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Erin Burnett Outfront
Hunter Biden Indicted On 3 Federal Gun Charges; Trump: It's "Very Unlikely" I'd Pardon Myself If Elected; CNN On Ground With Ukrainian Forces Fleeing Russian Fire; Biden Speaks with Auto Leaders, Strike Deadline Just Hours Away. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 14, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, indicted. President Biden's son now facing three criminal gun charges. It's the first prosecution of a president's child in history. Hunter's Biden attorney is my exclusive guest.
Plus, breaking news, former President Trump tonight revealing for the first time that he'll consider pardoning himself if he wins the White House, as he now faces a total of 91 charges across four criminal cases.
And, under fire. A heart-stopping video tonight, our Melissa Bell forced to suddenly hit the ground while reporting. She is on the frontlines in Ukraine. And we will see this incredible story first right here.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight: exclusive. Hunter Biden's attorney is my guest, and I will be speaking about him in just a moment about the three federal gun charges against the president's son. This is the first time in American history that the Justice Department has filed charges against the son of a sitting president.
And I want to begin by laying out exactly what these history making charges are. When purchasing a gun in 2018, Hunter Biden lied on a federal form that he was not using it and he was not addicted to any illegal drugs. That was untrue. He has since admitted that he was struggling with crack cocaine addiction at that time.
So, tonight, he is charged with three crimes, two counts for false statements and a third for possessing a gun while addicted to drugs. Now, if convicted on all counts, Hunter Biden could theoretically face as many as 25 years in prison and fines of up to three quarters of a million dollars.
Now, let's just be clear here, the charges could be on shaky legal ground. Why? Well, the gun possession law that Biden is accused of breaking for one was declared unconstitutional by an appeals court ruling in August. And as for the charges themselves, overall, they are a huge about-face
because they come after the DOJ had announced a plea deal with Hunter Biden. And in that deal, Biden was going to plead guilty to the gun charges but get no prison time. It collapsed in a stunning court hearing back in July.
So, now, it is full on charges, which again, on paper, can carry a quarter century of prison time. This is a serious business.
The charges, though, are not enough for many Republicans. The House Oversight Chairman James Comer saying in a statement tonight: Today's charges against Hunter Biden or a very small start. But unless the U.S. attorney investigates everyone involved in the fraud schemes and influence peddling, then it will be clear, President Biden's DOJ is protecting Hunter Biden and the big guy, a reference, they say, to how the then vice president was referred to in Hunter Biden's emails.
Comer is one of the leaders of the newly announced GOP impeachment inquiry, of course, and his investigation is specifically into President Biden. Republicans insist without any evidence thus far, President Biden committed criminal acts alongside his son.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington tonight.
And, Evan, what is the latest that you're learning about these charges?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the prospect remains that this is not the end of these charges for Hunter Biden. That the Justice Department, that the special counsel, David Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney there in Delaware, who kept -- was held on to oversee this case, that he may bring additional charges against Hunter Biden for tax violations. Those charges could come in Los Angeles, and here in Washington, D.C. These are the two venues where those alleged crimes were committed, and where the special counsel has said that he is considering bringing those charges.
Now, the timeline for that is very close. We know that at least with regard to some of the charges, they could be running into a statue of limitations as soon as three or four weeks from now, so they need to be brought soon if they are going to be brought.
And, of course, the fact is that David Weiss is now a special counsel. And we do not know what else he plans to investigate. We heard from the prosecutor there that one day, in Delaware, where the plea deal fell apart so spectacularly, we heard from the prosecutor there that one of the things that they were still looking at was the prospect of foreign lobbying violation.
Again, we do not know what the status of the investigation is. So, this may only be the beginning for Hunter Biden. And, of course, the prospect here is we may be looking at a trial of the son of the president as we go into the election.
PEREZ: The unprecedented event.
All right. Thank you very much, Evan Perez, in Washington.
And I promised now, I want to go Hunter Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell.
Abbe, appreciate your time very much tonight.
And several things to ask you about, so we understand where things are from your point of view. Hunter Biden, of course, has publicly admitted that he was addicted to drugs in and out of rehab at the time of that gun purchase. So why should -- should he not be charged?
ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: Let's do the facts last, and let's start with what you and Evan just talked about. When people are addressing the gun charge, please remember the following three or four things.
First, this event happened in 2018. Law enforcement showed up at the time. They had the paperwork at the time. The U.S. attorney's office have investigated this and other things no less than two or three years. They decided not to bring this charge.
And then they decided that the only appropriate charge on the gun was not, by the way, for him to plead guilty but for him to have a charge that would be diverted in which he would never have to take a plea because they understood the following number two point. This office has never brought a charge like this against anybody. When they are bringing this charge, it's either because somebody has had the gun in the commission of a crime, they have bought multiple guns, they are a straw purchaser for somebody else or they're a felon in position. That -- none of that is true about Hunter Biden.
And the last point that I want to make about that is that if you think about it, what has changed? They knew all these facts for years. The law, if it has changed at all, as you pointed out, there have been at least two federal courts that have found this law in particular to be unconstitutional. And therefore, you have to ask about what changed?
And what changed you also just talked about. It is the folks like Chairman Comer and the Republican MAGA crazies who have been pressuring this U.S. attorney to do something, to vindicate their political position. And guess what? They succeeded.
BURNETT: So do you think for lack of a better word, just to put it in English that the special counsel is now out to get your client? Is this -- is this now, in your view, the way other parts of this investigation are going to go?
LOWELL: This is what you conclude. "Out to get" is not a phrase I would use. I would say after a five-year, painstaking investigation that basically looked into everything about Mr. Biden, that the office thought, I know, the appropriate charges are two misdemeanors for late filing of a tax, which millions of Americans do. And a diverted gun charge. That's what they did after five years.
What changed? What changed was the Republicans rolling out the people they called whistleblowers and then Chairman Comer, Chairman Jordan, Chairman Smith and all the MAGA people that support them, putting enormous pressure on that office to say you made a sweetheart deal.
You know what was different about that deal? Not that he was treated better. He was treated worse. There's never been a stand alone gun charge like this.
BURNETT: So --
LOWELL: And as I said about the misdemeanors, that happens all the time.
BURNETT: I want to ask you about what you mentioned was going on on Capitol Hill in a moment. But, first to your point, our legal expert on our show every night, NYU professor, Just Security co-editor in chief Ryan Goodman, said something today that actually speaks to some of what you just said, Abbe.
He said, quote, it's exceptionally rare for the Justice Department to bring these gun registration charges, let alone for a non-violent offender, but it's also extremely rare for someone to write a book in which they admit to the illegal conduct, let alone coming to within a hair's breath of signing a document admitting to all the government's allegations in the court filing.
And, of course, he's referring to the plea deal that fell apart.
Do you think that there's a point there, and because this deal was out there and all put in black and white that that is what forced the DOJ's hand at this point to go ahead and file those charges?
LOWELL: Well, to answer the person who you opined about in the day, remember the facts of this. First of all, the law says whether or not the person is possessing the gun while they are addicted, there is ambiguity in that statute, which we will have to pursue if this cause continues. At the time that he purchased this gun, I don't think there's evidence that that's when he was suffering.
When he referred to his book, he had just come out of rehabilitation. He had just come back to the East Coast. So the question is not whether you've ever, ever been addicted but the question and the court that was declared it to be unconstitutional got that very clear. You can't basically say and whether or not people like or don't like this gun law or like the Supreme Court or don't like the Supreme Court, the law is the law.
BURNETT: Well, Abbe, it's interesting because it sounds like --
LOWELL: It's found to be unconstitutional.
BURNETT: It sounds like what you're saying, though, is if this goes to trial, you are actually going to say -- or are you going to say, it sounds like you're saying that you're not going to say your client admitted to the crimes at hand, that you are going to dispute the actual facts.
LOWELL: There'll be three, there'll be three --
BURNETT: Possessing a gun while addicted.
LOWELL: There will be three things that people should pay attention to. First, this charge brought today violates the agreement the government made with Hunter Biden. That was a stand-alone agreement different than this plea. People don't so seem to understand that, so bringing this charge other than it being a diverted charge violates that agreement.
Second, the constitutionality of these charges are very much in doubt. And, third, if it got past those two, and we don't think it would, and if there were ever a trial on the facts, we don't think of the facts is as your expert thought them to be. There will be a defense.
BURNETT: So, there will be a defense and it's -- but again, just to be clear, it sounds like you are saying you do not believe he was laid out in black and white, that he was suffering from addiction when he illegally possessed this gun?
LOWELL: I will say there will be a defense on the facts as well and people ought to remember about whether this is a unique and unjustified charge. Hunter owned an unloaded gun for 11 days. There will never have been a charge like this brought in the United States.
BURNETT: Is there a possibility, Abbe, of a deal that gets Hunter Biden out of prison time?
LOWELL: You know, you can never say never but I would say, it appears to me that the Republicans that yell and scream on the heel -- on the Hill, sorry --
BURNETT: It's all right.
LOWELL: -- making it so unbearable for this prosecuting office to do what's right that I don't know if they would ever bring themselves to do what's right. Remember one more thing, five years, long investigation. They fought two misdemeanors and a diverted gun charge.
What changed? Jim Jordan, Jim Comer, Jason Smith, and all the Republican screamers. That's what's changed.
BURNETT: And to follow on Evan's reporting, you know, he's talked about the statute of limitations. He was referring on some of the tax changers. Do you anticipate there to be charges brought on the tax front in the next three to four weeks, which is the time frame he gave?
LOWELL: I think if the U.S. attorney's office does what you quoted Chairman Comer to say, which is that this is just a beginning, and we expect them to do more, if they're, meaning the Republicans, are in the driver's seat of prosecutor's car, you can't predict what will happen. But again, on the merits, all the tax charges were vetted by this office and they thought too late misdemeanor for filing late charges.
Now they may escalate it. If they do, people should act what changed? Not the facts, not the law but the politics.
BURNETT: So, we've been talking about tax and gun charges. Many Republicans that are you referring to say that they are far from enough. Here's one of them, the Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Getting Hunter Biden on a gun charge is like getting Jeffrey Dahmer on loitering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He's obviously referring to broader investigations into corruption. Do you believe that there are more and broader charges to come?
LOWELL: Again, I can't predict what the U.S. attorneys will do, if they're going to continue to listen to the Matt Gaetzes of the world, or the Jim Comers of the world. If they do what they were sworn to do, listen to the facts and apply the law, then after five years and the give and take that occurred with Hunter's lawyers and them, they should come to the same conclusion of what was appropriate.
BURNETT: So, Abbe, just to be clear, it sounds like you're being very clear that you do believe there's politicization at the DOJ.
LOWELL: You keep saying the DOJ. I am saying that this prosecuting office, this prosecuting office came to a conclusion based on a five- year investigation and their best deliberation and their conclusion was what I told you it was.
LOWELL: And that the only thing that changed, Erin, was not the facts and not the law, which has only gotten worse for law enforcement but the application of politics. If it turns out that they continue to escalate the charges, then that is an issue that should be explored.
BURNETT: Okay. So but you are saying that they would be doing that because they are under political pressure from Republicans, MAGA Republicans as you referred to them, in Congress.
LOWELL: Well, they don't talk to me about their motives.
LOWELL: They don't share their emails with me, at least as of yet. All can I do, as you as a good reporter does, is make connections. So, if they thought after five years this was appropriate and then the political pressure came and now they think this is appropriate and if it's no change in the facts and no change in the law, then let me ask you as a journalist would ask, what changed? And I'm telling you, the only thing that's changed is the politics.
BURNETT: One thing that has also changed is the American public's perception of this, Abbe. And they are paying close attention to it. In fact, we have some recent polling. I don't know if you saw it, but let me share one thing that really stood out to me. And that is this, 61 percent of Americans say they believe that while he was vice president of the United States, Joe Biden was involved in his son's business dealings in Ukraine and China.
Can you categorically say that the president of the United States was not involved in those business dealings and did not profit from any of them?
LOWELL: What I can say categorically is that the president has spoken to this issue and his spokespeople have, and they're the best people to do that. From our side of the equation, I can tell you that Hunter did not share his business with his dad. I can tell you that he did not share money from his businesses with his dad.
And as the evidence out there, and his dad, like all good parents, tried to help Hunter when he needed that help. And if the facts matter, you can take a poll and when the help hunter when he needed that help. Help hunter when he needed that help. You can take a poll and when the facts come out, you will see whoever made that allegation, that it's baseless.
But it does show you if the Republicans yell loud enough, at some point, it actually cracks through, and people believe it.
BURNETT: And final point on this. Speaker McCarthy is, of course, launching that impeachment inquiry. Are you working with the White House on depending the president, Abbe?
LOWELL: I am not in a position to be, quote, working with the White House. I don't know anything other than what happened this week when Speaker McCarthy, who is basically doing anything to hold on to his gavel, which is rapidly slipping out of his hand, will do even worse to basically cater to the right wing that's forcing him to do things like what is this? This is an impeachment first, find a reason second.
I was involved with impeachment a couple of years ago for President Clinton. And I can tell you that whatever they're doing, it's only going to prove that there's no basis other than, again, catering to the right-wing screamers.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Abbe Lowell. I appreciate your time tonight.
LOWELL: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next, the breaking news, former President Trump now revealing for the first time that he considered pardoning himself while he was president and not ruling out pardoning himself if reelected. And you'll hear Trump in his own words. The former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb is next.
Plus, incredible new reporting that you will see first OUTFRONT tonight on how Putin's government is using churches in the United States to recruit spies.
And breaking news this hour, President Biden speaking with the president of the auto workers union just hours to go before potentially crippling strike that could cost billions. Top UAW official will be OUTFRONT. Will there be a strike at midnight?
BURNETT: Breaking news, former President Donald Trump revealing for the first time that he is considered pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency and saying while it is unlikely he would pardon himself if he's reelected, he didn't rule it out, telling Kristen Welker in an inclusive interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that he believes he did nothing wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I could've done a pardon of myself. You know what I said? I have no interest in even thinking about it. I never even wanted to think about it. And I could have done it. And all of these questions you're asking me about the fake charges, you wouldn't be asking me because it's a very powerful -- it's a very powerful thing for a president.
I was told by some people that these are sick lunatics that I'm dealing with. Give yourself a pardon, your life will be a lot easier. I said, I would never give myself a pardon.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Even if you are reelected in this moment?
TRUMP: Well, I think it's very unlikely. What did I do wrong? I didn't do anything wrong. You mean because I challenged an election, they want to put me in jail?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Ty Cobb, former Trump White House lawyer.
So, Ty, what do you hear when you hear the president say that in his own words? You consider pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency saying that it's unlikely he would do it now.
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Two things. One, he said, you know, he didn't do it because he hadn't done anything wrong. That -- that's his narcissism. He will never do it because he can't be -- he can't hold himself accountable. And with regard to if he got elected, would he do it again?
He doesn't have to. He would nominate somebody as an acting director of the justice, acting head of the Justice Department, acting attorney general, and have that person just dismiss the charges. so, there's no -- there's no reason to speculate or have any angst about whether he might pardon himself, he doesn't have to go that far. He can direct his acting attorney general to dismiss the charges.
BURNETT: All right. Let me play a bit more of the clip of what he said to Kristen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I could've pardoned myself. You know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could've pardoned myself and I left. People said, would like to pardon yourself? I had a couple of attorneys that said, you can do it if you want. I have some people that said it would look bad if you do it because I think it would look terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Would that be your legal recommendation, that it would look terrible?
COBB: My legal recommendation would be that it is probably not constitutional. But at the same time yes, it would look terrible.
On the other hand, you know, it's actually remarkable that he didn't do it. And that he did not pardon Rudy, who is asking for a pardon. Because you would have suspected that he would have at least taken Rudy out of it because Rudy asked for it.
But with regard to pardoning himself, no, I'm not -- I'm not surprised because it would require him to admit that he did something wrong and he can't do that.
BURNETT: Right. Or at least have him know that that everybody thinks that he was admitting to doing, right, which he couldn't stomach either.
And you mentioned pardoning Rudy, obviously makes you think of those charges in Georgia. For example, all of them at the state level, at least for now. I know that's possibly being adjudicated.
But since Trump left office, obviously, 91 counts across four separate cases, could a pardon, taking out some of the state charges in here, could a pardon wiped away all the federal charges, Ty?
COBB: So, if he -- if he became president, had he pardoned himself before he left, I'm not sure it would have affected all of the charges. But it would have -- it would have encompassed the vast bulk of them, and without sorting, you know, through them all, because some of them occurred post-presidency. The vast bulk of them he could have pardon himself on. And then we would be litigating whether he had the constitutional authority to actually pardon himself.
If he gets reelected, as I said before, he can just have those charges dismissed of the Justice Department.
BURNETT: Oh, right, because they're --
COBB: So, that would -- yeah, that would affect -- that would affect all of the charges that he faces federally.
BURNETT: So then, back to Georgia, Fulton County, the judge there, Scott McAfee, ruled that Trump is going to get a later trial date in the Georgia election meddling case, along with 16 other codefendants, right?
You've got two that won the earlier one, and then somebody else getting pushed out. The judge said they could.
So we do not yet know how long that is going to be. We do not have a new date. We know what it's not going to be in October. How much does this help Trump in Georgia?
COBB: So, I don't think it -- so I don't think it was -- there was anything that happened today that was unexpected. You know, the Georgia statute speedy trial is very rigorous. Judges -- state court judges have less discretion than federal court judges doing their Federal Speedy Trial Act.
So they are really obligated to start the trial within the time frame, specify within the statute, which is what the judge has done for the two people who move for that right. And he had to. He didn't really have -- he didn't have any choice.
With regard to allowing more time for the others, that is also something that he's statutorily obligated to do, because keep in mind, these rules are intended to protect the defendant's rights. And this is a complicated case. There's as lot of discovery. There are a lot of witnesses, 150 witnesses.
COBB: So the likelihood that this was never going to trial before 2025 which I have said before, and we have discussed, I never thought that it was high and I think we were back in that zone.
BURNETT: All right. And, of course, we will wait and see when we do hear some more about a date.
Ty, thank you.
COBB: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Erin.
And next, dramatic video from the frontlines. Our Melissa Bell and her team forced to dive for cover as Russia hones in on their location.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): Lay down! Incoming over there!
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: The special report you will see first OUTFRONT.
Plus, tensions boiling over inside of the Republican Party. McCarthy even dropping the F bomb over spending as our KFILE uncovers the House speaker, now doing exactly what he slammed Democrats for, just four years ago. You will hear it. It's his new reporting this hour.
BURNETT: Tonight, our CNN crew is on the ground in Ukraine, ducking for cover. It's a harrowing moment, happening on the front lines. The crew came under Russian fire while embedded with the Ukrainian artillery unit. The soldiers and our team were forced to flee, as Russian forces fired on their vehicle.
Melissa Bell has this story you will see first here OUTFRONT.
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aiming for a specific target, the fury of Ukrainian artillery.
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): Fire!
BELL: Nothing in this war goes on scene, not even the Russians walking into this house, eight kilometers away. The target, spared by a Ukrainian.
And as they try to move the Zaporizhzhia frontline forward, these gunners must now wait for better coordinates from the surveillance drone.
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): We use aerial reconnaissance. We watch the flight of the shell and adjust (the gun) to hit target so we waste less ammunition.
BELL: Odesa (ph) tells his men to lower the gun one notch. Between drones and artillery, nothing is left to chance.
What they've been targeting as a building just on the other side, that has Russian infantry and Russian artillery inside. The drone has been guiding them, they're about to fire for a third time, and what they say is that we should then expect incoming Russian artillery in response.
This time, it's a hit, not just the building, but Russian ammunition in artillery, too, which means that the retaliation should be swift, and it's time to go as fast as we can. The reply doesn't take long.
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): Now we are targeting their -- lay down! Incoming over there.
BELL: They're heading over there?
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: Yes.
BELL: Because as expected, that incoming artillery followed. We are now having to drive away as quickly as we can. Although, where they explain is that isn't just the incoming artillery. One of the most dangerous things but driving around these parts are the drones.
From his position at the back of the pickup truck, Odesa can hear and see the incoming fire.
He's telling us to drive fast, because of the incoming artillery.
In all, nine artillery rounds were fired back, a measure of Russian anger. And today, for these soldiers, of Ukrainian success.
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): After you have experienced this, you begin to understand the value of life.
BELL: And the rush of survival, for today at least.
BELL (on camera): Now, Erin, even as Ukrainians continue to try to push that line forward, both along that Zaporizhzhia part in the south and in the east, they've also been carrying out an interesting fresh strategy this week, that has more to do with Crimea. A series of some of the most ambitious cruise missile attacks, and other forms of attacks that we've seen on the Crimean peninsula since this war began. It's all part of what Ukraine now openly describes as its de- occupation strategy.
And a reminder, that that is where it intends for this war to end, exactly where it began, back in 2014, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Melissa, thank you very much, and we are so grateful that you are in Kyiv tonight, back in Kyiv after that. Thank you.
And we now have some new reporting from OUTFRONT regular Andrei Soldatov, a Russian reporter who is now banned in his home country. The reporting is that the Kremlin is trying to use churches here in the United States to recruit spies, intelligence sources.
Look at this FBI document, warning Russian Orthodox Churches that they could be targets for recruitment by Russian intelligence services and, quote, coerced to a participate in intelligence operations via blackmail.
Well, Andrei joins me now.
And, Andrei, obviously, and usually you are across the Atlantic, so it is so nice after sometimes, in all of your reporting during this work, to see you in person. So, you've got this new reporting, revealing Russian intelligence services are trying to infiltrate churches in the United States. [19:35:00]
What have you learned?
ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, I think the most important part of this story is not only that the Russian security and intelligence agencies have found a way to use the church, but that the church is apparently quite happy to be used. And not just by providing, say, ideological ammunition for the war, and for the Russian spies, which is hardly news, but also in a very direct way, because there is a special memorandum, as far as we know, compiled by church officials, as old as 2009.
And in this memorandum, it is absolutely clear that the church tried to establish some rules of cooperation with the Russian security services, including helping them providing operational support, which is a direct help to spies.
BURNETT: So -- all right, so how vast is this network? I mean, how wide-ranging could this be?
SOLDATOV: It is a big network because the Russian Orthodox Church is very well present here in the United States. And, it's actually getting bigger. More and more people think that the appeal of the Russian Orthodox Church, for all of this talk about family values and traditional values, is a way for Native Americans, for American Protestants to convert and to start coming to the church, to the Russian Orthodox Church.
BURNETT: All right. So, you have also done extensive reporting about the oligarchs, and Putin's inner circle. There was a public criticism, public criticism, from Putin, of a prominent Russian businessman, an oligarch. And the oligarch now says he is totally against Russians barbaric invasion of Ukraine. He comes out and says that now.
And Putin responded, right, so he has responded. He said that this person, who is a technology company leader, is forced to make statements, in order to preserve his foreign businesses and assets. Previously, he was sitting silently, God bless him, it doesn't bother us.
Two questions to this. One, Putin obviously relies heavily on oligarchs, and still does. He's been able to control them, and keep quiet, even if it's all of this, Prigozhin. Where does Putin stand, with that group right now?
SOLDATOV: Well actually, he is still trying to, and he is very much in control of his people. He's really good at spreading a message of fear. And that same meeting you mentioned, he also made a remark about his former ally, Anatoly Chubais, who was the founder, and the father of the Russian privatization program back in the 1990s.
Chubais also left the country and he was -- and Putin was asking about Chubais. And Putin immediately sat back and said, look, Chubais, he used to run a state owned corporation. We found some problems with this corporation. We don't have criminal cases, as of yet, against this guy. But, we can have some problems for him.
BURNETT: So, the threat. And are they -- are they scared by what happened to Prigozhin?
SOLDATOV: Absolutely, yes, and not so, remember Novichok.
BURNETT: Right, right. If they weren't already, because of Navalny.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Wonderful to see you, Andrei.
SOLDATOV: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the breaking news: President Biden, just speak to the present of the Auto Workers Union, hours before possible strikes. So, did it do anything? This would be the biggest auto strike in generations, beginning in hours. Top union official from the UAW is next.
Plus, a vulgar meltdown inside the Republican Party over spending. The House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, lashing out, as our file uncovers video of McCarthy now doing exactly what he once directly and ardently opposed.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden just speaking to the head of the United Auto Workers and leaders of the Big Three U.S. auto companies, to talk about the ongoing negotiations. The UAW is now just about four hours away from a new historic strike that could cripple the U.S. economy, unless they can make a deal with car many factories.
At this hour, there's no sign of a deal, but tonight is the deadline. The UAW's demands include a 40 percent pay increase over four years, getting paid for a 40-hour week working 32 hours, though this with the top hourly wage, for most UAW members is about $35 an hour. They also want to restore pensions that are defined the benefit, guarantee a monthly check, and health care after retirement.
The economic impact of a strike, as I mentioned, could be massive, as much as 45.6 billion dollars in economic losses, if it lasts only ten days. Now, this is according to Anderson Economic Group.
And OUTFRONT now is Dave Green. He's the United Auto Workers Union director for Indiana and Ohio.
Dave, I very much appreciate your time.
I know we are here in the final hours, before a potential strike. I want to give you a chance to respond with the Ford CEO, Jim Farley, said early today, on CNN. He said that the demand from the union, for 40 percent increase in pay, will put his company out of business, and put your workers out of a job. What do you say to him?
DAVE GREEN, UNITED AUTO WORKERS REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR INDIANA AND OHIO: Look, we've made great concessions to keep the company's profitable for a GM and Stellantis alike. We're not asking to be millionaires here, like the CEOs and CFOs of the companies, but we do want our fair share, and we believe that this fight is imperative, not only for our members, but for the entire working class.
BURNETT: So, the deadline right now, as I understand it, Dave, is just about four hours away. Is the strike happening?
GREEN: Look, we're going to find out here at 10:00. Shawn Fein is going to go, President Fein will be alive, and he'll be announcing targets, if we have targets. And I'll be waiting to get on international executive board call here relatively shortly.
BURNETT: All right. So, and when you say targets, what does that mean? Is that negotiating points where you are, or what exactly is it that he's going to be laying out for you at 10:00?
GREEN: Well, whether or not we have an agreement. And if we don't, then which locations we are going to put out on strike.
BURNETT: All right, put on strike tomorrow. Okay, so those decisions are coming at 10:00 tonight.
I do understand that President Biden has and a top treasury official, he had a conversation with the head of the Auto workers Union today. His top treasury official, who has been working on this also has expressed confidence that a strike won't happen.
I want to play for you with the president and set, and, of course, Wally Adeyemo said as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not worried about a strike until it happens. I don't think it's going to happen.
WALLY ADEYEMO, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: We look forward to them reaching a resolution.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: No strike?
ADEYEMO: Yeah, that's -- that's where the president is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, the president, he said, I don't if you could hear it there, but he said no, I just don't think a strike is go to happen, and I think it's going to happen. Is their confidence, in this at this hour, Dave? GREEN: Well, look, none of us want a strike to happen. I think that's
the goal. We're not -- we're not sitting down at the bargaining table to go on strike, we're sitting down at the bargaining table to get the gains that our members deserve, the gains that our members expect.
And so, right, I mean, the hope is that there is no strike. But the reality is, I've spoken with vice presidents today, and I think we are still far, too far apart on some of our demands.
BURNETT: In which demands do you think, the very specifically, are you too far apart, on in your view?
GREEN: Yeah. Well, they don't want to risk store any health care for our current members, when they retire. That's a big piece of this. Obviously, wages are a big piece.
And, you know, I think at the economics, we are not there yet. Hopefully we can get there, but if we are not there in a few hours, we're going to have to make plans, and take this action to the street.
BURNETT: All right. Well, obviously, those are not sidebar issues. You mentioned the new president of the UAW, Shawn Fain. He is not afraid to speak his mind. He has been controversial out there. Let me just place, everybody doesn't know who he is, can hear a little bit of what he's had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAWN FAIN: It's not that we're going to wreck the economy, we're going to -- we're going to wreck their economy, the economy that only works for the billionaire class.
They nickel and dime our members every day. They price-gouge the American consumer, and they squeeze the U.S. taxpayer for every dime they can get.
I'll tell you what I want to do if their proposal, I'm going to file it its proper place, because that's where it belongs, the trash, because that's what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, Dave, so there he is. He speaks his mind, unusual negotiating tactic, it might work though. "The Chicago Tribune" editorial board said of his demands, though, quote, there's simply no way the company could say yes to the UAW's contract demands, and still be competitive in the future.
Is Fain going too far? Or, do you think what we just saw is good?
GREEN: I think what we just saw is good. Look, this is -- our members have been attacked, and have made great concessions over the years, to make these corporations profitable, billions of dollars in profits on their hand. And, like, 3 percent wage gains for us.
It's not right. It's not fair. It's not the smart way to do business. And if we want our economy to do well, we need to pay our workers a decent living wage. We cannot have people working for $15 and $16 an hour, getting government assistance to feed their families, when these corporations are getting billions of dollars to build new factories.
BURNETT: All right, Dave, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I know these next couple of hours are going to be crucial. I appreciate you taking time out of it.
GREEN: Absolutely, Erin. Thank you. Have a great day.
BURNETT: All right. You, too.
And Dave Green, as I've said, is a United Auto Workers Union director for both Indiana and Ohio.
And now, let's go to Harry Enten.
Harry, let's go beyond the numbers. Have the American people -- I mean, you know, we are hours away from a strike, that is a possible strike. It would be a very significant in this country, and certainly, historic.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah.
BURNETT: Have the American people chosen a side?
ENTEN: Yeah, they absolutely have. The United Auto Workers, that's the side they've chosen. Overwhelmingly, that's where the sympathies lie.
We're talking about -- look at this margin, a 75 percent to just 19 percent margin for the U.S. auto companies. And this is basically lying with the trend that we've seen nationally, which is a trend towards more favorably towards unions. The fandom of union in this country is about a 50-year high, and poll numbers like this are illustrative of a larger sort of push towards labor.
BURNETT: Interesting, maybe some nostalgia in it to, right?
BURNETT: Because membership with unions would be --
ENTEN: Has been declining.
BURNETT: Close to 50-year low, in fact.
BURNETT: Now, what about those? So you said they've chosen the side.
BURNETT: Now, let's get into the specifics.
BURNETT: It's one thing to in general say, I have a side. There's another to say specifically about the demands.
BURNETT: What do the American public feel?
UAW, you heard Dave talking about, right. They want a 32-hour work week. They want to pay for 40 hours.
BURNETT: Who has that kind of a deal?
ENTEN: Basically, nobody in this country has that type of a deal. I mean, the vast majority of workers work 40 hours or more. We are talking nearly 75 percent of workers who work 40 hours or more.
Look at this, 9 percent just work 30 to 39 hours. So, the fact is, the idea of a 32-hour work week, a lot of workers in this country will be begging for such a thing at this particular point. It's quite, quite rare.
BURNETT: All right. One other thing he mentioned when he said where are you far apart on? Obviously, he mentioned economics, but he supposedly mentioned health care, right? Now, that has always been part of pension plans, right? That the big three said would bankrupt them and the unions have given them up.
BURNETT: So, health care checks and retirement -- salaries and retirement. Who has that?
ENTEN: Yeah, traditional pension plans have been declining among private workers of the last 30 years, tremendously.
It used to be about a third of American workers in the private industry had a traditional pension plan. Look at where we are. Now it's just 11 percent.
So, they are asking for something that most American workers don't have. And obviously, it's something they wish to hold on to. A lot of people like traditional pension plans, but the fact is that if they lose, and that was part of a larger trend in the American public.
BURNETT: You're right, absolutely.
All right. Harry, thank you very much --
ENTEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: -- as we watch this over the next hour. As you heard Dave saying, 10:00, the crucial time, when they start to pick the plans that they are targeting for an actual strike, and pick a line tomorrow. OUTFRONT next, House Republicans in chaos tonight. Speaker Kevin
McCarthy, in a profanity-laced fight with members of his own party. And tonight, our KFILE uncovering video of the House speaker, which may not help things for him.
Plus, CNN is the first America network on the ground in Libya, where entire towns have vanished following devastating floods. We're going to take you there live, tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy daring the right wing of his conference to oust him, telling his critics in a fiery meeting today, quote, move the F-ing motion. This, as he faces threats overpay plans to pass a short term spending bill, to avoid a government shutdown.
One of the speaker's top critics, Congressman Matt Gaetz, quickly firing back, saying, how about just move the F-ing spending bills? Well, despite the budget battle, McCarthy is pushing forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, something CNN's KFILE has uncovered. He criticized Democrats for doing in 2019, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: First thing I think a majority should, do is pass a budget, which the Democrats have not done. We should actually make sure that they fund the government, which we have not done.
This is the day the nation is weaker, because they surely cannot put their animosity, or their fear of losing an election in the future, in front of them, all the other things that the American people want. They don't even have a budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay, Andrew Kaczynski of the KFILE is OUTFRONT.
Well, we don't have a budget, we don't have a spending deal, but here we are.
ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN'S KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yeah, that's right, and it's not just about what he said then. You know, it's what he's done. The shadow of this government shutdown is looming over all of this impeachment top, and it was just four years earlier that we saw Kevin McCarthy hammering Democrats for doing just that, moving ahead with the impeachment inquiry into Trump, before they had a budget.
And when this was happening, remember, we didn't even have the imminent threat of a shutdown. It was still a little bit off in the future, it wasn't sort of the way it is now. And he is attacking them at that time saying, you are doing this politically motivated impeachment, and you are not doing the basic functions of the government. And remember, this isn't the only issue where he has flip-flopped
here. We saw him just a couple weeks ago say that he was going to put this up for a vote, and then he unilaterally.
BURNETT: Decided to do it --
BURNETT: Right, exactly. It is amazing, though, you know. And I'm not going to make this only about him, in one sense, which is that, you know, when you hear people say something, and they say it with such conviction and passion and depth. And then just, they do the opposite. It's just really incredible. And it's not the only time he's done that.
KACZYNSKI: He is so -- I don't even know what the right word is, right. Like he is so, he seemed so convinced about what he is saying. And then we have him here, basically doing the exact sort of same thing.
BURNETT: And, so it's not the only time he's criticize Democrats for taking in the future when Trump is the target, obviously, and not Biden. What else has he said that you found?
KACZYNSKI: Yeah. So, he said that Democrats in 2019, basically, were demeaning impeachment. He said, if Democrats did this, that he was citing Alexander Hamilton, the founding father, saying that every president now is going to get impeached under sort of faulty grounds. And it's almost sort of, ironic here, because here we find them watching this impeachment inquiry, before we have evidence, right, of an underlying crime.
KACZYNSKI: So take a listen to what he said, in those comments, they're back in 2019.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: With impeachment, that you would have a party actually grab it, and not worry about the rule of law, but just the animosity that you have. And I've never seen the animosity, in our lifetime. And what does it mean for the future? Have we now demeaned impeachment so low, that everybody is going to have this?
Sometimes, something that happens so bad, we need to learn from, and come back from, at this moment time. I hope that's the moment of where we are.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KACZYNSKI: Right, and it's interesting, Erin, because, we did reach out to his office, and we said, he said this then, you're doing this now, what do you have to say about it? And we did not hear back.
BURNETT: Right, and you do not go hear back. Well, I guess that was in the moment we learn something from it. Maybe that's -- that's the answer.
All right. Thank you very much, KFILE, as always.
And breaking news, we are just making contact with our reporter, who has just witnessed, firsthand, the devastation in Libya, from the massive flooding there. The death toll in Libya, really, we don't know how terrible it's going to be. It's more than 5,000, 10,000 are believed still missing.
The number is just going up and up. Terrible floods hitting the country's east, and the numbers will rise steeply in the coming days. Satellite images from before and after the flood showing buildings in the worst hit city of Derna, and the disturbing pictures, just seeing bodies everywhere, in the mud, rotting. I mean, it's horrific to see.
I want to go to Jomana Karadsheh. She is there, just arriving on the phone from just outside Derna. She was able to get there.
Jomana, what are you seeing?
We are trying to get her, everyone bear with me. Do we have her?
Okay, we are trying to get her back. Just give me one second here, it's obviously very shaky. And you can imagine, with these missing people, why they can't ascertain who is dead and alive. They can't get there, and obviously a lot of these cell signals are down. So, we will see if, how we are doing with -- to in just a moment, as we talked at. We're about to go to her.
Okay, so right now -- who is our reporter, who is able to get in to Libya, you are looking here at images of what we do have. She is dialing right back into our control, and to see if we get a chance to speak to her.
Some of the images that we have, that she has now seen in person as she's been in Derna, which we understand to be the hardest hit city from the storm. We understand there have been bodies everywhere, it's been almost impossible to get help in. This storm had -- we also understand about 23 foot waves, that came through. There had not been a warning across Libya, so people did not have a sense that this was even coming.
And, this is what. And -- right, and this is -- this is what we have here right now -- as Jomana -- again, she is now caught up in the third or fourth time. And I know it's frustrating for all of, you as well as it is for us. But it does give you a sense of what we're actually seeing happening here, which is how difficult it is for anyone to able to get help, never mind even be able to touch base with us.
We're going to continue to try to reach her. She will be on this network later this hour. She is on the ground there in the hardest hit area.
And for now, let's hand it off to "AC360".