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Florida Governor Claims He Flew Dozens of Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; Interview with Representative Bill Keating (D-MA) about Florida Governor Flying Dozens of Undocumented Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; Agreement Reached to Avert Economically Disastrous Rail Strike; Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Complies with DOJ Subpoena in Jan. 7 probe; DOJ Wants Special Master to Complete Review by October 17. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 09:00   ET



KEILAR: CNN's coverage continues right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


A potential economic disaster averted. Rail companies and union workers reached a tentative agreement overnight to avoid what could have been a crippling strike for the country. The deal comes after negotiators and members of the Biden administration spent more than 20 straight hours at the negotiating table.

A source tells CNN that the president himself played a critical role in getting the deal across the finish line. His message, emphasize the harm that families, businesses and communities would feel if a shutdown went ahead. The final hurdle to come, and that is a full union vote.

HARLOW: Also this, an immigration battle escalating near the vice president's doorstep. Buses of migrants sent from Texas dropped off just feet from her residence in Washington overnight.

And this happening a day after officials on Martha's Vineyard were sent scrambling after dozens of migrants unexpectedly arrived there.

SCIUTTO: The office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says it was he who sent two planes to the Massachusetts island with more than 50 migrants on board.

You see a picture there. CNN's Steve Contorno live in Washington.

Steve, you have this happened up Martha's Vineyard. I saw a group of migrants dropped off in front of the vice president's residence here in D.C. This morning as well. What's happening?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the governor of Florida has been promising for months really that he is going to do something about the migrants that he sees at the border. He's worried about them coming to the state of Florida. You know, there are so many migrant communities and communities from Latin America and South America already here. And he has been threatening for months saying that if the Biden administration doesn't act on immigration, then he is going to send -- he's going to do what all these other Republican governors have done like Governor Abbott in Texas and start sending these people into Democratic strongholds and sanctuary cities. And that's what he says he is doing here.

Now we don't know a lot of the details about how these flights were arranged. The governor's office has only said that they helped pay for these flights through a program that set aside $12 million earlier this year just for this purpose, but there's been already swift condemnation in Florida for these actions. Within hours of this coming to light, the Florida Democratic Party chairman Manny Diaz released a statement in which he said, quote, "There is nothing that DeSantis won't do and nobody that he won't hurt in order to score political points. He took dozens of families and children reportedly from Venezuela and Colombia away from everyone that they knew, flew them across the country and left them by the side of the road without shelter or direction all in order to score political points."

And really leaving them with no one or no one that they knew is exactly what happened. According to representatives on the ground, they had no idea these people were going to show up. They basically have been setting up emergency shelters similar to what they would do if there was a hurricane to help these people and give them some temporary housing. We did hear from a volunteer last night who spoke a little bit about what they saw and they had this to say.


BARBARA RUSH, VOLUNTEER FROM ST. ANDREW'S CHURCH: I don't know how they found their way from the airport to Martha's Vineyard community services. It's a long walk. They're not near each other. They probably walked -- I'm guessing they walked for five miles. We fed them and we've housed them for tonight. And in the morning we'll figure out tomorrow.


CONTORNO: Now, Jim, as you mentioned, we are watching closely what's happening outside of the naval observatory right now to see how this is unfolding today as well, and we'll probably have more updates for you later on that.

HARLOW: Steve Contorno, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: All right. Joining us now for his reaction and what comes next, Democratic Congressman Bill Keating of the state of Massachusetts.

Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. BILL KEATING (D-MA): Good morning, Jim. SCIUTTO: So, first, this is part of a pattern here, right? We've seen

them taken to a number of blue states, blue cities. First, your reaction to these migrants being dropped off on Martha's Vineyard.

KEATING: Well, I had a personal call yesterday afternoon from a Martha's Vineyard official. They were taken totally off guard. A private chartered plane, evidently there were two, not cheap, was on the island and probably 50 -- first plane 25, next plane maybe 25 people were there.


And they didn't know what to do. They had no idea. And they reported to me that these people got off the plane, men, women and children from Venezuela, as they told me. And they had a map or instructions in their hand where they would get housing and jobs, and it was a vacant parking lot, the destination. And we contacted our governor.

In fact, Jim, this is a tale of two governors, two Republican governors. One who was using taxpayer money for chartered jets and reportedly his own video photographer to capture this for his own political benefit, taking advantage of women and children, men, who didn't know where they were going, and another governor in Massachusetts that we contacted, and his office who put his nose to the grindstone and had his agencies spring into action along with local officials deal with the manufactured crisis.

SCIUTTO: We should note the governor of Massachusetts of course is currently Republican. I do want -- I want to ask about the law, but before I get there, just the immediate issue here. Can local resources support these migrants there and how and for how long?

KEATING: That's part of the cynical nature of this. Martha's Vineyard is a very small populated island. People commute from the land just to work there because there's no housing. So there's absolutely no resources to deal with this, but fortunately religious community members and local officials and now state officials are springing into action to deal with it. So there was no ability to do it here.

This wouldn't have been a destination simply to move them from one state to another. This was clearly just to attract political attention with an island that is known in the summertime for its wealthy visitors. But I've got to tell you this, that it backfired on him with the response of local officials.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, though, because the way the current law stands, when you have folks come to the border, they apply for asylum, as they're waiting for their cases to be heard, adjudicated, they can't travel inside the U.S. and often do on their own. Does that law need to be changed?

KEATING: Well, I think the whole system obviously, Jim, is broken, and we could deal with issues if we could ever get together, particularly on the Senate side of things. We're not even dealing with people who were taken here as children, the DACA children, the Dreamers who came here and gainfully employed or in the military, in school by definition.

So really, instead of these stunts, I hope we can get some bipartisan and bicameral help to just deal with the problem and move the thing forward because, you know, using people, using this issue as a political wedge evidently has worked for a while in terms of politics. It's just not the way to treat human beings and it's really not being responsible if you put your hand in the air and take an oath and help people.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, Congressman Bill Keating, I'm sure this is an issue we'll speak about again. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

KEATING: Thank you, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

HARLOW: An important message, they're coming together, what can we all do across the political aisle to help? Good interview, Jim.

All right, To our other top story. Major rail strike averted at the 11th hour. After unions and rail companies reached a tentative deal overnight.

Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us. I mean, truly at the last moment in what would have been a catastrophe for the U.S. economy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, this deal coming together at 5:00 a.m. this morning, just hours before a potential strike of tens of thousands of these rail workers would have gone into effect. This deal followed 20 hours of negotiations at the Department of Labor, mediated in part by the Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, and the president very involved in all of those negotiations and conversations, getting repeated updates throughout the day yesterday.

And then also, Poppy, according to two sources placing a critical call at 9:00 p.m. last night to both sides to underline the extent to which a potential shutdown of the rail system would be harmful and potentially catastrophic for the nation's economy. The president conveying the message here that failure wasn't an option, and for hours later throughout the night, those labor officials and rail companies as well as the secretary of labor staying at the negotiating table to ultimately hammer out this deal.

The president describing this win as, quote, "a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that America's families and communities get deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years."


He goes on to say for the American people, the hard work done to reach this tentative agreement means that our economy can avert the significant damage any shutdown would have brought.

Now these labor leaders clearly thrilled to get this agreement finally over a series of stick points. Here's one of them this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY FERGUSON, PRESIDENT, SMART TRANSPORTATION DIVISION: Last night was an historic night for rail labor. We're very proud of what was accomplished. We wanted to take a few minutes and -- or a few seconds and, you know, thank Secretary Marty Walsh, Deputy Secretary Julie Sue and definitely President Joe Biden, everybody pulling together to make sure that we could get our members what they deserve.


DIAMOND: And look, this deal is ultimately going to avoid the most catastrophic potential impacts of a shutdown. But of course some impacts had already begun to be felt. Amtrak, which relies on a lot of these freight rail lines had already canceled some long distance trains. Those are going to start to come back online soon. But again, the key here is that the worst potential economic consequences have been avoided as a result of this tentative agreement -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the implications of this deal. We are joined by Neil Bradley, he's the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Neil, thanks very much for coming in. And we should note again this is not a total aversion, right. The unions still are going to have to vote to ratify this agreement. Can you help people understand -- you guys were very outspoken especially in the last few days. Can you help people understand what the economic consequences would have been of a strike?

NEIL BRADLEY, EXECUTIVE VP AND CHIEF POLICY OFFICER, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Absolutely, Poppy. And I think Jeremy said it well, right. This would have been catastrophic. To put a total dollar figure on it, had we had a rail strike, it would have cost the economy $2 billion per day of that strike. But let's put it in human terms. If you think about it this way, you go to the grocery store, you go to the meat aisle, you expect to see meat and poultry on the shelves for you to purchase.

The way that that meat and poultry often gets to your grocery store is the average of 205 rail cars a day that are moving that meat from where it's processed to your local grocery store. That would have quickly come to a halt. What we would have seen is empty store shelves, not just at the meat counter but frankly all across the stores, and rising prices for everything that was left.

SCIUTTO: There is still another decision point here. This has to go to members in effect, though it has the endorsement now of union leadership. In your view, is that a likelihood to go through? And are these issues settled for the long term?

BRADLEY: Well, I do think it's likely and hopefully will be approved by the union members. It deserves to be approved. I think the railroads frankly put a lot on the table here including 24 percent of pay increases. I think from our perspective, the real problem is how dangerously close we got to this catastrophic incident. As Jeremy pointed out, we've already had disruptions. We have long distance passenger rail shut down.

We've had chemical cars -- think about this, chlorine that is used to treat your drinking water, it needs to come by rail. Those have been sitting in storage because they couldn't be moved because of threat of this rail strike. I think a lesson learned here is we should never get this close again.

HARLOW: I want to make sure that the voices of the workers are included in all of this because, yes, they are getting this 24 percent pay increase, but this was a lot more -- and they've been very vocal about this for a long time, a lot more than just money. OK. Just some of the union members saying this week we're all overworked, safety has become secondary. I'm on call 24/7. This job has become fewer people doing more work faster.

What is the lesson also in listening to these workers as they raise these issues? As you know the rail industry has changed so much dramatically in terms of how it operates. It has pushed these workers to work a lot more and a lot faster.

BRADLEY: Well, Poppy, you're right. Obviously every industry, including the rail industry, is changing. And it's important that employers do listen to and meet the needs of workers. But let's be clear about something. Last weekend, a full week before the strike, a supermajority of the 12 unions negotiating had reached a deal. Last month the president's own bipartisan Presidential Emergency Board appointed to find a resolution and come up with a resolution that was ultimately adopted largely by those majority of unions.

So absolutely we need to listen to workers, but at the same time we can't be in a situation in which the national economy, our ability to put groceries in the kitchen for our families is held hostage because people are trying to leverage a shutdown of the national economy.


SCIUTTO: Neil Bradley, the view of business there. Thanks so much for joining us.

BRADLEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, a CNN exclusive that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has now complied with a Justice Department subpoena. What we know about what materials he handed over.

Plus, Russian missile strikes break a major dam in Ukraine as Ukrainian troops continue to make advances in their counteroffensive. We have some new reporting about why the U.S. is still reluctant to give Ukraine all the weapons, particularly longer range ones, it's asking for.

HARLOW: Also, later, Bret Favre embroiled in a scandal over millions of dollars that was supposed to go to welfare recipients in Mississippi. How did that money get spent on a volleyball facility? We'll tell you.


HARLOW: Welcome back. CNN has now learned that Mark Meadows has complied with the DOJ subpoena tied to the January 6th investigation.


The former White House chief of staff is now the highest ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in this investigation.

SCIUTTO: CNN anchor and senior Washington Correspondent Pamela Brown joins us now with more on this exclusive CNN reporting.

So, Pamela, what exactly did he turn over?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he turned over, according to sources, Jim and Poppy, documents, communication, text exchanges around the election and efforts to overturn the election in January 6th. The same stuff that he turned over to the January 6th Committee, now has been turned over to DOJ. Now we do know that Mark Meadows was selective in what he turned over to the committee, and the same is the case with what was turned over to DOJ.

There are still questions of privilege, and right now DOJ is fighting privilege claims from other Trump aides behind closed doors in sealed court proceedings. So we know that that is happening which, of course, leads you to the next question, will DOJ be asking for more from Mark Meadows? Will there be more subpoenas in his future? The answer, as we know it, is likely yes. That he is such a critical figure in the DOJ investigation on January 6th.

It's hard to imagine DOJ not wanting more from Mark Meadows, not waiting to see what other communications and documents he has. Not wanting to have testimony from him. So there is more to be seen in this case in particular. But what it shows you is that now DOJ has issued more than 30 subpoenas of people in Trump's orbit, and he is the highest-ranking person from the Trump's administration that we know of who has been subpoenaed and who has complied with the subpoena.

And he is such a critical figure. Cassidy Hutchinson, his former aide under the Trump administration, talks about one episode in which Mark Meadows was talking to the former White House counsel on January 6th. It just gives a window into how important Mark Meadows is and what he could provide to investigators. Here is what she said.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be f'ing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn't think they're doing anything wrong. To which Pat said something, this is f'ing crazy, we need to be doing something more.


BROWN: So that was just one of many moments on January 6th where Mark Meadows could provide critical perspective. We should also note his top deputy in the White House, another deputy besides Cassidy Hutchinson, Ben Williamson was also issued a subpoena as well.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Joining us now to talk about sort of big picture here as they deal with the special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, Ken Feinberg, an attorney who served as special master in so many prominent cases. He was appointed special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, also involved in compensation decisions for victims of Agent Orange, in the Jerry Sandusky case, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

You have so much experience in this, Ken. And it's different. Your job as a special master was different in all of those cases is different than now in this. But you have been really critical of the judge appointing a special master, calling it judicial overreach. I should note Bill Barr, the former attorney general under Trump, called the decision deeply flawed. Lawrence Tribe, the Harvard legal scholar, agrees with both of you saying it is utterly lawless.

Can you explain why?

KENNETH FEINBERG, FORMER SPECIAL MASTER OF 9/11 VICTIMS COMPENSATION FUND: This is not a judicial function. This is national security, highly classified documents, methods and spying at risk, and it's the type of unique situation where the courts, I believe, should stay out of it and let the executive branch, historically the executive branch, follow up and follow through.

Now, of course, there are arguments on the other side and the courts will decide under the rule of law, but I agree with those you've referenced that it's not a good role for the courts to play.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned arguments on the other side. Is there -- what is or is there a legal argument that the classified portion of these materials should be set aside and that the DOJ can even continue to look into that portion of its investigation while the special master tries to divvy out anything that relates to attorney-client privilege, et cetera? Is there any legal argument for that?

FEINBERG: Sure there's a legal argument. They've made the legal argument which is who says it's highly classified? Self-serving. Who decides whether or not the documents really pose a threat to national security? There ought to be more transparency. There ought to be more checks and balances. That's the argument on the other side. And frankly, I mean, that's what the district judge decided.

[09:25:06] HARLOW: Ken, you know, one thing that strikes me in all of this is you have the DOJ appealing to the 11th Circuit while at the same time both sides sort of miraculously agreeing on someone you know, and that is former federal judge Raymond Deary saying that they think both sides that he could do a good job at this should they proceed in this matter.

The big question mark is what would he do? How big would the scope be as special master? Can you speak to him, his experience, and what you think that scope would be?

FEINBERG: Judge Deary is very experienced. I've known him for over 30 years. He served as a very distinguished district judge in New York City, in Brooklyn. He's been working on the FISA court. That special foreign intelligence surveillance court. He obviously has national security clearance classification.

Now exactly what the scope of his role would be is a very interesting question. I don't know the answer to that. I think the question would be, does he review everything? Does he review only highly classified information to confirm the classification. That's all going to be worked out with the court.

SCIUTTO: On the other topic, CNN's exclusive reporting that Mark Meadows has now complied to the Justice Department subpoena for documents, text messages, et cetera, which to be fair had supplied to the January 6th Committee prior. Significance of that cooperation and can you read in any way into agreement to hand over written materials or electronic materials and any further cooperation for Meadows?

FEINBERG: I think you'd have to ask counsel for Mark Meadows. But it sounds to me like they've concluded that they have a very weak legal argument and that former Chief of Staff Meadows should just cooperate rather than run what would ultimately be an unsuccessful legal challenge. So he's a conventional type of high level cooperating witness. What he'll say I do not know.

SCIUTTO: A lot to learn still in all these investigations. Kenneth Feinberg, thanks so much for coming on.

FEINBERG: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, new details about aid Ukraine has been asking the U.S. for, particularly heavier, longer-range weapons as its forces advance and why sources are telling us at CNN that the Pentagon is rebuffing some of those requests for now.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Taking a look at futures there lower as investors digest new reports on retail sales, also weekly jobless claims. Both come in better-than- expected. Still, though, the persistent concern is about core inflation. And next week the Fed meets to make a decision on interest rates.