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Trump Denies Mar-a-Lago Allegations; Autoworkers Strike. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 13:00   ET



DAVID SCANLAN (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SECRETARY OF STATE: That will just cause confusion.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Yes, talk about something that's unprecedented. Add this question to the list.

David Scanlan, the New Hampshire secretary of state, hopefully, I will see you up there shortly, as people start to come and file.

Thanks for joining me.

SCANLAN: We look forward to it.

BASH: And a programming note. I will sit down with California Governor Gavin Newsom for a special one-on-one interview on Monday. Tune in to see it at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Off the job and on the picket line. Thousands of union autoworkers take part in a coordinated strike against the Big Three automakers simultaneously, the first time this has ever happened. We're going to take you where talks stand at this hour.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, Donald Trump denies he ever asked a Mar-a-Lago staffer to delete surveillance video, potential evidence in his classified documents case. And the former president says he's willing to testify under oath, but will his attorneys let him? And what Trump is saying about those secret documents he took from the White House.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Utter destruction,that's how a CNN reporter is describing scenes in Libya after catastrophic flooding there, 5,000 lives confirmed lost. Making matters worse, the U.N. says most of the deaths could have been avoided.

We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. KEILAR: It is an American labor strike unlike anything the nation has

ever seen. Right now, thousands of autoworkers are on the picket line. They're striking against all of the Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, for the first time in history.

Now, to be clear, this is not a full-scale walkout at the moment. The UAW is targeting three huge plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri. Of the union's 145,000 members, only about 13,000 have walked off the job so far. That number, though, could expand if time drags on and there is no deal.

Workers want a 40 percent pay raise and they want a cost of living increase reinstated. They also want to go back to traditional pension plans and health coverage for retirees. The CEO of Ford saying that a 40 percent pay increase for workers would put the company out of business.

General Motors' CEO told CNN this morning that she's frustrated and that some of the union's demands are not realistic. President Biden just spoke for the first time since the strike began, and we're going to bring you his comments here in just a moment.

First, though, CNN's Gabe Cohen is on the scene for us in Toledo, Ohio, outside -- inside, I should say, of a local UAW headquarters. Tell us what you're seeing there.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, look, we're about three miles down the road from that Stellantis factory, where they make more than 1,000 jeeps every single day, but not today.

Right now, there are roughly 15 picketers outside of each of the gates of that factory. But, here, well, this is where most of those workers are today. You can see behind me thousands of autoworkers showing up because they're signing up for their strike pay right now. They will be getting $100 a day starting today.

It is not much, but it's what's going to be happening. And that's being paid by the union, not by Stellantis.

And I want to bring in right now -- Orly (ph), if you can turn this way, I'm going to bring in the president, Bruce, of this Local 12 Union.

Bruce, this could -- this strike, they said it was going to be targeted. It could have hit so many different facilities across the country, but it is here in Toledo, Ohio, 5,800 of your members who are going to be bearing the economic brunt of this, at least for now, $100 a day of strike pay.

What is the mood like, and what are you hearing from them?

BRUCE BAUMHOWER, PRESIDENT, UAW UNION LOCAL 12: Well, we wanted to be the target. We thought that if we were the target, because our product is so hot in the marketplace, and Chrysler makes so much profit off of it, that it would be an easier strike to win, because we can't shut the Jeep plant down.

It's the only place they make them in the whole world is right here in Toledo, Ohio.

COHEN: Do you get any sense of what type of progress is making -- is being made on the negotiation? And how long are your members willing and ready to strike?

BAUMHOWER: Our members are willing to stay in for the long haul. We just had a strike on the other side of town. Our members stayed out for seven weeks until they got a fair contract.

Our members here are willing to do the same thing at whatever it's going to take. I think -- I'm pretty much an optimist, so I'm hoping it gets resolved quickly. I think it will. I think our president, Shawn Fain, made a great choice by shutting our plant down and the GM truck plant and the Ford truck plant.


He chose their most profitable products to shut down.

COHEN: Why do you think this strike is necessary, based on your experience and the experience of your members here in Toledo?

BAUMHOWER: Well, one thing that drives us crazy is, we went through bankruptcy with Barack Obama back in 2008 and 2000 -- and in the beginning of 2009.

And we were asked -- we were told by the president we had to give up huge concessions for them to get the government support to turn their companies around. We did that. And we haven't been -- it hasn't been reversed. Back in 2008, when we came out of bankruptcy, our starting pay at Jeep was $15.78; 14 years later, it's $15.78.

There's something wrong with that.

COHEN: Well, Bruce, we thank you for letting us in to your union headquarters today.

Again, Brianna, thousands of these autoworkers, 5,800 who are part of this Toledo local union, are coming in today to get that strike pay. It's not much money. And for now, Brianna, that's what they're going to be living off of, feeding their families with. That's how they're going to sustain.

KEILAR: Yes. And, look, that starting pay, that is a number that is stark. That is not much of an increase over time, even as some of these CEOs say that some of their demands are unrealistic. That one certainly stands out there as perhaps not.

Gabe Cohen, thank you so much. We appreciate the report.

So, the UAW says there will be no negotiations with the Big Three today. We have CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. She sat down this morning with

General Motors' CEO. Mary Barra said that she's disappointed and frustrated by the stalemate.


MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We understand the world has changed, and that's why we put a historic offer on the table with the increases.

I think our manufacturing team is the best on the field, the way they manage through the COVID situation and continue to build cars, trucks and crossover, the way that we managed and they moved with us as we went through the semiconductor shortage, and still the supply challenges that we see today. They're very resilient.

And I want to recognize them because our manufacturing team along with us with the engineering team for the last two years has been number one in J.D. Power quality. So we have a very talented team. We put a historic offer on the table. And so that's why I'm so disappointed and frustrated.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: 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 have 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 leading the company?

BARRA: Well, if you look at compensation, 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 our represented employees is designed is not only 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, not only 20 percent increase in gross wage, but also the profit-sharing aspect of it, world-class health care, and there's several other features. 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.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Vanessa Yurkevich for that conversation with Mary Barra.

Meanwhile, President Biden called on automakers to -- quote -- "go further" in their offers to striking union workers at a speech at the White House just a short while ago. CNN's Kayla Tausche joins us now live from the White House.

So, Kayla, what did President Biden say?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, major automakers have so far offered roughly half the pay increases that workers are seeking. And while the White House has up until this point taken a neutral stance and encouraged both sides to reach a deal, today, President Biden went the furthest that he's gone in putting the administration firmly on the side of the workers, in saying that the automakers' offers have not gone far enough.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Auto companies have seen record profits, including in the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers.

Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers. The bottom line is that autoworkers help create America's middle class. They deserve a contract that sustains them in the middle class.


TAUSCHE: So far, UAW has not asked the administration for direct involvement in the talks, rather, asking for broader policy changes that would help the union and sustain union jobs over the long haul.

One of the examples of that is prioritizing union sites in the disbursement of tens of billions of dollars in loans from the Department of Energy that will be coming out.


That being said, though, Boris, President Biden said that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling, who have been monitoring these negotiations from Washington, will now be dispatched to Detroit to get a firsthand look at these talks and offer their support any way they can -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Kayla Tausche from the North Lawn at the White House -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Let's speak more about this with the president of the UAW's Local 14 in Toledo, Ohio, Tony Totty.

Mr. Totty, thanks so much for taking the time this afternoon.

TONY TOTTY, PRESIDENT, UAW UNION LOCAL 14: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: I want to take a look at the offer that GM has made so far. I know the union was requesting pay increases up to 40 percent. And I know that some of that is really making up for concessions you made back in 2008-2009; 21 percent is what GM says it's offered, up to 21 percent. For most civilian workers in America, that's far beyond what they're

getting. Wages, salaries increased 4.6 percent for the year ending in June 2023. Why do you believe UAW workers should get bigger increases than the vast majority of Americans are seeing?

TOTTY: Well, that's for a couple of reasons.

First, we set the tone. So, when we get a raise, everybody else gets a raise. So we're the leaders when it comes to this. I think that will change for everybody else if we do get that raise. The other thing is, President Biden, we appreciate his comments. And no one should know better than him (AUDIO GAP). And he helped with the auto rescue.

So he knows all what we gave up. And these corporations are making record profits, and we're still living with the lingering consequence of (AUDIO GAP) reconstruction. So, when you look (AUDIO GAP) pay.

God bless our CEO, but she didn't wait eight minutes for her pay increases. So, we're just (AUDIO GAP) in about 20 years, and we don't have cost to living. So, when inflation spikes, we're taking the brunt of that.

SCIUTTO: Now I know that demand for cars was enormous in the last couple of years, some of that a recovery from the shortages that we experienced during the pandemic and supply chain issues.

Are you worried at all that this is peak demand to some degree, that, yes, right now, profits are fantastic for the companies, but that if they lock themselves into the kinds of increases you're talking about, then in a couple of years, it won't be that rich for the companies, and that therefore, this is something they can't give longer-term?

TOTTY: Well, we hear this every time four years comes around for our agreements. They're making record profits, and we heard the same story the last time.

So, they're doing just fine. And when you look at these situations that they put themselves in, just like this strike, they put themselves in this situation. We gave them our demands six weeks ago, and they just started to get serious within the last week. They ran out the clock, and we're not messing around this time.

The other thing is, in 2017, they shut down our semiconductor facility that we had in Kokomo, Indiana. We wouldn't have had a chip shortage if General Motors didn't ship the chips to Asia. So I understand what they're saying, and the transition to E.V. is expensive, but they're a for-profit company, and they're going to do just fine.

SCIUTTO: Bigger picture, I wonder if you feel that a moment has arrived to some degree for unions in this country.

As you know, for a number of years, for decades, really, union participation was falling. But in the last year, you have had a number of strikes and strikes that tended to work out, if you look at, for instance, the UPS workers, the raises that they got.

Do you sense that union strength, right, is growing, and is that part of the motivation here to push as hard as you're pushing?

TOTTY: It is.

I mean, without a union, how are you going to get a fair deal in your workplace? If you go as an individual to a profitable company and say, hey, I demand 30 percent or 40 percent raise, they will probably fire you, right?

But only in collective bargaining with your fellow union members in solidarity can you demand respect in the workplace. And that's what we're doing right now. Our contract's been out of whack for a while, and only with a union can you do this. And I think the rest of the country is seeing that.

This has been the highest approval rating we have had as a union in my lifetime. And we're going to look to take this momentum and organize more places with this newfound demand for justice in the workplace.

SCIUTTO: Well, Tony Totty, thanks so much for joining us and explaining the union's position this afternoon.


TOTTY: Thank you very much for having me.

SCIUTTO: Brianna.

KEILAR: Former President Trump says he did not tell an employee to delete Mar-a-Lago security footage, and he said he would testify under oath all about it. We will have more on that.

Plus, CNN is on the ground in a Libyan city that has just been decimated by flash floods. At least 5,000 people are dead in this country. There are still several thousands of others who are missing. We will have a report on that.

And a zoning battle heating up in the state of Georgia. Descendants of enslaved Africans on Sapelo Island are worried their cultural heritage could be lost. We're going to talk to a member of the Gullah Geechee community fighting to preserve their land.


SANCHEZ: We have some new information to bring you about a search warrant in Donald Trump's federal election interference case. We have learned that Twitter gave the special counsel at least 32 of the former president's direct messages.


The warrant was sought in January and was so secret that the social media company was barred from even telling Trump about it as the process played out.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has this reporting. And also with us is DOJ veteran and former associate counsel to President George W. Bush Jamil Jaffer.

So, Katelyn, it all goes down in the D.M.s, as the young people say. What can you tell us about this batch of direct messages the special counsel now has?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, maybe it goes down in the D.M.s. We don't know exactly who was slipping into Donald Trump's D.M.s at that point in time.


POLANTZ: But we do know that there were direct messages. That was something we didn't know before that we had known through the course of some documents coming out in this particular matter that the special counsel, after they indicted him, then they were able to publicly disclose through the court system that they got a search warrant and they obtained information from Donald Trump's Twitter account.

Now we have that number of how many D.M.s were handed over to the special counsel's office. Now, in the indictment of Donald Trump, they don't cite any direct messages. And so we don't know exactly what these direct messages were, if they were from people, if he was writing to people.

But the concern over this at the time in the court system was Twitter wanted to tell Trump that these existed...


POLANTZ: ... because they wanted him to have the possibility to challenge them if they were communications between top administration officials. That ultimately didn't fly in the court.

They didn't tell him at the time. The special counsel's office got the direct messages. How juicy they might be, big question remaining there.

And, also, the special counsel's office in these new filings that we're just going through had a lot of concerns at in April, before they charged him in both the Mar-a-Lago case and the January 6 case, about how they perceived him to be so obstructive already at that time in April of this year toward both of those matters, outlining a lot of things that they eventually charged him with, under indictment, whenever they were speaking to an appeals court under seal.


Jamil, what strikes me about the reporting is the fact that the special counsel went to a point where they couldn't have Trump find out that Twitter was handing over these messages. Why would that be?

JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, obviously, there's a concern, as Katelyn was pointing out, that the president would take action to delete these messages, prevent them from getting access. We know the claims that were made about the videotape...


JAFFER: ... the attempt to delete the videotape down in Mar-a-Lago. The president, of course, recently has come out saying -- on a national interview saying: I didn't direct them to do that. I had the right to fight it. I didn't fight it. We didn't delete anything.

But the concern is that he would take action to obstruct the investigation. That's why they didn't want him to know. And now they have those messages.

And, of course, the president can still challenge it in court, challenge the use of them in court if there is something, there's some sort of privilege or the like.

SANCHEZ: That was going to be my next question, if it could somehow bolster his defense.

JAFFER: Well, it could. Look, there might be evidence in there that actually helps him. We don't know what's in those messages.

But on top of that, if he wants to push back and say, no, these can't be introduced against me, he's got that right. He didn't have to know about the messages beforehand to be able to fight them being introduced in evidence in court.


POLANTZ: And there's ongoing court action over whether Twitter what should have been able to tell him about this search warrant whenever it happened, because they couldn't.


So I want to share a clip with our viewers of the interview that Jamil is talking about that Trump is doing with NBC in which he talks about that alleged deleted evidence from Mar-a-Lago.

He also said something really important in this clip. Listen.


KRISTEN WELKER, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": A new charge suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn't get into the hands of investigators. Did you do that?


WELKER: It's false?

TRUMP: It's false. But let me tell you what else.

WELKER: Would you to testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: I'm going to -- I will testify.

WELKER: You would testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: It's a fake. The tapes weren't deleted.

In other words, there was nothing done to them. And they were my tapes. I could have fought them. I didn't even have to give them the tapes, I don't think. I think I would have won a court.

When they asked for the tapes, I said, sure. They're my tapes. I could have fought them.


SANCHEZ: Katelyn, not the first time that Donald Trump has said he is willing to testify under oath.

POLANTZ: No. Remember when he said he was going to testify to the House Select Committee, and then they subpoenaed him, and he did not.


POLANTZ: That's happened in lawsuits as well.

The only time I can remember he's been testifying under oath is whenever he's forced to in a civil proceeding, when he has to be deposed as a witness. So, in this, he's saying he will testify. Whether he would take the stand in his own defense, that's a big question.

But what's interesting too about this is, he says it's false when she reads back the allegation to him.


POLANTZ: What he's saying it's false to and what the allegation is that he told someone to delete the tapes.


POLANTZ: But then, as he continues to speak, he's speaking about a different thing, whether the tapes were actually deleted, which we know they were not.

And so the charge isn't about the tapes being deleted. The charge is about them talking about, him and two other alleged co-defendants talking and having this conversation, trying to get somebody to delete the tapes.

SANCHEZ: Right. Important distinction there.

Jamil, if you are on his defense team, are you letting Donald Trump anywhere near the witness stand?

JAFFER: Well, not only not near the witness stand, not doing these interviews. (LAUGHTER)

JAFFER: He is just walking in himself into all sorts of trouble, right?

I mean, look, this is a client, obviously, his lawyers can't control.



JAFFER: And it works for him, though. Somehow he's managed to escape by every time.

So, even though his lawyers, any sane lawyer would advise him, don't go on TV, don't testify, it seems to be working.

POLANTZ: And he's saying in these TV interviews still, even with NBC and with Megyn Kelly yesterday, that he is able to have the documents, that he had the documents. He's not contesting that.


POLANTZ: So, all of this is very likely to come back.

SANCHEZ: Yes, no surprise that, when he talked about testifying before the E. Jean Carroll case, before that civil lawsuit, before special counsel Robert Mueller, written answers to those questions, not testifying in person.

Jamil Jaffer, Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: When we come back, just the devastating aftermath of the deadly flooding in Libya, bodies still washing ashore, as thousands remain missing. We're going to have a report from inside Libya coming up.

Also, sources tell CNN that China appears to have suspended its spy balloon program after, you will remember, the U.S. shot one down over U.S. territory. We're going to have details.

Stay with us.