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Indictment of Hunter Biden on Gun Charges After Plea Bargain Fell Through; Hunter Biden May Face Additional Charges by Special Counsel; Interview with McLaughlin and Stern Partner and Former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Daniel J. Horwitz; UAW on Historic Strike Against 3 Major Automakers; Maine Declares a State of Emergency, While New England Braces for the Effects of Hurricane Lee; Interview with Washington County, Maine Emergency Management Director Lisa Hanscom; Biden Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired September 15, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Thousands of union workers for the big three auto companies are now on strike. The historic walkout that could have serious impact and consequences for the U.S. economy. President Biden is now preparing to weigh in.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Hunter Biden could soon face even more federal charges. We have new reporting on the timeline.
BOLDUAN: The CNN report sparking a congressional investigation. The Senate now demanding answers over the cover-up of dozens of sexual assaults cases at the Coast Guard Academy. I'm Kate Bolduan with John Berman. Sara is off today. This is "CNN News Central".
BERMAN: This morning, still more federal charges are possible for Hunter Biden, the son of President Biden. We are learning that Special Counsel David Weiss has roughly a three to four-week window to decide whether he will file tax charges against Biden in California and/or Washington, D.C. Weiss has suggested that he might. All of this comes after Weiss indicted Biden on three felony gun charges just weeks after that plea deal between the two sides imploded.
Kara Scannell joins us now with this new timeline of what might be coming next, Kara.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, federal prosecutors have been investigating Hunter Biden's alleged failure to pay taxes for a number of years, uncovering a several year period. So, the statute of limitations on one of those years would expire next month. So, that has put a little bit of a timeline issue here on whether the prosecutors now led by Special Counsel David Weiss will seek an indictment on that year and other -- potentially other years with this clock ticking into next month.
You know, this would -- this is all just beginning to snowball because as you noted yesterday, Special Counsel David Weiss' team announced this three-count federal indictment against Hunter Biden, all around the purchase of a gun he made in October of 2018. The speed on that also was related to the statute of limitations that would have expired next month, too.
So, he's been charged with two counts of making false statements on an ATF form that said that he was not using or addicted to any illegal drugs at the time of the purchase. And making that false statement also to the license gun dealer who sold him the weapon. In addition, he's also charged with another felony count of being in possession of this gun while he was addicted or using a controlled substance. Biden has been public about his use of crack cocaine and his addiction to the drug, though he now says that he is sober.
So, this is all beginning to build here. And these charges are serious. They are three felonies, potentially, he could face as much as 25 years in prison, that's the statutory maximum of all of the counts, and a penalty of as much as $750,000. Now, that is unlikely since he is -- would be a first-time offender and these are not violent crimes, but it is possible that if convicted he would face prison time on these charges, that would be up to the judge.
Now, his lawyers are fighting back here saying that what prosecutors have done is they bent to the whims of the MAGA right Republicans. They say that they brought these charges under political pressure.
They've also signaled that they're going to fight them, saying that these charges are unconstitutional because of recent Supreme Court and lower court decisions, you know. But all of this means that Hunter Biden could be on trial possibly in two different places as his father is seeking re-election next year. John.
BERMAN: All right. Kara Scannell, thank you so much for explaining all of that.
BOLDUAN: Yes, laying out the details of the charges past and present, and potentially future. Joining us now to talk more about this is Former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Daniel Horwitz.
It's good to see you. Thank you for being in. Let's start with the future. The fact that Biden -- Hunter Biden is now facing these three felony gun charges, does it make it, at all, more likely that Weiss could be seeking additional charges?
DANIEL J. HORWITZ, PARTNER, MCLAUGHLIN AND STERN AND FORMER MANHATTAN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think one's got anything to do with the other necessarily. I think that clearly the Department of Justice thinks that there are grounds to bring these tax cases which were joined in this plea agreement that fell apart over the summer. And then so to the extent that the Department of Justice was trying to make a deal with Biden so that all of these charges could be resolved in one fell swoop, that's what they were doing. Now, that the deal has fallen apart, they're going to have to proceed on different tracks.
BERMAN: What are the legal implications of the fact that they did have this deal in place? HORWITZ: Yes, that is huge. So, it's very simple. I mean, a plea agreement is no different than any other kind of agreement or contract that people make. And once you make it, it's held to be binding. And that is what Hunter Biden is going to argue. Strip out the politics, strip out the MAGA politics and the political pressure, which I am not saying isn't a relevant factor. But the fact is is that Hunter Biden and his lawyers had a handshake deal with the Department of Justice, will plead guilty to these two misdemeanors, and will -- we, the Department of Justice, will not prosecute Hunter for these gun charges. And we'll put him in a diversion program. A very common outcome.
And they thought they had a deal on a handshake deal. And the argument is going to be to -- whatever the court is, whether it's the district court or an appellant court, hey, we had a deal. It's a handshake deal, it's a written deal. The Justice Department should be held to that deal. Hunter Biden held up his end, and the agreement should be enforced, drop the criminal charges.
BOLDUAN: Does this make it any more or less likely that another deal can be reached? Like -- we're, like, down this, like, Yellow Brick Road of plea deals and broken plea deals. Like what is it -- where do -- what happens now?
HORWITZ: I mean, again, if you are strip away all of the politics and the hoo-ha with the case.
HORWITZ: I think you could get parties back together to see this is what this case is worth. This is who this defendant is. This is how we, the Department of Justice, usually behave. But I think given all of the atmospherics with, you know, presidential campaigns and Congress and the politics, I just don't see how these parties get back in a room and make a deal.
BERMAN: So, it sounds like the Biden legal move here, Hunter Biden's legal team is going to try to get this thrown?
BERMAN: If it doesn't, what's the argument in a courtroom?
HORWITZ: In the courtroom, I think there are two. So, first of all, these gun charges, they turn on, you know, a false statement. And false statements require knowledge, willfulness, intent. Did he really intend to mislead anybody? You mean, clearly he had and was suffering from a serious drug addiction? How self-aware was he when he filled those things out? So, that's a legal argument that a jury would have to accept that he actually understood and consciously decided to make a false statement on a gun application.
The second is, you know, in the total -- in the totality of the facts, how sympathetic is somebody who struggled with addiction who clearly had some mental health issues? Whose sister-in-law finds the gun and says, I took it away, because I was afraid he was going to kill himself. These are all wildly sympathetic arguments that a jury may find, listen, I'm not going to convict this guy. So, I think that there are those the -- those two key factors, John.
BOLDUAN: You've talked about stripping away the politics.
BOLDUAN: Trying to, right?
BOLDUAN: With -- you're looking in just as a pure legal case. But is there an intersection here of Hunter Biden and the charges he faces and this impeachment inquiry now that President Biden is facing that's happening now with House Republicans in two completely separate and related. Separate yet related because it also involves his son. Do you see any?
HORWITZ: I think it all, unfortunately, comes together because I think if you start from the beginning, would the Department of Justice have brought these gun charges under these circumstances? And I think, you know, most commentators and I agree, say, absolutely not. I mean, statistically the department does not bring these kinds of charges. But I just don't think you can unpackage it at this point.
HORWITZ: You can't decouple it at all.
BOLDUAN: Right. It's as a thought exercise for all of us when we are looking at it, we can strip away politics and it looks purely as illegal. But in dealing in reality, it is what it is.
HORWITZ: Right, and then you'll ultimately have, get to a jury in the courtroom, you'll have arguments, can he get a fair trial given all of the politics?
BOLDUAN: Great to have you. Thank you so much for coming in.
BERMAN: All right. Great discussion there.
This morning, for the first time ever, the United Auto Workers have launched a strike against the big three U.S. automakers at the very same time. Now, it is a targeted strike in three locations focused on one plant for each company, the companies Ford, GM, and Stellantis. And plants that produce some of their best-selling vehicles. Nearly 13,000 workers total are on the picket lines right now.
CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is live at GM's headquarter in Detroit. Vanessa, give us the status. VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, all eyes are on these three plants as these workers are now out on strike. The automakers are saying that they are disappointed that they were not able to come to an agreement with the UAW by midnight. The president of the UAW, Shawn Fain, saying shame on them for waiting to the last minute to try to come to a deal.
I'm at GM headquarters here in Detroit. I spoke to Mary Barra about a key issue that the union has been pushing. They want a 40 percent wage increase over the next four years. The union is tying that to what they say that the CEOs have made over the last four years. Mary Barra has seen a 34 percent pay increase in the last four years. She makes about $30 million. I asked her if she thinks it's fair that they are only offering 20 percent when she, herself, has seen a 34 percent wage increase. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: My compensation, 92 percent of it is based on performance of the company. I think one of the strong aspects of the way our compensation for a representative employee is designed is not only do -- are we putting a 20 percent increase on the table, we have profit sharing. So, when the company does well, everyone does well. And for the last several years, that's resulted in record profit sharing for our represented employees. And I think you have to look at the whole compensation package. So, we think we have a very competitive offer on the table, and that is why we want to get back there and get this done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YURKEVICH: Now, General Motors reported record profits in 2022, and the union wants a piece of that for their members. A lot of these contract negotiation centers around the fact that the union members gave up a lot in 2019 when GM was bailed out when they filed for bankruptcy. They want to reclaim a lot of the money they feel like they lost. A lot of the concessions that they say that they gave up in order to save their jobs and save General Motors.
Now, we know today that the big three will not be meeting with the Auto Workers Union despite the fact that Mary Barra says that she wants to get back to the negotiating table. Later today, John, we expect to see the president of the UAW Shawn Fain with Bernie Sanders at a rally here in Detroit. He is going to be rallying the crowd around his message. We also know that Mary Barra spoke to the president, President Biden, yesterday, keeping him abreast of negotiations. She made it very clear that she wants to go back to the negotiating table, but they will have to wait at least a day to make that happen. John.
BERMAN: And look, we will hear from President Biden on this in the next hour or so. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to put his thumb on the scales. Vanessa Yurkevich in Detroit. Thank you very much.
Kate. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, questions to ponder. Would Donald Trump pardon himself if he got re-elected? He's speaking out about this and a bit more in a new interview. You can also hear what he has to say about testifying, potentially, in the classified documents case against him. We'll have more on that.
Also, Hurricane Lee is on its way. The fear with this storm is the powerful winds that's expected to bring to the northeast. What officials are warning people to prepare for now. We'll be back.
BOLDUAN: Bracing for impact. Hurricane Lee is approaching the northeast as a category 1 storm. And right now, Maine is under a state of emergency with tropical storm alerts in effect for multiple coastal communities across New England. Forecasters are warning the storm is going to be large and it's going to be dangerous for the next two days. The big concern with Lee is the winds.
Joining us now is Washington County, Maine Emergency Management Director Lisa Hanscom. Thank you so much for coming in. I appreciate your time. What are you all preparing for right now? How's it looking?
LISA HANSCOM, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY, MAINE: Well, we're preparing for the tropical storm force winds, like you mentioned, and the heavy rainfall. Some of our concern is it seems like it's going to actually hit us about midnight when we have high tide. So, we're worried about the flooding and the high surf and the coastal erosion also. We have a lot of the low lining roads and we're worried about the trees and cutting off, you know, in and out to some of our coastal towns. And of course, the power outages.
BOLDUAN: Do you think mandatory evacuations or do you think any evacuations, do you think that those are going to be necessary?
HANSCOM: We haven't actually talked about evacuations. I'm not really sure. I mean, FEMA I'm sure is preparing in case that needs to be done.
We are warning our citizens, our residents to actually, you know, batten everything down, clear everything out, make sure everything's picked up. We're also talking to our fishermen or to -- bringing in their boats and boaters. Making sure that everything is secure that way. So, I'm not really sure about the evacuation at this point. But of course, that's always a possibility and everybody should be listening to their radios and their news in case that is a possibility.
BOLDUAN: Yes, because it says, we know with these storms so often, they can change. And the conditions can change really quickly.
HANSCOM: Yes. BOLDUAN: Especially as you importantly note if the -- if it's really supposed to be hitting you guys and essentially the middle of the night, that can always be a huge concern, right, as the folks -- this would be the moment that it would be scariest and most dangerous to be out.
It's been years -- I was looking at -- it's been years since Maine has been hit by something that it looks like you guys could be facing here. Are you concerned about how seriously people are taking it or about being preparing for it?
HANSCOM: I mean, I think that's always a concern. I mean, that's why we're trying to reach out directly to towns, calling them. That's why I'm also talking to a lot of the local radio stations, making sure people are taking this seriously. It's important just to take it seriously. Then if nothing happens or if it's not as bad as we think it is, then that's great, there's no lives lost. But we want to make sure everybody's safe as possible.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And about the winds that you were talking about that Maine -- that the area has not seen this kind of a storm in quite some time, are you confident the power grid, the powerlines, they can handle this kind of storm? And is that concern about, you know, what the winds could do in terms of that kind of infrastructure?
HANSCOM: Yes, we have a lot of concerns. We've had a lot of rain in particular this summer but also in the past week. So, our ground is really wet. And we have the leaves on the trees, so our trees are going to be really heavy. And so, yes, I have a lot of concerns with these winds that they are going to be knocked over and take out our power. That's one reason we're actually reaching out today and checking to see where shelters might actually be located so that we could get that on the FEMA website.
But also, that's why we're working on teams to make sure we're ready to cut those trees down and open up the roads for our residents because we have many roads that are one way in, one way out on the coast. And so, it's really important to keep those open for our first responders.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Lisa Hanscom, thank you so much for coming in. Good luck, we're going to be watching the forecast and see where Lee is headed and what happens with it. Thank you.
BERMAN: So, how popular is this impeachment inquiry compared to other examples from the past? And what does the data say about the risks Republicans might be taking?
77-year-old Donald Trump weighs in on the age of 80-year-old President Biden.
[10:25:00] BERMAN: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. But this morning, some Republicans are squeamish. Why? What does the data and history tell us?
CNN's Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten has the answer to that question. Where do things stand right now or if not right now, recently on the whole idea of an impeachment inquiry?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATE REPORTER: Yes. So, this is a -- this is the only poll that I'm aware of that asked about this question. I asked it last month, it was an ABC News, Ipsos Poll. And basically, do you favor an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden related to his son's business dealings? In fact, what we have is basically a tie here, 39 percent favor, 38 percent opposed, and then we have a large chunk of the American public who say -- they simply put, don't know.
But I think that these numbers are interesting because I would have thought that the opposed was significantly higher based upon a lot of the other polling data. But in fact, what we see here is basically an equal race within the margin of error.
BERMAN: And so, right now it's basically an equal race, different than examples from the past.
ENTEN: Yes. So, you know, if we look at two recent impeachment inquiries, right, the margin in favor or opposed to an impeachment inquiry. Right now, we have favor by a point within the margin of error for Biden 2023. We go back to Trump 2019, what we saw was a clear plurality in favor at plus nine points. And then back in Clinton in 1998, we saw a clear plurality in opposition to the impeachment inquiry at plus eight points. So, this one falls right basically in the middle. It's not that there are a ton of people opposed, it's not that there are a ton of people that favor. We're much more in a wait and see mode in the country at this particular point.
BERMAN: But in the past, people did seem to have an opinion. It was tilted in one particular direction. As I said, Republicans are a bit squeamish here. There does appear to be some division within the Republican Party for this inquiry. What about division in the past?
ENTEN: Yes. So, you know, if we look at impeachment votes, right. If we remember both the 1998 and in 2019, what we saw was in fact the impeachment inquiries led to actual impeachment proceedings. And what we saw was this is the eventual vote, and this is eventually voted at least against one article of impeachment.
ENTEN: Against. Against. Republicans in the Clinton 1998, look at that, 81 votes against, and at least one article of impeachment.