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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Union Workers Strike Against All 3 Big Automakers; Hunter Biden 1s Child of President Indicted by DOJ; Sources: Biden, Zelenskyy to Meet Next Week in U.S.; Parts of New England & Canada Brace for Hurricane Lee. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 05:00   ET




No deal. Thousands of auto workers on strike after walking off the job at midnight.

Plus, a first for a first family. Hunter Biden, the president's son, indicted on gun charges.

And, shot down. The Fulton D.A.'s plan to try all 19 election defendants together does not fly with the judge.


HUNT: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us this morning.

A bad week just got worse for President Biden, if you can believe it. The president already staring down an impeachment inquiry, stubborn inflation, rough poll numbers, that now dealing with the indictment of his own son. Hunter Biden indicted by a special counsel on gun charges after watching a plea deal blowup in his face. It's the first time in U.S. history that the Justice Department has charged the child of a sitting president and, on top of that, the White House wakes up to this.


HUNT: United Auto Workers on the picket line after walking off the job at midnight. It's coming just hours after the president spoke with both sides and just days after he predicted it wouldn't come to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not worried about a strike until it happens. I don't think it's going to happen.


HUNT: I don't think it's going to happen, he says. Well, it's happening.

An unprecedented strike against all three big U.S. carmakers at one time, about 13,000 workers are on strike at three plants and more could soon join them.


SHAWN FAIN, UAW PRESIDENT: They haven't taken care of their workers, while the CEOs gave themselves 40 percent pay increases in the last four years alone. Profits have been through the roof, $250 billion in profit in the last decade.


HUNT: Workers want immediate 20 percent pay hikes, something that the boss at Ford says would bankrupt his company.


JIM FARLEY, FORD CEO: Forty percent would put us out of business. We would lose $15 billion. We would have to cut people, close plans, what is the good of that?


HUNT: With me now, the vice president and constitutional delegate for UAW Local 22, Larry Davis, in Detroit.

Larry, good morning. Thank you so much for being up early after what I know is late night for so many of you.

LARRY DAVIS, VP, UAW LOCAL 22: Good morning. Thank you for having us.

HUNT: So, first up, can you describe a targeted a strike? Why was the decision made to do it this way instead of en masse, walking off the job?

DAVIS: Well, the president, Shawn Fain, used as a strategy to get the companies to really come to the table and began to bargain. Most companies are stalling and putting out deals that are just not acceptable to our membership.

HUNT: So the union, I mean, you have made some ambitious demands at 40 percent raises over four years, a four-day workweek, expanded pension and health benefits among other things. And the Ford CEO Jim Farley, he claims that if you were to acquiesce the demands his company would go bankrupt.

How do you respond to him?

DAVIS: I just don't agree with that analysis, and, most of all, in '09, the autoworkers we gave back so the companies could stay afloat. We gave back the cost of living allowance, and adjustments. We gave back pensions. So I don't agree with that.

HUNT: Fair enough. Shares of the Big Three automakers did fall slightly in pre-market trading, we are learning. If you're not able to come to an agreement with the automakers, what do you think it's going to mean for the industry as a whole?

DAVIS: Well, the industry as a whole, it will probably still survive. I'm more worried about my community, the small business and things that we helped promote and contribute to. The schools, that's what I'm most worried about.

HUNT: Yeah. All right. Well, we will be thinking about all of you as you wrestle with these difficult decisions and the days and weeks ahead.

Larry Davis, thank you very much for being up early with us. I really appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thank you for having us.

HUNT: Hunter Biden, meanwhile, on the wrong side of history this morning. The president's son on indicted by the DOJ and that has never happened to any first family before. His initial plea deal and a gun case collapsed when a federal judge raised questions about the details.


Hunter Biden is now facing three charges over a gun that he bought in 2018 during a period when he was addicted to drugs. Altogether, you could face up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

Let's bring in former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland.

Thank you so much for being here, Jeremy. We really appreciate it.


HUNT: So, Jeremy, can you kind of walk us through what -- we thought this was going to go away, essentially. There is a plea deal that collapsed at the last minute after judge started asking some questions. Now we are here.

Can you sort of take us through what you think happened and what happens next?

SALAND: So, what happened is sort of obvious. You heard what happened, the judge already put the kibosh on this case and said it's not going to go forward as is and the deal fell apart. Ultimately, that forced the Department of Justice to hear special counsel Weiss to move forward and secure an indictment and this indictment revolved around, as you've heard, basically the filling out of paperwork falsely where there is a drug addiction or drug use, and then securing a firearm and possessing that firearm.

Going forward, this should move any other case. We sort of all track what's going on with Trump and the other defendants and other matters, but basically, he'll have an appearance in court eventually, he'll be arraigned, and then the case will move forward, motion practice, and ultimately deposition or trial one way or another.

HUNT: So, Hunter Biden's attorney was on Erin Burnett last night, Abbe Lowell, and he talks about the charges. Let's take a listen to what he had to say and it'll ask you about. Watch.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: This charge brought today violates the agreement the government made with under Biden. That was a stand-alone agreement different than this plea and, second, the constitutionality of these charges are very much and out. And Hunter owned an unloaded gun for 11 days. There will never have been a charge like this brought in the United States.


HUNT: So this is one of the best known defense lawyers in Washington. What do you make of what he had to say there?

SALAND: I think that there is some credibility to what he says. Some of what he is saying as a defense attorney. In no particular order, there has been questions about the constitutionality of this charge and, basically, involving your past drug use or drug history or addiction and limiting your Second Amendment right.

So, it has been decided out of the 5th Circuit which does not cover the state of Delaware, but it has been challenged another level, number one. Number two, I think it's safe to say that, despite what some people might want to see happen against the Bidens, from an objective standard, do you not see this charge as a stand-alone charge for somebody who has filled out paperwork saying that they don't have a drug addiction or are not using drugs, when they in fact are, when it is as a firearm.

I think what is critical here is that states start to say marijuana recreational use is okay like the state of Missouri. If it's okay in the state of Missouri that you possess a firearm and you're using marijuana, well then, you are in violation of this law, and I can't imagine, you know, a senator like Josh Hawley is going to say, my constituents should be prosecuted for illegally using marijuana, at a given time, and then possessing a firearm or saying on a piece of paper, I don't use drugs.

It's a little bit extreme, if it's not associated with a shooting or big drug dealer or sort of kingpin. So, it's safe to say that. Last but not least, the point that he made about whether or not the agreement still stands, I think that is probably the more difficult to argue for him, because it's not on an island. It's part of a bigger picture, part of the bigger case.

But, there are some valid concerns about it. He is innocent imported proven guilty, email committed to crime technically, but this is really not something that we're going to see that often.

HUNT: So, how likely in the end do you think it is that Hunter Biden actually does time? SALAND: I still think that, whether or not his counsel is successful

in his argument, sure you could get up to ten years, you could get up to five years depending on the particular charge. But I would tend to think that this gets resolved and little to no jail time, because, again, this is a stand-alone island, you know?

You don't see it that way as a stand-alone case, and when you look at the entirety of what he did from possessing that gun for 11 days, this is not the most serious of federal crimes that should send this young -- not young man, he's little over (INAUDIBLE), this man -- any man, forget your age, any woman, any person, to prison for any significant period of time. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should or will.

HUNT: All right. Jeremy Saland, thank you for getting up early with us, sir. I really appreciate it. I'll hope you'll come back.

SALAND: My pleasure.

HUNT: Thanks.

All right. Coming up next, tropical storm warnings from Massachusetts to Canada. What Hurricane Lee could do.

Plus, Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy could be meeting face to face next week.

And, the battle of the F bombs, choice words that I certainly can't say on TV as Speaker McCarthy swears and dares far right Republicans to oust him.



HUNT: Welcome back.

This morning, we're learning that President Biden is planning to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy one on one next week. They are both set to speak at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Let's bring in CNN's Katie Polglase live in London.

Katie, it's great to have you on this morning. One source is telling us that Zelenskyy is expected to travel here to Washington as well. What can you tell us?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: That's right. Well, we knew already that Zelenskyy was going to be going to New York. Now, we're hearing reports that he's also going to Washington, D.C.

And this is, potentially, to meet with Biden face to face. But, also, to meet with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle here because this is the crucial question and the concern for Zelenskyy, that there may be some fading, some decline in U.S. public support for funding the war in Ukraine. And what he needs to do in this trip is ensure that U.S. support is

very much still behind him, because it is clear that the Biden administration have been public, vocal in their support.


The one billion dollar assistance package and also Blinken in town in Ukraine just last week. But what Zelenskyy needs to ensure is that both sides of the House also support this war because, as we go into the winter months, this counteroffensive is going to get every more challenging. The cold weather is going to make any progress on this battlefield very difficult and so, all of these supplies, all of the weapons and support, as well as the morale of having one of the biggest allies in the world behind you is very much needed. And that is really the main aim of this trip for Zelenskyy.

HUNT: All right. Katie Polglase in London, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster, our resident global expert.

Max, it's great to have you back this morning. So, let's talk about this because Zelenskyy is arriving in the U.S. There are House Republicans who are trying to keep Ukraine aid, the Biden administration has asked for out of the critical government funding bill, and that's, of course, because, if they can't attach it to something that absolutely has to pass through the U.S. Congress, it's likely won't happen at all.

It's -- this is really become a political football here.

What do you think Zelenskyy could accomplish here when he makes this visit?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's very convincing, isn't the? He's famous for traveling around the world and getting great deals with various governments, but he's got the same problem with all the Western governments really. They've all got their own problems, they're all up against it when it comes to budgets.

And in Washington, you know, he was this university liked figure but now it is really hard. America is pumping billions into the Ukraine war, what are they getting from it? He has to work really hard. It's a charm offensive, as Katie was saying, getting those Republicans on side.

But he's also very good on the transactional side as well, saying we need this, we need this, and we need this. So, we'll wait to see how he does it, but if anyone can do it is probably him because, you know, he is so good in these situations and he hasn't really convinced those Republicans that they have something to gain from the relationship, to, and the optics will come into that.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Max, what does the rest of the world and European allies, others who are supportive of Ukraine, how does what is happening in the U.S. impact their thinking about funding and supplying arms for the war when they see the political infighting over here in the U.S.? How is it viewed abroad?

FOSTER: Well, you know, the U.S. is the western leader, the leader of the last. So, if they reduce funding, there is going to be -- you know, it's going to have a knock on effect because other governments will say, well, if America is not funding, it then why are we funding it? So, it is a huge issue there.

We have this meeting, didn't we, recently between Kim Jong-un and Putin as well. We've been talking about that on the show. Kim Jong-un is still in Russia. I think that, you know, Zelenskyy is a force on the international stage, he's got this amazing charisma. He's probably going to try to blow them out of the water with their coverage by meeting with all of the leaders at the UNGA, appearing at the U.N., addressing the U.N., and then moving on to Washington as we understand it possibly.

So, I think, you know, he's the optics king, really, isn't she? Zelenskyy is. So he's going to try to take the focus of the visit that was to Russia, and continues at the moment with Kim Jong-un.

HUNT: Yeah. You know, we call it optics but the reality is the way in which he handled it, has handled it really made a big difference in terms of generating support. It's not -- it's not just optics, right, it actually had real impacts.

But, you know, Max, while I've got you, as our resident royal expert, I have to ask you about the sweater that was recently sold at auction. I have to say, I meant to actually bring it here to the office today, I have a version of this black sheep sweater at my house because you can now buy it. This is a sameness jumper, I think you call them jumpers in the U.K., right?

FOSTER: We do.

HUNT: So tell us about this, how much money this go for?

FOSTER: Well, this one, it's also -- yours is in much better condition.

HUNT: But mine was not worn by Princess Diana.

FOSTER: So, it went for $1.1 million, it was found in an attic by the designers, which was fascinating really because it vanished for years. No one knew where it was. It's actually two because she said the initial one back because it had a slight sort of bit of threat coming out of it, so this was the second one.

It's interesting, I think. I mean, look the black sheep. This is why it went into full court because Diana, in many people's eyes, was the black sheep of the royal family. She was the underdog. She was the one who had to fight back.

So that is why it became iconic, but, actually, she wore it before she actually married Charles, before they got engaged. So that story doesn't really hold, but I think it is interesting as well because she is so famous for the glamour and the dresses. And it's just an old jumper.

HUNT: It certainly has become iconic here on the other side of the pond.

Max Foster, CNN international banker, thank you very much for playing ball with us this morning.


It's great to have you.

FOSTER: Have a good weekend.

HUNT: All right. Just ahead, the next Republican presidential primary debate. We've got the when and where.

And, it has been churning out in the Atlantic for days. Now, Hurricane Lee is about to make its move on the U.S. We'll have the latest.


HUNT: We've got quick hits across America now.

Planned Parenthood will resume abortion care services next week in Wisconsin, it comes after a judge ruled a state law from 174 years ago that bands it doesn't apply.

The case can still move to the state Supreme Court. A federal jury has awarded $100,000 to a same-sex couple in Kentucky who sued Kim Davis, that was the county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples back in 2015. She had cited religious reasons.

And, first on CNN, sources telling us that the third Republican debate will be in early November in Miami, just a hop, skip and jump from Mar-a-Lago. But, front runner Donald Trump says he'll probably skip that one, too.

Meanwhile, parts of coastal New England and eastern Canada are bracing for the impacts of Hurricane Lee.

Let's get straight to meteorologist Allison Chinchar, our usual weatherman Van Dam is out storm chasing.

Allison, it's wonderful to have you there is this morning. What's the latest with a hurricane?


Yes, we take a look at the latest numbers. We just got a new update at the top of the hour here. Sustained winds are still 85 miles per hour, it has picked up a forward speed now to the north at 16 miles an hour. It is expected to maintain hurricane status as we go through the next several hours before changing over into likely a post-tropical storm by early Saturday morning, but it is still on its westward and northern track as it kind of tries to slide through the east coast and eventually pushes in towards the Bay of Fundy as we head into the later portion of the day Saturday.


Again, it's going to make its way and bring all the rain with it. Now, the heaviest rain is expected to be across portions of Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Both of these areas looking at widespread amounts of two to four inches, some spots could pick up even more. But even areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, other states could still pick up a couple of inches of rain.

You've also got when that's going to be a concern. Tropical storm warnings up and down the east coast for states like Massachusetts and Maine as well, the big concern here is going to be the potential for some power outages.

HUNT: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you for bringing us up to speed on that, we really appreciate it.

And, two historic firsts this morning. The child of sitting U.S. president indicted on federal gun charges, that's never happened before. And, neither has this. United Auto Workers striking against all three of the Big Three at the same time.


HUNT: Good morning. Thank you for getting up early with us. It's 5:30 in the East coast, 2:30 out West.