Return to Transcripts main page
Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin
Tomorrow: Senate Likely To Vote Down Bill Amid GOP Fracture; Today: House To Vote On Impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas; Today: Blinken Returns To Tel Aviv In 5th Visit Since October 7; County Music Star Toby Keith Dead At Age 62. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired February 06, 2024 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START:
Donald Trump and his Republican allies about to kneecap a Senate compromise on immigration. Is the border deal doomed?
Plus, House Republicans ready to impeach Biden's cabinet secretary in charge of the border. Do they have the votes?
And just in to CNN --
HUNT: Country star Toby Keith, we're remembering him this morning after he lost his battle with cancer.
HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Tuesday, February 6. It is 05:00 a.m. here in Washington where the massive immigration compromises all the doom this morning.
Late last night, barely 24 hours after the bipartisan border bill was released, Republicans emerged from a critical meeting vowing to filibuster it later on this week. And the measure which includes a number of provisions that conservatives demanded and that progressive senators are opposed to stalling in the face of opposition from former President Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is a Democrat trap. It's a trap for Republicans that would be so stupid, so foolish to sign a bill like this. This bill can't be signed and it's not only that, it's massive amounts of money going out of town, as we say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The House Speaker Mike Johnson had already said that the deal would be dead on arrival in the House. This all as a source tells CNN that the House is going to vote today on a Republican resolution to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for failing to stop illegal crossings at the border.
Lets bring in Eugene Scott, senior politics reporter at "Axios" to break all of this down for us.
Eugene, good morning to you.
EUGENE SCOTT, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: Good morning.
HUNT: We, of course, knew that this border compromise was likely dead in the House. But there had been questions about what would happen in the Senate considering this as a Senate compromise. All I can think of is, wow, that fell apart fast. What's next?
SCOTT: It absolutely did. I mean, right now, we know that many of these senators still haven't even actually read the bill. And so they've said they're still processing it.
But from what they hear, it does not meet many of the concerns of those on the right. And especially that of the former president and they're just some more questions than answers they have regarding what some of these programs will do and what the funding for other programs will help in terms of the issues that they say are affecting the border most.
HUNT: Yeah, I mean, Eugene, I think that the critical thing to underscore here is that this framework looks so much different than other immigration bills that previously have been discussed in Congress. This is not a bill that includes things like a path to citizenship or a fix for -- permanent fix for Dreamers, or back in under George W. Bush in 2005, the first iteration of this failed attempts to rewrite immigration policy would have included potentially amnesty for millions of people living here in an undocumented way.
Instead, this is a bill that actually includes many conservative demanded changes to border policy that the president, a Democrat, again, had been willing to sign off on to the point that I want to show you what Senator Alex Padilla of California, who has concerns about this. But I mean, this is what critics to the left are saying about this bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): It's not something that I support both for reasons of what's in the package, like either Trump era policies of regular border closures, lack of due process, but also for what's not in the bill. Historically, we've found some border enforcement proposals with some legal pathways, for example, not a single dream rule benefit or receive relief through this measure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So he basically laid it out there. I mean, are Republicans making a mistake not taking this opportunity?
SCOTT: Well, I think their priority right now obviously is pleasing the former president and he is not on board with this. And we've seen almost immediately after the bill was announced, you saw conservative media attacking Republican lawmakers, including those in the Senate, like Lankford from Oklahoma.
And so these are individuals who, in an election year are really the concern about whether or not there'll be able to stay in office. Until your point, progressives have been very vocal about just how not progressive this bill is. It makes asylum more difficult. There's significantly more funding for law enforcement.
Just few things that progressives in Congress and outside of Washington have said they don't want to see in this bill. And so Republicans are hoping to get this bill perhaps even more ripe. And that's not likely considering how diverse the electorate is that these lawmakers represent.
HUNT: I mean, it's -- it's -- it's really -- it's really quite remarkable. I will say that.
Instead of moving forward with this, of course, we know at the House had not planned on moving forward this at all. Instead, we're learning that they're going to go ahead with this, Mayorkas impeachment vote.
And, you know, Ken Buck is one of the lawmakers that were watching here. He is an outgoing congressman from Colorado and he wrote an op- ed in the Hill basically arguing Republicans are making a mistake by impeaching someone in a way that he does not believe the Constitution supports. In fact, he cites this -- in this, in this op-ed, a lawyer often called to the Hill by Republicans, Jonathan Turley.
He's a legal scholar at George Washington University. He's said last week, quote, being a bad cabinet member or even a bad person isn't impeachable.
Do Republicans have the votes for this considering the narrow majority in the House?
SCOTT: Where they obviously don't have Ken Bucks and there's some question about whether or not they actually do have the votes. And then, so, whether this will go forward, it's not clear. It's obviously perhaps not going to pass in the Senate.
But what this does do is give Republicans a headline and regarding immigration against Biden to run on this fall, which is something they really need to do to convince the more conservative members of the electorate, that they're taking this seriously and that they really want to undo the policies and worldview of the Biden administration when it comes to immigration as best as possible.
And right now, this seems like the only thing they can really do that will attract the amount of immediate attention that they need to control the narrative.
HUNT: All right. Eugene Scott of "Axios" for us, kicking us off this morning -- Eugene, thank you.
SCOTT: Thank you.
HUNT: Up next here, Nikki Haley wants a Secret Service detail. We're going to have more ahead on why.
Plus, Anthony Blinken in the Middle East today, what he's pushing for in Egypt and Israel.
And rain that just won't quit. Drought-stricken California gets much more than they wished for.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his fifth diplomatic tour through the Middle East. Since the Israel-Hamas war began, he's going to arrive in Tel Aviv later today and overnight he was in Cairo. He met with Egyptian President El-Sisi.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, where he sat down with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all of this in hopes of a potential hostage deal and a plan for Gaza while trying to prevent further escalation in the region.
His visit comes even as the U.S. military is striking Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Journalist Elliott Gotkine is joining us now from London to break down all of this for us.
Elliott, good morning.
So, Israel has been critical of these international calls for a path to a two-state solution meanwhile, there is increasing pressure for some sort of ceasefire in Gaza that potentially this hostage deal could allow. What is the goal here?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: So I don't think Secretary Blinken is under any illusions that he's not going to finish this trip. His fifth, as you say, since the Hamas attacks of October the 7th and go back to Washington with a deal for a two-state solution worth noting, of course, that although Prime Minister Netanyahu in this current government is against a two-state solution. So too is Hamas.
But what he is trying to achieve is to get some of these pieces of the puzzle in place that they feel will not only deal with the future the day after the Gaza war, particularly as in Saudi Arabia regarding Saudi Israeli normalization, but also deal with the present, as you say, in terms of getting a humanitarian pause in the fighting, getting those hostages released who have now been in captivity for more than 120 days in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and getting more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
So it's quite a laundry list of objectives that Secretary Blinken has. And although he may not achieve all indeed any of them on this particular trip, he'll certainly be hoping to speed things along to get to a point where some hostage deal can be done and they can start looking forward towards the day after the Israel-Hamas war and the Gaza Strip -- Kasie.
HUNT: Right. I mean, I think the pressure here at home, of course, in the U.S. on the president of the United States for some sort of change in the status quo from people suffering and dying in Gaza is going to be clearly all the more imperative.
And, Elliot, these meetings with MBS and Saudi Arabia and El-Sisi, what do we know about what was said there?
GOTKINE: So certainly the Saudi meeting would have been focused on the day after if you like, the Saudi Israeli normalization plan prior to October the 7th, that seemed at that could have happened without concrete steps towards an independent Palestinian state. Now, it seems that that is a prerequisite and the U.S. is kind of hoping that this will be a bit of a carrot for the Israelis to perhaps do more to get towards some kind of humanitarian pause.
And then in Egypt and Qatar, the two key mediators who have direct lines to Hamas to get them to try to help facilitate a hostage deal that will lead to a pause in the fighting and then could lead to a more enduring cease-fire. Of course, with the release of the hostages and Palestinian prison those being freed and more humanitarian aid going in.
So Saudi focus would have been on normalization and any sweeteners at the U.S. may need to throw into, to make the deal more palatable to the Saudis, Egypt and Qatar more to do with the current fighting and getting a hostage deal. And I should say that we still don't seem to be seeing any progress despite optimism following that meeting in Paris last week where the two sides seem to agree to some kind of framework agreement.
We don't seem to have seen any additional concrete steps towards that objective -- Kasie.
HUNT: All right. Elliot Gotkine -- Elliot, thank you very much.
All right. Still ahead here, primary day in Nevada, but not for everybody. And a congresswoman changing her mind about retirement, will tell you who.
HUNT: World of country music and all of us mourning the loss of a legend this morning as Toby Keith has died after his battle with stomach cancer. Statement on his website says Keith fought his fight with grace and courage, that he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.
Keith sold more than 40 million records throughout his career and became the king of country with hits like "Red Solo Cup". And of course, "I Love This Bar".
HUNT: Toby Keith was 62 years old.
All right. We're going to go now to quick hits across America.
Nikki Haley applying for Secret Service protection. Her campaign confirms she's facing threats, and there are reports of two swatting incidents in recent months at her home in South Carolina.
Then about a Republican primary takes place today, two days before the states caucuses. It's not confusing or anything. Nikki Haley will be on the primary ballot, not Donald Trump though. Donald Trump is running in the caucuses on Thursday where he's guaranteed to take 26 delegates.
Republican Congresswoman Victoria Spartz of Indiana, reversing her decision to retire, announcing that she will seek reelection to her House seat. Spartz says there are too many important issues at stake to leave now.
All right. A massive atmospheric river unleashed a powerful storm and record rainfall in California. It's been impacting travel and power, and leaving at least two people dead from toppling trees. The heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides, sending buildings and vehicles down rivers of mud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't remember a storm since we've lived here where we had so many trees come down. All of the neighbors here have no power.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were in the house, my wife and I, and it was like -- like it sounded like a plane crashing or maybe of a freight train.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Major roadways remain closed in several areas today, including the Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Boulevard, and even streets in Beverly Hills.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) HUNT: Wow, look at that. Here, a man and his dog were pulled out of the raging L.A. River in one of multiple rescues that took place on Monday. Los Angeles experienced its third wettest period in 20 years. They got more than a months rain, a months in 48 hours.
About 30 million people across multiple counties remain under flood watches this morning.
Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar, tracking it all -- all of it for us.
Allison, good morning.
Quite a difficult day out there.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And very significant rainfall totals. And remember for some of these areas, its still raining at this hour. So these numbers could still change.
But look at this, you've got three locations that are near a foot of rain several others that are well above half of a foot of rain. And again, as I mentioned, it's still raining in a lot of these locations. You can see a lot of that rain as its come down in such high amounts has led to mudslides, landslides, and a lot of these areas trapping cars. We also had reports of swift-water rescues. There's also been submerged cars and that really from the heavy amount of rain.
That's come through again, this is one of those rescues. They're taking place that you saw again, just a lot going on. Also, not to mention the trees down, the power lines down.
Looking at the amount that Los Angeles specifically has had since January 1st, they've picked up nearly 11 inches. You're talking 75 percent of what they would normally see in an entire year. They've picked up just since January 1st, and the bulk of that really being from the last few days.
Here's a look. We still have flood watches in effect for not just California, but now also starting to spread into some eastern states as that system progresses eastward, but also still looking at a flash flood warning across portions of Los Angeles, where we do still have some heavier rain bands continuing to slide across much of this area, not just to but also San Diego, Palm Springs, a lot of Southern California as a whole even though most of the moisture now is starting just spread into the inland empire. And then again farther east into the neighboring states.
So that's why where you can see most of the excessive rainfall risk is focused for today. We've been a high-risk the last two days in L.A. Now, just a slight risk, but that's still a level two out of four again, and it's the constant day after day. It's going to be the big concern during for today since that ground is already saturated.
Also looking at some pretty significant snowfall amounts, not just in California, but in the neighboring states as well. They've already picked up about three to five feet, Kasie, of snow in the sierras. They could end up picking up an additional one foot on top of that.
HUNT: All right. Allison Chinchar for us -- Allison, thank you very much.
Up next here, House lawmakers preparing to vote on impeaching homeland security Secretary Mayorkas.
And King Charles stepping away from his public duties as he's treated for cancer.
HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is just before 5:30 here on the East Coast.
And today, the House will vote on a Republican resolution to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of the southern border. It's an effort that the White House is calling quote, an unprecedented and unconstitutional act of political retribution.
This comes as Speaker Johnson also hopes to bring a standalone Israel aid bill to the House floor for a vote sometime this week. That is a direct rebuke to the major border deal in foreign aid package that the Senate released on Sunday. the contents of which Secretary Mayorkas himself helped negotiate.