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At This Hour

Biden's Inflation Fighting Plans; Uvalde Tragedy. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching at this hour.

Taking on inflation: President Biden pushing a new plan to try to bring prices down. Meeting with the Federal Reserve chairman today.

What does any of this really mean for consumers right now?

One of Biden's top economic advisers is our guest.

Searching for the leak: the Supreme Court going to new lengths to try and find who leaked a draft opinion about a landmark abortion case. We have new reporting on the investigation exclusive to CNN.

And Uvalde one week later: funerals are beginning for the children and the teachers murdered. And still major questions about what actually happened with law enforcement on the scene, those serious questions amid the grief. We'll get to it.


BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for being here. Today, the president and his administration are making a major push to refocus on the economy and defend his handling of it.

In a new opinion piece in "The Wall Street Journal," the president claims that the U.S. is in a better economic position than almost any country in the world. He credits his own policies with helping to achieve the strongest recovery in modern history.

He's also facing public sentiment that's making clear Americans don't feel that strength, not by a long shot. Gallup's economic confidence index, out today, shows its lowest reading since the pandemic began.

Gallup reporting that this is likely the lowest public confidence has been in the economy since the tail end of the Great Recession in early 2009. Biden's team is now outlining what they are calling a three-part plan to fight inflation and to turn this around.

Inflation will be number one, the number one agenda item, when the president meets with the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, this afternoon at the White House. And this meeting comes as we get the latest read on the health of the economy. New data out this morning on the housing market and consumer confidence.

Let's start with Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House, for more on what the president is saying and planning.

Jeremy, what is this plan from the White House now?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as President Biden prepares to sit down with the Federal Reserve chairman today, he and the White House are launching a renewed effort to try to show Americans, first of all, that he understands the pain they are facing with inflation across the country.

But also to try to demonstrate what his plan is to combat inflation. In a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, the president outlining the three- part plan, the first of which is essentially to let the Federal Reserve do its job, promising not to unduly influence the Fed, as he's appointed both Republican and Democratic nominees to the Federal Reserve board.

He's also talking about taking steps to make things more affordable for Americans. A lot of those steps include policies that he proposed in his Build Back Better framework that really have no way of moving in Congress, everything from lowering prescription drug costs to lowering the cost of child care.

Then the president also talking about continuing to reduce the federal deficit, touting the efforts he's made to reduce the deficit and also talking about efforts to reform the tax code.

Again, those efforts also stuck in the Build Back Better legislation that really has not seen the light of day.

Now the White House says this is all part of what they call a months- long effort to promote the administration's policies aimed at combating inflation. Even just today, 20 TV hits scheduled by administration officials to talk about this effort. It really is the latest attempt by the White House to do so.

We saw the president earlier this month, three weeks ago today, talking about his efforts on inflation, also criticizing Republicans' plans related to inflation. Expect to see much more of that this month as the White House tries to land its messaging facing the tough poll numbers you were mentioning.

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thanks. Really appreciate it.

Now let's get to the new economic data that's out this morning about home prices. A new read on how Americans feel about it all. CNN's Matt Egan has been looking at it and has new reports and is joining us now.

Matt, what do you see in the two reports today?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: It is kind of a confusing time for the economy because the jobs market is on fire. Unemployment is historically low. And Americans are shopping.

But as you mentioned, people are not feeling good right now. We saw new numbers today, showing consumer confidence declined in May. It remains somewhat low, given how strong the jobs market is; 1 in 4 consumers expect business conditions to get worse over the next six months.

This is really all about the high cost of living and the fact that consumer prices are rising at the fastest pace in 40 years, including housing costs. Another report out today showed that home prices in the United States rose by 20.6 percent year over year in March.


EGAN: That is the fastest pace on record, surpassing even what we saw in the mid 2000s housing bubble. Supply of homes not keeping up with demand, especially true in the Sun Belt. We saw massive gains for Tampa, Phoenix, Miami, all of them 30 percent plus increases year- over-year for home prices.

I think the big question is how long this will last.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

EGAN: Rock bottom mortgage rates fueled the housing boom. It's going away. The Fed is raising interest rates. Mortgage rates have spiked above 5 percent. We could see home price gains cool off.

I think one other thing that is important to remember with home prices is this is really a case of haves and have nots. If you own a home, this is great news. It means your net worth has gone up. If you're a first-time home buyer, it means it is harder to buy a home. This pushes up rental rates for everyone.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for laying that out. Appreciate it.

There is also one number that tells a lot of Americans really everything they need to know about inflation: the price of gas. It is continuing to climb, hitting another record high today.

Nationwide, the average for a gallon of gas is $4.62, putting a real squeeze on millions of Americans, continuing to put a squeeze on them, especially commuting to and from work. CNN's Gabe Cohen is live in Washington with a look at this.

What are you finding?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it's a hot labor market, so some workers are seeing the gas prices rise and they're asking for stipends or raises. Others are trying switch to remote jobs.

But not every employee has that option. For the workers commuting again, the cost here is staggering. The new average gas price, $4.62 a gallon, is up $1.58 in the past year. In some places, it is far worse than that. There are several stations in California where the price is actually

higher than the federal minimum wage. With oil prices rising again this morning, gas prices are expected to follow.

The average U.S. commute now costs an extra roughly $35 a month compared to pre-COVID-19, much worse in certain cities. It's a particularly big burden for, one, people who live in rural areas, who have to drive much longer distances to work or to run errands.

And, of course, for lower income families. They're buying the same gas. They're often making the same commutes but they have far less expendable income.

I spoke with a couple in New Jersey. They commute more than 100 miles per day combined. Their gas bill this month was more than $1,000. But the husband is eight years away from his pension, so he can't just quit, even if it means they can't retire in eight years as they planned.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't think at this age that we would be, I guess --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Financially strapped is --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. We didn't think that we would be talking about money every single day.


EGAN: Look, some employees are pushing back. In Washington state, more than 100 employees contracted to work on Google Maps, signed a petition refusing to go back to the office.

The question is, will this become more of a factor as these prices keep rising and workers plan their future?

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Gabe. Thank you for that.

Let's get more from Jared Bernstein of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Thank you for being here. I want to get to the opinion piece the president wrote in "The Wall Street Journal." In it, he lays out this three-part plan you guys are talking about.

He says in it that tackling inflation is his top economic priority. We have heard that from him.

So should the American people judge the administration and judge the president on how quickly and how far you bring down inflation?

JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: I think the American people have every right to judge our administration and the president's words by looking at our efforts on precisely that issue.

When the president says it is his top domestic priority, he means it. And we have to show that to the American people. He's been doing so and he will continue to do so.

In fact, while we're certainly upping those efforts, especially in terms of our public-facing comments this month, if you listen to every speech the president has given on the economy, he's talked about not only what a challenge this is for American households but what we have been doing and what we're going to continue to do.

In areas of supply chains, energy, lowering costs for households, in housing, every one of those, he goes through in his op-ed today. Top domestic priority, he means it; we mean it. We're going to push on that until we see prices ease.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned you judge him on his efforts.

But what about the results?

Are you confident the efforts will bring results, that consumers are going to --


BERNSTEIN: I'm very confident.


BERNSTEIN: Yes. I'm very confident. Look, every forecast we've seen has inflation growing more slowly toward the end of this year.


BERNSTEIN: Whether we get down to -- you know, how far that goes is a matter of how accurate those forecasts are. You know, we're not in the forecasting business here. We're in the business of making sure those forecasts come to pass.

How can we do that?

We can ease pressure at the pump, as you just reported. One of the most important and tangible issues, not just for the American people but this president grew up in a family, where high gas prices were a dinner table topic of conversation.

He feels that challenge in his bones. And he's always been very much relating to those kinds of middle class --


BERNSTEIN: -- the largest release of --


BERNSTEIN: -- in ethanol to increase the supply in gas stations that do that. And working with Congress --


BERNSTEIN: -- that he's proposed, that could save families $500 a year on their annual utility bills.

BOLDUAN: Jared, your shot is taking some hits. We're going to power through and hopefully it regains strength, if you will. You said you're not in the forecasting business but you definitely are in the setting goals business, as any leader needs to be.

So what is the goal here?

Is it to bring inflation back to 2 percent, 3 percent?

What's the goal?

What is the measure of success?

BERNSTEIN: There's three parts to this goal. Three parts to getting to this measure of success. One is to make sure the Federal Reserve has all the space it -- that's a very clear goal. What does it mean to get inflation under control?

It means that the pace of inflation -- aggressively pivots to its new interest rate stance. It means, from our side, lowering the cost that families face at the pump, to prescription drugs, to elderly and child care.

As I mentioned, it may have gotten cut out but the president is working with Congress to pass clean energy investment tax credits that will lower utility bills to families by $500.

Then the third part, and this is on the books, this is a deficit that's on track to fall by $1.7 trillion this year, that's an historical record, that also takes pressure off prices.

All of those, if you put them together, will contribute to slower growing inflation as the year goes on, which, again, is --


BOLDUAN: Those are the steps you hope will get you to a goal.

But is the goal 2 percent or 3 percent?

Would I be wrong to assume that would be a goal?

BERNSTEIN: Well, now you're getting into the Federal Reserve's territory. And we're trying to make sure that we underscore their independence. The goal is to get inflation down to around 2 percent.

If you'll get their forecast, that's a goal that they see coming after a couple of years. Our goal is to do everything we can to ease inflationary pressures. What I'm not going to do now is give you a number and a date and say, by this date, inflation will be this percent. There's too many uncertainties out there.

Our goal is not to forecast some kind of an inflation rate that we may or may not hit. Our goal is to do everything we can to ease price pressures at the pump, when it comes to family budgets and to bring down the deficit to also take pressure off prices.

Now all of those together -- I don't want to be -- I want to be very clear about the direction of inflation. All of those should very much contribute to slower price growth as we get to the end of the year.

But this is going to be something we will be working on consistently until we see inflation get to a much more comfortable level for American households.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Jared. Thank you for coming in.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: It's been one week since the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. New audio is raising more questions on how and when police responded to the shooting. Details in a live report next.





BOLDUAN: One week after the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, we're still piecing together the events of that day. Today, CNN obtained new audio from the shooting. In it, you can hear what appears to be a child saying that they've been shot. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Uvalde with more on this.

What can you tell us about this new video?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. It raises more questions. It appears as though police may have been in touch with children who were victims of this shooting as it was unfolding and, yet, still did not go inside the classroom, where the gunman was barricaded.

This video we obtained from an individual who didn't want to be identified but said he was recording this on his Facebook Live stream. The audio you're about to hear is purportedly from CBP radio traffic.

We don't understand or know why this was on or would be on CBP radio. But according to the individual who filmed the video, he said, as soon as CBP agents realized he could overhear this conversation, which appears to be between an adult and child who'd been shot, they turned down the radio volume.

We want you to listen for yourselves but we want to warn you, also, this could be difficult for some of you to hear. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see. Let me see.

Are you injured?



VALENCIA: We don't know exactly at what point during this shooting the video was recorded but it gives us another piece of evidence to the chaos that was surrounding this shooting.

Now another incident that was -- or another ceremony that was supposed to take place today is not going to take place.


VALENCIA: A statement from the mayor here in Uvalde says city council members were expected to be sworn in, including the controversial police chief of the school district, Pete Arradondo.

He was the one who made the decision to keep law enforcement back from going into the classroom where the gunman was barricaded. Many parents and residents in the community blame him for that decision, for the dramatic loss of life, 21 individuals that were lost here in this community that's deeply wounded this South Texas town of about 15,000 people.

And there is more grief and so much pain here still evident, just one week since this happened. Two funerals are expected to happen later today for two of the smallest victims. We also know that at least three rosaries and visitations will also take place.

You know, this memorial behind me continues to grow by the hour. We're seeing residents here, with tears in their eyes, coming here, trying to make sense of what happened, including small children, who understand the gravity of what is going on around them. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, thank you for that.

As more families are laying their loved ones to rest in Uvalde, a bipartisan group of senators are actually going to be talking today in an effort to find common ground on gun safety reforms. Yesterday President Biden, of course, this is following his visit to Uvalde, he said he believes a compromise is possible.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Second Amendment was never absolute. I think things have gotten so bad, that everybody is getting more rational about it. At least that's my hope and prayer.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more on what these discussions even look like right now.

Manu, who is part of the talks and what could be on the table?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a small bipartisan group of senators who do plan to meet sometime later this afternoon virtually to discuss what could be possible. And there are various small changes to gun laws in which they'll be discussing.

Changes to red flag laws, in which an individual, if they're deemed to be a threat, they can get a court order to essentially take away that person's firearm, how to deal with that at the state level.

Also potential changes to background checks, including allowing more reporting of mental health issues into the background check system. Also potential talk of seeing whether they could raise the legal age of buying an AR-15, an assault rifle, to the age of 21.

The senators who are planning to discuss what might be possible are four of them today, Senators John Cornyn and Chris Murphy, Thom Tillis and Kyrsten Sinema. Two Democrats, two Republicans to talk about what might be possible on the Senate side.

On the House side, you're seeing provisions that are laid out in a House Judiciary Committee bill in which Democrats plan to push forward on Thursday out of the committee. A much more sweeping set of changes they're pushing in a bill they're calling the Protecting Our Kids Act, including, among other things, restricting large capacity magazines.

Now the challenge for Democrats pushing the stricter gun control measures, they're likely to get the votes out of the House but the Senate, a different animal, requiring 60 votes, 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans to break any filibuster, which is why the focus, in large part, is on what the small bipartisan group of senators can reach, if anything.

Will it be enough?

Something we won't know until the days ahead.

BOLDUAN: And how long it'll take, that's unclear. Thank you, Manu, for the update.

While Congress is just beginning what could be a lengthy negotiation toward gun reform, Canada is already taking action. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introducing a bill to ban Canadians from buying or selling or transferring or importing handguns, essentially capping the market.

The new legislation would also require long gun magazines never holding more than five rounds. It'd increase penalties for gun smuggling. Trudeau said the bill was part of his duty.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: As a government, as a society, we have a responsibility to act to prevent more tragedies. Canadians certainly don't need assault style weapons that were

designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.

Gun violence is a complex problem but, at the end of the day, the math is really quite simple. The fewer the guns in our communities, the safer everyone will be.


BOLDUAN: Now Canada has already banned 1,500 types of military-style assault weapons, including the kind used in the Uvalde murder massacre.

Coming up now, exclusive CNN reporting about the Supreme Court. Inside the investigation to find who leaked the draft opinion that could overturn Roe versus Wade.


BOLDUAN: The unprecedented steps that court investigators could be taking. That's next.




BOLDUAN: Now to a CNN exclusive. The Supreme Court taking unprecedented steps to uncover who leaked the draft opinion.