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CNN This Morning

U.S. Evacuates Diplomats from Sudan in Daring Rescue Operation; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Insists House will Pass $1.5 Trillion Debt Limit Bill This Week; Hunter Biden's Lawyers Strike Back at Accuser, Demand Probes. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2023 - 07:00   ET


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It adds legitimacy to this idea that Russia can invade them at will and not violate sovereign territory.


And so I think it will be well received in Russia but it's a lot further than Moscow has gone.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. Matthew Chance, great to have you here at the table with us this morning.

CHANCE: Good to see you too?

COLLINS: All right. And CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families are now safely out of Sudan after a week of heavy fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The remaining Americans are being told to stay in place while the State Department and the Pentagon tries to work out how they might be rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a 72-hour ceasefire and a broad question about whether it could collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What really could make this conflict much worse is if these two sides are supported by their external allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will it be deja vu all over again in the 2024 presidential election?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He's the right person to fix the problems that we face to undo all the damage by Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sequels might be popular in the box office but not so much at the ballot box.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): He has stood up for women of America and he has stood up for our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Low poll numbers, people second guessing him, this is where this man eats dinner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday, we have a bird strike. I should tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating two separate fires on American Airlines flights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This flight never even got off the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody knows what it's happening. So, it's the first instinct is the plane is going to blow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of America's most recognizable store fronts is closing up shop. Bed Bath Bad & Beyond officially filed for bankruptcy following years of struggling to stay afloat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 14,000, that's how many of the non-seasonal workers are at risk of losing their jobs.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) had been nuts. I know you have been watching.

COLLINS: I was getting off the train here in New York right when the Knicks game was ending yesterday. All the fans are pouring out. I'm like -- they're like (INAUDIBLE) with my bag and everyone is coming out.

LEMON: They were all sober, right?

COLLINS: Yes. It was 4:00 in the afternoon. It was really early.

HARLOW: Because it's all right there, Madison Square Garden, the Penn Station and the Timberwolves, a lot to be happy about for New York.

LEMON: A lot to be happy about and a lot to discuss this morning. So, good morning, everyone. Welcome and we're so glad you could join us here on CNN This Morning.

The United States launching a daring rescue operation to evacuate Americans from war-torn Sudan, that's where we begin today. The Pentagon says Special Forces swooped in to the capital, Khartoum, in Chinook helicopters to pick up U.S. embassy staff and their families. We're told U.S. troops were on the ground for less than an hour and the rescue mission was fast and clean.

Take a look. This is a photo of Secretary of State Antony Blinken watching the tense operation unfold. He says all U.S. personnel in Sudan were safely evacuated. The U.S. and other nations have been scrambling to evacuate their citizens as fighting rages between two rival military factions. Around 16,000 Americans are estimated to be living in the country, many of them dual citizens. Straight to CNN's Senior International Correspondent Mr. Sam Kiley live for us in Djibouti, where the rescue operation was launched. Sam, hello to you there, and afternoon, 2:00 in the afternoon to you. What more are we learning about this mission?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very dramatic mission in Camp Lemonnier, which is the U.S. force's are based here for under on the Africa specialist part of the Pentagon, launched this mission which was the in the vanguard of a multinational series of missions launched by countries from as wide from Europe all the way to Japan. The Japanese standing by bringing in their forces, try to bring their people out.

The Americans flew from here into (INAUDIBLE), in Ethiopia, refueled there. Chinooks then flew very, very low indeed and relatively slowly over a huge distance to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. They're flying low so that they could not give any chance to even undisciplined elements trying to shoot down the aircraft. They had no gunfire going in or going out. There was a sort of ceasefire in place but that really wasn't holding particularly well. But, clearly, did not come under fire and they pulled out some 70-plus embassy officials and their families, plus a handful of internationals.

That led the way for a British evacuation involving Special Forces who actually traveled with the Americans into Khartoum. That was a road move. We've seen quite a few road moves by the French and the British and others into collect their people and bring them out to a military airfield on the outskirts of the Sudanese capital.


Now, the focus now, Don, is what to do about the remaining population there, particularly of Americans. There are 16,000 to 19,000 estimated Americans, many of them dual nationals, many of them wanting to get out. Of course, Sudanese people are trying to get away from the fighting. The problem is where to run to. It's an extremely messy situation in Khartoum. The government forces are using aircraft to bomb locations inside their own capital, which are being held by rebel forces or so-called rebel forces.

So, you have got this cauldron of violence with the international community now mostly out of Djibouti, trying to run these evacuation assistance. And now a lot of talk being focused and potentially planning for some kind of an operation to get people to Port Sudan. The Americans have been told remaining there to try to join convoys. There was 70-vehicle convoy run by the Emiratis. Recently, they made it through to Port Sudan. The problem is that you need vehicles, you need fuel, you need food and water, and none of those are in plentiful supply in this war-ravaged country. Don?

LEMON: Sam Kiley in Djibouti for us this morning, thank you, Sam. And next hour, we are going to be joined by the White House's John Kirby. Stay tuned for that.

COLLINS: Yes, a lot of questions for him. Also in Washington, the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, is saying he is confident he has enough votes to pass the $1.5 trillion debt limit bill that he unveiled, passing it this week, he says.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We do have a small majority, only five seats, one of the smallest we've ever had. But I cannot imagine someone in our conference that would want to go along with Biden's reckless spending.


COLLINS: Joining us now is CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox. Lauren, the big question is does he have the votes? We heard him yesterday saying that. Are they still rounding up the people who had said they were a little skeptical of this?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there is still a little bit of work left to do, Kaitlan, the whip team working over the weekend to try to shore up support for this Republican-only plan, to increase the debt ceiling and make massive spending cuts.

Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, facing a consequential week on Capitol Hill as he tries to rally his troops around this proposal. But like he noted, he can only afford to lose four Republican members.

And this is huge gamble for this speaker because he is trying to make the point to the White House that Republicans are united. So, he has to go to the floor and show that that is the fact.

They also made the case that this is the week they are going to vote. So, you can expect, Kaitlan, that if there is a delay, that that also sends a signal to the White House that Republicans are not backing the speaker's plan.

So, over the next couple of days, things to watch, conservatives are asking for some small changes to be made to this legislation. Leadership has given them the message that this bill is what it is. And that if they make any changes that satisfy the right flank of the conference, they could sacrifice and lose some of those votes from the moderate wing. So, this is the game that leadership is playing right now.

COLLINS: Yes, one of the biggest tests that McCarthy has faced since he became House speaker.

Lauren, also yesterday, I was watching State of the Union when Dana was hosting, and Senator Amy Klobuchar said that she believes the White House should negotiate with Republicans and with McCarthy when it comes to the budget, not the debt ceiling. What is your sense of the likelihood of that given what the White House has been saying?

FOX: Yes, a lot of Democrats trying to thread this needle where they argue that the fight over spending should happen in the appropriations process, not on the debt ceiling. But what you're hearing from conservatives, of course, is that that's going to fly and then a clean debt ceiling would not even pass the U.S. Senate where you need a number of Republicans to join with Democrats.

So, that is why this vote on the House floor is so significant this week because it really provides the test case of whether or not Republicans are going to be able to bring the White House to the negotiating table. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: All right. Lauren Fox, a lot going on Capitol Hill this week, we'll check back in with you. Thank you.

HARLOW: Meantime, Team Biden preparing to make it official, 2024, that is. CNN has learned the president and advisers are finalizing plans, detailing Biden's interest in a second term. Edits are being made to a campaign video announcement set to be released as soon as tomorrow that would mark four years to the day when Biden first announced he was running for president.

It comes as new polling finds just 26 percent of Americans think Biden should run again for a second term. 70 percent say he shouldn't. Among Democrats, 51 percent say, the president should not run for a second term. And that really mirrors the findings of other recent polls showing lukewarm support for Biden's re-election bid. In the NBC polling, only half of those who opposed a Biden run say his age is a big reason for that.

LEMON: All right. Pay attention to this, because these are frightening moments for passengers aboard two American Airlines flights in recent days, both captured on camera. Okay. It is believe that a possible bird strike sparked an engine fire on a flight over Columbus, Ohio. Look at that. That was on Sunday. And then there is this one from a separate incident, this was on Thursday, when the plane never even got off the ground.


That was in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now with details on both of these. Good morning to you. What are investigators saying about these incidents?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Don. The good thing is nobody was hurt in either of these incidents. This latest incident, American Airlines Flight 1958 just took off from John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Ohio on its way to phoenix when passengers almost immediately knew that something was wrong. This 737 apparently hit one or more birds, started to make a pulsing noise so loud that you could hear it from the ground.

An aviation enthusiast on the ground whipped out their cameras and took this video. You could see the flames pulsing out of the right engine there of that 737.

I want you to listen to the flight crew, calm, cool, collected, as they declare an emergency and start to head back to Columbus for an emergency landing. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday, American 1958, we've got a bird strike and engine failure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 1958, roger. Can you make it left traffic back to the runway?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to say no for now.


MUNTEAN: The good news here is that the 737 has two engines fly just fine on one, so they were able to make it back successfully to Columbus International Airport. The bad news here is that bird strikes are not going away any time soon. 1,700 reported so far this year, 17,000 reported last year.

One of the things that may be happening, it's easier for pilots to report bird strikes, gone are the days of the mountains of paperwork, they can do it online now. The other good thing here, Don, is that these bird strikes very rarely end in injuries, maybe 0.1 percent over the lasts 30 years have caused an injury to a passenger or a pilot. But this is really just bad news for the bird, typically, and also good news for the flight crew who is able to do this very successfully and get this plane back on the ground with no problems. LEMON: So, these increasing incidents, whatever the cause, right, if

it's easier for them to know or what have you, this is all happening as the head of the -- the acting head, I should say, of the FAA, Billy Nolen, is stepping down this summer after one year. What comes next for the FAA?

MUNTEAN: There is a bit of a leadership vacuum at the FAA now and the Biden administration really needs to put forth a nominee who will take the helm of the FAA as it's going through all these problems. One of the biggest problems the FAA is facing is they're now admitting a shortage of air traffic controllers, which could cause flights to be delayed even more at New York's three main airports, Newark, LaGuardia and JFK. And the FAA is asking airlines to scale back service to those airports. We'll find out at the end of the month just how severely airlines will scale back service to those airports, but really something the FAA needs to tackle here and they need a long-term head to figure out that problem as well.

LEMON: Pete Muntean in Washington, D.C., for us this morning, thank you, Pete.

COLLINS: All right. Also this morning, children and parents at Disneyland in California watched as a dragon went up in flames during the park's Fantasmic show Saturday night.

Parkgoers capturing that dramatic scene on video. The park stopped the show's music as fireballs were falling from the dragon's head, as you here. Eventually, the entire thing actually went up in flames. Representatives for Disney say that they were able to safely evacuate the workers, all the visitors near the ride. Fire crews came to put out the flames.

They're still looking, though, into what caused this. The Maleficent, the 45-foot dragon, certainly put on a show on Saturday, not the one people were expecting.

LEMON: I was going to say, they got a show, didn't they?

COLLINS: Not what they thought they were getting.

LEMON: Glad everybody is okay.

COLLINS: I know.

HARLOW: Indeed. All right, Hunter Biden striking back this morning. The new and aggressive move his lawyers are making, next.



HARLOW: Hunter Biden's lawyers are going on offense, striking back against his accusers. Brand new this morning, CNN has learned his legal team is demanding an investigation into why a Trump aide had his banking records. And they also want an ethics probe of Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Let's bring in our Paula Reid. She has all of this reporting. Paula, good morning. This is a new -- I mean, they've been taking this aggressive tact now for a few months, but this is significant.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Poppy. Over the past few months, as the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden appeared to stall and as Republicans took over the House and made it clear that Hunter Biden was going to be a focus, Hunter Biden's legal team decided to take an aggressive and in some examples litigious approach.

And this morning, we have multiple letters that they're firing off. The first one, as you noted, is to the treasury inspector general seeking an investigation of former Trump Aide Garrett Ziegler. Now, Hunter Biden's legal team alleges that Ziegler has obtained and posted suspicious activity reports known as SARS. They point to the fact that on a podcast late last year, Ziegler claimed to have an insider, JPMorgan, who is helping him obtain this. Biden's legal team describes this as a conspiracy to illegally post these records.

Now, we have reached out to an attorney for Ziegler. We're told by a source familiar with Hunter Biden's legal strategy that he has been a top focus for them in this more aggressive approach. They've also filed a lawsuit against Ziegler, alleging that he was harassing members of Biden's team.

Now, the other letter, they're reaching out a foreign ethics inquiry into Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, her public comments and allegations she has made against Hunter Biden. Now we have also reached out to the representative's team but we have not heard back at this time.

LEMON: Hunter Biden, Paula, is set to meet with the DOJ later this week. What does this mean for the investigation?

REID: That's right, Don. We broke this news on Friday that there's a meeting expected this week between Hunter Biden's legal team and a group of attorneys at DOJ. Now, this is described to us as a routine meeting. We are told that this was arranged at the request of Hunter Biden's legal team, that they reached out seeking an update and they received a routine, what is described as a routine invitation to come into DOJ and discuss the case.


Now, also in attendance, in addition to at least one top career Justice Department official, will be the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, who has been overseeing the investigation into Hunter Biden. Now, it begs a lot of questions what exactly is going on with this investigation? It's been going on since 2018.

But our latest reporting is that they have narrowed the charges down to potentially some tax crimes and possibly one count of a false statement related to the purchase of a weapon. But that's been the status of the case since last summer and there have been no public developments.

At this point, of course, he has not been charged. It's unclear he ever will be charged. But we're told by a source that this meeting this week is unlikely to reveal the final disposition of this case.

LEMON: All right. So, then you will keep reporting. Paula Reid, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

COLLINS: Yes, a lot of questions in that investigation.

Also today, a January 6th protesters is now at the center of a far- right conspiracy. The Ray Epps, who took part in the January 6th Capitol riot has been the target of right-wing conspiracies that he was actually an FBI informant. He is now coming forward telling his story on 60 Minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened next at Peace Circle where protesters first overran police is seen as a smoking gun. Epps pulled this agitated rioter aside and said something. Conspiracists say he was giving marching orders. Because seconds later, this happened. The first Capitol police officer goes down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As closely as you can remember, what exactly did you say to him?

RAY EPPS, JANUARY 6TH PROTESTER: Dude, we're not here for that. The police aren't the enemy, something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anyone from the federal government direct you to be here at the Peace Circle at this time?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're old comrades with the Oath Keepers?



COLLINS: In a statement to 60 Minutes, the FBI told them, quote, Ray Epps has never been an FBI source or an FBI employee.

LEMON: Police say at least nine teenagers are recovering from injuries this morning after shots were fired at an after-prom party in Eastern Texas. Authorities responding to a disturbance at a Jasper Home early Sunday where they found multiple people injured between the ages of 15 and 19. No one suffered life-threatening injuries. The Jasper County sheriff's office says that they are following leads on several persons of interest.

HARLOW: Panicked moments at a basketball tournament in Texas after someone reported an active shooter. Watch this.

As parents, players, coaches seen fleeing for their lives at the tournament, it was in Mansfield, the community southwest of Dallas on Sunday afternoon, someone yelled, shots fired, leaving everyone to run for cover. And police say they are investigating a fight where someone reportedly had a gun but did not actually fire shots. Officials haven't said whether they have anyone in custody. No one was injured. All tournaments, though, have been canceled.

COLLINS: Just awful to see that, and you can see the panic.

HARLOW: Terrifying.

COLLINS: I mean, people feel, understandably, given what we've been reporting on.

HARLOW: At a basketball tournament on a Sunday afternoon.

LEMON: Mortgage fees about to change for potential home buyers and the rule could be based on your credit score.

COLLINS: Also this morning, Ed Sheeran is about to head to trying again over claims of copyright infringement. We're going to play you the song in question. We'll see what you think of what this is going to be discussed in court.


[07:25:00] COLLINS: New this morning, CEO Jeff Shell is out at NBCUniversal, leaving the company after an outside investigation into a complaint of inappropriate conduct. In a statement, Shell said, quote, I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. He didn't specify who the woman is or any details about that investigation.

Shell, of course, had been name the CEO in January 2020 after he led content creation, programming and distribution for NBCUniversal's film and entertainment division. Comcast, which is NBCUniversal's parent company, is set to report its first quarter earnings on Thursday. CNN has reached out to Comcast and NBCUniversal for comment. I should note, we have not gotten a comment back but we'll let you know if we do.

HARLOW: If you're looking to buy a home, mortgage fees could be changing as soon as next month.

Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans is with us now.


HARLOW: Good morning.

LEMON: Good morning.


ROMANS: So, look, this is all an effort to narrow that homeownership gap in America. We have a very difficult gap between low income and higher income families. There's a racial homeownership gap and low income and first time homebuyers, these federals rules, these rules are meant to make it a little bit easier for them to buy a home.

So, these mortgage fees are changing May 1st. This is calls the low level price adjustment matrix. It is mind-numbing. Basically, there're upfront fees for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They will change. They relate to credit scores and down payment amounts, and in some cases, and this is getting a lot of attention online, higher credit score borrowers may pay a little more on these upfront fees. Lower credit score borrowers will pay a little bit less.

Now, overall, it does not make sense to try to have a lower credit score. I mean, that's not -- you're going to pay more if you have lower credit score. This is trying to narrow that gap between the higher credit score borrowers and lower credit score borrowers.

COLLINS: There's a lot of criticism of that because people say they feel they're being punished if they have a higher credit score for this.

ROMANS: And that's what you're hearing a lot of people talk about online, even hearing people say, look, I'm not going to pay my bills so that I'll get a lower credit score and so then I will pay a lower -- that's just really bad.

Overall, it does not mean it's better to have a lower credit score.


You can argue if it's fair or if it will work, which is what a lot of people in the real estate sector talking about, is this a good idea? That is separate.