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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Emotional Biden Slams Special Counsel's Findings; Trump's Feeling Pretty Good On Ballot Challenge; Biden: Israel's Conduct Of War In Gaza Has Been "Over The Top". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 05:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My memory is fine. My memory -- take a look at what I've done since I've become president.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, President Biden trying to put concerns about his memory to rest. Did it backfire?

And --


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our Supreme Court hopefully will be doing something. I think it was really a very beautiful sight to watch.


HUNT: Donald Trump feeling pretty good as the Supreme Court looks like it will take his side in the Colorado ballot challenge.


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is Friday, February 9th. Happy Friday. We made it.

A defiant President Biden is lashing out against a scathing special counsel report that claims he willfully retained and disclosed classified military and national security information. Special counsel Robert Hur recommending that no criminal charges be brought against Biden describing him as a, quote, elderly man with a poor memory, end quote.

The final report suggesting that Biden even had trouble remembering when his son, Beau, died.

The president angrily disputing that notion in a hastily called news conference last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Every Memorial Day, we hold a service remembering him attending by friends and family and the people who loved him. I don't need anyone -- I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away.


HUNT: The president was visibly angry, conceding that he isn't elderly man while insisting his memory is just fine, and that he knows what he's doing. Still as he was leaving the podium, he did mix up the presidents of Egypt and Mexico.


BIDEN: The president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate.


HUNT: Hur's report also suggests that the president doesn't remember much about his days as vice president.

But President Biden fired back, insisting he is the, quote, most qualified person in this country to be president, end quote, and that he intends to finish the job that he started.

Lets bring in Sophia Cai. She is national politics reporter for "Axios".

Sophia, good morning.

How much damage did this special counsel report do to President Biden?

SOPHIA CAI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: I mean, its pretty bad for Biden and I think this is why the fact that they did not charge Biden means that for Trump and his team and his allies on the Hill, they can both say that the DOJ is two-tiered and use that line that he's been using for months now. And they can use the lines that Hur wrote about memory to attack Biden and show that in always that he's not fit for office. I mean, that is kind of a double whammy win for Trump.

And that comes as he's winning in Nevada, as he, you know, won on the ballot that he was not even on in terms of the Nevada primaries two days ago. And so politically, I think it is really problematic for President Biden.

HUNT: What did you make of the presidents decision to hold that news conference last night? I mean, the reporting this morning, is that his aides thought that he should show his anger, and I will say there's been this kind of evolving school of thought around how to handle these things that voters supporters want to see that you are fighting.

Is that -- is that what the president was doing here? CAI: Yeah, I think it's a part of it is to bring him out and have him control the narrative. And a lot of times, we've seen when President Biden has been more organic like in terms of showing his emotions and those raw feelings, even if it is anger, even if it is frustration, that that is when he's best and to counter this notion that he is feeble and that his aides are running the show, they've brought them out here. I'm sure that there was buy-in in terms of President Biden's willingness to take part in this.

And before he made the mistake of mixing up the presidents of Mexico and Egypt, he did have a pretty good back-and-forth with the press. I thought he handled a very aggressive group of White House reporters be well, that was definitely something that he wanted to do himself.


HUNT: So, Sophia, you did mention obviously the -- what Trump is going to be able to do with this and saying, well, they're charging me for mishandling classified documents are not charging President Biden. Its clear that the president, the White Houses argument is going be -- well, look at how we handled this differently, right, President Trump, the probe and the criminal charges and the things that he's facing in that instance do involve trying to keep the classified documents, not turning them over to the government. There are allegations about trying to I potentially hide evidence, get people to lie on his behalf.

The president's team is arguing, we fully cooperated here. I'm kind of interested to know if there are going to be retroactive questions about whether sitting this for this interview was a great plan as part of this, but they can legitimately say, look, we made the president available to you as soon as because we found this out, we rushed return them to the Archives.

Is that going to be an effective way to push back on this?

CAI: It's definitely what their plan is. I mean, I was talking to the Biden campaign officials last night and that they told me their plan is twofold. Number one is exactly what you said. It is to show how Biden's handling and reaction in response to the investigation and his full cooperation is very different than Trump's response, especially initially and even after, you know, he was -- he was sort of given a heads-up about that.

And secondly, the Biden campaign will be showing and sort of saying out loud that the special counsel was Trump appointed and that he is not a doctor. He's a lawyer and that the things that the special counsel have written about Biden's mental capacity, he doesn't actually have the authority to say and should not be listened to.

So that is the plan for the Biden campaign in the next couple of days and weeks, potentially even months in terms of responding to the special counsel's report.

HUNT: Yeah. I'm interested to see how -- how this, the twists and turns of this continued to reverberate throughout the next year. Sophia Cai of "Axios", Sophia, thank you

Former President Trump easily winning yesterday's Nevada caucuses, revving up the crowd at a victory rally in Las Vegas last night. The victory was preordained when his last remaining GOP rival, Nikki Haley, chose not to compete for the state's delegates. Haley instead ran in Nevada's essentially symbolic primary on Tuesday and she did come in second there to none of the above in a race where Trump was not on the ballot.

The U.S. Virgin Islands also held their primary last night. Trump trouncing Haley in that head-to-head contest for the territories for delegates. You can really see in these numbers, that's the chunk of the Republican Party that is looking for somebody else. You know, it's somewhere between 25 and 40 percent depending on the state.

All right, still ahead here, President Biden pivoting on Israel, calling its war in Gaza over the top.

Plus, a pretty good day for Donald Trump at the Supreme Court as the justices weigh in on his ballot eligibility.

And a first ever February tornado in Wisconsin. Our weatherman Van Dam is going to raise the latest.



HUNT: President Biden is ratcheting up his rebuke of Israel's military conduct in Gaza, saying that the operation to obliterate Hamas has been, quote, over the top. At yesterday's news conference, the president also painted a stark portrait of suffering Palestinian civilians in the wake of Israel's invasion.


BIDEN: I'm pushing really hard, really hard to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza. There are a lot of innocent people who are starving. A lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it's got to stop.


HUNT: All right. Elliot Gotkine joins us now live from London.

Elliott, good morning to you.

This seems to mark a new phase in how Biden is talking about this.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: It does a little bit, doesn't it, Kasie? These are the strongest words yet that the United States and President Biden in particular have used since Israel launched its war against Hamas in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks of October the 7th. And I think that we haven't had any official response yet, neither from the prime minister nor some of his more right-wing wing colleagues in his governing coalition.

But you can expect there to be quite significant pushback, probably more diplomatically from Prime Minister Netanyahu, but somewhat less so from some of his friends, such as a Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich and the coalition, and they will say that no, this is completely wrong. That Israel's response has been proportionate, and that it is in a war for its very survival, that this ground operation and this war with Hamas came about because of the attacks by Hamas, which led to the deadliest day, the most deaths of Jewish people since the Holocaust, and that Israel is doing what it has to do in order to fulfill its justifiable -- justifiable war objectives, which are to destroy Hamas, prevent it from visiting another attack of this kind on Israel again, and to get those more than 100 hostages that Hamas kidnapped and is still holding more than four months on back into Israel.

So I think there will be quite significant pushback from the Israelis and they will be concerned that in this crucial election year for President Biden, that he may be buckling to some of the pressure that he's under, not just from within his own Democratic Party, but also from the electrode where he's been hemorrhaging support, particularly among Arab Americans, and also younger voters as a result of the U.S.'s support for Israel in its war with Hamas.

Now I don't think the overall support for the objectives of Israel against Hamas in terms of its destruction and getting the hostages back, again to change. But perhaps less support now and more criticism for the way that Israel is conducting this war, especially if it now carries out its threat to move its ground operations on Rafah, the most southern -- most southern city in the Gaza Strip, where there are more than a million Palestinians, about half the entire population all of the Gaza Strip.


And there are concerns that the civilian death toll will go even higher if that comes about -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah. You know, when I was listening to what the president had to say last night -- I mean, he clearly was visibly angry and in watching him over the years when he does feel that way, you tend to get a little bit more of a clear picture of how it things really stand. And it did seem to reflect the frustration he -- it seemed as though he was frustrated in particular with Benjamin Netanyahu, how is that relationship between President Biden and the looming election that could see the return of Donald Trump affecting all these things.

GOTKINE: Look, Kasie, I think we've seen in the past that President Biden himself referring to times when he's told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he loves him, that he's a friend, but that he doesn't agree with anything that he says or that he does. But again, Biden has always said that he is a Zionist, that he supports Israel.

But I think that what his these words that he came out within this news conference where perhaps he wasn't expecting to be discussing the situation in the Gaza Strip is as you say, evidence of his growing frustration, particularly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, and the fact that there seems to be no plan for the day after, and certainly Netanyahu's rejection of what the Biden administration supports as in a two-state solution, once this war is over -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Elliot Gotkine for us in London -- Elliott, thank you very much.

All right. Up next here, new rules from the FCC. They're trying to crack down on deep fake scam, robocalls.

And a former adviser to Donald Trump is ordered to prison for his role in the January 6 insurrection.



HUNT: Welcome back.

We've got quick hits across America now.

Senate lawmakers advancing a foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel. Now they need a timing agreement before a final vote, but opposition from key senators, ahem, Rand Paul, is going to slow down that process.

Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro has been ordered to report to jail for his four-month sentence. A judge denied his effort to stay out of prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction.

The FCC cracking down on deepfakes, voting to outlaw scam robocalls that are made with A.I. created voices. Authorities say they've traced robocalls that used a fake Joe Biden voice to a Texas man who is now under criminal investigation.

All right. Let's get now to weather across the country. Thunderstorms in the Plains, spinning up at least two reported tornadoes in Illinois. And this one that got spotted in Wisconsin, it knocked out power Thursday day night. This is the first ever February tornado in that state.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then the tornado hit and everything exploded, saw the windows blew out, the downstairs, it was rumbling like a train.


HUNT: High winds also down trees and damaged multiple buildings across the region.

Our weatherman Van Dam tracking all of it for us.

Derek, a tough day for those folks in Wisconsin. DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. I mean, we need that to sink in for people. The first ever tornado in Wisconsin during the month of February, that is significant. We need to mark that because it's just not something that we've ever seen before.

They're in total -- we have three tornado reports across parts of the Midwest and this is all part of the warmth that has been bubbled across this region, breaking records for so many locations. Look at Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday, 63 previous records, 60 degrees. And that warmth and the warming trend continues for the Midwest, and that will shift eastward over 150 warm temperature records possible through the day on Sunday.

Now, this is a very interesting graphic put together by my weather producer Monica. I'm just so grateful for this because what you're seeing here, every single red dot across the Midwest and northern New England, that is locations that have experienced their warmest winter to date.

So, let's just really puts it into context how warm its actually been across this part of our country. And this is having great impacts on the ice cover, on the Great Lakes, so much of it as normally frozen in ice, frozen in time. What we have a mere 5 percent of the entire Great Lakes covered with ice really near the Saginaw Bay and portions of northern Lake Michigan. And this is following that trend of declining ice coverage across the Great Lakes every winter since the '70s. And this, of course, has major impacts on the outdoor winter sports activities like ice fishing, perhaps the snow sports industry as well. And here you can see temperatures well above average, well above freezing. So we're going to keep that warmth in the forecast to go.

Lots of rain though across the Deep South. The storm system will bring the potential for some severe weather across the Deep South, especially into Louisiana by Saturday and Sunday. So monitor that and there's the potential for heavy rain from Mobile, Alabama, all the way to Atlanta, Georgia -- Kasie.

HUNT: I'm just -- I'm doing math. I'm not sure I should keep doing this on air, but I'm going to give it a shot.

You said it was 63 degrees in Des Moines. When I was there, it was negative 20. That's an 83 degree difference from January to February.

VAN DAM: Hey, that's winter coat versus shorts and short-sleeved shirt, right? That's a big difference.

HUNT: I mean, this is not -- this does not seem normal.

VAN DAM: That's pretty swaying, too.

HUNT: All right. Maybe ill go back to Des Moines and I'll have a little bit more fun. All right, whether weatherman Derek, have a great weekend. I'll see you on Monday.

VAN DAM: You, too. HUNT: All right. President Biden is fighting -- fought back against

reporters' questions who cast doubt on his memory. And then there was a slip-up that he made right after that. We're going to show you that next.


And the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the challenge against former President Trump's eligibility to appear on the ballot in Colorado. What to expect up next in that historic case. That's ahead.



REPORTER: Something that special counsel said in his report is that one of the reasons you were not in a charge is because in his description, you are a well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory

BIDEN: I'm well-meaning and I'm an elderly man and I know what the hell I'm doing. I've been president and I put this country back on its feet.


HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. It is just before 5:30 on the East Coast. I'm Kasie Hunt.

That right there was President Biden sparring with reporters yesterday as he defended himself in the wake of a report from special counsel Robert Hur about his mishandling of classified documents. Though the report announced that Biden.