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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Dems Flip House Seat As Souzzi Wins New York Special Election; Ukraine Hails Sinking Of Russian Warship In Black Sea; Israel Claims Video Shows Hamas Leader in Tunnel. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 14, 2024 - 05:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Jessica Dean, in for Kasie Hunt. It is Wednesday, February 14th, 2024. Happy Valentine's Day to everybody out there.

The razor thin Republican majority in the House just got even thinner.





DEAN: Democrat Tom Suozzi easily winning a special election in New York's third congressional district, defeating Mazi Pilip by eight points, to capture the seat of expelled Congressman George Santos.

Democrats now hoping Suozzi's big win will serve as a bellwether for other suburban races around the country this fall.


SOUZZI: The people are watching. They want us to start working together. So our message is very clear: either get on board or get out of the way.


DEAN: And also as he was cruising to an unexpectedly easy victory, Republicans were succeeding in their second attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the House. The final vote there, 214-213. And it's been nearly 150 years since cabinet secretary was impeached in this country.

It is highly unlikely Mayorkas will be tried in the Democratic controlled Senate. House Republicans are forging ahead with their fight to remove him nonetheless.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate really wants to take seriously the message that was said, that we're serious about securing the border and the secretary fail to do his job. The American people are disgusted by it. The American people don't like it.


DEAN: So let's bring in Michelle Price, now national political reporter for "The Associated Press".

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

Let's start with that Mayorkas impeachment. As I mentioned there, there's very, very, very little chance this is going anywhere in the Senate.

What are you hearing comes next?

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AP: Yeah. I mean, that's the question. What now? You know, there doesn't seem to be any sign that the Senate is going to take this up. The House seems to have no interest in pursuing any five-part border legislation. There was a deal last week that Speaker Mike Johnson made clear that he did not find satisfactory, that they were not going to consider. It doesn't seem like there's a lot of will to continue doing that after months of negotiation.

And some of these -- some of these Republicans in the House, some of these in swing districts who took this vote, it's unclear if this is the kind of thing they're going to want to campaign on because, you know, they can't point to the work they would try to do on bipartisan legislation, but they -- are they going to point to this impeachment that just kind of stalls in the Senate that Republican senators have said is not a -- is not a good idea.

So, you know, there's a question of a month from now, months from now, are people still going to be talking about this? Democrats might be raising it on the campaign trail, though.

DEAN: And let's talk about that New -- that special election in New York. There's been a lot of talk about just how much anyone should read into that race as a bellwether. It had a lot of X factors with it.

What are -- what are you taking away from the outcome there last night? And do you think it -- that either party will be taking any lessons away here?

PRICE: I mean, it is a win for Democrats, period. Had they lost this, this would have been, there would've been some signs of this is the bad warning signs, red flags for November. But, you know, there was weather concerns at play. Republicans tend to turn out on Election Day, there was a snowstorm for a good chunk of the day yesterday.

You know, Tom Suozzi is very well known. His -- his opponent, Mazi Pilip, not as well-known. So he, you know, Tom Suozzi had a reputation as someone who ran to the right of Governor Kathy Hochul. He wrote, he campaigned on cracking down on crime, lowering taxes, very middle of the road issues.

And he also -- what was interesting about this race was both as a candidates did not really embrace their party's leader, Joe Biden and Donald Trump. You're not going to see that generally across the country in some of these races, there's some of these candidates are going to run with their party standard bearer on the line there.

The candidates are going to be campaigning in their districts, trying to win those swing districts. So, you know, it's suburban seats, suburbs -- suburbs are a place that Democrats need to compete but there's a lot of, you know, there's -- there's limits to what we can read from these results.

DEAN: Yeah. Yeah. And how do you think Democrats capitalize on Suozzi's win? Obviously, it's going to make that Republican majority in the House, that's already pretty small and makes life hard for the House Speaker Mike Johnson, makes it even smaller.


PRICE: That's right. I mean, again, after this vote on the Mayorkas impeachment, there's some of these Republicans and some of these swing districts including in New York. There's, you know, Mike Lawler is be a good example in the Hudson Valley, that they -- the things that they've been trying to push for that would help them in there swing seats, such as the SALT tax reform, you know, common sense kinds of things that can help people in the middle, that Republicans, Democrats, centrist voters are interested in.

Does those kinds of things that there'll be pushing for that they might see some common ground, bipartisan cooperation here. But as far as some of these party-line votes, Suozzi will be the key for Democrats to try to hold the line there if they can peel off a couple of Republicans.

DEAN: And before I let you go, it was interesting that you noted, Biden and Trump stayed really away from this race, yet it was a pretty nationalized race when it came to the issues, a lot of these issues that they were talking about, key among them, immigration, the border crisis, the influx of migrants, you know, in and around that district -- but neither -- neither of those candidates that were running wanted either the standard bearers of their party to be involved.

PRICE: That's right. And on the border in particular, Tom Suozzi was a little bit critical of Joe Biden as he was campaigning, you know. And Mazi Pilip, she -- she is a registered Democrat. That's another reason why that's something that Donald Trump very quickly last night was quick to point out and say, this was not one my MAGA candidates and did trying to not have any ownership over this one. You know, he and his argument was that his people -- his MAGA supporters. His base did not turn out to support her because she wasn't one of them. So we're not expecting to see that kind of matchup like this in a lot of those districts come November.

DEAN: Yeah. All right. Michelle Price for us, very early this morning. We sure do appreciate it. Thanks so much.

And developing overnight, Ukraine's military claiming a big victory at sea against Vladimir Putin's navy.

Plus, talks to free the hostages in Gaza. Are Israel and Hamas any closer to a ceasefire.

And a deadly crash in Texas. A vehicle slamming into a hospital emergency room.



DEAN: Military leaders in Ukraine are celebrating what appears to be the sinking of a Russian warship. We're told Ukrainian drones took out the Caesar Kunikov in the Black Sea, but its posted on Telegram appears to follow a drone as it approaches that warship. And then there's that fiery explosion that you see.

Melissa Bell is tracking the latest developments for us.

Melissa, how significant is this for the Ukrainian military?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is being celebrated as a victory for them. This is an operation that was carried out. We understand it in the early hours of the morning by a Ukrainian special forces. We have no way of confirming exactly what would happen, what happened.

What they say they did is that they used Ukrainian Magura drones home made drones that are powered by jet skis, highly maneuverable with very long ranges, about 800 kilometers, so much further than many of the conventional weapons that are in Ukraine's arsenal right now.

And what they've been doing is using these types of drones to much greater and greater effect, in the Black Sea. Specifically, we'd seen them earlier this month at sink a guided missile ship, the Ivanovets. And this one, this landing ship that was killed, there was taken out according to the Ukrainians by these drones is another important win for them.

Now what we believe it does is brings to more than 30 percent the amount of the Russia's Black Sea fleet that's been destroyed since the start of the war, and that is significant when you consider the asymmetry of this war, the strength and military might and ability of the Russian forces to rearm and re-equip themselves, with the ammunition, the artillery that they need, the men that they keep throwing at the front lines of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been a disadvantage and increasingly so. And what you've seen it do over the course of the last few months is really try and shift at first of all, to the greater use of drones, both in the Black Sea and along the land front lines of Ukraine, but also to try and move their production more to a homegrown type of production, given the difficulty that Ukraine has had in getting many of the weapons that they need to their frontline.

So what we've seen overnight in the Black Sea is significant fall of those reasons. But, of course, just psychologically, this is an important win for Ukraine at a time when its been having trouble shifting any of the lines, whether on the frontlines or elsewhere of this war.

And I think it indicates not just their willingness to strike Russia wherever it can, denting its capabilities, but also to psychologically shift things in their favor. So an important victory for them this morning, Jessica.

DEAN: All right. Melissa Bell for us as live from Paris. Thanks so much for that update.

A U.S. official says talks in Cairo over a potential Gaza ceasefire and hostage relief have been productive. But a final agreement is not in sight. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has balked at Hamas's demands, which include the release of Palestinians held in prisons in exchange for those hostages.

Meantime, Israeli Defense Forces say they've obtained video footage from October showing Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar inside a Khan Younis tunnel with his wife, children, and an unidentified man.

CNN has been unable to verify the authenticity of that video.

Let's go now to CNN's Nada Bashir, who joins us live from Cairo.

Nada, where did the talk stand? What are the sticking points that remain?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jessica, no major breakthroughs that would result in an agreement just yet.


We heard yesterday, of course, from a U.S. official say that those talks were indeed productive, but we haven't reached a point yet where there are any final conclusions. The focus right now is, of course, on establishing what is set to be a six-week pause in fighting that would allow for a gradual release of hostages and also, of course, for exchange of Palestinian prisoners as well. And, of course, a much needed period of respite to Palestinian civilians inside the Gaza strip.

At this stage, according to a U.S. official speaking to CNN, be major sticking point. The point of disagreement at the moment continues to be the ratio all hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. We saw last week, of course, like counter proposal put forward by Hamas. They want to see all Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for all hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

We heard that proposal dismissed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He described it as delusional, but there has been mounting pressure from the international community. We know that U.S. President Joe Biden has been keeping a close contact

with the Israeli prime minister, pushing according to the White House for an agreement to be met.

Now we have also heard from Hamas. They have said that they are prepared to send a delegation to Cairo to continue talks if they see progress in these ongoing negotiations.

We heard yesterday from a Hamas official telling CNN there were no plans at this stage, no immediate plans to send a delegation this week. It remains to be seen whether we see some movement today, perhaps in those discussions. We know that negotiations and discussions are very much ongoing.

But there is a huge amount of concern over what the situation on the ground in Gaza could mean for those talks and negotiations, particularly when it comes to the city of Rafah in the South, as we know, of course, we have heard those plans by the Israeli military looming ground offensive by the IDF. At this stage, they have been directed by the Israeli prime minister to prepare for a mass evacuation of civilians.

Another important to remind our viewers, some 1.5 million view -- civilians according to the U.N. are concentrated in Rafah, no military plan has been proposed just yet according to the IDF, and there is mounting concern that if we do see a ground offensive, if you do see a huge loss of civilian life, that could put those talks on hold and lead to even further confrontations on the ground.

DEAN: All right. Nada Bashir for us with the latest from Cairo. Thanks so much.

And still ahead, a key legal decision looming for Donald Trump, the future of the Trump Organization is at stake.

And the Northeast are digging out as the Northwest braces for severe weather.



DEAN: Quick hits across America now.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin back home and resuming his full duties after a two-day stay at Walter Reed Hospital. The Pentagon saying he's in good condition and is expected to be on a virtual call regarding Ukraine today.

One person killed, at least five others injured after a vehicle crashed into the emergency room of a hospital in Austin, Texas. It's not clear what led to that crash. It does not appear to be intentional.

A decision in former President Trump's civil fraud trial is expected on Friday. A judge set to reveal how much Trump and his real estate business must pay for falsely inflating financial statements for a decade.

Gusty winds and a few leftover snow showers are expected this morning in parts of New England, as the Northeast digs out from some of its heaviest snow it's seen in years. Reports of at least 15 inches of snow in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania as the West braces for another atmospheric river.

Lets get right to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Derek, I feel like atmospheric river or has been a catchphrase we've been hearing a lot about lately.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Yeah, it's -- it is kind of the catchphrase of the year, isn't it? Hey, happy Valentine's Day to you, by the way.

And today is going to be a big difference from yesterday. I'm already feeling it inside of the studio versus outdoors in Central Park. That latest nor'easter really provided the snow, especially across interior New England.

Check out these snowfall totals. These are some of the highest that we saw across various states.

Look at Connecticut, Farmington topping that scale at 15.2 inches. There were just for reference Central Park, 3.2 inches. That is the most snow you've seen in over two years. Yeah. Incredible stuff that's really changed the landscape, transformed right in front of us.

But I want to show you just how hard it has to be a meteorologist these days. Checkout this weather forecast. Eastern Pennsylvania, two towns, Shohola and Kimble, separated by just over 11 miles and nearly 12-inch difference in how much snow fell out of the grounds.

So very sharp, we call that a snowfall gradient. Guess what? That storm has moved on and only a few snow showers remained very light, not an impactful day on the roadways in terms of that light snow showers coming through. But what could impact your travel for the day tomorrow, it's across the Midwest. That's Wisconsin into the Great Lakes.

So heads up Detroit, Trevor City, Grand Rapids, there's some winter weather advisories including Minneapolis.

But look it over the West. Jessica mentioned it in her toss to me, an atmospheric river. Yeah. We don't necessarily want to hear more of the term because we know how that turned out last time in California, more moisture from the Pacific Ocean will overspread rainfall, especially across the central and northern California coast, into Oregon. Lots of mountain snow that will make the skiers and snowboarders happy.


And, Jessica, just for you, hopefully, you didn't give up on love this Valentine's -- or this length, is all you need today. A beautiful forecast along the East Coast, sunshine and drying our forecast out. So there you go.

DEAN: It was very nice and you get to be inside. Valentine's Day to you.

VAN DAM: Yes. Missing my significant other. That's all.

DEAN: Aww. All right. Well, hopefully, you get to see them soon.

All right, thanks so much, Derek.

VAN DAM: All right. Take care.

DEAN: Coming up next, Democrats narrowing the razor thin Republican grip on the House with a big special election win in New York.

And Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas impeached, but not going anywhere.


DEAN: Good morning to you and thanks so much for getting up early with us. I'm Jessica Dean, in today for Kasie Hunt.

A bitter defeat for House Republicans. Their razor thin majority reduced even further after.