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Biden Announces U.S. Ban On Oil Imports Over Ukraine War; UN: 2 Million People Flee Ukraine Since Russian Invasion Began; U.S. Intel: Russia "Does Not Want A Direct Conflict" With U.S. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 08, 2022 - 11:30   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Although our ability to do business with the rest of the world. In addition, we're choking off Russia's access to technology like semiconductors that are -- and SAP, its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.

Major Companies are pulling out of Russia entirely without even being asked not by us. Over the weekend, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, they all suspended their services in Russia. All of them. Joining a growing list of American and global companies from Ford to Nike to Apple, they've suspended their operations in Russia.

The U.S. stock exchange has halted the trading of many Russian securities. And the private sector is united against Russia's vicious war of choice. The U.S. Department of Justice has assembled a dedicated Task Force to go after Russian crew -- the crimes of Russian oligarchs and we're joining with our European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets, and all their ill-begotten gains to make sure that they're sharing the pain of Putin's war. These, by the way, are giant yachts. You put some in your press. I mean, some of them are, I think I'd read one was over 400 feet long. I mean, it's -- this is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The decision today is not without cost here at home. Putin's war is already hurting American families at the gas pump. Since Putin began his military buildup in Ukrainian borders, just since then, the price of the gas of the pump in America went up 75 cents. And with this action, it's going to go up further. I'm going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home.

In coordination with our partners, we've already announced that we're releasing 6o million barrels of oil from our joint oil reserves, half of that, 30 billion -- million, excuse me, is coming from the United States. And we're taking steps to ensure the reliable supply of global energy are also going to keep working with every tool at our disposal to protect American families and businesses.

Now, let me -- let me say this. To the oil and gas companies and to the finance firms that backed them we understand Putin's war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise. We get that. That's self-evident. But, but, but, but it's no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit the situation or American -- or American consumers exploit them.

Russia's aggression is costing us all and is no time for profiteering or price gouging. I want to be clear about what we will not tolerate. But I also want to acknowledge those firms and oil and gas industries that are pulling out of Russia and joining other businesses that are leading by example. This is a time when we have to do our part and make sure we're not taking -- we're not taking advantage.

Look, I'd be clear about two other points. First, it's simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production. That's simply not true. Even amid the pandemic, companies in the United States pump more oil during my first year in office than they did during my predecessor's first year.

We're approaching record levels of oil and gas production in the United States and we're on track to set a record for oil production next year. In the United States, 90 percent of onshore oil production takes place on land that isn't owned by the federal government.

And of the remaining 10 percent, that occurs on federal land, the oil and gas industry has millions of acres leased. They have 9000 permits to drill now. They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9000 to drill onshore that are already approved. So let me be clear, let me be clear, they are not using them for production now. That's their decision. These are the facts. We should be honest about the facts.

Second, this crisis is a stark reminder, to protect our economy over the long term we need to become energy independent. I've had numerous conversations over the last three months with our European friends about how they have to wean themselves off of Russian oil. It's just not -- it's not tenable.

It should motivate us to accelerate the transition to clean energy. This is a perspective that extended our European ally share and the future where together we can achieve greater independence. Loosening environmental regulations and pulling back clean energy investment won't -- let me expand, won't, will not lower energy prices for families.

But transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles powered by clean energy with tax credits to help American families winterize their homes and use less energy, that will -- that will help. And if we can, if we do we can, it will mean that no one has to worry about the price of gas pumps in the future. [11:35:00]

BIDEN: That will mean tyrants like Putin won't be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations. And it will make America a world leader in manufacturing and exporting clean energy technologies of the future to countries all around the world. This is the goal we should be racing toward.

Over the last two weeks, Ukrainian people have inspired the world and I mean that in the literal sense, they've inspired the world with their bravery, their patrons, their defiant determination to live free. Putin's war -- Putin's war has caused enormous suffering and needless loss of life on women, children, everyone in Ukraine both Ukraine and I, my dad, Russians.

Ukrainian leaders, as well as leaders around the world, have repeatedly called for a ceasefire for humanitarian relief, for real diplomacy, but Putin seems determined to continue on his murderous path, no matter the cost. Putin's now targeting cities and has been targeted in cities and civilian schools, hospitals, apartment buildings.

Last week, he attacked the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, but an apparent disregard for the potential of triggering a nuclear meltdown. He has already turned 2 million Ukrainians into refugees. Russia may continue to grind out its advanced at a horrible price. But this much is already clear.

Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin. Putin may be able to take a city, but he'll never be able to hold the country. And if we do not respond to Putin's assault on global peace and stability today, the cost of freedom and to the American people will be even greater tomorrow. So we're going to continue to support the brave Ukrainian people as they fight for their country.

And I call on Congress to pass the $12 billion Ukraine assistance package that I have asked them for, of late. Ukrainian people are demonstrating by the physical courage that they are not about to just let Putin take what he wants. That's clear. They'll defend their freedom, their democracy, their lives. And we're going to keep providing security assistance, economic assistance, and humanitarian assistance. We're going to support them against tyranny, oppression, violent acts of subjugation.

People everywhere -- and I think, maybe even surprised some of you all. People everywhere, are speaking up for freedom. When the history of this word is written, Putin's war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger. And God bless all those years in Ukraine. And now I'm off to Texas. Thank you very, very much. I know there's a lot of --


BIDEN: I know -- I know there's a lot of questions but there's a lot more that has to be made clear. And I'm going to hold on to that until we get more information. Thank you. Appreciate it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: All right, we're listening to President Biden there making that big announcement banning Russian oil imports into the United States. Back with me now, CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood, here with me as well, Catherine Rampell. John, he said they're targeting the main artery of Russia's economy now with this announcement. What did you hear?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I heard was a president trying to shield himself from the blowback for this step in multiple ways. He called it Putin's price hike, he warned oil companies not to gouge, so trying to condition Americans to think that some of the increase may come from predatory behavior by the companies.

He said nothing his administration had done has held back domestic oil production so far. He referred to all of the leases that are held that are not -- where wells are not being drilled right now, that's a function in part of the lagging effect of depressing demand during the pandemic supply chain problems, that sort of thing. And he also said that this is a move that has bipartisan support, which is true, Republicans and Democrats.

Now, all of that is likely to be a pretty flimsy shield for the president because voters respond to conditions, Republicans are going to attack him for higher gas prices in any case, but nevertheless, he was -- he decided to take this step. He was trying to explain to the American people why he took the step, protect himself from the blowback that is not going to be easy to do.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Catherine, he also -- I mean, he also had a couple more things that he's saying, acknowledging many of our allies may not be in the position to join us here in this decision. And as he was speaking, the energy secretary in the UK announced that the UK will be phasing out Russian oil by the end of 2022. Is it clear what all of this is going to mean?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS & POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to mean higher prices, particularly for the consumers in those markets, right? Demand is really high right now. Supply has not been keeping up even before the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian invasion. If we are now constraining supply, even more, that's going to drive prices up.


RAMPELL: In the UK, they actually get a relatively small share of their crude oil per se from Russia, so -- as does the United States, by the way, so --

BOLDUAN: That's why they can make these moves work.

RAMPELL: That's why they can make these moves. I think that they may get some other oil -- other petroleum products and in higher shares from Russia. So it still will be painful. There's no way around that. And the fact that they're saying by the end of the year suggests that they want to give them some time to adjust, right? They're not doing it immediately. And the reason why is because they want to make sure that they can get other supplies online a little bit faster, but it's going to be painful, no matter what they do.

BOLDUAN: And I -- my -- the lingering question to all of this, John, it does -- do any of these moves, these big announcements, these shifts, do they change Vladimir Putin's behavior? Which is the big unknown, right?

HARWOOD: Well, clearly, they have not changed his behavior so far. More consequential has been the resistance that Ukrainians have offered to Russian military forces. But if it doesn't change his behavior immediately, the idea is to punish and keep escalating the cost on Russia to deter it down the road.

The one thing that the president underscored in those remarks was he talked about the Article 5 commitment under NATO. That only applies to military defense for NATO countries, not for Ukraine. So he was implicitly redrawing that line saying that the United States is not going to commit military force to Ukraine.

That is the line to watch as we go further. And as economic deterrence fails, the question is going to be what becomes of that military line and its possibility of deterring Putin?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. John, thank you very much. Catherine, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for being here. Coming up for us, more than 2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, President Biden was talking about the refugee crisis just now. Europe is now facing its greatest refugee crisis in a century. I'm going to speak at the top UN official about what the world is doing to help and what more is needed.



BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news. The United Nations now says more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. The UN, also, warning that the number could soon reach 5 million people forced to flee. CNN Scott McLean is live in Lviv in western Ukraine with the very latest. Scott, what does it been like today?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, look, it is not difficult to envision that 5 million number because of course, we know that on top of the 2 million who have already managed to get out of the country, there are plenty more who will be right there behind them.

The difficulty right now is that it's not easy to get out of the country. It's not easy to get across the country. People are being held up at checkpoints. And of course, if you're traveling by train, you can only go as fast as the train will let you on. There is lineups, there's massive crowds at many train stations in Kharkiv and Kyiv, and here in Lviv as well.

We met one man who was driving across the country from Kharkiv, took him four days. Normally you could do that drive in less than 24 hours under normal circumstances, but there are just so many checkpoints along the way. We met another family coming from there as well. They took the train, it was three trains and then a bus and then crossing the border on foot.

And, of course, many people are also trapped in cities. So once, if these humanitarian corridors pan out, and if people are allowed out of places like Mariupol, you could have hundreds of thousands of more people fleeing for the border. And even once people get to the border, Kate, as we found out yesterday, their journey is still far from over. We met one woman who was stuck in line in her car with her family for more than 24 hours.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid I won't have a place to come back to. I don't want to be somewhere out there. I'm comfortable here in my motherland. My worst fear is that there won't be an opportunity to come back here.


MCLEAN: Now, that woman didn't know where her family would go when she got to Poland, but plenty of other people are going to Poland because they know people there, they know people where that they can stay with. And so a lot of people who don't have connections in Europe are opting to stay here in Lviv. The mayor says that some 200,000 extra new residents are now here. You can only imagine the Exodus, if Russia started bombing this city as well, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Oh, absolutely. Scott, thank you. Joining me now for more on this is Ugochi Daniels. She's the Deputy Director-General of Operations at the United Nations International Organization for Migration. Thank you so much for being here. As Scott -- as my colleague was just laying out, over 2 million people in less than two weeks have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, and now this estimate is that it could be up to 5 million soon. Looking at what you're seeing, do you think it could be even higher, it could be even more?

UGOCHI DANIELS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, UN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: Thank you very much, Kate, for having me. Yes, certainly, we're seeing the massive outflows from Ukraine into the neighboring countries. And as your last speaker said, the numbers are just going to continue to increase as long as the war -- as long as the war continues.


DANIELS: And so it's very important that we are able to support the people who remain in Ukraine as well as those who are in the neighboring countries, as well as the 100,000 -- over 100,000 people from third countries, called third-country nationals who need to return home.

BOLDUAN: The humanitarian quarter that's been established from the town of Sumy in the northeast, do you have -- so far the ceasefire is holding we are told. Do you have any confidence that is going to hold? Are you getting any reports from there as this seems to be the only humanitarian route corridor that's so far been established and held?

DANIELS: What we understand is, as you can imagine, the situation is unpredictable and fluid. We're very encouraged by the recent reports that busloads have left Sumy with students headed for I think it's Poltava. But there are many more still left there. And so we join the UN and the Secretary-General in the calls for a humanitarian corridor so that innocent civilians can get out, but also so that humanitarian supplies can be brought in.

BOLDUAN: President Biden just spoke a few moments ago, and as part of his remarks, he spoke about refugees. And he said this. He said the United States will share in the responsibility of caring for the refugees so that the costs do not fall entirely on the European countries bordering Ukraine. What do you think the responsibility is of the United States here?

DANIELS: So, first of all, we're very appreciative of the neighboring countries who have welcomed the Ukrainians and other nationalities that have -- that have fled to their countries. I think this is a call to the total global community to support those who have been displaced to have fled for their lives from Ukraine. So it's a global -- it's a -- it's a responsibility for us all. And we are very appreciative of the recent announcement by President Biden.

BOLDUAN: And it's only going to grow as you've said. It's only going -- that need is only going to become more and more. Thank you so much for coming on, Ugochi Daniels. I really appreciate it, and your work. For more information about how you can help the people of Ukraine, go to We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: A just released new U.S. intelligence assessment lays out that Russia does not want a direct conflict with the United States but at the same time top Intel officials are saying today and laying out that Putin is ready to escalate this war even further. CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is live in Washington with more. Katie Bo, tell us more. What does this mean?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, so every year, Kate, the U.S. intelligence community releases what it calls the worldwide threat assessment. It's this unclassified report running down what the U.S. Intelligence Community, how the U.S. Intelligence Community sees all of these different major threats facing the United States.

The timing of the release of this year's report, of course, is pretty remarkable because it coincides with this -- with this Russian invasion of Ukraine that the world is all -- is so closely watching. One of the things that this report has assessed is that Russia -- that the U.S. Intelligence Community does not believe that Russian -- that Russia wants to directly engage the United States, right?

They don't actually want to try to go to war with the United States. They want to avoid that kind of conflict, if at all possible. And this is a pretty comforting assessment to hear publicly because Russian President Vladimir Putin several times over the last couple of weeks has publicly invoked the specter of his strategic nuclear forces.

He has said publicly that he has ordered his nuclear forces to be put on special alert status. Now, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines addressed those public announcements during her testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee this morning.


AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: But we do think, as I indicated, assess that he is effectively signaling that he's attempting to deter and that he has done that in other ways. For example, having the strategic nuclear forces, exercise, that we indicated had been postponed until February, begin then as a method of effectively deterring using his nuclear forces as a way to say this could escalate and therefore NATO should not get involved in that. That's been his main purpose in doing so.


LILLIS: Haines also said that this so-called special alert status that Putin ordered his forces to be placed on is not something --it's not a technical term in the Russian system at least, as far as the U.S. intelligence community is aware. So the bottom line here is Haines delivering a message that Putin's nuclear messaging is just that, messaging.

BOLDUAN: I guess there is some comfort to take in that, at least, at this moment. I'm also struck when she said that he's ready to escalate this war because he perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose. Katie Bo, thank you so much.

We also have this breaking news just in, to CNN, the Florida State Senate just passed the controversial Don't Say Gay bill, which would regulate lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. The legislation after this, it now heads to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis.

The governor has indicated he will likely sign it into law. Advocacy groups worry that the -- this bill, if it does become law and does regulate what it can be taught or not discussed in public schools will be harmful to LGBTQ plus youth who already face much greater rates of depression and suicide.

Thank you so much for being here today, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. CNN's breaking news coverage of the war in Ukraine continues with INSIDE POLITICS and John King. END