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Biden In Japan To Meet With Allies As He Faces Debt Limit Crisis In U.S.; Democrats Heckle Santos, Call On Him To Resign On Capitol Steps; FDA Advisers To Vote On First RSV Vaccine Aimed At Protecting Infants. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 07:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So, happening this afternoon, Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen will meet with top bank CEOs after she warned the U.S. could run out of cash and default on its debt just 13 days from today. And people familiar with this say the meeting will very likely focus -- it's obviously going to focus on the debt ceiling. And the White House and Congress continue to try to strike some sort of deal to prevent catastrophe. Secretary Yellen has warned if the U.S. defaults it would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy and, really, global financial markets.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.


HARLOW: What do we know about this meeting?

ROMANS: Well, we know that it will be Citigroup, Chase, and Bank of America. And we know they will talk about the debt ceiling, of course. I mean, she's been working the phones all week talking to bankers, and business leaders, and CEOs talking about what could be happening here and really encouraging everyone to be aware that this is -- this is coming up.

And they'll probably also talk about regional banks as well. And regional banks doing a little bit better yesterday. There was a regional bank that said that it actually had seen some deposit inflows, so you have some stability there in that banking sector.

But Poppy, what really freaks me out -- for the technical term -- is that the cash in the bank -- in the United States Treasury -- Treasury's coffers fell below $100 billion. So think about that.

HARLOW: Wow, yes.

ROMANS: We're running out of money. There's not -- we're running out of money. And after January first -- June first you're going to start to get payments of like $25 billion for this -- HARLOW: Look at that decline in four days.

ROMANS: Yes. Twenty-five billion for this. Thirty billion for that. Twenty billion for that. So we are running out of time.

HARLOW: And they're going to talk about -- I don't know at this meeting but there's more and more talk about eliminating the debt ceiling because of things like this.

ROMANS: That's right. And you think about the debt ceiling. It now is just drama. It's not fiscal discipline, it's just drama.

The drivers of our debt are health care costs, Social Security, Medicare, interest on the debt, not enough taxes. Those are hard, serious, bipartisan conversations -- hard work that has to be done. Arguing over the debt ceiling is not that hard work. It's political theater that is very dangerous -- very dangerous.

I have a piece that I wrote yesterday about all the people who just want to get rid of the damn thing. You know, for the love of God, get rid of the debt ceiling. It's not as easy as all that but that's how people really feel about it now.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, thank you --

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: -- very much.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, this is something that is affecting President Biden's trip abroad. He is in Japan right now for a major summit with allies. Of course, one of the big topics there will not just be what's happening domestically but also the war that is raging in Ukraine. The debt limit crisis back home looming over this trip.

Joining us now is the White House's National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, who is in Japan traveling with him and -- with President Biden.

John, I just want to ask you the question that President Biden was asked earlier while he was meeting with the Japanese prime minister that he did not answer, which is can he guarantee U.S. allies that the U.S. is not going to default on its debt this week?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: What we can guarantee is that we're going to treat these discussions with members of Congress as seriously as we possibly can, and the president said that he's optimistic that we're going to get there.

Look, Congress -- this is something that is a congressional duty. They've done it 78 previous times. There's no reason why they can't do it again this time. They've done it under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It needs to be done and it -- and it will be done. The president has said that. COLLINS: Well, Kirby, the president has also, and the White House have also said that he can do his job wherever he is. Obviously, the president has his capabilities when he goes overseas.

Is it a sign of how the negotiations are going that he had to cut this trip abroad short?

KIRBY: The president felt like given the looming deadline and given where the teams were in the last couple of days that the best use of his time was to be back in Washington to make sure that Congress does its duty.

And again, he's willing to sit down, as the teams are right now, to talk about budgets and appropriations issues with Speaker McCarthy and his team. And he wants to make sure -- the president wants to make sure that he's present as those -- as those negotiations and those -- and those discussions wrap up.

HARLOW: I want to talk to you -- and John, thanks so much for joining us from this trip. But front page news in The New York Times today. I'm sure you've seen it. Ukraine's allies spar over a push to send F- 16 fighter jets to Ukraine. We're seeing more and more of our European allies -- Britain, the Netherlands -- want to send F-16s to Ukraine but they need the approval of the United States to do so.


Where is the Biden administration on this?

KIRBY: I don't have any announcements to make on the F-16s, Poppy, or any -- or any changes to our approach right now to speak to.

What I will tell you is that we have worked very hard throughout the beginning -- from the beginning of this war to give Ukraine the capabilities that it needs to be successful on the battlefield, and we've focused a lot on the capabilities they need right in front of them. But that said, we have also not been afraid to look out ahead about future capabilities. And so, as the war has evolved and as Ukraine's needs have evolved so, too, has the support that we provided Ukraine.

But again, on F-16s, particularly, I just don't have anything to speak to right now.

HARLOW: But you are -- but you're saying -- because what we have seen, as you said, evolve is that what the U.S. has said it wasn't going to provide, it has provided.

Do you see F-16s in that same category, potentially?

KIRBY: Again, we're going to keep up the discussions with Ukraine about their needs -- both their immediate needs and their long-term needs. And I guess I just don't want to get ahead of those discussions or where we are. We have evolved as the situation has evolved. We want to make sure that Ukraine, when this war is over, is able to continue to be able to defend itself because it's still going to have a border with Russia and it's still going to have legitimate security concerns.

COLLINS: Are you expecting the F-16s to be brought up during this G7 summit, John?

KIRBY: It's not on the agenda -- F-16s, particularly, is not on the agenda on the G7, Kaitlan. But as you rightly said when we started this discussion, Ukraine is absolutely going to be on the agenda here at the G7. And I think you're going to hear the G7 leaders all again speak with one voice about the importance of continuing to support Ukraine and continuing to hold Mr. Putin accountable.

They're going to have a lengthy set of discussions about the sanctions regime and sanctions enforcement, in particular, to make sure that we can try to limit Mr. Putin's war-making machine.

But as for specific capabilities like the F-16, that's not a specific agenda item. Now, could it come up on the margins? I mean, who knows? We just -- we just landed here and the discussions haven't actually started.

COLLINS: And obviously, John, a part of the trip being cut short raised questions about the U.S. efforts to counter China and its influence in the regions of where the trip is not happening anymore -- Papua New Guinea and Australia -- those stops.

When you see the Chinese envoy in Ukraine, as they are right now, meeting with top Ukrainian officials, we also heard President Biden say he plans to speak with President Xi Jinping soon. When is that conversation going to happen?

KIRBY: Nothing on the schedule right now, Kaitlan, but the president absolutely wants to have -- he wants to connect again with President Xi. He's said that many, many times. It's very consistent from him. And they will -- they absolutely will. They'll do that at the appropriate time. But right now, there's nothing on the schedule.

I do want to hasten to add, though, that the lines of communication with China remain open. We're still working through our embassy in Beijing to see if we can get Sec. Blinken back on a plane over to Beijing as he was supposed to do a couple of months ago. We're also in talks with the PRC about potential visits by Secretaries Yellen and Raimondo to go talk about economic issues. So those lines of communication are open and that's really important.

What we -- what we would like to do is get those military lines of communication open because they were --

HARLOW: Right.

KIRBY: -- shut down after speaker -- then-Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

HARLOW: Yes. I was just going to say in Kaitlan's interview with Lloyd Austin on that topic a few months ago --

COLLINS: Yes. HARLOW: -- that was key. What were you going to say?

COLLINS: Just one question on Ukraine before we have another topic for you, John.

I know that you are representing the White House right now and you have to be careful about political comments that you can make, but what was your reaction when you heard the former president and Republican frontrunner last week saying that he couldn't say if he wanted Ukraine to win this war?

KIRBY: Well, you're right, Kaitlan. I am not at liberty to get into talking about politics here from the National Security Council, and I certainly won't get into talk about comments made on campaign trails and in an election season.

All I can tell you is that President Biden has been very clear that we want Ukraine to succeed. We want to see them win. We want to see Ukraine whole and free, and prosperous, and fully independent, and that's what we're focused on.

In fact, as I said earlier, that's going to be a key topic of discussion here in Japan with the G7 leaders to make sure that we're all still pulling on the same set of oars.

We're getting Ukraine what they need and we're getting it to them as fast as they -- as they need it and can use it because we know that these weeks and months ahead -- they're going to be critical. The weather is getting better. We can expect that the Russians are going to want to go on the offense. It's likely that the Ukrainians are also going to want to take to -- take to the field and go on the offense.

We've got to make sure that they're ready for all of that. That they have all the capabilities, training, and tools that they need to be successful. That's what we're focused on.

HARLOW: Before you go, switching topics in a major way, but we do want to know the White House position on what Montana just did overnight, imposing the first-in-the-nation statewide ban on TikTok -- not just on government devices, on every device. And their law comes with a potential $10,000 penalty for anyone that violates it. Obviously, it's going to face challenges in the court.


But I wonder if the White House supports what Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte just signed into law there.

KIRBY: I think we're still taking a look at that and reviewing it, so it would be premature I think for me to offer an opinion here just after it -- just after it passed. And you're right, there may be some legal challenges there.

What I can tell you, though, from our perspective is the president has spoken to this and that we have very real national security concerns about that particular application, TikTok, and that's why it's banned on government devices. And there is an ongoing review process right now that I can't get ahead of either to talk about -- a CFIUS review --


KIRBY: -- to look at not only TikTok but other similar applications.

COLLINS: All right, John Kirby.

HARLOW: Thank you.

COLLINS: Thanks for joining us last minute from Japan. We appreciate your time.

KIRBY: My pleasure. Good to be with you guys.

HARLOW: All right. New York lawmakers Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez heckled embattled Republican Congressman George Santos on the steps of the Capitol. We'll show you the screaming match that followed.



HARLOW: Drama on the steps of the U.S. Capitol after the House voted to refer a resolution to expel Congressman George Santos to the Ethics Committee. This now allows House Republicans to avoid, for now at least, weighing in on the matter directly. But some New York Democrats in Congress made sure that they were heard as Santos addressed reporters outside on the House steps.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Save yourself. Have some dignity.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Like I said, if I could -- if I could (INAUDIBLE) --

BOWMAN: Have some dignity.

SANTOS: -- over my colleagues screaming here, the reality is --

BOWMAN: New Yorkers need better. You gotta go, man. Come on, son.

SANTOS: How's your ethics -- how's your ethics play going?

BOWMAN: Come on, son. You gotta go.

SANTOS: Aren't you -- aren't you an --


HARLOW: That -- go ahead.

COLLINS: You can't ignore that shouting in the background. HARLOW: I know.

COLLINS: That was New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman heckling Santos as he was taking questions from reporters.

The chaotic scene continued though long after that as Marjorie Taylor Greene stepped in to defend her embattled Republican colleague.


BOWMAN: He's embarrassing you all.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Biden is a criminal.

BOWMAN: If he's (INAUDIBLE). You've got to get him out.

GREENE: Biden is embarrassing you completely.

BOWMAN: Expel him. You've got to expel. Save the party.

GREENE: Nah. You --

BOWMAN: The party's hanging by a thread.

GREENE: No, we've got -- we've got to get rid of Biden to save the country.

BOWMAN: The party is hanging -- the party is hanging by a thread.

GREENE: To save the country.

BOWMAN: You've got to save the party.

GREENE: Impeach Biden. Impeach Biden.

BOWMAN: Listen, no more QAnon.

GREENE: Impeach Biden.



Joining us now is CNN political analyst and New York Times national politics reporter, Astead Herndon. And writer for "Very Serious," Josh Barro.

I mean, I feel like it was like watching like a scene outside of a high school or something yesterday.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, this is what this has turned into -- just the ultimate Capitol Hill sideshow. That's partly because it has no kind of end in sight. George Santos is someone who has no incentive to leave Congress and it is making him more famous by the day. He has said -- HARLOW: He's running again.

HERNDON: -- that he's running again. And he said that has been a thrill -- is to become this kind of icon for this stuff. And he's also dealing with a Republican Party that has no incentive to really do much with him. They need him in their small --

HARLOW: For the party.

HERNDON: -- negotiating window and particularly, as this debt ceiling negotiations are coming up.

So it's kind of a rock and hard place that's made the conditions for this kind of shouting match to become a day-by-day thing on the Hill. And I think it risks turning into an even bigger sideshow than it is already.

JOSH BARRO, WRITER, "VERY SERIOUS": Yes. Santos also represents a district that Joe Biden won by eight points, so it's actually conceivable that if they had to have a special election --


BARRO: -- the Democrats would pick up the seat and the Republican majority would get even narrower.

But I think also, like, if you're -- imagine that you're George Santos for just a second. The congressional seat is the only thing he has in the whole world. Like, if he resigns from Congress what is there left for George Santos to do? And so, the idea that they're going to shame him into resigning -- like, the one thing that he has to wake up for in the morning is that despite all of this he is a member of the United States Congress, so I think there's no way he's going to go willingly.

HARLOW: To a much more serious topic that could be catastrophic for the U.S. economy, the debt ceiling.


HARLOW: The president did not answer the question shouted at him by reporters in Japan this morning -- can you guarantee the U.S. won't default? John Kirby didn't answer Kaitlan's direct question, can you guarantee -- can the White House guarantee the U.S. won't default? What -- and the president's going back to deal with this and cutting off two legs of his trip.

BARRO: It's so strange. I mean, they've done this 103 times since the establishment of the debt limit. And there -- and there have been a number of crises prior that sort of have this rhythm.

And you can even -- you can go read the clips from 1985 with Ronald Reagan -- very similar right up to the line concerns about what happens if we don't make the payments.

And so I think that's part of why people are so blase about this -- that not only have we don't his before, we've done the thing before where it's like oh, this time is going to be different --


BARRO: -- and then this time isn't different.

None of these people seem to me like they're quite behaving like they really think the United States might miss a payment on its bonds in a -- in a couple of weeks.

HARLOW: Because we never have.

BARRO: Well, because we never have. But then also, I mean, there are these gimmicks available. I mean --


BARRO: -- there's this -- you can claim that the 14th Amendment permits the administration to issue debt in violation of the debt limit. But then there's also this stuff with -- I know it sounds silly but the -- you can make a large denomination platinum coin and deposit it in the Treasury. You can issue bonds that have -- that have sort of a funky structure that allow you to basically create accounting gimmicks under the debt limit, which we've already been doing, by the way. We hit the debt limits months ago.

They do what they call extraordinary measures --

HARLOW: Extraordinary measures.

BARRO: -- where they go -- they take money out of a retirement fund for federal employees and use that to finance the government. And then they put the money back in the retirement fund after we're done with the debt limit crisis.

And so, there are downsides to pursuing all of those possible workarounds, but I don't think any of them have a downside as large as not paying the interest on the debt.


And so, I think that the extent to which this administration doesn't seem incredibly alarmed by the situation where they're supposed to negotiate this big overall deal in two weeks with lots of complicated parts. Like, they want to do permitting reform along with a budget deal and debt limit deal, and they have to decide rules about how you're going to build interstate power lines. Like, the idea that we're going to do all of that negotiation in two weeks just strikes me as crazy.

Maybe we'll have a deal to make a deal. This has happened in some prior crises where you have a short-time increase. It gives them time to negotiate and then you have a longer-term deal in a few months.

COLLINS: But on that front -- on that front, these negotiations do have to happen and they're happening -- mainly, they've got emissaries but it's Biden and McCarthy that have to come to an agreement. It seems like Democrats, especially in the Senate, are getting concerned about what that agreement could look like. What they may have to vote for.

HERNDON: Yes, absolutely. And I think there is a kind of reality setting in that the position that the White House was holding -- that they were going to get that clean increase -- is gone. That was not a real position that you could have with this Republican Party the second McCarthy was able to get that bill through.

And so that reality is setting in for I think members of the Senate that they might have to back a deal that ends up putting more work requirements on things like food stamps. That hasn't really hit well with a lot of senators -- with a lot of folks on the kind of progressive side, but you're still seeing congressional leadership move forward with that.

I mean, to Josh's point, there's some other kind of escape hatches. You've had Democrats try to use this special discharge position in the House to have a kind of backup plan for what the White House might able to negotiate.

But McCarthy will also have some pressure, too. Remember when he was able to get the speaker gavel he made some concessions to the -- to those -- to those Congress folks to say there was going to be a 72- hour window, for example, before bills reached the floor. That might not be able to happen with this.

It's going to be interesting to see if he can -- he is able to hold his caucus together as well. The politics of brinksmanship has been the politics of chicken also politically between these two camps and both Biden and McCarthy will have pressures coming from both the progressive side and the kind of grassroots Trump side that they're going to have to hold together to get this done.

HARLOW: And we never had to be here in the first place.


HARLOW: This is totally self-inflicted.

COLLINS: Tight rope is an understatement.

Thank you both for being here. We'll see what happens, of course, as this is something that is looming over Biden's whole trip.

HARLOW: It absolutely is.

Just hours from now, the FDA could decide to recommend the first-ever RSV vaccine. It is aimed at protecting infants.

COLLINS: Also, this. The suspect accused of leaking military secrets was apparently repeatedly warned about his mishandling of classified documents. He was never removed from this post, though. We have more on the investigation ahead.

(COMMERCIAL) [07:56:07]

HARLOW: In just hours from now, FDA advisers will decide if they will recommend the first-ever RSV vaccine aimed at protecting infants. Parents have been eagerly waiting for this moment given RSV infects every single -- nearly every single young child, according to the CDC. And this virus causes cold-like symptoms in most people but it can be severe -- even deadly for some.

So if the panel votes in favor of approving the vaccine today, FDA officials will still have a final say, and that process could take months.

Our Meg Tirrell has the story.


CHRISTINA STRICKLAND, CALEB'S MOTHER: When I went to pick him up he was cold.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There had been no major signs that 6-week-old Caleb Strickland was dangerously sick before his mom, Christina, put him down for a nap one day last September -- just sniffles and less of an appetite.

STRICKLAND: And so I picked him up. He was lethargic. He would open his eyes, he would close his eyes, open his eyes, close his eyes.

TIRRELL (voice-over): After a call to his pediatrician, they rushed him to the hospital.

STRICKLAND: Before I even knew what happened he was being admitted and pumped with oxygen and trying to be stabilized.

TIRRELL (voice-over): Eventually, Christina says Caleb tested positive for RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

STRICKLAND: And that was the first time we had ever heard of RSV.

TIRRELL (voice-over): The CDC says almost all kids will get infected with RSV by the time they're two years old. For most, it's like a mild cold. But for others, particularly young infants and those born prematurely, or kids with weakened immune systems or other health conditions, it can be severe.

The CDC says RSV puts as many as 80,000 kids younger than five in the hospital each year in the U.S.

DR. COURTNEY BYRD, CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA: We can see RSV really affect anything in the system -- in the body, but what seems to get children into trouble and in the hospital with RSV is when it affects their breathing or their respiratory status.

TIRRELL (voice-over): There's no vaccine against RSV for babies and kids, and the first for older adults, produced by company GSK, was just approved earlier this month. One of Pfizer's RSV vaccines that's being considered for approval would be a single shot given during pregnancy late in the second or third trimester and could help protect babies like Caleb through the first six months of life.

BYRD: That is called passive immunity. The mother passed it to baby and baby now has some protection.

TIRRELL (voice-over): Christina Strickland says it's something she wishes had been available to her to protect both Caleb and his twin brother Andrew.

STRICKLAND: If there was any vaccination I could have taken I would have definitely taken it to protect them.

TIRRELL (on camera): How are Andrew and Caleb doing now?

STRICKLAND: They are wonderful. They are fat and juicy and moving around. Very healthy.


TIRRELL: And so, these advisers today are going to be voting on both the efficacy and the safety of this vaccine. It was proven to be 70 to 80 percent effective in preventing severe RSV in babies in the clinical trials. In terms of safety, the advisers are going to be looking at whether there is any signal for pre-term birth. It's not clear that there is but they're going to be talking about that.

COLLINS: My nephews are twins so I love that story.


HARLOW: The best sound bite of the morning, big and juicy. I love juicy.

TIRRELL: I can attest they were both fat and juicy.

HARLOW: That and the cutest.

Thank you for that. Really important for parents to see.

COLLINS: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

HARLOW: Well, good morning, everyone. We have a lot of news to get to this hour. We're so glad you're with us on this Thursday.

Let's begin here. The suspect accused of leaking military secrets was repeatedly warned about his mishandling of classified documents but was never removed from his post. That's according to new court records.

COLLINS: Also, as we are tracking this hour, President Biden is live on the ground in Japan ahead of the G7 summit. He is abroad but he cannot escape the troubles of Washington and the pressure that is mounting to reach a deal on the debt ceiling back home.

Coming up, we're going to speak to Congresswoman Katie Porter about that looming deadline.

HARLOW: Also, this. Guy Fieri sitting down with our very own Sara Sidner, giving us a look at his nearly-20-year career with the Food Network. He tells us exactly how he picks the restaurants he features on Triple D.