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At This Hour

President Biden Travels To Israel Ahead Of Trip To Saudi Arabia; U.S. Stocks Down Sharply As Inflation Hits New 40-Year High; Russian Missiles Kill At Least 22 In Ukraine, Including 3 Children; Trump Tried To Call White House Support Staffer Talking With 1/6 Committee. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR President Biden in Israel, united yet divided on how to take on Iran's nuclear ambitions. And new CNN reporting on the witness that President Trump tried to call in the insurrection investigation. And the rising demand for the monkeypox vaccine as the outbreak continues to spread.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

Thank you so much for being here, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. AT THIS HOUR President Biden's trip to the Middle East. The president vowing that the United States is not going to, quote, "wait forever" for Iran to rejoin nuclear talks. Biden making those comments during a press conference alongside Israel's prime minister. Both leaders pledging their commitment to never letting Iran develop nuclear weapons. But the leaders did make clear that there is still disagreement on the best approach.

Biden also reaffirming the importance of a Jewish state and a two- state solution ahead of tomorrow's meeting with the Palestinian president before heading to the most controversial portion of his Mideast visit flying to Saudi Arabia.

Joining me right now for more on all of this CNN's Wolf blitzers and Kaitlan Collins live in Jerusalem.

Thanks, guys. It's great that you're still -- that you're there once again.

Wolf, the leaders today made very clear that they are united in their goal that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon but also in that press conference it became very clear there are differences in approach and how fast and just how to stop Iran from that outcome.

Do you get any sense that there's been any progress made in bridging that gap?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think there's been some progress but there are still, as you correctly point out, disagreements between the U.S. and Israel, for example, on trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal which was put together during the Obama administration which then President Trump rejected and threw away. And now the U.S. during the Biden administration has been trying to revive it.

It doesn't look like it's going very far, at least not now. The Iranians do have a proposal on the table, and the president, President Biden, said the Iranians so far have rejected it, have not accepted it. He would like them to accept it. The Israelis are totally skeptical about any revival of that Iran nuclear deal.

They did issue earlier today, the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, they did issue a joint declaration. It's called the Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration, and in the Iran section they said this. "The United States stresses the integral -- the United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome."

Those are strong statements. The Israelis certainly support that. They signed on to that. The question is would the U.S. use military force if they thought the Iranians were getting close to developing some sort of nuclear weapon? The Israelis have made it clear they certainly would and in a TV interview here in Israel before leaving Washington President Biden said he would certainly use military force, and his words were very precise. He said as a last resort. As a last resort.

The Israelis, I think, have a different definition of as a last resort. If they thought the Iranians were getting close enough they would use some sort of military force and obviously that could explode, who knows what would happen, as a result of that. So it's clearly a significant issue but it's not just the Israelis who are concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. It's some of the Arab countries in the region as well, especially the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

And the president is going to be heading to Saudi Arabia tomorrow. This is one area where the Israelis and the Saudis have some common agreement. They both fear Iran and its nuclear program. We'll see what happens when the president goes to Saudi Arabia. We'll see how far he gets with the Saudis. But that's a significant issue to deal with when he gets there, to Jeddah, tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And just -- and Kaitlan, just before the president does go to Jeddah, he's also going to be meeting with the Palestinian Authority president tomorrow. He's declaring once again today his support for a two-state solution.


And in his meeting with the Palestinian president tomorrow, what are the expectations for this meeting?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think they're pretty low because really that's kind of been the expectation for this entire meeting, this entire trip here that President Biden has made when it comes to any kind of new proposals, any kind of groundbreaking proposals to move forward with the two-state solution. And President Biden kind of made that clear right off the bat when he landed here in Israel yesterday and in his remarks said that he still advocates for a two-state solution.

He still wants to see one. But he said he doesn't believe that's happening anywhere in the near term. And so basically the White House's view is other administrations have tried very hard to advance that. They have gotten nowhere. They have failed. And so if they don't feel like there is any momentum there, any traction there, they're not going to make that their priority to push it forward because basically they've seen other people try that and fail.

Other presidents do that and so they don't want to go in that same direction. So it is notable, though, that he is going to be meeting with the Palestinian leader tomorrow. The view of the Biden administration is basically that the Trump administration severed all relations with the Palestinians so they are kind of working their way back from that.

Now they have not undone some of the steps that you saw Trump take. They have started sending funding again. And so it will be notable that he is making that stop, of course, in addition to another meeting yesterday which is with the opposition leader here for the government in Israel which is of course Benjamin Netanyahu, someone that President Biden has known for about four decades.

BOLDUAN: Four decades. That relationship dates back.

Wolf, you mentioned, as you were talking about Saudi Arabia where the focus will turn very quickly, he made another effort to defend his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia tomorrow. I want to play for everyone what President Biden said when he was asked about the opposition that he has received in the United States to his meeting with Saudi leaders including with the crown prince. Let me play this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be meeting with nine other heads of state. It's not just -- this happens to be in Saudi Arabia. And so there are so many issues at stake. I will bring up -- I always bring up human rights. I always bring up human rights. But my position on Khashoggi has been so clear. If anyone doesn't understand it in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else, then they haven't been around for a while.


BOLDUAN: Wolf, the administration knows very well this visit is in the spotlight and facing a lot of scrutiny. How do they thread the needle if they can?

BLITZER: It's a really, really delicate diplomatic dance that they've got to go through right now when the president does arrive in Jeddah. And he keeps saying that it's not just the meeting he's going to have with the Saudi leadership. The GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council plus some other countries are going to be participating. The president keeps saying he's got a meeting with all of the leaders who are going to be there. But it's really a sensitive moment. The U.S. would like Saudi Arabia

to increase oil production with the hope that that perhaps could reduce the price per gallon of gasoline in the United States. The U.S. would like Saudi Arabia, for example, to follow what the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Morocco have done, Arab countries that have established full diplomatic relations with Israel. If President Biden were to achieve that goal, get the Saudis to normalize relations with Israel, that would be a major diplomatic coup, something he could go back to Washington with and claim credit for if he were able to do that.

But this is really sensitive especially if he decides that when he meets with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, he directly raises the issue of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist from "The Washington Post," a U.S. resident who was murdered and the U.S. intelligence community has basically blamed the Saudi leadership for ordering that murder. So this is a sensitive moment, and it's probably the most sensitive issue that the president of the United States is going to have to deal with when he shows up tomorrow in Saudi Arabia.

COLLINS: And Kate, one way to kind of view this meeting that President Biden is going to have is kind of as an icebreaker because it's the first time he is going to be meeting with the crown prince since he disparaged him on the campaign trail, rightfully so obviously given the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded he authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But this is going to be their first time coming face- to-face. And one thing that U.S. officials will tell you when they're talking to me is that there are still a lot of unknowns.

So much of what this relationship is going to look like going forward hinges on the conversations he is going to be having with the crown prince. So while he's downplaying that, he's going to Saudi Arabia, that of course is the most important relationship that the White House is paying attention to.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And still not clear how much the public, we all, will see or hear directly of these meetings when the president heads to Saudi Arabia.

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

Back here in the United States stocks are down sharply AT THIS HOUR as investors are bracing for another big interest rate hike to tame soaring and stubborn inflation. At the very same time President Biden's attempt to assure people that some inflation data may be out of date in his words and improving, well, that's being met with backlash from even fellow Democrats.


CNN's John Harwood joins me now for more on this. What's going on here, John?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what's going on is a hellacious problem for the American economy and for individual American families that the American president can't do all that much about, and that makes it a tremendous political problem for Joe Biden.

We have the recovery from the pandemic which has surged inflation around the world including in the United States, and now you've got the Federal Reserve, which is the agency that has principal responsibility for trying to tame inflation getting ready to take action that's going to be painful. So the only solutions for this problem are difficult and that makes it very, very tough for the American president.

It's also quite an unpredictable problem. It's once in a century pandemic. And the restarting of the economy from the shutdown of the pandemic has made the economic indicators, the gauges have been going wildly. So the president has not correctly anticipated in the past how long inflation would be. Neither has the Federal Reserve. Neither has the economic forecasting profession.

And so President Biden has got to watch these economic indicators, the new numbers that came out yesterday, and simply hope they get better. Gas prices are improving but this is a very, very tough moment for the Biden presidency.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you, John. Thank you so much for that perspective.

Coming up for us, we have breaking news coming out of Ukraine. A Russian cruise missile attack killing nearly two dozen people including children. CNN is now live at the scene. We're going to take you there next.



BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news. Russian missiles hitting civilian targets in the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia. The death toll is now at least 22 people including children. The strikes happened this morning in a commercial area.

Let's get over to CNN's Scott McLean. He is now live at the scene.

Scott, what are you seeing there?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Yes, let me show what the scene looks like. So this here is a -- it's actually a concert hall. It's called the House of Officers. This is where we understand one of the missiles hit directly. It is absolutely obliterated on the inside. We haven't gotten a chance to go inside but we're told that we will be able to shortly. But the entire top floor is gone. Most of the second floor is gone. There was not a basement so there was not a place for people to actually shelter.

You can see here they're trying to get rid of some of these cars that were in the parking lot and many like this one are completely burned out. And that's not because of the missile that hit the House of Officers, it's actually because of the missile that hit right here. This is the second one. And I just want to give you a bit of a sense of the scale here of what we're actually looking at and how big this crater actually is.

Remember, this is not dirt field. This is a concrete parking lot. It would take a lot of force to do this kind of a thing. And then you can also see over here just all of the shrapnel just bursting out this way. And I'll just take you over here and show you this is an office building, Kate, and you can see virtually every single window of this building is completely burned out. There was obviously a fire that had started on this level of the building. It's amazing that anyone could have survived. But clearly this concrete wall on the second -- or that's facing the blast site, would have saved a lot of lives.

Because I just spoke to a couple of people who have an office on the fourth floor and one woman told me she actually didn't go and seek shelter when those air raid sirens went off. She actually stayed inside of her office, and it is remarkable, it's amazing, she's lucky that the building wasn't pointed this way or that the missile didn't hit just 100 yards that way, otherwise it would have been a lot more difficult to survive. This woman did not have a single scratch on her.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it is -- you talked about obliteration, just the scenes around you are horrifying. And I note I've seen some images of strollers amongst the devastation. We know that children were among the dead. What are you seeing about that?

MCLEAN: Let me just take you over here, if I can, Kate. I apologize for the noise. It's like a construction site over here just because they're trying to clear everything out. It's been obviously a couple of hours since this happened.

You're right, there have been three children who are confirmed to have died. The Ukrainians say that throughout the course of this war there have been 1,000 children who have been injured, and the foreign minister earlier today sent out a picture that frankly -- that, frankly, I wish that I hadn't seen. It showed a child's body, thankfully blurred, next to a stroller, and this is the stroller still here. There were investigators here earlier that were taking pictures of it, that were marking it as evidence of what is a really indescribable crime.


And, you know, anyone who has kids, even anyone who doesn't have kids can -- it is impossible to fathom what these parents are going through who lost the child in something like this especially considering that here in Vinnytsia this is a city that is nowhere close to the frontlines. This is a city that the airport was targeted early on in the war but by and large there has not been any major attacks on civilian infrastructure here. And so people felt pretty safe.

In fact, I've met a lot of people in this country, Kate, who actually when Kyiv was under attack, when parts of the eastern part of the country were under attack and still are, they came to Vinnytsia to seek shelter here. So this is a place where internally displaced people are seeking shelter. It's not a place where people expect to be in danger. And so when those sirens go off surely yes, of course, many people seek shelter. But as I mentioned with the woman in the office, a lot of people don't.

BOLDUAN: Scott, as I'm looking at this, Vinnytsia it appears to be hundreds of miles from the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of miles away. Nowhere, as you said, nowhere near the frontlines. What would a military objective be that could end in this?

MCLEAN: Yes, I have not heard any word from the Russians right now. The only military structure that I can see here is actually just a monument over here to the Ukrainian Air Force, but it looks like it was probably put up decades ago and has been there ever since. Beyond that I'm not sure of any kind of military infrastructure in this area.

The Russians will insist and have insisted throughout this war that they don't target civilian infrastructure, and so surely they will come up with some kind of reason that this happened, but I can tell you that inside this concert hall here there was a concert, we understand, for this evening. So surely, it's difficult to imagine that there would have been any kind of active military anything taking place.

And quickly before I let you run, Kate, just to give you a sense of the force of the blast, there's a street car over here. All of the windows are completely blown out even across the street here. There are some windows that are damaged in some of the apartment buildings here as well. The blast radius here is absolutely enormous.

BOLDUAN: The force of the blast and what you're showing us is terrifying and, unfortunately, becoming very familiar. But now for the first time here in Vinnytsia, which, I mean, we'll see how many people are counted dead but this could be one of the deadliest single attacks on a civilian target since this invasion has begun.

Scott, thank you so much for being there. Scott McLean in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. We'll be returning to him throughout the day. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Now to reporting first on CNN. Sources tell CNN former President Donald Trump tried to call a White House support staffer who is speaking with the January 6th Committee. You will remember that Liz Cheney first alluded to this and made everyone aware of this at the very end of the last hearing, warning about Trump trying to call an unnamed witness.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is live in Washington with more on this for us.

Jessica, what more are you learning about this person?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, so we know that this White House support staffer may have information to corroborate part of Cassidy Hutchinson's explosive testimony late last month. But crucially here this staffer was not someone who routinely communicated with the former president so when a phone call came in indicating that it was Trump itself, we know that this person didn't pick up but instead contacted their lawyer who then alerted the committee, and the committee in turn informed the Justice Department.

Now we haven't heard any comment from DOJ but this is the third instance of possible witness tampering the committee has referenced and they all revolve around Cassidy Hutchinson and her explosive testimony. The first two instances they involved outreach to Hutchinson herself before her testimony. And of course she has so far been the most damaging witness for Trump. We, though, are likely to get a lot more information from inside the White House next week. That's when the committee has what could be its final hearing. Members are saying they'll be focused on those 187 minutes when Trump was out of public view as rioters stormed the Capitol.

So, Kate, there is a lot for the committee to draw on for this next hearing. They've conducted more than 1,000 witness interviews. So we'll see what comes and what they've gleaned about what Trump was doing in that crucial time period where he was seemingly silent -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jessica, thank you for that.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.

Jennifer, what do you think of this effort that Jessica laid out in more detail and the fact that the person didn't pick up the phone, didn't pick up the call, what does that do?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It means, Kate, that it's unlikely to support an actual separate charge for witness tampering unless there was a detailed voicemail left. You know, just the outreach itself won't support a separate criminal charge, but it does two things for the committee. One, it's a shot across the bow.