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CNN This Morning

U.S. Cities Blanketed With Smoke From Canadian Wildfires; Meadows Testifies Before Grand Jury In Special Counsel Probe; Pope To Stay In Hospital Several days After Surgery. 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 07:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Am I doing this right? Do I hold it -- is that how we do it?



MATTINGLY: Are you happy now?

TERRIS: Yes. I'm happy.

MATTINGLY: It's a really great book. It's fascinating. The one character we talk about is about 15 others in there. It's just great reporting. It gives you a really good inside view into a town that seems difficult to understand and maybe after this it's still difficult to understand but it could be entertained while reading it. Congrats on the book, my friend. Thanks for coming off.

TERRIS: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

MATTINGLY: Bye-bye. CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): Orange, hazardous smoky clouds descending upon the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voiceover): The poor quality is caused by more than 150 active wildfires burning in Canada.

HARLOW (voiceover): More than 40 million people across the northeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic are under air quality alerts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): This is a lot worse than what we've seen in many, many years.

HARLOW (voiceover): Mark Meadows testifying to a federal grandy jury.

MATTIINGLY (voiceover): Also, unclear when he testified or which line of inquiry the special counsel is pursuing. The documents or January 6 or perhaps both.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voiceover): He's their number one witness if he testified truthfully, which I assume he did. He's going to be front and center and the case they bring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voiceover): Police say a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people gathered after a high school graduation ceremony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): Everybody started running. It's just chaos from there, you just kept hurting shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): This should not be happening anywhere. A child should be able to go to their graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and their family.

MIKE PENCE (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, before God and my family, I'm announcing I'm running for president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voiceover): Governor Chris Christie is entering a large and only growing Republican field. He took clear aim at the man who soundly defeated him though, in 2016 Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): The Republican base is still largely with Donald Trump. So he has a hard hill to climb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): PGA Tour and LIV Tour announced that they were now in business together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): One year ago, Jay Monahan invokes 9/11 to attack Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

JAY MONAHAN, COMMISSIONER OF THE PGA TOUR: I think you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications.

What we're talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's sold out every single one of us. We've turned his back on the 9/11 community. It's despicable. He's disgusting.

HARLOW: So there's a lot going on this morning. We will absolutely get to that story that you just heard there at the end between the PGA and LIV and Saudi and what all of this means ahead with Bob Costas. But we have a lot to get to this morning, including this. Heavy smoke from Canadian wildfires pouring into the United States. Shrouding cities all across the Northeast and the Midwest.

Take a live look here at New York City. The air quality is terrible. It's actually among the worst in the entire world right now. Tens of millions of Americans from Minnesota to New England, all the way down to North Carolina are at risk of breathing really unhealthy air today.

MATTINGLY: So, that's New York. Here's what it looks like in Philadelphia this morning. Forecasters say we're going to see more and more rounds of smoke through at least tomorrow, as wildfires continue to rage out of control and Quebec and across Canada from coast to coast. Athena Jones is live in Manhattan. And Athena, people are being urged to stay inside to limit outdoor activity. You're wearing a mask right now. What's the reality right now?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Phill. Well, the reality is you can still see the smoke certainly here along the Hudson River where we are. It's not just the morning haze. This is smoke from those more than 100 wildfires burning in Quebec, more than 500 miles away but still having very much of an impact here. We have our drone up in the air, should -- we should be able to give you a few more shots of what it looks like here along the Hudson.

But as you mentioned, New York City is among the top five worst polluted cities in the world right now at one point. Last night, it was number one. Now it's second to New Delhi in India which is known for having very polluted air. And this air quality index is considered very unhealthy. And it's particularly difficult for people who have, you know, respiratory issues, asthma, heart disease, the elderly, young children, those who are pregnant.

These are the folks who should take special care and take all the precautions they can to stay healthy. And why is that? That's because wildfire smoke has something called particulate matter. It's P.M. 2.5 is what it's called. And when you breathe in this stuff, it's extremely tiny and dangerous. It can be breathed in deeply into the lungs, it can enter the bloodstream. It can lead to all sorts of health problems, not just asthma and heart disease and respiratory issues.

And so, that is really the safety issue top of mind for New York -- New York officials. Here in New York City public schools will remain open but all outdoor activities have been cancelled and upstair in central New York and Onondaga County, 10 school districts have canceled outdoor activities. And the mayor here in New York City is urging folks to pay attention to any symptoms and stay out of -- stay inside as much as possible.

He'll be having a briefing around 10:00 a.m. to give us an update on just how long this is expected to take place.


We understand there's a cold front coming through that could push more smoke south and east. So, this may not be over for a few days. Phil and Poppy?

HARLOW: It's just so striking to see. I mean, I've lived here for almost 20 years and never seen something like this in New York City. Athena, we appreciate you and your team being out there. I'm glad you're masked up. Phil?

MATTINGLY: All right. Also, this morning, a major development in Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation into former President Donald Trump. We've learned Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has testified before a federal grand jury. Now it's unclear whether his testimony was part of Smith's classified documents probe or his January 6 investigation. Maybe both. But Meadows could prove to be a critical witness. Asked about this development, a lawyer representing Meadows said in a statement, "Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so."

So, I want to turn now to our CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and a former New Jersey state prosecutor. All, Elie, decode this for us. How important is Mark Meadows in one or both of the investigations that are ongoing right now?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think Mark Meadows could be the single most important witness in this whole case writ large. Mark Meadows is everywhere. Now, just a reminder. Meadows was Donald Trump's White House Chief of Staff for the last 10 months or so of Trump's presidency. Meaning he was there through the election, he was there through January 6, he was there up until the final day.

Now, just as one indicator of how important Mark Meadows was. As the January 6 attack was happening, that afternoon dozens of powerful people were texting Mark Meadows desperately trying to get him to get Donald Trump to call off the rioters. One example, Representative Chip Roy said it simply, fix this now. Also, we remember the testimony last year of Cassidy Hutchinson in front of the January 6 committee.

Cassidy Hutchinson was one of Mark Meadows senior aides. And she said that on that day, there were several conversations that Meadows had one on one with Donald Trump. Now she didn't know exactly what we said. You know who does? Mark Meadows. He will be questioned about those conversations. Now, also, one more place Mark Meadows pops up. We remember the infamous phone call Donald Trump made to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

That could be a key part of the Fulton County case where Trump asked Raffensperger to just find votes for him. Guess who else was on that phone call. Mark Meadows. He introduces the participants. And finally, again, we don't know exactly what he testified about. But let's remember, Meadows was the chief of staff when the White House was being packed up. And he was a key liaison between the White House and the Archives.

So, he may know something about what was packed, what was classified, was anything declassified?

MATTINGLY: He's like the Forrest Gump of every investigation going on (INAUDIBLE) along those lines, though. The Justice Department had to fight for this testimony, right.

HONIG: They sure did. So, Donald Trump tried to block this testimony. He came in and claimed executive privilege. He said, wait a sec. These were conversations when I was president with my chief of staff, you don't get that. DOJ went to court. They went to the District Court. They won. The court said, no, this is part of a criminal grand jury subpoena. Then it got appealed by Donald Trump up to the Court of Appeals, DOJ won there. And only then were they able to get that testimony from Mark Meadows.

MATTINGLY: OK. So poor Evan Perez, our colleague who I text every time I have questions about any of this stuff, which is pretty much every single day because there's so many different elements of it. There's another grand jury, what do we know about another grand jury?

HONIG: Little bit of a twist here because we knew about the D.C. federal grand jury. Now there's some action at a Florida federal grand jury. This could mean a couple things, Phil. It could just be ministerial. It could just be there some witnesses, they want to get the testimony down in Florida, you can then just read it to your main grand jury in D.C. or it could be something bigger.

There's a concept called venue which says that federal prosecutors have to charge a crime in the federal geographic district where at least some part of the crime happened. If there are some people perhaps who work at Mar-a-Lago who may have criminal liability, it may be that they only did things in Florida, not in D.C. Now, the bigger question is, could it be that DOJ, the Special Counsel might try to charge Donald Trump in Florida instead of D.C.?

Now, there's a stronger case for venue in Florida. There's a sort of weaker option in D.C. but there's a big difference here, which is Donald Trump won Florida. He's going to have a much friendlier jury pool in Florida. You know how much he got in D.C.? 5.4 percent of the vote. Meaning, 94.6 of people voted against him in D.C. So, Florida is a much better jury pool for Donald Trump. D.C. is a much better jury pool for prosecutors.

MATTINGLY: Can you remind us, you talk about what a jury pool that would imply a potential indictment? We're not --


MATTINGLY: -- gauging one way or the other and I will bother you every day and ask you to make predictions about when something might be coming or you will try and avoid that question best as you can I think and saying soon.

HONIG: I'll give you a lawyer --


MATTINGLY: -- vigorously. But can you tell us where are we right now?

HONIG: Yes. So, look, Meadows was one of the big missing pieces who had not yet testified.


Now we know that that's in place. We don't know when he testified but we know he has also another big indicator. Earlier this week Trump's legal team went in and met with DOJ, including Jack Smith. And Phil, in my experience, that's the kind of meeting that happens towards the very end of an investigation. MATTINGLY: I was just going to say I'm like annoyed. You're pretty good at the magic wall. Comfortable as somebody who works on this sometimes.

HONIG: The one you do is way more complicated. Now, one other thing to know, when we talk about the special counsel, he's got two investigations. He's got Mar-a-Lago, he's got January 6. Jack Smith is going to make the first call, do we indict or not? But ultimately, Merrick Garland has to review and sign off on that. But he does have to defer to Jack Smith and taking it out one more level, Phil.

There are four pending criminal investigations or cases now. We have the two DOJ investigations. We have Mar-a-Lago. We have January 6, of course, Donald Trump has been indicted. Let's remember that in Manhattan. He's got a trial date for March of next year. And then we've gotten the Fulton County D.A. case which Fani Willis has, let's just say telegraphed. She's likely to indict on sometime later this summer.

So, we got a busy summer ahead, Phil, I'm with you.

MATTINGLY: That was a great rundown though. Thank you very much. That check is sloppy, though for the record.

HONIG: Yes. You can deduct a point for that.

MATTINGLY: A point over.

HARLOW: The magic wall.


HARLOW: I don't ever want to have to stand up there with you guys and compete with that. That was super helpful. Elie, thank you very much. Now to Rome. The Vatican says Pope Francis is set to have abdominal surgery today, and that he will stay in the hospital for several days. That is what they're saying to recover. It comes after he had a scheduled checkup at the same hospital yesterday in Rome.

The 86-year-old pontiff has faced a series of health issues in recent years. And our Barbie Nadeau is live outside of the hospital in Rome with more. I think everyone around the world wants to know, how serious is this?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we don't know how serious it is. We know that he attended his -- held his Wednesday audience this morning. He came to this hospital. The hospital where he -- our Pope's have been coming for years. Yesterday for a checkup. It was something that the Vatican said was scheduled. He was here for about an hour. And then sort of out of the blue we're told after his audience, he came back here to have this surgery to repair a hernia.

Now this is apparently as we understand related to colon surgery that he had a couple of years ago. He will be going under a general anesthetic. So that's always of course dangerous for someone his age, but we don't know. And we're expecting we'll get a bulletin from the Vatican sometime later this afternoon. But this is an 86-year-old man with a history of health problems who, you know, is confined to a wheelchair for much of the time and who is undergoing serious surgery.

So, if it were any elderly person in your life, you'd be worried. And I think the general Catholic faith is very concerned right now sending their prayers for the Pope.

HARLOW: Barbie, we appreciate you being there. Please keep us posted. I know he's going to be there for several days recovering. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Also happening this morning, a busy day of news. Former Vice President Mike Pence announced he's ready to run for the nation's top job.


PENCE: We can turn this country around, but different times call for different leadership. Today our party and our country need a leader that will appeal as Lincoln said, to the better angels of our nature.

I have long believed to whom much is given much will be required. My family and I have been blessed beyond measure with opportunities to serve this nation. It'd be easy to stay on the sidelines. But that's not how I was raised. That's why today before God and my family, I'm announcing I'm running for President of the United States.


MATTINGLY: Now Pence now joins a growing field of Republicans trying to make Donald Trump a one-term president and he's not the only Republican jumping in the race today.

HARLOW: CNN is on the trail this morning. Our Kyung Lah is following the Pence campaign in Iowa. Eva McKend is following North Dakota's Governor Doug Burgum. And our Omar Jimenez in Manchester New Hampshire following Chris Christie's campaign. Kyung begins our coverage. Kyung, good morning to you. So, Pence is going to hold a rally in Iowa later today. What is his message?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: His message very simply this morning, Poppy, is that this race isn't over that there are many months ahead, and that Mike Pence is the person who they believe is the person for Iowa. That this is a place where Pence has almost universal name I.D. Republicans all know him. But the campaign believes that Republicans may not remember the Mike Pence before he stepped into the White House.

That he's a governor of Indiana, that he has decades of experience that was also in Congress as a conservative member. And that it is here in the living rooms and in the diners of Iowa, that retail politics winning votes hand votes, handshake by handshake where Pence will excel. And it is here with the Midwestern values and the deep faith that they believe that Mike Pence will align with the caucus members in Iowa.

While you're seeing Ron DeSantis, according to the campaign going Trump like. They say that is not going to be the case for Mike Pence, that they believe that Trump has drifted into irrelevancy ever since the 2022 campaign that there is a large portion of Iowans who are persuadable, about 75 to 80 percent. And that persuasion begins from Mike Pence today.


But he's not the only one jumping into the race now to my colleague, Eva McKend in Fargo, North Dakota. Eva?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. Good morning to you from Fargo, North Dakota where two-term conservative Governor Doug Burgum, will enter this crowded Republican primary arguing that this race could use someone from this part of the country. His pitch will focus on the economy, energy policy and national security. He's not inclined to fight these cultural battles.

He is conservative to be sure though, signing one of the most restrictive abortion bans into law in the country and also curtailing transgender rights. But he won't take broadsides at his Republican opponents. He released a video earlier this week. Take a listen to how he will pitch himself to voters.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Anger, yelling infighting. That's not going to cut it anymore. Let's get things done. In North Dakota, we listened with respect and we talked things out. That's how we can get America back on track.


MCKEND: Now Burgum, a longtime businessman before becoming governor of this state, talking about how he bet the family farm on a software company. That company eventually bought by Microsoft for a billion dollars. As you travel downtown Fargo, you see that his presence looms large and all the projects that he has. His hands in and then over in Arthur, his hometown. Conservatives really proud that he is entering this contest.

He'll continue to make his pitch this week in Iowa and New Hampshire. Over to you, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Eva. Chris Christie is officially in the former New Jersey governor at a town hall kickoff event last night. He laid out the foundation for his campaign, which in part is saying that the country has a choice between getting bigger and getting smaller. And he went through points throughout American history going back to the Revolutionary War where he said the country chose to go bigger and he feels we're at a similar point now.

Especially because he says former President Donald Trump is someone who would make the country smaller. And of his GOP field that he is now running in. He says they've been treating Trump like he who must not be named aka Voldemort and that Christie isn't going to play those games. He made that clear. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A a lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader.

The reason I'm going after Trump is twofold. One, he deserves it. And two, it's the way to win.


JIMENEZ: Now of course, those two, Christie and Trump work together at points. And their relationship deteriorated over the years. But any path to victory for Christie is definitely going to be an uphill journey and just based on him finishing sixth. The New Hampshire back in 2016. But also, polls showing him around the bottom of the candidates that are in at this point. That said, I'm told his campaign will focus on him -- will look like I should say, him being a happy warrior who is not afraid to stand up to Donald Trump, not afraid to take risks and not afraid to speak his mind. Phil? Poppy?

HARLOW: So interesting, guys. You've got a lot on your plate. Thank you for bringing us the reporting from Ankeny, Ohio, Fargo, North Dakota and Manchester, New Hampshire.

MATTINGLY: I love it when it's just like -- it's no longer speculation and pull -- it's just on the ground getting to work, letting our people do their thing.


MATTINGLY: It's a long way to go though. All right. Also, this morning. It looks like Ukraine's long-awaited counter offensive may be underway, but officials tell CNN the destruction of a major dam near the front lines could complicate some of Ukraine's plans. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper will join us live to weigh in.



HARLOW: Welcome back. The U.S. and Western officials are seeing signs that Ukraine's counteroffensive is already underway. Military Intelligence officials tell CNN that Ukrainian forces have begun testing Russian positions with artillery strikes and ground attacks searching for vulnerabilities. This long-awaited counteroffensive is expected to be carried out of multiple fronts. This is nearly 16 months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Joining us this morning is Mark Esper who served as Defense Secretary under President Trump. Secretary Esper, good morning and thank you.


HARLOW: What needs to happen for this counteroffensive to be successful?

ESPER: Well, I think what needs to happen is what seems to be underway right now. They've been conducting shaping operations for the last couple of weeks or so. You know, bombing refineries, knocking out rail lines, et cetera. But now we're in the part -- the phase that we call reconnaissance in force where small armored units go out and probe this 600-mile front line, if you will, to try and find the weaknesses and the strong points.

And I think once they figure that out, you'll start seeing the main effort emerge very quickly, along with supporting efforts to really push the Russians back in both the east and the south. And it'll be quite dramatic, I expect.

MATTINGLY: Mr. Secretary, one of the things that I've picked up over the course of the last several months both here in the U.S. talking to U.S. officials, but also talking to European counterparts as well. I think was captured by David Ignatius in The Washington Post this morning. I will pull it up. It says, "If Ukraine can drive back and already shaky Russian army, it stands a chance of forcing Moscow to bargain for an end to its failed invasion. But if Ukraine fails, it would be a bitter blow to the country's weary population and could endanger continued support from some restless NATO members."

I think the question I've had leading up to this moment is, is this kind of a do or die moment to use a poor cliche for the Ukrainian forces, for Ukraine in this conflict right now?


ESPER: It's a very significant moment. Everybody is looking to Ukraine to be very successful. You know, I was in Europe two weeks ago for about two weeks. And the number one question over there is, where is U.S. support? And everybody fairly thinks that if Ukraine does well, U.S. support will continue. If not, it could whither. And if U.S. support withers, then a lot of other countries will go with it.

So it's very important. I think Ukraine understands this politically, not just militarily that they have a very successful counteroffensive, that shows people a return on their investment in the Ukrainian military.

HARLOW: We know that some groups of Ukrainian pilots have just started traveling to the U.K. to get trained on these F-16 fighter jets. There were a lot, there lawmakers in the U.S. who said we should have been training those pilots before we even made the decision to allow the F- 16s to go because it takes months. At least for to get them trained up. Are they necessary in this counteroffensive at the front end?

ESPER: I think it'd be very important to have them on board now. But clearly, it won't happen. I mean, when you're conducting a combined arms offensive, which means heavy armored forces, mechanized infantry, artillery, et cetera, it would be helpful to have a long-range strike aircraft that could hit target state, tactical air support from those units as well and then help clear the skies of Russian aircraft. But that won't be available. And I think, look, the administration is to blame for being late in terms of delivering the most vital items, whether it's Abrams tanks or F-16 aircraft.

MATTINGLY: Mr. Secretary, to poorly paraphrase one of your predecessors, you go to war with the army you have, not necessarily the army you want. But there's been some divergence, I think between what U.S. officials have been saying publicly about the readiness of Ukraine of its forces in this moment versus maybe what the reality is behind the effort to kind of surge equipment. Do you think Ukrainian forces are ready to have a successful counteroffensive?

ESPER: You know, from what I can read in between the lines, and I've talked to a lot of folks in Europe recently. They have -- they have enough but they could do better if they had far more. Particularly, of course, again, F-16 aircraft to support them. It's unclear whether they have the numbers of tanks they need. But look at this point, they have to move forward on the counteroffensive.

They need to push the Russians back. They need to show success because it'll not just help them on the battlefield. But it's going to help them again with Western allies and continued allied support.

HARLOW: John Bolton has an interesting opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal today where he takes on the Biden administration, particularly on Iran. That's not surprising. What is surprising or not surprising -- and what is -- what is interesting, I think, is how he ties together what we're seeing in terms of alliances and changing alliances and the close relationship that we're seeing between China and Russia.

How the UAE and Saudi Arabia play into a -- into it, given the increasing concerns about Iran. Here's what he writes. The UAE and others are also now more open to Russia and China. These tectonic developments augur impending strategic failure for America and its key allies. Do you agree?

ESPER: Well, look, we need to shift toward a focus on China as the greatest strategic threat we face in a century. But we have to do so in a way that IT doesn't create a vacuum in the Middle East. Clearly, China wants into the Middle East, China is a net energy importer which is why they want access to both the Middle East and to Russia, by the way. And so, we have to maintain a presence.

I think the administration needs to work on its relationship with Saudi Arabia and others in the region. But look, we also see Iran emerging. It's now like a top weapons supplier to Russia, as is China. So, you see these blocks kind of shaping up out there in the global environment.

HARLOW: But what do you mean --

ESPER: So, it's important we stay there.

HARLOW: Sorry to step on you, Secretary. But what do you mean by the administration needs to work on its relationship with Saudi Arabia? President Biden went there to the consternation of many, you know, fist bumped font and then OPEC just slashed production.

ESPER: Tony Blinken is there right now.

HARLOW: And Blinken is there now having these meetings with a very cordial statement that came out yesterday. Well, what is improvement look like to you or work on look like to you?

ESPER: Well, I think work on is Tony Blinken's visit. I think that's important. But clearly, the relationship is not where it needs to be between us. I mean, we saw a few months ago, China brokered that peace treaty, if you will, between --

HARLOW: With Aman.

ESPER: -- the Saudis and Iran. And that was not a good development. So, I think it just requires work not just with the Saudis, but the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, others in the region to which we have a long- term relationship.

MATTINGLY: Such a dynamic and fascinating situation. Mark Esper, thanks as always, sir. Appreciate it.

ESPER: Thanks. We'll see you guys.

HARLOW: Good to have you. Former Vice President Mike Pence now and New Jersey governor, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both officially in the race for the White House. How they plan to take on their former ally turned rival Donald Trump and how Trump's growing legal troubles may play into all of it. That's next.