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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

President Biden to Join UAW Picket Line In Detroit; Philippines Removes Chinese Barrier in Contested South China Sea; Atmospheric River Brings Rain, Possible Foods to Pacific Northwest. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Joe Biden's union bet. He will stand with striking autoworkers today at the risk of being seen like he is taking sides.

Plus, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump seen gun shopping in South Carolina but the campaign forced to backtrack about whether he actually bought one.

And as deadline day fast approaches for a government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces more questions about spending talks and questions about whether he can keep his job.

Good morning to our viewers in the United States, good day to all of you around the world. I am Kasie Hunt. It is Tuesday, September 26, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington, 2:00 a.m. out on the West Coast. It is also 5:00 a.m. in Detroit where just hours from now, President Biden will do something no more than president has ever done. He plans to walk the picket line with striking workers.

It is day 11 of the simultaneous strikes against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, that also a historic first. The White House was grilled Monday about Biden potentially being seen as taking sides against the automakers.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is standing with the workers. We are not involved in negotiations. That is something for them to decide.


HUNT: So there are risks of being drawn into a major labor battle, but there are potential up sides. The path to the White House, of course, runs straight through that blue wall, including states like Michigan. And union voters could make all the difference in a close general election fight, especially against the GOP frontrunner Donald Trump who is planning to speak to union workers in Detroit tomorrow as counterprogramming to the Republican debate.


REPORTER: Trump's decision to visited UAW workers play into your decision to go?

JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely not. This is a decision to visited picket line paced off his own desire. This is what the president wanted to do, to stand -- to stand with auto workers.


HUNT: So the president preempting the Donald Trump visit, it has absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Let's bring in Tyler Pager, White House reporter for "The Washington Post" to help us understand whether that could possibly be the case.

Tyler, thanks so much for being with us this morning. It's always great to see you.

You cover this administration day in and day out. You pay attention to how the administration is trying to campaign. Biden of course always painted himself as the most pro union president. This obviously is a move to try to solidify that image.

What's going on in the White House behind the scenes?

TYLER PAGER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely, as in conversations with White House officials I've had the past week, it has been clear they wanted an opportunity to send the president out to Michigan or one of the other states where the workers are striking and a obviously, Trump did play a factor whether or not the White House will publically admit that. This is the likely general election match-up as you said, the election runs through these states.

And Biden wants to make very clear to the people in Michigan and to the larger Midwest and some of these autoworkers but more broadly the labor movement that he is their strongest ally, that, you know, working class voters are key to turnout in these states. This is something that -- an area of the country that Trump over-performed in 2016. Biden won them back by narrow margins in 2020.

So, it's clear that they are going to show up and do something as you said that is unprecedented, becoming the first president according to historians to march on the picket line. The scene should be remarkable to see what Biden says about workers but also about companies. Obviously this has major economic implications if the strike continues. And Biden's presence, how that's going to affect negotiations remains to be seen.

HUNT: Now, it's a very good point. And, look, a lot of this has to do with the UAW leader Shawn Fain and part of why this invitation unfolded the way it did, was, you know, the White House had planned to send a couple economic folks to potentially participate in negotiations or at least be on the ground there to be available.

[05:05:06] And Shawn Fain basically told them to pound sand, you know, send the president instead to stand with us if you really want to do something for us. And they actually went along with it. And, of course, Fain is withholding the UAW endorsement right now from Biden. That historically has really been important for Democratic candidates.

I mean, how much is that weighing on the White House's thinking right now, wanting to get their backing in a general election?

PAGER: Yeah, look, I think you're right initially to White -- Gene Sperling, a top White House official, and Julie Su, the acting labor secretary there, had said that they had plans to go out to some of the strikes to help coordinate some of the negotiations here. And that backfired.

And so, now, we're at the place where the president is going out there themselves. I think the union endorsement is something that the president wants. Historically large labor unions have backed Democrats. The president has already wracked up a number of key endorsements from labor unions. But I think it goes beyond just the union brass endorsing the president.

Obviously, the teachers unions and the like have stood up behind Joe Biden. But it is more about those rank and file union members. You know, it is one thing to get the endorsement and say that you are backed by this group, but they have thousands of members and Joe Biden wants to lock in the support from those people and ensure that they show up to the polls.

So this is also part of that effort, not just getting the top line endorsement but making inroads with those voters who ultimately are the ones who show up to the polls so that he can win Michigan, Wisconsin and states like that. And whether he is successful in doing that will go a long way. Tomorrow, we've seen sometimes contentious exchanges with rank and file labor members over the years, particularly as president as he visited factory floors in the past.

How is he able to connect with the union workers today I think will be key in sort of signaling whether or not he is able to keep the support he's had from labor unions and what Donald Trump does when he heads there tomorrow.

HUNT: Yeah, those rank and file members are absolutely -- and he did win them in Michigan in 2020, important to point that out, but there was pretty significant support among the rank and file for a Republican candidate more than we often see. That, of course, at the time Donald Trump who has tried to personally identify with these people. Although Democrats will be quick to point out that many of his policies undermines strength of unions.

Tyler Pager, thank you so much for being with us. I really hope you'll come back soon.

PAGER: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: All right. One place former President Trump won't be tomorrow as we've discussed is the second Republican debate. But now, we do have a list of who will be there. The RNC released a list for the California debate.

In are Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott. Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor did appear in the first GOP debate didn't make the cut this time. And, of course, Donald Trump announced that he is Wednesday's skipping the debate at the Reagan presidential library and instead giving a speech in Detroit.

It is worth noting that Trump not terribly welcomed among those who celebrate the legacy of Ronald Reagan. He has a strife-filled relationship with that organization.

All right. Coming up here, GOP shutdown politics continue to rock Washington as Speaker Kevin McCarthy has some critical decisions to make ahead.

Plus, why a floating barrier in the South China Sea is creating the latest dispute between the Philippines and Beijing that has major implications for China's power across the world.

And we're also going to check in with the U.K. where some police officers are currently refusing to carry their guns. We'll tell you why.



HUNT: Welcome back.

The Philippines Coast Guard removing a floating barrier installed by China in a contested area of the South China Sea. The Philippines says the barrier was a hazard to navigation, a hindrance to votes, which threatens the livelihoods of fishermen and a clear violation of international law.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live with more in Beijing on this.

Steve, why did China put this barrier up? What does this mean?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Kasie, let's not forget, Beijing actually claimed sovereignty almost over all the entirety of the South China Sea based on, quote/unquote, historical proof. That's 1.3 million square miles we are talking about. Now, that's something rejected by an international tribunal, not recognized by the U.S. government.

But that's also why Beijing just responded to the latest move by the Philippines by warning Manila not to create troubles or provoke incidents. Now, what Beijing has been able to do the past few years and none of the other claimants have been able to, of course, through massive land reclamation and construction turning previously uninhabited reefs and islands into manmade islands, equipped with sophisticated radars, airstrips. That is why they're able to increasingly project military power in this region.

Just in the past few week and months, we have seen an uptick of publicized incidents between China and Philippines with the Chinese coast guard, for example, using water cannons and what Philippines describe as dangerous maneuvers to chase and drive away Philippine boats.

But, of course, from Beijing's perspective, only thing that has changed recently is the government in Manila. Now they have a new president, President Marcos, who according to Beijing is doing the U.S. bidding to instigate tensions in the region.

So underlying concern here, Kasie, out of all this is the Chinese military is not going to abandon their manmade island. So how does anyone including the U.S. stop and change Chinese behavior short of a war -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, just another data point in what have been increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing, something that we're going to continue to cover in-depth here because, Steven, we love having you on live from Beijing.


Thanks very much for being here.

All right. All this as President Biden hosted leaders of 18 Pacific islands at the White House Monday with the aim of curbing Chinese's growing influence in the region.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like our forbearers during World War II, we know a great deal of history of the world will be written across the Pacific over the coming years. And like them, we owe it to the next generation to help write that story together.


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

Max, always great to have you. I was interested to hear Steven basically outline that part of why this is happening is because Beijing is looking at the new Philippine government and saying, oh, that you are closer to the United States than the previous regime under Duterte, and they want to try to do something about this.

When you learned about this, obviously, this is one specific incident. But it tells a much bigger story.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Yeah, I think Philippines has become a key ally for the United States because it is there in the south China sea and these images are extraordinary, aren't they. It is just a floating border, but so incredibly significant. And they turn around and in the leadership in the Philippines, hugely

significant, because Duterte was leaning towards China. Didn't actually play -- particularly well domestically. And now we're seeing Marcos doing much better cozying up to the United States. And not just in a small way either.

The United States is setting up bases there. There is an international base for U.S. forces there. So when we see the images of the Philippines pushing back against China, that would have been in alliance with the United States.

So we can read into this U.S./China tensions as well, and how important the Philippines is playing into that as well as the other alliances that you were talking about there in the region.

HUNT: And this, of course, has been a critical part of U.S. security in the Pacific. You can go back to World War II.

All right. Max, also while I have you, I want to talk about something that's been unfolding in your neck of the woods in London, in the U.K., with police officers putting down their weapons. And I think for our American audience, I think it is important for us to also say that there are actually very few police officers compared to how things are here who carry weapons. They are highly trained, you know, segment of the police force over there.

And it is very clear that the reason they are putting them down is something that they feel very strongly about. What has happened?

FOSTER: Yeah, so just to explain that culturally, British police do not carry guns, they think it encourages more guns on the streets, effectively. They literally still carry truncheons with them. Only a very small part of them have these highly trained officers allowed to carry guns.

What happened was one of these armed police shot an unarmed man and he has been charged with murder. And this is not necessarily a protest within the Metropolitan Police in London, but it is a huge amount of concern amongst them being expressed because they are concerned that in that split second decision, if they make a mistake, they will be charged for murder. So they handed in their licenses to carry these guns.

And that was a big crisis for the Metropolitan Police because they didn't have enough armed police. They had to then ask the special forces to potentially step in if there is a terrorist situation because they didn't have the armed police. That is now largely resolved we're told, but it does expose this massive problem and also a problem with the culture frankly of the Metropolitan Police where a lot of the police on the front lines have a big issue with management, they don't trust them, they don't think that they will stick up for them.

And this raise this question, should armed police be charged with murder, and it should him on be manslaughter if it was a mistake. HUNT: Yeah, it's very interesting. Obviously, very different from

what we deal with here in the United States, where obviously the culture is very much -- very much different.

Max Foster, thanks very much for being with us, Max. You can come back tomorrow.

All right. Just ahead here, a four time indicted former president, man, he wishes that he could buy a Glock. We'll tell you what happened here.

And the migrant crisis at the southern border escalating. Why U.S. officials say that Mexico's promise could help.



HUNT: All right. Quick hits across America now.

An investigation is under way after at least one Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Cuban embassy here in Washington on Sunday night. The Secret Service says nobody was hurt and no arrests have been made so far.

Federal officials say the number of border crossings will remain high after about 16,000 migrants were arrested this weekend in the latest surge. Mexico's recent agreement to deter people from getting to the U.S. border is expected to drive down the numbers over time.

And the Georgia judge overseeing the election interference case against Trump and his 18 co-defendants in Fulton County has issued a protective order to keep the jurors' identities a secret. Neither the defendants nor the media can publicly identify the jurors in any way.

All right. A strong storm is bringing rain and possible flash flooding from the Pacific Northwest to northern California today.

Let's get straight to our weatherman Derek Van Dam.

So great to have you back, Derek. Hope you are feeling a little better. Bring us up to speed. What's the latest?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, amazing what a couple of eight hour night sleeps can do to your body, right?


You know as a parent, wow, what a difference a day makes. But, you know, I'm happy to be back, but so is the rain across the Pacific Northwest. Yeah, it has caused some problems.

You mentioned flooding but it has also helped end our fire season across the Pacific Northwest and people rejoice when they see the rain this time of the year. It is a substantial rain as well. Look at the radar lighting up like a Christmas tree from northern California to the western portions of Washington and Oregon.

Now, this is interesting, in Eureka, we actually have received over two times their entire monthly average for the month of September, starting to get into the rainy season, so we'll see more of these atmospheric rivers, what we like to call them, basically moisture that falls to rain at the ground.

Now, there's a lot of wind is associated with the system as well. But look at this, drought monitor, we have been plagued with a drought this summer, that is why we've had the fire. So this is much needed much welcomed rain. Even high elevation snowfall.

Mount Baker perhaps, you can see some of the fires that are still ongoing across Oregon. But as we get updated numbers, likely to see containments improve with these fires because this water coming at a right time of the year -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our weatherman, Derek Van Dam, thank you very much.

VAN DAM: Good to see you.

HUNT: We'll see you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: Okay.

HUNT: All right. Just ahead here, tensions in the house coming to a boil over the looming government shutdown. And the first impeachment inquiry hearing into President Biden. We have the when and the why.