Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

White House Says It Has Deal to Avert Crippling Rail Strike; Florida Governor Sends Two Planes of Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; Meadows Complies With DOJ Subpoena in January 6th Probe. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 07:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Last year's Inductees were American girl dolls, the game of Risk, and Sand, as in, yes, beach sand, proving that you don't have to be found in stores to be inducted.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I don't want to be a spoil sport but who's going to stop, let's be honest. I don't understand this national toy hall of fame. Bingo is being inducted now? That's like having a national drink hall of fame and inducting water. It's like what are they doing? They should make toy. They're going to induct toy into the national toy hall of fame. Way to go, guys. You're on top of it.

KEILAR: Sand is actually the most popular toy at my house.

BERMAN: And it's just getting into the hall of fame now because they just discovered that kids play with it.

New Day continues right now.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's Thursday, September 15th. And the news breaking here just moments ago, the White House announcing a tentative agreement to avert a nationwide freight rail strike, a shutdown that could have had catastrophic consequences for the economy.

BERMAN: Marathon talks involving the unions, rail companies and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, they went on for 20 hours. We're told that President Biden, who does call himself the most pro-union president ever, was instrumental in getting the deal over the finish line.


JEREMY FERGUSON, PRESIDENT, SMART TRANSPORTATION: Last night was a historic night for rail labor. We're very proud of what was accomplished. We wanted to take a few seconds and thank Secretary Marty Walsh, Deputy Secretary Julie Sue and definitely President Joe Biden, everybody pulling together to make sure that we could get our members what they deserve.

DENNIS PIERCE, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, BROTHERHOOD OF LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEERS AND TRAINMEN: This is the quality of life issue that we have been trying to get to our members since (INAUDIBLE) started. So, we're going to hit the ground running. We'll be having more information here in the coming hours.


BERMAN: Some tired looking leaders emerging as the sun was arising there.

Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. What do we know about how this deal came about?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. These union officials alongside the secretary of labor, Mary Walsh, and these railway companies were at the Department of Labor for 20 hours. These negotiations started at 9:00 A.M. yesterday and they finally wrapped up around 5:00 A.M. this morning.

We're told also by a source that a verbal agreement was actually struck around 2:30 in the morning and then it took another two and a half hours to put this all on paper.

This is a tentative agreement, which means it goes to the unions for a vote, but these union leaders making it clear that they would not have reached the agreement if they did not believe that it addressed their core demands and that it is something that their union members would approve.

I want to read you part of a statement from Joe Biden who announced this agreement this morning in a statement from White House saying that this is -- quote, these rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions and peace of mind around their health care cost, all hard earned. The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.

And so you see there the president trying to frame this as a win for both the railway workers, 50,000 of which are members of these two unions, as well as the railway companies, and he's also saying that this is something that is going to help avert significant economic damage that would have ensued had the strike gone forward. These unions were prepared to strike beginning tonight at midnight.

And already we know contingency planning had been in place, and some actual effects began to take place, including some of these commuter railways, which depend on these freight lines, canceling some long haul trips and other effects that have already begun to take place. But, clearly, John, the worse of this potential blowback has been avoided, as these two sides reached a deal.

One more detail, John, the president last night, he was involved, of course, throughout the day, getting updates from the labor secretary who was in the room with these union officials and these railway companies. But the president last night at 9:00 P.M. placed a phone call to both sides. And what he did is he stressed, he pushed them to realize the harm that could take place if a strike actually took place. He pushed them to reach an agreement, and we're told, John, that that was a, quote, critical phone call according to one source.

BERMAN: Yes, a looming dark cloud lifted from over the economy. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks for keeping us posted.

KEILAR: And with us is the CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Eric Hoplin. Eric, great to have you this morning --


KEILAR: -- with some good news here.

So, this is tentative. Will this hold and are you confident that this is going to be passed when there's a vote?

HOPLIN: Well, you're right, this is a fantastic news for the economy. In fact, my phone has been ringing off the hook over the past 48 hours talking to distribution leaders from across the country who are spelling out what the catastrophic consequences could have been to America's supply chain and the economy had the strike gone through.


For example, I talked to an oil and gas distributor yesterday who said, if you thought gas prices have been high in recent months, they are going to move to all-time highs because of the strike. I had one chemical distributor telling me that as they're distributing chlorine, that waste water plants, management plants, we're going to be having a hard time with getting the chemicals they needed to clean America's water supply. And I had one of the largest building distributors in the country of building materials telling me that the supply chain is already tight, supplies are already limited. And so if you were involved in construction in any way, supply was going to nosedive and prices were going to increase dramatically. And so the fact that we were able and they were able to avert the strike is certainly really good news this morning for the American economy.

KEILAR: Amtrak had already canceled some of its longer routes. Have there been any disruptions when it comes to distribution and wholesale? Are there any effects that are just avoidable even if they're going to be short-lived?

HOPLIN: Yes. So, one of the great things about America's distribution industry is we account for about a third of the American economy. Most Americans have never heard of distribution, but we're the people that move the things in the economy.

KEILAR: Well, I think we've all heard of it now, Eric.

HOPLIN: Yes, I sure hope so.

KEILAR: I think we're all pretty familiar in recent months.

HOPLIN: I sure hope so. But in our industry, 90 percent is non- unionized workforce. And so our folks don't strike. When you think about the pandemic, when most Americans went home, our workforce went to the warehouses, went to their trucks and they kept America's supply chain moving. So, they have been actively putting plans in place over the last couple of weeks to do everything that they could should the railways strike.

So, we were going to keep the supply chain moving, just prices were going to spike and there were going to be some delays. And so we're really glad we were able to avoid that.

KEILAR: Eric, we appreciate your time this morning with a good ending to the story. Thank you.

HOPLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. With me now is CNN Senior Political Correspondent and Anchor of Inside Politics Sunday Abby Phillip and National Political Correspondent at The New York Times Lisa Lerer.

Look, it's interesting here. The White House, I'm sure, breathing a giant, like gargantuan sigh of relief this morning. They were intimately involved with these negotiations.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, really, they had to be. This is a pivotal moment for the economy. We just got some not so great inflation numbers in the last few days. The White House understands that this is not a moment where they can deal with a supply chain issue. But also when you run being the most pro- labor president in history, that also means that you ought to have some sway in the room with labor. And the president, President Biden, really had to prove that he could get everyone to the table. And, frankly, it required getting labor to the table to say yes to some kind of deal, in addition obviously to the employers coming to the table. But that's where Biden could have his leverage. And, look, we're here, there's a deal, I think that they are happy this morning.

BERMAN: No doubt. It's interesting because I think they want and deserve credit for making this happen, based on what we've heard from all the parties involved overnight. But sometimes in politics, Lisa, it's hard to get a lot of credit for things that didn't happen, isn't happening, so they may not get as much credit as they want here.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: They may not get as much credit but the alternative is much worse, a strike and disrupt transit and supply chain disruptions when we're moving right into this fall stretch, these midterm campaigns would be very disruptive, and especially because I think this is an election that at its core is about economic issues, it's about how much of the country is returning to a sense of normal now that we've largely moved past the pandemic in some form or people feel that way. So, to have massive disruption again in September of a midterm year is not what anybody wants, especially a president who ran on getting things going again and especially a president who has this very close long-term intimate connection with Amtrak.

PHILLIP: And one quick thing. I mean, this election is also about getting things done. LERER: Yes.

PHILLIP: Okay. This president had to prove he could pass bills, he could get legislation done, he could be bipartisan. And I do think he will probably get credit for this partly because Republicans actually really kind of amped it up, and they were like, well, a strike would be really bad. So, people know that there could have been a strike, they know that there wasn't one. And especially for Democratic voters, they want to see the administration winning and that is actually helping the president's approval rating.

BERMAN: Yes. The alternative was politically and economically unimaginable. And now the White House can point to the growing list of actual deals that had been done.

Abby and Lisa, don't go anywhere, we have much more to discuss with both of you.

KEILAR: This morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are holding a high stakes meeting to discuss Ukraine and Taiwan on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan. The two strongmen announced a limitless partnership just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, Russian soldiers are in retreat as Moscow struggles with its most significant military setbacks in Ukraine in months.


But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he left a conversation with President Putin yesterday that a ceasefire is not in sight and that, quote, we are far away from the end of the war.

Ahead, we're going to discuss this and much more with John Kirby from the White House.

BERMAN: So, this morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking credit for sending dozens of migrants to Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts without notice, leaving local officials in Massachusetts rushing to solve this unfolding refugee crisis on an island that's typically home to the rich and famous. It follows similar moves by the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona who have been busing thousands migrants to Washington D.C., New York, Chicago since last month.

Abby Phillip and Lisa Lerer are back with us, also joining us, Anchor and Correspondent for CNN Espanol is Maria Santana.

Maria, why don't you explain what exactly has been going on over the last 24 hours?

MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANOL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has become the third governor to claim that he's sending migrants to what are called sanctuary cities in protest of what these Republican governors are calling Biden's open border policies. And also because they say that these sanctuary cities are better equipped to handle the arrival of migrants because they already have resources in place and their states are overwhelmed by the number of migrants that had come in to their states.

So, what happened last night is Governor Ron DeSantis claimed credit for sending two planes full of about 50 migrants to Martha's Vineyard. These migrants arrived without prior notice to officials and the officials there basically had to scramble to set up emergency tents, to give them services, to offer them food and also call the volunteers overnight to help house these migrants.

A lot of these cities, while they have shelter systems in place, like New York City, is a right to shelter city, they're also being overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving in the last couple of months and they're running out of space to put them. And I don't know what Martha's Vineyard's capability is in terms of housing and shelter. I mean, this is a rich place where people go to vacation. So why Martha's Vineyard was chosen by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is also an open question.

PHILLIP: It's too much of a mystery. I mean, we know that it's part of this political stunt to say, okay, well, the Obamas are there, these wealthy Democrats are there. But it is a vacation town, and this is approaching the offseason. The problem with Martha's Vinyard is that there are not a lot of people there right now to accept these migrants.

I will say this. This is, first of all, a political stunt, yes, absolutely. It's costing millions of dollars for these governors and these states to move migrants from one part of the country to another and just drop them there. We should note when you look at those images, there are children, okay? Some of them are very young. These are people.

BERMAN: Human beings.

PHILLIP: They're human beings. And so that's one thing, I think the lack of resources.

But the other part of this is that Democratic governors and mayors do need to find a way to figure out how they can manage the load. Because if the policy prescription is that the United States ought to be able to welcome these people in, they ought to be able to welcome these people in. Prior notice is important. It should be happening --

BERMAN: It didn't happen here.

PHILLIP: It's not happening. But this is a wealthy country. There ought to be ways to handle this.

SANTANA: Well, here is how you know it's a pure political stunt. It's because when you look at the statements from these governors and also what conservative media is picking it up, as they say, illegal immigrants are bussed or sent to these places. These are not illegal immigrants. They are asylum seekers who have a right to move about the country as they wait for their pending cases. They have already been authorized to be in the United States. So, this is just playing to the politics of fear that illegal immigrants are invading your states but they're not. BERMAN: We should have to acknowledge, Lisa, that, to an extent, Ron DeSantis is getting what he wants right here in terms of the publicity. This was designed to make people notice.

LERER: He also wants us to be talking about it.

BERMAN: Which is getting what he wants.

LERER: This is a midterm election in a moment that really isn't -- we're not talking as much about the border, about immigration. People are really focused on things, like economic issues, cost of living, abortion policy, and the Republicans and Ron DeSantis particularly, who we know is someone who has higher aspirations for himself, wants to insert this topic back into sort of the nation's political conversation in a way that is not flattering for Democrats and for President Biden. He thinks he's getting that with this, but I think Abby makes a really good point, the pictures are heart-wrenching and there are children and you see these pictures of children sleeping on the floor of a D.C. union station, and I think there is some political risk here.


PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, when these individuals, some of them families, they do, in some cases, have family members in the United States, places that they can go. But when they are picked up and dropped off in a part of the country they don't even really know where they are, they have no connection to that place, it's -- it is -- that's the part of it that is the stunt. They could use those millions of dollars to facilitate those people finding their connections in the United States but that's not what's happening. They're trying to make a political statement.

SANTANA: And these people have already been through such a harrowing ordeal when you hear their stories of how they even got to the United States and the kind of conditions that they're fleeing, you just think the humanity of doing this to them, it just -- it all brings into question why --

BERMAN: Stand by, if you will, for a moment.

Multiple sources tell CNN that conservative House Republicans, they got into a heated debate during a closed door meeting Wednesday over a 15-week abortion bill, a bill that would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks. That was proposed by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. The proposed bill seems to be dividing Republicans less than two months before the midterm elections and it does highlight a rift in the party's leadership when it comes to the issue.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think most of the members of my conference prefer this be dealt with at the state level.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you supporting this Lindsey Graham 15-week abortion ban? SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I'm reviewing it. As you know, I'm pro-life.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Most of our candidates are going to want to leave it in the purview of the states.

RAJU: A lot of them are running away from the issue of abortion.

THUNE: Yes. And I think most are going to handle it, like I said, in their own way.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I support this going out to the states and letting we the people decide. Okay. That's on the books right now. I support exceptions, which this doesn't have. But, again, we have this determined by the people in 50 states.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The American people will tell us what the election will focus on, and the American people say they're focused on inflation, they're focused on public safety, and they're concerned about what's happening at the border.


BERMAN: You see Mitt Romney there at the end trying to turn it back to our previous discussion, at the border. Lisa, you were literally writing a book on abortion, the politics of it right now. So, what's going on here?

LERER: Well, it's a big mess. I mean, look, in many ways, Republicans are the dog who caught the car, or whatever. This is -- they, for decades, for nearly half a century, pushed to overturn Roe, the court did it, they overturned Roe and they had no plan, certainly no national policy. And it's hard for them to develop a national policy because, for so many decades, then argument was this should be returned to the states. But here we are in a midterm and you have the Republican Party all over the map on this issue. You have states and Republicans proposing everything from a total ban to a 20-week ban while other states, blue states, of course, work to expand access.

So, the party really has no national message on this, can't decide what their national message on this is and we're in the middle of a pretty contentious midterm election where they really underestimated the amount of national outcry after Roe would be overturned. So, they just -- they really are sort of flailing around right now trying to sort of get in the right place with the American public, and by the looks of what we've seen this week, it is not going all that well.

PHILLIP: And they're trying to deal with the far-right of their party, so much of the politics of abortion, the Republican side has been driven by the far -- the farthest right elements of the party. They have wanted complete bans on abortion that are completely out of step with the polling and public opinion on abortion in the United States. And now, that is playing out on Capitol Hill, where those same elements who drove it with the energy, drove it with the money and got them to the point where Roe was overturned, now those people and those groups and those lawmakers are saying, okay, we want a full, you know, national, 15-week abortion ban, and that is coming up against the reality that Americans, frankly, do not support this.

LERER: There's some data, 15 weeks was not a random --

PHILLIP: Well, I think it's the question do they want a national abortion. I think that's the problem.

LERER: Right. And there is some data that shows at 15 weeks people grow less comfortable. I mean, public opinion polling on abortion is notoriously difficult to measure. But your larger point is right, they're trying to go against something that they pushed for for decades that the base of their party really wants.

BERMAN: It was interesting hearing what the responses that Manu Raju got. They range from yes to no, to I am not listening, I am listening.

SANTANA: Right. If they had better messaging, they could actually make inroads with more Latino voters, because Latino, especially older voters, are a lot more conservative. And this is an issue with Latino populations being more catholic than the rest of the world. They don't support abortion but they don't have messaging for voters that they could pick up with this issue.

BERMAN: All right. Maria, Lisa, Abby, nice to see all of you.


Thank you so much.

So, we have a CNN exclusive this morning. We are learning that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena in the Justice Department investigation into January 6th.

KEILAR: A new report calls the COVID death toll a massive global failure. What a commission said should have been done early on.

And a new book revealing Melania Trump was convinced that her husband was, quote, screwing up the COVID response.


BERMAN: So, a CNN exclusive this morning, we learned that Donald Trump's former White House chief of staff, this last one, Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the DOJ, the Department of Justice investigation, the federal investigation into January 6th. This makes him the highest ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

Back with me, Abby Phillip, and now joining us, CNN Legal Analyst and former New York City Prosecutor Paul Callan.

Paul, the significance here, this is not the congressional investigation.


This isn't a contempt of Congress thing that he was risking. When the feds issue you a subpoena, you pretty much have to comply.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you do have to comply or you can be held in contempt of the grand jury. Other charges can be lodged against you. But I think here, the real question is, is Mark Meadows trying to be John Dean or H.R. Haldman. Remember, in the Nixon administration, Haldeman was the chief of staff, just like Mark Meadows, he went to prison on three felony charges, I believe, for a long period of time. John Dean on the other hand cooperated at a very early stage and got a much better deal. He spent about four months in a hotel room cooperating with prosecutors.

So, I think when I'm looking at this situation with Mark Meadows now, that's the big question. Will he cooperate? He was the intermediary for Trump with the outside world in a lot of respects. So, obviously, he's valuable to prosecutors if they're really looking at Trump.

PHILLIP: I think there is though a possibility that it could be none of the above.

BERMAN: Option C.

PHILLIP: Option C. I mean, Mark Meadows here has turned over to the DOJ what he gave to the January 6th committee, which is some text messages, some other documents but withholding others based on his own determination that they are privileged. So, he didn't go above and beyond in responding to this subpoena, he's not volunteering anything more than he's given and his cooperation with the January 6th committee, remember, stopped pretty distinctly at a particular point. He decided at a certain point he wasn't going to go any further.

I think he's trying to do just enough to stay out of jail but not enough to actually get in a position where he's putting Trump in any kind of jeopardy because Mark Meadows is still very much in Trump world, he's still dealing with Trump donors. He has an organization that is basically funded by Trump supporters and Trump donors. He can't afford to be on the wrong side of the former president.

BERMAN: And, again, to be clear, our reporting is that he complied with parts of the subpoena, not cooperated, not cooperated, at least as far as we know, not yet.

One other aspect now of the federal investigation, Paul, that I want your take on is we learned that Jeffrey Clark, who is this former Justice Department official who was involved at some point and maybe he was going to take over the entire DOJ and step in the way of ratifying the election. We have learned that the search of his belongings and house was based on violations of false statements, conspiracy and obstruction. What do those possible charges mean to you?

CALLAN: Well, you know, the background on this individual is that he was being actively considered by Trump to replace Bill Barr has attorney general. But the staff revolted, including in-house council and said, this guy, he is just unfit, he can't be attorney general. But on the other hand, he is a high ranking official in the Justice Department, or at least was. So, I think, one, it's very surprising that the Department of Justice goes after one of its own. And this is an aggressive move against him, you know, conducting a search and making noises about criminal charges. So, I think it shows that Garland is being very, very aggressive with this investigation, with all of the subpoenas and the people he's going after.

BERMAN: But false statements and obstruction, in and of themselves, sort of imply behavior after January 6th.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think that is what kind of sticks out to me. They are perhaps looking at what Jeffrey Clark may or may not have done that was trying to perhaps obscure his activities before January 6th. He is a central figure in all of this. He is one of their own at the DOJ. But one of the revelations of the January 6th committee was that most people in DOJ leadership thought he had no business being anywhere near the top of that institution.

And so, Jeffrey Clark inserting himself in this election -- this intermediary period between the election and the inauguration is of critical importance when you're looking at what was the plan here, and how much, you know, preexisting planning was there by Jeffrey Clark to try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in this country? He is at the heart of that.

CALLAN: And the key fact, John, is, was he trying to trade his office, his potential office, being named as attorney general, for an agreement that he would investigate and push false and fraudulent election fraud theories.

BERMAN: Yes, that gets to the conspiracy. It doesn't get to the obstruction or the false statements since, which is also very interesting.

Paul Callan, Abby Phillip, it's nice to see you.

CALLAN: Good seeing you, John.

BERMAN: So, a new report highlighting failures in the early COVID response. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us ahead.

KEILAR: And a Chick-Fil-A employee rushing to help a woman who was carjacked while she was holding her baby.