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Mohamed Khairullah is Interviewed about Being Turned Away by Secret Service; Samantha Power is Interviewed about Protection for Journalists in Foreign Countries; NYC Combats Car Theft. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 02, 2023 - 08:30   ET





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want everyone of all the elected (INAUDIBLE) here, who serve in city, county, state government across the nation, I want to complement you. Some of you are the first Muslims ever to hold the seat you have.

Thank you. And I'm so proud to see this during my time as president of the United States.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Biden yesterday welcoming Muslim leaders from across the nation to the White House to mark the end of Ramadan. But Mohamed Khairullah, who is the mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, says he got a call uninviting him from that event just about 30 minutes before he was set to arrive at the White House. Afterwards, the Secret Service released a statement saying, quote, we regret any inconvenience this may have caused. No further explanation was offered about why he was not allowed access inside the White House.

Mayor Khairullah joins us now.

And, Mayor, thank you for being here.

I know this system well. It's called Waves (ph). It's the Secret Service system where you put in your name, your birth date, your Social Security Number. The Secret Service does a check on you basically before they grant you access into the White House.

Have you gotten any further explanation from the White House, from Secret Service, on why they told you, you would not be able to come in?

MAYOR MOHAMED KHAIRULLAH, PROSPECT PARK, NEW JERSEY: Well, good morning to both of you. No. At this point we still did not receive any explanation. All what

happened is I received that call as I was entering D.C. and I was told by a staffer from the White House social events department that the Secret Service advised them that I cannot attend the event and that the Secret Service did not provide them with any explanation.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What questions do you have for the Biden White House this morning?

KHAIRULLAH: Well, I think the big question is, what are we going to do about the targeting of Arab Muslims, south Asians by federal agencies that are basically not telling us why we are being harassed at airports, border crossings, and now for me to be denied entry into the people's house is baffling. Why aren't there checks and balances on these uncontrolled powers to put us on lists that are not admitted to and that are essentially illegal and target Americans of certain backgrounds.

COLLINS: Which federal agency specifically do you believe he targeting you?

KHAIRULLAH: Well, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations, I was placed on a list that was created by the FBI. So, back in 2019. And that's when my problems started initially as I was returning to the U.S. from Turkey. What I was asked directly by a Custom and Border control agent, and I quote, did you meet with any terrorists while you were in Turkey?

HARLOW: We cannot verify what you just said about that list.


Obviously, we're doing our reporting. We're reaching out. We've reached out to these agencies trying to get more information.

Just, finally, Mayor, if you were invited to the White House again, would you accept that invitation?

KHAIRULLAH: I think I would accept it under the condition that we are going to discuss the secret list and the targeting of Muslims, south Asians, middle easterners and anybody. No one should be targeted, especially as an American citizen. If someone like me, who has a high- profile, who has clearly served their community, who has demonstrated dedication to local community and global community can be targeted like that, I have someone who could speak on my behalf. The average citizen doesn't know who to turn to and who to speak to. So, I think there has to be a system of checks and balances on how these agencies are adding people to the list while denying that there is such lists.

COLLINS: Mayor, have you had any issues flying since that 2019 incident that you just referenced at JFK?

KHAIRULLAH: I did. I had plenty of incidents and many of them included embarrassment of my family as well. And I had an incident while returning from Canada through border crossing, land border crossing, at which point the agent, after a few hours of holding me, said, we think we fixed your problem. So, last year I traveled internationally and I was fine, only to see that this targeting continues while I'm going to the White House.

COLLINS: Mayor Khairullah, we have ask the White House and Secret Service for further questions on this. Please, let us know if you hear any explanation from - from President Biden's team.

KHAIRULLAH: Will do. Thank you.

HARLOW: The White House estimates that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties in the war in Ukraine, including 20,000 killed in action since December alone. What this means for the trajectory of that war with former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, is live in studio.




BENJAMIN HALL, FOX NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I felt all the support in this room, I really did, throughout, and it gave me a lot of strength to keep going.


COLLINS: The applause you heard there was for Fox News foreign correspondent Benjamin Hall, who got a standing ovation from his colleagues in the press corps at yesterday's State Department briefing. It was his return to the briefing room and to work after a year-long recovery after a deadly missile attack in Ukraine that killed two of his colleagues.

Ukraine's military says Russia has now launched a fresh round of missile attacks across the country yesterday. The White House says Russia has exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces over its winter offensive, estimating Russian forces have actually suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including over 20,000 killed in action since December alone. The Kremlin has denied that, we should note. Fox's Benjamin Hall sat down with the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to talk about the invasion, pushing him also on Russia's detainment of American citizens.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: But I think what you're seeing, again, is maybe the biggest sanction of all, is to further Russia's isolation. An isolation that began when they invaded Ukraine.

BENJAMIN HALL, FOX NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: But that doesn't stop - but that hasn't stopped them from taking Americans.

BLINKEN: No. At some point, along with the isolation, along with measures that we can take, that others can take - and, by the way, we're working with other countries to build an even stronger coalition to make sure that there are strong consequences for any country that engages in these practices.


COLLINS: Joining us now, Samantha Power, the administrator for the United States agency for international aid and the former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Later today she is going to be delivering a keynote address at the United Nations commemorating World Press Freedom Day and outlining what her agency plans to do to protect American journalists who are reporting abroad.

Thank you for being here.

You know, obviously, Evan Gershkovich is the first name that everyone thinks of. That's what Benjamin Hall was asking Secretary of State Blinken about.

You are launching a new program today that will give resources to journalists around the world who are dealing and interacting with these authoritarian governments. How will that work? What could it have done to potentially help someone like an Evan Gershkovich potentially?

SAMANTHA POWER, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: Well, right now around the world there are more than 500 journalists who are in detention of some kind. And just in the last year, 67 journalists have been killed while doing their work. This is a growing phenomenon. It is a growing problem. As countries become more oppressive, as corrupt actors want to hide what they're doing, they lash out at journalists.

And one of the things we realized is that lately the tactic is to actually bankrupt journalists as well as to detain them. And so what we're launching today is called Reporter Shield. It's an insurance fund that will allow journalists who may not have the means to compete with a repressive government or an oligarch, to actually have the insurance and the legal protection that they need in order to fight back and stay in business, stay in the business of holding accountable those actors who are trying to steal and repress their people.

COLLINS: What about in a place like Mexico, where so many reporters have been murdered? "The New Yorker" just did a fantastic investigative piece on how a member of the media there was killed for exposing what cartels are doing and the level of influence they have over the government.

POWER: Well, in our engagement with every government, we are, of course, encouraging them to have the checks and balances of the legal systems in place. But USAID, the agency I'm privileged to run, provides about $160 million in support for independent media and for journalists around the world in everything from legal protection to viability given that, again, these journalists that do the work can be driven out of business as well just by the digital age and by changing, you know, economics.

So, we recognize the importance as a governance means of having free media doing their work all around the world and we try to support it as the United States. COLLINS: Turning to Ukraine, which is one of those places where

reporters are doing incredible work, telling the story of what's been happening ever since Russia invaded over a year ago, this new assessment from the administration saying the casualty figures from Russia's winter offensive is in the 100,000. Obviously, that's casualties. That's not just all killed. They said that number is closer to 20,000. They say that's a clear effort that what Russia is doing has backfired.


Do you -- is that how you see it, too?

POWER: Well, I mean, that's -- those are devastating numbers. I mean 20,000 soldiers killed just since December? I mean, this was a battle that Putin thought he could win in a week, or a couple of weeks, just decapitate the government, you know, put in place some allies right there in Kyiv and, you know, create greater Russia. That's not happened and the cost for Russia every day of this grinding war just goes up and up and up.

But, you know, we now are at a crossroads because the Ukrainians, of course, want to take back the territory that has been unjustly taken from them. We, at USAID, helped Ukraine, as did so many partners around the world, get through the winter because Putin tried to weaponize winter and actually sort of freeze them into surrender. It didn't work. The Ukrainians stood up. We supported the rebuilding of pipes, the provision of generators, heaters, boilers. We're now through the winter and the summer is a critical time, of course, for the people of Ukraine.

COLLINS: It is a critical time. But leached documents recently revealed that the Biden administration is kind of skeptical on whether or not Ukraine actually will be able to retake that territory that you mentioned.

POWER: I think you've seen what the Ukrainians are capable of throughout this war. I mean look just on a map at the geographic size of Russia and Ukraine. Look at all the forecasts that the Russian government and many around the world made about Ukraine's prospects for taking any territory back or even holding the territory that they - that they've managed to preserve. All those people who bet against Ukraine have been proven wrong and the same is likely to happen now.

And what we do, as the United States, is just put them in the strongest possible position to succeed, both in terms of growing their democracy, their anti-corruption institutions, their media, their civil society. They're still doing all of that work at the same time they're fighting on the battlefield. It's remarkable.

COLLINS: While fighting this war.

And your agency has sent some $12 billion, right, to Ukraine, to that figure, to help with that.

I want to ask you about something that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said. He's in Israel right now but he's been asked about what's happening in Ukraine a lot. He had this comment. This is an interaction, I should note, during -- with a Russian reporter at a press conference in Israel.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I vote for aid for Ukraine. I support aid for Ukraine. I do not support what your country has done to Ukraine. I do not support your killing of the children either. And I think for one standpoint you should pull out. And I don't think it's right.


COLLINS: That's probably some of the strongest comments we've heard from him on supporting Ukraine where, you know, we've seen Republicans waffling on what that support is going to look like, how full-fledged it would be.

What did you make of hearing that?

POWER: Well, the most -- the united front that the United States has shown throughout this conflict has been absolutely critical. I mean, being able to provide more than $16 billion in direct budget support to keep the lights on for the government, as well as the security assistance that gets all the headlines, that is a critical factor in supporting Ukraine and standing up against aggression. And this is an incredibly important set of comment, as has been the bipartisanship on the United States' response to this horrific act of aggression, war of aggression from the beginning.

So, we're encouraged. We look forward to continuing to engage Capitol Hill on further support down the line. But right now, again, we're taking advantage of the big supplemental that was passed in December to make sure that Ukrainians can defend themselves, take pack their territory. On the one hand, that's out of my line -


POWER: But also that those who have been displaced have the humanitarian support and, again, the support for democracy that continues to get stronger even as the bombs fall.

COLLINS: I can't let you go without asking about Sudan and what you're doing right now, what is your struggle with trying to make sure that people there who rely so much on international aid are able to get that given what's happening with the fighting?

POWER: Well, thank you so much for asking about it. I mean 16 million people in Sudan were dependent on humanitarian assistance before this horrific civil war or conflict between two military camps unfolded.

COLLINS: Yes, before this.

POWER: So, we have set up a DART, which is a Disaster Assistance Response Team. Right now it's operating outside of the country, but we are looking to flood the zone with humanitarian assistance as soon as conditions can allow. And we can do that in different parts of the country already.

COLLINS: When do you think that will be?

POWER: Well, again, already health items and food in certain parts of the country is flowing, but, you know, about more than a dozen of our partners have had to shut down their operations. We're hoping that they can start them up. This is where the diplomacy and the humanitarian have to go together because Secretary Blinken's pressure on both military factions to come to a ceasefire gave rise to a little bit of relief in the violence over the weekend, which enabled additional evacuations. But we need a permanent ceasefire so that that humanitarian aid can reach people - people in need, given that so many hospitals have been bombed and people have run out of fuel and food already.

COLLINS: Yes, the situation has gotten so dire.

Administrator, thank you for your time this morning and for joining us here.

POWER: Thank you.

COLLINS: We'll watch your speech today. Thank you.

And we'll be right back.



COLLINS: "Five Things" to keep your eye on today.

Markets are going to open momentarily after a dire warning from the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the U.S. government could default on its debt as soon as June 1st. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has now accepted a meeting with President Biden at the White House for talks a week from today.

HARLOW: Today we're expecting to hear from two key witnesses in E. Jean Carroll's trial against Donald Trump. A friend who Carroll confided in after the alleged rape and a woman who says Trump sexually allegedly her on an airline in 1979.

Also, the Hollywood writers strike is on. More than 11,000 film and TV screen writers are heading to the picket lines, grinding production to a halt.

And the New Jersey Devils taking down the New York Rangers in game seven of the Hudson River rivalry, advancing to the second round of the NHL playoffs for the first time in over a decade. They'll head to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the next round on Wednesday.

COLLINS: Say that three times fast.

HARLOW: What? COLLINS: Hudson River rivalry. I'm going to start saying that every morning.

HARLOW: I know, I couldn't do it - I couldn't do it one time slow.

While major crime categories here in New York City are trending down - that's a good note, right -- grand theft auto is not. Mayor Adams announced his plans to combat the growing issue of stolen cars using Apple Air Tags.

With us now is our senior data reporter Harry Enten.

I'm laughing because I thought of putting those on my children before, which I definitely think is not allowed.

COLLINS: Just in their pockets.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, my girlfriend makes me have one in my wallet so -- because I put my wallet all over the place.


I never know where it is.

COLLINS: Sure, it's for your wallet.

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly right, right?

So, OK, this morning's number is 500 because New York City is giving away 500 Apple Air Tags to put in cars to combat car theft. I'll just note, that is not a lot of car tags given that there are 1.5 million households with at least one car. That still leaves 1.5 million households without a free Apple Air Tag.

But, you know, we're talking about car theft in New York. And, look, it is up considerably from 2021, up 32 percent, from 2019, up 153 percent. We're not yet at 1993 levels. But the fact of the matter is, car thefts are way up in New York City and that's why they're giving away these Apple Air Tags. I'm just not quite sure what they're really going to do. Are you going to call the cops, right, when the Apple Air Tag is adios, when the Apple Air Tag goes off when your car is stolen, you're not going to, like, go chase after your own car, right?

HARLOW: I don't know. How fast are you?

ENTEN: I'd have to break the law probably.

HARLOW: Thank you, Harry, very, very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.


HARLOW: All right, "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after this. And we will see you here tomorrow. COLLINS: Thanks so much.