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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Considering Executive Action To Restrict Asylum At Border; Lara Trump: GOP Voters Want RNC To Pay Trump Legal Fees; President Biden Calls Vladimir Putin "A Crazy S.O.B."; Russia Arrests U.S.-Russian Citizen For Donating $51 To Ukraine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 05:00   ET




A crazy SOB. That's how President Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin at a fundraiser last night, and the Kremlin has just responded to that.

House Republicans defiant, moving ahead with their Biden impeachment inquiry even though the FBI informant at the heart of there investigation admits he lied.

And, an Arizona prosecutor being accused of playing politics with a murder case. Why she's refusing to extradite the suspect to New York City?


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Thursday, February 22nd, 05:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

President Biden might be taking a page from Donald Trumps playbook to deal with the crisis at the border. The president's considering executive action to restrict the ability of migrants to seek asylum if they cross the border illegally.

It's a move that's not dissimilar to the controversial actions taken by Donald Trump during his presidency. And you could consider it an extension of some of the toughest border measures in that border compromise bill that was recently blown up by the Republicans who had demanded it in the first place.

Let's bring in Michelle Price. She has national political reporter for "The Associated Press", and she is joining us from South Carolina, where she is ahead of this weekend's Republican primary there.

Michelle, good morning. It's always wonderful to have you.

Let's talk about these asylum policies that the administration is considering changing via this executive order. What would they do? And why are people describing them as a return potentially to Trump era policies?

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AP: So, we don't know the specifics yet the administration has not apparently finalized its plans. But one of the proposals that is under consideration it seems to be potentially capping the number of people that could come in so save 5,000 people, 5,000 asylum seekers tried to cross the border that they could try to cap the number coming in.

And this is one of the proposals that was in that bipartisan border security bill that was to negotiated in Congress that House Republicans wouldn't take up. And just kind of speaks to the politics of this that Joe Biden and his campaign see this is enough of a political liability for him that they are considering doing this alone under executive authority, rather than trying to work through Congress where nothing is moving through. But the authority that they would be using to do this is the same authority that Donald Trump used in the early days of his, his tenure to ban and travelers coming in from Muslim majority countries.

And the American Civil Liberties Union was one who challenged that. They've already signaled that if Biden does this under this same section of law, that they would challenge this in court as well.

HUNT: I mean, it is a pretty remarkable statement, Michelle, on how the politics of this issue have evolved over the last four years. Here was a tweet from Congressman Troy Garcia who said yesterday and again, this is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Quote: This is a Trump policy. People seek asylum because they fear for their lives. President Biden would be making a grave mistake if he moves forward with this policy. This, of course, is -- there's a couple of dynamics at play here, right? I mean, were seeing a change in the makeup of the people who are coming across the southern border. There's now more reports of people coming from across the world, not just from the triangle countries that were so much a focus for so long. There are additional concerns about national security related to that.

And then there's also been the southern state governors taking a lot of migrants from the border and flying are busing them to blue states and cities and causing additional problems and putting more pressure on the administration.

I mean, is this an acknowledgment from the Biden administration that Donald Trump was right about some of this. How should we be looking at it?

PRICE: I don't know that they would say that they would see it that way. I mean, certainly, he -- he has made this --

HUNT: Certainly they wouldn't say it that way, but yes.

PRICE: Certainly not say that way. But he's made it's key issue, but there's also been Democrats, Democratic officials, Governor Kathy Hochul in New York, Mayor Eric Adams in New York City, and other leaders in those heavily Democratic areas who have been saying, this is a problem and it needs to be addressed.

And, you know, you go visit some of these -- you know, it's an issue in border states.


But you go to states that are not on the border, they're seeing folks in their communities. They're worried about the strain on their resources. This is the thing that Americans are talking about.

But you also have to think about it from the political angle of this, too. You know, Joe Biden can say, I tried to work through Congress. Congress wouldn't do anything. I'm now trying to do this on my own. I'm being held up in court, potentially being told in court. I don't have the authority.

It's also a way to show that you are doing everything you can. If it goes that route, whether they think it could even be successfully stood up after it goes through a court challenge.

HUNT: Yeah. Michelle, the other -- one of the other things were seeing unfold this debate. You were down in South Carolina reporting on the primary. We're starting to learn the financial situations for these candidates. And we saw Trumps campaign, for example spend more than they took in, in recent month. And a big part of that is legal fees, right?

Nikki Haley, of course, able to continue her campaign because she's had fundraising continue to come into allow her to do it. But there are definitely questions about whether paying for lawyers for the former president is the best use of donors' money.

Reporters pressed Lara Trump on this. I think -- I think you were here or you were present for this exchange. Take a look at how at Lara Trump responded to questions about whether legal fees is the best use of money for the RNC, which she might become a part of soon. Watch.


REPORTER: Do you think paying for President Trump's legal bills is something that would -- is of interest to Republican voters?

LARA TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: Absolutely. That's why aGoFundMe got started. That's why people are furious right now and they see the attacks against him. They feel like it's an attack not just on Donald Trump, but on this country.


HUNT: And she also was asked, or she said that Republican voters would trust the Republican National Committee more if there was a Trump family member installed in the leadership there. What were your takeaways as you reported, all of this out?

PRICE: I mean, she might not be wrong about that. The rank and file Republican voters are largely very supportive of Donald Trump. They tend to be skeptical if things like party machines. So, when she says putting in somebody very trusted by Donald Trump who's got the last name Trump at the RNC, that actually might go along way for rank and file Republican voters, the ones who turn out in primaries.

Now when it comes to donors, especially if big donors, that's an entirely different question. You know, the RNC, as you mentioned, they are having fundraising and troubles. This is an organization that is supposed to help elect Republicans up and down the ballot. Their main mission is not just the presidential race, and it's certainly not just paying Donald Trump's legal fees.

There are ways for people who want to donate to help him with those legal fees right now. And he is still struggling to pay those and that does not even take into account the half a billion dollars in legal judgments against and that's just the lawyers fees. So, you know, we've seen. Some mixed messaging from Donald Trump's team about whether if there's leadership change goes forward, which we expect it will, whether they will start paying his legal fees. RNC has done that in the past, but the RNC does not have a lot of money right now to be spreading around on all these different causes.

HUNT: All right. Michelle Price of "The Associated Press", Michelle, I really appreciate you. Thanks for being here.

All right. Up next here, IVF treatment in Alabama is getting harder to access just a day after a controversial ruling came down on for frozen was an embryos. Plus, where Nikki Haley stands on that, and what that could mean in the general election.

Plus, a Russian American ballerina detained by the Kremlin, accused of treason for donating just $51 to Ukraine. Her boyfriend tells CNN, I believe America will bring her back to me.



HUNT: Welcome back.

President Biden, letting loose on Russian President Vladimir Putin last night. At a fundraiser in California, Biden called Putin a, quote, crazy SOB, end quote, telling us all how he really feels as the U.S. government prepares a new package of sanctions against Russian -- the Russians as -- after Alexei Navalny was killed in the Arctic Prison. Russia claims Navalny mysteriously died there after taking a walk last week. The UK announced new sanctions overnight as well.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us from London.

Clare, the Kremlin just responded to those comments from Biden. What are we learning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, pretty strong language, Kasie, from Dmitry Peskov. He said that these comments from Biden wish shameful. He called them a huge disgrace for the United States. I want to read you a portion of what he said. He said clearly, Mr. Biden, is demonstrating behavior in the style of a Hollywood cowboy to cater to domestic political interests. And he then holds President Putin up as someone who never makes offensive remarks.

So, look, it's relatively common in Russia for officials below Putin to sort of hurl insults at the U.S. It plays very well and the Russian propaganda where the sort of confrontational foreign policy with the U.S. is a way of deflecting the blame of Putin or any of the ills inside the country. So that I think is what we're seeing here.

President Putin, though, himself, usually tens as Mr. Peskov was alluding to, to stay aloft of these kinds of public spat -- Kasie.

HUNT: Clare, yes. Well, got to -- got to love that we are sitting here talking about the us president calling -- he swears a lot. I will just say that.

Clare Sebastian, I thank you very much for that reporting.

All right. A Russian-American ballerina who lives in Los Angeles has been arrested in Russia and charged on suspicion of treason after allegedly donating $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity in the United States.


Ksenia Karelina became a U.S. citizen in 2021 and went to Russia on January 2nd to visit her 90 year-old grandmother, her family says. The U.S. learned of Karelina's arrest on February 8th. In Russia, treason charges, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster to talk more about this.

Max, good morning to you.

There's a travel warning that the U.S. has put out that basically tells Americans don't go to Russia because something like this may happen. Why do you think were seeing this happen more frequently? I mean, this case in particular -- I mean, this -- we have pictures of her dancing on the Brooklyn Bridge, right? I mean, it's a very sort of poignant example of this.

And, of course, it comes after Evan Gershkovich has been detained. He was detained in the same city that she was detained in. What's Putin doing here?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very powerful interview on CNN yesterday with a boyfriend, wasn't it, where he described how he gave her a ticket as a -- you know, that she was home sick. She just wanted to go back to Russia and this is what's ended up happening.

I mean, if -- yeah, you talk about Gershkovich, there are many other cases, whatever you think about these charges and whether they're completely out of proportion for what she did, what we are seeing is, you know, American citizens being used as pawns in negotiation in order to get something out of America.

So, you know, if you look at the theme of these events, people getting charged for things that we in the West thing is they're being overcharged, if I can call it that and then the being used in a diplomatic game. So, has she been called up with that?

You're right to point out that there are travel warning. So she would have been aware of the risk and she knows, you know, Russia well, of course as well. The same time is seen as very unfair. That should be charged with treason for donating just $50 to charity, an American charity, arguably. The charity was registered in the U.S.

HUNT: Right. And again, $50.80 or $51 approximately.

Max, let's talk for a second about this back-and-forth between the American president, Biden, and Vladimir Putin. Biden letting -- letting loose. You know, we often get this from him in private moments, right? This wasn't on cameras at a private fundraiser in California.

There are also been instances where it's sort of gotten out the president has used this kind of language. It's more often in the context of American politics than directed necessarily toward foreign leaders. But I think we've got a sense of how, you know, he really feels. You know, the Kremlin, of course, calling it boorish language and saying that he is in the style of a Hollywood cowboy.

When you sort of think about the optics of the back-and-forth, here, what do you -- what do you what do you see in the spikiness between these two men?

FOSTER: Well, the optics, I mean, they are op -- I mean it's become so chaotic. You know, you've got the Kremlin criticizing the White House.

The other day, we saw President Putin backing Biden in the American presidential race. You've got a situation where Donald Trump is comparing himself to Navalny. But at the same time, not criticizing President Putin for what happened to Navalny, one of the few global figures that hasn't done that.

I mean, it's our job, isn't it, to try to navigate through all of this language, but it's very hard to make sense of any, any of it. I mean, does it give President Biden a bit of an edge with American voters? You tell me these -- I mean, it does show him to be authentic, I guess a bit of character coming out but when people are concerned about, you know, the resiliency has going into the next election.

HUNT: People very, very concerned. I mean, Vladimir Putin is not popular among Americans broadly. So I don't think that being that poses selves an issue. Obviously, we have kind of a slice of the Republican primary electorate that's in a very different spot. Hence, the Ukraine aid being held up.

Max Foster for us in London -- Max, thank you, as always. I really appreciate it. Coming up next here, a settlement in the legal battle between the

parents of Gabby Petito in the family of her killer, Brian Laundrie.

And this could be heaven or this could be hell. Three men on trial for allegedly trying to sell stolen lyrics from one of the best-selling albums of all time.



HUNT: All right. We've got quick hits across America now, as settlements been reached between the families of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. A civil lawsuit filed by the Petitos claimed the Laundries knew that their son killed Gabby during a cross-country road trip and that they were withheld that information.

The MyPillow guy, Mike Lindell, ordered by a judge to pay up. Lindell offered $5 million to anyone who can debunk his election conspiracy theories. And a software developer did just that.

Welcomed to the "Hotel California" trial. Three men face charges in an alleged conspiracy to sell stolen pages of Don Henley's handwritten notes and lyrics from the Eagles' landmark album, "Hotel California".

Love a little bit of this on, early on a Thursday morning.

All right, the storm that brought heavy rain and wind, California is now moving East, topping off one of the wettest months in decades in Los Angeles.

Weatherman Van Dam tracking where it's going and whether it's going to return to through the West.

Derek, good morning.


Always wonderful to see. What do we got?


Los Angeles wondering if this will turn out to be the wettest February in all of history, just little over one inch to go and we will break that record right now sitting at just over 12.5 inches so far this month, record set back in 1998, you can see what that was, 13.68 inches. So, just a little ways to go.

Look at the West Coast, so the extended range outlook? Yes. There is the potential we could break that record. That's significant.

Remember, these are the months where we fill up the reservoirs, buildup the snowpack, and we start to ensure our water availability as we head into the spring and summer months.

Now, elsewhere across it the country, these are generally quiet aside from a few scattered showers, there is the potential for some heavier rainfall across the Ohio River Valley today. Weak disturbance moving through not a significant concern, but definitely it will impact your travel conditions as you move along the east coast through the next couple of days, 48 hours.

A cold front behind it will temporarily cool things down, not a significant cooldown, but enough, you'll feel it. But the big extended outlook shows a warming trend over the East Coast. I mean, this is significant. If you like spring, this is your forecasts.

Have your flowers started to bloom yet, Kasie? Mine certainly have.

HUNT: Ours are -- were probably not as far along as you are down in ATL, but we do have -- I actually had failed to take the Christmas tree wreaths off of my house and I had flowers coming up in this case in the windows. Yeah. It forced me to get around to it.

All right. Weatherman Van Dam, Derek, thank you very much. I'll see you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: All right. Ahead here: Republicans barreling ahead with their impeachment mission, even after their key witness says he lied about the Bidens.

And an Arizona prosecutor refusing to hand over the suspect in a New York City murder case.