Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

U-Haul Truck Rams Barriers Near White House, Driver Arrested; Sources: Lawyer Took Note Saying Trump Wanted to Fight Subpoena; Biden, McCarthy Call Meeting 'Productive' But Still No Debt Limit Deal; Border Officials: Someone Dropped 4-Year-Old from Border Barrier. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 06:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN THIS MORNING HOST: Well, good morning, everyone. We are so glad you're with us on this Tuesday.

Good morning.


HARLOW: Get some sleep?



Told you. Best shift on earth.

SIDNER: Best shift ever.

HARLOW: I'm so happy to have Sara Sidner by my side today. We're glad you're with us. Kaitlan is off. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Tuesday, May 23.

Happening overnight, a U-Haul crashing into a security barrier near the White House. The driver arrested, facing charges of threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member. Secret Service says that crash may have been intentional.

SIDNER: Just nine days to go and still no deal in sight. President Biden and Speaker McCarthy saying they had a productive meeting, but still don't have a deal on the debt ceiling as Janet Yellen issues a sobering economic look.

Also new this morning, a stark warning for all parents, for all of us really. The U.S. surgeon general is now labeling social media a profound risk of harm for children.

HARLOW: And the Denver Nuggets make franchise history, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers and advancing to the NBA finals for the first time ever. LeBron James is now reportedly considering retirement.

SIDNER: And out-of-this-world video. NASA's rover brings us footage of craters and even a possible river on Mars. What this tells us about our planetary neighbor.


SIDNER: CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: But here is where we begin. This developing overnight, maybe even after you went to sleep. A U-Haul truck ramming into security barriers near the White House.

Police say the driver was threatening to kill, kidnap or harm the president, vice president or their family. Video shows police inspecting a Nazi flag with a swastika, a roll of duct tape, a notebook and a black backpack that the suspect apparently had with him.

Eyewitnesses say the driver crashed into the barriers, reversed, but then tried to smash through them again. The Secret Service evacuated a nearby hotel as bomb technicians searched the truck to make sure there were no explosives. We are told nobody inside was hurt.

So let's begin with our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, at the scene. Terrifying, Evan. What do you know this morning?


This is the scene where this all went down. We're at Lafayette Park, just a few hundred meters from the White House.

And according to the police, the driver of this truck came onto the sidewalk here. You can see the tire marks here down on the sidewalk. Rammed into the ballyards right there, the -- the barriers that are protecting the park and -- from access to the park and to this -- the White House. Rammed it a couple of times before they were arrested and charged.

Now they're facing multiple charges right now. This person has not been identified. But they're facing charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, threatening to kill or kidnap a president, destruction of federal property, trespassing, a number of charges.

We're expecting to learn more about the suspect later today.

One of the things that happened immediately afterwards, of course, is the concern that there could be explosives inside that U-Haul truck. According to the FBI, which did a search of it, no explosives were found.

But for a time, the Secret Service evacuated the Hay Adams Hotel, which is across the street. Now right over there, you see Black Lives Matter Plaza. This is a -- this is, of course, the scene of a lot of protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

And, you know, looking at what you see in one of the videos there, according to the police who are doing a search of the U-Haul, what you see there is someone holding what appears to be a flag with a swastika on it. There's a backpack. Those are things that apparently were found inside that U-Haul.

And so the concern now is to figure out what -- what brought that person here to Washington and, of course, to the scene here -- Poppy.

HARLOW: My goodness. It is so striking, Evan, to see that laid out on the ground, the swastika and those threats, the president. Thank you very much for the reporting.

SIDNER: Now to former President Donald Trump, who is facing growing legal drama on several fronts this morning. He's set to appear in a Manhattan court by video in just a few hours in the Stormy Daniel hush-money case after he pleaded not guilty to 34 charges in that case.

Also, E. Jean Carroll asked the judge for more money and damages from the ex-president in addition to what she already won, which was a $5 million judgment against him in her civil assault and defamation case.


This is in a separate defamation case stemming from the sexual abuse a jury found she suffered in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the '90s.

Carroll wants additional punitive damages after Trump's comments at a CNN town hall, where he again denied knowing or doing anything to her.

HARLOW: And there's big new movement in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. Sources tell CNN prosecutors have subpoenaed the Trump Organization for more information about business deals with foreign companies, specifically in countries that may have been interested in the types of classified material recovered from the former president.

And that's not all. The special counsel has obtained dozens of pages of notes from Trump attorney Evan Corcoran that could damage the president's defense.

Katelyn Polantz is out reporting. She joins us in Washington this morning. This is really interesting reporting that you guys broke yesterday about these really detailed notes and what they might mean to the special counsel's probe and to the former president's defense.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So Sara and Poppy, these notes were something that the Justice Department. We knew that they had been fighting for, an extraordinary court fight to get access to them.

And now this is a first glimpse that we are getting. A whole team of us were speaking to sources about what those notes say, what they represent, and what they are.

And what they represent are extremely detailed notes from Donald Trump's lawyer, Evan Corcoran, from May 11, the moment that they got a subpoena saying Donald Trump must turn over all classified records or records with classified markings on them in his possession back to the federal government, to this grand jury criminal investigation. And then the notes span the entire way up to June 3, so the period of time where Evan Corcoran, this attorney, went and searched Mar-a-Lago, specifically through boxes in a storage room, and then handed over what he found to the Justice Department, telling them, I don't believe there is anything else at the property.

Now there's a lot of questions there, and we don't have the full extent of what these notes say. So we don't exactly know whether this could factor into the obstruction investigation.

But we do know that these notes reveal that Donald Trump was asking whether he could push back against the subpoena, not comply with it potentially. That might be something that he was just raising with a lawyer like he normally might, like any client might. But it could be factoring into this larger situation.

And the fact that these notes are so detailed, one person said that they were overly detailed. Another person was surprised at how detailed they were. That's pretty significant, because the Justice Department appears to be getting the amount of evidence that they really were seeking there.

SIDNER: There is a lot of talk from the attorneys that you all reported about foreign dealings, the Trump administration and foreign dealings. How significant are those developments?

POLANTZ: Right. We don't know exactly yet how this fits into the investigation, but we do know the special counsel's office, in a story that was first broke by "The New York Times" last night and that we were able to also confirm, special counsel's office subpoenaed details about foreign deals that the Trump Organization may have made with about seven different countries dating the whole way back to 2017.

So the time Trump was president up until now.

And when you look at that step back, it suggests that the special counsel's office may be looking at deals with countries that may have been interested in the sort of classified information Donald Trump was keeping after the presidency, but we just don't know yet how that fits into the bigger investigation.

HARLOW: Also the fact that E. Jean Carroll, Katelyn, is asking the judge who oversaw her case where the former president was found liable is asking essentially the judge to reopen that case so she can request more in terms of claims of defamation after these comments to our Kaitlan Collins at the CNN town hall. Listen to this.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: They did not say --

TRUMP: I didn't do anything else, either. Because you know what? I have no idea who the hell she is. COLLINS: But Mr. President, can I --

TRUMP: I don't know who this woman is.

COLLINS: Can I add?

TRUMP: They said, sir, don't do it. This is a fake story, and you don't want to give it credibility. That's why I didn't go.

COLLINS: One thing you did do in this --

TRUMP: And I swear -- and I've never done that. And I swear to -- I have no idea who the hell -- she's a whack job.

COLLINS: Mr. President --


HARLOW: So her claim there is what the former president said is defamation again.

POLANTZ: Right. Well, she's not suing him for those words specifically, but she wants to add them into an existing lawsuit.

HARLOW: Right.

POLANTZ: So E. Jean Carroll, she had sued him for what he said after the presidency and won the defamation claims, that $5 million in damages related to sexual battery and defamation. She won that.

There's another ongoing lawsuit about what Donald Trump was saying, similar things that he would have said when he was president. It's tied up in court, because there's a lot of questions of what to do when he was president, if he can be held liable for that.


But if she is able to win that case and get him held liable, she wants the judge and the jury to factor in all of the things he would have said at that CNN town hall just earlier this month when they're calculating the punishment that he may need to face.

HARLOW: That's really interesting. Katelyn, thank you very much for the reporting on all those fronts.

SIDNER: All right, also this morning, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy striking a more optimistic tone about yesterday's debt ceiling talks. Speaking after their meeting, McCarthy said he felt it was the best discussion they've had yet.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I did feel the discussion was productive in areas that we have differences of opinion. We're going to have the staffs continue to get back together and work on some of the things that we had talked about. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: McCarthy has said that an agreement needs to be reached this week to give Congress enough time to write, read and vote by the June 1 deadline.

We are cutting it so close, but it's still unclear how quickly the two sides will be able to reach a deal.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House with more. They better start talking and better start doing, right, Arlette?


And President Biden last night really struck the same tone as you heard from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as he described these meetings as productive. Perhaps offering some glimmer of hope that these talks could be heading in the right direction.

But they still emerged from that hour-long Oval Office meeting without a deal in hand. Now negotiators met late last night up on Capitol Hill, breaking up a little before midnight. And they are expected to continue talking throughout the course of the day.

Much of the disagreements that they have acknowledged still remain around that issue of spending levels as the president has proposed freezing them at current year levels, while Republicans insist they must be cut back to fiscal year 2022 levels.

Now one thing in this meeting that the president really stressed, and we've heard from the White House over the past few days, is that they need to be able to sell any type of agreement to both sides, Democrats and Republicans.

And that is one of the key challenges in these negotiations, is reaching some type of bipartisan compromise.

Now this all comes as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen really doubled down on her warning that the U.S. could default on its debts as early as June 1. She said it's highly likely the U.S. would be unable to pay its obligations if that were to happen.

And look, it feels like every morning we are here talking about the timeline. And, yes, on paper, it is nine days away from a potential default. But if you take a look at the way things work up on Capitol Hill, it is a much tighter, tighter time line.

They need to write legislative text. There's a rule in the House that requires a bill be posted for 72 hours before it's voted on. And then, even if they get through that, it still needs to go through the Senate.

So really, it appears that they are heading into crunch time at this moment, but both sides have acknowledged the urgency of the moment. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that he plans to speak with Biden daily until they can reach an agreement. SIDNER: All right. Arlette Saenz with all of the details there. Thank

you so much.

HARLOW: And this matters to all of you. Right? I know it might sound wonky, like another sort of stalemate in Washington. But this really matters to you if we default.

We're talking about your Social Security, Food Stamps, SNAP, members of the military getting paid, veterans' benefits, government employees, contractors, Social Security. I could go on and on.

On Wall Street, there is a consensus that a default would likely plunge markets. That means your savings, right, 401(k). So far investors, interestingly, don't seem overly concerned or the market is not showing it.

Why is that? Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here. CNN reporter Matt Egan also joins us. Good morning, guys.


HARLOW: Why, Romans?

ROMANS: Well, because they think failure is not an option. What Wall Street is reflecting right now is that they are not enough dumb enough to actually take us over into, you know, the abyss.

Now, that could change. And that could change quickly. I talked to a financial manager, Doug Flynn, this morning, who said if they tiptoe over this line and then they're still arguing for, you know, a few days, you're talking about a 40 percent decline in the S&P 500.

And then suddenly, they get religion when all of their constituents are calling them, and their own savings accounts -- retirement savings accounts are decimated.

We know that back in 2011, the stock market fell 17 percent. And that's even after they -- they managed to get it done, right?

So, I mean, it's just a very dangerous moment. And what you're hearing from investors is they're cautious, but they don't think they really, really are going to actually shoot American financial exceptionalism in the foot, you know.

HARLOW: Let's hope. Go ahead.

SIDNER: I was just going to ask you, Matt, what happens if Wall Street jumps first? In other words, they start reacting saying, OK, selloff is happening now.

HARLOW: Could happen.

MATT EGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it might not be the worst thing. I mean, it's kind of been amazing to see how totally chill markets have been about this debt ceiling situation.

I mean, the U.S. stock market is actually near the highest levels of the entire year. You would never know --

HARLOW: Right.

EGAN: -- that there's this ticking time bomb, right, threatening to blow up the economy.


But here's the problem. In some ways, Congress is kind of like a toddler. And I think we've all learned that it's kind of hard to get a toddler to do anything that he or she doesn't want to do.

So, how do you get Congress to do something it doesn't want to do? Well, if the markets were down, lawmakers would be getting a lot of calls from their voters, from maybe more importantly, their donors. That might be enough to light a fire under the politicians.

You know, we actually saw this in 2008. If you remember, initially, Congress voted down TARP, the controversial bailout of Wall Street. Then markets tanked. Lawmakers --

HARLOW: Seven percent in an hour, right.

EGAN: Seven percent. Incredible. Markets tanked, lawmakers came back, and then they approved it.

And so we are hearing from some experts on Wall Street and in Washington that it might take some market turmoil to get Congress to do the right thing here.

HARLOW: I still remember that day. The market tanked 788 points.


HARLOW: I was in an airport somewhere, looking -- and everyone was looking at the screen at the close of the market. Everyone. You know? And then Congress got it together, like they found religion, like, the next morning.

ROMANS: And maybe they can find religion that quickly in this case. But we're so running out of time. I mean, I was listening to Arlette's


They should raise the debt ceiling and promise to keep working. That's the cleanest, simplest, most sane thing to do: raise the debt ceiling but promise to keep working on debt deficits.

Because long-term, all of that debt at higher interest rates will choke out other investment in the United States. But right now, we are still -- our borrowing, American borrowing power is the envy of the world. It really is.

And this is the cornerstone of the financial systems. There's no reason to be messing with this and 401(k)s and senior citizens' checks. Are you kidding me?

SIDNER: It's nuts.

EGAN: And the problem is that Treasury is running out of not just time but cash.

HARLOW: Christine checks it on her phone every morning.

ROMANS: Sixty billion.

EGAN: Sixty billion, down from more than 200 billion just two weeks ago.

HARLOW: I have my bank account and the U.S. Treasury's right next to each other.

EGAN: And that's why we're hearing Janet Yellen kind of double down on this early June deadline. So they do have to act very soon.

HARLOW: She changed her wording slightly but in an important way in that letter she wrote to Congress yesterday.

EGAN: Yes. She now says it's highly likely.

HARLOW: Not just likely that a June default -- June 1 default could happen. Thank you both very much.

So just gut-wrenching video from the Southern border. A 4-year-old boy dropped over the fence. The Border Patrol giving an update on how the child is doing this morning.

SIDNER: And a billionaire GOP megadonor is offering up new explanation for why he bought a home for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' mother. That's ahead.



HARLOW: Now to this heart-breaking surveillance video capturing the moment somebody dropped a 4-year-old boy from a border barrier. It happened last Monday.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol just released this video. You see somebody hangs from the top of the barrier, pulls the child over and then drops him to the ground.

Our Rosa Flores is live in Houston this morning.

Rosa, we talk so much about the numbers and the law and Congress, but this is about humans. This is about the human toll of what is going on.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is a 4-year-old boy, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Poppy. And according to Border Patrol, they came under fire once they went to this area to try to render aid to this little boy who was injured. Now, this happened in San Diego. The fire department also responded.

And according to CBP, even their air and marine operations responded via helicopter to provide cover while they were trying to help this little boy, because they came under fire.

Now, Poppy, all of this is under investigation. We don't know the condition of the little boy. We've asked, but CBP says that they're investigating -- Poppy.

HARLOW: The last time we talked to you, you were on the border, and a number of migrant -- the number of migrant encounters had dropped pretty significantly. This was just days after the expiration of Title 42.

Do we have an update on where that stands? Because we just really got the first few days' numbers. Where are we now?

FLORES: You know, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- Patrol chief tweeted those numbers yesterday. And they account [SIC] to about 3,000 migrant encounters per day.

That's a 70 percent drop from the days leading up to the ending of Title 42, which the numbers were at about 10,000 migrant encounters per day.

So the question is why, of course. What I'm hearing from sources and contacts on the border is that there's a few reasons.

First of all, that Mexico has upped its enforcement. They're returning migrants deeper into Southern Mexico.

And also, those thousands of migrants who were waiting have decided to wait in Mexico for the CBP One app to get one appointment to go into a port of entry, rather than entering the country illegally. Because in this post-Title 42 world, they've learned that there are legal consequences to entering the country illegally.

So Poppy, what I'm hearing from sources and contacts is that what we can expect to see are migrants taking riskier measures like what we're seeing here to enter the country undetected, and that could mean, of course, and unfortunately, more deaths.

HARLOW: Wow. Rosa Flores, thank you for the updates. Appreciate the reporting.

SIDNER: This coming to us this morning. We're getting a new troubling advisory about social media's impact on children. The surgeon general is warning now that there is a profound risk of harms to children. Details on that are ahead.

HARLOW: Also, this video showing a California dad saving his baby, who jumped in a pool without a life vest. Surveillance video shows the 1-year-old take the vest off and walk to the edge of the pool. He gets in. But in a matter of seconds, his dad, who is a firefighter, scoops him up, pulls him to safety from the water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look over and I can't find him. And I ended up seeing him just sinking down to the bottom of the pool. So that's when I just went over there, swooped him up, and got him out of the pool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He followed all the rules. He took all the proper precautions, and that's really the reason his son lived.




SIDNER: This morning, we're getting new insight into the relationship between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow from the GOP mega-donor himself.

The real-estate magnate spoke to "The Atlantic" about his highly- scrutinized relationship with Justice Thomas, a relationship that includes luxury travel, tuition gifts, and a real-estate purchase that Crow says, quote, "I have never, nor would I ever, think about talking about matters that relate to the judiciary with Justice Clarence Thomas."

Though, he did follow up with this email to the reporter: "It's not like we haven't talked about work-related issues. It's not realistic for two people to be friends and not talk about their jobs from time to time."

It is worth remembering that a company related to Crow had an architectural copyright case before the court in the mid-2000s, though the court declined to hear it.

Crow also addressed buying the home of Thomas's mother in a private real-estate deal that allows her to live in it, rent-free, saying, quote, "I don't see the foot fault."

Joining us now is Graham Wood, staff writer for "The Atlantic," who interviewed Harlan Crow about his relationship with Justice Thomas.

All right. I -- the thing that really stood out to me was this idea that, like, of course, we're friends and we talk about work, which is true for most of us. We do talk, usually complain, about work to -- to our friends and family.