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Sean O'Brien is Interviewed about Union Endorsements; House to Vote on TikTok Bill; Rep. Jared Moskowitz is Interviewed about the TikTok Bill; Prosecutors Could Rest in Crumbley Case; Judge to Rule in Willis Case by Friday. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 09:00   ET



SEAN O'BRIEN, PRESIDENT, INTL. BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: Proven in our UPS campaigns contract fight, Anheuser Busch. Our members vote. Our members get out there. And our members wills support, you know, the candidate that, you know, we recommend and that they recommend, more importantly. We are very, very vital in this upcoming election.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Talk to me about timing. The teamsters traditionally don't endorse until after conventions. That would be late summer.

O'BRIEN: Right.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that's the same timeframe you're looking at this time around, because if you thought it would have more of an impact, would you endorse sooner?

O'BRIEN: Look, we're going to have the same impact whether we endorse sooner or later. The one good thing about our members and our organization, we've proven that we can mobilize in a short period of time and deliver -- deliver when we have to.

BOLDUAN: This is, right now, a margin of error election. It really suggests -- and you've said, you've got Democrats, Republicans, independents all amongst your ranks and your members. Given that it's a -- going to -- looking at like a margin of error election, this could be - you know, you're going to have members who are supporting the other guy no matter who the union decides to endorse. How do you manage that?

O'BRIEN: Well, we manage it, you know, through, you know, polling, talking to our members, making sure our leaders are out there, talking to the members. We have 360 locals nationwide. We're going to make sure everybody is playing a role in this and that's how the decision, that's how the judgment is going to be made.

BOLDUAN: Sean O'Brien, great to have you on. Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: China giving a new warning today as lawmakers

get ready to vote on possible -- a possible TikTok ban. Critic say this ban could be a threat to free speech.

A government report says artificial intelligence poses an extinction level threat. Have a nice day.

This morning, it is the kickoff to an unprecedented stretch in the presidential campaign. No one has seen anything like this.

Sara is out today. I'm John Berman, with Kate Baldwin. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

BOLDUAN: So in the next hour, the House of Representatives will gavel in, beginning what could be a huge day for Congress. For one, they will be considering a bill that actually has bipartisan support, and also considering a bill that could ban one of the world's largest social media apps. House lawmakers saying to TikTok, spin off from its China-linked parent company or be gone from the U.S.

And new this morning, China is responding, saying if the U.S. makes this move, it will, quote, backfire on America.

CNN's Lauren Fox is tracking all of this from Washington.

Lauren, this could be a big day. What are you looking at?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, obviously, the vote total today in the House is going to be the top thing to watch. They are bringing this bill under a suspension of the rules, which means they expect that they can get a two-thirds majority at least of the entire House. That means this is going to be, if it passes, a huge and overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to get this across the finish line.

Now, not everyone is ready to vote for this. In fact, Eric Swalwell said earlier on our air that he is planning to vote against it. Here's why.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): I want to find ways, you know, to better, you know, restrict the use of data without, you know, taking away a platform that so many small businesses rely upon and so many young people, you know, use to communicate. And this would do nothing to look at other social media companies and, you know, and their data. So I - I just - I don't like bans on speech.


FOX: And there are several Democrats who have acknowledged in conversations I've had with them that this could have an impact on Joe Biden's ability to win over some of those younger voters. Another thing to keep an eye on today is where those Republican vote totals are because Donald Trump has made clear, he is not particularly a fan of this version of legislation. And despite the fact that many Republican leaders in the House are, I think that that dichotomy is going to be worth watching, whether or not the Trump factor looms large once again on Capitol Hill. The future of this bill in the Senate still uncertain. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, was asked about it yesterday. He said he still wanted to take a look at the bill to decide his path ahead.


BOLDUAN: Yes, this bill kind of exposing all of the dynamics and, one, the tight margin in the House, the Trump dynamic, and what's going on in the Senate as well, all at play.

Good to see you, Lauren. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right, with us now is Congressman Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from Florida.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

You know, a few days ago you told my colleague, Abby Phillip, you were leaning towards voting in favor of the bill.


What's your final decision?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Yes, I'm going to be a yes on the bill this morning. The bill doesn't ban TikTok. The bill forces the sale of TikTok. By the way, we've seen these things happened before. Let's remember when the LA Clippers had to go to a forced sale by the NBA because of the issues that happened with their own. The Clippers didn't go away. And TikTok's not going to go away either. But that is the campaign that TikTok lobbyists and investors are running to try to scare people. So, if you're a TikTok user, of you're a young person out there, TikTok is not going to go away if this bill passes and then passes the Senate and becomes law. There will be new ownership if -- if the sale gets forced.

I do find it interesting that China comes out this morning and says this is an act of bullying that will backfire. Well, if there's no Chinese influence in TikTok, why -- why do they -- why do they care if the U.S. part is a separate company? Let's remember Donald Trump supported this. He was for it before he was against it, before he was visited by - by some of the investors who said he should go after Mark Zuckerberg instead. So, this is a bipartisan issue. It's a national security issue. And I expect a pretty big vote in the House today.

BERMAN: As for your (INAUDIBLE), Clippers, if they didn't get a new owner, they were still going to be -- play games and be on TV. If this bill passes and no new owner comes in for TikTok, they will not be in app stores. They will be banned from app stores, correct?

MOSKOWITZ: Yes, but there's going to be a new owner. I mean just think about all of the U.S. companies that would love to own this platform. This platform is not going to not get sold. I mean I can't -- the unlimited amount of money that is going to come in to try to purchase TikTok is going to be significant, right? It could be Apple. It could be Murdoch. It could be a number of players in the private equity space. It could be Elon Musk. I mean, who knows who could try to come in and buy pieces of TikTok.

BERMAN: Would you be psyched if Elon Musk or a Rupert Murdoch -- would you be happy with Elon Musk or Rupert Murdoch owning TikTok?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, it's better than China. I mean, you know, this idea is, it doesn't matter what U.S. citizen owns it, right? It's about making sure that there isn't foreign influence.

Look, after October 7th, we saw all of the misinformation being spread all over TikTok. There's no community notes on TikTok, by the way. So, when they show images of what happened in Syria, when Assad gassed his people and say its Gaza, there's no one correcting that on TikTok. And so the idea that that could be weaponized against the American people to influence foreign political decisions that we make in this country, or decisions that we have to make around the world, is something that we need to prevent. That's why national security experts on both sides, on a bipartisan basis, have said it should be sold to a U.S. company.

BERMAN: And, look, and there is rare bipartisan agreement on this, at least in the House of Representatives.

I will say, there's a fierce lobbying effort among TikTok users and creators. And I did speak to one woman who runs a small business, has about 1.4 million TikTok followers, who says its essential to her business. And she says she's watching this vote carefully today.



SUMMER LUCILLE, TIKTOK CONTENT CREATOR AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: If you vote for this ban, you are voting against my First Amendment and my way of freedom of speech. You are voting against my small business. You are voting against me getting a slice of my American pie. So, I will have to -- this will highly influence who I vote for, especially in November.


BERMAN: What political cost do you think you'll have to pay for this vote?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, unfortunately, that's part of the misinformation, right? Summer is going to be able to keep her business. No one's taking Summer's business away. She's going to continue to run her business, right? TikTok is not going away. No one -- no one that's voting for this bill is under the impression that this is going to lead to the deletion of TikTok. That's not where this is going. That's not even in the briefings that we've gotten, anybody advocating that TikTok should disappear.

By the way, the one person that wanted to ban TikTok was Donald Trump. Donald Trump wanted to completely ban TikTok, but he didn't have the power to do it. This bill doesn't do that. This bill gets Chinese influence out of TikTok. TikTok will survive.

BERMAN: So, I want to shift gears here. Republican Ken Buck from Colorado is resigning next week basically. He told Dana Bash yesterday, it's just because he can't stand to be there anymore.

Listen to what he said.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I've been in Congress. And having talked to former members, it's the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.


BERMAN: It doesn't sound like a happy place, Congressman. How do you feel about it?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, Ken Buck has it exactly right, right, the 118th Congress is historic. It's an historic Congress. We've done historic things to help the American people, like remove a speaker, which has never happened in American history, expel a member, which hasn't happened in 20 years, and we're -- impeach a cabinet secretary, which hadn't happened in 115 years, 150 years.


So, these are historic achievements that the 118th Congress has done for the American people. No, this is an awful place. No, people here are frustrated on both sides. There are people here that want to solve problems. That want to help the American people. They want to lower costs for food and for - and for the price of housing. They want to make sure that we can get foreign aid to our allies, like Israel and Ukraine. And yet there are enough members here that want to do nothing. And doing nothing is what they're comfortable of doing. And because the motion to vacate is what Speaker Johnson is afraid of. He looks at himself in the mirror in the morning and he just - he's just so worried about the motion to vacate that we can't get anything done here.

So, I understand why Ken Buck is frustrated. He's also frustrated because we're breaking every single solitary norm here. He talked a lot about how we're using impeachment no longer as a constitutional tool that it is, that we're using it as a marketing and PR and political tool. And every day we continue to break a new norm here and we just continue to break -- break Congress. And the world -- the world is watching. So, look, you know, I - I understand what he's doing, why he's leaving. He's - he's had enough of it.

But look, Republicans are doing everything they can to hand that speaker gavel to Leader Jeffries by continuing to resign. BERMAN: Congressman Jared Moskowitz, I do appreciate your time this

morning. Thank you so much.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, hearing the congressman say to you, John, a congressman saying, this is an awful place -

BERMAN: It was -- that was pretty stark. This is an awful place.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: How do you really feel, Congressman Moskowitz?

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Congressman Moskowitz, not one to mince words, ever. It's great stuff.

Any moment now, the father of the Michigan school shooter is going to be back in court. Prosecutors have indicated that they could rest their case against James Crumbley as soon as today.

CNN's Jean Casarez is outside the courtroom, has been following this all along the way.

Now, Jean, James Crumbley's son, Ethan Crumbley, who committed these -- committed these killings, his journals were brought into court yesterday. They were brought into the discussion. What did they show? Talk to about this.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His actual - his actual handwriting.

You know, Kate, the prosecution has put so many witnesses on the stand, witness after witness, but the one witness this jury will not hear from is Ethan Crumbley. He will not take the stand. He will not testify. His appellate attorneys won't allow it. The defense wanted it.

But yesterday, in a sense, he was in that courtroom because his state of mind is going to be at issue with this jury. They will assess that. And the prosecution brought it in. We believe with the final witness, which was the lead investigator. And his journal wasn't dated. But through the evidence the lead investigator believes he can assess when the entries were made. This first one probably early on in 2021, he says, "I want help, but my parents don't listen to me, so I can't get any help." Obviously so important for the prosecution because it shows the knowledge potentially that James Crumbley had that his son was crying out for mental health help.

Also in that journal, "I will have to find where my dad hid my nine millimeter before I can shoot the school." Now this, in a sense, favors the defense because James Crumbley said he hid it. Hitting -- hiding the gun. You didn't have to lock your gun up at that point of time. And the third one, the lead investigator testified this had to have been on November 29th, which would have been a Monday, because Tuesday was the shooting. "First off, I got my gun. It's an SP2022 Sig Sauer. Second the shooting is tomorrow, I have access to the gun and the ammo. I am fully committed to this now. So, yeah, I'm going to prison for live and many people have about one day left to live."

And that all came true.

You know, I - I've studied the jury. I'm intently focused on the jury. They are intently focused on the witnesses. I do not see anyone looking around, looking bored, looking down. Focused on the witnesses. They can take notes. They hardly take any notes at all. But this is a jury, some are younger, some are older. They are very focused and serious. And when the pictures of the victims came up in -- on the screen yesterday, I saw at least one juror couldn't look at them and took a Kleenex and just started nabbing her eyes.


BOLDUAN: I mean, just when you think of those journal entries and what he wrote and those four lives that were lost, those families destroyed, those children killed, just why? It did not have to happen. It was - ah, it's just so, so horrible.

Jean, thank you so much. We know that James Crumbley, he has gone into court. He's now in court and this is about to get underway once again in Michigan.


BERMAN: That journal, chilling and terrifying.

BOLDUAN: Oh, my God.

BERMAN: We have new details about the Alaska Airlines flight that lost a door panel in the air. What we are learning about the warnings signs that seemed to have gone ignored.

So, this is the kickoff to an unprecedented campaign stretch. We do have two presumptive nominees way earlier than ever before. And we've got new information about what they both have planned.

And a big hit for bargain shoppers everywhere. Dollar Tree is set to close nearly 1,000 stores across the country.



BOLDUAN: So, Alaska Airlines says the plane that had that terrifying incident with a door panel flying off midair was set to undergo maintenance that same day. The airline told "The New York Times" the plane was supposed to be removed from service to investigate two separate warning lights.

What does this all mean? CNN's Pete Muntean has much more on this.

Pete, give us some perspective. Put it all in context here. What does this mean?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the bottom line here is the 737 Max in this incident should have never left a Boeing factory without those door plug bolts. But now investigators have this new question to ask, would this scheduled maintenance have caught that omission by Boeing? Something the NTSB will no doubt dig into now. They have the maintenance records. They've been recovered by investigators.

But let's look at the timeline here in the NTSB preliminary report. On October 31, 2023, this plane was delivered to Alaska Airlines. What is interesting here is that there were a couple pressurization warnings in the cockpit that has to deal with the pressurized air inside the cabin, which came rushing out when the door plug came off. On the 7th of December there was a pressurization warning. Then again on January 3rd, two days before the door plug blowout, and on January 4th, the day before the door plug blowout.

Now, the NTSB says these are unrelated to the door plug blowout, which was on January 5th. But the new question to ask here is, would these warnings have triggered a deeper investigation during this maintenance check that was originally scheduled for the night of the door plug blowout on January 5th? Alaska Airlines is disclosing this for the first time after this reporting by "The New York Times." And Alaska says in a statement, "we remain confident in our maintenance and safety actions leading up to the incident and we look forward to continuing our participation in a robust investigation led by the NTSB so that this does not happen again."

Only the start of what will be a huge probe by the National Transportation Safety Board. And just yesterday it announced what's called an investigative hearing that will be in the public. It is very rare. This means the NTSB can subpoena parties to testify and that could include officials from Boeing, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I didn't even know that. That will be really interesting to see and important to see.

It's good to see you, Pete. Thank you so much.


BERMAN: All right, we are standing by for a ruling from the judge in the Georgia election subversion case to rule on whether he will remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from prosecuting the case against Donald Trump and his co-defendants. In an interview the judge says he is on track to issue that decision by Friday on whether he believes Willis financially benefited from a romantic relationship with the case's lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade.

Let's get to CNN's Nick Valencia in Atlanta.

This was unusual to hear this interview from Judge Scott McAfee. What's going on here?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, totally unusual. In fact, we were shocked to hear that he had granted an interview because he's basically denied every single one of the requests. But he did speak recently to WSP Radio here in Atlanta to talk about the challenger he faces in his re-election bid. And it was during the course of that eight-minute interview, he also talked about his pending decision of whether or not to remove Fani Willis. And he did say that he is on track to make his decision by the end of this week, emphasizing, though, that an order of this magnitude does take time. He also talked about how this case has personally impacted him.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE: What I think about is, you know, I've got two kids, five and three. They're too young to have any idea of what's going on or what I do. But what I'm looking forward to one day is maybe they will grow up a little bit and they ask me about it, and I'm looking forward to looking them in the eye and telling them I played it straight and I did the best I could.


VALENCIA: To say that there's a lot of anticipation about his decision would be a huge understatement. And it will be consequential because if he decides to remove Fani Willis, it would all but derail this case and likely mean that Trump would not face a trial before the election. Also finding somebody to take over this case would prove a unique challenge. There's been security concerns surrounding this case, and, of course, you know, the politics surrounding this case are just really difficult to handle.


BERMAN: Oh, yes, look, he's got a huge decision and it will have a major impact.


No question about that.

Nick Valencia, thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: Joining us now to talk about this is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers.

The core question here, what is the bar for disqualification? What do you see here? Just to kind of like bring it home for everybody what the judge is going to be kind of considering right now.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well that's a big question. The question is whether there's an actual conflict of interest or just the appearance of a conflict of interest. Prosecutors argue it has to be an actual conflict of interests. That's what most legal experts in Georgia seems to say is the law. But sometimes judges disqualified based on the appearance if a conflict of interest, and that's what the defendants are arguing for.

So, it comes down to, if it's an actual conflict, this financial interest issue. Did Fani Willis financially benefit from Nathan Wade having the job. And this goes back to the trips that they took together that he paid for and her testimony that she paid him back, and whether or not the judge credits that.

BOLDUAN: And if you're at home not following this all the time, you know, I continue to kind of try to get back to it as well. What does a -- even if financial benefited relationship between two people, given their -- given their titles and status, what does that have to do with the criminal case?

RODGERS: Well, it doesn't have to do with the facts of the criminal case. But the issue is, if a lawyer is conflicted from his or her participation on a case, they have to step away. So sometimes it has nothing to do with the case at all. It can be nothing that's your fault. Let's say you own stock in a company or -

BOLDUAN: Right. Kind of the core of a conflict of interest. OK.

RODGERS: You know, your brother-in-law is a witness. I mean those sorts of things.

Here it is, you know, is she benefiting by having hired him to work on this case in a way that makes it improper for her to continue. Like, pretend that she hired him. He's being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. He's handing her a portion of that and she's extending the case in order to make money. That's the sort of thing that a conflict is designed to avoid.

BOLDUAN: This whole thing just feels really messy. I know that's not like a legal term. It just does feel messy. Is it?

RODGERS: It's very, very messy. The record was very messy. There were a lot of back-and-forth evidence coming in at the last minute, contradictory testimony and evidence here.

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, that was wild to follow.

RODGERS: And - and issues like if they lied to the judge, if Fani Willis and Nathan Wade and Terrance Bradley lied to the judge, which defendants alleged that they did, and there is some evidence to suggest that, some of this cell phone evidence and so on that their relationship started before they testified that it did, can that disqualify her? Prosecutors say no, that's maybe an ethical violation but not really for this proceeding. But defendants say, and I think lay people watching at home may agree, if a prosecutor wants to stay on a case so badly that they're willing to lie to stay on the case, that's troubling going forward, right, what -- what prosecutors would do going forward in that case.

BOLDUAN: Jennifer, the judge, as we heard, has set a deadline of Friday to make this decision about disqualification. After the judge makes this decision, is this all put to rest?

RODGERS: Maybe, maybe not. They could potentially appeal. I think the case would continue while they do that.


RODGERS: But I don't think this is going away in a colloquial sense because I think defendants will keep pounding this drum, right, that she had this improper relationship, she made improper speeches, she may have lied to the court. They're going to be out there with that message. And, remember, all of the jurors who ultimately will sit on this case if it goes forward, are out there as well. So, they are going to be kind of pushing this narrative of this unfair prosecutor having targeted these defendants and having her own ethical problems at the same time.

BOLDUAN: All right, well, stay -- stay close. It could come as early as today. So please stick close. It's great to see you.

RODGERS: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, what do you have planned in the next 34 weeks? How the campaign trail will look now that both parties have found their presumptive nominees. And we are looking at a long general election ahead.

And then there's this. Look at this explosion. An explosion in the sky. A private rocket bursting into flames seconds after launch.