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Biden To Make Student Loan Relief Announcement Tomorrow; Weather, Staff Shortages Force Thousands Of Flight Cancellations; Voters Head To The Polls In New York, Florida & Oklahoma. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 23, 2022 - 11:30   ET



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have in up until now. Now, one of those who was speaking with Alexander Dugin. Who is of course, that idealogue who is apparently very close to Vladimir Putin, as far as Vladimir Putin's thinking, especially about Ukraine is concerned? And I want you to listen to a little bit of what he said.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price that we have to pay can be justified by only one thing, the highest achievement, victory. She lived in the name of victory and she died in the name of victory, our Russian victory, our truth, our orthodoxy, our country, and our empire.


PLEITGEN: So, you see, Kate, speaking openly of a Russian victory and a Russian Empire, obviously something you know that is -- maybe not necessarily something that's in the mainstream of Russian society, but certainly if you look at the top echelons of Russian state-controlled media, definitely something that other people have been voicing as well. But again, the Ukrainians categorically saying they have nothing to do with the killing of Daria Dugina, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it's good to see you, Fred. Thank you very much. Joining me now for more on this is CNN Global Affairs analyst Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer at The New Yorker, of course. So, Susan, what do you think the impact could be on the war in Ukraine, this car bombing? And what -- you now you just heard her Father Alexander Dugin, what he was saying at a memorial service. The impact on Putin, and then the impact that -- on Ukraine, what do you think it could be?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, the timing is, you know, very suspect in the sense that it comes at a moment when Ukraine has been launching strikes behind the lines on Russian facilities, including places like occupied Crimea which the Russians had come to think of not only as their own conquered territory but also as a staging ground in a base for their a war of aggression on Ukraine.

And so, this obviously distracts the Russian people from that, it's -- Ukrainian independence day this week is being celebrated, of course, Russia -- the United States Intelligence already warned that Russia may seek to use that moment for enhanced attacks on Ukrainian civilian, infrastructure, and targets. And so, you know, I think at a minimum, you see, you know, a father using his own daughter's death to rally the Russian people.

He's used words like, you know, Nazis in relation to the Ukrainians. And he is one of the leading people inside Russia today, casting this as almost an existential contest to wipe out Ukrainians as a people and as a nation.

BOLDUAN: I spoke with the state -- the State Department spokesman Ned Price last night about all of this. I want to play for you what he said.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Look, there are lots of questions. Again, we have heard very clearly from our Ukrainian partners, they have nothing to do with this. I think it also bears repeating something we all know that we have to take with a grain of salt absolutely everything we hear from the Kremlin. The Kremlin has never given us a reason to look at its statements with any degree of credibility.


BOLDUAN: And Ned Price was being careful with his words on this, but I wonder what you think of the administration's response like that to this car bombing and kind of the fallout in the escalation that it could cause? Why do you think they're being cautious?

GLASSER: Well, I -- you know, look, I'm sure they're also in information gathering mode. This has just happened very quickly. And in fact, that's one of the reasons I think you see many Russian analysts casting a skeptical note here is because the FSB -- the Russian FSB came up with this sort of neat explanation for this -- for this attack so quickly, and you know, claim that they knew exactly what had happened and pinpointed it.

It was almost out of a spy novel. Their explanation and a woman who moved into the building and her 12-year-old daughter, and surveilling Dugina with a MINI Cooper and then fleeing to Estonia, which often figures as the sort of bad guy country in Russian propaganda, despite it being just a tiny country, nowhere comparable to, you know, an actual threat to Russia.

And so, you know, I think you see what bears the hallmarks of a two quick explanations. But of course, it really has played out quickly and so I think that's why the U.S. and others are not quite sure yet exactly what to make of this. What we can say is that it is immediately been turned into a tool of Russian propaganda against Ukraine immediately. BOLDUAN: And you -- and you mentioned what a big moment it is this week, just in the -- in terms of the war in Ukraine. This week marked six months since Putin's invasion. And it's at a six-month point, it also just bears taking an assessment of where you see this war going from here.

GLASSER: Yes, I think that's important to note, six months of horror in Europe, thousands and thousands dead on both sides, thousands of -- millions of lives destroyed, and essentially a war of attrition.


Neither side has been able to gain a dominant position militarily. Russia -- Ukraine right now is talking about an offensive in the south to retake the crucial city of Kherson. Ukraine has shown new capabilities in recent months to strike behind the enemy lines and to use some of the new high-tech weaponry that the United States and other allies have been giving it. So you know, you see, militarily, Ukraine very much in the fight still, but not clear yet whether they can mobilize a major offensive to retake lost territory. And so I think that's probably one of the big questions for the next phase of the war.

But Russia continues to appear to be making the bet that the longer that it goes on, the more the chance of the unraveling of the support for Ukraine, the more that this huge potential crisis in Europe of cut-offs of Russian energy means in terms of energy supplies and prices going into the winter. And so, you know, it's a very uncertain and -- you know, and horribly negative prospect. Again, all launched an unprovoked war of aggression six months ago that's changed the face of Europe.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's great to see you, Susan, thanks for coming in.

GLASSER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. It has been a frustrating summer for air travelers across the board, major delays, and a lot of flight cancellations. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is going to be joining us next on how he wants airlines to compensate you for those delays and cancellations next.



BOLDUAN: And this just in to CNN. Tomorrow is the day that President Biden plans to make his long-awaited announcement on student debt relief. Let's get over to CNN as Jeremy Diamond who has more information for us from the White House. So, Jeremy, what are you expecting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, a source familiar with the plans confirming to CNN that President Biden will announce tomorrow his decision on this long-awaited announcement on student loan forgiveness, of course, that moratorium on payments on federal student loans expires at the end of this month. And President Biden has been under pressure, of course, to make this announcement.

And we don't know exactly the details of what President Biden will announce, but we do know what has been under discussion and what White House officials appear to be leaning towards. And what they appear to be leaning towards is forgiving $10,000 of student debt per borrower for people making under $125,000 annually. They're also considering additional student loan forgiveness for specific subsets of the population, including for Pell Grants recipients, for example.

And now we do know that they have been leaning towards a final short- term extension of the freeze on federal student loan repayments that has been in place, that's also something that's been under consideration, so all of this is expected to come to a head tomorrow as President Biden is set to end his vacation that he's been spending in Delaware and return to the White House and then make this announcement apparently, on student loan forgiveness tomorrow, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. A lot of eyes will be on that lot. This has been a long- awaited announcement and decision to be made by the president. Jeremy, thank you so much for bringing us that.

So with another busy travel week and weekend ahead of us with Labor Day, air passengers are going to need to buckle up very likely for another bumpy ride. On Monday, nearly 1500 flights were canceled with over 8000 -- with over 8000 delayed flights. Some of the travel woes, of course, are weather-related. We've seen what happened -- is happening in Texas. But it is more than just weather.

The ongoing travel issues are prompting the Department of Transportation now to take action. In a letter to airlines last week, the transportation secretary has warned of new rules that could be coming if airlines don't step up on their own.

So joining me right now is transportation to -- Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Secretary, thank you for being here. Flight cancellations due to weather are --


BOLDUAN: Are unavoidable. We know that. Now, flight cancellations are because of staffing shortages or something very different. We saw that yesterday there were FAA staffing issues at O'Hare. Last week, it was air traffic control staffing shortages causing delays at New York airports. Why is this a problem still?

BUTTIGIEG: So what we're seeing is two things or several things hitting at once. It's not unusual to have weather, there's always the weather. But right now, when weather hits the system, the system is not able to absorb, it's not able to cope, largely because airlines don't have the staff that they need to adapt and be resilient when there is some kind of curveball or situation. So what we're pressing the airlines to do is twofold.

First of all, make sure they got the realistic scheduling and the adequate staffing so these delays and cancellations don't happen in the first place. Secondly, to make sure they're clear and transparent about taking care of customers when there is a disruption that can't be avoided.

My department announced that we are going to pull together information in a transparent fashion and make it available to the public about how the different airlines stack up with what they do, how they treat you when you have an issue or an incident. And the next few days, while we're preparing that website, would be a great time for airlines to raise the bar on what they offer passengers. We also set rules and enforce them about things like being entitled to a full cash refund if your flight does get canceled. And if you're not getting that as a passenger, we want to hear about it because part of our job is to enforce those rules.


BOLDUAN: Those issues are on the airlines. FAA staffing issues are on the FAA under your purview. If they're -- then these are real staffing issues that we have seen. And this -- these things are not new, but compounding the problem. If you are expecting private airlines to do better by customers, will you hold the FAA to the same standard?

BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely. Look, when we have an issue, we will own it and we will fix it. And we've seen that particular in the New York area. In the Florida airspace, there have been staffing challenges for air traffic control, mostly because the whole that the -- that the pandemic ripped -- pandemic ripped in the training pipeline. I do want to be clear, though, those issues do not, do not account for the majority of the delays and the cancellations that we've seen. Still, we're going to work on them every day.

BOLDUAN: If the airlines don't do what you're requesting, as you laid out in this letter and you just laid out here, what is the next step? Because I'm kind of -- because I'm wondering why you don't just require it now rather than a kind of ask them to step up.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, what have right now is of both strategy. A matter of fact, there's three things we're doing at once. We have a number of investigations and enforcement actions about the rules that exist, we have new rules that are going through the legal process to elevate and expand passenger rights, and I'm calling on the airlines to step up their game before we have to do even more. We're going to continue to do all of these things until we have an acceptable experience for passengers.

Again, well, I understand that you're never going to have zero cancellations. There's always going to be a storm somewhere, a surprise somewhere, and an issue somewhere. But we need a stronger system. And we're expecting airlines that collect revenue by selling tickets to be prepared to service the tickets that they sell.

BOLDUAN: You are in Tampa right now promoting infrastructure investments. And CNN has reporting that the White House infrastructure coordinator, Mitch Landrieu, who I know, you know, well, he has been warning quietly that you -- that you all, the administration in general, have been selling this wrong, talking too much about the wind in Washington and less about how the projects will make an actual difference in people's lives. Are people going to feel the impact of the project that you're touting today, like before the midterm elections? When can people expect to see that?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. One thing that's very important to us is to make sure we're communicating the results of this legislation. It's one of the reasons why we're going to be in six states over the next three or four days, beginning with this visit to Tampa where we just announced to grant of $12.6 million that's going to help them add another birth so that they can dock more ships and larger ships, which in turn is going to help supply chains here in Florida and around the country. It's just one example of the hundreds and eventually thousands of projects that we're supporting through this infrastructure law.

I -- you know I think the conversation in Washington does sometimes get too hung up on the process or the program versus the actual difference that's going to make in people's lives. So I find it extremely rewarding to be out here on the ground, talking with the mayors, talking with the members of Congress who voted for this because they care so much about what it would mean for their districts here in their own backyards. And talking to folks like the port authority here and the airport directors or the transportation officials who are really experiencing those issues.

The bridge that's been out for way too long and we're finally funding them to fix it. The neighborhood that's been too dangerous and we're finally getting them support to make sure our rail crossing is safer. This port so many examples all across the country that we want to make sure people understand are a direct consequence of the bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress passed that the president led and signed and that we are now putting to work.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Buttigieg, thanks for coming in. Coming up for us, it's a high stake primary day, everybody. Voters heading to the polls in Florida and New York, the key races to watch. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Voters are heading to the polls today in New York, Florida, and Oklahoma, the final states in a busy month of primaries. Redistricting in New York resulting in two powerful House Democrats facing off against each other, and in Florida, Democrats will choose who will take on incumbent Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and also Senator Marco Rubio in November. Let's begin with CNN's Leyla Santiago. She's live in St. Petersburg, Florida. What are you seeing there, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we're starting to see voters trickle in here to this polling site. And for those registered Democrats, as you mentioned, they will have to choose who they believe will be strong enough to take on Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio, two very big names in the Republican Party in a state that has now more registered active Republicans over Democrat. So let's start with that primary in the governor's race. You have

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried as well as former governor, once a Republican, Charlie Crist. I spent some time with both of those campaigns yesterday. They're really tapping into those culture wars, hoping that will energize their base, quick to talk about abortion as well as the LGBTQ community and education.

And then let's go to the primary Senate race here in Florida, keeping a close eye on Val Demings, a prominent name among Democrats. She's a former police chief, and also one of the impeachment managers for former President Trump's impeachment, the first impeachment trial. So who Democrats will vote for today to take on those two big names? Still, several hours to find out.


BOLDUAN: Leyla, thank you for that. All right, let's turn now to New York where two Democrats are battling it out for a single House seat in a newly redrawn congressional district. One of them is going to be out of a job after today's primary. CNN's Jason Carroll is live in Manhattan with more on this. Jason, what do you see?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, because of all the redrawing of the districts here -- the district here, you've got a lot of Democrats scrambling for position. You take a look at what's happening here in the 12th District. You now have -- you now have Carolyn Maloney going against Jerry Nadler, both of them have been in Congress for more than 30 years, both sit on powerful committees. They are being challenged by the progressive upstart here in the 12th District, that man by the name of Suraj Patel. He says that it is time for a new blood in Washington, DC and that the two that who are -- the other two who are running simply are not progressive enough.

Progressive ideals, also taking center stage in another district, the 10th district, also newly redrawn. The person there to keep an eye on, Dan Goldman. He's a former federal prosecutor. He prosecuted Trump under their first impeachment trial. He is going up against two progressives who say that he is not progressive enough. So you've got a lot of progressive ideals taking center stage as Democrats in these newly redrawn districts tried to find their seat, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It sure did. It's good to see you, Jason. Thank you so much. Leyla, thank you as well. Thank you all so much for being here AT THIS HOUR, I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" picks up after a quick break.