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CNN This Morning

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Set to Launch White House Bid Tonight on Twitter with Elon Musk; Man Accused of Ramming U-Haul into Barrier to Appear in Fed Court; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Optimistic About Reaching a Debt Ceiling Deal. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- going to be game seven for Miami.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Strong prediction from --


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Our friend, Charles Barkley.

HARLOW: From Chuck, who is soon going to join the CNN family, but what a series, right? They needed to win that game.

COLLINS: I know. It was amazing. Who are you rooting for?

HARLOW: Nuggets?

COLLINS: Good morning, everyone.

HARLOW: Way to put me on the spot, K.C.

COLLINS: Sorry. I should have given you a heads up. We'll get to our sports headlines in a moment, give Poppy a moment to decide who she's rooting for, but we have some really big political headlines today, as we were talking about.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been rumored to be running for months, is now set to officially announce that he is running for president. CNN has learned that the Florida governor is going to make the announcement tonight during an interview with Elon Musk on Twitter.

His wife, Casey DeSantis, the first lady of Florida, released this teaser video of him getting ready to walk out on a stage as a dramatic voiceover speaks in the background.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I have the courage? It is worth the sacrifice? America has been worth it, every single time.


COLLINS: DeSantis has widely been seen as former Donald Trump's leading challenger for the Republican nomination. But there are big questions on what this launch will look like because his poll numbers have been slipping after some shaky performances leading up to this launch. Trump has been relentlessly attacking him for months now.

HARLOW: And we're now learning that Trump and his allies have been preparing for this moment with a coordinated plan to try to upend DeSantis' campaign launch. A source tells CNN it includes a social media blitz and Trump surrogates appearing in Miami where DeSantis is set to begin meeting with donors today.

So, let's begin this hour with Kristen Holmes, who joins us now. You cover all things Trump world. What is this anti-DeSantis blitz going to look like?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, the social media blitz is actually very interesting. I talked to a number of advisers. They have been courting some of the biggest names in conservative new and social media since last year. That means bringing them down to Mar-a-Lago, letting them fly on the plane with the former president, trying to get them to give the former president their backing. And we're likely going to see that network at play today.

Now, we are being told by advisers they're going to hit DeSantis on a number of different policy topics. That is going to include his reforming entitlement programs, his past views on trade policy, on China, his COVID-19 response when he was the governor of Florida.

Now, in addition to this social media blitz, we're also told it's going to include a rollout of videos, including one of Trump directly addressing the camera and DeSantis' candidacy. Even with those polls, Poppy, that Kaitlan just mentioned, even though the fact that Trump is leading, there is not a single adviser that I have spoken to who believes this is over or isn't concerned about it. They believe he might get a boost in the polls after this announcement and they do believe DeSantis is Trump's biggest competitor. So, they're taking this incredibly seriously, Poppy.

HARLOW: It's so interesting. It's such a stark difference to how Trump almost welcomed Tim Scott into this race earlier this week. Is there anyone in Trump world that is worried that all of these sustained attacks on DeSantis could actually not help Trump?

HOLMES: I would say that there are no advisors in Trump world who believe that these sustained attacks on DeSantis are going to hurt Trump in any way. But I will tell you that I've spoken to a number of people outside of his orbit, Republican operative, people who even support the former president who do not want him to continue attacking DeSantis. They want to be able to say that DeSantis will run in 2028 when Trump is done, that that's his time to run. It is harder for them to say that and get behind that if the former president is constantly attacking Ron DeSantis.

HARLOW: Kristen, thanks for all the reporting.

COLLINS: Yes, a lot of questions about what that's going to look like. So, for more on this, let's bring in Sara Fischer, CNN's Media Analyst and Media Reporter at Axios, CNN Correspondent Donie O'Sullivan and Ben Smith, who is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Semafor.

Donie, what do you make of the fact that this is how DeSantis is choosing to launch his campaign in this moment with Elon Musk?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's Donald Trump's old turf, right? I mean, he used Twitter so effectively. Look, I mean, I think Musk tried to position this platform as a bastion of free speech, unless, of course, you're people in Turkey tweeting things that the government doesn't like up to the election or a journalist who is tweeting about Elon Musk's jet, but all that to one side, bastion of free speech. So, I think he's very much DeSantis who we know, loves engaging in the culture wars. He's going to the home of it today.

I got to say, though. I cannot see Trump resisting coming back on the platform today. The last time he tweeted was January 28, 2021. I can't see Donald Trump giving up that space.

HARLOW: And that legal restraint that held Trump on Truth Social is over now, isn't it?


O'SULLIVAN: I think it's unclear.

COLLINS: It's still not totally clear what the shareholders would make of that.


HARLOW: Okay. We'll see. Your headline is amazing this morning, Sara.


HARLOW: Musk moves in on Murdoch, meaning Rupert Murdoch.

FISCHER: Yes. I mean, a couple of years ago, Fox is where you would expect to see someone like Ron DeSantis trying to kick off his campaign. The fact that he's going to Twitter, it also suggests and caps off a week of a lot of conservative movement to Twitter. So, it's really notable.

You had Tucker Carlson saying that he is moving the Fox primetime show to Twitter. Yesterday, I reported that the Daily Wire, which is a huge conservative entertainment media company, is moving its podcast over to Twitter. You're going to start to see a lot more momentum flock there from conservatives, and that used to be Fox's territory. If you're Rupert Murdoch, this is a scary time. BEN SMITH, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SEMAFOR: Yes, it's absolutely right. Sara and I have exactly the same take, which could mean -- either means we're both diluted. I think it's a moment when all media is splintering and Fox had this monopoly on the conservative space that's going to Twitter. I do think the question in this moment when things are just so polarized is can Twitter can hold out if Twitter becomes the central conservative media space, which is an okay business. It's not a business like being a social platform. can they hold on to anything else? Can they remain as sort of central convening space for journalists, entertainers, athletes? I think that is a totally open question.

COLLINS: Yes, it is a question. But he's not just going on Twitter. He's expected to go and do an interview with Fox News right after this. So, he does have that two-pronged approach. Yes, they are second.

Speaking of diluted, though, Trump's -- one of his PACs said they believe, because he is launching this with Elon Musk, it's one of the most out of touch campaign launches in modern history.

FISCHER: But Ron DeSantis kind of wants it to be that way. He has been sending a signal all along throughout his campaign that he can go around the mainstream media. That is -- then they're the enemy. I don't work with them and I don't play ball. Of course, we know that's not true. He still needs to rely on Fox News and other mainstream outlets. But in choosing to start on Twitter and having the press, us, talk about it, he is sending a signal to his supporters, look, I'm the person that's not dealing with that mainstream media like others are.

SMITH: Yes. I would say -- I mean, the problem is, here. He sort of took Donald Trump's attacks on the media literally rather than seriously. Donald Trump attacks the media, and as you know better than any other single person on the planet, does it on our platforms in a way that is intended to reach the audience of this media.

DeSantis looks at Trump and says he hates the media. He doesn't deal with the media. Nobody deals with the media more than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is centrally a media character whose entire style is to create engagement with us. That's -- and DeSantis is doing this other thing, which is almost like listening too closely to Trump and taking it totally literally and not talking to the media.

I think that is sort of a strange move, and particularly if you look at the demographics of the Iowa caucuses where they're going to -- where this is actually going to happen. You have -- I was just looking at the entrance polls in '16. I think there are more people, about the same number of people over 65 as there are under 45. So, I'm not sure it's the sort of -- I'm not sure it's this social Twitter audience.

O'SULLIVAN: But within the Republican conservative right wing online space, this isn't necessarily just mainstream media, quote/unquote, versus Twitter and social media. Internally, within that space, you know, Twitter is now competing with the websites like Rumble. We normally think of like it's Twitter versus Facebook versus YouTube. Now, Twitter and Rumble, which is a new video platform -- COLLINS: That Donald Trump Jr. is on.

O'SULLIVAN: Exactly, has signed exclusive partnerships with a lot of influential figures on the right. Twitter is now competing for those people as well.

FISCHER: And worth noting, David Sacks, who is going to be person moderating this interview tonight with Ron DeSantis on the Twitter spaces that's being co-hosted by DeSantis and Elon Musk is not just a DeSantis supporter but a Rumble supporter and affiliated with them.

And so I'm looking forward to 2024, to Donie's point, seeing what the infighting is not just between the mainstream outlets trying to grab for candidates, that's what it has always been, but these new sort of right-leaning outlets that are going to be competing for their attention.

HARLOW: Yes, it's totally fascinating, and that he's a big voice in the business community, too.


HARLOW: It's also interesting given DeSantis versus Disney.

FISCHER: We're shocked by that.

COLLINS: But he defended how DeSantis handled COVID back in 2021. He was a big fan of that. And also I think, though, what everyone is watching today is not just how he is launching this but what that looks like, and if it does help him given he has been slipping in the polls.

HARLOW: I guess Fox is first on television because it's audio only on this Twitter announcement.

O'SULLIVAN: By the way, given Twitter under Musk has not always like been able to stand up in terms of like the platform has literally dropped at times. So, hopefully, the -- hopefully the thing doesn't collapse under the pressure too much (ph).

COLLINS: Yes, it's not a non-zero chance.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you, guys, very, very much.

COLLINS: Thank you all.

Happening right now, we are tracking a major development as some of the strongest storms in decades are hitting the U.S. territory of Guam this morning. The eye of the storm has just passed north of Guam but the eye wall is right over the island right now. The typhoon has basically left the entire island in the dark and only about 1,000 out of 52,000 people and customers have power.

The National Weather Service says that the typhoon is posing a triple threat of potentially deadly Category 4 hurricane-force winds, exceptional storm surge and torrential downfall. The video that you're seeing right now is from a storm chaser, videographer from Earth Uncut T.V., James Reynolds. He joins us now live by phone from Guam. James, this video that we're showing right now that you took is remarkable. We can see obviously how strong the winds are. What you are seeing at the moment as the eye of the storm is hitting the island?

JAMES REYNOLDS, STORM CHASER (voice over): Well, it's been a rough day. Just since this morning, you really got a sense that there was a typhoon bearing down on the island. And, literally from this morning, the wind has been picking up solidly all along. Until, you know, about two, three hours ago where it was, you know, just sheets of rain, strong winds flying, throwing things through the air. So, it's been -- it's been a long day and the island is not out of the woods yet, because this typhoon is moving very slowly and it is going to be lashing us for many hours to come.

HARLOW: Have things changed? You said many hours to come. But in terms of getting progressively worse or you think you have seen the worst of it, the worst of it?

REYNOLDS (voice over): I'm struggling with a lack of data right now. You mentioned the power outages. That means I can't look closely at the radar images that are coming out of the National Weather Service of it right now. But my impression is that as this typhoon starts to move away, the conditions should start slowly improving. But the problem is this typhoon is moving very slowly. So, that just means it's a long duration event of torrential rain, storm surge and strong wind.

COLLINS: All right. James Reynolds, I know you're limited data. We do thank you for getting on the phone with us this morning. Keep us updated on what you're seeing and, of course, above all, please make sure you're staying safe.

HARLOW: Thank you, James.

Also this overnight, an effort to bring religion, literally bring into schools failing in the Republican-led Texas state house. A controversial bill would have made displaying copies of the Ten Commandments mandatory in classrooms. But House lawmakers did not reach that deadline for a third and final passage of the measure.

Our Rosa Flores is covering this live in Houston with more. Maybe not this time but they could certainly try again, right, next session?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Poppy. But the headline here is that this bill is dead, at least for now. Now, lawmakers can get some creative CPR going before the end of the session but it is a very steep road ahead for them.

But let's talk about what was in this bill. Now, this bill said that every classroom in the state of Texas shall have a copy, a poster, a frame of the Ten Commandments displayed and that it had to be legible from every area of the classroom. Now, this is a state of Texas. So, if there was a big, big classroom in the state to follow this law, it would have to be legible from every corner of that classroom.

Now, the minimum size, according to this bill, would be 16x20 inch poster or frame of the Ten Commandments. Now if a classroom didn't have a Ten Commandments displayed and someone donated a copy, that classroom, quote, must accept that copy of the Ten Commandments.

Further, if a classroom still didn't have a copy of the Ten Commandments, then the school could use public funds to purchase a copy of the Ten Commandments.

Now, if your head is spinning because of all of the complexities of this bill, which include questions about constitutionality and religious freedom and the separation of church and state, you're not alone. A lot of groups, Poppy, were very concerned about this bill for all of those reasons, including Christian religious groups that were raising questions about religious freedom and the state imposing religion on to students and teachers, of course, in classrooms, in public schools in the state of Texas.

But, again, for now this bill is dead. The end of the session is May 29th. And, of course, you know, lawmakers could get creative. So, we'll see. We'll keep monitoring.

HARLOW: And we'll see if it does become law, if it's challenged and if it will go to the Supreme Court. This is a court that has been allowing more and more of that in recent years. Rosa, thank you.

COLLINS: The man who was accused of intentionally driving a U-haul truck into a security barrier outside the White House is now set to appear in federal court today. 19-year-old Sai Kandula appeared in D.C.'s superior court yesterday. Court documents reveal that Kandula told investigators he wanted to, quote, kill President Biden, overthrow the government and put himself in power.

Police say that after he crashed the truck Monday night, he did pull out a Nazi flag out of his backpack. You can you see here, that's a security barrier that's right outside the White House.


We're also learning that he told investigators, quote, Nazis have a great history and he praised Hitler as a strong leader.

Kandula is now facing one federal charge for damaging government property, but he's facing several other charges in a D.C. court, including threatening to kill or harm a president, vice president, or family member. He has not entered any pleas yet. He is being held without bail this morning.

HARLOW: Time is running critically short to reach a debt limit agreement, and speaker Kevin McCarthy's latest comment is not sitting well with the White House. COLLINS: Plus, a judge has now set the date for former President Trump's criminal trial here in New York. It's right in the middle of the Republican presidential primary season. One of Trump's attorneys will join us live here in studio to talk about that new date and more, ahead.



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

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

RAJU: That's your concession? That's that?



COLLINS: That was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. This is a live look at Capitol Hill this morning. Last night, he was making those comments to CNN's Manu Raju and other reporters there.


As Republicans, one concession in the debt ceiling negotiations, he says is raising the debt ceiling. Lawmakers and President Biden only have eight days, just a little over a week, to reach a deal before the U.S. could potentially default on its debts, which would be catastrophic according, to most economic experts.

McCarthy told reporters yesterday he is optimistic that they can meet that deadline, but they're not there yet. Some Republicans, in the meantime, are now suggesting that the U.S. may have more time before it actually runs out of cash to pay its bills.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill this morning. Lauren, obviously, these negotiations have been seesawing all over the place. One day, you hear -- one minute you hear that they're going well and they've been positive, and the next, it seems like they haven't come to any kind of agreement. What's the state of the negotiations this morning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in some ways, Kaitlan, this is a natural negotiation right between the White House and Capitol Hill. In other ways, the potential consequences here are so much more dire.

Yesterday, you heard repeatedly from Republican negotiators Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry that they still wanted to see the White House come back with a proposal that spent less money next year and the year after than this current year. And that is where the negotiations stand right now. Republicans insisting that spending cuts happen, moving forward. The White House, not quite there yet.

And that is why these negotiations seem to be stuck in neutral right now because both sides are really dug in. They met yesterday morning for several hours into the early afternoon. The expectation was perhaps the White House negotiators would come back to Capitol Hill. That never actually happened. Is that a sign, potentially that things are breaking down, potentially? It could also be a sign that this is the normal course of a negotiation.

Look, the time is starting to really run short. It's going to take several days to move this through the House of Representatives. It's going to take several days to move it through the U.S. Senate. And the expectation was that, hopefully, a deal would be reached by the end of this week. If that doesn't happen, it's possible that House Republicans could go home for their recess and then just be called back if a deal is actually reached. But the message that would send to the markets, obviously a very, very scary one for economic experts who are watching this closely.

COLLINS: Yes, and scary to get that close to the deadline. But this deadline that we've been hearing from the treasury secretary, basically June 1st, there's now some Republicans who are casting doubt on that, saying that maybe that's not actually the date. Is there any evidence that there would be more money to last longer than that June 1st deadline we've heard from the treasury secretary?

FOX: Well, certainly, you're starting to hear from some members of the Freedom Caucus and other conservatives that June 1st may not actually be the date, that even if you hit June 1st, perhaps it wouldn't be as cataclysmic as some economists have warned. Here's one of those Republicans to me yesterday, Bob Good.


REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): If we don't pass the bill, if the Senate doesn't pass the bill, there's not some catastrophic date of June 1. You're already hearing rumbling that it might be July 1.

There's not going to be some catastrophic, oh, we've hit the limit, look what's happened. Markets will get jittery. Markets go up and down based on the expectation of whether or not markets are going to go up and go down so there's not some big catastrophe to fear.


FOX: And there, of course, was a question to Patrick McHenry, one of the leading Republican negotiators yesterday, is June 1st, the date. He said, look, I listen to Janet Yellen. When she says that the date is June 1st, that is the date. He's the guy in the room. He's one of the Republicans leading these talks. Obviously, what he says there really is what we should be listening to. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: We'll see what they say today. Lauren Fox, you have a busy day. Keep us updated. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, let's bring in chief economist at Moody's Analytics, and I'm so glad that Lauren pointed out what Patrick McHenry, the Republican lawmaker in the middle of all this, said, because he praised Yellen, saying she has the most varied economic experience of any American, yet a number of Republicans in the House are questioning her on this June 1st date. Here are some more of them.


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): She'll extend it. But right now, she's using June 1st. Everybody knows that's false.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The fact is we passed a bill that will raise the debt ceiling. 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.


HARLOW: Mark Zandi, you're the chief economist at Moody's. What do you make of what they're saying?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: The secretary is right. She is right. I've done my own calculation day-by-day into looking at tax revenue, looking at spending, and June 1 is the earliest when we could breach. The most likely day by my calculation is June the 8th. But there is a chance I could be wrong about that. And because the tax revenues are uncertain, we don't know exactly how much tax revenue is going to come in every day.


If we get on the other side of June 8th, then we have a bit of a respite until the end of July. But if I were in Congress thinking about this, I'd be planning for June 1.

HARLOW: June 1, because we get a number of tax receipts come in June 15, you're saying?

ZANDI: That's right, June -- we got a lot of tax money coming in on June 15th, and that buys you some time.

HARLOW: 71 percent of Americans in this new polling we have say that not raising the debt limit would cause a crisis or major problems for the country. Can you just talk to Americans at home waking up, making breakfast for their kids, trying to get to work, who are scared, and they want to know what this means for them?

ZANDI: Well, everyone's going to get hurt. First off --

HARLOW: Everyone?

ZANDI: Everyone. It's just a matter of degree. The first thing that's going to happen is the financial markets are going to sell-off, stock prices go down, interest rates rise. So, if you have a 401(k), other pension assets are going to be worth a lot less. If you need to borrow money to buy a car or get a mortgage, it's going to be harder to get that loan. And if you can get it, it's going to be at a higher interest rate.

If you rely on the government for a check, I'm a Social Security recipient, I'm in the military, and the government is helping lots of different people in lots of different ways, they're going to get their money later. And then, ultimately, the economy is going to sink into recession, right, and that means lost jobs, that means higher unemployment, all our wages will be affected.

HARLOW: And Neel Kashkari, the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, told us yesterday on the show that the Fed's tools to fight a recession, if we get there, are limited by the high inflation we're facing now.

I also asked him about, you see more and more progressives, some lawmakers calling for abolishing the debt ceiling. And he didn't outright say he supports that, but he did say, I think it would be prudent, once we get through this, to figure out why we do this to ourselves.

President Biden has said consistently it would be, in his words, quote, irresponsible to abolish the debt ceiling. Do you think that would be irresponsible or is it more irresponsible for us to get to the brink?

ZANDI: I think the debt ceiling is counterproductive. It's not working. Maybe at one point in time, historically, it was a way to come up with things to help our fiscal situation.

HARLOW: Constrain spending?

ZANDI: Yes, and raise tax revenue.


ZANDI: I mean, we have a fiscal problem, and it's a very significant one, no argument. But to address that, we need both government spending restraint and we need additional tax revenue. But the debt limit isn't the way to accomplish it. I mean, even this debate we're having right now, we're talking about cutting discretionary spending. That's not where the problem is. That's not going to solve any problem. So, even this German drag (ph) that we're in the middle of isn't going to help the problem.

And look what it's doing to confidence and sentiment. It's putting us on the edge of recession. If we breach, we're going to go into recession, and our fiscal problems are going to be even worse.

HARLOW: The course of people calling for President Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment is growing largely among progressives. Biden and Secretary Yellen have essentially said there's a lot of legal headaches there. It couldn't solve the problem in seven days or whatever we're facing. But I thought it was interesting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week said that invoking the 14th Amendment here allow them, I guess, to unilaterally raise a debt ceiling, would be just as, quote, economically calamitous as a default. Would it be?

ZANDI: Well, it would be tough. It would create a lot of chaos, right. Because, look, I'm a bond investor, and the president just invoked the 14th, and, of course, that's going to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Who knows when that's going to happen. It could take days. It could take weeks. And as an investor, I'm wondering, well, should I be buying a bond that's issued during that period? How's the Supreme Court going to rule on that? If they rule against the president, then what's that bond worth? So, it will create chaos.

But I'd say this. I think that's a break glass kind of solution. Suppose we go into a breach, meaning the treasury is not paying everybody, chaos ensuing, lawmakers still can't get it together and the economy is evaporating at that point, then it's a Hobson's choice which is the worst bad choice and the 14th Amendment may be the best bad choice to take.

HARLOW: Best bad choice.


HARLOW: Mark Zandi, hopefully, we have you on next with better next, and then --

ZANDI: Well, hopefully, not. I mean, hopefully, these guys have to agree with.

HARLOW: We like to have you even if the world is in --

ZANDI: Okay, fair enough.

HARLOW: -- economically to an end. Thank you.

ZANDI: Thank you.

HARLOW: I appreciate it. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes. Hopefully, I'm on to talk about other less catastrophic potentially issues.

Also this morning, the former president's attorneys are now asking for a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland. We'll talk about why, what it could mean and much more with another one of Trump's attorneys, Alina Habba. She's live here in studio right after this.