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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin
Republicans Fail To Impeach DHS Secretary Mayorkas; Today: Senate Test Vote On Border Deal Expected To Fail; No Immunity For Trump; Now: Blinken In Closed Door Meeting With Netanyahu; RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Expected To Step Down. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired February 07, 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:
Hashtag fail. House Republicans failed to impeach Biden's border boss, failed to deliver aid to an ally in need, and later today, they will fail to advance an immigration deal that they themselves demanded.
Plus, an appeals court rules that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution. What might the Supreme Courts say?
And the chair of the Republican National Committee offers to quit amid tension with Trump.
HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt.
It's Wednesday, February 7. It is 05:00 a.m. here in Washington where House Republicans were delivered a dramatic and really embarrassing defeat on the House floor last night.
They failed in their efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the southern border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The yeas are 214 and the nays are 216. The resolution is not adopted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: There was so much uncertainty over who would support the effort and three House Republicans ultimately decided to vote with Democrats against this. Those three congressmen brought the vote to a tie. That is, until Democrat Al Green, who had been absent after recovering from abdominal surgery, appeared at the very last minute, rolling into the chamber in a wheelchair. He's still in hospital garb and without shoes to cast a decisive last vote. What a scene. And look, we haven't even gotten to what else happened with the Republican Party yesterday, the likely nominee, Donald Trump, declared not immune from prosecution for trying to subvert the 2020 election. There's that border security bill full of conservative priorities that's set to tank in the Senate.
And the Republican National Committee, the actual party itself, has so much less money than they normally do that their head, Ronna McDaniel, announced she's going to quit and will likely be replaced by someone who led stop the steal efforts in North Carolina. That person, of course, handpicked by Donald Trump.
There's a lot.
Let's bring in Max Cohen. He's a congressional reporter for Punchbowl News to talk about all of this.
Max, good to see you.
You were on the Hill yesterday as this all went down. I mean, can you describe the scene? Al Green being led in, in a wheelchair in hospital scrubs, and I think we should just underscore for people. This was a bill that House leadership, the new Speaker Mike Johnson, was pushing on Israel aid. He couldn't get that through. And then of course, this is a House Republican led effort to impeach Mayorkas. This isn't something they had to do, something and they wanted to do and they couldn't pull it off.
MAX COHEN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: It's incredibly correct. We have two setbacks here and two instances where House Republican leadership could not count the votes, or even worse, they knew the votes would fail. And still went through with them. It's really mind-boggling managerial strategy of the majority and its honestly evocative what we've seen throughout the entire 118th Congress with this Republican majority, a very slim majority, mind you, but they've repeatedly shown internal infighting will sink some of their top priorities.
Just quickly on the vote itself, on Mayorkas, I was right off the House floor. The vote looked like it would narrowly pass to impeach Mayorkas. And then as you described, Al Green emerges from an elevator in a wheelchair. No one knew that he would be there that day except maybe Al Green and Democratic leadership, most staffers I talked to expected him to miss that vote, the three Republican no votes would actually not sink it, but it really was a dramatic moment.
Staffers were totally stunned and you saw that clip of Mike Johnson gaveling in. He was incredibly frustrated because this is a priority for him
HUNT: No, for sure. And again, this is all due to the GOP majority is so very narrow that the vote tallies depend on how many people are absent, which I think could be confusing for some people, sometimes.
There is a question about what happens next here, because, again, the majority so narrow, Steve Scalise, Republican was absent. He might be able to come back.
Do you think is the plan for the speaker? Bring this back up again, or what else are we going to see on the Mayorkas front?
COHEN: That is my understanding. That's correct. You know, this is a temporary setback, but we do expect Mayorkas to be impeached as soon as next week.
Scalise is undergoing cancer treatment back home in Louisiana. But I believe leadership is going to say, we need you back. Mr. Majority Leader, welcome back and vote. And that will not sink it.
So in the end, Mayorkas will end up being impeach, but the fact that as you said in your opening, they didn't have to do this now. They knew Scalise was out, they knew it was tight. Why not wait? And that's what many Republicans are asking their leadership, why have these unforced errors?
HUNT: Yeah. Max, I mean, to that point, I mean, that's kind of my big picture question here. Obviously, Mike Johnson is still a relatively new speaker. He's one of the most inexperienced members to take the speaker's gavel in quite some time.
What is the behind the scenes murmurings around the job that he's doing. And are people raising questions?
COHEN: They certainly are, Kasie. He is inexperienced. He got the job because Kevin McCarthy was booted out. He never really had to make decisions of consequence before ascending to the speakership.
Let's be clear, it's a very tough job. This is the most unruly majority in generations. It's incredibly thin with all the retirements and vacancies. He has no margin for error on most votes.
But even with that being said, you know, there are these errors, which seems to be keep popping up. He might face a motion to vacate in the coming months depending on what happens with government funding, he's in a tough spot, but even people in leadership were working with Johnson are questioning why he keeps, you know, failing on a very public stage with these unforced errors
HUNT: Really interesting. Max, let me ask you about what's next for the overall border immigration compromise that is set for a test vote in the Senate today. There were reports from the Hill that when Republicans were meeting to talk about this behind closed doors, that there was actually screaming overheard, yelling overheard.
What is the level of emotion among Republicans? I mean, they -- James Lankford worked so hard for this. There are all kinds of conservative priorities in this bill.
COHEN: The Lankford situation I think is fascinating. Kasie, this is an incredibly conservative Oklahoma Republican. No one can accuse James Lankford of being a moderate or centrist, and he's been completely hung out to dry by his fellow Senate Republicans on this issue.
They've abandoned his border bill. And I was at that press conference yesterday with Mitch McConnell on the Republican leader in a stunning reversal of his own -- of his own desires. McConnell knowledge, this bill is dead. This is a bill McConnell push for, he gave Lankford the power to negotiate it.
And even though McConnell supports it, and noted that the Border Patrol Union supports the bill, which he thinks is a big sign. He knows that because Donald Trump is opposed to it and crucially because Mike Johnson has pledged to never bring it to the floor, they can't move forward.
What we will see those soon is that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will try to move that national security supplemental, Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan funding to the floor with, without being attached to the border funding. That's the next step in the Senate.
HUNT: All right. Max Cohen for us -- thank you, Max.
All right. Next up here, Nikki Haley's presidential campaign is already reacting to her loss last night in Nevada's GOP primary voters opted for none of these candidates on the ballot. That was an option. The state mandated primary, not officially part of the Republican nominating process, and it doesn't award any delegates. A Haley spokesman says, quote, even Donald Trump knows that when you play penny slots, the house wins. We didn't bother to play a game rigged for Trump. We are full steam ahead in South Carolina and beyond.
Nevada, hold its caucus Thursday, Donald Trump assured of winning the state's 26 delegates because he's the only major candidate on the ballot there.
CNN projects President Joe Biden, meanwhile is the winner of Nevada's Democratic presidential primary. He'll collect all of the state's delegates.
All right. Up next here, we've got to shake up at the RNC. Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, offering to resign under pressure from Donald Trump.
Plus, Trump's next move after a federal appeals court made it crystal clear that he's not immune from prosecution.
And then this, another black eye for Boeing. New findings about that door plug that blew out mid-flight.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Right now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are meeting behind closed doors in Tel- Aviv. It comes as Hamas leaders respond to a proposal that calls for the release of hostages and a sustained ceasefire in Gaza. Both Israel and the U.S. now reviewing that response. Blinken spoke with Qatar's president on Tuesday, one of the key mediators these negotiations, and both of called the response positive.
President Biden, however, had a slightly different take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's some movement. There's been a response from Hamas, but it seems to be a little over the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Some honesty there.
Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us now, live from London.
Elliott, good morning to you. What do you make of the president's comments there?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Well, first of all, I think President Biden, Kasie, he had already just about seen those -- that proposal by Hamas, he and Secretary Blinken, perhaps about an hour or so earlier. So perhaps he hadn't had full -- a huge amount of time to digest it or I can tell you that on social media, certainly the focus is more on President Biden stumbling over his words and saying the opposition instead of Hamas to begin with.
But certainly, if President Biden's reaction there is anything to go by, if he thinks that Hamas's proposals are a little bit over the top, one wonders what the Israeli government is going to make of it. They've already outlined what their red lines are in terms of releasing and the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, thousands of terrorists and that would be a red line, and saying that Israel is very much unlikely to or not going to deviate from its war objectives of destroying Hamas, preventing it from continuing to govern or to threaten Israel from the Gaza Strip.
And Hamas for its part has, until now, we understood been demanding a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.
Now, we do understand at CNN, we were told by someone familiar with negotiations that that is not one of Hamas's key demands in this proposal. But I suppose the devil will be in the detail. And now, we've got Hamas's proposal, U.S. and Israel are studying it, and a counter proposal will be expected from Israel in due course -- Kasie.
HUNT: So, Elliott, what actually are the key areas of negotiation just to lay them out in a straightforward way? Because clearly one of them is how many Palestinian prisoners should be released from Israeli jails? The other is the potential length of a ceasefire. Am I missing anything? How do you understand the landscape of the back and forth here? GOTKINE: Kasie, the broad parameters were established in Paris with the U.S., Egypt, and the Qataris who, of course, are the two key mediators here outlining the broad framework, namely hostages being released. And let's not forget that they've been held in captivity since they were abducted four months ago by Hamas and others. And so, the release of those hostages in exchange for freeing of Palestinian prisoners, and that they would be phases.
First would be women and civilians and children. And then we would see soldiers and then bodies released by Hamas, and then Israel would release also minors and other Palestinian prisoners. But then Hamas would also be wanting to see some high-level prisoners being freed as well, perhaps those that Israel would describe as having blood on their hands.
So the broad parameters are there in terms of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and also more humanitarian aid going in and some kind of ceasefire. But as I say, the devil will be in the detail in terms so the kind of prisoners that Hamas is demanding be freed. For example, if they are just too high level for Israel to countenance and also the amount of pause or complete ceasefire that Hamas will be demanding in order to get a deal across the line.
Of course, Israel has its own red lines as well. At some point, there is hope that they will meet in the middle. So bit weary optimism now perhaps, Kasie, that a deal can be done at some point in the near future.
HUNT: And, of course, the families of those hostages waiting more anxiously than probably any of us.
Elliott Gotkine thank you very much for that.
All right. Still ahead here, a Michigan jury hands down a verdict against a school shooters mother.
And California assessing the damage after they've gotten nearly a foot of rain, that turned streets into rivers of mud.
HUNT: You got quick hits across America now.
RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel expected to step down later this month after the South Carolina primary. Sources tell CNN she's already discussed her plans with Donald Trump after he publicly questioned her future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We find the defendant guilty team of involuntary manslaughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Jennifer Crumbley found convicted on all four counts. Her teenage son killed four classmates and wounded six other students and teacher in Michigan in 2021.
For the first time in the U.S., a parent of a school shooter has been held directly responsible for the crimes their child committed.
And a bombshell report reveals four bolts on the Boeing 737 MAX 9 were missing last month when the door plug blew out mid-flight. Boeing acknowledges responsibility and says they're taking new actions to improve the way they make the plane.
Conditions are improving slowly across California, as much of the heavy rain and snow moves over the Rockies and Four Corners region. Ten million people remain under widespread flood threats after a powerful storm that brought days of rain, high winds, flash floods, dangerous mudslides, including nearly 500 in Los Angeles alone. At least four people have died due to falling trees and thousands are still without power in the north and along the coast.
Meteorologist Allison Chinchar, tracking all of it for us.
Allison, good morning. How is the recovery looking so far?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. A little bit slow, Kasie, honestly, because there's still rain in the forecast and that's going to limit how quickly they can really get in and clean a lot of this up.
This was a very moisture rich system that moved through California, now starting to spread into the Rockies. And again, look at the tremendous amount of rain that fell across several of these areas. Bel Air, California, picking up over 13 inches, even downtown Los Angeles picking up over 8.5 inches total. And as we said, its still raining, nowhere near the amount of rain that we've seen the last few days, but still, even at this one mean a half an inch, a quarter of an inch, or even one inch of rain is still just going to exacerbate the flooding across southern California.
But we are starting to see more of that moisture spread into some eastward states as well. You still have some of the flood watches and flood good warnings in effect with several of these are expected to come back down as we go through the next few hours.
Here's an overall scope. Again, you can see still some rain showers across southern California, a new storm making its way into northern California, bringing more moisture there. And then yes, some rain and snow across the intermountain west as we go through the day today.
Snow is still going to be a concern, not just for California, but also several of the neighboring states where you could end up picking up at least a foot of snow before all of this finally begins to exit the area. So here's that new system diving back down. So, it's going to slide along California before continuing its way off towards the east.
And as it does so, again, nowhere near the amount of rain we've seen the last few days, but it is still going to bring additional rainfall and snow to portions of California.
They really don't see a definitive break until we get to say Friday of this upcoming week.
So, until then, you're still looking at me upwards of up to an extra inch of rain, and like I said, up to an extra foot of snow.
Allison Chinchar for us -- Allison, thank you.
Up next here, a stunning defeat for House Republicans. They fail to impeach the homeland security secretary and a federal appeals court rejecting Donald Trump's claim of absolute immunity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Everybody knows that immigration is the graveyard where political careers go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt, 5:30 here on the East Coast.
A series of high profile failures for Republicans this week.