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U.S. Official Says, Army Private Travis King Now in U.S. Custody; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) at Federal Court in New York for Arraignment on Bribery Charges; Tonight, Seven Candidates Face Off in Second GOP Debate Without Trump. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A sitting U.S. senator in federal court, Bob Menendez facing a judge this morning for his first court appearance on bribery charges. We're live outside the courthouse.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ransacked stores in Philadelphia, multiple people arrested after a crowd goes on a looting spree.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: And prescriptions for the popular weight loss drug, like Ozempic, they're soaring but access has plummeted for people who actually need the drug to treat their diabetes.

I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman and Kate Bolduan. This is CNN New Central.

BOLDUAN: We have more breaking news coming in this hour, new details about the U.S. Army soldier who has been in North Korean custody since July. He is now back in U.S. custody.

North Korea announced just this morning that it was expelling, those are the words they used, Army Private Travis King. And this whole thing, all the circumstances around this are quite extraordinary. Starting with, the U.S. government believes that he intentionally crossed into North Korea during a civilian tour of the demilitarized zone.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is at the State Department. There's nothing but questions about all of this, Alex. You're starting to get some answers. What more are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're starting to see a fuller picture of what happened not just today but in the course of the past few months. Kate, you're absolutely right. The U.S. has said that Private Travis King had crossed into North Korea willfully and without authorization back in July.

Everything we had heard until just moments ago had come from the North Korean side and specifically from North Korean state T.V. We are now getting a little bit more from the Biden administration, a U.S. official saying that Private King is now in U.S. custody. That means that he would then be on his way home after more than two months, just shy of two and a half months of being in custody in North Korea.

And, Kate, just moments ago, I spoke with the Swedish embassy here in Washington, D.C., that confirmed that Sweden did indeed play a role in the release of Private King. Now, that's important because the U.S., of course, does not have an embassy in Pyongyang. Sweden represents U.S. interest there, as what's called a protected power.

So, there was some speculation about the role of Sweden. It is not clear at this point what exactly that role was in terms of negotiations to get Private King out. We're also trying to figure out how it is that Private King got out of the country. Did he cross back over the DMZ that he had crossed over back on July 18th earlier this year into South Korea? Did China play a role? There's a very good chance that China did indeed play a role. Of course, the U.S. has an embassy in Beijing that would monitor and be on top of all kinds of North Korean issues, North Korean and China being, of course, very close allies.

So, these are the kinds of details that we are trying to figure out, Kate. What is clear is that this is still an extraordinary story that we will want to be hearing from Private King directly about why he crossed into North Korea back in July, why he fled the airport when he was being sent home, and what drove him to go to that border.

And, of course, his family is going to be very happy to see him, Kate, but there are going to be a lot of questions about the condition that he's in. So, there is good news for the King family today that their son, their grandson, is on his way home, but, certainly, he's going to be facing a lot of questions in the coming days and months, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Alex.


Thanks for being on top of it for us. Sara?

SIDNER: Right now, Senator Bob Menendez and his wife are at a federal court in Manhattan waiting to be arraigned on bribery charges. They are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for his influence.

The New Jersey Democrat says prosecutors are misrepresenting his normal work. But many of his fellow lawmakers are demanding that he resign.

CNN's Paula Reid is joining us now outside of court. Paula, this is normally an arraignment, something that is a natural progression as the case goes forward. But what is unprecedented, this is a sitting senator going through it. What are you expecting today?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, the senator and his wife arrived here at federal court in New York a short time ago, and any minute, they are expected to appear before a magistrate judge for the first hearing since these charges have been filed.

But this hearing comes as over half of Senator Menendez's Democratic colleagues in the Senate are calling for him to resign. Let's take a listen to how he has responded to those calls.


REPORTER: Will you run for re-election? Will you run for reelection, Senator Menendez?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I'm here to do the work of the people of New Jersey.

REPORTER: Will you run for re-election, sir?

MENENDEZ: As I said, I am prepared to do the work of the people of New Jersey.

REPORTER: Why won't you resign, sir, Senator Menendez?

MENENDEZ: Because I'm innocent. What wrong with you guys?


REID: As he remains defiant, he often points to the fact that he's previously been charged out with corruption. He was not convicted and the Justice Department has had a pretty weak record on successfully trying government officials when they have been charged with accepting bribes or gifts in exchange for wielding their political influence. I mean, that is fair and that is accurate.

But what is different about this case is the fact that the senator here is also accused of sharing sensitive information with a foreign government against U.S. interests. Sara, that is a grave allegation against the sitting U.S. senator.

SIDNER: Yes. And as Menendez says, he is innocent until proven guilty and so far defiant against those who are asking him to resign.

Paul Reid, thank you so much for all the details. John?

BERMAN: All right, here now, CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers and CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller.

Jen, I want to start with you. What's going to happen today is pretty pro forma, but soon there will be discovery, which means Bob Menendez and his team will get to see all the evidence and then you say some key decisions will have to be made. Why?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, because then they'll now know what the case really is. I mean, we've all seen the speaking indictment that lays it out pretty, but he wants to see what's behind that, all of the texts and emails that were captured by authorities, all of what they have from the search of his home.

And so I think that will be the time for them to make decisions about is he going to seek a plea in this case, is he going to resign from his seat or agree not to run again, you know, those sorts of decisions will be made at that time.

BERMAN: And why do you think that would be more or less likely in this case?

RODGERS: Well, these are very serious charges. The guidelines are very high. You know, the case seems open and shut from what we've seen in the indictment. And I think the discovery will bear that out because I think they had a Title 3 and got all those text messages that way. So, it's pretty open and shut in that sense.

And so he needs to decide. Is he going to go in, try to get some sort of deal that is going to be less than what he's facing with a conviction on these three counts, which would lead to about a 12-year sentence unless the judge decides to go below.

BERMAN: And, John Miller, when you look at this, again, not so much what's going to happen today, but this case writ large, you see some major questions not completely on the law but on intelligence. Why?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I mean, you have to look at this case and ask first, is it a public corruption case? Yes. Does it involve bribery? Of course, it does. Those are the allegations.

But you also have to look behind that in the shadows, which is it would strain credibility to believe that a New Jersey businessman was arranging meetings between Egyptian generals, intelligence officers, officials to get things done for the government while getting a contract, an exclusive monopoly contract from the Egyptian government worth tens of millions of dollars without the involvement of the Egyptian government and the Egyptian intelligence services.

So, the question is, where is that involvement, is it in the case, will it come out in the case if it exists, and was the attempt to recruit a powerful U.S. senator being directed by the intelligence services of a U.S. ally that gets billions of dollars, these are questions that lurk in the background that are not spelled out in that indictment.

BERMAN: And there may be U.S. officials who don't necessarily want that in a courtroom, which could lead to more conversations about a deal from both sides.

I want to ask about the other major legal moment that's happened in the last 24 hours, which is that a New York judge, in summary judgment, ruled that Donald Trump and his sons committed fraud by lying about the value of their company, this judge said, and stripped them of control of some of their businesses.


For a judge to do this in summary judgment, how rare is that? And what does this mean over the next few days?

RODGERS: So, this is a civil action, of course, not a criminal action. And the judge has said, basically, there are no remaining questions of fact here. The facts are so clear that, as a legal matter, they need to be dissolved, these companies need to be dissolved, and the trial will only be about the amount of money, right, the damages.

So, it's fairly rare, but certainly not unprecedented. And, of course, it's appealable. So, after the trial and after everything is done, Trump will have an opportunity to appeal and we'll have to see if it holds up there.

BERMAN: We will. Again, his businesses are one thing he holds very dear and he may be stripped of control of some of them.

Stand by, friends, because just moments ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, we are hearing, spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill. This was shut down just three days away and very real questions about whether McCarthy can maintain his speakership. Let's listen.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I want to sit down with the president to secure that order.

REPORTER: How about meeting with the president to solve your current problem with trying to pass a C.R. this week?

MCCARTHY: Well, it's not my current problem, it's America's problem.

REPORTER: But, no, it's a House's responsibility to fund the government, right?

MCCARTHY: Well, okay, let's compare that. How many bills has the Senate passed? How many appropriation bills has the Senate passed?

REPORTER: They're working on a C.R.

MCCARTHY: How many -- it's not a tough question. You ask me questions every day. Name me one appropriation now, the 12 appropriation bills, the Senate has passed this year. So, the Senate has not passed any, okay. And what is the House doing?

REPORTER: You're working on --

MCCARTHY: Five bills, 73 percent. Okay, okay.

REPORTER: They're not going to fund the government, though.

MCCARTHY: I'm sorry, what does appropriation bill do?

REPORTER: After September 30th --

MCCARTHY: What does an appropriation bill do? How many appropriation bills does it take to fund government? 12. The Senate has passed zero.

REPORTER: So, if you were to support those appropriation bills, the government will shut down.

MCCARTHY: Let me answer your questions, but, first, let's get the facts right. Your first question was, and I answered it, the Senate has done nothing. The Senate has not done one thing when it comes to appropriation. Is that different than we have in the past? No. Normally, the Senate doesn't even bring them up in committee. So, the Senate has done nothing.

The House is working on passing 73 percent of all the appropriation bills of the job we're supposed to do by Thursday. We're bringing up on Friday ability to fund the government, but at the same time secure our border. So, yes, we're doing our job.

So, what does the president have to do with that? If he wants to sit and hide in the White House and put government into a shutdown, that's on him, but that's the wrong thing to do. I like to see anything out there. If it's a challenge, I want to solve the problem.

If you look at when you're sitting with the Senate doing too, we have the FAA to deal with. That goes away on September 30th. Has the Senate passed an FAA bill? No, they have not. When we look at a challenge on the border, have they passed any bill themselves? They're a different body on something to deal with the border, even though the leader from the Senate comes from New York, and his governor and mayor are crying for something to be done. No, they've done nothing on it because had they passed the bill, the House has passed the bill, we could go to conference and solve that.

So, why am I asked the president to sit down? Because the Senate has not done their job, the Senate has not taken up the House work. So, no, the president should step in and do something about it. Otherwise, government will shut down just like we're having strikes in Michigan, just like we had a five-month strike in California, just like we have embassies that are having to be evacuated around the world. That's a lack of leadership.

So, show some leadership. This is your policies. This wasn't a policy that was passed from the House and Senate that opened up this border. It was simply your decision and you could do something to change it. It would keep government open while we finish the job and hopefully the Senate can get around to an appropriation bill.

Thank you all very much.

BERMAN: All right, a somewhat irritated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy there. A government shutdown looms just three days away. McCarthy there trying to deflect some of the blame to the Senate and the White House, though, the real issue over the last several weeks has been that McCarthy has not been able to corral his own caucus, Republicans in the House of Representatives, to get them on the same page to fend off this shutdown. But they're trying to say, don't look here, look elsewhere. We will see if that bears any fruit.

We're going to talk to Manu Raju, Senior Capitol Hill Reporter, in just a few minutes to learn about the latest developments in that battle. Sara?

SIDNER: That was an interesting twist. Thank you so much, John. Tonight, seven Republicans will take to the debate stage minus the frontrunner. Of course, new polling suggests that debate may not matter that much in the long run.

And a death-defying challenge, the journey from Central America to the United States is excruciatingly dangerous. And CNN is on the ground speaking to people who just made that trek here firsthand, what they saw.

Also, the accused Gilgo Beach serial killer is back before a judge today.


What we could learn, coming up.


BOLDUAN: I have one job and one job only. It's debate day in America, friends.

BERMAN: Thank you very much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Indeed it is. Seven Republican presidential candidates will make their case to voters to them, none of them are named Donald Trump.

What do the numbers tell us about the task that these people have in front of them? One man has the answer, CNN's Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten.

Harry, how tall is this task? Where is Donald Trump right now in the polls?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I'm not sure I'm going to be able to top that intro.

All right, let's take a look here. All right, look, Donald Trump is well ahead nationally, right? The polls have looked the same basically for months now.


If anything, Donald Trump has just gotten stronger and stronger and stronger, 58 percent of the vote, Ron DeSantis at second place at just 15 percent, and then we basically got a clown car right for third place, Nikki Haley now technically in third, though, this is well within any margin of error at 6 percent.

And I just want to note, historically speaking, these are the other folks who are polling in Donald Trump's position at this point in the primary, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton. What all three of these folks have in common? They all went on to win their party's nomination?

BERMAN: And, yes, while it is true, these are national polls we're looking at and what matters most is the state polls, the state polls, while Iowa is a little closer, not so much, a little closer, but basically it's the same idea here, Harry. All right, the historic again, all these people won. These indictments against Donald Trump, the legal problems he has been having. What impact have they been having?

ENTEN: I mean, I think this gives you an understanding. GOP voters' concern that the criminal indictments make Trump a weaker candidate, very or somewhat concerned, just 25 percent of Republican voters are very or somewhat concerned. The vast majority, 74 percent are not to or not at all concerned, which, of course, makes sense, folks, because the fact is if they were very concerned, Donald Trump at this particular point wouldn't be getting near 60 percent of the vote nationally and near, say, 40 to 50 percent of the vote in the early states.

BERMAN: Any way to tell what impact this has on a potential general election matchup?

ENTEN: Yes. So, you know, let's give you an understanding, the most likely GOP candidate to beat Donald Trump, 72 percent of --

BERMAN: To beat Biden, yes.

ENTEN: Yes, to beat -- thank you very much. Sometimes that happens, folks. To beat Joe Biden, Donald Trump, 72 percent believe it's Donald Trump compared to just 25 percent someone else. They believe Donald Trump is the most electable. They agree with him most on the issues. And that's the reason why Donald Trump has this mammoth historic lead on the rest on the Republican field --

BERMAN: And that's what could translate on to the debate stage tonight. One of the cases these seven candidates could make is, oh, Trump can't win because all of the problems facing him, that's not what voters are saying.

ENTEN: Voters don't believe it, and that, I think, makes it so difficult, is these other Republican folks are trying to pierce the armor in some way, and they just haven't found a way to do it yet. We'll see if tonight perhaps is the start of something new.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: To stand by to stand by. Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp and Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Marco Rubio's former presidential campaign. He's also the founding partner of Firehouse Strategies.

Okay, let's have some fun. Two questions. What should the candidates do differently on stage tonight? What will the candidates in reality do different on stage tonight?

TERRY SULLIVAN, PARTNER, FIREHOUSE STRATEGIES: Wow, I mean, what they should do is try a novel concept, go after the guy in first place. I mean, heck, or even go after the guy in second place. Last time was a bunch of people in the single digits attacking other people in the single digits and it didn't make much sense. So, that's what they should do. And it seems rather obvious. I don't know if it's what they're going to do. It's what they were starting to telegraph on debate day, early in the day, sending out releases, early positioning last night that they're going to start being a little more aggressive. But at the end of the day, Donald Trump is at 58 percent in national polls. He's walking away with this thing. It's not enough to consolidate the anti-Trump vote. They have to take vote from him. In order to do that, they have to go after him.

BOLDUAN: So part of it, any good -- if we're going to make -- continue sports analogy, you've got to watch the tape, right? So, lessons learned from debate one, what was the moment in debate one that these candidates should really learn from for debate two? You believe it was the hand raised moment. Just to remind everybody, watch this.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice? Please raise your hand if you would. Just hold on.


BOLDUAN: All but two raising their hands. Why is that? Should that be such a teachable moment?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it was a national embarrassment. I mean, it's an embarrassment that you have six Republican candidates for president who say they would support a criminal if he were nominated.

Gone is the legacy of law and order in the Republican Party. Gone is the legacy of a moral compass. These people are clearly co-opted by the cult of Trump, and they're too afraid to go against this cult of Trump. But the problem is, as Terry noted, they are trying to win and beat him. They can't suck up to him and beat him. They've got to differentiate themselves, and they've got to call him out.

So, I'm hoping tonight on this debate stage, they recognize that he's most likely going to be in jail at some point over the next year or two, and at the very least, is charged with 91-plus charges. This is not the person we should be nominating.


And whether you like him or not, we should be nominating someone who can actually do the job and who isn't facing all of these legal battles.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, whether or not he is convicted of anything, we do know that since the last debate, one thing happened actually right directly the next day, which was Donald Trump had a mug shot taken, the mug shot. That has obviously the mug shot seen around the world, the mug shot that served as a wonderful fundraising effort, though, for Donald Trump himself. Ron DeSantis, Terry, his campaign manager put out a memo to donors and supporters ahead of this debate, saying a lot, and this included. DeSantis is the only candidate that can beat both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and we are the only campaign built for the long haul in terms of resources and organization.

Can he make headway in this debate, or do you think, to use an overused phrase, the cake is baked when it comes to DeSantis?

SULLIVAN: Yes. Look, the fat lady hasn't sung yet, but she's in the wings warming up. And at the end of the day, he's right. His campaign manager is right. He's the one who has the best shot right now, the best organization. They've still got more money, and for some reason, haven't spent it, which is a little bit shocking. They've got the best shot to actually give Trump a run for his money in this nomination process. It's not overly likely, but it's a real shot.

And the best position he's in is that there's no expectations now. I mean, he's managed, through no fault of his own, or maybe through fault of his own, managed to lower his expectations so much. As long as he doesn't fall off the debate stage, it's a win for him tonight. But he needs to do more than that. He needs to go out there and actually show that he's a leader who could take on Trump.

BOLDUAN: I have not actually considered that. Look, it's always managing expectations heading in, but by fault, or was not by design that this happened with him in the month that is transpired, that is interesting, though, that he's going in this position now. It's kind of like there is nothing to lose.

CUPP: I forgot about him, frankly, which is bad. I do this for a living, right? And I was thinking about who's going to be on the debate and what they all need to do. I forgot about him. And this is, I think, the story of the DeSantis campaign.

And I've said for a while he seems a bit like a Manchurian candidate. Like the donor class loved him. They really propped him up to be the savior of the Republican Party and he hasn't really delivered. And I'm not sure that there's a lot of there there. He's made the culture wars his entire personality. He's failed at some of that, taking on Disney and losing. And it really hasn't solidified a lane for him.

And I think, you know, even Kellyanne Conway was saying like the culture wars are no competition for like a sound economic plan. And he's really not talking enough about real stuff.

So, I think he could probably get elected president of Florida but I don't think he could -- I don't think he's going to show Donald Trump a run for his money.

BOLDUAN: So, some of the polling that I was looking at heading into this is like who's out there and how much of an appetite is there for anyone other than Donald Trump, which is it's little and it's becoming less, right?

NBC had asked a question on the issue of the Republican Party should continue to be led by Donald Trump, 58 percent in September. That's grown since June. On the question of Trump was a good president But it's time to consider other leaders, 19 percent, that's down from June. Republican Party needs a new leader with better personal behavior and a different approach, down since June as well.

I'm trying if there -- if these candidates are, I don't know, fighting over 19 to 22 percent of Republican voters, what does that look like? If you're back there with them tonight, what's the piece of advice to kind of focus them as they head down the stage?

SULLIVAN: Well, they shouldn't be focusing on that group They need to focus on the pot of voters that he has. They have got to take votes away from him. And the only way --

BOLDUAN: You've got to chink that armor.

SULLIVAN: You've got to do more than that You have to draw blood and you have to continue to draw blood on this. You know, look, there has been polling since the beginning of mankind that nobody likes negative campaigning, but you know what, it works. And there's always a backlash when you attack another candidate in your polling. You dip at first and then you start to rebuild because the other candidate starts to really feel it. They've got to go after him.

We made this mistake in 2016 but we hadn't seen this movie before of Donald Trump. This time, look, this is this is a rerun of a rerun. We know what's going to happen. It's like watching Jaws part 3, like the sequel. We know when the kids get in the water, what's going to happen, okay? Like when the music starts --

BOLDUAN: You know what the music means.

SULLIVAN: Yes, we know what the music, like we know this is going to be awful, so like do something different, you know? Don't send the kids into the water, do something different. They've got a shot here to do something different than we did in 2016.

BOLDUAN: I like the one-liners from our conversation takeaways from this, don't put the kids in the water. It's great, thank you guys. Let's see and let's talk about it afterward. Sara?

SIDNER: It's hard to mention sharks and Trump in the same sentence. He does not like them, we know.

All right, moments ago the House speaker railed against the Senate and the president blaming them for the looming government shutdown. But with three days left, it is House Republicans that can't agree on a plan. The Senate has unveiled one but it faces hurdles with the House. That battle and what might happen.


We're live in Washington and tangle it all. That's ahead.