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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Brand New Poll Numbers Show Biden Trailing Trump in Key Battleground States; Former President Trump Says He will not Be Testifying As Planned in the Civil Trial Over Allegations That He Lied About His Wealth; Time Running Out to Pass an Aid Bill for Ukraine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 11, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Just in to CNN, brand new poll numbers that spell trouble for President Biden's campaign in two key battleground states. Plus, former President Trump not testifying after all today in his civil fraud trial in New York. So what changed?

And with time running out to pass an aid bill for Ukraine, a special guest will appear at the White House this week. Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Kasie Hunt, it's Monday, December 11th, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington where we have new CNN poll numbers this morning in two critical battleground states.

The news is not great for President Biden and his campaign. The numbers show Donald Trump leading in both Georgia and Michigan. In Georgia, a state Biden carried by a very narrow margin in 2020. Registered voters say they prefer Trump over Biden by 5 percent.

In Michigan which Trump won in 2016, but Biden carried in 2020, polls now showing Trump 10 points up, not that a full 10 percent of those polled in each states say that they wouldn't support either candidate.


Trump's margin over Biden is significantly boosted in both states by people who say they did not vote in 2020. The less-engaged voters favored Trump by 26 points in Georgia and 40 points in Michigan. Here to help break it all down, what it all means is CNN's Isaac Dovere. Isaac, good morning, thank you so much for being with us. These --


HUNT: -- are some rough numbers for the president, especially in Michigan. What do you see here?

DOVERE: Look, the fundamental proposition of Biden in 2020 was that he'd be able to win back Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016. That he's 10 points back in Michigan is obviously not where people would want to see Joe Biden, who wants to see him elected. And it's not where the Biden campaign wants to see things. The Biden campaign contends about polls like these that they have not yet started to really campaign, and people haven't really focused on the election and thinking about Trump back in the White House. But 10 points is obviously a significant margin in a state that is pretty close, a must-win for Joe Biden in Michigan.

And Georgia is a state that they in the Biden campaign are hoping can stay blue. Of course, and only was a 12,000 vote win for him in 2020. And if that goes back into the Trump column, that's very good news for Donald Trump.

HUNT: So, Isaac, one of the big problems we're seeing here for the president is that a quarter of democratic voters in both states disapprove of the job that President Biden is doing. You can see these numbers are pretty stark there. I mean, yes, obviously, he has significant approval from Democrats, 75 percent-77 percent, but that's 1 in 4 Democrats who don't think he's doing a great job. This seems like a Democratic base problem in some ways, no?

DOVERE: Well, look at this. People are clearly frustrated with where the country is at this point. There are a lot of Democrats who are not feeling so enthused by Joe Biden or by the prospect of the 2024 election at all. What Joe Biden has said throughout his career, he made a joke of this, don't compare me to the alternative -- or to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.

That seems like that is going to be a big part of how he hopes to win what would be the last election of his life here, and say, you may not be fully happy with me, you may have a lot of frustration with where things are, and they would wish for another candidate, but by the time that they get to voting by next Fall, saying would you really want Trump back in the White House?

And making that a real push to get those voters who are saying they're disengaged or saying they're drifting away to come back and be there for Biden.

HUNT: I mean, this does really seem to be a battle around who they can convince to vote. I mean, I want to put up another interesting finding from this poll, which is that voters who say that they didn't vote in 2020 and say they're going to vote in this election or could vote in this election, they are breaking toward Trump right now according to this poll.


Does the Biden campaign have any concerns that -- I mean, we have a history here of Donald Trump engaging people who historically just didn't engage in politics at all. Are they worried about that phenomenon playing out again in 2024?

DOVERE: Well, sure. Donald Trump has shown in the 2016 election and the 2020 election that he can turn out voters in a way that no one else can, including his own base. They didn't -- people did not show for Republicans in the Midterms in 2018 or in 2022 the way they showed up for Donald Trump in 2016 or even in 2020.

Now, the issue that the Biden campaign likes to talk about here is that people haven't really wrapped their minds around the idea that Donald Trump could be coming back as president. They haven't really thought through what that means, and haven't remembered all of what happened over the course of his four years in office.

They aim to remind people of that, and to make that a really big part of what they do in the campaign year, starting in just a couple of weeks now. They feel like we'll get past the Republican primaries, we'll see who the nominee is, if indeed it is Donald Trump, then it will start to be a real focus on reminding people on everything about the Trump presidency, and whether that was things that were going on in immigration, things that were going on with national security.

Just the daily drama of Donald Trump in the White House, and try to make that much more present in people's minds, and much more immediate in people's minds, feeling like that will lead to them turning away from Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yes, all right, Isaac Dovere, thank you very much for being up early with us, really fascinating numbers, and particularly interested in the fact that the spread in Michigan is wider than the spread in Georgia. Really tells you how the country has changed --

DOVERE: Yes --

HUNT: And pretty quickly quite frankly. Thanks --

DOVERE: Yes --

HUNT: For being here. All right, still ahead here, Israel's prime minister and his gamble on Hamas. How it all backfired for Benjamin Netanyahu. Plus, death and damage after multiple Tennessee tornadoes. And former President Trump listening to his lawyers, making a big change to his plans for today.



HUNT: Welcome back. A new report over the weekend highlighting efforts by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, encouraging Qatar to send billions of dollars into Gaza, some of it in suitcases. "New York Times" reports the money was intended for humanitarian goals like fuel for a power plant and to pay government salaries.

The objective, according to the "Times" was to keep Hamas strong enough to rule Gaza, but weak enough to be deterred from major terrorism against Israel. But the plan dependent on what turned out to be a major miscalculation. The "Times" reports the payments were part of a string of decisions by Israeli political leaders, military officers and Intelligence officials all based on a fundamentally- flawed assessment that Hamas was neither interested in nor capable of a large-scale attack. CNN's Max Foster joins me now. Max, good morning, it's always good to see you. MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kasie --

HUNT: This "Times" report is headlined "buying quiet". And it casted as this -- and you know, a lot of this we knew, right? I mean, the "Times" is weaving together -- pulling together a lot of information that's been out there and was kind of widely known. It puts some additional meat on the bone here in terms of pulling it all together.

But it basically argues that Benjamin Netanyahu had tolerated Hamas for his own political ends. And that, that ultimately backfired. What is going on here? Why was he doing this? And what do you see in how this miscalculation was made?

FOSTER: Well, it does in a way. If you look at all of this, as you say, lots of different reporting brought together in the "New York Times". I mean, it almost is a peace plan by propping up Hamas. They have been more focused on running Gaza and governance, rather than fighting. And that's obviously where the intelligence was wrong, because of what happened on October the 7th.

So, the other -- you know, where I'm looking at this as well, what is by -- by propping up Hamas, you've also got to counterweight to the Palestinian Authority, and that reduced pressure on Netanyahu to negotiate a two-state solution. You know, the idea of having a single Palestinian state.

So, there was strategy behind this, all of this, a lot of this has been dismissed, of course, by Netanyahu. But the idea of propping up Hamas, maintaining the peace, doing it almost as a nuisance was a miscalculation, because they were -- they did have a fighting force and they put it into action.

HUNT: So, basically the idea is that Netanyahu opposed a two-state solution and could obviously tell the world that well -- if Hamas, a terrorist organization is running Gaza, we can't possibly negotiate with them or have a two-state solution with them? Is that the argument that you're saying or is it keeping Palestinians divided between two groups means they can't unify?

FOSTER: I think it will split authority. You had two authorities, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, you had Hamas in Gaza, and when you're talking about creating a single Palestinian state, you're basically setting the two sides against each other by strengthening Hamas against the Palestinian Authority which the wider world would probably see as the legitimate authority to oversee a single Palestinian state.

HUNT: Right. So, for Netanyahu, you know, I feel like you and I have -- keep talking about this, but he still continues to say we can't have any of these hard conversations about mistakes that were made and political accountability until the war is over. Is time running low on that for him?


FOSTER: I think it is, I mean, we've talked about a lot, haven't we? He's going to have to face the music at some point. And you know, all this reporting is coming out from Israeli media, western media as well, and we're getting a picture here that it was a big miscalculation to take, to assume that Hamas wasn't ready to attack Israel, too focused on running Gaza. That was a miscalculation.

And we've learned, haven't we? That there was intelligence going to the Israeli authorities, not entirely clear whether or not Netanyahu saw an exact plan like the one that was carried out on October the 7th, and that was pretty much ignored. So, you're running the country, you've got to take responsibility for a lot of this, and I think the time will come for that.

But at the moment, he's running up this -- you know, unified cabinet, and they are currently supporting him.

HUNT: Right, well, I mean, and as you've said, never underestimate Benjamin Netanyahu. He's a survivor, if nothing else. All right, Max Foster, thank you very much for being with us this morning --

FOSTER: Thanks, Kasie --

HUNT: See you tomorrow. All right, still ahead here, pressure growing on Harvard's president after her testimony on anti-Semitism. How faculty is now responding. And major storms across the northeast. Our weatherman Derek Van Dam will bring us the latest.



HUNT: Quick hits across America now. Nearly 600 Harvard faculty members signed a petition urging officials to resist calls to remove the school's President Claudine Gay. She's one of three university leaders who declined to testify that calling for genocide would violate their school's code of conduct at a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism last week.

Elon Musk has restored the X account, the Twitter account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The billionaire owner of the former Twitter claimed users had spoken after he asked if Jones should be reinstated in a poll. Jones was banned five years ago in no small part for claiming that the Newtown massacre was a hoax.

People in Tennessee are picking up the pieces after a series of tornadoes wreaked havoc, killing six people and leaving massive damage and power outages in its wake. More than 50 people were also injured.

That same system that brought those powerful tornadoes to Tennessee is now hitting here in the northeast. More than 40 million people remain under flood threats from Maryland to Maine, in some areas, you can see snowfall totals reach more than a foot. Let's get straight to our weatherman, Derek Van Dam. Derek, good morning. This devastation in Tennessee is just awful.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and to see the videos that have come from the region this past weekend just incredible to see. This as one of the tornadoes -- one of the many tornadoes that struck at Madison, Tennessee, there's the vortex, that's the tornado. But watch what happens when we get this explosion, it's actually a bit of science going on here.

The temperature and the dew point raises with that explosion of fire, eliminating briefly that vortex or the tornado before we start to see the tornado reform again. The circulation pattern is still there in the atmosphere, didn't go anywhere and the winds, certainly, is still causing the damage.

There was one tornado in Clarksville that traveled nearly 43 miles with winds clocked in at 150 miles per hour. Just an incredible, powerful system that caused over 29 reports of tornadoes. We have 90,000 customers still without power, and the storm system is not done yet, as Kasie mentioned, we have impacts along the entire eastern seaboard at the moment.

This is more of a heavy rain threat with heavier snowfall for northern New England. As we speak, even some snow showers noted in and around the nation's capital. Here's the flood watches, nearly 40 million people impacted by that, but check this out, flood warning at the moment for Boston. So, turn around, don't drown.

If you see a flooded roadway, not a smart idea to travel across it. There's a snowfall across Upstate, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, and there's a lot of wind associated with this system, especially across Cape Cod, Nantucket, the coastal areas of Maine. We could see wind gusts in excess of 50 to 60 miles per hour, potentially bringing more power outage concerns across extreme northern New England through the course of the day today.

Here's a storm system, it will depart quickly this morning, and then will be left kind of with a raw Monday afternoon and evening, and clearing things out by Tuesday. But what a powerful storm system, Kasie, causing damage across Tennessee all the way to the east coast.

HUNT: Well, and of course, we've been reporting that a 100 or so military families across the border in Kentucky at Fort Campbell lost their homes just a handful of weeks before Christmas, our hearts go out to them. Our weatherman --

VAN DAM: Certainly --

HUNT: Derek Van Dam, thanks very much for that report.

VAN DAM: All right --

HUNT: And still ahead here, how some Americans say they'll vote in 2024. It's not great news for President Biden in two critical battleground states. Also Donald Trump telling the world what he won't do and his civil fraud trial in New York today.


[05:25:00] HUNT: Good morning, thanks for getting up early with us, I'm Kasie

Hunt, it is 5:28 a.m. here in Washington. Also in Atlanta and Detroit, where we are getting some tough new poll numbers for President Biden this morning. New CNN surveys from two critical battleground states signal an uphill battle for the president.

He's falling behind Donald Trump in hypothetical match-ups in both Georgia and Michigan. In Georgia, Trump holds a 5-point lead over the president. In Michigan, Trump ahead by a full 10 points among registered voters. Voters indicating they have concerns about Biden's job performance, policies and sharpness.

At the heart of Biden's challenge, convincing voters that his Bidenomics plan is working despite critics claims -- critics claims that his policies have worsened economic conditions. Let's bring in Michelle Price to talk more about this, she's national political reporter for the "Associated Press". Michelle, good morning, it's always wonderful to have you on the show.

These numbers are, you know, going to raise some eyebrows, I think, especially among the Biden campaign, particularly, that spread in Michigan. It's very interesting to me that Georgia right now is looking tighter than Michigan. We traditionally think of Michigan as a blue state, Georgia as a red one.

Obviously, it's become a swing state in recent years. And Michigan as well has swung back and forth. It went for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. What do you see in these numbers?

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, you hit the nail on the head right there. You know, Georgia was a state that is -- was expected to be a much tighter state for Democrats, for Joe Biden in 2024. And these numbers in Michigan would be an alarm bell for him, because it's a state where he did have a bigger margin.

You know, what's interesting to me in these poll numbers, too, was that there's a good chunk of the voters who are interested in supporting Donald Trump.