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CNN This Morning

Biden Still Planning to Announce 2024 Bid After February 7; New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern to Step Down as Prime Minister; Veterans Say, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Took $3,000 Meant for Dying Dog's Care. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 07:00   ET





JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have but also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank. We give all that we can for as long as we can and then it's time. And for me, it's time.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off within, Kaitlan and I here.

That's was -- when it's time to go, some people just know and I admire that. She feels that it's time to go and, you know?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It shocked a lot of people, though. I mean, they have their elections coming up in just a few months from now. That was a resignation that people were not expected.

LEMON: Well, that was New Zealand's prime minister resigning. We're going to discuss her surprise announcement in a moment with our very own Christiane Amanpour.

Plus, President Biden has been planning to announce his re-election bid after February 7th but then came that whole document scandal. Does that delay or change his decision? New CNN reporting, straight ahead.

COLLINS: Also you may be waking up again wondering how this is possible, but there is a new George Santos lie. The New York lawmaker claims repeatedly and consistently that his mother was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Now, we know she wasn't even in the country.

LEMON: A bold prediction by Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukraine's president vowing his country will reclaim Crimea from the Russians.

But we are going to be begin with this, President Joe Biden who has been planning to announce that he's running for re-election after his state of the union address, that's in less than -- in three weeks, by the way. But that plan was made before we learned the classified documents were discovered at his Delaware home and his former Washington D.C. office. Now that the president is under investigation, will he delay or even cancel his big announcement?

Straight now to Isaac Dovere, he joins us now from Washington with this new CNN reporting. Good morning to you, Isaac. Is it full steam ahead for Biden in 2024? Can you walk us through what you have learned?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Yes. Well, look, Don, as you know, there are a lot of people who say that they know what's going on with Joe Biden and then a very small circle of people who really do. And that small circle of people that I've been trying to report and talk to say their plan was to go with the re-election announcement, nothing is finalized but that's the plan, sometime after the state of the union, which, as you said, is on February 7th, and that the plan hasn't changed, the timeline -- timeframe hasn't changed here despite what we've seen in the news the last couple of days about this document situation. They are full steam ahead, ready to go and not getting distracted by what's going on here.

COLLINS: And, Isaac, I think one question, you know, has been about in the aftermath of the documents investigation is the differences here between what has happened with Biden's documents investigation, what has happened with Trump's. Does that seem to be what the White House is going to rely on to distinguish themselves from that?

DOVERE: Well, look, that's definitely part of it. There's a sense that they will ultimately be vindicated, essentially, that what happened here was a mistake and that was turned over voluntarily, very different from what happened with President Trump and those documents, where there was a subpoena that was not listened to by President Trump and the people around him.

But there's also a sense when you talk to the people who have been with Joe Biden over the last four years through the campaign, their first years in the White house, said over and over again there are things that have flared up, that people said this is a disaster for Biden, he'll never quite survive this, he'll never be the same, and sure enough he gets through it. He gets through things that coming in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, gets through the legislative agenda falling apart and to the place where he is now.

LEMON: Yes. Isaac, we'll see what happens. Thank you very much.

DOVERE: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right. Today is the day that the U.S. technically hits the debt limit, $31.4 trillion, which is the maximum amount that the federal government is able to borrow to pay its bills in what it's already been spending. Now, it is up to Congress to raise the limit. If that concerns you at home, yes, it could be a challenge even though lawmakers have technically a few months to negotiate a deal before the nation is actually going to potentially default on its debt, something that would be a catastrophe.

House Republicans, though, have said they want to tie spending cuts to any deal to raise the nation's borrowing limit. Democrats say the debt ceiling should just be raised with no strings attached. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers that the United States could default on its debt as soon as June. She says she's going to have to resort to extraordinary measures to keep that from happening in the meantime.


Ahead, we are going to be joined by Brian Deese, who is the director of the White House National Economic Council, to talk about what the White House's view of all of this is.

LEMON: And right now, we talk about the latest George Santos lie. The embattled Republican congressman from New York has been making this heartbreaking claim about his late mother for quite some time. Listen.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (voice over): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the south tower. And she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My mom fought cancer until her death.


LEMON: So, CNN learning now that that is not true. Santos' mother, Fatima Devolder, was not a 9/11 survivor, she wasn't even in the country in 2001. New immigration records reveal that she was in Brazil between 1999 and early 2003 and told authorities that she had not been to America during that time while she was filling out a form to report a stolen green card.

And that is not all. In just moments, we're going to speak to a veteran who said that George Santos scammed him and stole $3,000 that was intended for his dying dog.

COLLINS: Also this morning, the United States Coast Guard is tracking a suspected Russian spy ship that has been spotted in international waters off the coast of Hawaii, this as tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's war in Ukraine are ever present.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live at the Pentagon. Oren, what is the Pentagon saying this morning about this ship so close given it's off the coast of Hawaii?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, it's the Coast Guard that's been tracking the ship for the course of the past several weeks. And as you point out, what's interesting here is the timing, all the tension between the U.S. and Russia, between Washington and Moscow. The Coast Guard says they've been tracking this ship for several weeks now and believe that it is a Russian intelligence gathering ship, in plain language, a spy ship that's been hanging out in international waters off the coast of Hawaii. The Coast Guard has been monitoring this with the help of the Defense Department. It's not illegal or, in any way, uncommon for a Russian intelligence gathering ships or frankly other ships and other aircraft to be in international waters or international airspace, gathering intelligence, essentially picking up what they can in international waters, it's the timing here that makes this interesting. And according to the Coast Guard, the length of the time they've been watching this right off the coast of Hawaii. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: And so how long is that if it's common for something like this to happen? But have we seen it get this close before, especially in the last year-and-a-half when we've seen the tensions at an all- time high between Russia and the United States?

LIEBERMANN: Perhaps not in the last year-and-a-half but we have seen Russia act like this in the past. For example, just a couple of years ago, there was a Russian spy ship off the east coast of the U.S., off of Florida. What made that one different is, again, operating in international waters but DOD called it out operating in an unsafe manner, meaning operating without running lights and not responding to commercial vessels. That's where these become incidents and perhaps even raised at the diplomatic level.

Another example on the flipside, just a few weeks ago, we saw a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft intercepted by a Chinese aircraft in international airspace. Again, that's key here. What made that different is the U.S. accused China of acting in an unsafe manner and getting too close to the U.S. aircraft. That's when these rise above simple interactions and become incidents that can have consequences and are raised at diplomatic levels. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Absolutely. Oren, thank you.

LEMON: Well, this morning, a shocking resignation by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was once popular there to her responses to a shooting tragedy and initial response to COVID.


ARDERN: I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have but also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank plus a bit in reserved for those unexpected challenges.

This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year but another term, because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that. So, today I'm announcing that I will not be seeking re-election. And that my term as prime minister will conclude no later than the 7th of February.

Politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it's time. And for me, it's time.


LEMON: We are joined now by CNN's Christiane Amanpour live from London with more on this. Christiane, good morning to you.

So, I was sitting here watching your reaction to her resignation. I just want to know, what's going through your head? What are you thinking?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I'm sad, actually, because she was -- there was word called Jacindamania, and it wasn't because she was a young and good looking, surprising new prime minister but she batted away all the sexism and the misogyny and she launched a new wave of young female leaders, particularly today in Europe and the north of Europe.


And what she was was a completely -- she came in exactly the time that Donald Trump did and she was called and known as the (INAUDIBLE), when he was the isolationist, she was inclusive, when he spoke against refugees and foreigners and the other, she was inclusive. And all these things made her incredibly popular. I spoke to her three times. Here's my interview with her on her first global visit, it was to New York in 2017.


ARDERN: I am determined to do things differently. I do think you can be both strong and compassionate. I do think success is not just about economic but about your social indicators of success. And on those measures, we are looking to be world leading. We'll produce next a well-being budget. We're using indicators across cultural, social, economic and environmental. And if we succeed, we will be amongst the first in the world. That to me is the kind of governance we need.


AMANPOUR: I mean, she was incredible in what she presented and proposed to make New Zealand a bit of a climate refugee status for those who are at risk in the Pacific from rising waters.

Her main, huge domestic challenge came in about 2018 when there was a massacre by a white supremacist in New Zealand, some 51 Muslim were killed at a mosque. And she wrote on a paper, they're one of us. In other words, all these people who were killed were part of the New Zealand society, and her and in her scarf and then in hijab embracing women there outside the mosque really sort of laid her stamp, if you like.

And then on COVID, when she really came to zero COVID and she talked about be strong and be kind, that was her mantra and her empathy in what's known as her emotional I.Q. were incredibly high. But COVID then backfired. There was a strong anti-lockdown group, COVID then came back in New Zealand. And I think all of that has -- and those challenges have caused her potentially to come to the moment that she's come to now.

COLLINS: Yes. I thought it was notable. She said I'm not stepping down because the job is hard. She's like, I would have done that two months into the job if that was the case. She just said she didn't feel like she was the right person to lead at the right time.

But, Christiane, while we're talking about world leaders and just this global impact that they've had, certainly the one that she had, we're also watching President Zelenskyy, who has been at this world forum in Davos. Yesterday, he gave a speech talking about the state of the war. Now, he's saying he does believe one day that they are going to take back Crimea after it was illegally annexed by Russia. I wonder what has stood out to you from this time with Zelenskyy on the world stage.

AMANPOUR: Well, to be honest with you, I also interviewed him not so many months ago in Kyiv, in November. And I asked him precisely what it would take to end the war and what it would take to so-called make peace. And he laid it out. He put a ten-point plan down and his people keep saying it to us, and he keeps saying it, not until Russia moves back from all the territories, including Crimea.

And I think you're seeing now in the west a greater understanding that a lot more weapons need to be given to Ukraine to make their position very clear if there's any hope that Putin is going to feel the pain of this war and come to his senses around some kind of negotiating table.

LEMON: It's always great to get your perspective, Christiane Amanpour --

COLLINS: I love having her on.

LEMON: -- from London. Thank you very much. You be well, thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

LEMON: So, next, a new low for George Santos. Now, he's accused of stealing thousands from a GoFundMe that could have saved the life of a homeless veteran's service dog.

COLLINS: And Damar Hamlin is back where he belongs this morning with his teammates. The Buffalo Bills say they like the vibe.

LEMON: Nice.


DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS PLAYER: It just shows growth. It just shows that for his individual battle, and he's won, and he's still winning.




LEMON: You really want to hear about this story, so, everyone, sit down and listen, because a New Jersey veteran is speaking out against Congressman George Santos accusing him of stealing thousands of dollars in donations meant to save his dying dog. The Navy veteran who was homeless at the time says his pit bull, Sapphire, developed a tumor, needed life-saving surgery. This was back in 2016.

A mutual friend connected him with Santos saying that Santos was involved with helping and rescuing animals, okay? So, the veteran knew Santos as Anthony Devolder. Santos set up a GoFundMe page for Sapphire, money poured in, more than $3,000, but Rich Osthoff said that he never saw a dime and his dog died months later. So, the fundraiser was set up under a charity group that Santos mentioned on his campaign website in a paragraph that has since been deleted. Now, Santos also talked about the charity. So, listen to this, here it is.


SANTOS: I mean, we had a great organization. We were able to save animals, dogs, cats, horses. I mean, at one point I had eight baby jumping goats in my car.


LEMON: So, Osthoff has shared texts that he exchanged with Santos at the time. He told Santos, I am starting to feel I was mined for my family and friends' donations. Santos responded saying that because his dog is not a candidate for surgery, quote, the funds are moved to the next animal in need.

Now, in another text, Osthoff says, I am sick of being jerked around, to which Santos replies in part, remember, it is our credibility that got GoFundMe themselves to contribute.

So, let's discuss all of this now. Rich Osthoff is here. He is the Navy veteran making the claims against Santos, and Michael Boll, the founder of the New Jersey Veterans Network, who tried to intervene and get the money from Santos.


I'm so glad you're both Thank you so much. I really appreciate you joining us.

So, Rich, I'm going to start with you. Talk us through this, because I've read what happened, but what happened, in your words?

RICH OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN WHO SAYS SANTOS TOOK MONEY INTENDED FOR HIS DYING DOG: It started out breaking my ankle out in my driveway one day. I broke my ankle, I needed multiple surgeries, I became homeless because I couldn't pay my rent for a year-and-a-half. I wound up in the tent with the dog, needed surgery, went to the vet, vet said it was going to cost about $3,000. Santos was a friend of the vet tech that worked there.

And she gave me glowing reviews about him. Supposedly, he seemed like he was on the up and up. She showed me other pictures of other animals that he supposedly had these GoFundMes for. I was in a desperate situation. I was living in a tent. I didn't have the money to get the dog taken care of myself. So, I was ready for the help.

LEMON: And you were living with sapphire in the tent. Yes. OSTHOFF: While we were living there, the tumor or the lipoma, it was called, was growing in an exponential rate. It was getting huge. But it only took about two to three months to raise the money. A friend brought me up to Santos' veterinarian, that he recommended, that he actually insisted that I use. He wouldn't let me use my veterinarian. He created problems with another local veterinarian, saying that they would not accept his payment form or something along those lines.

He was supposed to -- he told me in a text message or maybe it was on the phone, he was going to pay me back for a trip to Long Island to bring the dog up to his veterinarian. He was going to pay me for gas, lunch, tolls. I was even gullible enough to give him my bank account routing number and my bank account number because he said he was going to put the money for the trip right into my account. That never happened, never happened. And that was the first sniff that I got.

LEMON: You said you were gullible but he never took funds out of your account, right?

OSTHOFF: Not at that point, no. No, no, he never took anything from me, not out of my account.

LEMON: Did you ever see a cent?

OSTHOFF: Never, no. At that point, I started getting frustrated. I knew that I wasn't going to get any money out of this guy. So, I kind of -- I irked him a little bit when I told him that I didn't think that he was legitimate and then I thought he was, like you mentioned before, mining my dog and my friends' and families' hearts for money. That was the most offensive thing he had ever heard, I'm a scumbag, this and that and the other thing, and that was where it just all fell through.

That was the breaking point where I believe he -- he created the breaking point. He wanted me to get mad at him and storm off and give up on it. And it just devolved from there. He wouldn't answer calls anymore. And that was when I asked Michael to get involved. He had already helped me out with a bunch of other veteran stuff. He got me a bicycle. He got me, I think, a computer and a few other things, stuff I didn't even ask for, he helps me with. And he talked to him. Michael talked to him as well. And Michael runs a charity. One charity head to another charity head, he figured he could help me out. He could get it worked out for me.

LEMON: I'm going to get Michael in. But I just -- this is Sapphire.

OSTHOFF: This is Sapphire, yes.

LEMON: That's Sapphire's ashes that you brought into the studio.

Listen, let me read this because George Santos, he refuted the claim. This is what he told me, okay? He says, I have no clue what he is talking about and the crazy part is that anyone that knows me knows that I'd go to hell and back for a dog, and especially a veteran.

OSTHOFF: Well, then go to hell. He said, he'd go to hell and back. Well, then, go to hell George.

LEMON: Is that your sentiment?


LEMON: He goes on to say, so, this is just more of a pile-on effect. I have dozens of people reaching out to me in support, sharing their stories about their dogs and cats that I helped save and rescue. What's your response to that?

OSTHOFF: I don't believe any of it. I don't believe anything that he said about that. I think any other animal that he had up on his website or whatever probably suffered the same fate as my dog did.

LEMON: Go on, Michael. You stepped in to help him out.


LEMON: Well, first of all, let me ask you, what do you think of George's response and then I'll ask you how you --

BOLL: I mean, just because he helps a few people it doesn't mean that he can't be doing this to others. It's not the first time someone has pulled fraud and hurt our veteran community.

LEMON: So, you believe it's fraud?

BOLL: I know it's fraud, yes. It's horrible.


BOLL: I spoke to him. I honestly thought this was a mistake. I was so shocked because working as a charity and calling another charity, you never really have these kind of problems. So, I told Rich to calm down and relax, because I have been working with Rich as his mentor and peer support and just getting him through this. And I really thought it was a mistake. I thought it was some minor mishap.

And I called Anthony Devolder, AKA, George Santos, and I said to him, hey, this is probably a mistake, a misunderstanding, and he was not going to help out at all. And I said to him, you have two options.


I think that would be a really good idea to give the money back to all the people who donated or give the money to a veterinarian in Rich's area and he can use that for a fund with his future dogs to help him pay medical bills.


BOLL: It was no compromising with this gentleman, and it was hurtful.

LEMON: Rich, when did you realize -- because you knew him as Anthony Devolder, when did you realize that George Santos and Anthony Devolder were one and the same?

OSTHOFF: Last week.

LEMON: So, you just put it together last week?

OSTHOFF: I started seeing him around Christmas time on T.V., because I was Facebook friends with him at the time the fundraiser was going on. I had seen an earlier picture of him, probably when he was in his early 20s or something like that. He's gained a lot of weight, so he was not very recognizable and he was going by George Santos.

I had a feeling I knew him. I knew that he had done something. I didn't know if he gave me the finger in traffic one day or something but I knew he did something to me and crossed me in my past. And it wasn't until last week that a reporter asked him on T.V., are you George Santos or Anthony Devolder today? Oh my God, now I know who he is, where he's at and how did he rise to where he's at right now.

LEMON: It clicked?

OSTHOFF: Yes, oh my God.

LEMON: What do you think of the lies about 9/11 and his mom and--

OSTHOFF: It's horrible. How do you lie about that? How do you lie about being Jewish? How do you lie -- I mean, he stole money from another dying old man too in Brazil. I mean, this guy, he doesn't deserve to be where he's at, he doesn't deserve a government pension.

I'm a very personal private person. I don't have very many friends. I stay at home with my dogs for the most and I'm fine. I don't want to be out here doing this. I don't like the media attention. I don't like my phone blowing up and stuff. But when I saw him on the news as Anthony Devolder, I put two and two together, I ripped the scab off and it felt like my dog died yesterday. It hurt me that much all over again.

LEMON: Have you tried to reach out to him since?


LEMON: Have you tried to --

BOLL: No, and there was no reason for it.

LEMON: What would you say to him if he was here now? What would you say to him?

OSTHOFF: Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? He probably would lie about that. I mean, I don't want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George. And nobody else should ever have to go through that. I almost killed myself when that dog died. That's why I'm here. I don't want him to be able to do this again.

LEMON: What do you want to happen? BOLL: You know, one thing about working in a charity is, thank God, we have people that care. We expect nothing to come out of this from Santos. But I know that America has people here that love veterans and they've already reached out to us and offered to help. So, I'm happy to know that there's people out there that really see the good that we do and really want to show love to our veterans and help them. So, I see the good out of this.

OSTHOFF: Santos really took a piece of my heart when he did this. My opinion of humanity was very, very, extremely diminished, crashed into the floor. And the outpouring I've seen over the last two days from people commenting on my story, online, especially Facebook and YouTube, everybody is positive about this. I've not seen a single troll. People want to give me money, they want to give me another service dog, they want to help me with dog food and stuff like that. And they've really brought me back up with my value and my insight in humanity again. George wrecked it but these people put their hearts in what they've been offering to me. I trust people again.

LEMON: Were you able to pay the bills and all of that?

OSTHOFF: I head to Panhandle to have the dog euthanized and cremated.

LEMON: Thank you.

OSTHOFF: Thank you.

LEMON: I'm so sorry. Thank you.

BOLL: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. And, listen, don't take your life. I'm sure you know that. It's a lot of people --

OSTHOFF: I was given another service dog three weeks after she died and that was the best thing that happened in that whole four to six- month period, having another dog to cuddle up with and cry and let my emotions out. When I have a dog in my life, I will not hurt myself because that's my pride and joy, the one thing in my life that I live for. And I don't want anybody else to be that dog's daddy or mommy. That's my heart.

LEMON: We're glad that you're here and we hope that you're here for a long, long time.

OSTHOFF: Thank you.

LEMON: So, thank you very much. We're glad that you got through this and for sharing your story. Hopefully, it will help others.

OSTHOFF: Thanks for letting us share.

BOLL: Thank you.

LEMON: I really appreciate it.

We'll be right back.