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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

GOP Fails On Mayorkas Impeachment, Israel Aid, Border Security; Court Ruling: Trump Not Immune From Prosecution; Taylor Swift To Generate $230 Million In Japan As Asia Tour Begins. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 07, 2024 - 05:30   ET




REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Everybody knows that immigration is the graveyard where political careers go.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Five-thirty here on the East Coast.

A series of high-profile failures for Republicans this week.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): The yeas are 214 and the nays are 216. The resolution is not adopted.


HUNT: House Republicans' efforts to impeach Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas going down in flames. Three members of their own party -- Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Tom McClintock of California -- joining Democrats to sink the effort.

Strike two for Republicans on Tuesday, the House failing to pass a standalone package for $17.6 billion in aid for Israel. There was opposition from both Republicans and Democratic leaders.

And strike three, the border security deal that wasn't. Donald Trump strongarming Republicans to kill their own bill after four months of negotiations.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We had a very robust discussion about whether or not this product could ever become law, and it's been made pretty clear to us by the speaker that it will not become law.


HUNT: All right, let's bring on congressional reporter for the Associated Press, Farnoush Amiri. Farnoush, good morning. Always good to see you.

Let's start on the stunning defeats last night on the House floor. What were your takeaways from watching that unfold with Al Green coming in at the last minute surprising Republicans anyway, and really handing the relatively rookie House Speaker some pretty embarrassing moments?

FARNOUSH AMIRI, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yeah. I mean, I -- we've spent a lot of time in the House chamber witnessing unprecedented historic moments in the past year, to say the least. But even by that standard, sitting in the chamber yesterday and watching all of this unfold -- you know, impeachment of a cabinet secretary for the first time in 150 years.

Normally, speakers make sure they have the vote on a -- on a stunning and life-changing decision to impeach a cabinet secretary, but that was not the case. Mike Johnson knew going into that vote that he had two -- at least -- he had at least two, maybe three detractors. That is enough considering the absences.

What he didn't know is the Democrats seeing the -- like, this huge moment, they would go and drag poor Al Green who had just had surgery onto the House floor. We were all also surprised by that. He came in appearingly (sic) wearing no shoes and straight from the hospital. I mean, we've seen people being drugged in for votes in the past year because their margins are so slim but, honestly, even by all of those standards it was a stunning, stunning defeat for House Republicans.

HUNT: I do wonder what Al Green's doctors were saying when House Democratic leaders were in there saying hey, we've got to -- we've got to this guy over here.

AMIRI: We've got to take him -- yeah.

HUNT: We've got to -- we've got to yank him.

So let's talk about what happens next here because there is this question. There is a special election going on in New York -- it's set for next week -- to replace George Santos. It's very close and it could impact whether or not this impeachment actually is able to go forward, depending on whether -- if Johnson hurries up before the end of the week I guess we could see something different.

But here's what the Republican candidate had to say about whether she would vote to impeach Mayorkas -- watch.


MAZI MELESA PILIP, (R) NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, Mayorkas -- I can tell you he absolutely failed. He failed big time. The crisis we are seeing at the border right now is absolutely a disgrace. A man who was supposed to -- whose whole position is protect American people and we see the mess.


PILIP: It's a completely mess. I suppose that definitely my colleagues here in (INAUDIBLE) impeachment.


HUNT: So she says she's a yes vote on impeachment.

How is this election going to impact what Johnson does next on this Mayorkas question?

AMIRI: I mean, as of right now, House Democrats begin their yearly retreat today, so -- and they're only planning on voting this morning and then leaving for that retreat for the rest of the week. So it is unlikely that they will come back to vote on impeaching Mayorkas this week. But they are also waiting for Scalise, who has been out -- the majority leader who has been out getting cancer treatments. And he is expected to come back as soon as next week.

But again, like, the more time you give the -- potentially, more detractors could add to that list of three. But I think it's -- I think it's clear that Mayorkas will likely get -- eventually get impeached. The timing of when and how soon Johnson will try to erase the memory that was last night from his political career is to be -- you know, to be seen.


HUNT: TBD, indeed.

I mean, this does raise questions for me. I mean, you heard McConnell talking about the border deal. Obviously -- I mean, they spent months negotiating this package. It's something Mitch McConnell thought was a good thing to do. There are all kinds of conservative policies in that bill and Donald Trump came in and basically said I don't want this, and so here we are. It basically completely fell apart.

I guess my question -- I mean, having covered a number of these instances in Washington over the years -- I mean, usually, Democrats get something in return for these border security policies. And these previous attempts have included either a path to citizenship or, in some cases, amnesty for people already in the country, or help for Dreamers, et cetera. This doesn't have any of that in there.

Is this -- are Republicans basically shunning their best chance to actually put policies in place that they say that they think would be good for the country?

AMIRI: I mean, this is a once-in-a-decade conservative border policy legislation, right? As you've just mentioned, there are no immigration pathways for Dreamers, which has been a Democratic priority for the last 10 to 15 years. There are no -- you know, there -- it is a very restrictive and extremely conservative bill that will not come again.

You know, the last time, as I'm sure you covered, was in 2013 when they came up with this deal that gave something to Democrats, gave something to Republicans, and it all fell apart in the House.

But it just seems really stunning that Republicans got nearly everything that they asked for. Democrats gave in on everything knowing that the situation at the border is really bad and knowing that they could take this political deficit from them off the table in an election year. But we've just seen all of that fall apart and it is really stunning to watch.

HUNT: Yeah, 2013. That was back in the age -- that was the Gang of Eight. There were bipartisan gangs everywhere. And honestly, what happened then, followed by a government shutdown led by Ted Cruz, kind of presaged the political era that we were about to enter and that we've been living in over the course of the last 10 years.

AMIRI: Yeah.

HUNT: Farnoush Amiri of the Associated Press. Farnoush, thank you.

AMIRI: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, senators to vote on the bipartisan -- to advance the bipartisan border security deal today. Even if that were to go forward, what would the bill do? Plus, Taylor Swift in Tokyo kicking off the Asia leg of her Eras tour. Swift-mania Japanese style -- that's ahead.



HUNT: Welcome back. It is 5:41 a.m. here on the East Coast.

And Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for any of the alleged crimes he committed while he was president. That is the unanimous ruling of a federal appeals court. Three D.C. circuit judges flatly rejecting Trump's argument that he should not have to face trial on federal election subversion charges. The former president has until Monday to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the landmark decision from Colorado's top court that ruled the 14th Amendment insurrectionists ban does apply to Trump, knocking him off of the state's ballot.

Let's bring in Jeremy Saland. He is a criminal defense lawyer and former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan D.A.'s office. Jeremy, good morning. It's wonderful to see you.

I mean, I think the phrase that stood out to me in this immunity ruling was citizen Trump -- in them saying pretty directly this man is no different than anybody else in this context. And they really did take a sweeping view and talk about previous presidents and how they clearly had viewed that they could be prosecuted. How there -- you know, Nixon was ultimately pardoned.

When this came down what did you make of how they framed this and how that sets this up potentially for the appeal to the Supreme Court?

JEREMY SALAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER, FORMER MANHATTAN ASSISTANT D.A.: They were very thorough. They were very clear. There is no questions left unturned here and no answers that they failed to give.

President Trump, as you just noted, is President Trump when he is sitting in that Oval Office -- but if he is not, he is not that person anymore. He's citizen Trump. And he doesn't have this blanket pure categorical immunity for everything that he did.

Yes, there are some immunities for civil actions. There are some there and the court acknowledged that. This is quite different. And it's not as if Trump said it would have a chilling effect on future presidents to do things within their role -- absolutely not. This was very, very -- and from a conservative judge mind you, as well as two Democratic or liberal judges. It's setting the -- a very good path forward, if it goes forward, for Jack Smith, not Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yeah, really interesting.

So let's talk about the next case he's facing, which is this ballot issue. There are going to be arguments at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

I'll be honest. From a political perspective, the sources that I talk to, including Democrats, will say when they are being honest that kicking him off the ballots is politically challenging. It's politically bad for Democrats. That if they are actually going to beat Donald Trump it needs to be something that is perceived to be fair and square, and if he's not on the ballot that can't actually unfold. So I think their expectation is that the Supreme Court will put him back on the ballot.

You're the legal one of the two of us. How do you see the legal argument piece of it playing it, and do you think that kind of political thinking is going to be what ultimately happens?

SALAND: You know, I'd like to think that the Supreme Court is immune from that thought process. But at the same time --

HUNT: Wouldn't we all?

SALAND: -- they don't want the union -- oh, yeah. They don't want the union to fall apart.


And I think there is a legitimate concern that there will be a lot of tumult, to put it nicely, and a lot of turmoil that is going to be overly politicized.

So -- but they have to go down to the pure reading of the amendment and Article 3 -- should the president -- or should he be allowed to? He was serving previously. Did he incite an insurrection? Does this go through Congress first or can it go be left to the states? Those are the type of questions they're going to ask themselves.

And some of these people who are traditionalists and they look at the text of the actual Constitution and all the amendments and give them credit -- they're going to be in a hard place to say he shouldn't be removed. But ultimately, I think that those folks you spoke to are probably correct that there will be a way to find somehow that Donald Trump stays on the ballot.

HUNT: All right, Jeremy Saland for us this morning. Jeremy, thank you very much.


HUNT: All right. This afternoon, lawmakers will cast their first votes around advancing the Senate's bipartisan border security deal, and that deal is all but doomed in the very chamber that produced it despite pleas from President Biden yesterday for Congress to quote "show some spine."


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every day between now and November the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends. It's time for Republicans in the Congress to show a little courage, to show a little spine. To make it clear to the American people that you work for them.


HUNT: But it's not just Donald Trump's allies who oppose this bill. Some progressive Democrats are also taking aim. They say the bill fails to protect migrants and resembles a return to Trump-era policies. Two Democratic senators have already said they'll vote against advancing the bill today.

Let's bring in Kica Matos. She is president of the National Immigration Law Center and has been critical of this bipartisan border deal. Kica, good morning. It's wonderful to have you.

I want to start with what you think of President Biden here. He wants to pass this. Is he wrong?

KICA MATOS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER (via Webex by Cisco): He is dead wrong. He is absolutely wrong. This is going to do nothing to address the humanitarian crisis at the border and it's certainly not what he campaigned on a few years ago. He campaigned on restoring our asylum process and putting us back on the map as human rights champions. This is deeply, deeply disappointing.

HUNT: Kica, I want to show you to underscore -- a part of why the politics has moved where they are is because blue state governors and mayors have expressed concerns. Here are Mayor Eric Adams of New York and the mayor of Denver talking about this crisis -- watch.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK: No mayor should have to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. And this is wrong for those New Yorkers, as well as migrants and asylum seekers, should not be placed in this condition. MAYOR MIKE JOHNSON, (D) DENVER: It just underscores for us why this current situation is unsustainable and why -- I think what's frustrating for us is we actually know this is solvable.


HUNT: So they're saying that they can't handle it.

What would you do to try and help this situation if not what's in the border bill?

MATOS: You know, the border bill does not have anything by way of resources for these governments -- local governments that are receiving these migrants, which is part of the absurdity of the (audio gap). There are no resources set aside for cities like Chicago and New York, and other places that have welcomed these immigrants.

And that is part of the solutions that we believe need to be the focus of the attention on immigration, not these political solutions that are cheap shots. They're really attempts to try to convince Americans around election time. This is silly season, right? This is election time. And what the -- what the bill contains, really, are a set of very punitive policies that are meant to try to convince Americans that if you take a hard right shift on immigration that's going to solve the humanitarian crisis at the border when it's just not.

HUNT: Kica, this is becoming a central, as you know, issue in the election. And the reason President Trump has wanted to kill it is because he thinks it could help President Biden beat him in the election.

If nothing gets done here and President Biden loses the election, do you not think that might be a worse situation for some of the people you're trying to help? How do you square that?

MATOS: Yeah. Look, I -- you know, I will say that we are disappointed with the Biden administration and the Democrats and their positions on immigration as evidenced by this bill, which is very punitive.

But at the same time, I'll be honest with you. Thinking about the terrible atrocities that happened under Trump -- the separation of families, the putting kids in cages -- that is not what we want to go back to and that is certainly not what Americans want.


Even today when you look at public opinion polls, Americans still believe that people should have a right to try to seek asylum. There are still fundamental values that Americans embrace, recognizing that we are a nation of immigrants.

HUNT: All right, Kica Matos of the National Immigration Law Center. Thank you for being here to provide your perspective today. I appreciate it.

MATOS: Thank you for having me. HUNT: All right. Pop superstar Taylor Swift is back on tour. She's set to have a $230 million impact in Japan. That's tickets, merch, food, hotels -- all of it combined. Swift kicking off the Asia leg of her Eras tour this morning.

She is, I think, on stage right now. I got Taylor Swift's schedule in my inbox for the first time in my broadcasting career, that says she's supposed to be on stage now the floor plan shows here. After the last one, she is expected to fly to Las Vegas to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce play in the Super Bowl.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery is live in Tokyo with more. Hanako, great to see you. Jealous of this assignment that you have. What's it like there?

HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kasie, good morning. You know, I wish you could be here with me because the excitement, the energy is just palpable. You can actually kind of hear Taylor Swift singing behind me in Tokyo Dome. I would sing along but I don't have a great voice, so I won't put you through that.

But also, just fans cheering -- you know, just so excited that she is finally back in Tokyo. We've been here since 2:00 p.m. local time, four hours before her -- before her concert began.

I think there's no sound from me. I'm sorry. Oh, sorry.

That she is just excited to be in Tokyo. Her fans are just so excited to see her. And we've been here since 2:00 p.m. local time. Fans have just been coming through in their very different Eras-themed costumes. Of course, super colorful.

Swifties have also been giving me their friendship bracelets -- very kind of them to do. They've been cheering. They've been dancing because they're just so excited to see Taylor Swift.

And we have to remember Taylor Swift is famous in the United States but her fame transcends international borders. All the way on the other side of the world her concerts have completely sold out. We expect for her whole four days of concerts it would just be jampacked. Organizers have said those tickets sold out within the first 30 minutes that they went on sale.

She's also the first foreign female artist to play for four consecutive nights in Tokyo Dome.

So, again, just so much excitement about Taylor Swift being here in Tokyo, Kasie.

HUNT: It's amazing. I will say I did try to get Taylor Swift tickets I think on the European tour because I was considering maybe a six or seven-hour overnight flight to see her. Tokyo is definitely too far away from me. But I'm glad you got a chance to be outside there, Hanako Montgomery. Thank you very much for that report.

And, of course, we might as well be talking about the other big story we have now, which is the Super Bowl. Forty-niners quarterback Brock Purdy is one win away from completing a fairytale start to his career. But really, I just want to talk about Taylor Swift.

But Andy Scholes has the morning's Bleacher Report and is actually going to our sports guy. Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Maybe give the game a little attention though, right, Kasie, because, you know --

HUNT: Hey, I actually -- I'm a football fan. I love the game but I -- this --

SCHOLES: Oh, yeah.

HUNT: -- for me, it just ups it. It makes it better.

SCHOLES: I know, I know, right? It is the Super Bowl and it's so many great storylines, including the one and only Brock Purdy, right? Because on Sunday night we could --

HUNT: For sure.

SCHOLES: -- be saying that Mr. Irrelevant is the Super Bowl MVP. The person drafted last overall -- never done that. But, you know, Brock Purdy not your normal Mr. Irrelevant. He's gone from being the very last pick of the 2022 draft -- pick 262 -- to one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

And Purdy as humble as they come and he appreciates the chance that he has to try to lead the Niners to their first title since 1995.


BROCK PURDY, QUARTERBACK, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: With every little moment in my life, every milestone that I've come across, just being grateful more than anything. With the people in my life that have helped me get to where I'm at. I've had so much support in my life and it hasn't just been a one-man show. So I'm just very honored that -- I mean, you know, that I get to play in the Super Bowl now and live out, like, my dream as a kid. So yeah, just more than anything, have that grateful mindset.


SCHOLES: All right. And with the sports world descending on Las Vegas, the city's mayor made a surprising statement about the Oakland A's proposed move to her city. In an interview with Front Page (sic) Sports, Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she hopes the team stays in Northern California.


MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS: I've lived in this town, this year, 60 years. And so, I know the town like the back of my hand. I personally think they've got to figure out a way to stay in Oakland and make their dream come true. And I run into people from Oakland all the time. They want to keep the team.


SCHOLES: Yeah, that interview with Front Office Sports.


Now, Goodman later clarified her comments in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. She wrote, "It is my belief that in their perfect world, the ownership of the A's would like to have a new ballpark on the water in Oakland and that the ownership and government there should listen to their great fans and try to make that dream come true. Should that fail, Las Vegas has shown that it is a spectacular market for major league sports franchises."

Now, the A's have been planning on building a $1.5 billion ballpark on the Strip where the Tropicana Hotel and Casina currently sits. They want to do that by 2028. The team's lease in Oakland is up after this season.

All right, and finally, a huge announcement yesterday. Three of the biggest companies in sports broadcasting -- Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN; ESPN; and Fox -- are joining forces to create a new sports streaming platform. The currently unnamed service is set to launch in the fall and will include games from all four major pro sports leagues. The companies will each share one-third ownership in the joint venture. Pricing will be announced at a later date.

But, Kasie, this was just huge news because no one really saw it coming. And ESPN and then TNT, and then Fox joining forces. Wow, you never know where this --

HUNT: Yeah.

SCHOLES: -- industry is going to go.

HUNT: We sure don't. And that's absolutely massive. It's always been one of the biggest challenges, right -- how to figure out how to watch sports when you cut the cord. So here we go.


HUNT: Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: Always good to have you.

All right, that's it for us here on EARLY START. I'm Kasie Hunt. "CNN THIS MORNING" is next with Chris Christie still refusing to endorse Nikki Haley weeks after he dropped out of the race. His reasons for that ahead.