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CNN This Morning

House Leaving on Recess with Time Running Out for Debt Ceiling Deal; Twitter Glitches Overshadow Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Campaign Launch; Russia's Wagner Chief Says Fighters Beginning to Leave Bakhmut. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2023 - 07:00   ET




And so Disney gave to some of the legislators who then passed the don't say gay bill. And all of a sudden the Disney employee said, what the heck? Why did you give to people who are attacking us? That is the future for all companies that keep giving to the politicians in these laboratories of autocracy.

So, my advice to companies is avoid that fate. If you're a broad consumer-facing company, you're going to always run into this. Use your footprint, Disney or Procter and Gamble or anybody to actually lift democracy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Targets in the spotlight now.

PEPPER: Exactly, Target. Why don't you register every voter that comes into Target? Register them. If you're in a state with a strict voter I.D. law, help them figure out how to get that voter I.D. These companies have enormous footprints. And rather than putting the money into little autocrats in states, which is what these places are becoming, put the money into all the ways that help everyday citizens, your employees, your customers, be lifted into our democracy.

There have been so many people purged. We'll help get them back on the rolls. Target, they could play an enormous role. And that way they're not getting into this back and forth of who they're giving to. They're doing a much broader purpose of lifting democracy. And the book goes through so many specifics of how individual non-profits and individuals and companies, large and small, can be playing a huge role in lifting democracy.

HARLOW: And the importance of local media, by the way, helping that to build up these -- we got to go, we're at the top of the hour, but to building up and covering these state houses in a way that national media does.

PEPPER: One reason state houses have become such a problem is there's so little coverage of them. If you want to do bad stuff, that's where you go to get it done.

HARLOW: David, it's a great read, Saving Democracy. It's really accessible, user's manual for every American.

PEPPER: Absolutely. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Tell Charlie we said hi.

PEPPER: He's going to have a good day.

HARLOW: CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron DeSantis' big announcement went a little bit south with major glitches.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It did break the Twitter Space. We're really excited with the enthusiasm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's dedicated to the proposition that Republicans hate the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would want to be with normal people, not a billionaire. Where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No Social Security checks, no paying checks for our troops, chaos in the world economy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I will not put a bill on the floor that spends more money next year than this year.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not about cutting wasteful spending for Republicans and it never has been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an unproductive use of political energy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. intelligence is pointing to Ukraine as the likely culprit behind the drone attack on the Kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether Zelenskyy knew about this or not, this gives them a lot of plausible deniability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an opportunity for the U.S. government and I think other NATO allies to actually set the record straight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming back out in front of it. He scores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Superstars make the big plays at the big time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Florida Panthers are heading to the Stanley Cup Final.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been an underdog and we're going to continue it to be on the Stanley Cup Final. Guys, it feels good to say that. That's pretty cool.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Most certainly music royalty, Tina Turner, in her 83 years, became pioneer, icon, survivor. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you realize that you are a feminist hero in America?

TINA TURNER, SINGER: I'm beginning to. I kind of see it as a gift because of the life I lived. It had a meaning.

COOPER: The world loses a music legend.


COLLINS: She's so missed this morning.

HARLOW: So missed.

COLLINS: I've been watching some of the old Larry King interviews with her. We'll show a lot of that this morning.

HARLOW: What she did for so many on so many levels.

COLLINS: Yes. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Of course, paying tribute to Tina Turner, the queen of rock and roll. All of this is coming this morning, though, as we are getting some headlines out of Washington as House lawmakers are set to leave town on recess today. But they have not yet clinched a deal on the debt limit, even though there's just one week left before a potentially catastrophic default that could crash the economy.

The alarm bells already ringing this morning as one of the nation's leading credit rating agencies is now warning that it might downgrade the United States' rating as House Republicans are digging in and the stalemate is dragging on.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says there was some progress that was made during yesterday's meeting. You can see the negotiators leaving here outside the White House. That was between the White House and the Republican negotiators, but several sticking points remain.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said this week you need to have a deal this week in order to stop a default.

MCCARTHY: I still believe that. Yes. And I still believe we have time to make an agreement and get it done.


COLLINS: Still believes there is time, but sources tell CNN's Manu Raju these are some of the demands from House Republicans that are under this intense negotiation. You can see them here, work requirements for food stamps and family assistance. They also want to expedite environmental reviews for energy projects. All of this is coming, of course, as we are waiting to see just how close they get to the brink.

CNN's Christine Romans is here with us. [07:05:00]

What is the significance of Fitch? Fitch is coming out and saying this about the potential to downgrade the U.S.'s credit rating.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look, there's a big discussion right now. If this political brinkmanship, this political intransigence we're seeing is a feature, not a bug. And if it's a feature, not a bug, and we're talking about now ten years of this kind of behavior, I think that there are real questions whether the United States can keep its AAA credit rating even if they figure this out, because this is a serious problem here.

If we keep revisiting this, it makes the U.S. less reliable, it hurts our prestige, and that eventually can translate into the creditworthiness of the debt that we are issuing. So, that is a big discussion here.

The second discussion that's happening, frankly, is what happens exactly a week from today. That's Janet Yellen's earliest date. At that point, she said yesterday to the CNBC CEO Council, there's not enough money to pay all the obligations. I think you assume they pay the interest on our debt and they pay any principal payments to investors, but that means Social Security checks will likely not be cut. That means government contractors could not see payments.

We don't know exactly what that's look like. The Treasury Department hasn't said how they'll pick and choose which bills to pay. But right now, we are sitting in front of only bad choices. That's what we're looking at right now, only a bunch of really bad choices here, unless by some miracle they were to raise this debt ceiling and continue talking. If they could make some sort of agreement to continue talking on their philosophical spending differences but raise the debt ceiling, that would be the perfect outcome, and that would need to happen in the next couple of days.

COLLINS: Yes. It shows the danger of even just getting this close.

ROMANS: Yes. And I looked at the bank balance, you guys. We're at 76.5 billion today. So, it went up. So, we took more money in yesterday in treasury coffers than we spent. That's not expected to last. If you look at my cheat sheet here, $140 billion goes out on June 1st and June 2nd, and only 44 billion comes in. So, now this is a game of math. This is a game of math. And what the different federal agencies, what they're spending, whether they can postpone bills legally or not, I mean, what --

COLLINS: Yes. But you're still skeptical of the Republicans who are skeptical that June 1 is the real deadline. You seem to think, yes, we're pretty close to it.

ROMANS: I mean, yes. I mean, Janet Yellen said June 1st is their earliest possible date. I think that whole week, we will be counting every nickel out of the couch cushions to see if we can stretch another day or two. COLLINS: All right, Kristen Romans, we'll be counting with you. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: The 2024 presidential race has expanded by one.


DESANTIS: If you nominate me, you can set your clock to January 20th, 2025, at high noon, because on the west side of the U.S. Capitol, I will be taking the oath of office as the 47th president of the United States. No excuses. I will get the job done.


HARLOW: That is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Twitter Spaces last night, an audio-only platform, we should note, making the case for why he should be the next leader in the Oval Office.

But what was supposed to be his big moment was plagued by delays and glitches.


DESANTIS: It just keeps crashing?

ELON MUSK, OWNER, TWITTER: I think we've got just a massive number of people online, so it's -- servers are straining somewhat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Sorry about that. We've got so many people here that I think we are kind of melting the servers, which is a good sign.


HARLOW: That was the moderator, David Sacks, saying it's a good sign. I suppose a lot of people were tuned in, never good to melt the server.

So, following that glitch-filled start, we have just learned DeSantis will kick off his campaign again, sort of re-launch, if you will, next Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. He will make stops in New Hampshire, in South Carolina next week, in what he's calling, quote, our great American comeback tour.

Let's bring in Astead Herndon, CNN Political Analyst and National Politics Reporter at The New York Times, and Kara Swisher, host of On with Kara Swisher, the podcast. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

Astead, I think I'll just start with you. A glitch is a glitch and people will make fun of it and talk about it for a few days. But what really matters is, is that indicative of his campaign going forward, or is Tuesday, in Iowa get to be a restart? ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, he's certainly going to hope for that. I mean, I think that there is a kind of piece of theater and substance here on the theater of the presidential launch, which a lot of this is. It's a game for fundraising. It's game to drive interest. He really failed on that front.

This kind of took over a moment that was supposed to be about Ron DeSantis and made it about Elon Musk, made it about Twitter, and also kind of did not execute on the audience that you would want from that front and also kind of trolled the Fox audience that really plays core to the Republican base. You saw the big conservative news sites really kind of call Ron DeSantis out for that decision.

It really speaks to a campaign that may be looking more online or maybe looking for, for a splashy moments rather than the substance. But on the substance of the presidential launch, which is the thing that's going to last here, we see this as a candidate who's not really running to make ideological contrast with Donald Trump.


He's running as a real Trump era conservative describing a hellish America that needs a kind of intervention, of kind of Trump era politics, that needs the federal government to be able to kind of combat the woke-driven mindset that Ron DeSantis drives everything of his campaign back to.

I think when you look at his campaign, it's really adding up to try to look at what I think some people think is a kind of societal force that went too far in 2020, that the social programs, the progressive movements that really pushed society, I think, too little to the left in 2020, DeSantis is hoping for a backlash to that, and he's kind of trying to campaignify a real backlash to that moment and hoping that that drives Republican voters to him.

COLLINS: Okay. But, Kara, I mean, back to the painful 25 minutes or so yesterday when everyone was tuning in at 06:00 to listen to this, and then you could barely hear or I was kicked out several times trying to be able to listen, I mean, what do you make of the fact -- I mean, DeSantis is trying to make the argument he is competence without the chaos, a shot at Trump, but there was obviously a lot of chaos in that announcement yesterday?

KARA SWISHER, HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER PODCAST: Yes. I mean, it looked incompetent. And the medium is the message is the famous quote, and the medium here was the message. And that's the problem, I think. You didn't pay attention to what he was doing. Of course, the media, and especially the conservative media, made hay of it, and, of course, that's what would happen. There were no visuals. There was no picture. There was just a lot of stumbling and bumbling, and I'm not so sure it will last.

I think Astead is right. But it does paint a picture of someone who doesn't make good decisions. And then, of course, Elon Musk, as usual, got to be the center of the attention rather than Ron DeSantis. That's the problem here is this was about him, but it wasn't about him. It was about Elon and his glitchy Twitter system.

HARLOW: But, Kara, this new CEO of Twitter, Linda Yaccarino, wrote this about it. Tonight's reflection, we just heard a rare and unscripted conversation on a range of important topics for the presidential candidate, all launched on Twitter. That's historical. Let's do more. Freedom of speech is priceless. That was her tweet. You have a long thread on that this morning. Thoughts?

SWISHER: I do. I mean, sure, I guess so. Except that's not what happened. And he could have issued a press release. It's the same thing. And it wasn't really an interview. You didn't get to know him. There was no illumination.

Now, journalists don't have to do every interview at all, but this was so not what's the opposite of skillful. You didn't get any sense of this guy. And he did end up talking about his policy points, but there was nothing that came out of it. Maybe that was his goal, but who was going to stick with it in this sort of janky platform?

I think he would have been better off with a lot of visuals, a lot of pictures, a lot of everything else, and giving his high points on all the television networks. I'm not sure he reached the people he wanted to here. And, again, it all became about this janky system and Elon Musk, and maybe that's what he wants. Maybe he's Elon's guy, but, boy, did he look like a lap dog to a billionaire. And I don't ever think that's a good look for anybody.

COLLINS: Yes, or Elon looked like he was the leading character, not the candidate, Astead. But he did do interviews subsequently on Fox where he did talk about the policy, and that is going to be what's remembered here, ultimately. He talked about how he said he would fire the FBI director, Chris Wray. He said he would declare a national emergency on immigration. He didn't really answer on Ukraine, which has been a weaker spot for him. What did you make of that aspect of it?

HERNDON: I thought that was really interesting, specifically the Ukraine point. When asked about that, he really made it a media pivot. He started talking about kind of gender ideology in the military, stepping away from that. I think that speaks to some of the challenges we've seen from DeSantis over the last couple of months.

But to your point, this is someone who is trying to have both feet in both a MAGA base to speak to the Trump baseline, but also at the same time try to get folks who may not want Donald Trump because of personality reasons or maybe because they feel like the Trump administration had just too much drama involved.

He is not trying to make an ideological contrast with Donald Trump. He's not really trying to anger Donald Trump's supporters. He is really running a campaign that is a stand in for that message. If you have a personality difference with him or if you want to see someone who maybe can bring the Republicans along in a way that can help them win, he's trying to say that if you remove the hard parts of Donald Trump, the gruff parts of Donald Trump, then you have a candidate that can win. The problem is, for a lot of those Trump supporters, that is what makes Donald Trump appealing. The fact that he will upend the establishment, quote/unquote, is what he is promising to the base that he uniquely can do, unlike Ron DeSantis.

We had Representative Byron Donalds on our podcast today, The Run Up. And one of the things Byron Donald said, this is a congressman from Florida, a young congressman, a Republican, who is right in the middle of that Ron DeSantis/Donald Trump crosshairs. He says that you can have two chefs who make the same recipe, but that doesn't mean the meal tastes the same. That is, I think, a good encapsulation of what's bringing some people back to Donald Trump.


It's not that they don't like Ron DeSantis. It's that they trust that Donald Trump will deliver on those promises in a different way.

COLLINS: And he introduced Ron DeSantis in his inauguration.

HERNDON: Yes, exactly. I mean, I think that that speaks to really the two sides. He said he's the best governor of America but he also said there's no question for him, this primary needs to lead back to Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Fascinating. I just wrote myself a note to listen.

HERNDON: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, Astead. Kara, thank you.

SWISHER: Thank you.

COLLINS: This morning, tributes are also pouring in for the queen of rock and roll. We don't even need to name her, Tina Turner.

The family of the 83-year-old music legend says that she died peacefully at her home in Switzerland after a long illness. We have live pictures of fans laying flowers outside her home near Zurich.

Throughout her decades' long career, Tina Turner won 12 Grammys, she sold over 100 million records and she was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, twice, once with her ex husband, Ike, and then again solo just two years ago.

HARLOW: After suffering years of physical abuse and emotional abuse, Tina left Ike and started over with almost nothing. She made her solo comeback a decade later, while in her 40s when she released a multiplatinum album that included her hit song, What's Love Got to Do With It.

Her life, of course, is made into a move with the same name as her hit comeback song. Actress Angela Bassett played her and she shared this tribute on Instagram, writing this. Through her courage in telling her story, her commitment to stay the course in her life, no matter the sacrifice, and her determination to carve out a space in rock and roll for herself and for others who look like her, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion and freedom should look like.

Here is Tina in her own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you realize that you are a feminist hero in America, heroine?

TURNER: Your wife just told me that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Do you realize that?

TURNER: I'm beginning to. You see, it wasn't something that I planned. I kind of see it as a gift because of the life I lived. It had a meaning. And I think that the meaning was all of what is happening now. I think that if I had not given the story to the world, maybe my life would not be as it is.


HARLOW: Later this hour, we're going to be joined by composer and musician Paul Schaefer. He performed with Tina when she was on the Late Show with David Letterman back in 1993. John Fogerty will also join us. He wrote one of Tina Turner's most legendary songs, Proud Mary. That's all ahead.

COLLINS: I can't wait to hear from him.

Also this morning on the international front, Russia's very outspoken mercenary boss now says he's pulling his troops out of Bakhmut, for real this time, after declaring victory. We're going to take you live to Ukraine on the ground. We'll get the latest developments.



HARLOW: Welcome back. This morning a new warning from Microsoft that a Chinese state sponsored group has hacked into critical U.S. infrastructure structure, including the US territory of Guam. Microsoft says the likely intention of the hacking is to, quote, disrupt critical communication infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.

Now, this report just underscores the key role that cyber operations might play if the U.S. needed to respond to any Chinese military attack on Taiwan, since Guam is home to three U.S. military bases. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the claim by Microsoft. They called it, quote, a collective disinformation campaign of the Five Eyes coalition of countries initiated by the U.S. for geopolitical purposes. Of course, the so called Five Eyes is the intelligence alliance between the United States, U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. COLLINS: Also this morning, the chief of Russia's Wagner mercenary group says his fighters are beginning to withdraw from Bakhmut. Of course, he said this before, but he now says they are going to start handing over the city to the Russian army and complete their exit by June 1st.

Wagner claimed to have captured Bakhmut on Saturday, but Kyiv argued with that, saying that they still controlled parts of the city, even if they were small ones.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Ukraine with more. Fred, what are we hearing this morning as this is happening? What's the significance of this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's hugely significant. I mean, this was and continues to be one of the main battlefields in Ukraine that completely annihilated this city. The Ukrainians fighting hard for it, obviously, the Russians poured immense resources into this as well, specifically this Wagner private military company.

And this morning, there was a video that was released by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company, going through essentially the ruins of that town. It's been completely annihilated and telling his fighters to go and pack up their things because they are leaving. He says that they are going to go to the rear echelon. They are going to rest and regroup there and wait for new orders, as they put it.

Let's listen to some of what he had to say.


YEVGRENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER CHIEF: We are withdrawing the units from Bakhmut. It's 05:00 A.M. on May 25th. By June 1st, the main part will be relocated to the rear camps. We are transferring positions to the military, the ammo positions, everything, including dry rations.


PLEITGEN: Now, Kaitlan, we also reached out to the Ukrainian command for the eastern front. They said at this point in time, they cannot confirm that Wagner is really withdrawing from that area. However, they do note that attacks in that area have decreased significantly over the past couple of days. So, that could be an indication that that is really happening, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. And we'll continue to see what the U.S. says about that as well.


Fred Pleitgen live in Ukraine, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Well, this morning, Italy's art theft police squad is arresting 21 of 51 suspects, that's right, in an international art trafficking blitz. The operation included 50 searches and 300 officers. Look at that. This all took place in Southern Italy and recovered more than 3,000 pieces of historical, artistic and commercial value art. Some of the most valuable pieces include hundreds of bronze and silver coins, archaeological coins and also jewelry. And many of these artifacts were taken by grave robbers and trafficked across Italy to international art collectors.

HARLOW: Also overnight, the ratings agency known as Fitch is now warning the U.S. could lose its AAA credit rating if lawmakers in Washington do not strike a deal on the debt ceiling. Right now, they don't seem like they're that close. We're going to talk to the chair of the Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, about where she sees things this morning.

And later, a remarkable medical breakthrough, the new technology that allowed a man to walk for the first time in more than a decade. We have his story ahead.



You know the challenge here, Democrats continue to want to spend more.

I've been very clear. I will not put a bill on the floor.