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Park Service Says, Driver is 19-Year-OLD Sai Vashith Vandula From Missouri; E. Jean Carroll Seeks New Damages from Trump After CNN Remarks; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Says, We Are Nowhere Near a Deal, Hang With Me. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We just learned the name of the man under arrest today for crashing a U-haul into barriers right across from the White House, where police say they found that truck after his arrest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the Kremlin says it is launching a new investigation over drone attacks that they say were carried out by pro-Ukrainian fighters inside Russia. This is CNN News Central.

BOLDUAN: All right. So, did the driver of this U-haul truck that you see right here intentionally crash near the White House? Right now, a major investigation is underway to find that out. This happened just before 10:00 P.M. last night. Officials say the truck drove into security barriers on the front side of Lafayette Square at 16th street. That is the park right across from the White House.

The Secret Service says no one was injured in the incident. The driver of that truck was arrested on multiple charges. The charges include assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, destruction of federal property and trespassing. But the most eye-opening charge that people are paying most attention to today, of course, is this threat, threatening to kill, kidnap, or inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member.

CNN's Brian Todd is there for us, joining us once again this hour. Brian, the National Park Service, they just identified this man. What more are you learning this hour?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate. The National Park Police has identified him as 19 year old Sai Varshith Kandula of Chesterfield, Missouri. That is the name we were just given a short time ago. He is a suspect in this case. What they thought might have occurred when he rammed into these barriers behind me at about 10:00 P.M.. Eastern Time last night.

There were security concerns initially that there might be explosives in the vehicle. And for that reason, I'm going to take you over here. They evacuated that hotel, the Hay Adams Hotel on the corner of H and 16th street here, briefly. The FBI searched the truck. They found no explosives in the vehicle. So, people were then allowed to go back into the Hay Adams Hotel. This suspect, again identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19 years old, charged with threatening to kill, kidnap or harm a president, assault with a dangerous weapon, destruction of federal property, and other charges. He is expected to appear in court a little bit later today.

They found inside the truck, we can tell you, a flag with what appeared to be a swastika on it, a black backpack and a roll of duct tape. There was one witness here who observed the truck hitting this barrier more than once. Alexander Garcia spoke to media members last night. Here's what he had to say.


ALEXANDER GARCIA, WITNESS: It's a U-haul truck coming on H Street. And then it 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: Now, according to police and the US. Secret Service, the president was never in any danger, but the Secret Service is not giving any information as to whether any special protective measures were taken to protect the president last night.

Again, this occurred at about 10:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Still, a lot of people on the street, fairly busy time of the evening here in Washington and was good weather. So, there would be a lot of people out on the street, as there are now. But as you can see, this occurred about 200 yards from the White House. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks for being there, Brian. I appreciate the update. John?

BERMAN: All right. This afternoon, Donald Trump will appear before a Manhattan judge remotely, via video. He will learn what he can and cannot say publicly about his ongoing criminal hush money payments case. And there's more new developments swirling around the former president. This one involves E. Jean Carroll, who just won a $5 million civil defamation and battery lawsuit against him.


Carroll is now asking a judge to let her seek what her attorneys describe as, quote, a very substantial amount of money after what Trump said on the CNN town hall.

So, CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the court where the video of Donald Trump will appear this afternoon in the criminal hush money case. First, what's going to happen there?

KARA SCANELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. John. So, at this hearing this afternoon, the former president will appear on a video screen, and the judge will address him directly. The judge will describe to him this protective order that he put in place earlier this month. And in that order, it will kind of give the former president the rules of the road and what he can do with any of the materials that prosecutors turn over.

Now, the judge has made clear this is not a gag order, that Trump can continue to defend himself on this case, and he can talk about any material that's in the public domain already. But the judge is saying that Trump cannot post any material that he receives from prosecutors. That could include witness statements, grand jury testimony, can't post any of that on social media.

Now, the hearing today is called at the request of the prosecutors who wanted the judge to make this clear to Trump, because they say Trump has had an extensive history of making sort of alarming statements, inflammatory statements on his social media pages. So, they wanted the judge to address the former president one-on-one, so he can ask any questions, if he has them, and that Trump can also learn what the consequences are if he violates this court order. They essentially want to make sure there's no confusion moving forward in this case.

And we also may learn the trial date. The judge asked both sides to come together and propose when they want this trial to go in February or March of next year, because the judge saying this will be the middle of the presidential election season, and the judge wanting to make sure that there are no excuses about why Trump can or cannot appear when this trial date is set. John?

BERMAN: So, in the words matter and can have legal consequences filed. Why is E. Jean Carroll now Pointing to the CNN town hall and saying, hey, this matters?

SCANNELL: Yes. So, Carroll is pointing to Trump's comments, which came just 24 hours after the jury delivered that verdict in her favor, where Trump repeated some of the same statements that the jury said was defamatory.

So, Carroll is asking a judge, who is overseeing another lawsuit. She'd filed two that were defamatory, one based on comments in 2019, one based on comments in 2020. They're essentially the same comments. But she's saying to the judge.

Now, it is this other lawsuit has been held up on appeal. It's now up to the judge to decide what to do there, saying that if this suit does move forward, she wants to use the comments that Trump made just a few weeks ago to show that he is not remorseful, that in showing that he had some malice here in order to get more in terms of punitive damages, because those damages are meant to punish the person for whatever they are found liable of.

So, the question will go back to the trial judge. He had previously allowed this suit to go forward. It went up on appeal. It's now back in his court. So, we could see some developments on this case move forward pretty quickly, John.

BERMAN: All right, Kara Scannell, a busy day for you. Thank you so much for being with us. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John. Joining us now for more on this is former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rogers. Jennifer, let's start with where John and Kara just left off, with what Eugene Carroll is now asking through her attorneys, to basically amend a lawsuit to include what she says are defamatory statements that were said during the CNN town hall two weeks ago. What do you think that does to her case? What do you think of this request?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it strengthens her case. I mean, she could theoretically have filed a whole separate lawsuit saying, he defamed me yet again and gone to court on that. It's more convenient. It's more expeditious to do it this way. But she's asking for a lot more money. She's saying, he did it again, he hasn't learned, and there's more (INAUDIBLE) here. That's a big proving defamation. So, this really helps her case.

BOLDUAN: In the filing from Carroll's attorney, they argue that Trump's comments on CNN warrant punitive damages, as they were discussing. Let me read part of what is said. Trump's defamatory statements post verdict show the depth of his malice toward Carroll.

As you're talking about, this conduct supports a very substantial punitive damages award in Carroll's favor, both to punish Trump, to deter him from engaging in further defamation, and to deter others from doing the same. What do you make of that argument about the deterrence?

RODGERS: Yes. Well, that's exactly what punitive damages are for, right? It's for punishment, but it is also for deterrence. I mean, deterring others, that's kind of disturbing. But deterring him specifically, a day after this verdict came in, and he was ordered to pay $5 million, he's on the CNN town hall saying the same things again. He has not been deterred by that. He needs to be deterred by that because he continues to violate her rights in this way. So that's why they're going for this.

BOLDUAN: The other situation that's happening in criminal court today in Manhattan for Trump, what the judge is expected to tell Trump what he can and can't say essentially publicly. Trump appearing via video. What do you think that's going to include? What do you think this is going to look like?


RODGERS: So, this is a protective order. It's not a gag order. He's not being prohibited from talking generally about the case or saying that he's innocent, that sort of thing. This is only about the discovery that prosecutors are about to turn over to his team. He can't disclose that information.

Sometimes witnesses can be at risk if you disclose what is in discovery, you can have threats against the judge. We've seen in this case that Trump's comments have already put people at risk. He's kind of threatened the judge, and his follow could potentially put them at risk. So, that's why they want to be very careful about what he can and can't do. This is direct, personal notice. If now something shows up on Truth Social, they will know that he was properly informed. This is not we told your lawyers, and we assume your lawyers told you. He's getting direct, personal notice. He is on notice. And now, if anything happens, the judge can proceed with whatever sanctions he wants to impose.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting. We'll see what comes to this today. It's good to see you, Jennifer. John?

BERMAN: So, is the Republican field for president about to grow even bigger than expected? This was Senator Tim Scott jumping in yesterday. But beyond that, Axios is reporting this morning that Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is reconsidering, perhaps jumping in. That's according to a source Axios says close to Youngkin, adding, quote, he'd be in his own lane. He's not never-Trump, and he's not Trump- lite.

Now, Youngkin has previously said he would not run, and his people are sort of throwing cold water on this, this morning. Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal is also reporting this morning that a growing list of Republican candidates are running or considering running, saying, quote, it's a sign that prospective candidates don't think Donald Trump has the contest locked up, and they view Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a flawed lead challenger to the former president.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who travels the country covering this election, is with us now. I don't want to focus on the Youngkin thing exactly here, Jeff, because his people are throwing cold water on it. But there is this growing notion that The Wall Street Journal tapped into, this morning that maybe this race isn't set in stone just yet. There are other people, like the governor of North Dakota, considering jumping in. What do they see?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is not set in stone. And as we've been saying, John, important to keep in mind, this is the beginning of the Republican primary race. We are not in the middle. We certainly are not in the end. So, yes, candidates will still get in the race.

And as my good friend, John McCormick, at The Wall Street Journal reports today, others are indeed going to get in the race. Mike Pence, the former vice president, is likely to get in, in June. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is likely to get in even sooner than that. And the list goes on and on.

As for Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia governor, he certainly won a surprising and impressive victory back in Virginia in 2021. And he remains, I'm told, a lot of donors and other top Republicans want him to keep an open mind on this.

The reality is, though, he has a one term as governor of Virginia, and he is not actively considering this at this time unless it would be a plan B, unless it would be at the end of this year. If things sort of go south with Donald Trump, Governor DeSantis and others, then maybe he would jump in. But let's take a look at a tweet from one of his senior advisers to just set the record straight on what Governor Youngkin is thinking. He says this Governor Youngkin is focused on Virginia. Anyone who anonymously, excuse me, says otherwise probably isn't as close to the governor as they want to think.

So beyond all that, let's focus on the people who are in this race. And what this also speaks to is Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, we're expecting him to formally get in tomorrow or in the coming days. He is not as strong as Republicans once thought. He's getting into this race in a far weaker position. That is why so many others are thinking about also joining this contest, John.

BERMAN: And part of it seems to be this race to be the Trump alternative and sensing weakness, it seems, in Ron DeSantis. I'm holding in my hands, Jeff Zeleny, this open letter from Nikki Haley's campaign for President, from Betsy Ankney, the campaign manager for Nikki Haley. This is the kind of memo you write that says, please, cover me. I want people to see that we're doing this.

ZELENY: We love memos.

BERMAN: And it's basically an attack on Ron DeSantis, where they say, Ron DeSantis is like Trump, drama and all but without any of the charm. Explain this.

ZELENY: Well, look, this is someone who has been in the race for several months, and Nikki Haley has been traveling probably more than any other candidate, to Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, those early voting states. And she, of course, is trying to get in that second position. That's what all of these candidates are trying to be as the alternative to Donald Trump.

She's one of them in that position, but she certainly is not the only one, or perhaps even the leading one. So, what, of course, she is trying to do is try to get bit ahead of Governor DeSantis' announcement tomorrow and take a shot at him, because, of course, he's easier to take a shot at than Donald Trump.

But, John, the ultimate question of all of this, yes, Donald Trump is the front runner, but he's not the presumptive nominee because it is far too early to know that.


So, as we talk to voters across the country, particularly in early voting states, there is an exhaustion factor for him in some degrees. But someone is going to have to go after him and show that they are a stronger candidate.

So, again, the beginning of this process. but it is going to be much more crowded, which we should point out. That, of course, helps Donald Trump, because the rest of the support is divided and fractured.

BERMAN: Yes, there's one guy who really likes a crowded field, really likes attacks on Ro DeSantis, and that is Donald Trump.

Jefff Zeleny, great to see you this morning, I really appreciate it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Good chat.

Coming up for us, new developments are unfolding at this hour on the debt ceiling. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells Republicans that they are, quote/unquote, nowhere near a deal. Ahead, we're inside Capitol Hill. We're going to bring you the very latest. Is there any progress? Is it productive or are we going backwards at this point? We're going to get the latest from Manu Raju, who just spoke with Kevin McCarthy.

Three states out west have reached a historic deal to help conserve the drought stricken Colorado River's water supply before it's too late. What it all means.

We'll have that and much more on CNN News Central.



BOLDUAN: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is warning the public to beware of child smugglers after a four year old was seen on surveillance video being dropped over a border fence, border barrier near San Diego. The child then waited as two more people climbed over the barrier. Officials have not yet identified those seen in the video, but they do say the child is okay.

And in Southern California as well, a quick thinking dad saved his son from drowning. We're going to show that to you, pulling his one year old son from the family pool after he slipped in. On the video, you could see it. It's coming from a ring camera. That's why we were able to see it. Authorities say that the baby was not wearing any safety vests. The father happens to be a trained paramedic with the local fire department, and the baby is okay.

And in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law what her office calls common sense gun violence prevention bills. The two red flag laws will allow family members, police, mental health professionals, roommates, and former dating partners to petition a judge to have someone's firearms taken away if the court decides the person is a risk. They would also be prohibited from getting a pistol license or a concealed pistol license.

And a new status report just in on where things stand in the negotiations over the debt ceiling. John?

BERMAN: Yes. We are, of course, watching developments as they try to hold off a default on U.S. debt. And we just got comments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's lead negotiator just moments ago.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): We're still far apart. Until this administration is willing to recognize that they are having record spending, record deficits and record taxes, then we're not going to be able to come together. We are demanding a different trajectory for this country. You're putting the next generation in jeopardy.


BERMAN: So, that Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves, who's been taking the lead on negotiations. You just heard him say they are far apart.

Now, in addition to that, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been speaking behind closed doors to Republicans at a meeting to fill them in on where he thinks things are.

So, let's get to right to Manu Raju, who is on Capitol Hill. Manu, what did the speaker just have to say?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He says that they are nowhere close to a deal. And this is a real warning sign here, that there just simply is not much time left here, and to go through the legislative process, get a deal, sell it to the Republican members in the House, sell it to the Senate and avoid the nation's first ever default, which could happen as soon as June 1st, according to Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, who reiterated that warning just yesterday to Capitol Hill.

Now, the big dispute between the Republicans and the White House is over spending levels. What the speaker is insisting is to essentially cut spending below last year's level. The White House instead wants to freeze domestic spending. That is one big dispute. Another one is to add a range of policy initiatives, policy requirements, such as new work requirements on social safety net programs among the disputes here going forward.

But negotiations that happened last night and are happening this morning still have not moved them any closer to a deal. And on top of that, a number of conservatives that I spoke to, leaving this closed door meeting this morning, don't actually believe that June 1st is a real date and are telling their speaker and their leadership not to essentially adhere to that June 1st deadline, saying that Janet Yellen essentially is making things up. Listen,

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I don't believe that the first of the month is a real deadline. I don't understand why we're not making Janet Yellen show her work.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): She'll extend it. But right now, she's using June 1st. Everybody knows that's false.


RAJU: and that is the one real risk here, that other Republicans say that if they were to essentially try to blow past that deadline, but a default could happen as soon as early June, that could have drastic economic ramifications here. But now, you see the pressures that are happening from the right and the challenges of even getting a deal to begin with in every day so critical that passes. They don't get a deal, the prospects of the first ever default rise substantially.

BERMAN: No, it's a really good example, Manu, of how Kevin McCarthy has got a deal with his right over here, even as he's negotiating with the White House over here. And one thing I just would add, the language of these negotiations, they're nowhere close to a deal usually until they have a deal.


So, obviously, it's something we're watching very, very closely, waiting for any size signs of progress. We know you're working hard, Manu. Keep us posted. Thank you. Kate?

BOLDUAN: See the direction things were going after that team meeting amongst Republicans, John.

Also, we also know that the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, she is doubling down on her warning that the U.S. could default in just nine days. You heard, though, many Republicans coming out of the meeting say, they don't believe her. And now, more than 150 CEOs have signed on and put out an open letter to President Biden and Congress urging them to act or face a, quote/unquote, devastating scenario.

Let's get some perspective on that. Joining us right now is one of those CEOs, Alan Suna. He's the chairman of Silvercup Studios. It's good to see you, Alan. Thank you for coming in.

We just heard this update from Capitol Hill on where things stand. They had said overnight productive talks. Now, they're coming out of this meeting of Republicans on the Hill saying they are nowhere near a deal. And there's a suggestion if it's not done this week, they don't even have time to get it done before this June 1st deadline that we've heard from Secretary Yellen.

You've warned Congress what default would mean. You've warned Washington what this means from the outside looking in. How confident are you in what you're seeing playing out?

ALAN SUNA, CHAIRMAN SILVERUP STUDIOS: Confidence in this case is -- it's very iffy. And then the whole issue here is this notion of uncertainty. Uncertainty is what is roiling the markets. And I'm not a finance guy, but whether it's the financial markets and other markets and people spend habits and making decisions to either buy homes or to fix things or to do all the things that they would do, uncertainty is just absolutely destructive.

And the way in which the both sides of the aisle are posturing themselves, they're using something that has been used, I don't know, in the last 10 or 15 years, and I call that brinksmanship. And I don't think it serves anybody very well.

I think that the world had relied upon the United States for so long to be kind of the grownup in the room, so to speak, on the world stage. And we're not behaving like grownups anymore. Compromise is what is needed to move anything forward in life, and we're just not getting those messages.

I'm not sure how effective it is to have the public as engaged in the way in which it is during the news media with these negotiations just makes people dig in their heels even more. So, it's very concerning.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, because in the letter that you signed on to with other big name CEOs, you all warned this of the potentially disastrous consequences of a failure by the federal government to meet its obligations. But there are lawmakers, Manu Raju talking to them, that they don't even believe that June 1st is a real deadline. Some lawmakers saying, like Congressman Ken Buck saying recently, I don't think it's the end of the world if the country defaults. I don't know what a default looks like. What's your reaction to that?

SUNA: We don't know what a default looks like for a very good reason. We haven't had a default on United States debt in almost 250 years, and for a very good reason. It doesn't serve the country well. This notion of deadlines and working towards real or unreal deadlines and making accusations as to whether or not it's a real deadline or not is almost beside the point. We need to just have the people that are on opposing side get into a room and get to a point where they can truly come up with a plan that works for this country. This type of extreme on both sides is killing the country. It's not helping the country.

BOLDUAN: You just talked about how compromises the way that things move forward. And while I have you, Alan, I want to ask. I mean, you're the chairman of one of the, if not, the biggest production facilities for Hollywood and T.V. in New York City. You've had picket lines outside Silvercup since the entertainment writers strike started. You have productions going on, as we speak. What do you say to the folks picketing outside? And how do you see this writers strike ending?

SUNA: It you know, it's actually -- in some (INAUDIBLE), that's very similar. I really don't talk to the people on the picket lines. I mean, that's not the appropriate thing for me to do in my position. They're certainly not picketing against us. They're picketing against our clients.

The world has changed. Some of the things that the writers are concerned about is they'd like to go back to, in a certain sense, the old way of when shows had 22 episodes and they got residuals, as it went on year-over-year. Well, life has changed and we have streaming now, and the world is in eight and ten episodes.

And if we don't embrace change and work with it and compromise to work within the changes that are foisted upon us, we will never move forward, whether it's with writers and their employers or it's the level of.