Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Biden Takes Debt Ceiling Pitch on Road as Standoff Drags on; House GOP: Biden Family Received Millions From Foreign Entities; U.S. Braces for Surge of Migrants as Title 41 Expires Tomorrow. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 10, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden taking his debt standoff -- the debt standoff on the road. You see him there just touching down in a New York district that flipped from blue to red last year in the midterms. This, by the president, is an effort to crack House Republican unity. The president says raise the borrowing limit fist and then we'll talk spending cuts. Republicans say no, that both issues need to be dealt within one package.

President's trip comes a day after a big White House meeting on the debt where the only progress, if you can call it that, was an agreement to meet again on Friday. Notice the House Speaker here sounds less confident about avoiding default.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The United States is not going to default. It never has and it never will.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It never has and it never will. He's absolutely correct.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I have done everything in my power to make sure it will not default. I haven't seen that in the Senate, so I don't know.


KING: We are live to Valhalla, New York. That's where CNN's Arlette Saenz is in advance of the President. Arlette, what are we expecting today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden's goal here in Valhalla, New York is trying to draw attention to the real-world impacts of a potential default, while also highlighting the types of cuts that Republicans are trying to make with their proposal. He has come here to an area that a Republican won after Biden won the district back in 2020. The White House hoping they can build some public pressure on these Republicans in competitive districts as this debt ceiling fight looms. But as the president takes this pitch on the road, that stalemate back in Washington continues.

Both sides emerge from those Oval Office meetings without showing any real signs of progress in their stances. But one area where there is an iota of progress is they have agreed to continue talking. They have set another meeting between President Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders for Friday at the White House. And in the meantime, staff for the White House and congressional leadership will be meeting daily to try to work through whether there's any room for negotiation or compromise as that X date of June 1st quickly approaches.

And they are really facing a significant time crunch in this moment. Just take a look at that calendar. The House Speaker has said he believes there needs to be an agreement in principle. By next week, President Biden is set to depart for a foreign trip to Japan and Australia. Next Friday, he has indicated he could potentially skip that trip if negotiations are still continuing. The bottom line here, both sides are facing a significant time crunch. President Biden has said he believes that they do have time to raise the debt limit, but he said the question will be whether they have the will to do it.

KING: We'll see. Someone has to blink first or at least find some way out of it that they say is not blinking. Arlette Saenz on the ground with the President, appreciate that very much. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. So that district, as Arlette notes, Joe Biden carried in 2020. Mike Lawler is the Republican who flipped it. So, it's one of 18 districts that Joe Biden carried in 2020, then Republicans won in 2022. The 18 districts where the White House thinks, if we can get Republicans nervous, this place is like this.

This morning, at the starting line of this pressure campaign, if you will, Mike Lawler, the Republican says, "Sorry, sir."


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I was coming to my district to decry the "MAGA Republicans" holding the country hostage. That's not the way you deal with this. The President as Vice President negotiated with House Republicans previously, and that's what he should do again.


KING: Again, I know we're at the starting line. The question is can Republicans make guys like Mike Lawler nervous enough that they go to Kevin McCarthy and say, you have to change your position. Today, the evidence is no.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yeah, I think that's what Democrats, that's one of the approaches they are trying. And I think Lawler is right because that's not really where Kevin McCarthy's troubles lie within his Republican conference. His troubles lie in the fact that there's the far right contingent of Republicans in the House who say they won't accept anything less than what they've already approved and what they've already signed off on is a non-starter with the Senate and the White House. That to me is the true conflict.

McCarthy needs to find what can be a way forward in concert with the White House and with Democrats that he still doesn't run into problems with his fellow hard-right Republicans.

KING: It would be interesting to see what the president says today. After the meeting, yesterday, he had said, essentially, Mitch McConnell is here, doesn't want it to happen. Chuck Schumer is here, doesn't want it to happen. I am here, don't want it to happen. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker, he is the issue.


BIDEN: Three of the four participants, very measured and low key.


Occasionally, there would be a little bit of an assertion that maybe was a little over the top from the Speaker. He uses the "lying" word, but says I'm telling the truth. I don't think they are sure exactly what they are proposing.


KING: That dispute, the tempers got up everyone is told when the president said, "You're going to cut veterans benefits." And the Speaker said, "No, we're not." And the White House (inaudible) you're going to cut all the spending. Then something bad is going to happen to the American people. Where are we now? That relationship is key. Just like Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, dysfunctional relationship. Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy, not much of a relationship.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: There isn't. And I mean, so much of this does feel like 2011. The difference being that President Biden, unlike President Obama, from the beginning is saying, "I'm not going to negotiate around this at all. They are going to be separate." But ultimately, my question is Congressman Lawler said, then Vice President Biden negotiated with House Republicans. No, he negotiated with Mitch McConnell. And when does, at any point, does it occur if we get too close to the brink. Does Mitch McConnell say, OK, I'm going to come in again because House Republicans can't find the votes.

CARL HUSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: McConnell (ph) has said he wouldn't do that.

KING: Yeah. You know, (inaudible), you know him well. McConnell publicly says I have McCarthy's back. This is between the Speaker and the President. And if they can agree on something, then obviously there will be plenty of votes for it in the Senate. My question is, McConnell does not want to go off the debt cliff. Will the public McConnell be any different? Might there be a private McConnell who is maybe saying we got to figure this out.

HUSE: We'll see how eminent it gets. There's no guaranteed outcome here which I think is the scary situation and I think what has to happen is, both sides need to find a fig leaf to cover them, so they can both say they won. I don't know how they are going to get there yet.

KING: No one knows how they are going to get there yet. And so the president says, two packages. The Speaker says one. We'll figure that part out. Maybe. Maybe. Tough two weeks ahead, maybe three weeks ahead.

Coming up for us, House Republicans say they have evidence members of the Biden family received millions of dollars in payments from foreign entities. The White House says the president has done nothing wrong.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, exclusively on CNN, Former President Donald Trump takes questions live from CNN's Kaitlan Collins and New Hampshire GOP primary voters, their issues, their concerns, their votes. A CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall, tonight at 8 PM Eastern.



KING: House oversight Republicans today said new bank and other financial records obtained by the Committee detail millions of dollars in payments by foreign entities, including in China, to members of Joe Biden's family when he was Vice President. The Committee held a morning event to highlight its findings, you see there, Chairman James Comer, front and center. The Kentucky Republican said the records are building blocks in what he calls a continuing investigation of President Biden.


REP. JAMES COMER, (R-KY): I don't think anyone in America who is watching C-SPAN or any other network that's covering this would think that it's just a coincident that nine Biden family members have received money for this influence peddling scheme. We believe that the president has been involved in this from the very beginning, obviously.


KING: But, and it is an important but, the Committee can see it had not uncovered any illegal payments or behavior by Biden family members or any evidence then Vice President Biden received any of the money or did anything improper. CNN's Sara Murray joins me here live in studio.

He keeps saying this is about President Biden and the timeframe would be meaning Vice President Biden. But, is there any new evidence that connects the president or the then vice president to any illegal, unethical behavior?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPOINDENT: Well, no. I mean, I think Comer has set this high bar for himself saying this is really an investigation about whether Joe Biden was improperly influenced, was compromised at all by all of these business dealings going on around him, including some with foreign entities. But even in this report, they lay out today, they don't allege that these payments from foreign entities were illegal. They don't point to any payments that went directly to Joe Biden. They say they are in the middle of this investigation, they are going to move ahead with more bank subpoenas. But so far, Comer is falling short of the bar he set for himself.

KING: And here's what White House Spokesman said, Ian Sams who deals with these investigations, Comer has asked for a single Joe Biden policy they believe has been unduly influenced. He can't name a single one. Incredible. So the White House focusing on the fact that you can't connect this back to anything Biden did. Somebody in the family got money and asked this, they haven't been able to do that.

There's no question, and this part is not new, they may be getting new details, members of the president's family, I call it swampy, a lot of people in Washington trade in on their names and make money. But have they taken it beyond that at all?

MURRAY: Well, right. I mean, look, they point to this example of Joe Biden being in Romania rallying against corruption when he was Vice President and then they point to a payment from Romanian entities going to members of Biden's family. But in that example, Joe Biden is still out there rallying against corruption. In that example, you don't have some clear connection between these payments allegedly from Romanian entities somehow influencing what Joe Biden was out there doing. So again, they are sort of falling short on this.

And I also think when Comer comes out, he talks about all these Biden family members being involved. We haven't seen evidence of that. They name I think three Biden family members including Hunter Biden by name in this report, by sort of by saying the Biden family, I think they sort of want to toss everyone into the same lot here, including Joe Biden.

KING: And again, congressional oversight by either party into what I call the swamp of Washington and influence pedaling, whatever you want to call it, people trading on the names would be a healthy thing.

MURRAY: Right.

KING: But Chairman Comer also said, from a historical standpoint, we have never seen a presidential family receive these sums of money from adversaries around the world. I just want to show a New York Times headline, does he not -- maybe he doesn't take recent presidential history.


Again, not to single out Jared Kushner or the Trump family, but that's another example of someone who left the White House and within weeks was doing business with people when he was in the White House had officials dealings with.

MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, and you sort of wonder what Donald Trump and the Trump family might think of some of these reforms that Comer is holding out as a possibility. More disclosures about any foreign payments that members of a vice president or a president's family are getting even when they go out of office. Is this something that Donald Trump is really going to want for members of his family? This is an issue that Comer is going to run into again and again because he does not want to talk about the Trump family. He believes that's been investigated, that's done. He wants to focus on the Bidens.

KING: Right. Separately, Jim Jordan is on both oversight and judiciary, his judiciary work has this subcommittee or the committee on they view (ph) the deep state essentially.


KING: They have a thing today, where Republican house Republicans say the CIA, somebody actively in the CIA, helped write that letter from intelligence community back in the campaign, suggesting perhaps the Hunter Biden laptop was a Russian plant of some kind.

MURRAY: Yeah. I mean, they are basically saying that when this letter went to the CIA for a review, which is normal. You review it to make sure there's no classified information, which the CIA then said there was no classified information, that they also mentioned it to someone else, saying, hey, this letter is going around. Do you want to sign off on it? They don't name who the CIA staffer is and we reached out to the person who made this allegation to see if they had more evidence they could offer, and we haven't heard back. Look, other folks said if this really happened, that's an issue. But we just don't know enough at this point.

KING: We don't know enough at this point. The committee again -- that committee as well, the judiciary committee says that work continues and you will be back here, explaining when I get (ph) more. Up next, we go live to El Paso, the pandemic-era Title 42 expires tomorrow. The president concedes it could be a chaotic time at the border.



KING: Right now, U.S. Officials bracing for a surge of migrants at the southern border, just hours before a key COVID-era restriction that has kept many migrants out is set to expire. President Biden offering a candid assessment of the situation. He says it will be chaotic. And last hour, his Homeland Security Secretary echoed that thought.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead, which have the potential to be very difficult. Our plan will deliver results, but it will take time for those results to be fully realized and it is essential that we all take this into account.


KING: Let's check in with CNN's Rosa Flores. She's live near the border in El Paso, Texas. Rosa, what are you seeing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me show you around because this really sets the scene for what's going on here in El Paso. The packed streets with migrants have all been cleared out. You can see down the alley, there were migrants on both sides of the alley. They're all gone. There's just a few individuals who are getting food right now. And as we pan around, you'll see that a lot of their belongings are left behind. So what happened, there were two enforcement actions yesterday by federal officials, by federal agents.

They asked migrants to turn themselves in to immigration authorities, and a lot of them did in droves. Now, about the flow, take a look at these live drone pictures. This is just a few miles from where I am. What you're looking at is El Paso. That is the border wall. All of those individuals that are there waiting, they're waiting to be transported to a processing facility. So they've already turned themselves in to immigration authorities, but at the moment, they're having to wait. And this is what we are expecting once Title 42 lifts. More of that in bigger numbers perhaps.

Now, federal authorities in prior surges have issued estimates. At this point, we don't know exactly how much that flow will grow. It just all depends. Now, back here in El Paso, county officials are preparing for at least 2,000 migrants to be released into the community every single day. This is according to a county official. Now, right now, they're getting releases of about 150 to 200. So that's a real escalation of what they're seeing right now. But they're preparing. They're preparing to open shelters. Here, they will open schools that will be turned into shelters. And overall, in this region, they have between 1,000 to 1,500 shelter beds that they're working with.

They're also working to decompress some of that population of migrants to other cities in Texas. The City of El Paso is in conversations with Houston, Dallas and Austin to send several buses of migrants to those cities, between 100 and 150 migrants to those cities, John, to make sure that they're able to send some of the overflow from El Paso to other parts of Texas. John?

KING: Challenging days and weeks ahead. Rosa Flores live for us in El Paso. Rosa, thank you so much. Appreciate that reporting. Ahead for us, a very strong warning from the Defense Secretary. He says the U.S. Military could be at risk. Why he says a Senate Republican is at fault here?



ANNOUNCER: Tonight, exclusively on CNN, Former President Donald Trump takes questions live from CNN's Kaitlan Collins and New Hampshire GOP primary voters, their issues, their concerns, their votes. A CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall, tonight at 8 PM Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our political radar today, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning of dire national security consequences if Senate Republicans continue to block military promotions and nominations. In a scathing letter, he criticized Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville for holding up 200 nominations, that in protest of new Pentagon reproductive health policies, which include leave and travel allowances for abortions.

Democratic Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez says he's planning a 2024 run for Republican Ted Cruz's seat. Sources telling 'The Washington Post' he will make a decision soon. Gutierrez has become a fierce champion of the families impacted by the Uvalde school shootings. Last week, Democratic Congressman Colin Allred announced he's running for that senate seat as well.

The college football champions saying no thanks to the White House.