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CNN This Morning

Soon, House GOP to Meet and Plot Impeachment Inquiry; Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) Won't Seek Re-Election, Blasts Trump Wing of GOP; Tech CEOs, Civil Rights Leaders Talk A.I. Regulation With Senators. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 07:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Adam Ruben, we appreciate your time. Thank you.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president still have support among the people who got him to the White House in the first place?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): President Biden said he was a transitional figure for the next generation. Well, time to transition.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): A transitional president, and that is what he is doing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden responding for the first time to speaker McCarthy's impeachment inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many of us that thought the evidence was so overwhelming.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They have had nine months of collecting information. They have nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something out of a Hollywood movie, they used heat-seeking technology to find him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That K-9, Yoda, was able to get into these woods right here.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I can assure you he will not escape while he is in our custody.


HARLOW: Good morning, we're so glad that you are with us. It's the top of the hour, a lot going on, and the government is still open for 16 more days.

MATTINGLY: 16 more days, just plenty of time. They have had nothing in terms of actually moving forward on a potential deal. In fact, the House failed on its single appropriations bill yesterday. So, everything is going great.

And also the House is following impeachment, which seems to be more of a priority for House Republicans at this point.

In just over an hour, the House Republican conference is set to meet behind doors to plot their impeachment inquiry of President Biden. Speaker Kevin McCarthy is forging ahead even though time, as we noted, is quickly running out to prevent a government shutdown. Some skeptical Republicans, they are pointing out there is a lack of evidence directly against Biden.

The president, well, he appears to be brushing it off. He's set to give a speech about the economy today. Reporters tried to ask him about impeachment yesterday. This is what he said.


REPORTER: Mr. President, response to impeachment inquiry? Response for impeachment?


HARLOW: So a lot of questions, no response. But last night at a fundraiser, President Biden did say this to supporters, it was off camera, but he said, quote, I get up every day not focused on impeachment, I have got a job do. He went on to say, I don't know quite why, but they, meaning, Republicans, just knew they wanted to impeach me.

Now, best I can tell, they want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government. So, that's the president's take.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney is blasting what he calls, quote, the Trump wing of the Republican Party after he announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election. He was the only Republican senator, you will remember, to vote to convict Donald Trump in both of his impeachment trials. He says there does not appear to be a case against Biden on impeachment. Listen.


ROMNEY: Well, there's no question but the Republican Party today is in the shadow of Donald Trump. He is the leader of the greatest portion of the Republican Party.

Look, I represent a small wing of the party. If you will, I call it the wise wing of the Republican Party.

My wing of the party talks about policy and about issues that will make a difference to the lives of the American people. The Trump wing of the party talks about resentments of various kind and getting even and settling scores.


MATTINGLY: So, obviously, Senator Mitt Romney has never been secretive about his feelings about former President Trump. But if you take yesterday between the impeachment inquiry, Romney deciding to leave after this term in office and the government shutdown, which is still very looming, you actually need to step back a little bit and you get a sense of the real dynamic that is now playing out in a very acute manner and it's going to drive not just politics in Washington but the entire country over the course of the next 14 months.

So, here is 2024 in a nutshell. Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender, leading by 40 or 50 points, Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, the two talk often, the two coordinate often, and the two discussed impeachment along with others in the Republican conference of President Biden.

Also running for re-election. So far, doesn't seem to have any real Democratic challenges, and despite the calls for some columnists, clearly not planning on stepping aside anytime soon.

There's the campaign. Here is how people feel about it right now. Even though Biden won by about 7 million votes or more in 2020, right now, in the latest CNN poll within the margin of error, very, very tight. How do people feel about the candidates themselves? The approval, apathetic would be a good way, 35 percent for Trump, 36 percent for Biden.

So, where is Kevin McCarthy right now? Where is the House? Well, they are driving toward impeachment. They're driving, to some degree, towards a chaos driven by former President Trump and something that many Republicans inside the conference don't actually want to go toward, all as a government shutdown looms.

As for Biden, not really addressing any of it at all, chaos at least. He's continuing to do what he always does, yesterday, having a cabinet meeting on cancer research and cancer funding, drive towards that issue, two very different approaches.

As for Trump, well, he put on his social media yesterday, if you owned a McDonald's or even a much smaller less complex operation, would you hire crooked Joe Biden to run it?

There is the contrast. It is a very clear contrast and it will be demonstrated again today.


According to Anita Dunn, senior adviser for the president, his remarks today framed as a major economic speech, the president will be deliver that economic address laying out the next chapter Bidenomics versus MAGAnomics contrast, what's at stake for the American people and debates about the federal budget.

As for where the federal budget stands, well, House Freedom Caucus is driving McCarthy, who has launched that impeachment inquiry largely because members of the House Freedom Caucus want to impeach the president, not to sign on to a stop gap agreement, even though Republicans and Democrats know that is the only way out of a shutdown that looms just 16 days away.

Where is the White House on that issue? Well, Shalanda Young, the OMB director, earlier this week noted a key point here. Speaker McCarthy and President Biden struck an agreement, a bipartisan budget agreement, that was supposed to forestall any type of shutdown. In fact, it would actually result in deficit reduction.

That's where the White House is. That's, frankly, where Senate Republicans are as well. Speaker McCarthy, not exactly the case.

So, what are house Republicans doing? Well, they had a major appropriations bill that was supposed to move yesterday, the defense funding bill. Instead, if you were on the House television system, you saw this, kind of the equivalent of the blue screen of death. The House is in recess because they couldn't wrangled the votes to pass their own defense appropriations bill that wasn't ever going to move forward on a bipartisan basis anyway, which you need because Democrats control the Senate and the White House. They ended up having to pull it.

Again, to some degree, chaos versus keeping heads down and moving. That is the distinction, that is the split screen and it is a split screen, to some degree, that Romney also demonstrated yesterday when he announced his retirement. Trump immediately attacked him saying, fantastic news for America, also congratulated America because Romney was retiring. As for Biden, didn't say anything publicly. Quietly, he called Romney, I'm told, behind the scenes, and said, thank you for your service, talked about a little bit about his decision, never talked about it publicly. That is the contrast and yet this is what Romney said yesterday. Take a listen.


ROMNEY: I think it would be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective party pick someone in the next generation. President Trump -- excuse me, President Biden, when he was running, said he was a transitional figure to the next generation. Well, time to transition.


MATTINGLY: And, Poppy, to some degree, when you listen to Romney, he spoke to Biden privately and I think made clear that he would prefer Biden if he was forced into that situation, and yet he still wants him to leave. This is the reality right now. It's chaos on one side. It is Biden's kind of head-down, do governance that will work on the other side, and it's Romney saying, I really just like anybody else.

HARLOW: Yes, how interesting reporting too that they talked, yes. Phil, thank you.

This morning, Biden campaign aides are terrified of the very real prospect that he could lose in a highly likely Trump/Biden rematch. A new CNN report says the fear is palpable among campaign operatives and throughout the Democratic Party and the concerns go beyond complaints about Biden's age and mental capacity. It is that many voters are expressing indifference toward him in general.

And now they are worried one mistake could enable a candidate they see as a singular threat to American democracy. We know all of this because of fascinating reporting from our colleague, Isaac Dovere, and he joins us now.

This is really interesting, terrified. I was looking back at your reporting. That is the word they are using?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: They are really scared of what it would be if Donald Trump would return to the White House. They are looking at the polls that everybody is looking at, seeing that this is a likely rematch that is coming. And it is going to be a close election in most people's minds. That means anything could go wrong here that could deliver the election to Donald Trump or also, of course, re-elect Joe Biden.

But when I spoke with people, they were pointing to things like focus groups that were -- I referred to in the article in a really Democratic district, which people are saying things like, when they're asked about Joe Biden, I feel indifferent, honestly. The only thing that I know is that I don't like the other guy.

And so that is really driving a lot of the thinking about what this is going to have to be. Can they get the enthusiasm up for Joe Biden? Maybe. But can they get it up when they compare him to Donald Trump and to what they see as a full MAGA takeover of the Republican Party? That is the question that the Biden folks are looking at here.

MATTINGLY: Isaac, one of the things I've been fascinated by for several months is kind of the idea that, behind the scenes, they are building between their data operation and kind of their voter identification, almost their chase program, how to figure out what voters actually want to see to be reached, if I'm putting that in -- and it is hard because it changed dramatically.

And you talked to Rob Flaherty. He's one of their top data and digital people about this issue. Do they think that they have figured it out?

DOVERE: They think that they are in the process of trying to figure it out. Look, this is a really weird situation. Think about how much media has changed, how much technology has changed, how much politics have changed since 2016, which is the last time we had a presidential election that wasn't defined by COVID and Zoom and car rallies and all that stuff.


This is a really different environment.

And the Biden campaign, what they're saying is, look, don't expect to see Joe Biden out on the campaign trail that much in between now and next spring. But what you should think is going on is that they're digging in a lot, doing a lot of testing, going through the kind of data mining that is just -- was not possible before and with the access to voter information on a scale that Democrats have never actually had.

HARLOW: Yes. Isaac Dovere, thanks, really fascinating insight into what's going on in real time.

DOVERE: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: And joining us now to discuss, writer of the Very Serious newsletter and host of the Very Serious podcast, he is very serious, he's Josh Barro, CNN Political Commentator, former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin and former 2020 Presidential Candidate, new author -- well, multi-time author, but he has a new book, Andrew Yang is back with us, which I appreciate you sticking around very much.

Josh, I want to start with you, because I feel like part of the -- my theory of the case of what I was trying to lay out of the last ten days is something that you've been talking about in terms of how Biden operates, why he operates and why that's both effective and is difficult to resonate with the public, I don't know, for two-plus years.

JOSH BARRO, WROTER, VERY SERIOUS NEWSLETTER: Yes. No, I mean, I think that Biden has been a successful operator with Congress in ways that are often not very public. And I think we'll see. I mean, when we had the fight over the debt limit earlier this year, I and I think many other people were surprised by how cleanly that was resolved.

Biden had good success working together with House Republican Shalanda Young, who you quoted there, had managed to negotiate this deal with Kevin McCarthy that averted what a lot of people expected was going to be a serious crisis with non-payment on U.S. bonds. And so we have two more weeks left, and we'll see exactly what happens there with Kevin McCarthy.

In the conference earlier this week, Kevin McCarthy basically said to his members, well, you don't want to pass our own appropriations bills and we don't want to pass an omnibus and you don't want to pass continuing resolution. So, what are we doing here? And he's basically laying out there that the only option left there is a shutdown. But if they don't have their own agenda to put forward, it's basically a question of do they want to fund the government -- do they want to agree to an omnibus that the Senate will ultimately write up before a shutdown or after a shutdown?

McCarthy in the past has successfully gotten the party not to walk down that sort of blind alley specifically on federal spending. So, we'll see if that will happen here. But, you know, Biden going on T.V. and making a bunch of speeches I don't think is likely to move that forward.

HARLOW: Switching topics here, Alyssa, Anderson did a really illuminating interview, as he often does, with Nancy Pelosi yesterday. This part was so striking. He asked her multiple times about Vice President Harris. I want people to listen to that.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is Vice President Kamala Harris the best running mate for this president?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He thinks so, and that's what matters.

COOPER: Do you think she is the best running mate, though?

PELOSI: She's the vice president of the United States. Some people to say to me, well, why isn't she doing this or that? I said, because she's the vice president. That's the job description.


HARLOW: In his column this week, David Ignatius cited her as a real sort of albatross around, not his words, but around the neck of the president that's making it harder for Biden this time around. And then Nancy Pelosi doesn't give a definitive yes. She complimented her a lot on how she's doing the job, but she didn't say yes when given two opportunities.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, the vice president has consistently lagged the president in terms of approval rating. And as a vice president, having worked for one, Mike Pence, your job is basically do no harm, show up, don't kind of, you know, steal too much of the spotlight, but be a consistent force and frankly outperform the person behind you.

And this is of course the old -- Joe Biden would be the oldest president in history if you were to win again in 2024. So, it puts even more pressure on the vice presidency. So, when it's someone who's already -- people are kind of saying, so what are her outstanding accomplishments that she's done in her time in office? She's consistently had lower approval rating. Is she the best person to take over?

HARLOW: Why? This is your -- the communications expert. I'm really interested in why she's getting so much criticism. And is it warranted?

GRIFFIN: I think that the White House hasn't necessarily set her up well. So, the border, if they weren't planning to address it in a major way, do not make her your border czar. She met with some of the Northern Triangle countries, but nothing has effectively changed with the border crisis.

HARLOW: The numbers got a lot --

GRIFFIN: The numbers got better after Title 42. But then I think also she's not really given a bunch of major policy speeches. They've tried to put her forward on abortion more. I think that's wise. I think with women, that's something that she could be utilized in. But the reality is --

HARLOW: She went to Tennessee, for example. She's been outspoken --

GRIFFIN: I think she -- I don't think she's been set up for success, but I also think that some of this is just frankly something she's failed to succeed in.

MATTINGLY: Andrew, and I'm not intentionally trying to go after Josh when I say this because I'm not putting him in this category, but like I want to be completely candid. The idea of replacing Kamala Harris on the ticket is like a fever dream of like Washington salons of people who aren't connected to any type of reality, which is not what you were saying. But I do want to get you.

BARRO: Okay.

MATTINGLY: You had a partner? No. I'm saying the reality of it.


HARLOW: He does it to me every day.

MATTINGLY: That's not true. But I want to ask you, like the idea of that, that the kind of anxiety within the Democratic Party about everything, which is necessarily abnormal for Democrats, but at this moment, what's your read on why there's discontent?

ANDREW YANG, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's because 73 percent of Americans are nervous about Joe Biden's advancing age and there is a low level of confidence in Kamala Harris as his successor.


YANG: Well, in large part, because they're not actually listening to voters, honestly. It's one reason why if you had a Democratic primary, then if Joe prevails, then all is well, and everyone says, hey, we're going with Joe again. But the fact that they've completely shut down that process and told people that we're considering running for president, hey, don't run against Joe to keep your place in the party, it's raising the anxiety level, in my opinion, for a good reason.

And I agree with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney said, look, it's time for us to step aside for the next generation. Tens of millions of Americans feel the same way about both Joe Biden and Trump. And I understand they're kind of locked in this death match, but having a president who literally named himself a transitional figure, running at the age of 81, 82 is not when most Americans want.

MATTINGLY: I do -- just real quick, I have to ask Josh, since I'm genuinely not intending to (INAUDIBLE) --

BARRO: Since you hated my column?

MATTINGLY: No, I understood the column. It's the what you're writing versus what the reality is, which I think you're very cognizant of and acknowledge. But Josh's column is Biden should pick a new running mate in 2024. But explain the rationale and what you actually kind of go through here.

BARRO: Well, one of the key reasons that Biden has to run for reelection is that Kamala Harris is so weak. Democrats look and they imagine what would happen if Biden stepped aside, Kamala Harris would be the frontrunner. Her polling is consistently worse than Biden's and head-to-head matchups where Biden is typically tied. Harris trails by four points. A four-point shift in the election outcome obviously is enormous. It means the difference between winning and losing in the last three elections.

And so Democrats, you know, for all Joe Biden's weaknesses, they're clearly much better off with him at the top of the ticket than with her at the top of the ticket. And it reflects that was a mistake to ever put her on the presidential ticket in the first place. She never had a job where she needed to appeal to swing voters. She came up as an elected official in Florida. She actually managed to almost lose a statewide election in Florida to a Republican, which is not very impressive for a Democrat. In 2010, she was elected by one point as state attorney general. But the way she got nominated is -- in California, yes.

And the way that she got nominated, she's been very good at playing a Democratic Party inside game, where she's popular with staffers and with big donors. She's sort of, you know, if you're an extremely partisan Democrat, she's probably the kind of Democrat who appeals to you. The problem is that that's not a good way to win a presidential election.

And so Biden, because he is a transitional figure, because he's going to be so old, and there's -- he will probably serve out a second term if re-elected, but there's a decent chance that he wouldn't, the Democratic Party needs someone who's ready to pick up and lead the party, and that's clearly not Kamala Harris, given where her polling is. If you have someone like Gretchen Whitmer, who's won two elections in Michigan by 9 points and 11 points, who's built a state party there that has taken over the state legislature, I mean, that's the sort of figure that you want to be leading the Democratic Party forward, someone who can win a majority.

YANG: I just want to say, I think they should have a vice presidential primary if they don't have a presidential primary, you know. Just let everyone say, look, I will be the successor and I'm legitimately, you know, like anointed by the people.

GRIFFIN: Again, something that will never happen, but, yes, I agree.

Listen, I think David Ignatius highlighted so well, I've been saying this for many months ,is one of the most effective cases the Biden administration made, and they made it in the midterms, was Donald Trump and extremists, Republicans are a threat to democracy. But you cannot say the republic is hanging in the balance, but we are going to run somebody who is pulling neck and neck with Joe Biden or a vice president who is -- I'm sorry, neck and neck with Donald Trump or a vice president who is pulling even lower against Donald Trump.

That's where there's a disconnect and I think there needs to be a reality check within the Democratic Party. If you're actually going to argue this is about saving the country, then you have to put up someone who can actually win.

MATTINGLY: And yet --

GRIFFIN: Here we are.

Now, this is it. And I think that's the part of the theory of the case -- I know we got to go -- is that those people will come home. Like that argument will land again when people start to really --

GRIFFIN: To gamble.

MATTINGLY: And I think that was what Isaac's reporting got at, right? Like they understand the stakes here and the reality and there's not really in that at this point. All right, guys, that was a great conversation. Thank you, guys.

HARLOW: The biggest names in tech converging yesterday on Capitol Hill meeting with senators about artificial intelligence and a stark warning from Elon Musk.

MATTINGLY: And as Washington faces another potential government shutdown, two senators are pushing legislation to end shutdowns all together. They're going to both join us live.

Stay with us.




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I asked everyone in the room, is -- does -- is government needed to play a role in regulating A.I., and every single person raised their hands, even though they had diverse views.


HARLOW: Senate lawmakers met in a closed forum with tech leaders yesterday to discuss concerns and opportunity from artificial intelligence major players in tech were there, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and many others, also leaders of several civil rights and labor groups, also the head of the teachers union, they were there, as lawmakers consider how to craft guardrails for A.I.

One of the forms participants of president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Maya Wiley, told the group to make sure that it is quote a fully democratic process, and they, quote, any action protects consumers and people at the front end, not just try to fix it after they've been harmed.

I'm happy to be joined by Maya Wiley this morning. Great to be there. Great to be here, glad you were there. What did you hear in the room because this is how tech leaders described it? Here's Elon Musk. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELON MUSK, LEADS TESLA, SPACEX AND X: I think something good will come of this. I think this meeting may go down in history as being very important for the future of civilization.


HARLOW: Google CEO said it was, quote, very productive. Sam Altman, who runs Open A.I., of course, he created ChatGPT, says everyone shares the same incentives of getting it right. What was it like in the room?

MAYA WILEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Well first of all I do want to applaud the gang of four, as we've been lovingly calling these bipartisan senators getting together under Majority Leader Schumer's leadership, and it was really important to be able to have this kind of conversation. I want to say that say that upfront.


And I think there is a lot of sentiment and agreement. The Senate majority leader is completely right, everyone raised their hand when he asked about regulation.

I think the question is, and this was very interesting in the room, and I have to say it was, you know, one of the issues where we saw a real power differential in the room between those of us focused on people and companies focused on competition, which is, what does it mean to say regulation and what are we regulating for?

So, for example, Elon Musk, you know, certainly was the one who went out there and said, look, basically, don't worry about self-driving cars. That's not the issue, the safety issue. You know, worry about the end of civilization.

Well, you know, okay, none of us want to live in Terminator world. This is the person who has 42,000 satellites up in space. I mean, but the question became, all right, but, you know, we had one academic in the room, Professor Deborah Raji, who said, yes, and actually called that out and said, well, actually, there really are very serious concerns about what A.I. does when it comes to hurting people. And that does include self-driving cars. And we need to make sure we're regulating, so there's safety there.

I think that's a really important kind of conversation, but we need more of that kind of conversation with the public.

HARLOW: It's -- with the public. It's really interesting you say that. And it's really interesting you talk about this power differential in the room between the sort of billionaire business leaders and folks like you guys who are raising your hands on this stuff. Also, by the way, bipartisan senator criticism of this, right? Senator Blumenthal talking about we already got a framework legislation out there to regulate A.I. He said this form is not created to produce legislation, Josh Hawley calling it a giant cocktail party. Are they right? And should this have been in front of the American people?

WILEY: Well, you know, first of all, I think this conversation is and is going to continue to be in front of the American people, and it is thanks to senators, like Senator Blumenthal and Senator Hawley. I don't think we ever thought we would put those two names together, and that's an incredibly important thing to recognize that there really is a bipartisan opportunity here and particularly when we're starting from a place where whether you're the civil rights community or the tech sector, there's agreement that there has to be regulation.

I mean, the question is what. And I think there's going to be legislation, there's going to be a way to enable this. You know, we have at the Leadership Conference created the center on civil rights and technology in order to have more of these conversations and enable and create more public dialogue and public education. That's a must.

HARLOW: Can I ask you this? There was a big problem with facial recognition technology a few years ago because it was mainly created by white men. Having diverse voices in the room and creating this technology and regulating it, can you speak to why that is so important for the future?

WILEY: Yes. Look, this is so critical and this is part of what we were saying in the room, but where there's a real power differential in terms of understanding what this really means for real people, not as much on facial recognition. I think there's so much research out there. Tech firms would agree with that.

But that when we're talking about artificial intelligence, we're talking about these models built on data, data that is scraped from an unequal discriminatory society, whether you're women, whether you're people with disabilities, but people of color, facial recognition is one of the really obvious high risks, but also where you get the data from.

We're seeing that, for example, people of color, when we get facial recognition, it's coming through law enforcement. Oftentimes when we have people stopped and then biometrics taken, if they're arrested, even if they're never, ever charged with a crime, but that means you show up in the data in a particular kind of way.

And one of the elephants in the room in the discussion yesterday was that the European Union has been taking the lead on protecting consumers, protecting privacy, mandating transparency, trying to protect startups that will provide more competition for big tech companies, but saying it all has to be done, preventing risk, particularly to marginalized communities, like facial recognition.

And many of the people in that room who were saying, we agree with regulation, we're also kind of saying, but don't do E.U., the European Union, when we have the opportunity as the west, globally, to come together and say, we're going to set the standard for the world that says we're going to put people first and ensure that technology serves people, not profit. HARLOW: And with GDPR, just one example of where Europe led on this through social media, the companies have also shown, takes a lot of work, it's expensive, but they can comply with it if governments mandate it. Maya Wiley, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, thank you very much.


Illuminating to hear about what it was like in the room. I appreciate it.

WILEY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks.

WILEY: A pleasure to be with you.