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CNN This Morning

Biden in Japan for Summit, Faces Debt Limit Crisis Back Home; New Evidence in Classified Docs Probe May Undercut Trump; Accused Leaker was Warned about Mishandling Classified Docs; SC House Passes 6-Week Abortion Ban after Hours of Heated Debate; Harry and Meghan Allege 'Near Catastrophic' Paparazzi Car Chase in New York. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We're glad you're with us. It is a busy news day, but first, I want to take a minute -- a very busy news day. We're going to take one minute to mention some really exciting news of our own.

Yesterday, CNN CEO Chris Licht announced that my girl, Kaitlan Collins, is the new host of the 9 p.m. hour, opposite side of the day.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I am. Just when I got into this whole, you know, waking up at 3:30, everything. I had it down pat.

HARLOW: I almost brought you a trash can and an alarm clock, so you could literally throw your -- you're never going to have to set an alarm clock. It's a pretty great thing. We're very excited.

COLLINS: Yes. It's going to be --

HARLOW: Very excited for you.

COLLINS: It's going to be very exciting. It will be fun to do interviews.


COLLINS: And have good conversations at 9 p.m.


COLLINS: But I'm really going to miss you, obviously. And I'll be watching every single morning.

HARLOW: I'm going to miss you, too. And of course I'm going to miss you. You've been everything to me.

COLLINS: I'm not far away. HARLOW: But what is also going to be great is your reporting that you

do all day on everything Washington can really be highlighted and featured at 9, so I'm excited for that.

COLLINS: There's a lot going on.

HARLOW: And I will see you a lot.

So we have about a week left with Kaitlan, thank goodness. But let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Thursday, May 18.

The suspect behind that big leak of military secrets was repeatedly warned about his mishandling of classified documents but still was never removed from his post. This is according to new court records.

COLLINS: Also, President Biden has just landed in Japan ahead of a summit with G-7 world leaders. He may be abroad, but he unfortunately can't escape the pressure of the big domestic issue that is facing both him and Republicans in Washington. Moments ago, he ignored a shouted question on the debt ceiling.

HARLOW: And the cab driver who drove Harry and Meghan during an alleged paparazzi chase tells CNN the couple was nervous and scared. Harry and Meghan described the ordeal as a near catastrophic chase.

COLLINS: Also --

HARLOW: Meantime, Montana has become the first state to ban TikTok altogether. The law, however, does not go into effect until January. Legal challenges, of course, expected.

COLLINS: And a whodunnit has now been solved, as the FBI has charged a Minnesota man for stealing Dorothy's ruby red slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" over 20 years ago.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Who steals Dorothy's slippers?

COLLINS: Also to think you got away with it for 20 years, and then the FBI comes knocking on your door. And they're like --

HARLOW: Top priority --


HARLOW: -- for the feds. We'll get into that.

But happening right now, President Biden in Japan for a major summit with allies as the war rages in Ukraine. At the same time, the clock is running out back home to raise the debt limit and prevent economic catastrophe.

Moments ago, reporters tried to ask the president about it during a meeting with Japan's prime minister.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line, Mr. Prime minister, is that when our countries stand together, we stand stronger. And I believe the whole world is safer when we do. So thank you again for having me here today, and we look forward to the next several days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, can you guarantee allies that the U.S. won't default?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Let's go.


COLLINS: That was hard to hear. The main question was, Mr. President, can you guarantee the U.S. won't default?

COLLINS: You know, I was looking. I don't think any of the other G-7 leaders that he's going to be meeting with, I don't think any other countries have a debt ceiling. So --

HARLOW: They don't even have this.

COLLINS: What is going on?


COLLINS: Why can't just you come to an agreement on this?

HARLOW: And get it together.

That's right. So we'll talk to Phil Mattingly in a little bit about what this sort of looks like for the U.S. on the world stage right now. President Biden, as you said, didn't respond to the shouted questions. He's facing a really tough juggling act right now at home.

COLLINS: It is a tough juggling act. And as we've noted, he's in Japan. This is a summit with G-7 world leaders that was obviously previously scheduled. But the president is under growing pressure from allies, as well, to give Ukraine fighter jets that they believe would help turn the tide against Russia's brutal invasion.

This trip was also supposed to showcase unity against China. But the White House is cutting the trip short by two stops so the president can race back to Washington for those talks on the debt ceiling.

There's only two weeks left to reach a deal with House Republicans before the U.S. government would potentially default on its debts.

As Poppy noted, CNN's chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is live in Hiroshima, traveling with President Biden.

Obviously, Phil, we know the president has a busy schedule here, but this is, you know, such a rare moment where the president is on a world stage, but his domestic issues followed him abroad. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan,

what you saw there in terms of ignoring that question as the press was trying to get some kind of answer related to what's going on back home, is just kind of an acute window into a very delicate balancing act that will define the next several days.

And that's not because the issues are not of import here in Hiroshima. When you talk to U.S. officials, they are very cognizant that on two fronts in particular -- the ongoing war in Ukraine from Russia's invasion, as well as the continual rise, tensions and major issues when it comes to China -- will be central.

And, yet, particularly on that latter point, the president having to cut his trip short -- not going to Papua New Guinea, not going to Australia -- underscores just how difficult things are.

Kaitlan, you would know this well. Bruce Reed, the president's deputy chief of staff, doesn't often go on foreign trips. He's on this trip, in large part because of his central role in those debt ceiling negotiations. At least in terms of the policy side of things.

But the focus, very clearly, will be on those central issues with Ukraine, with China, and with G-7 leaders, which have remained remarkably united throughout the course of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in terms of economic sanctions and in terms of assistance to Ukraine, and most particularly, in terms of defensive assistance of Ukraine.

There's still some very serious issues to deal with on that front, as well.

But also, the president, since he's been in office, has been trying to pull particularly European leaders into an alliance in terms of the posture as it relates to China. And that will be a focal point, as well.

So certainly issues back home. But the issues here are critical and certainly what the president wants to focus on.

HARLOW: Phil, what's really interesting is that, at his first G-7 in 2021, the message was clearly, America is back.

But now he comes to this G-7 having to cut two legs of this three-leg trip off, and he's got a mess at home when it comes to our economy.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's really interesting. You know, I was speaking with some European diplomats who were already in town a couple of hours ago. And this is my question to them, and it really has been, I think, for the last several years.

The level of unsettled anxiety in the four years preceding this administration, particularly with European allies. One of the president's top priorities when he came to international issues, when he came in -- and Kaitlan knows this as well as anybody -- was trying to make clear that, in his words, America is back. America is back on the world stage. America is back in a leadership position. And my question repeatedly over the course of the last day or two has

been, Do you think that's actually the case when two things are going on? One, we have this kind of domestic issue when it comes to the debt limit right now. A very real possibility that the U.S. defaults for the first time in its history.

But also, given the fact that the former president, President Trump, is leading Republican polls to be the nominee by a significant margin. How does that make officials feel?

One European diplomat told me, we're used to it when it came to the debt ceiling. They assume there will be a resolution here, and they understand what the president has to do.

As of 2024, the official said, just don't want to talk about things that I don't want to think about right now. And I think that's a good kind of encapsulation.

So it will all be happening behind scenes and definitely about conversations. Will they bring in that stuff publicly? Probably not. They want to try and address the now and worry about the future a little bit later.

HARLOW: Sure. Phil Mattingly, fascinating. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Now we want to go to a CNN exclusive report. There is evidence coming into Jack counsel -- excuse me, Jac Smith, the special counsel, in his investigation into former President Trump's mishandling of classified documents.

The National Archives is now set to hand over 16 records showing that the former president and his advisors knew about the correct way to declassify documents. That comes after Donald Trump claimed several times that he had declassified them, quote, "automatically."


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify them just by saying it's declassified. Even by thinking about it.

I have the right to declassify documents. And the process is automatic if I take them with me. It's automatic.

By the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.

COLLINS: No, you have to declassify them.

TRUMP: Let me ask you --


COLLINS: CNN's Paula Reid joins us now.

Paula, obviously, they do not become automatically declassified. We know that. But what is it that the special counsel is getting at, because we've seen how this investigation has been ramping up. What is happening here?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the special counsel is looking at whether anyone should be charged with mishandling classified documents. And in order to do that, prosecutors would have to prove that an individual knowingly removed them without proper authorization.

And according to this letter, which was exclusively obtained by our colleague Jamie Gangel, the Archives reveals that these 16 records could give us some insight into just how much the former president was aware of the process.

They say, quote, "The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisors, some of them directed to you personally" -- referring to Trump -- "concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records."


So these could potentially establish his awareness of the process. But he and his attorneys have argued that, again, he automatically declassified these, or was able to do so with his mind.

Look, that's not something that the courts have actually contemplated. So this is all part of the work that the special counsel is doing right now.

HARLOW: What does that mean in terms of whether they will get those documents?

REID: It's a great question, Poppy. As of right now, according to this letter, the Archives is going to hand this over to the special counsel next week on the 24th unless the Trump team moves to intervene.

Now, I'm told by a source familiar with their thinking that they might try to get a court to intervene here. They say they don't expect to be successful, as they have not had a great track record with blocking Smith from getting a lot of evidence.

But they may still file a challenge, just to protect what I'm told are constitutional and presidential protections.

Now, we'll also note, this has the added impact for them of continuing to delay this investigation, and historically, the former president has used that as a tactic in most of his legal entanglements.

COLLINS: Yes. And of course, this comes after we've now learned that National Archives officials have testified back in March that all administrations dating back to Reagan --

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: -- mishandled classified documents, some in very different ways. Paula Reid, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Great reporting from Paula and Jamie and that team.

This morning, prosecutors say the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of leaking highly-sensitive military documents on social media was actually warned repeatedly not to do that; warned that he was mishandling classified intelligence.

Air Force memoranda detail three separate instances since September of Jack Teixeira's alleged misconduct. These new revelations come days before a judge will determine whether he stays behind bars ahead of his trial.

Our Natasha Bertrand is following all of this in the Pentagon.

I could not believe -- I couldn't believe this headline when I read it. That there were multiple warnings, and still he had access to all of this?


So the first warning, apparently, came in September of 2022, when his superior actually saw him taking notes on classified intelligence and told him to stop.

Now, the next warning came in October of 2022, where he was in a briefing, essentially, and he was asking very deep questions, deep- dive questions into intelligence, really, that had nothing to do with his job. And the superiors there told him that he needs to really focus on his actual duties which, of course, were related to I.T. He was essentially an I.T. person for the Air National Guard there in Massachusetts.

And so there was essentially a cease-and-desist order for him to stop doing these deep dives into this kind of intelligence.

Then in January of 2023 of this year, he was again observed doing these kind of deep dives into intelligence. And he was warned again by his superiors not to do it. It does not seem like he was actually reprimanded at that point by his commanders.

But it was noted in these Air National Guard memos that he was looking at things and looking at intelligence that he was not supposed to be doing.

And we should note that the commanders there actually offered him a new position if he wanted to look into this intelligence more, if he wanted more kind of exposure to it in a way that actually comported with his duties. They offered to move him into a new job that would allow him to do it.

So instead of really taking away his access to this classified information, after three strikes against him, essentially, they offered to simply move him into a new job.

Now, we did reach out to the Air National Guard for comment. They said they cannot comment right now, because it is an ongoing investigation. But they did suspend two commanders in his unit, pending the outcome

of this investigation. And the entire intelligence mission was actually taken away from this unit, pending the completion of the investigation.

So we'll see how this shakes out on Friday when he has his hearing, where a judge is going to determine whether or not he's going to stay behind bars. But prosecutors arguing, look, he needs to stay there, because clearly, he has a disregard here for this kind of classified and national security information, Poppy.

HARLOW: That's interesting how that would play into the judge's decision, clearly. Natasha, thanks for the reporting.

COLLINS: Also this morning, Montana has just become the first state in the U.S. to ban TikTok on personal devices.

The governor there, Greg Gianforte, says that he signed the bill on Wednesday to protect Montanans' personal and private data from being gathered by China.

The popular video app -- sharing app is owned by China-based ByteDance, and there has been growing concern inside the United States that the Chinese government could potentially access U.S. data via TikTok for spying purposes.

So far, we should note there's no evidence that the Chinese government has ever actually accessed personal information of U.S.-based TikTok users. But it's a growing concern happening on Capitol Hill and in Washington.

TikTok tells CNN it plans to defend the rights of users in Montana. TikTok has about 7,000 employees in the U.S.

I should note the ban goes into effect next year, but it is almost certainly going to face legal challenges.

HARLOW: And as I was reading, there's a $10,000 fine in this law for people that break the law. I mean, if it withstands court challenges, that's fascinating.


COLLINS: And it's definitely going to have a court challenge. What's interesting about it, though, is that this is about even personal use.

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: You've seen a bunch of governors ban it on government devices. Obviously, they have more leeway there.

But when it comes to personal use, there is a lot of concern about it. It's been floated to have a national ban if it actually happens. Who knows?

HARLOW: It's going to be interesting if other states follow Montana's lead, as well.


HARLOW: Speaking of other states and other key issues, let's talk about South Carolina being one step closer this morning to banning most abortions after just six weeks.

Last night the state house there voted 82-33 to send the bill back to the state's Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats tried to stall that process. The filed more than a thousand amendments.

The bill would ban most abortions after early cardiac activity is detected, a time before many women, we should note doctors say, even know they are pregnant.

There are a few exceptions, including for fatal fetal abnormalities, the health and life of the mother, and exceptions up to 12 weeks for cases of rape, incest or underaged pregnancy.

Let's go to our Amara Walker. She is live for us in Atlanta.

Good morning. Are there other legislative options left for Democrats? Or is this it?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: It looks like this is it, Poppy, unless the Republican-controlled Senate unexpectedly reverses course once it gets the House bill. But that seems highly unlikely.

So the one option the Democrats did have, Poppy, in the South Carolina House was to delay passage of the six-week abortion ban. But given that the Republicans have a super majority, it was inevitable that this bill would pass, even after 20 hours of debate and two days.

So look, this has been quite a contentious issue within the Republican Party in South Carolina. As you know, both -- the Republicans control both chambers. But for months, they were at an impasse, and they had disagreed over just how restrictive an abortion ban should be in the state.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, the Senate actually blocked a near total abortion ban, where you saw several Republican women voting against it.

But prior to that, in February, the Senate did pass a less restrictive abortion ban, which was this Senate bill 474, which was a six-week abortion ban. And so now the House has done the same.

Where do things go from here? So this bill, which has a few changes to it now, now goes back to the South Carolina Senate. And then, once the bill passes the Senate, then it will go to the Republican governor, Henry McMaster, who has indicated he will sign this bill.

And until then, it is legal to have an abortion in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy, Poppy.

HARLOW: Amara Walker, thank you for the update. So conflicting accounts emerging from what Prince Harry and Meghan --

COLLINS: Very conflicting.

HARLOW: Very conflicting. We'll get into it. And Meghan Markle described as a near catastrophic car chase right here in New York City. We're going to hear from one of the cab drivers who intervened.

COLLINS: Also, fellow New York lawmakers Jamal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, quite a moment here. Heckling the embattled Republican George Santos, on the steps of the Capitol yesterday. You can see him here. We're going to show you. It was quite a screaming match, actually ensued. We'll show you more of this video next.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): The party has to kick him out! He's embarrassing y'all!




HARLOW: New and conflicting details this morning about what happened to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the streets of New York City. The couple's spokesperson described the incident as, quote, "a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi." That's a quote.

But there are conflicting accounts about the extent of the danger and how long it lasted.

Joining us now is Max Foster.

Max, good morning to you. Obviously, we all think about Princess Diana and how she died, of course. And that has haunted Prince Harry.

What do we know about the taxi driver who drove them at one point in all of this?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, they changed cars a couple of times, as I understand it, from someone that was in the entourage of Harry and Meghan. And the taxi was less than ten minutes of that journey.

So they are basically suggesting we shouldn't over-emphasize what the taxi driver experienced. The longer, more than, like, hour, two-hour journey was a chase. We know that it was a chase. It wasn't a high- speed chase. We've learned that.

And to be fair to the Sussexes, they never actually said it was. And as you say, all of this is much more traumatizing to Harry because of what he went through as a child.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't feel like I was in danger. But you know, Harry and Meghan, they looked very nervous.

FOSTER (voice-over): More than 25 years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, her son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, claim they were chased by paparazzi in what the couple's team is calling a near catastrophic car chase.

Prince Harry, Meghan and her mother, Doria Ragland, attended the Women of Vision Awards at the Ziegfield Ballroom in New York City. Meghan was honored for her global advocacy to empower women and girls.

But it wasn't until they left the event that things allegedly escalated. A local law enforcement source tells CNN a, quote, "swarm of paparazzi" followed them in cars, motorcycles and scooters.

The convoy eventually went to the 19th Precinct, where the couple waited until they could safely leave.

Chris Sanchez, a member of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's security detail, says they switched cars more than once during the chase. They were first seen in a black car and then a yellow cab.

The driver of that cab says he noticed the paparazzi before as the couple's security guard started to tell him the address to drive to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as soon as he was about to say where they were going, all of a sudden, the paparazzi stormed the taxi.

FOSTER (voice-over): He says he saw six paparazzis total.

UNIDENTIFIED MALEE: When the paparazzi started taking pictures, and once I heard from the back, somebody said, "Oh, my God." You know? And then the look on their faces, you can tell that they were nervous and scared.

FOSTER (voice-over): That's what the Sussexes' bodyguard told him to return to the police precinct.

The NYPD, who provided assistance to the Sussexes' security team, says the paparazzi made the transport of Harry and Meghan challenging. But there were no reports of collisions, injuries, or arrests.

The couple's security team say the duke and duchess and their convoy were pursued by the paparazzi for more than two hours, allegedly resulting in "multiple near collisions" with other drivers, pedestrians, and two NYPD officers, adding the Sussexes, who were staying at a private residence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, did not want to compromise the security at their friend's home.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has questioned the validity of that two-hour time frame but says nothing like this should ever happen in a city as dense as the Big Apple, calling the incident "reckless" and "irresponsible."

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: You shouldn't be speeding anywhere. But this is a densely-populated city. And I think all of us, I don't think there's many of us who don't recall how his mom died. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: We've actually heard from one of the agencies that uses photos from the photographers that were chasing that car, suggesting that one of the cars in the royal motorcade was actually driving recklessly. So there are different perspectives on this.

Meanwhile, here in London, no comment from any of the palaces and, actually, the royal engagements are just continuing as normal this morning.

HARLOW: Max Foster, thank you for the reporting.

COLLINS: Also, back here in the U.S., the man who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students back in November has now been indicted by a grand jury. The latest on that case of Bryan Kohberger ahead.