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CNN This Morning

Workers Go on Historic Strike Against All Big 3 Automakers; Hunter Biden Facing Criminal Charges Over 2018 Gun Purchase; McCarthy Stares Down Another Right-Wing Revolt Over Spending. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 06:00   ET


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Deion Sanders getting angry. I -- I want to go back to the first story, because I mean, what do you think? I was here. I've got the Orioles, I've got the Eagles. These two teams are normally, like, they let me down so hard, both of them this year. It's awesome.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Hey, it's Eagles and Niners in the NFC, unless the Cowboys. You know? You can't count them out after that week one performance.

HUNT: All right, Andy, thanks very much. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning and all week long. Have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kasie Hunt. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Very glad you're with us. It is a Friday, but there is so much news impacting the heartland, especially. A lot of big news to get to.

Let's start with "Five Things to Know" for this Friday, September 15.

Auto workers on strike. Union workers for the United Auto Workers hit the picket lines in three states after their contract expired at midnight.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And Hunter Biden indicted on federal gun charges after his plea deal fell apart. He's facing three charges, including possession of a firearm and making false statements.

Also, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dropping the "F"-bomb while staring down another revolt from inside his own party as the clock ticks down to a potential government shutdown.

HARLOW: Also, CNN is the first American network on the ground in Libya after deadly flooding has left thousands dead. The United Nations says most of those deaths could have been avoided.

MATTINGLY: And we're tracking Hurricane Lee. It's expected to make landfall near Maine this weekend. Starting today, coastal New England is bracing for heavy rain, high winds and flooding.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now. HARLOW: So this is our big headline this morning. We have been talking

about the fact that this may come. The White House did not expect it. But it happened.

Breaking overnight, for the first time in history, auto workers now on strike against not one, not two but all of Detroit's Big Three automakers at the same time after the companies failed to reach a deal with the union by midnight.

More than 12,000 workers have already walked off the job in three targeted strikes at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri. The United Auto Workers union president tells CNN even more plants will join this strike if their demands for better wages and benefits are not met. He says workers have not received their fair share of record profits, while CEOs have gotten huge raises.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You heard the CEO of Ford say that it would bankrupt them if they met your demands. What did you think of that?

SHAWN FAIN, UAW PRESIDENT: I think it's a joke. They could double our wages, and they could not raise the price of vehicles; and they still make billions of dollars. It's a lie, like everything else that comes out of their mouth.

COHEN: Are more facilities going on strike?

FAIN: If they don't -- if they don't take care of our members, they will.


MATTINGLY: The repercussions here are not just between the union and the Big Three automakers. According to analysts, a ten-day strike against those three automakers could cost the U.S. economy more than $5 billion.

We have team coverage this morning on this very consequential breaking news. We're going to talk to a member of the union. Rahel Solomon is with us. She'll break down the economic impact. Arlette Saenz has reaction from the White House.

But we want to start with CNN business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich, who's been covering this every step of the way, live outside the Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan.

Vanessa, you're around the employees. You're around the union workers. What's the feeling among them, now that this is very real?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A historic day for the auto industry. And a historic day for these workers, many of them who did not know if they were going to be on strike today.

But at 12 midnight, the word was given there will be a strike against the Big Three.

We are here outside the Ford Michigan plant in Wayne, Michigan. And I want to bring you into the conversation with Austin Johnson. He has been with Ford for two years now. He's been here since midnight, since the first moment of the strike.

You know what the union is asking for. You know why you are on strike tonight. Do you support that?

AUSTIN JOHNSON, UAW MEMBER, LOCAL 900: Of course. I support everything the union is doing for me. And I'll be out here as long as I have to be. So --

YURKEVICH: One of the big, key components is wages, cost of living. They want to make sure they preserve jobs in the E.V. transition. For you personally, what is the biggest issue you want to see resolved?

JOHNSON: Probably the tier wages, the tier gaps. So I'm a Tier 2 right now. I'd rather have that for me doing the same job as somebody that's making more than me. I would hope to make the same wage as them. So --

YURKEVICH: This is your first strike. You're 21 years old. What do you think about this movement? It's been so strong. The union has been so resilient in their demands. What are your thoughts about what you're going to be seeing?

JOHNSON: I'm just glad we're all here, we're all united; and hopefully, we come to an agreement. So that's it.


YURKEVICH: And you'll be out here how long?

JOHNSON: As long as I have to be. That's it. So --

YURKEVICH: Thank you, Austin.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

YURKEVICH: So guys, listen, from the company's perspective, G.M. and Stellantis saying that they are disappointed by this strike. That they feel that they put historic offers on the table.

Ford saying, even, they put a new proposal on the table as recent as a couple days ago. And they heard back at 8 p.m. last night with a counteroffer from the union, but that offer, according to Ford, was just a slight dip in the 40 percent wages that the union was initially asking for.

Ford, Poppy and Phil, could not meet those demands. And the union apparently made it very clear to the automaker that, unless their demands were met, they were going to strike.

And here we are. Day one of what is expected to be a strike that may go on for a little while, guys. HARLOW: One of the things, Vanessa, I think is so interesting is that

the approach here by the union is to maybe strike at more plants without notice. And the head of the union has said, Look, that is to give us leverage in these negotiations. So it's three plants today. It could be many more in a few days.

YURKEVICH: Yes. This is a strategic plan. This is a targeted plan. The union picked these three plants across these three states, because they are assembly plants.

And they know that if they take down certain plants across the country, that's going to cause a ripple in the supply chain. So these are all ice engine facilities, not E.V. facilities, which we've heard so much about.

But that could escalate. The union using this as a tactic. That if they do not feel like they are moving forward with negotiations, they'll strike more targeted plants, which could have an even greater impact on all three automakers, guys.

HARLOW: Vanessa, we know you've been working around the clock on this story. Thank you. We'll get back to you, soon -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Poppy.

For weeks, the White House, including the administration officials directly to you, Poppy, said this would never happen. They wouldn't get to this point, including Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyomo on this show just four days ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not worried about a strike until it happens. I don't think it's going to happen.

HARLOW: Well, four days from a potential strike, is that still the belief of the Biden administration.

WALLY ADEYOMO, DEPUTY U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: It is the belief of the Biden administration.

HARLOW: No strike?

ADEYOMO: Yes. That's -- that's where the president is.


MATTINGLY: I want to turn now to Arlette Saenz, who's live for us on the North Lawn of the White House. Arlette, there's the kind of public posture and then there's the behind the scenes here, the work that the White House has been trying to do, deputizing Gene Sperling, a top adviser, to try and work on this over the course of now, I believe, several weeks.

Talk to me about what the feeling is inside the West Wing, given both the political and economic repercussions here. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. Well,

certainly, an issue for the White House that they've been watching very closely over the course of the past few months.

And President Biden himself had expressed optimism that this would not end in a strike. But now he is waking up this morning, six hours into a United Auto Workers strike as these negotiations failed to produce a contract.

Now, in the final hours, President Biden was engaging with the parties on this issue. They are not -- the White House was not direct party to the negotiations, but President Biden did hold calls with the United Auto Workers president, Shawn Fain, as well as the leaders of the auto work -- of the auto companies to try to just check in on the status of these negotiations.

You had Gene Sperling, a Michigan native, a top economic adviser to the president, acting as a go-between between these companies and the UAW as these talks were under way.

But one of the focuses right now, while we haven't got a direct reaction from the White House since this strike took place, one of their focuses heading into the day will be trying to see if there's a way to blunt any of the economic impacts of this strike.

Of course, there are concerns about what this could mean for the supply chain, what this could mean for higher prices. And of course, there is the political challenge to the president, as well, who has touted himself as the most pro-union president, someone who is trying to change -- improve conditions for these auto workers and other unions, as well.

So this will all be part of the challenge, the calculus for the president heading forward as a strike continues into the day.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It is a significant issue for the president and his team that they've been working on. They obviously need to do more work. Arlette, stay with us -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. In Toledo, Ohio, nearly 6,000 auto workers off the job this morning at a Stellantis plant. Joining us now, one of them, Mark Kidd, a committeeman and a member of the UAW, Toledo Local 12.

Mark, thank you very much.

Look, you guys said this is going to come if you don't meet our demands. The automakers did not meet your demands. Do you think you're going to be on strike for a while?

MARK KIDD, MEMBER, UAW TOLEDO LOCAL 12: Well, we all hope not, but we're all willing to take it as long as we have to.


HARLOW: What does that mean, "as long as we have to"? Do they have to meet all of the -- KIDD: Well, until we -- until we get a fair contract. That's what

we're all after out here, is making sure we get some of the concessions back that we lost back in 2009.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes, we should -- we should remind people, and Phil, we both covered this a lot -- that back during the, you know, financial crisis of 2009 and the bailouts of the automakers, they gave up a lot of things that now, Mark, you guys are trying to get back. This isn't just about wages going up. This is about a lot of concessions that were made over a decade ago.

KIDD: That's correct. We're talking COLA, pensions; it's across the board.

MATTINGLY: To that point, Mark, the contrast between what the UAW leadership did back then, in an effort to save the companies completely, versus what Shawn Fain, the leader of the UAW, has been doing now, is very striking and, I think, very intentional and comes from that period of time you're talking about.

His leadership, his strategy, what's the feeling about that as this has now become a reality?

KIDD: Oh, the feeling is great. The line was drawn in the sand a long time ago. These companies knew what our intentions were, you know, months ago, if not longer.

You know, this is -- this is the only way we're going to get those things back. The companies came to us -- or came to the UAW back in 2009, and said, look, we ain't going to make it. So the UAW gave in and, you know, gave them all these things on, you know, good faith that someday it would come back. And now, these companies are making, you know, record profits; and we're trying to get back the things that we gave up to help them.

MATTINGLY: And Mark, what's the level of concern over the course of the last several months? The Big Three have been expanding their inventory, to some degree, in preparation for this.

I know you all have an assistance fund that's pretty large that should be able to last for a period of time. But that the automakers are willing to wait you out on this.

KIDD: I don't -- I can't really touch too much on that. You know, here in Toledo, we build the world iconic Jeep Wrangler. It never stops selling. So as long as sales stay up, I don't see them being able to hold out that long. But then again, I'm no expert at that kind of stuff.

HARLOW: Mark Kidd, we're glad you joined us this morning. Please come back as this develops. Thanks again.

KIDD: All right. Will do. Thanks.

HARLOW: So I should note, we're going to be joined by the former CEO of Chrysler, Bob Nardelli. That's coming up next hour. MATTINGLY: Who was there during the auto bailout.

HARLOW: He was.

MATTINGLY: People don't recognize. The genesis of all of this ties back to that. And you can't talk about this without that context.

We're going to continue to follow the strike throughout the course of the morning.

Also, another first, the Justice Department has indicted the child of a sitting president. What are the next steps for Hunter Biden?

MATTINGLY: This and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy staring down another right-wing revolt. What's driving the infighting within the Republican Party? That's next.



MATTINGLY: Well, it is a moment for history. This morning, Hunter Biden has become the first child of a sitting president to be charged by the Justice Department.

That historic indictment comes after his initial plea deal, you'll remember, collapsed when a federal judge raised questions about the details.

Hunter Biden is facing three charges over a gun he bought in 2018, a period when he has said he was addicted to crack cocaine. All together, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now.

And Katelyn, I think the first question now that this has happened, what's next? Could there be more charges at that point?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Phil and Poppy, there is a special counsel overseeing this who is still investigating, as far as we know.

And what happened here in this case, it's been a really long road for Hunter Biden, an investigation that's been going on for five years around him on a number of different fronts, not just what was charged yesterday.

But what was charged yesterday, what he is indicted for, it's three charges around a gun that he bought from a dealer, a Colt revolver, in 2018 in Wilmington, Delaware.

And the charges are about him certifying to that firearms dealer that he was not under the influence of any illegal drugs at the time and he wasn't addicted to any illegal drugs.

Now Hunter Biden has said publicly that he was a drug user around that time.

And so, what the federal government is doing now, what the Justice Department is doing is that they're saying that it was false, the statements that he was making as he was trying to obtain this weapon. And then also, he should not have been in possession of the gun. So gun control laws that they are enforcing on the books here.

Now, that is only a portion of the Hunter Biden investigation. Much of the investigation, for many years, has been around possible tax crimes.

And he had been planning to go through the court system, plead guilty or have some sort of deal with the Justice Department that fell apart just a few weeks ago. And those deals were about both this gun situation, as well as tax crimes.

And so now we are waiting to see what happens next for Hunter Biden. But this now is going to require him to come from California, over to Delaware, and face these charges.

HARLOW: Just sticking on the gun charge for a moment. It was really interesting to hear his defense counsel, Abbe Lowell, on with Erin last night, talking about multiple defenses they're going to put forward.

One has to do with the constitutionality now, even, of bringing a charge like this, which Phil and I are especially fascinated by. How are they going to defend him?

POLANTZ: Yes. It is a fascinating issue in the legal system and politically, on how we interpret the Second Amendment and gun control, and how often these sorts of -- of issues are prosecuted. The -- how much these laws on the books are brought.

And so Abbe Lowell on -- with Erin Burnett last night on CNN, Hunter Biden's defense attorney. Here's what he had to say about all of the different ways they believe they could challenge this case, now that it's been charged.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: There will be three things that people should pay attention to.

First, this charge brought today violates the agreement the government made with Hunter Biden. That was a stand-alone agreement different than this plea.

Second, the constitutionality of these charges are very much in doubt.

And third, if it got past those two -- and we don't think it would -- then if there were ever a trial on the facts, we don't think the facts are as your expert today thought them to be. There will be a defense.



POLANTZ: So Abbe Lowell is a lawyer who goes to trial. He's had a history of success in the past in big cases. He does try cases, not like some lawyers that just make deals sometimes.

But the things that he wants to challenge here is the fact that Hunter Biden seemed to have an agreement before with the Justice Department that went into court, fell apart. He wants to try and make that happen.

And then also, these questions around the Second Amendment that the courts are still looking at.

HARLOW: Yes. It's going to be really fascinating to watch. Thanks, Katelyn.

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent, Arlette Saenz, back with us.

Any reaction from the White House on this? I mean, we've heard the president say in past months, My son did nothing wrong. His son is now indicted this morning.

SAENZ: Yes, well, the White House isn't reacting exactly specifically on the indictment. Instead, they are just referring reporters to the Justice Department, trying to keep this as an independent, or arguing it's an independent investigation that they are not going to weigh in on.

But this is certainly also a personal matter for President Biden. Back in July, he really felt that there was about to be some relief around the corner, as they thought that Hunter Biden was about to wrap up some of the legal sagas that are around him, but then, that was delayed after that plea deal fell apart. And now his son is facing an indictment.

Of course, President Biden is incredibly close with his son Hunter. He had him here at the White House, even as some Democrats privately have expressed concern about keeping Hunter so close amid these investigations.

But this is also coming just two days after President Biden -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he was calling for a formal impeachment inquiry into the president, even though the House committees have not turned up any evidence to show any direct ties between President Biden and his son Hunter Biden's business dealings.

But this could also be a political problem heading -- heading into 2024 for -- for the president, as Republicans continue to try to put these issues regarding Hunter Biden front and center.

MATTINGLY: Arlette Saenz, thank you very much.

I want to turn now from the White House to Capitol Hill, where a dramatic split among House Republicans has all of Congress in a deep freeze. After a fiery three-day return to the Hill from the August recess, House Republicans failed to rally around any government spending bills at all, with just over two weeks before a government shutdown.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he's now facing renewed threats to his Speakership from those within his own party, as House Freedom Caucus Republicans hold up appropriations bills and demand significant cuts. Cuts dramatically outside an agreement already reached between Speaker McCarthy and President Biden.

McCarthy admitting he's, quote, "not quite sure what they want" as Freedom Caucus members continue to threaten to oust him, holding hostage government appropriations.

And all as a defense spending bill, traditionally the lowest-hanging fruit in the chamber's spending process, couldn't even get to the House floor this week before Republican leaders had to pull it.

To be clear, these are not bipartisan bills that would lead to an actual outcome. This was the bare minimum for a majority that they should be able to pass. Not so much.

Now, McCarthy says he plans to push forward with a short-term stopgap spending bill to prevent a shutdown, despite those Freedom Caucus threats, reportedly daring his far-right colleagues to, quote, "move the 'F'-ing motion."

The key contrast is across the Capitol building, where bipartisan appropriations leaders have shepherded a steady effort to do their work. This week alone, they advanced a three-bill spending package with huge bipartisan votes twice.

Now, that's now hung up in procedural issues, but it has been a dramatically different approach.

CNN's Lauren Fox has been working behind the scenes, covering all this drama over the course of the last week and, to some degree, years.

Lauren, there have been meetings behind closed doors between House Republicans trying to figure out a path forward. What are they considering and is that going to work?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. It's a moving target for all of the reasons that you just outlined.

You know, multiple sources that I talked to yesterday were clear that there are some conversations happening between different factions of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives to try to find any consensus on any spending bill, to try to move the process forward.

Now, what they were eyeing -- and it is a moving target once again -- yesterday was a short-term C.R. that included some spending cuts, as well as increased border security.

The idea was that the Main Street Caucus, which is full of a number of Republicans who come from different parts of the Republican Party, was trying to negotiate with the House Freedom Caucus, obviously, some of the most hard-lined members of the Republican Party. And they were trying to find some consensus, keeping leaders in the loop as to what their negotiations were producing.

But they didn't come up with any result as of this moment. And that just gives you a sense of the struggle ahead.

And as you noted, this is a fight over trying to find consensus among Republicans in the House. In order to find an ultimate solution, in order to avert a government shutdown, you're going to need a solution with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.


So there are so many moving pieces right now, Phil. And so many members that I talked to ,on both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle yesterday, said they are getting more and more concerned that a shutdown may almost be unavoidable if negotiations keep going in this direction -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Lauren, that's such important reporting. You and I have covered these issues on -- in the Capitol for so many years. This is different. But I don't think I've ever seen anything like this. We were talking about it this morning. This is definitely different. Means you're going to be busy the next couple of weeks.

Lauren Fox, thank you.

HARLOW: Also, we have a lot of new developments this morning in several legal cases against former President Trump.

First, in the Georgia election subversion case, the Fulton County judge overseeing it said prosecutors cannot try all 19 defendants together. That means Trump will not be tried next month with two of his lawyers, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro; likely wouldn't face trial, then, until next year.

And then moving to the civil fraud case right here in New York, this is a case brought against Trump, his children and the Trump Organization by the attorney general of New York, Letitia James. A judge has agreed to an emergency request by Trump's lawyers to put that trial temporarily on hold. And that really raises questions about whether it will begin next month as planned.

And then new overnight on the federal level, in that federal election interference case, Special Counsel Jack Smith argued against Trump's request that the judge, Tanya Chutkan, recuse herself. He's saying that Trump had taken her comments in the Capitol rioter cases, quote, "out of context" in order to manufacture allegations of bias.

And also -- this is really interesting -- new overnight, NBC News asked Trump if he had considered pardoning himself in any of the federal cases. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, if you were re-elected, would you pardon yourself?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could have pardoned myself. Do you know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could have pardoned myself when I left. People said, Would you like to pardon yourself?

I had a couple of attorneys that said you can do it if you want. I had some people that said it would look bad if you do, because I think it would look terrible.

Let me just tell you, I said the last thing I'd ever do is give myself a pardon.


HARLOW: A presidential self-pardon is untested legally. Experts very divided on its constitutionality -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Well, we're now, Poppy, six hours into the United Auto Worker union's historic strike against all three of the Big Three automakers. Rahel Solomon is standing by with how this could impact the economy and you at home.

And right now, tropical storm warnings are in effect for New England as Hurricane Lee creeps toward the East Coast. Our weather team has the latest on this system. That's next. Stay with us.