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Top Dems Want The Party To Stop Dissing Vice President Kamala Harris; Three Women Missing After Crossing Into Mexico Two Weeks Ago; U.S. Calls Iran's Claim Of Prisoner Swap Deal A "Cruel Lie." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 13, 2023 - 05:30   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I know. So you can either like spend hours a day until Thursday and Friday when you have to pick for the men's and women's brackets or you can just pick your favorite mascot --


WIRE: -- or your favorite color and you'll have probably have an equal chance of doing just as well.

ROMANS: All right, Coy Wire. Nice to see you.

WIRE: You, too.

ROMANS: All right, top Democrats have had enough with the snubs from within the party aimed at Vice President Kamala Harris. Why they say the piling on could hurt Biden's chances in 2024. And her predecessor Mike Pence rebuking his former boss. The insults Pence lobbed at Donald Trump just ahead.


ROMANS: All right. With the 2024 presidential race looming, Democrat leaders are urging critics to get off Kamala Harris' back and get on board. They cited a long string of snubs and slights directed at the vice president and they warned the pile-on could become a problem for a Biden reelection campaign if it continues.

Let's bring back CNN's Jasmine Wright in Washington this Monday morning. Jasmine, what's the concern here among top Democrats?


JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christine. Well, the criticism of the vice president's capabilities and her prospects for the future have been almost a near constant for her tenure as vice president.

But according to our reporting it really hit a flashpoint after Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was asked in a local Boston radio interview in January about whether or not she would support the vice president's inclusion on the ticket if Biden were to run in 2024. Take a listen here to her answer.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team. I've known Kamala for a long time. I like Kamala. I knew her back when she was -- when she was attorney general and I was still teaching and we worked on the housing crisis together. So we go way back.

But they need -- they have to be a team and my sense is they are. I don't mean that by suggesting I think there are any problems.


WRIGHT: So, sources told me and my colleague Isaac Devore that pretty soon after Elizabeth Warren gave that answer she realized it was a mistake and her office put out a statement clarifying it. But then Elizabeth Warren went a step further. She went and called the vice president twice to apologize, sources told us, and the vice president hasn't called her back.

Now, when you talk to people in the vice president's orbit they're really furious about this comment not just because it was Elizabeth Warren that made it but because it was a part of what they felt was a long list of snubs and disrespect that the vice president has received about her capabilities, about her tenure over the last two years and the fact that Democrats at large haven't really been appreciative of the work the vice president has done alongside President Biden.

But it's not just her team that's upset. Pretty insulting is how one source put their reaction to it. But it's a larger amount of Democrats who realize that the negativity around the vice president could prove to be a real problem when it comes to if President Biden does run in 2024 as we expect he will in the next few months make an announcement, but also just in terms of the vice president. Obviously, she's a younger politician and could potentially be the face of the party.

Now, the White House to us made clear in this story the fact that they view the vice president as an integral part of the administration and therefore, really kind of casting aside any comments or speculation of political chatter, as the vice president has put it, that she could be replaced from the ticket. And so Democrats tell us for this story that if that is the case -- if she is not going to be replaced for the -- on the ticket then Democrats really need to come together and support her for the good of the ticket in 2024 and good for the party beyond that -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine Wright. Thank you so much.

All right, let's now bring in Margaret Talev, senior contributor at Axios and director of Syracuse University's Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship Institute. Margaret, nice to see you.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS, DIRECTOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY'S DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM AND CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning, Christine. Nice to see you too. ROMANS: So why are White House and Democratic leaders trying to make these moves to reset the vice president's image right now?

TALEV: Yes. I mean, Christine, it's because her approval ratings are quite low. When she's at 40 percent it's a good day and that's not the position you want to take into a reelection campaign.

And this is where the rubber meets the road because Joe Biden is poised now to make sort of history in the octogenarian running for reelection space. There are concerns about his age and it does raise the stakes for who the vice president -- who the running mate would be. And it's true that if Democrats are adding -- if Democratic leaders are kind of adding to the undercurrent of unpopularity with Kamala Harris it could be a problem.

I think the challenge for Biden and for Harris is going to be that this is just simply the reality and she's going to need to find a way to surf above it. She and Elizabeth Warren could make up, hold hands, and go on a tour together to win back hearts and minds, or she could not return a phone call for a month. So I think these -- this is sort of what they're weighing right here.

But if you look at the public-facing messages that the president is trying to send you're going to see -- and we're seeing it now -- a lot more pictures of President Biden and Kamala Harris together.

ROMANS: Right.

TALEV: Of them smiling at each other on the Twitter feed. And that's deliberate. It is to get this back on track ahead of a reelection announcement.

ROMANS: Hey, Margaret, you were in the room, I'm told, this weekend for former Vice President Mike Pence's comments about January 6. He said that history, quote, "will hold Donald Trump accountable." Listen for a moment to what he said in 2021.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration's failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.


ROMANS: Margaret, I'm wondering how the base will react and how fellow GOP hopefuls will respond to his comments.

TALEV: Well, it is a big change of heart from a couple of years ago.


I can tell you that in the room on Saturday night, the reaction among journalists was wow, he's really leaning into this. He wants to make news.

But you're right. Holding -- saying that history will hold Trump accountable and also doing a really overt rejection of Tucker Carlson and the sort of lies around the idea that this was a peaceful protest or tourism is staking out some risky ground with the base. But he is trying to find this lane, right, as the voice of moral clarity or the grown-up in the room.

The questions that I have are is he going to keep fighting a subpoena, right, to testify against the former president? And is he going to repeat the same messaging to the cameras and to the base when he is back in New Hampshire and Iowa in the coming days?

The gridiron is reported on. There are some still images you'll see. It is not broadcast and so you can't see him making these comments himself if you weren't there. So certainly staking out some new ground but questions remain about his willingness to testify.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Silicon Valley Bank and this backstopping -- an amazing weekend in Washington this weekend --

TALEV: Absolutely.

ROMANS: -- trying to backstop this bank and another bank called Signature Bank.

I'm wondering politically what the motivation here is. I mean, obviously, the White House wants to control any kind of contagion in the banking system after the Fed has jacked up interest rates so much. Something was going to break and it did. What's the political impact here of this backstopping from the Treasury and the Fed, do you think?

TALEV: Well, it is -- today is going to be a different day than it would have been if they hadn't spent the weekend --


TALEV: -- putting what they put together. So I think that's the big part is fending this off.

But 2008 not that far away from Americans' hearts and minds. And if you can remember the famous run on the bank scene from movies like "It's A Wonderful Life," right, this is -- it is the fear of that contagion.

I think this shows, number one, Biden trying to show that the country has learned from the lessons of 2008 and that he can steer the country through economic difficulty with some nuance. But I think it also shows how close these economic fears are to the surface with all Americans.

It's not just the higher interest rates. It's not just the economy and inflation. It's not just crypto. It's not just jobs. It's all of these at the same time and the fear that all the numbers that tell us that things are doing OK are quite fragile and right next to the surface. And yet, not wanting to do a bailout because there would be a real backlash against that.

So this is the administration and the U.S. government trying to find the sweet spot.


TALEV: We'll see how today goes. We're going to hear from President Biden. His messaging to Americans is going to be really important on this.

ROMANS: Yes. I think that's going to be around 8:00 a.m.

You know, nobody wants a bailout. Bailouts are such a dirty word. But if I'm not mistaken, the bailout from 2008-2009 actually made taxpayers money in the end. So, you know, the financial system overall really important to contain any kind of spread.

Margaret Talev, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

TALEV: You, too -- thanks.

ROMANS: All right, authorities are investigating the disappearance of three women living in Texas who are believed to have gone missing on their way to Montemorelos, Mexico more than two weeks ago. Police say they were planning to sell clothes at a flea market there.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): They, Christine. Good morning.

Over the weekend, I was in touch with the police chief in Penitas, Texas, which is where at least two of these three missing women are from, and he tells me that the three women crossed over the U.S.- Mexico border a little over two weeks ago and they haven't been seen or heard from since.

And so now he's calling on people on both sides of the border to call in if they have any information on the whereabouts of these three women -- Marina Perez Rios; her sister Martiza Trinidad Perez Rios; and a friend of theirs, Dora Alicia Cervantes Saenz. The chief telling me that the three of them drove across the border just south of Mission, Texas back on February 24, which was a Friday.

Investigators there in Penitas telling me that the husband of one of those sisters was even in contact with his wife after the three of them crossed the border but it wasn't until these calls were going unanswered that he began to worry. He turned to investigators there in Texas who in turn then brought in the FBI. Now, the FBI over the weekend issuing a statement saying that they have -- that they cannot release any specific information on this ongoing investigation.

But what we know at this point is that the three were heading to Montemorelos in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, which is about a three-hour drive south of the border. They were on their way there to sell clothing at a flea market and they appear to have never made it.

Here is what the police chief told our affiliate KRVG.

CHIEF ROEL BERMEA, PENITAS, TEXAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're just concerned. If anybody has any information -- I mean, they can contact us or contact the FBI and see what information they can -- they can provide for us.


This is the first time something like this is reported to us. I mean, we really haven't had any other incidents that I can recall on something like this happening in another country.

SANDOVAL (on camera): Now, as that search continues there's certainly something that will likely worry authorities and that's if -- in order to get to that part of Nuevo Leon one typically has to drive through the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which according to the U.S. State Department, is currently on a do not travel list due to an increase in cartel violence. But that is all certainly going to be considered moving forward as this investigation continues as they work to track down these three women -- two of them with addresses in south Texas, Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Polo Sandoval. Thank you so much for that, Polo.

All right. California facing torrential rain and rising floodwaters where millions of residents are bracing for more severe weather. Plus, the U.S. is denying Iran's claim of a prisoner sway deal. Why officials are calling it a cruel lie.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning is $620 billion. U.S. banks had $620 billion in unrealized losses at the end of 2022. That's when assets decrease in price but have not yet been sold.

It's happening because surging interest rates are pushing newly-issued bond rates higher and driving down the value of the old bonds with lower rates, making them less attractive. The plunge in the value of bonds is just one of those things that led to the recent downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

All right, looking at markets around the world, Asian markets ended mixed, although big gains in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

European markets are lower this hour. Big losses there in Paris -- more than two percent. Frankfurt down two percent. London down almost two percent.

This just in. HSBC says it has reached a deal to buy the U.K. unit of collapsed lender Silicon Valley Bank. On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are barely mixed here

although the Nasdaq up almost one percent. We've been watching these all night looking for reaction to that big rescue from the federal government backstopping all of the depositors of Silicon Valley Bank.

All the major averages fell last week. The S&P and the Nasdaq dropped more than four percent. The Dow posted its worst weekly performance since June.

On inflation watch, gas prices holding steady overnight at $3.47 a gallon.

Another busy week on the economic calendar in store. A lot to get to. Consumer Price Index for February. We've got retail sales, the PPI, consumer sentiment all on tap this week.

All right, the Biden administration calling Iran's claims of a prisoner sway deal a cruel lie. There are currently three American citizens imprisoned in Iran. The U.S. has designated all of them as wrongfully detained and officials say there is no agreement right now for their release.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live in London with more. And Salma, I'm wondering why would Iran make up a story about a prisoner swap.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This one is really a head- scratcher, isn't it, Christine, to try to figure out what's happening behind these headlines. Look, I'm not going to speculate on the thinking of the Tehran government but I do want to lay out what we do know.

First of all, these prisoner swaps do happen. They're not impossible -- they've taken place. The last one was in 2019. There was one in 2016. That was a big one under the Obama administration. But Iran and the United States actually have to be talking for prisoner swaps to take place and right now relations between the two countries are at an all-time low.

You'll remember that JCPOA agreement -- the nuclear agreement. That was scrapped under Donald Trump. There were attempts to restart it under President Biden. Those all but stalled and then were sort of dealt a death blow when Iran's government cracked down on this big popular uprising last year prompting, of course, condemnation from the United States and a further isolation of the Tehran government.

So it's very difficult to imagine that right now there are really any diplomatic channels between the United States and Iran. Now, it's not impossible, of course. Secret talks take place all the time. But we know the negotiating teams of these two countries have not met in nearly a year. So what that really means is for the families of these three men that the United States say are being used as political pawns by Iran really more emotional turmoil in an evermore precarious future.

ROMANS: All right, Salma Abdelaziz. Thank you so much for that. All right, turning now to weather. California bracing for another round of storms with about 17 million people under flood watches this morning.


Coastal Division Air Operations rescue.


ROMANS: Close to 200 rescues have been conducted in the hard-hit Pajaro River areas where residents are grappling with heavy flooding after a levee broke. They are advised not to use tap water for drinking and cooking until further notice.

In Watsonville, Highway 1 and other roads submerged by the torrential rains. The National Guard helped evacuate hundreds of residents still dealing with flooded homes and impassable roadways. Rainfall totals greater than six inches across central and northern California as another atmospheric river is expected to bring even more flooding.

All right, let's bring in meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad, California not the only area dealing with more winter storms.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, exactly. All of the Intermountain West will pick up some snow from this and we have some light rain this morning but look at this batch of clouds. That's all from Hawaii. This is the Pineapple Express again, even though we've had over a foot of rainfall. These aren't snow totals, these are rainfall totals from the last storm.

So although this may not be as big of a unit here coming in across parts of Hawaii -- across the Pineapple Express -- it is already on top of very saturated ground. That's why the flash food potential with this next storm is so high.

The rivers are already high. More rainfall that comes in tonight and tomorrow will be unwelcome at best. And snow in the higher elevations could be four to six feet on top of those tens or dozens of feet that they already have.


And here you mentioned the snow coming into the Rockies as well. They'll take that for sure.

One more thing to mention for the northeast is this storm will eventually get there with wind advisories here across the west and also the potential for a late-season nor'easter. I'll have that update for you at 6:37, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, 6:37. We'll be looking forward to that. Thank you so much, Chad Myers.

MYERS: You bet.

ROMANS: All right. Horror sequel "Scream VI" dominating the box office this weekend.


Clip from Paramount Pictures "Scream VI."


ROMANS: Serial killer Ghostface is back with new stars Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera. The film clearing a franchise-best $44.5 million in ticket sales, easily surpassing "Scream 2's" $32 million opening in 1997.

All right, thanks for joining me this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right after this.