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Unions, Rail Companies Avert Strike After 20 Hours Of Talks; Same-Sex Marriage Vote Likely Delayed Until After Midterms; Iowa Teen Who Killed Alleged Rapist Order To Pay Family $150,000: Opera Singer Katherine Jenkins Records 1st Version Of "God Save The King" For BBC. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: For the first time in 14 years, mortgage rates are now above 6 percent. That's more than double where they were a year ago. And as these rates climb, inflation remains stubbornly high.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The labor market is resilient, though. Weekly jobless claims fell for a fifth straight week. The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped 5,000 this week from the week before and that's the lowest level since May.

President Biden is praising the deal that averted a national rail strike, which could have become an economic disaster. Union and rail leaders came to tentative terms after more than 20 hours of negotiations.

CAMEROTA: CNN is learning the president himself was key to pushing this deal across the finish line.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us from the White House.

Kaitlan, what exactly was President Biden's role in all of this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He had a call at hour 12 of these negotiations as they were happening inside the Labor Department yesterday.

That was 9:00 p.m. last night after these union representatives had showed up at the Labor Department after 9:00 a.m. President Biden making that call personally, calling on them to reach a consensus on this.

Because, of course, the concern here at the White House was that if they didn't come to an agreement, this was going to paralyze key parts of the economy, further exasperating inflation potentially, potentially adding to the supply chain issues that the U.S. has already been dealing with for so many years now.

But it took until 2:30 in the morning, we're told by sources that, they reached that verbal agreement. For a few more hours, they continue do hash it out.

And the, you saw the White House announced it at about 5:00 a.m. this morning that they had reached this agreement, which President Biden later framed today as not just a big win for the unions, but also for the companies as well.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This agreement is a big win for America and for both in my view.

This agreement is validation, validation of what I've always believed. Unions and management can work together, can work together for the benefit of everyone.



COLLINS: President Biden was not the only one involved. Obviously, it was the labor secretary, Marty Walsh, was at the center of these talks that stretched for about 20 hours yesterday.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as well, in addition to the agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Really showing you the strength that the White House is putting behind this because they did not want the strike to happen. They wanted to avert that.

So you saw President Biden speaking to this today in an event added to his schedule.

And, Victor and Alisyn, when it comes to his schedule for tomorrow, we are learning that for the first time he is going to be meeting in person with the families of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, the two Americans being wrongfully detained in Russia right now.

They have made multiple attempts to get them released. President Biden will be meeting with them in person tomorrow.

But I just asked the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, if there have been any changes, whether or not their loved ones are going to be coming home anytime soon. They said, unfortunately, despite that, the Russians still haven't accepted that prisoner swap offer that we know the United States made to them.

So instead, President Biden is meeting with them so they know this is still an issue that's top of mind for him. It's still important for him.

But unfortunately, they are not going to be getting the update that, of course, they have been looking for, for so many months and years now.

BLACKWELL: And the families have certainly wanted the engagement personally from the president and the White House. We'll see what comes out of that meeting.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

CAMEROTA: The bipartisan group of Senators negotiating a bill to codify same-sex marriage says they need more time. Senator Tammy Baldwin, the lead Democrat in these talks, said she wants to delay the vote until after the midterm elections.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Manu Raju joins us now.

What do you know?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I talked to several of these key negotiators moments ago and they're all indicating this, in fact, will be delayed until after the November midterms.

Because the timing of this made it difficult to get the 10 Republican votes that would be necessary to overcome a likely filibuster attempt.

This group of negotiations have been behind the scenes trying to get this to pass by next week. But they simply just could not get there.

One of the big issues they had been trying to sort out, so-called religious liberties provision they would add to this bill.

They did agree to some language on that issue, but as the talks began to brief Republicans on this, it became increasingly clear they simply wouldn't get there.

They believe there's a better chance that it's going to pass after the midterms, because it would ease a lot of political pressures that members are facing.

When I talked to one of the top Democrats in the Senate, Dick Durbin, about the Republican criticism that a vote before the midterms is political, he pushed back.


RAJU: There's a concern about Republicans that this is too close to the election and this is clearly a political move by your party.

SEN. DICK DURBAN (D-IL): Well, when you have a painful vote, that's what you always hear. You're playing politics by making us take a vote. There are so many lives at stake here.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC); We have just put together language that is finalized that has tremendous, I think, respect for the input we've received on religious freedom.

But the fact of the matter is it's only 18 hours old. We think it's fair for the members who are interested in working with us to give them an opportunity to do that. And there have been some that said the timing of the vote was political.


RAJU: So that last comment by Thom Tillis, one of the key negotiators, saying some Republicans believe the timing of this vote was political.

Democrats say this is necessary because the descent in the Roe v. Wade decision, which Clarence Thomas suggested this could overturn issues like that gay marriage ruling before the Supreme Court.

But nevertheless, these negotiations, Victor and Alisyn, are confident that ultimately this will become law, but it will become law a couple months from now after the election.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see.

Manu Raju, thank you.


Now to this insane story. An Iowa teenager who says a man raped her multiple times and sex trafficked her has been ordered the pay his family $150,000 in restitution. That story, next.



CAMEROTA: An Iowa teenager has been ordered to pay $150,000 to the family of her alleged rapist who she stabbed to death. And 17-year-old Pieper Lewis, a victim of sex trafficking, was sentenced to five- years' probation and ordered to pay restitution to her alleged rapist's family.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now.

The teenager was able to escape prison time. But this payment is part of Iowa law? Explain that.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor. Prosecutors never disputed claims that Lewis was sexually assaulted or trafficked.

So regardless of the sentencing in this case, this is a young woman who is for life going to be deeply scarred and traumatized by these horrific experiences.

She described running away from a difficult home experience as a teen, winding up with no place to live. Eventually moving in with a man who forced her, sometimes at knife point, to have sex with other older men.

Including Zachary Brooks, who allegedly raped her multiple times, including while she was unconscious.

She described waking up to the rape, snapping, grabbing a knife, stabbing him to death.

Here's Pieper in her own words. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


PIEPER LEWIS, TEENAGER WHO KILLED HER ALLEGED RAPIST: I wish the events that took place on June 1, 2020, never occurred. But to say there's only one victim to this story is absurd.


KAFANOV: Her attorneys were pleased with the court deferring her sentence. She was facing 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for killing her alleged rapist.

The deferred sentence could mean she could have her record expunged, only if she completes, scot-free, the five years of probation at a correctional facility.

Take a listen to the judge now.


JUDGE DAVID PORTER, POLK COUNTY, IOWA: The next five years your life will be full of rules that you will disagree with, I'm sure.

This is the second chance you've asked for. You don't get a third. Understand that?

LEWIS: Yes, I do.


KAFANOV: Now, Victor, as for your question, Iowa law does require courts to sentence all offenders to pay at least $150,000 in restitution if they kill another person.

Although Lewis' attorneys argued otherwise, the judge did say his hands were effectively tied in this case.

But there was a GoFundMe campaign that was launched by Lewis's former schoolteacher, which has raised I believe as of this hour more than $370,000, which will go towards paying the restitution as well as the other fees, as well as potentially college tuition for Lewis.

Now, rights advocates do cite concerns that this case is another example of a system failing young and vulnerable girls. Take a listen.



Women of color who have experienced sexual violence, domestic violence, trafficking, any kind of harm, who act in self-defense against their -- the people who harm them, have not been treated well by our legal system historically.


KAFANOV: Rights groups go on to say this case highlights a broader trend of victims of sexual abuse and trafficking being punished rather than protected by the legal system.

Victor, Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Lucy, what an awful story. I know she has a GoFundMe page that is helping now because so many people have heard about this story and want to help.

Thank you very much for the reporting.

BLACKWELL: We're learning new details about the plans for the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth as hundreds of thousands of people -- you see some of them here -- file through Westminster Hall to pay their respects.



CAMEROTA: Thousands of people are still lining up in London to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth. At one point today, the queue to view her coffin was more than four miles long which means people were waiting in line for nine hours.

BLACKWELL: The visitation is 24 hours a day until Monday's state funeral.

Katherine Jenkins is an appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire. She's also a Welsh opera singer who performed several times for the queen.

She also just and recorded the first version of "God Save the King" for the BBC.

Here is a bit of that.




BLACKWELL: Katherine, it is good to have you on.

A beautiful rendition there. And beyond just the lyrical change to "God Save the King," what was that performance like for you? What are you feeling and thinking as country goes through this transition?

KATHERINE JENKINS, APPOINTED OFFICER, ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE & WELSH OPERA SINGER: Well, I have so many amazing memories of singing the national anthem for Her Majesty over the years. And so it was obviously very emotional to sing the new version of the anthem.

But I was actually on Friday morning in a very small little church in the countryside in England. And we got the call from BBC saying they would like to play the first recording that morning of "God Save the King" and would I be able to record it for them.

So we stopped what we were doing. There was only a few in the church. We held a moment of silence and said a prayer for Her Majesty, the queen, and for the king.

And then I just sang it. And hugely emotional. But a huge honor to be asked to do it.

CAMEROTA: What was it like, Katherine, to perform for the queen, in front of her?

JENKINS: Well, I've always been such a -- of Her Majesty. I grew up that my mom loved her. So the more I got to know her over the years, the more I had admiration for her and the more I liked her.

It should have gotten easier singing for her but I got more and more nervous. When you think that somebody like her, it is a big national occasion, and you want to do the best because that is what she deserves. And I have memories to cherish from those times.

BLACKWELL: When you see the hundreds of thousands of people, Katherine, filing through Westminster Hall, standing in line for hours at a time, the line got up to four miles, what do you think? What do you feel?

JENKINS: I think it is the people of the U.K. wanting to take a moment to thank Her Majesty for her incredible service and dedication. She was so beloved to us all here. And I think people just want that moment just to say thank you.

And so, you know, I think that the queues will get longer and longer. And I think people will make the effort to do that.


CAMEROTA: It was just in June that you were helping to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. And you were on stage.

And we have this sweet shot of her driving by in her car and I think waving to you when she saw you there.

I think we have a shot of her waving at you because she was she was happy.

There she is.

So she was happy, obviously, to see you.

And you've described her as maternal. So how did that come across?

JENKINS: Well, I actually had a -- I was invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace. And there was a moment where I was a little unsure of what to do with one of the courses. They brought around a bowl of water with a piece of fruit and a piece of gauze.

And I had a panic. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. And I felt like she's caught my eye and, sensing that I was a little uncomfortable, and kind of just helped me. She said, just follow me.

And I think that she had an amazing gift for sensing people and how they felt and how to put people at ease.

Because obviously, to walk into a room where everybody knows who you are, but you don't know them, she had an amazing gift for making conversation and settling people. And I came away from that lunch feeling that she was very warm.

CAMEROTA: What do you do with a bowl of water and a piece of fruit?

BLACKWELL: I was wondering the same thing. Which course is that?

JENKINS: Well, it was actually -- it was after the main course and you are to take the piece of fruit and you are to wash it in the big glass bowl and you're to take the gauze and dry the fruit.

CAMEROTA: Good to know. That is very good to know for the next time we're at Buckingham Palace.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes. I'll know what to do.


CAMEROTA: Katherine Jenkins, thank you so much for sharing your remembrance of here. Really great to talk to you.

BLACKWELL: Well, a political fight over immigration is escalating. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas sent migrants north, including one bus that dropped off migrants right in front of the vice president's home. Details on the political fallout. That's next.