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CNN This Morning

New CNN Poll Raises Concerns for Biden's 2024 Hopes; Powell, Chesebro Will Stand Trial Together in Georgia Next Month; Homicide Suspect Escapes Custody at George Washington University Hospital; Video Shows How Killer 'Crab Walked' to Scale Prison Walls; David Weiss to Indict Hunter Biden in Gun Case. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 06:00   ET


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So happy you're joining us. Let's get things started with "Five Things to Know" for this Thursday, September 7.


Brand-new this morning, a just-released poll shows a steep uphill battle for President Biden heading into 2024. The president facing largely negative approval ratings and widespread concerns about his age.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And adding to headaches for the White House, a new court filing reveals the special counsel investigating the president's son, Hunter Biden, plans to seek an indictment against him on gun charges by the end of the month.

MATTINGLY: Donald Trump also facing continued legal challenges this morning. One of his aides is flipping on him. A Mar-a-Lago I.T. worker, threatened with prosecution in the classified documents case, he's now cooperating with prosecutors.

HARLOW: And new this morning, double manhunts in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. One murderer's daring escape caught on tape. How that Pennsylvania fugitive broke out of prison.

MATTINGLY: And new overnight, the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, postponing his September concerts as he deals with, quote, "peptic ulcer disease."

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

Well, this just in. We have brand-new CNN polling this morning, and the numbers are rough for President Biden. It could spell trouble for Democrats and the president's hopes for reelection in 2024.

Still early, but Biden's approval rating has sunk to 39 percent. Nearly 60 percent of voters think Biden's policies are making the economy worse. Close to 70 percent of Democrats want somebody else to run for president.

And the president's approval among Democratic voters, that's slipping. HARLOW: Now, these are all very troubling for the White House. This

new CNN poll shows no clear winner between President Biden and nearly all of the leading Republican presidential candidates in these theoretical matchups, except for Nikki Haley, who leads President Biden by 6 points. Donald Trump, 1 point ahead of Biden.

This all comes just hours before President Biden heads off in a big foreign trip to meet with world leaders at the G-20 summit in India.

MATTINGLY: We want to get straight to CNN political director David Chalian to break down all of this new polling.

We always say a poll is a snapshot, but this is a snapshot that is ugly on several fronts for President Biden. What do Americans think about how he's handling his job right now?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there's no doubt about this. We're 14 months away from his reelection effort here, when election day happens, and this is a rough snapshot.

You noted his approval rating is at 39 percent. Sixty-one percent of Americans disapprove. This is our brand-new poll, conducted by SSRS. Look at that approval number over time.

You know, since the spring, he's been hanging out in this very low, troubling approval rating for him. And it really has not fluctuated all that much.

Take a look by party. You noted among Democrats, his approval rating is down a bit from where it was in July. He's at 74 percent among his own party faithful.

Independents, holding troublingly low for the president at 36 percent. Obviously, single digits among Republicans.

And look at how Biden stacks up against all of his modern-era predecessors at this point in their presidency. Just going to draw a line here to show us he's hanging out in this category with Trump and Carter. Something about Trump and Carter: they lost their reelection efforts.

HARLOW: And that, I think, begs the question, David, about the just mood in general of the country. Did we get numbers on that?

CHALIAN: We did, Poppy, and it's a sour mood out there. It really is. Which is -- which is hard news for an incumbent.

Only 30 percent of Americans think things are going well in the country. Seven in 10 Americans say they're going badly.

You noted earlier, 58 percent of Americans say that Joe Biden's policies have worsened economic conditions. That's a majority there. This is why you hear him talking about Bidenomics all the time and trying to get that number lower.

HARLOW: It makes you think was it right for them to label it Bidenomics.

CHALIAN: Right. He's got to convince Americans that he's actually improving the economy. You see a majority thinks he's worsened it.

And look at these attributes. He doesn't have majority support on any of them. Forty-five percent say cares about people like you. A third of Americans say proud to have as a president. And down here, 28 percent of Americans only say he inspires confidence.

MATTINGLY: So David, this is going to actually bring forth the Bidenism of "Don't compare me to the almighty; compare me to the alternative." What does that look like for him?

CHALIAN: Have you heard that before, Phil?

MATTINGLY: Yes, exactly.

CHALIAN: So first, let's look among Democrats here. This is among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. This number is troubling.


A third of Democrats want Joe Biden as the nominee. Nearly two-thirds of his own fellow partisans would like a different candidate.

And what is the concern here? We asked an open-ended question: what is your biggest concern about Biden as a presidential candidate? Forty- nine percent of Democrats --

HARLOW: Democrats.

CHALIAN: -- and Democratic-leaning independents say age. Seven percent, mental sharpness; 7 percent say health.

And then we broaden it out beyond Democrats. And we asked everyone, Are you seriously concerned that Biden's age might negatively affect his ability to serve another full term? Three-quarters of Americans seriously concerned about that.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans seriously concerned that it negatively impacts his mental and physical competence. Sixty-eight percent concerned that he understands, actually, what the concerns are of the next generation.

HARLOW: But just pause on how significant those numbers are for a moment, David.


HARLOW: From -- this is Democrats?

CHALIAN: No. This is everyone.

HARLOW: Everyone, OK.

CHALIAN: This is everyone. But this is what he's entering into a reelection campaign.

HARLOW: Right.

CHALIAN: This is sort of the backdrop to that.

So that explains, when we look at these hypothetical matchups against the Republican candidates, why Joe Biden, everything we just said, this is why it's a margin of error race. Except, as you noted, for one candidate, Nikki Haley, the only Republican who's actually besting him outside the margin of error, 49 to 43.

Everybody else here is in a margin of error race.

MATTINGLY: Real quick. And I know you're going to be around for the entirety of the show. We have a millions questions to ask you. Are you surprised? I mean, that's a pop for -- for Haley in terms of the -- the difference there, the 6-point difference.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, I think this is coming off of what was widely seen as a pretty good debate performance for her. And she is one of the Republican candidates trying to make an appeal a bit broader than just the base play.

HARLOW: She is. Like, on abortion, for example.

CHALIAN: I think we saw that in her approach -- exactly -- in some of the answers on the debate stage. So perhaps that's what we're seeing there.

HARLOW: It's really interesting. Stick around. As Phil said, we have a million and one questions for you. We've got a lot of polling ahead, certainly.

Also this morning, new developments in the tight timeline for the sweeping Georgia election interference case. The presiding judge, Scott McAfee, ruling that defendants pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro will stand trial together in October; October 23. That denied their motion to sever their cases from one another.

As for the rest of the defendants, including former President Trump, the judge did say he was skeptical about the district attorney, Fani Willis's, hope to try all 19 defendants together next month. Listen.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: If we compress our timeline to 40-something days, our ability to even be able to really weigh those and think through these issues, again, it just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Sara Murray has been following every single step of this case at this point. Sara, how might the judge choose to actually break up this case, based on your reporting right now? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, first of all,

he seems pretty clear that he is happy to have folks who want a speedy trial go to trial quickly in October. That's what he decided with Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro. He was not moved by their arguments that they should be tried separately and, essentially, decided right from the bench, which was you know, very decisive and somewhat unusual, that they would go forward in October.

But he was much more reticent about the district attorney's argument that everyone should go ahead together in October. You heard him say it sounded somewhat unrealistic.

And part of his commentary about this being unrealistic was, of course, the logistics of trying 19 defendants at the same time in this 40-day timeline.

But also, this issue that they're having with a number of defendants, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are trying to move their case to federal court. He expressed some concerns about just barreling ahead with a trial of everyone in the state court while these challenges are playing out.

He did indicate that he's going to have another hearing on this matter next week, and he's hoping to issue some scheduling orders soon. So it's clear he wants to try to wrangle and organize the rest of the defendants quickly.

And I think that's also partly because of the length of a potential trial. The district attorney's office said they expect it would take four months to try this case. It would include 150 witnesses. And all of that is excluding jury selection, guys.

HARLOW: There's also this development that is really interesting in the classified documents probe, the Mar-a-Lago probe. This involves that I.T. worker. People learned his name; in the superseding indictment, Trump employee No. 4. A deal to cooperate with the special counsel. Is that a big deal for Trump, for Smith's team?

MURRAY: It is a big deal. I mean, we do talk often about people flipping. And you know, we don't necessarily -- Sometimes that gets overstated, let's say. That's not necessarily overstate in this case.

This is someone who, you know, is facing potential charges, an I.T. worker, Yuscil Taveras, and who has now struck an agreement where he is going to cooperate, as opposed to facing prosecution.

And again, he came up because of this discussion about attempts to try to destroy surveillance footage around Mar-a-Lago.

So let's go back to this indictment, where we see this exchange between Taveras, who's identified as Employee No. 4, and Carlos de Oliveira, the property manager.


In this exchange, it says, "De Oliveira told Trump Employee four that the boss wanted the server deleted." Again, the boss here is Donald Trump. "Trump Employee 4 responded that he would not know how to do that, and he did not believe he would have the rights to do that. Trump Employee 4 told De Oliveira that De Oliveira would have to reach out to another employee who is a supervisor of security for Trump's business organization. De Oliveira then insisted to Trump Employee 4 that the boss wanted the server deleted and asked, 'What are we going to do?'"

So this is somebody who is not necessarily at the center of conversations with Donald Trump, but is at the center of conversations with other employees about carrying out Donald Trump's wishes, guys.

MATTINGLY: You know, Sara, I appreciate your ability to keep all of this together. I feel like over the course of four indictments, there's like 50 people around the Trump orbit. Unindicted co- conspirators, other people indicted in the Fulton County case. And somehow, you're able to lay it out in detail.

HARLOW: She's got a big --

MATTINGLY: Yes. Come on. This is -- she's the best.

HARLOW: Big mind.

MATTINGLY: Thank you, Sara Murray. Thanks, pal.

MURRAY: Thanks.

HARLOW: So there is now a manhunt this morning underway in Washington, D.C., after a suspected killer escaped from a hospital. Students and staff at George Washington University this morning being told to shelter in place.

MATTINGLY: And we're now seeing dramatic surveillance video that shows how a dangerous convicted murderer was able to crab walk up a prison wall and escape. We have the latest on that search, live from Pennsylvania. That's next.



HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. This morning, another escaped inmate is on the loose, if you can believe it. This time it's in the nation's capital.

The Secret Service, U.S. Park Police both looking for this man, who escaped custody at the George Washington University Hospital. This happened yesterday. Our Gabe Cohen tracking all of it for us this morning.

How did he get out?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Poppy, that's one of the big questions that police haven't answered -- answered, is how exactly did 30-year-old Christopher Haynes manage to escape from the hospital behind me?

We know that he's about six feet tall. He has a prominent "W" tattoo on his neck. It resembles the Washington Nationals logo.

And we also know that he had been in police custody on some sort of homicide charge. Police haven't said what exactly that charge was related to, what the case was, but when he broke out of this hospital behind me, he still had handcuffs around one of his wrists, around his right wrist.

We don't know what went wrong, why he wasn't properly handcuffed inside of the hospital.

But police did release an updated photo of Haynes just after the escape, showing him walking through what appeared to be maybe a backyard garden in just a black T-shirt, gray shorts and his socks. No shoes on his feet.

He had ditched, police said, a jail jump suit that he would have had on, perhaps, when he entered the hospital.

Now, of course, the big question is where has he gone? There was a shelter-in-place order on the campus, on GW's campus yesterday. Although by the late afternoon, the school said that they didn't believe Haynes was still in this area.

We know several agencies are now involved in the search. It's not just D.C. police. The Secret Service is involved now. And the FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to Haynes' arrest.

But we expect that the search may widen into the day. Of course, we're not far from Maryland and Virginia, so Poppy, we expect to learn more about what resources are being put out there to find Haynes in the coming hours.

HARLOW: It's pretty remarkable to have this going on and then that, I think, ninth day of the manhunt in Pennsylvania, as well, for that escaped inmate. Thank you very much, Gabe, for the reporting -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Poppy. Speaking of that manhunt, that's where we want to check in. There's been so many unanswered questions in what has been more than a week now searching for an escaped killer there.

Newly-released surveillance video starts to answer one of those questions: just how Danelo Cavalcante was able to crabwalk his way up the wall and out of the prison yard one week ago.

Now, the convicted murderer was serving a life sentence for stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death.

CNN's Danny Freeman is live outside that prison. Danny, this has been one of the questions that we have been repeatedly asking; you have been digging on over the course of the last week or more. We now have video of this, but this isn't the first time this tactic has been used to escape, right? DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Phil. And again,

just to address that video, truly stunning images showing that escape.

But Phil, like you said, we actually got court documents yesterday that showed there was another breakout of this prison four months ago back in May. And local law enforcement officials confirmed that yesterday afternoon.

They said that they added security measures to prevent another breakout. They said they did that back in May, but obviously, that did not work.


FREEMAN (voice-over): New video showing the moment convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante escaped a Pennsylvania prison last week. 5-foot, 120-pound inmate extended his arms and legs against a narrow section of the exercise yard before crab walking up the wall to the roof and dropping down on the other side.

Cavalcante then pushed through multiple layers of razor wire to escape the Chester County Prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we believed the security measures we had in place were sufficient. They've proven otherwise. And we will quickly -- we moved quickly to enhance our security measures.

FREEMAN (voice-over): County officials say this escape is nearly identical to another inmate's escape at the same spot just four months ago.

Court documents obtained by CNN describe how that inmate also climbed a wall in an exercise yard and, quote, "pulled himself onto the roof of the prison." But the tower guard on duty flagged the inmate. Within five minutes he was caught. That did not happen last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tower officer did not observe, nor report the escape. The escape was discovered as part of the inmate counts that occur when inmates come in from the exercise yard.

FREEMAN (voice-over): The tower officer has been put on administrative leave, and the Pennsylvania attorney general's office is investigating.

Meanwhile, pressure continued to build Wednesday to catch Cavalcante.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's a very challenging area.

FREEMAN (voice-over): One week on, the search perimeter has been rapidly expanding. On Monday night, Cavalcante was caught on camera in a botanical garden.

On Tuesday night, another sighting by a resident in a creek bed. But this time, no video.

[06:20:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that I'm able to see, the various sightings that we've had, other aspects of this investigation, lead me to believe that he is still there in that area.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Hundreds of officers, dogs, drones and helicopters continue to search. Police have created road blocks, checkpoints and often issuing warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see this individual, do not approach him.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Fear gripping the community, especially for Sarah Brandao. It was her sister that Cavalcante was convicted of murdering in 2021.

"You know with that feeling of fear, of insecurity," she told CNN. "Fear of him showing up here at home."


FREEMAN: Phil, police say that the heat and humidity have also been very challenging for the search efforts, but they emphasize, if it's been challenging for the police, it's likely been very challenging for Cavalcante, as well -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: And that search continues. Danny Freeman, thank you.

HARLOW: So we have more of this brand-new, really stunning CNN polling this morning. How Americans feel about Hunter Biden and that investigation. And what role they believe the president played in his son's business dealings.

MATTINGLY: And Hurricane Lee, which is currently churning in the Atlantic, is expected to rapidly strengthen over the next 48 hours. Forecasters say the storm could become a major Category 3 hurricane by early Friday and could possibly reach Category 4 later in the day.

The center of the storm is expected to pass North of Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico this weekend and early into next week.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.



HARLOW: So this morning, a major reversal in the Justice Department's case against Hunter Biden. Federal prosecutors say they intend to indict the president's son by the end of this month. This is according to a new court filing from the special counsel on that case. His name is David Weiss.

And it has to do with a 2018 gun purchase. At the time, Biden was struggling -- Hunter Biden was struggling with a drug addiction and allegedly lied about that on government forms. Biden previously had struck that plea deal, remember, to resolve the

felony gun possession charge, under which he would have pleaded guilty to two federal tax misdemeanors.

But that plea deal dramatically fell apart in court back in July, and the issue has been in limbo ever since.

Let's talk about what this means with former Manhattan prosecutor, Jeremy Saland. He's with us now. Back with us at the table, CNN political director David Chalian.

David, the polling on this is super interesting. Just get to the law of it, though, and the facts. Like, explain to people what the gun charge is about, and then how this could have gone from a diversion to now an indictment.

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR: So the gun charge is not what people may think. People think gun charge, they think someone toting a firearm or brandishing it.

This solely relates to the allegation or claim that he was addicted to controlled substances, certain substances which are laid out in the law. And that it violates the law by him signing up, or saying, I'm going to get this firearm, and try to secure that firearm procedurally in informing paperwork.

And there's certain things, for example, you couldn't be an alien, an illegal alien; or you couldn't have been dishonorably discharged from the military and get that firearm. So there's a whole class of different things you can do.

In this case, he had unfortunately has a drug addiction, or had a drug addiction, and at the same time, is getting this firearm.

Now we note that there's been challenges to this at different levels and the constitutionality of it at different levels. Because, you know, this is not something like you are going out and firing that firearm and doing something bad with it.

It's just solely you cannot have that addiction or use drugs.

HARLOW: The constitutionality issue, this is something the judge brought up when the plea deal was all falling apart. Can you explain that?

SALAND: So it's been challenges. There's a case, I believe it was marijuana out of New York. I'm pretty sure it was New York. But it was a marijuana use, that basically it's an overreach.

And this is something that I hate to say it, but I think if you probably polled people across the United States who have firearms, I'm sure there are plenty of people who are using marijuana, especially in light of the fact that some states are allowing it legally and lawfully; while others are not.

So it's a little bit of an extreme case or part of a statute. The bigger issue would be, I think, the tax crimes, although those, in

the whole scheme of things, are not as enormous as certain on the right are making it out to be.

Then again, if he's committed a crime, like anyone else, he's going to be pursued, and rightfully so.

MATTINGLY: So broadening out a little bit, when you see the headline, "Special Counsel to Seek Indictment," it's a big headline. Dig in a little bit. How do we get to Poppy's point, the point from near plea deal, seemed to be a done deal in July, to the special counsel filing yesterday?

SALAND: Well, unlike in a state case, where generally speaking, you work out with the prosecutor and there's a resolution, and it's agreed upon, on the federal level -- even on the state level -- on the federal level, the judge ultimately has the say.

And in this case, the judge says what we know is no. So when that happens, it gets kicked back. And then there's a speedy trial clock that starts ticking, which is a 30-day clock.

But in this particular case, the judge said, We're going to exclude, in the interest of justice, this clock and this time until a date in September. So now, U.S. attorney's office, or in this case, now Special Counsel Weiss, has the ability to present that case to the grand jury. And he has to do so before that 30th day.

MATTINGLY: So it's like a trigger. It's a requirement.

SALAND: Correct.

HARLOW: And now we know, David, how the American public feels about the bigger picture here, Biden's involvement with his son, Hunter, on business.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, obviously, a lot of the results here are driven by partisanship. And we see what the Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to do with this issue. But it seems to be working a little bit.

So we asked Americans, you know, what -- was Joe Biden involved in Hunter Biden's business dealings when he was vice president? And a clear majority, 61 percent, say Joe Biden was involved in Hunter Biden's business dealings at the time. Thirty-eight percent say he wasn't.

By the way, that includes 42 percent who think Joe Biden acted illegally.

Nearly two-thirds of independents think Joe Biden was involved in these business dealings as vice president.

And then there was also the question that we asked folks about. Joe Biden's actions regarding the investigation itself. Did he act appropriately or not? Fifty-five percent of Americans in this poll say Joe Biden has acted

inappropriately in relation to the Hunter Biden investigation. Forty- four percent say acted appropriately.

So this is clearly, while the Republicans are trying to gather evidence and somehow really connect the dots, again, largely driven by partisanship.