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Security at U.N. General Assembly; McCarthy Insists Spending Deal Can Pass House; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is Interviewed about the Funding Bill; Jim Schultz is Interviewed about The Clark Case. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 09:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are at the United Nations this morning. This is the General Assembly. Very shortly, really any minute, President Biden will arrive here. He will address the General Assembly.

This is a very important speech. One of the main subjects, of course, will be global support for Ukraine, its defense against Russia, and the invasion.

This will be President Zelenskyy's first speech before the United Nations General Assembly since Russia invaded. That will come this afternoon.

First, though, is President Biden with the whole world watching. The whole world keenly aware of his political situation here in the United States. They know this could be a turning point in U.S. foreign policy.

Obviously, when all these world leaders gather in one place right behind me, it creates such a security challenge, not to mention a traffic nightmare. The traffic is one thing. The security, an altogether different operation. But it is a challenge that New York City is pretty experienced with.

CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller explains.


KIMBERLY CHEATLE, DIRECTOR OF U.S. SECRET SERVICE: This is a national special security event. We have 170 or so protectees, foreign heads of state that are here with their spouses that we're responsible for protecting. And I think in the last 10 years it is the largest United Nations General Assembly that we've hosted.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (voice over): Kimberly Cheatle is the director of the U.S. Secret Service, the agency that protects the president of the United States, but is also responsible for protecting every world leader attending the United Nations General Assembly. The NYPD is a key partner with resources on the ground, in the sky, and on the water to protect what is annually the largest gathering of world leaders anywhere on the planet. One hundred and fifty-one heads of state, 41 foreign ministers. That's nearly 200 security details.

EDWARD CABAN, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: Their job is to discuss the future of our world, and our job is to make sure they can do it without disruption.

MILLER: At a pier in Brooklyn, 315 police cars are gathered to be deployed in the motorcades that will run through the city day and night. That means traffic closures, frozen zones, and detours in a city that's already snarled with traffic on a good day.

MILLER (on camera): That's a lot of choreography.

JOHN CHELL, CHIEF OF PATROL, NYPD: A lot of choreography, but we dance well. We have our federal partners, our intelligence bureau constantly monitoring threats and, quite frankly, it's New York City. We're always at a threat level one way or the other. And we're also prepared to move and to protect this city.

MILLER (voice over): At the NYPD's command center, police access feeds from thousands of cameras, hundreds of license plate readers, even a map that tracks flight patterns, an early warning system in case a plane goes off course. And if there's an incident or attack --

EUGENE MCCARTHY, DEPUTY INSPECTOR, NYPD OPERATIONS: Immediately this room, as you can see, through its ability with all our cameras and all our technology, it would immediately be pumping information out to our incident commanders in the field, as well as keeping the top level of the executives at NYPD informed.

MILLER: At the Secret Service, a protective intelligence cell scans all active threats, not just to the president of the United States, but against any of the world leaders under their protection in New York.

CHEATLE: So, we're looking at the technological of it. We're looking at the cyber aspect of it. And then we're looking at the human threat itself.

MILLER: They have planned and practiced for every scenario. Chemical weapons, biological attacks, even a nuclear device coming into the harbor on a ship. This NYPD counterterrorism launch is equipped with advanced radiation detection technology.

JUDITH R. HARRISON, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF COUNTERTERRORISM: So, this vessel is part of our fleet with our maritime unit. We actually have three vessels. This vessel has radiation detection equipment in the bow of the vessel that will be able to detect any radiation emanating off of any objects.

The strategy is to be able to detect any anomalies and to be able to address that and to check it out, see what it is, and make sure everyone in the area's safe. We want to do that as far out as possible so that we can get a jump on anything and be able to clear the area, shut down the waterways, you know, anything that we may have to do to neutralize the threat.


BERMAN: And John Miller is with me here outside the United Nations.

Obviously, there are representatives from countries inside this building that are at war with each other.


So, how does that change the dynamic when you're talking about security?

MILLER: You know, world events all ripple to New York. And when you actually bring the players to New York, that magnifies it. You'll remember in 2016 we had bombings on the west side of Manhattan during the U.N. General Assembly. We were at war at the time. Those were inspired by ISIS and al Qaeda. But, you know, you have countries here who are named state sponsors of terrorism, you have countries who have been attacked, you have countries that are at war, all of that factors into the threat assessment they do for each world leader and how they move them around.

BERMAN: John Miller, thank you very much for all this. I feel safer standing right next to you here after the tutorial you just got.

Sara, let's go back to you. I'm trying to blame John for the traffic. He is saying it is not his fault.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman. John Berman, it is not - I am with him and we will discuss this when you get back into the studio at some point. It will take you all day.

All right, now we are coming back to the United States where there are some tensions. They're bubbling over at Capitol Hill. But a bill that would fund the government for just one month, by the way, has cleared at least one hurdle. However, there is no guarantee that the speaker of the House is going to be able to push that bill through the House, facing a deadline to avoid that government shutdown. One Republican called competing proposals from his colleagues "stupidity" and a "clown show." A funding measure must pass by the end of this month, but McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes without relying on Democrats.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's hard to pass everything in this place. We start out having a five-seat majority. I have one member who's now resigned. We've got a couple of members who are out as well. Anything we do is pretty tough.


SIDNER: All right, CNN's Lauren Fox is joining us now.

Lauren, I see that you're in the bowls there waiting for some information. But what is happening with this bill and how close are we to seeing this either not get pushed through or get pushed through? We don't have much time left.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, one of the points that you heard from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy yesterday was that his members needed time to read over this proposal. Well, this morning is another opportunity for leadership and those who wrote the legislation to walk members through the details of this proposal. But we are told there are now more than a dozen Republicans either leaning opposed or planning to vote against this proposal in its current form, which leads you to a lot of questions about whether or not Republicans are going to have to revise this proposal or whether or not they may have to go in a different direction.

You're starting to see some cracks within the Republican conference as some Republicans from swing states say they may just work with their Democratic colleagues. They could use a rarely used and arcane procedural step to try to force a vote on the floor, but if they were going to go in that direction, they need to act fast. I asked one of those Republicans, Representative Mike Lawler, if it's time to move in that direction.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): If the clown show of colleagues that refuse to actually govern does not want to pass the CR, I will do everything we need to, to make sure that a CR passes. The bottom line here is this. We're not shutting the government down. These folks don't have a plan. They don't know how to take yes for an answer. They don't know what it is to work as a team. They don't know how to define a win.


FOX: And, Sara, this question of how to fund the government for just a month, it's important to keep in mind that these Republicans are fighting within their own ranks. And you have people, conservatives, like Byron Donalds and Matt Gaetz basically at each other's throats over this proposal with Byron Donalds arguing that this is a good proposal that he came up with, and you have people like Matt Gaetz saying that it's not good enough.

So, internal sparring happening within the Republican side, within the conservative faction. It's a huge mess right now on Capitol Hill.


SIDNER: And it is clearly bananas that this is only to fund the government for 31 days, which is one month.

All right, I know you'll be watching. Thank you so much, Lauren Fox.

Kate. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And to state the obvious, when funding the government and passing budgets and appropriations is the job of Congress. Singularly.

Joining us right now for more on this is Democratic congressman from New York, Gregory Meeks. He's a top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Let's start where Lauren Fox's great reporting left off, Congressman. Mike Lawler, other Republicans, now talking -- suggesting that they could work with Democrats in order to push through a short-term CR in order to keep the government open. Are you aware of conversations, any of them, between Democrats and Republicans to do this?


REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): No, I'm not. That's not our job, you know. What we see is the MAGA Republicans are dysfunctional. We've seen that from day one. From the day that they took 15 times to elect McCarthy to be the speaker. They've done nothing for the two, three - for the two years -- or the year and a half that they've been in charge. It's been dysfunctional. They're delusional. And they haven't gotten their act together. And who's paying for it is the American people.

So, I've not heard any of that, Kate. We're sitting back and seeing whether or not the Republicans can do something for the American people. And I remind you, Kate, you know, they talk about the five- vote difference. Well, you know, just look at the example of Democrats, when we were in control, we only had a five-vote majority also, but yet we were able to have one of the most substantial congressional achievements in the 117th Congress for the American people, delivering for the American people. And that's what we stand for right now. We want to continue to deliver for the people while the dysfunctional Republicans keep fighting among themselves.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. You tweeted a couple days ago about this whole mess, which we know it is. You tweeted this, "Democrats are working to prevent this from happening," meaning a government shutdown. That does or does not, in your view, include working with a majority of House Republicans to avoid an - to avoid an avoidable self-inflicted wound. You said it's not your job, but at some point is it your job to start those conversations?

MEEKS: When you are the majority in the House, it is your job to get it done. So, it's not my job to go get it done. The Republicans, to my knowledge, have not come to Democrats, have not talked to us. They generally have had the position that they want it their way or the highway. And if that's the case, then we're not going to be able to get anything done. So, it's not our job to get things done, it's the Republicans' job to get things done.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, it does seems among Republicans the sense is less than a shutdown is possible and moving more into the realm of a shutdown is likely. Do you think there will be a shutdown of government? MEEKS: Look, I hope not. I, you know, really, I'm hoping that they

come up with something that's reasonable, that is on the benefit for the American people. I doubt if that happens because they haven't done it yet. So, here we are, sitting on the brink.

You know, I've talked to some of my Republican friends, and I asked them, where or what's happening? Are we going to have the shutdown or not? I would say the majority of them believe at this point that we're headed toward a shutdown, but most of them don't know. But it is their responsibility.

And this is why, you know, it is important when we are thinking about elections and moving forward, whether or not you've got that coalition of folks that can work together on behalf of the American people, doing and thinking about the American people, or others that are just fighting among themselves and only thinking about themselves. And I think that's what we're confronted with right now.

BOLDUAN: Do you think if the government shuts down and this is because of fighting factions within the Republican Party, do you think Kevin McCarthy should lose his speakership over this?

MEEKS: Again, that's a Republican issue that they have to deal with.

You know, what I know is, Leader Jeffries has us on the Democratic side working and thinking collectively and together wanting to do for the American people. We want to deliver for the American people in the same manner that we've done when you look at the bill that we were able to pass with a five-vote majority in the 117th Congress. You know, when you talk about making sure that we had a bipartisan infrastructure bill, putting Americans to work, reducing the cost of drugs to make sure insulin, no more than $35, reducing the reduction -- the inflation rate in the United States of America, doing the people's work.

And, you know, Kate, on Foreign Affairs, I've traveled all over the place. I've went to Europe. And what I have found, when we had a recent trip to Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands, that they are looking at what Joe Biden did to reduce -- and the Democratic Congress, to reduce the inflation rate in their countries because we're down and they're still up.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask -

MEEKS: So, people are looking at what we did and trying to move forward to -- for their countries by following what Democrats and Joe Biden has done here in the United States of America.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, as the ranking member on House Foreign Affairs, President Biden is speaking at the U.N. today. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine will be speaking at the U.N. as well today. And then also coming to Washington, will be meeting with members on Capitol Hill later this week.

Do you think his visit -- Zelenskyy's visit this time to Washington and to The Hill is a critical moment for the future of U.S. support of Ukraine given that, well, look, what has been taken out of the funding bill that we're talking about in terms of Republican -- what Republicans are talking about in terms of funding the government, and also just public sentiment.


We know, Congressman, that public sentiment, at least in some of the latest polling, is more against Congress approving more funding for Ukraine. How important is Zelenskyy's visit this time?

MEEKS: I think his visit, as each visit, is important. What the people, the heroes of Ukraine have been doing to fight to keep their sovereign property, to fight to make sure that the infiltration that Vladimir Putin has done is stopped, it's important for all of us. And what has happened as a result of Joe Biden and his leadership, you know, the -- NATO is closer together than ever. The EU is closer together than ever. And then even in the Asian Pacific, you know, unprecedented that Japan is talking to South Korea and we're working with the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore. Bringing us together because of the values of which we have. That's what is happening around the world significantly. And I think that you also hear nations -- smaller nations now coming on board wanting to be with us and to fight to make a difference and sharing and try to make sure that we help save this planet.

So, Joe Biden and Democrats have done and they -- a shining example for others to follow, bringing the world together.

You know, I don't know what the Republicans are doing, but history will show that those of us that stand beside President Zelenskyy and work and make sure that they are funded will be on the right side of history. There were some Americans, even before the beginning, America entered into World War II. And in this one we don't have to enter any soldiers there, it's just funding, not any of our men and women giving up their lives.

But there were people in Congress and others who were against America entering that war. History proved we did the right thing. And we must stay in this for the long haul. This is not a magic wand that's going to be waved and the war will be over tomorrow or anything of that nature. This is a struggle. Russia, Vladimir Putin, is counting on us being weak and divided and not continuing the struggle. And that's why we hear him agreeing with some of our Republican friends saying he wants to hold on and see if Donald Trump and the Republicans can stay in control because he believes that they will be with him, not with individual countries that share the values that we have.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Greg Meeks, thanks for coming on.


MEEKS: Thank you for having me.

SIDNER: All right, now to the legal battles.

One of Trump's co-defendants, the former DOJ official, says he only casts doubt in the Georgia election results because he was pressured by Donald Trump. But will his claims convince a judge to move his case -- the state case to the federal courts? The latest on Jeffrey Clark's bid. That's coming up.



SIDNER: This morning a federal judge showing skepticism about whether to allow former assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark to move his Georgia election subversion case from state court to federal court. Clark's lawyers say he was working in an official capacity when he wrote a letter to Georgia officials sowing doubt in the state's election results in 2020. Clark's legal team also says he acted under Trump's direction. But the judge didn't seem so convinced of that and asked the lawyers for some evidence there. They did not provide any.

Clark is one of Trump's 18 co-defendants, and the results of his request could have bigger implications for the former president if he wins that case or if he doesn't. Former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz is joining us now to discuss all this.

First, I want to ask you this. The judge, according to the reporters in the room, said he seemed pretty annoyed on a couple of different issues. One of them is that, you know, Jeffrey Clark didn't show up. And he - he said, I'm not going to take a statement from him to be put into the court record. Why didn't he show up to this court process, the court case?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I have no idea why he wouldn't show as a -- you know, even as a - as a former Department of Justice official, as a lawyer and officer of the court, I would have recommended that he showed up for that hearing for that same reason, right, the judge is going to expecting him to be standing before him because he is an officer of the court, he is a lawyer. And I think that's something that the judge would expected. I don't think that was a smart play on the part of him as a lawyer.

SIDNER: You think that was strategy? It's a strategy you certainly would not have employed. But do you think that this was a strategy issue here, that they decided amongst themselves that, look, don't - don't show up to court?

SCHULTZ: Yes, maybe. Perhaps they were worried about what the judge might ask him. I don't know. But I - it's - I don't know what the strategy might have been there. Maybe he just didn't want the media attention associated with it as well or having -- coming in and out of the courthouse. That could have been it as well. But, you know, I don't - I don't think it served him well before this judge.

SIDNER: Can I ask you about this issue that was argued in court, which could have, you know, some meaning to Donald Trump himself. Jeffrey Clark's lawyers are arguing that the reason that he did what he did, sent the letter, talked about there being an investigation that the DOJ was doing, which it wasn't, into the 2020 election there in Georgia, saying, look, I was doing it at the direction of the president, who was Donald Trump at the time. What do you make of that argument?

SCHULTZ: Look, he was serving in the capacity as a Justice Department official at the time, meaning that he was taking direction from the president.


The president - he had - you know, it's well documented that he was in the room, that the president was pushing DOJ to do something there, that the president wanted DOJ to come out and say something publicly about the corruption related to the election, which we all know wasn't true. So, one, the - one - you know, I think in this particular instance, of everyone that's kind of - you know, including Mark Meadows, that would make this argument, I think Jeffrey Clark probably has the best shot of getting this to federal court. I still think it's an uphill battle because what a judge is going to look at and say, OK, are you really acting in the interest of DOJ, or are you reacting in the interest of, you know, candidate Donald Trump. And I think that's something that they're going to have to balance, you know, especially when you're acting like outside the scope, like, of what a DOJ official what might normally do. This certainly seeming outside the scope. If I'm a judge looking at it, I'm thinking, this is outside the scope of what he does as a DOJ official, and therefore probably keep it in state court.

SIDNER: Look, I know this is a legal issue, but there is also politics at play here. If you are saying, as a former DOJ attorney, that you are acting under the pressure of the president, there's supposed to be different branches of government here at play, and for so long, the Republicans, Donald Trump, always saying that the DOJ has been used by the Biden administration, for example. This is -- could be a real problem for them, could it not?

SCHULTZ: Well, from a - from a political perspective, yes. From a legal perspective, no.


SCHULTZ: Donald Trump was the chief executive, commander in chief, you know, president, oversaw DOJ, and this guy worked at DOJ. So, from a legal perspective, no. Political perspective, yes, it cuts against what - what Trump's been saying.

SIDNER: All right, Jim Schultz, thank you so much for coming on this morning.


BOLDUAN: Any moment now President Biden set to deliver remarks at the United Nations, and before world leaders. The forceful case that he's expected to make against Russia. We have new reporting coming in and we will bring you his speech live. That's next.

You're looking at one of the entrances of the United Nations where the president will be walking very soon.

We'll be right back.