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Biden to Lay out Budget Plan; DOJ Probe into Louisville Police; Kyiv Targeted in Assault; Scott Mann is Interviewed about Afghan War Veterans. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 09:00   ET



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


This morning, President Biden once again headed to Philadelphia, this time he's making his way there to unveil his budget. The president says his plan will reduce the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over the next decade. How? Well, in part, by raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations. The plan, of course, will also be setting up a big battle with Republicans. We'll take a closer look at that looming showdown on Capitol Hill later this morning.


Plus, stunning details from a Justice Department report which found a pattern of racism, excessive force and abuse by the Louisville Police Department. The major investigation coming after the killing of Breonna Taylor. She, of course, was killed in a botched raid. Just ahead, more fallout from that report.

SCIUTTO: And right now, air-raid sirens blaring across Ukraine after a deadly barrage of missile strikes by Russia. This morning, at least 11 people are killed, several others injured. We're going to have the latest from Ukraine on what was a devastating night.

But we do begin this hour with President Biden set to lay out his budget proposal to the nation in just a few hours.

CNN senior White House correspondent MJ Lee, she is following all of this.

MJ, walk us through what we believe the president's priorities will be, particularly since he now does not control both houses of Congress.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Erica, we do expect the full details of this budget to come out in a matter of hours, but there are major components of this budget that we already know about. We know, for example, that the president is going to propose cutting the deficit down by some $3 trillion. This is in part notable because in recent weeks, remember, he has been talking about that figure being more like 2 trillion. So this is more aggressive than what we have heard him talk about recently. We also know that he wants those cuts to the deficit coming in part from taxing high earners and large corporations. He has said, though, that he doesn't want to put extra taxes on people learning less than $400,000.

We are also talking about things like allowing Medicare to negotiate more on drug prices and that the savings for that would go directly back into the program. He also is going to focus on boosting federal fund for early education and child care, including making free preschool for all four-year-olds across the country and expanding tax credits for businesses that do provide child care for their workers.

Now, these ideas are probably all going to sound pretty familiar if you have followed the president and some of the priorities that he has worked on over the last two years. And that really is exactly what a president's budget usually is.

Make no mistake, this has no chance, really, of passing on Capitol Hill. It is not going to go anywhere on Capitol Hill, especially given that the House is now controlled by Republicans. But what we are seeing here is sort of a political blueprint that the president and Democrats are now going to use to try to set up some of those key political contrasts on some of the domestic priorities that we talked about, that they want to continue making heading into 2024 against House Republicans. Of course, we also have that battle that is looming between the president and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the coming months on the issue of raising the debt ceiling.

So, a lot more details that we do expect, again, in the coming hours, but a lot that we already know so far as well.

HILL: Yes, absolutely.

MJ, appreciate the reporting, as always. Thank you.

Joining us now to discuss, "Politico's" deputy managing editor for Congress, Elana Schor, and managing editor of "Punchbowl News," Heather Caygle.

Good to see both of you this morning.

You know, as MJ points out, there's a fair amount that we do know this morning. There will be some more details ahead. It's also interesting, while this budget is a little bit late, we should point out, a little bit later than was anticipated, Elana, when we look at this in terms of how this is setting up the fight for Congress with the president coming out with these very specific narratives, specifically when we're talking about entitlements, does that give Democrats the narrative at this point?

ELANA SCHOR, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR FOR CONGRESS, "POLITICO": Well, they certainly hope it does, particularly with Donald Trump out there in the presidential primary slamming Nikki Haley, slamming any Republican who would consider touching entitlements. Democrats do see an advantage in terms of how this budget treats Social Security and Medicare. But, of course, Republicans would rather make this conversation about

overall debt cutting and avoiding the types of tax increases that the president is floating. So, it's really a jump ball for narrative control here.

SCIUTTO: So, we've been watching, of course, beyond the budget, the possibility of a default on the nation's debt as Republicans push for other spending cuts. Kevin McCarthy speaking about that yesterday, complaining that the White House hasn't negotiating. I mean, fact is, it's McCarthy and the GOP that participated the threat of breaking the debt obligations. Are there substantive negotiates going on, and is there a middle ground?

SCHOR: I mean, from - from out -

SCIUTTO: Sorry, that's to you Heather.

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, "PUNCHBOWL NEWS": Well, yes, I mean -- sorry, I thought you were talking to Elana. Excuse me.

SCIUTTO: No worries.

CAYGLE: Yes, no, I -- Biden and McCarthy, they met once, you know, as we know, and they had a very top level conversation. They agreed to keep these conversations going. But they haven't met again and we have, like you said, Jim, seen Biden - or seen McCarthy kind of complain about that publicly.

But the fact of the matter is, Biden is putting out his budget today.


Republicans have repeatedly said, let's see where you want to cut federal spending, let's see how you want to bring down the debt and deficit, and so he's doing that. This is his opening salvo. Now it's Republicans' turn in the House to do that. And what I've heard on The Hill this week from top House Republicans is, their budget was originally -- they had planned to release it in April. Now they're saying they're going to put it out in May.

And, again, they have a lot of problems in their conference, right, because they can only lose five votes on the floor. You know, there are a lot of different, competing factions. You have hard line Republicans, you have moderate Republicans in Biden districts, they have promised to cut $130 billion and not touch things like defense spending and entitlements, which means it will come from popular discretionary programs. And there, frankly, are some Republicans who privately say, I don't know if we can even get our budget passed on the floor if we put it on the floor in May, so how are we going to get $130 billion worth of spending cuts passed on the floor.

So, really, yes, these negotiations are just starting. I expect Biden and McCarthy to kind of come back together later this summer as we get closer to that debt limit deadline. But let's see what Republicans put out and when they put it out.


HILL: As we look at this, there are - there are headaches, I think to put it mildly, in some uphill battles for both sides, right, as you've laid out there, Heather.

But, Elana, when we look at this, in terms of the president and the speaker wrangling some of those members of their representative caucuses, who do you see as potentially the biggest headaches on each side?

SCHOR: Well, you know, I think the biggest headache is honestly going to be wrangling the middle, in my view. I know we're talking a lot, as Heather correctly pointed out, about these factious conservatives in McCarthy's conference who are going to be insistent on these spending cuttings. But to me you're going to have to get like that handful eight to 11 Republicans in the Senate maybe to go along with some kind of deal to save the nation from hitting the debt limit deadline.

And, frankly, we could see the debt limit deadline and the government spending deadline kind of fuse in the summer because, as Heather rightly pointed out, right, we kicked this can on the budget to May and we could easily see September featuring a last minute debt limit deadline fight, (INAUDIBLE) extraordinary measures to extend the deadline, and a funding fight. So, you know, to me I'm going to -- it's sort of a hot take here, but I think the middle is most important for both parties because it's the only way this gets solved in the end.

SCIUTTO: Heather, news overnight about the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He had a fall. He's hospitalized. What do we know?

CAYGLE: Well, so he stayed in the hospital overnight. He had a fall. We actually - "Punchbowl" broke this news last night. He was at a private dinner at the Waldorf Astoria and he had a fall at that private dinner and he was taken by ambulance to a local D.C. hospital.

Several sources there had reached out that were at the hotel. They kept him overnight. That's really all that they're saying right now and all that we know. Senator McConnell is 81 years old. He has spoken openly about how he suffered from polio as a child and recovered from that but has had some longer term issues, walking up stairs and things like that. And he did have a fall in 2019 where he was injured.

We're hoping for an update from his office sometime today, but right now all we know is he was kept in the hospital overnight.

SCIUTTO: Well, we wish him a swift recovery.

Heather Caygle, Elana Schor, thanks so much to both of you.

HILL: Louisville police routinely used excessive force against black people, calling them monkeys, even targeting disabled victims. Those are just a few of the stunning findings from the Justice Department's nearly two-year investigation following the death of Breonna Taylor.

SCIUTTO: Leaders in Louisville now are vowing to make changes following the Justice Department's scathing report.


MAYOR CRAIG GREENBERG (D), LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY: To those whose voices were not heard over the past several years, over the past decades, yesterday was an important day. The United States Department of Justice essentially said, yes, we have heard you, we heard your complaints, and you were right. And as painful as that is as a city, we have to acknowledge that. And that's the only way that we can heal the wounds that still exist in our city. And that's the only way that we can now work to come together better than we have to move forward.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Ryan Young joins us now live.

And, Ryan, another alarming piece of this report is it found that leaders have known about this for some time but that they ignored findings, buried reports of violence directed towards black people. It's been going on for years.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, there's a lot of questions here, especially when it comes to management and how police oversight works. When you arrive in a city like Louisville and you cover a story like this, you have people come up to you all the time saying they experienced some of these issues with police departments. It's hard to prove, but right now the way this has been laid out, you can see why people in that city are upset.


When you think about the idea of being called animal, or monkey, or boy. You can feel how offensive some of these things are for especially the folks who live in those communities.

But this report also lays out the fact there was use of excessive force, unjustified neck restraints, unreasonable use of police dogs and Tasers, searches based on invalid warrants, searches with warrants without announcing. When you think about Breonna Taylor's family and the idea that they've been saying for quite some time there needed to be some oversight. You can understand the pain they're going through, but also the fact that now some of the claims that have been made have been justified. In fact, listen to her family talk about these findings.


TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOTHER: It's heartbreaking to know that everything you've been saying from day one has to be said again through this manner, you know. It -- that it took this to even have somebody look into this department.


YOUNG: Yes, Jim and Erica, look, we cover this stuff all the time. Look, we cover when police officers do the right thing as well. But something that we've kind of put out here after listening to the mayor and the new police chief talk about this, this morning, what are the next steps? How do they move forward in a police department in a community that is already experiencing crime? How do they build that trust again? And what will be the measurable steps that they need to take moving forward? Those are questions that rarely get answered, especially when these oversights get put in place in police departments because, obviously, you'll have a city that's experiencing crime or gun violence. People want something done. But how do you treat people with respect?

Let's not forget here, in this, officers were videotaping themselves as they were abusing people, laughing about it. So that's something that sticks out when you read this report, just the utter disregard for people's respect and dignity, people who live in the community, sometimes who had done nothing wrong besides being black.

HILL: Yes, it's important. It reads like a list of everything you should never do. And to hear from Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mom, saying everything from day one I've been saying has to be said again. Trust, as you point out, Ryan, is going to be such an important part of that planning moving forward.

YOUNG: Absolutely. And we've go to continue to cover it.

HILL: Yes, we do. Thank you.

Overnight, Russian forces bombarding the Ukrainian capital and several other cities far from the front lines. The smoke you see here, that's billowing from a power plant in Kyiv.


HILL: We're going to bring you a live update from the ground.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they deliberately target power plants to punish the people.

Plus, a gut wrenching hearing on Capitol Hill as military veterans shared the impact of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and, notably, the many U.S. allies left behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never imagined I would witness the kind of gross abandonment followed by career-preserving silence of senior leaders, military and civilian.


SCIUTTO: I'll speak with that man, former Green Beret, in just moments, Colonel Scott Mann. That's coming up.

Later, an alarming development for Tesla owners. Federal regulators are now looking to reports of the steering wheel falling off one of its models while driving.



SCIUTTO: A difficult and deadly night in Ukrainian. At least 11 people lost their lives, several more injured, after Russia launched yet another airborne strike across the country. This one particularly more brutal than we've seen recently. Ukrainian officials say at least 81 Russian missiles fired. They struck multiple regions of the country. You can see on the map there. Virtually all over. Including several types of missiles fired that Ukraine does not yet have the capability to shoot down. That's key. The most deaths happened in the western city of Lviv. Five people died when fragments of a missile that was struck down caused several residential buildings to catch fire.

HILL: Smoke was also seen rising from Kyiv as explosions rocked the capital city, a direct hit, leaving several cars damaged and smoldering. You see some of the aftermath there. At least three people were hurt.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in Kyiv for us this hour.

So, you have been out. You've seen some of this damage firsthand. You're also getting some more information about this latest wave of attacks. What have you learned, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, the Ukrainian armed forces is calling this a massive missile barrage against Ukraine's critical infrastructure. And I'm at just one of the sites that was hit across the country. In this case, people here are lucky. Nobody was killed. These cars were destroyed.

It was a frightening morning for residents of this apartment block over here. A massive apartment building. And it shattered windows around here.

But to give you some context, I spoke to two women, a mother and her adult daughter, whose windows on the seventh floor were shattered. They said they still went to work this morning after this. One went to go teach, the other went to work at a bank.

As you pointed out in the intro, other people were, tragically, not as fortunate in the western city of Lviv. At least five people killed, two women, three men.

The attacks came from land, sea and air. So, you had cruise missiles, and different types of missiles fired by planes, by ships in the Black Sea. And this appears to have been very much coordinated. Russia's ministry of defense has claimed responsibility for this. They say it was retaliation for this kind of shadowy incident that Russia calls a terrorist attack that took place in Briansk (ph) region in Russia on March 2nd. CNN has never been able to confirm what exactly happened. We've never even seen images of what happened in this alleged terrorist attack and Ukraine never claimed responsibility.

But the end result is that there were a lot of these deadly objects flying through the air, crashing into Ukrainian cities and towns. Ukrainian air defense shot down about 34 of the missiles, the Ukrainians claim, and at least four of the Iranian made Shahed suicide drones.


But a lot of other weapons got through.

And the Ukrainian air force have said that some of the missiles, like the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, they simply do not have the defenses to try to stop them. And they're going to face this potentially in the future.

This isn't the first time Russia has done one of these missile barrages. They come every couple of weeks. And it will likely happen again sometime.

Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes, part of a continuing message from there, right, they need more capable missile defense systems to go after more capable missiles.

Ivan Watson, stay safe in Kyiv, you and your team.

And another story we followed very closely, and that is the catastrophic U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan a little more than a year and a half ago. Today, lawmakers are vowing to finish their investigation after some gut-wrenching testimony. U.S. Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, overcome with emotion during a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday. The Marine sniper recounted in horrific detail the suicide bombing attack that killed 13 U.S. service members just outside Kabul's airport in 2021, more than 100 Afghans also died in that attack, in this tightly packed, sewage canal, as they were trying to flee the country. Sergeant Vargas-Andrews himself was badly injured.


SGT. TYLER VARGAS-ANDREWS, U.S. MARINE WOUNDED IN KABUL ATTACK: The withdrawal - the withdrawal was a catastrophe, in my opinion. And there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. The eleven Marines, one Sailor, and one soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for.


SCIUTTO: Well, the wounds for U.S. service members still burn today. Not just for those who directly witnessed that attack. A leader in the veteran community, retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann is now warning lawmakers of a mental health tsunami as military members who previously served in Afghanistan are now living with their own traumatic experiences as they try to hope Afghan allies escape. Colonel Mann shared this personal story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. COL. SCOTT MANN (RET.), FORMER GREEN BERET: My friend, Brad, was found dead a few months ago in a Mississippi hotel room. His wife, Dana (ph), confirmed to me that the Afghan abandonment reactivated all the demons that he had managed to put behind him from our time in Afghanistan together, and he just couldn't find his way out of the darkness of that moral injury.


SCIUTTO: Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann joins me now.

Good to have you on, sir.

LT. COL. SCOTT MANN (RET.), FORMER GREEN BERET: Thank you, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: You and I have been talking about this for a long time, and that is the effects after the fact, right? Service members who, in the wake of the withdrawal, and all the -- there was already a mental health problem, but that has been worsened by - by that withdrawal. I wonder if you could describe to folks exactly how, how that works and just how broad this problem is when you describe a mental health tsunami.

MANN: Yes. I mean, I appreciate you having me on, Jim. And it just -- the big thing that I try to communicate to people is these war fighters who voluntarily went into harm's way to keep the country safe. And one of the things that is required of that is working with partner forces, with your Afghan partners. And there's an explicit and an implicit promise to that, which is, I have your back. And many of us are alive today because of their sacrifices for us.

And then to just be told, you know, there's nothing we can do for you. We're going to - you're going to -- you're on your own, with no warning. And then to see your friends killed and slaughtered and arrested and beaten, it's a moral injury. It's an injury on the soul. It's a violation of what you know to be right by the people you trusted.

And when you add that on top of 22 a day and growing and traumatic brain injury and the PTS that we're seeing, I do believe it is a - it is a tsunami of mental health if we don't get in front of it.

SCIUTTO: Wow, listen, can't turn back the clock on the withdrawal.

MANN: Right.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. military has been and become more aware of mental health consequences for years, in my experience. But where does that stand today? Are they, in light of your warnings and others warnings, providing enough resources for those folks?

MANN: You know, there was a study, Jim, not that - not long after the fall of Kabul by More in Common (ph) called After Kabul. And one of the things that they found was the majority of Americans believed that the country and our leaders are going to try to turn the page quickly on Afghanistan, but they also believe that our Afghan war veterans are going to have a hard time moving past this.

And so I think what I'm saying here is, what I'm seeing all around at the leadership levels, particularly institutional leaders in the administration, Congress, and the military, and the State Department, is it's as if Afghanistan didn't happen.


MANN: It's as if the withdrawal didn't happen. And we're just moving on. Nothing to see here. And the fact that it hasn't been mentioned in the State of the Union in -- twice now - and, again, you know me, this is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue.


MANN: And I think leaders need to acknowledge what happened with the withdrawal and then what can we put in place to keep this kind of systemic abandonment of our allies from happening again.


That's the only way to move from moral (INAUDIBLE) to moral recovery.

SCIUTTO: Another piece of this are the Afghan allies left behind. Many thousands of them who fought alongside U.S. forces there, served in other ways, at great risk to themselves, who are now under great risk.

MANN: Right.

SCIUTTO: Targets of the Taliban. I, from personal experience, know folks in that category as well. It's a mess. Many tens of thousands in the queue, them and their families, to get out. Perhaps a couple hundred a week actually getting out.

Is the administration - it's definitely aware of this, I know it, is it ignoring that problem? Is anybody responding? Is anybody making changes to get those folks out more quickly?

MANN: That's a great question and I do believe it is starting to look more and more -- or at least seem more and more like the administration is ignoring it. Now I will say that I was encouraged yesterday in the hearing to hear both parties talking actively about the Afghan Adjustment Act, which is a first step in good legislation to broaden the aperture so that we can - we can give a pathway to freedom for so many of those Afghans who served at our shoulder. It's not the final step, but it's a good start. And so I'm hoping that the administration will recognize this and that the House Foreign Affairs Committee will really pass or push to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. I hope that viewers will reach out to the committee as well and let them know that they expect to see something like this as well. Because if you want to see veteran mental health improve, let's help resettle the allies that fought alongside us.

SCIUTTO: When you speak to folks who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, they saw friends die, they may have been injured themselves, suffering other consequences in the wake of this war, including traumatic brain injury, as you mentioned, and PTSD, other mental health issues. What do you say to them to help them process this and get beyond that very real pain? The withdrawal happened.

MANN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The consequences are real. So, how do you counsel them?

MANN: Yes. Well, I always try to say that it mattered. That what you did mattered. That you -- what you did allowed us to hold space for 20 years for 8 million Afghan kids to go to school, for an entire forces of Afghan commanders, and special forces, to be created and stood up. And now, because you held that space, and as a family member you sacrificed your loved one holding that space for 20 years, I don't think it's over yet. I wouldn't count the Afghan people out. I think that what we did in that country for 20 years will enable a new generation of Afghans to take their country back and define what it looks like for them. And I think that it was worth it and it mattered.

SCIUTTO: Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, thanks so much. I should note to our viewers, you've done a lot of your own work getting some of those Afghan allies out, making an enormous difference in their lives. We appreciate that. I'm sure our viewers appreciate that. Thanks so much for joining us today.

MANN: Jim, you've done the same, and we thank you for giving us a voice.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.