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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

California to Keep Trump on Ballot, Maine Removes Him; Airstrikes Across Ukraine in "Biggest Wave" Since War Started; Report: IDF "Failed Its Mission" When 3 Hostages Killed by Mistake; Powerful Storm to Bring Rain, Floods, High Waves to West Coast. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 29, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Disqualified again. Another state kicks Donald Trump off the primary ballot for engaging in insurrection.

Plus -- explosions across Ukraine after what Kyiv calls the biggest wave of Russian air attacks since the start of the full scale invasion.

And, washed away. The moment people ran further lives as a rogue wave slammed into the California coast.


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Friday, December 29th, happy Friday. Five a.m. here in Washington and in Maine, it's 2:00 a.m. out in California.

Those two states have differing decisions on whether to remove Trump from the primary ballot over the 14th Amendments insurrectionist ban. Just hours ago in California, the secretary of state, Shirley Weber, opted to keep Trump on the ballot, despite pressure from the lieutenant governor to remove the former president.

Contrast that with Maine where, yesterday, Democratic Secretary of Sate Shenna Bellows disqualified Trump. She wrote in her decision that January 6th was an insurrection, quote, at the behest, and quote, of then-President Trump.


SHENNA BELLOWS (D), MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: It became clear that January 6th was an attack, not only on the Capitol, on government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law that it was insurrection. And the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on our government, on the foundations of our government. And that Maine election law and the Constitution required, indeed obligated, to act. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: So, Bellows paused her decision, pending a state court of appeal. But Trump's team says they plan to file. The secretary of state's decision makes Maine the second major case where Trump has been disqualified for office after the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling last month.

Let's bring in "Axios" national political reporter Sophia Cai.

Sophia, good morning. It's always wonderful to have you.

What kind of pressure does this put on the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately rule on these questions about whether the 14th Amendment disqualifies Trump? I mean, it seems like they want to avoid the Supreme Court getting dragged into this, but it seems inevitable, no?

SOPHIA CAI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: It's really inevitable. I think the question is sooner or later that this will happen. It adds to the urgency that the highest court of the country will weigh in, in our elections in a way that has really been unprecedented.

And so, you know, this is the fourth state now to decide whether Trump should be on that ballot. We've got two and two, but Maine makes it the second state in two weeks to say that they do not want Trump on the ballot, and that would be the secretary of state making that decision.

HUNT: Sophia, let's talk about, you know, the politics around this. Obviously, Trump's team has seized on this and talked about how this is not the outcome the day that we're looking for, but it does play into the argument, in some ways, that Trump is making about the system itself.

I mean, I've talked to Democrats who are saying that this is not something that they want to see because they want it to be as clear as a possible for -- if Trump were to lose, that he actually lost. What are you hearing from your sources about how this plays out big picture?

CAI: Yeah. So, Of course, we know the Trump campaign officials and other allies in Congress are already saying that this is election interference. But what is interesting is what you just mentioned, that Democrats, including a Maine Democrat Jared Golden, who in voted to impeach Trump previously, he has a said that it is too early to make a decision about the ballot access in that, until former President Trump has been charged with a crime, that he should still be on the ballot.

And the same thing --


HUNT: -- because he has been charged with multiple crimes, yeah.

CAI: Yes, I'm sorry. HUNT: Okay.

CAI: Convicted of a crime, yeah.

HUNT: Yeah, no, that's fair enough. That actually raises an important -- I mean, that is the other angle that we sometimes hear from people that we talked to is they say, hey, here we are, innocent intel proven guilty. While, yes, we can all see plain as day, we saw the video on January 6th, this is a question the courts are still deciding, no?


CAI: Yeah, yeah. And just to finish up my thought there, we do have Susan Collins, a Republican also saying that, right? The voters of Maine should decide who should be the president and not a state official.

HUNT: Right. So, as this kind of ripples across the country, I mean, there are other cases that the president is facing, including criminal questions, questions about fake electors. Obviously, Georgia case.

How does this -- the ballot access question fit into the Trump campaign's thinking as they consider the universe of legal challenges that they have?

CAI: So they have really got two teams going on. They have got a campaign political team and they haven't got a whole apparatus that are litigating Trumps issues with the court and that includes the ballot access, that includes fake electors, it includes the four states where he may be on trial.

So, you know, it just shows how litigious the next election will be and also how big of a role the courts will play in the elections, right? And historically, you know, we had 2,000, but I think that came after Election Day. In this case, from now until Election Day, we have just this flurry of activity going on in the courts.

HUNT: Yeah. And, I mean, in 2020, it turned into, basically, election week as these court challenges played out and votes were counted. It seems like we can't do it in a night anymore.

Sophia, we talked about how contentious this year was and we're going to talk about it later in the show, punches thrown on the House floor. The specter of political violence does loom over 2024. What kind of year are you preparing for?

CAI: Well, yes. I was there for 2020 and the election week, as well as the insurrection that followed, and the two weeks in between, January 6th inauguration day. I think next year will be just as contentious in some of those same states, as well as nationally. You know, Trump has not showed any signs of restraint with his rhetoric or with his language.

You know, reporters have confronted him, his team has also said very early on to me that they are letting Trump do Trump and that is a lesson that they have learned, you know? So you've got that. And then you've got, you know, folks like Secretary of State Bellows have made decisions seen as unfavorable to Trump and, historically, we have seen, you know, threats against those individuals that are very real.

HUNT: All right. Sophia Cai of "Axios", thank you very much for being with us. You're going to be back later on in the show, which we really appreciate.

Up next, we are following breaking news out of Ukraine. What the military there are calls the biggest air attacks of the Russian invasion.

Plus, the powerful wave that swept onlookers away in California. Is there more of the same on the way?

And, the nearly naked party causing a big stir in Vladimir Putin's Russia.



HUNT: All right. We have breaking news.

New Russian airstrikes in what Ukraine calls the biggest wave since the beginning of the full scale invasion nearly two years ago.

Explosions and fires reported across the country. In the capital of Kyiv, at least two people were killed and 18 others injured. The ministry of health reports other deaths and injuries across the country in Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, and other areas.

Among the facilities damaged, hospitals, schools, and residential buildings. Ukraine's prime minister says the air defenses managed to shoot down most incoming targets.

All right. Israel's military failed its mission. That's the conclusion in a new IDF report on the mission where Israeli soldiers killed three hostages by mistake.

The report says Israeli troops were aware of hostages in the area, but not that the hostages would approach them. It also finds that they thought the sign saying SOS and help these hostages were a trap.

Elliott Gotkine is live for us in Tel Aviv with more.

Elliott, why didn't the Israeli military know that these hostages might approach them?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Kasie, I think, put simply, there was insufficient war-gaming to allow for every possible scenario of hostages being discovered or being in a position to be rescued. And as a result, soldiers simply weren't prepared for the possibility that they might find hostages wandering around the combat zone.

They thought they would only find them when they got intelligence and when a separate -- special operation to rescue them is going to play out. Since what we have got in this report, in addition to the Maine conclusion being that Israel failed in its mission here, is that there was a sequence of events that led to Israeli soldiers killing three Israeli hostages. On December the 10th they discovered this note saying, help, at the exit of a tunnel. They thought that this was a trap to try to get soldiers to go into an area where they could then be ambushed.

In another incident, on that same day, December 10th, they heard cries for help in Hebrew and then, on December the 14th, drone footage captured the words SOS, help, three hostages, written on a building. Again, they thought that this was simply a trap to try to draw forces in to make -- to leave them susceptible to ambush as had happened in the past.

And as a result of that, when these three hostages wandered out into the battle zone, shirtless, carrying a makeshift white flag, one soldier, who had limited visibility, shot at them, killing two.


The third run into a building, he then called out in Hebrew, the commanding officer, called for his hot forces to halt fire, told hostages to come out, he came out, but perhaps because, according to this report, the noise of the tank, one of the soldiers didn't hear the officers commander hold fire, shot at the third hostage, killing him as well.

So, the IDF will draw lessons and conclusions from this, to try to ensure that nothing like this happens again. Kasie, it's worth noting that since Hamas kidnapped more than 200 people in Israel as part of its murderous rampage of October the 7th, Israel has only successfully rescued one hostage, that of a female hostage alive. The only other hostages that have been released back into Israel or part of that hostage for a Palestinian prisoner exchange deal, when that was in place, that broke down on December the 1st.

Conversations, as we know, are ongoing to try to get another truce in place. But with the fighting, if anything intensifying between Israel and Hamas, optimism is a very short supply -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Elliott Gotkine for us in Tel Aviv -- Elliott, thank you.

In Moscow, a number of Russian celebrities are facing fierce backlash and fines for what they wore, or really, didn't wear at an almost naked themed party. Okay?

This comes a during the war in Ukraine and a conservative crackdown.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dress code, optional, quite literally. An almost naked themed party hosted by a popular blogger in the leadup to the holidays in Moscow has gone viral in Russia.

Blogger Anastasia Ivleeva organized the party in the heart of Moscow's night club district on December 21st. Partygoers showed up half clothed or with barely anything on, with outfits made of mesh, lingerie and other creative materials to strategically cover limited parts of their body.

But photos of the almost naked partygoers have sparked outrage across some parts of Russian society. Internal criticism has mounted about how a party of this nature could go ahead as Russians continue fighting on the front lines in Ukraine.

Orthodox Church officials, pro-war activists and pro-Kremlin lawmakers have all denounced the scantily clad partygoers. Attendees are now facing legal action.

A court verdict against the party said the event was aimed at propagating nontraditional sexual relationships. Rapper Vacio, who showed up wearing a sock covering his intimate areas and not much else, has been found guilty of petty hooliganism by the Russian court. He's been sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined 200,000 rubles or roughly $2,200.

Planned New Year's parties organized by celebrities who attended the party have been replaced with other stars.

Ivleeva apologized via her Instagram page, posting a 21-minute video, asking for forgiveness and a second chance. Other celebrity partygoers have followed suit.

In a previous video, Ivleeva claimed the event was an opportunity to showcase photos created during her tenure as the chief editor of the now-defunct Russian edition of "Playboy".

Ivleeva also faces legal action and hefty fines. A collective lawsuit filed against her on Tuesday by 22 people and initiated by a Russian actor, seeks compensation of 1 billion rubles -- that's $11 million -- for moral damages.

Backlash against the party comes as authorities in the country are pushing an increasingly conservative and homophobic agenda. Just last month, Russia's LGBTQ community movement was deemed an extremist organization by the country's supreme court.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


HUNT: All right. Our thanks to Bianca for that report.

Still ahead here, a university chancellor caught making porn videos. What he is saying after he was fired.

And, a hefty storm on the way for the West Coast. We'll have your weather, up next.



HUNT: All right. Quick hits across America now.

The Justice Department is threatening to do the state of Texas, claiming the state's new immigration law violates the Constitution. The law gives local law enforcement the authority to arrest and expel migrants.

A state university in Wisconsin firing its chancellor a week after he and his wife posted pornographic videos online. The couple says the move infringes on their free speech rights.

And new video shows the moment when, up to 20 people were swept away by a rogue waves in Ventura, California, washing them 50 yards down the street. At least eight people were taken to hospitals. Very scary.

And a powerful storm is expected to bring more rain and flooding to the West Coast and possible 40-foot waves to the San Francisco area that could be like the one that you just saw. This, of course, creates travel headaches today.

Our weatherman, Derek Van Dam, is here with all of that and the outlook for your New Year's Eve.

Derek, these waves are astonishing.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: I've witnessed rogue waves before. They are unusually large and unpredictable wave such that come through. There is no real sense to when a larger than normal wave will appear on the coastline, but it can swept people away, just like you saw a moment ago. This is what has been happening throughout the West Coast of the U.S., not in those throughout those large rogue waves, per se, but large consistent waves have been battering the coastline.


Look at what Marin County near San Francisco has been contending with. So, what is happening here? We have a large area of low pressure and we have a direct fetch faced right at the coastline of California. What I mean by fetch is, that is the large surface area of the ocean water that the strong winds associated with this low controversy over.

So, it has lots of time to accumulate the energy across the surface of the ocean and that equates to large ocean waves. And, some of these ocean waves have broken on the coastline, anywhere from 15 to 20 feet. The large rogue waves that you saw amid go up to 25 or 30 feet.

So, we're talking about a three story foot building. That is just incredible. There is the high surf warnings, all the way to 25 feet for some of those south-facing shorelines of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties.

Beware, the best advice here, stay out of the water. Many people, obviously, onlookers want to go see what's happening. Not advised because of these threats of rogue waves.

Minor coastal flooding, and, of course the dangerous rip currents associated with it. So, stay out of the water. Lots of wind with the system as well, battering the coastline of up to 60 miles per hour in some instances. That is the low, sitting off the coast. It's going to bring in a lot of moisture, as well.

So, anticipate high elevation snowfall, but generally rain from Los Angeles, all the way to San Francisco.

Kasie, you asked about New Year's Eve. Here is your forecast. It does look like we have a few flurries across northern New England. What across the southeast. But drive for the nation's midsection, of course. It will be chilly. It is, winter after all.

HUNT: All right. Well, Derek, happy New Year to you.

VAN DAM: Same to you.

HUNT: I'll see you next year.

VAN DAM: I will see you on Monday morning.

HUNT: All right.

Coming up next, Maine's top election official disqualifies Trump from the primary ballot. And, Nikki Haley's campaign is working overtime after backlash from her comments about the civil war grow.