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U-Haul Truck Rams Barrier Near White House; No Deal on Debt Limit Talks; Notes from Trump's Lawyer on subpoena Talks; Trump to Appear in Manhattan Criminal Case. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Arrested for threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president. A man crashes the U-Haul into gates right outside the White House. New details this morning, including video that seems to show a flag with a swastika, and we just learned the man's identity.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back in court. Evan Gershkovich has now been wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly eight weeks. His case today is back in front of a judge. What's in question today and what it means for his freedom.


BERMAN: A man is under arrest this morning for crashing a U-Haul into barriers right in front of the White House. And we are getting chilling new details about what he appeared to have with him. Officials say that at about 10:00 p.m. the truck drove into security barriers on the north side of Lafayette Square and 16th Street. You can see, that is right next to the White House grounds. The Secret Service says no one was injured in the incident. Bomb technicians searched the truck, but we are told no explosives were found.

What was found, a flag that appears to show a swastika. Look at that. Also a black backpack and a roll of duct tape. The driver of the truck was arrested on multiple charges, assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, destruction of federal property, trespassing and, most ominously, threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member.

CNN's Brian Todd is right next to the crash site.

Brian, I understand there is now a name to go with this suspect.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. This coming to us from the U.S. Park Police just moments ago. They have released the name of the suspect. He is identified as -- we believe his name is pronounced Sai Varshith Kandula, 19 years old, from Chesterfield, Missouri. That information coming to us from the U.S. Park Police.

And setting the scene for you here, this is where this occurred. We're about 200 yards now away from the White House. According to witnesses and police, the vehicle pulled up here. There are scuff marks here on the curb. There is oil absorbent sand and other things there that were laid down after oil spilled out of the truck there. It hit this barrier multiple times and there was concern in the minutes immediately following the incident that there might be explosives inside the U-Haul truck. And for that reason, that hotel there, the very famous Hay-Adams Hotel, was briefly evacuated but then the FBI checked the vehicle and found no explosives inside that vehicle, so people were then allowed back into the Hay-Adams Hotel.

Again, new information on the suspect, identified as 19-year-old Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield, Missouri. What we can also tell you is that police found inside the truck a flag that had a -- appeared to have a swastika on it, a black backpack and a roll of duct tape. There was a witness who observed the vehicle hitting this barrier multiple times, Alexander Garcia. Here is what he told the media last night.


ALEXANDER GARCIA, WITNESS: It's a U-Haul truck coming on H Street and then he tried -- tried to run into the White House. And then he tried the first time and then went to the second time. And now it is right over there, right in front of the White House.


TODD: Right. So, multiple hits on this barrier according to that witness and according to police. He hit the barrier, then backed up and then probably hit the barrier a second time. And the vehicle, which was damaged and oil spilled out in this area behind me.

Now, we're hitting rush hour, so crowds of people coming past us. This is a very busy area. It was likely very busy last night when this happened at about 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Still, a lot of people on the street here and around Pennsylvania Avenue around the White House. So, just a very scary moment last night at around 10:00 p.m.

As you mentioned, John, the charges that the suspect is facing, threatening to kill, harm or kidnap a president, assault with a dangerous weapon, trespassing, destruction of federal property.


We do expect charges -- we do expect possibly to see the suspect in court later today. And again, to reiterate, you know, the lead here, we have just gotten information, the suspect's name, Sai Varshith Kandula, 19 years old, from Chesterfield, Missouri.


BERMAN: Look, that is not a small U-Haul truck either. That is a big U-Haul truck. And I think we're still waiting for new information on possible motivation. Seeing that swastika flag inside that truck is chilling.

Brian, thank you for your reporting.

Kate. BOLDUAN: And important to see some of the video that was picked up by affiliate WUSA of that swastika flag and the other items that were picked up, John.

Let's talk much more about this right now with CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, of course a former Secret Service agent.

Jonathan, what do you see in this?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, you know, Kate, you know, time and time again we know that the White House is a very high-profile, symbolic and strategic target for many. But that is why the Secret Service, in their risk assessment rubric, you know, have - you know, place so much emphasis on the physical security structure that surrounds the White House. And I think today it's safe to say that the security structure, you know, withstood this type of attack because, why? The Secret Service anticipates this.

These types of attacks have happened before, especially with vehicles, whether it's an errant vehicle, you know, part of a motor vehicle accident, or an intentional attack. And the physical structure around the White House isn't just around the building, it radiates out in concentric circles. And we see the benefit of that security structure today. While close, that truck did not get close enough to cause any type of damage or actually threaten the president's life in that moment.

Now, the Secret Service is investigating exactly with their law enforcement partners what happened and the motivation of this driver, but right now it's safe to say that the security structure around the White House worked, the complex was safe and, most importantly, the president and the first family were safe.

BOLDUAN: And, Jonathan, so first you have the initial rammings, and then when they moved in to collect evidence in -- from within the U- Haul, we've shown that video from affiliate WUSA of among the items that were collected and kind of laid out, it's called evidence, is a flag with a swastika on it. When you see that, how does that shift the investigation from there on out?

WACKROW: Well, listen, you know, items of evidentiary value that are found at the scene are going to lead investigators to the potential motive and intent here. This individual, 19-year-old male, why did he launch this type of attack? And, you know, investigators are going to key in, was he motivated by some sort of ideological group? In the worst case, was he directed to launch this type of attack? It's too early to tell right now. The presence of the -- that flag in itself is not the motive, however, it is going to be a key factor that investigators will focus on moving forward.

BOLDUAN: And what you see right here, this is the name of the individual that the park police just -- that they just announced was arrested, 19 years old, and now charged with several crimes.

As Brian Todd was saying, Jonathan, the Hay-Adams Hotel was evacuated for a brief period of time over concern of what could have been, when they didn't know yet what was in the U-Haul. What would have happened at the White House at that time? I know you said because of the physical structure the president -- the White House, the president and the first lady, they were not physically under threat because the systems worked, but what would have happened at the White House during this time?

WACKROW: Well, listen, there's a lot of things that go on in that moment. These are, you know, dynamic situations that the Secret Service, both the special agents and the uniform division officers that protect the White House, they train for this constantly. And they have immediate action drills in terms of, one, quickly assessing the threat, this inbound threat. They have to maintain a 360-degree view of the complex because this could have been a diversionary tactic from the very beginning. So, they can't just focus all of their attention on this one incident, they have to make sure that the entire complex remains safe throughout the entire duration of the activity.

So, in the White House itself, they go into an elevated state of readiness. If the situation does escalate, it's a multiprong attack, the Secret Service is very well-prepared to defend the complex. So, there's a lot of things going on at once, focusing on the president, the complex and then the public at large, and that's why we saw the Hay-Adams being evacuated.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's good to see you, Jonathan. Thank you so much for coming in.

WACKROW: Thank you.


BERMAN: So, this morning, we are waiting to hear when President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will speak again. They said they're going to speak every day until a deal is made to avoid a catastrophic default on U.S. debt.


This came after what both described as productive meetings yesterday. Their designated negotiators met late into the night trying to hammer out details. And we're just getting word, actually, that they are meeting again this morning behind closed doors. And we're getting new details about where things stand.

The biggest reality is timing. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says June 1st is the day that the U.S. could default on its debt. That's just nine days away. And that's even closer than it looks because if and when a deal is made, it's got to be written into a bill. Once it's written into a bill, Speaker McCarthy says he will give members at least three days to read it before he puts it to a vote.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House, and Lauren Fox is outside the Capitol Hill club, Lauren, where I understand negotiators are back at it right now. What are you learning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are gathering this morning, John, to have a discussion about where these negotiations are going on the debt ceiling because, remember, Kevin McCarthy has a needle to thread here, and that is the fact that he has to both reach a deal that President Joe Biden can support, but also bring it back to his conference and hold that support as well.

And, You know, the era (ph) of losing his speakership looms large as he talks to his members, as he makes sure that they could be on board with anything that he brings back to them. In fact, I talked to a number of Republicans this morning who say that they have a lot of trust in Speaker McCarthy to go ahead and negotiate a deal that actually cuts spending. But that is the key, they want a deal that actually cuts spending. And right now they don't have one. White House negotiators and Republican negotiators are billions, tens of billions of dollars apart when it comes to those top line spending numbers and agreement to decide how much money to spend in the future.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has some progressives who are also raising the stakes that they could have an opposition to any deal that he cuts with Kevin McCarthy. Here's what one progressive, Representative Pramila Jayapal, told my colleague Manu Raju yesterday.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think there would be a huge backlash from our entire House Democratic, you know, caucus, certainly the progressives, but also in the streets. You know, I mean, I think that this is -- it's important that we don't take steps back from the very strong agenda that the president himself shepherded and led over the last two years.


FOX: And you see there that any deal that Biden and McCarthy cut, it's going to have to run straight through the middle of their respective caucuses, John, because the reality is that they could lose votes on both the right flank and the left flank if they bring back a deal that is going to be in the middle.


BERMAN: All right, just to clarify, Lauren, I think I misheard before. It's the Republicans meeting with themselves behind you at the Capitol Hill club, not the negotiators meeting with each other.

FOX: Exactly. Exactly, John.

BERMAN: Which is interesting because that could be a circling of the wagons. That could actually pull negotiators apart when they finally get back together.

Let's go to Arlette Saenz at the White House.

Arlette, I understand there are memos going around. What's the White House saying this morning?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that Lauren touched on one of the key issues that the White House also sees as a challenge, is trying to reach some type of bipartisan compromise when it comes to this budget agreement. And that is something that you have heard the president really try to hammer that point over the course of the past few days.

Look, White House negotiators feel that they have been flexible in their discussions with Republicans. You have also heard from top Democrats up on Capitol Hill, like Hakeem Jeffries, the minority leader in the House, who said that the White House has offered some type of compromise when it comes to spending levels by agreeing or suggesting that it -- they should be frozen at current year levels. That's something that the Democrats don't necessarily want to see happen, but that is something that the White House has put forth in order to try to get some bipartisan support, draws bipartisan support for an agreement.

But really this is all coming at an incredibly critical moment. You have this ticking time -- this ticking clock really when it comes to having to push this agreement through Congress. It would take some time as that likely June 1st date is quickly approaching as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has reaffirmed.

But what you've heard from the White House and what you've heard from Republicans, that there is a real sense of urgency in this moment. Yesterday the president said that the conversations with McCarthy have been productive. But beyond that the White House has been very tight- lipped about the state of negotiations, what they have -- are putting on the table or taking off the table at this moment. But it's really coming as the U.S. is potentially staring down economic catastrophe as that early June deadline is very quickly approaching.

BERMAN: Yes, not much time left. Not at all. Arlette Saenz, at the White House, Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill, we'll let you both get back working your sources.


Keep us posted what you hear about all these gatherings. Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, E. Jean Carroll is going back at Donald Trump. He already owes her $5 million after losing a defamation lawsuit that she brought. The new damages she's now seeking after what Trump said at the CNN town hall.

Plus, a surfer thought a crab was pinching her foot. It turned out to be a shark. How that 15-year-old escaped a shark attack off the New Jersey coastline.

And, is king James about to abdicate? You can ponder it along with us. What LeBron James said that has everyone wondering. We'll be back.


BERMAN: Prince Harry just lost a big legal challenge in London. A judge rejected his claim that the British government overstepped its authority when it forbid him from paying for his own police protection when he is in the United Kingdom.


To put that more clearly, he wanted to pay for police officers for himself and his family. He can't. Harry lost his government-provided security when he stepped down as a working royal in 2020.

A New Jersey teenager is recovering from injuries to his leg and foot after she was bitten by a shark. The 15-year-old says she was surfing off Stone Harbor on the jersey shore when something grabbed her leg.


MAGGIE DROZDOWSKI, SHARK BITE VICTIM: I thought it was just a crab, like, pinching my foot. But my -- it felt bigger than that, I realized. And my whole foot was like in its mouth. And I was shaking my foot as hard as I could. It was hard. It was like really heavy.


BERMAN: So, even with her injuries, Maggie was able to paddle back to land to get help. She received six stitches and is expected to make a full recovery.

Kate, as you know, this terrifies me. Nothing scares me more, other than confrontation and abandonment, than sharks.

BOLDUAN: But I will say, of course, we are in the shark's territory. I am a shark lover. This is where our relationship comes to a crossroads, John.

BERMAN: They have big teeth.

BOLDUAN: We will - we will deal with this later.

This morning new CNN reporting on the investigation into the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Sources say Special Counsel Jack Smith has dozens of detailed notes taken by Donald Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran. Those sources say some of the notes show that the former president asked if he could push back against the Justice Department's subpoena to recover the classified records.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has his reporting. She's joining us now.

Katelyn, how much detail is in these notes?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Kate, it's a lot, and that's what the new reporting here is. We knew the Justice Department really wanted to get access to these notes. They believed that they would show Donald Trump potentially committing a crime in his conversations -- or wanting to advance a crime as he was talking to Evan Corcoran.

And now we know that these notes, they number into the dozens of pages, there are multiple sets of them. They range in a very crucial time period from the moment that the Justice Department sent that subpoena to the Trump Org to hand over all classified documents in Donald Trump's possession, and they catalog Evan Corcoran's direct conversations with Donald Trump, his client, the whole way up to when the Justice Department comes visiting in June to collect 38 classified records that Evan Corcoran found and believed there was nothing else left at Mar-a-Lago, even though there were many other hundreds of classified records there.

And so these notes, our sources -- we have a team of reporters who have been talking to people about them and one source told us that they were overly detailed, another source said that Trump's legal team was actually surprised the amount of detail here. And so we don't have much more inkling of exactly what would factor into the potential obstruction investigation. We know that Donald Trump was pushing back in these conversations, and it says that in the notes, that he -- how to respond to the subpoena. He didn't necessarily want to.

But this is the sort of thing the Justice Department really wanted to nail down in their investigation and they're going to at least get the level of detail that they were hoping to. Whether or not that adds up to a case or a chargeable crime, that remains to be seen.


POLANTZ: But it's still a big thing that they got these.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And great reporting, as always. I find it fascinating that anyone would describe -- definitely probably not hearing it -- wouldn't hear it from the special counsel, who's not talking -- that any record that they get is overly detailed. They want as much detail as they can get their hands on when it comes to when they're investigating.

It's great to see you, Katelyn. Thank you so much.


BERMAN: So, more new legal developments. In just a few hours, Donald Trump is set to appear remotely via video before a Manhattan judge who will lay out what he can and cannot say publicly about his ongoing criminal hush money payments.

And we are also learning -- that case, I should say.

We are also learning about a major new development involving E. Jean Carroll, who just won a $5 million civil defamation and battery lawsuit against Trump. Carroll is asking a judge, in a separate defamation case, to let her seek more money after Trump insulted her during the CNN town hall. It's actually the same judge there.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside a courthouse in New York City.

Kara, you are there where Trump's going to appear remotely via video to find out about the criminal case. Let's start with that. What's going to happen today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, John, the judge is going to explain to the former president, who will appear on a video screen, what the rules of the road are in this hush money case. The judge impose a protective order earlier this month and the judge has made it clear, this is not a gag order. He's saying that the former president can defend himself. He knows he's going to be out there campaigning. But he's going to make clear to the former president today what he can and cannot do. And that includes the materials that Trump's team receives from prosecutors. That includes things as witness testimony before the grand jury and other materials. So, the judge is going to tell Trump that he cannot put any of this on social media.


There's also restrictions about Trump's reviewing of certain materials. Some things he can only look at in his attorney's office. And he can't transcribe anything or make any copies.

Now, this hearing is because the prosecutors wanted it. They said that Trump has an extensive history of making inflammatory statements on social media and so they wanted the judge to address the former president directly to make sure he knew what he could do, what is covered under this protective order, and also what the consequences are if he violates it.

Now, we may also learn when this trial is going to take place. The judge asked both sides to come together and pick a date in February or March of next year. So, that's another development that we may get some more clarity on today, John.

BERMAN: Kara, I sort of made it more complicated than I needed to when I explained what's going on with E. Jean Carroll. But bottom line is, based on what she saw Trump say at the CNN town hall, she's now asking a judge for more money. Explain.

SCANNELL: Yes, so, remember, the jury had returned that verdict finding in favor of Carroll that Trump had sexually abused her and defamed her when he said he did not know who she was, he was not his type and said she made up the whole story.

Twenty-four hours later, Trump was on the CNN town hall, and he repeated many of those same statements. So, Carroll's attorney are saying to the judge, you know, OK, we just won this one lawsuit. And that lawsuit that went to trial had to do with statements that Trump made after he left the presidency. But they had also fired an initial lawsuit about statements Trump made back in 2019. That has been held up in court because Trump was president at the time. So they're saying to the judge, you know, he still has to rule on where this -- that case is going to go. They're saying, can you let us reopen this lawsuit so we can put forward the statements that Trump made at the town hall and on social media so that the jury can consider that for punitive damages because the purposes of punitive damages is to punish someone held liable.

John. BERMAN: So potential repercussions for what he continues to say.

Kara Scannell, here in New York, thanks so much for being with us.


BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

A new and important warning from the U.S. surgeon general. Parents, beware of, quote, profound risk of harm that your kids face from social media. The surgeon general's advice now and why he's raising alarm.

And a disturbing scene at the U.S. southern border. Video released showing a four-year-old being essentially tossed over a border wall. The latest on what U.S. border officials say happened and how that child is doing now.

We'll be back.