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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Press Conference In Vietnam Ends Abruptly; Kim Jung Un Appears To Be On A Train To Russia; 10-Day Autoworker Strike Could Cost U.S. Economy Billions. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 05:30   ET




OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone, thanks for being here. I'm Omar Jimenez. If you've been with us the whole time I'm glad you've been with us. If you're just getting here welcome aboard.

Here is the big story at the bottom of the hour. Rescue teams in Morocco are battling to find more survivors after a powerful 6.8- magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Marrakesh on Friday. Officials confirm the death toll is at least 2,100 and expect it to climb. Entire communities have been reduced to piles of rubble and many survivors are staying outside scared of more aftershocks.

Also, the head of the Spanish Soccer Federation, Luis Rubiales, has resigned after more than three weeks of criticism and backlash following that unwanted kiss he gave player Jennifer Hermoso just after Spain won the Women's World Cup last month.

And President Biden is about to board a plane and return to the U.S. after his trip to Vietnam and the G20 in India aimed, in part, a countering China's influence in Asia. A short time ago he paid his respects at the John McCain memorial in Hanoi. The late senator was held captive there during the Vietnam War.

Now, after President Biden's trip to the G20 in India to meet with global leaders and a visit to Vietnam to discuss a new strategic partnership, Biden spoke at a press conference in Vietnam on Sunday and it ended a little abruptly.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it wasn't confrontational at all.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, everybody. This ends the press conference. Thanks, everyone.

BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you.


JIMENEZ: Well, music aside, I want to bring in Eli Yokley. He's a political analyst for the Morning Consult.

As we shift to talking a little bit about Biden's reelection campaign and the 2024 race overall -- so, on the press conference situation, the White House said they only planned on five questions. Biden also made a comment before that sound bite -- it sounded like a joke -- saying I don't know about you, but I'm going to bed. Overall, though, does the ending to that pressor in that particular fashion matter politically?

ELI YOKLEY, POLITICAL ANALYST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): It was amazing mood music to usher him out. I'm not sure how much it really affects him politically. This moment -- moments like this don't get a ton of play among the American people on their own. But look, all of these things add up together and the American people clearly are more concerned about Biden's age, his mental fitness, his ability to do his job than they were before he took office.

Look, he's still competitive with Donald Trump in the contest against each other. He's winning the Democratic primary by a lot. But definitely, it's something that's weighing on the American electorate.

JIMENEZ: And you made a key point that these kind of things don't get attraction -- don't get traction on their own and sometimes it's a sum of the parts here.

And GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley -- she was on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday. Here is part of what she had to say.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the majority of Americans know we need a new generational leader. That we need to leave the negativity of the past behind us. The majority of Americans don't want to see a rematch between Trump and Biden.

In terms of the primary -- look, we're just getting started. Debate season is what kicks off the primary. We have made huge jumps in the primary polls so far, but this is the beginning of it.


JIMENEZ: Phrasing new generation leader -- Haley has used that type of language before. But could that type of messaging be effective, especially for some of the younger candidates here?

YOKLEY: Possibly. I mean, a good chunk -- about half of Republican primary voters agree that they might need a new generational leader. But at the same time, about six in 10 Republican primary voters say every day that they back Donald Trump.


The field is so fragmented today. There are so many candidates going for about 40 percent of the electorate. Until there is some sort of consolidation among Republican candidates I think anybody's going to have a tough time. I mean, even Ron DeSantis, a new generational leader, on his own, is

only getting about 15 or 16 percent support among the Republican electorate nationwide. There's too many candidates right now to try to consolidate some of this against Donald Trump. And look, he's doing better among young people than all of them are combined.

And so a lot of these Republicans are going to be having to think over the next coming about whether they actually do want to defeat Donald Trump next year. If all of them continue their campaigns it's going to be a really big lift for the anti-Trump forces in the party.

JIMENEZ: And, of course, as these -- as little headlines get made here and there and comments get made here and there, the poll positions have necessarily changed too significantly in relation to Donald Trump. He's stayed out in front.

Now look, there was a rivalry game on the football field Saturday between Iowa and Iowa State. There was one off the field as well. Both DeSantis and Trump attended the game. And even though Trump has a strong lead, do you expect his campaign schedule to pick up a bit ahead of the primaries or basically, either coast to the finish line?

YOKLEY: I mean, it definitely should. I think the American people like to hear from him and I think he seems to really like it, too. I mean, the videos we saw on social media of him going to a fraternity house or going out there and pretending to flip burgers (audio gap) people maybe expected him.

You know, he's winning right now with young voters more than any other candidate. He's clearly competitive in Iowa and just about any other state and so this is his presidential race to lose. But I think we're definitely going to see President Trump start ramping up his campaign schedule.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, yeah. Well, personally, I'd rather have been at the Texas-Alabama game but that's just me, you know?

Eli Yokley of the Morning Consult, thank you.

YOKLEY: Any time.

JIMENEZ: Breaking news right now. North Korean leader Kim Jung Un appears to be on a train heading to Russia. That's according to multiple South Korean media outlets.

Let's get right to CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul. So, Paula, what do we know about Kim being on the move here?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Omar, this has not been confirmed at this point but we do have multiple reports saying that he is on his way on a train towards Russia. Now we know he would be heading northeast to get to that border.

It's not coming as a complete surprise. We had heard from U.S. officials last week that they believed that this could be on the cards -- this meeting, potentially, between Kim Jung Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now, we have just heard from state media that Vladimir Putin has arrived in Vladivostok. According to the Kremlin spokesman, he's there for the Eastern Economic Forum, which goes for the next couple of days.

Now, U.S. officials have said that they are concerned that they are actively advancing towards an arms deal between North Korea and Russia, believing that Russia is looking for North Korea to provide it with ammunition, with small arms that it needs to continue its fight in Ukraine. And there are concerns that what North Korea could possibly do for Russia could be used immediately given the inoperability of the two militaries. So, certainly, this is of great concern.

At this point, Pyongyang and Moscow have denied that there is any arms deal. They haven't mentioned that there would be any kind of meeting between the two leaders as well. But this would be in keeping with what we've heard from U.S. officials and South Korean intelligence that they believe this is the direction that both countries are going in.

Now, we know back in July there was the Russian defense minister who came to Pyongyang. He was given the red carpet treatment. A defense minister hadn't come to Pyongyang since the fall of the Soviet Union, so that was a significant move. We understand there was another second Russian delegation going to Pyongyang to push this arms deal forward.

And, potentially now we are looking at a leader-to-leader meeting, which had been flagged by the Biden administration last week. They did also say that there would be repercussions if there were any kind of arms deal between these two countries. There are, of course, U.S. Security Council resolutions banning any kind of deals like this -- resolutions which Russia signed onto. But certainly, the concern in Washington and Seoul is that this is going to go ahead -- Omar.

JIMENEZ: Paula Hancocks, a lot to keep an eye on here and, of course, a lot for U.S. officials to be concerned with. But we'll see how things play out. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, G20 world leaders failed to unite around any explicit condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Instead, the group of 20 issued a more watered-down final declaration, merely vowing to respect territorial integrity and work toward peace.

CNN's Ivan Watson is live in New Delhi, India with more. So, Ivan, why couldn't the G20 countries have reached a stronger declaration here?


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Omar, the Ukraine war -- this was the most charged issue at this weekend of global diplomacy here in New Delhi. The Indian hosts -- they say that to reach the consensus agreement that was finally published, which had a segment on Ukraine, it required more than 200 hours of nonstop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings, and 15 different drafts. Basically, part of this has to do with the fact that Russia and China

are members of the G20 -- the group of the world's 20 largest economies. Russia is not going to want to have itself condemned for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine even though there were a lot of strong supporters of Ukraine that came to this meeting condemning Russia's ongoing war there. And China is a close ally of Russia as well.

The Russian government -- the foreign minister who attended here in New Delhi instead of Vladimir Putin, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, Sergey Lavrov -- he's been taking a victory lap, saying that essentially, BRICS nations helped protect Russia from Western efforts to try to make the entire agenda of the G20 about the Ukraine war.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has said there's nothing the G20 countries should be proud of with the wording of this statement, which did not directly condemn Russia's ongoing war.

One of the issues at play here is that India was hosting this. The U.S. is seeking to curry favor and strengthen ties with India and it would have greatly embarrassed the Indian hosts if they were not able to come up with a consensus statement at this G20 summit. It would have been the first time in 15 years that the gathered parties wouldn't have managed to do that. So, hence, this compromise.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. Ivan Watson, thank you.

Coming up for us, a potential strike of thousands of autoworkers threatening to cost the economy billions of dollars. Well, we'll tell you what the union is fighting for.

And next, right here, Britain's prime minister raising serious concerns about a Chinese spy in Parliament. How Beijing is responding.



JIMENEZ: Welcome back. Forty-five past the hour. Time for today's fast-forward lookahead.

Vice President Kamala Harris expected to participate in a September 11 ceremony in New York today. First lady Jill Biden is expected to lay a wreath at the Pentagon memorial in Virginia.

President Biden is heading home today after a trip to the G20 summit in India, as well as a stop in Vietnam. He'll deliver 9/11 remarks to troops and their families this afternoon.

And Hurricane Lee is expected to send hazardous beach conditions to the East Coast in the coming days. Forecasters are warning of dangerous high surf and rip currents as the storm moves up the Atlantic.

And we're only days away from a potentially significant strike in the auto industry. It could cost the U.S. economy billions. But also, the 145,000 members of the United Auto Workers union are fighting to reverse concessions they made from 2007 to 2009 as GM and Chrysler needed federal bailouts to survive. Now, they could go on strike if a new contract isn't negotiated by Thursday at midnight with the United States' so-called big three automakers -- General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, which includes Jeep and Chrysler.

The potential strike and the factors driving it are the subject of a new Wall Street Journal article, and joining us is one of the co- authors of that article, Wall Street Journal reporter Nora Eckert. All right, Nora, good to see you.

For starters, the UAW workers are looking for a 40 percent pay increase over the course of the four-year life of the contract. And as you note in your article, the pay raises offered by the automakers range from nine to 14.5 percent. That feels like a pretty big gap. Is that the biggest holdup here?

NORA ECKERT, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. Wages seem to be one of the biggest issues on the table right now. And as you noted, the automakers are coming back with their proposals to the union and those general wage increases are ranging from nine percent to 14 percent. So that seems to be the widest gap that we need to bridge in the next four days.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. And look, over this year, we've seen a number of strikes across various industries. And it was only a few months ago when a UPS strike was averted at the last minute. But in that case, there seemed to be steady progress that was being made leading up to that new contract. This feels like a different ballgame.

ECKERT: Yeah. The union rhetoric that we're seeing in this round of talks, particularly from new president Shawn Fain, is much more combative. I mean, these talks are playing out in a much more public way than they used to.

I will note that those I'm talking to who are familiar with the company side say that negotiations are sort of progressing at the pace they normally would. So the perceived holdup might be more because of the messaging that we're hearing from the union. But whatever the -- whatever the case there, we are seeing tensions very high and analysts are predicting that a strike is much more likely this year -- potentially, at all three automakers, which would be largely unprecedented.

JIMENEZ: And look, they've had to negotiate with unions before, but how are the contracts that they've signed in past decades playing into this round of negotiations?

ECKERT: Workers have had to give up some key benefits and make concessions in the last few rounds of talks, particularly through the '07, '08, '09 financial crisis. I mean, they've to suspend COLA -- give up the jobs bank retiree medical benefits -- and workers are saying it's our time to recoup those losses. We supported the companies through these very difficult times and it's time to see our fair share.


I think this sentiment is especially heightened after workers have logged long hours in the factories over the pandemic. There's a sense that we deserve this pay increase now.

JIMENEZ: And I want to look at one of the graphics from your article because it highlights the growing profits from these three automakers. But as you note in the article, the companies, in a lot of cases, use that money to invest more into electric vehicles and sort of more what they want to create for the future.

Is that emblematic of where the industry is as a whole? Essentially, are these workers fighting for money that has already been delegated elsewhere?

ECKERT: Hmm. Yeah, the hefty profits put the big three in sort of an uncomfortable situation because they need to demonstrate to investors that they have this healthy bottom line to fund the very expensive EV transition. But workers are saying your labor costs are a very small part of the pie and you can afford to pay us higher wages.

It's difficult for the Detroit three because they need to remain competitive with Tesla and Asian automakers, which have labor costs that are far less than Ford, GM, and Stellantis. For example, the automakers average out about $64.00-$65.00 for their hourly --


ECKERT: -- labor costs, and Tesla is at about $45.00. So a big gap there that the automakers --


ECKERT: -- need to be mindful of as they remain competitive.

JIMENEZ: Of course.

Nora Eckert, of The Wall Street Journal, thank you for your time.

ECKERT: Thank you.

JIMENEZ: Now, U.S. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is raising very strong concerns about Chinese interference in British democracy. Sunak says he expressed his alarm during a meeting with China's premier at the G20 summit in India. And it comes after a Parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in London with more. So, Nic, how is China responding to these accusations, and what exactly happened here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah. The embassy -- the Chinese embassy here in London is calling this a malicious fabrication -- calling it sort of a staged play by the British -- by British political society here. They're pushing back firmly on it. They're saying absolutely, no -- this is not what we were doing. What we know -- the British police, back in March of this year --

quite some time back -- arrested two men -- one in his 20s. He was arrested in Scotland. Another in his 30s arrested in Oxfordshire just outside of London. Both of them brought to London and both of them questioned by police in London then released on bail. They're going to appear in court early next month.

But the news has only just really broken over this weekend that -- about these arrests and that they will be charged under the Official Secrets Acts. It's not quite clear yet what precisely the charges will be but that's very, very serious charges.

And the concerns, of course, that somebody -- a researcher who would have access and had access to top members of the Conservative Party -- top politicians within the Conservative Party -- those on the Foreign Affairs Committee, for example, would have had high-security access. And this is the real cause for concern.

JIMENEZ: Of course. Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the NFL is back. Life is good unless your team lost. My Falcons didn't so we're good. But no team lost as badly as the New York football Giants did in the final game last night.

Coy Wire is here with this morning's Bleacher Report. Man, what's going on?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: As a former Atlanta Flacon --

JIMENEZ: Oh, yes.

WIRE: -- I brought my helmet for you --


WIRE: -- so that you can wear that on your jog through Central Park later.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. It won't freak anyone out.

WIRE: Let's talk Giants-Cowboys. Last season, this was the most- watched NFL game in history, Omar -- 43 million people -- so people were hyped for this. Well, Cowboys pulled off the fourth-biggest season opener win on the road in NFL history. A complete smackdown and train wreck for the Giants.

Dallas' Juanyeh Thomas, from Georgia Tech, blocking a field goal in the first. And Noah Igbinoghene returning it 58 yards. So the Cowboys' first touchdown of the season -- special teams.

A few minutes later, Trevon Diggs dump-trucked Saquon Barkley. The ball is out. DaRon Bland takes it to the house -- their second tuddy of the season by defense.

Well, Dallas' defense scored six turnovers, sacking Daniel Jones seven times. They shellacked the Giants 40-0. The comeback win of the day, Dolphins-Chargers back-and-forth battle between the ASC Super Bowl favorites. Dolphins down 34-30 with three minutes to go. Tua Tagovailoa tosses to Tyreek Hill -- two ahead -- 466-yard pass, three touchdowns. The cheetah couldn't be stopped. A few plays later, Tyreek -- 11 catches, 215 yards, and two touchdowns, including this go-ahead score. It's the fourth-most receiving yards in Dolphins history. Miami wins 36-34.


A bittersweet day in New England as the Patriots lost their opener to the Eagles 25-20, but they welcomed back the prodigal GOAT. Tom Brady, now officially retired, returning to Foxborough. The team announcing at halftime the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback there in New England is going to be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame next year.

Brady might have finished his career in Tampa but he made one thing abundantly clear to fans.


TOM BRADY, WON SIX SUPER BOWLS WITH THE PATRIOTS: One thing I'm sure of and that will never change is that I am a Patriot for life.


WIRE: Somewhere, John Berman is shedding a tear.

Speaking of GOATS, Novak Djokovic gets another crowning achievement. The 36-year-old avenging his loss in the 2021 U.S. Open by outworking, outlasting world number three Daniil Medvedev to win in straight sets, matching the great Margaret Court and becoming the first player in tennis' open era to win 24 grand slam singles titles.

Afterwards, the Joker giving a huge hug to his daughter, Tara, who just turned six last week. Then revealed a shirt honoring his friend Kobe Bryant who wore the number 24.

But he told our Carolyn Manno that his biggest inspiration came from his littlest fan.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC, WON RECORD-TYING 24TH MAJOR TITLE: When I was struggling the most, actually, physically and being under huge tension and stress, particularly in the second set, every time I would look at my daughter -- she was sitting courtside facing me and facing the bench where I was seated -- she would give me a smile and a fist bump. And that would, of course, melt my heart and give me this kind of energy and strength, and also playfulness that I needed in that moment.


WIRE: An absolute legend, Omar, and he plays so well and so strong. How many more is he going to win?

JIMENEZ: I know.

WIRE: It's incredible stuff.

JIMENEZ: That's the question. He always says that he needs a smile and a fist bump. That's all I need, too. Appreciate you.

WIRE: Yes.

JIMENEZ: Rise up, baby -- rise up.

Look, that's it for us this morning. I'm Omar Jimenez. "CNN THIS MORNING" is next with new details on the manhunt for a murderer who escaped a Pennsylvania prison. How he slipped out of the search area and changed his appearance.