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CNN This Morning

DeSantis to Officially Enter 2024 Race Today; McCarthy Says Raising the Debt Limit Only Concession He'll Make; Strongest Storm in 50 Years Hits U.S. Territory of Guam; Anti-Putin Group Claims Belgorod Attack's Goal is 'Liberation of Russia'; Trump Attorneys Request DOJ Meeting as Classified Docs Probe Nears End. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 06:00   ET



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

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday. Kaitlan is back.


HARLOW: Which makes me very happy. We are back. And there's a lot going on this morning.

COLLINS: There's so much going on today. And what's going to happen, to come.

HARLOW: Let's hope a deal.


HARLOW: Let's get started. Do I sense a skeptic on Washington?

COLLINS: I'm a cynic after being there for so long.

HARLOW: I believe it. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Wednesday, May 24.

We begin here, though, in politics. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set to announce his 2024 White House run today. But there will be nothing conventional about this. He's going to make the announcement on Twitter with Elon Musk, the once-favored platform for his rival, Donald Trump, before he got banned.

COLLINS: And speaking of the former president, he now has a court date in the Stormy Daniels hush-money probe here in New York. He'll stand trial in March of 2024, right in the middle of the campaign for another term.

And a super typhoon is lashing the American territory of Guam right now. It's expected to bring a triple threat of heavy rains, hurricane- force winds and life-threatening storm surge.

HARLOW: A six-week abortion ban is now headed to the South Carolina governor's desk after it passed the state senate overnight. Now 14 states ban most abortions outright. South Carolina will now join Georgia with that six-week cutoff, along with Florida pending a court decision there.

COLLINS: And ground-breaking medical technology that is powered by artificial intelligence is giving those who can no longer communicate a voice again. We'll show it to you on CNN THIS MORNING, which starts right now.

HARLOW: So I was so surprised yesterday, reading that Governor DeSantis is going to make the biggest political announcement of his career on Twitter.

COLLINS: Yes. There's a little bit of risk, because this -- I mean, most people don't -- aren't on Twitter. They don't use this format.

HARLOW: That's true.

COLLINS: And sometimes it's a little glitchy. It has some bugs. But we'll see if it's smooth sailing tonight.

HARLOW: And then he's going to be, I think -- do a network interview.

COLLINS: Yes, yes, yes. So it's one of both. It's not just Twitter.

HARLOW: Really interesting, with Elon Musk. We'll talk about all of that. Because today, as we said, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will finally

make that official announcement that he's running for president after months of relentless attacks from Donald Trump.

We're told he'll make it official tonight during this live discussion with Elon Musk on Twitter.

The governor's wife teased the announcement with a video of him getting ready to go out on the stage.

For a while now, DeSantis has been widely seen as Donald Trump's most formidable challenger, but his standing has been slipping in the polls and among some concerned donor.

Trump, meantime, has been rallying his base against DeSantis and outright mocking him on social media.

So we begin this hour with Steve Contorno, who is live in Miami and knows everything about Governor DeSantis. What do you think of the Twitter move?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly not conventional, as you said, Poppy. And you know, most candidates often announce their presidential ambitions in their hometown or some other place of political significance. But Twitter under Elon Musk's stewardship has become this dividing

line between liberals and conservatives. And DeSantis, if anything, loves to seize on these cultural clashes and make them his own. So that is certainly part of the motivation here.

As you mentioned, it's also a place that once launched Trump's political aspirations. But he notably is no longer on the website. And DeSantis has taken to sort of trolling the former president of late.

But it's also a move that is not typical of candidates. And that is something DeSantis' people tell me he is very interested in doing over and over again in this political race. He doesn't want to run a conventional campaign.

He intends to operate in these sort of moments that can generate a buzz like that is right now, get a stir. And get people talking about him in ways that they don't necessarily always talk about political campaigns.

He has an uphill climb against -- against Donald Trump. And this is one of the ways he is thrusting himself into this conversation in a way that already has much of the country talking, Poppy.

HARLOW: You also have to think DeSantis will use to his advantage the argument that he, if elected and reelected, could serve for eight years. Trump would only be eligible for four. Is DeSantis tapping into that?

CONTORNO: He absolutely is. In conversations privately with donors, that is something that his political team brings up often. That Donald Trump would be a lame duck from the moment he gets into office.


And -- and DeSantis's case is this. He has an ambitious and bold agenda for the country. Conservatives want to see a lot of wins. You can't get that done in four years as a lame duck. It's going to take eight years.

And he also talked about what the potential future fights might be for the Supreme Court.


CONTORNO: Suggesting that this next president, if they do get eight years in office, could potentially nominate some more justices to the Supreme Court.

Take a listen to how he described that potential in a recent conversation with Republicans.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So it is possible that, in those eight years, we'd have the opportunity to fortify Justices Scalia and Thomas -- Alito and Thomas, as well as actually make improvements with those others. And if you were able to do that, you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century. So this is big stuff.


CONTORNO: So, I don't know if he's predicting there that a Supreme Court justice is going to die in the next eight years or step down as usually how their terms end.

But -- but that is the argument he is making and something he is going to present as a contrast to Donald Trump in the coming months.

HARLOW: Well, it's a really notable one. Because remember what Trump said when he was running: I will bring pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and get Roe versus Wade overturned. And that's exactly what happened.

Steve, thanks for the reporting.

COLLINS: There is now about an eight-day window for President Biden and House Republicans to reach a deal on the debt limit according to warnings from the treasury secretary. Of course, this would prevent the economy from crashing.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy just rankled the White House when he said this last night to our colleague, Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've been asking for the White House to make a number of concessions. What are the concessions that you're willing to make? And what are those concessions?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're going to raise the debt ceiling.

RAJU: That's a concession?



COLLINS: The White House did not take kindly to that, sources saying that McCarthy's comments not going over well with officials there.

As we were noting, the treasury secretary has been warning about this June 1st deadline, saying it is the hard deadline of when the government could potentially run out of money to pay its debts and would default for the first time in American history.

Several House Republicans, though, are casting doubt on that date.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I don't believe that the first of the month is a real deadline. I don't understand why we're not making Janet Yellen show her work.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): June 1st, everybody knows that's false.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The fact is we're going to have cash in June. The fact is, we're not going to default on our debt. That's just completely false. We've got the money to do it. So, everybody just needs to be patient.


COLLINS: CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House.

Arlette, it feels difficult to keep up with the status of where these talks are going. One minute we hear that things are positive and that they're having productive conversations. The next, it seems like they are on the brink of not coming to any agreement on this.

What is the White House saying as of 6:07 a.m. this morning?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, I think at this moment, what is clear is that these talks are in a precarious state. When you take a look at the time crunch that lawmakers and the White House are facing, as well as these comments from House Republicans, saying that there are significant gaps in the negotiations, specifically on the issue of spending level.

Now, sources familiar with the talks told us that those comments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have really irked some here at the White House, after they felt talks had been productive on Monday.

And it really speaks to the frustration that we've seen bubbling up over the course of the past few days, starting with President Biden's comments while he was in Japan on Sunday, when he said that, in order to -- for there to be bipartisan compromise, there needs to be movement from Republicans, as well.

One thing that Democrats have been expressing some frustration with is that they feel they have presented some options, one those being freezing spending at current year's levels, as a means of compromise with Republicans.

But comments like that from McCarthy, saying that the only concession they're making is raising the debt limit, is something that has rankled some at the White House.

Now this is all coming, as we say, each morning, the clock continues to tick down to that potential June 1 deadline when the U.S. could face economic catastrophe.

We are waiting to hear whether White House negotiators and Capitol Hill negotiators will once again meet this morning. But as these talks from yesterday appear to be at a standstill for a little bit.

COLLINS: Yes. And seems like a seesaw, every five minutes. Arlette, keep us updated on where they stand today. Thank you. HARLOW: So let's take a moment to step back. Let's take a look at the

details of where the negotiations stand right now. The top sticking point for Republicans, spending caps. Right? You've got to stop all the spending.

Well, work requirements, safety net programs and rescinding unspent COVID relief money, that's also part of it.

For President Biden, increasing work requirements for social safety net programs like Food Stamps, that's a major sticking point.


He also has proposed adding negotiations to expanding the kinds of drugs that Medicare can negotiate price on.

The major issue for Biden and McCarthy is considering the very liberal and the very conservative wings of their parties.

For McCarthy, the House Freedom Caucus has said they will accept any deal that is less than the deal already passed in that Republican- controlled House a few weeks ago that would cut spending by $4.5 trillion.

The House Progressive Caucus says they cannot support any of the Republicans' proposals in that bill. They're encouraging President Biden to invoke the 14th amendment and try to unilaterally avoid a default. That's according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The House Democratic leaders are trying to use a maneuver called a discharge petition. They need five Republicans to do that. It would force a vote to just cleanly raise the debt ceiling.

They need 218 members to sign off on that. So far, they only have 210 votes for that.

Where does that go? Now where do the American people stand on national spending? And should that be tied to the debt ceiling being raised?

This is a really interesting new number out from the new CNN poll this morning. And it shows, actually, 60 percent of Americans do feel that Congress should only raise the debt ceiling if it also includes spending cuts which, Kaitlan, I think is fascinating. And it includes independents, as well.

COLLINS: Those are really interesting numbers, especially something that the White House is looking at, obviously, as they're trying to make the argument of who's going to be to blame if these talks aren't productive. We've seen how precarious that has been.

Also happening right now, the strongest storm in nearly 50 years is hitting the U.S. Territory of Guam. This monster typhoon has left nearly the entire island in the dark as we wake up this morning. Only about 1,000 out of 52,000 customers there have power.

The National Weather Service says that Typhoon Mawar is posing a triple threat of dangerous winds, storm surge, and torrential rainfall.

CNN's meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, joins us now.

Derek, I mean, obviously, it is -- Guam is taking a beating right now. What is the latest in the sense of where the storm stands as it is right now and when it's expected to pass?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they're certainly getting the worst of the storm right now, Kaitlan. And in fact, this is what it looks like just outside of the National Weather Service office.

Old college buddy of mine took this video. He's a meteorologist there. They are under an extreme wind warning. That is reserved for the most extreme moments from the National Weather Service. It's like getting hit with a tornado for several hours at a time, as this hurricane eye wall scrapes the Northern portions of Guam, not making a direct landfall but certainly close.

But of course, this is a game of miles, because that makes all the world of difference in terms of how much storm surge impacts the island.

A hundred and forty miles per hour, so no longer a super typhoon. Equivalent, though, to a strong Atlantic hurricane here.

You can see the current wind gusts. That's 105 miles per hour near where that video was shot.

The threats here, of course, the flash flooding. We're going to experience 15 inches of rain over the next 24 hours or so. And now that the storm is moving just North of the island, we're starting to get battered with the storm surge on the Western kind of vulnerable facing coastline area.

So that is where some of the largest population density of this U.S. territory is located. There is the forecast accumulation. You can see just how much rain is over 10 inches in the next few hours.


VAN DAM: So incredible -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. It just seems like it could be incredibly damaging. Derrick, please keep us updated on what you're seeing there.

VAN DAM: Will do.

HARLOW: All right. The date has been set for former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in the hush-money case. And it is right in the middle of the presidential primary season. What a judge told Trump he can and cannot say about that case.

COLLINS: We'll also bring you the latest developments after an anti- Putin Russian militia launched a surprise attack inside Russia.


HARLOW: Welcome back. So this morning, an anti-Putin Russian group based in Ukraine claims the goal of its attack in Russia's Belgorod region is the, quote, "complete liberation of Russia."

Now, the governor of Belgorod says one person died in this cross- border fighting. Nine people have been hospitalized in overnight attacks by an unmanned aerial -- aerial vehicle.

Cars, private homes and administration buildings have been damaged. The power still has not been fully restored to some districts.

Let's go to our Fred Pleitgen, who's live in Kyiv, Ukraine. What is Ukraine, what is the government there saying about these attacks?


Well, the Ukrainians continue to say that they have nothing to do with this. I was actually able to speak with the Ukrainian national security advisor yesterday. And I asked him about this.

And he essentially said, "Look, these are Russians fighting on Russian territory. They are obviously anti-Putin Russians. And they are normally integrated into the Ukrainian security forces.

But the Ukrainians are continuing to say that when these people go to Russia and conduct actions like they did, that they are acting independently.

Now, you're absolutely right to say, though, this seems to be something that the Russian government and the Russian military still are not fully coming to terms with. The governor of that Belgorod region said, quote, "This is not a quiet night" because of those drone attacks that you were talking about, with those nine people still in hospital.

And you know, Poppy, despite the fact that the Russian military is now saying or claiming that they've pushed all of the attackers out of Russian territory and liquidated 70 of them, as they've put it, there are even questions in Russia as to why the Russian military and the Russian authorities allowed something like that to happen and were not able to prevent it.

In fact, the governor of that region, he said to one person who was asking him, that he has even more questions for the military than the citizens who are still waiting and can't return to their homes, Poppy.

HARLOW: For the Russian military, about why they couldn't prevent this?


HARLOW: Fascinating.

PLEITGEN: Exactly. Yes, that's -- that's exactly the case.

HARLOW: Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, Thank you for the reporting.

COLLINS: Also this morning, new evidence may soon undercut former President Trump's claim that the documents he took after he left the White House to Mar-a-Lago were automatically declassified. Something is being handed over to the special counsel today, a number of documents. We'll tell you what they show, next.

HARLOW: Also this. Why Twitter, why with Elon Musk? More on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's unconventional plans to launch his 2024 campaign today.



COLLINS: New overnight, attorneys for former President Trump are now requesting a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland as the special counsel, Jack Smith's, probe into Trump's handling of classified documents appears to be wrapping up.

Today, also the National Archives is set to hand over 16 presidential records they say shows that Trump and his top advisors knew the correct way to declassify documents, despite the former president's claims that he could simply declassify them with his mind.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now.

Katelyn, of course, we saw this letter that the former president posted overnight on Truth Social, requesting this meeting with the attorney general. It appears, based on their letter, that's who it's addressed to. What would the significance of a meeting like this be?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, you don't ask for a meeting like this twice. You get one shot at something like this.

It is something that defense attorneys do, and it's the sort of meeting that gets requested at the very end of a case.

Now we don't know exactly what precipitated this letter right now. But this is the type of letter where they're asking for a meeting. Right now, they're saying President Trump is being unfairly [SIC], and we request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ongoing justice [SIC] that is being perpetrated by the special counsel.


So they're going above Jack Smith, the special counsel, directly to the attorney general, asking essentially, to appeal or to get a sense of what is happening in the case.

And there have been a lot of things that have taken place recently, Kaitlan. A lot of grand jury activity. A lot of reporting from sources that we have heard, where the special counsel is just locking down the details. They are gathering the notes. They have gotten access to Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran, both with testimony and with his personal notes.

And they have basically been scouring Mar-a-Lago to make sure that they are talking to everyone. That certainly seems like it's at an end point.

And then on top of that, it's very clear that what's happening with the National Archives, the National Archives today is set to turn over 16 records about the classification authority and whether Trump personally was informed about how to declassify things. They say there are communications to that effect.

That's the sort of thing that isn't the core of the case. That's the sort of thing prosecutors need whenever they're preparing for, you know, possible defenses that Trump could bring up at trial.

So it really does signal the end in a lot of different directions. But everybody has to wait for exactly what the Justice Department will do here and whether or not they, too, believe this is the end of the investigation.

COLLINS: Yes. We haven't seen Trump's attorneys elaborate on this letter.

But Katelyn, all this comes as the date for his trial in a separate case, the Stormy Daniels hush-money probe that's happening here in New York, has been set. It is March 2024, which is just days after Super Tuesday is going to happen. Of course, days before other key votes in certain states.

The question about how this plays out, it's not going to be just a quick trial that's over in a few moments. It's something that could take several weeks and really cut into his campaign, potentially.

POLANTZ: Right. And on top of that, it's not just the physical act of Donald Trump being present for his own trial, which he has the right to do and is expected to do at this point. But it's the fact that it takes time for a defendant to prepare for trial.

So, as states are going to be voting at the beginning of 2024, March 5th is Super Tuesday and then just a couple weeks later, if Donald Trump is in a moment there where he's working with his attorneys about his defenses, if he himself is preparing to testify in his own defense, that takes time. And that takes time that he would not be able to spend, you know, at a rally or on the campaign trail right then.

So, that is what is happening in that case. It really right -- is right in the middle of things. And so that is something we're going to be watching exactly how it plays out right up to that point.

But of course, Kaitlan, I should mention, trial dates, they sometimes move. This one has a formal date. But, you know, court dates, things can fluctuate. A lot of things can happen between now and trial.

COLLINS: A lot of things can happen. Katelyn Polantz, thank you.

HARLOW: After months of speculation and anticipation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will make it official tonight. He is running for president. He will make that announcement on Twitter.

A spokesperson for his political team tells CNN the Republican will will announce his bid in a conversation on Twitter with owner Elon Musk. And the event will be moderated by a very friendly face, tech entrepreneur and a big booster of DeSantis, David Sacks.

In 2021, Sacks contributed more than $70,000 to the governor's political committee.

Joining us now is Justin Miller, senior editor at "New York magazine's" "Intelligencer."

Good to have you.


HARLOW: David Sacks is a really big, important voice on Twitter, especially with the business community. I'm so interested by this strategy. There's a little protection in terms of reaching people who aren't on Twitter, because he's going to talk on FOX later tonight.

But what do you make of it?

MILLER: Well, Elon Musk endorsed Ron DeSantis a couple months ago for president. He said something to the effect of Donald Trump is old news; it's time to move on. They're ideologically simpatico. Musk has moved pretty far to the right in the past couple of years, especially on the issue of transgender people.

Elon Musk has mocked them. Twitter platform is now allowed to dead- name people. And DeSantis, of course, has made going after them -- and the idea of transgender people -- really, a cornerstone of his campaign to -- to be the Republican nominee.

HARLOW: Not surprised.

COLLINS: But he hasn't formally endorsed him. He kind of added that caveat. You know, he's been retweeting Tim Scott's -- Senator Tim Scott's campaign videos, as well, as he announced.

Of course, the question is who does he formally endorse when that happens?

Can we talk about the technical aspect of this, though? Because I think most people watching have no idea what Twitter Spaces is.


COLLINS: I mean, obviously, not very many people are on Twitter. Certainly, our community of journalists and reporters and lawmakers is. But when it comes to actual Twitter Spaces, there's a little bit of a risk on the -- just the technical side of this.

MILLER: Sure. Well, yes. I think it's a -- it's a sort of an unusual platform. I think this will be audio only.

HARLOW: Yes. That's right.

MILLER: There will be no video. Right. So, DeSantis, I don't know, will have to have a good radio voice, I suppose.

And then, you know, whatever is -- happens there will be turned into audio for television or will be covered in the newspapers. So it will have a greater reach, much beyond Twitter.