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White House Reveals President Biden's Staff Found Additional Pages of Classified Material at His Delaware Home; Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Warns House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that U.S. Will Soon Reach Debt Limit; Recovery Efforts Underway after Russian Missile Destroys Ukrainian Apartment Building; White House: Five More Pages of Classified Material Found in Biden's Home; Interview with Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY). Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 08:00   ET



JANELLE MONAE, ACTRESS AND SINGER: The musicals or the afterschool Shakespearian programs that so many people poured into my life to be able to sit here today. So thank you for, you know what I'm saying, reminding me of the journey. And it seems like I'm still on it.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And so grounded, that's the important part.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: So exciting. Thank you so much for coming on to talk about this and everything you've done. It' amazing.

MONAE: Thank you, guys. Get some rest.


LEMON: "Glass Onion" streaming of Netflix right now.

COLLINS: Congratulations.

LEMON: Good morning. Five more pages of classified material found over the weekend at President Biden's Delaware home. That is the third batch found within a week. Now his opponents are pouncing as a special counsel investigation gets under way.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Apocalyptic scenes in central Ukrainian where a Russian missile hitting a nine-story apartment building, killing at least 36 people, a deadly attack reportedly with a weapon meant to take out instruments of war, not people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ukrainians say they're absolutely certain that the missile who hit this building was a so-called KH-22. That's a cruise missile normally designed to destroy aircraft carriers with a warhead of more than 2,000 pounds.


LEMON: A University of Alabama basketball player now accused of murder after a deadly shooting near campus early yesterday morning. A 23-year-old woman is dead. Player Darius Miles is off the team. He and another man are being held without bond on capital murder charges.

HARLOW: California getting drenched again, flood watches in place for 8 million people in the state. The ground there already soaked, but there could be a break in the forecast soon, something that state desperately needs.

LEMON: And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 94 yesterday if he weren't gunned down nearly 55 years ago outside of a motel in Memphis. Straight ahead, we're going to speak to his son, Martin Luther King III, about his father's legacy in today's politics, particularly when it comes to voter suppression.

House Republicans are smelling blood this morning, demanding more information from the White House after more classified documents were discovered at President Biden's Delaware home. Over the weekend, White House lawyers revealed the president's staff found five additional pages of classified material. And now the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, has sent a letter to the White House demanding more evidence for a congressional investigation.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now live from Washington. Paula, good morning to you. What's going on here?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Don, what we're seeing here is a shift in strategy. After a week of taking heat for allowing most of the developments, seemingly a new development every day, to come out through the media, the White House this weekend got out in front of this announcement. They are the ones that disclosed that five additional pages of classified material were found at the president's Wilmington home. But the White House says it does not intend to offer public updates consistently. Instead, it wants to let the criminal investigation play out here.


REID: President Biden, leaving Atlanta Sunday, did not address the discovery of new pages of classified material among the records recovered at his home. On Saturday, the president's legal team revealed in a statement that five additional pages of classified markings were discovered among the materials previously discovered at his Wilmington residence.

As of now, approximately 20 documents have been uncovered at two locations connected to the president. CNN has learned 10 classified documents were found at his former office in D.C. Among them, information about Iran, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, and those documents included top secret information. On Thursday the White House revealed documents had also been found at the president's Wilmington home in a storage space in the garage, and in what was described as an adjacent room. Attorney General Merrick Garland also announced Thursday the

appointment of Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to oversee a criminal investigation into the matter.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The document authorizes him to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter.

REID: Hur is a former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney and Trump-era Justice Department official. He will take over from John Lausch, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who led the initial review of classified documents found at Mr. Biden's office and recommended Garland appoint a special counsel. Over the past week, new details about the classified documents have leaked out mostly through media reports, with the White House deferring to the Justice Department.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're just not going to get ahead of the process from here.


REID: And the president trying to defend why classified documents were stored in the same garage as his sports car.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My corvette is in a locked garage, OK. So it's not like they're sitting out on the street.

REID: But on Saturday, in what appears to be a shift in strategy, the White House was the first to reveal that additional pages had been found. But that has not stopped Republicans for calling for more investigations.

REP. JIM COMER, (R-KY): We're doing the Biden family influence peddling investigation.

REID: But Democrats emphasize that Biden and his team have cooperated while Trump is under investigation for obstruction.

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN, (D-NY): It's President Trump who refused to cooperate, who refused to comply with a subpoena, and who ultimately forced the Department of Justice to execute a search warrant to retrieve the classified documents. And that is where we need to be centering this conversation.


REID (on camera): We've learned from our sources that the U.S. attorney in Chicago did not wait for the Biden team to search every possible location before recommending a special counsel. So there are still other spots that have not been searched, which means that there could be other additional classified materials identified. It is not clear if the White House would update us if and when that happened.

LEMON: All right, Paula Reid, thanks so much.

HARLOW: This morning, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is warning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that the U.S. will soon, very soon reach its debt limit. She wrote in a letter to him, quote, "Beginning on Thursday, January 19th, the outstanding debt of the United States is projected to reach the statutory limit. Once that limit is reached, Treasury will need to start taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations."

What does this mean for you at home? Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to help us understand this. so let's just begin with what the debt limit is that's going to be breached on Thursday, and then what the debt ceiling fight means to folks.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So it's exactly what it sounds like. It's the top line, how much debt the United States can have. Congress taxes and spends. And the way Congress does business, we run on a deficit, and we rack up debt all the time because that's the way Congress works. And how do we fund the government? We sell treasuries, we sell things that the rest of the world gobbles up because we are so good at paying our bills. People want to own American debt because we don't break our promises and we have such a stellar reputation.

When you fight about paying your bills, when you fight about not raising the debt ceiling, that starts to undermine your credibility. It's sort of like a credit card limit, if you want to put it into your household finances terminology, it would be like your credit card limit. And of course, we can't just arbitrarily raise our own credit card limit. That's how the United States is different than our own personal finances. But if you hit the limit, then you should spend less. But it doesn't mean you can't pay for what you already spent. And that's what's sort of tricky about the situation we're in now.

LEMON: We keep going down memory lane. When you finish, we're like remember this, remember we covered this, remember this happened? The obvious answer, which is not so simple, is to stop spending, right, how do you fix it.

ROMANS: Or raise taxes.

LEMON: So why do we keep needing to adjust it is the question. Is there --

ROMANS: There are a lot of -- so a century ago Congress put this limit in to make sure that it was prudent with American finances, it didn't just rack up a bunch of debt. Now we just keep raising it. I think we've raised it 100 times in the last 20 years or something. Republicans and Democrats raise it. If you are serious about spending and not racking up so much debt, you have to spend less or tax more, some combination of that, and grow the economy. When the economy grows you can also limit how much debt you're racking up.

But the answer is not to, after you have already passed the spending and tax laws, to then say, oh, we're not going to pay for that. That is dangerous, that is a self-inflicted potential crisis when the United States does that. The answer is to not spend on the front end and to have smart tax policy on the front end and policies for a growing economy. HARLOW: They need Christine Romans in Washington right now to help

get them straight and get this figured out.

ROMANS: Please don't wish that on me.


HARLOW: Thank you, Christine, very much.

LEMON: Selfishly we need her here.

Now we need to talk about what's happening in California. Facing now even more rain fall after another weekend of disasters, the latest round of heavy rain is expected to spell well into today as weather experts warn the oversaturated ground could trigger more flooding and landslides. Governor Gavin Newsom echoed those concerns over the weekend.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) CALIFORNIA: The challenges will present themselves over the course of the next few days rather acutely, particularly because everything is saturated, particularly because the grounds are overwhelmed. What may appear less significant in terms of the rainfall may actually be more significant in terms of the impacts on the ground and the flooding and the debris flow.


LEMON: This weekend's showers, the latest in weeks of heavy, relentless rain, have only added to the devastation that's unfolded.


There was also this moment caught on camera. Look at this. This is Pescadero, California. The roads were so saturated that part of a cliff fell off. Meanwhile, winter storm warnings were posted for the Sierra Nevada Mountains over the weekend. The heaviest snow is expected to continue through this evening.

And then there was this rescue. Not rain, wind, or high surf stopped these crews from saving a driver in La Jolla Saturday evening. While it is unclear how he ended up stranded there, they airlifted him from his SUV hanging halfway off the edge of a cliff. President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for the state, and it's coming at a perfect time. California is expected to get a much-needed break in the rain later this week, an opportunity to really get those recovery efforts under way.

HARLOW: This morning hope is fading in the search for survivors in the rubble of a Dnipro, Ukraine, apartment building after a huge Russian missile attack. Russia has repeatedly denied that they are targeting civilians in this war, but the evidence is clear. The death toll in this bombing has risen to 40. Our Fred Pleitgen is on the ground in Dnipro and has more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The morning brings to light the full extent of the destruction, the residential building home to dozens of families, annihilated down to the foundation. Even though rescue crews still work, the chances of finding survivors now, virtually zero. All night residents watched in fear, anger, and grief.

Alha (ph) Nevenchanaya (ph) says she passed by the building only about a half-an-hour before it was hit. "There are many friends and people close to me here, many, many," she says.

Elena (ph) Loyon (ph), stunned by the destruction curses the Russians. "I simply hate them. Children, people died here." And then she can't speak anymore.

Throughout the night, the death toll continued to jump. On top of the many killed, Ukrainian authorities say dozens were injured, many of them children, in just this location in Dnipro, one of many sites in Ukraine Russia targeted with barrages of missiles this weekend.

The Ukrainians say the reason why the damage here is so extensive is that this building was hit with a cruise missile called the KH-22. That's designed to destroy aircraft carrier strike groups. And obviously, when it hit the building, it completely annihilated it, burying dozens of people underneath.

The Ukrainians call the attack state terrorism, and the president says rescuers will continue to try to save anyone trapped here. "Let's fight for every person," President Zelenskyy says. The rescue operation will last as long as there is even the slightest chance to save a life."

But even the slightest hope has now all but died, and this is essentially a recovery operation, the crews searching for bodies where so many lives were violently ended in an instance.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.


HARLOW: Our thanks to Fred and his team on the ground there.

Up next, Republican Congressman Mike Lawler will join us live in studio to talk about the classified documents at President Biden's home and office, the debt limit, the debt ceiling, and what should happen to his colleague George Santos. Much more ahead. Plus this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Coming up on CNN THIS MORNING, being prepared to save a life in a moment's notice. How NFL medical teams get ready for game day.


[08:16:58] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Since we had been reporting here over the

weekend, White House lawyers reveal the President's staff discovered five additional pages of classified material during a search of Biden's private home in Delaware. That brings the total number of classified documents recovered to about 20.

Now the Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer has sent a demand letter to the White House to turn over evidence for a congressional investigation. He is defending his decision to focus on -- focus the probe on President Biden and not the former President Donald Trump.

Let's discuss now.

Joining us a Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York. We're so glad to have you here. And I'm interested to know what you think about this. Because over the weekend, five additional pages of classified information found at Joe Biden's residence in Wilmington, Delaware.

How concerned are you about that? And are you satisfied with the Attorney General that he has now appointed a Special Counsel to investigate this?

REP. MICHAEL LAWLER (R-NY): Well, I think obviously, when you look at the former President and the current President, the bottom line is this: Classified documents should not be in anybody's home. They shouldn't be leaving the White House. They should be returned back to the National Archives, et cetera, and I think you need to have consistency on this.

And so if there was a Special Prosecutor appointed in the case of the former President, then there needed to be a Special Prosecutor appointed here to investigate this.

And it's not enough to just say, oh, the intent wasn't there. Well, how do we know what the intent was? You know, and the fact that you have classified documents on Iran, on Ukraine sitting next to a Corvette, yes, that's a bit of an issue.

And I think the current president should not be so flip about it, especially given his comments when Mar-a-Lago was raided and you know, his comments suggesting, well, I can't imagine how this could possibly happen. How could anybody be so careless? Well, that begs the question here.

LEMON: The response of the President has been concerning for many people, both Democrats and Republicans, especially the comment about the garage and the Corvette that you brought up.

But also his attorneys, they are commending the attorneys because they believe the attorneys at this point are keeping him out of legal jeopardy.

As you say, I think most people at home say both guys have documents that they shouldn't have, even though one as of now has hundreds more. You don't think the difference in Biden seeming to cooperate and the lawyers turning it over and Trump not cooperating for months and having to have a warrant or what have you, you don't think that that makes a difference to folks at home?

LAWLER: I think it's a distinction without a difference.

LEMON: I disagree with you on that.

LAWLER: The bottom line here to me is either the documents should not have been taken or there is no issue with it. And so there needs to be consistency when we talk about these issues.

And, you know, frankly, I think the fact that we didn't find out about this until two months after the fact including after the election when the White House was using the raid on Mar-a-Lago as evidence as to why Republicans should not be in control, speaks volumes here.


LAWLER: And I think it was the right thing to appoint a Special Prosecutor in the case of President Biden, as was done with President Trump, and we'll have to see what comes of it.

LEMON: If you're explaining you're losing.


LEMON: They're trying to explain the difference, and we know there is a difference. But as we say to most folks at home, this guy did wrong, this guy did wrong. So...

LAWLER: It is a pox on all houses.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, you bring up the need for consistency. How do you then explain or defend or can you not defend the inconsistency from some of your Republican colleagues, including Congressman James Comer, who's now chair of the Oversight Committee.

I'm going to play for folks what he said in November to our colleague, Pamela Brown and then what he just said yesterday. Let's play it.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I don't know much about that. That's not something that we've requested information just to see what was going on because I don't know what documents were at Mar-a-Lago.

So, you know, that's something we're just waiting to see what comes out on that.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: But is it fair to say that investigation will be a priority?

COMER: That will not be a priority.

Well, this is very concerning. I mean, this is now the second location, that the President was in possession of classified documents. Look, what is the Vice President doing with classified documents?


HARLOW: Congressman Adam Schiff said, I think Congress ought to handle both situations the same way. That is not what Comer is expressing. Should your Republican colleagues be focused on treating them the same way?

LAWLER: Look, I can't speak for Congressman Comer, but what I would say is ...

HARLOW: What would you do?

LAWLER: ... that there should always be consistency in dealing with this. And the fact that classified materials left the White House and went to, you know, the former President's home in Mar-a-Lago or went to the former Vice President's home in Delaware is concerning.

And I think, you know, the law was put in place for a reason, and so it should be consistent across the board.

LEMON: But you do see the inconsistency in his statements, as relating to Donald Trump.

LAWLER: I generally see the inconsistency in statements made by folks on both sides of the aisle on this. And you know, Adam Schiff, it's nice that he said, I'm going to withhold judgment. But Adam Schiff has not been some innocent bystander in all of these investigations over the years, so it is a little disingenuous.

LEMON: But you see, Comer, I mean, there is an inconsistency.

LAWLER: Look, there should be consistency with respect to how we apply the law, and any investigation should center around how, you know, these documents left in the first place.

Now, one thing that people would make the case is that the former President had the right to declassify. You can get into whether or not those protocols were followed, but one thing is clear, the former Vice President did not have the right to declassify, so I think that's --

LEMON: Declassify just by thinking --

HARLOW: That's actually not --

LAWLER: But no, but that is something where people are going to look at within this investigation.

HARLOW: That's actually not factual. It's not factual.

LAWLER: The Vice President had the right to declassify documents?

HARLOW: Did the Vice President -- a sitting Vice President has the power to declassify?

LAWLER: According to who? HARLOW: As of 2003, Vice Presidents have been deemed original

classification authorities. This is when President George W. Bush altered the executive order on that.

LAWLER: So the White House is claiming that the former Vice President declassified --

HARLOW: The White House is not claiming that, actually Biden has never -- Biden has never claimed that he blanket declassified anything.

LEMON: She is just telling what the rules are.

HARLOW: They are just the law. Can we -- I want to move on to something else, because you just spoke about this on the House floor. And that is about the law that funds 87,000 new employees of the IRS.

For our viewers, here's what you said on January 9th about why you don't like this.


LAWLER: I proudly support this legislation and urge all of my colleagues to vote yes, and end the 87,000 new IRS agents that are going to terrorize hardworking Americans.


HARLOW: Point of fact, PolitiFact called that mostly false that it is agents, it's not, it's actually mainly employees, everything down to IT employees. They're targeting the wealthy, right, not average, folks. And a lot of these are employees that are replacing retirees.

Is there anything you'd like to say differently this morning than what you said on the House floor? Because it seems to be quite a mischaracterization of what the bill is.

LAWLER: The top 25 percent, according to the IRS, the top 25 percent of income earners pay 89 percent of the taxes in the United States. So the idea that the wealthy do not pay their taxes is such a misnomer, and frankly such a political statement.

The bottom line here is this: There are not enough billionaires and millionaires in the country for 87,000 new IRS agents and employees to go after, period.


LAWLER: They would go after hard working middle class taxpayers. I represent one of the highest tax carriers in the country.

LEMON: But that's not what's happening. You're basing your answer on something that's factually -- that's not exactly, that's not --

HARLOW: That's not what the bill does.

LAWLER: So, they are not hiring 87,000 new employees? Agents as part of it?

LEMON: Well, part of it is attrition, part of it is training new people. It's not just -- listen, everybody has to --

HARLOW: And most aren't agents.

LEMON: Yes. Most aren't agents.

LAWLER: Well, attrition -- attrition, you fill the spot, correct? So if you're eliminating the spot for attrition ...

LEMON: So this isn't new.

LAWLER: ... then obviously --

LEMON: It is not like you're adding 87,000 new employees to go after people. That's just facts.

LAWLER: So they're not they're not hiring new people?

LEMON: Well, they are hiring people to take place -- everyone when there's attrition, when people retire, when people move on to other jobs, you have to hire new people.

HARLOW: I also --

LAWLER: It is budgeted. First of all, it is budgeted.

HARLOW: You guys are really --

LAWLER: When you're talking about replacing people through attrition, it was already budgeted. So that is, to me such a gross exaggeration of it.

HARLOW: Are you worried --

LAWLER: The bottom line for me is very simple. People in this country are nickeled and dimed to death. It is too unaffordable for people living in a place like New York, Rockland County, Westchester, we pay the highest property taxes in America, which is why my first piece of legislation was to double the cap on SALT for married couples. People cannot afford to live here.

But focus in on hiring 87,000 employees, agents -- you can classify it whatever you want, the objective is to go after hardworking American taxpayers and boost the revenue to increase spending.

LEMON: But how do you lose --

HARLOW: That's not -- Congressman, just point of fact, this legislation is to increase the amount of the highest income earners that they can to audit because the number that they've been able to audit has gone down precipitously, according to the GAO since 2010.

And I just wonder, finally, if you're concerned at all that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that this would add to the deficit, the net effect would be $114 billion increase in deficits over the next decade if you don't fund this. You're worried about that?

LAWLER: So first, just on the first point, I just fundamentally disagree with you on that. They are not just going to go after the billionaires and the millionaires. Secondarily, with respect --

HARLOW: That's just your -- that's your guess?

LAWLER: No, you can -- you can take it to the bank that there are just not enough billionaires and millionaires to go after. It's just a reality. So I just fundamentally reject that. But secondarily, with respect to your second point --

HARLOW: The CBO is saying this is going to add to the deficit if you don't try to get that money.

LAWLER: It's a snapshot. It is a snapshot, and that assumes that you're doing nothing else to reduce spending, okay. That is looking solely at this bill and it assumes that you're doing nothing else to reduce spending.

We have to get spending under control. You just talked about the debt ceiling fight that is coming.

HARLOW: Yes, I don't agree with you that we have to get spending under control, but this is separate from that and just asking if you're concerned about what the CBO portends here.

LAWLER: No, I'm not -- I'm not concerned about what the CBO projects because frankly, the CBO projections have long been ignored by Congress and others.

The bottom line to me is this: If you want to rein in spending, okay, then part of what we're dealing with in this debt ceiling fight is that is one of the levers of power to do that.

The White House has to get serious about it. You cannot continue to incur debt at the levels that we have, and both parties are responsible for this. This is not one or the other. Both parties have failed miserably when it comes to getting spending under control. But you have to use this as a fight.

I'm not concerned about what the CBO scoring is on this one bill, because all it does is it's looking at the snapshot. It's not looking at the totality of what we're trying to do to rein in spending.

LEMON: We've got to go, but you got to come to a realization on what the facts are with this and not just that, well, I think that their objective would be the facts don't bear out exactly what you are saying and what others are saying. I know that you disagree with it.

LAWLER: I disagree with that.

LEMON: But we'd like to stick to the facts.

Thank you, Congressman. We appreciate you joining us.

LAWLER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

Up next, Martin Luther King III will join us live. We're going to talk about his father's legacy, voting rights, and the new statue in Boston. A lot to discuss.