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CNN This Morning

Airports Brace for Busy Memorial Day Weekend; White House & GOP Negotiators Close to Deal; Trump Workers Moved Boxes Day Before FBI Came for Docs; Oath Keepers Founder Sentenced to 18 Years for Jan. 6 Attack; Missile Strikes in Ukraine Overnight; Indiana Doctor Reprimanded for Discussing 10-Year-Old's Abortion; CNN Poll: Biden Leads Fellow Dems but Faces Headwinds Overall. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Favorite song is the most Shazam-ed track in the U.S. right now.

Here's No. 2.





ROMANS: And that is "All My Life," Lil Durk, featuring J. Cole.

And No. 3.




ROMANS: "Calm Down" by Rema with Selena Gomez. All right. Thanks for joining me.

I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend, everybody. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everyone. It is --


HARLOW: Friday!

I'm so happy to have my long-time friend, Erica Hill, with me today and next week. Thank you for getting up super early.

HILL: Great to be with you.

HARLOW: There's a lot going on this Friday. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for Friday, May 26.

Sources tell CNN the White House negotiators appear to be moving closer to avoiding a default. The agreement being discussed would lift the debt ceiling and cap spending for two years. There is still a lot of work to be done, though.

HILL: Memorial Day weekend kicking off what is expected to be a very busy travel summer. AAA expects air travel to be higher than pre-COVID levels. And this is a critical stress test this weekend for airlines as they face staffing shortages and air-traffic-control problems.

"The Washington Post" reporting two workers at Mar-a-Lago moved boxes of papers one day before the FBI visited the former president's home to pick up classified documents last year. "The Post" also reporting Trump keep classified documents in his office at times and showed them to others.

HARLOW: A lot to get into there. Also in Texas, lawmakers recommending articles of impeachment against the state's attorney general. They're accusing Ken Paxton of bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of public trust.

HILL: And the Boston Celtics stay alive with a dominant game-five win against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Miami now leads that series, 3-2.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Does this mean I want the Celtics to win?

HILL: It might.

HARLOW: I'm a big fan of white jerseys.

HILL: Right.

HARLOW: Do you know about sports?

HILL: You know, I pick up minimal things from my husband and my kids. What I do know is my kids are Pacers fans, so they're sad. But nice work by the Celtics.

HARLOW: You know more than I do. Yes. Stayin' alive so we can see more of the series. It's fun.

Also, are you going away this Memorial Day? If you're flying, buckle up. Airports across America gearing up for the busiest Memorial Day weekend in years as the nation bounces back from the pandemic.

Take a live look at O'Hare in Chicago. Demand for flights has been skyrocketing, and AAA is expecting the number of air travelers to exceed pre-COVID levels. Nearly three million Americans will fly this weekend. That's according to AAA.

Airports are the busiest, they expect, since 2005. Pete Muntean, live at Reagan National, just outside the nation's

capital. Pete, who tells us to get to the airport three hours in advance which I will never do. What are we looking at?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't do it either. I admit.

HARLOW: What's the weekend going to be like?

MUNTEAN: You know, the TSA anticipates, Poppy, that today will be the busiest day of the weekend. But you've got to think back to last year. Memorial Day really kicked off that summer of cancellations.

Airlines insist they are ready for these big crowds this time around. But the real test will be this weekend.

We'll really know, coming up on Memorial Day.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): It is the start of a summer of tests for air travel, with the Transportation Security Administration planning to screen 10 million passengers between Thursday and Monday.

The world's busiest airport in Atlanta will be even busier than normal, with officials there anticipating 300,000 passengers a day.

MAYOR ANDRE DICKENS (D), ATLANTA: Many of us are still trying to make up for the time we lost during the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From TSA's perspective, we are ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're up over, finally over pre-pandemic levels.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Delta Airlines says holiday weekend ticket sales are up 17 percent from last year. American Airlines says it alone will serve 2.9 million passengers. United Airlines says this will be the busiest Memorial Day holiday in more than a decade.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: This weekend will be a test of the system.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says flight cancellations are down after last summer's repeated meltdowns. Airlines insist they are right-sized, operating fewer flights on larger airplanes and right-staffed.

A CNN analysis shows the industry has hired nearly 48,000 new workers in the last year.

BUTTIGIEG: We're doing everything we can to press airlines to deliver that service. And if there is an issue, we have your back.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Though airlines worry it's the federal government that could cause delays. Two in ten air-traffic controller jobs are empty. That's 3,000 positions nationwide.


This week, back-to-back staffing issues in Denver forced the FAA to slow flights. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby calls air-traffic control shortages his No. 1 concern.

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: That doesn't just impact those flights. That bleeds over to the whole system for the rest of the day.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): For now, the FAA has opened up 169 new more efficient flight routes up and down the East Coast, even limiting space launches to off-peak times.

For passengers, all that matters is getting where they want to go, knowing one snag could slow the start of summer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If things run smoothly, people do their job sufficiently, then it's a great trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pack your patience. Come prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get home without a hitch.


MUNTEAN (on camera): This is the live look at the TSA line here at Reagan National Airport.

And despite all of this demand, airfare is actually down a little bit. Travel site Hopper says the average round-trip ticket on Memorial Day, only $273.

But think about international travel. Way, way different. Boy, is it a doozy. The average round trip this weekend, $1,300. That's so interesting, because United Airlines says international travel this time around, actually up 16 percent. A lot of people have been sitting on those plans since before the pandemic, Poppy.

HARLOW: They want to go. And they'll pay. Pete, thank you.


HILL: Sources tell CNN White House and GOP negotiators are moving closer to a deal on raising the debt limit. But -- and you knew there was a "but" coming here -- with less than six days to go before preventing a potentially catastrophic default that could crash the economy. We'll see if it's enough.

A growing number of House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are now warning they may not vote for the deal. Thirty-five hardline Republicans have sent a letter of demands to Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Those demands include slashing funding to the IRS and a new FBI headquarters.

Here's what some lawmakers told Manu Raju before leaving for their recess. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're concerned with the debt ceiling?


RAJU: Why is that?

NORMAN: Well, it looks like we're watering it down, which is not acceptable.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I'm concerned about the rumors that I've heard that there might some sort of a deal for a whole lot less in return that we need from a policy standpoint, from a fiscal standpoint. And if that were true, that would absolutely collapse the Republican majority.


HILL: The House Democrats are warning the White House their support for a debt deal is not guaranteed if it caves to Republicans. It includes things like stricter work requirements for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and other benefits for low-income Americans.


REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): There are going to be votes that are going to be required by House Democrats, and we can't vote for something that goes against our constituents and their interests.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): If they're trying to cut and threaten to stop people's Social Security or Medicare, if they want to cut education, they can do it with their votes. I'm not part of the Republican caucus.


HILL: CNN's Arlette Saenz is tracking all of this. She joins us live from the White House this morning. So where do things stand this morning, Arlette, in terms of these negotiations?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, I think this morning, what is clear is that these negotiators are racing against the clock towards that June 1st potential deadline of making these next 24 to 48 hours incredibly critical when it comes to the negotiations.

Now there is still no final deal. But we are getting some contours of some agreements that they are starting to eye.

Sources have told us they've been working towards the potential of raising the debt ceiling for two years and pairing that with spending caps for the same length of time.

Now, those caps would not impact -- impact programs related to defense and veterans.

But the two sides still caution that they are -- they are still working through some of these final details. There's no guarantee they will get to that final agreement just yet. There are also some still major sticking points when it comes to the issue of work requirements. For some safety net programs like Medicare and Food Stamps.

Now, the House has left for the weekend, though those members are on notice that they could return within 24 hours if there is some type of agreement.

But this is really just heading into a very serious crunch time for both the White House and Republican lawmakers. The president and Republicans have said that they don't want to see a default in this country.

But they are racing against that clock. We are now six days away from June 1. And also, what is clear here that you heard from those lawmakers, is that it's also going to be incredibly difficult, potentially, to corral these members together, trying to get enough support to get something over the finish line.

So all eyes will really be on this weekend to see if the negotiators can hone in on a final deal.

HILL: Arlette Saenz with the very latest for us. Arlette, appreciate it. Thank you.

HARLOW: Also this news developing, "Washington Post" exclusive reporting yesterday. And we have more on it this morning.

Two people working for former President Donald Trump moved boxes of papers at his Mar-a-Lago estate the day before FBI agents came to collect classified documents.


"The Washington Post" cites people familiar with the matter. It also adds that, quote, "investigators have come to view the timing as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction."

Our Katelyn Polantz is following all of this.

I mean, the time line they lay out here and the dates of the movements of these boxes on June 2nd when people came to Mar-a-Lago to look through after the subpoena on June 3, is just critical here.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is. It was a critical time. And it was a time when Donald Trump and all of the people working for him needed to turn over all of the documents with classified markings back to the federal government. There was a subpoena for them.

And June 3 was the day that the FBI came down to Mar-a-Lago and collected what an attorney for Donald Trump has found. This "Washington Post" reporting is saying that two of Donald Trump's

employees were moving boxes, that showed that they were being moved into a storage area on June 3. So his lawyer had searched that area at some point in time before June 3rd. There were boxes -- documents moved in.

We also are understanding that at some point in time, boxes were moved out of that storage area.

And so, when you put this all together, the time line is a little fuzzy on exactly what happened up to June 3rd. But it indicates that there may be not just one instance of obstruction that the Justice Department is looking into.

And that they're collecting evidence about a lot of things, a lot of movement of boxes at Mar-a-Lago while there was a subpoena saying, get all of the classified documents under control and get them back to the federal government, to the grand jury in an investigation.

So we still are trying to flush out exactly what this means. But it is an important part of this ongoing investigation.

HILL: Yes. Definitely raises some more questions.

Kaitlan, the judge -- Judge Mehta, actually, also sentencing, in a separate story, sentencing the far-right founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes. Sentenced to 18 years behind bars for leading that attack on the Capitol for seditious conspiracy here.

The judge really not mincing words in that sentencing. How did Rhodes react?

POLANTZ: Well, Stewart Rhodes was -- had no remorse whenever he spoke to the judge. He repeated that he believed the election was illegitimate in 2020. He believed the Biden administration, the government was still illegitimate, as well.

And the judge reacted quite harshly.

But even setting aside what Rhodes said. The reason that the judge reacted so harshly was because of the crime that was committed here. Seditious conspiracy. This is what Stewart Rhodes was convicted of, as the founder of the Oath Keepers.

He was the reason that the Oath Keepers assembled in Washington on January 6th and were ready to march into the Capitol and help and show people that -- add a layer of legitimacy to this riot. They were dressed in riot gear, tactical gear.

And, you know, what Judge Mehta said yesterday, this federal judge as he was sentencing, he said to Stewart Rhodes, "I dare say, Mr. Rhodes, and I've never said this to anyone I have sentenced, you pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country."

And he reminded him over and over again that violence was not the way to achieve something in a democratic society, in America, whenever you disagree with the election. So, that is what he said. And that is why Stewart Rhodes got 18 years in federal prison.

HARLOW: I thought those words were so striking, reading -- reading the judge's comments about, you know, an ongoing threat. Thank you very much for the reporting.

HILL: Strikes reported overnight in Ukraine and in Russia. Children, we know, were injured after a medical facility was hit in Dnipro. We're going to bring you live near the front lines in Eastern Ukraine.

HARLOW: And new overnight, an Indiana doctor has been reprimanded for publicly talking about providing abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim.



HARLOW: Overnight, a series of drone and missile strikes reported across Ukraine, including the capital region of Kyiv.

President Zelenskyy says a medical facility was hit in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Sixteen people are reported injured, including a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old.

Military officials say they -- they downed most of Russia's 17 cruise missiles and 31 attack drones.

Meanwhile, in Russia, a large explosion was heard overnight in the city of Krasnodar, and a building was damaged there. The governor of Belgorod is also reporting shelling. He says four homes were damaged. There were no casualties reported so far from that.

Let's go to Sam Kiley. He's live in Eastern Ukraine with more. Sam, what can you tell us, especially those children?

SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, once again, a large city like Dnipro has been hit. At the moment, the casualty figures are lower than some of the more atrocious strikes which have been directed at, or at least fallen upon, residential buildings, particularly in Dnipro.

This one, as you say, has got 16 wounded. There are four people missing, one confirmed dead in this -- this air strike, which Ukraine's first lady has described as a cynical act.

To be honest, the fact of the matter is that the Russians are profligate in their attacks across the civilian areas, right across the country. Sometimes their aim, sometimes they're simply firing into the landscape more generally, with the hope of hitting something.

This may well be -- fall into that latter category. But at the same time, the Ukrainians continue to try to rattle the Russians behind the border now, with Russia with reportedly more shelling from Ukraine into border areas. Countering the shelling that has come in for months now, from day one

of the war from the border areas into Ukraine along the Northern border, particularly in Belgorod province.

And then we have this mysterious explosion or fire much deeper into Russia with no confirmation from either side, really, as to what has been the cause of that.

But all of this part of a pattern, really, in which the Russians continue to hit civilian targets inside Ukraine, whilst the Ukrainians continued to try to destabilize the Russians as part, ultimately, of the early stages of a summer offensive.


HARLOW: Sam Kiley in Eastern Ukraine. Appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

HILL: This morning, most abortions in South Carolina are now banned after six weeks. That is, of course, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Governor Henry McMaster signing the so-called Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act into law yesterday, effective immediately.

Important to note, there is no fetal heartbeat at six weeks, though some cardiac activity can be detected.

The only exceptions here include saving the patient's life, fatal fetal anomalies, and victims of rape and incest. They will be given up to 12 weeks.

Any physician who knowingly violates that law will have their license to practice in the state revoked, and they could face jail time. Several plaintiffs are suing to stop that law.

HARLOW: Breaking overnight, this. The Indiana Medical Licensing Board is going to sanction Dr. Caitlin Bernard. You may remember her name, because she's the doctor who provided abortion services to a 10-year- old rape victim in Ohio last year. Listen.


DR. CAITLIN BERNARD, PROVIDED ABORTION SERVICES TO 10-YEAR-OLD: I don't think that anybody would have been looking into this story as any different than any other interview that I've ever given if it was not politicized the way that it was by public figures in our state and in Ohio.


HARLOW: So the board found that Bernard violated privacy laws by discussing the case with a journalist. Athena Jones, our colleague, has been tracking all of this.

This was a very long hearing. What can you tell us?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. It was very long. They didn't begin deliberating until about 14 hours into this very long day.

And you just told the details of the case. But this was all based on a -- on an interview this doctor gave to the "IndyStar." That's the largest newspaper in Indiana.

It got a lot of attention because of the issue: a 10-year-old pregnant young girl from Ohio, who was -- had to come to Indiana to have the abortion procedure, because she couldn't get it done in Ohio. There was a six-week ban. He child's gestational age was beyond that.

And so this doctor gave that -- that interview. It got a lot of attention, and that is what set off this complaint by the attorney general of the state.

She's been found liable on those three counts of violating patient privacy laws. She'll be fined $3,000 and receive a letter of reprimand. But -- and this is important -- she can continue practicing medicine.

This -- a lot of this argument during the whole day came down to this idea of what -- what is protected health information? This doctor revealed to this reporter the age of this child, 10-year-old from Ohio, who was pregnant, and the gestational age of the fetus, six weeks and about three days.

Her side argued that this was not protected health information, and this kind of data is not listed under the 18 examples of protected health information on HPPA. That is the federal law that protects patient privacy. So that was their argument.

Another expert on HPPA for the other side disagreed. And this is how the board came down. She will ultimately be reprimanded, but she will be able to continue practicing.

HILL: And what are we hearing in terms of reaction from both the doctor and from others?

JONES: Well, the doctor says that he -- this patient -- the doctor says that she didn't do anything wrong. She's never been reprimanded by this board before.

She followed hospital policy; did not violate federal privacy laws.

Here is what the attorney general of Indiana, Todd Rokita, had to say in reaction. He said, "This case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and patient that was broken. What if it was your child or your patient or your sibling who was going through a sensitive medical crisis, and the doctor, who you thought was on your side, ran to the press for political reasons? It's not right, and the facts we presented today made that clear."

And so a victory for -- for the A.G. there. But in the end, this doctor is able to continue practicing.

HARLOW: Athena, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting.

HILL: Just ahead here, new CNN polling offering a bit of a mixed bag for President Biden's re-election bid. We'll take a closer look at what the numbers say about his chances and what they tell us about the voters.



HARLOW: All right. A live look for you this morning at airports in Atlanta and Chicago on this get-away Friday on Memorial Day weekend. We're keeping a close eye on conditions at the airports and the roads. We'll keep you posted throughout the morning.

HILL: Looks like it's moving. That's always a good sign.

Some mixed feelings this morning about President Biden's bid for a second term.

New CNN polling shows 60 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters backing Biden in 2024. As you see there, some 20 percent say they favor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Just 8 percent are behind author Marianne Williamson.

Biden is facing headwinds, though, from the overall public. His favorability rating has now dropped from 42 percent in December to just 35 percent.

And when asked specifically about a second term, only a third of Americans feel a 2024 win for Biden will be a win for the country.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Ashley Allison. She's a former White House senior policy adviser and was national coalitions director for Biden-Harris in 2020. And Chapin Fay, Republican strategist and managing director at Actum.

And good morning. Nice to see both of you this morning.

So when we look at this new polling, Ashley, these are the vast majority of the Democratic-aligned voters. They're throwing their support behind Biden.

But what stood out to me are independent-leaning Democrats, Democrats and younger voters. They're really not as enthusiastic. There were questions about messaging. There were questions about what is or is not being sold.

How significant do you think that hill is for Biden to climb?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I am almost certain that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee by 2024. I appreciate that there are some other folks in the race and that people are interested in becoming familiar with them. But at the end of the day, I think he will be able to become the

nominee once again.

But I think when you also look at the poll, you see it's so polarizing. People think Trump would be a disaster. People think Biden would be a disaster.

And I think it just goes to show that people are looking for other options.

So what Biden really needs to do is explain to them what he's done in the last three years and what he will continue to do if re-elected. But he -- you know, he might not be enough, but he was able to do bipartisan gun reform; that he was able to do an infrastructure bill that people haven't really seen the benefits of yet.