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Zelenskyy in U.K. to Shore Up Support for Counteroffensive; Biden, Top Capitol Hill Leaders Set to Meet Tomorrow As Default Looms; Turkish Presidential Race Likely Headed for Runoff. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Monday morning, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans. Just moments ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in the United Kingdom, he's meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who plans to announce hundreds of air defense missiles for Ukraine as it prepares a counteroffensive against Russia.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me this morning from London. Clare, Zelenskyy, essentially on a European tour, on his German leg of that tour, he said that he vowed to reclaim all of his country from the Russians. What more are we learning about the support he's getting?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, it's been a really productive weekend for Ukraine. He got the biggest ever pledge to date in his war from Germany where $3 billion over the weekend, that included another 30 Leopard 2 tanks, which have been so crucial for Ukraine. France also pledging tens of armored vehicles including training just this morning.

We're hearing as this meeting gets underway at the Prime Minister's country residence of Chequers just outside London. That the U.K. will be pledging more air defense missiles and attack drones with a range of 200 kilometers. This is something that Zelenskyy is at pains to point out it's an urgent visit, Ukraine has an urgent need now ahead of this upcoming counteroffensive for these weapons.

That's why I think you see this have a more business-like air to it, compared to the pomp and circumstance we saw in his trip to the U.K. in February where he addressed a joint houses -- the joint houses of Congress. He had tea with the king. He did that great sort of rhetorical flourish where he presented the speaker of the House of Commons with a helmet of a fighter pilot, saying that Ukraine needed wings to protect its freedom.

He still, by the way, does not have any western pledges for NATO standard fighter jets. So, this is something that we expect to hear more about today. But it is very important, not just for the weapons, but also for the optics of this. Ukraine wants to take its place amongst its European allies, amongst its NATO allies. This is a visual, sort of -- you know, a sort of carrot, I guess, to bring home to his war-weary people, as you can show they're at least achieving some of their goals here.

ROMANS: Yes, shoulder-to-shoulder with other European leaders as an equal. All right, Clare Sebastian, thank you so much. Just 17 days from a potentially catastrophic default here, but the sand quickly slipping through the hourglass. President Biden and top leaders in Congress are expected to meet again tomorrow to try to hash out an agreement on the debt limit.

Their big meeting Friday was postponed, but we know their staffs met during the weekend. And CNN has learned that those negotiations were productive. The president's top economic adviser cautiously optimistic that a crisis will be averted.


LAEL BRAINARD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL, WHITE HOUSE: The staff is very engaged. I would characterize the engagement as serious, as constructive. Right now, the focus is on the budget and those discussions, but our expectation is that Congress will act to avert default in a timely manner.


ROMANS: All right, CNN's Arlette Saenz reports from the White House.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine, President Biden says he'll likely meet with congressional leaders here at the White House on Tuesday, setting up the next showdown over the debt limit. Now, the president cautioned his aides are still working through that timing. But top economists at the White House and Treasury Department over the weekend said that the staff-level talks have been constructive. President Biden struck an optimistic tone that an agreement will be reached.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I remain optimistic because I'm a congenial optimist. But I really think there's a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement. I think we'll be able to do it.


SAENZ: Negotiators on the staff level worked throughout the weekend to prepare for this upcoming meeting with the president and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other top congressional leaders. Officials have said that a few items are on the table, including talks about the budget, also clawing back unspent COVID relief funds as well as permitting reform.

All sides have their eyes on that so-called X date of June 1st. That warning date of when the U.S. could potentially default on its debt. But many are warning that the impacts could be felt much sooner than that. The White House has projected that even if they reach a deal, but engage in brinkmanship waiting until the end, that, that could wipe out 200,000 jobs. You're hearing from business leaders like JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon who

has said that there could be panic in the stock market the closer that date approaches.


Now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that he wants to see a deal -- an outline of a deal at some point this week. President Biden has said he's still committed to attending the G7 Summit in Japan, which he departs for on Wednesday. So, right now, these lawmakers and the White House are really heading into crunch time as they're trying to work out an agreement and avoid the first default in U.S. history. Christine?

ROMANS: Yes, running out of time. All right, Turkey's hotly-contested presidential race looks like it is headed for a runoff. Turkish election officials say that President Erdogan leads his opponent with just under 50 percent of the vote needed to win the race outright. Erdogan has been a thorn in the West's side for years with his moves to weaken democracy in Turkey.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Istanbul for us this morning. Jomana, are they -- are they still counting ballots? And what are the two candidates saying about a potential runoff?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are, Christine, continuing to count ballots. More than 99 percent of those ballots have been counted so far. And as you mentioned at this point, neither of those candidates have achieved that 50-plus-1 threshold that is needed to win the presidency. What you have right now is President Erdogan at 49.40 percent, the leader of the opposition and their candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu at 44.96 percent.

What we heard last night from those candidates coming out, addressing their supporters, saying that they were ready for a second round if this is the will of the Turkish people, if this is where this is headed. But you know, Christine, this is really quite a blow for Turkey's opposition, who have been more united, more galvanized than ever.

You have these diverse opposition groups all coming together, creating this coalition that they believe would be able to unseat President Erdogan and after 20 years of being -- of leading this country. And they really believe that they have the momentum, they have the support to do this. They were promising change, a change that so many in this country wanted, but it doesn't appear at this point that, that was enough.

While President Erdogan hasn't won at this point, while this is still going towards a runoff in a couple of weeks' time on the 28th of May, it does appear that he has defied expectations. That he has emerged here pretty much unscathed after everything that he has faced. The criticism in -- over the past few months and over the past couple of years, whether it is his handling of the economic situation in this country. His economic policies, his unorthodox economic policies that are

blamed for the country's high inflation, the cost of living crisis, the currency crisis where the Turkish lira has lost much of its value over the past couple of years. And then you've got the handling of that devastating earthquake in February, that disastrous initial response by the government and the lack of preparedness, and so much criticism that President Erdogan and his government got despite that, he is still managing at this point to have the support of pretty much half the country in this very polarized nation, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you for that. In the Middle East, a tenuous peace between Israel and Islamic Jihad appears to be holding this morning. Celebrations in Gaza after five days of attacks that have left at least 33 Palestinians in Gaza dead, as well as two people in Israel. One Israeli, one Palestinian. But the fragile ceasefire has still not addressed the issues at the heart of the recent clashes.

CNN's Hadas Gold joins me this morning from Jerusalem. What's the latest on this truce? This ceasefire, is it holding?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, it does appear to be holding even though last night there was a rocket fired from Gaza towards Israel. And Israel responded with shelling, what it said were militant outposts along the border. There were no injuries reported on either side, and security sources in Gaza telling our CNN team there, that it was a quote, "malfunction".

And that seems to have been a one off that was lost in 24 hours after the ceasefire was called. But so far, the ceasefire appears to be holding, and life is returning somewhat to normalcy on both sides. But really, nothing has changed on the ground. Life today, both for people in Gaza and people in Israel, especially southern Israel, is at the same place that it was a week ago despite these five days of exchange of fires where Israeli military said something like almost 1,500 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. And Israel striking what it said was more than 400 Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip.


Now, of the 33 or so people, Palestinians who died in Gaza, the Israeli military says at least 21 of them were combatants, were militants. But we know of at least 12 civilians who were also killed as a result of these airstrikes. And in Israel, one Israeli woman was killed in a rocket strike, and as fate would have it actually, a Palestinian man from Gaza who happened to be in Israel working was also killed by a rocket strike.

But really, nothing has changed despite these five days of fire. Now, the Israeli military will say, well, tactically, they had a success. They wiped out something like 11 senior commanders of Islamic Jihad, they targeted 422 Islamic Jihad targets, but even they say, that this has not really changed the situation on the ground in Gaza.

Islamic Jihad is still a militant group that still exist, hasn't been completely dismantled. Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza essentially got to support Islamic Jihad in their armed resistance, but didn't have to be targeted itself. What has changed, though, is the political situation. Benjamin Netanyahu, whose poll numbers were suffering before this, well, Christine, his poll numbers have now increased as a result or after this operation. Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Hadas Gold, thank you for that. All right, more than 77 hours past since Title 42 expired, and that expected surge of migrants at the southern border, apparently, it hasn't happened, at least not yet. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas telling CNN, the number of border encounters is about half of what it was in the last days of the quick expulsion policy from some 10,000 migrants per day to just more than 4,000.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY, UNITED STATES: We have communicated very clearly a vitally important message to the individuals who are thinking of arriving at our southern border. There's a lawful, safe and orderly way to arrive in the United States, that is through the pathways that President Biden has expanded in an unprecedented way.

And then there's a consequence if one does not use those lawful pathways.


ROMANS: Border city officials say new asylum rules are partly why the numbers are down. But the mayor of Laredo, Texas, says he is still concerned.


MAYOR VICTOR TREVINO, LAREDO, TEXAS: We haven't had a great amount of transfers about 700 yesterday. We're still at high alert because Brownsville and El Paso still have a high number there with them. So we have to be cognizant of that.


ROMANS: The mayor saying he's especially concerned about medical care for children. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in El Paso for us, he shows us how children are why so many migrants take the dangerous trek in the first place.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Step inside this shelter in the heart of El Paso, Texas, and you'll find people waiting in limbo. They're migrant families, some single mothers who told us they were recently processed and released by border authorities. Also children visibly exhausted nap inside, others play in the courtyard.

The young minds spare the anguish of moms and dads trying to figure out when or even if they could continue the rest of the journey, you know, what can easily become a hopeless space, it seems the migrant mothers keep hope alive here. Conny Barahona keeps it together for Daniella(ph), her 9-year-old. She says two of her older daughters, ages 18 and 20 remain in federal detention.

"It will be a sad Mother's Day", she tells me, "my daughters won't be by my side." In the last three days, Barahona turned down coveted opportunities to travel to Houston, refusing to go anywhere without all her daughters. "We left Honduras together, and that's how we must remain until God allows", the single mother says. She forged a friendship with fellow migrant mom, Yesgadi Gonzalez(ph) who left South America three months ago with her partner and their son, Jason.

We found another motherly bond in this corner of the shelter where Yonella Falcon (ph) receives help in caring for baby Yeremi (ph) just 2 weeks old. His mom tells me she carried him from Venezuela to Texas, where she went into labor immediately after stepping on to U.S. soil. All of the migrant mothers we spoke to say, maternal instinct to provide for the children is what drove them to make the perilous journey in the first place.

"A parent will do anything to see their children safe", says Barahona, a hug from Daniella (ph) seems to help ease any of mom's sorrows. Asked her what she want to be when she grows up.


SANDOVAL: A seamstress like mom. Polo Sandoval, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


ROMANS: All right, Polo, thank you for that. All right, still ahead, Florida's Ron DeSantis with a message about moving on from Trump, but is the GOP ready? Plus, Missouri roads turn into rivers as flash flooding traps drivers, and this picture of politics in America, chaos at a nominating convention.



ROMANS: All right, Donald Trump canceling his trip to Iowa due to bad weather this weekend, and avoiding a showdown with Ron DeSantis. Trump has attacked the Florida governor as he flirts with the 2024 presidential run. DeSantis made his message clear, Trump needs to move on.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We focus the election on the past or on other side issues, now, I think the Democrats are going to beat us again.


ROMANS: And joining me now, Daniel Strauss; senior political correspondent at "The New Republic". So nice to see you this morning. Let's talk about this pitch -- DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC:

Good morning --

ROMANS: From DeSantis to move on from Trump, telling his party to move on. Is the GOP receptive, I guess to that idea?

STRAUSS: I mean, so far, it's been a mix. On the one hand, there's a level of Republicans party elites, donors, not quite activists, senior party strategists who have been very open to this argument.


I've heard in private meetings that -- for instance, at a Republican Governors Association event, that the phrase move on or turn the page was common. And that was in reference to Trump. At the same time though, most polling shows that a very significant chunk of the Republican Party, this 30 percent or so of the activist's base is sticking with Trump, and that's after everything that's happened in past four years, all the lawsuits, everything that's happened afterwards.

Pollsters I've talked to say that this chunk of the GOP is not moving. Trump could literally -- I mean, the phrase he likes to use is shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and they will not move. And so, it's a mix right now. I don't know if for DeSantis or any other Republican in this increasingly crowded primary, if the other 70 percent of the Republican Party will be attainable when there are so many candidates cutting up that fraction of the GOP.

ROMANS: Which is what, I think makes his appearance, Trump's appearance on CNN last week at our town hall. So fascinating, because he gave that 30 percent exactly what they want and love about Trump. You know, and that's even after following a $5 million ruling against him in the E. Jean Carroll case. How do you think -- which he calls, of course, a fake and made-up story.

And then he went on to slam and insult her there on live television as well, which is something, of course, the jury found him guilty of defaming him for -- libel for defaming her for. So how does all that play for him and Trump, you think, now, a week on.

STRAUSS: I mean, well, first off, shout-out to Kaitlan Collins for doing that town hall. Look, I -- Trump's narrative that he wants to continue to push is that there is some vast quote-unquote, "witch- hunt" where the judicial system, party elites, the legal system, the federal government are all against him. And he's -- and that everything that's happened, anything, any bumps in his path to the White House is being grossly exaggerating.

And so, that's the argument he wants to make with the E. Jean Carroll case. At the same time, it's very serious, it should not be brushed off. But this is the argument he's making. And the broader electorate is the one that's going to decide this, not that 30 percent of the Republican Party that is immovable from supporting Trump.

ROMANS: On DeSantis, I want to ask you about this escalating fight with Disney, and we heard from the Disney CEO, Bob Iger last week that, you know, the governor's attacks on the company threatened, you know, what? Seventy plans for $17 billion in investment over the next ten years. I mean, do you want the tourists, you know, Governor DeSantis and the jobs that Disney creates or do you want the sort of, you know, the fight against what DeSantis says is a woke corporation. Is that a losing battle for DeSantis?

STRAUSS: I mean, it's pretty quick sign, right? Like if you're from Florida, Disney is a pretty powerful person or a powerful company to pick a fight with. They are -- I mean, they're incredibly powerful and vast and touch all kinds of corners of the state. At the same time, though, this is a Florida governor who needs national headlines.

He needs to show that he is not afraid to pick fights with large entities, and to sort of contrast himself in the preferred subject of the Republican Party. That's sort of social subjects that is culture wars. So for DeSantis, he's really betting right now that in the long run, attention will move on, Disney will move on. And his -- there will be a base or a section of the Republican Party that will also just continue to think of him more as a fighter who is fighting on the issues that they care about most right now.

ROMANS: Interesting, and that will be fascinating to see how that plays out. Daniel Strauss; senior political correspondent at "The New Republican". Happy Monday, and thanks for getting up early for us. All right, quick hits across America now, rescue crews in St. Louis helping drivers trapped in floodwaters. The Fire Department responded to at least 15 calls of stranded vehicles, Sunday. A pounding storm put nearly half a million people under flash flood warnings.

A suspect arrested in Baltimore after police say he stole a five-ton military truck and led officers in a highway chase, crashing into other vehicles along the way. Police say he was just released from jail just before stealing the vehicle.

All right, chaos erupting at a Minneapolis political event to nominate candidates for city council. Supporters of two opposing candidates clashed until police were finally called. So far, no reports of arrests.


All right, coming up, people in Myanmar and Bangladesh dealing with widespread damage after a cyclone. And a stunning political turn in Chicago, the new era begins today.


ROMANS: A new era of politics is set to begin in Thailand. The Progressive Move Forward Party has won the most seats in the country's election. It was the highest turnout ever. The Move Forward leader has already invited opposition parties to form a potential alliance against the prime minister. CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us this morning from Seoul.

Paula, how does the Move Forward Party differ from the incumbent party in power and what challenges do they face in the days ahead?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, it could not be more different than the military-backed party that's in power at the moment. Move Forward is a progressive party. They have campaigned on a policy.