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Biden Warns The World: Ukraine War Won't Stop In Ukraine; Biden: Our History Doesn't Dictate Our Future; Trump Shadow Looms Over Biden's U.N. Speech; Biden Sends Bruising Message To Russia; Zelenskyy: U.S. Support Isn't Just About Ukraine; McCarthy: "Was Zelenskyy Elected To Congress?"; McCarthy Cancels Key Procedural Vote On Spending Bill; Trump To Skip 2nd GOP Debate For Detroit Prime-Time Speech. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 12:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, Ukraine today, you tomorrow. The president uses the global stage to warn the rest of the world that failing to protect Ukraine means no nation is safe.

Plus, consider the gauntlet thrown. Now speaker issues a challenge to conservatives whose demands could lead to a shutdown on first gavel, and you best not miss. And reasonable doubt, new CNN reporting undercuts a key narrative as told by a whistleblower is central to the Hunter Biden investigation. Testimony from other people inside the room, captures a different story.

I'm Manu Raju, in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines in Inside Politics.

Up first, the eyes of the world look toward the future. Whether the president of the United States has the power to write it. Today Joe Biden addressed the United Nations at a time of high-tension, tension with Iran, with China, with Russia and here at home.

On Iran, Mr. Biden renewed a promise to make sure they never acquire nuclear weapons. On China, the president offered a familiar olive branch that competition does not have to mean conflict. And on Russia, he forcefully took aim at Moscow. Mr. Biden also put the rest of the world on notice that failing to rise to the challenge in Ukraine now imperils everyone's existence later.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: If you allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure. I respectfully suggest the answer is no.


RAJU: Now let's start with CNN's Kayla Tausche, who is outside the United Nations. Kayla, what else is the president say?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Manu, President Biden appealing to the global community to unilaterally rebuke Russia and come to Ukraine's defenses for the second year in a row. As Ukraine remains under siege, Biden speaking to the U.N. audience with Russia's ambassador to the organization in attendance, and saying that essentially, that Russia alone can end the war, it can put an end to the conflict there. But saying more broadly, that history does not have to predict what the future looks like.


PRES. BIDEN: But our history need not dictate our future, with the conservative leadership, careful effort, adversaries can become partners. Overwhelming challenges can be resolved, and deep wounds can heal. So let us never forget that. When we choose to stand together and recognize the common hopes that bind all humanity, we hold our hands, the power and that power to bend that arc of history.


TAUSCHE: But beyond that Biden's remarks established a broader set of priorities for the world order, reinforcing the importance of multilateral institution progress, protecting against climate change, and also lifting up poor nations. Many of whom have argued that the focus on Ukraine has detracted from their causes.

Later this week, President Biden is set to meet with leaders from Brazil and Israel. They're expected to talk about democracy and their shared democratic values. But it comes, Manu, as President Biden spoke to New York donors last night and said that here in the U.S., democracy is on the ballot in 2024, and said in no uncertain terms that he believes Donald Trump and his movement are direct threats to democracy. Manu?

RAJU: Yes. That's something of course we'll discuss more on this program today. Kayla Tausche outside the United Nations, thank you. And the politics too, are just impossible to ignore. You don't need to read carefully between the lines to understand what the president means and who he is talking about when he frames a choice between America alone and America at the center of the world order.



PRES. BIDEN: We know our future is bound to yours. Let me repeat that again. We know our future is bound to yours. And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone.


RAJU: Now here to share their expertise and their insights, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny. So, thank you guys all for joining us. This morning the very newsworthy morning for the president's speech here for the United Nations General Assembly. Director Clapper, you know, the president is using this big stage at a time to send messages to really three people who were not there, China, Russia and, you know, Donald Trump, to some extent. And what do you think when you listen to this the most important thing that the president said?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think from a standpoint of the audience, you wonder what they're thinking about what will happen in 2024. You know, I mean, the domestic politics spill into the international arena here as well. Of course, President Biden represents normalcy, continuity tradition, and espousing traditional values and policies that the United States always has, regardless who's in the White House.

So, I think, for me, I couldn't help but wonder what they're thinking. And as far as the absences are concerned, well, Putin couldn't be there because if he were, he'd be arrested. And, you know, the others are there at least their representative.

What that does prevent. Possibly it would be a sidebar meeting. I don't think even if Putin were there, I don't much sure the president meet with him. But so that's the sort of thing you lose. But intrinsically, I don't think it's a big deal.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, as Kayla was mentioning her report about president talking about democracy, talking about that in speech, and also, it's something you mentioned at a fundraiser last night. He said, in 2024, democracy is on the ballot once again. And let there be no question. Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy, and I will always defend, protect and fight for our democracy. That's why I'm running. A more direct than he has been before.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFARIS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, his whole hopes of reelection are to draw this contrast, and to wake people up to the notion that, yes, former President Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination and can be elected again. So that's what the president is doing.

He's also of course trying to turn it the conversation away from the economy, which he has struggled to break through on and other things. This is very reminiscent of what he said right before the midterm elections. I remember being in Philadelphia when he was giving a speech, about democracy, about the importance of democracy.

So, he's trying to take the focus away from him, if you will, a criticism of his age or how he's handling the economy and give the wider stakes here. The 30,000-foot view about what is at stake on the ballot and what the Director Clapper was just saying, what the audience was wondering, everyone around the world is wondering. He said Americans back, but for how long? And can this really be happening in the U.S.? So, I think that is why the president is drawing this contrast right now.

RAJU: And he is -- also his comments about Russia and trying to rally the world behind the efforts in Ukraine are unmistakable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BIDEN: Russia alone, Russia alone bears responsibility for this war. Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately. As it's Russia alone stands in the way of peace because the Russia's price for peace is Ukraine's capitulation, Ukraine's territory and Ukraine's children.


RAJU: How do you think that message went over?

BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It seemed to go over really well. And I actually liked the way that the speech was framed, and that he started at the beginning of it really focused on the Global South. Because that's one of the big outcomes of this war is that we're having this world divided, right, but then we have this huge number of countries in the middle, and we're fighting over them.

And they realize that, and they want more agency, they're demanding it. And we can't allow China just to speak for them. And so that's what a lot of the speech was about. But then he pivoted to the end to really cap it off, I think in, you know, kind of the crowd pleaser for the majority there, which is that Ukraine matters. It matters not just for Europe; it matters for the world.

And I think that that really focusing on sovereignty, territorial integrity and human rights, you did not hear him talk a lot about democracy in this setting, because that puts off part of the global south. So again, he's kind of threading this needle, where he has to talk about democracy, but he also has to appeal to the Global South, which really is much more focused on sovereignty and like what about us. What about our issues?

RAJU: Of course, this comes at in such a critical time. There's $24 billion in aid to Ukraine that is hanging in the balance. Why does wants Congress to approve it? There is division about it. Zelenskyy will be at that. President Zelenskyy will be speaking before the U.N. General Assembly later this afternoon. He's coming to Capitol Hill into Washington on Thursday. This is how Zelenskyy discuss the need for more aid earlier this week.



PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: The United States of America is supporting Ukraine financially, and I'm grateful for this. I just think they're not supporting only Ukraine alone. If Ukraine falls, Putin will surely go further. What will the United States of America do when Putin reaches the Baltic states? When he reaches the Polish border? He will.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Yes. It's still unclear what Congress will do. In fact, I asked the speaker just last night about whether or not he would put a bill on the floor to approve this aid at some point, and he would not commit to that.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): Was Zelenskyy elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don't think I have to commit anything. I have questions for him. Where's the accountability on the money we already split? What is the plan for victory?


RAJU: So, if this is not approved this aid to Ukraine has not approved by Congress. What kind of impact would that have? Or what message that said, even if they don't do it? They don't do it this month. If they do it in a couple months, or several weeks. What message is that sent and what impact will it have?

CLAPPER: Well, a huge message. And I just add to best comment that I think there was also the domestic audience here for the message to convey to the U.S. audience because of the polls are not terribly supportive of continuation in Ukraine. This would be disastrous. The impact on -- direct impact on Ukraine and assisting its war effort. And, of course, the negative message it would convey, particularly to our NATO allies.

RAJU: And I mean, what impact if it's not done immediately? And how quickly is this money needed?

SANNER: It's not needed right now. I mean, this money is for that now till the end of the year into the first quarter. So, if it drifts till December, it's not life or death. But if it doesn't get passed in December, it really is very, very bad in terms of continuing the ammunition and the equipment that is going to Ukraine.

But also, if that's not passed, then the IMF money, which is sustaining the budget, cannot go forward. It's these little details of how the international system works. That's the devils in the details. And so, it will have an outsized impact, as well as then just affecting, you know, everybody's attitude toward it. So, we have more, we have money, we have global implications.

RAJU: Yes. Just a huge question about how the speaker will deal with. The speaker told me that he would meet with a bipartisan group with Zelenskyy on Thursday, but not the full Republican conference, would not be with Zelenskyy, would not be one on one different than the way the Senate Republican and Democratic leaders are dealing with this. All part of the divisions on Capitol Hill, which we will talk about next.

Open warfare on Capitol Hill as Republican faction's battle. The clock ticks closer to a shutdown. Can Kevin McCarthy broke with a deal and still keep his speakership? New details, next.




RAJU: This just in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has canceled a key procedural vote that had been set for today on a bill to keep funding the government. That's after yet another spirited meeting this morning the House GOP conference, which is deeply divided overspending. And the 12 days to go, there is no clear plan yet for avoiding a shutdown on October 1.

Here with us now Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill who was outside that spirited meaning. So, Melanie, why did the speaker change his plans?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Manu, you know, as well as anyone when they pull a vote, that means they don't have the votes. They are still struggling to reach consensus on a GOP plan to fund the government. So, Kevin McCarthy decided to postpone this vote and has directed all members who have issues to go work out their concerns in the House GOP whip's office, which is happening as we speak.

But it is clear they are going to have a lot of work to do. There's a lot of disagreement on display today. During that closed door party meeting, hardliners stood up and said, they want more spending cuts. Others stood up and said, they need to pass something anything to fund the government, so they don't get jammed by the Senate. And it is very clear that tensions are running high as they barrel towards a government shutdown.

Let's take a listen.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R-FL): Right now, my full effort is assembling a large enough coalition to defeat the Donald's continuing resolution, but we're certainly heading in that direction.

REP. MIKE LAWLER, (R-NY): The clown show of colleagues that refuse to actually govern does not want to pass the CR. I will do everything we need to make sure that a CR passes.

REP. BYRON DONALDS, (R-FL): I want to get real conservative wins, not talking points, not tweets, not any of that stuff.


ZANONA: So, the goal right now is to try to make changes to see if they can win over critics. But I think it's important to point out that even if Republicans are able to pass this GOP plan, and that is still a big if, it is still dead on arrival in the Senate. So, they are really nowhere closer to avoiding a government shutdown with just weeks away from the deadline, Manu?

RAJU: And again, Kevin McCarthy caught in the middle between his warring factions, his speakership on the line, whether they keep the government open, another big question. Thank you, Melanie. And here with us in the studio to share the reporting and their insights, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, CNN's Eva McKend, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny is still around with us. And man, you're trudging those halls every day.

Like, right alongside with me, there is just an enormous amount of tension among Republicans right now. How do you see this playing out? You've been through shutdowns, like, I mean a shutdown. We've been through shutdowns. Can they avoid a shutdown?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's hard to see that they avoid a shutdown at this point. There's a significant number of people. Remember, McCarthy only has four votes that he can lose. There's a significant number of people that is more than four who have never voted to find the government, who have never voted for a short-term spending bill. And they are giving no indication that they are going to change.


I asked Dusty Johnson, one of the negotiators of this deal that yesterday said, how do you negotiate with people who don't want to negotiate? And he said that's not an insubstantial burden that they are facing. And so, you know, the writing is on the law that a shutdown is very, very likely.

RAJU: Yes. And look, let's not forget how we got here. There was a deal that was reached this summer to raise the national debt limit. They improved spending levels, overall spending levels, greeted by the speaker cut, a deal cut in the speaker's own office with the White House.

The right revolted on this ultimately held the House, for hostage in the House for about a week. McCarthy relented agreed to deeper spending cuts. And those deeper spending cuts are now trying to implement to fund the government into the new fiscal year.

They can't reach an agreement on among Republicans. If they don't reach a deal, even on a short-term bill to keep the government open. That's what we're about is why a shutdown is very possible, as Leigh Ann was saying. But there is just so much tension among some of the more moderate members, more established members, establishment members against some of those hardliners who are holding this, the speaker, essentially hostage on this.

Is what Don Bacon of Nebraska said to politically. Says, some of these folks would vote against the Bible because there's not enough Jesus in it. And then Kevin Cramer, who is a senator from North Dakota, a conservative senator. Bacon, more moderate than Cramer, but Cramer also expressing his frustration.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER, (R-ND): The lack of pragmatism has always been my frustration. And what frustrates me the most about it that leads to this kind of dysfunction is that as a conservative, it doesn't result in more conservative outcomes. It results in dysfunction, which ultimately leads to more moderate outcomes. And I'm here to legislate not to make a point or get on somebody's newscast.


RAJU: But that kind of message is not going over well with the far right.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It isn't because there are also several members who think that this all will have minimal impact. That's what you often hear. And I mean, the speakership fight was really instructive. They started with chaos. They continue in chaos.

And I think that, you know, during the last government shutdown under the former president 35 days, it was ultimately the air traffic controllers not showing up to work, flights being halted. It had to rise to that level of total calamity for ultimately for things to change. And I think that we're very much going in the same direction.

RAJU: And that there are possible ways around this. We reported last night, there is some discussions among some of the moderate Republicans to potentially vote for a procedure to essentially force a vote to keep the government open. There needs to be five Republicans to agree with Democrats do that. So, that still needs to play out.

McCarthy didn't side stepped a question about this morning in a press conference. And then there's a question about the speaker's job. Matt Gaetz continues to threaten to force a vote, seeking the speakers out there, one member can call for that vote, Gaetz threatens to do that. It sounds like, he probably will this week, maybe next week. And there are still -- there's a number of members who I've spoken to, we've spoken to are frustrated with the speaker and are threatening to vote for that measure.


REP. MATT ROSENDALE, (R-MT): Nobody does when in a shutdown. And yet, we find ourselves right here. And who is 100 percent responsible for that? Kevin McCarthy.

REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ, (R-IN): Every leader should take full responsibility, and Kevin should take responsibility for his failure to lead on this.

RAJU: You are in the same place with Gaetz in terms of taking the chair if it comes to it.

REP. ELI CRANE, (R-AZ): Yes. I mean, I'm definitely open to it. My voters are open to it, you know. So, yes, absolutely.


RAJU: I mean, that's Eli Crane, who's Arizona Republican, some was all they need is five members to vote to kick McCarthy out of the speakership. And then the House is in chaos.

ZELENY: And look, he said, my voters are open to it. Of course, they are. Voters don't like Congress. But that's why these members of Congress were elected to lead. And I think the point that you made, Leigh Ann, earlier was so instructive. So many of these have never voted for to fund the government period.

So being in the minority to vote no, is very easy. But when you're in the majority, and occasionally, you have to vote yes. And, you know, sort of be a pragmatic as Senator Cramer would say, I don't know. I'll be a little skeptical here and saying, I've been in this town a long time, and we always seem on the cusp of a shutdown. And we've been there a few times, this certainly feels like it.

But one thing Republicans know, I was talking to someone who's very close to former speaker, Newt Gingrich. And he's talking to a lot of members, and he said, they know that a shutdown and an impeachment, not necessarily good politics for the party. So, I'm optimistic that wiser heads can prevail. Who knows how that happens, and it's heading in that direction, but there's a little bit of time.

RAJU: There's a little bit of time, not much time and the speaker doesn't have much room to maneuver. We'll see how we get out of this. Next, Donald Trump announces, he won't be on the next week's debate stage. So, where will he be? We'll tell you right after this short break.



RAJU: The second GOP debate is next week in California. And once again, Donald Trump will be a no show. Instead, the former president will give a speech in Detroit in front of current and former members of the auto workers union. Our great reports are back to talk about this.

And it's interesting because the auto workers union, we'll see how their members don't feel about Donald Trump. But this is what the president whose name is Shawn Fain, said in his statement. Just earlier today he said, every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting.