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North Korea Expels US Soldier; Second Republican Debate; Trumps Found Liable; Widespread Looting In Philadelphia. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, seven candidates take the stage for the Republican debate. One Republican consultant says if Ron DeSantis doesn't do well here, he might have to drop out.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: An attempt to destroy our city, that is how the Philadelphia Police commissioner described what happened there last night. Brazen and rapid fire break-ins across the city all caught on camera.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Armed and dangerous. A manhunt is underway for a murder suspect in the killing of a tech CEO. Police say he will "do anything he can to cause harm including kill and rape." I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman and Kate Baldwin. This is CNN News Central.

BOLDUAN: Let's start with the new information coming out of North Korea. State media there is now reporting the country has decided to expel the US soldier who's been in North Korean custody since July. Now, the circumstances around what happened to Army Private Travis King have really always been somewhat strange since this happened. King seemed to willingly cross into North Korea during a civilian tour of the demilitarized zone. And the questions have just mounted since then.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is at the State Department with the very latest. Alex, do we know where Private King is right now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't, Kate. We these are -- we're expecting to get details soon from the Biden administration. At this point, all we have is the information that has been provided by North Korea and North Korean state media. And what they've said is that, they are expelling Private Travis King from North Korea.

Now, what that means exactly, how soon, where, these are all questions that we certainly want to get the answers to. As you noted, he crossed the DMZ from South Korea and North Korea back on July 18th. Now, North Korea saying that following an investigation over the course of the past two months during which Private King confessed to crossing illegally into North, they are expelling him. They say that he harbored ill feeling of inhuman treatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.

Kate, it is unclear whether those are indeed Private King's own words. There were, of course, concerns when he crossed into North Korea that he could be used for propaganda purposes or as a bargaining chip. We haven't seen him so they didn't really capitalize on anything in terms of propaganda. And in terms of a bargaining chip, it's not clear whether a deal was struck here. So lots of questions remain.

But, Kate, this was an extraordinary saga. He was meant to leave South Korea, where he was serving as a private in the US Army, part of the rotational US military forces that are in South Korea. And he was supposed to go back to Texas, to Fort Bliss to face disciplinary procedures because he had been accused of assaulting people in South Korea. And in fact, he had spent some 50 days in South Korean custody doing hard labor because of an assault that he pled guilty to.

He was taken to the airport by US military officials. And as soon as they let him go, he then left the airport. He then joined that civilian tour at the DMZ, at which point he split off from the tour and crossed what is known as the Joint Security Area. And a senior US Army official said that he did so willfully and without authorization.

Now, this was baffling to not just US military officials, but to his family as well. They said it was uncharacteristic of him to do something like that. But there's been extremely little communication and essentially no communication between the North Koreans and the United States that we know of. There was an acknowledgment to the United Nations, which is there on the DMZ by the North Koreans, that there had been a request for information about Private King.

But really we haven't heard anything about Private King in the past few months. And then suddenly, Kate, today, this news from North Korean state media that they are expelling him. But we certainly have a lot of questions about his time and custody, what conditions he's in and how he's going to get home. Kate?

BOLDUAN All right. Stick close, we know that more information is going to be coming really soon this morning. Alex, thank you very much for that. John?


BERMAN: All right. Mark your calendars. Today is September 27 2023. It might be the last best chance for any Republican candidate not named Donald Trump to carve out a realistic chance to win the Republican nomination. Seven candidates will take the stage at the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

As for the stakes, Semafor media quotes a consultant actually backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and saying, "If he doesn't do well here, in my opinion, he's got to drop out if he doesn't want to be embarrassed." That's someone supporting Ron DeSantis.

As for Donald Trump, he will not be there. He is skipping the debate and speaking before auto workers in Michigan, this fresh off the news that a New York judge ruled that he committed fraud and stripped him of control of some of the business he holds so dear. As of this moment, he could be on a path to win the nomination but lose his empire.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Simi Valley, California, the site of the debate, with all these swirling realities hanging over your head, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You just pointed it out, Trump is plateful with his of variety of problems, but he's choosing to dine somewhere else. He is counter programming. And while he may have earlier this week called the debates "stupid" to writing these debates. For these candidates who are gathering and will be gathering tonight in Simi Valley, this is extraordinarily important.

It is their opportunity to try to snatch the mantle as a Trump alternative, and try to make the argument that they are the strongest alternative. And really capitalize on DeSantis' downward slide and trajectory in the poll. So, what you are expecting to see tonight as these campaigns are projecting in their comments are saying, look, they are going to be more aggressive. They are going to take it to Trump.

We've certainly heard them testing out some of these anti-Trump lines from the Haley camp. We've heard from Tim Scott's campaign that he is going to push a more aggressive tone, and Vivek Ramaswamy's campaign has told CNN that what he is going to do is to lay out those policy and personality disagreements he has with Donald Trump on the debate stage tonight.

And I want to point you to this comment that Ron DeSantis made just hours before showing up here in Simi Valley.


RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- to say to all the voters to show up, defend his record, articulate what you would do going forward, what do you want might do differently. He's running in 2024 on a lot of the same promises he ran on in 2016, and didn't deliver on.


LAH: So this is their chance to speak not just to each other and to take all of these swipes at one another, but it is their chance to speak directly to millions of Republican primary voters. And, John, also do not underscore the importance. As you pointed out, and what Ron DeSantis' backer was saying is that, this is their chance to talk to those fundraisers, to those financial backers, and to keep the money flowing, John.

BERMAN: Yes. Some of whom are getting a little skittish about backing someone other than Donald Trump at this point. Kyung Lah in Simi Valley at the lovely Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, thanks so much for being with us. Sara?

SIDNER: All right. Now to another one of Donald Trump's problems. A judge in New York has ruled that Donald Trump and his adult sons have committed fraud in their business empire and shouldn't be held liable for it. The judge found that the Trump's defrauded banks and insurance companies by providing bogus financial statements for roughly a decade and overvalued their properties sometimes to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, this comes just days before the New York attorney general's civil case against the former president is supposed to go to trial. CNN's Brynn Gingras is joining us now. Brynn, the judge did not mince words, calling Trump's legal arguments a fantasy world, not the real world. But he also hit Trump where it hurts him the most perhaps. He is hitting Trump for his ability to do business in New York. Tell us what happened.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN: Yes, which is one of the objectives of the New York attorney general. So this was a huge win for Letitia James ahead of this trial that is expected to start. It is likely will start on Monday. But let's get into exactly what the judge has said in his ruling regarding the overvaluation of his assets by Trump and his two sons.

Let me put up a full screen of his assets, right? We know his golf course, we know his hotels and we know his homes. According to this judge's ruling, Trump said, for example, his Trump Tower triplex was three times bigger than it actually is, over evaluating it by $114 million to $207 million.


And according to the judge, he basically said the discrepancy of this order or magnitude by real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades can only be considered fraud. So again, the judge not mincing words, as you said, Sara, and saying that he's really living in a fantasy world.

Now, what does this mean? Well, the judge came harsh down on Trump as well, regarding his assets, regarding his empire like John just talked about. Let's take a look at what he's decided now is going to happen. Essentially, the judge is canceling the business certifications of Trump -- of Trump's entities named it as defendants in this civil lawsuit. That includes Trump Organization. And what's going to happen now is a receiver is going to be put in place to determine how it will be dissolved.

Now, it's unclear exactly how that's going to go into effect. But again, it's a big blow to the Trump Organization. Let me get a reaction from Trump who said to this decision. "It is a great company that has been slandered and maligned by this politically-motivated witch hunt. It is very unfair and I call for help from the highest court in New York State or the federal system to intercede. This is not America." So you can see right there they plan to appeal.

Now, Sara, there was already an appeal with this civil lawsuit on the books will be in front of a judge. Actually, we're expected to get a ruling sometime this week, which could delay the start of the civil hearing next week. So there's a lot going on in court as you know, the Trump's do like to sue, they like to take their action to court so we're going to keep on following this.

SIDNER: Yes. It's just really interesting that the judge made this summary judgment on some of the biggest things Letitia James was asking for before the trial ever started. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for that update. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And tonight, Donald Trump, he is trying to counter program once again. He's skipping the second Republican primary debate. Instead, he's headed to Michigan to speak to auto workers there, also known as an important group of voters and an important battleground state. So much so that President Biden was there just yesterday, and the Biden campaign just released its first ad by going directly at Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he stands with auto workers, but as president, Donald Trump passed tax breaks for his rich friends, while automakers shuttered their plants. And Michigan lost manufacturing jobs.

Joe Biden said he'd stand up for workers and he's delivering, passing laws that are increasing wages and creating good paying jobs. Manufacturing is coming back to Michigan.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Clinton Township, Michigan for more on this. Kristen, what is the Trump campaign plan for Michigan that you're learning about? And what is he going to -- what is he going to see when he gets there?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, look, this is the clearest indication that we've had from the Trump campaign. They're looking past the primaries at the general election. Trump's team is not expecting him to get a warm welcome from union leaders like we saw for President Biden yesterday. Those union leaders have largely criticized Trump and his administration saying his policies were pro-business, anti-union and anti-worker. But what they do think is that they can get people here in Macomb County to receive Trump and receive him well.

Now, Macomb County is a county in Michigan that Trump won, both in 2016 and in 2020. And I'm told by Trump officials, they believe that there is a wedge between union leadership and the rank and file. And that's what we're expecting to see here tonight. These previous former and current union members, including from the United Auto Workers and their families, and the question is whether or not Trump can be well received by these rank and file.

Now this location that we're at, it's called Drake Enterprises. It is a non-union shop. But one of the arguments that we are told Trump is going to make, it's all about electric vehicles, essentially slamming Biden's electric vehicle policy saying that's going to cost auto worker jobs. Well, we heard from the President of this location, of Drake Enterprises, yesterday in an interview, where he said that if electric cars were to become prevalent, that he would be out of business.

So giving you a little bit of an idea there of why they chose this specific location. But again, these working class voters, Michigan itself, that propelled Trump to the White House in 2016. It's also the same group that propelled Biden to the White House in 2020. Whether or not Trump can actually get these voters this time around, it's going to be a very different landscape than it was in 2016 when he didn't have a record to run on.

And again, those union leaders, they're hitting back on Trump's record,. They're saying he is not pro-labor. So it'll be interesting to see how exactly that plays out in the state.

BOLDUAN: No kidding. Great you're there, Kristen. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right. With us now, CNN senior political commentator, former senior adviser to President Obama and grumpy Cubs fan, David Axelrod.

BOLDUAN: A senior grumpy Cubs fan.

BERMAN: A senior grumpy Cubs fan. So, David, I read this quote that was in Semafor this morning from a Republican consultant, they say, who backs Ron DeSantis. Who says if DeSantis doesn't do well in this debate tonight, he should drop out if he doesn't want be embarrassed. So maybe hyperbolic but what does it say about this?


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's kind of extraordinary when you think about last fall when he was the kind of the main man of the moment. He was the guy. He was going to take on Donald Trump. He was the clear alternative and he wasn't polling. And now he's fallen back into the PAC. And tonight, he really has to show that he deserves that mantle or continue to fade.

In the first debate, he was great at landing these rehearsed lines, but that robotic quality is exactly why he's or one of the reasons why he's fallen back. And he needs to get into the give and take, and show some life tonight, or I do think people are going to begin -- not begin, they already are doing it, looking for someone else who might, might emerge as an alternative to Trump. And I think time's running out for that.

BOLDUAN: You wrote an analysis leading up to tonight's debate. And I was looking through it and some of the ways that you describe the candidate field that will be on the debate stage tonight. He also runs the pretenders and the understudies.


SIDNER: Yikes.

AXELROD: Unkind, I don't know.

BOLDUAN: No, what -- what is it that specifically lead you to that conclusion?

AXELROD: Listen, let's be honest, you guys, Donald Trump has done nothing but grow since he started getting indicted. Four indictments later, he's got an almost insurmountable lead. He can be beaten, but only if someone emerges and coalesces all of the voters who are willing to consider someone other than Trump. And time is growing short for that.

So you do get the sense that they're sort of on the stage trying to be the understudiants (ph) in case he falters, or maybe auditioning for 2028.

BOLDUAN: It will him faltering against himself. It wouldn't be them forcing him any like --

AXELROD: Yes. And I think it's important tonight is how they handle the questions and how they handle each other. We focus on who's going to attack Trump. I think you can be clear that Chris Christie will do that and he'll probably attack the others for not being willing to do what he's doing.

But the real issue is, you know, these things are like their oral exams, and people watch you. And they want to see how you deal with things in the moment. So, how are they, in this moment, how do they deal with (inaudible) and trust from each other. And the person that I would watch closely is Nikki Haley who did very well in the last debate, and has become sort of the flavor of the month among the desperate donors who are looking for someone other than Trump.

SIDNER: You touched on this, that the more Donald Trump faces legal issues, it seems the more his numbers, and the polling grows, the more Republican voters seem to coalesce around him for a myriad of reasons.


SIDNER: I want to take a look at some polling on that, because it is really interesting to see when voters were asked about whether or not it mattered to them. About 48% said, not really, no. That's a huge number. So, what is it that these candidates can do to pull away some of that support being that they can't mention all the things that he's indicted for?

AXELROD: Yes. No, it's a tough spot because you can't, you know, on the one hand, it feels like you can't get ahead of them unless you attack him. And then you can attack him because there's a rallying around him among the tribe, because they feel like he's being unjustly attacked. So it's a rough spot.

And that's why I think it's most important to show energy on that stage against each other and, you know, and debate. And, you know, Nikki Haley, why did she gain so much in the last debate, and she did gain from the last debate. Partly, it was because she energetically rebutted Ramaswamy. And that was a big moment for her.

So I'd look for those kind of moments. I do think that at some point, you know, and Christie could embarrass the others. They all raise their hand and said, even if Trump were convicted, right, they would support him for president.

So, you know, I think you may see more inching toward criticizing him. You saw DeSantis say that, you know, he hasn't kept his promises. I'm not sure that's going to cut the mustard with Republican --

BERMAN: We're talking about this morning. In politics, I've observed that politicians have a tendency to overcorrect. If they feel like they didn't go after Trump enough last time, this time they might get on the stage in really lean into it.

BOLDUAN: I -- my observation is that they don't learn lessons.

BERMAN: So, why is Kate right?

AXELROD: I do think there's a real Trump fear. I mean, some of them. Well, I saw Tim Scott said he's going to be much more aggressive on the stage. Given the last debate, that would be a low bar. But I still --

SIDNER: Aggressively what? Aggressively optimistic?

AXELROD: Now, here's the thing. If you are playing for the future, then going after Trump now isn't necessarily a good strategy. And so that may cut in Kate's favor in this debate. But this time tomorrow, one of you will claim the crown.


SIDNER: It's over. Kate is generally right --

BOLDUAN: You know, (inaudible) even if I lost.

AXELROD: I don't want to get into the weird dynamics.

SIDNER: Weird is the only way to (inaudible). David Axelrod, thank you so much.

AXELROD: Great to stand with you guys always.

BOLDUAN: Sitting (inaudible).

SIDNER: Still ahead, this is a story that a lot of people are talking about. Looters caught on video ransacking stores in Downtown Philadelphia. Police are saying after making more than a dozen arrests there.

And right now Democratic Senator Bob Menendez is out of Manhattan Federal Court is set to make his first court appearance since being indicted for many counts of bribery. We'll take you there live.

Also a possible mass shooting at a church thwarted. Police in Virginia say the congregation was seated and this man was already inside with a loaded semi automatic weapon when he was arrested.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he was just steps away from that sanctuary and getting ready to come in and possibly shoot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, from all that I'm hearing from the Fairfax County Police and -- that it was an imminent, you know, disaster, you know, that could have happened here. It didn't.




BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news. US soldier Travis King, the Army private who crossed into North Korea from South Korea is now in US custody, back in US custody. This just happened. Alex Marquardt is with us now with the details. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, John. So this would bring to an end this more than two months saga after Private Travis King crossed the DMZ. We are now learning, according to a US official, that Private King is now in US custody.

This is reporting from our colleague, Kevin Liptak, who says that Private King was transferred from North Korean custody to China. That is something that could be expected because, of course, China is an extremely close ally of the North Koreans. We also have questions as to what role the Swedes may have played. The US, of course, does not have an embassy in Pyongyang and the Swedish government represents American interests there.

But for now, we know after the North Korean state media announced earlier today, that Private King would be expelled from Pyongyang after an investigation, after admitting that he crossed the border into North Korea illegally. We now have confirmation that he is indeed in US custody.

Remember, back in July he was supposed to be flying home to the United States to face more discipline after being accused of assault in South Korea. He then fled the airport and went to the DMZ on a civilian tour when he crossed into North Korea on July 18th.

John, now we are learning from one US official that he is back in US custody. We still have a lot of questions about how this came about, whether they're -- what the conversation was like, among whom and, of course, what condition Private King is in. John?

BERMAN: All right. So back in US custody, that will be a relief to his family. It is worth noting this saga nowhere near from complete given the circumstances (inaudible) went to North Korea and is now being given back. Alex Marquardt, we know you're going to continue to follow this. Let us know if there are more developments. Kate?

BOLDUAN: I'm watching that. We're also watching this from overnight. Over in Philadelphia, as many as 100 looters swarmed the streets. They're ransacking stores. They broke into an Apple store. They broke into a nearby Lululemon leaving, as you can see, what they left kind of the store an absolute mess.

The time of year is interesting. The lootings have followed a peaceful protest over a judge's decision to dismiss murder charges against a former Philadelphia police officer involved in the shooting death of Eddie Irizarry. Police do not believe the two things are connected, though. Listen.


JOHN STANFORD, INTERIM POLICE COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA: It's disgusting to be very honest, right? And to see what our city went through in 2020. And to have, you know, some individuals try to recreate that same type of energy tonight is disgusting.

And again at the end of the day, we're going to press on until we're able to get those folks in custody. Because again, it has no space in the city and there are too many people that worked hard in the business community, so many people to our communities in this city that don't deserve that type of behavior.


BOLDUAN: Danny Freeman is live in Philadelphia for us with much more. Danny, people have been arrested. What's the latest here?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, listen, it was a very frustrating and troubling night in Philadelphia for many in the city and especially for a number of stores across the city like this Apple Store behind me who experienced that looting. But as you know, the police are really trying to drill down two main messages. One, is that they expected more arrests to come. And, two, that these were not protesters who were looting these stores. These were "criminal opportunists."

Now, here's what we know about exactly what went down last night. This all started just before 8:00 PM, notably about 30 to 40 minutes after those protests that were occurring earlier in the evening, about an officer involved shooting here in Philadelphia. Then a group of teens went to a Foot Locker, maybe about two blocks from where we are right now. They started to ransack that Foot Locker.

And then when police came, the kids scattered, came down to Walnut Street, robbed and looted a Lululemon, and then came over here to this Apple Store behind me.

Now police said that words of this looting were spreading on social media. That's possibly why there were other incidents outside of this center city area. But also, Kate, police were investigating if there actually was a caravan of looters that were contributing themselves to other parts of the city.

Police are very frustrated calling this a disgusting act. Take a listen to what the police commissioner had to say last night.


STANFORD: It's disgusting to be very be honest, right? And to see what our city went through in 2020, and to have, you know, some individuals try to recreate that same type of energy tonight is disgusting.