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200+ Searchers Trying To "Stress" Escaped Pennsylvania Murderer; Alex Murdaugh's Attorneys File Motion For A New Trial; Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) On Secretary of State Antony Blinken's Kyiv Visit. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 07:30   ET





ROBERT CLARK, SUPERVISORY DEPUTY, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: This is a dangerous game of tactical hide and seek. This is a dangerous, dangerous man who's got nothing to lose. But I can tell you this, his desperateness will not outlast the resolve of our law enforcement officers here.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: You were just listening to supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service highlighting how dangerous and difficult the search for an escaped murderer in eastern Pennsylvania has become. He added that the goal right now is to, quote, "stress" him out of hiding.

Now, two school districts are still closed today and about 200 law enforcement officers are assisting in the search. The manhunt -- remember, it's entering its seventh day.

CNN's Danny Freeman is outside the prison where the convicted killer made his escape. Danny, you have been covering this throughout the course of the last week. Some developments yesterday. What's your sense of where things stand this morning?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, frankly, we're still trying to read some of the tea leaves in this early hour of the morning to see where police are devoting most of their attention as this manhunt continues into its seventh day. We have reason to believe this manhunt may be expanding but I'll get to that in a moment.

I just want to go back for a second and explain to viewers how we got to this point. Remember, yesterday, police told us that after they had already established, really, a two-mile radius just south of the prison, it turns out that Cavalcante was able to slip that perimeter. And he was caught on trail cameras in Longwood Gardens. It's a popular, sprawling, large tourist attraction -- botanical gardens -- a little further south of not just the prison but also that two-mile radius. And the picture was very eerie, Phil. We saw it yesterday. He was pictured shirtless. He had a duffel bag. He had a backpack. Police believe that means that he's been really scavenging and trying to perhaps burglarize homes or gather supplies from, say, cars in order to extend him being on the run.

But then the perimeter extended south. Well, I want to describe what we've been seeing this morning, Phil. At this same time yesterday, we drove around Longwood Gardens -- that area -- and I'll tell you, there was a Pennsylvania State Police trooper on basically every corner. Their lights were on. There were troopers standing outside with long guns.

Today we drove around that same area and there weren't almost any troopers in that specific area. Instead, we've seen troopers move east towards Chadds Ford searching the area along Baltimore Pike, Route 1, and Brandywine Creek. We still haven't had an official confirmation that manhunt has expanded but that's what we're seeing this morning.

And, of course, Phil, all of this is extremely stressful for neighbors as we enter day seven. Take a listen to what one had to say just yesterday.


JO-ANN SHILEY, KENNETT TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA: Everyone in this area just hasn't slept. I can't even imagine the people in (INAUDIBLE) and what they went through now that he's gotten out. Now it's just -- now we get a little bit more sense of how they were feeling for the last three days. It's just tiring, it's exhausting, and just -- your nerves are on edge and you just second guess everything.


FREEMAN: Nerves are edge, tiring, exhausting. And listen, police are still asking, though, these residents who have been asked of so much, so far during this manhunt, to stay vigilant. To make sure you are locking your doors when you can because, again, this man -- this dangerous man is still on the loose seven days after escaping from the prison behind me -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, a week in. Danny Freeman, great reporting as always. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, to South Carolina now where there is a new push for a new trial for Alex Murdaugh. He is the disgraced attorney convicted of killing his wife and son. His attorneys have now filed a motion with the Court of Appeals alleging jury tampering by a clerk of court.

Randi Kaye following all of this just as she followed the whole trial. Walk us through these new defenses.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Phil. Well, the defense is arguing that jury tampering denied their client, Alex Murdaugh, a fair trial. And as you said, at the center of it all is this court clerk, Becky Hill. And here are some of the allegations that the defense if alleging.

They say that she instructed jurors not to be fooled by Murdaugh's testimony. Also, that she allegedly had frequent conversations -- private conversations with the jury foreperson in the bathroom in the jury room. That she asked jurors their opinions about their guilt -- the guilt or innocence of Alex Murdaugh. And also, that she came up with this fake Facebook post in order to get a juror removed who she believed was going to vote not guilty. And sure enough, that juror was removed on the last day of the trial.

The defense is also alleging that she pressured the jurors to come up with a quick verdict, telling them they were going to have to stay in a hotel and they wouldn't be able to take smoking breaks. Six of those jurors were smokers.

Now, the defense did hold a brief press conference yesterday and here is how they explained Alex Murdaugh's reaction to these allegations.


JIM GRIFFIN, ATTORNEY FOR ALEX MURDAUGH: When I shared with him the affidavits -- he's a lawyer -- he was astonished. He was shaking. He was in disbelief.


KAYE: So the question, of course, Poppy, is why would a court clerk allegedly do this? Well, the defense is saying that she did it all to get a book sold. That she wrote this book about the trial. She was trying to profit from it. And if there was a not guilty verdict she likely would not have been able to secure a book deal.

And Poppy, we have reached out to Becky Hill --


KAYE: -- and no response yet.

HARLOW: And Randi, what sort of proof does the defense say they have here?

KAYE: The defense is saying that they have at least three sworn affidavits -- one from a juror, one from a juror who was dismissed. And they're also, Poppy, using excerpts from Becky Hill's own book, which was published this summer, as evidence against her.

HARLOW: What does the attorney general have to say about it?

KAYE: Well, the attorney general in South Carolina has 10 days to file a reply with the Court of Appeals. But we did reach out to his office and we got a statement from Attorney General Alan Wilson saying that "We are currently reviewing the defense's latest motion and we will respond through the legal process at the appropriate time."

And Poppy, we also reached out to SLED, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division --

HARLOW: Right.

KAYE: -- who was critical in gathering evidence against Alex Murdaugh, as you recall, and they said they did not have any response at this time.

But it is worth noting just very quickly that even if he does get a new trial and his conviction is overturned he is facing dozens of charges related to financial crimes, many of which he admitted to when he was on the stand testifying in his own defense. So he likely will still spend the rest of his life behind bars, Poppy.

HARLOW: That's an important point.

Randi Kaye, thank you for all of that reporting.

MATTINGLY: Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise trip to Ukraine to show support for its ongoing war with Russia. We're still awaiting meetings right now between Blinken and top Ukrainian officials. But it comes as new polls show American public support for U.S. aid to Ukraine is waning to some degree.

Coming up, we're going to ask Sen. Chris Murphy about how Congress can continue to authorize more funding despite shrinking support. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: We're continuing to follow the breaking news this morning. You see Sec. Antony Blinken just moments ago taking a seat at his surprise visit to Kyiv. He's set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and also meeting with top Ukrainian officials. And it comes at a critical moment in the war during Ukraine's grinding counteroffensive.

Joining us now is Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He serves and is a critical voice for Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, I appreciate your time.

The timing here of the visit -- Blinken has gone, I think, two or three times up to this point. But it seems notable given the fact that there is an administration request to Congress for more funding. The counteroffensive is grinding on.

Do you think that's the intent here -- to send a message both publicly, at home, and internationally?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, I think it's really important for Sec. Blinken to be directly engaged with his colleagues in Ukraine, so these visits are often intelligence-gathering efforts. But no doubt, this is part of the administration's attempt to convince

Republicans not to abandon Ukraine at a moment where I would argue this offensive is no longer grinding on but actually breaking through. Reports in the last four days suggest that for the, really, first time since the offensive began the Ukrainians are making some significant progress.

And this would be the worst possible time for Congress to get involved in a debate as to whether or not we are going to stick with the Ukrainian people.

Ukraine has a lot of needs. First and foremost, they need continued military aid. We have this global artillery shortage and we've got to be creative to get them more help. But I think Sec. Blinken is going to be announcing today, in part, economic and humanitarian assistance because we still need to help the Ukrainian people survive and the government stay afloat. Our aid needs to be nimble in order to help them win this war.

So, no doubt, part of this trip is going to be an attempt to explain why this aid is so important and why we can't really leave any doubt in the Ukrainians' mind or the Russians' mind as to whether we're committed here.

HARLOW: I think it was really notable to hear your Senate colleague on the other side of the aisle, Lindsey Graham -- who just went to Ukraine, by the way, in August -- say if you think -- he's been critical of the Afghanistan withdrawal, as you know -- "If you think getting out of Afghanistan was a mistake, you're right. Pulling the plug on Ukraine and allowing Putin to get away with this is Afghanistan on steroids."

I think he's talking to Republicans -- and Republicans in the House, specifically -- and the American public, who a majority of them no longer favor more aid to Ukraine.

Do you think Lindsey Graham is right?

MURPHY: Well, I think there's a pretty significant difference between our interests in Afghanistan and our interests in Ukraine. But I do agree with Lindsey that the United States has a direct U.S. national security interest in making sure that Russia doesn't move on Kyiv.

And let's just be honest. If the United States was to pull out, Russia would have the ability to conquer all of Ukraine. And the message that would send across the world, and particularly to China, is absolutely devastating. The United States has benefitted from the sort of broad post-World War II order where big countries don't invade small countries. The lid would be off that order if we abandoned Ukraine. And there's a direct U.S. national security interest in keeping countries in their box.


MATTINGLY: Senator, when you talk about the funding and the support, my question, particularly, as the war enters this phase or has been in this phase and how long it has gone, if support is a concern -- if the need to keep the Western coalition together has been critical from day one, why not give them everything they asked for now? Why not try it?

Clearly, every red line that I think this administration was concerned about related to Russia and what it may trigger, they have crossed over time and have not suffered consequences that they were concerned about.

Why not give them everything immediately?

MURPHY: Well, I think this administration has given Ukraine everything that they need. And, of course, we're transferring weapons systems to them on a schedule that allows them to use those weapons systems.

Many of these systems are really complicated and it would, frankly, just be irresponsible for us to hand those systems to the Ukrainians without proper training or security procedures, right? We want to make sure that they know how to use these weapons systems and that they don't fall into the wrong hands. And so, we've got to do this on the right schedule.

I think the Biden administration has taken some real risks in transferring to the Ukrainians some really serious systems -- systems that potentially can be used in offensive operations inside Russia. Systems that potentially risk escalating the war. But Biden wants Ukraine to win and I think that that's been his North Star from the beginning.

MATTINGLY: I wanted to ask you -- and Poppy picked up on this in your interview yesterday where you defended Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in terms of your kind of sense of where he's at right now, reflective of what I've heard from Republican senators and staff behind the scenes. We haven't seen a lot of it publicly. He spoke yesterday.

What -- can you just kind of walk through the decision to do that? Because the Democrats defending Senate Minority Leader McConnell -- not always the case, to some degree.

MURPHY: Yeah. I mean, look -- listen, it's no secret that I disagree with Mitch McConnell's priorities. I think he's been bad for this country.

But at the same time, what I see is someone who has had a couple of isolated incidences. What I've seen is someone who generally is pretty in control of his caucus. Obviously, I worked very closely with him just a year ago on passing the first major anti-gun violence measure through the Senate -- a measure that he ended up supporting. And so, while it's in the end up to the Republicans as to whether they want Mitch McConnell leading them or someone else.

This does seem to be likely a result of the concussion and with the exception of those kind of embarrassing moments that he has endured, he seems very much the old Mitch McConnell that a lot of us are used to and used to battling. HARLOW: Before you go, I'm really interested in something you tweeted about what was the most popular song in America -- you know, just a few weeks ago, Oliver Anthony's "Rich Men North of Richmond." Here's a little bit of it to remind people.


OLIVER ANTHONY, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Singing "Rich Men North of Richmond."


HARLOW: We know Fox News opened their first Republican debate with that and asked the candidates what they thought it meant. And you tweeted progressives should listen to this because it shows a path of realignment. What do you mean?

MURPHY: Yeah, I don't agree with everything in that song. The singer seems to blame his problems on food stamps and taxes, which I think is just repeating right-wing conservative tropes. But what he's also singing about is how miserable work has become. How terrible wages are. How soulless existence feels for a lot of Americans.

And I just think that there is a real potential for progressives who actually have the answers for people who are crushed by low-wage work to reach out to folks like that and invite them to be part of our coalition.

I saw a lot of my friends on the left just simply ridicule that song. And listen, there's a lot to ridicule in that song. But we'd be better off inviting people who respond to that song, especially the parts of that song that complain about how difficult it is to be a working person in America today, and explain to them it's the Democratic Party that is going to control the excesses of corporations. It's the progressive movement that has been fighting for higher minimum wages.

I just think that's a conversation we should be engaged in instead of seeing that song as an opportunity to just make fun of somebody or a group of people.

HARLOW: Yeah, it really certainly got me and I think a lot of us thinking.

Senator, we appreciate your time on all of these topics this morning. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you.


HARLOW: A government watchdog predicts a number that is not a welcomed one -- a federal budget deficit that will balloon to $2 trillion this year. A Harvard economist and former economic adviser to President Obama says that it's extraordinarily confusing given this economy right now. We'll talk to Jason Furman about it coming up.


HARLOW: So this is a pretty startling number. The federal budget deficit is set to nearly double this year. This is a new projection from a government watchdog. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Government (sic) says it's going to balloon to $2 trillion for the fiscal year ending September 30. A big imbalance like this can contribute to higher interest rates for you. It can impact spending priorities for the government.

The timing is really weird and confusing, though, and here's why. Deficits typically shrink with the kind of economic growth and historically low unemployment that we've seen recently, right? This means more taxes coming in and there's less government spending on unemployment.

Well, the sort of increase we're seeing now only really happens during wartime, a deep recession, or the COVID pandemic, for example.

You can see on this chart that in 2022, the deficit dropped by the greatest amount ever. That was, in large part, due to a stronger economy and no new emergency spending on COVID. But now it's shooting back up.

Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Obama, calls it, quote, "some weird freakish thing." That's the technical economic term, I suppose. And he joins me now.


Jason, I was struck by your comment in The Washington Post and wanted to have you on, so thanks very much for us.

Why is this happening?

JASON FURMAN, PRACTICE OF ECONOMIC POLICY PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: You know, they don't actually fully know but part of it was there were a lot of capital gains taxes collected last year, then the stock market fell, and so there weren't nearly as many capital gains this year. But that's only a small part of what's going on. It will actually take a while before the government collects all the data, but most of this is happening in tax collections being down.

HARLOW: Is this quote "weird freakish thing going on" going to be bad for Americans at home soon?

FURMAN: Look, I think in your intro you got it exactly right. High deficits do put upward pressure on interest rates. They do raise the cost of mortgages for families. They can affect the ability of businesses to invest. And this is now a problem that I used to think that maybe we could sort of skirt our way through, making some nips and tucks around the edges. But with interest rates so high that makes it even harder for the government to deal with its budget.

HARLOW: So what can we do about it? FURMAN: I mean, look, there's two answers here. You can raise taxes. You can cut spending. And the truth is the government is going to have to do a certain amount of both. Tax cuts for high-income families have been one of the contributors -- one of the reasons we have this large deficit. And so, we need to reverse those. And certainly, need to make sure that when all the tax cuts expire in 2025 that we're not continuing them.

But then I think we can also look at some smart, well-designed spending reforms.

HARLOW: The White House was asked about this in Karine Jean-Pierre's press briefing yesterday. Here is how she answered.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Deficits from year to year can be volatile, and so that's kind of how we have tracked that. But the reality is the president has a real plan, as we've laid out multiple times, to reduce the deficit. And we don't see Republicans having a real plan.


HARLOW: And she says that includes legislation -- the president's sign that will cut the deficit by $1 trillion.

The plan as you know it, in your view, is it going to work -- what they're laying out?

FURMAN: Look, if you pass the president's entire budget you would both make progress on this problem and you'd do a number of other good things for our society. I think that budget was formed at a time when we didn't appreciate just how large the deficit was and just how high interest rates has risen, so you probably need to do more than what they put down. But it would be a start.

And I agree with her, absolutely. Look at what the Republican House recently passed. They passed even more tax cuts that would make this problem even worse.

HARLOW: Jason, let me end on this -- and it's not a direct analogy but hear me out -- and I wonder your thoughts.

I was thinking a bit this morning about why there's this big disconnect between what the Biden administration notes are facts on the economy being pretty good and how people at home feel -- not just Republicans, but Democrats about their economic situation and what it costs them to live and provide for their family.

And I thought back to John McCain in 2008 and the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And it's very different and that was a different time and the fundamentals were not strong.

But does the Biden administration risk a moment like that if they keep messaging Bidenomics this way without conceding we get your pain on groceries, on mortgages, on rent?

FURMAN: Look, I'm not a message expert but just the facts. Households got into a deep hole because of COVID because of all the inflation that emerged. They're digging out of that hole now. They are making progress in terms of wages outstripping inflation, but they're not all the way out of the hole yet. And that's the situation that we're in now -- progress, but not all the way there.

How exactly you message that, I'll leave that to others.

HARLOW: Jason Furman, thank you very much for always giving us the facts. We appreciate it -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Well, a new report out this morning confirms what we have all been feeling all summer. This was the hottest summer on record. We'll have more, next.