Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Biden Addresses World Leaders at United Nations; Soon: 5 Americans Freed from Iran to Arrive in U.S.; Pence, McConnell Slam Trump & Biden for "Appeasement"; Storms Flood Threats in Southern Plains. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Joe Biden about to address the United Nations. The president looks to rally the world behind Ukraine after a tough stretch on the domestic front.

Plus, returning home. Five Americans freed with a deal with Iran could be back on U.S. soil very soon.

And Kevin McCarthy playing for keeps. Can he keep the government from shutting down and keep his job at the same time?


HUNT: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 19th. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's good to have you with us.

In just a few hours, President Biden steps back onto the world stage, addressing the general assembly at the United Nations. President Biden is expected the stress the themes of diplomacy and democracy. These are thoughts that he recently shared at the G20 summit in India. Unlike the G20 he will be speaking in a room without representation from China or Russia. Biden is expected to spend a good portion of his remarks, drumming up support for Ukraine in their efforts to defeat Russia.

All as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes his first in- person appearance at the U.N. since the war started.

CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us from Washington.

Jasmine, good morning, thank you for being up early with us. What are we learning at this hour about what Biden plans to say?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, President Biden will make the case for American leadership on the global stage. And we see him in just a few hours. Now, you know as well as I do, Kasie, that these un general assembly there some of the busiest days on the president's calendar all year, so the White House is hoping to project President Biden as a president of strength and durability, and, of course, experience as he faces those significant domestic headwinds here at home.

So we will see President Biden later on that big stage, talking about things like climate change, talking about ways to support the U.N. charter. Ways to reform the organization to make it more inclusive. And of, course talk a lot in-depth about Ukraine and the war against Russia.

We will also hear President Biden talk more about him some defending human rights, and issues that are very prioritized in his administration as he looks to make sure that America is really on this world stage in a significant way, really holding back on his former policy achievements that we've seen over the course of the year. And, of course, that speech is going to be significant. But also what he does on the sidelines, those meetings that he, has we expect him to meet later on with the U.N. secretary general, as well as five presidents from Central Asian countries.

And later on this week, we know who had that prominent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as was others. And, of course, we can expect in, later on this week, to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy here in Washington, as they really make the case to Congress for the need for more funding for Ukraine in major priority of Biden over the last few months -- Kasie.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, that effort very much complicated by him fighting in the own U.S. Congress House Republicans. Unwilling it seems to make -- Jasmine Wright, thank you very much for taking us off this morning.

I really appreciate it. For more on what is at stake, and all the diplomatic dance President Biden and others are going to be doing at the U.N. let's bring in CNN's Richard Roth.

Richard, it's great to have you back on the program this morning.

Ukraine obviously, a top concern. What other topics is said to be explored today at the U.N.?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's really like five summits inside this UNGA week -- everything from tuberculosis, to climate. There's a host of issues as anyone can tell world citizen what's going on at the United Nations.

The speech, which is formal, and they go today, that's one place where world leaders will fall all at once into the chamber, especially for the U.S. President Biden. But other than that, you have to listen very carefully to some of these nations who have issues with others in the world. Some people you would think would go on, and, on and rage against the country. But it doesn't happen all the time -- Kasie.

HUNT: Let's talk for a second. The Chinese president is not coming to this. Secretary of State Blinken did have a pool side with the Chinese vice president, but what does it say that China and Russia are absent from these meetings?

ROTH: Well, it's not great. I think the, worrisome nobody from any delegation to those countries came, but there are representatives high up, Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia in a few days and Vice President Han of China.


Now, Secretary of State Blinken met with Vice President Han of China, and Blinken advocating more engagement between the two powers.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Face to face diplomacy is the best point to deal with areas where we disagree, and also the best way to explore areas for cooperation between us.

The world expects us to responsibly manage our relationship. The United States is committed to doing just that.


ROTH: Now, some criticism, possibly from China or Russia, the way things are going. They view the U.N. or the general assembly as a Western powers thing, not necessarily for them. We'll have to see what some of these ministers say later today -- Kasie.

HUNT: Sure. Speaking of absences, there are some key U.S. allies also not attending. What's up with that?

ROTH: President Macron of France is hosting King Charles of the United Kingdom. He is a lot of issues with African countries where France formerly dominated, such as coups in Niger, and Gabon, that sort of a new thing for the U.N. It seems like they timed these coups right before the general assembly. We're not sure who's going to speak for some of these countries. At least -- head of the list says head of state, head of government, but that person took over by military force.

HUNT: Very interesting.

All right. Richard Roth, CNN senior U.N. correspondent, really appreciate you being up early with us to help us understand all this. Thank you.

And five Americans, who had been detained for years in Iran about to land back here on U.S. soil. We're going to have the latest.

Plus, Mike Pence warning Republicans against isolationism and appeasement.

And tensions flaring between among the House GOP is in the face of a government shutdown.



HUNT: Welcome back. Just minutes from now those five Americans freed after years of being imprisoned in Iran are expected to land near Washington. They were released in a deal that includes the U.S. unlocking $6 billion in Iranian funds. Three of those Americans have been held for more than five years, and the other two have not been identified publicly.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler joins us now from New York.

Jennifer, good morning. Thank you so much for being up early with us.

The agreement also includes five Iranians that are being released from the U.S. custody. This deal has been in the works for months. What's the latest here?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, Kasie, as you said, this is a significant diplomatic breakthrough for two adversaries that came after years of indirect negotiations between Tehran. They came to terms about six, seven months ago, to release those six billion dollars in Iranian funds to be transferred to Qatar for the use of humanitarian goods. And they also came to terms with this prisoner exchange of sorts, where we saw the five Americans, all of whom have been wrongfully detained in Iran.

And those five Iranians who are released from U.S. custody. The U.S. official described the Iranians released as, quote, small potatoes. They said these are not people that the Iranian government officials really care about here.

And you know, we saw things start to move freely in earnest about a month ago when four of the five Americans were released into House arrest from that notorious Evin prison in Tehran. The fifth one was already under house arrest. And it was yesterday that we really saw that breakthrough moment where they were released from Iranian custody.

We saw that moment, there on the tarmac where they got to Doha. And they got to see some of the U.S. officials who had been working on their release for years. They left Ohio yesterday afternoon, and they are on their way back to the United States where they will be reunited with their families for the first time in years -- Kasie.

HUNT: Jennifer Hansler, a wonderful moment for all of those families. Thanks very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

And the word of the day today, for Republicans, seems to be appeasement. Mike Pence calling his former boss Donald Trump and other GOP rivals appeasement Republicans for their isolations foreign policy views.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also using the A-word to slam President Biden over the Iran deal for those five American prisoners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some Republican candidates including my former running mate are abandoning the traditional conservative position of American leadership on the world stage, and embracing a new and dangerous form of isolationist. Let's be clear, appeasement will not make America any safer.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Biden administration's record of appeasement, and squandered leverage has left Americans less secure.


HUNT: CNN's Max Foster joins us live now from London to talk a little bit more about this.

Max, always great to see you. This word appeasement, you've got, Pence, McConnell on the same page on what this is, but they're criticizing different people. Pence is talking about Trump, McConnell stalking about Biden. The reality is here in the United States, the Pence, McConnell position on the attitude on what they believe that America's attitude toward about the world should be is really the minority.

What does that say about what is next for the U.S. standing on the world stage?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, appeasement is a dirty word in international diplomacy. There's an acceptance that diplomacy's about negotiating. So you deal with another party and you both make some sort of compromise. It becomes appeasement when one side is just allowing another side to do something against his interest.

So I think what a lot of people, or what's some politicians are suggesting is saying is that America, the White House, is appeasing foreign powers such as Russia and China. They use Afghanistan as an example. The way troops are pulled out of Afghanistan. And that is not positive for American interests.


So the argument for using the word appeasement is basically a very damning way of assessing a government's diplomacy. It's not a negotiation. It's an appeasement. And that's more than America's interest.

HUNT: Right. So Mike Pence, we should underscore, obviously stood by Donald Trump side very loyally, basically until January 6, 2021, when he realized he needed to, in his words, stand up for his constitutional responsibilities.

But he is not turning on his former boss, as we saw here and saying, hey, this is not the way, I, Mike Pence, if I were elected president would do things. How is Mike Pence viewed in the circles in which you have all of your conversations in London? Is he taken seriously as somebody who would be able to stand on the world stage considering his past with Donald Trump? FOSTER: You know, you speak to people and they just don't want to get

involved in anything for the U.S. election because they know who's going to win it.

HUNT: That's fair.

FOSTER: Because it's such a crucial partner, they want to just work with whoever is in power. So if Mike Pence wins, they're not going to say anything now, certainly not on the record about his policies here.

But I think you, know there are conservative views here as well on how to handle, you know, other powers in the world that counter to Western values. And I think that there are suddenly people who agree with Pence. He's seen as a strong conservative. I don't think there's many people here who think he's actually going to win those. So we'll wait and see.

HUNT: Well, you can -- you can count me over here as seeing a very narrow path, nearly impossible. You know, we'll see, we've got a Republican presidential debate coming up. Those can generate some pretty unpredictable moments, so you never know.

All right. Max Foster, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Really appreciate you playing ball.

And Donald Trump, just made his decision about another Republican debate.

And what happened when a black bear made surprise visit to the house of mouse.



HUNT: Quick hits across America now.

The Marine Corps is ordering a two-day pause in flight operations after three crashes in recent weeks. A pilot was forced to eject from an F-35 fighter jet in South Carolina. Still unclear what went wrong.

And, Donald Trump skipping next week's GOP debate out in California at the Reagan library. He says he's going to deliver a primetime speech with the union members in Detroit instead. That says a lot about how the Trump campaign is thinking.

And Magic Kingdom meets the wild kingdom in Florida. A real life bear interrupted some of the magic Monday at Disney World. Nearly a dozen attractions had to be temporarily closed. Well, this beautiful beast was safely escorted to a national forest.

Presumably that national forest has real mice, not ones in costume. Hope he has a lovely rest of his life.

And, severe storms and flooding are threatening parts of the Southern Plains. Let's straight -- get straight to meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Our

weatherman Van Dam is off today.

Jennifer, it is wonderful to have you today. What are folks in the south looking at?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we could see severe storms possible, an area that's really suffering from drought. So, while we could see some strong storms, we need to be, say the said some welcome rain across the deep south. So, severe storms do threaten. We could see scattered storms around the great lakes.

But after a dreary start to the day, yesterday, the seaboard looking much better to start your Tuesday morning. So you could see those strong storms start to develop. You could see through Oklahoma, Texas, pushing into Arkansas throughout the overnight hours. Could see large to very large hail, damaging winds, and you could see in that area shaded in yellow that is really where we're looking, at Dallas Metroplex could see some strong storms as well.

But your greatest chance of two inch or greater hail diameter for the hail is in the area where the hash marks are. So that's where we could see the largest hail. So your forecast rainfall, looking at about an inch or two of, rain some isolated locations could see even more. But as mentioned, this is really a drop stricken area anywhere from the, plains all the way down to the south. We've had a lot of areas in extreme or exceptional drought.

Meanwhile, we are going to see above average temperatures across the south, the plains and northern tier of the country. Below average temperatures for the West, but it is going to stay hot across the south. Dallas would be in the mid 90s, a couple of degrees above normal. Oklahoma City in the 80s but cooling off across the north where we see temperatures in the upper 60s, and for Chicago, and then a warming trend briefly for that region.

So, all in all, beware of those severe storms this afternoon with that large hail and damaging winds -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure, those of us here in the northeast, though, actually get to enjoy some pretty nice weather for this time of year.

GRAY: Yes.

HUNT: Thanks very much for being with us, Jennifer. Nice to see you.

GRAY: Thanks.

HUNT: All right. Stiff opposition facing Speaker McCarthy from inside his own party as the government shutdown seems to loom.

And convicted killer, Alex Murdaugh pleads guilty to even more charges.



HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for getting up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is approaching 5:30 here on the East Coast.

The big story at the bottom of the hour, President Biden getting set to address world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. He's going to use the occasion to try to drum up support for Ukraine in their fight against Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected to be in the audience, marking the first time he's been to United Nations in person since the war began.

Also, five Americans freed after years in Iranian detention are due to arrive on U.S. soil this morning. They were released from Iran, in a deal that includes the U.S. unfreezing six billion dollars of Iranian funds.

And the president's son is suing the IRS. Hunter Biden claims two of the agency's whistleblowers leaked his confidential tax information, and that he suffered a, quote, staggering harm as a result.

And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spent another day fighting, not with Democrats but with members of his own party, and pointed barbs, by name. This kind of thing, I mea, almost doesn't even register with us anymore, after the Trump years, but I do think it's really worth taking a brief moment to recognize having a House speaker openly criticize a member of his own conference, this is, of course, someone whose vote he needs, is not normal.

In fairness, it is also not normal for the rank-and-file to criticize their leaders out loud either. Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, a Ukrainian American, went out of her way --