Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

House Votes To Authorize Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Hunter Biden Defines GOP Congressional Subpoena; Sources: Intel Finds Up To 45 Percent Of Israeli Air Munitions Unguided; Over 5 Million Under Flood Threats in Southern Florida. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 14, 2023 - 05:00   ET




President Biden blasting the GOP's now formal impeachment inquiry as a baseless political stunt.

Plus, what the Trump campaign calls a big win. A judge pausing the former president's election subversion case.

And the Supreme Court will now decide whether to restrict abortion pills, a decision that could come down in the final months of the race for president.


HUNT: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Thursday, December 14th. And it's 5:00 a.m. here in Washington, where Republicans are now under pressure to show results after the House voted narrowly to authorize an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

The move came just hours after Hunter Biden defied a congressional subpoena for closed door testimony, saying he's only willing to testify publicly in the investigation into his father.


HUNTER BIDEN, SON OF PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Republicans do not want an open process, where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say.


HUNT: Republicans now say they will move to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress.

The presidential also struck a defiant tone, accusing Republicans of wasting time on a baseless political stunt. House GOP leaders have struggled to overcome doubts expressed by some Republicans over the lack of any hard evidence against the president.

Yesterday, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan touted the GOP's anonymous vote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The House has now spoken, and I think pretty loudly, pretty clearly, with every single Republican voting in favor of moving to this official impeachment inquiry phase.


HUNT: But even some swing districts Republicans who voted in favor of the inquiry are careful to tell CNN that the vote for an actual impeachment is still far from a sure thing.


REP. JOHN DUARTE (R-CA): No, I'm going to let the committees continue their work, develop their articles, if they develop articles of impeachment, show their -- show their evidence. And I will make a separate choice.


HUNT: All right. Let's bring in Sophia Cai, national political reporter for "Axios".

Sophia, good morning. It's great to have you here.

Did this vote play out yesterday as expected? And what are -- what's your sense of the political ramifications for some of these moderate Republicans who decided in the end, they were going to vote to open this investigation formally?

SOPHIA CAI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: Yeah, so this vote came along party lines, I think four months Republicans did not have the votes needed for this, but moderate Republicans came on board after the White House told these committees they are subpoenas had less legitimacy.

And so, you know, in terms of the political ramifications, you have these Biden district Republicans, Republicans in districts that Biden won in 2020, who may be up for reelection. And I think they have to answer to their voters why they voted this way. And so, that's why they're very clear in saying this vote only opens the inquiry and it's not the actual impeachment vote, which is long -- far away.

HUNT: So one member of Congress who voted, he's Republican Ken Buck. He's leaving Congress. He was on with our colleague here at CNN, Erin Burnett earlier in the week. And he had this to say about the impeachment inquiry. Watch.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): This is not the way to run in Congress. It's not a way to run a House. We should not be engaging in retribution politics and retribution impeachments.

(END VIDE CLIP) HUNT: Now, of course, he ultimately went along with opening this inquiry, but it does seem to be saying the quiet part out loud.

CAI: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, this impeachment is objectively almost set to fail. And that's because, you know, even if the impeachment moves through the House, there's no way it would passed through the Senate, where, you know, Republican senators are a lot more conservative on this issue.

You even had someone like J.D. Vance who was -- who is a very loyal Trump ally tell me earlier this year that an impeachment could really backfire on Republicans if Republicans go further than the evidence takes them. And that's where a lot of moderate Republicans are as well with the House.

HUNT: Yes, it's -- it's a good point. And, of course, the Senate controlled by Democrats. And as we saw, very difficult to get a conviction that it not happened twice under Donald Trump when there was considerably more pressure, and support for it.


So let's talk a bit more about Hunter Biden. He, of course, really dramatic day yesterday, honestly, where he showed up at microphones to make a statement, defending himself. He ultimately, though, did not sit for the close door deposition that he had been subpoenaed to attend.

And this is what Jim Jordan had to say after that. Take a look.


JORDAN: Lawyers for the Oversight Committee, lawyers for the judiciary committee are moving in that district. But, look, if Congress asked you to come, you're supposed to come -- come and testify.


HUNT: So, they are promising to hold Hunter Biden in contempt. I do think it's worth pointing out, Jim Jordan was subpoenaed to testify last fall by the January 6 committee, and he ignored that subpoena.

What is -- what are the chances here that Hunter Biden is actually held in contempt of Congress?

CAI: You know, it's very much possible. But remember, the content also asked to go through the committee as well as the full house. And after that, the move it to the U.S. attorney, and DOJ which really decides on prosecution. So, that, too, is a long ways away. But I think House Republicans have signaled that they really ought to hold Hunter Biden accountable.

But, Hunter, you know, it was really remarkable scene. He was on the House steps. He usually lays fairly low for the past couple, yes but he was out there on the steps where most lawmakers give their pressers outside. And he said look, for years, we have been hearing from Republicans, where is Hunter? They have been shouting that. And he said, look, here I am.

So, he, too, is making a very strong statement there.

HUNT: Yes, his appearance crystallized this new kind of confrontational strategy that his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has been leading. In many ways, it reminds me of the way Trump frankly handle some of his controversies.

So, let me ask you, and the other major issue obviously working its way through Congress is this national security supplement that would provide aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, and it's hung up on border security negotiations.

My colleague Manu Raju spoke with Senator Tom Tillis about this, because there does seem to be some last-minute movement on this. Take a look at what Tillis had to say.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): It really is the first time. It's kind of defined the framework, Manu. And so, now, it's more a matter of the specific language behind it.


HUNT: So that framework, of course, is what the White House says that they are willing to do on changing U.S. asylum policies and procedures, something that many progressive Democrats are quite frankly not very happy about. But it does seem to have potentially dislodged, or, you know, the fact that this national security supplemental was so stuck.

Do you think there is going to be any additional progress here before the holidays? Or is this something we are going to have to wait until January to see?

CAI: I think things are moving, but timing is certainly an issue. And you see that Senate Republicans are like itching to go home for the holidays, and that's not a good sign for Congress, especially since, you know, over in the House, you have the congressional Hispanic caucus making a lot of noise about how they are not happy about this.

Actually, Republicans are taking some of that as a good sign that this is a solid offer, and all of those negotiations are continuing to happen. But, you know, the clock is ticking, and, you know, you hear some senators say, well, you know, why should we hang around if this is just going to sit even if it passes the House.

HUNT: Yeah, never underestimate -- we call it the jet fumes, right, in the halls of Congress, getting people anxious to go home. I will say, though, this -- it is a pretty significant offer from the White House, and I wonder if they do go home, whether that opposition from progressives couldn't smell well enough to get the White House to get bit nervous about this, you know? Sometimes, you've got to seize the moment in politics, too

Sophia Cai of "Axios", thank you very much for being up with us this morning. I really appreciate it. Come back soon.

CAI: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy embraced several conspiracy theories during last night's CNN town hall in Iowa. He suggested the federal government has lied systematically to the American people, and pointed to what he claims are several examples. Take a look.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do have a government, first of all, we have to acknowledge has lied to us systematically over last several years, about the origin of COVID-19, about the Hunter Biden laptop that we were told was false, by 51 CIA experts and otherwise, before we now know that it was true. You can go straight down the list, the Trump-Russia disinformation collusion hoax, all of it.

Now, we come to January 6th. The reality is, we know there were federal law enforcement agents in that field. We don't know how many.


HUNT: So, there was -- he was not able to offer any evidence particularly about that last claim there.


Ramaswamy also turned a question about medication abortion into a critique of the federal bureaucracy, and he staked out hard right positions on immigration enforcement. He also railed against affirmative action efforts.

All right. Still ahead here, the Supreme Court set to make another major decision on abortion and it sets to take place right in the middle of the 2024 campaign. Plus, a CNN exclusive when U.S. intelligence assessment finds out about Israeli munitions used in Gaza, and what that means for civilians.

Plus, major developments in Trump's election interference case that could work in his favor.


HUNT: Welcome back.

A new U.S. intelligence assessment has found that nearly half of the air to ground munitions that Israel has dropped on Gaza since October 7th had been unguided, also known as dumb bombs.

[05:15:04] Three sources who've seen the report tells CNN that up to 45 percent of the almost 30,000 of these munitions have been unguided. The rest were precision guided.

CNN's Max Foster joins us now live from London.

Max, dumb bombs, smart bombs, let's be crystal clear about what the difference is, and what it means to those living in Gaza.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you go to bomb guide, you can be more precise, they can be a certain level of civilian casualties, from anything around that. But if you drop an unguided bomb, you can be -- you know, you can't be as precise. I mean, there are techniques in the way the fighter jets dropped these to make them more precise, but they're never going to be as precise as a guided bomb.

So, that then does create more risk to civilians, and creating casualties. So, it is significant, when we look at some of the numbers involved here, about 40 to 45 percent of the 29,000, air to ground munitions Israelis used have been unguided. So, this is a large part of the war.

HUNT: So, Max, what does it tell us that we're learning about this now? I mean, what's the political significance of the disclosure? Does it serve to try to put more pressure on Israel to make sure that more of it strikes are more precise?

FOSTER: Well, all we've heard from Israel repeatedly, this is a war against Hamas, and not against the people of Gaza. In response to this report, we heard from Israeli spokesperson, saying we are devoting vast resources to minimizing harm to the civilians there in Gaza.

But if, unguided bombs are being used, that does play to the argument, some would say. That there has been indiscriminate bombing, and the civilian casualties have been taken into account enough. That is a narrative for those who oppose this war, obviously. And, you know, in terms of what they're using -- there is some evidence, you know, evidence for them to base that on.

But, you know, the Israelis have their own reasons for using different types of bombs, and they are very skilled and they would argue they can be very precise, and certainly, the intention is not to take out any civilians.

HUNT: Right. Well, and perhaps it also provides cover for President Biden who used the phrase -- you know, said that they were doing this indiscriminate bombing earlier this week.

FOSTER: Yes, and the intel comes from the U.S.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure.

All right. Max Foster, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. See you tomorrow, my friend.

FOSTER: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: Still ahead here, police say that they've cracked the case of a Detroit synagogue leader who was murdered in front of her home. And it will be a very white Christmas, at least in the Rocky Mountains.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Quick hits across America now.

The Senate has passed the sweeping legislation that funds the Defense Department. It authorizes a 5.2 percent pay raise for members of the military, and now, it waits a vote in the House.

A Detroit man now facing murder charges in connection with the death synagogue president Samantha Woll. It happened during a home invasion back in October. Authorities say there's no indication it was a hate crime.

Tesla is almost all -- recalling all of its 2 million cars about concerns about the autopilot feature. Federal safety regulators say it can be easily misused in dangerous driving situation when the Tesla's technology may not be able to safely navigate the road.

All right. Let's get now to weather. Heavy rain hitting into Texas and across parts of Florida today. Millions under severe flood threats in southern Florida, and winter storm set to bring more snow to the Southern Rockies as well.

Let's get straight to our weatherman Derek Van Dam.

Derek, good morning. Fresh powder?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. If you're seeking that magical winter wonderland-type Christmas, every flake that falls from the sky now counts. It matters. So we want to see this, right?

Like that -- just north of Albuquerque, into southern Colorado this matters because people who seek this out, are going to be jumping up with joy. This is going to accumulate, a few inches up to a foot in some locations, especially those higher elevations. But the Taos ski resort, for instance, giving significant snow from this.

Of course, on the warm side, we talked about this yesterday. This is where we've all rain. So, we are decreasing those chances of a white Christmas. We're just simply too warm for that, and we don't really have many opportunities for snow left. It's in the final run up into the Christmas season, right?

Three to 12 inches of snow, northern New Mexico, extreme southern Colorado. Here's evolution of the storm system. It advances eastward. So, we do expect a line of showers and thunderstorms impact places like Dallas, and Austin by the end of the workweek. And you can see the wet weather including Oklahoma City, and Wichita, Kansas, as well.

But you've got to see the evolution of the storm system, which you will notice in just one moment. And bring your attention to south Florida, because a stalled front meaning basically it doesn't move anywhere is producing a significant amount of rain, and then we're going to get some of that energy from the storm we just talked about a moment ago, to act as kind of a rainmaker, to the course of the weekend, for the Florida Peninsula. Flood watch, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, coastal flood advisory for much of the eastern peninsula, of Florida.

But look at the advancement of this low pressure system. It's going to kind of join up with the energy from the storm, across the southern plains and into the southern Rockies. And then it will turn into a full-on northeasterner, but this storm system is going to be a rainmaker, not a snow maker for the majority of the east coast this weekend.


And look at Saturday for the Carolinas, and into Florida peninsula. A significantly wet weekend could cause some flooding concerns for this area as well -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. We'll keep an eye out, for that for sure.

VAN DAM: Yeah.

HUNT: All right. Our weatherman Derek Van Dam, thanks very much, my friend. We'll see you tomorrow --

VAN DAM: Have a great Thursday.

HUNT: -- when it will be Friday. Happy Thursday.


HUNT: Up next here, House Republicans say they're going to hold Hunter Biden in contempt for defying their subpoena, and the judge puts the brakes on Donald Trump's election interference case, at least for now.


HUNT: Good Thursday morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington are reacting this morning to yesterday's vote in the House officially authorizing in appeasement inquiry against President Biden. The probe so far has focused on claims the president was involved in his son Hunter's allegedly corrupt foreign business dealings.