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Tonight: DeSantis Launches White House Bid On Twitter, Key Florida Bills DeSantis Signed This Year, Typhoon Slams U.S. Territory Guam With Devastating Winds, Storm Surge, Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 09:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Finally making it official, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to launch his presidential bid today. how he changes the race as the Republican field expands. And what does Elon Musk have to do with it?

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Shelter now, a stark warning as a typhoon packing wind gusts over 100 miles per hour barrels into land and look at the devastation as the worst of it is hitting right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The Mar-a-Lago documents case reaches a critical moment. Donald Trump's lawyers demand a meeting with the Attorney General as the Special Counsel closes in on a decision about whether to charge. This is CNN News Central.

BOLDUAN: Let the games begin. The one competitor that Donald Trump appears to be most focused on is about to jump in the race. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to launch his presidential campaign today. And he's going to do it in a somewhat surprising way. Not holding a big rally like we saw from Tim Scott just this week. Not putting out a big video like we saw from President Joe Biden announcing his reelection bid. Instead opting for a Twitter chat with Twitter owner Elon Musk. The event is being billed as a live unscripted Q&A.

But make no mistake, team DeSantis has been fine tuning his 2024 script for months. And despite a dip in recent polling, DeSantis is still seen as posing the greatest primary threat to the current Republican front runner Donald Trump. And that has become evident as in Trump's recent attacks against the governor who he once endorsed, those attacks have been sharpening. One fun fact. If elected President Ron DeSantis, at 44 years old would be the youngest -- one of the youngest presidents ever behind JFK and Teddy Roosevelt.

A striking contrast with both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, of course. Let's get started. CNN's Steve Contorno. He's in Florida. He's standing by. Steve, what more are you learning about the rollout, the campaign rollout plans for Ron DeSantis today?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: OK, Governor Ron DeSantis will join Elon Musk for a Twitter conversation where he is expected to launch his presidential campaign that is slated to begin at six o'clock tonight. And DeSantis from there will host a fundraiser here in Florida, where his campaign will begin dialing for dollars to get as many resources as possible to take this challenge directly to Donald Trump. They already have more than $100 million -- $100 million dollars behind them. And that number is expected to grow by the end of the week.

Now DeSantis has been teasing this announcement for months now. He has had this long roll out of the campaign. It's included a book tour. National travels, stops in early States even an inter -- international trip, but this will become official later today. His -- his wife, First Lady Kate -- Casey DeSantis, teased the announcement yesterday with a video showing her husband walking out onto the stage. Take a look at -- at what they put out there yesterday.


RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: But is it worth the fight? Do I have the courage? Is it worth the sacrifice? America has been worth it every single time.


CONTORNO: So that fight begins this week and DeSantis has been eyeing this race for a while. But he has said he is mostly focused on challenging President Biden and will not spend a lot of time publicly attacking Donald Trump. That will remain to be seen once they officially head-to-head against each other. However, his Super PAC's supporting him has been spending a considerable amount of resources in recent weeks defending DeSantis on the air and going after Donald Trump.

So while he is publicly avoiding confrontations with Donald Trump so far, he has a Super PAC who is sort of doing the dirty work for him. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Ah, yes. How presidential politics works these days. Steve, thank you very much. We've got that coming. But, John, it'll be interesting to see how long they can go without going into -- going at each other's head.

BERMAN: Yes, we will learn very soon exactly what he will do going forward. Just a quick recap of what he's been up to the last couple of weeks.


He signed a six week of abortion ban called The Heartbeat Protection Act and that doctor's cannot knowingly perform abortions after six weeks in most cases. He signed legislation that will soon allow gun owners to carry a concealed firearm in public without a government issued permit. Certain training requirements will also end when this takes effect in July.


DESANTIS: You don't need a permission slip from the government to be able to exercise your constitutional rights.


BERMAN: It will still be illegal to carry a firearm in certain gun free zones, including schools, courthouses and college campuses. DeSantis signed a bill that eliminated unanimous jury decisions for the death penalty only eight out of 12 Jurors are now needed to recommend a death sentence. No other state has a lower threshold than that. He signed the bill banning TikTok on all government devices. A crackdown on immigration also which includes a possible five-year prison sentence or $5,000 fine for someone in the U.S. illegally.

And he signed new restrictions on transgender Floridians. Transgender access to treatments and bathrooms will now be limited.


DESANTIS: We are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy. And kids should have an upbringing that reflects that.


BERMAN: LGBTQ advocates call this bill an all-out attack on freedom. They say DeSantis wants to erase them from Florida schools and society. Sara.

SIDNER: Prepare now and anticipate the worst. Officials in Guam are warning residents, they will have just minutes to evacuate and respond as Typhoon Mawar is slamming the island as we speak. Experts believe it's the worst storm to hit Guam in decades. The National Weather Service is warning of torrential rains that may result in landslides and flash flooding on the island as well as catastrophic wind and life-threatening storm surge. The island is home to about 150,000 people and several U.S. Military installations.

CNN Meteorologist, Derek Van Dam is in the weather center for us. Can you give us a sense of where the storm is headed?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Sara, they're still very much in the thick of the storm per se. When this video was shot just a couple of hours ago, they were under what is called an extreme wind warning, the National Weather Service reserves that for only the most extreme wind cases, it's like getting hit with a tornado for several hours. That is what they are experiencing, especially across the northern and western sections of the island of Guam.

Here's the latest satellite imagery. And we've been analyzing this and keeping a very close eye on it because we thought a direct landfall was imminent. But what it did is gone -- it went through what is called an eyewall replacement. So actually curve the storm just north of the island and it's now basically hugging the coastline on the western shoreline. And that has major implication on who gets the storm surge, who gets the heaviest rain, and also the strongest winds.

140 mile per hour winds at the moment near the center of the circulation. It's a slow mover. So it's dumping a lot of rain. But here's the impacts on the storm surge, four to six feet. If you recall yesterday, we had up to 20 feet here along the east coast. That was with the anticipated landfall for that section. But that didn't happen. So that's the good news. But nonetheless, they're still getting walloped by heavy rainfall and flash flood warnings in place for this area, of flood warning I should say with some of the rain gauges already picking up over a foot with yet another five to 10 inches of additional rainfall.

You can imagine what that means in terms of landslides, and mudslides. Here's a look at the winds. They're going to be in tropical storm force winds for the next 24 hours, Sara.

SIDNER: Wow. It's incredible to see how large the storm is and how small the island of Guam is in comparison.

VAN DAM: Yes. It's like threading the needle.

SIDNER: Yes. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much for that update. John.

BERMAN: All right, Sara. Just into CNN, new information on the debt ceiling negotiations. CNN's Lauren Fox just chased down House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for his first comments in some time. You can see the pictures right there. I don't know if we're playing the pictures first or going to Lauren first. Lauren. You're on Capitol Hill. Why don't you tell me what the Speaker said?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I spoke to him just a few minutes ago, John, and he told us that he has not talked to President Joe Biden since their Monday meeting. He also told me that negotiators are expected to meet again on Capitol Hill sometime today, likely this morning. But one thing remains clear, both sides are very far apart when it comes to agreeing on how much money they think the federal government should be spending over the next several years.

At the cornerstone of this negotiation, has been the question of not just raising the country's borrowing limit but what the negotiators would agree to when it comes to spending caps and that remains the key sticking point. I talked repeatedly yesterday to Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry, two of the leading Republican negotiators and they said both sides remain very far apart.

Kevin McCarthy echoed that once again this morning saying these talks have been productive, but there still is not the kind of significant progress that you would expect to see given the fact that we are now eight days. I will repeat that, eight days away from that June 1 deadline. That is the date.

[09:10:00] Of course, the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has laid out as potentially the very first moment where the U.S. could default on its debt. And, John, I will just underscore to you that there are some conservatives who are now arguing that that June 1 date might be in question saying that Janet Yellen may not be being forthcoming about that date.

We should just note that one of the lead Republican negotiators Patrick McHenry said yesterday, he trusts Yellen, he believes her that the Treasury Department is full of bureaucrats who do not pull punches, and that June 1 is the date that the Republican negotiators are operating off of. John --

BERMAN: And when we say they are eight days left, the House Speaker is made clear he needs at least three of those days to let members read whatever bill comes out of it in a deal. So there really aren't eight days or maybe four or five left, depending on how you count. Lauren Fox, keep up the good work. Let us know who else you chase down. Thank you, Sara. Kate?

BOLDUAN: I'll take it. And I will also say, but when they really are hard up but on a deadline, John, they often can say, you know what, though, that three days, that three-day period, well, we'll try better next time. Let's move on. Because you heard -- as you heard Lauren say, Patrick McHenry just said that he trust Janet Yellen. And other conservatives are saying that they do not. That gets us to where the debt ceiling with this debt ceiling standoff is it is playing out.

The Treasury though is scrambling to count every dollar. Right now federal government cash reserves stands at $68.3 billion. CNN's Christine Romans joins me now. Christine, this has been something -- this is going to be -- I'm not going to call it your new pet project. This has been something you've urgently started to track every day. Because where what like how much money the U.S. -- the US government actually has in reserves? Where does $68 billion get you to like right now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR, EARLY START: It's like having $125 in your checking account. And you've got the mortgage bill coming in. You've got your GEICO Insurance payment coming in.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

ROMANS: You know you've got all these bills, and you only have a few dollars. So it shows you what they're dealing with. They're dealing with diminished funds. Now on June 15, there'll be money coming in from state and corporate tax receipts.


ROMANS: Maybe that'll be $79 billion. That's maybe the estimate or not for sure. But let me show you what comes due just on June 1. $47 billion for Medicare, $25 billion dollars for Social Security, $2 billion for Medicaid and $12 billion in Veterans benefits. Anybody receiving one of those checks, does not think, ha, -- does not think that they are negotiable here. They want to see that money coming in. So I think what the -- what the Treasury Department has to decide to do, will they pay the interest and principal on our debt?

I'm sure the answer to that is yes. And then after that, where do they find the dollars to pay all of these obligations. We have hundreds of billions of dollars of bills that are coming due in June, and we only have $68 billion in the bank account.

BOLDUAN: And Janet Yellen also said, it's not -- it might not even be as easy as we'll pick a priority of what bill to pay. She has recently said she's not even clear how that is actually going to work to pay some, to not pay all. That's not how the system is set up. ROMANS: Our payment system is made to pay our bills on time. That is what the international prestige of the United States is it pays its bills on time. So we're not even built not to do that exactly. So we're heading into some pretty dicey days I think as we figure out how to get those bills paid, which bills to pay, and whether they can avert disaster here. I mean, you keep hearing that there won't be a default. OK, then show us how.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and also -- but and now -- Should be -- You can pick your -- pick your verb, pick your adjective -- But should be concerning when you're starting to hear Republicans rather than say it's getting more urgent saying we don't necessarily need to --

ROMANS: It's not helpful.

BOLDUAN: We don't need to pay attention to Janet Yellen.

ROMANS: It's not helpful.

BOLDUAN: Right. It's great to see you. Thanks.

ROMANS: You too. Sara.

SIDNER: Attorneys for former President Trump want to meet with the Attorney General Merrick Garland. Trump's attorneys have some questions, as it appears the special counsel may be in the final stretch of the investigation. Also, South Carolina's legislature is the latest to pass a restrictive six-week abortion ban. How soon the state's governor may sign it into law. And the crackdown begins today, The days of using a friend or family members Netflix password, they're about to end.



BOLDUAN: On the radar this morning, more than 450 -- Catholic clergy in Illinois sexually abused nearly 2000 children for decades. That is the conclusion from a new report offering a comprehensive investigation from the -- from the comprehensive investigation by the Illinois State Attorney General. Now the abuse was tracked in this report, it was from 1950 to 2019.

The diocese of Springfield said in a statement that the report is a reminder that -- the some clergy in the church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victims' survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone.

Also, we're getting new information about former President Jimmy Carter who is currently in hospice care at home. His grandson says that the 98-year-old is staying busy with updates on the Carter Center's humanitarian work. He says his grandfather is in good spirits enjoying visits with family and also enjoying regular servings of ice cream.

Three months ago, after several hospital stays, the former president announced that he would begin receiving in home hospice care and would forego any further medical intervention. Now, Netflix is officially cracking down on sharing your passwords. The streaming service has begun sending emails to all U.S. subscribers, who share passwords with people outside their household warning that will cost an additional $8 a month.

Netflix announced the crackdown earlier this year saying password sharing by millions of users is cutting into the company's bottom line. Sara.


SIDNER: All right. The Missouri teenager accused of crashing a U-Haul truck into a security barrier near the White House Monday night, is set to appear in federal court today. 19-year-old Varshith Kandula was deemed a flight risk and ordered held without bond by a D.C. Superior Court Judge yesterday. According to court documents, he told investigators he intended to kill the president if necessary to overthrow the government and put himself in power.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us out from outside the federal courthouse there in Washington. Brian, what can we expect today from the hearing and the charges that will be facing the suspect?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, we can expect to learn a little bit more about where this young man stands legally. At this moment, we do expect that the charges will be read to him. And right now he faces one formal federal charge, that charge is deprivation of property of the United States in excess of $1,000. Now there could be more charges added onto that because he was arrested on several charges on Monday night when he -- when he was arrested. So we'll see if more federal charges are added to that.

We do expect that he will be advised of his rights as a federal defendant that he will fight we will find out if he has an attorney. And if so, what his attorney may be saying about all of this. If the government decides to ask to keep him behind bars until his trial, then we do expect the judge to set a date for a detention hearing. We do expect that this that the judge presiding over this hearing when it happens and we don't know exactly the time that it will happen today.

That this judge will be Magistrate Judge Robin Merriweather, who will preside over this. So we'll learn a little bit more incrementally about where he stands legally, whether he has an attorney and what the attorney will be saying. Now we do have some detail from charging documents that were filed yesterday of some disturbing comments that he made about white supremacism, about Nazism. As we know, as we've been reporting, when he emerged from that truck, went after it rammed into that security barrier on Monday night.

He had on him a Nazi flag; it have had a swastika on it. Now according to the Secret Service agents who interrogated him, who interviewed him and who filled out these charging documents. He made some comments about admiring the Nazi culture, about admiring their authoritarian nature is what he called it their eugenics and their quote "one world order", that he admired Adolf Hitler because, quote, "he was a strong leader".

So some very disturbing things coming out in his charging documents there. We're going to learn a little bit more about that maybe later on today. Also, you know, we did speak to two former high school classmates of this young man and they described him, Sai Varshith Kandula. As a very quiet young man who never gotten in any trouble in high school. We are being told by law enforcement sources that authorities are examining what role that mental health may have played in this incident. So again, we may learn a little bit more about that later today. Sara.

SIDNER: Brian Todd, thank you so much for that. John.

BERMAN: Sara, today marks one year since a gunman opened fire inside at an Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas killing 19 children and two teachers. Texas will hold a moment of silence and is lowering state flag to half-staff and honor the victims. President Biden marked today by calling for congressional action to address gun violence. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in Uvalde for us this morning.

You know, Shimon, you were down there the day after it happened. You've been down there so much over the last year and you were there this morning. Just give us a sense of what the mood is like.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and John, this is this very same street that you and I were standing on a year ago. I'm sure you remember just behind me here when we started to ask questions to try and unravel exactly what happened here. And again, here we are today And not much really new has been learned for these families. They haven't really gotten a good accountability.

The mood here it's somber, it's much different, obviously than its -- was when we were here a year ago when all of the news crews were here and the law enforcement presence and all of the people that were coming here by -- by this hour and dropping off flowers. Behind me you see the crosses in memory of the children and the teachers who died. This is obviously a very difficult day for the family members who have not felt the support that they need, have not felt that they have gotten any kind of accountability.

And certainly this is a community that has been fractured, has been divided because of what's happened here. And so for them, for the family members today, they want to come together obviously to remember their kids. But this is much different kind of response to sadly what has happened so many times across the country. After a shooting where you see community come together, there's a planned memorial. Things here are much different right now, John.


BERMAN: You know, Shimon, you mentioned that's where we were standing one year ago and so many people will remember that image from a year ago. What's going on in that building behind you now? Anything?

PROKUPECZ: Well, nothing. Right now, you know, the family members want to make a memorial here, which would require demolishing the school. But the district attorney here who's in charge of this criminal investigation is preventing the school district from doing that. She said she needs to still preserve it. But I will tell you that in just the in recent days, in the past few days, they have finally allowed the family members, the parents to go inside the school to see where their kids took their last breath and to stand and be in a place where their children died.

And for the family members who I've talked to about that, they said they needed it, it was closure. It allowed them to be in a place where they can remember their kids allow, them to feel things. They said that they could see the bullet holes, some of them have been covered. The classrooms have been entirely cleaned out. So many of the desks that were there and the other things that were inside this classroom.

But they could see things and they could feel things and they said it was important for them to be there. And thankfully they've been fighting for this. Like everything else that they've been doing. They've been fighting to go inside this classroom. And finally they got to do that in the last few days.

BERMAN: Think about having to fight for as much as they have, after everything that they went through on this day one year ago. Shimon Prokupecz, I know you've been a help to them, and the work that you and your team have done. So thank you for what you've done. And thank you for being there today. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Ahead for us on CNN News Central, the date is set for Donald Trump's day in court where -- where he is going to face criminal charges in New York. The warning though now that the judge has given Donald Trump on what he can and cannot say in public about the case. Plus, the parents of Gabby Petito, they are heading back to court today. What they want from the parents of their daughter's killer, that is coming up.