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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is Interviewed about the Debt Ceiling; Blake Ballin is Interviewed about Charges in Nichols' Death. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 27, 2023 - 08:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're back live on Capitol Hill this morning.

President Biden, here in Washington, is reiterating his refusal to negotiate over raising the debt limit, as he is warning of economic chaos by MAGA Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the deal. You've got to cut your -- they want to cut your Social Security and Medicare.

Beyond that, they're actually threatening to have us default on the American debt.

But I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip. In the United States of America, we pay our debts.


COLLINS: Senator Joe Manchin is urging the White House to begin talks with Republicans after he met privately with Speaker Kevin McCarthy to discuss raising the debt ceiling.

Senator Manchin joins us now.

You heard the president there, he says he believes that these MAGA Republicans are trying to destroy the economy over the debt ceiling. Is he right?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I don't want to think that. I don't think anybody wants to destroy our economy. But, you know, you've got to talk. You've got to converse with - with all people up here and all sides, with different opinions.

First of all, we have to recognize we have a $31.5 trillion debt that's not getting any smaller. And we're in a - we're, right now -- we said we're writing checks our children can't cash. So, we have a responsibility to say this debt, in the last two decades, has grown over $20 trillion to $25 trillion. It's unacceptable. It's just wrong. So, we have to, sooner or later.

And this is a time, it seems like, of the high theatrics can go on, but 2011 didn't - didn't work out well for anybody. And a lot of people were harmed. And we shouldn't go through that again. But there should be conversations going on, communication, as to how we're going to basically start addressing this debt.

COLLINS: Well, you met privately with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The president said there that the Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare. Is that what he told you?

MANCHIN: Not at all. No. And I understand what - you know, from the Democratic Party, where they would be coming for and saying that's -- that's the thing that gets people scared, OK. And in West Virginia, I have 60 percent of my elderly, retired people that all they have is Social Security and Medicare. And I just told Kevin, I said, Kevin, you and I both know that's not going to happen. Take that off the table. That should be the holy grail. The people that are receiving their benefits now are going to continue to receive them. And we're going to do everything we can to solidify it.

What we should be doing is, in the long-term, how do you solidify it so no one has to worry that has paid into it and earned it. That's what we should be working on.


MANCHIN: And he said, fine, I agree with that.

COLLINS: So he said, Social Security and Medicare cuts are off the able.

MANCHIN: People that are receiving Social Security and Medicare should not be scared that they're going to be losing that or get cut. What can happen if we don't address the debt, there's automatic cuts that would happen to both if they become deficient. And they're shown to run out of money, or basically be drastically harmed financially here fairly soon, five, six, seven, eight years from now.

COLLINS: But did he commit to you that he would not touch those?

MANCHIN: Those two, yes.

COLLINS: He did say that?

MANCHIN: He said - he said, no, he has no intention of doing that. He might have his other -- he's just speaking on behalf of himself. He says, I have no intention of basically going after or cutting Social Security and Medicare as people are receiving it now.


COLLINS: Did he say what is on the chopping block, what they are considering? MANCHIN: No, they're not - here's the thing I think I see - and Kevin

and I had a good conversation. I said, Kevin, he said, what we should be looking at is, do we have any areas? You know, let's look where the discretionary and non-discretionary funds have increased rapidly in the last - the last few years. Are there things there that basically we could or is there any way that someone could say, can you at least cut a penny out of every dollar that we spend, or maybe three pennies out of every dollar or five? I don't know.

With any of this, there has to be some restraint. But you at least ought to converse about it. But just start accusing people who are going to say, well, if you're going to cut here, here and here. And I'll guarantee you, if I'm trying to make you look as scary as I can on the other side, saying, you better stick with me because they're going to do this and this to you, how would I know that unless I just speculate and try to pick the most popular things to say that's exactly what you want to do.

I don't believe that. And you don't know until you sit down and start talking. And I truly believe, Kaitlan, with all my heart, that if the president and Chuck Schumer and Kevin McCarthy and they all sit down and then you can find out what the true intent is. But right now speculation isn't doing anything but just raising everyone's anxiety, if you will.

COLLINS: So you think it's time for President Biden to invite Kevin McCarthy to the White House?

MANCHIN: President Biden's great to talk to. You can sit down and talk with him and you can work things out. He's reasonable, OK. And I don't know why, for some reason, they're saying, well, we're not going to -- come on over and talk and have coffee but we're not going to negotiate.

Well, have a good conversation. Do we all think that the $31.5 trillion is out of control and more than what we should be carrying right now? We have the ability to correct this. But the further it grows and the larger it grows, the harder it becomes. Then you have the debt payment. You know, for ten years the debt was around zero. I mean the interest rate was around zero, from the Feds. Now, as the interest rates are growing, we're going to have a challenge to where very shortly we'll be paying more to service -- we'll be paying more to service the debt that our countries is carrying than we will to defend our country.

COLLINS: Do you think, in the end, the White House will end up negotiating with Republicans?

MANCHIN: I just think that Joe Biden understands how this place works, OK? And everybody says, in 2011, he was the one that came over and made the deal to put us back -- put the government back where -

COLLINS: When he was vice president.

MANCHIN: He was vice president. And a lot of Democrats got mad because at that time they were not willing to sit down, I guess, and try to work things out. And president -- Vice President Biden at that time came over and started working with Mitch McConnell and came up with an agreement and we moved on. The government opened back up. That damaged everybody and the average consumers and the average constituents and the average Americans got hurt the most.

COLLINS: On the classified documents, the president has said he has no regrets about how they've handled that since then. You've said that you do believe he should have a lot of regrets about how it's handled?

MANCHIN: I do think -- sure, you should have regrets on that. You know, however it happened. I don't think anything was intentional. And I can't -- now we're finding out, whoever had access. The top - you know, there's a top eight in this -- in our government that get classified information a little differently than the rest of us. We usually go down in a SCIF. They -- and all the senators and congresspeople have to go into that SCIF. And there is no way in the world that we're able to take that out of that SCIF, which is a secured area.

Now, president, vice president, and those are having them delivered to them, whether it be at the White House or be at their office. I just -- there has to be better checks and balances on this. But now we find that, you know, Vice President Pence, both of our presidents, former President Trump and now our president, everybody should have regrets because it can get into the wrong hands.

And classified documents are truly classified. Top-secret is absolutely top secret. And it's something that could harm our -- could harm our defense of our country and basically the people who were able to get the information that we need to make sure that we're defending our country properly.

COLLINS: The president has said he takes classified documents seriously, but does it seem that way to you?

MANCHIN: It seems that basically we have no checks and balances when it comes to that level, OK? And how that would have happened. I know he takes it seriously when he reads them. He gets briefed every morning. And basically he's been involved for so many years that he has been at the SCIF as much as we have been at the SCIF, seeing what goes on. And they always say, are you clean when you go in? Take all your electronics off. When you're coming out they're saying, are you clean? Do you have anything on you?

COLLINS: So you're basically saying it's a different standard that applies to you and some other senators than applies to those on the Intelligence Committee or maybe the president or vice president.

MANCHIN: Well, there's eight. There's eight. You have the Intelligence Committee and you have basically the speaker and you have the majority and minority leader. So you have the eight and the president and vice president. And they're exposed a little differently, yes.

COLLINS: Are you worried that this casts a cloud over the expected 2024 announcement from President Biden? MANCHIN: Well, every day something new comes out and somebody else has

got -- they're fining them. I think what they ought to do is find out how this happened. How would it ever happen? Who boxed up the materials? Who would ever have the materials basically in the same as my papers in my - when I clear my office out, papers I have and certain papers in certain areas.


But who would ever have secured, classified documents in the same area as your general correspondences would be. That doesn't make sense to me at all.

COLLINS: So, it does cast a cloud over it, do you think?

MANCHIN: It casts a - well, what - it casts a cloud over the whole process. Saying that one person's more guilty than the other. I think the smart thing that was done here is Merrick Garland has special counsel. Let the special counsel do their job. And I think they will do a very good job, very thorough job. But, hopefully, give us a remedy of how we can prevent this from ever happening again.

COLLINS: You tried to pass a measure yesterday blocking some electric vehicles from getting a $7,500 tax credit if they don't meet the new requirements that are part of the IRA that was passed last fall. Senator Debbie Stabenow blocked that measure, thwarted that measure. What are you going to do next to try and to prevent that from happening?

MANCHIN: Well, basically there's - I mean the Treasury Department and Janet Yellen have had a conversation. We just totally disagree on how she's basically rolling out and allowing -- she's picking and choosing. They're picking and choosing to say, OK, before -- if we did nothing on this bill, if there was never an IRA bill, then not one manufacturer of cars in the United States of America, Ford, General Motors, or Toyota, would be able to get any credits. Would be able to give any discounts because they had already hit their cap of 200,000 cars. And that was over.

This new proposal that we have in the IRA, we just said, we're not going to be beholding on all of our dependency on China to produce the batteries that these cars run on. And right now they have a lock on them, about 80 percent of the market tide up. So we've got to get back into the game if you want to have a transportation mode that's not dependent on foreign supply chains.

So, if you basically secure the rare earth minerals from North America or countries that we have a free trade agreement with so we're not being held hostage, that gets $3,750. If you manufacture the batteries in North America, that's another $3,750. If you want manufacturing to come back to the United States, then you'd better be able to have a supply chain you can depend on.

All of a sudden, they come out and say, well, we don't have the rules and regs done and the law was very clear in July when the president signed it - COLLINS: Yes.

MANCHIN: By December 31st you had to have it. She's not in compliance. But they picked and choose. They say, well, we'll continue to give you $7,500 if you're within the range of the cars or the range of your income. I said, Janet, you can't pick and choose. Get the rules and regulations. And Debbie and I just had a fundamental disagreement.

COLLINS: Well, we'll see what you do next on that.

I do want to talk to you about 2024 before you go. Are you going to be backing Senator Kyrsten Sinema if she runs in Arizona?

MANCHIN: Absolutely. Kyrsten Sinema deserves to be backed. She deserves to have the support of all of us because you have to have -

COLLINS: Including Senator Chuck Schumer?

MANCHIN: You have to have people in the middle. If you don't have a middle, you don't have America. If you don't have people that's putting America first, this is all about bringing Americans together. You've got to find people that are willing to take a vote against their party, against basically the pressures of a party movement. Whether it be Democrat or Republican. And we find very few people that are willing to say, listen, this doesn't make sense. I'm going to go home -- I'm going to vote for this and go home and explain it.

COLLINS: Have you made a decision about running in 2024?

MANCHIN: I have not. I haven't. And I've got plenty of time (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: If you run, will there be a "d" next to your name?

MANCHIN: I haven't made any decision on anything because I'm not in a hurry to do that. I want to make sure --

COLLINS: Some people say a presidential run could be in your future.

MANCHIN: I want to make sure the basic -- whatever I do, I'm able to help bring this country together. It's Americans together. And that's what we should be doing. Americans want to be united. And the politics of America right today is basically dividing people. They're making you pick a side. What side are you on? You should be on one side, the American side. Not a Democrat side better than a Republican or a Republican better than a Democrat, but the side of America.

COLLINS: Senator Joe Manchin, thank you for your time this morning.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: All right, you heard Senator Joe Manchin there weighing in.

Also, of course, back in Memphis, we are covering what's happening there on the ground. We are waiting for the release of the video. We are expecting it later today, showing five Memphis officers, the beating of Tyre Nichols, as you heard Don speaking with his family. Those five officers have been indicted on murder and kidnapping charges. Don is going to speak to the attorney representing one of those officers. That's next.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon, live in Memphis.

As the country braces for the release of this tape showing exactly what led to the death of Tyre Nichols, five police officers have been indicted on murder and kidnapping charges.

Now, Nichols was pulled over for what the officers say was reckless driving. Just last hour, the Memphis police chief told me that she has not seen any evidence to substantiate that claim.


CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: We've looked at cameras, we've looked at body-worn cameras, and even if something occurred prior to this stop, we've been unable to substantiate that at this time. Not --

LEMON: So you - you haven't been able to substantiate a reckless -- the reckless driving at all?

DAVIS: The reckless driving. No, we have not been able to substantiate the reckless driving.

LEMON: And that was why he was supposably stopped?

DAVIS: We've taken a - a pretty extensive look to determine, you know, what that probable cause was. And we have not been able to substantiate that. It doesn't mean that something -- something didn't happen, but there is no proof.

LEMON: That the cameras -


LEMON: And CNN has learned that of the five officers who were indicted, only one remains in jail. The other four were released on bond. Desmond Mills Jr. is one of those four officers posting his $250,000 bond last night. And he is back home now with his family.

So, speaking of that officer, I'm joined now by the attorney for Desmond Mills Jr., Blake Ballin.

Blake, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.


LEMON: The police chief, in an interview, just a short while ago, said that there is no evidence to substantiate the claim of reckless driving. They haven't found any evidence in video or otherwise.

BALLIN: Right.

LEMON: What's your reaction to that?

BALLIN: That proof's in the pudding. I need to see it. I haven't seen anything. I haven't seen the video that we're all waiting to see.


I haven't seen anything about the stop from a defense standpoint. This is the beginning stages of things, and we are looking forward to seeing what evidence they have.

LEMON: He -- the officers had a duty of care. It was said by the police chief that they did not follow the Memphis Police Department's guidelines for duty of care. They did not render care. Obviously there is the -- also the kidnapping charge as well.

How do you respond to that?

BALLIN: Well, specifically focused on that kidnapping charge. And, of course, having not seen this video, it's difficult for me to talk about the facts. But to say that, you know, an officer, who crosses a line or does something illegal in detaining somebody has committed an aggravated kidnapping is a dangerous precedent to set.

LEMON: Why do you say that?

BALLIN: Well, every time a Fourth Amendment violation occurs, every time somebody claims they have been wrongfully arrested by a police officer, whether an egregious violation or a slight one, are officers now looking at being charged with an A felony and looking at up to 25 years in jail? It's going to make it difficult for officers to do their jobs.

LEMON: There is the attempted murder charge or the murder charge, I should say, second-degree murder charge. Do you believe that that is an overcharge and difficult to prove? Why?

BALLIN: So that requires that they prove that Mr. Mills acted with a reasonable degree of certainty with regard to his actions. That his actions were certain to cause death. And that's just simply not the case. When this video comes out, I expect that Mr. Mills will not be delivering blows that caused death.

LEMON: Why do you believe that?

BALLIN: Because I've sat down with Mr. Mills. I've looked him in the eye. I know the kind of person he is. I have talked with other people who have seen the video and I just don't believe that Mr. Mills is capable of committing that act.

LEMON: What did he tell you about the confrontation?

BALLIN: I cannot tell you what my client has told me. LEMON: Can you give us an indication of -- you're saying that you

don't believe that he delivered blows. So, obviously, in your conversations he told you, I did not deliver blows.

BALLIN: He's not the only person I have talked to, Don.

LEMON: OK. You've talked to others and what did they say?

BALLIN: I've talked to others and the levels of culpability amongst these five officers are different. And I expect that you're going to see in this video that my client, Desmond Mills, is not, in fact, guilty of the crimes he's been charged with.

LEMON: Then why wouldn't he render aid if there were other people who were culpable? And -- go on. Sorry.

BALLIN: No. I mean there are circumstances we don't know about yet. Whether Mr. Mills was injured. Whether he -- there's pepper spray flying in the air. What he was doing while others were acting in an unlawful way. Until I see that video, I can't - I can't say.

LEMON: Speaking to the father of Tyre Nichols, he said there's videotape -- the tape shows that Tyre was propped up against a wall, handcuffed, that he slumped over, the officers lift him back up and says, you know, some expletives about sit up or get up. If he's sitting there, why officers couldn't just try to get him to a hospital to get aid to him, to the paramedics?

BALLIN: I haven't seen any of this. When I do, I can comment on it. For now, I just - I cannot answer that without having seen this video.

LEMON: The reason that you believe that there's different levels of culpability is because of the amount of bail, is that what - why you believe?

BALLIN: That's part of it. Part of it is just my discussions with my client, with the district attorney, with the U.S. attorney. I mean, I've been in constant contact with the prosecutors here. So, while I haven't seen the video, I know a little bit about what's going on here. And I expect there's going to be different levels of action here. And so I caution everyone to look at this with an open mind and to treat each of these officers as individuals.

LEMON: As you know, under these circumstances, when you have someone who has died, and then you have the - you know, everyone involved, most people involved saying, listen, the videotape is damning, it's going to be hard to get some level of sympathy or empathy for your client. You have been saying that you have spoken to his family members and -- about the history and who Officer Mills is as a person and was as an officer.

BALLIN: Right. Let me say this first, that my heart goes out to the Nichols family. As a defense lawyer, this is an interesting case for me. I have dedicated my professional life to fighting against injustice in the system, to fighting against a system where there's systemic racism for centuries. And to now find myself representing somebody who's a part of that system is an interesting position to be in.

But I want to remind everybody that just because Mr. Mills was a part of that system doesn't mean that he can't also be a victim of it. And so it's my job to protect him and to protect his rights. And I'm doing that not only because I believe in the system, but because I believe in Mr. Mills.

I have talked to his family. I've talked to his father.


I've looked him in the eye and I've learned the kind of person Desmond Mills is. He is a good man. There are plenty of bad officers out there. There are plenty of good ones. The vast majority are good. And I believe Desmond Mills is a good person.

LEMON: Why do you say he's a victim of the system?

BALLIN: I'm saying he could be a victim of the system. That just because he is an officer, a former officer, because he is part of the system that I, as a defense lawyer, spend my career fighting against doesn't mean that now that he's on the other side, that he couldn't also become a victim of that. And so that's why I and all the other lawyers here are going to vigorously defend our clients.

LEMON: Is he remorseful?

BALLIN: You know, he is remorseful that - that he is attached to anything like this. That he is involved or connected to the death of somebody whose life should not have been taken. That is devastating to him.

LEMON: He must be remorseful that there is someone who died. (INAUDIBLE).

BALLIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LEMON: Thank you, Blake Ballin.

BALLIN: Yes, sir.

LEMON: We appreciate you joining us.

BALLIN: Thanks for having me on.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

So, Kaitlan, as I wrap it up here in Memphis, at least for the purposes of our show, I know that you have been speaking to lawmakers and listening to the interview from the police chief saying that they need help from Washington. They need help from the president of the United States. They want to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed. The mother of Tyre Nichols, the father of Tyre Nichols, Benjamin Crump, the family attorney, also saying that this needs to be a blueprint of how to move forward in these cases and that there needs to be better training and that our laws need to be changed. That that has to come from our lawmakers.

COLLINS: Yes, Don, I was sitting here with Senator Manchin while you were interviewing his family and then his parents and the attorney there and it was hard to listen to. You know, listening to his mom talk about what she's going to miss about him and the fact that what she told you, you know, she'll never be able to cook dinner for him again. She'll never be able to hug him. She's going to miss his smile.

And we were talking just about the pain that that family is feeling and, you know, what the potential reaction is going to be to this video.

Senator Manchin was talking about training for officers and what that needs to look like.

And, you're right, there are -- we are hearing these calls from a lot of these officials about what needs to happen here in Washington, how they believe that needs to change. But it is remarkable to see the interviews that you've done this morning, you know, with the police chief, with the family, talking about what the reaction in that community looks like.

LEMON: Well, Kaitlan, we're both southerners, right, from neighboring states. We're rivals when it comes to colleges But you - you know, there's a familiarity with southern families. You and I talk about cooking. I told you that my mom was in town and I was gaining weight because she was cooking red beans and rice. And so it became very relatable to me when she said I'm no longer be able to cook for my son.

These are human beings. They're families. They're just like you. They're just like me. And just like the folks who are watching. And so I hope that our viewers take away the humanity in all of this and realize that there are -- no one is perfect, as the mother has been saying. The officers, obviously, aren't perfect and the people who come in contact with police officers. And we need to figure out how we can bridge the gap between the two so that a routine traffic stop does not lead to death.

COLLINS: Yes, a horrific death.

And, Don, I'm really glad you're on the ground there covering this, speaking with their family about that. It's really important.

And I'm Kaitlan Collins, live here in Washington. Don is in Memphis.

CNN's special coverage of this is going to continue right now.