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Kim Jong-un Arrives In Russia Ahead Of Putin Meeting; Trump Asks Federal Judge To Recuse Herself from Jan. 6 Case; McCarthy Juggles Government Shutdown Threat And Growing Calls For A Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Today: CDC Advisers To Vote On New COVID Shot Recommendations. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 07:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is officially in Russia. This is ahead of a high stakes meeting he has with Vladimir Putin. Kim's heavily armored train crossed into the country just hours ago. This is a rare trip for Kim and his first foreign visit since the pandemic. The focus? Is an arms deal.

Russia wants to secure more weapons for its war in Ukraine. And North Korea is in need of everything from cash to food to missile technology. Listen to how the Kremlin describes this meeting.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN (through translator): Like with any neighbor, we consider ourselves obligated to establish good, mutually beneficial relations. We will continue to strengthen our friendship.


HARLOW: Let's talk about all of this with National Security Analyst and CNN Political Commentator, David Sanger. David, you know, this stuff inside and out and I think your take on it is really interesting beyond what this meeting accomplishes is sort of the forming, as you put it, of a new block. What are the big implications of this?

DAVID SANGER, CNN GLOBAL & NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Poppy, first of all, that's quite a train. The armored train --

HARLOW: Yes, the green train.

SANGER: Right. I did a train trip once up in North Korea many years ago and it wasn't anywhere near that luxurious, I can tell you. So what we're seeing here is basically a reformation of an Asian bloc that is an alternative in many ways to the American led order.

And that is China and Russia, which of course announced a partnership without limits. There clearly are limits to it back during the Olympics, just prior to the invasion of Ukraine. North Korea, Iran, and of course they're trying to bring in other nations as well.

It's also a very big move for Kim Jong-un, who thought he had something going with President Trump a few years ago in their three meetings. President Trump promised that that would result in North Korea disarming.

In fact, he never got back a single missile or a single nuclear weapon, and the North Korean arsenal has increased. But now suddenly Kim's in the position where someone needs him, and that's Vladimir Putin, who's desperate for arms. The Chinese will not provide them. And this is his moment to get them. And what it means is the pressure is off from Russia and to some degree from China on the North.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: David, if you look at this as a kind of a developing block, and certainly the momentum has been headed in that direction, it's not equal parts in terms of power sharing to some degree. Who is the junior partner? Who is the client state? Because I feel like everybody would assume it's North Korea, and yet things seem to have been inverted based on this meeting alone.

SANGER: Yes, they are inverted in some ways because suddenly the Russians need something from North Korea. One was the last time you can remember, Phil, that anybody needed anything from North Korea other than, you know, a cessation of threats. So, it's a pretty remarkable moment.

Now, a couple of big questions. First of all, can the North Koreans provide what the Russians want in the quantities that they need? Second, is there anything that the United States can do or other allies to stop them? I mean, we could, I guess, try more sanctions, but at this point, since we've been sanctioning North Korea since the 1950s, we're pretty well out of options.

We could try to intercept some of this at sea to the degree that it runs. I see, as you can see from that train ride, there are our land ways to deliver weapons to Russia. But that would probably be highly risky. And, of course, South Korea is providing artillery to Ukraine, indirectly, but 650, 000 rounds, we believe, of artillery that has been useful to Ukraine, and so I'm sure the Russians think this is just fair play.

HARLOW: David Sanger, thank you so much. We ran out of time, but everyone should read your -- this is an amazing front page piece.

MATTINGLY: Of course, Sanger has an A1 piece on something.

HARLOW: But it's amazing.

MATTINGLY: It's totally different on the day we're having him on to talk about this.

HARLOW: China uses AI to spread lies --

MATTINGLY: Prolific.

HARLOW: -- about the U.S. It's incredible. MATTINGLY: It's a great piece. We're going to talk about it in the days ahead.

David Sanger, thanks, buddy.

SANGER: Great. Good to see you.


Well Vladimir Putin says the prosecution of Donald Trump is all political. That's something we've also been hearing from Donald Trump. Now the former president is asking the federal judge overseeing his 2020 election subversion case to recuse herself. Now, according to a filing yesterday, Trump alleges Judge Tanya Chutkan previously made comments that, quote, "unavoidably taint these proceedings regardless of outcome."

One of the statements citing in that filing reads, "The people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged. The issue of who has or has not been charged is not before me. I don't have any influence on that. I have my opinions, but they are not relevant".

That's what she told a Capitol riot defendant during a sentencing hearing back in 2021.

HARLOW: So Trump's lawyers argue statements like those and others mean she should not be able to hear this case against Trump. They add only if this trial is administered by a judge who appears entirely impartial could the public ever accept the outcome as justice.

Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig is here with us. I know recusals don't happen often in situations like this. There are other statements that are interesting that she's made. Things like, when she said last year, it's a blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day, talking about, you would think, Trump. What do you think?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, this is an extreme long shot, legally speaking, but you can see where Donald Trump's coming from. It's not an outrageous motion when you see various statements that Judge Chutkan has made in the course of handling the prosecutions and sentencings of other January 6th rioters.

She has said things that seem to pretty clearly suggest that she believed years ago, Donald Trump should have been charged, should have been held accountable. And she was essentially making the point at the sentencings that, yes, you're being prosecuted rightly so for storming the Capitol, but more responsible people are not.

The problem, however, with Donald Trump's argument legally is that, a, it's really hard to get a judge to recuse himself or herself and, b, you can't base a recusal motion for the most part on something that a judge said during a court proceeding, basically, because that's a judge's job.

They have to take all the evidence in front of them, make decisions, make determinations, sometimes about the relative culpability of other people. And so, the Supreme Court has basically said, if you're trying to recuse a judge, you have to do it based on something outside of whatever she said in the scope of an actual case in court.

Judge Chutkan asked the Justice Department to respond.


MATTINGLY: Is that normal in this case? How is this supposed to work?

HONIG: Yes, typically if there's a recusal motion, you'd want to hear what the other side has to say. I'm fairly certain DOJ will object to this and say you should stay on the case. You don't have the kind of bias or prejudice that needs to require your recusal. So that's what I expect DOJ to weigh in as.

HARLOW: So, also, you've got different case here. Trump is asking the judge overseeing the Georgia election subversion case to dismiss the charges. We were texting about this a little earlier because I'm like, Elie, on what grounds? So Ellie --

HONIG: Right.

HARLOW: -- on what grounds?

HONIG: On all of the grounds. This is what happens in any multi- defendant case. They all want to piggyback off each other. There's nothing wrong with that. But basically, any one defendant wants to make sure if any of the other defendants succeeds on any particular point, you get a part of that benefit as well. So you'll see them all start filing motions saying, I joined in everyone else's motions.

The specific grounds here that Rudy Giuliani has brought, that Donald Trump is joining in, is basically attacking the indictment. What they say is, there's not a crime here. Yes, it's labeled RICO, but it's really just a conglomeration of actions that maybe some find offensive but that are not actually crimes in and of themselves.

The problem is, ultimately, that's a question for a jury. I don't think that's going to lead to a pre-trial dismissal.

HARLOW: I don't think the RICO statute in Georgia says that they all have to be crimes. They all have to contribute to an overall conspiracy.

HONIG: Right. There has to be a criminal object. But yes --


HONIG: -- each act -- there's 161 acts laid out in here. Each of them does not have to be a crime unto itself. What Giuliani and now Trump are arguing is, even if you take them and add them all together, a bunch of pennies added up don't add up to $1. If you take, you know, 50 pennies don't add up to $1.

HARLOW: But $100 do. HONIG: $100 do, $161 do.

MATTINGLY: That's a Rutgers education right there.

HARLOW: Yes. Elie Honig, thank you.

HONIG: I ace math.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy.

Well, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy back in Washington and walking a bit of a tightrope this morning as he faces pressure to avoid a government shutdown, but also to answer to hard right Republicans who want to impeach President Joe Biden.

HARLOW: We're going to be joined live by Republican Congresswoman. Look at her. She's here in studio, Nancy Mace. She joins us ahead.


[07:43:05] MATTINGLY: Well, the House is back in session today and Speaker Kevin McCarthy is confronting a twin set of challenges, avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the month and addressing growing calls from his party to impeach President Biden.

Now, the date to watch, that would be September 30th, less than three weeks from now. McCarthy has to cut a deal with Democrats who control the Senate and the White House to avoid that shutdown. But he's also facing new threats to his speakership by some hardliners in his caucus.

Joining us now is Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina. She's a member of the House Oversight Committee, and it's that committee that I want to start with. There have been -- there's been reporting this morning, both from Punchbowl News and our colleagues here at CNN, Speaker McCarthy is planning to tell the conference later this week that he wants to move forward with an impeachment inquiry or plans to. Do you believe that there are the votes to move forward on impeachment inquiry if he decides to go that route?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): More than likely, the inquiry, my understanding, gets us or help -- will assist us in getting Joe Biden's bank records. And there's no doubt, based on the evidence that I've seen, whether it's the SARS reports or evidence from the FBI, whistleblowers, et cetera, there is no way that any of this happens without Joe Biden.

And so, if that is a tool in the toolbox that we can use to get more evidence for the American people, then I'm going to support it. The problem is, if you do the inquiry, how do you avoid doing an actual impeachment? And, you know, that puts a lot of seats up at risk, particularly for Republicans who won Biden districts. And, you know, that is the web that we will weave if we move forward on it. MATTINGLY: Well, I think it's a great question, though, because part of the reason you don't go down this route is inevitably you don't have a choice, right? You're going to end up going towards full inclusion --

MACE: I believe the evidence says that we need to do that. I do agree.

MATTINGLY: So on the evidence, you know, you made this point with my colleague Kaitlan Collins last night that you've seen these SARS reports. You can't publicly disclose them, which I think is part of the problem, but you have not been able to get access to President Biden's bank records.

MACE: Correct.

MATTINGLY: I want to bounce something off you. You're on the House Oversight Committee. The House Oversight Democrats put out kind of their own summary of where they think things stand right now, including when it comes to the SARS records, says quote, "None of the bank records James Comer, the chairman, has released, show any payments to President Biden.


None of the SARS, the Suspicious Activity Reports the committee reviewed, alleges or even suggests any potential misconduct by President Biden nor did the SARS show any involvement by President Biden and Hunter Biden's financial or business relationships".

Your response to that?

MACE: Yes. Well, I think that there's corroborating evidence, whether it's in emails where Hunter Biden was lamenting he paid half. Half his money went to his father and the bank records will show that, where Joe Biden, every time he's been asked by reporters about this, he's lied about it. If you've done nothing wrong, then why lie about it?

And so the bank records are very important. There are foreign bank records. There's FBI documents that said that Joe Biden and Hunter Biden were bribed. The bank records will show whether or not that was true or false. And so that's why it's so important.

And regardless, the American people deserve the truth. Did their president sell out their country to communist China or to Russia or Romania or Ukraine? And we saw Joe Biden literally brag on TV in speeches about bribing -- the bribery in Ukraine going on. And som -- and getting Shokin fired. And so when you add all of it up together --

MATTINGLY: Let's talk about the Shokin -- I want to talk about some foreign policy stuff, particularly --

MACE: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- some bipartisan, your work -- you're doing on Iran (ph). But in terms of Shokin, in terms of the prosecutor, the timeline on that, as well as the Western Communities Alliance and backing of that decision and some of the testimony your committee has received related to Shokin, including from one of Hunter Biden's associates, who said they believe -- raising thought they had Shokin kind of under their control, it doesn't line up with the idea that this was some move that was made for Burisma --

MACE: Well, the bank records can help determine that. I mean, if we prove that bribery did happen, that $10 million was exchanged from Burisma executives to Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, the bank records would prove that out. So I don't know why there's resistance to showing the money.

To me, that's confusing. And why would Joe Biden have -- feel the need to lie about it if he was not involved? He lied about China. He lied about being on phone calls. He lied about being involved in his son's businesses or having any knowledge.

And yet Hunter Biden was on all these airplane flights with his father going to see his business executives, and Joe Biden doesn't know anything? Well, that's just a lie. So I think that those bank records will prove out who's telling the truth. Is it the whistleblowers or is it Joe Biden?

MATTINGLY: But the whistleblowers never explicitly alleged anything directly connected to President Biden.

MACE: Well, no, but we have more witnesses, more whistleblowers that are going to be coming forward. I want the bookkeeper, I want to bring Shokin, I want to subpoena Hunter Biden, I want to see Joe Biden's bank records to say -- to figure out who's telling the truth here because somebody is lying.

MATTINGLY: And your view is the impeachment inquiry will give you more tools?

MACE: Yes, yes.

MATTINGLY: And so that's why you support moving forward on this?

MACE: Right. So my understanding is that we would get access to Joe Biden's bank records -- easier access to them to prove it out, so to see who's telling the truth.

MATTINGLY: One of the big questions, and then we'll get to your bipartisan work on foreign policy is, is this in exchange for support from you and others related to a continuing resolution? You're a fiscal hawk. You've never been --

MACE: Yes. No, I have never voted for a continuing resolution.


MACE: I've never voted to raise your taxes. I won't be doing it now. I think the impeachment inquiry is totally separate from the out of control spending. Like, if you get impeachment inquiry, yet, you're willing to add $20 trillion to our debt nation's debt over the next 10 years, I'm a hard pass on that.

I mean, the two things are very much separate, and I hope that every Democrat, every Republican, every Independent watching this morning will call their member of Congress this week and tell Congress to get it together. Both sides, both Republicans and Democrats, have put us in this place where we have extraordinarily high inflation --


MACE: -- where we're going to add $18.8 trillion to the debt in the next 10 years. Every American was lied to over the debt ceiling deal, and I hope that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, will call their member of Congress this week and tell them to stop it, to cut spending so that we can balance the budget over the next 20 years, however long it takes, and be more responsible with your tax dollars.

MATTINGLY: 18 days to figure that out in some way, shape, or form. I do want to ask you before we let you go, you are working on a bipartisan basis with Congressman Jared Moskowitz, attempting to kind of press the administration to deny visas for Iranian president, probably his top officials as well. Walk me through that.

MACE: Yes. First of all, I want to commend Congressman Moskowitz for reaching across the aisle with us to work on this foreign policy matter. Last year, the U.S. government banned the world's best tennis player from coming and playing in the U.S. Open because he was not vaccinated.

And yet, next week, we're going to allow an Iranian delegation into the United States, a delegation and a president who defend mass murders of political dissidents, both in '88 under the death commissions and most recently last year in 2022. I can't think of a worse precedent to set. Ban a tennis player for being unvaccinated, let murderous dictators into our country.

I don't know what kind of message the administration is trying to send to the American people, but I know it's the wrong message.

MATTINGLY: And it's bipartisan. It's happened before. There's precedent for it. It's always a little complicated when it comes to the United Nations, but we will keep our eyes and ears posted to see --

MACE: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: -- if the administration says anything. Congresswoman Nancy Mays, South Carolina Republican, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MACE: Thank you, Phil.

HARLOW: All right, we're getting brand new details about this ongoing manhunt this morning in Pennsylvania.


Police now see the escape murderer is armed after reports of a violent confrontation with a homeowner overnight. Police are about to hold a news conference about an hour from now, two hours from now. We'll bring that to you live.

MATTINGLY: Well, CDC advisers set to meet today on new COVID shot recommendations. What you need to know about protecting yourself from the latest variants? That's ahead.


HARLOW: It's the news this morning. CDC advisers are going to vote on recommendations for the new COVID vaccine shots. They've been updated to target the current circulating variants. The FDA deemed the new vaccine safe yesterday for anyone six months and older. The vaccines could become available across the country this week as respiratory virus season is also picking up.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now with, I think, Sanjay, the question on everyone's mind. Tell us about it and do we need it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, first of all, you know, we hear from the FDA, we'll see what the CDC says in terms of who the recommended recipients are. We're pretty certain it's going to be people over the age of 65, people who have weakened immune systems, people who have pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk.

I mean, we've heard this before. If you add up all those people in the country, all those various things, you know, it's at least 70 percent of the country that's probably going to be recommended that they get this shot, but we'll hear from the CDC later. As you point out this is a -- it's a new shot.

If you've sort of listened closely, you'll hear that they're not using the term booster as much. And I think it's the first time we're sort of getting a sense that this is likely to become a yearly shot, something that's likely to come out around the same time as a flu shot. So sort of look for that, flu shots and COVID shots around the same time. We will see.

Part of the reason, you know, they wanted to get this out there is because while the numbers are still low, thankfully, they are going to go up. They always go up as the weather gets cooler and drier. Take a look at hospitalizations around the country.

Now we've been showing this map to you now for a few weeks. And it's getting a little bit more yellow, a few places of red as well. These are hospitalizations. They've gone up about 9 percent over the last week.


Another thing that they're tracing is just how much COVID is out there. And they look in wastewater to sort of figure that out. And if you follow that trend line over the last several months, you see that it's gone up significantly. So that's usually sort of a early warning system, if you will, in terms of how much COVID is out there. So we'll see. But later today, again, the official recommendations, my guess is it's going to be a pretty broad swath of people that are going to be recommended to get this. If you've had COVID recently, if you've had a shot recently within the last four months and either one of those things, you probably can hold off on that, on this new shot because you have existing immunity. But for others, we'll get those recommendations later today.


MATTINGLY: Sanjay, on a separate topic, the irony was not lost on me. This morning on my way in, as I was preparing for the show, toggling between news apps, emails, social media, and then got to your segment. And I realized season 8 of your podcast, which is exploring the human brain, Episode 1 is about the distracted brain, the so-called distracted brain.

A little bit of a deep introspective moment for me in that moment, but can you explain that for people, what is -- how distracted are our brains?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, can I just say this podcast is, it's so fun. I mean, I get to like collide my worlds of journalism and the brain, which I absolutely love. But I wanted to take on what I'll call the attentive brain, how to make a more attentive brain, if you will.

And it was -- I was really struck by this data that we saw from Professor Gloria Mark, who measures attention spans. How have our attention spans changed over the last several years? And it's pretty extraordinary.

If you go back, I think, 2012 timeframe or so, it was a about two and a half minutes, sorry, 2003 timeframe, two and a half minutes was our average attention span, 2012, 75 seconds, and now 47 seconds. I mean, just think about that.


GUPTA: That is how much time we actually will spend paying attention to something nowadays, and the numbers have been gradually going down. So what I really wanted to focus on is what is happening, and I think, more importantly, what can we do about it.

HARLOW: Do we know what it does very quickly, Sanjay, to your brain?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting because we are given all sorts of different inputs that are changing how fast we have to toggle back and forth in our brain, but also, there's this idea that the types of content that we're given is shortening as well. So, we used to get longer ads --


GUPTA: -- we used to get longer shot sequences, that's changing. Bottom line, according to the professor, is that when you actually get to focus on something for a period of time, you not only get into that focused attention, but there's actually a sense of joy that comes with that, that many of us are missing.

HARLOW: Love that.

GUPTA: Because we just don't get that sustained attention anymore.

HARLOW: See that -- hear that, Phil? Focus.

MATTINGLY: I mean when I got to Sanjay's --


MATTINGLY: -- part, I was focused. We got at least 54 seconds this morning.

HARLOW: There you go. Thank you, Sanjay.

MATTINGLY: Am I working out for me?

HARLOW: I can't wait to listen to it.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Sanjay, appreciate it.

HARLOW: You can find out more about the distracted brain, how to turn it into an attentive one. Listen to Sanjay's Chasing Life podcast wherever you get your podcast.

MATTINGLY: We're getting brand new details about the ongoing manhunt in Pennsylvania. Police say the escape murderer is armed. Reports of violent confrontation with a homeowner. Police will give an update at 9.30 this morning. We're going to bring you that live. Stay with us.