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At This Hour

U.S. Economy Adds 431K Jobs In March, Unemployment Drops To 3.6 Percent; Ukraine Won't Confirm Or Deny Strike On Russian Fuel Depot; Zelenskyy Fires Two Generals: I Don't Have Time To Deal With "Traitors". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 01, 2022 - 11:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though we've created a record number of jobs, we know, I know that this job is not finished. We need to do more to get prices under control.

Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. To help deal with that, yesterday I authorized the release of 1 million barrels per day for the next six months from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

I acknowledge this, by far, is the largest release from our national reserves in our history. It is a wartime bridge is the way I look at it, to increase our oil supply as we work with our oil, U.S. oil producers to ramp up their production to get us through this period.

I've coordinated this release with partners and allies around the world. This morning, over 30 countries from across the world convened an extraordinary meeting and agreed to the release of tens of millions of additional barrels of oil onto the market.

Hundreds of hours of meetings with key allies, keeping them together, is paying off. Nations are coming together to deny Putin the ability to weaponize his energy resources against American families not only American families, but families in Europe and around the world.

I've also made it a priority to get America's fiscal house in order. Under my predecessor, the federal budget deficit went up every single year, every year. As I committed when I was running and I got here, we're going to turn that around.

In fact, last year, in 2021, we cut the federal deficit by more than $350 billion. And this year, in 2022, we're on track to cut the deficit by more than $1.3 trillion, 1.3 trillion. That would be the largest one-year reduction in the deficit in U.S. history. And it's particularly important now as we work to reduce pressures on inflation. That's what happens when you reduce the deficit.

So here are the facts, it was the previous administration whose reckless policies and mismanagement led to the record budget deficits. In my administration, that's getting the deficit under control. In fact, I just released my budget this week, and it shows, going forward, we can cut the deficit by another $1 trillion over the next decade while still making prudent investments in economic growth, in climate, and other equitable economic decisions.

But to do that, we have to be willing to do something previous administrations and Republicans today refuse to do. We need to make sure corporations and the super wealthy begin to pay their fair share.

Here's one example, right now, billionaires, and there's not a whole lot of them in the country, maybe I won't give a number because I don't know for sure. They average less than 1 percent. But my point is billionaires pay an average rate of only 8 percent on their total income. A family led by a firefighter and a teacher can pay double that income tax rate, double what a billionaire pays, double the 8 percent.

So my budget has a Billionaire Minimum Tax, a 20 percent minimum tax that applies only to the top one, one-hundredth of -- one-hundredth of 1 percent of American households.

The Billionaire Minimum Tax is fair. And here's the deal, it raises $360 billion that can be used to lower costs for families and cut the deficit. It would add -- it would -- and I would add, nobody making less than four -- and you're tired of hearing me say it, but no one making less than $400,000 a year will pay a single penny more in federal taxes.

As I've said in the past, I'm a capitalist. I have no problem with people making as much money as they are capable of making. But I'm asking you one simple question, just pay your fair share. Pay your fair share. That's all. That's it. Just your fair share. And no one can argue that 20 percent for a billionaire is unfair.

Here's what this adds up to, we're going to continue to create jobs, bring down the cost for families, and rein in deficits left by my predecessor, all important steps in our pro -- to continue our historic progress to build a better America.

I said from the outset we're the only country in the world that's comes out of crises stronger than we went into them. That's what we're doing here.

I want to thank you all for showing up today. And we'll have plenty of time to answer questions about other items other than the jobs report next week. Thank you. Appreciate it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're just listening in the last bit of that there. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. That was President Biden speaking about the March jobs report. As he said, the U.S. economy adding 431,000 jobs, the unemployment rate falling to a pandemic era low.


Let me bring it now following the presidency and White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar, of course, she's a global business columnist, associate editor at the Financial Times. John, the President there, clearly happy about this report?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's very happy. He was touting the job gains, of course, the rapid pace at which unemployment has declined since the double digit heights of the pandemic. And since he became president, all of that is good news. The challenge is that unlike recent presidents who have not had a big inflation problem to deal with, Joe Biden does, and so the economy needs very high volumes of jobs added to keep up with the demand for goods and services.

We see wages rising, but they're still not keeping up with the level of inflation. And the danger is, the longer this goes on, the more that inflation could get entrenched in the economy and be a long term problem. But in terms of jobs, job growth, these are numbers that any President over the last generation would celebrate. And job growth continues to be strong throughout the Biden administration.

BOLDUAN: Another thing Rana that the President talked about was the upper provision, 95,000 for the previous two months of the year, how does that add to this story?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, you know, I think it means that this is a pretty good report for the President. It was strong, there's no doubt about that. And as John said, that's going to contribute to inflation. But it's a balancing act, right? I mean, people need more money in their pockets. And so a little bit of wage inflation is not a bad thing. The question is, does it spiral into other areas? I think that what this administration is trying to do is do everything it can with the release of Strategic Petroleum Reserves, you know, trying to get companies to work together to solve supply chain issues.

They're trying to tamp down inflation in the bad parts of the economy, but still make sure that you have an economy that works for working people, which is, you know, they plan for this administration worked out well. And you heard that echoed, as well with the message about taxes for billionaires, everybody paying their fair share. All in all, this is a good jobs report. It's hot, but it's not too hot.

BOLDUAN: John, the President was talking about some of the items on his domestic agenda. And it has been wondering, you know, with things going better with the economy, is it also a double edged sword, when it for this President in this exact regard, does it zap some of the urgency for these domestic agenda items that he's put it very clearly pushing still for?

HARWOOD: Well, some of the domestic agenda items had lost their momentum, of course, a couple of months ago, because of the difficulty of getting all 50 Democrats aligned behind it, the White House still believes they can get some trimmed down version of that Build Back Better plan. And there are other things on the horizon that are -- would be beneficial, in particular, in the medium term for some of those supply chain issues. There's a big semiconductor bill that is subject to negotiation between the House and the Senate, which would invest $50 billion in development of American semiconductors, potentially easing again, over the medium and long term, some of those supply chain issues. So there's some legislative movement, but this President has political problems right now, people are not feeling good about the economy.

Gas prices are a big headache. That's why he's done the very substantial release for six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And what the President has to do is hope that over time, inflation moderates, as economists had predicted it would in 2022. But of course, then the intervening event of the war in Ukraine has created a whole new set of inflationary pressures that he's got to deal with.

BOLDUAN: Yes, so the wildcard out there of inflation and what this war means for it. It's good to see you both. Thanks guys, really appreciate it.

Let's turn now to Ukraine, a new attack, raising big questions about the frontlines of the war in Ukraine. Russia is now claiming that it has been attacked on its own territory and development that, if true, would mark a significant escalation in the military in the nearly six week war. Here's the video posted on social media. It appears to show a fire at a fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia, which is near the Ukrainian border. An official in Belgorod claims that it was attacked by two Ukrainian helicopters.

Now CNN cannot independently verify that claim and Ukraine right now is neither confirming nor denying it. This comes as the Kremlin is working to bolster its true presence in Ukraine. U.K. military intelligence now saying that Russia is redeploying 2,000 troops from Georgia. And now Ukraine continues to have some successes on the battlefield that we talk about, retaking the city of -- near Kyiv for one, but the Donbass is now coming under heavy fire from Russian forces. And there does appear to be some discord in the Ukrainian military.


President Zelenskyy announcing overnight, he removed two top generals, warning that he doesn't have time to deal with, quote unquote, traitors.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: And today, another decision was made regarding anti-heroes. Now I do not have time to deal with all the traitors. But gradually, they will all be punished.


BOLDUAN: The worst hole on Ukraine civilians is impossible to fully account for right now. But Ukraine is now reporting that 153 children have been killed since the war began. Let's start with CNN's Phil Black, he's live in Lviv, Ukraine. Phil, on this, what really is the developing story in this fight, what are you learning about this attack, this purported attack, that Russia is pointing to in Belgorod?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, what we can be sure of is what the video shows, as you say, there are a number of videos that show the explosion, the fire. More than that, one particular video captured by a security camera shows incoming weapons striking that side, impacting that side, just moments before the explosion takes place.

So from that we can be pretty sure that someone shot that facility and created that explosion. The question is who, the Russian version is the two Ukrainian helicopters flew low over the border, and then over Russian territory before attacking that site in the City of Belgorod. The Ukrainian version is less clear. In fact, it is deliberately vague. It is quite literally we can neither confirm nor deny that we were responsible for this.

So from the Ukrainian point of view, either they didn't do it, or they did do it. And they are choosing not to celebrate it publicly. They are choosing to maintain public ambiguity. But Russia says that Ukraine did this. More than that, they say that this has been passed up to President Putin. And President Putin spokesman has said that this is the sort of event that could impact the atmosphere surrounding the ongoing negotiations between the two sides. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And Phil, what about this announcement from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, removing from service two generals.

BLACK: We don't know too many more details than what he said during that nightly address. But we're talking about generals from the Ukrainian Security Service. This is the intelligence and investigative body here, and there are two senior figures. One appears to have an overall national role. The other was the commander of a local region of that particular body, the Kherson region in the south.

You hear that he refers to them as traitors as people who have not chosen their homeland. So the implication is, they were playing for the other side. He also talks about not having time for all the traitors, which suggests that while these two senior people are notable, they may not be the only people that Ukraine has identified as not being thoroughly loyal to Ukraine's efforts in this war. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Phil, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, we're going to talk more about, well, that attack, what could be the first attack on Russian soil in this conflict? How this could change the course of the war next.



BOLDUAN: Back to what could be a dangerous escalation in the war in Ukraine? Well, there are many questions surrounding an attack on a fuel depot just over the border into Russia no matter who is to blame, it could signal a major shift in the conflict. It would be the first time, if confirmed in over five weeks, of war that an attack is reported on Russian soil.

Moscow, as we've discussed is accusing Ukraine of the strike scene here. CNN has not independently verified that. And Ukraine not confirming nor denying the claim at this moment. Joining me now, the retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner. General, this claim from Russia that Ukrainian helicopters attack this fuel depot, I find it interesting that the Ukraine's Ministry of Defense is literally saying they will not confirm nor deny the information. And we don't know yet. But if this was the first strike in Russia by Ukraine, what do you think it means?

BRIGADIER GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, first of all, I think there is probably some serious questions within the MOD itself whether this was a miscalculation or mistake. I personally don't think this was Ukrainian helicopters. But if it was, I would certainly hope that there's been some intervention by the United States who probably has the information, using their hotline to Moscow that they've set up for Ukraine to resolve as quickly as possible, because as you say, it could spiral in a direction that we don't want it to go.

BOLDUAN: I mean, do you -- I mean, what are all -- what are the -- what is the realm of possibility or the range of possibility of how this could spiral, General?

KIMMITT: Well, it's very simple. I mean, let's be very clear, this could be a false flag operation on the part of Vladimir Putin. In 1999, then Prime Minister Putin executed a series of three apartment buildings inside of southern Russia and Moscow for the specific purposes of building popular support for a second Chechnyan war. In fact, wrote a editorial in "The New York Times" in '99 about this. So this is not beyond the type of operations that we've seen come out of Vladimir Putin in the past. So I wouldn't put it past him to have done this this time as well.

BOLDUAN: It's a -- this very important perspective. Beth, I want your take on this. I mean, what do you make of just the statement coming from the Ministry of Defense in Ukraine?


BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I do think it's interesting there was also a tweet by the Ukrainian Air Force earlier in the day that claimed responsibility and then it was taken down. So it is very murky indeed. Also, regarding the false flag, it kind of surprises me that there weren't at least some claims of injuries or deaths, because a really good false flag is you fake, at least you fake those kinds of civilian deaths. In the case that the General mentioned those weren't fake, those were actually Russians who were killed under orders of Putin. At least that's what the claims are.

So, you know, it kind of surprises me that there wasn't more of that. And also surprises me that the Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov only just made noises about how conditions weren't conducive to continuing negotiations, but he didn't, you know, throw the hammer down and call an end to it. That said, this provides a good excuses for them to continue their bombings and, you know, maybe up the bombings, although, you know, they're already at a high rate right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I was going to say if -- I know and how much higher they can actually go considering what Ukraine is suffering right now. General, also, Ukraine's President overnight, announcing that he's removed from duty two top generals saying that the generals, the way he put it, have not decided where their homeland is, and calling them traitors, it doesn't sound good at all. So what do you think of it in the fact that Zelenskyy announced it?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, I don't have the background on why he relieved those generals, but relieving generals in a time of war is not unusual, nor should it be unusual. Many generals do a great job during peacetime. They're not really ready when war comes. You know, the firing of the generals, this operation had happened inside Russia. But this is what we often call the fog of war. So we've just got to accept that these types of things happen. We mitigate them as much as possible, but they do happen in conflicts.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Beth, there's a renewed effort now to try to get civilians evacuated from Mariupol while get them evacuated safely. And a local official in that city offered a really horrible assessment of how many people he thinks have been killed there so far in the weeks that the city has been under a bombardment. He spoke to John Berman, earlier. Let me play what he said.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Maxim I understand that you say you can't get a true count of how many people have been killed because there's just no way to do it. And in some cases, the bodies are just everywhere.

MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: Yes, there are I think it's numbers it's tens of thousands. It's very terrible.

BERMAN: Ten thousand people killed?

BORODIN: Yes, I think the real numbers are near here because a lot of people are dead. A lot of people undesirables. And no one before the Ukraine take control over the Mariupol, no one can count the real situation on civilian deaths.


BOLDUAN: And Beth this gets to the fact that we don't have a clear picture of the extent of the number of people killed yet in this -- through this invasion. I mean, when there is a clear picture, how is that going to change the response from the rest of the world or does it?

SANNER: Well, unfortunately, I think it doesn't, in some ways. And it is something that the U.S. government and our allies have to work on in communicating this level of destruction, and just horrible, horrible, you know, war crimes that have been conducted by Russia, because outside of what we call the Western world, there isn't this universal condemnation of what is going on in Ukraine. We had Foreign Minister Lavrov in India today, sitting down at a table with Prime Minister Modi talking about their good relations. And, you know, India is in a tough spot because they need Russian arms to defend against China. But it shows the complication of this. The world is not necessarily rallying behind Ukraine, to the extent that we focus on it as part of the Western world.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see both of you. Thank you very much.


Coming up for us, if NATO membership is off the table for Ukraine, how can the U.S. and allies and its allies guarantee the country's security and safety, new CNN reporting of those discussions next.


BOLDUAN: New reporting just in to CNN. The U.S. and allies are weighing what security guarantees they can now provide to Ukraine if it does -- if it decides to formally drop its bid for NATO membership. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live in Washington with these details. So Natasha, what options are being considered?


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, this is a serious problem that the U.S. and allies are trying to solve right now which is the Ukrainians have said that they are willing perhaps to forego NATO.