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Senate Republicans Break with DeSantis Over Ukraine Stance; Biden Issues Executive Order Aimed at Reducing Gun Violence; 13 Million American Expected to Have Alzheimer's by 2050; Police Arrest NY Man Who Threatened Mass Shooting at Grocery Store. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 15, 2023 - 06:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis facing some significant backlash from hawks in his own party over his stance on Russia's war in Ukraine. The Florida Governor and likely presidential candidate drew a line in the sand when he told Fox News that he doesn't think protecting Ukraine is vital to U.S. interests. Instead, he called it a territorial dispute and a distraction from bigger challenges here at home. This morning, some top Senate Republicans are pushing back. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Well, it's not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: To say this doesn't matter, to say that war crimes don't matter. He's going to go beyond Ukraine, Putin. If you don't get that, you're not listening to what he's saying. This is the chance to stop Putin before it gets to be a bigger war. And China is watching.


LEMON: Thanks, Rubio. And Graham there. There are others. So, joining us now, National Political Correspondent for the New York Times, Shane Goldmacher.

Shane, good morning to you. What do you make of this divide in the Republican Party on Ukraine? As we were talking this morning in the meeting, Kaitlan pointed out, this is not just members of -- these are hawks, right, who are disagreeing with Ron DeSantis.

SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think this is a big moment for the Republican Party and its own evolution on foreign policy, and it's a big moment for the 2024 campaign.

LEMON: How so? GOLDMACHER: Well, the Republican Party historically has been hawkish, right? They have been wanting to project strength against Russia, strength abroad. And Donald Trump came in and said, we want to project strength first here at home. It was this whole America First agenda, and that was an outlier in the Republican Party. But Ron DeSantis and Trump together make up the vast majority of support in the potential 2024 field, and now they're both coming in on that side of the ledger. And so that's a big shift for the party itself. And it's really notable. You see Marco Rubio. You see Lindsey Graham. These are -- Lindsey Graham is supporting Donald Trump. But it's interesting he's choosing to criticize Ron DeSantis for agreeing with the candidate he's actually backing in 2024.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. And Rubio coming out and saying that, saying, you know, he doesn't deal with foreign policy every day as governor. I mean, he's the senior senator in his state when it comes to Lindsey Graham saying, you know, to say you don't care about war crime -- war crimes. What Ron DeSantis said was more nuanced than that. He was not saying that.

But it is interesting because Ron DeSantis previously supported arming Ukraine, as Poppy pointed out yesterday. I think what most fascinating about this is getting the first look at Ron DeSantis' foreign policy.

GOLDMACHER: Absolutely. He's been a blank slate on this issue. And Rubio's not wrong, right? In Tallahassee, foreign policy issues aren't central, right? So Ron DeSantis is coming, choosing to outline his foreign policy, and this is one of the first big things he think. And it's the venue that he chose to outline it on, right? He chose to give his opinion to Tucker Carlson, who's been aligned with Trump on shifting the Republican Party in this direction. So it's not just the announcement itself of his position and where he announced it and how he announced it and when he announced it, right? He's running for president at this point.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, but to try to enact your foreign policy vision, you have to become president. And to become president, you have to get GOP voters behind you in a primary. Could this not be just a very savvy move by him looking at how much Republican support for the ongoing level of funding, at least for the war in Ukraine, has dwindled significantly?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, he's absolutely aligning himself where he thinks the majority of the Republican Party electorate is. But that said, if you become president and you don't want to -- if you want to go back to his previous position, it's very hard to shift, right? If you said that Ukraine is not part of a vital national security interest for the United States, it's going to be hard to make the case if you become a President DeSantis to the Congress that you should be putting money into something that's not vital.

COLLINS: Yeah, he left the door open a little bit.

GOLDMACHER: A little bit.

COLLINS: Yeah. LEMON: On the other hand, you -- do you point out that Trump is the one who is following DeSantis lead on talking about how he's talking about education?

GOLDMACHER: Yeah. You know, so I watched Trump's rally this week, and it was ostensibly an education speech in Iowa. It was really just a Trump speech with a little bit of education in the middle toward the end. But it was interesting just to see how he is adopting some of the same language and some of the same sort of emphasis.

You know, education has been one of the defining things that DeSantis --

LEMON: -- schools and CR --

GOLDMACHER: On schools, on critical race theory, on -- you know, there was this moment in the rally where Trump is talking, and he talks about critical race theory, and he talks about transgender, and the crowd just goes wild. And these rallies are this interesting two-way street where the crowd is, like, giving him feedback on what they really care about. And he pauses, and he literally, of course, he reaches the stage cues. He takes it in. He says, wow, that was really a loud moment.

And you can see him hearing that this is what's motivating the base, which is something that I think DeSantis saw first.

COLLINS: Yeah, it'll be fascinating how they try to distinguish themselves on things like that, because they do agree now, on Ukraine, obviously, the education thing. Nikki Haley saying that DeSantis is just echoing Trump.

Can we talk about George Santos for a moment, though, to switch gears completely? But you are based here in New York, and he has now filed for reelection. You don't think it's a sign that he's definitely running, but it's more of a tool for fundraising?

GOLDMACHER: Yeah, it's basically a legal thing. If he wants to keep raising money to potentially run again, you got to file paperwork to say, I'm legally running again.


It also has the potential, as all these investigations are swirling, to be leveraged, right? With a prosecutor -- or, like, what if I step down?

COLLINS: That's so interesting.

GOLDMACHER: What if I don't run? Is there any possibility that these are the kinds of things that you don't necessarily give up at the beginning of that process. But also, look, he's leaving the options open, but I also, you know, at this point, are we believing everything that George Santos says? I'm not sure I'm believing he's running for reelection just because he filed election.

LEMON: Why not.

HARLOW: Wait ...

LEMON: That is the if.

HARLOW: But I'm -- OK, before you go, though, on a serious note, Biden on guns, making this speech again, trying to keep this at the forefront of Americans minds and hearts, right? He's pushed again for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, but is this just a speech that will lead to no action in Congress?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, I don't think that there's any chance that there's movement on guns in a divided Congress. Joe Biden got through the only bipartisan gun measure in years and years last year. And so I think it's a chance to remind people that he has tried to make a difference on that issue. The continuing shootings is reminded that there isn't a difference that's been fully made. And, yeah, he wants to go be out there and use whatever strength the bully pulpit has on that issue to tell people to keep moving.

HARLOW: The Supreme Court made it nearly impossible for states to really act unilaterally on meaningful gun legislation without, like, a full national?

GOLDMACHER: It has to come through Congress.


COLLINS: We saw Biden yesterday, he was in Monterey Park. He was greeted by the hero of that shooting, Brandon Tsay.

HARLOW: Shane, thank you so much for joining us at the table this morning.

GOLDMACHER: Thanks for inviting.

LEMON: And speaking of right guns, less than a year after the racist mass shooting at a tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, a similar attack may have just been thwarted.

HARLOW: We'll tell you about that, a scary report ahead. Also this, for some uplifting news this morning. The legendary Duke Coach K opening up about his record setting career and the importance of family, our one-in-one ahead.




KRZYZEWSKI: And whatever you walk in and you feel like you're in a field of dreams.

HARLOW: This is your field of dreams? KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. Where you feel like, I better get out of here because the basketball gods are going to play pickup here in a little bit.




COLLINS: All right, welcome back this morning we have an alarming new number for you that you're going to want to pay attention to. It is the number of Americans who are living with Alzheimer's disease. It's expected to -- it's projected, I should say, to nearly double by the year 2050. That's according to a new report from the Alzheimer's Association.

Joining us now with more on the explanation behind this is CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, this is a huge jump. There's obviously a lot of implications behind it. What is behind this new number? Why do they think it's going to be so large by 2050?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So Kaitlan, what's behind this new number is it's just that the American population is aging. We're going to see many more people 65 and plus over the next couple of decades. So let's take a look at what this number looks like. 2023, 6.7 million people ages 65 plus in the United States with Alzheimer's dementia. By 2050, that jumps to 12.7 million. That is a huge jump in such a short period of time.

We talk about the implications of this. We need more geriatricians in this country to help take care of these folks. We also need better treatments. There are two drugs out there that are quite new that try to -- that really sort of change the course of Alzheimer's, not just treat the symptoms, but actually get to the underlying biology.

But there are a couple of issues. One, there's a lot of debate about exactly how well they work, and there are some side effects. In addition, they are super expensive. There's an excellent chance that someone's insurance is not going to pay for them. So more drugs in the pipeline. Hopefully they will work well, and hopefully they will not cost a ton of money. Kaitlan?

HARLOW: One of the things we also find interesting, Elizabeth, is that apparently many people don't alert their doctors early enough about some of the symptoms. Are they -- embarrassed isn't the right word, but, like, worried to even sort of admit it, that this could be coming?

COHEN: So actually, Poppy, embarrassed might be the right word, right? You're sort of feeling like, gee, I keep forgetting things. That's sort of embarrassing. It means that I'm getting older. And also, I think people might take it for granted that's what a lot of experts say is that people think, oh, I'm forgetting this and that it's just that I'm getting older. Well, it may not be. It may actually really, truly be a sign of

Alzheimer's. It is important to tell your doctor, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's not because your doctor necessarily can give you a drug that your insurance will pay for and that will work well. But there are other things that you can do to try to stave off Alzheimer's as long as you can. You can talk to your doctor about that and you can plan for caregiving. Poppy?

HARLOW: OK. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much. Affects so many people.

COLLINS: I know.

LEMON: Yeah, you've read my mind. It's going to -- it's tough. I've dealt with in my family, sure you guys have dealt with in your family, too.

HARLOW: Yeah, yup.

LEMON: This people fight it when you say.


LEMON: But you just told me that. My grandmother was going through it. She would drive over to our house and then she'd go home and then she'd come back and she said --

HARLOW: Forget she was there?

LEMON: Forget she was there.

HARLOW: But when there are so few solutions, right? And some of them that work, may work a bit are so expensive. I think admitting it to your doctor is with a lot of answers is scary.

LEMON: But even admitting it to yourself and your loved ones.

HARLOW: Yes, and yourself.

LEMON: Very, very scary, yeah. So a newer, smarter, ChatGPT is here and it can ace the bar exam.


LEMON: We're going to tell you about it next.

COLLINS: Great. I can't wait to go to law school.

Also, hours from now, the former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is returning to testify before a Manhattan grand jury. This could be as Trump is about to get potentially indicted. All of this is about Trump's alleged role in hush money payments. We'll tell you what to expect.



LEMON: I wonder if --


LEMON: This morning, a 20-year-old man is facing charges after police say he threatened a mass shooting at a Tops friendly markets in Manlius, New York, just outside of Syracuse. His threats were discovered on social media on the site Discord, the same site used by the man who shot and killed ten people in a racist attack at a top supermarket in Buffalo last May. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now with more on that.

Good morning, how did they discover this?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So triggering, right? I mean, that area of New York, seeing these on Discord, there were actually two people who were on that same channel, who noticed these threats coming alive and called their local police department.

I want to tick through some of the things that this person, 20-year- old Zachary Mullen, was allegedly saying on this chat site. Talking about, again, that grocery store Tops, saying that it was going to happen next week and saying kills one to two.


Also, some of the statements made on Discord had racist overtones talking about buying a KKK outfit, becoming a legitimate racist, or should he do a mass killing? I mean, really awful things.

And also kind of talking about the fact that he had just lost his father, who allegedly was an avid hunter, and saying, is this a way that he can sort of remember his father by committing such an act?

So this, of course, was fantastic, that these two people went to their local police department. It triggered the red flag laws in the state of New York. And so this person was arrested, Zachary Mullen, 20 years old, an extreme risk order of protection was issued, and he was brought into custody. Here's the thing, though. He is no longer in custody because of the state's bail reform laws. He is now in the custody of his mother, where he was living.

The Police Department did go in there, removed all of the weapons, which they did find a shotgun. They did find another gun. They found ammunition.


GINGRAS: So that is all clear from the home. But the district attorney there, very conservative district attorney saying, you know, I don't know if you can get access to another gun here, but that is the way the bail reform laws are in place here in New York.

Of course, we know that those have been so controversial in many elections, both before they were enacted and now, but certainly this is scary. But again, that is the law. But also the red flag laws is an example of how this works.

HARLOW: Red flag law worked.

GINGRAS: Exactly.

HARLOW: Big deal.

GINGRAS: Yup, big deal.

LEMON: Brynn, thank you.

GINGRAS: All right.

COLLINS: OK. Also this morning, Facebook's parent company Meta is about to cut another 10,000 employees. That's the second round of layoff in just months. Our next guest is calling it the, "Elon effect."

HARLOW: We are also following the latest developments on how a Russian jet forced down a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. In moments, we'll be joined by the White House's John Kirby on what is likely to happen, next.



HARLOW: Facebook's parent company Meta will lay off another 10,000 workers. This is their second round of just huge layoffs in four months. It will draw down the company's workforce by about 25% since September. Our next guest says it goes beyond just Meta calls this recent string of tech layoffs, the Elon effect.

Joining us now, CNN Media Analyst and Axios Reporter Sara Fischer. Elon Musk, you mean, who now runs Twitter. Is this an indication that these companies think Elon got it right? That they really over hired over the last few years and really have to slim down?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I think so. I think a lot of pressure from Wall Street is forcing them to be more efficient. And to your point, Poppy, these companies did unprecedented hiring sprees during the pandemic. You know, Facebook's workforce swelled up to about 87,000 people.

And so I think they're looking at what Elon Musk did, cutting that workforce from about 7500 to a little over 1000, and they're thinking, look, if Twitter can still function, I think there's room for us to cut.

Now, I'm not saying that these companies should be going as far as Elon Musk. I mean, he's made such drastic cuts that there's now some pretty serious problems with the product. But I do think that they're looking at it and they're saying there is areas for us to be more efficient. With Mark Zuckerberg saying, these cuts yesterday mean that flatter is faster and leaner is better. That is the new mantra in Silicon Valley. HARLOW: I just don't know if it's safer. I mean, a lot of those cuts at Twitter came in, you know, some of the safety and monitoring departments.

We got to talk about those Sara, ChatGPT, it was already really sort of stunningly good at pretending to be human, and now it's going to be better at that.

FISCHER: Oh, my gosh, Poppy. So much better at that. So the previous version of ChatGPT had about a 10% chance of passing the bar exam for lawyers. This new version that's being introduced today, ChatGPT-4 has about a 90% chance of passing the bar. It also can take images and output text.

Now, Poppy, that's new. In the previous version, you could put in a text query or a question and get text back, but you couldn't use an image to get text back. And that's just a game changer for the use cases of this technology. You could take your phone and scan a picture of a sales presentation and they could, within seconds, put an output summarizing what that presentation said. Major implications for business but to your point about safety, there's also a lot of challenges about what this means for misinformation.

HARLOW: Of course, 90% passing the bar is better than the human rate that passes the bar exam on the first try. My God. Sara Fischer. I'm terrified. Thank you.

FISCHER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Our coverage continues with five things you need to know this morning.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: An American reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian fighters, was damaged, and then forced down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This all played out over international waters of the Black Sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Russian ambassador claiming that the Russians do not want confrontation with the United States.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, this was inappropriate, unsafe, unprofessional conduct by the Russian pilots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Justice Department launching an investigation into the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, the government is very interested in finding out what happened and making sure it doesn't happen again.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Credit ratings firm Moody's has officially downgraded its outlook for the banking industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to make sure people know that if they put money in a bank and they deposited, it will be there in the morning for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't have snow all winter long, and now we've got the biggest storm of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An intense Nor'easter is bringing heavy snow, winds and coastal flooding across the Northeast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're still dealing with widespread power outages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Although it's not too bad right now. But we do expect that it's going to come back with a vengeance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron DeSantis is drawing backlash from the establishment wing of his party after aligning himself with Trump on Ukraine.