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Senate Could Vote on Bill Tonight; Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) Discusses About the Anticipated Vote on Debt Deal; Macy's & Costco Sound Warning About U.S. Economy; Biden Falls at Air Force Academy Commencement; Sources: Trump Talked on Tape About Classified Doc. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 01, 2023 - 15:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We are told a vote could happen as soon as this evening and we're on it.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Sounding the alarm, two big chains: Macy's and Costco say consumers aren't just pulling back, they're changing what they buy. Is this a red flag? What this signal for the economy?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, we're learning a building inspector who checked this apartment building complex in Iowa has resigned after it partially collapsed. Today, three people are still missing and we're expecting an update any minute from officials.

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

SCIUTTO: A big vote on Capitol Hill as soon as tonight. These two Republican U.S. senators, Florida's Rick Scott and Utah's Mitt Romney just told CNN's Manu Raju, the goal is to get a final vote on that debt ceiling bill tonight. It would then go to the President's desk to be signed into law just ahead of that Monday deadline when the government, otherwise, would run out of money to pay its bills.

CNN's Manu Raju, he's on Capitol Hill, been covering this since the beginning.

Manu, is that where the momentum is to get this vote tonight? And I also know that sometimes senators like to go home for the week as well and don't want to interrupt their weekend plans.

RAJU: Yes, the smells of jet fumes are really in the air in the Senate tonight as the push to get this done is intense. In fact, John Thune, who's a number two Republican who's deep in these negotiations tried to ensure that all 100 senators can agree on a timeline to have some amendment votes that will fail and then ultimately get to final passage of the debt limit increase. That's what's required that all 100 senators to sign up.

He just told reporters that he believes this could happen tonight. It could happen late tonight, and this could end what was a standoff that led to weeks of intense negotiations between the Speaker's team and the White House ultimately leading to passage in the House last night to suspend the national debt limit and as soon as tonight in the Senate side averting the first ever U.S. default, it could happen as soon as tonight.

Now, that doesn't mean that members on both sides are happy. In fact, there are a lot of members who are angry to folks on the left, believe the White House gave too much on issues ranging from energy issues to spending cuts, folks on the right who believe that Speaker McCarthy gave the White House far too much in terms of defense spending. They said they actually should have been higher on defense spending levels concerned that what was agreed to could actually hurt the Pentagon. That is what a number of defense hawks told me today they are trying to push for more money for defense even as they're facing resistance to change the bill at all.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The people who negotiated this, I wouldn't let them buy me a car.

RAJU: The Speaker says that Democrats didn't get any wins here.

GRAHAM: Well, I'll tell you why, a lot of them believed they did because more Democrats voted for it than Republicans.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think we're being jammed by Joe Biden. We're backed up here against the X date and this could have happened months ago. So I'm not happy with him. I'm not happy with the process.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Well, I just think this is - how do I put this - the debt needs to be addressed. This is the wrong way to address the debt, it's just a wrong way.


RAJU: But even with those concerns, Sen. Jon Tester for one told me that he would be grudgingly support this bill and other one, Sen. Dick Blumenthal, a Democrat told me he was going to hold his nose and vote for it.

So expect there to be enough votes to finally get this over the finish line. Senators, of course, were shut out of this negotiation, it was between the Speaker and the White House and ultimately, they're left with a take it or leave the proposition and then the day they plan to take it. Jim?

SCIUTTO: I mean, listen, there's a lot of concern that this becomes normal, right? That the debt limit becomes a kind of kind of a threat every time around to get cuts that some folks want in.

I do want to ask you about another move that's been pushed by some, Manu, and that is a - the - a plan to block President Biden's student loan forgiveness program - ah, Manu is back, there he is. He's already vowed to veto the bill. Does it have legs? RAJU: Yes, it actually will pass the Senate this afternoon. This Republican-led effort that started in the House got approved by the Senate was approved in the Senate by a bipartisan majority 52 to 46 was the vote and the President Biden student loan forgiveness program. Three members not Democratic member - not Republican members voted for this, that includes Joe Manchin and Jon Tester, two moderate Democrats from states where they're up for reelection in these red states, as well as Kyrsten Sinema, independent also voting with Republicans giving it enough support to go to Joe Biden's desk.

Now, Biden has planned to veto this and there's no threat of becoming the law of the land because there is no - there's not a veto-proof majority. But Republicans have been successful in trying to push through efforts to essentially go after Biden regulation. So they only need a simple majority to do it. And they've gotten some Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to sign on. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Though not enough to override that threatened veto.


Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks very much. Brianna?

KEILAR: And joining us now, we have Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us this afternoon. We do appreciate your time.

You heard Manu's reporting there, Sen. Thune just saying that there will be a late-night vote today on this debt deal. Is that what you're anticipating?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I've been over here in the Russell Building for a little while and I missed what's happened on the floor. But the good news is John Thune's early estimate was we'll finish tomorrow and now he thinks tonight, maybe if I stay away, it'll be this afternoon.

KEILAR: I mean, we could hope but I don't know if it'll move that quickly. I am curious, do you think that this is a hard vote for Democrats?

DURBIN: No, I don't. I really think that the - a vote gets down to a bottom-line question, do we want to default on America's national debt for the first time in our history? Do we want to put into question the stability and future of our U.S. currency, the dollar? Do we want to endanger families and businesses who can see interest rates really start hurting and their savings start diminishing?

All the answer to all of those is an obvious no. And if that's the case, you have to vote bottom line, as far as I'm concerned to pass this major. Do I like all of it? No. That's the nature of Congress and the nature of a compromise.

KEILAR: A lot of senators on both sides of the aisle are very upset about the process, upset too about what is in the bill, what may not be in the bill, in some cases. Sen. Kaine, your colleague from Virginia, is very upset about the inclusion of a pipeline that is a pet project of Democratic senator, Joe Manchin's.

A pipeline that would go from West Virginia Manchin state into Kaine state, Virginia. Why do you think the White House blindsided came with that?

DURBIN: I don't know the answer to that. And I can tell you, Tim Kaine is one of our best. And Joe Manchin is a friend. And they feel very strongly about this issue, and they're on opposite sides. It's a tough moment for the Senate Democratic Caucus as to how this is going to work out.

I don't know how it got in the bill. But at this point, I think passage of the bill and avoiding default is the major challenge that we face.

KEILAR: Do you think the White House handled that poorly, considering that it normally has such a positive relationship with Sen. Kaine?

DURBIN: The White House has a positive relation with Tim Kaine, for sure. And also with Joe Manchin on the Inflation Reduction Act, which did so much to move us forward. So I don't know the details on who was notified and who should have been notified. We're going to face a tough vote with two of our friends that we value in the caucus on opposite sides.

KEILAR: So do you think that the White House should have more seriously considered the 14th Amendment as an authority for raising the debt ceiling? This is something that your Democratic senator - Democratic colleagues, Sen. Blumenthal, urged earlier today.

DURBIN: Here's the problem that I saw, if this went into the courts, there is no guarantee that there will be a timely decision, enough time for us to avoid defaulting on our debt. I happen to think there's a good argument about Section 4 of article 14 and we should make that argument. Perhaps now, we can find a way to bring up before the court.

But ultimately that decision is going to be made by a Supreme Court, which is not predictable on a subject like this. So to have the fate of the American economy hanging in the balance of a long court process or an uncertain Supreme Court decision and then dumped back in our laps is something I didn't want to see happen, it was bad timing.

KEILAR: But how worried are you that this is just going to become the norm whenever this needs to be raised?

DURBIN: Well, that's why the starting point in this negotiation, which Speaker McCarthy insisted on, was that we would postpone facing this again, at least until the end of next year. And that, to me is a promise that really convince a lot of us that we can move forward and not have this hanging over our heads.

KEILAR: All right. Sen. Durbin, thank you so much.

I don't know that we will be seeing a vote this afternoon. That may be optimistic, but we will be looking towards this evening to see if that does come through. Sir, thank you. DURBIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Boris?

SANCHEZ: Major retailers like Costco and Macy's say their shoppers are pulling back, adding to signs that the U.S. economy could be in for a rough ride. Notably, Costco also says their customers are giving clues by how they're spending their money.

CNN Business Reporter, Nathaniel Meyersohn is with us to help read the tea leaves.

Nathaniel, a Macy's earning report wound up being a weaker than anticipated. What does that say about consumer spending and consumer habits right now?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: So Boris, shoppers are pulling back at Macy's right now. The company said that sales were down 8.7 percent last quarter from a year ago. Shoppers they're buying fewer clothing items at Macy's and they're switching their purchases to food, essentials and also travel.


We see people going on trips, vacations right now and experiences they didn't get during the pandemic. You think of everybody spending on those Taylor Swift concert tickets right now.

SANCHEZ: Yes, clearly a big draw. So what would you say about the other retailers like Macy's, how are they holding up?

MEYERSOHN: Yes. So they're also giving some concerning signs about the state of customers right now. Costco said recently that shoppers were switching from more expensive beef and steaks to cheaper pork and chicken, also canned tuna. We see shoppers pulling back on some of the home improvement projects at Home Depot and Lowe's. People are not doing as many home renovations as they did early in the pandemic.

And then today, Dollar General said that its lower income customers were really strained right now and they were starting to pull back as well.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Clearly a reaction by consumers to inflation. Even though it's down, it's still causes quite a strain.

Nathaniel Meyersohn, thank you so much for that reporting.

Jim, over to you.

SCIUTTO: For the first time as president, Joe Biden gave the graduation speech to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2023. And just after all the graduates had received their diplomas, President Biden appear to trip and fall as he's heading back to his seat onstage. He appeared to land as you can see in that video there on his right hip.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me now live.

Priscilla, following that fall, he seems to have gotten up, went back to his seat, seems to be doing okay. Do we know what happened and we didn't - do we know his state now?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Jim. And he seems to be in fine spirits after returning to his seat. He was helped out by a group of men, including an Air Force official and two secret service agents. But all of that after what was a long five-hour ceremony where he had shaken hands with the cadets as they were graduating over 900 of them, so that came towards the end of the ceremony.

But really the focus of the ceremony and his commencement address was focused on the world and the globe and how it's changing. He didn't - he nodded to the war in Ukraine, as well as China and climate change.

He also went on to stress the ongoing U.S. support for Ukraine as well as talk about the change that is coming and talking to the cadets about how they are going to be part of that change moving forward. So that commencement address going about 30 minutes longer than was expected as Biden stressed all of those points.

And again, what was a long ceremony he has given the commencement address at the Air Force Academy before in 2009 and in 2014, both times as vice president. So this was the first time he was addressing them as president.

And again, he shook their hands as they approach the stage and took their diplomas. And then after that ended is when he tripped, fell and was quickly helped up and took his seat again. And as you can see behind me, the Thunderbirds are having their ceremony.

So President Biden going back to Washington, D.C. after a pretty eventful ceremony here at the Air Force Academy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Air Force is always going to celebrate a little bit by flying.

Priscilla Alvarez traveling with the President there in Colorado, thanks very much.


KEILAR: Love those Thunderbirds.

Ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, leaked Pentagon documents reveal Iran is planning to escalate attacks against U.S. troops, where and why they plan to strike?

Plus, three people now confirm missing after an apartment building partially collapsed in Iowa. Why a building inspector has now resigned?

And a hospital in Idaho has been locked out of its own computer system, following a cyberattack. Doctors are being forced to turn away ambulances. We'll have the latest on this developing story.



KEILAR: Another Trump tape that could spark another legal firestorm. This is a CNN exclusive: federal prosecutors investigating Trump's handling of classified documents have audio of him in 2021 admitting that he took a classified document with him after leaving office. Trump did not respond to CNN's questions about the tape while on the campaign trail today in Iowa.

Jake Tapper is joining us now. He is going to be covering this extensively next hour on his show.

So Jake, first off, what's on this tape and why is it seen as so critical, a piece of evidence for the special counsel.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So CNN reporters Paula Reid, Katelyn Polantz and Kaitlan Collins broke this story. And what it is, is an audio tape that the Special Counsel Jack Smith has.

From July 2021, ex-President Trump, former President Trump at Bedminster, his resort in New Jersey, a meeting with some individuals that are writing an autobiography of his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Now on the tape we are told Donald Trump is pushing back on an article in which Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is described as keeping Trump from attacking Iran. And Trump is angry about this and basically holds up a document and we hear the rustling of papers. We're not sure if it's actually the document in question, but he refers to a classified document that would disprove all of this, but he says he can't share it because it's classified.

Now why this is significant is because that would seem to suggest that Donald Trump knew that just because he brought documents with him from the White House to any one of his resorts didn't automatically declassify them and that he didn't have the ability to declassify them just by thinking about them as he claimed on Fox. And it seems to contradict what he has said about this publicly as well, including to our own Kaitlan Collins at the town hall a few weeks ago.


Let's roll that tape.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took, and it gets declassified.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?

TRUMP: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after ...

COLLINS: What do you mean not really?

TRUMP: Not that I can think of.

Let me just tell you, I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them.


TAPPER: So that would seem to contradict that. Now we're going to talk to Donald Trump's former attorney, Tim Parlatore, about this coming up on THE LEAD. He was with the Trump legal team until just a couple of weeks ago, so we're going to talk about this and see what his response is, Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. And that's going to be so interesting will be - stay tuned for that on THE LEAD coming up here at four o'clock.

Jake Tapper, thank you so much for being with us.


SCIUTTO: All right. So legal concerns aside, what kind of national security risk is it for a document such as this to be potentially out in the open like that.

CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling joins us now.

So what we know of this document, General, is that it detailed plans an Iran attack plan, a classified material. You've dealt with classified material, commanding forces in the region before, what is the national security risk of having that outside of a secure location?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm glad you started off by saying outside of the legal implications of all this, because that is a whole different story. What I'm most concerned about as a user of classified information is how much this gives our enemies, how much the potential is for not only waving these documents around in a room with reporters who are writing a book, but also the potential for the president to just have these documents in a friggin golf clubhouse.

That's the thing that just is amazing to me. This is nowhere near a SCIF location where classified documents are held. He's sharing it with others, in this case, reporters, but who else has he shared it with and what does it have inside of this paperwork?

Allegedly, it has to do with snapping back at Gen. Mark Milley because of the - some things he recommended in terms of an Iranian contingency plan. If it was that, this is dialogue between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the senior military advisor, giving potential recommendations for use of military force against a potential opponent. Now friends are interested in that and much more importantly, enemies are interested in that. So if this document is just lying around, it's just indescribable - indescribably bad and it's far as I'm concerned.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you, especially given you've commanded forces in the region under threat, how would you as service members deployed in the region feel about that sort of information not being protected, given that information could conceivably impact their own safety?

HERTLING: Yes, well, it signals a move or many moves or contingency operations or plans. When the President was asking General Milley to help, as outlined in some of the articles written during that period of time, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs comes back with different options. All of the options put Americans in harm's way.

So if you're a member of a military organization and you know your commander-in-chief possibly has information that he's not securing, it's just very dangerous for the military operations. It's not something that we've ever experienced before in terms of a commander in chief giving away the kind of potential contingencies or options that he has to actually deploy troops in different areas.

SCIUTTO: So another thing we've learned from the ongoing repercussions of the Discord leak, this airmen who was sharing classified documents on Discord, The Washington Post reports that Pentagon documents from that leak showed that Iran plans to increase attacks on U.S. troops in Syria.

I wonder because we've been watching the position of Iran in the region chain. We even have some of our allies re-establishing diplomatic connections with Iran. What is the state of the U.S.- Iranian relationship there and has the chances of a direct confrontation increased given a revelation such as this?

HERTLING: I think what we're talking about here in this case with The Washington Post article, and the potential leaks through the Teixeira account is not just an engagement with Iran directly, but with the current military units that they use in various regions. In this case, Syria.


The thing that got my attention truthfully, Jake, in this in this article by The Washington Post this morning was an increase in the use of something called EFPs, explosively formed penetrators. This is a type of improvised explosive device that truthfully our troops, my troops when we were in Iraq, experienced as Iranian militia came across the border into Iraq and use these. These are extremely dangerous weapons. They're much more deadly than a typical IED. They can penetrate a couple of inches of armor.

And we - truthfully during a period of time when Iranian militias were using these EFPs in Iraq, we saw more casualties than we had just simply from IED. So the fact that they could be using them in Syria and using them against the Kurds is - and against the type of equipment the U.S. and Kurdish partners have in that area is extremely dangerous.

SCIUTTO: I believe the U.S. put the number of more than 600 dead blamed on exactly those devices, those IEDs in Iraq.

Just quickly, can the MRAPs, those vehicles, can they withstand a blast from an EFP?

HERTLING: Yes. Yes, that's the interesting part. They can't. In some cases, they can, Jim, but truthfully, the MRAPs were designed to take blasts from below as a typical IED and deflect the blast.

What the EFP does is it forms a penetration of molten copper or lead that can pierce the IEDs and then rumble around inside. It's a very dangerous thing and it can penetrate any armor. In fact, I've seen it penetrate parts of M1 tanks as well.

SCIUTTO: Wow. Goodness. Deadly indeed. Gen. Hertling, always good to have you on. Thanks so much.


SANCHEZ: Still to come on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, police praising a jogger and an 85-year-old retiree is heroes after they saved a family from their burning home. You got to hear how this all went down.

Plus, is Tom Brady reconsidering retirement. The GOAT just answered once and for all, we're going to tell you we said. Stay with us.