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CNN This Morning

United Auto Workers Launched Historic Strike Against Big 3 Automakers; Tropical Storm Warning Issued as Hurricane Lee Approaches New England Coast; Special counsel indicts Hunter Biden on felony gun charges; CNN Live in Flood-Devastate Libya; Floods in Libya Killed Thousands, Left 10,000 Missing, Displaced 38,000 People. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 06:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN THIS MORNING CO-ANCHOR: So, really a historic morning in America. For the first-time ever, the United Auto Workers Union is on strike against all three of the big U.S. automakers at the same time. This comes as contract negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis are deadlocked, the current contracts expired at midnight. and this is a targeted strike.

So, that means right now, 13,000 auto workers or less than about nine percent of the union are striking. But the union is threatening to expand that strike without notice if their demands are not met. The two sides presenting very different accounts of what has happened in these negotiations. Listen.


JIM FARLEY, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: On August 29th we made our first offer almost two weeks ago to the UAW. We made three offers since then. And we had no genuine counteroffer on any of those. In fact, we were so concerned about the lack of feedback that Bill and I decided to make the last offer this Tuesday personally. And when we walked in the door, we found that Shawn Fain wasn't there.

SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: Let's talk about what good faith is. They've had our economic demands for six weeks. We've told them from day one we expect a bargain now, not wait until the end. They waited until last week. We had to file unfair labor practice charges on two companies to get them to come to the table. So, they waited until the last week to want to get down to business. Shame on them. And what they're saying is complete B.S.


HARLOW: So, what does this mean for you? How does this affect the broader economy? Let's bring in CNN Anchor and Correspondent Rahel Solomon. That's the key question. RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. And the answer will really depend on duration. How long this strike really lasts? So, we heard Phil at the top of the show talk about this estimate of $5.6 billion provided by Anderson, that would be if a 10- day strike. And this includes things like loss pay, the losses to manufacturers, but also suppliers, parts.

HARLOW: Post strike though, all the workers.

SOLOMON: You know, I would have to double check that on their analysis because they actually did this before they announced it was going to be three simultaneous. So, that's a really good point. But another way to think about it Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moodies, I talked to him yesterday, and he said a full strike would be the equivalent of about shaving off 0.2 percent of a percentage point from GDP. He admits that's modest. But meaningful when you think about some of the other headway issues that we're having, right?

So, you think about, for example, student loan repayments starting again. You think about, for example, oil being back above $90 a barrel. There are, sort of, a lot of headwinds happening simultaneously, so meaningful. Now, if it feels like there have been more strikes than usual, it's not just your imagination.

HARLOW: There have.

SOLOMON: There have been in fact. So, I talked to Art Wheaton and I asked him, you know, what's behind this? He runs the Labor Program at Cornell. And he said, there are a few things and it's not just limited to the U.S. So, chief among them, of course, is high inflation rates, just the higher cost of living. But also, it's a really tight labor market. Workers feel like they have the upper hand and so they're making these demands. Also, public support for unions --

HARLOW: It's up, right?

SOLOMON: -- has been steadily increasing. Exactly. And then COVID-19 in the sense of people rethinking their work-life balance and whether they're willing to come into the office and that sort of thing.

HARLOW: One of the key demands here is about a 40 percent wage hike over a number of years. They point to the increase the CEOs these companies have gotten over that many years. But broader picture, where do auto workers in the union wages compared to other U.S. workers?

SOLOMON: It's a great point. So, if you look, this is according to the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so government data, auto workers do actually fall behind the average worker. So, you're looking at $27.99 on average, whereas the average worker is looking at about $33.82. So, you have to also remember that for these auto workers who took the concessions because of the financial issues that some of these automakers were having, you know, this was obviously before inflation. And so, that's impacted it as well.

HARLOW: And the inflation is a key to -- is a key part of this as well. SOLOMON: That's a great point. Yes, exactly.

HARLOW: Thank you, Rahel, very much.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN THIS MORNING CO-ANCHOR: I think the fast -- the numbers are so fascinating and so critical here. And I think people -- we've been talking about this, but people are now starting to key in on why this is such a big deal in this moment.

Well, also this morning, parts of Coastal New England and Eastern Canada are bracing for Hurricane Lee. It's now a category 1 storm and it's expected to lash the coastal areas with powerful winds, heavy rain and high surf conditions.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking this storm. Allison, where do things stand this morning?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. Pretty much the same as they stood last night. We really haven't seen much in the way of changes. Right now, sustained winds are 85 miles per hour. It's moving to the north at 16, but it's a large storm in terms of its size.


Those tropical storms, strength winds extend out from the center about 300 miles on each side.

So, again, you're talking in terms of its size. Producing some pretty big impacts even though it technically probably won't make landfall in the U.S. itself, more likely than not going to make landfall into Atlantic Canada. Again, the track still shows it kind of pushing up in towards more of the Bay of Fundy region of Canada as we head into the weekend. Rain is still going to be a big factor, however though still for portions of the U.S. because of that size. Because it's able to be so large in size in terms of winds, also those outer bands.

So, you are looking at pretty widespread amounts, especially across Maine and New Brunswick, looking at widespread two to four inches. Some spots could pick up five to six. But even areas farther south, say portions of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, also looking at a couple inches of rain. And the key there is that for a lot of those states, the ground is already saturated. So, it's not going to take much to cause additional flooding.

Another concern is going to be the winds. You've got tropical storm warnings up and down for many areas along the coast, that's going to be in combination with those wet, soggy grounds. Potential to bring down some trees and power lines.

MATTINGLY: All right. Allison Chinchar, keep us posted. Everybody definitely watching this heading into the weekend. Thank you.

HARLOW: There is new reaction this morning to the Justice Department's indictment of the president's son, Hunter Biden, including from someone who is facing his own legal troubles.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a sad situation. I mean, nobody should be happy about this.



HARLOW: It's something this country has never seen before. The Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against a child of a sitting president. Special Counsel David Weiss has indicted the president's son, Hunter Biden. This is in connection with the gun he bought in 2018. He is charged with three crimes, two counts for alleged false statements that he made on the form while purchasing that gun. A third count for possessing the gun while they claim addicted to crack cocaine.

MATTINGLY: In this historic indictment comes as congressional Republicans continue to pursue their impeachment inquiry into President Biden. And all of this is happening, of course, at the 2024 election on the horizon. Here's what GOP frontrunner Donald Trump had to say about the indictment.


TRUMP: It's a sad situation. I mean, nobody should be happy about this.


MATTINGLY: As for Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, he also weighed in. Saying, the indictment is, "Smoke screen. Don't fall for it."


Joining us now CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers, CNN Political Commentator and Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush Scott Jennings, and CNN Political Commentator and Attorney Bakari Sellers. Thank you, guys, for joining us on a Friday morning.

Jennifer, I want to start with you. The kind of legal elements of this case, what we have seen from Hunter Biden's defense team, what we've seen in the terms of the discussion in the wake of this indictment. Do you believe that this case would have been charged to somebody else?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, AND LECTURER IN LAW, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: These charges that they've used here are virtually never charged. So, the answer to that is probably no.

MATTINGLY: Why not? RODGERS: Well, it's just very rare. I mean, you do charge prohibited persons possessing guns frequently. We did it at Southern District of New York with convicted felons. But to charge someone who is an addict, it's hard to prove factually. How do you prove they're an addict? What does it mean to be an addict? You're going to put someone on the stand who used drugs with them? Why is that person going to testify? I mean, there are all sorts of factual issues.

And then legally now in the wake of the Supreme Court's Bruen case, these criminal statutes that prohibit certain people from possessing guns are all in question. Courts around the country have been ruling those unconstitutional. So, it's both factual and legal issues. You know, listen, I hope that what's happened here, they ran out of time on the statute of limitations. It was expiring. They didn't up their deal done.

HARLOW: It's up next month.

RODGERS: Yes, but you want to give a little cushion there --

HARLOW: Yes, yes, yes.

RODGERS: -- just in case. So, that's what happened to precipitate this indictment in the moment. And my hope is that they'll now go back to the negotiating table because this case, as we see from what Donald Trump said even has zero jury appeal. They do not want to go to trial on this. Juries will hate this case. A guy who, you know, five years ago when he was an addict, now he's clean and sober, he had a gun for 11 days, never loaded, never used. The jury is not going to like that. So, they should resolve this.

HARLOW: Bakari, politics in a moment, but I think Jennifer brought up something really interesting, and that is that what the Supreme Court did last year in their big guns and Second Amendment case may have changed the whole ball game here because they changed the bar and the standard and, sort of, expanded what the -- how they read the Second Amendment and that could really help Hunter Biden here.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, AUTHOR, "WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?", AND ATTORNEY, STROM LAW FIRM: Yes. I mean, I think that Ms. Rodgers actually articulated well the issues with this case and especially in light of the Supreme Court ruling. The fact is, I actually represented somebody for lying on an application about a year ago. And the difference between that case and Hunter Biden's case is he wasn't because he was an addict, it was because he was out on bond for alleged domestic violence and other things.

And so, that was a different type of issue and he ended up being sentenced and served. It was a plea deal of 18 months. That was a different set of issues than it is with Hunter Biden. I think the problem that Republicans have in trying to lift this up and trying to target Hunter Biden is two things. The first thing is that addiction touches nearly every family in this country. And we know Hunter Biden is an addict. And we know these charges are flimsy. And I think that most Americans will see through that. The second thing to charge this president's son with this bad behavior when you know individuals like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. actually pilfered Washington, D.C., manipulated and grifted their way through D.C. when they were in the White House with no accountability. I think it rubs people the wrong way. So, that's just kind of a -- the playing field of where we are today.

HARLOW: OK. To point a fact, they have not been -- the individuals you just named have had not been charged --

MATTINGLY: Hey, Scott --

HARLOW: -- with crimes.

MATTINGLY: -- the interesting -- obviously, Hunter Biden is directly tied to the impeachment inquiry, which is not about the gun charge but in terms of the ties to his father and what Republicans allege. I was interested in something the former president said last night in the snippet of the interview that was released by NBC about, kind of, the genesis of this impeachment inquiry. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I think had they not done it to me, then I'm very popular in the region, or they like me and I like them, the Republican Party. Perhaps you wouldn't have it being done to them. And this is going to happen with indictments, too. Fake indictments. And I think you're going to see that as time goes by. You're going to see Republicans, when they're in power doing it.


MATTINGLY: Quick correction, that was obviously his interview with Megyn Kelly, there's also an NBC interview as well. But, Scott, to that idea, the idea that this wouldn't have happened if they had not impeached the former president twice when Democrats were in charge, isn't that kind of undercut the whole theory of the case here as to why they're pushing forward on this inquiry?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEROGE W. BUSH, AND LONGTIME FRIEND AND ADVISER TO SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, if you're going to go forward with this -- which by the way, I think they should. This is an impeachment inquiry. They're not impeaching Joe Biden yet. And I'm dubious that they ever will, honestly. But this is, sort of, a souped- up investigation beyond what they've already been doing. And it's an investigation for good reason, I might add.

If you're going to move forward, you have to do it under pen by evidence, by, you know, we turned over every rock. Here are the documents. Here is the narrative. You know, here are the things that prove the narrative that we have. That's how you win the public opinion fight at the conclusion of an investigation.

[06:45:00] Painting a very clear, you know, equation for the American people. A plus B equals C. The way you lose a public opinion fight would be to say, they did it to me. Now, we do it to them. And you know, basically I view politics and government as a mechanism to punish my enemies. That is -- that may thrill some parts of your base. That is not how you're going to win a public opinion fight over this.

So, if that becomes the narrative, that will be a problem for the Republicans. If they choose to go down the path of finding actual information and facts and documents, which I think they have so far, that'll be good for them. But it's really hard for the House Republicans to do that because, as we know, Donald Trump sort of sets the public opinion narrative of the Republican Party whenever he opens his mouth.

HARLOW: Bakari, step back for the week, it's Friday. And the week for this White House and for President Biden has been a week of a union strike they said they didn't think was going to happen. An impeachment inquiry launched, and now an indictment of the president's son, which has never happened in history. The president hasn't said much, but over the past few months here is what he has said about his son Hunter.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government. In rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on.

My son has done nothing wrong. I trust him. I have faith in him. And it impacts my presidency by making me feel proud of him.


HARLOW: Should the White House, should the president say more now after this indictment? And how do they navigate these three big head winds?

SELLERS: You know, I mean, I think that they're saying everything they should. I mean, my daughter was still asleep because she sleeps like a teenager although she's four when I left the house, and my son was awake. And I kissed him and said, daddy is going to work. I mean, we love our children. I mean, that's what we do. And even if you're president of the United States, you never want to see harm come to your children. You never want to see your children go through this process whether or not it's politically induced or not or if your child is an addict.

I deal with these parents and children every single day. You never want to see them go through this. So, you just want to hug them and love them and believe in them. And I think that, you know, above all -- I mean, I think a lot of times in this country we see president of the United States or United States senator and we forget that they're human beings. Even before he's president of the United States, Joe Biden is a husband and a father. And I think he shows that quite often. There's nothing more to say. He's not going to interfere in this investigation. I think that the special counsel did what he was supposed to do knowing there was no deal and the statute of limitations was running. And so, here we are. I think a deal will get worked out. But no, you know, Joe Biden doesn't need to meddle. The only thing he needs to do is continue to wish and pray for the health and mental health of Hunter, and that's all he can do.

HARLOW: Bakari, Scott, Jen, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Well, ahead, CNN is the only U.S. network live on the ground in Libya where our crews are witnessing firsthand just sheer death and devastation from that catastrophic flooding. Stay with us.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It feels like a war zone. It feels like a bomb had gone off here, a big bomb had gone off here. Libyans tell us they're used to war. They're used to death. They're used to loss. But nothing could have prepared them for this.





SADI CHOBAN, DERNA RESIDENT (through translator): Hours before the floods came, the situation seemed manageable with local authorities keeping the flooding under control. However, the rupture of the dam caused a huge problem and resulted in a flooding killing many people. It's a tragedy.


HARLOW: New this morning, the United Nations says most of the thousands of deaths from this catastrophic flooding in Libya could have been avoided with proper warning and evacuation. Just think about that. It didn't need to happen is what they're saying.

Meantime, relief workers are struggling to bring crucial aid to an area stifled by political divisions, also the debris on the ground. Doctors Without Borders say, 5,000 people have been killed. The International Red Cross says, thousands more are missing after a 22- foot wave demolished buildings across the northeast part of that region.

CNN is the only network in the U.S. now live on the ground in Libya. And our journalist Jomana Karadsheh joins us now from the hard-hit area of Derna. Thank you, Jomana, for being there. You have covered so many tragedies, war zones, compare this to those. KARADSHEH: You know, Poppy, our team was just discussing this. We've all covered wars, natural disasters before, but none of us have seen anything like this. I mean, we drove into Derna late last night, and even during nighttime, in the dark, you could still see the destruction. And now, during the day, this is just utter, utter destruction. And it really feels like you're walking through a war zone. Like, massive bombs had gone off here. And this is what people here would tell you.

You know, you've got several cities along the Libyan coast that have been -- that were impacted by Storm Daniel, by the flooding over the weekend. But nothing like this. What people are describing here as this catastrophe. What happened in Derna, of course, as you know, as those two dams that burst. And you have the flood waters that swept through the heart of the city, washing out entire buildings, neighborhoods, homes, infrastructure, families and brought it all down here to the sea, to the Mediterranean.

I mean, this is just -- it's very difficult for us to really move the camera around because of the communication issues, the communications were disrupted in the city, so our connection is not very stable. But looking into the sea, Poppy, what we see here is people's lives in there. You see homes. You see door frames, windows, furniture, clothes, cars, everything. And they are still, right now, searching for dead bodies. Bodies that are still washing up on the shore six days after this tragedy happened.

Right now, Libyan officials are saying about 5,000 people have been killed. There's still 10,000 people unaccounted for. And officials that we have been speaking to say they don't expect to find any more survivors right now. And what you've got here where we are, all these volunteers from different parts of the country who are working, who are trying to assist in this recovery effort, and it is such a tough task. They're telling us they're not equipped to deal with something like this. They don't have the means and capabilities to do this.


One young man I was speaking to just a short time ago just describing how people were just tying ropes to themselves and holding each other as they would dive into the sea and start pulling out body after body. This one young man telling me in one day he pulled 40 bodies just by himself. And right now, the volunteers here are saying, look, they need heavy equipment.


KARADSHEH: You've got cars that are stuck in there. And they don't know how many people are still in there. They're worried that there are people still, dead bodies, of course, in these cars. And they want support. They want help. They want heavy equipment. They want divers. They want diving equipment to try and get -- recover as many bodies as they can. They have had some international support. We have seen some teams here on the ground. The Turks were already out on a rubber boat just a short time ago. You have helicopters in the air. But it is nowhere near enough, Poppy, to deal with this disaster. HARLOW: And Jomana, I know you can't move the camera. The connection is unstable, but just so you know, our viewers are seeing these devastating images as you're reporting for us on the ground. The fact that they need this heavy equipment, things that would normally come largely from the International Community, that is all complicated, is it not, because the government there in Eastern Libya, not recognized?

KARADSHEH: So, this has been a big concern, Poppy, that aid would be slow to come into this part of Libya. The country obviously divided east and west. This is not an internationally recognized government. It has been getting some support from members of the International Community. But again, people are telling us, it is nowhere near enough.

But we've heard from aid organizations saying another major obstacle for getting aid and relief into Derna is the logistics. It is the roads. Trying to get here -- I mean, for us, traveling from Benghazi to Derna, and that's usually a three-hour drive, it took us more than seven-hours last night to get into the city because so many roads and bridges were damaged and destroyed.

But you know, when we talk about the divisions in this country, Poppy, and this is a country that has been bitterly divided. This is a country where city has been fighting city, east as been fighting west for more than a decade now. But what we see, you have so many people from all parts of the country that have come together here to help the people of Derna, the people of Eastern Libya in dealing with this. One woman I spoke to a short time ago saying this catastrophe has united us. And it seems it has, at least for now, Poppy.

HARLOW: Well, I'm so glad you said that because in the worst disasters, it is what can bring out the best in humanity. Jomana, it is invaluable to have you and your team on the ground. Thank you for making the journey. We know you will stay there and keep reporting on this. We appreciate it.

Phil, cars floating in the ocean. Door frames. People being pulled out of the sea, that is what they're dealing with.

MATTINGLY: And I think almost as importantly when you see it, you cannot ignore it. And that's why Jomana being there and showing that is so critical. Pay attention to these things. They matter to people.

Ahead, our breaking news coverage of the historic auto strike, it's going to continue. We're going to speak with the former CEO of Chrysler about what he thinks should and could be done. Stay with us.