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White House Says It Has Deal to Avert Crippling Rail Strike; Putin, China's Xi Meet Today as Russians on the Run in Ukraine; Meadows Complies with DOJ Subpoena in January 6th Probe; Florida Governor Sends 2 Planes of Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; Thousands Line Up to See Queen's Casket Lying in State. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we do have breaking news. They have a deal. A nationwide freight rail strike averted, at least for now.

I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar, and marathon talks that went all night and into this morning ended with a deal. The White House just announced that the unions and rail companies have reached a tentative agreement to avert a strike ahead of the midnight deadline tonight.

President Biden called it a win for tens of thousands of rail workers, who worked tirelessly through the pandemic, as well as the railway companies, who will be able to retain and recruit more workers, he said.

The unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and conductors, they were threatening the first rail strike in 30 years. The hang-up was over a system the union says penalizes workers for sick leave and time off for doctors' visits.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Amtrak had already cancelled all of its long-distance routes outside of the Northeast Corridor in anticipation of this strike.

With the midterm elections looming there was mounting pressure on the Biden administration to get a deal done here.

The rail system obviously integral to the supply chain, and the disruption would have been had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country.

BERMAN: But the story this morning is about what didn't happen. No disruption, at least one that will last more than a few days now.

Let's go to Jeremy Diamond at the White House for the details on what this deal is at this point, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John. Twenty hours of negotiations between these two sides at the Labor

Department finally leading to an agreement between these two unions and the railway companies involved here.

And this deal, John, would avert a strike that would have started at midnight tonight. President Biden announcing the deal in a statement around 5 a.m. this morning saying, quote, "These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their healthcare costs, all hard-earned. The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers and for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come."

Now Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh was heavily involved, deeply involved in these negotiations that stretched 20 hours. Look, last night, John, I was getting word around 6, 7 p.m. that they were ordering dinner. Clearly, it stretched way past dinner time as these negotiations continued overnight.

I'm also told, John, from a source familiar with the negotiations that President Biden placed what this source described as a critical phone call around 9 p.m. last night.

In that call, the president stressed to both sides that the impacts of a shutdown of the railway systems would be, quote, "catastrophic," and he urged both sides to recognize the real harm that could be caused to families, businesses, and communities across the country, should a shutdown and a strike actually take place.

As I said, these negotiations stretched 20 hours, ultimately resulting in this tentative agreement. This tentative deal now goes to the labor unions and their membership for a vote. There is a cooling-off period of several weeks before the deal is actually formalized, but John, critically, a strike has been averted -- John.

BERMAN: And President Biden likes to call himself the most pro-union president of all time, Jeremy. When I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning and got word that they were still behind closed-doors meeting, you began to wonder if something was cooking there.

DIAMOND: Yes, clearly. And the fact that these negotiations stretched overnight signals -- and that this administration was involved in it, that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh was critically involved in these negotiations overnight, stretches [SIC] -- stresses not only the closeness that they have with the unions but, really, the real fear, John, of the catastrophic impacts that could happen, should this shutdown actually take place.

And already, as Brianna mentioned there, we've already seen some impacts. So some of these impacts will already be unavoidable with some of those cancellations and more. But the worst, of course, has been avoided.

BERMAN: That's right. The worst of those impacts will not happen. Jeremy Diamond -- at least not now -- appreciate your reporting on this. Thank you. KEILAR: And let's go live now to CNN's Adrienne Broaddus, who is in

Chicago, which of course, is serviced by Amtrak. She's there with the very latest on this -- Adrienne.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, as you can imagine, relief this morning. Our colleague Jeremy laid it out so well there.

But this tentative agreement was enough to satisfy those engineers and train conductors. They stayed until they were able to get the job done.

I want to share with you what one union official said when he described those negotiations. He called it a slog.

Meanwhile, we already saw, when we heard about the threat of this strike, the impact. For example, Amtrak, as you mentioned, cancelled all of its long[distance services of its -- outside of its Northeast Corridor. And many people may have been wondering why.

No, Amtrak was not involved in the negotiations, none of Amtrak workers. But these tracks behind me are just one example. Amtrak only owns about roughly 3 percent of its rails; 97 percent of Amtrak tracks are owned by the freight rail companies.

So a lot of relief this morning as people were trying to make alternative plans, who depend on, for example, here in Chicago, the metro line. At least nine of those 11 lines would have been impacted.

So as commuters wake up this morning, they are breathing a sigh of relief -- Brianna.


KEILAR: They certainly are. Adrienne, thank you for that report from Chicago.

BERMAN: All right. With me now, CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans.

And look, again, the news here is what didn't happen.


BERMAN: So to an extent, it's hard to explain. But this would have had a major detrimental impact on the economy.

ROMANS: It's awful. Tens of millions. Some of the -- some of the forecasts are up to $2 billion a day of losses for the American economy.

And when you think about the rail system, you think of it as the artery. I mean, this is the -- these are the arteries that carry the goods. Thirty percent of all freight goes on these railroads. So we're not talking just about commuters, for example, but we're talking about chlorine that goes to water treatment plants, gasoline that has to be refined, refined gasoline that has to go on ships. You're talking about grain that comes out of the fields in the Midwest and gets on trains and goes to the Pacific Northwest where it's shipped to China.

Just about everything you can think of touches the railway system, and it is a cheap and efficient way to move goods.

I mean, I was talking to some ag people yesterday who were saying you can't just take the grain and put it on trucks. It just -- by the way, you don't have the trucks and the truck drivers to do it anyway.

So just about everything you touch in your daily life rides these rails, and it would have literally, pun intended, derailed the recovery.

BERMAN: I see what you did there. Look, two people can run a train car with 17 cars on it.


BERMAN: You can't put 17 trucks on the road --

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: -- just by snapping your fingers.

These negotiations went late into the night. When they ordered dinner last night, you knew maybe they were onto something.

ROMANS: And a call from the president.

BERMAN: And a call from the president, who calls himself the most pro- union president of all time. The hold-up here was not wages --

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: -- which it usually is in labor negotiations.

ROMANS: It wasn't about money.

BERMAN: It wasn't about money.

ROMANS: It was about scheduling, rostering. It was about sick leave. I mean, in a lot of these transportation industries, you do have worker shortages, right? And you're talking about engineers and conductors here who were on seven-day on-call rosters, and that was just not -- that was not sustainable for them. And that was one of their big sticking points here.

Also, these railroad companies have been making a lot of money during the pandemic, so it wasn't really about money. It was about -- it was about the life -- life -- standard of living.

Also here, they are also talking about health care promises here, as well.

So we don't know exactly what's in it. So we want to be really clear: we don't know what's in this tentative deal the White House is touting, and we know that the union still has to -- has to vote on it. But at least for now, this has been averted. Something that was -- is

really unthinkable in the economy right now, for this to happen. This is an important -- a very important step.

BERMAN: Yes. Politically and economically, the White House could not have this happen, and it didn't. They reached a deal.

ROMANS: It didn't happen.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: And now to a CNN exclusive. We are learning that former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena with the Justice Department's investigations into events surrounding January 6th.

So this makes him the highest-ranking Trump official -- Trump administration official that's known to have responded to a subpoena in this federal investigation.

Joining us now is CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams and CNN anchor and senior Washington correspondent Pamela Brown to talk about this.

Pam, tell us about your reporting here. Do we think the DOJ is going to continue to ask for more from Meadows, or is this the end of the road for him?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, Brianna, sources are telling me and my colleague, Evan Perez, that so far Mark Meadows, the president -- former President Trump's chief of staff, has complied with a DOJ subpoena by turning over documents, the same documents that he turned over to the January 6th Committee.

But as we know, he turned over selective documents to the January 6th Committee. There were hundreds of text messages and other communications that he did not turn over.

So this is almost certainly not the end of the road. Mark Meadows is far too critical in the DOJ's investigation on January 6th. He was at the center of it all, including on that day.

Here's actually what Cassidy Hutchinson had to say. She was Mark Meadows' former aide.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be "F"-ing hung.

And Mark had responded something to the effect of, You heard it, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.

To which Pat said something -- This is "F"-ing crazy; we need to be doing something more.


BROWN: So that's just a little window into what Mark Meadows could talk about. I mean, he could provide critical testimony into Donald Trump's state of mind; what was going on behind the scenes in the White House. He was such a high-ranking official as his former chief of staff.

Now, right now, DOJ is working through executive privilege issues. We know that it is doing that with other officials in -- from Trump's administration. So that could explain why more hasn't happened in terms of testimony. But of course, we're staying on top of this story.

KEILAR: So Elliot, weigh in on the significance here, because Meadows previously had not been fully cooperative with a subpoena from the January 6th Committee.


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And I think, frankly, people aren't as afraid of Congress as they are of the Justice Department.

Now, look, not all compliance is created equal. And it's hard to know exactly what he's provided and what he hasn't.

And to be fair, Brianna, he's going to have some basis for executive -- or at least the president -- the former president would -- on account of the fact that it was a senior White House staffer.

Now, at the end of the day, courts don't tend to be favorable toward executive branch employees like Mark Meadows, the former president, when -- when their testimony may come before, you know, a criminal proceeding.

So we'll see how it plays out at the end of the day. It's still very important testimony, given the number of possible crimes they might be investigating here.

KEILAR: And Pamela, your reporting says Meadows and Trump may have actually kept up -- that they actually have kept up communications.

BROWN: Yes. A source tells CNN that, while the relationship has been strained, not quite the same, while Trump has complained about Meadows, they have kept up contact.

And what is notable here is that Trump's attorneys have told him to cut it off with Mark Meadows. They are concerned that he could be a fact witness in the DOJ investigation, if he cooperates, if he's pushed to cooperate on that.

And so, despite those warnings from his lawyers, Trump continues to have contact with Meadows.

KEILAR: Really interesting. Elliot, separately here but also related. Jeffrey Clark, who is that

environmental lawyer, former -- or environmental lawyer, formerly of the DOJ, Trump loyalist, and he was part of the fake elector scheme. Trump had toyed with this idea of putting him in as A.G. But it was really pushed down by a lot of Trump aides, and so he didn't end up doing it.

He's now defending himself in an ethics proceeding by the D.C. Bar, and in that defense, he revealed what DOJ is investigating him for. Take us through this.

WILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely. It's not just when we think of January 6th related offenses we're thinking of fake electors and the kinds of things that have been reported on.

There are a few different crimes here -- No. 1, obstruction of justice, No. 2, false statements, No. 3, conspiracy -- that are commonly-charged offenses.

False statements, when you think about perjury, lying under oath. But it's also a federal crime to make a false statement to a law enforcement officer or in the context of another proceeding. And they might be investigating him for that.

Conspiracy, perhaps working with other people on other crimes they might be charged for.

And of course, obstruction of justice. Possibly, you know, knowingly getting in the way of an open investigation.

These are all very almost -- I don't want to say outside of the January -- it's not seditious conspiracy or something like that. One of those kinds of crimes. But these are very common and very serious federal felonies, all of which either he or others are being investigated for on account with that seized cell phone and other information.

KEILAR: All right. A lot to keep our eyes on here. Elliot and Pamela, thank you so much.


BERMAN: Any moment now, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, they will hold a one-on-one meeting to discuss Ukraine, Taiwan, other subjects. It's on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

It comes after the two strongmen announced their limitless partnership just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now with what we can expect from this meeting -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is a meeting of two leaders who are united in their antipathy, their dislike of the U.S. And as you pointed out, the last time they got together face-to-face

was at the beginning of the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February. And they put out this long statement, where they basically hinted at creating a new world order not dominated by the U.S.

Well, what a difference the past couple of months have been. Shortly after that, Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. And he's coming to this meeting more isolated than he's ever been, with his military hurt and embarrassed about that war. And he needs China more than ever.

As for Xi Jinping, well, this is his first time outside of China since the beginning of the pandemic. He wants to show support for his Russian ally.

China has been happy to buy cheap Russian oil, and gas, and coal, but it has stopped short of sending Russia weapons to help in the war. China doesn't want to face Western sanctions.

So we can expect some kind of symbolic statement. China wants support on Taiwan.

And just to prove a point, both navies are conducting joint patrols right now in the Pacific Ocean and sharing images of that to show that they're still together, even at a time when both of them are facing big challenges at home.

BERMAN: Yes. Pay very close attention to the language, the specific words that come out of this meeting. We all will be, and Ivan, I know you will, as well. Ivan Watson, thank you very much.

We're going to talk about all this later when we speak with National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House -- quite a title there. John Kirby will join us.


Ron DeSantis says he put migrants on a plane to Martha's Vineyard without notice. The swirling controversy.

Vice President Kamala Harris hits the campaign trail, looking to boost Democrats and maybe her own brand, ahead of the midterms. We have new CNN reporting.

KEILAR: And a scary moment for a royal guard who collapsed watching over Queen Elizabeth's casket as she's lying in state.


KEILAR: Backlash this morning after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis confirms he sent two planes of migrants to Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday without notice, leaving Massachusetts officials scrambling to find them shelter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARBARA RUSH, WARDEN, ST. ANDREW'S CHURCH, MARTHA'S VINEYARD: We fed them, and we housed them for tonight. The focus tonight was just, you know, how are we going to make sure these people aren't out on the street.


KEILAR: The Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have been busing thousands of migrants to Washington D.C., New York City, and Chicago in recent weeks.


CNN's Steve Contorno joins us live from Washington.

This is an island. They certainly do have a tradition of a faith community that appears to really be stepping up. But this is an island that is not easy to get off of for these migrants.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. This is something Governor DeSantis has been threatening to do, really, for -- for months now. He has said repeatedly that he is willing to use taxpayer dollars to send these migrants from the border to Democratic jurisdictions. He has said he would send them to President Biden's home state of Delaware, even, if he could.

But this is the first time that he has taken credit for participating directly in one of these operations, and including using taxpayer dollars to help facilitate it.

And last night he confirmed his involvement putting out a statement that said, quote, "States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals, who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as sanctuary states and support for the Biden administration's open-border policies."

Now, the people who are in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts had no idea that these individuals were arriving. They said that they basically set up shelters like they would if there was a nor'easter or a hurricane that had hit the area.

So -- and back home in Florida, immediately hit with condemnation from Democrats. The state party chair said that it was, quote, "a new low for DeSantis."

And we're not getting many answers at this point about what's sort of next for DeSantis, how much more -- many more of these flights he might be participating in. He hasn't said how much this is going to cost. We don't even -- we don't have an answer at this point about where these flights are originating from. So that's something we're going to be working to find out throughout the day.

KEILAR: All right, Steve. Thank you so much for keeping an eye on this. Ahead, we're going to speak with Massachusetts state Representative

Dylan Fernandes, who is helping set up shelters for migrants, and we'll talk about what he's seeing on the ground.

BERMAN: So a scary moment in Westminster Hall when a royal guard standing watch over Queen Elizabeth's casket suddenly collapsed. Video shows the guard holding a ceremonial staff when he starts shaking, before he faints and falls off the podium there.

Nearby officials immediately rushed to help. It is unknown whether the guard there suffered -- there he is, happened right there. That is scary. Unknown whether he suffered any injuries.

The queen's casket is being guarded 24 hours a day by soldiers, who you can see, are in ceremonial uniform. The guards do rotate every 20 minutes, but they may be required to stay almost completely still for up to six hours total.

So this morning, the lines are nearly 3 miles long in London as thousands wait to pay their respects to the queen, lying in state in Westminster Hall. We were just talking about Westminster Hall. The funeral takes place on Monday.

CNN's Scott McLean in London with some of those people in line -- Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, yes. Yesterday the London mayor described this as a combination of the London Marathon, the Olympics, which were here ten years ago, and the last two royal weddings all combined. And you can understand why he thinks that, just because of the sheer volume of people who are lining up here.

We've been all morning trying to chase the end of the line, which of course, was about two miles from the houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall, where this ends, where people will be able to file past the casket of Queen Elizabeth.

It was about two miles initially away. Then it stretched to about three miles by this point. And so it's been hard to keep up with where the end of the line is.

Now we are closer to the front, and people say that they've been in the line for about two or three hours, but many have expected to stay a lot longer than that.

And I wouldn't say that the mood is somber. I wouldn't call it a celebration, either. But there is definitely this spirit of camaraderie. We've met a lot of people who have made friends in line, and really shared in their admiration for Queen Elizabeth II.

And I just want to grab someone quickly. I'm just wondering why it was so important for you two to be here? Just wondering why it was so important for you guys to be here. Live on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just needed to come for the history and just to pay our respects. It's very important.

MCLEAN: And what did the queen mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything English. Everything English. And I think to die when you're in bed at age 96, loved by the global population, nothing tragic about that.

MCLEAN: And ma'am, just wondering how long you guys were expecting to stay -- expecting to stay in line for today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just said down the back about three hours.

MCLEAN: You were expecting a lot longer, I presume?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so, honestly.

MCLEAN: That's great. And why was it so important to bring -- bring your girls?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls, say it, why we came.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we wanted to see the queen.

MCLEAN: Yes. She's an important person, isn't she?


MCLEAN: Yes, there you go. So officially, people have been -- officials have been advising people not to bring their kids, because it could be several hours waiting in line.

But as you can see, John, a lot of people have been doing it anyways, because as one many explained, he said, Look, a child born today is very likely not to see another queen in their lifetime, considering the next two in the line of succession are both male.

BERMAN: The line looks to be moving pretty quickly. You have to be in good shape to keep up with the people moving to get past the queen there. It's a brisk pace. Scott McLean, thank you so much for being there with us.

Other news this morning, an exploding package at Northeastern University now being investigating as a hoax. Why authorities are now asking whether it might have been staged.

KEILAR: Also, a lawyer for Alex Jones' InfoWars says he lied about the Sandy Hook school shooting for followers and money. More from her testimony ahead.