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Zelenskyy Meets With Lawmakers To Bolster Ukraine Support; Rupert Murdoch To Step Down As Chairman Of Fox Corp, Fox News; Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) Is Interviewed About The Plan To Avert Shutdown. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired September 21, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Missiles rained down across Ukraine as the country's president is in D.C. pleading with lawmakers for critical resources to fight off Russian aggression. But some Republicans say they're ready to shut off funds.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news and earthquake in the media world. Rupert Murdoch's steps down at Fox so what pushed him over the edge who takes over and when anything really changed.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Like a wolf closing in on its prey, the wolf, Rudy Giuliani, here the prey, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, which she now says happen to her on January 6ath. I'm Kate Bolduan with John Berman and Sara Sidner. This is CNN News Central.
SIDNER: Happening as we speak, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers behind closed doors and making an urgent plea for more aid as Russia unleashes on his country, Ukraine. Five major cities were targeted and a new wave of deadly Russian attacks, including the Capitol, Kyiv, where officials say over 1,000 hours of air raid sirens have now been logged since Russia is initial invasion in February.
Just south of Kyiv this was a terrifying scene as rescuers were pulling victims out of the fiery debris, heartbreaking images, disturbing images as Zelenskyy seeks to leave Washington with the promise of new weapons to end this war. CNN's Lauren Fox is on the Hill where Zelenskyy arrived last hour and we saw some of that as he was going down the halls there. Lauren, who is Zelenskyy meeting with as we speak, and we're looking at some of the pictures of him and Jeffries walking through the halls of Congress.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that meeting with House leaders is now breaking up. I actually just spoke to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he left that meeting. We asked him here, how did the meeting with Zelenskyy go he said went very well, he did not stop to talk to us and give us further details about what they spoke about. This was going to be probably the most important meeting that Zelenskyy had on Capitol Hill this morning. That's because this meeting in which he met with House leaders was an opportunity to make his appeal directly to Kevin McCarthy, who will ultimately decide whether or not war funding for Ukraine will get a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
That is a call that so far he is signaling will not be part of the negotiations on this must pass spending bill. He revealed to his conference new details around a plan that he hopes will get conservative votes, but it did not include any additional money for Ukraine. Now Zelenskyy will head to the U.S. Senate where he will be meeting with the full United States Senate as well as their leadership. That obviously a contrast from that smaller meeting that he had in the House.
Again, this is a very different political landscape that's the lens he is heading into on Capitol Hill today because while a year ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in charged. He met with a joint meeting of Congress, all of the members invited to that session. Today, he is facing that smaller meeting in the House, a lot of pushback from conservatives who are arguing that more money for Ukraine isn't necessary. And that is where he stands today.
Now, there's also that package from the White House that they announced, in which there's going to be more money for anti-aircraft defense systems as well as more artillery, more anti-armor systems and anti-aircraft systems. Sara.
SIDNER: All right, Lauren Fox, thank you. And we'll be coming back to you if you hear anything new about those meetings. Appreciate it. John?
BERMAN: All right. With us now is Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. As President Zelenskyy is here in the United States in Washington and we're looking at live pictures of the Capitol right now as the senators get ready for a meeting there. Russia has launched this nationwide attack against Ukraine, striking locations across the entire breadth of the country from Kharkiv all the way to Lviv and the country is far west. Why is Putin doing this today was the Zelenskyy here?
KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS : Well, first of all, let's remember that Russia is attacking Ukraine every day. It's not just today, and sometimes it's air raid, sometimes it's Kyiv, sometimes it's Odesa, every day on the front lines as well. And I just think that today it's a little bit more and it's a little bit more widespread because he's trying to convince lawmakers in Washington that it's futile, don't give aid to Ukraine because Ukraine will never win that's what the message he's trying to send.
And it's a message he's sending out of weakness because his forces actually are losing on the ground. Ukrainians are retaking territory, and Russia is not able to advance militarily. So he's doing this in order to try to send a signal to recover his own position.
BERMAN: So again, we're looking at pictures, live pictures of U.S. senators, members of both parties actually entering the room where this meeting will take place with President Zelenskyy. When he gets into that room, what is President Zelenskyy need to do?
VOLKER: The first thing is to make clear that he appreciates and understands that Americans are providing support to Ukraine, it's American taxpayer dollars, it is a risk to the United States as well, that we're willing to bear and show appreciation for that and that he understands that. The second is to show that he cares and is committed to accountability. There should be no question about loss of funds that U.S. provides, about corruption, about anything going around here. He takes his responsibility for accountability for this aide very seriously.
And then the third thing is to show that they have no choice but to fight. It is their homes that they're fighting and defending just as we would fight and defend our own homes. And that he will continue to fight no matter what. And the more the U.S. can provide and more quickly, the sooner this war will end.
BERMAN: So you do know that there are Republicans in Congress and I forgive me, I keep looking down at the screen to see if I get a glimpse of Zelenskyy walking in but there are Republicans in Congress who are adamantly opposed to further aid from the Ukraine. Senator Rand Paul, well, I don't know if we'll be at this meeting says there's no national security interest for us in Ukraine. And even if it were, it would be trumped by the fact that we have no money.
Marjorie Taylor Greene says you can bet that'll be heavily messaging against the war in Ukraine and everyone who's funding it. Matt Gaetz said we must suspend all foreign aid for the war on Ukraine and demand that all combatants in this conflict reach a peace agreement immediately. There is the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader and the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, bipartisan support among the leadership of the Senate. Let's listen if they say anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your message?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Zelenskyy is your message getting through?
BERMAN: They continue to walk down the hall there. They will enter that room together clearly not answering those questions. But inside that room, he will have to convince people in the Senate, there will be Rand Paul, who says no, basically hell no to more aid. So how do you change Rand Paul's mind?
VOLKER: Well, there are several things here that are important for people to understand. One of them is that the money that is spent on defense for Ukraine is a fraction of the U.S. defense budget. We're talking less than 5 percent of an annual U.S. defense budget. And this has the result of crippling one of America's major adversaries, which is Russia. So it is a very efficient use of funding if you talk about what's good for our national defense.
Secondly, if Russia is allowed to take over Ukraine to reestablish its position there and regroup, it will attack again. This is Vladimir Putin's desire to rebuild the Russian Empire not provoked by anybody but his own volition to rebuild the Russian Empire. And if he succeeds in Ukraine, he will move on to the next places. And some of these might be NATO allies like the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, that we are committed to defend. So we don't want to be forced into that position. We're far better off to help the Ukrainians and the war on their own territory.
BERMAN: And that is the case no doubt that President Zelenskyy will be making any moment before the U.S. senators, we just saw him go into that room. Former ambassador Kurt Volker, always great to speak with you. Thank you so much. Kate?
BOLDUAN: And speaking of bipartisan, you guys were in mid conversation. They entered that room, John, to applause from the senators. I can see Senator Tom Cotton kind of in the angle of the camera, all applauding as the three men enter the room.
BERMAN: But before that there was a bipartisan group of senator, Joni Ernst was walking with Chris Murphy and Debbie Stabenow. You see members of different parties walking together to this meeting.
BOLDUAN: Exactly. Which is important not only for policy, but it also it's these are important images to be projecting around the country and around the world. Great conversation.
We're also watching this big news in the media world this morning Rupert Murdoch just announced that he's stepping down as chairman of Fox. Let me get back on line. Let's bring back in CNN is Oliver Darcy. And also joining us is CNN media analyst Sara Fischer. She's also the senior media reporter for Axios. Of course, Oliver since we spoke last hour and the news broke, what more are you hearing and what -- and tell us more about the explanation that Rupert Murdoch is laying out as he's announcing he's resigning?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, Kate. I think it's important for viewers to understand that Rupert Murdoch is not only a powerful media figure, he's one of the most powerful political figures in this country and really the world as the chairman of Fox Corporation, which is the parent company of Fox News and News Corp, which publishes papers like the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post. Murdoch's power really in the Republican Party is matched by only a very select few.
And so him stepping down has consequences for what happens in the political arena, particularly as we gear up for the 2024 election. But if anyone is thinking that, you know, him stepping down is going to change the editorial bent of these of these media outlets. I think that might be mistaken, given what he's saying in this memo, I want to read to you part of what he says. He says that he talks about how the battle for the freedom of speech and ultimately the freedom of thought has never been more intense.
And then he says his son Lachlan, who's taking over for him, as Chairman of these companies, is committed to freedom. And it goes on to say, self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who had questioned their provenance and purpose elites, I'm open contempt for those who are not members of the revered class, so on and so forth. But he's saying that Lachlan Murdoch is going to continue this fight. And really the right wing editorial bent of the companies like Fox News.
BOLDUAN: Sara, long speculated, you know, that Rupert would obviously one day step down. But this is such a big moment. What do you hear this memo and statement from Rupert?
SARA FISCHER, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And of course, he's 92 years old. So it's not shocking when I'm talking to folks inside and around Fox News and News Corp. They're both saying the same thing. I mean, they no one feels very surprised by this announcement. But to bigofy (ph) this, he's not just a huge media mogul and a political mogul, he's a huge business mogul.
I mean, this is somebody that bought 20th Century Fox for a few 100 million dollars, and later sold his entertainment assets to Disney in 2019, Kate, for $71 billion. That's a massive, massive return. He's also has this huge global business, as Oliver was mentioning, it's not just major newspapers here in the U.S., but it's in the U.K. He owns 70 percent of the newspaper business in Australia, where he's originally from. And so this is a huge moment for the business community.
It also comes at a huge time for the news and Hollywood businesses. I mean, Hollywood continues to be on strike. Fox Corp has a broadcast network that does a lot of, you know, entertainment programming. At the same time, artificial intelligence is coming for the publishing industry, which is what News Corp is involved in. And so Fox Corp and News Corp having this leadership transition at a pivotal moment is a big deal for so many different industries.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And that's the key, Sara, so many different industries, seeing this moment. I mean, it doesn't mean that Fox News is going to change its direction, that's for sure. You can hear that in the statement, Sara, but what do you think, you know, all of those outside the news and media industry, what they need to -- what they can take from this moment and the impact that Murdoch has had on so many industries?
FISCHER: Well, the big thing is that to Oliver's point, Lachlan is going to be taking over and he doesn't seem to divert much from his father in terms of his point of view, politically, although the Murdochs have privately said things that have been disparaging about Donald Trump, but I don't think it means that they're going to make a drastic pivot to the center. But the next horizon, Kate, is succession of the company. Remember when Rupert Murdoch passes away, which he says he's healthy, and that's not coming soon.
But when it happens, the company is left to a trust that split amongst four of his six children. Not all of those children agree on the future of Fox and what it should be. James Murdoch, in particular, has more progressive perspective. And so the next frontier is what happens to this empire, one through four passes. And I don't think we were really thinking about his passing. But the fact that he's now stepping out of this Chairman role into an emeritus role starts to beg the question of when that could happen.
BOLDUAN: It's a great perspective. It's good to see you both. Thank you very much. We'll continue to follow this breaking news. Sara?
SIDNER: The battle on Capitol Hill far from over, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has a new plan, he says to prevent a possible government shutdown that will happen in just nine days if they don't get it together. But members of his own party are saying no deal. Could Democrats bail him out? Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee is joining us next.
Plus, is there an end in sight to the strike that's brought Hollywood to a standstill, writers and studio executives say talks have been encouraging. We'll have the latest on that as well.
SIDNER: This morning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has a new plan he says to keep the government open before it runs out of money in just nine days. McCarthy ironed out the terms of the deal and an emergency caucus meeting yesterday and it caters to the most conservative members of his caucus. But now he needs to get it past. McCarthy hoping he can do that this weekend. CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us from Capitol Hill this morning. Melanie there's also a bipartisan proposal that is now being considered. Tell us about that because this other proposal could go to heck in a hand basket if you will.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. I think that's safe to say. Look, these bipartisan talks have really picked up steam in recent days as chaos and frustration has grown inside the GOP. As you mentioned, McCarthy's plan might not even have the votes to pass the House. And even if it does, it would be dead on arrival in the Senate.
The reality Sara is that as Democratic votes are going to be needed in order to fund the government. And so this bipartisan group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, they're very evenly made up of Democrats and Republicans, got together and hatched their own plan for funding the government. That plan would fund the government until January. It also would include disaster aid and Ukraine aid which was not included in the Kevin McCarthy plan. And it also would include some border security provision.
So I want you to take a listen to Don Bacon, who represents a Biden swing districts, he's a Republican, here's what he had to say about working together across the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Filler is not an option. We're not -- we're going to do everything we can to prevent a shutdown. And he's got that message so.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. Are some of those hardliners moving in your direction?
BACON: Well, in the end, if not, we will have to work across the aisle and get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now getting a plan like this to the actual floor is complicated. They are looking at some procedural mechanisms that could really sort of go around leadership's head. But the other thing now being discussed among Democrats is whether they'd be willing to cut some sort of deal with Kevin McCarthy where if he agrees to put a bipartisan plan on the floor, Democrats in turn would agree to save his speakership because no doubt if Kevin McCarthy were to do that he would face a potential vote to remove him as speaker from his hardliners.
But as of right now, Kevin McCarthy is signaling he's not willing to go that route. And that is why it's looking increasingly likely at this point that we are barreling towards the government shutdown.
SIDNER: It is unfortunate for everyone. Melanie Zanona, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Kate.
BOLDUAN: Joining us right now is a member of that Problem Solvers Caucus, democratic congressman from Michigan, Dan Kildee. Congressman, it's good to see you, thanks for coming in. What is the level of buy in that you're sensing right now around this bipartisan proposal?
REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, I think there's a lot of interest in it. But the problem, of course, is we don't control what's go -- what goes to the floor of the House. If we put our bipartisan plan on the floor, it would pass with big numbers. Actually, if we just took the debt ceiling deal, and framed that as a budget framework that would pass with big numbers. So there is a bipartisan consensus around keeping the government open through the art of compromise.
But we have a speaker who has decided that he's going to negotiate only with people who will never vote for the ultimate deal that will keep government open and funded for the next year. Let's make sure we're clear on that. The people he's negotiating with, the people that he's empowering are people who have absolutely zero intention of voting for what will actually go to the President's desk. And I think that is just malpractice on his part. If he wants a deal, you should talk to the people who are willing to make one.
BOLDUAN: Let me -- so you told my CNN colleagues on the Hill this, I think it was just yesterday, Congressman, you said, if somehow Democrats are asked to be helpful, it's not just going to have to be out of the kindness of our hearts. So what do you have in mind? What will -- what would be the demand on the other side?
KILDEE: Well, it would have to be a discussion, and it would have to be a compromise. Anybody who's been around this place knows that the way you get things done is by negotiating and arriving at a compromise where not everybody is going to be happy. Right now, all of this discussion is a battle between conservative and really conservative members, some of whom are completely committed to dysfunction, and not a conversation with those of us who are in the governing middle who want to be a part of the solution.
So, you know, there could be a give and take, I don't want to negotiate publicly. But there would have to be some of the priorities that are important to us included in an ultimate deal. We won't simply say to Speaker McCarthy, if you can't get the votes for your plan, from the most intransigent members of the House that will just give you those votes. We won't do that. We have to have a seat at the table. We have to have some negotiation. We're in the minority. But we have to have some reflection of our priorities if there's going to be a compromise.
BOLDUAN: You're in the minority but a minority that may have some leverage now, that's for sure. I want to ask you about what we just heard in some of the great reporting from Melanie Zanona on what could potentially end up happening. And I know we're going into the room a bit of a hypothetical but play game with me here. Part of the problem from McCarthy is obviously if you've worked with Democrats, we've heard it from Republicans, they say that they are going to they're going to pull the trump card if you will, and they will threaten his speakership.
So if the reason he's not able to move this direction is because he's afraid that his speakership, his fate is on the line. Would you be open -- would -- could that be how this ends up going this strange upside down world of Kevin McCarthy agrees to put something on the floor that's a bipartisan deal, which would be good for the country, and Democrats then move to support him to save his speakership would -- could you see yourself voting for Kevin McCarthy as speaker?
KILDEE: Well, I don't want to project what we might do if that circumstance arises. And just to be clear, if there were a vote, it would be on whether or not to take the issue up at all.
KILDEE: There would likely be a motion to table. And the question we would have to face and I'm not ready to answer that yet but the question we would have to face is if we want to be a party to the dysfunction that's being introduced into this building by some of the nerdiest people ever elected to Congress, that's really what it comes down to, in plain words. And I think there's a question as to whether we'd want to be a part of that.
But first, we have to have the conversation. First, the Speaker has to realize he's the Speaker of the whole House, not the speaker of the Republican conference. And if he wants to get something done, and if that includes a broader understanding as to how we move forward, then he needs to pick up the telephone and make that call.
BOLDUAN: And as far as you know, that phone call, if you will, does not happen.
KILDEE: It has not. I mean, I'll say this, Leader Jeffries and Speaker McCarthy have a reasonable relationship with one another. They're able to speak with one another. But when it comes down to legislating, the Speaker decide -- he decides what goes to the floor. And if he wants something that can pass that can actually keep the government open and prevent families across this country from feeling the pain of a shutdown. This is not, you know, a victimless crime.
If they do this, people are going to hurt. And so the Speaker needs to understand that a -- there's a -- there's a consequence to this game that he's playing. And it's not just about whether or not he's the Speaker, it's about whether people are going to be able to rely on the institutions or government for the basics that they need every single day.
BOLDUAN: It does seem -- one thing is clear, the Problem Solvers Caucus is living true to its name and trying to solve this problem, which is a real one. We're -- we've been tracking the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy as he's been moving through Congress, we know that he was meeting with leaders in the House. He's meeting with basically all members if they want in the Senate. The question, of course, is funding and the future of funding coming from Congress. Debating funding is one thing for sure, for anything. But do you see the Congress rejecting further future aid to Ukraine? Do you see that happening?
KILDEE: If Speaker McCarthy has his way it very well could. He is listening to the most outrageous members of his conference. I saw some reports on your air just yesterday about members of the Republican conference who are saying there's no money here for the people of Ukraine to defend against this outrageous attack by Vladimir Putin and his forces. We have a lot at stake in us. The American people have a lot at stake. The peace on the planet is at stake.
And the idea that somehow because they're bored with it, that they would no longer provide support that just a year or two ago was clearly something that we all were united around, you know, to me it's really an indictment of how far the politics and the Republican Party have fallen.
BOLDUAN: Let's see where the conversation goes. We know Zelenskyy still on the Hill actually probably -- in the room right over your shoulder right now. It's good to see you, Congressman, thank you very much.
KILDEE: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. John?
BERMAN: Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, a key witness in the January 6th investigation accuses Rudy Giuliani of groping her that day. His new response.
And for the first time in months signs of possible movement in the writer strike, is there a possible breakthrough, ahead.