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Debt Ceiling Talks Resume; Biden And McCarthy To Meet Tomorrow; Yellen Reaffirms June 1st As Hard Deadline To Raise Debt Ceiling; U.S. Pledges New $375 Million Military Aid Package To Ukraine. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 21, 2023 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, we begin this hour with the new developments in the high- stakes talks to avoid a looming debt crisis.

Just a short time ago, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to meet tomorrow for another round of negotiations on raising the debt limit, and staff level talks between the two sides will resume in the next few hours.

The two men agreeing to a one-on-one meeting after what McCarthy called a productive phone call today with the president as he flew home from the G7.

And before departing, Biden painted a grim picture of the talks telling reporters that he cannot guarantee the US will not default in 11 days when the US government runs out of money and is unable to pay its bills.

We have team coverage of all of these new developments. Phil Mattingly is in Japan at the G7 Summit, but let's begin with Melanie Zanona in Washington, DC.

Melanie, Kevin McCarthy just spoke about the call with the president calling it productive. Help us understand where things stand. Is he optimistic?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, well, Fred, what I would say is that the talks have not blown up completely yet, but they are hanging by a thread. So after a weekend of rejected offers and stalled talks, the negotiators were really looking for a much needed reset, and they may have gotten it in that phone call today between Speaker McCarthy and President Biden.

It was a cordial conversation, we're told. They talked about the debt ceiling, they talked a little bit about Biden's trip, but perhaps most importantly, is that they agreed to meet one-on-one tomorrow while staff will resume negotiations later tonight.

Here is a little bit more about what McCarthy said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I believe it was a productive phone call. And so at the end of the phone call, what we agreed to do is we're going to have Congressmen Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry get back together with -- he is going to ask his team get back together, so we can walk them through literally what we've been talking about.

I think some of the challenges here, they might not completely understand how we're coming about this.


ZANONA: So the good news is that they have a mechanism to continue talking, but the bad news is they are still very far apart. And specifically, I'm told one of the biggest sticking points is spending levels. Republicans want to impose spending caps at fiscal 2022 levels on future spending, but they don't want to touch Defense spending. So that would mean significant cuts on the domestic side of things.

And then the White House is insisting on sticking to current levels, which they argue over 10 years when you account for inflation would be a spending cut, and that is how scorekeepers look at it.

But this is billions of dollars of apart -- a billion dollars apart is what we're talking about, like tens of billions, potentially a hundred billion dollars, so you can see how big the gap is and how much they need to narrow it and that doesn't even get into the fact that there are a number of other sticking points that need to be resolved, whether it's tougher work requirements. That's something Republicans are pushing for; tax revenue, something Biden recently said should be on the table.

And of course, time is not on their side. McCarthy was hoping to have a deal, at least in principle by either today or tomorrow. He said he needed it in order to be able to move it through the House in time to avoid that June 1st default, so there is a lot of work to do, and just not a lot of time to get it done -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, maybe there's hope in there face-to-face meeting tomorrow. Thank you so much.

So Phil, from where you are, we did hear from the president before he left Japan. Is the expectation that he might talk again once he lands in the U.S.?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fredricka, I've covered the president and thought about the president and covering him pretty much every day for the last two and a half years and I have given up trying to predict when he is going to speak to reporters and when he is not going to when he comes off of Air Force One or when he lands at the White House.

I think it's entirely possible, and part of the reason why is you saw Speaker McCarthy after their phone call, come out and tried to frame the conversation, lay the groundwork for what was to come. And I think, in large part, what you heard from the president at his press conference several hours ago, was exactly that as well.

The president, knowing something needed to shift, the dynamic needed to change pretty dramatically given just how far apart the two sides were, the fact they weren't even talking at all, and the fact that they only had 11 days to figure something out.

And the president made very clear trying to reframe the discussion, trying to make clear that what the Republicans had put on the table was just very far out of line in terms of what could actually get Democratic support, an absolute necessity over the course of every one of these negotiations, and painting a very stark picture for a reason, trying to kind of amp up the recognition of just how serious this is.

This isn't like other negotiations that have always seemed to figure out a way to reach a resolution. This one right now at least, is different.

So we'll have to see if the president does speak, but I think Melanie hits at the really key points here. The fact that they are talking, the fact that they are engaged, the fact that the staff level negotiators are meeting tonight, the fact that the president and the speaker will be meeting face-to-face, these are all positive steps that don't necessarily move the ball forward on the substance.


So it's the substance that's going to actually make this deal happen. It is the substance where they remain very far apart, how they thread that needle and the negotiators on both sides have done this before, they know their stuff. They know that there are ways to thread the needle.

But there are significant issues out here, and there is not a lot of time left. And I think whether or not this unlocks everything, it pretty much has to. There aren't many other alternatives here and so, I think the people in the room know that. I think the White House knows that. The president made clear he knows that today and I think that's the driving force behind what they hope will be a shift in the dynamic that has just been very poor on both the policy and the rhetoric over the course of the last several days.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll see what every minute brings.

Phil Mattingly, Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.

All right, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is drawing her own line in the sand. Today, she again reaffirmed June 1st as the hard deadline for the US to raise the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its obligations.


JANET YELLEN, US TREASURY SECRETARY: I indicated in my last letter to Congress, that we expect to be unable to pay all of our bills in early June, and possibly as soon as June 1st and I will continue to update Congress. But I certainly haven't changed my assessment, so I think that that's

a hard deadline.


WHITFIELD: All right, with me now to talk more about all of this , this growing crisis, Catherine Rampell. She is a CNN economics and political commentator and a columnist for "The Washington Post." Good to see you. And Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and a senior editor for "The Atlantic." Good to see you as well.

So Catherine, you first.

So what bills is Yellen talking about? And how will Americans feel a US default, if we get there?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICS COMMENTATOR: What she is referring to is the collective obligations of the US government. So that means everything from paying off our bondholders to sending out Social Security checks, paying military salaries, paying off government contractors, food stamps, every obligation that the United States government has, and that to be clear, Congress has already authorized.

Now the question is, if we don't have enough cash to cover all of those bills, what happens? Does the government for example, have the ability to prioritize, okay, maybe we'll pay Social Security recipients, but we won't pay the military, for example. Or most likely, the thing that they would prioritize would be payments to bondholders, because that would be that -- and defaulting on our payments to bondholders, so people who own Treasuries, people we owe money to, that would be catastrophic, and it could lead to cascading effects throughout other kinds of financial markets.

So the question is, can they actually prioritize? Do they want to prioritize? And how easily could they actually execute a plan like that? And it hasn't been tested.

WHITFIELD: Either way, it will be a real mess. We hear you loud and clear on that one. So Ron, earlier today, both sides did seem to take a real hard line stance, Biden before departing the G7, he accused the Republicans of trying to use a debt default to hurt him politically, and the Republicans questioned Biden's real desire to even reach a deal at all. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't guarantee that they wouldn't force a default by doing something outrageous. I can't guarantee that.

MCCARTHY: It seems as though he wants default more than he wants a deal.


WHITFIELD: What's going on here in your view, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're seeing brinksmanship as we come up to the brink, but it's important not to lose sight. I mean, it is understandable to get caught up in the kind of the drama and the details of the negotiation itself, but taking even half a step back and realizing how extraordinary what we're watching is, you know, Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress did not try to leverage the debt ceiling for policy concessions under Donald Trump.

The only times we have really seen this happen is a Republican majority trying to demand policy concessions they would not get otherwise by threatening default, they could throw the US and even the world economy into recession.

I think this kind of posturing doesn't tell us whether we are going to get there, but one thing that I think is clear and that the President and Phil was alluding to, as well earlier, especially with Donald Trump out there now kind of openly campaigning for default, I think because he sees that as something that would just obviously destabilize the economy and hurt Joe Biden. That suggests with Trump out there openly campaigning for default that any eventual deal is going to need Democratic votes to pass.

There are going to be Republicans who are not going to vote, even if they can get a deal for the final agreement and that means they need Democrats and that means that if Kevin McCarthy actually does want to prevent default that he does need to find a final point for this, that a reasonable number of Democrats in Congress will sign on to because he is not going to pass it solely with Republican votes.

WHITFIELD: And Catherine, I mean, would a US default trigger a world recession?

RAMPELL: It certainly could. I think we haven't been in this territory before, so we don't know the full range of the consequences, but we know some likely consequences if there is a default, and particularly a default, where it looks like we have like permanently repudiated some of our debts, not that it's a few hours, but a deal is imminent, you would see, for example, interest rates rise, you would see all sorts of other financial assets throughout the world that are benchmarked against US Treasuries, also be viewed as more risky and potentially see the cost of those rise.

You would see the collateral that backs a lot of other transactions suddenly become worth much less. You would probably see a lot of trades have to close out, what people in finance call margin calls, because suddenly that collateral is worth a lot less.

And the result of all of these kinds of consequences is that financial markets could seize up. You could see lots of layoffs, you could see lots of companies have to pull back. And yes, there would be devastating economic consequences from those kinds of effects, not just in the United States, but potentially globally.

Again, this is all untested. We don't know the extent of these problems, but we do know that Treasuries, US debt is essentially the underpinning of the entire global financial system. So if the safety of that asset is called into question, all of the other dominoes fall, we don't know where they fall, but they will fall.

WHITFIELD: Okay. Well, Ron, so we at least know we've been down similar roads before. I mean, Newt Gingrich tried to use a threat of a debt default on President Clinton back in the mid-90s. He ended up paying a very high political price after shutting down the government.

So are there any lessons that Republicans and the sitting president can learn from previous standoffs?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the scenario that is closest to this, Fred was actually the one in 2011, when John Boehner and the new Republican majority in the House after the Tea Party election of 2010, tried to leverage the debt ceiling into concessions from President Obama. Obama did in fact, engage in months of negotiation with them, many of which in the beginning were led by Joe Biden.

And in the end, the whole thing fell apart, and on the literal final weekend, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell cobbled together an agreement that allowed the debt ceiling to rise and created a process called sequestration, which included basically mandated cuts in both Defense and non-Defense spending.

The lesson Biden took from that was not to negotiate around the debt ceiling, and he can make a claim that there is a fig leaf between this parallel negotiation on the budget and the debt ceiling. But ultimately, he has been backed into that same corner.

If anything, the situation today is more difficult. The Republican majority is smaller. It is further to the right. McCarthy is weaker than Boehner and the broad negotiation that included taxes and Defense spending and domestic spending that existed in 2011 now really is reduced to domestic spending, and even on domestic spending, by exempting Social Security and Medicare, Republicans are trying to protect older America, which is predominantly White and focusing on the discretionary programs that invest in the youth population, which is now majority non-White.

So there are all sorts of generational partisan racial implications in the budget plans that are coming out and it is not clear to me exactly how this -- if, in fact, this plane lands safely before we hit the deadline.

WHITFIELD: Not clear and not pretty, all right, from any vantage point.

All right, Ron Brownstein, Catherine Rampell, thanks to both of you. We appreciate it.

All right, while at the G7, President Biden pledged a new $375 million military aid package for Ukraine. Ukraine's president, Zelenskyy calling the new assistance powerful. Zelenskyy also got a strong and welcome show of unity from G7 leaders. They are vowing to support Ukraine for "as long as it takes" and the war in Ukraine continues to sadly rage on.

The Russian-backed mercenaries are claiming that they have captured the town of Bakhmut after months of brutal fighting. Ukraine says it still hold some of the territory. Here is what Zelenskyy said about it earlier today.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I clearly understand what is taking place in Bakhmut and we all clearly understand why all of that is taking place.

I cannot share with you the tactical views of our military, of our warriors, but as of today, we can see that the country which dozens times is bigger than we are cannot occupy us, cannot win in this war, and we understand that a bit more and then we will be prevailing.


That is why we are acting how we are acting, valuing lives of the people.

The hardest is if Bakhmut had some military tactical mistake, for instance, and people could be surrounded, then all the military know what could happen. How we could create the situation for people not to be captured, now our people are accomplishing a very important mission.

They are now in Bakhmut. I will not share where exactly, but it witnesses that Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Sam Kiley is in southeastern Ukraine.

So Sam, there on the ground, what is the feeling about the status of Bakhmut?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the short answer is that in Ukraine, it is a contested city. The Wagner mercenary group does claim to have captured the urban area. The government says you haven't captured it all, that it has a foothold there. President Zelenskyy made that point as did his senior commander on the ground actually on a visit to that foothold.

But more importantly, the Ukrainian forces are flanking Bakhmut to the north and the south, and arguably could be in a position if they continue to advance to actually encircle Wagner troops in that city.

Now the city itself has been reduced to rubble. There are no forces there that are friendly to Ukraine. And indeed, there are practically speaking no civilians there either.

So effectively, it's become a free fire zone for Ukrainian forces to rain artillery down on the mercenary organization, which might explain why Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group has said he wants to withdraw his forces from the town by Thursday and see them replaced by Russian regulars.

I think that's extremely unlikely, and if it were to try to be attempted, will provide Ukraine with a golden opportunity for a localized counterattack. And of course, the background of this is all to do with the ongoing anticipation of an offensive being launched in the summer by Ukraine to recapture land taken by Russia during its illegal invasion more than a year ago now.

And with the boost to morale, at the very least from the agreement laid out at the G7 by President Biden to allow Ukraine to get to the position to both train and then ultimately be given or buy somehow, F- 16 aircraft and fourth generation fighter bombers, which they've been calling out for, for many, many months.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sam Kiley, thank you so much.

Still ahead, the New York City Mayor calling on the federal government to coordinate the spreading of migrants around the country. He says there are still over 40,000 migrants under the city's care. That's next.



WHITFIELD: Today, New York's mayor is calling on the federal government to jump in and coordinate the spreading of migrants around the country.

It is a move Mayor Eric Adams claims would ease the burden of this national problem on his city. Adam says 70,000 migrant asylum seekers have flooded New York with tens of thousands of them still in the city's care.

This comes as Mayor Adams is clashing with state officials over the influx of asylum seekers entering New York.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino is joining me right now.

Gloria, so what more is the mayor saying about all this?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it's quite their request from Mayor Eric Adams who as you just said has faced criticism and has clashed with a local officials here in the area after he attempted to bus migrants out of New York City.

As you mentioned, more than 42,000 migrants remain in the city's care and more than 70,000 have passed through the city in the last year at places like what you see behind me, The Roosevelt Hotel, which opened last week meant as a place for migrants to come in and connect with resources.

But the mayor has said over and over in recent weeks that the city is not only running out of space, but it is also out of money and that it needs a federal intervention.

He is looking for the burden to be shared not just by the city of New York, but also the surrounding suburbs around the city asking for municipalities to step up and help with what he says is a humanitarian crisis.

Listen to what the mayor had to say this morning.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We received over 70,000 migrant asylum seekers in our city; 42,000 are still in our care. If this is properly handled at the border level, this issue can be resolved while we finally get Congress, particularly the Republican Party to deal with a comprehensive immigration policy.


PAZMINO: Now one question that we are trying to get to the bottom of is why the numbers in New York City continue to increase considering that migrant encounters at the border following the expiration of Title 42 on May 11th have significantly gone down.

The city has told us over and over in the last few days that migrants continue to arrive in record numbers here to the city and that is why the mayor continues to stress that the burden as he describes it has to be shared by not just New York City, but the other places around the five boroughs.

Behind me, we have been watching for two days now as migrants arrive at The Roosevelt Hotel, as I mentioned a place where they are connected to resources, referred to other shelters around the city as migrants try to get on their feet, whether they are staying here in New York or trying to get to other places around the country.


Many of the ones that I have spoken to in recent days tell me that they are trying to get to other places. So for many of them, New York City is just one step along the way in their journey -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Gloria Pazmino, thank you so much, from New York.

All right, still to come, debt ceiling talks are set to resume today and President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet on Monday. We'll discuss the showdown with former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod right after this.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the killing of four Idaho college students is set to appear in court tomorrow. He will appear for his arraignment and to enter a plea. He was indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday on four counts of murder and one count of burglary.

Kohberger faces the death penalty if found guilty.

CNN correspondent, Mike Valerio is joining me with more details on this.

Mike, what do we expect will happen?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, most likely this is going to be a plea of not guilty, but there is always a chance that either side could ask for more time and the plea is entered later.

But Fred, it is still important what is set to happen tomorrow because the entire trajectory of this case is now changed. That is because we were expecting next month a preliminary hearing.

So that is when, Fred, a judge ultimately decides if a case goes to trial. The defense has the opportunity to challenge the prosecution's evidence, poke holes in it and attempt to throw these charges out. But instead, prosecutors called a grand jury to step in. And last week that grand jury said these charges should stand and this should go to trial.

So now, that defense strategy is out the window and the case moves forward. So tomorrow, we are watching to see how and if Bryan Kohberger pleads to four counts of murder, one count of burglary and we're looking for a time line of some sort. Will we see a trial date set or most likely, we're going to have a status update, at least put on the calendar.

But then looking a little farther ahead, what if any new information will we learn? There is a strict gag order in this case, meaning that lawyers for the victims, their families, prosecutors and defense attorneys cannot say anything publicly aside from statements in court documents.

And Fredricka, we still don't know what prosecutors think is a motive here, or any potential connections between the suspect and the victims. Information six months later has been very, very limited.

And finally, what we are watching to see, will the state seek the death penalty after Kohberger enters a plea? Within 60 days, Idaho prosecutors need to file written notice if they are going to seek capital punishment.

So a lot to watch and it all really begins tomorrow -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, all right, Mike Valerio, thank you so much.

All right, more women in the US are now opting for sterilization to avoid unwanted pregnancies. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen talks to a doctor who says she is seeing three times more requests than before Roe v. Wade was overturned.


KARA NEILS, 25 YEARS OLD: I'm Kara. I had my tubes taken out last week. This is one --

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kara Neils, 25 years old, opted six months ago to be sterilized.

Dani Marieti, also 25 had a picnic to celebrate her sterilization last July, complete with commemorative cookies.

Mariah Marsh also had her tubes removed as a 28th birthday present to herself in January.

All three have known for a long time that they don't want children, and after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, they got sterilized.

MARIAH MARSH, CHOSE TO BE STERILIZED: And I knew that the only way I could really protect myself is to go ahead and get the surgery.

COHEN (voice over): Mariah, an admissions officer at Indiana University has a neuromuscular disease that can make pregnancy risky. She said the ongoing legal battle over mifepristone makes her even more grateful she got sterilized. The legal challenge to this drug, one of two used together in medication abortion could bar its use for abortion nationwide in the future.

MARSH: It doesn't make me happy that I made the decisions that I made because it validates my thought process, which was they're just going to come for any access to care that a woman can make on her own.

COHEN (voice over): Dr. Leah Tatum, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Austin, Texas said she hears this frequently from patients.

DR. LEAH TATUM, OBSTETRICIAN-GYNECOLOGIST: Their concerns are if medical abortions are no longer accessible, what if their reproductive rights are restricted even further?

COHEN (voice over): She says as abortion rights are getting chipped away --

DR. LEAH TATUM: I have definitely seen an increase in the request for sterilizations. I see about three times the consults for sterilization as I used to.

COHEN (voice over): Women like Mariah, Dani, and Kara --

NEILS: Find somebody in your area, find somebody wo is covered by your insurance --

COHEN (voice over): Are secure in their choice as some options for choosing a life without children are being taken away.

Elizabeth Cohen CNN reporting.


WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

President Biden is heading home from the G7 in Hiroshima right now and awaiting him Stateside, a ticking clock on the nation's debt.

The president and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are set to meet tomorrow to discuss the debt ceiling while the crucial June 1st deadline is now just 11 days away.

Joining us right now is CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

David, great to see you. I mean, is this like a replay of a movie you've been in before?


WHITFIELD: I mean, my goodness.

AXELROD: Yes, it is.

More importantly, it's a replay of a movie that the president has been in before because he was a principal negotiator back in 2011.

So he's had a lot of experience with coming up to the brink here, and I'm sure that that is informing how he approaches these negotiations.

WHITFIELD: But he also knows how particularly vulnerable it, so you wonder what the lessons were learned -- were -- from 2011 so it does not come to close make similar mistakes.

AXELROD: Yes. Well look, I think that those are lessons that were absorbed.


The other lesson was, you need to hold firm on certain principles. You would think that after 2011 that both parties would understand that playing too much with this fire is a mistake. We saw the only downgrading in the history of the United States, credit downgrading around those contretemps.

But here we are, and part of it has to do with the makeup of the Republican caucus in the House, a very narrow caucus. It accentuates the influence of a group of very hard right legislators who demanded this standoff as part of their vote for McCarthy for speaker.

So it's a very fraught situation, but clearly, everyone understands the stakes are very high here and I'm heartened that McCarthy and the President are going to be meeting tomorrow.

Hopefully, that's a harbinger of a resolution.

WHITFIELD: Yes. That has to be encouraging. And of course, no one wants to US to default, but if that is to happen besides global and US markets plummeting, who would this hurt the most between these leaders? I mean, is this the sitting president? It's under his watch, or is it the house speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who is holding steadfast to his demands?

AXELROD: Yes, I don't think anybody looks good in this. I don't think anybody escapes with no blame for this. Yes, it would hurt the president, but certainly, it would hurt the Republicans.

I think one of the concerns about the Republicans right now is that they're too tinged with extremism. And if the view is that the extremists in the Republican caucus pushed us over the cliff, I don't think that redounds to the benefit of Speaker McCarthy and there are 18 members of the Republican caucus who are in districts that Biden carried. They can't be enthusiastic about the prospect of a default. So, there are a lot of pressures on both leaders.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so the key is negotiating, right? I mean, each side has to make some sort of concessions since they are just worlds apart. I mean, who or how will these tallies be taken? I'm going to bend on two things and you bend on two. I mean, how is this going to come about?

AXELROD: Look, this is the art of legislating and the President has I pointed out earlier, he has got a lot of experience with this. What you also have, though, are very strong members or parts of these caucuses. I mentioned the one on the right.

There are a lot of progressives in the House who are very nervous about making concessions that would require sacrifice on the part of people who can least afford to make it relative to folks who get food stamps and Medicaid and so on, and they are worried about locking in cuts for a long period of time, that will shrink spending on domestic discretionary programs.

So, you know, the President is feeling some pressure from the left, McCarthy is clearly feeling some pressures from the right. And so you have to find the sweet spot. No one is going to be happy if they come to a resolution. That is guaranteed. And the question is, what can you do that you can pass and that each side can live with?

WHITFIELD: All right, hey, let's shift gears a little bit. I mean, this is still reflecting. But you know, let's talk about this CNN original series, "The 2010s." Back with an all-new episode examining the Obama presidency and the seismic political shifts that put his legacy on the line. Here's a preview.


PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: In August of 2010, Leon Panetta, the CIA director went to Obama at the White House and said, we think we have a pretty good lead on the courier who is servicing bin Laden. The CIA followed this courier back to this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tried all kinds of ways of figuring out if it was really him. In the end, they estimated they only had about a 50/50 chance of him being the man.

BERGEN: So Obama, he didn't have perfect information. Some people were against it. Vice President Biden said, let's not do this. The secretary of Defense, Robert Gates also advised against it.

And if there was some huge screw up on the ground, Obama could have a one-time presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, Obama authorizes a mission with Navy SEALs to go into the compound. He goes to a room that's adjacent to the Situation Room to sit and watch on the screen as a drone is covering what was about to happen.

BERGEN: They shoot and kill a bodyguard, and then they go up to the third floor where bin Laden is. He doesn't put up a fight. The lead SEAL shoots at bin Laden's head and he is killed.


BARACK OBAMA, THEN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.


WHITFIELD: I mean, that was an extraordinary moment, an extraordinary course of events. And it also helped elicit a sort of national unity, but then even that was short lived.

AXELROD: Yes, I mean, first of all, it was an extraordinary decision as was pointed out in the film. He had to make it without real certainty that the target was there, that it was going to go well. It was very fraught, and he understood that if it didn't go well, that his presidency could be lost.

But that's why you're in that job, and what distinguishes great presidents from other presidents or presidents who are willing to make those decisions when they think it's in the best interest of the country, but yes, look, we are increasingly in -- we are in increasing polarized times.

After the 2012 election, the Republican Party did an autopsy of the election that they lost and the conclusion of that autopsy was, we need to moderate. We need to broaden our horizons, and then Donald Trump came along, and he had a completely different theory of politics and that really exacerbated the polarity that we see today. And that, frankly, we have to find a way out of, it is not healthy for the country.

But you know, it's a much different time than when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and there was a sense that maybe we could come together as a national community, and we did over some issues, but the politics have been really intense. The resistance has been really intense to that kind of unifying politics, and we need to get back to that.

WHITFIELD: Extraordinary reflections.

David Axelrod, thank you so much.

AXELROD: Great to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And of course, we will all be looking back -- great to see you, too -- we will all be looking back at President Obama's historic presidency, the defining moments that shaped the decades of politics, the CNN original series, "The 2010s." It continues with Obama legacy on the line airing tonight at 9:00 PM right here on CNN.

All right, coming up next, a transgender girl misses her high school graduation after a Mississippi judge bars her from attending the ceremony in a dress and heels.


WHITFIELD: All right, in Gulfport, Mississippi, last night, a transgender high school student missed her high school graduation after a federal judge ruled school officials could forbid her from wearing a dress and heels under her robe.

CNN's Isabel Rosales is joining me now with more on how all of this happened. What's the explanation leading up to it? And then consequently, what did or didn't happen?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and how the family is responding to it.

I spoke with Samantha Brown, the mom and LB, her transgender daughter. We are sticking to her initials because the family has some concerns about privacy and safety here, but they are upset, they are deeply upset and disappointed. They feel as though they have missed a major milestone in this teen's life.

They are now evaluating other legal options.

So we have a picture here. This is the dress that LB would have worn to her graduation. She tells me that she has been openly transgender since her freshman year of high school, so four years now.

Her classmates, her teachers, administration have known and she calls this a hard decision that she had to make yesterday to not attend her graduation. Listen.


LB, TRANSGENDER: It was detrimental, you know, to know that I won't be able to experience my graduation the way I had envisioned it and planned it for so many years. And I've been going to this school actively, you know, being me, with my teachers, my peers, my -- the other students in my class.

To show up and be forced to wear something that is totally different from myself my character.


ROSALES: We were able to track down the Harrison County public school policy when it comes to the commencement address. Here it is: "Students are expected to wear dress shoes, dress clothes, dresses, or dressy pants suits for girls and dress pants, shirt, and tie for the boys. Students whose attire does not meet the minimum dress requirements may not be allowed to participate in the graduation exercises."

Now this policy, it does not mention LGBTQ students or specify that the students must dress based on the sex that they were assigned at birth.

We did have Mitchell King, that's the superintendent who testified in court and said that the district relies on birth certificates, not the identity of the students to determine whether they are male or female.

The school attorney also pointed to a commencement agreement form that both Samantha Brown and her daughter signed off of two months before the graduation agreeing to follow the dress code in order to attend graduation. Here's what they had to say about that.


SAMANTHA BROWN, LB'S MOTHER: Because when we signed it, we were under the impression that --

LB: I would have the girl's dress code.

BROWN: Right, because she identifies as female, so we went by the female's dress code. We felt like we were you know, abiding by the dress code.


ROSALES: And we have reached out to Harrison County Schools and Harrison Central High School for comment. We haven't heard back yet.


WHITFIELD: Oh, all right. Thanks so much. Let us know when you do.

ROSALES: Of course.

WHITFIELD: Isabel Rosales.

ROSALES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, the NAACP is joining other advocacy groups in warning against people of color traveling to Florida. The group issued a formal travel advisory, Saturday, saying in part: "Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon."

The group says the travel advisory is in direct response to the DeSantis administration's aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.

All right still ahead, in just a little over an hour, four private civilians will blast off for a historic mission to outer space. The former commander of the International Space Station joining me to discuss, straight ahead.