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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Nor'easter Bringing Heavy Snow And Coastal Flooding To Northeast; Trump Asks SCOTUS To Block Ruling That He Lacks Absolute Immunity; CIA Director in Cairo To Push For Hostage Deal; Police: Shooter Entered Church With Two Rifles, Including AR-15. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 05:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, hundreds of U.S. flights canceled as a heavy winter storm intensifies in the Northeast. We're going to track the snowfall for you

Meanwhile, voters in New York are about to head the polls in a race to replace Congressman George Santos. What it could tell us about November's presidential election.

And take a live look at the Senate floor. Where lawmakers are about to vote on a $95 billion for aid bill with assistance for Ukraine and Israel. What House Speaker Mike Johnson said he'll do if it passes the Senate.


DEAN: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Jessica Dean, in for Kasie Hunt. It is Tuesday, February 13th.

And this morning, millions of people in the Northeast are bracing for a powerful winter storm. More than 900 flights already canceled across the region. This storm is part of the same system that pounded the Gulf Coast and the Southeast over the weekend. In play for heavy snow today, Eastern Pennsylvania through northern New Jersey and southeast New York up to southern New England.

Boston has declared a snow emergency. It is closed all its public schools. And New York City is expected to see its biggest snowfall and more than two years.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is live in New York City Central Park.

Derek, how's it looking out there?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Good morning, Jessica. The snow that you see behind me is going to drastically change the landscape. Not only here for New York City but many of the coastal cities along New England and stretching along the East Coast. And I get the sense, just talking to people here that they, they

almost yearning for this snow. It's been so long since they've had a proper snowstorm in New York City. We're in Midtown Manhattan right now, Columbus Circle behind me. You have to go back to January 2022, the last time that we had two inches of snow. That's enough snow to cover the ground in Central Park to my right or Columbus Circle. That's a long time.

So people want snow, right? And we may get enough snow in one hour. That's enough snow, maybe more than what we've received in the entire day over the past couple of years.

So yeah, people are anticipating the snow and it is common. National Weather Service was concerned that this morning maybe that rain would kind of take over before the snow fell. Well, I'm happy to report that these are big, fat snowflakes that are falling here in Midtown Manhattan. We've got to use an umbrella to protect our camera.

I mean, just get a look at how heavy the snow is coming down and guess what? This is at the peak of rush hour -- well, and we should be working into that here in the coming hours.

So let's get to look at the radar because I want to show you what's going on. And I just give you a broader perspective. Remember I talked about how the rain transition to snow a little bit earlier than we anticipated. That means the potential for more snow exist here where I'm standing in New York City.

So, there's that snow shield right now. You can see that shading of white. Let's zoom in a little bit closer and go right into New York City. The I-95 corridor, yeah, just getting blasted with these big snowflakes as well in Long Island.

But notice towards Philadelphia Phil rain, that's a lot of blue, a lot of green. It's going to take a little longer for you to experience these snowflakes. But the official forecast we have here, five to eight inches of snow, that is -- well, the potential at least four more snow than we've seen in over two years.

And you can see that in Boston, totals have come down. In fact, yesterday at this time, we were in a winter storm warning, that has been dropped or lowered or downgraded to a winter weather advisory. We're only anticipating three to five inches. So you can wake up with a sigh of relief.

Here in New York City, they anticipated the snow so much that they deployed 700 salt trucks in and around the city before the first snowflakes even fell, helping pre-treat the roads here.

And, Jessica, you know, the kids, they got the short end of the stick, unfortunately. They have to have remote schooling today.


VAN DAM: All New York City public schools aren't canceled. Yes, they still have to learn, but they've got to get in front of one of these, instead of being the classroom.


I mean, if I was a kid, I'd feel gypped, right?

DEAN: Yeah, it's pretty sad. I love so days being from Arkansas, we only -- it was a rare occurrence, but they were very exciting. But yes, we see --

VAN DAM: Agree, agree.

DEAN: -- we see the big snowflakes with you, Derek. All right, well check back with you in a little bit. Thanks so much for that update.

VAN DAM: Okay.

DEAN: Former President Donald Trump is making an emergency appeal for absolute immunity to the Supreme Court. That emergency appeal coming just days after a D.C. circuit panel judge or circuit panel, rather, rejected Trumps immunity claims. It also buys the former president more time in his bid to delay or even prevent a trial from beginning before the November election.

Let's bring in Jess Bidgood, senior national political reporter with "The Boston Globe".

Jess, good morning. Thanks so much for getting up early with us.

Let's jump right in here. A legal observer suggests that D.C. circuit ruling was pretty comprehensive. It was unanimous. It has even been called by some airtight.

So people are wondering what the likelihood of the Supreme Court doing anything is here.

JESS BIDGOOD, SENIOR NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: So, last week, that panel rejected Trump's immunity claim and it said effectively that president Trump, for all intents and purposes, is now citizen Trump. Trump is asking the Supreme Court to stay this ruling essentially to slow things down.

It's not clear exactly what the Supreme Court will do. They have a range of options that range from rejecting this stay to saying they wont review this case at all, to fast-tracking and review or doing one on a normal schedule. But as you said, given how unanimous that ruling was last week, legal observers and people watching this closely aren't expecting the Supreme Court to issue a broad sweeping ruling in Trump's favor, although we will just have to wait and see what exactly they do.

DEAN: And so, as we've seen play out over the last several months with the former president, there is the legal piece of this. There's also the political piece of this. So, lets talk about the politics of it for a second.

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll out over the weekend showed about two thirds of Americans say that Trump should not have immunity from criminal prosecution for the actions that he took while president. Thirty-three percent believe he should have immunity.

So, Jess, I think so many people are wondering as we continue to head toward the general election, does this case specifically hurt him or help him politically because so far, we've really only seen all of his legal troubles really help him.

BIDGOOD: Absolutely. Over the course of last summer, as Trump faced one indictment after another, we saw a real kind of rallying around of Republicans, of his supporters to his side. It boosted him and it frankly frustrated his opponents in the Republican primary.

There is some polling that suggests that if he can get convicted of a crime that could turn some voters off, that could turn swing voters away, and that is something that Trumps campaign frankly appears to be concerned about. They are trying to delay these proceedings as much as possible to push them off in the hopes that perhaps they can delay them, you know, beyond the presidential election, and into next year.

So, there's real political concern for them, as well as -- as legal concern.

DEAN: Sure. And so interesting when I was on the campaign trail talking to a lot of Republicans who are now and there teams now out of the race, but they always said if there's a conviction, that's when they thought they would have their opening, but if he's able to delay, we may not see that.

All right. Jess Bidgood, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BIDGOOD: Thank you for having me.

DEAN: Uh-huh.

Up next, new developments on hostage negotiations. The U.S. sending the CIA director to Egypt after an offer from Hamas.

Plus, new details about growing tensions between President Biden and Israel's prime minister. And the U.S. Senate close to passing an aid bill for Israel and Ukraine and Taiwan. But the bill may be dead on arrival when it gets to the House.



DEAN: CIA Director Bill Burns is in Cairo this morning. He's meeting with Egyptian, Israeli, and Qatari negotiators over a new deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza, and also a pause in the fighting.

This as reports say Israel is considering a military incursion into Rafah. President Biden insisting it should not proceed without a, quote, credible plan for the safety of more than one million sheltering civilians. Meanwhile, a new CNN reports says the Biden administration is deeply concerned about an IDF operation in Rafah that resulted in the rescue of two hostages. But also the deaths of some 100 Palestinians.

CNN's Nada Bashir is live in Cairo with more.

Nada, what can you tell us this morning?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jessica, we have seen intense negotiations, diplomatic efforts ongoing behind the scenes, but they have been real questions as to where exactly those negotiations currently stand with, of course, saw last week, Hamas put forward that counter proposal, which was almost immediately dismissed by the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, describing that deal as delusional in his words, and we did hear yesterday from U.S. President Joe Biden speaking during his meeting with the king of Jordan, King Abdullah, he said that they were the key elements of this deal on the table.

But at this stage, there are still some gaps that the U.S. is pushing hard on the Israeli side to ensure that some sort of prolonged truce is established.


And the real focus of the last couple of days has been on establishing a longer term truce. According to President Biden, this would be something between six weeks, it's looking about at this age. And during that time potential ceasefire deal, the framework for a ceasefire deal a deal could be discussed.

Now, of course, as we have seen, there have been diplomatic efforts on both sides. We are of course, seeing at the CIA Director Bill Burns arriving in Cairo. We are also expecting the Israeli intelligence chief, as well as Qatar's prime minister to be in attendance at that meeting.

Last week, we did see a senior Hamas arriving in Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials. So, of course, these negotiations have been ongoing. Of course, the last we heard of that framework was put forward, was essentially a deal that would see three phases at 45 days, just see the gradual release of hostages, gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops in the real the focus, of course, is on establishing a prolonged pause in fighting.

But there is concern particularly as we hear those warnings of a potential Israeli ground offensive in the Rafah. We have heard concern expressed by the Biden administration, by the United Nations, by the international criminal court. And there are fears that such an operation could put diplomatic efforts in jeopardy -- Jessica.

DEAN: All right. Nada Bashir, thank you so much for that reporting, live from Cairo this morning.

CNN has also learned President Biden is growing increasingly frustrated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to sources, the president believes Netanyahu is obstructing efforts to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks.

Paula, these revelations coming to light just days after Biden offered one of his strongest condemnations to date, about Israel's response to Hamas.

What more can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jessica. We did hear President Biden saying that he thought the campaign was over the top and we're hearing from people familiar with what's happening there, that this is something that the president has been voicing in private for a while. So this is a sentiment that is new for President Biden.

Now, these two leaders have known each other for, for decades. They have had their differences of opinions in the past, but certainly what we have seen recently is this concern from the Biden administration that the recommendations, the guidance that they are giving to Benjamin Netanyahu are simply being ignored.

Take, for example, according to some of those sources, the fact that they were hoping that there would be a lower intensity campaign up from the Israeli military last month, we had heard the Biden administration pushing for a more targeted operation for less casualties, the Israelis, from their point of view, had, had agreed to that and said that they were scaling back.

But the reality is we haven't seen that when it comes to the sheer intensity of the bombardment in Gaza. And also when it comes to the very high the casualty figures that we are seeing on a daily basis -- Jessica.

DEAN: All right. Paula Hancocks for us with that update. Thank you so much.

Up next, new details about the woman who walked into Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston and opened fire with her 7-year-old son at her side.

Plus, why the judge in Donald Trump's elections subversion trial in Georgia could put the district attorney on the stand.



DEAN: Live pictures right now from the Senate floor, where lawmakers are currently voting on final passage of a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes critical assistance to Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan. This is coming as you see the hour on the clock after an all- night filibuster. We're going to continue to monitor that vote, but it is expected to pass in the Senate. It will then go to the House where its future is far less certain with the House speaker saying he does not plan to bring it up in its current form. But again, we'll continue to monitor that for you.

Meantime, police in Houston are learning more about the 36 year-old woman who walked into Joel Osteen's megachurch Sunday and opened fire with her seven-year-old son at her side.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has the latest now from Houston.




ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire blast ring out just before a Spanish language service was about to begin at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston Sunday afternoon.

Police say a 36-year-old woman entered the prominent mega church with her seven-year-old child. She was wearing a trench coat, carrying a bag and two rifles including the AR-15 she used to unleash the barrage of gunfire.

That firearm the shooter used in the attack had a sticker with the word Palestine written on it. Police say she started firing the AR-15 the moment she walked into the Lakewood Church building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mom was screaming and then my mom said, come, come, and we ducked.

LAVANDERA: Two off-duty officers working security for the church responded to the gunfire.

DISPATCHER: Two people down. We need an ambulance.

LAVANDERA: The suspect was shot and killed at the scene, and her child was shot in the head, and is now in critical condition.

CHIEF TROY FINNER, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: I want to extra prayers for his seven-year-old kid, who's fighting for his life.

LAVANDERA: The second victim was a 57-year-old man who was hit in the leg by gunfire. He's been released from the hospital.

One of the off-duty officers who shot and killed the shooter is an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission who had just recently finished training in active shooter response.


KEVIN J. LILLY, TEXAS ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: These two officers held their ground. They held their ground in the face of rifle fire at point-blank range.

LAVANDERA: Police say after she was shot, the suspect said she had a bomb, though no explosives were found in her backpack or the car she drove to the church.

Investigators also carried out an extensive search of the shooter's home in the city of Conroe, about 40 miles north of the Lakewood Church, as they continue to dig into a more clear motive of this shooting attack.

The shooter has used multiple aliases, including both male and female names, has a criminal history and has been previously convicted of assault and unlawful carrying of a weapon among other charges.

Police say they found antisemitic writings connected to the shooter.

CHRISTINA RODRIGUEZ, WITNESS: We're all still pretty shook up and were pretty scared, but I mean, like we're not going to allow that, you know, this fear to be in us because like this is our charge and this is a place of prayer and worship. And we still want to come back and we still want to pray and worship here.


LAVANDERA (on camera): Investigators say Moreno has a history of mental health issues that have been documented by the police department and that they also discovered antisemitic writings belonging to her police. Also say Moreno has been involved in a dispute with her ex-husband's family. Some of those relatives investigators say are Jewish.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.

DEAN: Ed, thank you.

A powerful winter storm expected to pummeled the Northeast with high winds, coastal flooding, and up to a foot of snow. As you can imagine, air trial -- air travel is already badly disrupted.

Also, former President Trump asking the Supreme Court to block a ruling rejecting his absolute immunity claims. The courts have options coming up next.