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At This Hour

Jill Biden Tests Positive For COVID, Experiencing Mild Symptoms; Soon: Biden To Sign Massive Climate, Health Care And Tax; Explosions Rock Russian Ammunition Depot In Crimea. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 16, 2022 - 11:30   ET



JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Very closely with the attorney general about how to respond to this and when to respond to it. The intelligence committees have a legitimate interest from an oversight perspective of knowing about the specifics here. And I think at some point, the DNI on behalf -- leading the intelligence community should render and will render, I'm sure, a damage assessment. That is, what damage would accrue if this -- if the document -- the intelligence documents, I emphasize intelligence documents were exposed?

And so I think the issue is, though, doing so -- the timing of doing so and whether or not that would jeopardize the evidentiary case in the course of, a potential prosecution. So, again, if I were DNI, I'd be snuggling up real close to the attorney general and make sure I didn't want to fall off anything the Attorney General wants to do in terms of prosecuting a case.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And talk to me about the timing because I think that is interesting here. Can -- did they -- can a damage assessment and can it -- can it happen on parallel tracks? Like what clarity would they be offering these committees with oversight over the -- over intelligence would they get and not get if they were offering this up?

CLAPPER: Well, that's a hard question. It's a good question but it's a hard one. And that's why I emphasize the importance of timing in relation to the investigatory process that the attorney general has underway. So this is not a simple -- a simple proposition. And to a certain extent, the Intel -- the intelligence community then has to do kind of a hypothetical examination of what could damage -- what could damage could -- what damage could accrue if these intelligence documents fell into the wrong hands.

And, of course, the concern that the intelligence community is always going to have is jeopardy to sources and methods that lead to the creation of those documents, not knowing the substance of the intelligence documents. It's hard to assess from afar and certainly in the public domain just what damage is involved. And we -- you know, we don't know that in the absence of knowing the substantive content of these documents. BOLDUAN: And that's exactly right. And an important thing to acknowledge, once again, is there is so much that is not known about what is -- what is -- what we're talking about here. There's also then this request from Republicans and also some media organizations, including CNN, to release the affidavit, the sworn document providing justification for the search. I want to play for you what Republican Congressman Michael McCaul told me yesterday about that. Let me -- listen to this.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX): The affidavit of probable cause in support of the warrant, we need to see that in Congress, on the intelligence committees need to see this as well. If it's such a national security threat, then why weren't we briefed? And we would like to be briefed on that issue.


BOLDUAN: What do you think about that? And McCaul is saying if it was such a national security interest, why weren't we already briefed?

CLAPPER: Well, I certainly understand Congressman McCaul and others in the Congress that believed they are entitled to a virtue of their oversight responsibilities to have access to this information. Obviously, these conflicts, I think, with preserving the sanctity of the investigation, not revealing the evidentiary basis and the roadmap for how that -- how the case will be -- will be pursued. As well, this could potentially jeopardize witnesses or future witnesses since again, according to media reporting, there was supposedly an insider at Mar-a-Lago that tipped the government as to the presence of these classified documents.

So, this is not an easy issue. And, you know, you can certainly understand the conflicting interests here. The interests of Congress and its oversight responsibilities, and the interest of the attorney general has and in preserving the sanctity and secrecy of the legal proceeding that he has underway.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I think.


And what you put so well from your past experiences just what a tricky moment this really is that we all -- that we find ourselves in because of those competing interests and those conflicting interests. It's good to see you, Director, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, the White House just announced the first lady, Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID. We have details on how she is doing and her -- and her course of treatment next.


[11:40:11] BOLDUAN: Just in to CNN, the White House announcing moments ago that First Lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID while on vacation in South Carolina. Any moment, President Biden will be heading back to Washington though traveling without the First Lady. CNN's Kate Bennett is live in Washington with details for us. Kate, how is -- how is Jill Biden doing?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, she has mild cold- like symptoms, I'm told. She was not feeling so well Monday evening. She took a standard test that morning and was negative. She took an antigen test that night, Monday night, still negative, but she took a PCR test and that one came up positive. So clearly the first lady does have COVID.

You know, she and the president just spent a significant time apart during his COVID isolation. And now instead of being with him as he goes back to Washington, she will remain on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. I've spoken to the east wing, I'm told that other family members that were on vacation with the Bidens this week down there, so far, so good. None of them have tested positive yet. The First Lady, of course, will isolate.

I'm also told though, Kate, that she is working. She's got a new fall semester coming up of teaching at our community college here near Washington, DC so she is active, she's feeling OK, and after her isolation, she will likely return to Washington and hopefully, back to her duties as first lady, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, and wishing her a swift and easy recovery with this COVID. It's good to see you, Kate. Thank you.

BENNETT: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: So while the first lady is isolating with COVID, President Biden, as I mentioned, is soon going to be headed back to the White House where in a few hours, he has a very big moment ahead of him. He will be signing into law, the Inflation Reduction Act. CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House for us with more on this. John, what does today signify for this administration, for this president?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is really the capstone of a -- what has become a pretty long list of legislative accomplishments that President Biden and the Democratic Congress have racked up both bipartisan achievements like the infrastructure bill, the semiconductor manufacturing bill, the burn pits bill, veteran's health care, but also partisan achievements, the American rescue plan last year and now the Inflation Reduction Act, which is the capstone of it is the climate portion of it $369 billion to enhance clean energy, green energy, and reduce carbon emissions.

They believe that it will result in a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. There are also important health care provisions that extended subsidies for middle-class people to buy the Affordable Care Act coverage. You've got Medicare having the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices and bring those down. You got a minimum tax on corporations. Oddly enough, the one thing you don't have a lot of in this bill is inflation reduction. It's kind of a misnomer. It's a marketing gimmick because Americans are concerned about inflation. Joe Manchin was concerned about inflation. He provided the 50th vote. Economists agree it won't make inflation worse, but it will only have a negligible effect if it materializes in making it better. But Joe Biden is very happy to sign that piece of legislation this afternoon.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. We'll be watching that and see what he has to say about it. John, it's great to see you. Thank you.

Joining me now for more on this is Cecilia Rouse. She is the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Cecilia, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: Do you see this as the biggest day of the Biden presidency so far?

ROUSE: I think this represents a culmination of the Biden administration's effort to bring together a package of economic policies that help our economy get to the next level. So we began with the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which we know makes very important investments in our physical infrastructure, and important investments that help us make to get to cleaner energy with a -- you know EV charging stations, etcetera. It's -- next, we have the Chips Act, which is, helps us to bring innovation here to the United States.

We need -- we know we need investments in semiconductors. We know we need some of the innovation research in order to know how to make the leap, especially in terms of clean energy and as we rely more on technology. And this final piece, which represents this historic investment in climate will help us reach the president's goals in terms of climate -- dealing with climate change, but it also brings important cost reduction for American families in terms of prescription drug costs, health insurance costs, and makes our tax code fairer, and will, you know, reduce the deficit, which will actually increase our economic capacity and help us deal with inflation going forward.

BOLDUAN: Cecelia, Democrats titled this bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, which begs, of course, for voters to hold you all accountable to that. The Congressional Budget Office, you know this, but to remind viewers, the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan kind of scoring organization for legislation says that the bill would have a negligible impact on inflation this year and next. Are you personally comfortable as an economist calling it the Inflation Reduction Act?


ROUSE: So this bill represents really important investments we know we need to make that helped to expand our economic capacity. Inflation happens when we have too much demand for the supply. And we know we need to be investing in the supply supports so that we are better able as a country to address issues like inflation going forward. So this will increase our economic growth. And because of how we plan to implement it and provisions in the bill, it will -- that growth will be more equitably shared.

BOLDUAN: But if you passed a bill called the fill every pothole act, I mean, voters should expect you to fill every pothole. I mean, so should voters measure the success of this bill on how much you reduce inflation in the next couple of years?

ROUSE: So this inflation -- this bill spins out over several years. And so the tax provisions, for example, some of the tax revenue will happen immediately, some of the benefits in terms of deficit reduction will materialize over time. So again, this is really an investment in our economy. It represents the president's economic vision for transitioning to an economy that works better for American families by generating the kind of growth that's based on stable, steady productivity gains in the language of economists. So that kind of growth that we know we need to be making in order to ensure that we continue progressing for the decades to come.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And a name is just to name but there are definitely a lot of other names you could have named this bill. Regardless, I want to move though, to the president is up against a deadline to announce whether he'll extend the pause on student loan payments that was first put in place at the start of the pandemic. Democrats and many others want to see it extended, but another extension and any loan forgiveness can add to the exact problem that we are talking about, inflation. Where do you land on this?

ROUSE: So the loan forgiveness also has to be considered in the context of the fact that for the last one -- last two and a half years, also, those who hold loans have not been making their loan payments. So we need to be considered in the full context. So we need to restart payments, we need to be considering whether the president -- this is the president's decision whether he's going to forgive loans. Let's keep in mind and -- let's keep in mind that the president has been forgiving loans, the Department of Education forgiven loans on I think it must be around $20 billion for those who've attended for-profit colleges and were largely defrauded.

But we understand that the student loan -- student loans are an issue. The president will be making a decision. And the impacts on inflation will depend on the -- you know we have to keep it in the context of the restart. And let's also face it, this happens over time. Loan payments are not -- students pay loan -- paying their payments over time. So it's not a one-hit shock to the economy, like a stimulus would be as many people might be thinking in mind.

BOLDUAN: Right. And you also do acknowledge that this whole discussion, though, is really a band-aid given that it does nothing to address the core issue. That is the exorbitant cost of higher education.

ROUSE: Absolutely. That's why the president is also considering other reforms to the loan -- federal loan program wants to bolster income- driven repayment, and also in encouraging state governments to use some of their American Rescue Plan funds to help re-subsidize their higher education system so that instead of passing on the cost of higher education to the students and their families, it's more borne by the taxpayers as well.

BOLDUAN: Cecilia, thank you for coming on. Appreciate it.

ROUSE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, explosions rocking an ammunition depot in Russia-controlled Crimea. Russia calls it sabotage. A live report from Ukraine, next.



BOLDUAN: I want to turn to the war in Ukraine, explosions rocking ammunition depot in Russian annex Crimea. Russia is blaming Ukraine for the blasts. This is the second suspected Ukrainian attack in the peninsula and last week when Russian fighter jets were destroyed at an airbase in the very same region. CNN's David McKenzie is live in Kyiv for us. David, what are you learning about this?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, look at these extraordinary images, these taken from people riding in a bus several miles away from the scene of those blasts. Several blasts, it was so powerful that people talking on their cellphone videos saying they can feel the bus shaking because of the power. And the question is now, who's responsible? Russian as you say blaming it on saboteurs, sabotage after a fire, Ukraine is not saying much. But it does lead to more, I think, evidence -- certainly circumstantial evidence that the Ukrainians are able to strike deep within Russian- controlled territory in Crimea.

You had a similar incident almost exactly a week ago. And we saw those satellite images that you described of these fighter jets on the tarmac on the western part of the Crimean peninsula before and after, several of them, according to our investigations totally destroyed by that blast. Is this significant? Yes, it is. It shows that potentially, Ukraine is able to strike far outside of its area of control in this conflict.

Now, does it have a significant impact on the ongoing war? That is up for debate. There's been a grinding conflict, Kate, in the eastern part of Ukraine for several weeks now. And in the past few days, it's gotten very intense with Ukraine even admitting that it's losing some territory, Kate.

BOLDUAN: David, thank you so much for that update. I really appreciate it.


I would like to close now before we go with this, a very big career move for the first active openly gay player in the NFL, free agent defensive lineman Carl Nassib. He tells CNN he is joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a homecoming for him. He played on the team for two seasons before joining the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. Nassib did not disclose any contract details, but kickoff for the 2022 season begins in less than a month. That is exciting.

Thanks so much for being here. President Biden. He is heading back to Washington to have a very big moment for this president for this administration in signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this.