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Biden, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Reach Tentative Deal On U.S. Debt Limit; Texas House Impeaches State Attorney General; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Faces Challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu In Second Round Of Voting. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 28, 2023 - 03:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Republicans already raising concerns over the agreement in principle on the debt ceiling, as both President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy race to seal the deal with their allies in Congress.

The GOP turns on one of its own in Texas in an unprecedented move to impeach the state's attorney general. Details and how that official is reacting.

And we're live for you in Istanbul as voting there gets under way for Turkey's presidential runoff election.

We begin in Washington, where Congress is drafting new legislation on the U.S. debt limit hours after officials reached a deal to try to avoid a disastrous default. While, the White House and Republicans say they agreed in principle to raise the U.S. Debt ceiling and cap government spending, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says lawmakers are now expected to vote on that agreement this Wednesday.

But before it can move forward, he must convince hardliners that it's worth it. Here's how he characterized the deal.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): After weeks of negotiations, we have come to an agreement in principle. We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe this is an agreement in principle that's worthy of the American people. It has historic reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the workforce, rein in government overreach. There are no new taxes, no new government programs. There's a lot more within the bill. We still have more work to do tonight to finish all the writing of it.


HARRAK: Well, several Republicans are already slamming the deal, including Congressman Dan Bishop, who said McCarthy was, quote, getting almost zippo in exchange for a $4 trillion debt ceiling hike. President Joe Biden addressed some of the concerns saying, quote, the agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. That's the responsibility of governing.

And this agreement is good news for the American people because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession. Retirement accounts devastated millions of jobs lost, while the deal has still a long way to go to get the approval of Congress.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on why there could be opposition from both sides of the aisle.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a furious round of negotiations and staring at the prospects of the first-ever debt default in American history, the speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, reached a deal late Saturday with President Biden to raise the national debt limit and do that for two years' time, also to include a range of other spending cuts and other policy concessions that Republicans had demanded, including paring back some social safety net programs that had been central to their efforts here.

But the White House conceded on that and those accounts. They ultimately shook hands, reached agreement in principle, and now the real challenge begins because there is pushback. Some conservatives do not believe this bill went far enough. They believe that it is a retreat of sorts from the Republican position demanding even deeper spending cuts.

This proposal would cut spending, go on back to 2023 levels of federal spending. Republicans wanted to go back, some of conservatives wanted to go back to 2022 levels. But the White House conceded substantially on that approach. They did not want any cuts, whatsoever, as part of this agreement.

On the Democratic side, many did not want any sort of work requirements on social safety net programs, like food stamps. Also, they had furiously opposed any spending cuts. So, expect some opposition from Democrats.

Now, Kevin McCarthy, in speaking to reporters in the immediate aftermath of this deal said that a vote would occur on Wednesday, then the bill text would be released on Sunday. That gives them some 72 hours, essentially, to begin to lock down the votes.

The question is going to be how many Republicans will defect? We do expect several dozen Republicans, at least 35 at the moment, warning they will vote against it. That number is expected to grow.


But how many more will vote against this plan? And can McCarthy keep a majority of his conference behind it? That is the hope and the expectation at the moment from Republican leaders. But that does not mean there's enough to pass the House. They will need to get support from Democrats. The number of House Democrats who are concerned about this bill will have to be convinced to vote for it.

We do know that the House Democrats are going to get briefed by White House officials on Sunday. They'll be part of the White House effort to try to get their members in line. Can they get that coalition together? Get it through the House by Wednesday?

And then they have to worry about the United States Senate, which can take time to get any legislation through, several days, sometimes up to a week depending how members respond to this bill. So, still some major questions. Despite the significant agreement that was reached late after these frantic negotiations, still uncertain whether they can get there and avoid the nation's first-ever debt default by June 5th, the deadline for Congress to get the bill through both chambers and get it signed into law.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

HARRAK: Joining me is David Sanger, he is a CNN political and national security analyst, he's also a White House and national security correspondent for The New York Times. David, thank you for making time to speak to us.

The White House and Republican negotiators have now reached a tentative deal to raise the debt ceiling. So, does that mean crisis has been averted?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It probably means that, Laila. You know, we thought we were going to go right down to the wire here, whether that was going to be June 1st or, as Treasury suggested a day or two ago, closer to June 5th, and that everybody would be right on the edge of default. This is just an agreement in principle, so there's a possibility you could see votes melt away once they see the specifics. But the fact of the matter is that the agreement in principle itself is a significant accomplishment.

And remember that for foreign nations that were looking at the American domestic politics of this year, they didn't really care about the details. They cared about the United States not becoming a source of financial and fiscal instability, and thus of political instability. And it's been a remarkable thing in the past few months, but the biggest risk factor to the world economy has been what happens here in Washington. That's not usually the case. We usually, in Washington, think that other nations are the bigger risk. We were it and this may avert it.

HARRAK: This may have averted, but, arguably, as you also touched on in your answer, the hard part really starts now, getting everyone on board, securing enough support from lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, for this tentative agreement. So, in some ways, this is not a done deal yet.

You just returned from the G7 in Japan. Help us understand what would it mean for countries around the world, whether they're high income, middle income, or low income, and especially those that depend on the U.S. dollar, if another standoff were to take place, if there was another delay, or the U.S. does end up, for some reason, breaching the debt ceiling?

SANGER: So, it was going to have a number of bad effects. The first, of course, is interest rates would probably go up ,if investing in the United States became a riskier enterprise. And if in fact Moody's and other rating agencies lowered the U.S. rating, then, obviously, they'd have to pay more interest for government borrowing and that would raise interest for everybody because so much is hinged on the U.S. dollar.

The second thing it would do, though, and I think in some ways the more insidious thing it would do, is that it would solidify the Chinese and Russian narrative that democracies can't get their act together, that you give a democracy all of the string it needs to debate out an issue, and it paralyzes itself, and that it becomes such a source of infighting that it can't make any decisions.

And this is the key that particularly Xi Jinping in China has made, the argument he's made about the United States. Remember, when January 6th happened, the Russians tried to use it around the world to embarrass the U.S. The Chinese broadcast it internally to say, you want to see what democracy looks like? Well, here's what it looks like. And the same would have happened if the U.S. went into default.


Now, I think we've probably avoided that now.

HARRAK: We probably avoided that now. But when you reflect at how all this has unfolded, what are the long-term effects of this, taking things almost to the breaking point and then retreating?

SANGER: It's interesting. I was talking to foreign leaders, government officials in Hiroshima last weekend at the G7. The most incisive question they asked me was, why do you do this to yourselves? The United States didn't have a debt limit vote a number of decades ago. It was a self-created facility, something that Congress itself required. And it was kind of backwards, right? You spend the money and then you take another vote about whether you're going to pay off your bills.

Now, we all love that in our personal lives, but it doesn't make any sense. And it's only there as leverage for the future.

Now, the Republicans will probably think at this point, this leverage worked. Because what they got out of this at the end, Laila, was an agreement from President Biden to freeze non-military spending, and that would essentially keep the programs that he cares about the most from growing. The fact of the matter is, he wasn't going to get those through this Congress anyway. So, to his argument would be that it keeps in place the significant programs and accomplishments that he believes he had in the first term until he lost control of the House.

HARRAK: To be continued. David Sanger, always good to have your take, thank you so much for joining us.

SANGER: Great to be with you. HARRAK: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing a trial in the Texas Senate after his fellow Republicans in the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. He's calling the action illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust.

Rosa Flores has more from Houston.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ken Paxton has been impeached by the Texas House of Representatives. Under the Texas Constitution, that means he's immediately suspended and that the governor of the Texas has the power to appoint a replacement.

But let me start by taking you inside the Texas house for this historic vote.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have all members voted? There have been 121 ayes and 23 nays, 2 present non-voting, 3 absent. The resolution is adopted.


FLORES: This is a case of Republicans policing Republicans in the state of Texas. In the state of Texas, Republicans lead the House and the chairman of the committee that investigated Ken Paxton is also a Republican, and he issued this statement after the vote saying in part, quote, throughout the course of the investigation, we discovered numerous activities that constitute unethical and potentially criminal conduct. These violations of the public trust are alarming and show a systemic pattern of behavior that every member of our committee felt needed to be addressed in a public forum.

Now, this vote is already historic because Ken Paxton is the first attorney general in the state of Texas to ever be impeached. Now, there was another bombshell during the hours-long debate leading up to this historic vote, and that was when several members said in open forum that members of the House had received calls from Ken Paxton threatening them that if they voted yes, there would be political consequences.

There was concern about this, so much so that one of the House members took to Twitter saying in part, quote, I will be submitting a journal statement to amend charging documents to include abuse of power, intimidation of House members and Senate jury tampering in light of Charlie Geren's statements that A.G. Paxton called and threatened House and Senate members.

Now, I asked Paxton's office about this, and I did not hear back. But Ken Paxton did take to Twitter in response to his impeachment saying in part, quote, I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical and profoundly unjust. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just. So, what happens in the Texas House? What we know is that the lieutenant governor serves as judge. The 31 senators serve as jurors. And that a two-thirds vote of those senators who are present is required to convict.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Houston.

HARRAK: Voters are now going to the polls in Turkey in the country's first-ever presidential runoff election. I have a live look now at those very voters are casting their ballots. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces off once again with main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu after no one received an absolute majority of the votes needed to win outright in the first round two weeks ago.


While turnout was strong in that vote, nearly 90 percent of those who were eligible cast a ballot, right.

Let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir, who is live for you in Istanbul. A very good morning again Nada. Today, Turkish voters pick their president. Set the scene for us. What is the mood and what are people telling you?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Laila, polls opened just over two hours ago. And I have to say the weather is not great. It has been raining a bit. But despite that, we have seen voters streaming into this polling station, casting their ballots, this all-important runoff election today in Turkey.

We've been seeing some of these voters coming in, many of them including families with young children, some members of the elderly community being supported by loved ones as they come in to make their voice heard in this election.

We've been speaking to some of those voters. For those, of course, casting their vote for President Erdogan, the incumbent who has now been in power for over two decades, this is a vote for political stability at a time when the country is facing several crises, it has to be said. But for others, hopeful for a win for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the six-party coalition alliance. This is a vote for change.

And we were speaking to some of those supporters of the opposition, they say this is an opportunity for the Turkish people to bring in and usher in a new era for the country, particularly when there are so many challenges ahead, not least the economy, that is certainly at the forefront of voters' minds.

The country is facing a deepening cost of living crisis. We've seen inflation soaring, largely in part due to President Erdogan's unorthodox monetary policies, and we've seen the weakening of the lira. So, this is of huge concern for voters. Some believe President Erdogan, in his vision, that this will offer stability over the next five years, others believe it is time for change. And then, of course, there is the question of the government's response to February's devastating earthquake, which left more than 50,000 people killed, millions more displaced, still homeless, living in temporary camps across the country's southeast.

Now, the government has faced real criticism over its chaotic and somewhat delayed response. And in turn, there has been criticism over the government's preparation for a disaster of that sort.

Now, President Erdogan has pledged a lightning-speed rebuilding effort in the southeast. We've already seen construction under way, in part, of the region. But, again, Kemal Kilicdaroglu's opposition party has criticized the government for its response. They say they are the ones that will be able to bring about a change and offer support to those impacted.

Now, over the last two decades, President Erdogan has cemented Turkey's place on the global stage. It is a key NATO ally, an influential regional power broker. And, of course, he has a lot of support here in turkey. They secured 49.5 percent of the vote two weeks ago in that first round, the opposition securing just under 45 percent of the vote. It has been a closely fought battle over the last two weeks.

We've seen campaigning up until the very last minute. But all eyes will be waiting for the results to be announced this evening. Many, of course, will be gathering at party headquarters on both sides, waiting for news of who the country's next president will be. Laila?

HARRAK: And you'll be covering it for us. Nada Bashir in Istanbul, thank you so much.

And this programming note for our international viewers, be sure to watch CNN's special live coverage of the elections in Turkey hosted by Becky Anderson. That's tonight at 8:00 in Ankara and 9:00 P.M. in Abu Dhabi right here on CNN.

Speculation grows in Ukraine about its expected counteroffensive, but as to when and where are up in the air, guns do the talking on the ground, that's ahead.



HARRAK: Officials in Ukraine's capital say at least one person was killed and another wounded in the latest Russian drone strike on Kyiv. The city's mayor says falling debris damaged buildings and caused fires. Ukraine's Air Force says it shot down more than 50 Iranian-made drones overnight.

Ukraine also reported multiple blasts in the occupied cities of Mariupol and Berdiansk on Saturday while Russian missiles and artillery hit the Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions. It all happened just hours after Ukraine's top general posted a new video apparently dropping a strong hint about Ukraine's expected counteroffensive. Fred Pleitgen reports.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly pretty remarkable video that was put forward by Ukraine's top general, Valery Zaluzhny. It seems to show Ukrainian soldiers getting ready for battle and saying it's time to take back what is ours.

Now, in the video, you also see is them showing a lot of western- supplied military equipment. It ranges from U.S.-supplied howitzers to HIMARS multiple rocket launching system but also German-supplied Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which many believe are going to be a key element once the Ukrainians start a counteroffensive that has been looming for a while.

Now, it's unclear whether or not this could be an indication that that counteroffensive could be on the rise and could be inching closer, but one of the things that we are seeing is that there do seem to be an increased number of long distance strikes, possibly by the Ukrainians, on the rear echelon of the Russians.

Now, those are focusing essentially on two places. One of them is Berdiansk on the Azov Sea, and the other is Mariupol, which, of course, is also a major port town on the Azov Sea as well, the fact there are reports of three explosions at least in Mariupol on Saturday.


Mariupol is one of the main staging grounds for the Russian military for their operations in Ukraine. So, that certainly could be a big blow to the Russians if the Ukrainians are indeed hitting that area.

The Russians, for their part, are saying that they have intercepted some Ukrainian drones and some Ukrainian missiles as well. They were also talking about intercepting two Storm Shadow missiles, which, of course, were supplied by the United Kingdom. It's unclear whether or not that is true, but it certainly does seem as though right now, the Russians in that part of Ukraine seem to be under a considerable amount of pressure.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.

HARRAK: Well, meanwhile, a Ukrainian intelligence agency says it gained a lot from a recent cross-border raid into Russia.

For more now, let's turn to Barbie Nadeau. She joins us live from Rome. Barbie, what are Ukrainian intelligence officials saying about the recent incursion into Belgorod?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They say they did collect a lot of important information. Of course you're not going to say exactly what that is, that's going to be strategic. But they said it is weakening Putin's power apparatus. And, of course, that's putting Russia on the defensive, which is something when and if this counteroffensive comes is going to be a crucial and pivotal point in this war, Laila.

HARRAK: Now, we also heard from the Russian leader, Putin, on Saturday talking about protecting Russia's borders. What exactly did he say?

NADEAU: Yes. You know, that seems to be a crucial aspect of the defense. Russia is now trying to engage in as Ukraine becomes stronger and said that, mainly, they want to be able to keep these corridors open for military and civilian vehicles, for humanitarian aid, and for rebuilding materials as they gain more land and more property inside Ukraine, so, Putin on the defensive there as well. Laila?

HARRAK: Barbie Nadeau, thank you so much, I greatly appreciate it.

With Sudan's ceasefire set to expire Monday, at least one side says it is ready to discuss extending it. Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces says it's assessing the Sudanese Armed Forces' commitment to the truce.

While the two warring sides negotiated a seven-day ceasefire just over a week ago, it was meant to enable aid groups to deliver humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of civilians impacted by the fighting, and that help is now coming.

The United Nations' world food program says it has started providing food to suffering civilians in the capital, Khartoum. Much of the fighting there has been in urban neighborhoods.

A team from Saudi Arabia arrived in Syria on Saturday to set up the reopening of the kingdom's embassy in Damascus. The two countries agreed earlier to reopen diplomatic missions in both countries. It comes more than a decade after Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with the Syrian government over its brutal handling of the country's civil war, and weeks after Syria was readmitted into the Arab League.

Three people were killed and five others were wounded when gunfire erupted at a biker rally in Red River, New Mexico. The mayor says everyone involved is in custody, and there's no longer a threat to public safety. The gunfire happened during the Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally. The event draws tens of thousands of people to the town every year. An overnight curfew was imposed in the town, prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

And just ahead, the White House and House Republicans agreed to a tentative deal to raise the debt ceiling. We'll explain what it means and what comes next.

Plus, air travel in the U.S. sees a significant surge going into a major holiday weekend. Details ahead.



HARRAK: Welcome back. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN newsroom.

In some ways, the hard part lies ahead for the White House and House Republican leadership. The two sides announced a few hours ago that they reached a tentative deal to raise the debt ceiling. There were fears that without one, the U.S. would default on its financial obligations, something that's never happened in its history. President Joe Biden stressed that because it is a compromise, not everyone gets what they want. The question is, will enough lawmakers line up behind it?

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has the latest from the White House.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House and House Republicans have reached an agreement in principle on the debt ceiling. This, the outcome of 20 hours of tireless talks between Hill negotiators and White House negotiators as they came up against that June 5th deadline when the U.S. would run out of funds and in an attempt to avert a debt default.

Now, over the course of the day, White House officials said there was general optimism about the trajectory of these talks, some echoing what President Biden had said on Friday on his way to Camp David that a deal was, quote, very close. But a pivotal moment Saturday afternoon when President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy connected over the phone and that, we are told, is when they were able to reach an agreement in principle.

Now, of course over the next several hours, both sides will be working on the text of this agreement and the devil will be in the details. That is where Republicans as well as Democrats will learn more about what exactly this agreement looks like.

And they're up against a very tight deadline. Not only was it important for both sides to reach an agreement, but then too, it is what this legislative text will say showing that to members of Congress, and then later, a vote on the House floor, and then it has to go through the Senate.

So, a long road ahead for what amounts to a very short amount of time, but at least on Saturday, an important development as President Biden and the White House reach that agreement with House Republicans allowing them to move forward and try to avert a debt default on June 5th.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, the White House.

HARRAK: And the U.S. weather could play spoil sport in some parts of the country this Memorial Day weekend. A costal low could bring rain to the southeast, increasing the risk of high surf and dangerous rip currents for beaches from Virginia to Florida. Meanwhile, severe storms could produce damaging wind, hail, and even isolated tornados from Montana and the Dakotas into Texas.

Now, by land and by air, millions of Americans are traveling this weekend. Lower gas prices are driving more people to hit the roads, while air travel in the U.S. is hitting its highest level since the pandemic.


We have two reports. CNN's Mike Valerio will bring us the view from the nation's highways. But we begin with Isabel Rosales at the world's busiest travel hub, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport right here in Atlanta.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: We've been keeping a very close eye on the crowd size here at this main security checkpoint all day long, and it's ebbing and flowing, moments where the size is pretty compact like this, and other times where it's empty, you can get in and out within ten minutes or less.

On Friday, TSA reported it had screened an estimated 2.7 million people nationwide here in the U.S., marking the busiest day, the highest day of volume so far this year. And then here at Hartsfield- Jackson Airport, the world's busiest airport on Friday, TSA here screening 98,000 passengers, marking the third-busiest day ever for the airport.

I spoke with some travelers who had all sorts of struggles and frustrations, even before getting inside of the airport, listen.


MEGAN HALLISSEY, TRAVELER: It's just super hectic. The traffic, even on the shuttle, to come here, it was even super, super hectic. I mean, we waited probably a good 20 minutes just to go, I don't know, not even a mile. So, my advice would be to plan, plan, plan, leave early.


ROSALES: And last summer, you might remember, was a travel fiasco with thousands of flights disrupted. So, experts and passengers alike are keeping a close eye to this summer, and specifically this Memorial Day weekend, as a sort of a test for the airlines, the airports, and the FAA, which one of the biggest hurdles right now is that it has a major shortage of air traffic controllers, an estimated 3,000 controllers down from their ideal staffing numbers.

Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.

MIKE VALERIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not only are we above the busiest freeway here in Los Angeles, this is also the busiest interstate across the United States. And as we zoom in, you can see this is the traffic that is headed towards the beach, towards the Pacific Ocean. And as we look at this busiest section of freeway, the Automobile Association of America anticipates that we will just about reach, but not cross over, a record number of Americans traveling for Memorial Day weekend on the road.

So, this is the number right here, just over 37 million Americans. But it does not exceed the number of Americans who traveled Memorial Day 2019 before the pandemic. Analysts tell us that that could be because of inflation and still relatively high gas prices. But AAA did give some advice for people who are about to begin their automotive journeys. Listen to what they told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DOUG SHUPE, AAA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Definitely inspect that vehicle before you take that long road trip. Check your tire tread and inflation, make sure your battery has a good charge, make sure your fluid levels are topped of. During this Memorial Day weekend, AAA anticipates coming to the roadside rescue of more than over 460,000 stranded drivers.


VALERIO: And in terms of the cost of fuel, the cost of gasoline, those prices aren't coming down from where we were last year. We had prices that were about $4.60 a year ago, a national average for around this Memorial Day weekend is $3.58. So, prices are relatively high in terms of historical terms, but they are coming down, prices coming down especially here in California, the states of Alaska, New Jersey, New York and Florida.

We did speak to analysts from GasBuddy, and they tell us it is less and less likely by the day that the national average for gasoline across the United States will cross over $4 a gallon. That is certainly good news for anybody, any American who is planning their great road trip for the summer of 2023.

Mike Valerio, CNN, Los Angeles.

HARRAK: And just ahead, Chinese comedians are learning the hard way that there are some jokes they can't tell without harsh consequences.



HARRAK: Governments and authority figures are frequently subjects of comedy and satire around the world. In many western countries, it often comes with the job. But in China, authorities are showing comedy that goes against the party line is no joke.

Will Ripley has the story.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With a flashy open, live audience, and opening monologue, this Chinese comedy show almost looks like late-night T.V. in the U.S. until you turn up the volume.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's speech, the country is the people.

RIPLEY: The jokes are Communist Party propaganda punctuated by silly sound effects, parroted back by a studio audience that almost resembles after-school detention, a fate far worse than detention awaits comedians who may be tempted to push party rules, as China exercises very tight control over comedy shows.

Li Haoshi, known by stage name House, was doing a skit about stray dogs chasing a squirrel earlier this month. He said they reminded him of eight words, a popular party slogan for the People's Liberation Army. That joke and those eight words landed house in the doghouse. A 2021 law bans insults on the Chinese military. House is now under police investigation in Beijing, suspended indefinitely, plus a massive $2 million fine on his former employer, a fledgling industry now in danger. All that after the comedian posted a public apology, promising to deeply reflect and re-educate himself.

House joins a growing list of comedians canceled in China for jokes that fun afoul of the authorities. Some even made outside the country. In February, comedian Chi Zi joked about not being able to go home after he told jokes about the Chinese Communist Party on his Canadian tour. His name erased from most Chinese social media. The rules more relaxed for comedians in Hong Kong.


In the Chinese territory, you won't go to jail for jokes like this, at least not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the deal with China and Taiwan? I said it's actually really simple, like China and Taiwan would be like I would say I ask a girl, like this girl, and then she rejected me, she said no, and then I still went around telling everyone she's my girlfriend.

RIPLEY: Stand-up comedians say self-censorship is already silencing sensitive jokes.

GARRON CHIU, STAND-UP COMEDIAN IN HONGKON: We say the first comedian to go to jail for telling a political joke is going to be a hero, and none of us want to be that hero. It is tougher, because comedy for some is a form of rebellion and there's now a -- less way to rebel.

TAMBY CHAN, STAND-UP COMEDIAN IN HONG KONG: We're still playing to a different audience, except it's not the people in the room, it's the people who run this place.

RIPLEY: Across the Pacific, the contrast is clear.

ROY WOOD JR., COMEDIAN: Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work, begging, begging.

RIPLEY: Chinese may not be allowed to mock their own leader, but just like in America, mocking the U.S. president is fair game.


RIPLEY (on camera): There certainly are a lot of Biden jokes on Chinese social media, much of it state sponsored. Relations between China and the U.S. have hit a half century low. And what analysts say when a country is losing influence, particularly, important influence with the west, what they do? Well, they tighten their grip on power at home. And that's what people say is happening.

This entertainment crackdown where performers reportedly, according to The New York Times, have to submit scripts and set lists ahead of time, and have this patriotic alignment with the Communist Party vision. This is basically a small group of people, most of them male, most of them over 60, who are basically deciding for themselves what it means to be Chinese. Everybody else, if they don't conform, they're canceled.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

HARRAK: She's the fastest woman driving to qualify for the Indy 500, but Katherine Legge says the car doesn't know she's a woman, and winning is all that matters. We'll hear from her, just ahead.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Palme d'Or 2023 goes to Justine Triet.


HARRAK: It was a big night in France for Justine Triet. Triet, is only the third woman to get the Palme d'Or. She won for Anatomy of a Fall. Triet directed the sense courtroom drama about a writer accused of murdering her husband. Triet used her acceptance speech to slam the Macron government over how it raised the retirement age in France.


JUSTINE TRIET, DIRECTOR, ANATOMY OF A FALL: This year, the country was gripped by a historic, extremely powerful, and unanimous protest against the pension reform. This protest has been denied and repressed in a shocking way, and its pattern of dominating power, of unabashed power, is bursting out across several spheres.


HARRAK: Triet joins New Zealand's Jane Campion and France's Julia Ducournau as the only women to win the Palme d'Or. While this year at Cannes, there was a record seven women competing for the top prize.

Now, in a little under six hours, the Monaco Grand Prix gets under way. Red Bull's Max Verstappen took his first Monaco Grand Prix pole position on Saturday. His final qualifying lap denied Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso with the top slot. At 41 years old, Alonso is the oldest driver on the grid. Alonso's last win was a decade ago.

And in the 107-year history of the Indy 500, only nine female drivers have ever raced at the brickyard. But later today, British Driver Katherine Legge will compete as the fastest woman to ever qualify. But when she spoke to our Don Riddell, Legge said the car doesn't know she's a woman.


KATHERINE LEGGE, COMPETING IN THE INDY 500: I don't necessarily want to be the fastest woman driver, right? I want to be the fastest overall driver. And what's really awesome is in the ten years since I raced here before, I've noticed that there's so many more women fans here, so many more women in the paddock. And like it was mostly men, I would say, ten years ago. Now I think it's close to 50/50.

And the women have come up to me and said, you're racing for every woman out there. And the little girls have been really supportive, and so it's been really, really neat to see that aspect of it. But at the end of the day, when I'm in the car and I've got my helmet on, the car doesn't know the difference and I'm just another race car driver. So, rather than being the fastest woman, I just want to be the fastest driver. And, hopefully, I will get there.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Fair enough. This is not your first rodeo, is it? You've been in the sport a long time. And often you are the only female in the field, or one of not many. Do you still feel like a trailblazer?

LEGGE: No, not really. But I guess I am. Like we're used to outracing, which was a long time ago. Thanks for pointing out how old I am.

RIDDELL: I didn't say that.

LEGGE: I have been doing it a long time ago, you're right. But when you set outracing, you don't set out to be a trailblazer or a role model or any of those things, right? You are focused on Katherine being the best race car driver that I can be. And you're very selfish and you just kind of work your way through it. And then at some point comes the realization that you are a role model. And with that comes responsibility.

So, while I don't set out to do that, I do appreciate that that's what happens. And a lot of young girls look up to me. But I think more importantly, they look up to me because then they believe that they can be anything they want to be, right?


And when you're a kid, you want to be a fighter pilot or a fireman or a race car driver or something like that, and so, traditionally, very male-dominated. And if you see it, you can be it. So, I think if they see women running countries, women running companies, women doing traditionally men things, then they believe in their hearts they can be anything that they want to be. And that's important to me.

RIDDELL: Do you still get nervous before big races? How do you think you're going to feel ahead of this one?

LEGGE: Yes, I -- strange. You get older, right, and you learn how to control your emotions better. You have to think through things in a different way. You get to know yourself and what makes you tick and what the best strategy is for you.

And so yesterday, I thought I had everything under control. Like, okay, Katherine, you're doing well, this is good, you're not nervous, all you have to do is hit your mark. You know how to drive these cars, you know what you're doing, just do what you do, don't let any of the auxiliary stuff in. And then I got sat down on the grid down there set in line and six cars back and have helmet on and everything. And I'm like, okay, I'm pretty nervous. No, don't be nervous, you've got to think about this, that, and the other. And, yes, but I'm nervous, all eyes are on you. And I thought I wouldn't get nervous.

So, I've gone into this Indy 500 thinking I'm not going to be nervous and I'm going to take it all in because I haven't in years past because I've been blinkers on, thinking about all the things I need to do. And I feel, oh, this year, I'm older, I'm more mature and I'm more likely to be able to handle taking it all in, when you think back, you get the (INAUDIBLE) and the flyover and everything's going on, I'm like, I'm going to really enjoy it this year. I'm going to make my memories instead of blacking it all out. And then yesterday happened, I'm like maybe I won't. Maybe I'll have my blinkers back on.


HARRAK: Thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Laila Harrak.

Paula Newton picks up our coverage next.