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GM CEO: We Think We Have A Very Competitive Offer On The Table; Special Counsel May Bring More Charges Against Hunter Biden; Three Men Acquitted Of Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Could Hunter Biden face even more federal charges. We have new reporting this morning on the possibility of another federal indictment.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of New England as Hurricane Lee barrels through the Atlantic. We have a rare look inside the hurricane hunters aircraft as they track the storm. Sara Sidner is off. I'm Kate Bolduan with John Berman. This is CNN News Central.

A historic strike this morning, union workers staging a coordinated walkout against the big three U.S. automakers, walking out at the same time for the first time ever. The United Auto Workers Union is using a new strategy in this it's -- they're calling it targeted strikes. Workers at three plants are picketing so far. But union leaders say that the number and the severity of this could grow and likely will grow if their demands are not met.

Contract negotiations fell apart between the unions and Ford, GM, and Stellantis, which owns Jeep and Dodge, among other car brands, the impact on the U.S. economy could be significant, which is likely one reason why the White House says President Biden is going to be weighing in on the situation and on the strike today. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is lies live at GM headquarters in Detroit. Vanessa, earlier you spoke to the CEO of GM now that, you know, threats are now reality the contract negotiations fall apart. The strike is underway. What is she saying?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Big Three automakers are watching these targeted strikes very, very closely. All three automakers saying they are disappointed that they could not reach a deal by midnight. The UAW president, Shawn Fain, saying shame on you, you waited to the last minute.

But I spoke to CEO Mary Barra of General Motors just moments ago, I asked her about a key issue, a key demand that the union has asking for a 40 percent pay increase over the next four years. They're tying that to CEO pay of the big three. Here's that exchange with Mary Barra just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YURKEVICH: The union is demanding asking for a 40 percent wage increase over four years. They're asking for that in part because they say CEOs like yourself leading the Big Three are making those kind of pay increases over the course of the last four years. You've seen a 34 percent pay increase in your salary. You make almost $30 million. Why should your workers not get the same type of pay increases that you're getting lead the company?

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 employees is designed is not only are we providing 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's why we want to get back there and get this done.


YURKEVICH: Now the union saying they want a piece of these record profits that we have seen from General Motors in 2022. The union saying that they're also trying to claw back what they gave up in their 2009 contract when they had to essentially help bailout GM along with the federal government when they filed for bankruptcy.

They want to make sure that they are getting their traditional pensions back they want to see these wage increases to keep up with inflation. But the UAW and the big three not meeting today as much as Mary Barra wants that to happen. Shawn Fain instead will be holding a rally with Bernie Sanders at 5:00 p.m. rallying his union members around his demands.

We are expecting, as you mentioned, to hear from President Biden on this issue in a short while. He's in a tough spot, you know. This will affect the U.S. economy. But he is of course, as we know, a pro-union president. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Yurkevich, great to see you. Thank you so much. And later this hour, we're going to speak with UAW member who works at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan. You're going to want to hear our conversation about how the strike is impacting them and what they think on this day. So also as consumers, what does the strike mean for everyone even if you're not working or your family doesn't work in the auto industry? What is at stake for consumers?

The short answer is it depends on how long the strike lasts, dealerships will stay open. Even dealerships have the Big Three automakers. Most will have vehicles on hand to sell for a few weeks. Before the strikes started, dealerships had healthy inventories of new vehicles according to auto trader, so there is supply for now. But as negotiations carry on, as the strike carries on, the choices available to you will start to dwindle. And analysts with J.D. Power warns that prices are also going to start to rise as time ticks on. [11:05:14]

there won't likely hit the analysis is, they won't have likely hit the same levels reached during the computer chip shortages that we saw, but it could come close. Another familiar consequences, short of not being able to find a vehicle, you're going to see delays, you could see delays in parts, you could see delays in delivery, more car buyers turn to factory ordering new vehicles after COVID slowdowns in manufacturing.

But if you want to do that now or you're thinking about doing that now the wait times, or could be longer and will likely build up to be longer as the strike takes on. Still production can continue in Canada and Mexico where workers are not on strike. So it's a snowball effect. Assembly slowing down, parts could be hard to come by. And that's what we're looking at. And it starts today, John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Kate. So this morning, sources tell CNN that Hunter Biden is in California, awaiting guidance on these three felony gun charges now filed against him specifically waiting to find out when and where he will have to surrender. This is we're learning about the possibility of more charges. Special Counsel David Weiss has roughly three to four weeks to decide whether to file tax charges in addition to the gun charge that we were talking about.

That can happen in California or possibly Washington, D.C. CNN's Kara Scannell here with the details on this. Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So Hunter Biden has been under investigation for allegedly failing to pay his taxes over several year period. Now one of those years the clock is running out on that for prosecutors to bring a case. And as you mentioned, Special Counsel David Weiss's team has said that they may seek to bring those charges. The clock is ticking. They have until the middle of next month to do so. And it could come in Washington, D.C. or California.

You know, this is just building on what happened yesterday with prosecutors announcing this three count indictment against Hunter Biden charging him with three felonies around the 2018 purchase of a gun. He is charged with two counts of false statements one of those for falsely filling out an ATF Form by saying that he was an a user or addicted to illegal drugs, another by repeating those statements in the form that was given to the licensed gun dealer. And then the actual possession of the gun while he was addicted to or using a controlled substance.

And Hunter Biden has been public about his substance abuse in the past. Now his attorneys have come out and said that this is a move by the special prosecutors that is really reflecting they're bending to the wills of MAGA Republicans who have been highly critical of the plea deal that Hunter Biden had struck involving both the tax charge and the gun charge. And they're saying that they also think that these two gun charges are unconstitutional. So clearly, they're going to be coming out to fight this.

You know, we are still waiting to find out when Hunter Biden will be required to come into court where he is expected to then enter this plea of not guilty. But these charges are serious. And if he is convicted, he could face prison time, the statutory maximum on this combined charges is 25 years and the penalty is three quarters of a million dollars. And Hunter Biden himself are reporting is kind of hemorrhaging money. He -- and this litigation is going to become very costly.

So with this gun charge now on the table and the possibility of additional tax charges, Hunter Biden could be on trial next year in the middle of his father's reelection campaign. John?

BERMAN: Now we say the maximum prison time he could face for these charges is 25 years. But every time we mentioned that we also add that seems highly unlikely. What are the mitigating factors? Why would that be highly unlikely even if convicted?

SCANNELL: Well, Hunter Biden doesn't have a criminal record. That is something that the courts take into consideration. And another argument here is that these gun charges, at least on that count, he's not being charged with being a violent felon. And that's also a factor that can increase someone's prison time.

You know, and generally speaking, judges take all that income into consideration. And his lawyers would also argue that there were mitigating factors in his favor. You know, perhaps that he was if they -- if he is convicted, and they do concede that he was using drugs, that that really influenced his decision.

He wasn't of sound mind when he was making that, a lot of different arguments that the attorneys can make. But certainly there it is highly unlikely that he would face anywhere close to the maximum charges, the maximum sentences on these charges, just given all of those factors. John?

BERMAN: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you so much for explaining that so clearly, as always, we appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: And with us now for more on this is CNN legal analyst, former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Mike, what do you think the move is now for Hunter Biden and his legal team on this?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with both of you. You know, I think probably they're going to make an issue of the fact that there was a plea agreement entered with the government, a diversion agreement. And that that's not being followed through with. So I'm sure that's going to come up. We're going to -- we've not heard the last of that I feel certain about.


But remember, there's been very recently a Fifth Circuit case and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which essentially says that depriving somebody the right to have a gun, because of some substance abuse issue might be violative of the Second Amendment. And so that those constitutional rights would trump these questions that Hunter Biden is filling out on the form when he purchased the gun. So I really think there's some good legal challenges to come. I'm sure they're analyzing that. They're looking at that case. And while it's not controlling, in the circuit that he is in, it certainly is something that they will use as persuasive with artists, so look, this is going to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is going to declare, in fact, it to be unconstitutional acts as one of your sister circuits, the Fifth Circuit. So they're going to challenge this on a factual basis.

That is, you know, look, he was not at the time that he filled out the form and you can't prove that he was using drugs or addicted to drugs that no matter what he wrote a book about having struggles, but at the time, he filled his questionnaire, he was not. They're going to challenge it also on a legal basis, and that deals with that case we were talking about.

BERMAN: All right, we do have some breaking news, as is just minutes ago. Three men were just acquitted on all charges that have been filed against them in connection to allegations that they were involved in the 2020 plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Now you will all remember this from several years ago, there was this alleged plot that was uncovered in these allegations --

BOLDUAN: There also has been -- and remember, so there -- these men have been acquitted. And I was just pulling it up because we seen him -- we -- our friends and colleagues were putting out guidance because others had been acquitted in connection with this earlier, I think of the nine there was a handful that had been acquitted as well. But this is a major deal that three of these people, three are now acquitted in their final trial. It's the final trial of around the kidnapping plot to -- the kidnapping plot of the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

BERMAN: So Michael, you are, of course, you know, esteemed former U.S. attorney here. Explain to us why this is a hard case to make. And why perhaps without getting into specific details too much, why this would be hard for prosecutors to prove?

MOORE: Well, anytime that you have a grand plot, you try to tell the story with everybody together. And so if you want to analogize this to sort of current day events, think about why the District Attorney in Fulton County wanted to have all 19 people sitting in a courtroom at one time. And essentially -- it's essentially so that everybody can be dirtied up by everybody else's guilt and actions in the case.

And so here you had and again, the ink is still kind of wet on the story, frankly, as it's just coming out. But you had some individuals who were what I would call minor players, if you can be a minor player in a kidnapping plot. But folks who basically had done some weapons type training and had -- they had driven by the house at some point. And so what I would call not necessarily key players in this conspiracy.

But as they stood trial alone, their role could be minimized. And so that's -- that is why I think you're seeing a different verdicts here than you saw some of the cases. You have people again, who appear to be fairly minor in their involvement, to the extent that you want to call it that in this type of case. But, you know, they would separate it from the more culpable players. And that makes it harder to sort of talk about the gravity of a case. It makes it harder to paint the picture for a jury to have the full context of the story.

You can say you can talk about it. You can have evidence about it. But it's a different thing than having everybody sitting there on the other side of the courtroom, looking at those 12 people waiting on a verdict.

BERMAN: So it is interesting to the point that you were just making there. One of these men who was just acquitted testified in the I think two of them at least testified on their own defense in this trial. He -- William Null took the stand and testified that although he was told about the plot, before the surveillance was actually conducted, he didn't take it seriously, right? So this gets to just what you're -- the point you're making there that these may not have been major players. They never truly understood their defenses what was going on.

BOLDUAN: This is also why you're about to weigh in, Michael. This is what being told, this is video of them becoming emotional when they're hearing about this acquittal in court just now. The charges that they acquit -- the charged they're acquitted of was one count of providing material support for terrorist act and possessing a firearm when committing or attempting to commit a felony. Michael?


MOORE: Yes, yes. As I look at it and frankly I can imagine they are most of because they just got word that they won't be spending the majority of their life in prison somewhere with this verdict. But, you know, sometimes to prosecutors can charge things against specific individuals that may be a little bit of a reach, hoping that they get a compromise verdict or that they ultimately structure a plea deal. And I don't know, in this case, if that's where we're at.

But, you know, a jury is looking at and saying, well, you said they did X, and you haven't proven all of the elements in that crime. You haven't been prove that the support was material. You haven't been able to prove that they had knowledge. You have -- and as well, in a smaller group, they don't go through the same type of questioning and they may feel like, you know, they have the chance to get up and give their testimony without other people. They're getting out to rebut some of what they said, those folks be a co-defendants in the same scheme.

BERMAN: Michael Moore, thank you very much. And just to remind people of how this all happened, two other players, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, they were convicted of kidnap and conspiracy last year in federal court. They were seen as perhaps the primary players here but now these three acquitted on all charges of assisting them, essentially.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Is what it seems. Much more to learn, we're getting some more detail on all of this, we're going to continue to bring this to you throughout the show. But we're also following this coming into seeing a News Central, a nation in turmoil after a catastrophic natural disaster. Flooding in Libya has killed at least 5,000 people, 10,000 plus are still missing. The difficulties facing emergency teams trying to help survivors ahead as CNN is on the ground in Libya.

Also, we're tracking this, new gains for Ukraine and the ongoing counter offensive as Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is preparing to come to the United States to meet with President Biden, meet with members of Congress and head to meet leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. The importance of all of this in this moment of Ukraine's counter offensive is ahead.

And a state of emergency and hurricane watches have been issued for parts of New England as Hurricane Lee is moving toward land. One main official, official up in Maine told -- tells us that she's worried about the impact of it. The wind impacting their power, the fact that it's going to be hitting they believe in the middle of the night, more on the path ahead.



BERMAN: This morning United Nations says is almost impossible to understand the scope of the flooding disaster in Libya. More than 38,000 people have been displaced, 30,000 just from the city of Derna where a 22-foot wave crashed into the city destroying whole buildings and washing them out to sea.

You can actually see in the imagery here from the city. Well, now it's gone. But the Mediterranean, the coastline is just full of mud and debris that had just been swept into it. It changes the color of the ocean. The current death toll stands at 5,000 with 10,000 people still missing. CNN is the only U.S. network on the ground witnessing the devastation firsthand. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've all covered for natural disasters before but none of us have seen anything like this. I mean, we drove into Derna late last night. And even during nighttime in the dark, you could still see the destruction. And now during the day, this is just utter, utter destruction. And it really feels like you're walking through a warzone, like massive bombs had gone off here. And this is what people here would tell you.

You know, you've got several cities along the Libyan coast that were impacted by Storm Daniel by the flooding over the weekend. But nothing like this where people are describing here as this catastrophe. What happened in Derna, of course, as you know, is those two dams that burst and you have the floodwaters that swept through the heart of the city, washing out entire buildings, neighborhoods, homes, infrastructure, families, and brought it all down here to the sea to the Mediterranean.

I mean, this is just -- it's very difficult for us to really move the camera around because of the communication issues. The communications were disrupted in the city so our connection is not very stable. But looking into the sea, what we see here is people's lives in there. You see homes, you see doorframes, windows, furniture, clothes, cars, everything, and they are still right now searching for dead bodies. Bodies that are still washing up on the shore six days after this tragedy happened.

Right now Libyan officials are saying about 5,000 people have been killed. There's still 10,000 people unaccounted for. And officials that we've been speaking to say they don't expect to find any more survivors right now. And what you've got here where we are, all these volunteers from different parts of the country who are working, who are trying to assist in this recovery effort and it is such a tough task. They're telling us they're not equipped to deal with something like this.


They don't have the means and capabilities to do this. One young man I was speaking to just a short time ago just describing how people were tying ropes to themselves and holding each other as they would dive into the sea and start pulling out body after body. This one young man told me in one day, he pulled 40 bodies just by himself.

And right now, the volunteers here are saying, look, they need heavy equipment. You've got cars that are stuck in there and they don't know how many people are still in there. They are worried that there are people still, dead bodies of course, in these cars and they want support, they want help. They want heavy equipment. They want divers. They want diving equipment to try and get recover as many bodies as they can.

They have had some international support. We have seen some teams here on the ground. The Turks were already out on a rubber boat just a short time ago. You have helicopters in the air, but it is nowhere near enough.

BERMAN: Just extraordinary, horrifying images. Our thank you to Jomana Karadsheh and her team for getting there. So important to be able to see it firsthand and see the attempted response. How can you respond to something like this? If you'd like to help the flood victims, you can find a list of vetted organizations at Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up still for us, President Biden will meet Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, when Zelenskyy comes to the United States next week, world leaders preparing to gather for the U.N. General Assembly. Why is Zelenskyy's visit this time comes at such a crucial time for the war.

And we're on hurricane watches, Hurricane Lee makes its way toward the eastern -- toward eastern New England. We're tracking this large and dangerous storm. We'll bring that to you.