that.

HUNT: Jim, you're on the ground there and I know you're talking to Israeli officials and others day in and day out. What is your sense of how they are interpreting global pressure around a ceasefire? I know the administration has warned them, like, hey, you kind of have a limited amount of time to accomplish this.


HUNT: Is that a message that's getting through or not?

SCIUTTO: Frankly, I don't think so. I think that you come to Israel. You have a fundamentally different view of this, right? And this is -- this is what I hear from Israelis across the political spectrum, from soldiers, and from many politicians, again, across the political spectrum.


This is a country that was attacked in a way it hasn't been attacked. Fourteen hundred people killed inside Israeli territory, right? An invasion, in effect, from Hamas. They maintained control for hours. They killed women and children.

So a paradigm shift in terms of how many Israelis see this. They feel they have to defend themselves. Now, that does not mean that there is no -- that there's no sympathy for the loss of civilian life in Gaza. And you do have critics inside Israel of just how aggressive the military campaign has been.

But speaking of gaps, Kasie, that's another gap, right? There's a way that Israelis see this and there's a way that people outside Israel see this.

HUNT: Right.

SCIUTTO: And it's difficult to see how you bridge that gap as well.

HUNT: For sure.

All right, Jim Sciutto. Thank you very much for coming up early for us. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

HUNT: All right. Up next, who's in and who's out of tomorrow's Republican debate in Miami? Plus, Democrats concerned about Joe Biden's poll numbers.


TIM RYAN, (D) FORMER OHIO CONGRESSMAN: I don't think the president should run.


HUNT: We'll be right back.


HUNT: Today is Election Day in America. Tomorrow night the focus will be on the 2024 presidential race. The RNC says five candidates will be on stage for the debate in Miami -- Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott. Former President Trump will, once again, not be there. He will headline a rally in South Florida instead.

Let's bring in Jess Bidgood. She's a senior national political reporter at The Boston Globe. Jess, good morning. It's wonderful to have you here.

All eyes, let's be real --


HUNT: -- are going to be on Nikki Haley on the debate stage. And you have been covering her in The Boston Globe and you write this of voters who talk to you about Haley. Quote, "They like her. They want to vote for her. But even Nikki Haley's fans doubt she can beat Trump."


What are you looking for when she takes the stage tomorrow?

BIDGOOD: Absolutely. She will be -- Nikki Haley will have a two-fold challenge on the stage. She needs to show that she can kind of rise above this field of would-be Trump challengers. She needs to kind of pitch herself as the one candidate that voters should really coalesce around to give voters who don't want Trump a shot at attempting to beat him. But at the same time, she also needs to show that she can win against a man who is not on stage and who has never felt the need to make the time to be there, and who is currently running away with the polls.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's -- at this point, it's kind of like the guy who's not there is really the whole story.

And I want to talk to you about that as well because we've got these new polls out over the weekend show that Trump -- according -- in some of these key battleground states has a remarkable lead and is tied or within the margin of error in a couple of others.

I actually -- I talked to Tim Ryan yesterday. He's a former congressman for Ohio, obviously. He did not succeed in his bid for Senate but has been a messenger for Democrats around kind of what they are doing wrong. And he had some pretty tough words for President Biden. Take a look at what he had to say to me yesterday.


RYAN: The whole country wants to move on and I think that it would be the right thing to do for the president to not run. For him to focus on what's going on in the Middle East. Focus on what's going on in Ukraine. He's doing a good job. Focus on the inequality. Focus on the inflation. But spend the next 14 months focusing on that and let new candidates emerge in the Democratic Party.


HUNT: So, I mean, look, Ryan's said a version of this before but the timing is pretty remarkable considering we're now less than 365 days until the presidential election.

BIDGOOD: Absolutely. What Ryan is saying I think reflects alarm that is somewhat widespread, although not every Democrat is willing to talk about it quite as openly as he is.

But this big battleground poll from The New York Times that came out earlier this week -- it shows Trump leading Biden in five of the six swing states that essentially make up the path to the election. Biden is leading Trump narrowly in Wisconsin, but Trump is ahead -- you know, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada. And that's alarming to a lot of Democrats.

Interestingly, Nikki Haley leads Biden in -- by a bigger margin in many of those states. One of her key arguments against Trump is going to be electability. But when you see Trump polling so well against Biden on his own -- in a way, that almost, like, takes a little bit of the wind of the sails of her electability argument. And we'll see if she's tackling that on the stage tomorrow night.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. It's a really interesting way to think about it. I will -- I will say when I talk to Democratic sources they all say man, if the Republican Party picks anybody but Trump we are in big trouble. We would likely lose. But having covered -- you know, been out on the trail in 2016 with the

Hillary Clinton team, I'm just skeptical of making assumptions about any of this stuff because they sure made a lot of assumptions that turned out to be wrong.

Jess Bidgood of The Boston Globe. Thank you so much for being up early with us. I really appreciate it and I hope you'll come back.

BIDGOOD: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Former President Trump sparring with the judge during his testimony in his New York civil fraud trial. We'll have the standout moments ahead.



HUNT: Welcome back.

You'll be surprised to learn the New York Jets laid an egg in primetime getting blown out at home by the Chargers.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report.


HUNT: In other news, you know, roses are red. I don't know.

SCHOLES: Well, Kasie, going into last night the Jets actually had a winning record and were riding a three-game winning streak. So all their fans were holding onto that dream of making the playoffs and --

HUNT: It's the Jets. Come on.

SCHOLES: And then Aaron -- well, yeah, you're right -- it's right. But they were all holding onto the fact that Aaron Rodgers might triumphantly return from his torn Achilles this season and they're going to go on a playoff run. And A. Rodgers -- he was out there on the field pregame doing some light throwing. And the Jets could have certainly used him.

They went three and out to start the game and then Derius Davis returns to punt 87 yards to the house (ph) for the touchdown. That's all the Chargers would actually need on the night because the Jets' offense was just awful. They lost three fumbles. Zach Wilson had two of them, and he was also sacked eight times on the night.

The Chargers win 27-6, so both those teams now 4-4 on the season.

Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, made an appearance on the "MANNINGCAST" with a special guest.




ELI MANNING, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK, HOST, "MANNINGCAST": A donkey. It looks like you eating, Peyton.

P. MANNING: The same thing.


SCHOLES: So, Schwarzenegger's donkey Lulu, who I guess just watches football with him on Monday nights, making an appearance there.

HUNT: That's amazing.

SCHOLES: Football better with donkeys -- right, Kasie? There you go.

College basketball season, meanwhile, tipping off yesterday. Bronny James not playing in the opener for USC as he continues to recover after going into cardiac arrest while practicing over the summer. But his dad, LeBron, says he could be back on the court soon.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: Every week he gets to do more and more and more. We have a big moment at the end of this -- at the end of this month to see how -- if we can continue to go forward. If he's cleared, then we'll be not too long away from him being back on the floor and back with his teammates and practicing with the notion of being back on the floor and playing in game situations.


SCHOLES: Boy, did we have some stunning upsets on opening night. Top- ranked LSU getting blown out by 20th-ranked Colorado 92-78. The Tigers just the fourth reigning women's national champ to lose their opener and the first to do it since UConn back in 1995.

On the men's side, another shocker. Fourth-ranked Michigan State goes down at home to James Madison. Raekwon Horton putting the game away with his three for the Dukes in overtime. The Spartans becoming the first preseason top-five team to lose their season opener to an unranked opponent since they did it back in 2005.

Back to the ladies. Top-10 showdown in pairs (ph) in sixth-ranked South Carolina's newest star, freshman already a human highlight reel. Look at that. MiLaysia Fulwilley going coast-to-coast behind the back, finishing with a layup there. Seventeen points for her as Carolina blows out number 10 Notre Dame by 29 in that one.


And finally, if you needed a laugh -- on the left, seven-foot-four Purdue big man Zach Edey, and on the right, Samford guard Dallas Graziani, who stands at five-foot-eight. As you can imagine, Edey would win this tip.

And Kasie, Samford has taller players but I think they were just going for the old David versus Goliath right there.

HUNT: I mean, I guess you're like well, we're not going to win it. We might as well just --

SCHOLES: Have some fun.

HUNT: Have some fun, indeed. Like Schwarzenegger and the "MANNINGCAST." I have to say I love that show.

All right, Andy. Thank you very much for that.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: I will see you tomorrow, my friend.

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