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Biden Facing Growing List Of Challenges: Auto Strike, Impeachment Inquiry; Hunter Biden Indicted On 3 Federal Gun Charges; General Motors CEO Mary Barra Joins CNN This Morning. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 08:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: And we didn't think any wrong doing that was ever shown that they just really attacked her with it and utilized it and that's when the email stuff came up.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That has the power of repeating a message again and again. But what's really promising is the numbers. If you look at public opinion around this, there still is a split about whether Americans think Joe Biden actually did something wrong. And of course, it divides along partisan lines. So a people are looking at 66 percent of Republicans who think that Joe Biden did something related to Hunter Biden's business dealings, 7 percent of Democrats, and there is no actual evidence that Joe Biden had anything to do with Hunter's business dealings just yet.

So with everything that is happening, there is a risk that a perception builds that this is just an attack, right, that there is nothing legitimate here. And so I think that can actually work in President Biden's favor. But the other side of this is, is the concern around his age, right. Although people are making this out to be something about Joe Biden, the American public is concerned about this across the board. And so Joe Biden can always point to his record of achievement. And so the people who support him in that I think will be able to sort of lean on that versus the age as they try to make decisions next year.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota disagrees that this is not an issue for the American people. I just want to play what he said yesterday.

We have that, guy's? Dean Phillips. OK. Here.


REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): Numbers don't lie. I think we have some pundits that are I know how people feel. The numbers reflect that. I know, a lot of colleagues feel. And this is existential, I believe, for democracy.


ALFORD: It's almost as if he took a shot at me.

HARLOW: He was not taking a shot at Natasha or Errol.

MATTINGLY: -- Pundit --

ALFORD: No, the --

HARLOW: This isn't new for Dean Phillips, Errol, he's been saying this for a while now. And he says it's existential. And we need to say he's saying Democrats hate to say the quiet part out loud.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think we're all going to have to, as a sort of political discussion class, acknowledge that most people are not paying attention to a lot of this. And that, in that kind of an environment, simply repeating over and over again, Biden crime family. Hunter's laptop, just saying it over and over and over again, starts to acquire sort of political meaning, right. And then we all have to make a decision.

Are we going to now based on the strategic planting of those kinds of -- of propaganda seeds, are we going to now base policy on that? Are we going to build a national election around those issues? I think overall, people have enough sense or should have enough sense to understand that the issues confronting the country are so much more important than that. That those kinds of political cheap tricks cannot be how we frame this discussion for the -- for the -- for the nation, as we go into a really important election.


ELLIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Errol made such an interesting point earlier, when he said talked about the idea of a rough equivalence between what's happening to Donald Trump in terms of his pending criminal indictments and Joe Biden, I think that's perfect way to say it, because, look, Donald Trump has much bigger problems than Joe Biden has. But you can see these things being built perhaps bootstrapped, maybe out of something maybe out of nothing.

But Joe Biden's now got a pending impeachment inquiry. He's got his son is indicted. And Let's also not forget, there's a special counsels still out. Robert Herr, the Forgotten Special Counsel looking at Joe Biden's handling of classified documents that, we've heard nothing from Robert Herr's shop. He's been at this now for eight months, which is almost twice the amount of time it took DOJ to investigate and close out the Mike Pence inquiry. So we don't know what's going to come out of that. But Biden does have, I think, a much less serious set of problems. But enough perhaps someone can say rough equivalency.

ALFORD: When people hear about that gun charge, though -- Like when they actually hear the story about it. I'm thinking of everyday Americans where we've just been talking about, the health impact of addiction and drug addiction. Someone having an addiction, getting a gun, they lie on a form, they throw away the gun, they barely have the gun for a long time.

HONIG: 11 days. ALFORD: How does that equate to someone overthrowing -- trying to overthrow democracy, right taking classified documents? I mean, it does create some doubt. But when people actually get the details, I wonder how they'll react to that.

HARLOW: I think you make -- I don't think it's about comparing them. I think you make an important point about what this gun charge is and how, as Jennifer Rogers said earlier on the program, most people wouldn't be charged for something like this. So to that point, Ellie, can you explain to people waking up this morning wondering why the same guy, David Weiss, didn't prosecute, didn't indict Hunter Biden for the same thing before and now he's indicted him now.


HONIG: DOJ has done a very rapid turnabout on Hunter Biden. They walked into a federal courtroom six seven weeks ago and were ready to get rid of this case for a misdemeanor and dismiss the gun charge, take a misdemeanor tax charge. The deal falls apart. The political pressure builds. He requests -- David Weiss request Special Counsel status, he wants more power, more independence, Merrick Garland grants it. And now they're going full bore at Hunter Biden.

They've now indicted him for the gun charge, which carries a 10 year max. He's not going to get anything near 10 years, even if he's convicted. But I also think important to note that gun charge I am quite confident is a placeholder because they were about to hit the five year statute of limitations. They had to get that charge in essentially within the next couple of weeks. I still do think there's a tax charge coming. We talked about before Hunter Biden has admitted that he failed to pay over a million dollars in taxes.

So I think there's more to come. The question is, does it get beyond the scope of guns and taxes and into something -- Media -- There's been no public evidence yet, but we don't know what DOJ has.

MATTINGLY: All right guys, Ellie, Natasha, Errol, appreciate it as always. Well, thousands of auto workers are on strike this morning after their contracts with the Big Three automakers expired at midnight. CEO of General Motors joins us next.

HARLOW: And in a new piece this morning, NBA legend Kareem Abdul- Jabbar asks, Is Biden too old to be president. The six time NBA champ in studio with us ahead.


HARLOW: The White House says President Biden will speak today about the UAW strike against all Big Three automakers. This is the first time in history that union has gone on strike against all three at once. Our Vanessa Yurkevich is live in Detroit with the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra. Good morning, Vanessa.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Here at GM headquarters with Mary Barra who is speaking to us about the latest developments on the strike today. Thank you so much for being here. GM and the Union could not come to an agreement before the -- before the midnight deadline. Why is that?

MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: Well, I think that's a question you probably need to ask the UAW because we have a very compelling offer on the table. I'm very frustrated. Because I think we had an offer that resonates with our people. It's an historic offer, gross wage increases of 20 percent, that compound to 21 percent, maintaining world class health care. There's several aspects as well. But I think one thing that's most important is job security.

And you know, we're an incredibly exciting time in this industry right now, as we make the transformation from internal combustion engine vehicles, to electric vehicles. And General Motors is well poised, we have a pipeline coming. And so when we look at that, and we look at how this could, you know, delay that, it's at a critical juncture. So we have a deal that I think is very, very important, that proposal sits at the table, our team is ready to be at the table.

Again, they're waiting, and we need to get back, we need the UAW leadership to get back to the table, get these issues resolved, so we can get people back to work.

YURKEVICH: The UAW also struck against GM in 2019. So two strikes in four years. What do you think you're getting wrong?

BARRA: Well, I think we, each of those are very different, anything, you know, 19 head, it's a whole set of issues very different. Take a long time to go through all of that. But if you look at where we are, right now, we understand the world has changed. And that's why we put a historic offer on the table with the increases. I think our manufacturing team is the best on the field, the way they manage through the COVID situation and continue to build cars, trucks and crossover.

The way that we managed and they, you know, move with us as we went through the semiconductor shortage, and still the supply challenges that we see today. They're very resilient. And I, you know, I want to recognize them, because our manufacturing team along with the engineering team, for the last two years has been number one in JD Power Quality. So we have a very talented team, we put a historic offer on the table. And so that's why I'm so disappointed and frustrated.

YURKEVICH: The union is demanding asking for a 40 percent wage increase over four years. They're asking for that in part because they say CEO's like yourself, leading the big three are making those kind of pay increases over the course of the last four years, you've seen a 34 percent pay increase in your salary, you make almost $30 million. Why should your workers not get the same type of pay increases that you're getting leading the company?

BARRA: Well, if you look at compensation, my compensation, 92 percent of it is based on performance of the company. I think one of the strong aspects of the way our compensation for a representative employees is designed is not only are we providing a 20 percent increase on the table, we have profit sharing. So when the company does well, everyone does well. In fact for the last several years that's resulted in record profit sharing for our representative employees.

And I think you have to look at the whole compensation package, not only 20 percent increase in gross wage, but also the profit sharing aspect of it, world class health care. And there's several other features. So we think we have a very competitive offer on the table. And that's why we want to get back there and get this done.

YURKEVICH: But if you're getting a 34 percent pay increase over four years, and you're offering 20 percent to employees right now, do you think that's fair?

BARRA: Well, I think when you look at the overall the overall structure and the fact that 92 percent is based on performance, and you look at what we've been doing, of sharing in the profitability when the company does well, I think we've got a very compelling offer on the table. And that's the focus I have right now.

YURKEVICH: So let's talk about profits, because in 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy, was bailed out by the U.S. government. Workers made concessions to keep their jobs, to keep the company alive. Why shouldn't workers be entitled to what they gave up 15 years ago, especially since GM is making record profits right now?

BARRA: Well, first of all, this is a very cyclical business, and we've had a very strong run. I think part of that is because of the demand for the economy and what we've been through with unprecedented, with COVID in semiconductor challenges. But we have to remember we're a cyclical business, we also have to remember this is a pivotal point in the auto industry for everyone, as we make this you know, 100 year transformation from internal combustion engine vehicles, to electric vehicles.

We need to make sure we can invest in both to maintain the jobs that we have. And I think if you look at many aspects of the agreement, it is -- it is getting at the specific issues of some of the -- some of the different challenges in different ways because no compensation system, I think anywhere is the same as it was, you know, 15 years, 20 years ago. So we have to look at where we are, we have to look at the future.


And at General Motors, we want to recognize the hard work of our manufacturing employees. We have a historic deal on the table, over best -- the best economics in over 115 years. And that's what we have on the table, we want to, you know, finish the negotiations, problem solve, and get people back to work.

YURKEVICH: I spoke to your counterpart, Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, and he said that if Ford meets all of the demands that the union has, that Ford would go bankrupt. Is that the same case for General Motors? BARRA: When you look at the original demands, they totaled over $100

billion, that's more by quite a factor than we've made over the life of this agreement. And frankly, more than almost double the market cap of the company right now. So that's why we have to have a realistic offer. We want to make sure we reward the hard working men and women of General Motors and the work they do every day. And we think that's what we have on the table.

YURKEVICH: But is that bankruptcy level demands?

BARRA: Well, if you -- you know, if you're asking for more than the company made, I think that's not a good position.

YURKEVICH: So Shawn Fain has obviously made some ambitious demands on -- on the companies, there's no question about that. Do you believe that Shawn Fain is setting his members up for disappointment in the end?

BARRA: You know, I think that's a question that you should probably talk to Shawn Fain. I think our there's many of our employees really understand the reality of the situation. I think they'll see this is a record -- a record agreement, when we look at the gross wage increases, when we look at where we are in healthcare. When we look at the additional benefits that we've added as a part of this very, very strong offer that sits on the table, I think they're going to understand that.

Because they also when I visited a lot of plants, I'm in one to two plants every month. And you know, I've been doing that for years. So I -- when I talked to employees, and I listened to them, they want to know that their facility is getting a new product. And to get a new product, we have to have the money to design engineer and install all the tooling and equipment to do that. And so it's important, and I think they understand, you need to do both.

They want to make sure General Motors is here for the next 115 years just as much as I do. I think everybody needs to understand that and get serious, get to the table. We have a strong agreement. Like I said, it's a record agreement. I think we're in a good position to get this done.

YURKEVICH: Just quickly, last question. You spoke to President Biden yesterday, what was that conversation?

BARRA: So I've been speaking to many members of Congress and the administration, and I'm going to continue to give them an update. I'm going to continue to make sure they know we have a strong offer. We're negotiating in good faith. And we have since July 18, when the negotiation started. We've been given over a thousand demands, and we have to talk about each and every one of those. So we're doing the work, we want to get people back to work. We again, I think we have the best manufacturing team on the field right now.

And we're at an exciting juncture. We need to get people back to work so we can maintain our GM momentum, and win and keep our position of selling more vehicles in this country than anyone else. And we think we can grow with the EV portfolio we have on top of our internal combustion engine. So, you know, we're going to keep -- keeping everybody up to speed. But the most important is to get the UAW leadership back to the table so we can get this resolved.

YURKEVICH: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, thank you for your time. Phil, Poppy, back to you.

MATTINGLY: It was a really important conversation interview from Vanessa at a very critical moment with those strikes having begun. We do expect to hear from President Biden who was just asking about in the hours ahead.

HARLOW: For sure. Vanessa, thank you very much for bringing us at. In a new piece, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asked, Is Biden too old to be president. The six time NBA champion here at the table with us.



MATTINGLY: Unfortunately, his age is a big topic in the 2024 race for President. President Biden is 80, over President Trump is 77. In the new CNN poll shows roughly three quarters of Americans say they're seriously concerned Biden's age might negatively affect his current level of physical and mental competence. An NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar is tackling the question directly in a new piece out this morning asking, Is Biden too old to be president?

He writes in part, "Biden may drive the car more slowly and with the blinker always (ph) on but at least he's driving in the right direction." I mean that in a literal sense. Joining us now is the best-selling author, philanthropist and the NBA Hall of Famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We should note that he endorsed President Biden's 2020 run. And I actually I found -- we just read is such a good window into the piece itself. I've always enjoyed your writing, but Poppy was just asking you, I'm going to steal it from her.

Because if you give a good answer on this and interesting answer, why did you decide to write this given the fact that this seems to be what everybody is talking about in political circles?

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA HALL OF FAMER: Well, I think that people have a distorted appreciation of what's going on. I mean, they're only three years apart. 77 to 80, is only three years difference there. So it's not about age, it's about how can you lead, right. And the best way to lead is to surround yourself with capable people that can advise and execute your ideas. And I think Biden has done an excellent job of that. And I think that we should acknowledge that and respect that.

HARLOW: Do you think the Biden Administration and the team around him have done an excellent job at quelling the very real concerns of Democratic voters though about these things?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I think, in practical terms he has because look at the things that he's done, you know, with the economy, jobs, etc., he's done a great job. But people are still caught up in numbers, you know, 80 as 80, as opposed to 77. It just doesn't make sense. President Biden has surrounded himself with capable people who can execute his thoughts. People around Trump, I don't know. They haven't seemed to have brought home the bacon very often.

MATTINGLY: You note in your piece that you'd prefer younger candidates, right. But you're this is kind of what's on the table right now. These are the options and therefore this is kind of where you stand. And you echo some degree, what Biden -- that President Biden always says, which is don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative, which is essentially what you're framing here is.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Exactly. Yes, there's only three years difference. And Biden 's experience and the people that he has advising him have -- have made a difference. Trump has not, if you ask the Trump supporters, what he has accomplished. They're at a loss.

MATTINGLY: So why from the President's perspective from the President's team, does that not seem to resonate? Like the disconnect if that's the case is so dramatic at this moment.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I just think it's just the way that people deal with what they think are, you know, really pertinent facts that aren't really pertinent facts. I keep saying that there's only three years difference, but for a lot of people -- all right, let's say there are two items for sale. One is $10, one is $9.95. OK, most people will say, well, geez, the one that's $9.95, that's a slightly less expensive than one $10. When actually is five cents is not much of a big swing.

But it's -- it's the way that people observe things and how they see them in their minds. Sometimes they just overreact to what they think is something that that's pertinent when it isn't.

HARLOW: Yes, we all know your great record in the NBA, 20 years, you'd like your teams to six championships and toward the end of your career, you passed the torch right to great players, Matt Johnson, James, or the others. As you think about the Democratic Party moving forward, I want to look beyond Biden and 2024. Do you feel confident that they're set up to pass that torch appropriately to the people who will be the next generation of leaders in the party?


ABDUL-JABBAR: I think so because they're constantly trying to get those parties, those people, excuse me -- those people involved in what's going on right now, so that they can have the experience and have an idea of what's going on and how to cope as they enter, you know, the service of the -- of the nation. That's -- that, to me is a good way to keep it. efficient, and keep it rolling along in a way that will benefit the majority of Americans. Because it doesn't always work out that way as we all know.

MATTINGLY: A little bit of time left. We are actually out of time. So we're going to keep talking about this. HARLOW: At the table.

MATTINGLY: At the table. It's really great to see you. Great to meet you. But also, your writing has struck me for a long time and this is really interesting piece that people should go read. Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. Thanks so much.

ABDUL-JABBAR: It was a pleasure. Nice talking with you.

HARLOW: You too.

MATTINGLY: And CNN News Central starts right after this break. Have a great weekend, everyone. We are back here on Monday.