Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Buses of Migrants Dropped Off Near Vice President Harris' Residence in DC; Ex-Chief of Staff Meadows Complies With DOJ Subpoena in Jan. 6 Probe; Agreement Reached to Avert Economically Disastrous Rail Strike. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're glad you're with us.

We are following three major stories this morning. First, an immigration battle unfolding just steps from the vice president's home. This morning, buses of migrants were dropped off near the naval observatory in Washington, DC, the latest moves in the strategy from some red states to protest the Biden administration's immigration policies. On Wednesday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis claimed that he sent two planes carrying undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard. That came without notice to the community there as they worked to set up shelters.

SCIUTTO: Plus, a CNN exclusive this morning. Sources tell us that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has now complied with the Justice Department subpoena in its ongoing investigation into January 6.

Also new this morning, an economic crisis averted, a tentative deal reaches overnight after hours of negotiations to avoid a nationwide rail strike. Much more on the role the White House says the president played in getting that deal across the finish line.

But, first, two plane loads of migrants landing on Martha's Vineyard with no warning, volunteers jumping into action now to help them.

HARLOW: The Office of the Florida's Governor says that he sent the more than 50 migrants to the Massachusetts Island.

Our Steve Contorno is following all of this and can give us the details. I mean, what can you tell us? I mean, what have we learned this morning?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Yes. So, this is something that Governor DeSantis has actually been threatening for -- really, for months. He has pinpointed Martha's Vineyard, a Democratic stronghold. He has said he would even send them to the president's home state of Delaware if he doesn't see enough action on immigration reform to stop the migrant action at the border.

And the legislature actually worked together this past year to get $12 million to fund these kind of plane trips and now we're seeing that money in action, two planes landing in Martha's Vineyard yesterday, on an island, dropping 50 migrants off in a community that had no idea that these people were coming. And we're starting to hear some of the reaction from local representatives and lawmakers about what exactly their doing about this and what this is like to have this kind of spring up on them this morning on New Day. State Representative Dylan Fernandes spoke to us a little bit about what is happening there.


STATE REP. DYLAN FERNANDES (D-MA): Think about the governor of Florida, one of the largest states in the nation, spending his time hatching a secret plot to ship up 50 immigrants here, families, children as young as four, and use them as political pawns just so he could get on Tucker Carlson and be this -- about how tough he is on immigration. He is a coward and the real story here is about the island community that has rallied to come together to support these people. They represent the best of what America has to offer.


CONTORNO: So, just as we were getting more details on those planes landing in Martha's Vineyard, we're seeing these images of people ending up at the naval observatory outside of the vice president's home, those are coming from Texas Governor Greg Abbott. And so we're going to continue to see how these Republican states continue to address the migrant issue with these -- what Democrats are calling stunts, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Steve Contorno, thank you very much. I think this is the beginning of a lot more on this front. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much.

And now to New York City, another spot where Republican governors have sent bus loads of migrants in recent weeks.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Eric Adams toured a new welcome center for those asylum seekers. While he was there, he called out Florida's governor.

CNN's Athena Jones us now live from New York, and the number of cities keeps growing, right, where these migrants, Martha's Vineyard, here in Washington and, of course, New York.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, that's right, Jim. And Mayor Adams is slamming these moves by red state governors as inhumane. He says it doesn't matter if you arrive on a mayflower, on a bus at port authority, you should be treated with dignity and respect.

So, touring the center, he said New York is not going to shut the door in their faces. Here is more of what he had to say.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): We are not going to be like those municipalities and states where we fly people to Martha's Vineyard, where we put people on buses and have them and fail to get the basic items they need. And anyone who states that this administration does not have a handle on this crisis, they must have been sleeping under a rock.


JONES: And Adams was speaking at this welcome center that was open about a couple of weeks ago at the American Red Cross headquarters here in New York, which is one of the cities that had seen a huge influx of these migrants.

Now, in those remarks, he didn't name any politician by name. He did say Republicans have created a blueprint that they're all following here, and that blueprint doing this without any coordination is something that is inhumane. But we know that Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis have been sending folks up here. New York is dealing with an unprecedented 11,000 new arrivals. That is who the welcome center was opened to serve. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Athena Jones, thanks so much.

HARLOW: All right. Now to the CNN exclusive reporting, former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has complied with the Department of Justice subpoena. This is tied to the investigation into the January 6 insurrection. Meadows is now the highest ranking Trump official known to have responded to a DOJ subpoena in this investigation.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Katelyn Polantz, as she always is, following the story closely. So, tell us what we learned and what this all means.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORER: Well, Mark Meadows is indeed the highest ranking person from the Trump administration to receive and to respond to a federal grand jury subpoena related to the 2020 election. So, my colleagues, Pam Brown, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, Kristen Holmes, they were able to confirm last night that Meadows gave to the Justice Department the same records he's already provided to the House select committee investigating January 6. So, thousands of his text messages and emails will now be in prosecutors hands. Things like texts with the former president's son as the Capitol was falling under attack, many of these chats we've already seen, Jim and Poppy.

But with cabinet members, Republican members of Congress, lawyers, many of them were talking to Meadows as they tried to help Trump overturn his election loss, or they were trying to get Meadows to have Trump to get things under control, which did not happen.

So, this grand jury right now, what we know is what is coming in here. They aren't going to get everything that Meadow has, and that's because Meadows has withheld quite a bit, because he's been trying to claim executive privilege, this confidentiality around the presidency. And it is possible that the Justice Department could come back to try to get more from him later but this is a start.

And it adds to an astonishing sweep right now that we know of that the Justice Department is doing looking for evidence of possible crimes, even potentially what was being discussed inside the White House after the election. And we're also tracking grand jury subpoenas in the same investigation for other people around the presidency, like the president's top lawyers, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Deputy Patrick Philbin, he's in the White House Counsel's Office, other advisers, aides to Meadows. So, dozens of people are hearing from the DOJ and the DOJ is going to have to go through all of this, Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Yes, lots to go through, for us too. Katelyn Polantz, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Paul Rosenzweigh, he was a senior counsel during the Whitewater investigation, also former deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS. Good to have you back, Paul.

So, I wonder, as you see someone like Mark Meadows with, I imagine, pretty decent lawyers give in here to the effect of the DOJ subpoena, are you seeing in effect the broadest of executive privilege claims fall apart for Trump and close Trump team members here?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL, WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION: It's interesting that you say that, because I'd actually read it almost the other way, which is to say he already moved this stuff to the January 6 committee. So, it is out of his control in some way. And the fact that he continues to maintain the executive privilege is a little bit actually more of a finger in the eye of the Department of Justice's investigation forcing the department to litigate the issue notwithstanding the fact that his claim of executive privilege is probably pretty close to frivolous.

HARLOW: I think also on Mark Meadows, could you just speak, Paul, to the significance of complying here given how proximate he was to so many discussions regarding not just one attempt to overturn the election but different attempts and strategies to do so?


ROSENZWEIG: Well, that, I think, is of significance. Meadows is obviously a key percipient witness to the events that happened between the time of the election and January 6, everything from Trump's call to Georgia, to any discussions Trump might have had with John Eastman, to discussions on the day of the January 6 insurrection, including Trump's decision or lack of decision to try and stop the effort from happening, to call up the National Guard. So, Meadows will be a significant witness.

I think to put a better point on it, I think, actually, this is sort of the prosecution of Steve Bannon coming home to roost, which is to say that Meadows along with a lot of other folks have seen that there will actually be consequences for going too far in defying the Department of Justice. And as you said, he does have a good lawyer, so he's going to try to walk as fine of a line as he possibly can.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, we got that investigation and then we have the ongoing documents investigation and the special master decision to come. Where is this all going to land? Obviously, DOJ is looking for a little, you know, urgency here. They've planned out the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals if the judge does not respond today.

ROSENZWEIG: I think that's right. There is a sense of urgency, at least in part because they don't want this litigation playing out too close to the election for fear of being called political, but also because the judge's decision, as it is unmoored from precedent really threatens to throw a wrench into the investigation.

I think that if the judge were to walk back that decision somewhat today and grant all or part of DOJ's request, the department would probably live with it, as best it could and that would be their best way forward. But if they don't, if the judge doesn't give them some relief, I'm going to expect a petition for an expedited appeal.

HARLOW: Right. I mean, we know DOJ is appealing to the 11th Circuit. I guess my question is sort of a bigger picture beyond what happens with this special master request, just the precedent that it sets if the Trump legal team gets exactly what they want, and if Judge Cannon's ruling stands, that there is this executive privilege in this way for a former president out of office.

ROSENZWEIG: Well that would be a tragically bad decision. It would indicate that former presidents are not just citizens but occupy some sort of special post-kingly place where they get special rules for themselves. It would be contrary to the express provisions of the Presidential Records Act. It would be contrary to the Department of Justice's conception of presidential immunity while in office, where they've explicitly conditioned that on a president being subject to criminal charges after he leaves. It would be contrary to U.S. versus Nixon, which says that executive privilege doesn't extend to criminality. It would be so orthogonal to existing precedent that it's really hard to figure out exactly how it would fit in.

And I have to say that even with conservative judges on the 11th Circuit and conservative justices on the Supreme Court, I can't imagine that Judge Cannon's decision would stand. It would just be a lot of delay.

HARLOW: Fascinating analysis. Paul Rosenzweigh, thanks very much this morning.

SCIUTTO: And he worked orthogonal into the conversation. That -- he gets a special prize for that.

Still to come this hour, after more than 20 hours of urgent negotiations, officials reach a deal to avoid what would have been a potentially catastrophic rail strike. How the unions and rail companies were able to move past major sticking points in the final hours. And new CNN reporting this morning, the Biden administration says the aid to Ukraine so far is paying off, but sources tell me and my colleagues U.S. holding off on Ukrainian requests for longer range weapons.

HARLOW: Plus the founder of a major outdoor lifestyle brand just gave his company to the earth, seriously. A look at Patagonia's commitment to combating climate change and how this could be an example for for- profit companies moving forward.



HARLOW: New overnight, a crisis averted as negotiators reach a tentative deal to avoid a rail shut down. This deal comes after 20 hours of nonstop negotiations at the Labor Department with President Biden playing a critical role.

SCIUTTO: Boy, there must have been some serious sighs of relief in that white building.

CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond following with the latest. The nervousness in these final days was highlighted by the involvement of the president, right, in this, and Marty Walsh as well. Do we know what put this over the finish line?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, and not just the involvement over the last 24 hours but involvement from the president and the White House over the last several weeks.


This was a looming crisis hanging over the White House for a couple of reasons, the first of which being the potentially devastating economic consequences of a strike involving 50,000 rail workers that could cripple the nation's supply chain operations but also, of course, the midterms which are coming in less than two months and the ripple impacts that you could have had from those economic consequences.

Now, the president announcing this tentative agreement in a statement early this morning saying that this is a, quote, win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America's families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years and also saying that 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, we are getting some details of this agreement, this tentative, which still requires the official signoff of the union membership before it actually goes into effect. But this agreement would result in an immediate 14 percent raise with back pay dating back to 2020. You're also looking at a total raise of 24 percent, a $1,000 annual cash bonus. And beyond that, there's also this ultimate issue, which was the real linchpin here of this time-off policy. And the unions announcing that they did indeed reach an agreement to exempt time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies. So, that was ultimately the linchpin.

Now, we are told that the president made a critical call during these 20-hour negotiations between these union members and the railway companies at 9:00 P.M. last night, where the president really underlined the potentially devastating economic consequences, and in the words one source, failure simply was not an option. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Yes, particularly for Amtrak Joe, right? He himself tied to those trains riding back and forth to Wilmington. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks so much.

Well, Wall Street is already reacting to this morning's news.

HARLOW: Our Business Correspondent Alison Kosik following all of it. Good morning, Alison. A collective sigh of relief here?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You literally took the words out of my mouth, Poppy. Yes. I mean, I think you can actually hear that sigh of relief from the business community when the news came down that railroad workers won't go on strike. I can't underscore enough after I've talked with countless business leaders over the past days not just how disruptive but destructive a rail strike could have been to the U.S. economy because such a wide variety businesses and industries, they rely on the railroad to literally keep their businesses moving.

Wall Street, its focus is on a new data point today showing that retail sales unexpectedly bounced back last month after falling in July. Retail sales rose 0.3 percent in August. There was a surge in sales at auto dealers. Falling gas prices, that helped to keep consumer's wallets a little fatter, and that is reflected in a drop in spending at gas stations. They spent less at gas stations, more at the auto dealers. This makes it more complicated for the Fed though, Poppy and Jim, because they have got to continue this aggressive rate hike path.

HARLOW: Alison, thank you very much. A big week, as you said, rate hike for the Fed next week.

As Ukraine continues to gain ground in the east and the south, Russia is taking aim at key infrastructure, some of it civilian. We'll have a live report from Kyiv ahead.



SCIUTTO: Even as Ukrainian forces make sweeping gains in the northern counteroffensive in recent days, recapturing thousands of square miles of territory previously held by Russia, sources tell myself and colleagues Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, Katie Bo Lillis, that the Biden administration is rebuffing some Ukrainian weapons request for now. This includes the longer range army tactical missile systems known as ATACMS, which Ukraine has been requesting for months and also as recently as this week, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, such important reporting, Jim. And at the same time, Ukraine's central city of Kryvyi Rih has residents that have been asked to evacuate their homes, this is after Ukraine says Russian missile strikes hit a local dam and flooded parts of that city.

Our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us live for the latest from Kyiv. Ben, thank you for being with us.

What could you tell us?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jim and Poppy, well, this tactic of the Russians to target civilian infrastructure, which, as you mentioned, we saw in Kryvyi Rih, and, in fact, another target was hit in that city today, an industrial site, causing extensive damage, according to local officials, this has people in the government here worried that this is the next phase in Russia's tactics in this war. As it loses more ground, it is basically retaliating by targeting civilian infrastructure. And therefore, this has got them to request now. In fact, we attended a press conference with President Zelenskyy today in which he said he is asking France, Italy, Germany, the United States and Israel to provide air defense systems to try to prevent exactly this kind of attack. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Ben Wedeman live for us in Kyiv. Ben, thank you very much.


In San Francisco -- a woman in San Francisco is suing police after she says DNA from her rape kit years ago was used to arrest her in another case. She's suing on civil rights grounds. We'll talk about it next.