Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Justin Miller is Interviewed about DeSantis' White House Run Launch; General Ordered Twitter Announcement of Drone Strike; Debt Default Puts America at Risk; Florida School Removes Inauguration Poem from Library. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 06:30   ET



JUSTIN MILLER, DEPUTY EDITOR, NEW YORK MAGAZINE'S "INTELLIGENCER": A good radio voice, I suppose. And then, you know, whatever 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.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think Elon Musk gets out of this?

MILLER: I think that Elon Musk gets people talking about Twitter in a fairly positive light, instead of all the errors and sort of problems that they've had. Gets a big marquee event with a lot of coverage, both, you know, in journalism and a lot of people tuning in. This will probably be the most listened to Twitter spaces event ever. And it makes him a bit of a political king maker. You know, he's having a real role now in Republican politics.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And the question I've heard is the Trump aspect of this.


COLLINS: Obvious, he was banned from Twitter. Elon Musk reinstated him, allowed him to come back on. He hasn't returned yet because he has his own platform, Truth Social.

But I do think some people in Trump's world and in those circles yesterday were wondering, does this drive him back to Twitter?

MILLER: Yes, I don't know. It's a little bit of a mystery why Trump has not tweeted on his favorite platform since he was reinstated in November. Maybe it's because of the competition element with Truth Social, his alternative platform, which might be loosening up this summer. So, maybe this will be the tonight - maybe this will be the day that he surprises us and gets back on.

COLLINS: Yes, there could be legal constraints, but we'll see.


HARLOW: Yes. Right. That - it is just interesting though because Tucker Carlson said he's going to launch a show on Twitter. I mean it's just interesting. We'll watch - or we'll listen - we'll listen to DeSantis tonight.

MILLER: Yes, I think Musk is trying to make this a bit more of a platform to compete with some other upstarts, like Rumble, who are starting to take the market in terms of social conservative for media.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a good point.

MILLER: Sorry, media for social - for conservatives.

HARLOW: It's OK, it's 6:30 in the morning. You get a pass.

MILLER: Yes, it is - it's a little early.

HARLOW: Thank you for the analysis, Justin Miller. It's good to have you.

MILLER: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see.

Also this morning, there is a new CNN report after a U.S. general ordered a tweet to be put out to announce that a senior al Qaeda leader had been killed, but they hadn't yet confirmed it. What our exclusive reporting is uncovering next.



BOLDUAN: This morning we're getting new details about the U.S. drone strike that happened in Syria earlier this month that may have killed a civilian by mistake. CNN now exclusively can report that the general, Erik Kurilla, is the senior general who's in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East. He ordered his command to tweet that a senior al Qaeda leader had been killed in -- after he was targeted in the drone strike, despite not yet having confirmation though of who was killed. That's according to multiple defense officials telling that to CNN. A Pentagon spokesperson answered questions about the strike on Tuesday.


BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They are investigating the allegation of civilian casualties. So, you know, I think our record speaks for itself in terms of how seriously we take these. Very few countries around the world do that. The secretary has complete confidence that we will continue to abide by the policies that we've put into place.


BOLDUAN: Joining us now from the Pentagon, CNN's Natasha Bertrand, who is one of the reporters who broke this story. Natasha, obviously this is something that is of great concern because

ever since this strike happened there have just been very few answers from the Pentagon. What is the latest that you're learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Katelin, so let's take a look at the timeline for a second.

So, the drone strike was on May 3rd. And a couple hours after that, CENTCOM tweeted from its official account that the U.S. had targeted a senior al Qaeda leader in that strike and that more information would then become available.

Well, we never really got more information on that and there was no clarity about who that senior al Qaeda leader actually was.

Well, now we're learning that that tweet was actually put out by the commander -- or ordered to be put out by the commander of Central Command himself, General Erik Kurilla, before the U.S. really had any kind of real confirmation about who was actually targeted in that air strike.

So, fast forward a couple days and "The Washington Post" starts asking questions and presenting the Pentagon with some information that called into question the CENTCOM statement that they had actually targeted a senior al Qaeda leader rather than a civilian.

After that, Central Command began looking into this information that was presented to them by "The Washington Post" and decided that because of the evidence that "The Post" was presenting, things like photos, witness testimony from the man's family, it warranted opening a civilian casualty assessment, which is kind of one review kind of short of a formal investigation, to see whether actually a civilian had been killed in this strike, as his family has alleged. So, the review is ongoing into whether this civilian was killed.

But obviously it raises a lot of questions about why this tweet was put out in the public sphere before Central Command actually had real confirmation of who they had actually targeted in this air strike, Kaitlan.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and his subordinates wanted him to wait for confirmation before actually tweeting, right?

BERTRAND: So we are told from one defense official with direct knowledge of the situation that his subordinates did urge him to hold off on putting out a tweet, putting out an announcement about this until they had further confirmation that they had actually targeted a senior al Qaeda leader because defense officials recognize that it could likely take a few days before they actually had that positive confirmation and identification. There is no U.S. military footprint in that area of Syria.

So, they did urge him. However, two defense officials pushed back on that saying that they did not actually hear any consternation or voiced opposition to that. However, look, the question remains of why this was put out there before they actually knew all of the facts, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, and that tweet is still up as of now.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you.

HARLOW: South Carolina, one of the last few places in the south where people could legally seek abortions, has just passed a new, very restrictive bill. The bipartisan effort to stop that is next.


COLLINS: And America's ability to borrow and pay back money is its superpower. A potential debt default could change that. CNN's Christine Romans here to explain.


COLLINS: South Carolina is now poised to become the latest state to ban abortion after just six weeks. The state senate voting yesterday to ban most abortions after early cardiac activity is detected. That can be as early as six weeks before many women even know that they're pregnant. The bill offers very few exceptions, but those exceptions are for fatal fetal anomalies and the health of the life of the mother. It would also make exceptions up to 12 weeks for victims of rape or incest. A filibuster of five women who are now known as the sister senators, it's made up of three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent, tried but ultimately failed to block this new measure.


The bill is now headed to the governor - to the desk of the governor, Republican Henry McMaster, who said he is going to sign it into law as soon as possible.

HARLOW: Also this morning, Democratic and Republican staff negotiators scrambling to try to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling before the fast approaching June 1st deadline. The default would not only be catastrophic to the U.S. economy, but it would also mean the end of this nation's sterling reputation as a borrowing superpower.

Our Christine Romans, chief business correspondent, is here with more.

Your piece on this yesterday was so excellent -


HARLOW: In boiling down -

ROMANS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Why shoot ourselves in the foot and lose something that is so critical?

ROMANS: I mean, from the outside looking in, if you're talking about a spending philosophical fight among parties over the debt ceiling, I mean, the rest of the world thinks we're absolutely utterly insane. It's - and it's an irrational fight to have. I mean America's borrowing power is her superpower. The rest of the world would kill to be able to have the position we are in.

The United States can borrow however much money it wants and to pay for whatever it wants, whatever Congress decides, and that is a sign of strength because there are investors around the world who will park their money into the safest place to do business, and that is the United States.

Treasuries are the backbone of the global financial system. They make the dollar the world's reserve currency. Everybody around the world does business in dollars because the U.S. is in this very prime spot as the lender to the - to - to the -- or the borrower to the rest of the world. You know, it is a really interesting position we're in.

And this is tainting that. Every time we get up to the line, this is the third time now, it tarnishes that just a little bit. We are going to have a mountain of obligation that's we'll have to sell Treasuries for in the months ahead. What if borrowers - what if - what if people balk? What if they don't want to buy our Treasuries?

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: Or they demand higher interest rates. That could happen. They demand higher interest rates. That means our debt is even more expensive. And it's even more expensive to borrow money. And that actually hurts us.


ROMANS: So, the thing that we're fighting about is actually making us weaker, not stronger. It's making us weaker.

COLLINS: Well, and it's not for new spending, it's spending that the U.S. has already incurred.


COLLINS: The -- what we're hearing, though, from some Republicans is they're saying, is June 1st actually the day? And Yellen has been very careful in her language to say, early June, possibly as soon as June 1. She's doubled down on that many times. Tripled down even. What's up with the - the - a central argument that maybe she's - maybe it's not actually June 1st?

ROMANS: It's such an unhelpful distraction. She runs the cash books. She sees what's coming in and going out. We have a huge amount of obligations and there are so many variables. She has been very clear, as early as June 1st. We're going to get a bunch of payments June 15th. That's quarterly tax receipts will come in. So money will be coming in.

We also have to pay, I think, $42 billion in Medicare and $25 billion in Social Security before that June 15th. This is like --

COLLINS: So that doesn't even itself out (INAUDIBLE)?

ROMANS: It - it's just, we are running on fumes in the bank account right now and we're talking about still moving money -- it's - it's a position of weakness. I don't know why anybody would want to say, yes, yes, no, June - June 1st. It could be June 1st. Maybe you have a few more days. Maybe by some miracle a bunch of tax money comes in on June 15th and it buys you more time. But you have already telegraphed to the world that you could be prioritizing your payments and your debt could be in default.

Look, we're already signaling that we don't have our you know what together.


ROMANS: And that is a really dangerous place to be. I almost said a very bad word and my kids would be unhappy.

HARLOW: I just wish you were there in their offices, in their ears. Hope they're listening.

Thank you, Christine.

COLLINS: Treasury secretary Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Oh, God, no, I would never want that job.

HARLOW: I mean that would be -

ROMANS: No way.

HARLOW: brilliant.

Thank you, Romans.

COLLINS: All right, we'll see what happens in Washington today. You never know.

Also, speaking of Washington, the poem that was recited on the steps of the Capitol during President Biden's inauguration has just been moved in a Florida library after one complaint from one parent.


AMANDA GORMAN, POET: When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade, we braved the belly of the beast.


COLLINS: Amanda Gorman there. You'll remember her. We have her response to this complaint next.

HARLOW: And happening overnight, why a Texas bill to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom failed to advance.




AMANDA GORMAN, POET: We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.


HARLOW: You will remember that powerful poem written and recited by Amanda Gorman during President Biden's inauguration. Now a school in Florida is moving it to a different section of its library because a parent complained.

A Miami-Dade School District official confirmed they moved "The Hill We Climb" from the elementary school section to the middle school section. The Florida Freedom to Read Project says it obtained documents showing a parent complained about the poem, claiming it contained, quote, indirect hate messages.

Now, Gorman said she wanted young people to see themselves in a historic moment and that's why she wrote it.

Our Carlos Suarez is following all of it this morning in Miami.


Carlos, good morning to you.

What's really interesting reading the complaint here, this one-page complaint, is it is from one parent. That's it, right?


Poppy and Kaitlan, good morning.

So this one mother wanted several books banned, including Gorman's poem. It really is just the latest example of a parent challenging a book at a school under Florida's Parental Rights in Education law.

As you mentioned, that one complaint that was obtained by the Freedom to Read Project shows the parent wrote a Gorman's book, quote, it is not educational and have indirectly hate messages.

Now, elsewhere in the same form, the parent said that the function of the material is to, quote, cause confusion and indoctrination. Now asked whether the parent is aware of professional reviews on the material, the parent wrote, quote, I don't need it. She incorrectly said that the book was authored by Oprah.

In response to this, a committee made up of educators agreed to move that book at the K-8 school. They moved it from the elementary portion of the school to the middle school portion of it. And in a statement, Miami-Dade County Public Schools said it was, quote, determined at the school that "The Hill We Climb" is better suited for middle school students and it was shelfed in the middle school section of the media center. The book remains available in the media center.

Now, it is unclear what part of Gorman's book was not age appropriate for elementary students but was OK for middle school students.


COLLINS: So, just to get this straight, they didn't clarify what part of the book -- of the - of what Amanda Gorman wrote that they had a problem with?

SUAREZ: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. So, we reached out to Miami- Dade County Public Schools yesterday essentially asking for all of the documents related to the complaint, as well as the work that was done by the committee members. We were told that that information would be provided to us in due time. But it's unclear whether the committee members at any point were identified exactly the portion of the poem that they took issue. We don't know exactly what part of it they deemed was again appropriate for students in elementary - rather, in middle school but was not age appropriate for students in elementary.

COLLINS: That's so bizarre. They just move the - they move it, but it's not clear what exactly it is that they were alleging -

HARLOW: Not to mention we have the actual complaint here.


HARLOW: It says the author, publisher is Oprah Winfrey.

COLLINS: Right, not Amanda Gorman.

HARLOW: That's incorrect, obviously.

COLLINS: And she responded, we should note -- thank you, Carlos. Amanda Gorman was cited saying she was gutted by this.


COLLINS: And the fact that it was a single complaint from one parent.

HARLOW: And concerned she pointed to about more books being moved or banned as well happening.


HARLOW: OK. We'll keep on this.


Also this morning, Target is pulling some of its LGBT merchandise off of the shelves after there was customer backlash to the store's new pride collection. The company says they received threats and that it is now acting to protect the safety of their employees. This collection featured more than 2,000 products that included pride themed clothing, books, music, home furnishings. For now, Target says it is only removing projects by the LGBT brand Abprallen. Target is also reviewing certain transgender swimsuits and children's merchandise but no decision has been made on those projects yet.

CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ron DeSantis getting into the race, launching a campaign in a streaming event with Elon Musk on Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a very strong signal of what his campaign is going to focus on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you are Ron DeSantis, you have to do something to get attention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This gives him an opportunity to play a stunt with the most famous person on the planet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A catastrophic possibility for the world economy would be devastating for countless Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the best we can hope for is a deal to make the deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe that the first of the month is a real deadline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to default on our debt. That's just completely false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody knows that's false.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): To hold the entire U.S. economy hostage is reckless.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: South Carolina is poised to become the latest state to ban abortion after six weeks. The bill now heads to Republican Governor Henry McMaster, who is expected to sign it into law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just don't know, in most cases, that they're even pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not have the right to make decisions for someone else.

ROMANS: A monster typhoon barreling towards Guam. The strongest storms there in decades. Potentially deadly Category Four.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That triple threat, it means torrential rain, it means extreme winds, it means storm surge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a three. Bulls eye! Tatum knocks it in.

Blocked by Tatum on the shot by Vincent (ph).

Heat (ph). This series extending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it one game at a time. Trying to save our season and win tonight. We did that.

CHARLES BARKLEY: I'm going to tell you something else, game six in Miami is going to be game seven for Miami.



COLLINS: Strong prediction from -

HARLOW: From our buddy.

COLLINS: Our friend Charles Barkley.