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Nor'easter To Bring Heavy Snow And Coastal Flooding To Northeast; Trump Asks Supreme Court To Block Immunity Rejection In January 6 Case; Now: Senate Voting On $95 Billion Foreign Aid Bill. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 05:30   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Thanks so much for getting up early with us. I'm Jessica Dean in for Kasie Hunt.

And right now, the northeast is in the grips of a fierce Nor'easter. Airports slowing to a crawl. We know over 900 flights have already been canceled across the country today.

Now, this is the same system that pounded the Gulf Coast and the southeast over the weekend. In the crosshairs today, eastern Pennsylvania through northern New Jersey, and then southeast New York up to southern New England. A pretty big land mass there.

Boston declaring a snow emergency and closing all public schools. Meantime, New York City is poised to see its highest snowfall totals in more than two years.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is live in New York City's Central Park. Derek, when we saw you about a half-hour ago there were big flakes. It looks like maybe they've let up just a little bit. But lots of snow, it sounds like, to come into New York City today.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, that's the beauty of being close to the coast. The water temperatures about three to five degrees above average for where they would normally be in the middle of February. So that influences that rain-snow line, especially when you're close to the coastal areas like I am right now.

You know, they call New York City "The city that never sleeps," right? Well, there is so much going on in the city this week, including the New York City Fashion Week. There's also the special elections taking place in Long Island. So a lot of snow potentially impacting big consequential events within the city.

And there are so many other factors to the storm other than the five to eight inches that we're anticipating where I'm standing here in Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan. We're going to turn around here with my incredible producing and camera team. You can see some of the snow starting to accumulate here. But let's get to the graphics to show you the other hazards that as a

meteorologist I'm concerned about. We have high wind warnings along the coastal areas of Massachusetts -- Cape Cod, Nantucket. This is an area where we could see wind gusts over 55 miles per hour. That's significant because this heavy, wet snow that we've seen fall and we'll continue to see fall means that it could take down power lines, tree limbs. That is a concern. So we're going to look out for power outages as well.

And something else that is often overlooked is this minor to moderate coastal flooding that could be associated with this storm, especially as we peak the storm mid-morning today and coincide that with high tide. The New York Harbor -- high tide is 11:00 a.m., Long Island Sound at 2:00 p.m. And so we get that onshore push. So all that water almost a seemingly routine or annual Nor'easter like we're receiving now could also create a little bit of coastal erosion as well.

So you can see the coastal flood advisories that are in place right along Long Island and into the Delmarva Peninsula, and the New Jersey coastline.

There is the storm. As quickly as it enters into the equation it exits and says goodbye and good riddance. By tonight, things will clear up but the winds will pick up behind it and it will feel bitterly cold and remind New Englanders that, yeah, it's still winter -- Jessica.

DEAN: It turns out it's still winter. All right, Derek Van Dam for us in Central Park.

VAN DAM: Yeah, exactly.

DEAN: Thanks so much for that update.

Former President Donald Trump asking the Supreme Court to temporarily block a unanimous D.C. circuit court ruling that rejects his claims of immunity in his federal election subversion case. Trump's immunity claim has already been rejected by two lower courts and unless the justices issue a stay while they consider whether to hear his appeal, the proceedings in his criminal trial will resume.

So let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning. Great to see you.

Tell us about the rather unusual position that Trump's immunity request puts the Supreme Court in.


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah, Jessica. Good morning to you.

You know, I think this is about, really, procedure more than the merits. It seems pretty clear based upon prior rulings. Prior rulings like what? Prior rulings from the District Judge Chutkan who has the case from the circuit court, the three justices who evaluated the (audio gap) case that it's clear that the president does not -- repeat, does not (audio gap) for things that occur in office which would be criminal in nature. And so I don't know that the merits of the argument prevail.

Having said that, Trump can still prevail without prevailing on the merits, Jessica. How? Because you could have a Supreme Court that pauses and stays any criminal prosecution until they get to decide the issue on the merits. And that's the open question -- will they decide it? I mean, I think they will and they should decide it. It needs to be definitively determined for once and for all whether a president has immunity. I think it already has been decided, as I noted.

But I think with issuing a pause they can -- that is, the Supreme Court -- stop the prosecution. And if they took a long enough time, Jessica, this matter may not even be determined until after the election occurs. So very consequential with respect to how the Supreme Court decides to move forward if at all.

DEAN: Right. And, of course, part of Trump and his team's plan and strategy there is to delay as much as possible.

I want to also talk about the Georgia election subversion case. The judge presiding over that case said yesterday that the district attorney, Fani Willis, could be disqualified if it's shown that she financially benefited from a personal relationship with her lead prosecutor on that case.

So what do you make of the legal argument behind this disqualification effort? And then, what happens if Willis is, in fact, disqualified?

JACKSON: Yeah. So to the first question, I mean, optically, obviously, it's a disaster. You want to have a prosecution which is sanitized in all respects where the special prosecutor moves forward -- Fani Willis, as we're looking at there -- has nothing to do with it. Where there's no romantic entanglement. And so, from an optical perspective, I think it's troubling.

From a practical perspective the issue to me is whether or not, regardless of whatever relationship occurred, was the prosecution one of integrity. Was there a grand jury proceeding? Did that grand jury that sits to determine not proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt but whether there's reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the subjects of the investigation committed it? Was that proceeding and did that proceeding proceed as it should?

Is there a guardrail in terms of whether people get their due process -- not only Mr. Trump but the other defendants who are in the case?

And so, I just don't -- I mean, at the end of the day, it's -- you know, I -- this whole thing seems to be a distraction. But the judge can consider whether there was a financial benefit. What the nature of the relationship between Fani Willis and special prosecutor Wade was. How did she financially benefit, if at all? How did that impair the proceedings? And if it impaired it to a degree that he believes that there's a conflict then, yes, she could be disqualified. To the second point, though, I just don't know that it really impairs

the actual proceeding itself. So there's a -- there's a scenario here where she could be disqualified but the proceedings can continue and the defendants can continue to be prosecuted, including Mr. Trump. The open question is how the hearing goes on Thursday and what the judge ultimately decides to do, Jessica, predicated upon all the evidence that's presented at that time.

DEAN: Yeah, for sure. We'll keep our eye on that.

Joey Jackson, always great to see you. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

All right, let's take a live look now at the Senate floor. It is 5:38 on the East Coast and they are there voting on a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes critical assistance to Ukraine and Israel. It's coming after they spent all night there on the floor.

So let's bring in Leigh Ann Caldwell, author of The Washington Post Early 202. Leigh Ann, great to see you.

Let's talk first about this foreign -- this foreign aid package because it's going to likely pass the Senate. They're working that out right now but that's what everyone thinks will happen.

The big question is what happens next? So, House Speaker Mike Johnson has said in a statement last night that he doesn't want to proceed forward with it in its current form. It will likely die there in the House.

Where does it go from here because he's in quite a predicament?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, AUTHOR, THE EARLY 202, THE WASHINGTON POST (via Webex by Cisco): He sure is, Jessica.

So, in the Senate, we expect it to get anywhere from 16 to 18 Republican votes, and that's actually not very many considering just less than two years ago, a $40 billion Ukraine package passed with 31 votes in the Senate. So you could see how the influence of the former president, Donald Trump, is really taking hold in the Senate.


And next, when it goes to the House -- Speaker Johnson, as you mentioned, sent out a statement last night saying that this package is inadequate. Perhaps he will take it out -- up the pieces individually but that the border must be secured before the U.S. provides any more money for Ukraine.

And now, if our audience can remember, the Senate just spent four months coming up with a border security package that Trump rejected before he even saw it. The right-wing media rejected it before they even saw it. And so, this was pretty much dead before it was even released even though it was with the most stringent, strict border security measures that have passed in decades. So this package has a really difficult path in the House, although there are some hijinks that House Democrats can do with some Republicans in order to pass it. But that takes time and that's still uncertain, Jessica.

DEAN: Yeah, it's a -- it's a lot. It takes a lot of time and it's a hard needle to thread. They can do it but it will interesting to see just how long it takes.

And Leigh Ann, it just strikes me as we're hearing you talk through all of that the omnipresence of the former president now over the Hill, killing that border package and trying to kill this aid package as well.

And now, we turn to these new developments within the Republican Party structure itself. The former president announcing last night he's going to be endorsing Michael Whatley, who is the North Carolina GOP chairman, to replace Ronna McDaniel as RNC chair. And he wants to install his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as the committee's new co- chair.

So what do you think -- what do you take away from all of this for the party's future if that is to come to pass?

CALDWELL: Well, it means that Donald Trump is really remaking this party and making this party in his own image in the sense that he is now handpicking and installing his close allies into positions of power.

We see Michael Whatley as someone who has been extremely close with the former president. He ran the North Carolina Republican Party for the last few years there, his daughter, and the hold that he has -- the growing hold that he has on Capitol Hill as well. And so, he is going to use this party to serve him throughout this election season in the hopes that he is reelected president.

DEAN: Yeah. It will be interesting to watch unfold.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, it's always great to see you. Thank you for getting up so early. We appreciate it.

CALDWELL: You, too. Of course.

DEAN: Up next, a critical special election in New York to fill the seat of expelled congressman George Santos. Plus, the Taylor Swift effect. Just wait until you hear about the monster ratings for Super Bowl LVIII.



DEAN: Polls are opening in just a few minutes in New York's 3rd Congressional District where voters will decide who will replace former representative George Santos. The race features former Congressman Tom Suozzi and Democratic candidate and local lawmaker Mazi Pilip, the Republican. The special election giving Democrats a chance to further narrow an already very tight Republican majority in the House while previewing what will likely be a competitive fight for the chamber in November.

So let's bring in CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein. Ron, good morning to you.


DEAN: Great to see you.

Walk us through what issues Suozzi and Pilip have been running on here, and to what extent we can kind of pull information from this as a preview for other 2024 races.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. And, you know -- I mean, this -- we are seeing basically the same divide we have seen on many fronts in -- since the Dobbs decision in 2022. A Democrat that's put a lot of emphasis on abortion, the extent on MAGA and democracy against a Republican, emphasizing immigration and crime. And by and large, that standoff -- Democrats had run pretty well with that in the Virginia state legislative elections last year, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court race, and a lot of those swing state governor and senator races in 2022.

But this iteration -- that standoff is tougher for Democrats than most, because in the New York City media market, immigration and crime are extremely hot issues. And conversely, abortion -- the fear of losing abortion rights probably isn't as intense in New York because Democrats control the state government as it is in other states.

It all adds up to a pretty difficult combination for Democrats but one that Suozzi might be able to still narrowly overcome.

DEAN: Yeah, it's going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

I also want to talk to you about your new piece for CNN. It's a great piece about the Senate elections in November and you're explaining why they are so consequential. It's almost as if, Ron, Democrats have to play a perfect game and have some --


DEAN: -- some lucky breaks go their way to hang on.

Where do you see Democrats most at risk? And walk people through kind of what -- the case that you're making in that piece.

BROWNSTEIN: Sure. I mean, this is an election that can decide control of the Senate not only for 2025 but possibly for the rest of the decade and beyond.

You know, Jessica, the overriding trend is it has become extremely difficult for either side to win Senate races in states where their presidential candidate doesn't win. In both the 2016 and 2020 election, a grand total of one senator from either party won a Senate race that voted for the other side for president, and that really underlines the risk to Democrats in November.


They are defending three seats in -- Senate seats in states that voted for Trump in 2020 and five more in states that voted for Biden in 2020 only narrowly, by three points or less.

By contrast, Republicans are not defending any seats in '24 in either of those categories. And what that means is that unless Biden can improve his position, particularly in the swing states that have these big Senate races -- Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- Democrats could be facing a very difficult map. And given how few offsetting opportunities there are, if Democrats suffer big losses in November in the Senate, there are very few places for them to go to try to make them up in the next few years.

So those three states that Trump won where Democrats are defending seats -- Ohio, West Virginia, and Montana -- those are tough. But losing them is one thing. If the losses extend into the narrow Biden seats that's when Democrats may be facing a deficit that could go on for a while.

And that, of course, has implications not only for the Senate but the composition of the Supreme Court with four of the justices reaching the age of 70 by 2028.

DEAN: Yeah, there's no doubt about it. There are so many really interesting races that are coming up but you hit the nail on the head with all of it.

Ron Brownstein, thanks so much. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

DEAN: And coming up for us, hundreds of U.S. flights canceled as a heavy winter storm intensifies in the northeast. We're going to track that snowfall for you.

And also, Jon Stewart is back. What his return to "THE DAILY SHOW" could mean for the 2024 election coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Why am I back, you may be asking yourselves. It's a very reasonable question. I have committed a lot of crimes. From what I understand, talk show hosts are granted immunity so it doesn't --



[05:56:21] DEAN: Super Bowl LVIII between the Chiefs and the 49ers was the most- watched TV program in the United States since astronauts landed on the moon. It's incredible.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. That is crazy.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's crazy. It's Taylor Swift, Jessica. What can you say? I mean, the game did have something for everybody. One thing is for sure, though, the Swiftie effect is real. Her fans showed up.

CBS says more than 123 million people tuned in -- some for the game, some for the kiss seen around the world. That's a Super Bowl record. It approaches the all-time record set by the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, which was watched by an estimated 150 million people in the United States.

But it's easy to see why so many people were glued to the television. Both teams have massive followings. There's lots of players to root for and lots of players to root against, epic ending, overtime. The NFL's newest dynasty, not to mention the fact that Usher was the halftime show. And then at the center of it all, this love story that involves a global pop icon and her superstar athlete boyfriend. What is not to love?

But it wasn't just the Swifties who got swept up on the Tavis train (PH), which is I guess what we're calling this, Jessica, now. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes says he enjoyed the ride, too, and not just because he was at Disneyland. The three-time Super Bowl MVP described to our Abby Phillip last night what it was like having one of the world's most famous people around.


PATRICK MAHOMES, QUARTERBACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I think it's been cool, honestly -- extremely cool. I mean, to see the support that comes with the Swifties and how they -- how they really embraced us and the Chief's Kingdom, and they kind of combined together. I'm all about growing football and Taylor's a great role model and someone who does -- is great at her profession. And I'm glad that she loves football as much as everybody else now.

We just need to be able to bring girls and their fathers together. I mean, it's special. It really is special. And my daughter obviously loves football and loves watching it but I want -- I want other girls around the world or whoever to really watch it with their family and watch football and really see how great this sport is.


MANNO: Most of the team is already back in Kansas City ahead of the parade tomorrow. Check out the enormous Super Bowl LVIII necklace that Marquez Valdes-Scantling had when he took off the plane. I don't know if he's going to wear that or not. When you're the champs you have to act like the champs, I guess. Several school districts have already canceled class tomorrow for what's being called a Red Snow Day. The parade starts at 11:00 a.m. Central, ending with a rally at K.C.'s Union Station. Almost a million people showed up for last year's celebration.

Elsewhere this morning, San Antonio's star rookie Victor Wembanyama had a ridiculous game last night. The 19-year-old French phenom scoring 27 against the Raptors becoming the first player in almost 30 years to go for at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks, and five assists in a game.

And to cap it all off, you had Devin Vassell grabbing the loose ball and whipping it behind the back all in one motion -- right to Wemby -- throwing it down for the dunk -- for the slam as the Spurs go on to win by 23.

And finally for you this morning, Jessica, Tiger Woods has entered his tailormade era after his nearly two-decade partnership with Nike came to an end last month. Tiger unveiling a new 'Sun Day Red' apparel line yesterday ahead of making his PGA Tour season debut this weekend at the Genesis Invitational in suburban L.A.

So he says that this is a lifestyle brand. That it was the right time in his life to do this. Hopefully, it will extend to a woman's line and a kid's line. But his career is synonymous with that red that has earned him so many titles over the course of his career.

DEAN: Yeah, there's no doubt about that. He really made it his color.


All right, Carolyn. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

And before we let you go, we want to take you back to the Senate floor where lawmakers are voting on that $95 billion foreign aid package. It includes critical assistance to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan. It's coming after they were there all night. It is expected to pass and then head to the House.

But Speaker Mike Johnson has said its current form is dead on arrival because they haven't secured the border. And yet, they had a border bill that was one of the most stringent we've seen in decades and Republicans rejected that after the former president told them to. He wants to make it a campaign issue.

But again, that Senate foreign aid package expected to pass.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Jessica Dean. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now. Bye.