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Biden Vows to Veto GOP Debt Bill If It Passes ; 4 Inmates on the Run, 1 Accused of Killing Man During Escape; Jailed Kremlin Critic Navalny Faces New Terrorism Charges; ISIS-K Leader Behind Kabul Airport Bombing Killed by Taliban. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 06:00   ET


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And it includes Dallas-Fort Worth. So we need to keep an eye to the sky. We need to be weather-aware for these locations.


Tornadoes not the only threat. The potential for two-inch in diameter or larger hail is possible across those same areas -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. Thank you so much, Derek. We'll watch that. Also flooding along the Mississippi river, too.

VAN DAM: Right.

ROMANS: We'll watch both of those developing stories.

All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We are glad you're with us this Wednesday. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know." It is Wednesday, April the 26th, 2023.

House Republican leaders pushing for a vote on their debt ceiling plan as early as today. But it's just not clear if they've got the votes, right? President Biden now says he's going to veto the bill.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Sure sounds like they don't.

Also today, the Taliban has now killed the suspected ISIS mastermind who was behind that 2021 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. Of course, that is when they killed 13 U.S. service members. This is according to the White House. The Pentagon says the U.S. was not involved in that operation.

Also, the woman who says former President Trump raped her could take the stand today in her battery and defamation lawsuit against him. Court is going to get under way in the E. Jean Carroll case at 10 a.m. Eastern.

HARLOW: Also happening today, Asa Hutchinson, formally launching his presidential campaign. The former Republican governor of Arkansas is now one of five candidates running so far in the primary.

And Kim Kardashian tells CNN she'd be willing to step away from the cameras and become an attorney full-time. Our wide-ranging conversation coming up.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

COLLINS: I like how you're just casually dropping the Kim Kardashian interview.

HARLOW: So I was going to start with McCarthy, but let's go to Kim K instead. Someone I've wanted to interview for years and years and years. Not about Hollywood. I don't --

COLLINS: Not your thing.

HARLOW: I'm not a big Hollywood person. Not my thing. But justice -- social justice reform and criminal justice reform is. And I got to do that yesterday. And I cannot wait for everyone to hear what she had to say, what she wants to do, and why she wants to meet with President Biden.

COLLINS: That's amazing.

HARLOW: Meantime, to McCarthy. Urgency for the House speaker, who is struggling to unite fellow Republicans on his debt limit plan as the U.S. economy heads towards a real cliff.

Here's why the fear is more intense. Remember tax day last week? It was weaker than expected in terms of what everyone paid into the government. That could move the potential default date up to early June.

So, it is crucial -- it's crucial ahead for McCarthy as he scrambles to get enough votes for his bill. He can only lose four Republicans or his plan is doomed.

House GOP leaders were planning to vote today, but McCarthy is now saying that vote will be postponed and it will happen sometime this week.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you have to change the bill to get 218 votes?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I will let you know.

RAJU: Are you -- do you have 218 votes on this?

MCCARTHY: You're the first person I'm going to call.


HARLOW: Good. So McCarthy's going to call Manu, apparently. He's trying to force President Biden to negotiate on really

significant spending cuts tied to the debt ceiling, and those cuts would gut the Biden agenda.

The White House is refusing to budge, vowing to veto that bill if somehow it were to pass.

Our congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox, is live on Capitol Hill.

It was Matt Gaetz last night to our Michael Smerconish who said he thinks McCarthy is short by eight votes. Is that what you're hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was some major drama last night, Poppy, in the House Rules Committee. They recessed around 11 p.m. last night. They had these last-minute negotiations. And after days of leadership arguing this bill would not be changed -- Negotiations are closed, they said repeatedly -- they decided to make some changes.

And that is because they knew that they did not have the votes as the bill was currently structured.

So around 1:45 a.m. this morning, the House Rules Committee moved forward with what is known as a manager's amendment. Basically, leadership's changes to this bill. And those changes included a few important factors.

One of them, they are moving up work requirements and when those work requirements would go into effect. That is an effort to shore up support from some conservatives who were on the fence. People like Matt Gaetz.

The other change that they made was they decided they are not going to repeal some of the biofuel credits that they were planning to get rid of in this legislation. That is because they had key holdouts from Midwestern Republicans who were concerned about those changes, Poppy.

So we are going to get a lot more information around 9 a.m. this morning, when House leaders convene with their members to try to get a sense of whether or not they now have the votes that they need. They could vote on this as early as today, despite the fact that there's been a lot of consternation about whether they have the votes or not.

HARLOW: And to be clear, I said McCarthy said he would postpone it. Clearly, he's not saying that. So maybe it could happen as early as today.


That might solve the Matt Gaetz issue. I'm not sure if it solves people like Nancy Mace, for example, who have sort of broader issues with this.

What happens if McCarthy doesn't get the votes he needs? Then what?

FOX: Well, I mean, that is the big question. Because the argument that leadership is going to make in this meeting today, the argument they have been making for the last several days to members who are on the fence is this may not be perfect. This may not be all that you want included. But this is the only chance we have to prove to the White House that, look, Republicans are united. We have a plan. What's your plan going to be? Let's sit down at the negotiating table and figure this out.

If McCarthy can't pull his membership together, it puts into question his own leadership. It also puts into question whether or not he's going to have a chance at all to negotiate with the president, who wants a clean debt ceiling increase -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Lauren Fox, thanks very much for that update.

COLLINS: All right. In just a few hours from now, the civil battery and defamation trial that is being brought against former Donald Trump by the columnist E. Jean Carroll is going to resume here in New York.

Carroll is expected to testify, along with an employee for Bergdorf Goodman, according to a source telling CNN. Carroll alleges that Trump assaulted her in a dressing room at that department store back in the mid-1990s. Those are allegations Trump has denied repeatedly.


E. JEAN CARROLL, COLUMNIST: I proceeded into the dressing room. The minute he closed that door, I was banged up against the wall.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: He slammed you against the wall?

CARROLL: Yes. And hit my head really hard.


COLLINS: She has been speaking out against this since 2019. But this week on Tuesday a jury of nine people was empaneled for the case. It's six men, three women.

According to the judge, jurors are going to be transported to the courthouse in marshal-supervised vehicles that are actually going to go through a garage to avoid the crowd that often forms outside the courthouse.

In opening statements yesterday, Carroll's attorney revealed that two other alleged victims of Trump's are also going to testify to show a pattern, according to the attorney, of his alleged violent behavior.

Shawn Crowley said, "Three women, one clear pattern. Start with the friendly encounter in a semipublic place. All of a sudden, pounce, kiss, grab, grope. Don't wait. When you were a star, you can do anything you want."

The attorney continued, "And when they speak up about what happened, attack. Humiliate them. Call them liars. Call them too ugly to assault." Carroll's attorney speaking directly to Trump's words, of course, that

were heard in that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, which is also going to be shown to the jury, we are told.

Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, says in opening statements that Carroll and the two other women are, quote, "conspiring to hurt Trump politically."

HARLOW: A manhunt is under way this morning for four inmates who escaped from a jail in Mississippi. One of them is now accused of killing a man and stealing his car while on the run.

The Sheriff in Hinds County -- that includes Jackson -- say officials believe that the men got out through a pair of breaches on Saturday. One -- one in their living quarters, another in the roof.

Our Amara Walker joins us now. Obviously, scary. A manhunt for four of them. What do we know about the search?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. As you would imagine, it's quite alarming, especially for the residents who live in this rural area near the Raymond Detention Center in Jackson, Mississippi.

So what we have here are four inmates who have not been seen since Saturday evening. Authorities say that they escaped through a roof in their cell. And now you have a murder and two stolen vehicles that are being connected to the escapees.

Here's what we know so far, according to Jackson Police and the Hinds County Sheriff's Department.

So they were able to piece together a time line by looking at surveillance video from inside the Raymond Detention Center. They were able to determine that these escapees left through the ceiling and roof of their cell at 8:30 in the evening Saturday.

They climbed up there. They apparently camped out on the roof and left at different times. And it wasn't until about 12:30, about four hours later, when authorities noticed that they were missing during a routine head count.

Now, there was -- we do believe that the -- that three of those suspects are still in Mississippi. Another believed to have traveled to Texas.

I do want to show you pictures of these four escapees that police are searching for. They do believe they are armed and dangerous. The first being 22-year-old Dylan Arrington. He has been charged with auto theft, and he's also a convicted felon, in possession -- for possession of a firearm.

Fifty-one-year-old Jerry Raynes, charged with auto theft and business burglary. Officials say that he actually has a history of escaping that very -- that Raymond Detention Center.

Twenty-four-year-old Casey Grayson, charged with grand larceny and the sale of controlled substance. And 22-year-old Casey [SIC] Harrison, charged with receiving stolen property.

I do want to mention that the Hinds County sheriff, Poppy, did mention during a news conference that the detention center has been dealing with chronic shorting -- staff shortages, that they are short currently 50 detention officers.


And he said, Look, this is not an excuse. This is just to show you --


WALKER: -- the challenges that they have been dealing with, Poppy.

HARLOW: It might point to is there was a lack of, you know, enough cell checks, et cetera. Amara, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Also new overnight on the international front, we are getting our first look at the jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny for the first time in months.

He appeared via video link earlier today. You can see him here.

Navalny says that he has been told he faces a new terrorism case. His daughter says that prison officials are starving her father, that he has lost more than 17 pounds in just two weeks.


DASHA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S DAUGHTER: One of my dad's attorneys has confirmed that, according to the new rules that they specifically drew up for my dad, he's now illegally limited to the amount of food that he can purchase in the canteen. The Russian government is stripping everyone who is a political prisoner in Russia right now of some -- such basic needs such as feeding food.


COLLINS: CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now.

Clare, obviously, you can tell that Navalny looked thinner. You know, he's been in solitary confinement. We're now told that's being extended. What do we know about these new allegations of this new terrorism case that he says is being brought against him?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, it's complicated and, in fact, his daughter has suggested perhaps intentionally so.

But it all adds up to a worsening situation and even bleaker outlook for Russia's most prominent opposition figure.

What happened this morning, and the hearing is now over, was that the judge ruled in favor of prosecutors, who asked to limit the amount of time that Navalny and his team have to review what they say is 196 volumes of documents in an extremism case against him. He will now have only between now and May the 5th. So about ten days

to review that very serious charges that his team say would carry a maximum sentence of 30 years, which would, of course, come on top of the 11 1/2 years that he's currently serving.

Separately from that, Navalny has said that he has been told he faces another terrorism case, he says, related to something he allegedly did in prison.

All of this taking place in a closed hearing. Something that his team has criticized.

And all as we see increasing concerns around his health: his restrictions on food, the weight loss and as you say, hearing this morning that after just finishing 15 days in solitary confinement, he has now been sent back for what his spokesperson says will be his 14th stint.

So legal pressure, health pressure, all adding up, as I say, to a much bleaker outlook for Navalny.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, 196 volumes and only days to review it. I mean, it just seems typical to the treatment he has been getting.

Clare Sebastian, thank you for that very important update.

HARLOW: Also this. The White House says the Taliban has killed the ISIS mastermind behind the suicide bombing -- you'll remember -- that killed 13 U.S. troops during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. We'll take you live to the Pentagon with details.

COLLINS: Plus, former President Donald Trump is no suggesting he may skip Republican primary debates. The Democrats, we should note, have not scheduled any as President Biden is making his run official.

Will it even happen? We'll see.



HARLOW: A debate over debates for Democrats and Republicans as primary season kicks off.

Former President Trump suggesting he may skip out on Republican debates because of his early lead in the polls. While challengers to President Biden have said they want to duke it out on the debate stage. despite no scheduled debates from the DNC.

Let's bring in "Politico" politics reporter Sally Goldenberg. Good morning.


HARLOW: I feel like we're back in 2016.

COLLINS: History just repeated itself.

HARLOW: Or 2020. History does repeat itself. What do you -- Is Trump bluffing?

GOLDENBERG: Yes. I mean, we have to see. He has done this in the past. And then debated.

I think what he's doing is what he's done a number of times so far in his campaign, starting from a position of sowing chaos into the process and making himself look like a victim of attacks.

You know, it sets the bar pretty low. And it tells his base, his MAGA base and others, you know, these people are mistreating me. I can't get a fair shake. And that's been his M.O. throughout.

I think it's hard to imagine he would want to pass up the opportunity to be on the debate stage with his primary opponents. His chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, isn't tested on a national stage like Trump.

HARLOW: I love that you say his chief opponent, who is not even officially --

GOLDENBERG: Not even officially in yet, exactly. But expected to be --

COLLINS: Yes, yes.

GOLDENBERG: -- his chief opponent. Isn't tested on the national stage and Trump is. So you know, I suspect he will want that opportunity. But he's certainly setting expectations.

COLLINS: Yes. It's a massive television audience. And he had threatened to skip debates before. I think he skipped one in 2016.

HARLOW: In Iowa.

COLLINS: He threatened this in 2020, as well. But he actually ultimately showed up on the debate stage.

His argument, it seemed to be about who is hosting the debates. He is very critical of FOX News at times. He's critical, in fact, that one is being held at the Reagan Library. A former publisher of "the Washington Post" runs that. That seemed to be his complaint, as well, is who's facilitating the debates, not just who's going to be on stage with him.

GOLDENBERG: Yes, exactly. Because I think he -- he wants to always signal to people, particularly his own political base, that nobody really gives him fair treatment. And by doing that, by saying -- you know, he's been saying this, you know.

As you said, it's 2016 all over again: The press is out to get me. The Democrats are out to get me. The mainstream Republicans are out to get me.

And you know, it sort of -- it sets that expectation whether people believe him or not, it sort of -- he says it enough times, it creates a perception. And he benefits from that.

HARLOW: Can we talk about Republican stances and public statements on abortion? Because they've been -- and I mean candidates all over the place. Is it a states' rights thing, as the Supreme Court said overturning Roe versus Wade? Is it a federal ban thing at a certain number of weeks. Kaitlan's interview, I think, with Asa Hutchinson, like pointed a lot of this out yesterday. What do you think?

GOLDENBERG: I think what we're seeing is that there isn't -- Republicans are just not in a strong position on this issue.

You know, after the overturning of Roe, elections have shown that popular opinion in America is not on the side of extreme abortion bans. You saw in Wisconsin judge election this month, or a few weeks ago, an 11-point difference in a swing state. And that was a prominent issue in that election.

So I think you're seeing Republican candidates just frankly scrambling to figure out how to -- to reclaim this issue as one that works for them in both the primary and in a general election.


Yesterday Nikki Haley gave a speech, electively. But -- and sort of presented it ahead of time, as though she would be coming to some consensus or some clarity on the issue, and she really didn't.

And you know, I think you're seeing that over and over with these candidates.

COLLINS: Yes. She called for a national consensus. But the specifics of what that consensus would look like, that's actually the big -- it's a bigger problem.


COLLINS: And people can't just, you know, nail down what exactly those voters want.

GOLDENBERG: Yes. Exactly right.

COLLINS: Yes. This will be an issue for Republicans to come. Will we see it on the debate stage play out?


COLLINS: We'll see. Sally, thank you so much for joining us.

GOLDENBERG: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: All right. In just a couple of hours from now, Brazil's former president is actually set to testify on his alleged role in the violent riots that happened after he lost his re-election.

HARLOW: And before we head to break, the world is mourning the loss of activist and artist and king of calypso, Harry Belafonte. He died at the age of 96 of congestive heart failure. A huge supporter of the civil rights movement, and he gained ground-breaking success for his 1956 hit, "The Banana Boat Song." Day-o. The song you're hearing right now. We remember him.




COLLINS: The White House now says that the head of the ISIS cell that was behind -- the leader behind that deadly 2021 suicide bombing at the Kabul International Airport has now been killed by the Taliban.

The horrific attack was carried out in a final days of that chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It killed 13 American service members and also more than 170 Afghans.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live at the Pentagon with more.

Natasha, this is coming from the White House, from the Pentagon. What do we know about this? Was the U.S. involved in this at all, based on what we know so far?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, so we got two statements last night, one from the White House National Security Council and one late at night from the Pentagon.

The National Security Council not telling us much. And neither, really, did the Pentagon. But saying that they do believe that the ISIS-K planner who was responsible for basically masterminding this attack on Abbey Gate back in August of 2021 was killed by the Taliban in early April.

Now, the Defense Department, in their statement late last night, said that the U.S. was not involved in this operation. This was purely a Taliban operation.

However, they feel confident that the intelligence that they have, that this senior ISIS-K leader was killed, is accurate.

But they are not revealing the actual name of this alleged ISIS leader who apparently carried out or planned, I should say, this massive attack on Abbey Gate in the waning days of the American evacuation from Kabul there. So our information really is kind of limited in that respect.

But look, the fact that the U.S. is announcing here that the Taliban carried out this operation rather than the United States to kill a senior ISIS leader really speaks to the limits of the U.S. ability to carry out counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan post-withdrawal.

And actually, the commander of Central Command, he spoke to this on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, saying that the U.S.'s ability, really, to see the -- the broad contours of a growing threat of a terrorist organization, especially like ISIS, is very limited in the wake of the withdrawal, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. And I know given, you know, we've been looking at the aftermath of the withdrawal. It's certainly been a point of scrutiny for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are praising the fact that this -- this leader has been killed.

But they're still saying that doesn't take away from how the withdrawal went down. The fact that these 13 U.S. service members were killed in this attack.

BERTRAND: Yes, Kaitlan. So Republican Representative Michael McCaul, he is saying that, of course, he is happy that another terrorist was taken off of the battlefield and that is a good thing.

But at the same time, he does not want to see the Biden administration take a victory lap about this. He said in a statement last night that he still plans to hold the administration accountable in committee hearings, for example, that they are doing to investigate the U.S. withdrawal.

And that he believes that this is not enough, really, to hold the -- not enough to hold the administration accountable for the very chaotic withdrawal that left those 13 U.S. service members dead.

We should note that we spoke to a father of a U.S. service member who was killed in that attack. And he also said that, while he is happy that this terrorist has been killed, according to the U.S. government, he also believes that more needs to be done to hold individuals in the U.S. government and the Biden administration administration accountable for what happened to his son and, of course, others -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Certainly not a victory lap for anyone. Natasha Bertrand, thank you.

HARLOW: An update on a story we brought you on Monday. An American woman and her baby who were stuck in Sudan in the middle of all of this fighting, they have escaped.

English teacher Trillian Clifford and her 18-month-old daughter, Alma, were sheltering in place in Sudan earlier this week. They hid under a coffee table whenever they heard gunshots or explosions. Her sister- in-law was on with us and told us they were just following orders.


REBECCA WINTER, SISTER-IN-LAW OF AMERICAN WHO ESCAPED SUDAN: We're in a very awful holding pattern, because Trillian's been told by both the U.S. embassy and the international school that she works for that she has to shelter in place, and that she should not accept any offers for private evacuation. So she is just stuck waiting right now in fear.


HARLOW: That fear is now over. We are happy to report that she has told us that her sister-in-law and the school that her sister-in-law works for helped them and other foreign nationals cross the border out of Sudan.

She says that they're not disclosing exactly where they are now for safety reasons. But we are told that Trillian and her baby, Alma, should be back in the U.S. in just a couple of days.

COLLINS: That's so great to hear.

Also, later this morning, the former president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is set to testify at the federal police headquarters in the capital of Brasilia.

The Supreme Court has ordered him to answer questions as part of their investigation into the January 8th riots.





COLLINS: Of course, you remember these striking images from that day. That is the day that thousands of Bolsonaro's supporters attacked and trashed government buildings after he lost the election. Bolsonaro never explicitly actually conceded, and he fled to Florida just before the riots for what they claimed were health reasons.

Officials say he had been sowing doubt about the voting systems and wanting to know whether or not he encouraged his supporters to create the chaos that you saw there.

HARLOW: This morning we're hearing from a former producer at FOX News who worked closely with ousted anchor Tucker Carlson.