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At This Hour

White House Easter Egg Roll Returns After 2-Year Hiatus; Shanghai Reports First COVID Deaths Of Latest Outbreak; War In Ukraine Threatens To Drive U.S. Inflation Even Higher. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 18, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: How resilient they are. But when you see that mother and you hear President Zelenskyy's reaction, how much longer do you think they can actually hold on?

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, I think they are strong people and they will hang on as long as they need to hang on. But I think what you're seeing is the human cost of war, and Zelenskyy, I mean, one of the things that makes him so credible as a leader is that he is empathetic to individuals and he understands the pain that individual Ukrainians are going through and react, as he said, as a father, but he also reacts as the father of the nation and what needs to be done further.

And so, to that end, he is uniting his nation, calling on other nations to support Ukraine in, you know, the fight that they are in right now, and the harder fight that they are going to be in, in coming days.

BOLDUAN: It's hard to -- I think it's hard when you see images like that for people to kind of grasp but -- that the fight is going to get harder, Ambassador. How much harder do you think -- I mean, how do you even describe what they're going to be up against when this offensive if it hasn't started already, begins in the east?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, you're absolutely right. It's horrifying what we seem to date. But if intelligence sources are correct, if Zelenskyy and others are correct, I think that there's going to be a massive land war in the east, the likes of which we have not seen since World War II. And that is pretty horrifying when you also combine that with the airpower that Russia still has.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And let's -- I mean, what -- look no further than what we've seen in Mariupol or at least what is feared that is taking place in Mariupol because there's so little visibility there. I mean, some are wondering now if what is -- what Mariupol's up against, as Mariupol's last stand. I mean, Ukrainian forces are not giving up despite the latest demand for surrender. And I want to play what Ukraine's Foreign Minister actually said on CBS yesterday about the impact if Ukrainians defending the city are killed.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: After Bucha, it was -- it became particularly difficult to continue talking with the Russians. But as my president mentioned, Mariupol may be a red line.


BOLDUAN: It may be a red line. If negotiations are completely cut off, I mean, what happens -- depending on what we see happen in Mariupol, what then, Ambassador?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think, you know, every war ends at some point and they end with talks and so there will be talks between Russia and Ukraine, and perhaps other countries as well, at some point in the future. But the fact of the matter is the Russians, Putin has not been serious about negotiations even though he has been sort of continuing the talks, although a couple of days ago, he said that, you know, there was nothing productive coming out of it. So I think that -- you know I think once either side or both sides are ready to have productive talks, there will be talks.

BOLDUAN: Yes. The -- President Zelenskyy also said in this interview with Jake Tapper that he's hopeful that President Biden will go to Ukraine. I mean, we've seen other world leaders like the Prime Minister -- the British Prime Minister head over there. So far, the line from the administration is that there are no plans that Biden would go over but there are talks of another high-ranking U.S. official to head over. How important is it, do you think for the U.S. president to go?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think there are a lot of considerations, obviously, security being one of the paramount considerations. There's also the issue of when the American President travels, you're taking a lot of resources from the host country, and Ukraine needs to be focusing on the matter at hand, which is defeating Russia and supporting its own people. And if resources are diverted to protect the American President, to protect the entourage, etcetera, is that a good use of those Ukrainian resources?

BOLDUAN: A lot of it gets to -- you know, some of it is its engagement or on obviously a real level, but it also is symbolic, right? That's why I think Zelenskyy says that he's hopeful that the president would come over. What do you think that symbol is if it ends up being the secretary of state or the defense secretary who would go over to meet with him?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Well, I think there are many different ways of symbolizing that engagement and we've seen it already once before when Secretary of State Blinken crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border and met with a foreign minister very briefly in Lviv, on Ukrainian soil. And so I think there are many ways of capturing that visually and symbolically. But the fact of the matter is, also that our partnership with Ukraine is very strong.


YOVANOVITCH: You know when you look at the sanctions when you look at the weapons and the weapons systems that are being sent over now when you look at the political support in the UN and around the world, our partnership is strong.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Ambassador, thank you for coming on.


BOLDUAN: So Russia's merciless attacks to hit civilians and even those in -- Russia's merciless attacks continue to hit civilians and even those working so hard to help them in this war, a restaurant partnering with a charity founded by Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen. That restaurant was struck in a missile attack in Kharkiv over the weekend. The attack injured four staffers.


CHEF JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: This war needs to end and we need to tell Russia please stop killing civilians non-stop day and night. That's why people -- that's why a lot of people are stealing bunkers, is why many people, they don't want to be in the comfort of their homes and many nights they go to the safety of subway. That's why again, this war needs to end.


BOLDUAN: That's Jose Andres there. And also World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook posted this photo on Twitter saying that the injured staff members are recovering and in good spirits. And he calls them true heroes. A quick programming note, the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Putin and lived to expose the truth, the Sundance award-winning CNN film, Navalny, it airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern -- at 9 p.m. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE1: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE2: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remarkably, Vladimir Putin faces a legitimate opponent, Alexei Navalny.

ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: I don't want Putin to become president. If I want to be a leader of a country I have to organize people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Kremlin hates Navalny so much that they refused to say his name.

NAVALNY: Passengers heard me cry out in agony. Come on, poisoned, seriously? We are creating a coalition to fight this regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are killed, what message do you leave behind for the Russian people?

NAVALNY: It's very simple. Never give up.

ANNOUNCER: "Navalny" Sunday at 9 on CNN and streaming on CNN Plus.




BOLDUAN: A tradition returns. President Biden and the First Lady are welcoming thousands of families to the White House for the Easter Egg Roll. It's the first time this annual tradition is back at the White House in two years because, of course, of the pandemic. CNN's Kate Bennett is on the South Lawn of the White House for us this hour. Kate, it's the delightful chaos that returns.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean this -- we're in between groups right now, which is why you don't see kids behind me rolling the Easter eggs, but they'll soon be a third group of people. 30,000 people are expected today. They all got tickets through the lottery. I mean, this is really the first time the Biden administration has had a chance to throw up in the gates, quite literally, and let people in because of the pandemic. So this is a -- was a big deal.

The President and the First Lady were here. The First Lady, themed this year's Egg Roll, EGGucation. She's a lifelong teacher, of course, and they went down and they read a book in the reading nook that's here. There's also a petting zoo, lots of activities for kids. But I really think it's important to note, a lot of these -- most of the people who got tickets did not have to be COVID tested, they did not have to show proof of vaccination, all of today's events are outside.

Also, last weekend, White House tours resumed, another big moment for the White House that the public can come back in and tour the White House as they have for years and years that people's house as the President said today, welcome to your house. So certainly this is a big moment. And you know the weather's not so great today in Washington but still, we've seen thousands and thousands of families enjoying a reopened White House for the 142nd White House Easter Egg Roll, so the tradition continues after a short hiatus of two years.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And no matter how nasty the weather may get, you can still leave with a massive sugar high which is all these kids really need.



BENNETT: Yes, and also the commemorative egg here which is a big deal. This is Biden blue, pick -- the color picked by the First Lady, paw print from Commander and Willow, the White House cats, so very coveted item too. I take one of those.

BOLDUAN: As Kate puts it directly into her pocket. It's good to see you. Thank you so much.

BENNETT: You too, thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's turn now to China. A very different take on the pandemic right now where Shanghai is now reporting its first COVID deaths since this current outbreak began. The massive city has, as we've reported, been under a strict lockdown for weeks as cases have been surging. CNN's Steven Jiang has the latest from China.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Kate, the first officially confirmed COVID deaths in Shanghai in this latest wave involves three unvaccinated senior citizens, aged around 90 with underlying medical conditions.


JIANG: So this amazingly low death rate, three out of more than 370,000 infections so far, is really raising a lot of questions among independent experts about the authenticity of Chinese government figures. But in a way, it's also putting the Chinese authorities in a bind.

While they're highlighting these kinds of numbers to showcase the effectiveness of their strict zero COVID policy, it is also making it very difficult to justify the continued lockdown of more than 25 million residents of Shanghai, the country's biggest city, its financial center, but also a very important manufacturing and export hub.

It is really Shanghai's prominence in global trade that makes what's happening there increasingly felt not just across China but across the world. Of course, for weeks, residents there have been complaining about growing challenges of getting access to groceries and medical care for non-COVID causes but that also means -- seating off millions of people at home means they're not working at the city's international port and major factories, which almost all of the world's leading companies and brands depend on to produce and move their products and parts.

So, that's why the increasingly draconian lockdown in Shanghai is going to impact not just China's economy, but the already very strained global supply chain, eventually American consumers, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Steven, thank you so much for that. And coming up. We're going to talk more about the strain that Steven's getting it right there, and the direct line also between Russia's war on Ukraine, and inflation here in the U.S., growing fears of a coming recession. The very latest take from the chief economist at Moody's next.



BOLDUAN: Now, the U.S. economy and growing concerns that Russia's war in Ukraine could drive inflation even higher, and remember, it's already at a 40-year high. Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told clients that the fallout from the war has become meaningfully more problematic. Mark Zandi joins me now. It's good to see you again. You put the odds that a recession beginning in the next 12 months at one in -- at a one in three chance, are the odds getting better or worse, as you're looking out there right now, Mark?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, Kate, when three is pretty high, you know uncomfortably high, and I think there -- as long as the Russian aggression continues, and the potential for higher oil prices remains and as long as the pandemic continues to create havoc around the world, you can see what's happening in China, recession risks are going to continue to rise, so uncomfortably high probabilities that are moving higher.

BOLDUAN: Late last week, I saw Moody's warned in a report that the U.S. economy is barreling toward full employment, and unless job growth cools, trouble is brewing. Of course, on its face, low unemployment, more people in paying jobs is a good thing. Why is this adding to the problem?

ZANDI: Yes. You know, it doesn't sound right to the year, does it, Kate? I mean, the economy is booming, creating lots of jobs, half a million each and every month, and we've been doing that for more than a year. And that's a good thing when unemployment is really high, which has been throughout much of the pandemic but since we've been creating so much -- so many jobs for such a long period, unemployment now is low, it's 3.6 percent, and headed lower.

And at some point, labor markets get so tight, there's so many unfilled positions, businesses have to pay workers a lot more in wages, they have to pass that through to their customers in the form of higher prices, inflation accelerates, and as you mentioned, inflation already is just incredibly high -- uncomfortably high. And in that environment, that becomes a problem, the high inflation, high- interest rates. And that's -- you know, if you look back historically, that's kind of the fodder for when recessions get going here and that's why probabilities are so high.

So, it's really important, in addition to getting to the other side of what's going on in Russia and Ukraine, and on the other side of the pandemic, we have to -- the economy has to slow down a bit, create fewer jobs -- still create jobs with fewer jobs so that the -- that the economy doesn't overheat, and interest rates get to a place where it pushes us into recession. So it's a very kind of delicate balance here that needs to play out over the course of the next 12, 24 months.

BOLDUAN: Now, let's talk about the other thing you're adding in to this equation now, because the CNN Business wrote it this morning, the biggest risk to the global economy that no one is talking about, which is what's happening in China. I mean, it just reported a solid start to the year in terms of GDP growth, but this latest round of -- I mean very -- brutal draconian strict lockdowns and shutdowns because of the Omicron surge is a thing and it's going to have ripple effects. I mean, what do you think the ripple effects could be?

ZANDI: Yes. Now, this goes right to the supply chains and inflation, right? So this came to the fore about this time last year when the delta wave started to hit the global economy, shut down factories and seaports throughout most of Asia, including China, and that's where a lot of these supply chains begin and that creates shortages, you know. That's why there's no vehicles on dealer lots because the producers of -- vehicle producers couldn't produce cars because they couldn't get what they needed from the factories in China.

And so, that same problem dynamic is starting to play out again because of this new wave that's hitting China and, of course, China's no COVID, a draconian policy is locking down everything. So, you know, so far it hasn't kind of rippled through to a significant degree but, you know, obviously, if this continues on in China, and they can't get their factories up and running and they can't keep the ports moving, then we're going to see more shortages and higher prices just exacerbates all the problems that we've been having all along.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, talk about a delicate balance. It's almost -- it's starting to look -- get harder and harder to see how the Fed can get this right and get the country out of this without something painful happening, but we will be there together.


BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Mark. Thank you so much.

ZANDI: Sure thing.

BOLDUAN: Before we go, a reminder, everyone. You can also join me every morning on the new CNN Plus show, 5 Things at 7 a.m. Eastern and always available on demand. You can sign up at I'm Kate Bolduan, thank you so much for joining us today. The news continues now. INSIDE POLITICS starts after a quick break.