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Trump to Appear Virtually in New York Court; Debt Ceiling Negotiations Drag On; Van Crashes Into Barrier Near White House. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The days when Democrats are so rare he can hunt them with dogs.

"The Washington Post" reports those comments at a GOP convention sparking outrage within the state Democratic Party. Several Democrats in South Carolina say Governor McMaster's words were -- quote -- "racially tinged and chilling." They have called on law enforcement to open an investigation into those comments.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS.

We will see you tomorrow. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Crash near the White House. A U-Haul van smashes into a security barrier near the president's home. Disturbing items collected from inside the truck after the crash include a flag with what appears to be a swastika on it. Now the 19-year-old driver charged with threatening to kill or harm a president, vice president or family member.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus: a 4-year-old boy dropped over a fence at the border. Surveillance video capturing the harrowing moments and what came next, as first responders trying to help the boy say they were met with gunfire, forcing everyone to take cover. The latest on how all of this unfolded.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And Prince Harry losing a legal battle over his personal security in the U.K. just days after being pursued by paparazzi in Manhattan with his wife, Meghan Markle.

We are following these major developing stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SCIUTTO: The 19-year-old man accused of intentionally ramming truck into security barriers outside the White House is expected to appear in court this afternoon, and CNN has learned new details about his arrest last night.

Authorities made a shocking discovery at the scene, a flag bearing what appears to be a swastika. They did not find any obvious weapons on him. A law enforcement source tells CNN the driver told officers he wanted to kidnap and harm President Biden. He is now facing a series of serious charges, including threatening to kill, kidnap, or inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member.

CNN's Brian Todd is outside the courthouse in Washington today.

Brian, tell us, how serious a threat do authorities believe this man and this truck was?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, what the Secret Service is saying is that President Biden was in no danger during any of this.

But we are getting some more disturbing detail this afternoon seemingly by the hour, more and more disturbing detail about what the suspect had on him, what he said at the scene. And it does present a fairly disturbing picture of his intentions, at least.

According to a law enforcement source who spoke to CNN's Josh Campbell, the suspect exited the vehicle after it had crashed into that security barrier at the White House with a Nazi flag on him. The suspect -- the suspect, when interviewed by law enforcement, according to our source, said that he did want to kidnap and harm President Biden.

Authorities are now considering what role that mental health may have played in this episode. The suspect is identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19 years old, from Chesterfield, Missouri. He has been arrested for a myriad of charges here, and I will name them for you, threatening to kill, kidnapped, or inflict harm on the president or vice president, assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, destruction of federal property, and trespassing.

This incident occurred only about 200 yards away from the White House. The suspect, according to witnesses, rammed a U-Haul truck into a security barrier, then pulled back and rammed it into it again. Then he exited the vehicle, according to our law enforcement source, with a Nazi flag on him, and, when interviewed at the scene, said he wanted to kidnap and/or harm President Biden.

Now, the president, of course, we have just said, was in no danger, according to the Secret Service. But the Secret Service is not really giving much detail at all about whether they tried to move President Biden around or any security measures that they might have taken to protect the president last night.

We can tell you that the suspect is likely to make a court appearance this afternoon in this courthouse behind me, U.S. district court here in Washington -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Of course, at the time, officers did not know what could have been inside that truck. It's clearly something they were taking very seriously.

Brian Todd outside the courthouse, thanks so much.

Let's go now to senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, led police departments here in D.C. and Philadelphia.

Chief Ramsey, this is exactly why you have those barriers around the White House. And we have seen through the years -- I have watched this as I have lived in D.C. -- as the cordon expands, it goes wider and wider to give greater distance here.

When you look at this, based on what we know now, how serious a threat was this?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you have to take all these threats seriously.

I mean, this obviously didn't succeed. My understanding is, this individual flew into Washington yesterday from St. Louis, Missouri, rented the U-Haul truck, went to the White House, and attempted to crash into the White House grounds. He wasn't successful.


Those bollards and the security around the White House is very, very tight, very secure, and he wasn't able to penetrate the defenses there. But it's still very, very serious. And, obviously, they had to take into consideration there could be weapons, could be a truck bomb.


RAMSEY: They evacuated Hay-Adams Hotel. I mean, you think about Oklahoma City. A truck bomb can do an awful lot of damage.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Mm-hmm.

And, oftentimes, in cases like this, it is rented vehicles that are used to do so, going all the way back to the '93 World Trade Center bombing here.

RAMSEY: Right.

SCIUTTO: OK, it's early. We have only a very beginning sense of the circumstances here, but we have some indicators, says that he wanted to harm President Biden, had a Nazi flag in there.

We know that, when you look at broader threats in this country from extremist groups, the FBI has said specifically that white supremacist groups are the greatest domestic terror threat. Describe that threat today and why exactly it's gotten worse and why something like this would worry law enforcement.

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, right-wing extremist groups are a threat to this country. There's no question about it, probably the biggest threat to this country right now.

With this individual, they don't know whether or not he's connected to any of these groups at all. Obviously, finding a Nazi flag would be an indication that you want to go in that direction. But, right now, they really haven't been able to confirm anything. They did find a notebook of some kind in the truck with a lot of writings. It was described to me as ramblings, which probably will yield some

clues as to what this person's intent was beyond just wanting to harm the president, which we already know. But, in any event, you have to take these things very seriously.

Right now, the Park Police is the lead agency, working closely with Secret Service, FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. So they're all working on this, and they will get to the bottom of it.

SCIUTTO: If you were involved in this investigation, what would be your most pressing question?

RAMSEY: Well, the why, the motive. You know, what was his real intent?

I mean, obviously, he didn't succeed. You know, I was the chief in D.C. for a while, so we have been involved in quite a few cases where you have to really work with Park Police, Secret Service, FBI. The jurisdictional boundaries there can be a bit on the confusing side.

But everybody comes together. But the main reason is, did he act alone? Was this part of something larger? We're looking right now at that scene, but, as far as the Secret Service and others are concerned, that could have been a diversion. They're not going to all be drawn to any one location.

They're going to be of a heightened alert around the entire complex...


RAMSEY: ... to make sure that this is a lone act and not part of something larger.

SCIUTTO: That's a very, very good point.

Charles Ramsey, thanks so much, as always. We're going to continue to follow closely -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Far apart and nowhere near a deal, that's how House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican negotiators are describing debt ceiling talks with the White House today, a shift in tone, after McCarthy and President Biden both described yesterday's face-to-face meeting at the White House as productive.

Listen to one of Speaker McCarthy's lead negotiators, Congressman Garret Graves.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): We're still -- 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 -- we are demanding a different trajectory for this country. You're putting the next generation in jeopardy.


SANCHEZ: CNN's Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Manu, clearly a shift in messaging from Republicans here, some optimism, and then nowhere near a deal.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really uncertain whether they can get a deal, get it passed before a potential default, because they are far apart over spending levels. The Republicans want significant spending cuts below the amount the government is spending this year.

The White House has offered a compromise to say that they will freeze current spending levels, attach that to an increase in the more-than- $31-trillion borrowing limit. Republicans say that is not enough. In fact, Kevin McCarthy just walked into the Capitol, and he said: We are not putting anything on the floor that doesn't spend less than we spent this year.

Now, he also said that he has not spoken to President Biden yet, though he said he potentially could speak with them again. And he also told reporters earlier that the White House, in his view, is trying to -- quote -- "disrupt the negotiations" by seeking new provisions, including giving Medicare more authority to negotiate prescription drug prices, something McCarthy says is a no-go.

At the same time, he is facing some pressure from the right. A number of conservatives I spoke to simply don't believe the Treasury Department's deadline of a potential default by June 1 and are arguing that there should be more time.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I don't believe that the 1st of the month is a real deadline.

Like, I don't understand why we're not making Janet Yellen show her work.

RAJU: Aren't you concerned, though, that this could be a roll of the dice?

GAETZ: I do not believe that to be the case.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): She will extend it, but, right now, she's using June 1. No -- everybody knows that's false.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The fact is, we have passed a bill that will raise the debt ceiling. The fact is, we're going to have cash in June. The fact is, we're not going to default on our -- on our debt. That's just completely false.

We have got the money to do it. So, everybody just needs to be patient. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: But that is the real challenge here, getting a deal and then selling it to the broader House GOP Conference, as well as the Senate GOP Conference, Democrats, getting them on board, getting it all through in just a matter of days.

Huge questions, as default looms over Washington -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: And glaringly divergent views, some Republicans not even believing that June 1 deadline that the Treasury secretary put forward.

Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's take you to the White House now and get perspective from CNN's Arlette Saenz, who's been tracking the latest from President Biden.

The president, Arlette, struck an optimistic tone after yesterday's meeting with McCarthy. Where do things stand with the White House now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the White House, notably, has been very tight-lipped since that meeting President Biden had with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy here at the White House yesterday.

There was that readout where the president said that the discussions were productive, that the two sides would continue to meet. But all that we have really seen from the White House so far since that meeting is these negotiators heading up to Capitol Hill to meet with their Republican counterparts.

Now, negotiators have been up there meeting for around two hours on the Hill, as they're trying to work out some of these differences, the very vast differences that remain when it comes to trying to reach an agreement. As Manu laid out, we know one of the items that the White House has proposed is freezing spending levels at the current year's level, something that Republicans have opposed.

Also, the president has pushed for raising new revenue, including taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. That is also something that Republicans have called a nonstarter. But, really, at this moment, one of the main challenges for both sides is trying to find some room for compromise.

You heard yesterday in those Oval Office remarks the president said that they will need to come to an agreement that they can then sell to their members, Democrats and Republicans. And that is one of the issues arising in these negotiations. The president has stressed that Republicans also need to be making some concessions.

But, right now, this is all heading into a very urgent and critical time frame with that potential default looming as soon as nine days away.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and the clock continues to tick. Arlette Saenz from the White House, thanks so much -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, let's talk more about this now with Damian Paletta. He is the deputy business editor for "The Washington Post."

We're getting close here, right? And I wonder, Damian, if there's enough pressure on these lawmakers to get something done in time.

DAMIAN PALETTA, DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think there's real denial on Capitol Hill among a lot of members that the June 1 date is real.

And I think what they don't realize is that, on June 2, tens of billions of dollars of Social Security benefits are scheduled to go out. Tens of billions of dollars of military pay is scheduled to go out. And also, around that time, Medicare provider payments are going to go out.

So there's this huge point, June 2, June 3, where we could really have a major impact in this country, both with the military and with seniors. And that will be -- they could be in denial all they want. And then, when that happens, it's going to be kind of chaos around the country, because those benefits, those payments are not going to go out.

And we have never been in that situation before.

KEILAR: I mean, that would be unprecedented, as you say.

When we look back to, say, 2008, the bank bailout, right, we saw that first vote. Let's take people down a walk through memory lane, because it was awful, right? The first vote failed. You watched the bottom of the market drop out. And that was the pressure that pushed the House into actually passing something.

Do they need something like that? And will it come too late?

PALETTA: It's a great question. That was a really interesting vote, because it happened during market hours, so we could watch split screen, the vote going down while the stock market tanked.

And that really did spook a lot of members, as you said. I think they almost need something like that to happen again, because this has never happened before, so they have no idea what would happen if the stock market -- I mean, the stock market fell like 700 points that day. We could be talking thousands of points this time, because the entire financial system revolves around U.S. Treasury debt.

And if the U.S. Treasury market isn't working -- and I know a lot of people don't think they come into contact with Treasury debt, but that's all -- how the financial system works. All the mortgages, credit cards, everything flows through the Treasury market. If that's not working, we don't know what will happen, but it probably will not be good.

And so that's the kind of scare that I think might happen as soon as the end of next week.

KEILAR: This isn't binary, right? It's not a yes, we, go off the cliff or, no, we don't, because even getting close has major repercussions.

PALETTA: Exactly.

So, investors are watching now to see what happens. And every time McCarthy or Biden opens their mouth to express an opinion about the way things are going, they're going to react to that. If they don't think that there's going to be a deal, then they're going to want to get out of the stock market before June 1, because they don't want to be on the wrong end of that.


So I think that's something we should watch as this week goes on, next week. This isn't just happening in the U.S. Global markets are watching. Global leaders are watching, because the entire financial system is interconnected. And the longer this goes on and the closer they get, the more things could go wrong.

KEILAR: How concerned are you this is really going to happen, that we're really going off the cliff?

PALETTA: So I have been through several of these, as have you.

And, usually, the negotiators wait until the last minute to cut a deal, so they look like they're holding out for every last bit of concession. When you do that, when you play chicken like that, something terrible can happen. And maybe yesterday was a 1 percent chance. Today might be a 5 percent chance.

The closer we get, the more things that can go wrong. They might just run out of time. It's very complicated to get bills through the House and the Senate on time. And so we're really looking at the next 24 to 48 hours is the time frame when they have to cut a deal. If not, things could get really scary.

KEILAR: If they miss that window, what scary thing happens?

PALETTA: I mean, well, obviously, the stock market could crash, massive unemployment. We could be in a scenario where benefits are not going out for millions of seniors, many of them who use that money for rent, groceries, things like that.

Then you get to a point when banks start failing, more and more people, huge lines outside food banks. The food banks can't get food. I mean, we could be in a situation that we never fathom would occur in this country.

KEILAR: Next 24 to 48 hours, that is now.

Damian Paletta, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

PALETTA: My pleasure. Thank you. KEILAR: Jim.

SCIUTTO: Back in criminal court, sort of. Soon, former President Trump is set to appear virtually before a judge, this in connection to the 34 felony counts he is now facing. Why Trump may not be able to tweet about it, though -- just ahead.

Plus: attacks inside Russia. What the Kremlin and Kyiv are saying about a rare cross-border attack on Russian targets.

And a social media warning. Why the surgeon general is now sounding the alarm on the harmful effects of apps such as Instagram and TikTok, particularly on children.



SCIUTTO: Now to the latest on the first ever criminal indictment of a former president.

Donald Trump is set to fear in court again in less than an hour nearly two months after the Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg, charged him with 34 counts of falsifying business records, all this tied to a hush money payment during the 2016 campaign.

The judge is going to instruct Trump on how he can talk about the case and how he is not supposed to talk about it.

CNN correspondent Kara Scannell, she's outside court.

Kara, so, Trump is not appearing in person. He's doing so virtually. Why is that? And what do we expect to take place in that room?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, so the former president will be appearing virtually.

Part of the reason was, they didn't need to create the same kind of security issues that they did for his arraignment, which shut down a lot of this area. This is really just a moment for the judge to instruct the former president on the rules of engagement here on this protective order that the judge entered in this case earlier this month.

And his appearance here, this whole hearing, is at the request of prosecution's, because the prosecutor said that the former president has an extensive history of making inflammatory statements on social media. And that's a lot of what this protective order focuses on. Under the order, there are restrictions. Trump is allowed to defend himself. The judge said this is not a gag order.

He can talk about anything that's kind of publicly known about the case already. But this protective order says that Trump can't reveal any material that they have received from the prosecution. That could include grand jury minutes. It could be witness testimony. Anything that the prosecution turns over, Trump cannot use and post on social media.

And there's also restrictions about what Trump can -- what kind of evidence he can see. There are -- there will be forensic copies of cell phones, some witnesses, like Michael Cohen, that are turned over to Trump's lawyers, but the judge saying that Trump can view that, but only in the presence of his attorney, and he can't transcribe anything or copy anything.

This is all to protect the integrity of this investigation as it will head to trial, though we also hope that we will learn the trial date. Of course, that will be some time early next year -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: What would the penalties be if the president were to violate those judge's instructions here, for instance, reveal some of this information on social media or otherwise?

SCANNELL: Well, that's something that we also expect the judge will tell him today, what the potential consequences are. And that can be whatever the judge decides, anything from financial penalties or ultimately imprisonment if he thinks it is an egregious violation.

But this will be the type of information that the judge discusses today.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's talk about the other case that he's facing, of course, where he was found liable both for sexually abusing, but also defaming E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll is now seeking further damages to that nearly $5 million she was already awarded because of things he said after that case was decided. What do we know?


So, you remember the jury had returned that verdict finding that Trump had sexually abused E. Jean Carroll and that he defamed her when he said that she made up the story as a hoax, that he didn't know her, and that she wasn't his type. Now Carroll is pointing to statements that Trump made again on social media and also at the CNN town hall.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But, Mr. President, can I -- can I ask you because...

TRUMP: And I swear on my children, which I never do, I have no idea who this woman -- this is a fake story, made-up story.

I have no idea who the hell -- she's a whack job.

COLLINS: Mr. President...

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCANNELL: And so now E. Jean Carroll's lawyers are asking the judge for an earlier lawsuit, one based on statements Trump made in 2019, to allow them to use those comments from the town hall as something that a jury could use when they're considering any punitive damages, because that's a form of punishment -- Jim.


SCIUTTO: Well, it's telling, because it's quite possible he knew that he shouldn't have commented in those circumstances as well. So, we will see if he obeys these -- these instructions here.

Kara Scannell outside the courthouse, thanks so much -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up: As the battle for Bakhmut rages, we take you there. Our CNN team on the ground has an inside look at the critical battlefield.

Plus: shocking new video, a 4-year-boy dropped over a border fence in San Diego, while U.S. officials send a new warning for migrants trying to cross illegally.