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Workers Go on Historic Strike Against All Big 3 Automakers; New England Coast Under Tropical Storm Warning as Hurricane Lee Nears; Hunter Biden Indicted on Gun Charges After Plea Deal Collapsed. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Auto workers are on strike against the big three.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 12,700 members who will be walking out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know how I'm going to survive, but I'm going to do it.

There's a fine line here that we won't go past.

SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: Shame on them. What they're saying is complete B.S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three federal gun charges, it is the first criminal prosecution of a president's child in history.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The prospect remains that this is not the end of these charges for Hunter Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The constitutionality of these charges are very much in doubt.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump will not be on trial in Georgia in October, but two of his co-defendants will be.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: What did I do wrong? I didn't do anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does give him a preview of what the evidence will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big win.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN This Morning. We're glad you're here. PHILI MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That was a packed first hour and there's so much breaking news, including like several things that you and I are both deeply fascinated with because of how important and consequential they are at this moment.

HARLOW: And because you were, before we got lucky enough to have you here, the chief White House correspondent, three huge headwinds this morning for the Biden White House.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it. We're going to get into all of them, but we're starting with the one that is probably the biggest and certainly has the biggest impact on the United States economy and potentially the president's political fortunes.

Breaking news this morning, for the first time in history, auto workers are now striking against all three, big three automakers and all at once. The companies failed to strike a deal with the United Auto Workers Union by midnight. And right now, nearly 13,000 workers have walked off the job at three different plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.

The union's president, Shawn Fain, says even more workers and plants across the nation will join the strike if their demands for higher wages, benefits are not met, since workers aren't getting their fair share of record profits while CEOs have been getting huge raises.


REPORTER: You heard the CEO of Ford say that it would bankrupt them if they met your demands. What do you think of that?

FAIN: I think it's a joke.

They could double our wages and they could not raise the price of vehicles, they would still make billions of dollars. It's a lie, like everything else that comes out of their mouth.

REPORTER: Are more facilities going on strike?

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


HARLOW: I should note we'll be joined, Vanessa, our colleague, is going to talk to the CEO of General Motors ahead in the show, responding to all of what the UAW is saying. But an extended strike could raise car prices, send ripple effects through the U.S. economy. Some analysts say a ten-day full strike, not this targeted strike, full strike, could cost the U.S. economy more than $5 billion.

CNN Business and Politics Correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich, live with us from a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, has this reporting.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Phil and Poppy, day one of this historic auto strike, a strike by the UAW against all three big automakers, taking place in targeted strikes across three different states. We are here at the Ford Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.

So, you have actually people still working inside the facility at different locals, and then you have some folks with locals outside on the picket lines.

I want to bring in Scott Fox. He's been with Ford for over 30 years. You are out here today. This is actually your first strike because Ford has not struck since the 1970s. Your feelings as you're out here this morning.

SCOTT FOX, MEMBER, LOCAL 900: I've got to look out for the people that are coming up behind me right now. We want to keep this place running, and we want to keep Ford still strong, but we need to do what we need to do to keep it that way.

YURKEVICH: There are a list of demands that the union has, that they say the automakers did not meet. What is your top priority that you want to see in this next contract?

FOX: Well, I want to see the two-tier people. I want that to see that abolished, eliminated and/or reduced greatly.

I just don't feel that -- we have a guy right here who was walking in line with me last night, over nighttime. 18 years, it took him 18 years to get the full time.


Ten years, part-time employee, and then it took him eight years to get the full pay. That's just not -- that's not called for it. Yes, I mean, he's been committed here with the company. So, that's my biggest thing, is reducing that tier program that they've got going down.

YURKEVICH: The union is doing a targeted strike approach. I want to know, do you think that's going to be effective in these negotiations?

FOX: Definitely, yes, yes. Because what's going to happen is, if things don't improve in regards to that, we're going to take out maybe a Livonia trans, or we'll take out an engine plant, and by that time, everything else will fall from that point there. But right here is, we're serious. This is what we're doing. We need to get on board.

YURKEVICH: Thank you so much, Scott Fox.

You heard it, there is a strategy in place by the union as this strike unfolds.

Now, in terms of the company's, G.M., Stellantis saying that they are disappointed that they could not reach deals by this midnight deadline, and Ford saying that they received a counter proposal from the union as late as 8:00 P.M. last night, essentially saying if they did not meet their wage demands, that there would be no deal.

So, this strike will continue today at these three facilities across the country. We are expecting to hear from Shawn Fain again in Detroit during a rally at 5:00 P.M. with Bernie Sanders. But in the meantime, you're going to see these shift changes of workers out here on the picket lines in day one of this historic strike. Phil, Poppy?

MATTINGLY: That's Vanessa Yurkevich on the ground. Stay with her, she'll be with us over the course of the next couple of hours, continuing to follow this every step of the way.

But joining us now is former CEO of Chrysler Motors, Bob Nardelli. Bob, I appreciate your time.

I want to start with kind of the components of the negotiations themselves, because we're talking about the politics or what it might mean for the macro economy. But in terms of what the UAE does, you put on the table, you talk about the 40 percent raises over 40 years, restore costs of living, pension, retiree health coverage provisions, four-day workweek, limits of part-time workers, enforced overtime. Obviously, the electric vehicles and that transition has been critical.

Of those elements, what is most problematic for the automaker CEOs at this point?

ROBERT NARDELLI, FORMER CEO, CHRYSLER MOTORS: No. Well, Phil, thank you for having me on this morning. And I agree with everything that you and Poppy (INAUDIBLE). This is very, very unfortunate that it has reached this position. And, again, I think, how did we get here?

And then I'll answer your question is because household income has not been able to keep up with inflation. And inflation is a result of many of the administrative policies that are out there today. Energy is up 40 percent. That happened day one when they surrendered energy independence.

So, if you look at this from a very pragmatic standpoint, household income has to keep up with inflation. They're just trying to make an earning to be able to provide for their families. So, I give them that point.

Some of the other demands are really overreaching. It's possible to go back and put back in place the pension program that was negotiated back in '07, '08 and '09.

And I can tell you that Bill Ford worked tirelessly to save Ford back then. We're all going through the financial meltdown. This is not a case where Ford says, I just want to take care of our workers. Ford lost $6 billion in the last two years with, again, another administrative policy to convert to electric vehicles. This took a $9.2 billion grant to be able to build a battery plant in Michigan. So, that's proved positive with their commitment to their UAW workers.

So, I think some of these demands, 40 hours' pay for 32 hours' work, I understand you've got to put it all on the table and then come together. But this has been a very polarizing negotiation, and, again, historic when all three go out.

The UAW has spent hours tactically deciding how to go on strike. I'm not sure they spent the same amount of time figuring out how to get back to work, Phil. MATTINGLY: So, to that point, you have pointed out over the course of the last several weeks, your close relationship with Shawn Fain's -- the individual who was Shawn Fain at the time during the Great Recession, Ron Gettelfinger was a critical piece of why you guys were able to save the auto industry.

But I guess my question, I think this gets to what you were just saying. This is what Shawn Fain ran on to be the UAW chief. And in large part, his kind of ability to get to this point derives from what happened in 2008 and 2009 and how workers feel about what's transpired since. So, why is anybody surprised by his position here?

NARDELLI: Well, let's go back to that period. There was an awakening under the Obama administration with Larry Summers and Ratner that finally came to grips that even if they let Chrysler go down the tube.


The domino effect on the supplier base would be catastrophic. And that's what we see today. It's about a ten to one ratio. So if the entire 150,000 UAW workers go outfield, that's over a million people whose jobs will be affected in tier one, two, three, four suppliers.

And look at the impact on the dealers. Now, the dealers are going to have to raise prices because they're concerned about inventory and they're trying to build cash to get through this downturn.

MATTINGLY: But I think Shawn Fain and the UAW know all isn't -- that's the point of leverage, though, right? You've been through these negotiations. You came up through the top tiers of the business world. You understand leverage and the point here that Fain and his people are utilizing to get here. They're saying, they're doing that knowing all of that because they want leverage in these negotiations.

NARDELLI: No question they have the leverage right now. I mean, they look over the fence, Phil, and they see UPS 40 percent. The average full term drivers make a $174,000. You look at American Airlines, you look at the dock workers on the West Coast. UAW is just saying, hey, it's my turn, I'm standing in line. And all these other companies have been able to get wage increases for a standard of living for their family.

And so I don't deny the importance of that. But, again, we have to have sound mind coming together. I mean, we could both stay polarized here and basically shut down Ford, shut down Chrysler, I like to call them Chrysler, and General Motors. That's going to have a tremendous impact on already a very fragile economy. That's my concern on the bigger picture, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's a good point. It's why the White House is very concerned and cognizant of this as well. Bob Nardelli, I appreciate your perspective, sir. Thank you.

NARDELLI: Thank you, Phil.

MATTINGLY: And just a reminder in our next hour, we are going to speak -- our Vanessa Yurkevich is going to speak with the CEO of G.M., Mary Barra, for her perspective we've heard a lot from Shawn Fain and the UAW, we will get her perspective in the next hour. Poppy?

HARLOW: It's just really interesting what he said about who has the leverage right now, given all he went through in the middle of the crisis. Great interview, Phil, thank you very much.

Also let's talk about Hurricane Lee, from New England up to Canada, Hurricane Lee on track to bring heavy rain, wind, coastal flooding today and through the weekend. Parts of the East Coast already feeling the storms effects including dangerous surf and rip tide conditions. The governor of Maine has declared a state of emergency. They're requesting some federal assistance to prepare for Lee.

Joining us now, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Michael Brennan. Good morning to you.

We've been watching this all week. And now what are we in store for this weekend, and both in the Northeastern United States and then up into Canada?

MICHAEL BRENNAN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes. Well, I mean, yes, you're right, we've been anticipating this for a while. We're going to start to see those direct impacts start to move into portions of Southeastern New England as early as later this afternoon, this evening and then spread northward up into Maine overnight, tonight and into Saturday.

But the big story with Lee is just it's a large hurricane. The tropical storm force winds extend out over 300 miles from the center. So, even though the center is expected to stay offshore of the coast of Southeastern New England, those tropical storm force winds are going to move into places like Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, as we get later today into tonight and then spread northward along the coast of New England and up into Atlantic Canada overnight tonight and early Saturday.

HARLOW: Looking big picture here, what are your biggest concerns about the storm?

BRENNAN: Well, in terms of wind impacts, you know, this is a little different from a typical nor'easter. There's leaves still on the trees in New England. There are wet soils. So, there's going to be the potential for tree damage, power outages, especially Cape Cod and the islands, especially down East Maine, where we could see some of those stronger wind gusts.

We're also concerned about the potential for coastal flooding of one to three feet above ground level. That's inundation of ocean water moving in over normally dry land all the way from Long Island Sound all the way across the coast of New England up into Maine. So, that could cause some, you know, certainly coastal flooding, road closures and some inconvenience and some potential threat to life in some of these areas where the flooding might occur at the time of high tide and those waters will be a little higher.

HARLOW: And that's why you have the emergency declaration in Maine. Michael, thanks.

BRENNAN: Yes, sure.

MATTINGLY: Well, the president's son has been indicted, but some experts, they say one of the gun chargers against Hunter Biden is already on shaky legal ground. We're going to break down what comes next with CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.

HARLOW: Former President Trump is now weighing in on the indictment as he faces his own, what he said in a new interview.




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


MATTINGLY: Former President Trump weighing in on an extraordinary turn of events in the Hunter Biden case. The president's son was indicted on gun charges on Thursday by Special Counsel David Weiss after the dramatic collapse of his plea deal in court this summer. Now, it marks the first time in U.S. history that the Justice

Department has charged the child of a sitting president.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Elie Honig.

Walk us through this case and why this happened.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, there's a bit of history here, but it's really important to understand the bigger picture. This investigation of Hunter Biden started five years ago in 2018 during the administration of Donald Trump. The person who was running it was the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the district of Delaware, David Weiss.

Now, he investigated for two-plus years during the Trump administration, during which no charges were filed. January 2021, of course, Joe Biden takes office.

Now, ordinarily, the president has the power to and does dismiss all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country. Joe Biden, however, left David Weiss in place to avoid any appearance of interference with this particular case.

Now, fast forward two-plus more years to this past summer. July 2023, DOJ and Hunter Biden go into court and they say, Judge, we have a deal or we think we have a deal.

Now, let's take a second to look at what that original plea deal a couple months ago was. The deal was Hunter Biden was going to plead guilty to two income tax counts, failure to pay during 2017 and '18. Those are misdemeanors. And the deal between the parties was he's going to plead guilty, he's going to get probation, no federal prison time.

There's also this sort of unusual, not unheard of, but unusual firearm charge.


It's technically illegal for an addict to possess a firearm. But the deal was, as long as he complies with certain conditions, we're going to dismiss this charge. He doesn't have to plead guilty to it. The problem was, they didn't have an agreement as to what happens with everything else.

Hunter Biden said, we're covered for everything else. DOJ said, no, you're not. Judge said, you don't have a deal and rejected that.

Which leads us to the next step here, a month later, David Weiss was named special counsel. If you're thinking, gee, that's the same guy as that guy. Yes, they changed his status to special counsel, which gives him some more independence and power. And then yesterday, we saw this new indictment of Hunter Biden.

HARLOW: There are constitutional questions about this, Elie, and this is part of the defense case. Can you walk us through why?

HONIG: For sure. So, the charges that were lodged yesterday against Hunter Biden, the indictment charges him with three counts, all related to that same crime I talked about, possession of a firearm by an addicted person.

There's two related counts because he made false statements in the application. It asks, are you an addict? He checked, no. He was. Those are false statements.

There will be, and Hunter Biden's lawyer has said this, a constitutional challenge to that statute, to that law as a whole.

Now, the Supreme Court has been very broad on the Second Amendment, and certain groups, largely conservatives, have actually been challenging that specific law. They argue it's unconstitutional. It's too vague. And, in fact, one court of appeals, the Fifth Circuit, just last month said this law is unconstitutional.

Now, that's not necessarily binding in Delaware, which is in a different circuit right now, but it could be headed up to the Supreme Court. They have a history of being quite broad when it comes to the Second Amendment.

MATTINGLY: Where does the broader -- now that this is kind of a separate thing from the tax charge, where does it all go from here for Hunter Biden?

HONIG: So, he's charged right now with those gun charges. But it's quite likely, in my view, that DOJ is going to add tax charges. Remember, Hunter Biden was originally supposed to plead guilty to those misdemeanor tax charges.

One thing that's important to know here, we learned this, if you dig deep into the paperwork from the original plea deal, the one that fell apart, Hunter Biden agreed that the amount of taxes he did not pay was $1.199 million to $1.593 million.

That's a good amount of money. I think it's very likely that Hunter Biden does see tax charges sometime soon.

As to what happens next, Hunter Biden can go to trial, of course. That may well land during the 2024 election. It could be that Donald Trump is on trial simultaneously at a different courtroom, or he can try to enter into a plea deal.

His lawyers are trying to revive the old plea deal. They're basically saying, that's still binding. DOJ says, oh, no, it's not. Or he can always enter into a revised plea deal, a new plea deal under new terms, which likely would be harsher for Hunter Biden than the original plea deal.

MATTINGLY: Which of those is most likely at this point?

HONIG: You know, if I had to guess, the vast majority of federal cases well into the high 90 percent does plead out. It's usually in the interest of both parties to minimize risk. We'll see. It will be interesting to see how much is Hunter Biden worried about. I don't want to be a distraction from my father during the election. So, if I had to bet, I would bet on a plea deal, but this also could end up in trial as well.

HARLOW: As Katelyn Polantz, pointed out, Abbe Lowell goes to trial a lot.

HONIG: He does, and he's good at it.

HARLOW: And he's a good trial lawyer. Just don't go anywhere, because we just got more of this interview that NBC's Kristen Welker did with Trump. Here's what he said about the Mar-a-Lago tapes. Listen.


KRISTE WELKER, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I want to ask you about the case related to Mar-a-Lago. A new charge suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn't get into the hands of investigators. Did they do that?

TRUMP: It's false.

WELKER: It's false?

TRUMP: But let me tell you --

WELKER: Did you testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: I'm going to tell you.

WELKER: I'll testify to that under oath.

TRUMP: It's a fake charge by this deranged lunatic prosecutor who lost in the Supreme Court nine to nothing and he tried to destroy lots of lives. He's a lunatic. So, it's a fake charge. But more importantly, the tapes weren't deleted. In other words, there was nothing done to them.


HONIG: Interesting claim by the former president. I'll ignore the deranged lunatic stuff. But if he says he's going to -- willing to testify under oath that he never gave that order to delete the footage, there's only one way to do that. You've got to take the stand. There's no other venue or forum for him to do that.

And taking the stand in any defendant's own defense is rare and very risky. And here, I think it would be completely self-destructive.

I know Donald Trump has been saying he wants to testify. I assure you his lawyers are telling him, please do not do that. We advise you not to do that. It would be extraordinarily dangerous for you to take the stand and try to testify in your own defense.

And, by the way, no defendant has to do that. No defendant has to prove anything. All they have to do is show the government failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

HARLOW: It was fascinating. I think it's a preview of what is probably going to be a pretty fascinating interview that Kristen has with Trump on Sunday. Thank you, Elie.

So, the judge of the Georgia elections of version case shutting down, I should say, District Attorney Fani Willis' effort to try all 19 defendants, including the former president, all together at the same time. So, what does that tell us about the trial dates? That's ahead.

MATTINGLY: And President Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in American history. But how will he navigate UAW's strike against the big three automakers?


It's not even a party. We are live at the White House, next.



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My name is Joe Biden and I'm a car guy.

I intend to be the most pro-union president, being the most pro-union administration in American history.

I'm proud to be the most pro-union president in American history.

I promise you you'd have a union president, and I am because you're the best.


MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, an unprecedented strike against all three big U.S. automakers. And it's something that is clearly a big moment for not just the economic scene, not just what's going on in Michigan with these striking workers and around the country, but also with politics as well. It's something the White House has been closely watching over the course of the last several months and certainly been honed in on in the last several weeks.

I want to go straight to CNN's Arlette Saenz, who's live at the White House. Arlette, the administration has found their way out of so many of these types of moments with other industries, with other unions over the course of the last 2.5 years. What are they saying right now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, just moments ago, a White House official told me President Biden will deliver remarks today on these negotiations between the UAW and those big three auto companies. This will be the first time we are hearing from President Biden since they went on that targeted strike just at midnight last night.

But it comes at a time that the White House had been very closely watching these negotiations and talking with all of the parties involved for several weeks now. President Biden himself placed phone calls in those final hours to the president of the UAW, Shawn Fain, as well as the leaders of the three auto companies that are involved.

They've had their intermediary, Gene Sperling, talking with all of the parties along the way. Of course, what's important to note here is that the White House doesn't have the legal authority to be direct party to the negotiations, but they have been constantly checking in and encouraging these parties to remain at the negotiating table.

Now, one of the focuses for the White House likely heading into today is trying to come up with ways to blunt any economic impact that could arise due to this strike.


You have to think about all of the suppliers that are also working with these auto companies who could be affected.