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U-Haul Truck Rams Barriers Near White House, Driver Arrested; Biden, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Call Meeting Productive But Still No Debt Limit Deal; Trump Inquired About Pushing Back Against DOJ Efforts on Documents. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 07:00   ET



CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice over): A grand gesture that may hint at a grand wedding to come.



MELAS (on camera): Well, listen, I mean, this is all everyone has been talking about, no idea when these nuptials will take place. But, look, they have been the Bezo's Earth Fund together. She has been instrumental in helping him with his philanthropy. Like I said, she is going to be headed to space. They have the Bezos academy. So, they have been working together and, obviously, you know, truly in love for the past several years, and they're making it official.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Okay. I have just a really quick question. I promise it will be quick. The statue that everyone is talking about that they think is her on the yacht, is that her?

MELAS: So, it is not her, although a striking resemblance. It's actually the Norse goddess, Freya. So, I hope I said that correctly. But, yes, it is this beautiful mermaid-looking goddess on the front of the ship/ mega yacht. It's not a boat. It's much bigger than the boat.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You don't have that on your yacht?

SIDNER: I don't have the yacht.

HARLOW: Thank you, Chloe.

SIDNER: Thank you, Chloe.

HARLOW: Congratulations to them. And CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U-haul truck rammed into security barriers near the White House and the driver is under arrest for allegedly threatening to kill, kidnap or harm the president, V.P. or family member. Police inspected a Nazi flag, a roll of duct tape, a notebook and a black backpack they found at the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looming debt limit deadline. Experts warn of a global recession that could take years to recover from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would be a generational, economic, self- inflicted wound.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that they are still committed to getting a deal is a positive sign.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I felt we had a productive discussion. I believe we can get it done.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two new developments in the former president's many legal challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E. Jean Carroll's team said that Trump's post- verdict statement showed the depth of his malice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These notes reveal that the former president was having this conversation with his lawyer, asking how can we fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he trying to willfully retain the documents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Portuguese police at the request of German authorities will search a reservoir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christian Brueckner, never charged, it does raise questions that it was a German man. A tip came from Germany. Could these things be related?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No parent is going to give up on their child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Falling away, puts it up, bang. Nikola Jokic knocks it down. Denver makes history. The Nuggets are going to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: I have a lot to think about, to be honest, going forward with the game of basketball.

NIKOLA JOKIC, DENVER NUGGETS CENTER: One collective effort that we are growing as a team, as a franchise. I think it's really nice to be a Nugget fan.


HARLOW: Sometimes, sometimes you just have to wait 47 years and then you make it to the finals.

SIDNER: It happens. It's good.

HARLOW: I'm very proud of them.


HARLOW: Are you a basketball girl? SIDNER: I do like basketball. And I'm concerned about LeBron leaving the game.

HARLOW: Yes. I need somebody next to me who knows about sports. It's very important. Kaitlan usually has my back. I'm glad you got that, too. And we'll see what happens with LeBron. So, we'll get to that overnight.

But we do begin with very serious news out of the nation's capital this morning. Developing overnight, police say a man in a U-haul truck intentionally rammed security barriers near the White House. Now, that man has been charged with threatening to kill, kidnap or harm the president, vice president or their family. Video shows investigators at the scene inspecting a Nazi flag with a swastika, a black backpack, a roll of duct tape, a notebook and other items the suspect currently had with him.

The Secret Service, I should say, evacuated a nearby hotel as bomb technicians searched the truck to make sure there weren't any explosives inside. Here is what one eyewitness who watched it all unfold said.


ALEXANDER GARCIA, WITNESS: It's a U-haul truck coming on H Street and then it tried to run into the White House. And then he tried the first time and then went to the second time. And now it is right over there, right in front of the White House.


HARLOW: Let's bring in former deputy director of the FBI and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe. So, Andy, I woke up to this. This happened after I went to bed last night. People are waking up to this. What should they be thinking because the Secret Service is saying this may have been intentional, and then you look at the contents of what this suspect apparently had on him?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Poppy, I think that the charges alone speak to the intentionality of the act, right? So, prosecutors have to have a factual basis to charge this person with those -- with trying to attempting to kill or maim the president. They have got to have probable cause to be able to do that.

So, they have some information or evidence that indicates very clearly that this was an intentional act. That's coming not just from obviously the physical things that we see, the video of the truck ramming the barricade, but likely even from material they collected from within the truck.


We've heard that there's been a notebook. There may be writings or statements or maybe postings online, things like that, that are telling them that this person's intent was, in fact, the target the president or someone in the White House, which is particularly concerning.

SIDNER: Andrew, for so, so long, we have been hearing not only from the president but even the FBI director that white supremacism, far right wing extremists are the biggest threat to this country and its safety. And then you look at the contents of this person's backpack and you can't help but think, I guess they're right.

MCCABE: That's absolutely right, Sara. I mean, we've heard this again and again from the director of the FBI, from the secretary of homeland security and others testifying in front of Congress that this is the number one -- certainly the number one terrorist threat that they're tracking right now, that is domestic violent extremists and particularly domestic violent extremists who are motivated by anti- black, racial sentiments, right? So, this fits very neatly within that warning that we've heard again and again.

And I think you have to draw a line from this apparent attack on the White House by someone bearing a Nazi flag to at least some of the people -- it's hard to say how many, but some of the people involved in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. How do we know that? Because some of those folks were carrying the same sort of symbols, Nazi flags, confederate flags, things like, that show you a commonality of ideology. It doesn't mean they know each other or planning it together but it shows you a thread of extremism and particularly racially- motivated extremism in this country that is also now directed at institutions of government. So, these are things that our security professionals are very focused on right now, and as we saw last night, for good reason.

HARLOW: It's terrifying. Andrew McCabe, thank you for all that.

SIDNER: All right. Also this morning, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressing optimism about their debt ceiling meeting Monday. McCarthy says he does feel that they did make progress, although no deal has been reached yet.


MCCARTHY: 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 based some of the things that we had talked about.


SIDNER: The two sides still remain pretty far apart on the issue of caps on future spending and now a separate fight is brewing among the Democrats. Progressives are growing increasingly angry about the discussions of work requirements for social safety net programs.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more on this. You hear the optimism here, probably for the first time between the two of them. But they are still far apart, aren't they?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, Sara. You know, productive but no progress is Washington speak for this is slow going, at least in terms of where they are standing nine days before this critical deadline. The biggest sticking point that remains between these two party leaders is the reality that they are just very far apart when it comes to how much they believe we should be spending in terms of federal government appropriations.

Right now, House Republicans are arguing they want to stick to those F.Y. '22 levels with just 1 percent increases for about six years. Meanwhile, the offer that the White House gave Republicans over the weekend was to freeze spending at the levels we are spending right now in F.Y. 2023 and then move that forward for another two years. That gives you just a sense of how far those sides are apart. That's about $131 billion right now.

Are they going to be able to work through that issue and then deal with some of the ancillary issues that we talked about, things like work requirements, things like clawing back some of those COVID funds. Those issues really can't be dealt with until they see if there's progress or room to move forward on that bigger question of how much the federal government should really be spending right now.

SIDNER: Now, you've been reporting that there are some infighting among Democrats now as this goes on. They are fraying. What's happening between them?

FOX: Well, I think one of the realities of these negotiations is everything is very closely held. And because not much progress has actually been made, there's some concern growing on both sides. We talked a lot about those conservatives who fear that McCarthy could cut a big deal or a bad deal, excuse me. Now, you have some liberals saying we're worried that Biden could cut a bad deal. Here is representative Pramila Jayapal.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think there would be a huge backlash from our entire House Democratic Caucus, certainly the progressives, but also in the streets.


You know, I mean, I think that this is -- it's important that we don't take steps back from the very strong agenda that the president himself shepherded and led over the last two years.


FOX: And progressives are arguing they also have very strong concerns about adding new work requirements to social safety net programs. So, that just shows you any deal that's reached between Biden and McCarthy is going to have to go right through the middle of both of their caucuses. Sara?

SIDNER: Lauren Fox, thank you so much for all of that there on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: Also more trouble, legal trouble potentially for former President Donald Trump. His attorney representing him in the Justice Department's probe in the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago took highly detailed notes about their conversation, a particular note. The former president wanted to push back against the Justice Department's efforts to recover those classified documents or at least asked his lawyers if it would be possible to fight that subpoena.

The notes are now -- from Trump's lawyer, Evan Corcoran, are now in the hands of the special counsel, Jack Smith. Also, sources tell CNN prosecutors have subpoenaed the Trump Organization for information about business deals with foreign companies, specifically in countries that may have been interested in the types of classified materials recovered from the former president at Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump Organization has just released a statement. Let me read it to you in part, quote, we made a strict pledge to not enter in any new foreign deals while President Trump was in office, a commitment that the company fully complied with.

Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Saland. Good to have you both.

Jeremy, I'll just start with you. It's normal that an attorney, a good attorney, Evan Corcoran, would take detailed notes. How they got to the media is another question. But the fact that Jack Smith has them now after such a fight to get to this point, regardless, how could this impact the investigation?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, on its face, people can think or assume that the president is just saying, hey, I want to fight this. This is a reasonable conversation to have.

HARLOW: It might be, right? We should give him that.

SALAND: You certainly should. But at the same time, that's a direct look into his intent and his knowledge that these are documents that are classified, these are documents I have to return.

HARLOW: That I shouldn't have.

SALAND: Correct. But, nonetheless, I'm going to find a way to challenge it. And there's legal means to do so and then there's not legal means to not do so. So, it kind of defeats that argument that I didn't know.

HARLOW: That's so interesting.

SIDNER: I wanted to ask about attorney/client privilege. I couldn't help myself when I heard that the notes of one of his attorneys was sort of in the hands of Jack Smith. Can they use that if they deem, look, we got these, can't say how, but we have them?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you certainly raise it as a defense. But as we know, attorney/client privilege is defeated if what is going on is an attempt to either commit or obstruct the investigation of a crime. And in that case he's right back where he started.

So, you know, what's really going to matter is what else went on in that conversation. It's one thing to learn that Donald Trump asked, can we sort of fight against the subpoena, but what else was said? What did the attorneys then tell him? How did he react to that? That's where it's going to start to get sticky, I think.

SIDNER: Yes, that's really interesting.

HARLOW: It's interesting because that's the defense Nixon tried to use and the Supreme Court said, look, you can only do this to a certain point. And when we're investigating a crime, you can't.

Let's turn the table here on what E. Jean Carroll is trying to do after winning that sexual battery and defense case against the former president. She is now trying to open up an ongoing case to add more, Jeremy, of Trump's words in the CNN town hall defaming her into that. Do you think she'll be successful?

SALAND: As a matter of law, there's a determination by that verdict that his words were malicious and defamatory and he doubled down and continued that. So, it's not necessarily -- let me take that back. It's amending that ongoing complaint that already started from 2000, from the previous complaint. And it establishes and confirms that the president was willing to be malicious, knew it was and it wasn't just his opinion, he was really using some of the same words that he was found liable for almost moments ago.

SIDNER: I have a question about recent polling, Errol, to you. The numbers have gone up. Even after the --

HARLOW: For Trump.

SIDNER: For Trump. Even after the liability, the $5 million that he has to pay, according to the judge, E. Jean Carroll, you're seeing these numbers trend up. Why is that?

LOUIS: Yes. I mean, one part of it, a very core thing that you have to keep in mind, is that most people are not paying attention to these things. And so in whatever capacity, Donald Trump's name gets mention and he gets national exposure, it reminds some people, oh, I kind of liked him, or he used to be our president, or I might vote for him next year, something like that. And so you'll start to see some of those things play themselves out.

Does it necessarily mean that people look at him favorably and think that this means that he should be president because he just lost another case or has been indicted criminally in New York City?


I don't think so.

SIDNER: I couldn't help this. I get a lot of sort of solicitation for money from all the parties because as a reporter gone to a lot of --

HARLOW: Right.

SIDNER: And so what you see sometimes is these cases being used as like, look, they're coming after me, please give, $5, $10, $25. I mean, it is being used as a fundraising tool.

SALAND: It is. And I use the term funny but that's really not appropriate. The argument has always been the deep state is after me. And, look, they're coming after me. But, what the deep state, it's a state of mind in his words that's getting him deeper and deeper in trouble. And, ultimately, this is going to catch up to him. He's got Georgia. He's got the city of New York. Now, he has got the federal probe that's been ongoing. So, it's just one on top of the other.

And the more he does this, and the more he uses his words without his counsel and evidently even with his counsel, the more he is going to find himself in deeper trouble legally. And I would not be shocked ultimately if he does end up incarcerated, which is something I would not have thought months ago or even weeks ago.

HARLOW: Why do you think it now?

SALAND: Because there are so many different things that are developing that are really significant crimes. You're taking documents and materials that are confidential and you're using them to your advantage or concealing them. There's an ongoing investigation. And you knowingly taking steps to prevent the government from retrieving that property.

That just sort of furthers my belief and I think many people, though as I always say, the people or the government have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is something amiss here. And it's just continuation and continuation of trouble that he's getting himself into with his words that are contradictory and his actions that arguably speak for himself. And if you recall in the federal matter, the judge said on its face there's criminality. That's a lower standard.

HARLOW: You have to continue -- it's a lower standard to continue the probe.

SALAND: Correct, correct, and allowing the piercing of that privilege because of the crime fraud exception. So, there's something here. You can't just say, where there's smoke, there's fire, but it's building and building. And I would be very concerned if I were Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Jeremy, Errol, thank you, as always, good to see you.

SIDNER: All right. New this morning, the U.S. general surgeon is issuing a rare advisory on social media use and its impact on children's mental health, warning of profound risk of harm.

CNN Medical Correspondent Meg Tirrell is with us in the studio. Meg, you ended up speaking with the attorney general about this. I think anyone who is a parent, anyone who is around kids can see this harm happening on a day-to-day basis. MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is something that the surgeon general is really worried about both as a parent and as the doctor for the country. And, of course, we know that use of social media among kids is almost universal. If you look at kids 13 to 17, 95 percent report to use social media. And though the minimum age is typically 13 to join these platforms, they found that 40 percent of kids ages 8 to 12 are on these platforms as well.

And so while they found there is some benefit to using social media, like creating community, especially for marginalized groups, they found the risk of harm is potentially much greater here, including things like depression and anxiety, going on social media instead of sleeping, online harassment and, of course, low self-esteem, where we have seen a lot of studies here.

So, they're calling on policymakers. They're calling on technology companies to be more transparent with data and try to put more safety controls into place.

SIDNER: It's really, really hard when you consider this. How are social media companies responding to this? Because they have heard some of this before, families have come out against them.

TIRRELL: Yes. The pressure is really on these companies. And we haven't heard back from them this morning yet, but we did reach out. But they've put these family guides into place, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, guidance for parents about how their kids can use this safely. But one of the things the surgeon general told us is that independent researchers say these companies are not sharing enough data. They need to be more transparent, and that is something they're really calling for.

SIDNER: You talk about the fact that kids that young, I didn't realize it was 40 percent of kids that are really, really young and impressionable. What can parents do? Because if this data is not out there, they just have to deal with this on their own.

TIRRELL: Yes. And that's one of the things they're trying to address with this advisory, is really to be able to give more guidance. And so the surgeon general is saying, create a family media plan, really talk about this, figure out what you're going to do. Create tech free zones particularly around bedtime, maybe around meal times. Encourage your kids to have in-person friendships and really foster those for that important sort of brain and social development.

And also model responsible social media behavior. We all have to get off our phones when we're around our kids. I only have a four-year-old and I need to do that better. Teaching your kids about technology, reporting when there's cyber bullying, either to school or even to law enforcement, and working with other parents. The surgeon general told us that's something they're trying to do even with young kids five and six, banding together because there's strength in numbers and find like-minded people who are trying to do the same thing.

SIDNER: These are really good. I think the hardest one for anybody is this one is not just to say it but to do it yourself. [07:20:01]

It is hard. I just made a check there. You're welcome.

TIRRELL: There you go, really emphasize it.

SIDNER: Meg Tirrell, thank you so much for your reporting this morning.

TIRRELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks, guys.

Well, Donald Trump taking another shot at Ron DeSantis and praising Senator Tim Scott as he jumps in the presidential race.

SIDNER: And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting troops on the frontline as Russia grapples with a major surprise attack on Russian soil.


HARLOW: Welcome back. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is now the latest Republican to throw his hat into the 2024 presidential ring. He joins a growing crowd candidates -- a field of candidates, it's a crowded one, looking to capture their party's nomination and shake up a contest that has been mostly dominated by former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who, by the way, has not formally announced, but he's going to this week.


That's expected to happen in the coming days.

Scott's team says he will try to strike an optimistic tone more than Trump, more than DeSantis. And in his kickoff speech, Scott called himself the candidate Democrats fear the most. Listen.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): While I cut your taxes, they called me a prop. When I refunded the police, they called me a token. When I pushed back on President Biden, they even called me the N word.

I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disrupts their lives.

I'm the candidate the far left fears the most.


HARLOW: Let's talk about that with Senior Reporter at The Root Jessica Washington and CNN Political Commentator and Columnist at New York Magazine Errol Louis. Good morning, guys. Do the Democrats fear him the most? LOUIS: I do not think so. He will have to break 2 percent before anybody fears him. Let's just get that out of the way. But, no. I mean, look, Tim Scott is running on his biography. He talks about how he went from cotton to Congress. And it's an inspiring story and it's a great story, but it's not contrary to what Democrats talk about. I mean, the idea that he was raised by a single mother, overcame those obstacles and has now had a successful political career is not out of step. It's not a partisan message. It's very deeply American message that I think a lot of people can relate to.

When he talked about personal responsibility as the engine that got him there, you know, I mean, Democrats can, if they do decide to engage him, turn around and say, well, listen, you know, you have got a lot of poverty in your state. It's nice to give people lectures about personal responsibility, but you could also try raising the minimum wage or improving what is ranked as the sixth worst school system in the whole country.

SIDNER: Yes. There are some other things that Tim Scott has come out against. Being the only black American right now that is in the Senate as a Republican, he has opposed civil rights laws, he has made it more difficult and increasingly targeting diversity, equity and inclusion policies. So, within his own party, and even the Democratic Party, because if Democrats fear him the most, the idea is that some Democrats may vote for him because of his story. Does that work? Does that make sense?

JESSICA WASHINGTON, SENIOR REPORTER, THE ROOT: I think it's really difficult to try and understand what lane Tim Scott would take up because he's talking -- you know, he's almost kind of invoking this welfare queens nostalgia, talking about this victimhood mentality, kind of bringing back these things, very targeted ways of kind of talking about poverty, kind of ways of talking about race without talking about race. So, I think it's hard to imagine him capturing particularly white liberals or black voters with that kind of talk. But then you also think, okay, is he going to get the Trumpist, because he's not a Trumpian candidate. Who is Tim Scott for?

HARLOW: I thought this response yesterday in the interview he did with NBC was interesting on abortion. This is a question every single Republican candidate is going to be asked, and that is, would you sign a federal abortion ban? What's your actual stance as president on this? Here is what he said.


SCOTT: I believe that life has intrinsic value because it comes from God. I have 100 percent pro-life voting record. I'm 100 percent pro- life conservative. As president of the United States, I would sign the most conservative legislation, pro-life legislation that can get to my desk.


HARLOW: It's in contrast, Errol, to what Nikki Haley said last week, which is essentially I'm going to level with the American people. There's no way that at least a federal ban is going to happen.

LOUIS: Well, look, Tim Scott is clearly playing to the evangelical base of the Republican Party. He wants to go as far as he can in that direction to secure to the extent he has got a path to victory, he thinks that that's how he going to sort of start and maybe pull some other people in. That is a very tricky proposition, frankly, I mean, when you're talking about the most conservative thing that can get to his desk.

I think Nikki Haley may have sense what had we just saw in the last midterms, which is that if you want to awaken the Democratic base, start talking about, you know, taking away the abortion healthcare rights and see where it takes you. I don't know if Tim Scott wants to do much more than win that evangelical base, win Iowa, which has happened before, you know, but it has not worked for Republican nominees.

I mean, it -- and it was Ted Cruz in 2016. I mean, there are evangelical candidates who win Iowa and get sort of a head of steam but they don't get the nomination. The last one to do that was George Bush, and that was in the year 2000. I mean, that's a generation ago.

SIDNER: I found it interesting because Republicans have repeatedly said abortion is a state's rights issue and then you start hearing that, apparently, for some, it is not. It is something they'd like to do federally. I do want to ask you quickly, Jessica, that you talked to political scientists what Scott's real objective is.


He is going to say it is to run for president, which everyone does. But is he looking for something different, vice president or potentially a cabinet position?