Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN International: Biden Arrives in Japan, Set to Meet with Prime Minister; Debt Crisis Overshadows G7 Trip; New Evidence in Classified Documents Probe May Undercut Trump; House Votes to Refer Santos Resolution to Ethics Committee; Ukraine: 29 of 30 Missiles Launched by Russia Intercepted; New York City Scrambling to Shelter Thousands. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 04:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us the United States and all around the world. I'm Bianca Nobilo live from London. Max Foster is on assignment today. Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We pay our bills. The nation has never defaulted on its debt and it never will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest threat to global stability is not at this very moment Ukraine or China, it's the threat of American default.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I took what I took and it gets declassified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is being investigated not only for willful retention of classified documents, but also for obstructing an investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 21-year-old Jack Teixeira was reprimanded repeatedly by his superiors. He was taking notes on classified intelligence information and was seen putting those notes into his pocket.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

NOBILO: It's Thursday, May 18th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 5:00 p.m. in Japan, where U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida today ahead of a G7 Summit.

But back home in Washington, the U.S. is inching closer to defaulting on its debt, which would plunge the global economy into chaos. Mr. Biden arrived at a military base near Hiroshima a short time ago, where he was greeted by U.S. service members. G7 leaders have a packed agenda for this week summit, including the war in Ukraine, and China's growing influence around the globe.

Before leaving Washington, Mr. Biden said he plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping eventually. We're live now and CNN's White House reporter Kevin Liptak is there for us. Kevin, with these domestic issues that President Biden has at home, is that detracting for what he can achieve at this G7 summit?

LEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, certainly in the view of the president's aides, they do feel like they are still able to achieve their diplomatic goals on this trip. But you, know in canceling those two stops, one in Australia, and one in Papua New Guinea, he is sending the message, implicitly or otherwise, that there are more important things back home.

And there are more important things. This threat of default, for all the talk of Ukraine and China that the leaders will be discussing this week, the threat of default is the most pressing threat to global stability at this very moment. It would send the global economy into tailspin. And so, the leaders that the president encounters this week around the G7 table will want to speak with him about what this threat means, and gain assurances that the U.S. won't default on its debt. Now, as he was leaving, the president did voice confidence that a deal would be reached. Listen to a little bit of what he had to say.


BIDEN: America is not a dead-beat nation. We pay our bills. The nation has never defaulted on its debt and it never will. I'm confident that we'll get the agreement done on the budget. America will not default. And we're going to come together, because there's no alternative to do the right thing for the country. We have to move on. The leaders have all agreed, we will not default. Every leader has said that.


LIPTAK: Now, the president will be receiving a regular update on the situation back home while he's here. He has brought along his senior most policy aide -- his name is Bruce Reed -- along with his foreign policy aides to keep him abreast of those discussions. But certainly, time is running short until that June 1st deadline, when the U.S. could potentially run out of cash to pay its bills -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And Kevin, two huge subjects which will of course be looming large over this summit, that of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but also how to deal with China. Now, there isn't always complete unity on that subject. How do you think it will be broached at this summit?

LIPTAK: Yes, you know, China is looming over this summit in ways that it isn't ordinarily during the G7. And part of that is because we are in Asia. The G7 only happens on this continent every seven years. And what the president really wants to do is gain some consensus among these leaders about how generally to approach Beijing.

And you're right, there has not always been agreement between the Americans and the Europeans. You heard that just last month from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, warned Europe about following the United States into potential conflict with China. And so, I don't think that the president feels like he is going to paper over those differences.


Sometimes these conversations can be very difficult, but he will want to have them and walk away at least with some general understanding of a collective approach.

Of course, the issue of Ukraine will also loom large as well. They are expected to come up with a new package of sanctions, closing some the loopholes that have allowed Russian entities to evade those sanctions. They're also expected to discuss the situation on the ground in Ukraine, as Ukraine prepares for this counteroffensive. The hope among President Biden, among the other G7 leaders is that Ukraine will regain some territory that will eventually lend it some leverage when it eventually ends up at a negotiating table with Russia. Where that table is, when that will happen, those all remain open questions.

But certainly, the G7 has been sort of the most critical organizing block over the last 14 months, amid this Russian aggression, in sustaining the Western approach to Ukraine. So, that is something certainly the leaders will continue discussing as these summit meetings get over way over the next four days -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Kevin Liptak, good to hear from you, thank you so much.

With the Biden administration and Republican leaders still deadlocked on debt, the U.S. Treasury Secretary is getting ready to meet with bank CEOs. Janet Yellen will hold talks later today with the head of Citigroup, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, among others. The U.S. banking crisis will also be on the agenda, surprisingly.

New evidence in the investigation into classified documents taken by Donald Trump may undercut some of his claims. During the CNN "TOWN HALL" last week, the former U.S. president insisted that simply by removing the materials from the White House he had to classify them.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Why did you take those documents with you when you left the White House?

TRUMP: I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act. You have the Presidential Records Act, I was there, and I took what I took and it gets declassified.

COLLINS: Do you still have any classified documents in your possession?

TRUMP: Are you ready?

COLLINS: Do you?

TRUMP: No, I don't have anything. I have no classified documents. And by the way, they became automatically declassified when I took them.


NOBILO: But according to multiple sources, the National Archives has records showing Trump and his top advisers knew about the correct declassification process, and those records were being sent to the special counsel. CNN's Paula Reid has exclusive details for you.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: According to this letter from the National Archives obtained exclusively by our colleague Jamie Gangel. These 16 records that the special counsel wants to obtain reveal communication, some from top Trump advisers, explaining the how, why and when you would declassify certain documents.

Now that's significant because the special counsel is looking at several crimes, including possibly mishandling classified information. And if the special counsel could use those records to establish that Trump was on notice about the process of how you declassify materials and the fact that it applied to him. That could help inform prosecutors as they decide whether they want to bring a case.

Now the former president's lawyers have given various explanations for how and why he brought the classified documents down to Mar-a-Lago. The former president has suggested that he automatically was able to declassify these documents. He's also said that he has a standing order to declassify them. And the lawyers though have argued that part of this was about the process being flawed, and things were inadvertently packed up at the end of the administration.

So, these records will help clarify the extent to which Trump was aware of how you declassify items. Now, the special counsel may have to wait to get their hands on these documents because the former president's legal team, they may file a legal challenge. They've not been successful in preventing prosecutors from getting much of the evidence, but they have tried to obtain, I'm told by a source familiar of their thinking, that they may still file a challenge because they want to try to protect constitutional and presidential privileges.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


NOBILO: As for the Trump team's reaction to the new evidence, his lawyer claims the former president is being unfairly targeted and maligned.


JIM TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: None of this is criminal. None of it has historically ever been subject to criminal tools such as subpoenas or search warrants. But for Donald Trump there's an exception that this DOJ and this FBI are pursuing to mislead the American public, to misuse statutes that are not criminal. And to have an ends justify the means mentality when it comes to one president only.

Every president, and many people who don't even have the power of declassification, have held on to documents for years and years and years, hopefully, usually innocuously, or even unknowingly. And that is not a criminal prosecution in till we get to today.

This was a fishing expedition by prosecutors who are engaged in persecution, not following evidence, but criminalizing a noncriminal dispute. And if we let this genie out of the bottle, it's going to come back to haunt generations.


Where we don't have executive privilege. We don't have attorney-client privilege. Where we create new rules for Donald Trump because people in power and people in federal law enforcement want to go after him.


NOBILO: We must remind you that under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, nowhere does it say that a president can automatically declassify records by taking them after leaving office.

South Carolina's Republican-led House has passed a controversial bill that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. But many women might not even know that they're pregnant. The bill is known as the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, bans most abortions after early cardiac activity can be detected in a fetus or embryo. This bill now heads to the states Republican-controlled Senate, which previously passed an earlier version of the bill.

Ethics complaints against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas dating back more than a decade, where the focus on Capitol Hill. When a federal judge gave testimony before a Senate judiciary panel. U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf says leaders from the federal courts policy making body repeatedly failed to inform its full membership of complaints about an alleged pattern by Thomas of violating financial disclosure rules. That means the full judicial conference was never able to decide how the body should act on those complaints.

Montana is set to become the first U.S. state to ban TikTok, not just for government employees, but for everyone. Republican Greg Gianforte says that the app is tied to foreign adversary China. The TikTok ban takes effect in January. It sets potential fines of $10,000 a day for app stores that host TikTok. Several organizations are planning legal challenges, claiming that the law violates free speech.

The Republican-led U.S. House has blocked an effort to immediately remove George Santos from Congress despite growing pressure for the embattled Republican to resign or be expelled. CNN's Manu Raju caught up with Santos on the steps of the Capitol to ask why he won't resign.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wouldn't they be served better if you were to resign? Given that you are facing an investigation on the ethics committee, you have multiple charges, federal charges, felonies that you are facing, you don't sit on any committees, how are they better serve with you being there in Congress?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Again, Manu, I was elected by them to come represent them. I will continue to do that. I have not, not done my job since I've got here.


NOBILO: Wednesdays vote allows Republicans to skirt the issue of whether to expel their colleague for now. CNN's Melanie Zanona has more.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, House Republicans bought themselves a little bit more time when it comes to dealing with embattled Congressman George Santos. Democrats were hoping to force a floor vote on a resolution that would have expelled George Santos in an effort to put every single Republican on the record here.

But Speaker Kevin McCarthy came up with an offramp to help shield has members from taking a potentially tough vote. So, instead of voting on the resolution itself, the House voted on Wednesday along party lines to instead refer the resolution to the House Ethics Committee. Seven Democrats did vote present, most of them are on the House Ethics Committee. And George Santos himself, we should point out, did vote in favor of this referral. But this is essentially a delay tactic. Take a listen to how House Speaker Kevin McCarthy described his decision- making.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: I would like the ethics committee to move rapidly on this. I think there's enough information out there now that they could start looking at this. And I think they could come back to Congress probably faster than a court case could.

ZANONA: So, it is now up to the House Ethics Committee to make a recommendation about whether or not to expel George Santos. This committee already was investigating George Santos since March. It is a bipartisan committee. It's made up equally of Republicans and Democrats. But it is not a committee that is known to move very quickly. So, it could take weeks, or potentially even months, for them to make a recommendation here. And even then, the full House would still need to vote on expulsion, which requires a two thirds majority in the House in order to succeed.

But in the meantime, Democrats are making crystal clear they are not going to let Republicans live this referral vote down.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NOBILO: Ukraine says Russia launched several waves of missile attacks overnight from air, land, and sea. But the country's air force says 29 of the 30 missiles were intercepted. At least one person was, killed in a missile strike in the southern port city of Odesa.

On the frontlines in the east, fierce fighting is being reported in Bakhmut, where the head of the Wagner mercenary group claims his fighters have edged forward inside the battered city. CNN's Clare Sebastian is following these developments. So, Clare, quite a lot of activity, their aerial attacks that you were telling me about across the country, as well as potential news from Bakhmut. But it's very difficult to know the rest of it.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, we've seeing what the Ukrainians are now saying the ninth overnight aerial assault from Russia in the month of May.


So, clearly there is an uptick there. This -- while it was less concentrated than what we saw on Monday night into Tuesday with that huge attack. This was sort of waves of attack happening over the course of about seven hours they say -- according to the Air Force -- coming there from different directions. So, this backs up the assertion we had from a U.S. official early this week, that this is not just about exhausting Ukraine's air defenses on Russia's part, but also trying to confuse them, bringing missiles from all different directions.

We understand that in the Kyiv region, that no missiles got through. They do report fragments and debris. And that of course has its danger in itself. In Odesa, the regional command there is now clarified that it was actually debris that hit this industrial facility and killed one person. So, that is sobering, even when air defenses are activated, there is still significant danger. They also say they shot down a couple of drones.

Over Bakhmut, you know, different weapons. This is land-based fighting, but similar sort of attritional strategy that we're seeing from Russia. You continue, according to the Ukrainians, to bring new units into Bakhmut. Prigozhin, head of Wagner, now claiming that they took some 260 meters of territory in the last day -- presumably within the city. The Ukrainians say they're advancing from the outskirts.

We've got some images we want to show you. Some new satellite images that show really the cost of this ongoing battle. This is a school, school number 12, this is in the western district of Bakhmut. You can see on the left of May of last year, and on the right this month, pretty much wiped off the map. It looks like ruins. So, that's really what's going on there. These are heavily contested areas.

This is the theater, just to the west of the Bakhmut River. We believe that scenario that was taken over by Russian forces early on. Possibly sort of at the end of March, beginning of April. That theater also destroyed, there are shops to the right of it. There you see also destroyed.

So, that gives you a sense of the kind of fighting. Buildings collapsing, destruction in Bakhmut, and no one is giving up. Russia, as I say, continues to bring in new units.

NOBILO: Clare Sebastian, thank you so much for that very comprehensive overview of everything that's going on.

An incredible story of survival to tell you about in the jungles of Columbia. Four children, ages 13 to under a year have been found alive, 17 days after their small plane crashed in a dense jungle in southern Colombia. That news was tweeted by Colombia's president. Three adult bodies were found in the wreckage, but authorities say search teams are able to track the children to a small encampment, where they made a simple shelter. Colombia's armed forces used a massive search and rescue operation with the help of dog units and local Indigenous communities to find the wreckage. We don't yet have an update on the children's condition, but we'll bring you the latest as we learn more.

Critics fear a controversial proposal in Texas could encourage vigilantes to take the law into their own hands along the U.S. southern border. Those details are just ahead.

Plus, rescue crews scrambled to save lives after a massive flooding in Italy. We'll go live to Rome for the latest on this disaster.

And a new warning about climate change.

And later, an Iowa police officer gets taken for a ride. Dramatic new video shows him hanging on to the top of a car for dear life. We'll tell you how the driver was sentenced.



NOBILO: Civil rights groups are sounding the alarm over proposed legislation in Texas to extend some policing authority to ordinary citizens when it comes to migrants. House Bill-7 proposes the creation of a so-called border protection unit to repel illegal border crossings. That could include empowering civilians to detain, arrest, and even expel migrants. A Senate committee is expected to take up the bill today and could vote on it.

Thousands of people who do cross the border are ending up in New York City each week, and the city has been hard-pressed to take care of them. But when city officials informed a nearby community to prepare to take in some of the migrants it touched off an ugly political fight between two old rivals. CNN's Miguel Marquez explains.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As New York City scrambles to manage successive waves of migrants from the U.S. southern border --

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: Probably one of the largest crises of -- humanitarian crisis the city has ever experienced. MARQUEZ (voice over): The fight over what to do with them becoming increasingly heated. The city now sending some migrants to the suburbs.

STEVE NEUHAUS (R), ORANGE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: This is not the way to do things, not the way to treat people.

They just randomly booking hotel rooms where they can get bulk rooms for at least 30 days and with the option to go longer.

MARQUEZ (voice over): When the city tried a similar move in Rockland County just north of the city, the county blocked access to its hotels and the fight got personal.

ADAMS: When you look at the county exec, Day, I mean, this guy has a record of being antisemitic, you know, his racist comments -- you know his thoughts in how he responded to this. Really, it shows the lack of leadership.

MARQUEZ (voiceover): Those remarks directed at Rockland County Executive Ed Day. Both Day and Adams have known and worked with each other for decades. Both former NYPD cops, both now public servants running the city in a nearby wealthy suburb. Adams a Democrat, Day a Republican. Local politicians now caught up in the turmoil of national immigration politics.

Day says, it is Mayor Adams who is using migrants as pawns and putting the blame on everyone else.

ED DAY, (R) ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE: So, we got the race card again. Just like the mayor has been talking about how Republican -- white Republican people have been picking on him because it's a Black city. I think anybody who throws that card out that quickly has his own set of problems, including being a racist himself. The mayor is engaged in human trafficking of the worst kind.

MARQUEZ (voiceover): Orange and Rockland counties now have temporary restraining orders barring New York City from sending migrants their way. In the town of Riverhead on Long Island has pre-emptively declared a state of emergency to block the city sending migrants there too.

New York's mayor insists with this latest wave, more than 4,200 arriving last week alone, there is no room left in the city.


And it's covering the cost of hotel rooms and care for the migrants. It just needs more space to temporarily house them.

ADAMS: New York City is the economic engine of this state. And if we have been there for the state, the state needs to be there for us. And those who are in other parts of the state that are saying, we're going to take you to court, we're going to do these emergency orders. We need to stop. We're in this together.

CROWD: We want our gym back.

MARQUEZ (voiceover): New York City even using some school gyms, not physically connected to the schools themselves, as places to temporarily house migrants. The backlash from some parents, teachers, and students has been fierce.

YOLANDA AYALA, NYC SCHOOL PARENT: I don't have nothing against immigrants. They're welcome here or whatever, and that's all. But why in schools?

MARQUEZ: So, this decision to put migrants into gyms has been extremely controversial here in New York City. This is the sort of gym they're putting them in, modular gyms that are disconnected from the school itself. There are a few of these in the city, but because of the backlash, because of the anger this has created, the city has reversed itself after only a few days and said they will pull all the migrants out. They've already pulled them out of this gym here. But the city also says if the situation gets worse, it reserves the right to put migrants back into gyms like this. Back to you.


NOBILO: A drastic weather change is having deadly consequences in northern Italy. Emergency crews rushed to the rescue after severe rains caused heavy flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region. Officials say at least nine people were killed, with several others still missing -- according to a local CNN affiliate. Thousands of others have been evacuated. The region had a long drought before getting six months worth of rain in only 36 hours. Organizers have canceled Sunday's Formula 1 Grand Prix in the region after water inundated part of the racecourse.

For more, Barbie Nadeau joins us now from Rome. Barbie, unfortunately, there's concern that more rivers may burst their banks.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. You know, there's been rain all across the region and some of these rivers haven't crested yet. We've seen bridges and crucial infrastructure just wiped away. And you know, we don't know how many people are missing. Some people live in very rural communities. They don't have electricity, it's hard to reach them when the roads are out, but also by phones. If electricity is out, they can charge their phones, things like that. It's a real mess. And we've seen just some real dramatic rescues over the casts 24, 48 hours -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Barbie Nadeau, live in Rome, thank you.

The U.S. government is close to a deal with California, Arizona, and Nevada that would keep more much needed water in the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead. Those states, along with others, rely on water from the Colorado River system. But drought conditions and overuse have depleted the water supply in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Sources tell CNN that those states would take a 10 percent cut in the water allocated to them in exchange for $1 billion of federal funding.

Still to come, new revelations about the alleged Pentagon leaker and missed opportunities.

Plus, a chase through the streets of New York trying to avoid paparazzi. What the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are saying that what happened on Tuesday night.