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Potential Default Now 10 Days Away As McCarthy, Biden Meet Today; GOP Senator Tim Scott To Announce 2024 Presidential Run; Official: Ukraine Still Controls Some Buildings In Southwest Bakhmut. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Love these moments, cherish it. We're really happy.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Congratulations. That's amazing.

All right, we're going to head it over to -- we appreciate you coming on. Kate Bolduan and John Berman, my buddies are going to take it away. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An 11th hour meeting with us now just 10 days away from potentially defaulting on its debt. The stakes in Washington are incredibly high. As President Biden's speaker McCarthy prepared to meet one on one.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by for a big moment in space. A privately crewed spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station this hour. It's only the second time that has happened. And for the first time a woman is leading the mission. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

BERMAN: Just a few hours from now, high stakes talks on the debt crisis between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, they are set to resume in person one on one. This morning, it's not clear how close or how far they am from the deal. What is clear, they're almost out of time.

In 10 days, the U.S. could default on its $31 trillion debt. If that takes place, it's not exactly clear what happens when it's definitely very bad. Government bills could go on paid, millions of Americans would feel it, Social Security checks, Medicare veterans benefits, and the salaries of thousands of federal and military employees, they are all at risk.

Republicans are demanding steep budget cuts with no increase in revenue. The President has suggested Republicans might be encouraging a default to hurt his reelection. Still, Speaker McCarthy says the leaders for the President and Speaker McCarthy held a productive phone call when the President was on Air Force One on the way back from his trip to Japan.

CNN's Arlette Saenz you can see her waiting outside the White House. We're waiting for some possibly good news Arlette. Is any -- is there any side of movement this morning?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden's set to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this afternoon as they're looking to restart those negotiations that really floundered over the weekend, as the U.S. is moving closer to a potential default in as little as 10 days. Now, the President and McCarthy did speak by phone with McCarthy describing that call is productive.

And the President saying that it went well, but this came after there was a breakdown in talks between the two sides. But last night negotiators did come together on Capitol Hill meeting for about a little over two hours that they looked to lay the groundwork heading into this meeting today. But over the weekend, the President also warned about the prospect of a default and also suggested that Republicans could use this opportunity to try to hurt him politically. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there are some MAGA Republicans in the House, who know the damage that it would do to the economy. And because I am president and president is responsible for everything, Biden would take the blame. And that's the one way to make sure Biden is not reelected.


SAENZ: Now, following the phone call that President Biden had with House Speaker McCarthy, McCarthy did tweet out kind of a little bit of a readout from his perspective of how that call went. And he said in that, quote, my position has not changed. Washington cannot continue to spend money. We do not have at the expense of children and ground grandchildren.

Now, one of the key sticking points around these negotiations is that issue of spending levels. The White House has proposed freezing spending at the current year's levels, while Republicans want to revert back making cuts going back to the fiscal year 2022 levels. This is likely an item that will be discussed in that meeting between President Biden and McCarthy today.

We also know some of the other agenda items are unspent COVID relief funds, also permitting reform. And then there are all those big questions about work requirements for social safety net programs, which Republicans have said would be a red line for them.

But bottom line here, there is a real urgency in the moment as this meeting is set to take place later this afternoon. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen once again reaffirmed that she believes the U.S. could default as early as June 1st saying that that is a hard deadline. Of course, it'll also take time if they do reach an agreement to have legislation make its way through Capitol Hill to get enough support in order to get something passed.

So clearly, this is a very urgent moment for President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. But at the time, it does still appear that there are very vast differences in their approach to the budget agreements and the debt ceiling.

BERMAN: Yes, just a huge meeting today, Arlette, we will be watching, you will be watching very closely what they say going in during and coming out, no doubt. Thank you very much. Kate?


BOLDUAN: Yes. They really need some foreign motion on this like yesterday and the day before. That's fun. All right you're talking about a huge moment in Washington, there's another huge moment happening in the world of politics this morning. Republican Senator Tim Scott is making it official formally launching his presidential campaign from his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina at his alma mater, no less, Charleston Southern University.

Big questions right out of the gate. How will he take on the current Republican front runner, former President Donald Trump? And what lane is he going to create for himself in what's going to be a crowded Republican field? Will big endorsements help him as he just picked up the backing of the number two Republican in the Senate John Thune?

One thing we do know amidst all the questions, he is kicking things off with a decent war chest nearly $22 million leftover from his Senate campaign. CNN's Eva McKend is in North Charleston, South Carolina this morning awaiting this as you could see right where Tim Scott is going to be making this announcement. What are you hearing there? What are you hearing about how he is going to be making it official what he's going to be saying in this first big moment of his campaign?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, good morning to you, Kate. We know that about 1,000 of his supporters expected to get pack this gymnasium in just a little bit. Listen, faith and optimism are going to be central themes of his campaign. We also understand that he is going to reject what he'll described as a culture of victimism, victimhood and pessimism that he argues have overtaken both parties.

The question now is, will Republican voters buy what he is selling? We met with his pastor, his longtime pastor over the weekend at Seacoast Church, that's a mega church here in the Charleston area. And he told us essentially don't underestimate Senator Scott, that, you know, this is someone who spends a lot of time talking to evangelical voters, the voters that Senator Scott is going to need in this Republican primary.

And he argues there is a market for this, for this sort of sunny optimism and positivity about America. Take a listen to what he told us.


GREG SURRATT, PASTOR, SEACOAST CHURCH: I think a misconception that people might have about him is that his niceness, his humility, translates as weakness. And they don't know the Tim Scott that I know. I would like to -- I like to kind of see it as an iron fist in a velvet glove.


MCKEND: So the pastor's granddaughter actually is going to be among the speakers that we hear from today. Listen, not everyone applauding Senator Scott's entry into this race. We're hearing from Democrats as well, actually fellow South Carolinian, his fellow South Carolinian Jaime Harrison, who leads the DNC out with a statement this morning essentially saying don't be fooled by Senator Scott's sunny optimism that he champions a MAGA agenda, just like the rest of the field. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Eva, thank you so much. An iron fist in a velvet glove, let's see what that looks like today. John.

BERMAN: So Kate, Senator Tim Scott is 57 years old, currently the only black Republican in the Senate. He joins a crowded field of candidates who have announced so far you can see them popping up on the screen. The polls all seem to show that former President Donald Trump is leading the field not on that screen. To be clear is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to announce this week.

Senator Scott often tells voters about his experience growing up in a poor single parent household in South Carolina. Before entering the Senate, Scott served on the Charleston County City Council for more than a decade. He was also a South Carolina State House Representative before going on to serve in the U.S. House representing South Carolina's first congressional district. Scott was then tapped by former Governor Nikki Haley, also running for president potentially to fill a vacancy left when Senator Jim DeMint resigned.

Scott later won a special election and has been reelected since. And I was checking the records Scott endorsed Marco Rubio for President in 2016, which is interesting to go back memory lane.

BOLDUAN: I love that 2016 is quite a memory lane for us because a long time ago many moons go back there again. All right, so there was also this for watching today, a travel warning issued for an unexpected place. The state of Florida the warning being put out by the NAACP. The group says that the travel advisory is a response to policies being set by Governor Ron DeSantis. More specifically saying this and I will quote it for you from the advisory, Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ plus individuals.

NAACP going on to say, before traveling to Florida please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color. And the civil rights organization is the latest really advocacy group to warn travelers about visiting the state. The League of United Latin American Citizens and also the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, they've issued similar advisories. This morning, the president of the NAACP was on CNN and explained what he hopes to accomplish with this advisory.



DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: We understand that many conventions are going to be held in Florida. So we are advising our members and others that if you go be cautious of how you operate in the state, that if you have another choice to hold your convention, consider place outside of Florida, but also less if you have to go there. Let's support the local community as we prepare to change the political landscape.

We didn't end here overnight it was because of the election so we have to prepare for the next election so we can get rid of him once and for all. This other -- the other thing that we have seen first by Trump not by him is not only unAmerican is dangerous and we have to right size this landscape.


BOLDUAN: Travel advising very heavily in politics right now. CNN has reached out to the governor's office as well as Florida's official Tourism Board. CNN has not yet received a response. John?

BERMAN: A record fine for alleged privacy violations. Facebook's own are facing steep penalties for transferring user data. So how protected is your information. And new developments in Ukraine overnight, Russia launches new attacks and who exactly has control over Bakhmut. And the man accused of choking a homeless man to death in New York City subway is breaking his silence. Why he says it had nothing to do with race.



BOLDUAN: On our radar this morning, the man charged with killing for University of Idaho students is set to be arraigned in court today on charges of first degree murder and burglary. Bryan Kohberger was indicted by a grand jury last week for those stabbing deaths. He's expected to enter a plea in court today. He could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Now Nebraska's governor is set to sign into law today a 12-week abortion ban state lawmakers passed the measure on Friday. It bans abortions after 12 weeks with exceptions for sexual assault, incest and medical emergencies. The ban was also folded into a bill that bars gender affirming treatments for Nebraska residents under the age of 19.

And hitting a hole in one, remarkable at any point, any day in your life, this one though, one for the ages, a club pro Michael Block, set golf fans into a frenzy a tizzy if you will, without even having realized that he had pulled it off. This was his reaction. He's like, hey, guys, thanks. Thanks for the applause. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. No way. No way. Roy (ph) did it go in? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It went almost looked like it was like nothing but net. And I know that's the wrong sport. But you see where I'm going with this. After that, Block received a PGA Tour exemption to play at the Charles Schwab challenge this week. He also secured a spot to play in next year's PGA Championship. After that final round at the PGA Championship Sunday, Block finished 15. Outside of all of this mayhem and craziness, Block is usually teaching golf lessons at a public course in California. And in the understatement of the year he says it's been a week he'll never forget. John?

BERMAN: It was both a frenzy and a tizzy. I was watching it when it happened.

BOLDUAN: I don't really know the difference between the two. So I just went to both.

BERMAN: It was nothing but net. That's a perfect analogy, though.

All right a flurry of new developments in Russia's invasion of Ukraine inside Russian territory. Officials report shelling in Belgorod, this is just over the border from Ukraine. This is an area that the Russians have been using to resupply troops inside Ukraine. Now the Ukrainians they reported stikes in the Dnipro region here. We have video some of the aftermath.

You can see what looks like a parking facility here largely destroyed the cars there and you can see the smoldering ashes there. So nearby in Dnipro in Zaporizhzhia, the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which is right about there, power was off for some time, but it has now been restored. That is Europe's largest nuclear power plant. You can see the specs here. Safety continues to be a top concern for many officials.

And perhaps most importantly, at this point from a strategic standpoint, confusion over the eastern city of Bakhmut, Russia says it has seized control of that city. Ukraine seems to suggest they have a potential strategic advantage there. With us now is CNN military analyst retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

Spider, I have a close up here of Bakhmut. You can see the city, the downtown area right here, there seems to be broad agreement that the Russians have total or essentially near total control of the downtown area. Yet Ukraine says they have some kind of advantage because they control some of the surrounding areas. Explain how or if both things can be true.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Oh, they absolutely can be true, John, what you have, what you've demonstrated is that Ukrainians have held what's called the shoulders, those flanks around the city, which means the Ukrainians can continue to access Bakhmut as necessary. They can continue to harass Russian forces and the Wagner group as well.

And that gives them some presence there. But I think when you take a step back and you look at that and your description of this as strategic, it is primarily because it gives Russia the narrative that they're not losing. Look, I can tell you right now, Putin is not winning this engagement. He said doesn't want to lose. That's the significance of Bakhmut.


When you look at it strategically there is very little that's important about Bakhmut that's horrible to say because of the devastation, the destruction, the death -- that the deaths that have been incurred there, but there is nothing to be gained that will alter fundamentally the strategic outcome from what we're seeing right now.

BERMAN: Why is that Spider? Can you go into that a little more? Again, here's Bakhmut. It's in the east. It's in the Donbas region, a region where the Russians want total control. If they now control all of this, how does that not impact what could be this spring offensive from the Ukrainians coming up?

MARKS: It certainly gives the Russians an opportunity to maintain that line of communication from mainland Russia all the way down to Crimea, right? The significance of Bakhmut is that it is a location exactly as you as you're describing right now, which is Putin's objective. Bakhmut now has become important only because it affects the Russians flanks, those shoulder operations as they maneuver from northeast to southwest. That's the significant issue right now.

But there are no significant crossroads, rail yards, things that would affect the logistics and the support of operations, either for the Ukrainians trying to reclaim it, or the Russians trying to enforce or reinforce, I'm sorry to reinforce their efforts in the vicinity of Crimea.

BERMAN: What we continue to see, we believe from the Ukrainian side, the Russians claiming attacks inside Russian territory, particularly around Belgorod that said he just over the border, why would the Ukrainians be targeting that?

MARKS: It's important that they continue to go after the Russians in Russian territory. Now that's the sticking point. What the Ukrainians need to do is go after Russian forces where they can refit, rest and then prepare for redeployment. That's what the -- that's what the Ukrainians need to do so that the Russian soldiers don't have any form of sanctuary that give them an opportunity to relax and rest and then get ready for to fight again and go across the border.

The Ukrainians have got to be very, very precise. They should not be civilian targets. I don't suggest they are but to go after those military target is to keep the Russians head down.

BERMAN: Spider, as always, thank you so much for your help, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Daniel Penny is now speaking up publicly. He is the man who is charged with the choking death of a homeless man Jordan Neely on a New York City subway. And Penny tells "The New York Post" quote, I am not a white supremacist. He says in this interview. He also says in the interview, too, that what happened on May 1st had nothing to do with race, he says. Penny is charged with second degree manslaughter now for Neely's death. He's free on $100,000 bail and was required to surrender his passport as part of the deal.

Let's get more on what he said and where this goes. CNN's Omar Jimenez is following this for us. He joins us now. Omar, what else is Penny saying?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. So he really was essentially trying to paint himself as seemingly a normal guy. As you mentioned, he said he was not a white supremacist that this chokehold had nothing to do with race. But also when he was asked whether he would do this again, under similar circumstances, he said he would if there was a threat and danger. Now we know from witness accounts that Jordan Neely that day was acting erratically, but at the point in for the chokehold, we also know from witness accounts, he hadn't attacked anyone.

Now, when you talk about other things that he said in this interview, Penny also told, "The Post" that he is deeply saddened by the loss of life here. And it's tragic what happened to him, hopefully, we can change the system that so desperately failed us. He was charged with second degree manslaughter. He's out on $100,000 bail right now.

But his attorney told me and I think this gives a glimpse into part of their defense here, that Penny was protecting himself and everyone on that train. But what gets lost is that at the time he acted to defend those people, he put his own life and well-being on the line. He had no way of knowing if he would be hurt or killed.

Now, on the other hand, Neely's funeral was this past Friday. And his family has called for charges more than manslaughter. But also, they really want to see this through to an actual conviction at this point, which of course takes a lot more time. And on top of that they and protesters have argued that no matter what happened leading up to this, which of course is the crux of this case, that this shouldn't have ended in death.

Penny is expected to be back in court mid-July as this whole process, painful for many people moves forward.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Omar, my thank you for following up for us. Thank you for the update. John?


BERMAN: A stadium stampede leaves at least 12 people dead dozens injured, now there is new information about what might have caused this. And the Space X rocket carrying a former NASA astronaut and three paying customers just docked at the International Space Station. What's on the agenda for this historic in pricey joyride?


[09:29:50] BERMAN: Just moments ago, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft docked at the International Space Station. This marks the second ever privately crewed launch to the station, retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is leading the mission and is now the first woman to command a private spaceflight. Plus there are three paying crew members.