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U.S. Hits Debt Limit Today, Setting Up Standoff in Congress; Records Contradict Rep. George Santos' (R-NY) Claim His Mom was in South Tower on 9/11; Search Warrant Unsealed in Case Against Idaho Murder Suspect. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 10:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. I'm Bianna Golodryga.


$31.4 trillion in debt, that is the mark the United States hits today, and that is the legal limit. If Congress does not raise that limit, the country risks default, which would have almost unmanageable consequences.

Now, the Treasury Department is taking what are called extraordinary measures to push that date back a bit but they can't do it forever.

This morning CNN has also learned that President Biden still plans to announce he is running for re-election. He does plan to announce that bid after the state of union address next month. Those are the plans that are in place. There are new details this morning about how the special counsel investigation into classified documents at his home and office may have impacted that timing.

GOLODRYGA: And embattled New York Congressman George Santos wrapped in yet another lie as newly uncovered documents contradict his claims that his own mother was in the south tower on 9/11, just the latest in his string of lies.

But we do begin with the U.S. about to hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit. CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. So, Lauren, the clock is ticking on this debate, as you heard from John. You see there are implications of this yet we seem to see everything all quiet behind you. Where do things stand regarding negotiations this morning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Lawmakers are actually away from Washington on recess during this momentous day. But there are several months to still have these negotiations. And that is because the Treasury Department has said they are going to use extraordinary measures to make sure that the U.S. doesn't actually hit that debt limit in terms of defaulting on the debt until likely more close to June. So, that is something to keep in mind here.

The issue right now is that both sides are really retreating to their talking points. You have the White House saying that they are not going to negotiate on lowering spending as part of this discussion, that the U.S. has already spent this money, and this is simply just paying the bills that the U.S. has already committed that they were going to pay. So, that is where the White House stands today.

Meanwhile, you have conservatives in the house arguing that they want to make sure that there are spending cuts if any discussion in this debt ceiling debate, and that is really something that is going to be important to watch, because McCarthy, as part of his bid to become the speaker, he promised them that he was not going to put a clean debt ceiling bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. So, right now, it is really not clear what the path forward is going to be and it is probably going to take weeks or even months for these discussions to really heat up.

Meanwhile, you have Democratic leadership in the Senate saying they want to move quickly on this, that they want to try to advance a clean debt ceiling bill as soon as possible. But it just remains unclear right now what the way out of this is going to be.

BERMAN: Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, they better find a way out, else the whole country and everyone who lives in it will suffer. Thanks so much for that.

A short time ago, President Biden left for California where he will survey damage after recent storms have devastated parts of that state.

GOLODRYGA: Now, it comes as we're learning new information on the president's re-election plans this morning. Sources say his earlier plan to launch his 2024 campaign after next month's state of the union address, before we learned classified documents were discovered at his Delaware home, has not changed.

Let's bring in CNN's Arlette Saenz who is at the White House. So, Arlette, what more are you learning about the president's plans?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna and John, advisers to President Biden say that the plans to launch a re-election bid are still on track for the coming months, even as they are dealing with this saga involving the classified documents.

Now, the White House -- the president's advisers here at the White House have still been waiting for that final signoff from President Biden himself, but they say that the current plan to announce at some point after the state of union address, which is now set for February 7th, that that still stands.

Ultimately, advisers believe that this saga and storm surrounding the classified documents will blow over. And they ultimately believe that with the American voters, that it is other issues that are going to resonate, not necessarily this situation. What they point to is that President Biden has been complying and cooperating with the investigations that are underway, and that there are matters that are just more important to the American people.

One adviser putting it this way, saying, quote, it is a matter of public record what American's highest priority issues are, from polling, other search 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, this points to this sentiment that we've often heard from President Biden's advisers. They're playing this underdog role, this role where they feel that they've been counted out but ultimately are able to come out on top. So, we will see where exactly this possible re-election launch could be happening, when it could be happening. But for moment, they say that they're undeterred with the plans.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you.

New this morning, newly uncovered immigration documents appear to contradict George Santos' claim that his mother, his own mother, was in the south tower of World Trade Center on 9/11.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (voice over): 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 mom fought cancer until her death.


BERMAN: This is the latest in a string of lies from the New York congressman.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has the latest on this. Again, Sunlen, we're talking about September 11th, apparent dishonestly surrounding September 11th.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, dishonesty about the terrorist attacks and who died in that and the circumstance of his own mother's death. Now, this new information shows that not only that his mother was not in New York during 9/11 but that she was even in this country. And that directly contradicts what he has said in the past. He has repeatedly said that his mother was in the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. That led, he says, to her death later in 2016.

Now, this newly obtained immigration records by CNN shows that his mother was actually in Brazil between the years 1999 and 2003, of course, during when 9/11 happened. And two finer points that are notable here, while she was in Brazil in 2003, his mother indicated in a forum that she had not been to the U.S. since 1999.

Also on the forum, she filed paperwork in 2001, just months before September 11th, that her green card had been stolen in Brazil. So, that is notable there. And, John and Bianna, representatives for Santos did not get back to CNN about these new contradictions.

GOLODRYGA: And that is just one of a myriad of lies here and cons from Santos. This morning, two veterans are saying that he took $3,000 from a GoFundMe for a dying dog. What else are they saying and what are they saying about what they think should happen to him?

SERFATY: Well, they're pretty outraged, certainly. This is all about a GoFundMe page that Santos set up on behalf of a veteran and this veteran needed a life-saving operation for his pit bull dog. Now, over the course of text messages that CNN has reviewed, we see that there was a back and forth between them where the veteran tries to access the $3,000 that was raised for this operation for the dog. And he said Santos was uncooperative and he never saw a dime of that money in the end. And he accuses Santos of running a bogus charity.

Now, the veteran, the man who lost his dog, and was involved with Santos in trying to get these funds from him, he spoke out this morning on CNN this morning.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: If he was here now, what would you say to him?

RICH OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN WHO SAYS SANTOS TOOK MONEY INTENDED FOR HIS DYING DOG: Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? And he probably would lie about that. I mean, I don't want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George. And nobody else should ever have to go through that. I almost killed myself when that dog died. That is why I'm here. I don't want him to be able to do this again.


SERFATY: Now, Santos tells CNN he has no clue what this man is talking about and says he believes this is just more of the pile-on. John and Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Yes. That was a really difficult interview to watch and to hear him say he considered suicide when his dog died, just tragic. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you.

Well, joining us now to discuss, Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent for USA Today, and Seung Min Kim, White House Reporter for the Associated Press.

So, Francesca, let's start with you, and regarding Santos, still the majority of Republicans are either trying to avoid questions pertaining to whether he should resign or not or saying let the investigations continue before they make up their minds. But there are some Republicans, maybe not in the House, but you have New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu telling USA Today that he thinks Kevin McCarthy should call for George Santos' resignation, and he said, I can't wait to see what is on his resume says next week. I mean, the guy is just a joke at this point. Do you think this will resonate perhaps with other Republicans who may follow suit?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, you have been hearing Republicans, including in the House of Representatives, get louder about how they believe that what Santos did was wrong even if they say that it is up to him to resign.


But I do think that what Governor Sununu said was notable because it puts more pressure on the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, to step in here. And Sununu went on to say that he doesn't quite know what it is that McCarthy could actually do other than call on him to resign and that he didn't know what he would gain politically from that but he certainly thought that McCarthy should do that.

BERMAN: It is interesting, Seung Min, because obviously Santos got committee assignments and the Republican leadership is saying, yes, but they were bad committee assignments. The, yes, they were bad committee assignments, is one of the -- really, the most unusual arguments I've heard coming out of Washington. What are you hearing from Republicans in the city about how long they think they're going to have to deal with this?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it seems like there is just a drip, drip, drip of new lies seemingly every day. And the impact of those lies, as we saw with that emotional interview this morning with the veteran, that is coming out and prompting more questions about Republican leadership action. But as long as Kevin McCarthy has the narrowest of majorities in the House and needs George Santos' vote, I don't think you can expect to see much action.

You can see the agitation from New York Republicans clearly saying he is not fit to serve, that he should go. That tells me that they are hearing from their constituents about perhaps how embarrassing this is for their community, but that doesn't seem to be translating up to the leadership right now. Clearly, as you pointed out, he does have committee assignments. The leadership has indicated that they will let these ongoing investigations play out.

And as long as those investigations play out, whether it is a New York state, or a potential federal investigations, leadership could point to those and kind of deflect questions about Santos' standing in Congress. We know that if there is a special election in that district, that is actually a Biden district. That is a seat that Republicans don't want to lose.

GOLODRYGA: Well, this is just an embarrassment in the meantime obviously for Republicans but I just think for Congress in general. Every day, it seems we're hearing more and more revelations, these lies. As we said in the last hour, there is no bottom with this man.

Francesca, let me talk to you now about the debt ceiling and obviously we officially hit it to today. But now you have Treasury and implementing extraordinary measures for the next few months to get us through these negotiations. It is interesting because you have the White House insisting that they're not going to budge on negotiations and you have a lot of the same actors, including the president, who was then vice president in 2011, the last time we came close to a real catastrophe and in the end of the day, President Obama did end up negotiating a bit to come to a resolution. Is the White House prepared to do the same at some point?

CHAMBERS: Well, while the White House has said they're not negotiating, notably, they didn't say that they're not talking to lawmakers about the debt ceiling. Indeed, what they said is that they've been doing outreach, deliberate outreach to lawmakers in Congress on both sides of the aisle and sharing their view on this issue.

So, certainly, there are conversations that are taking place between the White House and Congress, whether they want to call that negotiating about the issue or not. And to your point, at some point, there are questions about what it is that President Biden could do to step in on this matter.

Now, the White House says that there are not currently any meetings set with leadership on Capitol Hill to discuss this but that doesn't necessarily rule out in the future that the president could call them to the White House either.

BERMAN: By the way, it is official now that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just sent a letter to Congress saying that the United States has hit the debt limit. We're now officially in the extraordinary measure phase.

GOLODRYGA: You sound excited.

BERMAN: I mean, it is extraordinarily problematic for the U.S.

Seung Min, one pivotal figure in whatever negotiations or discussions may happen is Mitch McConnell. You were one of the great Mitch McConnell watchers in Washington. What role might he play?

KIM: Well, think of the history that Mitch McConnell has with Joe Biden. And I was just starting to cover Congress more than ten years ago when then-Vice President Joe Biden and then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, again, the minority leader in the Senate, were able to negotiate Congress and were able to negotiate Washington into three fiscal deals, including the debt limit.

So, these were two men who are old friends. They get along despite the forces in their parties. And they know how to make a deal. I think there was one great anecdote back from 2012 when we were on the verge of another fiscal crisis, where Mitch McConnell literally calls Joe Biden's office and says, does anyone down there want to make a deal?

And I think with Kevin McCarthy's conference being what it is, pushing him to a lot of these hard line demands and maybe a Speaker McCarthy who can't get his ranks together, the White House is really looking -- going to be looking towards Mitch McConnell to see whether he can get something done.

BERMAN: Francesca Chambers, Seung Min Kim, our thanks to both of you. I like to mark my milestones. I send cards. Whenever anyone hits an important day, you like to mark them.

[10:15:01] GOLODRYGA: The good ones and the bad ones.

BERMAN: Exactly. I just have to mark them.

GOLODRYGA: Well, still to come, search warrants revealing details about what was found inside of the Idaho murder suspect's, including dark red stains for a pillow. What could this mean for the investigation into the brutal killings of four college students.

BERMAN: It is expected to be one of the best aid packages since the Russians invaded Ukraine. What the U.S. plan to send to Ukraine and will it be enough.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his battle against what he calls being woke, takes aim at a high school A.P. class on African-American studies. How he claims it violates a law against critical race theory.



BERMAN: New details this morning about the evidence gathered against the murder suspect accused of killing four Idaho college students.

GOLODRYGA: A recently unsealed search warrant reveals investigators found several strands of hair and a pillow with reddish brown stains in Bryan Kohberger's apartment.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more. So, what more are we learning from this?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning a lot. It's interesting, they didn't have to unseal this, but it says in the documents that because the probable cause affidavit was so specific based on no reason to not unseal this, and so that's how we had this information. So, they believe that the residence of Bryan Kohberger was extremely important because they believe that he possibly could have gone straight there after, in their view, committing these crimes.

And so here is what they found at the house. We want to show everyone. It looks -- you see a lot of forensic information here that they are exploring. There are cuttings. There are blood stains, right, the dark red cuttings, the part of a mattress, several hair strands, to see if that apartment has any evidence of those victims in that apartment right there, nitrate-type black gloves, store receipts, Dickies tag, which is a work wear clothing company.

Now, let's look at what they wanted to find. This is what they asked for. They asked about things such as the clothing, such as the knife. They asked for things such as any drawings or indications of planning on that part. They did take, which is interesting, a computer tower, right?

But I think it is fascinating to look at what they didn't take. Because, remember, this was committed on November 13th. This search was executed December 30th. That is about seven weeks later. So, as he was being arrested in Pennsylvania, the search a few hours later was going on. They didn't get clothing. They didn't get a mask. They didn't get a shoe with that diamond print. Remember, they found the shoe print with diamond -- like a Vans shoe. So, many things they didn't get, but, forensically, things that could be extremely important. We may not find out the conclusions to this until the trial.

GOLODRYGA: Wow. Jean Casarez, thank you.

Well, with us now, Attorney, Criminologist and Behavioral Analyst Casey Jordan. Casey, thank you so much for joining us.

So, from what you just heard, from the items that were recovered, from Kohberger's home, what stood out the most? And to get to jean's point, what stood out to you in relation to what they didn't take?

CASEY JORDAN, ATTORNEY: So, to me, the stains are really crucial, and reddish-brown, obviously, they're inferring that it is blood, and they need to confirm that. But whose blood? Is it his blood or if it tracks to any one of the four victims, that is going to be very damning evidence.

But even if it's just his blood, why is he bleeding in his bed? There has been conjecture that he must have cut himself during the attack. So, they would have by now photographed his hands and looked for any scars. Even if it is his blood, it is interesting.

But to me, the most important thing is that they believe, yet to be confirmed, that they found one animal hair. If that animal hair goes back and tracks and is consistent with the animal hair of Kaylee's dog, that again would be very damning.

The computer tower, they're going to do a deep dive and find out if he were cyber stalking any of these victims, if he was on their social media, that, I think, the digital footprint is always really compelling.

But one final thing, that Dickies tag, I'm going to predict that it goes back to a balaclava, the face mask that roommate D.M. said she saw him wearing. If it goes back to black technical gear, a kind of the black outfit, including the face mask, he had receipts from local clothing stores, I think that is going to really -- it is just going to triangulate. The more things that link to the attack, the more important that forensic evidence is going to be.

BERMAN: It is interesting. The prosecutors have left some holes in terms of piecing together how this evidence all relates in this case, whereas in Massachusetts, in the case against Brian Walshe, they've really laid out a whole ton of evidence and they made a direct linear case, which we found this, we found this, we found this, and it means this. Let's talk about that case, that Brian Walshe charged with murdering his wife right after New Year's.

Yesterday prosecutors read out this litany of Google searches, really, really potentially damaging Google searches they say he made, how do you dispose of a body, et cetera, et cetera. His defense attorney, she says that she's waiting to see what evidence will be admissible in court. What do you think that means? Is there a risk or what might not be admissible in court of what we learned yesterday and what are the biggest holes potentially for the prosecution?

JORDAN: Well, I think that what she's trying to do is infer if they, in any way, violated his due process rights in searching that computer, in getting access to the search strings, she is going to argue that they can't be admissible in court.


And she's already inferring that's what she's going to do because she's like, how weak is there evidence that they have to leak this information in advance so that we're going to try this in the court of public opinion. Because those Google search strings are very damning and they are the foundation for the circumstantial evidence when you don't have a body.

But I do think that she's going on kind of an archaic presumption of no body, no crime, and we just know that isn't true. In the last 60 years, there have been about 70 cases, convictions where we haven't found a body. But even trace evidence, like the DNA that they found in the trash that was found at the transfer station, on the hatchet, on the knife, her COVID card with her name on it, here jewelry, the clothing that she was wearing when she was last seen. All of this is a mountain of circumstantial evidence.

But if she can get it suppressed and maybe argue that that garbage had mixed with other people's garbage and they didn't have the right to go through that garbage at the transfer station, if she can get this quashed in a court of law, that is going to be a problem for the prosecution.

BERMAN: Casey Jordan watching it closely, thanks so much.

GOLODRYGA: Thanks, Casey.

Well, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowing that Ukraine will reclaim illegally annexed Crimea from Russia. The former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, joins us next with his take.