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CNN This Morning

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Makes Last Minute Changes for Debt Ceiling Bill in Attempt to Garner Enough House Republican Votes; Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) Interviewed on Provisions in House Republican Debt Ceiling Bill and His Endorsement of Former President Trump as 2024 Republican Presidential Nominee; Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 08:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have to change the bill to get 218 votes?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you -- do you have 218 votes on this?


HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. We begin this hour with breaking news overnight. Last-minute changes to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's debt limit bill. The Rules Committee worked through the night, adjourning at 5:20 this morning, really just before we went on air. This as McCarthy scrambles for Republican support ahead of today's possible vote.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking news just in. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has just had a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That's notable. They had not spoken since before Russia invaded Ukraine.

HARLOW: Also, a multi-state manhunt underway this hour for four inmates who escaped from a Mississippi jail. One of them accused of killing a man and stealing his truck after breaking out of prison. Where that investigation is this morning.

This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: And we do begin on the U.S. economy and breaking news overnight. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reversing course and making big changes to his debt limit plan in the early morning hours as he scrambles to try to get enough Republican votes to get it passed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, the committee is adjourned. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Notice that said this morning when the adjourned.

HARLOW: Right, like five hours ago, less than.

COLLINS: Less than that, three hours ago.

HARLOW: Right. The Rules Committee working through the night. The gavel came down after 5:00 a.m., we should say.

COLLINS: Here is why this matters, because Kevin McCarthy said there were not going to be any changes. But actually overnight, there were two big changes. Number one, they are going to allow proposed work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries to be implemented on a faster timetable. That was an ask by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. The other change that leadership says they would not repeal some of those biofuel tax credits that had caused major heartburn for midwestern Republicans who were in and out of McCarthy's office yesterday. House Speaker McCarthy is facing new urgency in the standoff with the White House over raising the debt limit. It's growing more likely that the government could default as soon as early June if Congress does not act. Of course, we have talked about that could lead to an economic disaster.

So for more on that we want to bring in Christine Romans. Of course, McCarthy is saying he is not going to change his plan. He changed it overnight. The Senate has said this is dead on arrival, but it's still important because House Republicans will still have to vote on it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And look, you couldn't get the midwestern Republicans without allowing the biofuel tax breaks to stay. And they were conservatives members of the caucus who really wanted to make sure you could speed up some of these timelines to tie work requirements with Medicaid and some other social programs. So these were things that really he had to do to get all the numbers onboard.

But that's the political football that the debt ceiling has become here. The loser in the football game is the American people and American living standards, right. This is what we know we are facing, and we are facing this a lot sooner than we thought. Tax receipts are down something 35 percent from the same time last year. That means less money is coming in in the tax season. That money is being used to pay the bills because after January 19th we couldn't borrow any more money. So this is really incredibly important.

COLLINS: That's fascinating.

ROMANS: And it's coming much sooner than we thought. So early June is this so-called X date, and they are running out of time for a compromise here.

HARLOW: I think it's fascinating, too, that literally how much people pay the government in their taxes affects when this could happen. COLLINS: Yes, it's changing the dynamic of what we're seeing

happening in real time, what you heard from the White House budget director, how concerned they are if they don't actually come to an agreement.

ROMANS: The risk of a debt default is not zero, and that is not where we should ever be here. A debt default, of course, would cripple global markets. It would probably cause treasury prices to fall, yields to rise, borrowing costs to spike, stock market crashes probably around the world, a big decline in dollars as people are selling treasuries and selling the dollar which would undermine the stability of highly indebted international economies, right. So the risks are just terrible all around.

So as we talk about the political horse trading, I just want to always step back and say this is the outcome for the American people is very, very bad here.

Another thing, look, what Republicans want to do is save about $4.8 trillion over the next decade. That's how the CBO has scored McCarthy's plan. But Moody's ran the numbers, Mark Zandi and his colleagues at Moody's Analytics. So, OK, you're talking about 10 years of spending cuts. Spending cuts would slow the economy. In the near term, you would have real GDP up about 1.6 percent next year under the McCarthy plan compared with the clean bill the president wants, 2.25 percent GDP.


HARLOW: That's so interesting.

REP. RO KHANNA, (D-CA): So you have Republicans who want to slow the economy, that's what that plan literally does, and Moody's says that is about 780,000 jobs would be lost if you go back to 2022 spending levels and you start talking about these cuts.

HARLOW: Wow. I just wish we had you by our side all day to help explain that and bring it home to the American people.

COLLINS: Or maybe on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: Yes, maybe on their side. Thank you.

ROMANS: They speak a different language about this on Capitol Hill than they do in global economic centers.

COLLINS: They certainly do. So let's go to Capitol Hill. We have got Republican Congressman Brian Mast of Florida who is there. He is on the Foreign Affairs Committee, of course, a Republican. Congressman, thanks for being with us this to morning. I know that Republicans are working late into the night last night. Do they have the votes to get this passed?

REP. BRIAN MAST, (R-FL): I'll find out at about 9:00 a.m. whether we have the votes. We'll be at a meeting. Everybody come together. There was a lot that was mentioned there. If you want to unpack any of it, I look forward to talking about it.

COLLINS: There was a lot that was mentioned there. The concerns, of course, you heard what Christine said about the Moody's analysis, about 780,000 jobs being lost are from this. But on the votes today, you say you're going to find out at 9:00 a.m. when Republicans go and meet. Do you think this vote is actually going to happen today?

MAST: I think that this vote happens today. But let's again talk about the D.C. sausage, how it's made. This is a vote that moves something over to the Senate. You can count on the fact that there will be another vote after this, whether it's in a week or a month, because something will come back from the Senate with Republicans and Democrats over there, and whatever the president has to say after that. There will have to be another vote for whatever comes out of all of that.

COLLINS: Yes, that's right, because the Senate said, regardless, this proposal is dead on arrival. But the Republicans still have to vote together to get it passed. Right now, they don't have the votes. Do you have any concerns, have you heard concerns are from Republican lawmakers about voting on this, putting their name and their vote on the record when it comes to things like the new work requirements, something that was changed overnight, blocking Biden's move on student debt, are there concerns about putting their name on that even if it's not actually going to happen?

MAST: I haven't heard concerns about that. Matt Gaetz and I have spoken at length about the work requirements, and I just use myself as an example. I am never being to be 100 percent in life. I lost two legs and a finger. And the point that I'm making sheer is that just because we are not 100 percent doesn't mean that we're work capable. And we have to get the point in America that people go to work, have that pride that you get from going out there and producing and bringing home, and that has to be a part of it. So we've talked about that at length.

Everything else that's on the table, you talked about growing the economy, that has to happen. You can't grow the economy with the Inflation Reduction Act in place destroying American energy policy and making energy more expensive for Americans. That can't be something that takes place. And you talked about lower tax receipts. That's a part of this conversation as well, because what we're talking about dealing with, if there is lower tax receipts, we should really be paying attention to where Americans' tax dollars are going. And it's not even redistribution of wealth. It's redistribution of anybody that's paying taxes, whether it's what's going on with the tax you are going to be charged because you have a good credit score with a mortgage or paying somebody else's student loan. Those are the things that we have on the table to say let's axe those bad policies for America. Let's grow the economy. Let's claw back dollars. That makes sense to most people I talk to.

COLLINS: I should note, if we are talking about Americans' tax receipts and what that looks like, part of what Republicans are passing here would cut back the number of IRS agents and the funding that President Biden wanted to add to the IRS there. So that's a little bit ironic.

But Kevin McCarthy said there weren't going to be any changes to this. Late light, as we saw, going until just a few moments before we were on air this morning, there were changes that were made. Do you think there will be any other changes made to this?

MAST: I know there will be proposals for changes this morning as we go into that 9:00 a.m. meeting. But Kevin McCarthy making changes, talking about this, dealing with the whole of his conference, that is the difference between what is going on in the House and what is going on in the White House right now. They haven't spoke with McCarthy in weeks, if not months, about this. They are not willing to deal with this as an issue other than to say, hey, listen, we are not interested in cutting any of this wasteful spending, throwing away of the taxpayer dollars, people that are getting up and going to work this morning, they are not interested in doing that. That's the difference of what's taking place.

COLLINS: I would note the White House said yesterday they are willing to meet with McCarthy when it comes to talking about the budget, not the debt limit, and the conditions Republicans want to put on that.

I do want to ask you about something else, though, because, of course, you are a Republican, but you're also from Florida, and you recently came out and endorsed Former President Trump and his 2024 run even though it's widely assumed that your home state governor is also going to be running for that nomination. Why did you pick Trump over DeSantis?

MAST: Take any issue that you could bring up on this show, whether it's dealing with China and trade policy or China and Taiwan or Vladimir Putin specifically, Russia, Ukraine, the way we are going to educate our kids in America, or the southern border, anything that you could bring up, and I can tell you the person that I want dealing with that is Donald J. Trump.


It's not George W. Bush in his prime or Mitt Romney or certainly not Joe Biden. He has proven that. Not that he had to be elected for him to prove that to me. But the list goes on. The one person that I want dealing with those issues the way that he dealt with them before is Donald J. Trump, and he has my full support.

COLLINS: DeSantis do you think -- when you mentioned foreign policy, is it because he doesn't have the foreign policy credentials? What is it about him?

MAST: There is not a "what about DeSantis" that I don't like. He is my governor. And I've loved his policies as governor. But President Trump has put the policies in place as the chief executive of the United States of America, delivering for Americans. You want to talk about the difference in tax receipts, something that was said earlier, between under Biden right now and under Donald J. Trump. And what was taking place there? The way that Americans had a secure border. We were looking for things that made since for America in an unashamed way.

And that was a lightning in the bottle moment of American history with what was taking place. And it's been destroyed in a matter of a couple of years. And we can right the ship of America if we go back to fighting for America, which Joe Biden loves to bash. He said, you can call everybody a MAGA Republican, and that's an insult to say that somebody wants to make America great again. That's the wrong direction.

COLLINS: We have see who the Republican nominee is actually going to be. But quickly, did you hear anything from DeSantis himself or his world when it came to your endorsement? Did they try to get your endorsement?

MAST: I spoke to them, let them know this was taking place, that it was a done deal --

COLLINS: And what did they say?

MAST: -- these are my reasons. And they said OK. Look, when I speak, I make it very clear that this is the position I have analyzed and this is the position I am taking, and so it was a done deal at that point.

COLLINS: A done deal. All right, Congressman Brian Mast, we will see what happens in that meeting you have got coming up with Republicans to see whether or not that vote will happens today as you predicted. Thanks for your time this morning.

MAST: All the best.

HARLOW: Fascinating interview. And what a point on the IRS agents as well, given the tax collections. OK, we'll keep following that.

This just in, really significant breaking news as well. We've learned that Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the phone this morning. This is the first time that the two leaders have talked since Russia invaded Ukraine. Zelenskyy said in a statement about the call, it was a long and meaningful conversation. Last month Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Russian for talks where the two leaders posed as peace brokers for Russia's own invasion of Ukraine.

No one better to help us understand the significance of this than our chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour who has been on the ground in Ukraine and has covered this extensively. How big is it?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Look, it's big. These guys have been saying they would talk ever since Xi went to his good buddy for life Vladimir Putin in Moscow. However --

HARLOW: Best friends, they've said.

AMANPOUR: Best friends, a no holds barred alliance. A troubling alliance because it seems to be a growing alliance against the United States and the west, Russia, China, Iran, et cetera. The thing is, what did President Xi say to President Zelenskyy? The

two are bringing it up, obviously, because China is a massive partner, especially in the past, a massive economic partner for Ukraine. But China's view of being a peace broker up until now has meant parroting Vladimir Putin's position. So right now, unless something changed on that phone call, there is no real way for China to show that it is an honest broker and not just carrying water for President Putin.

But this is a problem because some other democratic leaders such as President Lula, leftwing, China obviously is its own autocratic camp. This is a president who also doesn't believe in the U.S. support of Ukraine and believes that there should be some kind of peace to be brokered. Obviously, everybody would like that. But the conditions, according to Ukraine, are not yet right for that.

COLLINS: Yes, it's interesting to hear Zelenskyy's take of the call, saying it was long, it was meaningful, and that that call in addition to Ukraine's ambassador to China being appointed he believes will give a powerful impetus to the development of bilateral --

AMANPOUR: This is all diplomates, right, the two have had a call. There is a read out, as often happens. It's an important thing that the two leaders have spoken. China is a massive, massive player, as we all know. The question is, what is the quality of that conversation? And what is China prepared to do to pressure his, Xi's best friend Putin to actually come to the table and stop what is generally deemed by the United Nations as an illegal reinvasion of Ukraine? So that is really the key.

And the real key is whether the United States and its allies will remain really vested in this process of defense that they have put so much into until there is a position where Ukraine is militarily capable of putting pain to Russia and, therefore, creating the conditions for a negotiation. Right now, Russia doesn't have to negotiate is doing badly but --


HARLOW: No one's winning.



COLLINS: And speaking of Russia.

AMANPOUR: And that's the problem.

HARLOW: Yes, speaking of Russia, Alexei Navalny.


HARLOW: And the updates that we have on him, what should we know?

AMANPOUR: So, look, Vladimir Putin considers Alexei Navalny, as well as Ukraine, an existential threat. These people want to bring democracy and an end to the autocratic regime of Putin. And they try to speak the truth, both Ukraine in the way it acts as an independent and democratic state, and Navalny as the key opposition. So, what's happening is that Putin and the regime there is just over and over again, adding more charges, more threats, more court appearances. So, now he's facing two trials and cases one of extremism, one of terrorism what the difference is, I'm not entirely sure. He says he's been given or at least his family say that he's been given 10 days to go through a massive dossier. They've spoken to Jim Sciutto on CNN, and this is what Putin does. He tries to make a relevant his opposition, and that's what's happening.

COLLINS: Yes, and to see that picture we just had up, it just shows how much thinner Alexei Navalny is now.


COLLINS: I mean, they were saying he's lost, I think 17 pounds in two weeks.


COLLINS: Which is just, I mean, it's awful to see the condition he's being treated. And the other reason, we wanted to have you on today. And because we, you know, we cover what happened in Afghanistan.


COLLINS: The exit of that, obviously, you were there for that as well. And now hearing this news from the White House that the mastermind of that suicide bombing that happened at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. troops, now has been killed by the Taliban. What do you make of that? And the fact that the Pentagon is saying, you know, we weren't -- we weren't involved in this?

AMANPOUR: Well, that's what I gather from my sources in Afghanistan, who I called before coming here. That this happened according to the Pentagon now, we reached out some two and a half weeks ago, early April, and I'm hearing that also from the sources in Afghanistan. It happened in the Southern part of the country. I was told it happened by their intelligence services. So, it may have been a new targeted hit, after having found this person. My soul said to me, whether or not this was the person who masterminded the Abbey Gate assassination, and the bomb attack is kind of irrelevant to us. They would say that, wouldn't they? Right?


AMANPOUR: Because they don't want to say that they're helping the United States. But what we want to do is make sure that ISIS-K is decapitated. So, this is important for us anyway, and ISIS-K is a threat to the Taliban, not just to the U.S., and the general -- and the general area. So, they want you, that they were sorry, they said to me that his news of this had broken into the public because they fear that will be a recruitment tool for ISIS-K in the region. And then, you know, I asked him how else things are doing because clearly the woman's issue is an absolute abomination there. And they have lied, lied, lied, you know, the U.S. pulled out handed the place back to the Taliban. Taliban lied and women are, and girls are completely and utterly, you know, wretched right now, unable to go to school, unable to work. It's a terrible situation and my source who belongs to the more, if there is such a thing pragmatic, Kabul based, a wing of the Taliban says this is a terrible crisis for all of us. We want need women to go back to school and to work. But the fundamentalists in Kandahar are not allowing that to happen.

HARLOW: So, many of us asked that question at the Biden administration to lawmakers around that time. What will you do if all of this progress for women is reverted and --

AMANPOUR: They're not doing anything -- they're not doing anything.

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: And also, Afghanistan, potentially, there's new worries that it could become yet again.


AMANPOUR: A basis for terror that gets projected beyond and maybe even further into the allies and into the West.

HARLOW: Before you go, all the world crises, let's take one moment to talk about this man.

AMANPOUR: Oh, let's.

HARLOW: Above the fold on the New York Times, this is remarkable.

AMANPOUR: And the Wall Street Journal.

HARLOW: And the Wall Street Journal, as well.

COLLINS: He was your friend.

AMANPOUR: He was. I was really incredibly lucky. We met at a Robert F Kennedy annual Human Rights Awards, which is totally irrelevant, right? Because he was the Lion of civil rights. He brought the Kennedy's into the Civil Rights struggle, in conversation with Martin Luther King. I sat and listened to this man's wisdom and his inspiration and his -- and his experience in nonviolent resistance and how, whether it's, you know, guns today, or racism civil rights today, or whether it was when he was on the frontlines, absolutely inspiring. His life story is phenomenal, he wrote a brilliant book. I was able to interview him and playing a much fuller cut of my interview from about 10 years ago when he did and published his book. It's a remarkable story, he's a hero. We say too often great, but this is one of the last greats.


AMANPOUR: A great American and a great humanitarian and a great defender of human and civil rights. HARLOW: And we can see it on your show.


HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: And later on, PBS around the United States, yes. And I'm really -- I'm really proud to have known him, really proud.


COLLINS: Yes, lovely tribute to your friend. And we're looking forward to watching that. Christiane, thank you for joining us.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


COLLINS: And on top of all those international headlines that we just discussed. Also, happening here today in New York. E. Jean Carroll is expected to testify in the battery and defamation trial against former President Trump. What do we expect to hear? We'll tell you next.


HARLOW: In just a few hours, the Civil battery and Defamation trial brought against Donald Trump by calling this E. Jean Carroll will resume and Carroll is expected to testify in this trial. She alleges former President Trump assaulted her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman back in the mid-90s, allegations Trump denies.


E. JEAN CARROLL, ACCUSES TRUMP OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: I proceeded into the dressing room. The minute he closed that door. I was banged up against the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He slammed you against the wall?

CARROLL: Yes, hit my head really hard.


HARLOW: To be clear, these are rape allegations in yesterday's opening statement. Carroll's attorney revealed that two other alleged victims of Trump will testify to try to show a pattern of this alleged violent behavior. Kara Scannell is following all of it, she's with us now. Talk to us -- talk us through what happens today.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, today Carroll's team begins to present their case. And their first witness is going to be a former employee of Bergdorf Goodman. This is to set the scene of what it was like in the 90s at Bergdorf Goodman on the sixth floor in the lingerie department where this alleged assault took place. So, an attempt to corroborate some of Carroll's story. Then Carroll will take the stand herself, she obviously is the main witness here. And she's going to describe to the jury this alleged rape that took place in the department store. And her lawyers have said that they're trying to show, that this was three women and one pattern. So, not only E. Jean Carroll but two other women they're going to call and saying that the -- that Trump's M.O. as they put it was that he would engage in some friendly banter in a semipublic place, then he would lunch for them, grope them. [08:25:15]

And then when the women went public with their allegations, it was humiliate attack and say that they were too ugly to assault. Now, Trump's team will spend a lot of time cross examining Carroll. They said they're going to make their case or their defense through their witness -- through Carroll's witnesses. So, we can expect to see a lengthy cross examination of Carroll. They say she's motivated by politics, money and a desire for the spotlight.

HARLOW: And I follow it closely. Thank you, Kara.

COLLINS: On top of that, also today, in an extraordinary move, the Attorney General of Oklahoma is calling for clemency for death row inmate. It's a letter to the parole board that was sent yesterday, where he said he doesn't have competence and Richard Glossip's murder conviction after they learned of Newly uncovered evidence. The board is actually set to meet just hours from now to decide Glossip's fate. For my view in 1998, he was convicted in that murder for hire plot against his then boss. He says he didn't do it, but he is now set to be executed right now on May 18th. CNN's Brynn Gingras is here. Brynn, of course, a lot of questions on eyes on what's going to happen today.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's really hard to underscore Kaitlan, Poppy. How unusual of a move this is for the Attorney General and Oklahoma Republican to sit at the table at this clemency hearing. It just doesn't happen, he usually would send a deputy, but this just shows how much Gentner Drummond really believes that Richard Glossip who is, like Kaitlan said, scheduled to be executed just three weeks from now. That he should get at least a new hearing, with new evidence in this case.

Of course, he signaled toward that just a couple of weeks ago when he urged the justices in the criminal court of appeals in Oklahoma to take another look at this case and bring this case back to a lower court. And those justices though in a five zero decision decided that the death penalty the execution should continue forward. So, I want to -- just read from what he said to the parole board in his statement. Gentner Drummond said, "In every previous case that has come before this board, the state has maintained full confidence in the integrity of the conviction. That is simply not the case in this matter due to the material evidence that was not disclosed to the jury."

Now, even if the clemency board decides to get or the parole board decides to give clemency. To Glossip this is not the end of the road is going to be up to the Governor to then decide if he will grant that clemency. And that's a decision he does not need to make anytime soon but certainly will have eyes on this hearing today. There will be a decision by this board about whether or not to give Glossip clemency today. And, of course, this has star power, Poppy, you talk to Kim Kardashian about this. Certainly, there are a lot of eyes now, especially with Kim tweeting this talking about it yesterday with you. She's the only one Richard Vance Branson has ever been behind this, Susan Sarandon. So, certainly, we'll see if that has any effect on this at all.

HARLOW: Wow, to be very you've been covering this. You've been out there interviewing his lawyers for years. So, come back tomorrow. Let us know what happens today, OK?

COLLINS: All right, thanks.

GINGRAS: Yes, absolutely.

HARLOW: Coming up, let's talk about Kim Kardashian also, business advice from a woman with a $3.2 billion empire.


HARLOW: Do you trust your gut?


HARLOW: Over the data? Over what other people say Kim you should do this. We should do this.

KARDASHIAN: Absolutely.