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CNN This Morning

Team Biden Puts Finishing Touches On Tonight's Address; Trump Plans "Live Play-By-Play" Of Biden Speech; U.S. Presses Prime Minister On "Transition" As Gangs Attack; Storms In The South, Rain & Flooding In New England. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 07, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Thursday, March 7th.

Right now on CNN THIS MORNING:

Joe Biden just hours from delivering a State of the Union Address that could help propel him to a second term or possibly put his reelection campaign in jeopardy.

Plus, Donald Trump challenging the president to a debate and signaling his second term in the White House could be even more chaotic and disruptive than the first.

And Alabama's governor signing an IVF protection bill into law. But access to fertility treatments still remains at risk.


HUNT: All right. It's 5:00 a.m. here in Washington. That's a live look at the Jefferson Memorial, looks beautiful at this time of day.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. Wonderful to be with you this morning.

This morning, President Biden and White House aides will put the finishing touches on his State of the Union Address. This is a White House photo from earlier this week of him working on the speech.

It's likely to be among the most consequential of Biden's presidency. Or it could be. He is certain to highlight his claimed successes on the economy, and warned of the dangers of another Trump term.

But more important, the address is a chance for Biden to demonstrate the fight and fire Democrats say that he shows in private in a chance for Americans to judge for themselves, live and unedited, whether the president does have what it takes to lead for another four years.

Joining me here is CNN senior White House producer, Betsy Klein.

Betsy, good morning to you. Thanks so much for being here. You've got a long day. So appreciate you starting out with us. There's -- the stakes are very high here for President Biden. How is he preparing for this speech and how -- how did the aids look at these questions? You know, we see it in all the polling about concerns about the president's age, his performance, as much as the content of that speech is going to be on display tonight. And he'll be judged for it.

BETSY KLEIN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE PRODUCER: Yeah. I mean, this is a really critical moment for President Biden, for the White House and for his campaign. We know that he has been wracked by poor polling questions about stamina, his age. And this is really an opportunity he is going to have an audience tonight to directly make his case for a second term as this general election is coming into view, really lay out the stakes, the issue. Some of those accomplishments that he's had trouble breaking through so far.

HUNT: So, Betsy, one of the things that often tells us about the priorities of the speech or the guests that the White House chooses to invite, what do we know about the themes of the speech, and how are they being backed up by people that are going to be in the audience tonight?

KLEIN: Yeah. So like you mentioned, the first lady's guest -- guests, her box at the State of the Union really show us a blueprint for what the president is going to talk about those issues. One of them that is really coming into focus. We're getting new details this morning on who will be with her.

We're getting information about Kate Cox, that Texas mother of two, who is one of -- going -- when Biden makes that case for abortion rights, reproductive active rights. She is that Texas mother of two who had to leave her state to seek an abortion. There is also an Alabama mother who was in the process of IVF when that state halted its IVF.

And we're also going to hear about student loan debt. There is a teacher from Minnesota who's going to help Biden make that case on student loan debt, popular issue.

And on, democracy, one of the really interesting things happening today is that Sweden becomes the 32nd member of NATO and President Biden will host the prime minister of Sweden tonight as he seeks to draw that contrast with Trump, who has really railed against NATO in the past.

HUNT: Right. I mean, it's quite something that they have to invite a representative of a soon to be NATO country to contrast with someone in an American election, right? We're not even talking about what that -- what message that would send to people overseas.

Betsy, how would you say one of the things we've heard a lot about in the last 24 hours or those Nikki Haley voters who ultimately, right, there a lot of -- a lot of more independents, they're disaffected Republicans, some of them are moderate Democrats who honestly are likely to decide the election at the end of the day, how do you think the president is going to speak to those voters tonight? KLEIN: Well, I think it's really interesting that he is certainly trying to make his case here. That is evident yesterday when he offered that olive branch to her supporters, saying in a statement, there is a home for them with his campaign. He's making that case on foreign policy, pointing to NATO, democracy, support for Ukraine, places where they feel like they can win over some of those moderate voters.


And also issues like abortion and kitchen table issues like efforts to slash junk fees, lower the cost of prescription drugs and health care all.

HUNT: All right. Betsy Klein starting us off -- Betsy, thank you very much. Good luck tonight.

KLEIN: Thanks.

HUNT: All right. Former President Trump does want to try and, you guessed it, control some of the spotlight during Biden's State of the Union. He posted on Truth Social that he plans to do a live play by play during the address. And writes, quote, I will correct and rapid response any and all inaccurate statements especially pertaining to the border and is weaponization of the DOJ. That should be something to see.

All right. Eugene Scott, senior politics reporter at "Axios", joins me now, live with more on this.

Eugene, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.


HUNT: Honestly, this sounds like staff work, rapid response.

SCOTT: Not him

HUNT: Like -- so, okay, that's pretty much par for the course for any --

SCOTT: Right.

HUNT: -- for State of the Union and a presidential year, if you have an opposing campaign.

SCOTT: Sure.

HUNT: What do you think were going to see from him tonight? You think it's going to showcase the discipline is campaign wants or are we going to get the Trump that lets the Biden campaign make the argument that more Trump would be more chaos?

SCOTT: Well, I think he might start off pretty disciplined. I mean, that is the direction in which his campaign wants him to go. So that's very possible. The challenge for the former president consistently is staying disciplined, right? We have had these stops, these starts and stops before.

If he's going to be able to, you know, continue that throughout the speech, especially if Biden is hitting him hard in areas in which he's very sensitive about. I'll be surprised if he maintains restraint.

HUNT: What do you think is the line for President Biden in terms of -- I mean, these speeches obviously are political, but there also is a difference between being the president of the United States and being a candidate, right?

SCOTT: Right.

HUNT: And this is something he's going to be doing in his role as president for all Americans, as opposed to in his role as someone who is running against Donald Trump. Obviously, it's all tied together, but where do you think the White House is drawing that line?

SCOTT: I think its going to be very important for him to spin as much time, if not more communicating what he hasn't done, opposed to highlighting the fears and anxieties that he thinks people should have if Trump were to return to the Oval Office. It's also important the line that he was pretty good at, like treading -- when he ran in 2020 is attacking Trump, not attacking Trump supporters.

That's something that people running against Trump in the past have really struggled with. And that's because Biden needs these supporters. He needed them in 2020. He needs them now.

HUNT: Eugene, what will you be watching tonight in terms of the president's performance? I mean, I think one of the challenges for people obviously is a lot of people think the president's age is a problem and he shouldn't -- you know, he's not up to this.

Do you think this is a situation where people are expecting the worst? And so seeing something better than it is going to be good for them? Or is this a situation where they're going to see something that they didn't expect. And this issue potentially gets worse for the president?

SCOTT: When I think about the voters who are really concerned about his age, I think they're going to be focused on whether or not he actually is as old as they think he is. And if he is actually performing in a way that's better than they fear.

You know, he has responded recently -- in a few weeks, we've seen late-night interviews where he said, you know what, I am not where you all think I am. And so I think the pushback on some of these voters has led some of them to say, maybe I'm wrong, not all of them, maybe not even most of them, but I think enough of them will be open to seeing if he can deliver something different from what they fear.

HUNT: Yeah, right.

Eugene Scott of "Axios", Eugene, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

SCOTT: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: I really appreciate it.

All right. Coming up, Congressman Pat Ryan from New York joins us live. What he thinks President Biden has to do during tonight's State of the Union, it's view from a swing district.

Plus, the threat of genocide in Haiti, how the us is trying to bring an end to violence there.

And here we go again, Congress racing against the clock to head off another government shutdown.



HUNT: Welcome back.

The U.S. is pressing Haiti's acting prime minister and president, Ariel Henry, to step aside and create a transitional council ahead of new elections. Henry landed in Puerto Rico this week after days of speculation about his whereabouts. Since last week, Port-au-Prince has descended into lawlessness after a wave of coordinated gang attacks on police stations, government buildings, and even a prison. One gang leader calls it a direct challenge to the unpopular Henry.

CNN's Max Foster joins us now, live from London.

Max, can you explain what is going on in Haiti? I mean, this explosion of violence against the government has really threatened the foundations of it all. What do we know?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, complete lawlessness, and what's unusual here, this isn't an opposition group rising up. This is gangs taking control of the country, also the prime minister was out of it. These are gangs that, you know, dealing drugs and arms. That's how they operate.

The prime minister left the country and they're effectively not allowing him back in by threatening to take over the airport. So, we don't know where he is. He can't get into the country.

But there is a political message here. So, Barbecue, who's the most prominent gang leader, talked yesterday about how he wants elections because that might reflect what a lot of the public feels here, because Henry came into power two-and-a-half years ago without an election, he promised an election. It hasn't happened yet.

So what they're talking about is free and fair elections, but it's not entirely clear what Barbecue wants after all of this, he has suggested in the past a group of elders, for example, but really this is gang violence out of control. And then this political message being folded in and the international community really calling on the prime minister to speed up this transition because it's not operating as democracy right now. [05:15:10]

HUNT: Max, what do we know about the international community and what they're doing about the security here? I mean, is there any hope from the outside for the institute -- a civil institutions that exist to the extent they still exist in Haiti?

FOSTER: Well, I was in Kenya earlier -- well, last year. And there were big discussions there about setting up a U.N. peacekeeping police force effectively to go into Haiti to take back control -- to support the legal system there and the enforcement system, and that's what the prime minister -- that's why the prime minister left the country to sign that deal in Kenya, which is when all of this really kicked off.

What the gang leaders are saying is that this isn't to support civil society, it's literally just to -- you know, the prime minister will use that security force to protect his position in power and continue without elections. So, now, we are seeing America speaking up on this slightly yesterday, not leaning into it too much, but certainly I think we're going to see other countries.

China put some sort of system together to try to bring back order to Haiti because it's absolute chaos. The police stations are being raided. The banks are being raided. No ones in control. People are leaving capital and they're trying to find safety outside.

HUNT: Yeah, just a very, very dire situation and clear that the U.S. doesn't want to involve its own security forces, not pressuring Henry to step down, but saying they do want him to move forward with something that will transition things there.

All right. Max Foster for us in London -- Max, always wonderful to have you. Thank you.

FOSTER: Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Up next, the city of Uvalde about to release its own report on the police response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Plus, why U.S. taxpayers are spending millions to take care of a Russian oligarch's yacht. And that is a pretty boat, but why are we paying for it?



HUNT: All right. Twenty minutes past the hour.

Here's your morning roundup.

This afternoon, the Uvalde City Council releases the results of an independent an investigation into the police response at the Robb Elementary School shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Opening statements this morning in the trial of James Crumbley, the father of Michigan school shooter, Ethan Crumbley. James Crumbley was charged with involuntary manslaughter after his son killed four classmates in a mass shooting in 2021.

An Arizona grand jury issuing subpoenas to 11 Donald Trump allies who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Sources say prosecutors could be looking at other Trump subordinates who were tied to his campaign.

And then there's this, U.S. taxpayers are coughing up nearly $1 million a month to maintain a luxury yacht that was seized from a Russian oligarch in 2022. Prosecutors are trying to get permission to sell it since the maintenance since costs now top $20 million. Must be nice

All right. Let's go now to weather because severe thunderstorms could bring heavy rain and winds today from central Texas to western Oklahoma. And we've got flood watches in effect for New England after non-stop rain soaked the Northeast.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar tracking all of it for us. She joins us now.

Allison, what do we got today?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. A little bit more rain, which for some of these areas is the last thing they really want to see.

Already in inches fallen in several areas, including New York. And you can see from the radar, we've still got very heavy rainfall across portions of Upstate New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and even Maine right now.

And here's -- look, that's where the main focus is going to before the flood watches. A lot of these areas can still expect to pick up about an additional one to three inches on top of what they've already had. That thing here is that the flooding is going to be concerned because that ground is already saturated. Look at all of these areas, the surplus of rain they've been dealing with so far this year. Again, some of them, even as much as half a foot of rain above were they normally would be.

The good news is by tonight, we finally start to see an exit to that moisture. But that next system you can see out there, that's set to arrive as we head into the weekend.

So Philadelphia, New York even areas like Boston and -- Boston and Baltimore also expecting some more rain for this weekend.

Out to the west, this is where we have the concern for not only some additional file eric concerns, but also the potential for severe storms, especially across the southern plains, large hail, damaging winds and yes, even a tornado or two possible places like Wichita, Oklahoma City, Dallas, and down just to the north of Austin. This is mainly going to be in the afternoon and the evening timeline.

And then behind that system, that's where we have the big concern for a lot those fires, not only the ones that are ongoing, but any additional fires that could be sparked, but that's the system that's going to continue to make its way off towards the east, bringing additional rainfall and quite heavy rainfall across the southeast.

And then again, that's going to be the next system we talked about, Kasie, that brings more rain to areas of the Northeast this weekend.

HUNT: All right. Allison Chinchar for us, Allison, thank you very much for that. We'll see you soon.

Up next, President Biden's allies pleading with him to do one thing during the state of the union address that he hasn't done so far. Well bring you that new reporting next.

Plus, Mitch McConnell, no fan of Donald Trump, trying to explain why he just endorsed him.



HUNT: All right. A live look at the White House this morning. Come on, guys, up and at 'em. It's State of the Union day. It's always dark this time. It's not their fault.

Thanks for waking up for us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Tonight, President Biden has what's going to be one of his best chances to speak directly to voters ahead of the November election, as this is likely one of the largest audiences he'll have between now and November, if not the largest audience.

Obviously, what he says is important, but how he says it may be just as critical this time.

President Biden's closest allies, they want to see more fight or passion in his messaging. And, of course, voters who are worried about the presidents age are going to be evaluating his fitness for a second term.

Joining us now, CNN senior reporter Isaac Dovere, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, Akayla Gardner, and Mychael Schnell.