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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Sen. Mitt Romney Calls For "New Generation Of Leaders"; Today: Judge To Hear Motions For Chesebro And Powell; Rep. Jack Auchincloss (D-MA) Joins Early Start. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: The United Auto Workers president announcing a targeted strike plan if a new deal can't be reached with the Big Three -- GM, Ford, and Stellantis. That's the Chrysler parent company. Details won't be revealed until just before the contract expires at midnight. One hundred forty-five thousand workers want a 40 percent pay hike and other benefits.

And Republican Sen. Mitt Romney won't run for reelection in 2024 saying, quote, "At the end of another term I'd be in my mid-80s. Frankly, it's time for a new generation of leaders." Many see the 76- year-old as one of the last true GOP statesmen left on Capitol Hill.

Here's more from what Romney had to say when he announced his retirement.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The times we're living in really demand the next generation to step up and express their point of view, and to make the decisions that will shape our American politics over the coming century. And just having a bunch of guys that were around --the baby boomers who were around in the post-war era -- we're not the right ones to be making the decisions for tomorrow.


HUNT: And joining us now is Leigh Ann Caldwell. She is the author of the Washington Post "Early 202" newsletter and a longtime friend. Leigh Ann, thank you so much for being on the show this morning.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE EARLY 202 AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST (via Webex by Cisco): So glad to be here, Kasie. Congrats on your new show.

HUNT: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Let's start with what Romney had to say here. I mean, there were a lot of layers to what's going on here. He would have faced a really nasty primary in Utah. He has had a very complicated relationship with Donald Trump. His place in the GOP conference is, in some ways, awkward because they have become so much the party of Trump. What do you make of his decision?

CALDWELL: So, Kasie, all of the things that you just said are absolutely true. But it's also interesting because Mitt Romney kind of fashioned himself also as a standard bearer of the old Republican Party and someone who was willing -- one of the few people on Capitol Hill who is willing to stand up to Donald Trump in this populist movement that he so disagrees with within the Republican Party.

But it's also interesting because over the last week, and even a little bit before they left for their summer recess, Mitt Romney started talking about age and a new generation, and how important it is for a new generation, whether it was about Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, or other leaders. He said that people need to pass the torch.

And so, there was a little bit of hinting in what Romney was saying. But you're also right in the sense that he is just an old vestige of the Republican Party, too.

HUNT: So a big part of this, obviously, is that our polling shows that Republicans and Democrats -- particularly Democrats, honestly -- are dissatisfied with their choices. Independent voters dissatisfied with their choices in the presidential race. Because it's looking like Donald Trump is the runaway favorite for the Republican nomination. And in the Democratic Party, you can see on the screen that 67 percent of Democrats want a different candidate than Joe Biden to be able to vote for.

And this is partly, obviously, because of the age thing that Mitt Romney mentioned and that others have talked -- you know, talked about kind of behind their hands. But there's also some other issues with these candidates.

And Ron DeSantis sat down with CBS News and was questioned about the major, most obvious one in the case of the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Take a listen to what he said.


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't think even before all this that the president -- the former president should have run again. I mean, I think that there are just certain -- there's too many voters who he's a dealbreaker for them.

NORAH O'DONNELL, ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": I mean, Nikki Haley says Americans won't vote for a convicted criminal. Do you agree with that?

DESANTIS: I think the chance of getting elected president after being convicted of a felony is as close to zero as you can get.


HUNT: Wow, that is stark. As close to zero as you can get.

CALDWELL: It is a huge contrast that from what Ron DeSantis has been saying and how he has been framing his argument against the former president, barely willing to criticize him. Barely willing to say that what Donald Trump Did on January 6 and about the last election was wrong. And so, this seems to perhaps also be a shift in Ron DeSantis' strategy and prove -- and actually showing some sort of difference between he and Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yeah.

CALDWELL: But we'll see if Ron DeSantis is right or not, Kasie. I'm not sure.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, they certainly -- in many cases, the Trump campaign treats it as -- the indictments as a positive.


HUNT: Finally, I want to make sure since we talked about the Republican travails, I want to talk a little bit about those -- the Democratic -- the issues on the Democratic side.

And we saw that column from David Ignatius calling on Biden not to run again. A significant chunk of that was focused on Kamala Harris who, of course, is the Vice President of the United States and would be Biden's running mate.


Anderson Cooper pressed Nancy Pelosi who is, of course, the highest- ranking woman ever to lead in our -- in our government until Harris was elected as vice president. She was -- just watch the moment and we'll talk about it and you'll see what I mean.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Is Vice President Kamala Harris the best running mate for this president?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He thinks so and that's what matters.

COOPER: But do you think she is the best running mate, though?

PELOSI: She's the Vice President of the United States. And what people say to me -- well, why isn't she doing this or that? I say because she's the vice president. That's the job description.


HUNT: Uh, yikes. I don't know if that was necessarily a ringing endorsement.

CALDWELL: No, she is -- it's the job description, yes, and Biden's number two.

But look, Kasie, every single Democrat I talk to is -- how should I say this? Biden's age is a concern. Very few Democrats are willing to come out publicly and say it. The ones that are have been hushed down and aren't really saying that anymore. Example: Dean Phillips, a member of Congress who is talking about a challenge to Biden.

But underlying in all those conversations, including with Dean Phillips and other Democrats, is the concern about Kamala Harris. Because voters who are concerned about Biden's age -- they are also thinking what might happen if something happens to President Biden.

But there seems to be no intention --

HUNT: Yeah.

CALDWELL: -- by the Biden campaign to replace Kamala Harris. And, in fact, they are doing what they can to prop her up at this point and make it look like Biden-Harris are on a very tight team.

HUNT: They are soldiering on.

Leigh Ann Caldwell --


HUNT: -- thank you very much for being up early with us today. We really appreciate it.

CALDWELL: Of course.

HUNT: All right.

This morning, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee is expected to hear more arguments from defendants Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, both former Trump lawyers who are seeking speedy trials in the Georgia election subversion case.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us now. Zach, thanks so much for being up early with us. What motions are going to be on the table here today?


Look, Chesebro and Powell have about a month and a half before they're expected to start their trials in this case, right? And so in today's hearing the judge is going to weigh in on a few requests that they've made since learning last week that they're going to go to trial together.

One of the requests -- they want to talk to the grand jurors that handed up the indictment in this case. They also want to unseal the transcripts from the witness -- from the witnesses that interviewed them from the special grand jury that recommended charges. And they want to know the names of the unindicted co-conspirators in this case -- those unnamed individuals who clearly provided information or were used to support the D.A.'s case in this thing.

But look, big picture, you zoom out here. The big question still is what's going to happen with the other 17 co-defendants in this case, right? We know Sidney Powell and Chesebro are going to trial on October 23, but the judge hasn't weighed in yet on whether or not that will apply to the other 17.

The D.A. wants to try all 19 of these defendants, including Trump himself, together. That's been their position since the very beginning. The judge is expressing some skepticism on that but we can expect prosecutors to push the judge for more clarity on how this really impacts the broader case and the rest of the defendants, including the former president.

HUNT: And so, Zach, a different judge has made a ruling in Mark Meadows' attempt to move his case to federal court. What's going on there?

COHEN: Yeah, that's right. Mark Meadows wanted to basically pause all the proceedings in the state case against him while he appeals the ruling in federal court that, basically, he can't move his case to federal court. He was hoping to move his case to federal court where he could then get it thrown out.

Again, this has bigger-picture implications there. They're saying look, Mark Meadows -- the process against you in Georgia is going to continue even as you go through the appeals process. We know there's other co-defendants who have also been trying to move their cases to federal court, so they're closely watching what's happening. And we expect Donald Trump, himself, to potentially try to move his case to federal court.

So a lot of eyeballs on Mark Meadows and how his appeal process plays out.

Meanwhile, simultaneously, the process in Georgia against Mark Meadows is also going to continue.

HUNT: All right, Zachary Cohen. Thanks very much for that update. I really appreciate you getting up early to be here with us. Thank you.

And we now know the force behind the officers who captured that escaped killer in Pennsylvania, quite literally. Let's me their 4- year-old canine police dog. This is Yoda. This good boy was pivotal in the takedown of Danelo Cavalcante. Police say that Yoda bit and subdued Cavalcante, preventing him from using the stolen rifle that was in arm's reach. No shots were fired during the arrest and there were no injuries to law enforcement or the public.

Go, Yoda. I love that.

All right. Up next, President Biden taking Bidenomics to the next level. What to expect in a speech later on today.

Plus, quite a bit of chaos on Capitol Hill. Democratic Congressman Jake Auchincloss is going to join us live to break it all down, coming up next.



HUNT: Welcome back. It's 5:45 on the East Coast; 2:45 out West. Time for today's fast-forward lookahead.

The United Auto Workers Union and the Big Three automakers have until 11:59 tonight to reach a deal in their high-stakes contract talks. Targeted strikes could begin at midnight.

President Biden will deliver a major address in Maryland today contrasting his economic vision with Republicans. The White House says it's set to being, quote, "the next chapter of Bidenomics" comparing it to what they call MAGA-enomics.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy holds a closed-door meeting today on the impeachment inquiry. McCarthy and Republican leaders will discuss the next steps with conference members.

There is so much going on in Washington this week with Congress back. We've got an impeachment inquiry. Congress is, of course, racing to get a funding bill done to keep the government open. And there's lingering questions about aid to Ukraine. And then, of course, Putin and Kim Jung Un could be pursuing an arms deal.


Let's bring in someone who is experiencing all of this firsthand in the Halls of Congress. Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss is with us. Thank you so much, sir, for being up early.


HUNT: So let's start with what happened yesterday. We saw McCarthy pull this critical defense spending bill off the floor. This is not something that should typically be facing these kinds of problems.

What does it say about the possibility for a shutdown?

AUCHINCLOSS: It says that like with the shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is putting his own political survival ahead of the good of the country.

There are the votes to fund the military. There are the votes to fund the government. The reason I know that is that in the springtime, Speaker McCarthy and President Biden shook hands on a deal that a supermajority of Congress voted for.

This is not a math problem. This is a political problem. And until Speaker McCarthy decides that he wants to govern for the United States and not for the MAGA caucus we're going to continue to have these problems.

And I would remind our viewers that it was only a year ago that Democrats were empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices. That we were investing in clean energy and climate action. That we were investing in semiconductor manufacturing to outcompete China.

We were doing a lot of this with Republican votes and Speaker McCarthy could have taken the gavel and continued that bipartisan momentum. Instead, he is catering to his hard right. HUNT: One of the things that the hard right is demanding is pulling out Ukraine aid from the overall spending bill. This is not something that Senate Republicans are on board with. They want to keep it together. But in the House, it looks like that's not going to happen.

I know you were down on the floor talking to some Republicans about this unfolding. What are they telling you about it, and how big of a problem is it?

AUCHINCLOSS: Well, over the last year as I've spoken to House Republicans, it's emergent there's really three camps in their conference.

One camp is the Reagan camp. They support Ukraine. They see the strategic imperative.

One camp is the Trump camp. They are sympathetic to Vladimir Putin and they don't support Ukraine.

And then, one camp is really stuck in between. As individual members, they are Reagan Republicans. They support Ukraine and they understand the value. But their base back home is hearing Majorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump, and they are increasingly pro-Putin and they're split.

What we saw Kasie with the vote on the defense budget this summer was that really, most Republicans broke towards the Reagan pro-Ukraine camp. And it's clear that the votes would be there again but Speaker McCarthy is the bottleneck. He is putting his own political survival ahead of Ukrainians fighting on the front lines of the free world.

HUNT: So let's change gears a little bit and I want to ask you because you served in the military. You're a former Marine. Tommy Tuberville, the senator from Alabama, has this hold on nominees across the board in the military that many military leaders are saying is jeopardizing our national security. And we're heading into a season where we're going to have a vacancy in the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Do you think Democrats in the Senate should fill that vacancy on the floor -- use floor time to fill it -- or do you think they need to hold firm and take a stand here?

AUCHINCLOSS: Yes, I think that Senate Democrats should use every parliamentary maneuver possible to force these nominations. But let's be clear here. This is not a problem made by Senate Democrats. This is a problem made by Sen. Tuberville who is providing Xi Jinping with a gift.

Over the last two and a half years, the U.S. position relative to China has improved dramatically. China is struggling with a bad economy at home. We are boxing them in with strong alliances in the Indo-Pacific. But as we are pivoting successfully to the Indo-Pacific, we're stubbing our toe because of these 300 vacancies in critical military positions here, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the commandant of the Marine Corps.

HUNT: So just to clarify, you think that the Senate should be moving these nominees on the floor around Tuberville?

AUCHINCLOSS: I would like to see the Senate maximally use every parliamentary maneuver they have to nominate these, either in bloc, one by one. I understand that there's floor time considerations there. But national security is at stake here and we need to get these nominations done.

HUNT: All right.

Let's talk big picture of the presidential race here for a second. I'm going to -- I'm going to put you on the spot a little. You are not of the boomer generation. There are an increasing number of young people in Congress but there are still quite a few leaders who are facing questions about how long they've been in power.

And Mitt Romney announced yesterday he was going to step down. He was going to retire. He had this to say about transition. So I want you to watch what he has to say and I'll ask you about it on the other side.


ROMNEY: I think it would be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective party pick someone in the next generation. President Trump -- excuse me, President Biden, when he was running, said he was a transitional figure to the next generation. Well, time to transition.


HUNT: Time to transition. Does he have a point?


AUCHINCLOSS: President Trump is most certainly not going to stand down. President Biden has beaten Trump once before. He can and will do it again. And he's clear that he is running again. And Democrats are going to support President Biden as he makes his case to the American people about how his agenda has improved our economy, how it's helped heal our democracy here at home, and how it has helped restore our standing overseas.

HUNT: Earlier in the show, Isaac Dovere had some new reporting out of the White House where there are nerves inside the White House about whether -- the risk that Biden could lose to Trump. That's their perspective.

Do you think that there is a risk, either if Biden were to lose to Trump or if Kamala Harris, for whatever reason, became the Democratic standard bearer, that she would lose to Donald Trump?

AUCHINCLOSS: Anybody who doesn't take seriously the threat of a Trump presidency hasn't been paying attention to recent history. We saw in 2016 that overconfidence could lead to a disastrous result. Democrats are not going to be overconfident in 2024.

This is going to come down to 200,000 votes in four states. We are going to compete extremely hard for every single vote.

And what's important here Kasie is that we've got a strong campaign to launch here because MAGA Republicans have a chaotic agenda of shutting down the government, of political theater around President Biden, of caving in to Vladimir Putin. Whereas, Democrats have presided over a roaring economic recovery and have helped restore democracy at home and abroad.

HUNT: All right, Congressman Jake Auchincloss, Democrat from Massachusetts. Thank you very much for being up early with us, sir. We hope you'll come back soon.


HUNT: All right, great. Thank you.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meeting with key Republican leaders today to go over the crucial next steps in the impeachment inquiry. What to expect, ahead.

And star quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he's down but not out. Details on his first Instagram post after that -- I mean, unfortunate injury. It's a terrible injury that cut his season short. That's in the Bleacher Report, coming up next.



HUNT: Welcome back.

We are hearing from Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time since his season-ending injury.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report.


HUNT: Andy, good morning.

SCHOLES: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

So with Tom Brady gone, Aaron Rodgers is the oldest player in the NFL at 39 years old but he says he's not going anywhere and he will be back. Rodgers taking to Instagram thanking all of those who reached out after he tore his Achilles on Monday night.

The Jets quarterback saying, quote, "I'm completely heartbroken and moving through all of the emotions, but deeply touched and humbled by the support and love." He went on to say "The night is darkest before the dawn. And I --

HUNT: Wow.

SCHOLES: -- shall rise yet again." What a quote right there, right, Kasie? Now, Jets head coach Robert Saleh -- he told reporters yesterday there's no timetable for surgery yet and he shut down any talk that Rodgers has played his final game.


ROBERT SALEH, NEW YORK JETS HEAD COACH: I'd be shocked if he's -- if this is the way he's going to go out. But at the same time, for him, he's got -- he's working through a whole lot of headspace -- things that he needs to deal with. And that will be the last thing I talk to him about.


SCHOLES: Now, there were such high hopes for the Jets this season, who currently have the longest playoff drought in professional sports -- 12 years now.

So when Rodgers went out it was shocking to everyone, including two- time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning. He was calling the game with his brother Peyton on the "MANNINGCAST." And our Coy Wire caught up with him and asked him what he was thinking when Rodgers went down.


ELI MANNING, 2-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION, HOST, "MANNINGCAST": There was so much drama and lead-up to it that you're like wait, I didn't -- I didn't get the final result. I didn't get to see how this was going to play out. This is not the ending. This is not what's supposed to happen this way. So, you know, I just feel for everybody and hopefully, he can get a speedy recover and he can do it again next year.


SCHOLES: And week two of the NFL season kicks off tonight with the Eagles hosting the Vikings.

All right, the NBA, meanwhile, making some new rules to keep their star players from sitting out games for load management. So teams must now ensure that star players are available for national T.V. games and in-season tournament games. If a player sits out, teams must maintain a balance of doing it at home and on the road with a preference of absences happening at home.

The first violation of the new system is a $100,000 fine. A third violation would be north of a million.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We're trying to deal with some of the most egregious examples where multiple star players, for example -- healthy, healthy -- all out on the same night healthy, healthy. And I think that's -- we're letting down the fans. We're letting down our partners by doing that. The best news coming out of this policy, whether it was with the

Players Association, individual players, or with our teams over the last two days -- everyone is acknowledging this is an issue and it's an issue for the fans. So there was -- the adoption of the policy was unanimous.


SCHOLES: All right. And finally, the Atlanta Braves are now the first time to win a division this season. They beat the Phillies 4-1 last night to clinch the National League East title for the sixth straight year. The Braves -- the best record in all of baseball. They've got a 17-game lead over the second-place Phillies in the division and that's pretty amazing considering Philadelphia owns the top wildcard spot in the National League.

Look, they've got champagne. You ever get champagne in your eye, Kasie? I've been in those parties.

HUNT: I never got champagne in my eye.

SCHOLES: It's not pleasant.

HUNT: Mm, yeah. I think you might have more -- you might have more fun than I do on a regular basis, Andy.

So listen, I need you to tell me what -- are my O's going to do it this year? Because I -- I mean, I know the magic number is four.

SCHOLES: Yeah. You know, they're going to definitely go to the playoffs. We'll see what kind of run they can make. Young teams in the postseason don't often do well. You need some experience, you know? So we'll see.

HUNT: Oh, OK. At least the Yankees are in last place, you know, even if it doesn't work out. I'm just going to take my (INAUDIBLE).

SCHOLES: Well, there weren't a lot of people happy, right, yeah.

HUNT: All right. Andy Scholes, thank you very much --

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: -- for being with us this morning.

And thanks to all of you for making an early start this morning with all of us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.