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Five Men Get Prison Time For $123 Million German Jewel Heist; Pope, Italian PM Urge More Babies As Nation's Birth Rate Plummets; JPMorgan Chase CEO: "I Would Love To Get Rid Of The Debt Ceiling." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 17, 2023 - 05:30   ET




FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Have been released today," the presiding judge said. But where are the jewels?

While the robbers did tell investigators where some of the stolen artifacts were located, helping divers to retrieve them from a canal in Berlin, the most valuable pieces are still missing without a trace. The now-convicts claim not to know where they are.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "This means that the state of Saxony can and must claim its damages within the framework of civil lawsuits," the presiding judge said.

State authorities are offering a reward of up to half a million euros for clues helping to find the missing historic jewelry but they acknowledge some of the pieces might never be found because they've been broken into pieces.

All this as those now convicted of stealing the artifacts walked out of the courtroom and drove off, allowed to serve their sentences at a later time.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Fred, thanks for that.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Hundreds of people are feared dead in Myanmar as a result of Cyclone Mocha. Myanmar's shadow government said at least 400 people have been killed but CNN has been unable to independently verify that number.

North Korea claims it is nearing the launch of its first spy satellite. The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, inspected the reconnaissance satellite and approved unspecified future action plans.

Nigerian chief Hilda Basi attempted to -- chef, rather -- set -- attempted to set a world record, cooking nonstop for 100 hours. Basi served up more than 55 recipes and more than 100 meals. The Guinness World Record committee still confirming her feat.

All right, President Biden heads overseas in a matter of hours but the trip won't go as originally planned. Plus, who would have thought small families are now a big problem in Italy?



ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

President Biden heading to Japan today for this week's G7 summit. The White House is shortening his Asia-Pacific trip to focus on debt ceiling negotiations with congressional leaders.

Arguments begin today before a conservative federal appeals court over a widely used abortion pill. The Biden administration is fighting to reverse a decision to ban the medication.

Former Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker set to testify again on Capitol Hill today. Becker apologized for the bank's collapse in a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

All right. Family is a big part of Italian culture but lately, there's an expected problem. Italian families are getting smaller.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau has more from Rome.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Italy has a baby problem -- a lack thereof. The birth rate in this country once known for large families has plummeted to a record low 1.24 children per Italian woman -- one of the lowest in Europe. High cost of living, low wages, and expensive housing are just some of the obstacles.

Claudia and Gabriele say they often argue about starting a family with so many uncertainties.

CLAUDIA GIAGHEDDU SAITTA: (Speaking foreign language).

NADEAU (voice-over): Claudia says the government thinks that 10,000 euros is enough to have a child but the incentives are temporary. A child is forever.

Gabriele says the government ignores the youth because they are the minority.

GABRIELE DE LUCA: (Speaking foreign language).

NADEAU (voice-over): "The government has to take risks. They also have to take unpopular decisions if they really want to try to stimulate growth. They have to represent the side of the youth," he says.

The new government, under Giorgia Meloni, has focused on traditional families with little wiggle room for anyone else. But Italy offers very little government support or financial incentives for new mothers in comparison with European neighbors such as France and Germany.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

NADEAU (voice-over): "Meloni wants a country where it's not scandalous to say we are born from a man and a woman and where it's not taboo to say maternity is not for sale."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

NADEAU (voice-over): This means babies born to same-sex couples and immigrants are increasingly overlooked.

POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking foreign language).

NADEAU (voice-over): Pope Francis says the only hope for the future depends on acceptance and integration.

Demographer Maria Rita Testa points to both structural and behavioral issues.

MARIA RITA TESTA, PROFESSOR OF DEMOGRAPHY, LUISS UNIVERSITY: The big problem is to find a solid job. Economic independence that allows them to get the credit to buy a house and to start building a family.

NADEAU (voice-over): If no babies are born to replace the aging population or to pay into the pension system the future of Italy hangs in the balance. And there is no guarantee that those who are able to have children will be willing to deliver.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


ROMANS: All right. The Denver Nuggets holding on to take game one in the Western Conference Finals against LeBron and the Lakers.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So the Denver Nuggets are one of six NBA teams that have never reached the NBA Finals but they're now three wins away from making that happen.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was just incredible in game one. The two- time MVP scored 34 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, and dished out 14 assists. Jokic, the first NBA player in playoff history with a 30- point triple-double and 70 percent shooting in consecutive games. Now, the Nuggets led this entire game pretty much and led it by 14

entering the fourth, but the Lakers rallied late. Austin Reaves' three got the Lakers to within three but that's as close as they would get. Nuggets end up holding on to win 132-126 to take game one.


The Eastern Conference Finals, meanwhile, get started tonight in Boston. The Celtics hosting the Heat in a rematch from last year. Tip- off 8:30 Eastern on TNT.

All right, the hopes and dreams of NBA teams across the country was hanging in the balance last night for the NBA draft lottery. Seven- foot-five, 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama, out of France, considered the best prospect since LeBron James. And it would be San Antonio Spurs fans rejoicing as they won the top pick and the rights to draft Wemby.

The Spurs seem to always win the lottery at the perfect time. They had won it twice before and both times got a Hall of Fame big man. In 1987, they got David Robinson. And then in 1997, they got Tim Duncan.

All right, Grizzlies star Ja Morant, meanwhile, finally breaking his silence three days after a social media post allegedly showed him waving a gun again. After the video surfaced on Sunday, the NBA announced Morant is under investigation for his actions two months after the league had suspended him for essentially the same thing.

Morant issued a statement last night saying, "I know I've disappointed a lot of people who have supported me. This is a journey and I recognize there is more work to do. My words may not mean much right now, but I take full accountability for my actions. I'm committed to continuing to work on myself."

Now, that apology came after NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment over the situation, especially after handing down an eight-game suspension back in March.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: Frankly, most of our conversation was about how incredibly serious the first incident was of waving a firearm on social media. Honestly, I was shocked when I saw this weekend that video. Now, we're in the process of investigating it and we'll figure out exactly what happened to the best we can. Again, it's the video is a bit grainy and all that but I'm assuming the worst.


SCHOLES: All right. And finally, Yankees pitcher Domingo German was ejected from last night's game against the Blue Jays after a foreign substance checked by the umpires. Crew chief -- the crew chief told that German's hand was, quote, "the stickiest I've ever felt." German faces an automatic 10-game suspension for the violation but he can appeal. The Yankees went on to win that game 6-3. And Christine, you see a little bit of substance there on his pants. Not sure how these pitchers think they're probably going to get away with that since the umpires check their hands and gloves after so many innings during these games, but oh, it keeps happening.

ROMANS: Sticky fingers.

SCHOLES: Second time this year it's happened.

ROMANS: Sticky fingers --


ROMANS: -- will get you in trouble.

All right, Andy. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Here is one idea to solve the debt limit crisis -- just get rid of it. The experts making that argument, next.

And what Home Depot sales say about the do-it-yourself consumer and the American economy.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 13. A warning from Home Depot sales this year will fall for the first time in 13 years. The home improvement retailer now projecting sales to drop between two and five percent in fiscal 2023 after a couple of robust years in the pandemic. The company says homeowners are not pinching pennies on big-ticket items such as grills, patio furniture, and appliances due to high inflation and rising interest rates.

Looking at markets around the world right now, the Hang Seng fell two percent. A batch of data suggests China's post-COVID recovery might be losing steam. European markets are mixed at this hour. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are leaning higher here.

Look, to be honest, it is default watch. Any time there's progress or a slip back that's what moves markets. Markets finished lower.

On inflation watch, gas prices held steady at $3.53 a gallon. And Target earnings are due out before the bell.

All right, as lawmakers attempt to agree on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid the U.S. defaulting on its debt, there are growing calls to just get rid of the debt ceiling altogether.


JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: I would love to get rid of the debt ceiling thing. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Me? I'd get rid of the debt ceiling altogether.


WARREN: It serves no function except to create leverage for people who are willing to blow up the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you support simply eliminating the debt ceiling so that we don't have to deal with this in the future and can focus on real crises?



ROMANS: All right. Joining me now, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, who I think is in that camp. I'm actually sure he's in that camp.

Look, Mark, in theory, the debt ceiling should act as a sort of fiscal restraint during the budgeting process. But then we had these near- meltdowns in 2011 and 2013, and many argue it's just time to take this political football off the field. The time for tax and spending choices by Congress should be during the normal course of business. Deciding later not to pay the bills by not raising the debt ceiling is not sound fiscal policy.

What do you think?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Totally -- I totally agree with that, yes. Count me in.

Yes -- you know, there was I think reasonably good intent when this was first put on the books over 100 years ago to force lawmakers to come together and figure out how to make sure that the government's fiscal situation is on sound ground, but that's not what's happening now. It's just creating all kinds of havoc and increasingly so.

And the other thing is it doesn't feel like even the solutions they're coming up with here are going to address our long-term fiscal problems. Like, for example, we're talking about scaling back discretionary spending -- non-defense discretionary spending -- but that's not where the problem is with regard to our long-term fiscal problems. And so, even the solutions they're coming up with after all this drama --


ZANDI: -- isn't really solving the problem.

ROMANS: Well -- so I don't the warnings from CEOs and the Treasury secretary, and the Fed chief, and small business owners -- I don't think it's getting through.

[05:50:01] I want you to listen to Republican Congressman Ken Buck from Colorado.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I don't know what a default looks like because we've never been there before. Is it -- is it something that happens slowly over time and within day two or three, America -- we pass a debt ceiling? But I don't think that it is the end of the world to default. That doesn't mean I'm encouraging a default in any way, shape, or form.


ROMANS: So here's my concern. There are a lot of people in Washington who are thinking about winning and losing in terms of parties when the loser here is the American people and the global financial system if we get this wrong.

I mean, what do you say to people like Congressman Buck who think it's not the end of the world if we happen to trigger a default -- even a short default?

ZANDI: Well, I -- why even go down that path? I mean, yes, there's a lot of uncertainty. We've never been here before. But logic would dictate you don't want to really go down that -- down that deep black hole.

I mean, a default on the Treasury debt, I can -- I can say with a high degree of confidence that would be catastrophic. I don't think there's any argument about that.

And Christine, not just in the near term but long run because investors are going to demand a higher interest rate to buy our debt in the future and that's going to cost us. We have $31 trillion in debt outstanding. You don't need a much higher interest rate. And that adds up to a lot of money, meaning the things that we can't use for defense, and for NASA, and for childcare, and education, and all the other things -- so that would be catastrophic.

Now, if it's simply we miss a day or two of payments -- not debt payments but other payments --

ROMANS: Right.

ZANDI: -- I don't know that would be catastrophic but that would cost us, too, right?

ROMANS: Right.

ZANDI: Because investors are going to say well, OK -- you guys decided to do this this time. What about next time what are you going to do? And they're going to demand a higher interest rate. So the costs here are very high.

ROMANS: I was looking at the Social Security payment schedule throughout the summer, right? So if they get into some problem for a week maybe -- even a few days, you've got the second, third, and fourth Wednesday of the month is when Social Security recipients are paid.

So what if you get an IOU if you're a senior citizen? Well, half of those households -- half of their income is Social Security. A quarter of those households -- almost all of their income is Social Security. So, then, is the local bodega or the local grocery store going to accept an IOU if the government gives an IOU? And then, how does a local grocery store pay its suppliers?

Do you see what I mean? Is that a --


ROMANS: -- good way to show how -- just in real terms how this trickles down?

ZANDI: Yes, you got it exactly right. I mean, Social Security recipients -- you know, they'll ultimately get a check but it will be late. And the longer the default goes on the later that check will get. And then -- and then what? They can't pay their rent. They can't put food on the table.

And you're right. It affects the -- it affects everybody and the economy is going to start to go into a recession very rapidly.

But, of course, even before that happens the stock market will be down and interest rates will be up. It will be just chaos in financial markets. And a recession would be -- and again, the other thing to point out, Christine, is the economy already, as we know, is very fragile.

ROMANS: Right.

ZANDI: It's dealing with high inflation and high interest rates. Already, a lot of economists think we're going into a recession.

ROMANS: I would not like to reveal any more stresses in the banking system at the same time here, you know? I mean, the treasury --

ZANDI: Good point.

ROMANS: -- the treasury market is so intertwined with actually everything in the whole world that a mess there is nothing something you want to play with.

Just quickly --


ROMANS: -- getting rid of the debt ceiling -- I mean, is there any chance it'll ever happen?

ZANDI: I don't see it. I don't know how that's going to happen. I mean, there's some talk about the 14th Amendment, and we can go down that path if we had an hour or two, but that would be a lot of risk. ROMANS: Yes.

ZANDI: But other than that, I don't see -- I don't see a path forward to getting rid of the debt limit, at least not anytime soon.

ROMANS: And an hour or two here and months and months and months of litigation in the real world.

ZANDI: Yes, unfortunately.

ROMANS: OK. I mean, I guess -- people like you -- economists are saying don't mess with this. This is incredibly dangerous. This is Russian roulette with every single chamber of the gun has a bullet in it. I mean, that's just not a game you want to be playing with.

And what I'm hearing from Washington is I don't think they're going to get it, Mark, until the stock market is cut in half.

ZANDI: Well, Christine, I hope you're wrong. I mean, I got -- I got some good vibes yesterday --


ZANDI: -- maybe that -- you know, we'll see. But I'm fearful that you're right but I'm hopeful that you're wrong.

ROMANS: OK. I'm hopeful I'm wrong, too.

Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, thanks for being here this morning. Nice to see you.

ZANDI: Yes, take care.

ROMANS: All right. Tesla and outgoing Twitter chief executive Elon Musk standing by his controversial comments even if they cost him money. In an interview with CNBC, the billionaire said he didn't care if his tweets, which often support conspiracy theories and extremist views, scare away potential Tesla buyers or even Twitter advertisers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to share what you have to say?

ELON MUSK, OWNER AND CEO, TWITTER: I'll say what I want to say and if the consequence of that is losing money so be it.


ROMANS: Well -- but him losing money or his shareholders losing money? Because I don't think shareholders agree.

Musk making those comments after a Tesla shareholder meeting Tuesday in which he also announced Tesla will begin advertising for the first time in history.

[05:55:02] All right, North Carolina banning abortions at 12 weeks after the state's Republican-controlled legislature voted to override a veto by the Democratic governor. When the new law goes into effect, next.


ROMANS: Our top of the morning, the top TV shows right now.


Clip from Netflix "QUEEN CLEOPATRA."


ROMANS: The documentary "QUEEN CLEOPATRA" tops Rotten Tomatoes' most popular list.

Here's number two.


Clip from Netflix "KATLA."



ROMANS: That's the volcano mystery "KATLA" set in Iceland.

And number three.


Clip from Netflix "THE DIPLOMAT."


ROMANS: "THE DIPLOMAT" -- the excellent "DIPLOMAT" starring Keri Russell. That's a really good show.

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