Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden Asks Congress For Additional $33 Billion In Ukraine Aid; U.S. Economy Shrinks, Consumer Spending Up In First Quarter; Moderna Asks FDA To Authorize Its COVID Vaccine For Kids Under 5. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 28, 2022 - 11:30   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From Japan on to say that we may divert our sale of the natural gas that we're sending to those countries and diverted directly to Poland and Bulgaria. So I -- you know, as much as I can tell you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, how concerned are you about a recession, given the GDP report today showed a contraction of 1.4 percent in the first quarter?

BIDEN: Well, I'm not concerned about a recession. And I mean, you're always concerned about a recession, but the GDP, you know, fell to 1.4 percent. But here's the deal. We also had last quarter consumer spending and business investment and residential investment increased at significant rates, both for leisure as well as hard products, number one. Number two, they -- were unemployment is at the lowest rate since 1970.

A record 4.5 million businesses were created last year. We're in a situation where, you know, we have a very different view than Senator Scott and Republicans that want to raise taxes on the middle-class families and want to include half the small business owners and that we -- so I think we're -- what you're seeing is enormous growth in the country that was affected by everything from COVID and the COVID blockages that we occurred along the way.

Now, you always have to be -- take a look, and no one is predicting a recession. Now, they're predicting they're -- some are predicting there may be a recession in 2023. I'm concerned about it. But I know one thing that you know if our Republican friends are really interested in doing something about dealing with economic growth, they should help us continue to lower the deficit, which we've done last year by over $350 billion.

They should be willing to work with us to have a tax code that is actually one that works and everybody pays their fair share. And they should be in a position where you shouldn't be raising taxes on middle-class folks. You should be raising taxes on people who everyone acknowledges that the vast majority of Republicans aren't paying their fair share. I've said it 100 times. You have you know, 50 major corporations of the Fortune 500 companies made $40 billion last year didn't pay a single penny. No one under our proposal and again $400,000 you will see a penny in their taxes go up not one penny.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President. Do you think COVID aid maybe -- do you think COVID aid and Ukraine aid should be tied together in legislation?

BIDEN: Well, I don't care how they tie how -- they do it. I'm sending them both up. I mean, I -- they can do it separately or together. But we need them both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, majority leader Schumer said yesterday that you're "getting closer to using executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt." Can you confirm that? What exactly are you looking -- plan to do in the coming (INAUDIBLE)?

BIDEN: Do you mean my spokesman said that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Majority leadership.

BIDEN: Look, number one, one first thing we did was reform the system that was in place that didn't work for anybody that allowed people to write off debt if they engaged in public service. We have almost 1,000,785 -- don't hold me the exact number I'll get the number. 700 and some 1000 have had debt forgiven. Their whole debt is forgiven because of their work. Working either as teachers or other means by which they qualify.

And we continue to make that easier. Secondly, I am considering dealing with some debt reduction. I am not considering a $50,000 debt reduction but I'm in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not, there are going to there will be additional debt forgiveness. And I'll have an answer on that in the next couple of weeks. Thank you.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: All right, we've been listening to President Biden, lots of updates there on U.S. assistance to Ukraine as the war in Ukraine continues. Back with me now, Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, let me start with you. What was the most important thing that stood out to you and what we heard from the president there?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So, Kate, I will say it's the fact that this is a long-term commitment. The very fact that he mentioned, you know, a whole series of elements within this aid package of the $33 billion, $20.4 billion would be military aid directly.

He also mentioned economic assistance. And the basic idea behind all of this is to counter Russian aggression. And he made it very clear and I think this was very telling he made it very clear that the words of Putin and Lavrov and the other Russian leaders, that this is actually a proxy war between NATO and Russia.


LEIGHTON: He discounted that. He said. No, this is a war between Ukraine and Russia but NATO will be supporting Ukraine and we will do this to the fullest extent possible. He also made it very clear that he did not -- continue not to want to put U.S. boots on the ground but he was going to do everything short of that, to allow the Ukrainians to defend themselves. Basically, this is an enabling build for the Ukrainians, and it is something that he will do to make sure that the war doesn't go any further. So it's the essence of the containment strategy.

BOLDUAN: And, Kim, as part of this, the president also talked about bolstering sanctions, liquidating assets, seized assets from Russian oligarchs, as well as kind of folding it into the conversation about Russian energy, and he called it, blackmail like we've heard from other European leaders in the -- in the energy moves that Russia is making.

But I still think the question remains, which is, if they are refreshed, it is getting billions of dollars a day from Europe currently for the sale of oil and gas, what really does any sanction or any liquidation of assets of any oligarch really do?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not much now. It's one of those things that takes weeks and months to really bite in. And the Russian decision to demand that countries pay in rubles, and then cut off to countries that refuse to do that will hurt them in the short term, but we are going into the summer months so those natural gas and other energy supplies won't be quite as necessary. And in the end, it's going to make Europe far more energy independent. They're going to find other sources, and it's going to backfire on Russia. But again, that takes time.

It's interesting. Russia had been very fiery in some of its comments from Putin and other senior officials. And the UK Foreign Secretary had been pretty fiery in her comments yesterday talking about even giving warplanes to Ukraine. But Biden has come in sort of implacably saying, we're sticking with the plan, we're continuing to arm Ukraine. No, it's not a proxy war but we're just going to keep grinding on and make this hurt.

BOLDUAN: In the most immediate, Arlette, the president made a pitch to Congress. He needs Congress. He says that he believes that they're going to move swiftly on this. And the real pitch, I think was right off the top. The cost of this fight is not cheap but caving to -- caving to aggression -- Russian aggression is going to be more costly. I mean, is the White House expecting quick cooperation from Congress or something of a fight?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're hoping but -- that they will get some quick cooperation. The president trying to explain why such a hefty price tag is needed to ensure that the Ukrainians have what they need to defend themselves. The president was very blunt, simply saying that we're running out of money and that in order to ensure that the Ukrainians have that heavy-duty, sophisticated weaponry that Congress needs to go ahead and fund this request.

Now, he also called for additional funding for COVID aid and he was asked whether he wants to see those two measures, the supplemental for Ukraine and COVID funding tied together, the president ultimately said, he doesn't care how it's passed, he just wants Congress to make sure that they do the work there. So this is a big question going forward, whether Republicans will be on board with this price tag that the president has laid out to help the Ukrainians over the course of the next five months, but the President also, in those remarks, really trying to make clear that it is Russia that is the aggressor.

And he was also asked about the possibility of Putin threatening that this war could expand. And the president very clearly said that we are prepared for whatever they do. So the president, yes, trying to ensure that Ukrainians have what they need to defend themselves but also saying that they are readying all scenarios if this war -- if Putin were to follow through with any of his aggressive actions, rhetoric towards the West.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so very much. The definite message of this war he does not expect it to end anytime soon. This is going to be the long-fought battle that everyone feared. Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us. The U.S. economy is in its worst performance since the pandemic recession but it's also not all bad news, the unusual economic picture that it paints. Details in a live report next.



BOLDUAN: New this morning. The broadest measure of economic activity in the U.S. shows bad news from the first three months of this year down 1.4 percent. This is the weakest performance since the pandemic recession. That's the bad news. But there's also evidence of signs of strength in the economy at the same time. I know. It's confusing. Consumer spending grew in the same period and business spending remains strong as well. CNN's John Harwood is at the White House with more on this. I mean, this report, John, paints an unusual picture of the economy in the first part of this year.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's unusual, Kate, because it's a classic example of a piece of economic data that doesn't mean what it looks like it means. Obviously, nobody wants to see the gross domestic product shrink as it did in these figures in the first quarter. But that doesn't mean the economy overall is actually shrinking. It's a technical measurement that has to do with the surge of imports that American consumers bought because the domestic supply couldn't keep up.

So, the underlying strength in terms of business investment, in terms of consumer spending, is still consistent with a solidly growing economy that's why the unemployment rate has gone down to 3.6 percent. The -- that very strength in the economy is why we've got an inflation problem and it's why the inflation problem is somewhat worse than it is in other parts of the world. But the problem for this economy right now is not economic growth, it's inflation, and that's what the Federal Reserve and the Biden administration are most concerned about right now.

BOLDUAN: Which also -- as we look forward, which is also why when you talk about the Federal Reserve and the actions they are expected to take, why big banks are predicting a recession to set in. So what is -- where is the crystal ball in time -- in terms of the administration and where they think the economy is going to be heading in the future?

HARWOOD: Well, there is an elevated risk of recession going forward compared to what we expected until just a few months ago. And that's the odd part of this report, a shrinking quarter. And like we show in --

BOLDUAN: Not the only are part, everything's out about it, John. What do you think?

HARWOOD: Exactly. A shrinking quarter, like we got in the first quarter of this year, would see -- is one of the signs of a recession. But it's not right now. There is concern about recession down the road as the Federal Reserve takes action to try to wring inflation out of the economy by raising interest rates.

The challenge for Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve is to do that skillfully enough that it doesn't throw the economy in recession. Right now, a recession is not the issue, it's not a problem. Inflation is. And the possibility of recession is going to turn on how skillfully the Federal Reserve is able to slow down the economy, cool down the economy by raising interest rates. The tough balancing act, we'll see if they can pull it off.

BOLDUAN: Just as the problems with the economy is one of, if not the, biggest problem that so many people see in this -- in the country today, so a lot going on.

HARWOOD: That's right.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, John. Thank you.

HARWOOD: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Turning now to the pandemic. A big announcement from Moderna today, officially asking the FDA to authorize its COVID vaccine for kids under the age of five, really paving the way for the youngest Americans to finally get vaccinated. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has all of these details for us. So what do we know about this vaccine, Elizabeth?


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we know is that it did produce antibodies in children ages six months to five which is great, and it was effective. But I'm going to show you the numbers, Kate, because they are not nearly what anyone really, really, really wants to see. So if you look at children six months to two years, it was 51 percent efficacy, if you look at two to five years, 37 percent efficacy. That's, not going to get anyone really, really excited. Is it better than having no protection? Absolutely.

But, Kate, here's the important part of this story, which is that Pfizer is also looking at a vaccine for children this age, six months to five years, and theirs is going to be a three-dose vaccine. What I just showed you, that was for two doses of Moderna.

If Pfizer's efficacy looks better, it is possible that the FDA will say you know what, let's just give all these children Pfizer. Because Dr. Anthony Fauci has already come out saying, look, it's going to be confusing or could be confusing to have two different regimens out there for parents to choose from. It -- we don't want that. We want something that's going to be less confusing. So in the meantime, Moderna is going to apply. Let's take a listen to their chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton.


DR. PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: We've submitted here in the United States, we'll be submitting to other major regulators around the world. I think, regulators, the FDA, public health organizations, recognize an unmet medical need here. They'll obviously do their very, very thorough review as they always do, but I think there is a general feeling to move fast.


COHEN: Kate, we just heard Dr. Burton say the FDA will give a very thorough review. The big question is will the FDA bring in their outside advisors? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. If they don't, in this case, I think they will come under a lot of fire, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Elizabeth, thank you so much for that. Coming up for us. Last year, he took everyone on an unforgettable tour of Italy. Now, Stanley Tucci is back with a new season of his award-winning show. Our conversation with Stanley Tucci is next.



BOLDUAN: Award-winning actor and best-selling author, Stanley Tucci is back. In the new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy, he takes us on another journey through the Italian peninsula. This season and his adventure start this time with a trip through Venice. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

STANLEY TUCCI, HOST, "SEARCHING FOR ITALY: And these are Cicchetti, a traditional Venetian snack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

TUCCI: It's only 8:30 but a Venetian breakfast is eaten standing up, washed down with a glass of wine known as an ombre or shadow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

TUCCI: This is fast food, lagoon style. The word Chicchetti means a nothing. Ironic because it's really something. (Speaking a foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

TUCCI: Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

TUCCI: I'm coming over here so I can see. Look at that. Go on.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now is the host of Searching For Italy, Stanley Tucci. Thank you so much for being here. It's so good. Not just the Cicchetti, the entire season. The first season, Stanley, was already so fun. I described it to everyone as just escapism at its best when we really needed it. Where did you want to take us this time?

TUCCI: Well, this time, we went to Venice in the Veneto area, and to a little region, just east of that. And then we went to Umbria and we also went to Piedmont, which is where the beginning of the modern Italy began, the unification of Italy. And then we stayed in London, which is where I live. And we stayed in London because, well, COVID made it a little difficult to travel. But because there were -- there are 5 -- almost 500,000 Italians living here, and a very strong Italian community and food community.

BOLDUAN: So this first episode in Venice, I was really struck by it because it's much more than gondolas and canals. You even go duck hunting. And I'm sure you don't know this about me but I grew up duck hunting in Indiana and Ohio, and I still do to this day with my father. And can I say from what I have seen that if that, that was your first experience duck hunting, you are officially ruined, Stanley? It was stunning. It was just gorgeous.

TUCCI: Yes. I know. It was one of the most beautiful landscapes ever. And as I say in the show, I had no idea that that kind of landscape existed outside of Venice. This was a 500-acre estate that this fellow owned and that he looks after.

BOLDUAN: It really is beautiful. And it was -- I found it really fascinating part of Italian culture, and the food scene that you were describing to everyone.


TUCCI: Yes, it's very different. You know, that's one of the reasons I wanted to do the show is to sort of dispel a lot of myths about Italian culture and Italian food in particular. And I think that we've done that to a certain extent, you know. The things that you eat in Venice are not necessarily what you might think you'd end up eating in Venice. Duck Ragu being one of them.

BOLDUAN: One of the chefs that you talked to said, Italy is not a cliche, and you really show that through this series -- through this season. I do love asking all of the hosts of our original series this question which is what surprised you in this season?

TUCCI: I think the diversity. I mean I set out to show the diversity but the more you explore it, the more you realize how diverse it really is. It was my intention to show that diversity through the -- trough the food obviously, but also the typography and a cultural -- difference cultural influences. But the more you dig into it you realize how profound that diversity really is.

BOLDUAN: So, Stanley Tucci is now synonymous with Italian food and culture and I'm sure people are constantly asking you now for advice on where to go and what to eat and definitely what to drink. What do you tell them, Stanley?

TUCCI: Oh, I tell them to go everywhere, eat everything and drink everything.

BOLDUAN: I think that's a -- that's a good way but I have no favorites. It's as if like I love it all.

TUCCI: Ride on. I don't really have favorites. I think you know when it comes to -- when it comes to Italy I think I prefer the sort of topography of the north because I just don't like the heat. But other than that, you're going to get pretty amazing food just about anywhere you go.

BOLDUAN: No, I prefer any take that Stanley Tucci has. You can take me -- you can take me on a walk anywhere in Italy, London, you pick it. It's good to see you. Thank you so much.

TUCCI: Nice to see you too, and thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Be sure to watch the new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy. It premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.