Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Fred Upton is Interviewed about the UAW Strike and the Funding Bill; Major Climate Disclosure Bill in California; Champions for Change Harry Miller; Plane Carrying Five Released American Prisoners Takes Off From Tehran. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 18, 2023 - 08:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: CEOs of these companies have said, absolutely no way, hard stop on that.

But I thought that Senator Bernie Sanders' answer yesterday when our Jake Tapper asked him what he thought about that was really interesting.

Here it is.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): People in America are stressed out for a dozen different reasons. And that's one of the reasons why life expectancy in our country is actually in decline. People are overwhelmed. They've got to take care of their kids. They've got to worry about housing. They've got to worry about housing. They're worried. It seems to me that if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers.


HARLOW: He's talking about AI, electric vehicles, that not just the heads of the companies should benefit from that progress, that the workers should, too. And if it means that they can get it done in four days, not five, so be it. What do you think?

FRED UPTON (R), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, technology is a big part of that process. I mean you look at Tesla. They're ultimately, I think, big winners on this because they're non-union, they're able to pay less wages and they don't have the legacy costs. I mean that's the other ingredient here, the legacy costs that the big three have. Add, I know, a thousand -- it used to be $1,000 per vehicle. That's a lot of money when the average car these days is getting pretty close to about $50,000.

So -- but we have a worker shortage. I mean what business out there isn't looking for employees, whether it be - and from my old congressional district, we've got a lot of auto parts suppliers. Man, you drive - you drive down there, they've got yard signs looking for people, pretty decent wages that are out there. So, you know, this is going to take a little wile for this strike to end. But that's a pretty big demand that will send rippling -- ripples through the market down the line.

HARLOW: Yes. You know, it's really interesting, just sort of back to the politics of this, that the UAW head says, look, presidential candidates have to earn our endorsement, right? And typically they've gotten behind Democrats. You know that well. I remember when you were on a tour a while ago with one of the UAW officials, you quipped, "where's the room where they cut the check against me," right?

UPTON: That's right.

HARLOW: They always would fund your opponents. But the former head of the Michigan Republican Party told "Politico" over the weekend, "as Rahm Emanuel used to say, I'll never let a good crisis go to waste."

Do you think that this could tip -- do you think the UAW could back the Republican presidential candidate?

UPTON: Well, I think they could. And if you look - I mean you look at what Mike Pence said this weekend, you look where Trump is, and you remember, Trump won Michigan in large part because he took on NAFTA. Said it's an unfair agreement. We can do better. And, in fact, he did deliver on that. He delivered a bipartisan approach that was adopted in the -- most of the Democrats voted for it, most of the Republicans voted for it. It changed the dynamics of our trade relationship with both Mexico and Canada. And the UAW supported it. It was a - it was a good thing. And, trust me, Trump will be back. Assuming that he is the nominee, and I think that he will be, he will be all in for Michigan, trying to flip Michigan back to him from Biden.

HARLOW: Yes. Sure.

UPTON: And using the UAW as -- and what he did on trade as one of his mainstays.

HARLOW: I want to ask you finally about this impending government shutdown, potentially 12 days away.

UPTON: Oh. Poison (ph), yes.

HARLOW: I know, I can hear it in your voice you're not sad that you're not there anymore to deal with this.


HARLOW: But one of your former fellow Republicans in Congress, sort of, of the same mind set as you on a lot of things, Adam Kinzinger, yesterday said on CNN, he thinks they're just going to do it. He thinks that they are going to shut down the government again.

You told Jake Tapper last year that you're a McCarthy supporter. Directly, "I'm a McCarthy supporter." Do you support -- are you a fan of how McCarthy has dealt with this so far?

UPTON: You know, Kevin -- you know, it is poison on The Hill. And we had a retirement this last week, so the Republicans are one man short further. So, it's -- the difference, I think, is now four. You can't afford to lose more than four. But we don't have a deal.

What I think they're trying to do is do exactly what they did on the debt ceiling. They're trying to get a bill passed in the House with only Republicans. And it will be razor-thin. If they pass it, it will be by one vote. Then go to some agreement with the Senate, even though the Senate is going to be a bipartisan agreement. They're going to have 70 votes to keep the government open. A pretty reasonable approach. They're going to include money for Ukraine. It's going to pass big-time. It will be -- the two sides -- who will blink first?

If Kevin can get the votes to pass it in the House, he'll have a bill to go to conference with the Senate, but the Senate may just say, screw you, we're going to pass our bill. We'll send it back to you and we'll adjourn. So, the House Republicans are going to be ultimately ending up with a bill that's pretty much along the lines of the Senate, if we're able to keep the government open.

HARLOW: What's your answer to the "if"? Do you agree with Kinzinger, it shuts down?

UPTON: I think it's going to shut down.

HARLOW: You do?

UPTON: I do. I just - I just -- you know, they should have stayed in August.


It took six weeks to go home. They came back last week and they couldn't even pass a defense bill. And the clock's ticking. I'm seeing it on your station. It's like the seconds are ticking down.

HARLOW: Yes, we have a big clock.

UPTON: Yes, I know.


UPTON: It's like the Michigan/Ohio State game, you know, if you're at the big house.

HARLOW: Phil's laughing over here.

UPTON: Yes, I know he is.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Not if - not if he's going to side with Michigan, I'm not.

UPTON: Yes. Three-peat. Look out, Phil!

HARLOW: I don't really know what you guys are talking about, but that was a fascinating interview.

MATTINGLY: That's assault. That is assault. There's really no more -

HARLOW: Former Congressman Fred -- I'll call you Fred when we say good-bye.

UPTON: All right.

HARLOW: Appreciate it. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: That's rude.

California Governor Gavin Newsom says he will sign a major climate disclosure bill a day after announcing a lawsuit against oil companies. In that legal complaint, the state of California states that the country's largest oil and gas companies not only contributed to the climate crisis, which has harmed the health of Californians, but that lawsuit also says oil companies deceived the public about it.


GAV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It can illuminate their deceit. It can illuminate their deception. And their lies over the course of the 50, 60, 70 years they've been lying to you.


MATTINGLY: Now, the bill would require any company making at least $1 billion a year to disclose their annual carbon emissions or risk being excluded from the state's huge economic market.

CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, joins us now.

And, Bill, we talk often about kind of incentives and disincentives, carrots and sticks. Is this something that's going to move the needle?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It could. It absolutely could. This could be a big deal. This law would require big companies, from banks, to oil companies, to big retailers, to disclose their scope one, two, and three emissions. And that last one, scope three, is the big one because that takes into account the entire value chain. If you're selling clothes, that's how much carbon it took to grow the carbon and then run the factories, and the dying, you know, facilities and all of that. If you're a bank, that means disclosing the carbon footprint of all your investments, which is 700 times greater than the direct emissions from keeping the lights on down at the bank.

So, a lot of opposition from this, from the chamber of commerce, from bankers, specifically. But companies like Apple are supporting this. Came out behind it here. And, of course, California's been on the vanguard, you know, since the '70s, of clean air laws, emission standards, and the country has been forced to keep up with that over time.

HARLOW: Yes, that is really interesting to see Apple's response, I mean what they're doing to try to become carbon neutral, what they're doing in Texas, et cetera, and the response of big oil. What is big oil saying about this bill? What can they -- how can they fight it?

WEIR: Yes, they're -- they're opposed. You know, the American Petroleum Institute and the lobbying group of this says this is way too complicated, it will - it will cost too much at the end of the day.

So -- but they're, of course, at the end of these lawsuits as well. California joining almost now two dozen states, counties, cities from, you know, Maine to Maui, suing big oil companies for deceptive sales of their product, hiding what they knew was hazardous to life as we know it here.

So, this is an interesting moment where these are the most powerful, more profitable companies in the world right now. But if you look at the trend of solar and batteries and clean energy, almost 90 percent of new projects are all renewable. So, we're at this cusp right now where it's sort of the end of the oil era, the beginning of something else, and a lot of fighting in between.

MATTINGLY: That's a fascinating, fascinating dynamic.

Bill Weir, thanks, as always, my friend.

HARLOW: Thank you, Bill.

WEIR: You got it.

MATTINGLY: And, tonight, California Governor Gavin Newsom sits down with our Dana Bash for a sweeping interview on a potential Biden/Trump rematch, the state of California, and whether he is the best bet for his party's future. It begins tonight at 9:00. You've got to check it out.

HARLOW: A D1 player from Ohio State University medically retired from football due to his struggles with mental health, but that didn't stop him from making a difference.


HARRY MILLER, SENOR, THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: I'm just -- I'm a college kid. I've got homework. And even when it's hard, I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.


MATTINGLY: I'm going to tell you why Harry Miller is my "Champion for Change." That's next.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

All this week we are bringing you stories of ordinary people who are breaking new ground, changing the way things get done, and making the most of human potential. We call the series, "Champions for Change."

MATTINGLY: Now, long before I worked at CNN, I was a student athlete at Ohio State on their baseball team -- very long before I worked at CNN. My champion is also an Ohio State student athlete, a football star who abruptly hung up his cleats for good and took his private battle with depression public.



HARRY MILLER, SENIOR, THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: It seemed obvious, seemed like a prophecy almost, to be a football player. The expectation was, you play good football, you become an all-American, and then you get drafted and you make lots of money. And that's what I thought I was going to do.

MATTINGLY: I'm familiar with the scale and intensity of Division I athletics. About 20 years ago I was playing Division I athletics on this very field, in this very stadium. But the level of the intensity that someone like Harry, at one of the biggest football programs in the country is dealing with, it's unfathomable.


I think it was two years ago that Harry came into your office and said, I'm thinking about killing myself. What happens in that moment as a coach and as a parent?

RYAN DAY, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: The first thing is, it takes you to your knees to hear someone actually physically say that. And I give him so much credit for being able to verbalize that.

MILLER: I felt like if the truth had to be told, then I might as well tell it. I think it was receivable because it's an experience that a lot of people have. I'm a high-achieving depressed person. I have a 4.0. I'm applying for the Rosen and Marshall scholarships. I was successful, but I was not healthy. And I think we're coming to a point where there's a lot of successful people that have been unhealthy for a long time. Is this what success is supposed to feel like? Because it feels awful.

I think about all the student athletes who have committed suicide. And I remember the thoughts that I had before, the moments where I thought I would kill myself, and I realized that they were thinking the same thing, that those were the last thoughts. That was it. And it breaks my heart.

It's hard when a parent says, can you please reach out to my child, I haven't heard from them. I'm just -- I'm a college kid. I've got homework. And even when it's hard, I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

MATTINGLY: Harry no longer plays the physical game, but he's still a respected part of the team, walking among the players, helping them manage the pressures, and, when needed, encouraging them to open up and get help.

CHARRON SUMLER, OSU SPORT PSYCHOLOGY AND WELLNESS SERVICES: I think he, in addition to setting the blueprint for how to utilize services when you need them, in his courageousness and sharing his story, his journey really inspired a lot of student athletes around the nation.

ENOKK VIMAHI, OFFENSIVE LINEMAN, OSU: He's done such a great job making sure that us players are OK with talking about our mental health. So, he's with us around the team and that especially helps the young guys and knows what kind of problems that they could be facing.

SUMLER: Well, I think it's one thing to offer mental health services to student athletes, but it's another thing to embed them. So, not over in my office, not kind of in a stuffy setting, but really on the field, on the sidelines, increasing access to services, because their schedules are so insane.

DAY: He is changing lives and he is changing the culture of our entire program.

MILLER: The whole point of me talking about anything is to not make it weird, is to destigmatize, to make it OK to talk about.

MATTINGLY: I chose Harry to be my champion, first and foremost, I'm a dad. I'm a dad of four kids who's watched our mental health crisis reach epidemic proportions. And that is why Harry's story is so critically important. An ability with one person to shift the status quo, an entire culture around the sport of football at the highest level.

DAY: He's been at the State of the Union Address. He's flown to D.C. to have interactions with folks on Capitol Hill about federal legislation for mental health. And at such a young age, he's already had such a great impact. And at the same time, he's still fighting some of this stuff. But he shared with me that he finds peace in helping people. And that's what he's doing now. He's got such a bright future ahead of him.


MATTINGLY: It's such a courageous personal story, but also such a fascinating story from The Ohio State football program. Ryan Day's father committed suicide at the age of eight for him. The through line from those experiences to his focus on mental health has changed the program and changed a life as well. We always want to note, if you need help, please call or text 988 and, of course, be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. for the "Champions for Change" special.

HARLOW: I'm so glad you did that, Phil.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: All right, breaking news just in. That plane carrying five Americans released from prison in Iran has taken off from Iran's capital of Tehran. It is headed now for Qatar. We have analysis. Christiane Amanpour at the table. David Sanger as well.

Christiane, this is what we were waiting for all morning. The money has been transferred. The plane is out of Iran.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Absolutely. And we're going to wait until they land in Doha and are officially transferred from Irani custody from Qatari and then U.S. custody. I'm sure we won't hear much before that. Obviously, they're on a plane and they won't be free really to talk about it until they officially are in U.S. custody in Doha where they will, you know, land on this - on this Qatari plane. They'll have a -- sort of an hour transfer, probably some quick spot health checks, on to an American plane, and then back to the United States. And apparently there are U.S. officials there in Doha waiting to accompany them.

It's a phenomenal conclusion. Hopefully, again, fingers crossed, to a very, very, very difficult and fraught situation for ordinary civilians who got caught up in this terrible, political, strategic situation that Iran always takes these people in order to get money. And they've done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong except to be American citizens.

MATTINGLY: David, the posture of this administration when it comes to wrongfully detained Americans, they seem to be more on their front foot -



MATTINGLY: Despite the frustration, which we've all reported on, of the families and the time it has taken, they've been willing to try things that perhaps other administrations weren't willing to do. You're seeing already some of the political blowback related to the $6 billion, which they say will only go to humanitarian assistance. Why, though, in terms of their strategy when it comes to wrongfully detained Americans?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, I think they've come to the conclusion, particularly after the Russians started taking Americans, you know, as well, and we've seen wrongfully detained people in China, that this is becoming a pretty standard play. And so they're both trying to get people out and prevent the -- these regimes from being able to have access to more Americans to grab. I thought it was notable that we've heard from American officials in recent times, do not go to Iran under any circumstances because they're afraid that, of course, they'll try to grab some more and get some more cash out of this.

But that said, it's a humanitarian win. It's not necessarily - does not necessarily translated into a political win. We are not seeing this, you know, move the nuclear negotiations or any other part of the relationship.

HARLOW: Yes. To David's point, Christiane, I mean not only are we not seeing progress that we know of on the nuclear front, there's been a rapid expansion of their nuclear program after that deal fell apart, ongoing military support for Russia. This weekend, as we were talking about with you on Friday, marked one year since the death of Mahsa Amini.


HARLOW: You look at the crackdown on political dissent in Iran. So this comes in a really interesting context.

AMANPOUR: It does. Look, others, and David knows a lot about, you know, the nitty-gritty of the arms control and that. I don't know whether there's some kind of informal, as they've said there, there's no more JCPOA. Apparently this administration, for the moment, has given up trying to renegotiation. They just couldn't do it. Renegotiate the nuclear deal that President Trump took the United States and the world out of, to this calamitous moment that we're at, which caused the Iranians to keep, you know, jacking up their enrichment. You know, and Trump said, oh, maximum pressure, maximum pressure is going to work. Well, it didn't. It catastrophically failed. Didn't get the hostages out. Didn't, you know, do anything to change the regime.

I think that they may have potentially halted enrichment at a certain level. I mean you know more about this.

SANGER: They are continuing to -- not as quickly, but I think the key point is just the one that Christiane has made, which is, in both the case of North Korea and the case of Iran, we're in a vastly worse place today -


SANGER: Than we were when Trump -- President Trump came into office.

AMANPOUR: And just one other issue, you know, on the blowback for releasing these prisoners. I mean, come on, President Biden went into a deal with Putin, with whom there's -- you could say we're in a proxy war to get Brittney Griner out. You know, this is a war. President Putin is at least as negative an international player as the Iranian ayatollah is. So, this is about humanitarian release of people, wherever they are, Americans who are wrongfully detained, and it should be separated from anything else. And as I say, many administrations have gone through this process.

MATTINGLY: I want to bring in Becky Anderson, who is at Doha at this airport where we expect this flight to land in short order. We also have Natasha Bertrand as well.

To start with what's happening on the ground there in Doha, what's your sense in terms of timing and also I think the role that Qatar played in all of this, is an extremely important one in how that came to be.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're absolutely right. This has been a complex and very, very complicated negotiation. They have played - the Qataris have played a role both in the logistics of getting these U.S. detainees out of Tehran. And we can confirm from a source briefed on the situation that that flight is now wheels up from an airport in Tehran, en route to here, an airport in Doha. That flight should take about two hours. So, we should expect that flight to land on the tarmac just behind me here about two hours from now. It's midafternoon Doha time now.

And the other crucial role that the Qataris, of course, have played in all of this is the -- negotiating the exchange of the Iranian prisoners in the U.S. to -- there are five of them, two of whom will be released today, if not have been released. Some reports suggesting that they -- the two who are coming back here have already been released and indeed may already be in Doha. No confirmation of that. This and two others who were imprisoned in the U.S., it's reported, will be staying in the U.S. That is their decision. And one other will be moving to a third country. So, Doha, of course, Qatar also involved in that exchange.

And then crucially, for the Iranians, the sort of nub of all of this is the transfer of those frozen funds from South Korea to Switzerland in the first instance, and then the $6 billion worth of cash into two banks here in Doha.


Six Iranian banks, as we understand it, have set up accounts with these two banks here and the $6 billion in frozen cash is now restricted but available to the Iranians to spend, as Washington describes it, on humanitarian goods only.

So, you're absolutely right to point out that the Qataris have played an absolutely strategic role in what has now been some 18 months' worth of negotiations. They started with talks about sort of reworking the nuclear file, the nuclear talks, but in the end, today at least, from what we understand it, these talks accelerated over the past months, and it is all about this prisoner exchange today and the transfer of those otherwise frozen funds, restricted funds, into accounts here, now available to the Iranian regime.

Back to you guys.

HARLOW: Becky, thank you. Stand by for us.

Natasha, to that point, to the $6 billion in Iranian money that has been unfrozen essentially but restricted by the United States, that has been the point of a lot of criticism, specifically from Republican lawmakers. Can you explain how the United States government and the Biden administration explains how they keep a check on the funds to make sure they're only used for humanitarian purposes?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Poppy, Republicans have really seized on this, saying that it amounts to a ransom payment. Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, Michael McCaul, they have all issued statements saying that this is only going to further encourage Iran to take more Americans prisoner.

But the administration is pushing back on that. And they are saying that this money is not going to be going straight into Iranian coffers. It's not something that Iran can just use to spend kind of on whatever it wants, like its missile development, for example, or on its nuclear program.

These are funds that are going to be closely monitored by Qatar, by the U.S. Treasury Department, and they will only be able to be disbursed periodically and for humanitarian reasons, like food, medicine, medical supplies, agricultural devices, things that Iran and its population clearly desperately need. And that is the administration's argument here, is that they are providing this money, which is not U.S. taxpayer money, it is frozen Iranian funds that were given to them from oil sales years ago that have been frozen in South Korean bank accounts that are now going to be sent into Qatari bank accounts, that Qatar will then be able to monitor and disburse, again, with the oversight of the U.S. Treasury Department.

So, the U.S. is saying, look, this is the best deal that we were able to get. And, obviously, a less controversial part of that deal is the release of those five Iranian prisoners who have been in U.S. custody. All of them convicted on non-violent offenses or charged with non- violent offenses, guys.

MATTINGLY: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much.

I want to bring it back to the table.

Christiane, we're almost out of time. You've followed this story and covered it more deeply than pretty much anybody, particularly in the case of Siamak Namazi. What are you thinking right now?

AMANPOUR: I think that he had the guts to call out and make an international, global plea directed also at President Biden and the administration back in March, knowing that he was in a desperate state, that these - you know, obviously he has lawyers and people who are telling him, his family, that nothing is happening. You know, the negotiations for their release or the deal and this and that are not going anywhere. And so he felt he had to weigh in publicly with a plea to the administration on his behalf and the behalf of the rest of the Americans in prison there.

I think he's very well aware, and we spoke a little bit about this, that there are many, many other Iranians in jail who are there as a result of a crackdown by the Iranian regime. And I'm sure that, you know, this affects people who have been in that situation.

But I do believe that, for a long time, this administration did not put this front and center. So I'm very happy they did in the last few months and they got their own citizens back. Well, they are getting their own citizens back hopefully safe and sound.

HARLOW: But you did keep it in the conscience.

AMANPOUR: Well, we did. You know, I'm a journalist and that's our job.

MATTINGLY: David, with - we've got about a minute left. A U.S. officials is confirming that wheels are up.

SANGER: Right. MATTINGLY: That's what we were hearing on the ground as well, as they head to Doha. For the administration, what does this mean? What does it demonstrate?

SANGER: Well, I mean, it does demonstrate, as Christiane has pointed out, that they have finally focused on this and, I think, gotten some real results, both with Russia and now with Iran. But think about this, President Raisi of Iran is in New York right now. He just arrived for the U.N. General Assembly. President Biden is in New York right now. They will not talk. They will not meet. They will not run across each other. And that tells you a lot about just how broken the relationship is now. And until that gets solved, we're not going to solve the larger problem.


HARLOW: Well, thank you both for being with us throughout the morning on this breaking news.

We here at CNN will keep you posted all day as this plane lands in Qatar and takes off for the United States, and when those Americans get home.

MATTINGLY: We'll be watching that. And you can watch that.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts now.