Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senators Unveil Border Deal And Foreign Aid Package; Nevada's Dueling GOP Primary Contests Create Confusion; Taylor Swift Makes History, Miley Cyrus Wins Big At The Grammys. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 05:30   ET




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

And after months of talks, Senate negotiators finally released the text of a long-sought bipartisan border deal overnight.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Senate has seen in years and years and years, and we cannot let politics get in the way of passing this legislation. I am proud leader McConnel and I, who disagree on many issues, have never worked so closely together on legislation as we did on this because we both realize the gravity of the situation.


HUNT: So in addition to providing funds for Ukraine, Israel, and the border, the legislation would raise standards for asylum seekers, expedite asylum processing, and require border shutdowns if crossings reach an average of 5,000 a day.

Conservatives in the House wasted no time slamming the 370-page bill. The House Speaker, Mike Johnson, posting this. "This bill is even worse than expected," and he called it "dead on arrival" in his chamber.

But Republican Senate negotiator James Lankford told reporters Sunday that support will only grow not that the deal's text is public. Lankford says, quote, "Some House Republicans texted me saying they are going through the bill and that makes -- this makes very real progress. So there's not unanimity. This is a member-driven body."

Let's bring in Tia Mitchell. She is Washington correspondent for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tia, good morning. It's always wonderful to have you.

Let's talk about what's actually in this deal because there are some really very conservative policy changes that have been agreed to here. TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. So, I mean, there's a lot in the deal but I think the parts of the bill that were drafted to address concerns raised by conservatives are the parts that deal with how to seek asylum. Requirements about what kinds of asylum seekers would be welcomed at the border versus those who will be turned away. The same for just general migrants. The same for the number of which they can shut down the border after a certain amount of crossings happen on a given week.

So this is a border measure. In the past, Republicans have complained that all of the conversation focused on immigration policy and not addressing the border itself -- the crossings at the border itself. This does that. This doesn't talk about pathways to citizenship. This is -- well, from -- in general, it doesn't.

This is more focused on how to address the influx of migrants at the southern border. How to reduce the number of people and disincentivize those people who pass through multiple nations to arrive in America hoping to seek asylum.

Again, this is something Republicans have asked for in the past but now that it's here, as you mentioned, there are a lot of Republicans who are saying it doesn't go far enough.

HUNT: Yeah, it's a completely different conversation. I mean, the fact sheet that they're circulating making the argument that hey, conservatives should support this says right at the top there is no amnesty. That is, of course, what -- the word Republicans use to say people that are here already in this country illegally should be declared legal. That is something that was potentially on the table in previous immigration negotiations. It's not this time. Same with a path to citizenship. This really is focused on border security.

But the reality is that former President Donald Trump has gotten involved here. This is going to have a key test vote in the Senate mid-week this week. It's going to need 60 votes to move forward.

With the way that the former president is out there talking about this and considering he seems to be on track to win the nomination, is there a sense that there are going to be enough Republicans willing to defy the former president's wishes on this and actually move it forward in the Senate? Forget about even getting to the House?

MITCHELL: I think it has a better chance in the Senate than not because at the end of the day, you need 10 of 49. And so, I think that there are 10 when you factor in retiring senators, you factor in those senators who already have a reputation for bucking President Trump, for being a little bit more independent. I think that you can find 10.


Now, the fact that it's possible is very far from saying it will happen. And quite frankly, a lot can happen in three days. It depends if, for example, President Trump's -- former President Trump's tone shifts, which we've seen him change his rhetoric sometimes. So if he shifts for some reason that would probably help. If he shifts to be more vocal about the bill now that text is out, that could hurt.

But I think in general, there is a possibility -- there is a chance that there will be 10 Senate Republicans -- really, nine -- but depending on absences, let's just go ahead and say --

HUNT: Sure.

MITCHELL: -- they need 10 to help with Democrats getting this past that first procedural vote.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's certainly possible and there are -- you know, obviously, Sen. Lankford has invested so much in this process already.

Tia, can we talk for a second about Ukraine and Israel aid because even if it does -- you know, they managed to bring it to the floor in the Senate. We have the House Speaker already saying it's dead there -- it's not going forward as it is.

They came up with this convoluted set of policy priorities. They put them all together to try to cobble together a coalition to move all of these things through the House and the Senate. If, in fact, the border stuff is going nowhere, what are the options for people who support Ukraine funding going forward?

MITCHELL: So, I definitely think there's a universe where we go back to where this all started, which was how do we get money for Ukraine. And then after October, it was Ukraine and Israel. Again, this was conservative Republicans who said we're not willing to discuss money for Ukraine and Israel without a discussion about addressing migration at the southern border. And it took months of negotiating but we finally got here.

And now that some of those same Republicans are saying this immigration -- this southern -- this border security policy doesn't go far enough. So if they take it off the table, they're the ones that put it on the table to begin with, which takes us back to square one, Ukraine and Israel.

Now, we know the House is ready to pass Ukraine's standalone funding but I think if it gets to the point where the support of Democrats is necessary -- and what we've seen recently is that the support of Democrats has been necessary for just about anything to pass in the House.

So once you bring in Democrats saying we need to -- your support on this clean Israel funding bill, I think there's a chance that Ukraine funding does get added. Because there are plenty of House Republicans who support Ukraine funding. I don't necessarily think it's all. It may be just half, but that's enough to vote with Democrats to pass Ukraine funding if the bill is brought to the floor under suspension of the rules.

HUNT: Right. I mean, there's -- certainly, not all Republicans support Ukraine funding but it is -- it does seem to be clear that if they could get it to the floor there would be enough support in the Congress to pass it. It's just a question of what the leadership is going to be willing to do in terms of that.

Tia Mitchell -- Tia, thank you very much.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Also today, President Biden returns from a weekend trip to Nevada. After a narrow win there in 2020, he's trying to energize his base ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary. Republicans, meanwhile, also gearing up for their own contests in Nevada this week.

Nevada is running a very strange system this year, parallel contests. There's a state-run primary and party-run caucus. So, Haley -- Nikki Haley and Donald Trump are on separate ballots on separate days. And all of this is obviously creating confusion among voters and those of us trying to cover it alike.

Let us bring -- let's bring in somebody who knows this state very well. Gabby Birenbaum is the D.C. correspondent for The Nevada Independent. Gabby, good morning. It's great to have you here.

Let's just start by explaining this because even for those of us who are longtime political observers and who cover these kinds of things, it's a pretty confusing setup. And given how hard it is already to get voters to participate in a caucus type of system, this makes it that much more complicated.

What are we going to see happen this week?

GABBY BIRENBAUM, D.C. CORRESPONDENT, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: Yeah. If you're confused, you're certainly not alone. So, essentially, you did a good job explaining it.

There's the primary on Tuesday. That came out of a 2021 state law passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed by, at the time, Gov. Steve Sisolak, transitioning Nevada, which had historically had a caucus to a primary system for presidential nominating contests. So that's all the normal Nevada voting rules apply.

You have automatic voter registration. People get sent mail ballots. You have a one-week early voting period. And so, that one is fairly easy to participate in.


However, the state GOP has said we don't want to do a primary. We don't like any of those voter rules. We want people to have to vote in person. We want them to show voter ID, et cetera. So they're having a caucus from 5:00 to 7:30 local time on Thursday night.

And so, as you said, delegates can only be won at that caucus on Thursday. But there's a very real chance I think, given how much easier it is to participate in a primary -- and we've already seen 60,000 Republicans cast their ballots in the primary -- there's a very real chance that way more people participate in the primary even though it doesn't count for anything. HUNT: Right. And that, of course, is what -- there's some new reporting in Axios this morning -- the Trump team is reportedly concerned about because they decided to participate in the caucus so that they would get delegates, right, which is what you need to win the nomination. But now there seems to be this very real possibility that Nikki Haley could actually get a lot more votes in the primary because Donald Trump's not on the ballot there. So even though it doesn't count, the narrative, of course, could be that Nikki Haley does rack up all of these numbers.

And my understanding is there is an option to vote for none of the above in the primary and that, potentially, is what Trump's supporters are urging people to do.

How is this all going to play out?

BIRENBAUM: Yeah. So, basically, you could only participate as a candidate in the caucus or the primary. That's by the state GOP's own rules. They said if you want to participate in our nominating contest where delegates are, you cannot participate in the primary and vice versa. However, voters can participate in both.

So, for example, one prominent voter, Gov. Joe Lombardo -- he's a Republican. He said he's going to caucus for Donald Trump and he's going to select none of the above in Nevada. So instead of having a write-in option, we have a "none of these candidates." So there's a possibility that Nikki Haley, right, could lose to none of these candidates.

I think what's ironic, and as you mentioned, I think the Trump campaign is realizing they could have participated in the primary and very well won.

Nikki Haley has made no visits to Nevada. She's invested no resources. She went to a town in Iowa called Nevada but has never once come to Nevada.

And so I think the reason that they had a caucus in the first place is that we know from reporting that the Trump campaign has been coordinating with state parties around the country to try to create a set of rules that are most favorable to them.

And this is a Nevada state GOP that's deeply entwined with Donald Trump. You have the state party chairman who has hosted Trump at several rallies recently and has encouraged people to caucus for Trump. Has said we're going to win this caucus for Donald Trump.

And so, you have a situation now in which, like you said, Trump, barring a political miracle by Ryan Binkley, who I think is the only other candidate left in the caucus, he's going to wrap this up and he's going to win the Nevada caucus. But it's going to create a confusing media narrative if Nikki Haley wins the primary ostensibly with more votes.

HUNT: Yeah, really, really interesting. Gabby Birenbaum of The Nevada Independent. I have been to Nevada, Iowa

as well, but that is an interesting -- an interesting comparison. I really appreciate you being here this morning.

BIRENBAUM: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, coming up next here, Donald Trump turning on a longtime ally, suggesting that the chairwoman of the RNC should be fired.

And a surprise guest showing up on "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE."


KENAN THOMPSON, CAST MEMBER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The next question comes from someone who describes herself as a concerned South Carolina voter.






JAMES AUSTIN JOHNSON, CAST MEMBER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE", IMPERSONATING DONALD TRUMP: Nikki Haley Joel Osman, we call her. "Sixth Sense" -- remember that one? I see dead people.

HALEY: Yeah, that's what voters will say if they see you and Joe on the ballot.

JOHNSON: Oh, that's not very nice, Nikki.


HUNT: And live from New York, it's Nikki Haley making her comedic debut over the weekend with a surprise appearance in "SNLs" cold open. Haley tweeted after her appearance, quote, "Know it was past Donald's bedtime, so looking forward to the stream of unhinged tweets in the a.m."

That jab comes as Haley touts her best fundraising month yet, announcing her campaign brought in $16.5 million in new donations in January.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst and the Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe, Jackie Kucinich. Jackie, good morning. How'd she do?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning. You know, I think, self-deprecation usually brings big points for

Haley. But I think you have to look at this in the context of the trolling that this campaign has been doing against the former president. Between that -- even her speech the night of the New Hampshire primary really just trying to get under his skin. And this is something that, frankly, usually works. I'm surprised there hasn't been a tweetstorm in response to it. Perhaps they think they're so far ahead they don't need to, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

HUNT: Yeah, you're right. I mean, the money also ties into this I think, right? And they said that of this --


HUNT: -- $16.5 million, $11 million-plus of it came from grassroots donations. It does seem to me that they have discovered when you do go against Donald Trump that there is a significant contingency for that in the U.S., right? There are a lot of people who are willing to give money to her it seems, now that she's been willing to go after him more aggressively.

Now, a lot of them just aren't in the Republican Party anymore. I mean, there's -- this new NBC poll shows that Trump beats Haley among GOP voters by 60 points, 79 to 19 percent. But clearly, people are funding her for this. I mean, this does seem -- this appearance directly aimed at continuing to juice that, no?

KUCINICH: Yeah, 100 percent. And Kasie, you don't -- in some primaries, if you're a Democrat you can't vote for her, but that doesn't mean you can't give her money. And all she needs -- and that's what she needs, really, to sustain herself through Super Tuesday. If there is a loss in South Carolina, which is what the polling looks like right now, it's money, not ambition, that's going to fuel her through these next primaries.

And if she's able to keep this campaign going, that -- who knows how far she could go. I mean, maybe to the convention. We'll see. But there's little incentive if she's able to keep going funding-wise for her to drop out.

HUNT: No, you're right. And, I mean, it's -- as we've often said, a politician's ego will kind of keep them in the race as long as -- basically --



HUNT: -- forever. But if they run out of money then they run into trouble, and she isn't, so far.

But speaking of money, the Republican National Committee -- and this I do think speaks to -- you now, there is a significant level of dysfunction right now with the party itself in the age of Trump. But Ronna Romney McDaniel, who has been running the committee, has come under serious criticism, frankly, from all sides. Donald Trump -- I don't know if we would say he piled on but he was

asked about this in an interview with Fox yesterday and here's how he answered the question about whether Ronna McDaniel should continue to lead the RNC -- watch.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR, "MORNINGS WITH MARIA" AND "MARIA BARTIROMO'S WALL STREET": The RNC reported its lowest bank balance at the point in any year in 2016. Comerica says the Michigan GOP defaulted on a loan of half a million dollars.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I have a lot of money. And the money that they get, people are not looking at the RNC. They want -- they want changes. I -- you have to understand I have nothing to do with the RNC. I don't -- I'm separate.

BARTIROMO: How's Ronna McDaniel doing?

TRUMP: Uh, I think she did great when she ran Michigan for me. I think she did OK, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now, there will probably be some changes made.


HUNT: I mean, I will say, Jackie, it does seem vaguely inevitable that there will be some changes made at the RNC considering, again, the criticism from all sides.

I mean, how do you expect this to play out?

KUCINICH: It's pretty wild though, right, that he is turning his back on her after she just tried to nudge Nikki Haley out of the -- out of the primary for him. She essentially said it was over and there was an uproar. So -- and it seems like she's trying to close ranks over and over again to line up behind the former president, and this is just another example of the former president not returning that favor.

And it's true that she was blamed for some of the losses in 2020 and even in 2023, 2022. Whether or not that's fair, that is I think probably a big debate among RNC members right now. But it truly is maybe not extraordinary but certainly interesting that Trump is -- appears to be walking away from her --

HUNT: Yeah.

KUCINICH: -- five months before a convention, potentially.

HUNT: Right. You're absolutely right and very interesting points to all, especially because it does seem there have -- and when we view it through this lens, right, it makes it seem like McDaniel's move to basically declare him the presumptive nominee was an attempt to kind of cover her own behind and keep herself in --

KUCINICH: Perhaps.

HUNT: -- her position. It obviously didn't work out.

All right, Jackie Kucinich. Jackie, thanks very much.

KUCINICH: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Up next, "CNN THIS MORNING" with this developing story. A powerful storm bringing very heavy rain for much of California. Evacuation orders in place. Some water rescues already taking place. We'll bring you the latest.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Historic moments and big surprises at last night's Grammys.


TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I want to say thank you to the fans by telling you a secret that I've been keeping from you for the last two years.


HUNT: Taylor Swift making history. She announced her next album in the same night. While accepting the award for Best Pop Vocal Album, Swift revealed her new album "The Tortured Poet's Department" is going to drop on April 19th. Swift then went on to become the first person to win Album of the Year four times. She won for "Midnight."

Miley Cyrus, meanwhile, giving a show-stopping performance of her smash hit "Flowers," which just hours before won her her first-ever Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance.




HUNT: Amazing. Cyrus also won Record of the Year.

All right. In sports, Super Bowl week is officially here. The teams have arrived in Las Vegas ahead of Sunday's big game.

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


Super Bowl week always has a tremendous amount of hype, but with this being the first Super Bowl in Vegas and then the Taylor Swift effect, which we just saw right there, this one could feel much bigger. The 49ers and the Chiefs both touching down at Harry Reid

International Airport late yesterday afternoon. They met in the Super Bowl four years ago in Miami but that was long before Travis Kelce started dating Taylor Swift. Travis arriving with his team. His lady, Taylor, making history, like you just said, at the Grammys in L.A.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was at the Grammys, too. He told CNN the NFL is in a good place with or without the star.


ROBERT KRAFT, OWNER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: There's 16 games that go on every week and Taylor's at one. I think she's increased the fan approval for young women, which we want. But she's been smart because she also is getting male fans to come to her music. But I just think it's the quality of the product and the parody, and what the NFL presents.


MANNO: Elsewhere, the intense storms that we've been reporting about in Southern California also halting the PGA's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Tournament. Officials hope to finish the round today but after meeting with local officials over the weekend, they decided against it.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark declared the winner. He shot a course-record 60 on Saturday. It is his third career victory.

And lastly for you this morning, Kasie, FIFA announcing where the 2026 World Cup matches will be played over the weekend. And in a bit of a surprise here, the July 19 final will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Dallas and Atlanta will host the semifinals. So the U.S. Open group play at SoFi Stadium out of L.A. There will be two matches there and then another in Seattle. And the tournament opens on June 11 in Mexico City.


This surprised a lot of people because a lot of people were thinking Dallas, Kasie. But I know MetLife had been working hard to prove that they could do it, so bring it on. We're ready.

HUNT: All right. It's going to be a big test for New Jersey. I'm -- the look on my face is the surprise that clearly others felt when this was announced.

Carolyn, thank you very much for that.

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