Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Special Counsel Seeks to Indict Hunter Biden; New Polls Raise Concern for Biden 2024 Hopes; How Killer Escaped Prison in Pennsylvania. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 08:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, new this morning, we are learning that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is considering separating an emergency funding request that combines Ukraine aid with urgently needed disaster relief funding. Now, the White House included both issues in a $40 billion supplemental funding request, but hardliners in the House who oppose more money being sent to Ukraine have demanded it be stripped out. This could tee up a potential showdown in the Senate where both Democrats and Republicans want to see both items in a short-term funding bill. The deadline to avoid a government shutdown, of course, is the end of the month.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, not far away.

Federal prosecutors, meantime, say they plan to seek an indictment against Hunter Biden, the president's son, by the end of this month. We know this because of a new court filing from the special counsel in that case, David Weiss, that suggests this is related to his 2018 gun purchase. Hunter Biden had previously reached a deal on a charge of possessing a gun while using drugs. That deal completely fell apart in court last month, you'll remember.

Kara Scannell was live in the courtroom as it fell apart. She also broke this news for us yesterday.

It's a significant deal. People read the headline or listen to this headline this morning and they think, what? What's the news from this? Where does this go?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, so the special counsel's team saying now that they are going to seek an indictment, that, you know, says that there's not going to be another diversion agreement. That's that pre-trial deal that they struck before to avoid the prosecution on this, and that they're going it move forward. So, that's pretty serious. If they move forward with the same charge that they've reached this deal on, that's a felony. That has ten years statutory maximum in prison. It's not often brought as a standalone charge, but he had the possession of this gun for 11 days in Delaware while he was on drugs.

HARLOW: Right.

SCANNELL: And that's the letter of the law.

HARLOW: Is there - sorry, you said there's a statutory maximum, meaning you can't get over ten years? Is there a statutory minimum?

SCANNELL: There isn't on that.


SCANNELL: And that would be the discretion of the judge in this case.


SCANNELL: Taking into factor numerous considerations.

But it does indicate that they're moving forward with this gun - with the charge in the gun case, which is serious.


SCANNELL: And Hunter Biden's attorneys have been very outspoken and critical of this. Last night one of his main attorneys, Abbe Lowell, was on MSNBC and he said it smacks of politics.

Take a listen to what he said.



ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: The facts haven't changed. The law, if it has changed, it's only changed to make their case less strong. It has to have been the political influence, the improper political interference.

Where else, other than a case in which they are cowering from the political pressure, would somebody be charged with something that's unconstitutional?


SCANNELL: Now, their attorneys are also still trying to enforce that pre-trial diversion agreement, saying that it was signed by Biden and prosecutors. Now, the prosecutors say it wasn't signed by probation, it's not in effect, and they're going to move forward with this indictment. So, certainly a lot more here.

MATTINGLY: Indictment on the gun crimes. Obviously the tax crimes has been kind of the genesis of a lot of what Abbe was pushing back to. Where does that stand right now?

SCANNELL: Glad you asked, Phil. They dismissed those charges because, remember, they had a plea agreement.

MATTINGLY: Right. SCANNELL: It fell apart in court. And that was it. That deal was over. But prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss it last month and the judge did to allow them to bring it in another jurisdiction where the alleged crimes took place. That was when Biden was living in L.A. and this account was in Washington, D.C. So, they having already suggested that they are going to look forward to bringing that. The question here is, what will those charges look like? Will it be the misdemeanor that he had the plea deal on or will it be a felony charge of tax evasion? Hunter Biden has repaid $2 million in the taxes, plus interest and penalties. So, big question here, where that moves forward.

Lowell, though, has continually indicated that he would like this to end in some kind of deal to avoid a trial, but it's going to really depend what these charges look like and the appetite of DOJ to reach a deal.

HARLOW: That's right. Fascinating. Thank you, Kara.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Kara.

HARLOW: So, a new CNN poll out just this morning shows a really steep uphill battle for President Biden heading into 2024. How will the White House and Democrats respond? That's next.



MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, we have brand-new CNN polling. The numbers, they're looking rough for President Biden. We've been talking about it all morning and the fact that it could be a troubling sign for Democrats and the president's hope for re-election in 2024.

Biden's approval rating sinking to 39 percent. Nearly 60 percent of voters think Biden's policies are making the economy worse. And close to 70 percent of Democrats, they want somebody else to run for president. His overall approval among Democratic voters also slipping in the last month.

With us to discuss, CNN political commentator Van Jones and former Obama campaign manager, and former Obama White House deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina.

And, Jim, I want to go to you straight away because this week you -- I think playbook broke the news about a slide presentation that you had, which tries to counter a lot of Democratic anxiety tied to the perception that a lot of these numbers seems to underscore, including a line, quote, "historically, we are blanking bedwetters. We grew up in the '80s and '90s when Republicans won elections all the time. Democrats had their hearts deeply broken when Hillary lost and people didn't see that coming. And so, you know, we continually believe every bad thing people say."

I understand where that's coming from, and kind of the genesis of it. These numbers can't help your cause here in trying to convince your party of that.

JIM MESSINA, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, look, numbers are -- polls this far out in an election year are just not correlative to what's going to happen in the election. What really is correlative is the policies this president has gotten done, the things he has to run on, the matchup versus him versus Donald Trump, those are the things that we kind of looked at. We said, just -- let's put aside all the political spin and let's just look at the data. And if you look at the cards that Joe Biden's campaign has versus the cards that the Republicans have with Donald Trump, you'd rather be Joe Biden and the Democrats.

And so, yes, it will be a close election. It's an American election. All elections are very close. But you'd rather have the very popular policies Biden's running on versus the Republicans who seem to want to focus on very contentious issues like abortion, like other things, that are taking rights away from Americans. So that's the point I tried to make to my bedwetting Democratic friends.

HARLOW: I'm sure they loved that nickname.

Thanks for not swearing on morning TV, by the way. Like Joe Messina did.

MATTINGLY: Oh, no it's - it's - you're welcome.

By the way, it's longstanding. And he had a point and I think he also has a point in terms of the issues that are laid out in this slide (ph) deck (ph) in terms of why the theory of the case from the Biden team is, once you get it one-on-one, once you get into the kind of critical states in the universe of voters that actually will decide this election, they feel good about where they are. And yet --

HARLOW: And yet, Van Jones, can I take you to our backyard barbecue table in Minnesota on Saturday night with our friends who are saying -- just hearing from many people from many different walks of life -- that many are not feeling that data. It -- what Jim's saying is true, but they're not living it, they're not feeling it. And there are liberals who are saying to me, you know, I'm thinking about Nikki Haley a lot. And I just wonder what you think about that, Van, as you try to you figure out why those facts that are good for Biden are not translating in these polls.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If Jim Messina says that we're bedwetters, invest in Pampers and Depends because a lot of people are terrified that Joe Biden is in real trouble and that you can't talk about it. So, that's what's going on.

Listen, Jim is right, anybody who wants to argue against Jim Messina is going to waste their time. He's got to have the right numbers, the right data. And it may, in fact, be true that a year from now things look very different because there's been a year of a real campaign and all this kind of stuff.

But right now, today, I think a lot of Democrats look at these numbers and say, the whispers are finally showing up in this data. People are talking behind their hand. They worry about Joe Biden. Joe Biden's like that grandpa that you love, that you believe in, you owe a lot, but you start to wonder, you know, would you give this grandpa a high- stress job for six more years or would you want something else for him? That's what's being talked about. And people are scared to come out and talk - and say anything about it.


But I think it's important for us to have this conversation now. I think this may be the bottom for Joe Biden. He may go up as the economy improves. But right now the economy is getting better and fears about the economy are getting worse.

We've got to be honest as Democrats that there's real pain out there at the base of our party. People still don't feel these policies yet. And we're going to have to make the case stronger. We can't just say, hey, don't worry about it. We have to make a stronger case for the help that's on the way than we have so far.

MATTINGLY: You know, Jim, to that point, I think some of the anxiety is based on the fact that the Biden campaign is not, you know, all in launching, dropping tens of billions of dollars in ad buys. They have a big ad buy out right now, but they're not on air all over the country, spending a ton of money, having surrogates out every single day, which my understanding, based on reporting is, it's by design, they're building for a reason and a purpose. One, do you think that's accurate? And, two, what does that mean? Explain that to people.

MESSINA: Well, look, I think they're doing exactly what they should be doing. And I agree with Van, they need to go make the case. And they're doing that. They have the largest buy ever done this far out to African American and Latino communities, as well as young voters, which is their base. They've got to go make that point. Their super PAC, which I am helping with, launched a $13 million ad buy in the battleground states yesterday. They are economic messaging to do exactly what you guys are talking about, explain to voters what he has done, why it's good for them and, most importantly, voters want to know what the future is. Voters want to understand what his plan for the future is. And that's what the campaign is doing.

Do they have a messaging challenge? Yes, of course they do, but they're taking it straight on and going straight at it in a way that, you know, is earlier and bigger and more robust than the 2011 Biden -- or Obama campaign, which, of course, was incredibly well run, as Van talked about earlier.

HARLOW: Yes. Incredibly well run, which -


HARLOW: Van, question to you about what do Democrats do then, right, aside from maybe Dean Phillips?

JONES: Well -

HARLOW: They're not saying, put me in, coach. JONES: Well, look, I -- we do -- we have a year. We have more than a

year. Sometimes, you know, when the economy gets better, the opinion about the economy is sticky on the upside. It takes a while for people to feel better. The rate of inflation has come down but prices have not yet come down.

And as I've said before, people's number one enemy is not Joe Biden, and it's not Donald Trump. The number one enemy is the check-engine light. The check-engine light. Because when that thing comes on, you're going to have to spend a thousand bucks to even find out what's wrong with the car sometimes, and you don't have it.

And so you've got a lot of people driving to work. They're just worried about the check-engine light. You're got a lot of people who are just literally $100 or $500, a blown tire, a persistent cough that they're scared to go get checked out. Their insurance won't cover it, the checkup. But also, what if something's wrong? You don't have the money. People are dealing - are afraid of check engine lights and coughs. And until somebody makes it clear that not only they understand that they're fighting for them, until the prices come down a little bit, not just the rate of the increase, but the prices, we are in some real vulnerability.

And what I saw in 2016, every time I came on and said, I think Donald Trump is stronger than we think, I got beat up in 2016. But those of us who were, quote/unquote, bedwetters then were right. And so what I would say is, do not underestimate the pain out there. Do not underestimate the real sentiment that may be worse than these numbers even show. And let's get out there as Democrats and make the case.

But it's not just about the talking, it's about the listening. I don't think people think we're listening to the pain. And if we don't listen and reflect the fact that we're listening, they will send us a message that we don't want next November.

HARLOW: The check-engine light and the cough. I think you're so -- you make such a good point, both of you. Thank you very much, Van. Thanks, Jim.

JONES: Thank you.

HARLOW: So, we're continuing to follow this now more than a week-long manhunt for an escaped killer caught on video breaking out of prison. Look at that. We're learning this wasn't the first time an inmate escaped the same way at that prison. New details ahead.



MATTINGLY: Now to Pennsylvania and the massive week-long manhunt for an escaped killer. Newly released surveillance video shows just how Danelo Cavalcante was able to crab walk his way up a wall and out of the prison yard last week. Now, the convicted murderer was serving a life sentence for stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death.

CNN's Danny Freeman is live outside the prison.

Danny, we've been asking questions about how this happened for several days. We now have the video. But this isn't the first time this has happened, right?


Listen, Phil, there have been two big questions that we've all had ever since eight days ago Danelo Cavalcante broke out of the Chester County Prison behind me. First, of course, where he did go? And, second of all, how did he break out of this prison? Well, boy, yesterday, we got that answer to the second question. And let's just go through that video once more.

This was released by local law enforcement yesterday. You can see, he put his hands up against one wall, his legs up against the other, and really just scaled that wall, that narrow hallway, crab walked up to the roof. Then he ran across the roof. He pushed through multiple levels of razor wire, Phil, and ultimately escaped there.

And it's important to note, law enforcement said the tower guard on duty did not see him or report that escape.

But as you said, Phil, this actually began perhaps four months earlier because there was another escape in May from this very same prison that police said was very similar in nature. Law enforcement officials said they put measures to prevent future escapes after that May escape. But, obviously, that did not work.

Meanwhile, the big question, of course, still outstanding, where is he now? Police continuing their manhunt here on day eight. Conditions still hot, still humid, but they are still hopeful that Cavalcante is in this general area and they can bring him in peacefully.



MATTINGLY: All right, keep us updated. Danny Freeman, thank you.

HARLOW: Right now an American man is trapped deep in a cave in Turkey. Officials say it could take days for them to try to reach him. We have more on the rescue operation ahead.


HARLOW: Love this "Morning Moment."

One of Beyonce's biggest fans going into labor on Labor Day. Sarah Francis Jones and Marcel Spears were attending the Beyonce concert on Beyonce's birthday, by the way, when it turned out to be their baby's birthday as well. Sarah was actually scheduled for a c-section later in the week, but during the concert the labor pains started. At first she thought they were just, you know, false contractions, but she didn't want to miss the rest of the show. On the way home, Sarah realized this was the real deal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH FRANCIS JONES, WENT INTO LABOR AT A BEYONCE CONCERT: I feel great. Actually, I feel like I wasn't prepared, obviously, for this, but I'm so glad that she's here. Once I saw her, I was like, it was all worth it.

MARCEL SPEARS, HIS FIRST BABY WAS BORN ON BEYONCE'S BIRTHDAY: I was nervous. This is my first - my first baby. So, I was just like, I want to make sure I'm doing everything right.


I may or may not have sped past some red lights on accident.


HARLOW: I'm going to ask the dad at the table, said every dad always.

MATTINGLY: Love that. I mean I definitely identify with that energy. That was my energy like for all four kids. I'm like, I'm terrified. What am I supposed to do? I'm terrified. I'm terrified.

HARLOW: A hundred percent. So, Sarah and Marcel decided to name their newborn Nola after Marcela's hometown of New Orleans. And that is one cute baby. And we're glad she didn't miss the rest of Beyonce.

MATTINGLY: I love that story.

HARLOW: Two wins.

MATTINGLY: Thanks for staying with us.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.