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Potential Default Now Ten Days Away as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R- CA), Biden Meet Today; Today, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) to Announce 2024 Presidential Run; Zelenskyy Says, Bakhmut is Only in Our Hearts After Russia Destroyed It. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time is almost up to strike a deal, the U.S. now only ten days away from potentially catastrophic default. We just got word that negotiators are meeting right now. New details about where things stand ahead of today's crucial meeting later between the president and the speaker of the House.

KATE BOLDUAN: And next hour, Republican Senator Tim Scott makes his 2024 White House bid official. The challenge ahead of him now to take on Trump without turning Trump's base against him, these stories and more on CNN News Central.

So, this just in, we just got word that negotiators are meeting right now. This is ahead of the crucial meeting this afternoon between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. June 1st now just ten days away, that is the date that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says is a hard deadline to avoid an economic disaster that would impact millions of Americans. We're talking Social Security checks, Medicare, veterans' benefits, the salaries of thousands of federal and military employees. They are all at real risk.

We have reporters standing by at the White House and on Capitol Hill hounding their sources for any insight from either side. This is the last we heard from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Look, there is no agreement on anything. We have all said our piece about where we are. We are trying to find common ground to get this done.


BERMAN: So, let's get right to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, I do understand that the negotiators, the staff level negotiators and members, they are back together at this moment. What does that mean?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is right. The negotiations are taking place right now, but there are huge obstacles ahead in order to avoid the nation's first ever debt default and to raise the more than $30 trillion nation debt limit. If they don't, the U.S. government won't be able to pay its bills, and then as a result, economic calamity could ensue.

Republicans and Democrats are still not on the same page on a whole wide range of issues, namely on how much to cut federal spending. Republicans had been demanding significant spending cuts to pare back from last year's level. The Democrats have pushed back on that, but are now are starting to negotiate to try to see if they can find any sort of middle ground. There are still a whole host of other policy issues at play, too.

But negotiators, including one key negotiator, Garret Graves, he is someone who is in that meeting right now with White House negotiators, indicated to reporters yesterday that, first, they need to find a deal on how much the federal government will spend, and then the rest of issues could fall in place.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): But I want to be very clear, the numbers are foundational here. The speaker is very clear, a red line is spending less money. And unless and until we are there, the rest of it is irrelevant.

The reality is that I think once we're able to close the numbers and truly put ourselves in this trajectory, and then I think that the speaker's direction is very clear.

I think once we are able do that, I think everything else cascades in.


RAJU: But there just is not much time in order to get a deal. Typically, these fiscal agreements take months to hammer out, and oftentimes, it can't even get there after months of talks. They have to do that in a matter of days, because, for months, they had disagreed about whether to even have negotiations. The White House had refused to have any talks, saying that the Republicans just simply raise the national debt limit without any conditions, Republicans, of course, rejected that approach, wanted a whole slew of conditions. So, no, those talks still underway about what those conditions are.

And over the weekend, you saw back and forth posturing and blame game trading, but after McCarthy and Biden spoke last night, the temperature was dialed down a little bit. Some of the negotiators said that talks had been a little bit more productive, but they acknowledged there is a lot more to do ahead of that key meeting of the president and the speaker later today, John.

BERMAN: All right. So, meeting right now, yes, moving, no, not as far as we know at least yet. Manu, thank you.

Let's go to Arlette Saenz at the White House. Arlette, what is the White House view on where things stand?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden only offered very few words about his meeting with -- his phone call with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He said that it was a conversation that went well. But, so far, the White House has been very tight-lipped about how these talks have played out over the course of the past 24 hours.

As you heard Manu detailed there, the negotiators are currently meeting up on Capitol Hill, trying to lay the groundwork for this meeting, which will take place at the White House a little bit later this afternoon. But it really comes at a high-stakes and urgent moment as time is quickly dwindling towards that June 1st deadline.


And President Biden over the weekend warned about the threat of a default and also suggested he believes some Republicans might try to use this moment as an opportunity to damage him politically. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 re-elected.


SAENZ: Now, heading into this meeting, there are vast differences from both sides on how to approach a budget agreement. Manu talked a little bit about how one of those issues is around spending levels, as the White House has looked to freeze spending at the current fiscal year, while Republicans want to see that cut back, reverting back to fiscal year 2022.

But the president over the weekend also made clear that it is time, he believes, for Republicans to start to compromise. He noted that this will need to be a bipartisan deal, getting sign-in from both Republicans and Democrats, and that in order for that to happen, the Republicans need to make some concessions in these negotiations.

But, certainly, at this moment, they are facing incredibly real time constraints, as President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are hoping to come together this afternoon to restart those conversations as a potential default is getting closer and closer in this country.

BERMAN: So, that meeting between the principals this afternoon, negotiators together at this minute. Arlette, Manu, we know you'll keep us posted if there's any white smoke or black smoke coming from this meeting that's taking place right now. I appreciate it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Next hour, Tim Scott, the most prominent black lawmaker in the Republican Party, he will officially enter the 2024 presidential primary. He'll set the stage -- he'll take the stage and set the stage for his campaign at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater, next hour. Scott's job now is to try and successfully carve out his own path in the Republican field, a field that polls very clearly show is still dominated by former President Donald Trump, of course.

Joining me right now ahead of the big announcement is former Republican Congresswoman from Utah Mia Love, also a CNN political commentator, and Errol Louis, a Spectrum News political anchor and CNN political commentator as well. It's great to see you guys.

Errol, let me just ask you, as we wait to hear from Tim Scott next hour, what do you see him doing? What does he need to do kind of in this big first introduction to voters today?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's what I'm going to be listening for, Kate. We're going to find out what he is up to. There's one theory out there that says if you're not a man named Donald Trump, then you are running for vice president. Is Tim Scott running for vice president?

He's got a big war chest. He's got $22 million in his campaign account that he can spend. He just won a smashing re-election last year, so his seat is not in danger. So, what is he up to? Does he want to position himself as a successor to Trump, as a partner to Trump, or as a counterpoint? Those are the only choices that you've got. And I'm going to be listening very closely to hear what it could be. It could be any of those three things.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's exactly I was thinking. Well, Errol, you've hit the nail on the head yet again, because that could be any of those three things. We will see.

And, Congresswoman, back in 2014, you and Tim Scott made history together. You, the first black female Republican elected to Congress, Scott, the first ever black senator elected in South Carolina. What do you make of his announcement today?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's something he thought about for a little bit, but agree with Errol. One of the issues that all of these candidates are going to have to deal with is how to deal with Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is still polling well. He's still has these followers and they need somebody to lead them, they need somebody to look to an alternative. So, they're all going to have to answer the question, what do I do with Donald Trump?

But I don't think Tim Scott is looking to be a Donald Trump V.P. Donald Trump has been very hard on the Republican Party. It's been very hard. And so I think he's looking to set his own path, set his own goals forward.

Tim, I know him very well, I worked with him. He is actually a really good friend of mine. He is policy-oriented. And one of the things I'm really proud of with Tim is that he is the only one, really, that has tried to solve the major issues in the Senate that we've been dealing with, police reform. He was right there at the very beginning with criminal justice reform. These are issues that have helped Americans and will potentially continue to help Americans when we look at police reform.

BOLDUAN: So, Errol, you're both hitting on how did he take on Donald Trump. I mean, we have heard from more than one person, and in covering Tim Scott for many years, I mean, does have -- I'm going to use the word sunny disposition.


He really does. And that is how many people do -- I don't want to say paint him but that's how many people describe him as a real counterpoint to Donald Trump in that way. Not in terms of policy. In terms of policy, they're very similar. But in terms of approach, he has a sunnier outlook on America's future than you hear from Donald Trump. But it does raise the question that can't be answered yet, can nice beat Donald Trump in a Republican primary?

LOUIS: Well, I think we already know the answer to that. Nice gets crushed by Donald Trump. And let's be clear, Tim Scott is running on his personal biography. He spoke at the -- he had a keynote slot at the Republican National Convention a few years ago, and it was very, very good. It was very effective. He talks about going from cotton to Congress. He had a grandfather who had to drop out of school in the third grade and pick cotton, and then here he is in Congress just a generation later after being raised by a single mom, a great, inspiring story.

Unfortunately, it does not translate into policy. I mean, Mia mentioned the criminal justice reform, and there was a lot of hope riding on Tim Scott to work with Senator Cory Booker and come up with some police reform. But in the end, they came up with nothing. The policies -- your personal biography and his sunny, optimistic outlook has to translate into policy, if anything is going to change. Politically, he can ride pretty far on that biography, but what comes from that, again, we're going to have to listen and hear what he has to say today.

BOLDUAN: One big moment for Tim Scott kind of leading up to this, Congresswoman, is when he gave the Republican response to Biden's speech before joint session of Congress in 2021. And a big headline from that was Tim Scott declaring that America is not a racist nation. Let me play this just to remind everybody.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Hear me clearly. America, is not a racist country. It's backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.


BOLDUAN: Congressman, how does race play into this primary now? How does that message play with voters when you're running against Donald Trump in this Republican primary?

LOVE: Well, I think, first of all, the senator has done everything he could to try and say that using our differences, color, gender, sexual orientation, faith, is another way of dividing this nation, and we should stay away from it.

Oneness is not sameness in America. All of us here talking on this panel can be one. We can be one without being the same. We can look at issues that we care deeply about and work together and say, we're going to focus on this and we're going to make a difference for America.

So, I think that if he continues down that path in terms of oneness, getting America to come together as one, it doesn't mean we have to be the same. I mean, I'm very comfortable in my skin, and I think he's very comfortable in his skin, too.

I am proud to be a black woman in America. I am. But I'm American. I'm a wife. I'm a mother, first and foremost. And all of the issues that we can look at that would really help America, that helps us become one, if we focus on those together.

BOLDUAN: Let us see what we hear from the senator in just about an hour. We'll see together. It's good to see you both. Thank you very much. John?

BERMAN: All right, Kate. We're getting some new claims coming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Russians are claiming just minutes ago that there are Ukrainians operating on the Russian side of the border inside Russia. We'll have much more on that in just a moment.

At the meantime, Ukrainian officials are saying they still hold on to some neighborhoods inside Bakhmut, which is that city in the far east the Russians claimed to have captured. It has been one of the most hotly contested cities, the bloodiest battlefields of the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy mourned the devastation there over the weekend.


REPORTER: Mr. President, is Bakhmut still in Ukraine's hands? The Russians say they have taken Bakhmut.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I think no, but you have to understand that there is nothing. They destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It's a pity, it's a tragedy, but for today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts.


BERMAN: All right. CNN's Sam Kiley is in Southeastern Ukraine. Sam, back to what we just reported a few moments ago, this claim from the Russians that Belgorod, which is the city over the border from Ukraine that we've shown on the map a number of times, just over the border from Ukraine, they say there are Ukrainian saboteurs operating in and around that area.


What can you tell us?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainians say, yes, you're right, except they're not Ukrainians. They're Russians. And they are saying, indeed, that the unit themselves have put out a video saying that they are involved in this cross-border operation because they're members of the Freedom of Russia Legion, which is a group of Russian volunteers who are in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

They have in the past been fighting. When I encountered them back in December, they were fighting very heavily south of Bakhmut on the front line there. It now appears that they have crossed into Russia with an all-Russian team, according to the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainian government is saying somewhat coyly that they are operating there entirely as Russian citizens, as free agents, not as part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, although, of course, they're using Ukrainian uniforms, weapons, bullets and arguably vehicles.

Now, their spokesman or the member of their political wing here in Ukraine has told CNN that the combat is ongoing and certainly social media would indicate from a number of videos that are being posted that they have deployed themselves in a number of villages very close to the border.

This is the first time that we have confirmation from the Ukrainians that, let's say, a Ukrainian-backed organization, military organization, has conducted overt military action against Russia inside Russian territory. We've seen in the past covert military operations deep behind Russian lines here in Ukraine and indeed mysterious activities inside Russia itself. There have even been helicopter gunship attacks close to the city of Belgorod in the past, that the Ukrainians have refused to acknowledge. But this is a first. John?

BERMAN: Yes, Sam. Let me just point out on the map here so people can see. We keep talking about it. This is Belgorod right here, right over the border from Ukraine there. And a first, as you note, a first of the Ukrainians confirming that at least, at a minimum, pro-Ukrainian forces are operating inside Russian territory. Sam Kiley, a significant development. We'll come back to you in a bit. Thank you. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Good stuff, John, thank you.

Still ahead for us on CNN News Central, the man charged with killing four University of Idaho students is about to be arraigned. If found guilty, the 28-year-old could face the death penalty. What could happen in court today? We'll have much more on that.

Plus a record fine for Facebook's parent company, Meta, staring down a $1.3 billion fine from the European Union over data privacy. What the company is saying as it now prepares to appeal and what it means for your data. And a private SpaceX mission carrying a former NASA astronaut and three paying customers has docked at the International Space Station and they are making history.

We've got much more on this on CNN News Central.



BOLDUAN: On our radar this hour, in Gulfport, Mississippi, a transgender high school student missed her graduation this weekend after a federal judge ruled that school officials could forbid her from wearing a dress and heels under her robe. The team says that she chose to miss the ceremony, telling CNN she would, quote, rather stand up for what's right than be humiliated. Here's more of what she told CNN.


L.B., TRANSGENDER TEEN: It was detrimental, to know that I won't be able to experience my graduation the way I had envisioned it and planned it for so many years. And I've been going to this school actively being me with my teachers, my peers, the other students in my class, to show up and be forced to wear something that's totally different from myself, my character.


BOLDUAN: CNN has reached out to the school district for comment but has not heard back.

Now, in Denver, a Frontier Airlines passenger was kicked off a plane after officials say that she hit a flight attendant. Officials say the flight was waiting to take off for Tampa when the passenger became belligerent and was asked to get off the plane. And that is when she apparently picked up an intercom phone on the plane and hit a flight attendant with it.

Police say she was cited for assault. The whole ordeal also caused about a four hour delay for the rest of that flight.

Facebook's parent company Meta has been fined a record $1.3 billion by European Union regulators for violating E.U. privacy laws. They say that Facebook wrongly transferred E.U. user personal data to servers in the United States. The company has now also been ordered to stop processing personal data of European users in the United States within six months. Meta, though, says that it will appeal. John?

BERMAN: Right, Kate. A short time from now, Bryan Kohberger is set to appear in an Idaho court. He is the man accused of fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students last year. Kohberger is expected to be arraigned on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. The 28-year-old is expected to enter a plea today. If he is found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

With me now is Federal and Criminal Defense Attorney Caroline Polisi, a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School. Great to see you.


BERMAN: It's expected that Kohberger is going to enter a not guilty plea today. Talk to me about this case, in general. What is this case going to hinge on?

POLISI: Yes. Well, first of all, there's an interesting procedural issue here, the fact that we're even in court today. Remember, prosecutors indicted Kohberger sort of out of the blue.


There was supposed to be a hearing down the road, a preliminary hearing. Instead, prosecutors indicted. They seated a grand jury, a special grand jury, a special grand jury, in order to proceed with this indictment. I think some people are speculating.

The issue is that in a preliminary hearing, Kohberger and his defense attorneys would have been able to cross-examine witnesses, get a little information about the case that they are set to defend. A grand jury, as you know, John is secretive. So now, Kohberger and his defense attorneys really are left in the dark in terms of what the prosecution has.

There's a gag order in this case. The public really has very little information, which is why there are so many conspiracy theories out there regarding this case. The public is just fascinated with it.

BERMAN: If you were going to defend Kohberger in this case, how would you go about doing that?

POLISI: Right. Well, we know from the initial affidavits that there is cell phone data, there is DNA evidence, so that type of evidence is very difficult to defend against.

So far, we really don't have any reporting about the relationship between Kohberger and these four people. As I said, there is a lot of speculation. Some folks have said there may be a social media connection. Recently, there's been reporting that Kohberger may have a past of stalking, things of that nature, but it looks like an uphill battle for Kohberger.

BERMAN: Kohberger's attorneys had wanted to question one of the surviving roommates who had lived in that house. What do you think they were trying to get at? It didn't end up happening beforehand. Will that testimony be allowed, and what role could that play?

POLISI: So, it's definitely not happening prior. That's the type of thing that would have happened with this preliminary hearing, and they will not get the benefit of that type of information. I mean, you always want to dive deep into potential eyewitnesses.

Again, there's so much conflicting information out there about this case. I think defense attorneys were caught flat footed with this indictment. And now they have to proceed. Today is the first day of the trial that the judge will likely set a date for trial and they will have to defend.

BERMAN: It begins today. Caroline Polisi, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

POLISI: You too. Thanks for having me.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a lawyer who quit working for Donald Trump's legal team is sitting down with CNN to explain his decision. Why he says that is leaving has nothing to do with the case or his client.

For the only the second time, a private space mission has successfully docked at the International Space Station. And the hatch will soon open and they will be welcomed into the ISS. We have live pictures of it all for you.

We'll be right back.