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CNN This Morning

Senate Passes Debt Limit Deal, Averts Default; More GOP 2024 Announcements Expected Soon; Trump Reacts to CNN Report on Classified Doc Tape. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 07:00   ET


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: for further comment, and reach out to Matthew Hutchins and the family for comment as well.


RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you bring up to speed on where things stand both civilly and criminally. Chloe Melas, thank you.

MELAS: Thank you.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have been catastrophic economically and globally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bill heads to President Biden's desk for his signature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right up to the deadline and that's when everything magically comes together.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Because of the good work of President Biden as well as Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate, we are not defaulting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Days before a portion of an apartment building in Iowa collapsed, repair work was under way on that section. Three people remain missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said, if you value your life, get away from that building, and an hour later I heard the building fell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inspection never failed. It was incomplete. So, the work was still in progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This needs to be done in a way that it respects that this is a resting place.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell. Because this wasn't the president's first stumble and he's 80 years old, the incident has gotten a lot of attention.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I got sandbagged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to White House official, totally fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember why we got here. Let's stay true to ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jokic, shot clock winding down, knocks down the three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first finals game in franchise history is a rousing success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: P-S-A-M-M-O-P-H-I-L-E, psammophile.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After much anticipation about a possible spell- off, a 14-year-old, Dev Shah won the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's surreal. I didn't even let it settle in. My legs are still shaking.


HILL: Good morning, everyone. I'm Erica Hill here with Rahel Solomon. Poppy Harlow has the day off. I love his reaction to winning. He says his legs were shaking. He looks like he's still in such disbelief.

SOLOMON: Hard to believe he's 11 years old. This must be so much pressure for him and, you know, having gotten across the finish line, wow, what an incredible accomplishment. We're actually going to be talking to him later in the show.

HILL: Yes. I'm really looking forward to that. I love these moments. So, that is something we can all look forward to.

Also maybe a little bit of relief this morning, many Americans are feeling that, a lot of lawmakers are after this came down to the wire, but the debt limit crisis now over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote the yeas are 63, the nays are 36. The 60-vote threshold having been achieved, the bill is passed.


HILL: And there you go, the Senate passing the deal late last night days before that potential default, which could have really wreaked havoc on the economy.

SOLOMON: Absolutely. Today, President Biden set to sign the bill and also address the nation from the White House. And this morning, we are keeping a close eye on Wall Street to see how markets are reacting when they open a short time from now. We'll keep an eye on that.

Meantime, we have team coverage on this big day in Washington. Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. But, first, let's go to Lauren Fox. She is on Capitol Hill. Lauren, this is the quickest the Senate has moved in a long time.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. Last night, they had nearly a dozen amendments to vote on. None of the amendments could pass. So, it was really a futile effort but it was required from some Republican and Democratic lawmakers so that they didn't slow down the process. They voted so quickly that Chuck Schumer is really keeping time on how fast they were moving. That's because they wanted to get this done so they could get out of town. If there's anything the Senate likes to preserve, it's their weekends and their long weekends at that.

But this was a piece of legislation that really was always going to be about that coalition in the middle. There were a number of Republicans who did not back this proposal. Some of them didn't back it because they didn't believe in increasing the debt ceiling without cutting spending further. Some of them didn't back it because they were very concerned about how much the country was planning to spend on defense, arguing that it was not enough.

In fact, in order to fast-track this agreement and move last night, senators wanted a requirement and a promise from leadership that they were going to work hard to try to push forward with additional money for Ukraine in the upcoming months. So, that became a critical part of securing the fast-tracking of this legislation. But it's done. They passed it, and, obviously, huge questions about what this means moving forward for the speaker and what this means for this coalition of members in the middle who helped pass this bill.

HILL: Yes. It would be interesting to see if that coalition can hold for perhaps some other things moving forward.

Jeremy, meantime, as we noted, we're going to hear from the president later today. But the White House has actually been fairly quiet this week, it seems like.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But, you know, one thing that we certainly can hear are the sighs of relief from White House officials, not only because this legislation averts a potential default that could have come as early as Monday, but because it helps to smooth the path for this White House over the rest of President Biden's term. That's because this bill incentivizes Congress to pass regular government funding bills by the end of the year to avert a government shutdown or face across the board to defense and non-defense cuts of about 1 percent to the budget next year.


That's a major piece that White House officials have been stressing to me as one of the major benefits of this bill.

Now, listen, President Biden, he put out a statement last night hailing this as a major win for the American people and for the economy, and he also said that America is a nation that pays its bills and that this vote proves that. This bipartisan vote, he thanked the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, for passing this bill quickly and getting it through. And he now looks forward to signing this bill as soon as possible. We're told that that could happen as early as today.

But as you mentioned, tonight, President Biden will address the American people from the Oval Office at 7:00 P.M. This will be his first address from the oval office, certainly something to watch for.

SOLOMON: Jeremy, yesterday, we saw the president take what appeared to be a pretty hard fall at that commencement speech at the Air Force. How is he doing? We know he made a joke of it. He made a lot of light of it. But do we know how he's doing?

DIAMOND: Well, the White House says that he is totally fine, that he simply tripped over that sandbag that was left on the stage after. And we should note that this came after he shook hands and saluted cadets for over 90 minutes on stage, hundreds of those cadets. But the president did indeed make light of it. You can see how he's doing for yourself. Take a look at how he returned to the White House last night.


BIDEN: I got sandbagged.


DIAMOND: You see the president doing a little bit of a two-step there to show folks that he's doing just fine. That's how the White House said he was doing and looks that way too.

HILL: Well, two-step, the sandbag shuffle, we'll come up with lots of names for it. Jeremy, Lauren, nice to see you both this morning. Thank you.

SOLOMON: And just hours from now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set to make his first campaign stop in South Carolina as a presidential candidate running. He's running on his first full week of campaigning following stops in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Now, while much of the focus has been on DeSantis and former President Trump, the GOP field of candidates is growing and it's about to get even bigger.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny live in Des Moines, Iowa, this morning. Jeff, former President Trump was campaigning in Iowa yesterday and talked about his competitors. How does he see the field?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Rahel. The field is getting bigger. And next week alone, three Republican candidates are set to join the race. In fact, there are so many alternatives to Donald Trump. It is benefiting of one person of all, that's the former president, which is exactly what he's counting on.


ZELENY (voice over): So far, Donald Trump is getting most everything he wanted from the Republican presidential campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There's no way I can lose Iowa. Let's see what happens. I don't think so. We'd have to do some really bad things to lose at this point.

ZELENY: Including a list of rivals that's growing by the week, with the anyone but Trump lane of the race becoming remarkably crowded.

JULIE MARLAY, IOWA VOTER: I think it's advantageous to Trump. I don't like that.

ZELENY: Julie Marlay is a loyal Republican who came to see Florida Governor Ron DeSantis the other night and is sizing up several contenders. But she offered pointed words of advice for those entering the race.

MARLAY: Stay for awhile, see what happens, but then don't stay too long, because we need to beat the Democrats.

ZELENY: As summer approaches, the Republican field is starting to burst at the seams, with former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie set to jump in next week, joining former Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott of North Carolina, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who are already in the race. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is also poised to announce next week and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu promises a decision soon, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is not ruling out a run later this year if some contenders flame out.

BOB VANDER PLAATS, PRESIDENT, THE FAMILY LEADER: Well, if that many candidates stay in the race, that benefits Trump. Trump will win by the power of division. And that's why we'll see if we learned our lesson and learned our lesson well.

ZELENY: Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical leader in Iowa, said the party should not repeat the mistakes of 2016 when Trump claimed the nomination with a divided Republican electorate rather than facing a head-to-head match with one strong opponent.

PLAATS: So, my concern is not how many get in, it's when do they go get out. And when do they give America a clear choice between the former president and an alternative?

ZELENY: A big field is precisely what Trump is banking on and basking in as he shook hands and took questions at a series of small events in Iowa, while making clear he's fixated on one rival above all.

TRUMP: Ron, as I call him, Ron DeSanctimonious.

ZELENY: The former president seized upon a leading argument DeSantis made to voters here this week.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If we could bring back George Washington, I don't know that he would be able to get it done in just four years.


ZELENY: And sought to mock the Florida governor's pitch that he's eligible for two terms, not simply one more like Trump.

TRUMP: You don't need eight years. You need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. Who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don't need eight years.

ZELENY: In New Hampshire Thursday, DeSantis hitting back at Trump.

DESANTIS: Why didn't he do it his first four years.

ZELENY: As the campaign intensifies, signs are emerging that it's far too early to presume it's a two-man candidates, as candidates begin blanketing the state that begins the Republican nomination battle early next year. Lorri Hartson also believes the field is cluttered. In her mind, it's already a one-man race.

LORRI HARTSON, IOWA VOTER: President Trump already made America great. Now we need him back to fix it.

ZELENY: She drove four hours to catch a glimpse of the former president outside one of his Iowa stops.

Do you think others should step aside and let him run and focus on President Biden or do you think a competitive Republican primary is fine?

HARTSON: I wish they would step aside but they won't. And I don't know if it's eagle (ph). They won't and more keep coming in. It's like, come on, Mike Pence, really, Mike? Give it up.


ZELENY (on camera): So, that sentiment, of course, is expressing the challenges facing former Vice President Mike Pence as he announces his bid here in Iowa next week. But there are also many Republicans we've spoken to who welcome his true conservative views and he also is reaching out to evangelical voters here, of course, very important to this core.

So, Rahel, virtually all of the candidates back in Iowa this weekend with the exception of Donald Trump. They have an event at the Iowa state fairgrounds. So, Republican voters have many options to choose and that is specifically what worries some of the voters who are looking to turn the page.

SOLOMON: Well, Jeff, it's interesting because you're saying in your piece it may be too early to say it's a two-man race. Walk us through some of these other candidates, because I think there is this question about do any of the other candidates have a real shot other than Trump and DeSantis?

ZELENY: Sure. That's what the campaign is all about. And here, we're just at the beginning of June. The candidates who are out working, talking to voters, Nikki Haley for one, she has been having more events here in Iowa, the former South Carolina governor, than virtually any other candidate. She is gaining a bit of traction. South Carolina's Senator Tim Scott, his name comes up again and again and he has a lot of money behind his candidacy. He's already running television ads on the air in Iowa.

So, look, this is the season of where voters are shopping, if you will, looking at all these potential candidates. And, yes, Trump is leading the race. He is the leading candidate but he's not the presumptive nominee. It is far too soon to see that.

One thing about Iowa, the history of it shows that frontrunners are often humbled here. Many people who come into Iowa back in 2008, for example, Rudy Giuliani, he was seen as a frontrunner. Of course, he fizzled. The list of that is long. So, the state is known for elevating challengers, humbling frontrunners, we will see what happens this time.

SOLOMON: That is a very interesting historical nugget. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

HILL: Some new details this morning about what happened in the days leading up to that partial building collapse in Davenport, Iowa. Just four days before that wall came crashing down, engineers had warned that parts of it could crumble. The city has released that report and along with it some pictures. Three people, by the way, are still believed to be inside.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been going through this recently released report. So, Brynn, what more are we learning about the state of that building before the collapse?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a lot of alarming details that come out of this report, including correspondence between the building owner and the city, but also some really damning pictures, and then we'll get to those in just a minute.

But like Erica said, four days before this partial collapse, work was under way to fix the facade and wall issues. And the city of Davenport just released a proposal from the engineering company dated May 24th, the collapse happened, again, last Sunday on May 28th, four days earlier.

And part of that report, let's read it here, says there are several large patches of clay brick facade which are separating from the substrate. These large patches appear ready to fall imminently. Just look at this picture. You can see that there is a gap between the brick exterior and the rest of the building.

And then the report talks about windows that had been bricked over saying, quote, the clay brick facade on and between these openings is bulging outward by several issues and looks poised to fall. This is what they're talking about. You can see there are cracks in the wall where those windows used to be.

And then there's this from elsewhere in the building, the window openings were never filled with brick or block. This lack of bracing helps explain why the facade is currently about to topple outward. Words like falling imminently, poised to tall and about to topple outward appearing throughout the report as we see more pictures of that work getting under way.

One masonry contractor who did not work on the building but put in a bid on it says he saw evidence of a big problem when he was inside a few months ago.


And he says he was at the scene shortly before the collapse sounding the alarm.


RYAN SCHAFFER, CO-OWNER, R.A. MASONRY: You can just hear noises and we could see debris falling. And there's a guy working, and I said, if you value your life, get away from that building. And then an hour later, I heard that the building fell.


GINGRAS: Now, as Erica mentioned, three people are still likely missing inside that building. Nine people have been rescued, but the family members of those people who are still missing, some of them sleeping outside on the concrete outside of that building, just wishing to hear anything about what's coming next. We should learn more later this morning. The city is going to have a press conference. So, we'll bring that to you. Erica?

HILL: Yes, hopefully some answers for those families. Brynn, I appreciate the update. Thank you.


SOLOMON: Meantime, the Texas police there say that they have arrested a suspected serial killer who may be tied to as many as 12 murders. Investigators say that they arrested Raul Meza after he called police and confessed to killing two people. They say when they found Meza, he was carrying zip ties, duct tape and a gun.


DETECTIVE PATRICK REED, AUSTIN POLICE: But I will let you know that Mr. Meza said he was ready and prepared to kill again and he was looking forward to it.


SOLOMON: CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Dallas this morning. So, Ed, what else do we know here? Bring us up to speed. ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really stunning. On May 24th, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, Raul Meza calls a detective from the Austin Police Department and says, my name is Raul Meza. I think you are looking for me. And that's how all of this started in recent days as investigators, by Meza's own words, according to this arrest warrant affidavit, implicated himself in the murder of 80-year-old Jesse Fraga and 66-year-old Gloria Lofton.

Now, Fraga was murdered earlier this month. Lofton was murdered back in 2019. And according to investigators there in the Austin area, they believe that Meza is not only connected to these two murders that he has been charged with but as well as eight to ten other murders over recent years that might fit similar circumstances. So, they are continuing to look into that.

And as you mentioned, when he was taken into custody just a few days ago, he had a bag full of duct tape, zip ties and a handgun as well. And Austin Police believed that he was willing to carry out more murders at some point.

So, some really disturbing allegations and all of this is really stunning because Meza's criminal background is extensive. Back in 1982, he was convicted and sent to prison for murdering an eight-year- old girl in Austin. He got out about 11 years later for good behavior. He's been in and out of the prison system several times since then.

And, in fact, in that phone conversation with investigators, he did say that when the last time he got out of prison in 2016, he had committed a murder shortly after getting out of prison. So, some really disturbing allegations and details emerging from this case in the Austin area.

SOLOMON: Disturbing, for sure. Ed Lavandera, thank you for bringing that to us. Thank you.

HILL: Coming up, gun sales have been steadily rising in the U.S. So why would one Georgia gun shop owner decide to close his business? Because of the kids. You'll hear from him this hour.

SOLOMON: And we will also hear from former President Trump and his reaction to CNN's reporting that he was caught on tape admitting that he kept a classified document after leaving office.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: There might be a tape recording quote where you acknowledged that you understood that these were classified documents. First of all, do you know who this call may be with?




HANNITY: There might be a tape recording quote where you acknowledge that you understood that these were classified documents. First of all, do you know who this call may be with? Do you know anything about it?

TRUMP: No, I don't know anything about it. All I know is this, everything I did was right. We have the Presidential Records Act, which I abided by 100 percent.


SOLOMON: That, of course, was former President Donald Trump last night at a Fox town hall denying CNN's reporting about audio that proves Trump knows that the Pentagon documents he took from the White House were still classified. Sources say Special Counsel Jack Smith now has a recording of Trump discussing a document about a potential attack on Iran and telling two people without security clearances that he cannot share the information.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now, Paula, part of the team that broke the story. So, what do you make of Trump's response and what he said last night?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just heard a tiny bit of the clip there where he refers to the Presidential Records Act, insisting that he had complied with it fully. Of course, we know that not true because his team had to return 15 boxes of materials to the National Archives. And that was before the FBI conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago residence.

And then subsequently, his attorneys did additional searches not only for possible presidential records. So, those are materials that are created during the administration but are the property of the government, but they were also, of course, looking for any classified documents, of which we know there were many.

So, this explanation doesn't quite add up. But this is what we've seen before from the former president. When he's under investigation, he makes a blanket insistence that he has done nothing wrong. There is rarely any nuance, but what we've seen him and his attorneys do is try to conflate the idea of complying with the Presidential Records Act.

Again, that means you have to put all these records back in the Archives when you leave office because they belong to the American people, and also these questions about possibly mishandling defense information or classified materials. It's a way to kind of confuse the issues and also downplay really the gravity of what investigators are looking at.

SOLOMON: And, Paula, of course, that was a clip from Fox town hall. He was talking to the press. I mean, do the constant denials, at least to members of the press, do they impact the case against him at all?

REID: Not really. I always remind people it's not a crime to lie to the media, to lie to the public. It is, though, a crime to lie to federal investigators. And we know that as part of this criminal investigation, the Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith, is looking at whether the former president or anyone else tried to obstruct this investigation.

But what's so interesting, though, about this audio recording is I keep reminding people he knew he was being recorded. This was a recording that he made, as he was in the habit of doing that summer, when he was talking to journalists or writers, people working on books, he would have his aides record the conversation. So, he knew he was being recorded when he suggested, he claimed that he was in possession of a classified document and then also really acknowledged the limits of his ability to declassify.

So, it's really hard to reconcile those statements with the public defenses that he and his attorneys have given. But, ultimately, what truly matters are what they say to investigators and what they say in court if there are any charges brought.

SOLOMON: Okay, watch this space. Paula Reid, thank you.

HILL: So, for a closer look at how all of this could fit into the special counsel's larger investigation, let's turn out to CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's also a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a former federal and New Jersey state prosecutor.

So, Elie, as we look at this, there's a timeline here, right? So, this recording was apparently from July of 2021, but at Bedminster. How does that fit into the larger Mar-a-Lago case?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, this is such an important reporting here by Paula and the team. And I think the best way to understand why is to look at the timeline.

Now, let's start on January 20, 2021, at exactly noon Eastern Time, Donald Trump leaves office, most importantly, loses the power to declassify documents at that point.

Now, a few months later, in May of 2021, the Archives starts interacting with Trump's team and says, hey, we have some concerns. There are some documents missing. We're going to need to talk. Archives then proceeds to negotiate with Donald Trump over the next several months.

And during that time, two months after that, this is our new reporting. So, we're in July of 2021. Donald Trump has this meeting that Paula talked about at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he's meeting with these writers. And there's been a story out about how Trump allegedly was planning to attack Iran. Trump doesn't like that story. And so he says on the recording, we haven't heard the recording, but we know the substance of it, I have a document that disproves that, but it's classified. I cannot show it to you.

After that archive continues negotiating, Trump turns over 15 boxes to Archives in January of 2022, but Archive says, we still have concerns. Then they call in DOJ, and that leads us to last summer, when DOJ does the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. So, this timing on the Bedminster recording is really important because it's after Trump loses the power to declassify, and it's also after he knows that Archive says, we have concerns.

HILL: Right. And the fact that he says, I can't show this to you because I know it's a classified document.

So, when we look at all of this, I think we're starting to get a sense of what the former president's defense will be, those comments last night, but also comments from Tim Parlatore, his former attorney. So, I want to take a listen to what he said to Jake Tapper.


TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: This is a situation where failure of process is what led to documents leaving the White House, going to Mar-a-Lago, failure of NARA to get a facility in Palm Beach, as they have for every other president since Reagan, get a facility within the hometown of the president where they moved to, to move the documents to. That's what led directly to documents going to his house.


HILL: So he's saying there's a failure of process. It's my understanding from our CNN reporting, he is wrong. That is not how this works, that, in fact, the documents would be under the auspices of the National Archives, which came knocking at one point, right. They would end up wherever a former president decides to have a library, not just where he ends up.

HONIG: Yes. This argument about the warehouse is really a so what argument? When you get down to the law, prosecutors have to prove, one, Donald Trump had knowledge. Did he know he had these documents? Obviously, he's acknowledged that many times, including in this recording. Two, did he have some sort of criminal intent? And one thing we've learned from this new reporting is he was doing something with those documents. He was using them to try to shape the public narrative about his time in office.

And let's remember, he has made these repeated false public claims about whether he declassified. We remember at the town hall, Kaitlan asked whether Trump had ever showed declassified or classified documents to anyone, and Trump responded, not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after. We know that's not true because here he is after he leaves office saying, these are still classified, I can't show them to you, and that goes to criminal intent.

HILL: So, when we put all of this together, we always like to end on, hey, where do we think we are? Do we have a sense -- do you have a sense, right, as a former prosecutor, as to how close Jack Smith and the special counsel could be to recommending or not charges?

HONIG: A lot is happening behind closed doors. But my prosecutorial spidey sense is telling me they are very near the end. Let's remember, Jack Smith is looking at Mar-a-Lago and January 6. As the special counsel, Jack Smith will make the first recommendation, indict or do not indict. Ultimately, that goes over to the attorney general, Merrick Garland. [07:30:01]

Important to note, the attorney general has to give, and I quote the law here, great weight to whatever Jack Smith has to say. So, he doesn't necessarily have to agree with.