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Standoff in Congress Causes U.S. to Hit Its Debt Limit Today; President Biden Still Plans to Launch Reelection Bid After State of the Union Address; New York Congressman George Santos Claims His Mother Survived 9/11; U.S. Finalizing Massive $2.5 Billion in Military Aid Package for Ukraine; More Evidence Found at Suspect Bryan Kohberger's Home; Prosecutors Claim Brian Walshe Made Several Gruesome Google Searches. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 09:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Faye actually was making a very good point when she said, you know, if Mark Twain would look back at my work and say, you know, that was really racist. She was in jest, but I watch "30 Rock" now, not that it was racist, but it pushed the envelope. And I don't know if in this environment that you can get away with that stuff. And we should. We should allow comedians, I think, and comedy a little bit more freedom.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's also a reflection of how, you know, when something is made, it's so different than when you're seeing it in the present time. Adam Sandler obviously is someone who's dealt with that. It's how critics have looked at films that he made and what they look now. He said, you know, he doesn't read the reviews anymore. And -- but you know he's going to give a good speech.

LEMON: Good stuff.

COLLINS: All right. Thanks for joining us this morning. "CNN NEWSROOM" starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. I'm John Berman.


Happening today, debt ceiling deadline. The country is set to hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit as soon as today. The Treasury Department says extraordinary measures need to be taken for the next few months at least to stave off disaster that could be coming in June.

BERMAN: So as Republicans refuse to budge on demands and Democrats refuse to budge on negotiations, the White House is warning of the dire consequences of a default that could have serious, really almost unimaginable implications for the U.S. economy and consumers.

Our reporters are covering every angle of this developing story. Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with us right now. So what does this mean? What does today mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR, EARLY START: Today is the day we hit that number, that just above $31 trillion number. Now there are things that the Treasury Department can do and they're ready for this. They knew this was going to happen. They can start deferring investments into important retirement funds, for example, for public servants. They can do accounting moves to keep the bills flowing until maybe June.

So June is when you really have a problem here. But we've already sent a message to the rest of the world that, you know, the United States does not have its fiscal house in order and is now going to be arguing about whether to pay the bills it has already spent. This is not about future spending when the rest of the world looks at us. This is about paying for the bills that are already there.

There are a couple of things that can happen as we get later in the year. They can start maybe give an IOU to Social Security recipients, an IOU to people who work in the military. They can defer different kinds of payments. But what they must continue to do is pay the interest on our debt. If they default on U.S. debt, that would be grave with huge consequences for your 401(k), for interest rates.


ROMANS: Your jobs. For your standard of living. I mean, this political fight in Washington over paying the bills that have already been spent, that political fight has huge ramifications for your standard of living at home. And that is what the bottom line of this is all about.

GOLODRYGA: And we've been here before. We came dangerously close to going over the cliff in 2011. You say this time feels different. So we're going to be watching the next few months very closely.

ROMANS: We will. And look, I've been talking to a lot of people who over the past few months have been more and more concerned about this. You know, this needs to be avoided. Jamie Diamond who runs JPMorgan Chase, he just talked about -- we should not even be having this conversation. Listen to him.


JAMIE DIAMOND, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: We should never question the credit worthiness of the United States government. That is sacrosanct. Democrats can blame the Republicans and the Republicans can blame the Democrats. I don't care who blames who, even questioning it is the wrong thing to do.


ROMANS: It's super frustrating to have this argument, you know, periodically. We continually raise that debt ceiling. There are those who argue we shouldn't even have it. And again, this is paying for the bills we've already spent. If you want to fight about spending and taxing, you do that in committees and appropriations process. You don't do that after you've already spent the money.

I will say the backdrop here, all these discussions about, is there geopolitical risk for a recession around the world? Can the U.S. avoid a recession? This is a terrible time, a terrible time to be talking about a self-imposed crisis in Washington.

But I will say the backdrop here, jobless claims. We just got a jobs figure really low. There are not widespread layoffs in this economy. We're heading into this year, heading into this potential crisis with a resilient labor market.

Look at unemployment claims, Bianna. Can you image, 190,000 in the most recent week? So outside of tech, where you're hearing about layoffs, it's a tight labor market still in the U.S. So that is something that is going for the U.S. economy right now.

GOLODRYGA: You're watching closely.


GOLODRYGA: Christine Romans, thank you.

Well, this morning the White House is responding to Republican holdouts who are refusing to raise the debt ceiling.


BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: This is about economic stability versus economic chaos. What needs to happen is what Congress has done time and time again, which is prudently do its job. Raise the debt ceiling. That's happened 78 times since 1960. 78 times Congress has done its job. That's going to need to happen again this year.


BERMAN: CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, this morning is Congress doing its job? What's the status of negotiations? Feverish talks going on right now no doubt.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Capitol is mostly empty right now, John, because it's recess up here. But one of the things to keep in mind is that the clock is now ticking on this debate. And the moment that you are seeing right now play out is everyone is retreating to their corners.

If you remember, Kevin McCarthy, to get the job for the speakership, he agreed to a key concession from hard conservatives on his right. They were arguing they wanted to use the debt ceiling to extract maximum concessions on spending from the White House. Meanwhile, the White House and Democrats are saying they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to have a conversation about spending cuts as it pertains to raising the debt ceiling. So everyone really dug in. And a few players to keep a close eye on.

One of them is Chip Roy. He's a Republican from the state of Texas who was part of this negotiation with Kevin McCarthy and has really been a fiscal hawk for a long time up here on Capitol Hill. Another person I'm keeping a close eye on is Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader who has often come to the table and found a way out of these crises in the past.

What role does he take on and at what point do those talks really start to gain some steam? Right now everybody is sticking to their political talking points. At some point over the next five months that is going to have to change. It may take several weeks, even months before we get into really strong discussions, though, up here on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: Yes. Lauren Fox, behind you it is the opposite of what a breakthrough looks like. Laura Fox on Capitol Hill, great to see you. Thank you.

We do have new reporting from CNN this morning. Sources say the president's plan to announce he is running for reelection after next month's State of the Union Address has not changed.

GOLODRYGA: Now the timeframe remains the same even after we learned classified documents were discovered at his Delaware home and his Washington, D.C. office.

So let's bring in CNN's Arlette Saenz at the White House with more.

So, Arlette, what are we learning about the president, his thinking and the thinking of those in his inner circle?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna and John, advisers to President Biden say that they are undeterred when it comes to a possible 2024 reelection announcement saying that a launch could come after the State of the Union Address on February 7th. That is the timeframe that his advisers have pointed to in the past, saying that it was likely after the State of the Union that President Biden would announce a bid for the 2024 run.

Of course advisers are still awaiting that final signoff from the president but they have been putting mechanisms in place should he decide to go ahead and run for re-election once again. Ultimately advisers here at the White House believe that the situation involving the classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president, that ultimately that will blow over. And what they believe is so much of the conversation around this is centered amongst what they call the D.C. elite, and ultimately they believe that if they continue stressing their message, that is what is going to resonate with voters heading into the next election.

I want to read you a quote from one of the advisers who said, quote, "It's a matter of public record what Americans' highest priority issues are from polling, other research, and the most important poll, the midterms. The economy, cutting costs, fighting inflation, creating jobs, standing up for reproductive rights, fighting for gun reform. The American people care a hell of a lot about all of that."

Now so much of the sentiment that you hear when you talk to advisers to the president dates back to his time during the 2020 campaign when President Biden, then candidate Biden, was counted out. You all remember those devastating losses that he suffered both in Iowa and South Carolina only to have his campaign resurrected once he made his way to South Carolina. There's kind of this fighting-from-behind attitude that they had during the campaign that they still carry over to this White House.

And one thing that officials have also said over the course of the next few weeks, even as all of this classified documents saga is ongoing, they're going to stick to their messaging. One of those things is touting bipartisan work. Tomorrow the president will be hosting a bipartisan group of mayors here at the White House. So simply put, at this moment they believe that they will be able to ride out this storm of the classified documents saga and move closer to a reelection bid in the coming months.

BERMAN: All right. We're paying attention. Arlette Saenz, thanks very much.

GOLODRYGA: Embattled New York Congressman George Santos -- we're still talking about him. Well, he's wrapped up in yet another lie.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the south tower and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My fought cancer until her death.


BERMAN: Newly uncovered immigration documents appear to contradict his claims that his mother was even in New York on September 11th.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is watching this very closely.

We're talking about September 11th, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Something very sensitive to so many people, survivors and family members of those that were lost.


In addition we're talking about his own mother and the circumstances, the how and when of her death. Now this new information shows that his mother was not in New York. She was actually not even in this country during 9/11. And that directly contradicts things that he's claimed in the past. Multiple times said that she was in the south tower of the White House -- excuse me, south tower of the World Trade Center.

That was actually even on his campaign Web site at one point. But this new information from immigration records obtained by CNN, it shows clearly that his mother was in Brazil between the years 1999 and 2003. Also two finer points from these records that really underscore that she was not in this country during the terrorist attacks while she was in Brazil in 2003, his mother indicated on one form that we believe she filled out that she had not been in the U.S. since she left in 1999.

Also in paperwork that was filed in Brazil, in 2001, this is notably just months before 9/11, she says that her green card had been stolen. So of course this is just one in a very long list of claims that the congressman has said. And he has not specifically gotten back to CNN on this specific claim, on this contradiction. But certainly a long line of claims about his finance, his resume, his, you know, personal background that are all being refuted by evidence now.

And of course, John and Bianna, he's undergoing state, local and federal probes about these issue.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you.

I mean, there really is no bottom.


GOLODRYGA: It's like the definition of shamelessness.

BERMAN: And this is a guy, congressman from New York apparently wrapped up in lies about September 11th. It really doesn't get any lower than that.


BERMAN: This morning the U.S. is set to finalize a huge $2.5 billion weapons package for Ukraine. This is one of the largest military aid packages since the beginning of the war, since the Russians invaded Ukraine. And for the first time it includes Stryker combat vehicles.

GOLODRYGA: CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt has more details.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Bianna. Well, what's notable in this next aid package for Ukraine which we do expect to be one of the biggest so far is both what's new and then what's also not in it despite repeated ongoing requests by the Ukrainians.

Now what's new and what really stands out are the inclusion of the Stryker combat vehicles. These are armored vehicles that can carry Ukrainian forces across the battlefield, giving the Ukrainians a new mechanized capability. Those will be added to the U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles that were committed to Ukraine earlier this month in what was the biggest aid package to date.

The Strykers are lighter and faster than the Bradleys. But taken together, combined together, they really give the Ukrainians a major boost in terms of their ability to advance and carry out offensives, to take back territory that has been held by Russia. What is not expected to be in this latest package are two big things

that the Ukrainians desperately want. First, long range missiles called ATACMS that have a range of around 200 miles. Also not expected to be in this package are U.S. tanks. Ukraine desperately wants Western tanks and the U.S. wants them to have Western tanks. But the American-made battlefield tank called the M-1 Abrams just doesn't make sense, many people say, for logistical and maintenance reasons.

Instead, the U.S. is pressuring Germany to not just send their Leopard 2 tanks but also allow other European countries who have those German tanks to commit them to the fight in Ukraine as well. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he is in Germany today meeting with his German counterpart among others. A U.S. official traveling with Austin said that they are very optimistic that they will make progress on this issue by the end of the week when the United States is hosting the Ukraine contact group in Ramstein, Germany -- John, Bianna.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Alex Marquardt for that report.

We have new details about what police found inside the home of the alleged killer of four Idaho college students including strands of hair and a stained pillow. What this means for the murder case against him.

GOLODRYGA: Plus the district attorney in New Mexico is expected to announce in just a few hours whether anyone will be criminally charged in the fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust." What we know about the investigation.

And later, a big jump in the number of Americans who say they're unhappy with the health care system. We'll break down what's driving that decline.



BERMAN: This morning we're learning new evidence about -- new details about the evidence that led to the arrest of Bryan Kohberger. That is the man charged with murder in the killings of four Idaho college students. The evidence includes a, quote, "collection of dark red cuttings" from a pillow with reddish-brown stain and part of a mattress cover with stains. These were some of the items taken from Kohberger's apartment.

GOLODRYGA: And CNN's Jean Casarez joins us with more.

So this evidence, Jean, was taken from this unsealed documents.


GOLODRYGA: Search warrant documents. Tell us more.

CASAREZ: And we're also seeing the application which is fascinating because their argument to get this search warrant at the residence of Bryan Kohberger is that there was so much blood at the crime scene and there had to have been blood spatter and blood cast off. And that had to get on the clothes of the killer and the shoes of the killer.

And based on, according to these documents, they say based on the phone records and the locations that he went afterwards, we believe that he could have gone straight home after this. And this is what we're asking. Of course we want to show everybody what they were asking for. They asked for blood or other bodily fluid, knives, sheets or other sharp objects, images of the four students that were killed and data showing any planning that he might have done or how to carry this off.


Now let's show you what they took. And this is the return from the search warrant affidavit. They took a collection of dark red cuttings from the pillow of reddish-brown stain, a pair of mattress covers with the stains, several hair strands, an animal hair strand. Remember there was a dog, Kaylee had her dog there. A nitrate type glove and store receipts at Dickey's Tag. Dickey's of course is a longstanding store for work wear, right?

And I looked on the Web site, a lot of dark clothes for the work wear. But this is significant. And also, they did some presumptive testing at the scene which being in courtrooms for so many years I can tell you is at the scene they can do a presumptive test to determine if it might be blood, and they took those with them.

So I think that's an indication of what presumptive testing may have shown right there. And then also I think the nitrate glove is fascinating because we know the DNA of the killer was on the knife sheath. But it wasn't from the glove because they got DNA. You can't get DNA from the glove. You get it from the finger, right, or the hand or some body part. So it's interesting that they took that glove. And we didn't see in the search warrant affidavit that any glove was found at the scene. But they -- possibly we could get something.

BERMAN: What a fascinating list, both of what they got and what they were after.


BERMAN: Jean Casarez, thank you very much for that reporting.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: With us is criminal defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant.

Ashleigh, thanks so much for being with us. So you just heard that list of what they got. What do you think the most important thing now is that they have in their hands?

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The glove and the hair. And I think the glove is important because if they can put any of the victims' skin cells on that glove, maybe on the outside of the glove, they can also test for fingerprints and skin cells on the inside of the glove. So if they could find their suspect's skin cell on that glove or a partial palm print or a partial fingerprint or something like that, and then they've got the victims' skin cells on it, that's going to make their case for that because that connects the two and there's no other connection. Why would Kohberger be in that home? Why would he have an item that shared skin cell?

The other thing that I think is important is the hair. Did the hair have any roots attached? If it did, they can get DNA from it. Did he have some transfer DNA from those victims that he brought home with him? And so we're not just looking at blood. We're also looking for things like transfer DNA because we are to the point in science that we can actually get DNA off of skin cells. And that's one of those things that you can drop a skin cell very easily. If you shake someone's hand, you transfer your DNA to their hand. And so that's what they're really looking for, this trace-type DNA.

GOLODRYGA: Ashleigh, we also know that Kohberger's lawyers weighed his preliminary hearing until June. What, if anything, does that tell you?

MERCHANT: I thought that was very telling because that's not something we normally do as defense counsel, especially if we have a client that we believe is innocent. We want to have that hearing as soon as possible. And they're allowed to have it, or they're actually required to have it within 14 days. And that's one of those hearings that, if they don't have enough evidence, your client goes free. Your client either gets a bond or they're out while they're trying to investigate more.

So the fact that they waived this hearing up until June, that is a very long time to waive the hearing. That tells me that they think that there might be some more evidence, and it also tells me that they may be talking with the prosecutor about trying to resolve this case somehow.

BERMAN: I want to turn to the Brian Walshe case out of Massachusetts. Yesterday there was this court hearing where they revealed all these Google searches that he had made they say around the hearing, including like how do you dispose of a body, how long does it take for a body to decompose, things like that. But we do know that at least they so far have not found a body of Ana Walshe.

Now you just represented a client I believe found not guilty in a murder case where there was also no body. So talk about the strength of the case here in Massachusetts.

MERCHANT: Those are very unique cases. They're very hard for the state to prove when there's no body or there's no crime scene. You know, the jury, because there's always that question, is that person still alive? And so when they have no body, they really need to have a crime scene and a crime scene with some significant blood or significant body damage, tissue, something like that.

So I think that this is an effort to gather some type of evidence. And as a defense lawyer, I know that that defense lawyer cringed when those searches were read in court. Because that's very damaging evidence in a case where there's no body, where you normally would have a strong defense, you have a strong case that maybe this lady is still alive. But when you've got your client doing these types of searches, what's the explanation? Why would they have such detailed searches?

And these were very detailed searches. I mean, and these were searches that they then have connected to items that they found in his home, a hacksaw, things like that. I mean, it doesn't make sense unless you've got a reason that you went out and bought a hacksaw to be Googling how to destroy a body with a hacksaw and then have one in your home. So they've got their work cut out for them to try to explain these Google searches.


BERMAN: Yes. Detailed and numerous searches.


BERMAN: Ashleigh Merchant, thanks so much for being with us.

Any minute now, President Biden departs the White House. He's heading to the West Coast to take a look at the damage from the catastrophic flooding in California. This as he's dealing with questions about his future in Washington.


BERMAN: Any moment now President Biden is expected to depart for California to visit the areas ravaged by storms in recent weeks.

This morning we have new CNN reporting that the president still intends to announce he is running for reelection soon after the State of the Union Address next month. This despite the special counsel investigation into.