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Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) Discusses Possible Government Shutdown, Menendez Bribery Charges, North Korea Expelling Travis King; CNN In Mexico As Migrant's Hope To Make 1,000-Mile Trek To U.S.; Baltimore PD Searching For Dangerous Suspect In Tech CEO's Murder; NASA Astronaut Returns Home After Record Time In Space. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 14:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: In fewer than four days, the federal government could shut down. The funding agreement needs to be approved by 11:59 p.m. this Saturday to keep it open.

And Senate leaders have just reached the bipartisan deal that would do just that. At least temporarily. But hardline conservatives say it has no shot in the House.

They say Speaker Kevin McCarthy has promised them that he would not put it on the floor.



REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I've called on him to consistently say that to the public. Let the Senate know it is dead on arrival. And that there's no way the House would pass that bill.


SANCHEZ: If the government shuts down, tens of thousands of military members, TSA workers and air traffic controllers would still have to work but without pay. And that is just one aspect to a potential shutdown.

Let's discuss with Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida.

Congressman, thanks for sharing part of your afternoon with us.

Let's start with the stop-gap bill in the Senate. McCarthy says it doesn't have enough support in the House. It doesn't appear that he has a lot of options to avert a shutdown. Should he reconsider and put in on the floor of the House?

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): No, I don't think -- look, it may be that it will come to the House floor regardless of what the speaker wants. But at the end of the day, what we need to do, is 98 percent of the Republican conference wants to pass a funding resolution that will control the southern border and reduce government spending by about 8 percent.

And give us the time that we need in order to continue with regular order, and pass the appropriation bills that we need to pass. We should be passing four or five of those this week.

And then I would hope that we can reason with the four or five other -- the four or five Republicans that right now are saying they won't pass a funding resolution, who -- which, by the way, will be joined by 210 Democrats to vote against the funding resolution.

And so look, I think there is still some time to work this out. Hopefully, we will.

But if it doesn't happen, remember, it's 210 Democrats voting no along with four or five Republicans. The vast majority of Republicans don't want to see a government shutdown.

SANCHEZ: The math is very difficult to get it passed because of four or five Republicans. You mentioned the Democrats voting no.

McCarthy could potentially iron out a deal with them, right, but the risk is that he would lose the speakership. How real is that risk?

GIMENEZ: Look, at the end of the day, I don't think -- to be honest, I don't think the Democrats want to see a shutdown either. The vast majority of them. So we need some of them to cross over.

Our proposal is sound. Our proposal is what the American people want. Our proposal is what 98 percent of the Republican conference wants. So we need to get this done one way or another.

SANCHEZ: It could ultimately cost McCarthy his job though.

I do want to ask but the 8,000 federal civilian employees in your district that might miss a paycheck if there is a shutdown. What's your message to those constituents?

GIMENEZ: That's the last thing that I want. Again, I'm joining 98 percent of my conference. We do not want a government shutdown.

The other thing is, if, indeed, there is a government shutdown and they don't get their paychecks, I won't get my paycheck either. That's the right thing to do.

So I'll write a letter to our folks here saying I will not accept and I do not want to be paid while we're in a government shutdown because I need to suffer just as much every other federal employees, or doesn't need to but I will.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, while we have you, a fellow Cuban-American member of Congress, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez has been indicted on bribery charges as you well know. Thirty Senators in his own party have called on him to resign. Do you

think he should?

GIMENEZ: There's always a presumption of innocence but this seems to be pretty overwhelming. What they found in his house, close to $500,000 stuffed into his coat pockets, gold bars, Mercedes, all kinds of stuff, text messages.


So, yes, I think maybe the Senator needs to reconsider with the overwhelming evidence against him. But again, it's up to him and you're presumed innocent until proven guilty.

So I join the chorus. Yes, this is overwhelming. You probably need to step aside and let somebody else represent the people's interests of New Jersey.

SANCHEZ: With that same sentiment in mind, Congressman, one of your colleagues in the House, George Santos, is facing federal criminal charges for, among other things, stealing public funds. And there is compelling evidence there. Should he resign?

GIMENEZ: I'm not sure that the evidence against him is as compelling. Again, it's up to him. He's presumed innocent until proven guilty. And again, the evidence that I see against the Senator is pretty overwhelming.

SANCHEZ: You don't think Santos, given his track record of what appear to be outright lies, should consider resignation?

GIMENEZ: He should. Absolutely, he should consider it. But it is up to him just like Senator Menendez.

I'll say it one more time, you're presumed innocent until proven guilty.

They're both under indictment. Senator Menendez' indictment seems to be pretty serious, the allegations, and what they found are pretty serious. So it's a little different case.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, while I have you, I wanted to get your thoughts on the release of this Army Private Travis King from North Korea.

You'll remember -- you are a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. What do you make of his release? This is very rare.

GIMENEZ: This is the first I've heard of the release so I don't have the details. I would be disingenuous if I had a reaction to it.

I'm glad one of our privates got released by North Korea. I'm wondering if there was a price to pay.

Because the Biden administration has this proclivity to pay an exorbitant price for some -- the release of American hostages, like in Iran and maybe in Russia. Since I don't know what the price was, I'm not going to comment.

But I'm happy that the private is back in American hands.

SANCHEZ: The White House has maintained that no concessions were made to North Korea to secure his release. I'm glad we were able to break the news to you.


SANCHEZ: Congressman Carlos Gimenez, thank you so much for your time.

GIMENEZ: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: National Guard reinforcements are arriving at the southern border with Mexico to help with the surge in migrant crossings.

According to our affiliate, KFOX, 600 troops arrived in El Paso on Tuesday and that adds to the 2,500 guardsmen and 800 active-duty personnel that the DOD says is already there.

For the hundreds of thousands of migrants, the southern U.S. border is far from the first stop. Just getting to Mexico is a death-defying challenge.

CNN's David Culver is near Mexico's southern border with Guatemala where many migrants seek asylum for the first time.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As you touchdown in southern Mexico, be ready to share the road with migrants. We spotted group after group marching north.

Many of those who just illegally crossed into Mexico go here, this outdoor park migration processing center.

We met folks camping out for days, some weeks, waiting to claim asylum in Mexico. Ordering transit documents to pass through legally or to sign up for -- well, some aren't quite sure what they're signing up for but they do it anyway.

Rafael from outside Havana, Cuba. At 26, he left behind a 6-year-old son and is traveling north with his dad.


CULVER (on camera): He wants to go legally through this process here, get his documentation and then to the northern border and eventually cross.

(voice-over): He wants to pave the way for the rest of his family to follow.

This person traveled from Honduras with his wife and two young boys. He's done this before.


CULVER (on camera): Four years ago, he lived in Minnesota. He said he was painting water towers, water tanks. And he said he was deported from Minnesota to Honduras and is now making the trek again.

(voice-over): In the already impoverished state of Tapachula, they feel the strain. It is overflowing.

(on camera): A lot of it is waiting to get into an office and processed eventually.

We've met people from all over. I mean, we've got people from Haiti, from Cuba, from Honduras. And they're here for an unknown period of time.

(voice-over): Last year, Mexico said some 77,000 migrants applied for asylum in Mexico. More than half of them do it in Tapachula. This year on track to be nearly double that, a record high.

Not everyone sees it as a burden.

(on camera): Some of the Mexican locals, all these people who are not from Mexico are a business opportunity, too. Look over here. You can see the stands set up to sell food, vendors.


(voice-over): To get to Tapachula, it's an hour's drive or a day's walk from the Suchiate River. Guatemala on one side. Mexico on the other.

And in the shadows of the official crossing between the two countries, an armada of rafts casually ferrying group after group.




CULVER: She says it is a really hard trek. You can tell they have such a rush of emotion when they get to this side.

Some of them come ready to continue on. Others like this person and her husband using this as a moment to catch their breath.



CULVER: They're having their first child. She's five months pregnant.

(voice-over): Days later, they cross in treacherous jungle terrain of the Darian Gap connecting Colombia and Panama. All they own now fits in a small bag. They were robbed and held at

gunpoint for hours but that does not compare, they say, with what they saw.


CULVER (on camera): They are describing passing through the Darian Gap and they said several people had already passed away. A lot of kids. They saw the remains. And they said children who were abandoned.

(voice-over): Those images, describing the journey she made with her four young kids. Even amid her tear-filled pain, little ones lighten the load.

His 12-year-old sister, Sophia, helping, as she then turns the questions on me.




CULVER (voice-over): Curiosity brings their siblings and cousins.

And she takes the mic telling me why they left Venezuela -



Six years old. Saying the Venezuelan economy is bad.

(voice-over): As they share, disturbing memories surface.



CULVER (on camera): They're talking about -- these are children, mind you -- having gone through Darian, seeing the bodies. He's describing a blond woman.

(voice-over): Sophia's pain as she remembers saying goodbye to loved ones.


CULVER (on camera): It's heartbreaking, the friendships that she's lost.

CULVER (voice-over): So much behind them, yet far from over. More than 1,000 miles until the U.S. border.

David Culver, CNN, Tapachula, Mexico.




KEILAR: A manhunt is underway for an alleged killer. Baltimore police say 32-year-old Jason Dean Billingsley is responsible for the murder of Pava Marie LaPere, a young tech CEO who is featured in this year's Forbes 30 Under 30 List.

Officials say the suspect is considered armed and extremely dangerous.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Baltimore with more details.

Brian, what can you tell us about the suspect?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there's an intense manhunt going on right now for the suspect, Jason Billingsley.

We are outside the apartment building where this occurred. Pava LaPere lived and worked in this building behind me in downtown Baltimore.

She was reported missing on Monday, Monday morning. Then someone went to check on her and her body was discovered later on Monday, according to the police, with signs of blunt force trauma to the head.

The suspect, we call tell you, he pleaded guilty for first-degree assault in 2009. He pleaded guilty for a charge of second-degree assault in 2011 and for a first-degree sex offense in 2015.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison but he got out of prison in 2022. We've been pressing officials with the police and the court systems to give us some answers on why he was released in 2022. We have not gotten those answers yet.

But in a news conference, the acting Baltimore police commissioner, Richard Worley, did talk about just how dangerous Jason Billingsley is as a suspect.


RICHARD WORLEY, ACTING COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This individual will kill and he will rape. He will do anything he can to cause harm. So please be aware of your surroundings.


TODD: So police actively looking for Jason Billingsley at this hour.

Again, people in this neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods are pretty terrified that he's on the loose.

I just spoke to a man named Corey Bailey (ph), whose company did business with Pava LaPere's company. He described her as a woman of great energy and vision in the tech community and they are just devastated by her loss -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It is devastating.

Brian Todd, thank you for that report.

Houston, he's home. NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio back on earth after a record-breaking trip to space. A lot longer than he was supposed to be. We'll have that story just ahead.




FRANK RUBIO, NASA ASTRONAUT: Yes, everybody did really well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look very well, very well.

RUBIO: Thank you. Thank you. It's good to be home.


SANCHEZ: Forget a world record. How about an out-of-this-world record? NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio is finally back home on earth after becoming the first U.S. astronaut to spend a full year in space.

He had only planned for six months but then had a bit of an issue trying to hitch a ride home.

CNN space and defense correspondent, Kristin Fisher, is here with more details.

Kristin, I guess it's tough to order an Uber in space. How is Rubio doing?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: He says he's doing great but he has to be feeling the forces of gravity on his body.

This is the first time in 371 days that he has had to feel the force of gravity on his body. Just imagine what that must feel like after all that time in weightlessness.


And you know, Rubio is pretty well equipped to deal with this because he's an Army doctor. He's a family physician. And he has conducted dozens of experiments up at the International Space Station.

But now that he's home, perhaps the biggest and most interesting experiment he has conducted over his more than a year in space is the effects that it has had on his own body.

Now he's going to take a few months for him to get his muscles back in shape. They do exercise and train. That's why you can see him being carried out of the Soyuz rocket

there. You can't walk when you get back after that long in space. So he had to be carried from the Soyuz spacecraft.

And right there, you can see he's being carried into a medical tent where they'll do some checks on him before he gets to go back and see his family. He has four kids. Been away for a whole year.

SANCHEZ: That's amazing. It's got to be a really intense case of sea legs to try to get your earth legs back.

FISHER: Yes, exactly.

SANCHEZ: Also, we should note the first astronaut from El Salvador.


SANCHEZ: That's awesome.

Kristin Fisher, thank you so much.

Still plenty to come on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, including the American soldier who crossed the DMZ into North Korea, he's now back into U.S. custody. We have details on that handover straight ahead. Stay with us.