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Tonight, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Launches White House Bid on Twitter; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Says, Willing to Make Just One Concession, Raising Debt Limit; Typhoon slams U.S. Territory Guam with Devastating Winds, Storm Surge. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He is in. So, how does he plan to win? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes it official today. We have new reporting on how he plans to beat Donald Trump and new information about how Trump will respond today.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: It's the strongest storm to strike Guam in decades. Right now, a typhoon packing wind gusts over 100 miles per hour is battering the island. A look at the devastation and the danger as the worst of it hits at this hour.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A brain decoder or a mind reader? A scientific breakthrough that is remarkable. Scientists in Texas on the brink of training artificial intelligence to read your mind. This is CNN News Central.

BERMAN: Ron DeSantis is running for president. Not a news flash exactly. Everything he's been doing the last weeks and months has helped position for that. His announcement with Elon Musk on Twitter tonight will be a culmination of that. What is new is information about what the Florida governor will say and how he intends to run against Donald Trump.

Also new, how his opponents are positioning themselves. This is a video commercial out just moments ago from former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. In it, she paints DeSantis as an echo of Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He was totally different. Whatever I want, he wants.

You're fired. You're fired.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Then Mr. Trump said you're fired. I love that part.

TRUMP: Make America great again.

DESANTIS: Make America great again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, that's Haley comparing DeSantis to Trump. How will Trump himself and his supporters deal with Ron DeSantis today?

CNN's Kristen Holmes, you've been looking at her right there, waiting patiently. You have the answers. The Trump team, what are they planning to do today?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I'm getting to that in one second, but one thing I do think is very interesting is months ago, when DeSantis was soaring in the polls, before Trump had that recent surge, his advisers told me that they believed that these other candidates would go after DeSantis and not Donald Trump. And so it's interesting to actually see that starting to happen with this DeSantis announcement.

Now, in terms of the former president, his campaign, his allies, there is a coordinated rollout, I am told, by advisers to essentially bracket DeSantis' announcement here and do what Trump seems to do best, which is take all the oxygen out of the room. This includes rolling out videos, including one of Trump directly addressing the DeSantis candidacy. It's also going to include a social media blitz.

Now, this is something that Trump's team has spent months trying to achieve. They have been courting these big name conservative commentators with huge followings, trying to get them to get behind the former president. We're going to see them tap into that network today, having those posts out there.

The things that we are hearing that surrogates are going to really be hitting DeSantis on are a number of policy issues both from when he was in Congress and since he's been Florida governor, and that includes reforming entitlement programs, a trade policy, China, his COVID-?19 response. And now you say there's more to that, that they've actually have research, opposition research, that will show DeSantis' decision, of course, something that we'll wait to see here. But the one thing to keep in mind is that despite the fact that Trump is surging in the polls, his team knows this isn't over yet.

BERMAN: No, indeed not just beginning. We are watching it play out in real-time between Trump and DeSantis, and now that Nikki Haley video, which was really remarkable positioning, Kristen, as you just mentioned. We will come back to you in a little bit. Thanks so much for being with us. Sara?

SIDNER: All right. Let's keep the conversation going now with Republican strategist and former RNC Communications Director Doug Heye. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Let's talk about this move to announce on Twitter. It used to be fireside chats and then it moved on to different things. What does this actually mean for Ron DeSantis? And is it something that's a little bit odd, certainly different?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's certainly different. I don't think we know yet if it will be odd until we see it. Obviously, that Elon Musk is going to be part of it, raises some questions. But so often, Sara, we focus on the announcement because that's the flashpoint that everybody looks at. But the reality is what's important is what comes after this. So, what we see from Ron DeSantis and his team, and they're talking about building out a very big team and being very present in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, with a lot of door knocking and so forth.


That's what's going to be key for DeSantis now, not some announcement, unless things go horribly wrong, which we've seen happen in announcements before, but you still have time to recover.

SIDNER: Yes, I'm thinking of not horribly wrong, but Tim Scott had the microphone fail on him for quite a time there when he made his announcement, and it was an awkward moment.

Speaking of awkward, there are critics of DeSantis' who -- including Donald Trump, who see him as a bit awkward. And doing this announcement, does that give his critic some fodder? Because it is obviously on a platform that he's speaking with someone else who is in that same boat.

HEYE: Well, in politics, whatever you do becomes fodder for your critics. What's black is white, what's white is black. That's the reality of politics. People are going to criticize you in your party or in the other party for whatever you do.

And, again, I think what's important for DeSantis here, regardless of what he says tonight, is how he then hits the ground running in the early primary states and also what we see him do nationally. We've seen, obviously, a lot of talk about the more candidates who get in, the better it is for Donald Trump and that it's somehow a 2016 redux.

And I tell you, Sara, this is nothing like 2016. And it starts because Donald Trump is the absolute frontrunner. No one disputes that. He's leading massively in the polls, which certainly wasn't the case in May of 2015. And Rick Flair has taught us so many times to be the man, you've got to beat the man. Republicans, you can't go around. Donald Trump. You have to confront him directly. And if you fail to do so, you're not going to win the nomination.

SIDNER: You spoke of his critics. I want to talk about what the Democrats are saying. Biden campaign and Democrats are basically saying, look, we think we can beat DeSantis. They're going to attack him for what they believe are extreme policies. They cite the abortion ban or the near ban. They cite his book bans, his sort of war on wokeness. And then you have this situation now where Amanda Gorman's poem that she read at an inauguration, a presidential inauguration, has been thrown out of a library, and these are some of the things he's going to get attacked on. Do they have a good platform here to go after him?

HEYE: I think, certainly, there's a legitimate conversation to have about what our students are being taught, what age is it appropriate to read Ernest Hemingway's Up in Michigan or Victor Nabokov's Lolita, which deal with very delicate subjects and recognizing that a poem by Amanda Gorman or a book about Jackie Robinson, for instance, should be in libraries and should be taught.

But when Republicans launch this war on wokeness, as they call it, it's about the fight itself. It's not about the details, they sort of fall on the wayside. But I'd tell you, if Democrats think, hey, we can beat this person and we can beat that person, it's got to start with raising Joe Biden's approval numbers. If they remain where they are, Joe Biden is in a lot of trouble.

SIDNER: I want to ask you about the field that is certainly growing, with DeSantis expected to announce tonight. We heard from Senator Scott yesterday, and we've got Asa Hutchinson and Nikki Haley, and it's gotten quite large now. Are we looking at something similar to 2016 here at the Republican primary?

HEYE: No. Again, at this point, I don't think so, because it starts so differently. With Donald Trump, when he took that escalator ride down in Trump Tower, nobody took it seriously. And now where we are in May of 2023, we take Donald Trump very seriously. And, again, the nomination doesn't go around him. You've got to confront him.

It's smart of Nikki Haley to attack DeSantis today, but tomorrow, all the candidates need to confront Darth Vader directly, and that's Donald Trump.

SIDNER: Donald Trump and Darth Vader, they have been put together by Doug Heye. I appreciate you coming on, Doug. Thank you.

HEYE: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Only one concession that they are going to agree to is going to be to raise the debt ceiling. That is the startling statement coming from the House speaker to CNN right now, quite a statement on the state of negotiations, quite frankly, to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt. Listen to the speaker in his own words.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've been asking for the White House to make a number of concessions. What concessions that you are willing to make and what are those concessions?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're going to raise the debt ceiling.

RAJU: That's your concession? That's it?



BOLDUAN: That's it. Manu Raju is with us now. Manyu, McCarthy was speaking to you just there. That statement sticks with me. But you also just spoke with one of the lead negotiators in these talks. Where are things?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. I talked to Patrick McHenry, who is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and I asked him about that statement that Speaker McCarthy made to me that he would only agree to one concession, to raise the national debt limit to avoid default, not any of the Democratic demands on a range of issues. He defended that.

McHenry said that the Democrats want to raise taxes. That's something they would not agree to do. The White House has pushed for taxes on high earners to deal with revenue. He says there's not a revenue problem. He says that they need to cut federal spending. That is the bottom line where things are right now. McHenry also telling me that if there's an agreement to cut federal spending, then that unlocks the whole rest of the issues here.


The White House has offered, as a compromise, an effort to freeze federal spending at current levels, with Speaker McCarthy says that he will not go for that. And at the same time, the Democrats are coming back saying they need to give him something in order to get any Democratic support if a deal can be reached at all. And that remains the big question.

Now, as all this is playing out, people are looking for possible escape hatches to avoid the first ever default as soon as June 1st. One of those escape hatches, to try to force a vote on the House floor, circumvent the Republican leadership, raise the national debt limit without any Republican support from the leadership. But they would need a handful of Republicans to join ranks with the 213 Democrats to force this vote.

I asked a number of these swing Republicans, the Republicans from swing districts, some moderate Republicans, if they would join the Democratic effort, and they all rejected it.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): My position has never changed. The President must negotiate with the speaker. They're finally negotiating. So, maybe what Leader Jeffries should be doing is actually supporting those negotiations and working to find compromise rather than undermine it and create chaos. That might be a good idea for a leader of a party to try that.

RAJU: So, it sounds like you're not interested in this idea.

REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): I'm not interested in that.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I'm not going to vote on a clean debt ceiling without some sort of responsible, reasonable mechanism to say, hey, time out on spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: This is why the only game in town, really, is this negotiation between Speaker McCarthy, his top allies, and the White House, things that have just not gone towards getting a deal. They will meet again this morning, according to McCarthy. And then the question is, how long will it take, if there is a deal, to put it together, get it through the House and the Senate, get enough support to get the votes to get it through, all huge questions, as default is now just days away.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great reporting, as always, Manu.

And, John, one thing to be clear, it's not a concession to raise the debt ceiling. It's actually their job.

BERMAN: Yes, and it's something they have done without conditions in the past.

BOLDUAN: I understand posturing and public posturing. We're going to continue to see that, but let's be clear.

BERMAN: Excellent point.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: All right, happening now, the eye wall of Typhoon Mawar is making landfall. This is the most powerful storm to hit the Pacific island of Guam in years. Some areas are seeing wind gusts of up to 105 miles per hour, creating tornado-like damage, extremely heavy rainfall. Officials there are warning of possible landslides, flash flooding and life threatening storm surge.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam is at the weather center, tracking this storm for us. Derek, what are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Respectfully, John, so a landfall in hurricane or typhoon has to have the center of the eye cross over a landmass. That didn't happen, but it was close and it scraped the northern part of Guam and it brought its toughest conditions yet. And it's still very much in the thick of it.

So, let's analyze this because it's a very interesting satellite loop. And here it is. We anticipated a direct landfall with this storm, but the typhoon went through what is called an eye wall replacement. So, it kind of wobbled the system north and circumvented the island. It's actually hugging the western island.

And this has implications for who gets the strongest winds and the storm surge and heavy rain. This is what it looked like outside of the National Weather Service just a few hours ago during what was called an extreme wind warning. They reserved those words for very specific moments when winds are very dangerous to life and property. And, of course, they certainly were at that particular moment in time.

Here's the storm. Large mass of orange you see here, right? The definitive eye has closed in, but still 140 mile per hour winds around that cone centric eye wall that we can't see on radar at the moment because, well, quite frankly, the radar has been knocked down.

We have over 16 inches of rain already recorded in some locations, just incredible. That's why flash flood warnings are in place. More rainfall to come, another five to seven inches. Here's a look at the storm surge potential. Not as high as what we anticipated yesterday, but it's those western coastlines that will feel most vulnerable to this storm. John?

BERMAN: Derek Van Dam, an important clarification, not an eye wall landfall, an eye wall land scrape. I appreciate it.

VAN DAM: Hey. There you go. You learn something new every day, right?

BERMAN: Thank you very much for that. Sara?

SIDNER: It has been one year since one of the worst school shootings in American history at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and many families are still searching for answers. The uncle of one of the victims is joining us next.

Plus, a controversial bill requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom fails in the Texas State House, but is it gone for good?

Also, Amanda Gorman read her striking poem at President Biden's inauguration, but a Florida elementary school has now restricted access to it.


And guess what? The mayor of Miami-Dade has responded. What she says, after the break.


SIDNER: On our radar this morning, the 19-year-old accused of crashing a U-haul truck into a security barrier near the White House Monday night is expected to appear before a federal judge today at 1:15 this afternoon, Sai Varshith Kandula was ordered held without bond by a D.C. superior court judge yesterday. Court documents reveal he had praised Hitler after his arrest and told investigators he aimed to, quote, kill the president and put himself in power.


Now to a stunning new report from the Illinois attorney general is exposing widespread abuse in the Illinois Catholic Church. According to the report, more than 450 adult Catholic clergymen abused nearly 2,000 children in Illinois for decades. The report contains detailed accounts of the abused, list of the accused clergymen, and recommendations to keep churches accountable and improve future investigations.

The Republican-controlled Texas State House has failed to advance a controversial bill. The measure would require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom. House lawmakers could not meet the midnight deadline for a vote to advance the bill to final passage. Legislative session ends on May 29tj, so there is still time for legislatures, the legislature, to use procedural tactics to try and bring it back up again. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: It was one year ago today that a gunman opened fire inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The reality of what was happening there was almost too much to comprehend as it unfolded and the news came out. 19 little children and 2 of their teachers were killed, their murders forever altering the lives of everyone who knew and loved them and it shattered their community.

And today, so many of these families are still begging for answers one year later. Listen to this from some of the work done by our colleague, Shimon Procupekz, for the whole story.


KIM RUBIO, MOTHER OF UVALDE VICTIM LEXI RUBIO: Maybe Lexi is gone immediately, but that's what they've taken from me, those answers. Had they engaged immediately and my child is deceased, then I know in my heart that she wasn't scared very long. But because they waited so long, now I'll never know. I don't know if it was fast, and I don't know if it took 30, 40 minutes. And that's hard. That's hard to sit with.


BOLDUAN: That's the family of Lexi Rubio.

Another family with the very same questions, sharing those very same questions is the family of Jackie Cazares. Her uncle, Jesse Rizo, joins us.

Jesse, you and I have talked many times over the past year, and I know that you and Jackie's family have been kind of preparing somehow for this day to come. And now that it's here today, how are you feeling? What are you feeling?

JESSE RIZO, UNCLE OF UVALDE VICTIM JACKIE CAZARES: It's overwhelming, sadness, somber moment. This is a day that you reflect. You think about their love that they shared, the children, and what Jackie was like. And all you can do at this point is basically support each other on a day like this.

There's a day -- other days is a day (ph) that you battle. You ask those hard questions, you want those answers. But on a day like this is a day of -- where you pray and you unite with your family and the rest of the families. We've grown to be one big family, Kate. And if anything good came out of this, that's one good thing. I mean, we all love each other and we're there for each other. We stand with each other.

So, we know that things are going to be tough down the road. As you mentioned just a minute ago, that the answers have not been provided, so there's no sense of healing, no sense of closure, nothing but letdown, to be honest with you.

You can lean on faith and you can lean on your friends and the community and the people that reach out from across the world and tell us that they love us. And so we lean on that. We count on that. But tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow, the same question will linger, to be honest with you.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. And what we're showing right beside your image here in studio, Jesse, is the image of Jackie. And, really, in my mind, never having known her and for everyone else, she is kind of frozen in time as this adorable little girl in her first communion dress. And that's kind of how she is always going to be remembered by so many because she's kind of frozen in time in that beautiful little dress with that beautiful little smile.

On this day, is there one memory that you're kind of holding on to today of Jackie?

RIZO: There's many of them. I mean, we'd go to the park, we'd go out to the river barbecue and just her love, her love for anything and everyone, any animal, the water, the family, you miss all that.

To me, the most -- the thing that left an impression with me was that day at the -- at the first communion at Athe church, where basically you imagine what it's going to be like. The quinceanera, when she turned 15, the wedding, and you see that and then it's -- the (inaudible).


But that day, the way that she interacted with all our family, it was like she brought us together one last time, almost as if she knew. The entire family was at my brother's house. And when we celebrated the communion at my brother's house, that really (INAUDIBLE) -- that dress, the dress of that innocence, the veil on her head, the little crown on her head. And it's just a year (INAUDIBLE) by that, just -- but that's all you have at the end, the memories that you were able to build.

I'm glad, honestly, Kate, that I had the privilege to meet -- I'm glad that I had the privilege of getting to know that type of love, that innocence, from someone like this. And I mentioned this in the past, Jackie's only one story Kate. All these children, the teachers, they all have the same and similar story, the love that they were able to give to the world, really.

You look at those pictures and their smile, their innocence. Never, obviously, did they think that something like this was going to happen. It's devastating, to be honest with you. And to think that to happen in the community, in the world, it's gut-wrenching, to be honest.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you really quickly -- I know that today you remember Jackie. Every day you remember Jackie, of course. But today is the day you get through. And tomorrow, the fight continues for answers. This is maybe impossible to answer. Why do you think you still do not have the answers that you so deserve, that the family so deserve? What happened minute-by-minute, why it took so long, and who's to be held responsible for it?

RIZO: I think a lot of times, Kate, people refuse to accept the facts. They refuse to acknowledge their competence, basically, and that information will eventually come out in litigation through attorneys and stuff like that. It's only a matter of time.

And so I think, as far as my community, I mean, there's been a lot of outreach, personal messages and stuff like that, but I think the denial (ph). I think they're hoping that the longer that it takes that somebody will go away almost as if it never happened. And that's the only thing that -- I try to make sense out of this often, and it just doesn't make any sense.

In other communities that you have, you have the people that come out and they issue statements, they kind of tell you what happened. They're pretty brief. But in Uvalde, it's a totally different scenario. And, honestly, it's disappointing. It doesn't just make any sense at all.

BOLDUAN: And I know that you and so many others have not given up, have somehow find the light -- have somehow found the strength and light in the darkness of it all, which is hard to understand, especially on a day like today.

But, Jesse, thank you for always being always -- for always coming on and sharing. I really appreciate it. We're thinking of you today.

RIZO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. John?

BERMAN: Kate, well said, so much strength there.

So, she read her poem at the inauguration, then a Florida school restricted access to it. Now, the mayor of Miami-Dade says, come read it in person. That, coming up.

Also, can A.I. read your mind? Does it want to read your mind? Scientists closer to finding an answer.