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Today: Special Counsel Hur To Testify On Capitol Hill; Trump Is "Open" To Entitlement Cuts; Haiti's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Gang Violence; U.S. Intel: Netanyahu's Ability To Lead "In Jeopardy"; Plains Fire Threat, Severe Storms In South, Snow In Rockies. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Tuesday, March 12th.

Right now on CNN THIS MORNING:

Special counsel Robert Hur set to testify before Congress after releasing an explosive report about President Biden's handling of classified documents and alleged cognitive decline.

Plus, a developing story out of Haiti. The embattled prime minister resigning amid rising gang attacks against the government.

And former President Trump suggesting he's open to cutting Social Security and Medicare after vowing repeatedly he would never do it.


HUNT: All right. Five a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill, lot of action up there today.

Good morning to all of you. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

Up first, special counsel Robert Hur is set to testify in a matter of hours before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee. Hur investigated President Biden's handling of classified documents last month. He concluded the president did mishandle the material. Hur, however, chose not to prosecute.

Still, it was his assessment of Biden's mental sharpness that caused political shockwaves. Hur's report described Biden as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory. He claimed that the president's condition would make it hard to get a conviction. He also called into question the president's memory, noting that during an interview in October, President Biden didn't remember exactly when his son Beau died. That was something that the president took issue with.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's some attention paid to some language and report about my recollection of events. There's even reference that I don't remember when my son died. How in the hell dare he raise that? I don't need anyone. I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away or if he passed away.


HUNT: So this hearing is happening as Trump and Biden are each set to basically lock up their respective nominations with several states holding primaries today and we could see another campaign issue back in the spotlight. Trump dropped this bombshell in an interview yesterday with CNBC.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): So, first of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting and in terms of also the thief and the bad management of entitlements, tremendous bad management of entitlements.

BGIDEN: Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare to give more tax cuts for the wealthy. Even this morning, Donald Trump said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table again.


HUNT: All right. Joining me now to discuss "Semafor's" Shelby Talcott.

Shelby, good morning. Nice to see you.

Let's start with what we're expecting on Capitol Hill today because Robert Hur -- Robert Hur, in an interesting twist, is actually going to be testifying as a private citizen. He officially no longer works for the Justice Department. But what do you anticipate in terms of the testimony that he's going to offer and the direction that Republicans in particular going to try to go here?

SHELBY TALCOTT, POLITICS REPORTER, SEMAFOR: Well, I think obviously Republicans are going to hone in on the main thing that a lot of us took away from that report, which is you just noted was the age topic. And this has become I think a really big general election argument because of this report. Before the report, there were always questions about Biden's age. There are questions about Donald Trump's age, but it was less of a sort of mainstream issue compared to what we are now seeing.

And so I anticipate that that's going to be one of the main focal points during this conversation.

HUNT: How do you anticipate Democrats are going to try to mount a defense of the president in this hearing?

TALCOTT: Well, we've already seeing Biden's campaign and Biden's allies mount the defense of sure, he's old but he is certainly not incompetent. We saw it in his ad that they recently released earlier this week. So I anticipate that that's going to be the major defense is acknowledging his age, but arguing that listen, he has been running the country for the past four years. He knows what he's doing.

If you talk to people close to him they always say that he is competent behind closed doors, that he is able to make the decisions. And that's going to really I think be highlighted in the coming days and weeks and months as this continues to be a topic of conversation.


HUNT: For sure. So one the other things for the president today is that it's expected there are a couple of primaries. Voters will be at the polls. It -- basically, it's going to confirm what we already know, right, that these two guys are going to be the choices that Americans have in November. But it should give them each respective at number of delegates to officially be able to clinch their nomination.

Is this -- how do you see this milestone? I mean, this is one of the shortest primary campaigns I've covered since I started doing this.

TALCOTT: It's really odd, quite frankly, right? Because we don't anticipate already being in general election mode. And even though they haven't technically clenched, we are essentially in general election mode. I mean, you've seen the shift in terms of messaging from both Biden and Trump in the past few weeks.

But I still do think that today is going to be important. It might be a little bit more symbolic, but I'm also going to be looking at, A, that uncommitted protest vote that we talked about a few weeks ago. Does that continue to gain momentum? That could mean trouble for Joe Biden down the line as he tries to get that left-wing back into his good graces.

The other thing I'm looking for is Georgia, right? Black voters, how do these candidates perform in Georgia? Which is clearly a key state for both of them. They were both there in the past few days. And so there's still, you know, important things to take away from today, I think.

Yeah. I mean, in Georgia specifically, you're looking for whether there's black turnout in the Republican primary. I mean, how -- how are you viewing that? Because we have seen these numbers change in a way that's potentially very dramatic for Democrats in particular.

Yeah, I think its important for both though, because I think Joe Biden has to show that he can still garner that sect of the base, which he's struggled with, but I also think Donald Trump performed relatively well in that state in 2020. And so, that's important for him, too, and it's also important because he's been trying to garner that Black vote.

You know, he's not just leaving it up to chance that they're not going to turn out for Joe Biden. Donald Trump's campaign also wants that voter base. And so, I think it's equally important to see how, how both sides, how that voter base turns out for each of them. HUNT: Yeah. And, briefly, let's touch on what Trump said. I mean,

he's sort of blew through it a little bit and later tried to clean it up and say, well, I was talking about managing waste in Social Security and Medicare. But it, of course, did not take the Biden campaign very long to say, hey, look, Donald Trump said he is going to cut your Social Security.

TALCOTT: Yeah, this has been a topic that the Biden campaign has really wanted to hone in on for a while now. I remember several months ago during the Republican primary, the Biden campaign was focusing on all of these other candidates, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, when it comes to do wanting to prioritize their past support for privatizing Medicare and Social Security, wanting entitlement cuts.

So this has been a topic that the Biden campaign thinks that they can win on. And so as soon as Donald Trump said it, regardless of what his campaigns said afterwards, they saw an opportunity to make this a mainstream topic and I anticipate going forward that this is now going to be one of the big focal points for the Biden campaign as they seek to attack Donald Trump on things.

HUNT: All right. Shelby Talcott of "Semafor", Shelby, thank you very much for starting us off this morning. I really appreciate it.

All right. We've got a developing story right now. Haiti's prime minister resigns as gang violence stops him from returning home.

Plus, new U.S. intelligence says Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to lead in Israel is in jeopardy.

And a CNN exclusive, "Trump employee five" speaking out what about unknowingly helping the former president move classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.



HUNT: All right. We're following a developing story here. Haiti's embattled prime minister resigning just a short time ago.


ARIEL HENRY, HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): My government will leave immediately after the inauguration of the council. There will be a caretaker government until they name a prime minister and a new cabinet. Haiti needs peace. Haiti needs stability.


HUNT: Ariel Henry making the announcement late last night after weeks of mounting chaos, gangs attacking government buildings, leaving social order on the brink of collapse.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says, the U.S. will contribute $300 million for a Kenyan-led multinational security mission to Haiti. Blinken just returned from a high level emergency meeting in Jamaica to talk about the crisis in Haiti.

All right. Now this, Benjamin Netanyahu's viability as Israel's leader, apparently in jeopardy, according to the conclusion of a national security report presented to Congress on Monday. U.S. intelligence officials citing growing divides between Netanyahu and the Israeli people, a fracture that played out with violent anti- government demonstrations in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

Joining me now from Abu Dhabi is CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks.

Paula, good morning.

This seems to just basically represent a U.S. assessment that there's a crisis of confidence in Netanyahu's leadership. Has there been any reaction to this from other Middle Eastern countries, from other governments?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, not specifically to this intelligence report itself, but it's certainly something that is shared among many people in other countries in this region. There is no love lost when it comes to the Israeli prime minister. There have been countless and consistent calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.


And Benjamin Netanyahu is head of the government that is carrying out that bombardment of Gaza.

For example, Queen Rania of Jordan spoke to our Christiane Amanpour and said Gaza is a, quote, a slow motion mass murder of children. Now this is something that is felt by many in the region. Queen Rania there really vocalizing the perception.

And, of course, as head of the government and as the demand that is really pushed for this war to continue, Benjamin Netanyahu would be getting that blame.

Now, certainly within Israel as well, he has been blamed for what having predicted the October 7 attack. He's accused of not having done enough to be able to protect people during that attack, and also, there are questions as to why but he is doing now why he is continuing in this way and why he hasn't managed to get all of the Israeli hostages back from Hamas and other groups in Gaza.

So, he really is under attack from a number of different directions. Not least, of course, with the U.S. President Joe Biden as well -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Paula Hancocks for us in Abu Dhabi -- Paula, thank you.

Coming up next here, the legal tactic Donald Trump is using to try to delay his hush money trial.

Plus, the state of Florida settling a lawsuit that challenged its "don't say gay" law.



HUNT: All right. 20 minutes past the hour.

Here's your morning roundup.

Former President Trump is asking to delay the start of his New York hush money trial until the Supreme Court weighs in on presidential immunity, ruling may not come until late June. The first ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza has left Cyprus. Cyprus is working with the U.S., the E.U., and the UAE, and the U.K. on a maritime corridor to deliver assistance directly to Gaza.

And a settlement announced any legal challenge to Florida's "don't say gay" law. The law restricts classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. But now, discussions are permitted.

Okay. All right. We're tracking several storms moving across the country right now. and our weatherman Van Dam has new video from one that hit the East Coast.

Derek, good morning. What do we got?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Look at this video coming out of Fairfield, New Jersey, flooding in and around the area. It's just kind of this nuisance flooding, but enough to really disrupt your day. This is not what you would want to wake up to, having to clean up after this mess.

You can see some of that inundating some of the garages and the buildings within Fairfield, New Jersey, but the good news is the storm system that brought that weather to the East Coast yesterday in combination with the new moon. So, we had exaggerated tidal levels. That's really moving on.

So the good news is we've got to dry day today to clear things out, but several other storms to discuss, including the potential of a major snow storm in and around Denver later this week. And then are ongoing fire risk across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle.

We also have severe weather threat today marginal at best across central Missouri. So heads up Kansas City to Springfield. That does start to increase in severity, at least potential for the day tomorrow. And then once again, on Thursday, we see a larger outlook in terms of the severe weather probability as we head out into the second half of the week.

But look at how the fire weather outlook also starts to degrade as we head into Wednesday, we get the critical conditions re-introduced to this forecast across the most hardest hit areas across the Texas panhandle. The good news here is that the Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest fire in Texas history, now, nearly 90 percent contained. So that is good news, firefighters getting a great handle on that system. We do have winter storm watches just issued for Denver with the

potential for several feet in the foothills. So messy Thursday and Friday along that I-25 corridor in and around Denver.

There you go.

HUNT: Massive indeed.

All right. Derek, I'll see you next hour. Thank you very much for that.


HUNT: All right. Coming up here, special counsel Robert Hur's about to testify before Congress. We're going to ask one lawmaker on the panel what she thinks of his report alleging a cognitive decline in President Biden.

Plus, how to win in politics in a world of disinformation. The author of "The Lie Detectives," the great Sasha Issenberg is live on CNN THIS MORNING. That's just ahead.



HUNT: All right. A live look at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial behind it on this Tuesday morning.

Good morning. Thanks for being up. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Special counsel Robert Hur testifies in front of the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee today. Hur investigated President Biden's handling of classified documents, and he decided against criminal charges. But the special counsel did deliver a political bombshell in that report last month, providing a less than flattering assessment of President Biden's memory.


REPORTER: Something the special counsel said in his report, is that one of the reasons you were not charged is because in his description, you are a well meaning elderly man with a poor memory.

BIDEN: I'm well meaning. And I'm an elderly man and I know what the hell I'm doing. I've been president and I put this country back on its feet.


HUNT: All right. Joining me now is Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution". And Catherine Lucey, she's White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal".

Ladies, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. Catherine, let me start with you. I mean, you could see there, the

president's anger in this assessment. What is the White House preparing for in terms of looking ahead to today?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah. I was actually in the room that day when he made those remarks.

HUNT: Right, right. We talked the morning after.

LUCEY: Yeah. I mean, it was -- you could feel it in the room. He was really furious. Their reaction to this report was intense. They've pushed back very hard on it.

We know that there was concern before it came out from the White House. I think you're going to see Democrats and Republicans both going very hard on her. And the White House, I think will be prepared if he brings up any new examples.