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Biden: Going To Make Sure GOP Stick To No Cuts To Entitlements; NFL Doctor: "I Guarantee Damar Hamlin Will Play Pro Football Again"; LeBron James Breaks NBA's All-Time Scoring Record; Tyre Nichols' Mother: "We Really Need To Get Something Done." Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 15:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of a brand new hour on CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: And I'm Bianna Golodryga.

President Biden is taking his State of the Union pitch on the road. He just spoke from the battleground State of Wisconsin to push American manufacturing.

BLACKWELL: And he called out this specific moment in his speech last night during which Republicans applauded his call to not cut any Social Security or Medicare benefits. Today he said he's going to make sure Republicans live up to that word.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They're not to be touched? All right.

Okay. We got a deal. Well, I sure hope that's true. I believe it when I see it when their budgets laid down with the cuts they're proposing, but it looks like we negotiated a deal last night in the floor of the House of Representatives.


GOLODRYGA: So our President fact checker, CNN Reporter, Daniel Dale, is here to clear all of this up for us.

Daniel, today Republicans are condemning the President for even linking Medicare and Social Security cuts to their party as if they've never said such things in the past.

BLACKWELL: Some are even calling him a liar for claiming some Republicans wanted to sunset the entitlements. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of the hecklers. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority --

AUDIENCE: Booo ...

BIDEN: Let me give you ...


BIDEN: Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.


BIDEN: That means Congress doesn't vote ...


BIDEN: Well, I'm glad to see - no, I tell you, I enjoy conversion.


GOLODRYGA: He enjoys conversion. So Daniel, we heard the President reading from that proposal this afternoon. Tell us who's correct here.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: The President was correct here. He was not lying. Let me give you the facts on this. Last year, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who has been a member of the Republican Senate leadership introduced a former plan for "all federal laws, no exemptions, to be sunset every five years and if Congress wants, reapproved every five years."

I took this quote straight from the plans official website today. He says all federal legislation sunsets in five years, if a law is worth keeping Congress can pass it again. Now, the Scott plan was swiftly rejected by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell dooming it for now.

But in rejecting it, McConnell use basically the same language as Biden did last night. McConnell said, we will not have, as part of our agenda, a bill that sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.

In addition, guys, Scott is not alone. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has suggested that entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare included should be made discretionary spending that Congress has to approve annually, so that's an even faster sunset.

Now, in fairness, Scott and Johnson have repeatedly said they do not want to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits and other Republicans again quickly distanced themselves from all this sunset stuff. It's not a majority position of the party right now, but the idea that Biden is just making it up as Congresswoman Greene and others claimed, he's absolutely not.

BLACKWELL: So Daniel, the President also boasted about cutting the federal budget deficit, listen to that one.



BIDEN: In the last two years, my administration has cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion - the largest deficit reduction in American history.


BLACKWELL: Is that accurate?

DALE: I call it misleading. The President's number is correct. It is true that the deficit has gone down $1.7 trillion in '21 and '22 compared to 2020. But experts have consistently told CNN, me and others that Biden is taking way too much credit for this decline. It was not because of his administration, in large part. In reality, that decline overwhelmingly occurred simply because temporary pandemic spending from 2020 expired as scheduled not because of Biden's own actions.

In addition, experts say that Biden's laws and executive orders have on the whole significantly increased deficits. Dan White, a Senior Director of Economic Research at Moody's Analytics, one of Biden's favorite Wall Street firms says this, he says, "On net, the policies of the administration have increased the deficit, not reduced it." And increase it by a lot.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget advocacy group estimates that Biden's actions will add more than $4.8 trillion to deficits over a decade. The group's president, Maya MacGuineas, told me on Tuesday before the speech, "The White House deserves credit for the $250 billion of deficit reduction they enacted through the Inflation Reduction Act, but should also take responsibility for the '$5 trillion' of deficit-increasing policies they signed into law or executive order."

Now, Biden can take some credit for the economic recovery that has boosted tax revenues, that has helped keep the deficit down. But overall, what he's done has made the deficit bigger, not smaller.

GOLODRYGA: So Daniel, the Republican response was delivered by Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Now, she claimed that former President Trump left Biden world peace. I know this may not be a yes or no response, but what do you make of what she said?

DALE: That claim is frankly ridiculous. She said the world was peaceful and stable when Biden took office. Stable is subjective with peace. U.S. troops were still in Afghanistan. Civil war in Yemen was ongoing. Civil wars in Syria and Somalia were ongoing. The war in Ethiopia's Tigray region was in full swing, conflict in Mali, insurgency in Mozambique, India, Pakistan border clashes, of course, the long running Israeli-Palestinian conflict had not gone away. There was a China-India border incident on Biden's Inauguration Day. So this claim from the Governor I think is pretty obvious nonsense. BLACKWELL: Daniel Dale, doing some good work there. Daniel, thanks so much.

GOLODRYGA: Thanks, Daniel.

DALE: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, joining us now, CNN Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers, a former Democratic member of the South Carolina State House and CNN Contributor, Evan Osnos, Staff Writer for The New Yorker. And his book is Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now. Thank you, both of you, for joining us.

Evan, let me begin with you. The President walked into the speech last night with at least one poll suggesting that over 60 percent of Americans didn't think he accomplished much of anything in the past two years. Did he deliver last night in convincing Americans that that's just not the case?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think this is something that the White House was aware of. Long before that poll came out, I was talking to senior White House officials over the days before the speech and one of the things that they were making clear was, as they put it, it's time to go from getting things done legislatively to, as they put it, making it real. Meaning, making it tangible.

I mean, getting out there on the road and putting shovels in the ground, getting a sense for Americans that all of this drama they've seen in Washington, all of this horse trading and backroom dealing ultimately has led to meaningful changes in their lives when it comes to creating jobs or creating opportunity where it doesn't exist.

One of the things you heard last night was this emphasis over and over again on workers, on job creation. And as he put it at one point, people who feel invisible, people who feel left behind. here he is today, he's going out and talking to people about union jobs, as he says, people who don't need a four-year college degree to make a meaningful career. That's about trying to make this real rather than just abstract.

BLACKWELL: Bakari, let's narrow the scope for just a second to the Democratic Party and the run up to the 2024 announcement for reelection. The majority, according to polls, Democrats say they want someone other than the President to be the nominee. And for the percentage who say that it's because they think he's too old, did he do enough last night to quell some of those anxieties?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he did enough last night to be completely honest with you. I think individuals were looking at the President to see his energy and his temperament things that may not necessarily be fair to analyze when you're looking at one State of the Union address.

But look, the way he was able to go back and forth when you had the hecklers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, the way that he kind of got a second wind in him as he was going through his speech, I think most Democrats if you poll them today will tell you that these last two years have been some of the most successful two years of any presidency in American history. I think we can look at that as being a fact.


The question though remains, do you want this individual who is in his - will be in his mid 80s, mid to late 80s to be President of the United States.

And this is when it gets more nuanced than any particular poll, Victor. Myself and many others, we will all take a rematch of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. I misspoke the other night on Anderson Cooper. But the fact is, I will take Joe Biden 14 out of 14 times over Donald Trump, if that is the matchup.

The question though is can you gamble that that will be the matchup. It looks today as if Trump will win the nomination. But again, that is a gamble and the stakes are high, the stakes are our fragile democracy.

GOLODRYGA: Evan, it was interesting, because foreign policy is one of his strong suits and what's he ran on four years ago. And while he did bring up the war in Ukraine and even China, the majority of the speech was on domestic kitchen table issues. What do you make in the thought going into that strategy and do you think that it was effective?

OSNOS: I think that, obviously, a lot of the country - we've been talking about this Chinese balloon for days and it's really been dominating conversation. But as they think about a speech like this, White House is thinking, what is the impacts going to be, how do you break through all of the noise that people have in their lives and make them pay attention.

So instead, you hear them talking about these almost kind of kitchen table issues, things like the resort fees on your hotel bill or how much you're getting charged by the airline, couldn't be farther from these kinds of geopolitical issues.

I think that surprised some China analysts that the idea that there wouldn't be more mention of it. But I think part of that is because that issue, the issue of the United States and its relationship with China, is right now at a very fragile moment and it's one that is being kind of labored behind the scenes quite delicately.

Obviously, Tony Blinken was supposed to go last weekend. That idea was scratched because of the balloon over the United States and the decision to shoot it down. So I think there was a lot more kicking beneath the surface of the water than he was going to let on during a speech like that.

BLACKWELL: Bakari, let me get your thoughts on reaction to the speech. CNN's poll immediately after the speech found that majority of Americans have a positive reaction response to it, 34 percent had a very positive reaction. However, that number of 34 percent is the lowest in CNN's polling that goes back to 1988 four presidents here. President Trump 48 percent in 2018, President Obama 48 percent, President Bush 74 percent in 2002, of course, that was right after 911. What do you make of this number for President Biden?

SELLERS: Absolutely nothing. I mean, I think that the number that matters is those who viewed it favorably, whether you viewed it very favorably or just kind of favorably I think is splitting hairs. This president had a successful night last night. I think that he is going to take time for him to chip away at those individuals who think he's too old to be President of the United States again. I mean, that's just a fact.

But this was a step in the right direction, proving that he can take on the tone and tenor, and has the energy required to not only campaign but be successful again. Last night any way you shake it was a win for Joe Biden.

GOLODRYGA: The bigger picture, Evan, how significant are State of the Union speeches in terms of getting any legislation done and longer term polling?

OSNOS: Well, it can have an impact. Look, in some ways it's the dog that didn't bark. If last night had not gone well and we've been talking about that all day today, if the President had not looked like he was tuned up and ready to do it, if he had botched those moments of getting pushed back from his Republicans, that would have had a significant cloud over what may in fact be his announcement for reelection pretty soon.

Instead, he came out of there doing no harm to himself. And arguably, I think as Bakari said, kind of fortified the case among Democrats that he's the person who is in the prime position right now. That helps him and so it matters tremendously how a night like that goes, even if it's mostly political junkies that are paying as close attention to it as we are.

BLACKWELL: Evan Osnos, Bakari Sellers, thank you both.

GOLODRYGA: Internal police - I'm going to have you read this.

BLACKWELL: Internal police document reveal one of the officers charged with the murder of Tyre Nichols took photos of him beaten and bloodied and then texted them around to several people, more on that just ahead.

Also ahead, the king gets yet another crown. Details on the NBA record that LeBron James just broke.



BLACKWELL: So just minutes ago, Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin, spoke after receiving the 2023 NFL Players Association Community Award. This is a big day, because earlier the doctor for the NFL Players Association said that he guarantees that Hamlin will play professional football again. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS PLAYER: First and foremost, I just want to say thank you, just thank God for being here and thank the other guys who are nominated for the award as well who did the work in their communities alongside of me as well.

Giving back to my community has always been a big part of who I am. I'm thankful to my father, who's right here behind me, growing up just watching him do community days in our community and I just always was waiting on my time when it came.

One of my favorite quotes is a blessing to be a blessing. With that being said, I plan to never take this position for granted and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community, where I come from and also communities across the world. Thank you.


GOLODRYGA: I mean, maybe that's why I was a little choked up in the last segment. Seriously, who could have thought just a few weeks ago he was in his hospital bed, right, with his parents next to him and that was a miracle.


To hear him, to see him now, to know that he's going to play again, it is just unreal in the best sense of that word.

Joining us now, CNN Contributor and Sports Broadcaster Cari Champion.

Cari, we're going to talk about LeBron in just a moment how historic that was, but this sort of is the news right now.

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You are so eloquent in the way in which you describe what we all have been able to witness. There is no way in the world that I thought we'd be here today with Damar Hamlin speaking in front of an audience saying, I'm grateful, I'm ready to play.

What we witnessed on the biggest stage in sports, on Monday Night Football was extremely terrifying. And at that moment, and this is when I say I do enjoy social media, he became all of ours. He was our son. He was our friend. He was someone that we all wanted to support.

And the fact of the matter is, is that the more and more we learn about this young man, he is remarkable. That moment that we shared in sports brought us all together. That was when you could see what's good about us as humans. The humanity of it all show through and I am so excited that he's going to be able to play again.

While there might be obviously some people who have reservations, I understand that, but he's a miracle and we're able to watch it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we heard from Roger Goodell talk about the medical support there on the field that saved his life there on January 2nd. Okay, let's turn down to LeBron.


BLACKWELL: Last night, his name in the history book in Los Angeles. Let's watch the moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBron, one on one against Kenrich Williams, backing him in, turn, shoot - scores. There he is. All hail, the new king in town. Young and old, gather around from one iconic Laker to another, the "King," LeBron James, has passed the "Captain," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron now stands alone, as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.


BLACKWELL: A fantastic moment. You had Kareem there, a little emotion from LeBron as well. What stood out for that moment for you, Cari?

CHAMPION: Well, first off, the voice of the Lakers, a guy by the name of John Ireland (sp?) was fantastic on the call. He has been covering the Lakers for the better part of three decades and that's what we just heard. And it was beautiful, because it was such a beautiful narration of what we were able to witness.

I knew LeBron was prepared for that moment, but what we didn't really see at home by watching it was the sense of acceptance. LeBron has been one of the most criticized athletes that we have ever seen in our entire lifetime, my opinion. And last night, there was this welcome.

And literally at 17 years old, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and it said "The Chosen." Twenty years later, he has proved that and then some. What we're witnessing is history and we'll never see anything like that again. That record will be in place. It was in place for 39 years, it will stay in place. There's no one close to where he is right now and I hope we appreciate the greatness.

GOLODRYGA: And to see how proud Kareem Abdul Jabbar was to be there for that moment, I mean, just a bit of trivia here. LeBron was born a few months after Kareem broke the previous record.


GOLODRYGA: And you're right, it's going to be a record that LeBron is going to hold for many years to come. Cari Champion, thank you so much, CNN Contributor and host of The Cari Champion Show on Prime Video.

BLACKWELL: Thanks so much, Cari.

CHAMPION: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, it was one of the moments everyone was talking about last night, when Republican senator, Mitt Romney, told disgraced Congressman George Santos, you don't belong here. Well, now Santos is responding. We'll have that ahead.



BLACKWELL: There's more fallout from the investigation into the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols. One of the officers charged in his death took cell phone photos of Nichols as he sat there and bloodied, and battered, slumped over by a police car.

GOLODRYGA: Internal documents obtained by our affiliate state Demetrius Haley admitted that he took the photos and texted one to at least five people. Nichols' mother told CNN that Congress must act and do something about police misconduct.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS'S MOTHER: We really need to get something done here because this is just really getting out of control. And if they don't do anything, the government, then they're showing me they have no humanity and that they're not for the people because I am part of the people, so you need to get up your butts and get this bill passed.


GOLODRYGA: CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Memphis. So Nick, what else are you learning about the officers charged?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna and Victor, these allegations laid out in these internal documents, the photo taken is just one of the many allegations laid out in these internal documents which list a laundry list really of misconduct and policy violations. These documents that we obtained are fine decertification letter sent by the Memphis Police Department to the state commission that oversees policing.