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Marc Short is Interviewed about Mike Pence; Hurricane Lee Could Reach Category Five; School Migrant Crisis in New York; New Book Details Musk's Links to War in Ukraine. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 09:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Republican presidential candidate, and former vice president, Mike Pence naming names and planting his flag. He is also throwing a hail -- is he also, though, throwing a hail Mary as he and all the other Republicans not named Trump continue to struggle to make headway against the frontrunner. Pence now calling out, in a speech, Republicans -- calling on Republicans to reject what he calls the growing threat of populism in the Republican Party. A populism led by his former boss, Donald Trump.


MIKE PENCE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is the Republican Party did not begin on a golden escalator in 2015. Long before that day it was forged and defended and defined as the conservative party in America.


BOLDUAN: Pence followed that speech up with an appearance on "CNN THIS MORNING," standing firm that Trump and what he calls his imitators are walking away from conservative principles.

Joining us now is Marc Short. He's the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

It's good to have you here, Marc. Thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: To state something that you know very well, Mike Pence was in the Trump administration. You were in the Trump administration. You were both there. And lots of people, in seeing and hearing what Pence is saying in that speech, they see no difference between, though, how Trump ran in 2016, how Trump acted in office, and how Trump is running now in 2024. Why do you think Pence can successfully separate himself out then?

SHORT: Well, let's start -- two things. One, I think there is a tremendous difference. I think in 2016 Donald Trump came to conservatives and said, if you nominate me, I will govern as a conservative. He came to conservatives and said, give me your list of 21 judges for me to put forward. He went to conservatives and said, give me your pro-life platform. He said, I'll adopt a tax reform. Those were all things that were implemented during the four years of his presidency that are hallmarks of conservatism. And so I do think that he governed as a conservative.

But I think as he runs in 2024, Kate, he's not come to conservatives and said, tell me what you would like to see as far as policy. Instead he said, these are my grievances. I expect you to fight for me. Which is a very different platform than he ran in 2016.

And as it relates to the former vice president, I think he's always been a traditional conservative. It's been a hallmark of his career as a standard bearer for that movement. Even during his first years in Congress, when he opposed, frankly, Republicans who were looking to advance the size of government, he stood in the well of Congress, was the first to oppose no child left behind expansions at the Department of Education, opposed the Wall Street bailout -


BOLDUAN: But the Trump administration also added significantly to America's debt.

SHORT: It certainly -- it certainly did, Kate. And I think that is despite the tremendous accomplishments. I think that is the - that is a -- one of the biggest detriments of the administration, is the fact that we contributed to the significant debt the United States faces.

BOLDUAN: And this isn't just a thought exercise, because I am very curious. If - and as you say, they governed together. They governed -- they governed unconservative principles when in office. If that is the case, what's to say that Donald Trump, if given the chance to be in office again, he wouldn't do the same thing and he wouldn't govern as a conservative?

SHORT: Well, it doesn't appear that he's surrounded himself with the same conservatives he did the first time, Kate. I think you look at the administration and not just the vice president but secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, people he surrounded across the cabinet, people he had inside the administration. It doesn't appear that those are the same people he's reaching out to this time. And instead it appears to say again, help me fight my grievances against the Department of Justice, help me stand with me against the onslaught that he's facing legally.

BOLDUAN: Ram -- one of the imitators that I know that Pence was speaking to in this speech includes Vivek Ramaswamy, who's obviously running. He -- his response to the speech, you know, conservative versus populism is, "it's not 1980 anymore. It's painful to watch old- school Republicans recite slogans they memorized in a bygone era. It's almost as if candidates like Mike Pence just stepped out of their DeLoreans and awoke from deep slumber to realize the world and what voters care about isn't what it was 40 years ago. This goes far beyond partisan politics. It's about the survival of the American experiment itself."

What do you say to that?

SHORT: Not going to take much advice from Vivek. The reality, Kate, is that Vivek himself has acknowledged he hasn't even voted in presidential elections until 2020. He didn't even vote in 2016, yet he somehow was -

BOLDUAN: I think -- I think Donald Trump said the same thing and he still gets elected.

SHORT: That he somehow wants -- he somehow wants to get the support of Republicans. He's never even voted in a Republican primary in his life. There's no evidence Vivek has. And so I think for him to give commentary about the conservative movement or where it's been is not something that's going to really generate a lot of interest on our side.

BOLDUAN: One thing I'm curious about is, Nikki Haley said something interesting this week. That -- she said, and here is her quote, "the American people are not going to vote for a convicted criminal." Do you believe that is the case?

SHORT: I think that there's a lot of voters who have concern about Department of Justice and our criminal system today. But I also probably agree with her. I do think that the reality is that a conviction is something that carries more weight than an indictment. And I think that for a lot of American voters it would be a bridge too far.

BOLDUAN: You -- if you look at the recent CNN poll, you add all of the Republican candidates, the support that they have, you add them together, including Mike Pence, that still doesn't get enough support among the Republicans in polling so far to best Donald Trump, the frontrunner. He's at 52 percent is what we have. Which means you need to win over Trump supporters in order to win the primary. Do you think Mike Pence can win over a Trump supporter?

SHORT: Oh, I do, Kate. I think --


SHORT: Because I think the reality is that he was there for the administration's accomplishments. I think for many of the voters they look and say, here's what I - here's what I appreciate is what we've done during those four years.

BOLDUAN: I know, but, Marc, they stood at the Capitol saying they wanted to hang Mike Pence, some of them.

SHORT: See, I think that's the difference though is, I don't think that that's reflective of the vast majority of Donald Trump supporters. I think that's reflective of a small percentage of people who rightfully, I think, are being prosecuted to this day. But I don't think that represents the vast majority --

BOLDUAN: Even as Mike Pence is saying that Donald Trump is among those leading the party to ruin with his views?

SHORT: I think he's saying that -- basically what he said is the populism and progressivism both lead on the same path to ruin. And I think that represents a lot of people, frankly, in the Republican field who have flirted with populism as opposed to sticking to traditional conservatism. It's not just Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: I know that you are definitely in the market to giving Donald Trump campaign advice right now. Do you think he should show up to the second debate?

SHORT: Look, I think that he - I think all candidates should show up. I think it takes some courage to actually be there on the stage and share your views with the American people. But I - I think I'll leave his campaign to his advisers and let them figure it out.

BOLDUAN: Yes, to state - to state the obvious.

It's good to see you.

SHORT: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for coming in.

SHORT: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

SHORT: Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: I'm really interested to see how this -- what Mike - what else Mike Pence has to say about this going forward.

SHORT: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Hurricane Lee on a runaway path to becoming a monstrous category five storm. Where it is headed, and should the northeast be nervous?



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Check this out. We're following rapidly intensifying Hurricane Lee as it churns across the Atlantic's warm waters. The storm is forecast to become a major category three hurricane by early Friday and will likely pass Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands this weekend.

CNN's Derek Van Dam is, of course, watching this one very, very closely.

What are you seeing this morning, Derek? We see it sort of getting closer to the Leeward Islands, but it's still pretty far out there in the Atlantic.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Sara, I see a healthy and very organized hurricane that's only going to gain strength rapidly here within the next 24 hours. This is Hurricane Lee, 80-mile-per-hour winds. You can see how far east it is of the Leeward and Windward Islands.

So, where does the official forecast track call? Well, you can see it. And, in fact, it explicitly calls for that rapid intensification. Remember for RI, or rapid intensification to happen, we need to increase our wind speeds with the hurricane unless -- by 35 miles per hour in less than 24 hours. And that is exactly what is forecast.

You can see by Friday morning, at 2:00 a.m., it will be a major category three. Then it continues to intensify from there. Category four, hey, look at this, even though the cone does not include the Leward Islands and Puerto Rico, if they get some of those outward bands, Sara, you and I were in Idalia just a week ago. We know that we can get those tropical storm force winds well away from the center of the storm.


So, the big question on everyone's mind, where is this storm going after the Leeward Islands? Well, it is all about this particular area. All the computers and models and the consensus that we look at all agree that there will be this northward turn. When it happens? Well, that's very crucial on who sees the downstream impacts along the eastern seaboard. It will see a breakdown in this high pressure and it's going to help steer it north. And whether or not that brings any kind of impacts to the East Coast, that's still up for question. But one thing's for sure, there will definitely be large waves that could cause some concerns at the second half of next week.


SIDNER: Yes, and you also look at the size of the storm and look at the size of Bermuda and it's terrifying just to see how close.


SIDNER: They will definitely get some winds and rain from it.

Thank you so much, Derek Van Dam

VAN DAM: Oh, without a doubt (ph).

SIDNER: If it goes on its current path.


SIDNER: Appreciate you.


BERMAN: I'm looking at those spaghetti models like three times a day just hoping it takes that right turn there.

SIDNER: Yes, that it makes the turn. Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: That's a big storm.


BERMAN: All right, today is the first day of school in New York City, and the city will see more new students than usual. Nineteen thousand migrant students have registered for the start of this school year. Education officials here have been preparing for this as the city struggles with the influx of asylum seekers. Last night Mayor Eric Adams warned against some effects this influx could have.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don't see an ending to this. I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.


BERMAN: All right, CNN's Polo Sandoval joins us live.

At least today, Polo, we're talking about children.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you hear that level of frustration in the mayor's voice. That's because the nation's largest school system has faced this test before. Of course, we're talking about the start of last school year. However, this year, it will certainly be more challenging given the sheer number of migrant arrivals that exceeded 100,000 just this past month. Of course, many o them are children.

You mentioned that 19,000 number. That's the rough estimate of the total number of migrant children that are expected to start school today, or at least are already starting school today per some of those numbers. About 500 of them were registered just since last June.

Now, when you hear from the Department of Education, they will tell you that they are confident that there's plenty of room for these students. That there have been about 120,000 families in recent years that have actually left the system. So that, presumably, would provide more space for these new enrollments.

But, you know, one of the big questions here is, well, you can have all the space in the world, but if you do not have those personnel that actually speak the language of many of these students, then this is -- there is certainly going to be an issue. And that's why New York City Department of Education has really been working to try to boost those numbers according to what we've been hearing. About 1,700 bilingual teachers, about 3,400 English as a new language instructors.

And we learned in the last hour, per the head of the DOE, that that is a number that will grow significantly to at least 500 as it will offer tenure to about 500 teachers that are already in the system they just haven't been using that license to actually teach English as a second language because we've heard something time and time again from officials at the local and certainly at the state level, those students have certain linguistic needs.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: This is a real challenge. You know, an unexpected challenge. But these children are embraced. You heard from Mike Mulgrew (ph), representing the teachers of New York City, that once they step foot in our door, they're our children. And we'll do whatever it takes to make sure they get the best outcomes. I think language is going to be a challenge, particularly in the early days. We can't always find someone in the exact language that a student was raised in.


SANDOVAL: And adding to that looming challenge, a - or at least adding to that challenge, a looming bus driver strike that the DOE is having to deal with. So, it really does just - they're -- these combined factors, John, that the DOE is going to be facing as it is up against this extreme test with millions of parents, children, and certainly staff members in schools like the one here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, hoping that it will come together.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Polo Sandoval, here in New York City.

Polo, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a CNN exclusive. The new allegations connecting the deep ties and links between Elon Musk and the war in Ukraine. That's ahead.



SIDNER: A new biography about Elon Musk is revealing stunning details about the billionaire's connection to the war in Ukraine. According to an excerpt released just this morning, Musk secretly ordered his engineers to turn off his company's Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet. As Ukrainian submarine drones, strapped with explosives, approached the Russian fleet, they, quote, "lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly."

Walter Issacson, who penned the book, also says Musk's decision was driven by fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack with nuclear weapons. A fear Musk carried after his conversations with senior Russian officials. And that's just the beginning.

With us now, CNN's Natasha Bertrand.

Wow, these are quite big revelations. We know that he was involved with the connectivity there in Ukraine. But this is a fascinating look at what really was going on.

What else have you learned from this book?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Sara, so as you mentioned, this is an excerpt from a new biography of Elon Musk's life written by Walter Isaacson. And it was obtained by my colleague Sean Lingas (ph). And it really provides a new window into just how instrumental Elon Musk actually was to Ukraine's operations on the battlefield because, of course, of that Starlink communications system.

According to this excerpt, as you laid out, Musk actually ordered, in secret, his engineers to shut off Starlink as the Ukrainian drones approached that Russian naval fleet off the coast of Crimea.


And according to this book, that is because Elon Musk was apparently very afraid that if Ukraine launched that attack on the Russian forces near Crimea, then Russia would actually respond with nuclear weapons and it would create a kind of mini Pearl Harbor situation, according to what Musk told Isaacson.

Now, this excerpt also provides a new window into the kind of ambivalence that Elon Musk feels when it comes to Starlink's role in a war. And he said, quote, "how am I in this war. Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good, peaceful things, not drone strikes."

Now, according to this excerpt again, Ukrainian officials begged him to turn this system back on because I think it's really important for viewers to understand just how key this system is to Ukraine's battlefield operations. And it was so alarming to U.S. officials that he was kind of turning on and off this system that Musk actually spoke to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, about this system. But, ultimately, you know, the Pentagon is now footing the bill for these Starlink terminals inside Ukraine. And for now they remain working, Sara.

SIDNER: It is incredible how this one person has that kind of control in a situation where there are lives at stake.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much for your reporting.


BOLDUAN: And also just revealing what Musk's saying to Issacson in this. Wow.

Coming up for us, the new CNN polling out this morning. And the numbers are rough for President Biden. Why age and the economy are showing very clearly the work ahead for his campaign for re-election.

Ooh, look at that fancy shot. Ooh, la, la.