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At This Hour

Biden Warns Nuclear "Armageddon" Amid Putin Threats; U.S. Job Growth Slows Again As Fed Tries To Rein In Inflation. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, President Biden warns of Armageddon, what he's really saying now to Vladimir Putin and a brand new report and look at the state of the economy, why a slowdown is good news today. And a big update on a story that we brought you yesterday, what the Uvalde School District is doing now after a CNN report. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thank you for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. We're following two big stories At This Hour. First, President Biden issuing an ominous warning about the nuclear threat posed by Vladimir Putin, the President warning that the risk of nuclear Armageddon is at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Biden saying about Putin, quote, he's not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons as he continues to lose ground in Ukraine.

We also have an important news snapshot this morning of the U.S. economy that we must discuss, U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs in September, a modest slowdown from August, a slowdown that could actually be good news though, the Federal Reserve looking for the jobs market to cool off to help fight stubborn inflation, much more to come on that.

All right, let's get started. Arlette Saenz is live in Hagerstown, Maryland where President Biden is going to be headed today. Arlette the President laid out this warning last night, should people be expecting another walk back from the White House then today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, so far no official walk back from the White House. But U.S. officials have said that they have not seen any evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to move forward with using a nuclear weapon. But still the President's comments that he made in that Democratic fundraiser last night are very clearly, he spoke in stark terms about the possibility of nuclear Armageddon, if Putin does move forward with that decision. He told those Democratic donors in New York City last night, quote, we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon. Now, this remark from the President caught some officials by surprise, simply because there has not been any new intelligence suggesting that Putin has decided to move forward with this. But one U.S. official this morning said that the President was speaking frankly, and simply put, this really comes as there is heightened concerns in the administration around Russian President Vladimir Putin's talk when it comes to nuclear weapons. You've heard from National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned of catastrophic consequences if he does move forward with that.

The U.S. has said that they've made clear to Russia what it would mean, if Putin did use nuclear weapons, but these are certainly very stark and comments from President Biden who's trying to bring some -- raise some awareness about where this issue stands right now.

BOLDUAN: Arlette, great to see you. Thank you so much for that. There's also more evidence this morning that all is not right for Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. A senior Russian official in Ukraine is lashing out at his country's top military commanders calling them incompetent after a string of losses on the battlefield. CNN'S Fred Pleitgen is live in Kyiv with more on this. Fred, what are you picking up?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kate. Well, we are picking up that there do seem to be rifts within the Russian leadership as far as the prosecution of this military operation that the Russians have started, obviously, the war here in the Ukraine. And you look at for instance, some of the close allies of Vladimir Putin like for instance, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strong man of Chechnya, who for a very long time, since things have been going wrong for the Russians on the battlefield has been saying that big mistakes have been made, and has been urging the Russian military leadership to do things differently. And quite frankly, to hit Ukraine even harder than they have in the past.

The big question is whether or not the Russian military is capable of doing that. And the person really under fire a lot right now in Russia is the defense minister is Sergei Shoigu. There are several sides that he's catching a lot of flack from it. It was so interesting to see because you really don't see a lot of this criticism out in the open as much, as far as Russia and pro-Russian forces are concerned. There was an installed figure in the Kherson region, a local military official there who essentially said that that the defense minister should think about shooting himself, that's something that's absolutely unheard of normally, if you talk about the Russian sort of military hierarchy.

But you can see that right now the Russians understand that they are in a lot of trouble as far as the mobilization of extra forces are concerned as far as a lot of things that are happening on the battlefield are concerned as well with the Ukrainians winning more and more territory. And it's quite interesting to see the Ukrainians, Kate, they are, of course, also very well aware of the fact that the Russians are having these problems. In fact, the defense minister of Ukraine, just a while ago, he called on Russian soldiers to lay down their arms and saying that they had been lied to and had been betrayed. So a lot of issues right now for the Russians here in Ukraine, Kate.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Fred, it's good to have you there. Appreciate it. Joining me now for more on all of this, retired Army Brigadier General Peters Zwack. He served as a senior U.S. Defense Attache to the Russian Federation. And Simon Shuster, he's a Time Magazine correspondent who's written extensively about Ukraine and President Zelenskyy, it's good to have you here. Simon, so let me start with you just, what we were talking about off the top, which is Biden's warning and Arlette was talking about kind of what she's hearing from sources within the administration now, this warning of Armageddon, if you will, stark, blunt, yes, exaggerated though?

SIMON SHUSTER, TIME CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis was a lot more dramatic there. I think we were talking about a kind of spiraling exchange of massive nuclear weapons, city buster bombs between two superpowers. You know, here we're talking about something quite different. Putin has been warning repeatedly and his allies have been warning about the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which would be kind of battlefield nukes that Russia could use, potentially to attack Ukrainian military base, or potentially, you know, the decision making centers in Kyiv that Putin has also talked about potentially striking.

So the government quarter, right, President Zelenskyy's office. You know, these are also nightmare scenarios. But I do think that the Cuban missile crisis was more dangerous and much closer to the brink of, you know, total annihilation for the world. And it's interesting to see the way President Zelenskyy has responded to these threats. He's basically saying to President Biden, OK, if you think we're that close to the brink, then do something about it. So take preventative action by imposing sanctions by giving more weapons and defensive weapons to Ukraine, such as anti-missile systems, for example, so that Ukraine can defend itself. And that would potentially dissuade or deter Putin from taking that step.

So I think Zelenskyy very, very cleverly is passing the buck back to President Biden and saying, if you see Armageddon afoot, then you better take some action and help us even more.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting. General, can you speak to what would the use of a tactical nuclear weapon on the Ukrainian battlefield look like?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET.), FORMER U.S. SENIOR DEFENSE ATTACHE TO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Yes, just following your first question, remember that President Biden was a young adult during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. And I think he and among many of us old Cold War guys, just thought we would never, just committed ourselves never to come back to this and here we are. I don't know how you define hyperbole and all that, but it was definitely a wakeup call that while unlikely, all these potential -- potentialities are out there.

As far as nukes and tactical use, I believe that you use one, you've opened up Pandora's box. We don't know where we will go from there. And there are low yield. They're often called low yield tactical weapons, can be fired from artillery rockets dropped by aircraft, missiles. A low yield one would be around one kiloton, how about 1,000 tons of TNT, approximately. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit in 1945 with 10 to 15 kiloton yield devices much bigger, but one to two or three kiloton device can do enormous damage to city blocks, small towns, certainly positions and spread.

The Russians have estimated 1,500 to 2,000 of them in small yields. But as I said, you drop one, I think you've opened up Pandora's box. I think the Russians know that. The condemnation will come down hard for them, not just from the United States and its allies, but also from the world. Yet, it is a course of action that I think is increasingly being looked at under a Kremlin that is beleaguered and its own mine under siege.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and let me actually ask you about that, Simon, really quickly because "The Washington Post" is reporting about kind of what's going on around Vladimir Putin now. "The Washington Post" report is that an unnamed member of Putin's inner circle confronted Putin directly over his handling and botched handling, if you will, on the battlefield of the handling of the war in Ukraine. You think there is little chance that this kind of direct confrontation, if you will, is going -- will convince Putin to change course. Why?


SHUSTER: Well, I certainly don't think that's good news. Because the people that Vladimir Putin listen to, before the invasion, we're talking a year or two ago, he had a much broader circle of advisers that he would sometimes convene with and take their advice on board before making big decisions. All those people were pushed out of his immediate circle a long time ago. Putin got very isolated. He isolated himself from his formerly close advisers, well, before he made the disastrous decision to invade Ukraine.

And now the people that are would be speaking to him and potentially, as "The Washington Post" has reported, confronting him about some problems with the war, those would be the ones who are even more hawkish than Putin. So if someone is coming to him and saying the war is going badly, those would be figures like Ramzan Kadyrov, or some of the other, you know, ultra hawks and nationalists, who would encourage Putin to go even further, be more aggressive and indeed, use tactical nuclear weapons.

So, you know, if someone is coming to him with criticism, it doesn't mean that they're trying to tell him to slow his roll and walk the war back. I think it's quite the opposite.

BOLDUAN: That's I think that's an excellent point in perspective that needs to be put out there. Simon, it's good to see you. Thanks for coming in. General, thank you as always appreciate it. So the new numbers are out, why bad news may be good news for the wacky state of the U.S. economy right now. That's next.



BOLDUAN: The jobs market is slowing ever so slightly. New numbers this morning show that U.S. added 263,000 jobs in September. That's down from August. And that might be good news for everyone. CNN's Matt Egan has taken a look at this new report for us. He's here now. Matt, what do people need to know?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, we are still in this weird economic moment where we actually want to see the jobs market slow down, because until it does inflation is going to continue to be a big problem. And so today's report showed that the U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs last month, this is clearly a slowdown, these numbers were way too strong. This is more what economists were looking for. It is moving in the right direction. But I do think that this is really just a baby step, these numbers are still very strong. Demand for workers is robust.

We saw hiring very strong across the board. Unemployment rate actually went down to 3.5 percent. That is tied for the lowest level since 1969. Remember, back in the spring of 2020, it was nearly 15 percent. We also have to look at wages, which are very important because wages have also been too strong. They did cool off, but it's pretty hard to see they remain elevated. So I think if you put all of this together, it paints the picture of a jobs market that remains very hot, it's cooling off, but it remains hot. I mean, this would be like going from 105 degree heat wave to 98 degrees better, but still pretty uncomfortable and this is not sitting well with investors.

We see the Dow down 455 points, 1.5 percent. The big fear has been the Fed is going to go too far, trying to get this inflation fire out and cause a recession. I don't think anything about today's report is going to ease those numbers, those concerns.

BOLDUAN: Matt, it's good to see you. Thank you so much, my friend. Joining me now for more on this CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans and Jeanna Smialek, she covers the Federal Reserve and the economy for "The New York Times." So Christine bouncing off what Matt was lying out in terms of the data, good news and bad news. Can it be both?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's good news for workers, because still companies are out there hiring and hiring aggressively. And you have 5 percent year over year wage growth. So that's the best wage growth we've seen in a really long time, not as strong as it was earlier this year. But for workers still in a good position. For the economy, though, that's the tricky part because the Fed wants to see these numbers cool down so that you don't have a job market that's, you know, throwing off inflation and the overall inflation picture. So I think that's why the stock market's down today. They're looking at these numbers saying the Fed still has a ways to go here.

BOLDUAN: Oh, that's a good point. Jeanna, the Federal Reserve Chairman wakes up this -- wakes up to this today, and I mean, I'm sure it was up far earlier than this, but wakes up to this today, and is thinking what? JEANNA SMIALEK, FEDERAL RESERVE & ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think he's probably looking at these numbers and thinking still too hot for comfort. You know, this is like, I think like Matt said, a baby step in the right direction. But it is not the whole way. We are still adding jobs at a pace that is much higher than the actual sort of underlying growth in the economy can sustain. We're still seeing very rapid wage gains.

And when you think about that, which is just what it means from a company's perspective, if you're paying your workers more, you're going to continue raising prices at an abnormally rapid pace. And so even though those wage gains aren't keeping pace with inflation for most employees, this is still a recipe for higher inflation over time. And so I think from Chair Powell's perspective, the Fed Chair's perspective, this is still bad news.

BOLDUAN: So we know, Christine, inflation hurts everyone. We know the jobs market needs to cool off in order to avoid a painful recession if it can be avoided. So who is this continued good jobs market good for?

ROMANS: Somebody who's on the sidelines right now who may be left because of the pandemic and wants to come back into the jobs market. They're going to find plentiful jobs and they're going to find good pay raises. It's good for this moment of trying to rebalance the job market quite frankly. But again, from the overall there's the macro and there's the micro from, you know, somebody who can get a job right now, this is a great time to be in the market. But a really strong job market then add to the inflation picture which isn't good for American families who have to pay higher prices. So it's a really delicate balancing act here that the Fed has to do not hurt everyone, but stop the inflation story.


BOLDUAN: So is this kind of just stay, wait, and let's see? Is that kind of what this report feels like?

ROMANS: I think that timing is important here, because it takes, you know, up to six months for monetary policy to affect the economy six months ago was March, that was a 25 basis point rate hike from the Fed, it might be that we're just beginning to see the Feds medicine start to work in the job market, and that it will be more dramatic in the months ahead.

BOLDUAN: That's a very interesting point to --

ROMANS: Timing.

BOLDUAN: And timing that what it really means. So let's talk about the labor force participation rate, Jeanna, didn't change much from August to September. It's well below what was normal pre-pandemic. So that big rebound that so many people in policymakers were hoping for, it still hasn't happened. What does that mean?

SMIALEK: Yes, we just really haven't seen a huge number of people pour back into the labor market. You know, I think some of the early retirements that happened during the pandemic, people were hoping those folks might come back from the sidelines, I think some of the mothers who dropped out of the labor market to take care of children, people thought they might come back, we're just not seeing that happening at rapid pace. And so I think what that means is that the supply of workers just isn't going to be the thing that gets sort of the labor market back into balance, we're really going to have to stop demand for workers.

So what we see right now is a labor market where there are almost two open jobs for every unemployed person who's actively applying to work. And that's obviously very out of whack. It's very elevated relative to normal, the hope was, you might get workers coming back in and sort of putting that back to REITs. And I think instead, what you're going to have to rely on is employers wanting to hire less, and that putting that back into balance. And unfortunately, that's probably a more painful situation, if you have to slow down demand for workers than if the workers just came back on their own.

ROMANS: For a lot of families, the simple economics is the childcare problem, expensive childcare or the, you know, they don't have childcare available, especially after the pandemic. And so I think when you talk to a lot of families who maybe could send one more family member back into the labor market, they just can't do it right now. And employers are really concerned about that, about that balance, not being able to find the workers right now. That's the big story in the labor market still.

BOLDUAN: Still, still. It's good to see you, Christine. Jeanna, thank you so much, it's great to see you as well.

So President Biden, President Biden is taking on marijuana, taking a first step towards decriminalizing it. What his pardon means for thousands of Americans?



BOLDUAN: We have this just in to CNN. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has declared a state of emergency over the migrant crisis. The mayor telling reporters the crisis will cost the city $1 billion this fiscal year, he estimates. He's calling now on the federal and state government to provide a more aid to the city to handle it all. This declaration comes as thousands of migrants have arrived in New York on buses primarily sent from Texas. The city has been scrambling to provide appropriate shelter and health care to those who've arrived in these recent weeks, much more to come on that.

And President Biden, he is making good on a campaign promise announcing that he's pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law. This marks a first step toward criminalizing marijuana. The President is also now calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases. This in, take a look at this, a class photo for the history books, the justices of the Supreme Court posing together for their annual photo this year's portrait including the newest member Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African American woman on the highest court in the land. Also for the first time you will see in this photo and in reality, all three liberal leaning justices are women. The new term for the court just began and a busy and consequential session as it always is, but this one is definitely likely to be.

In another federal court, we have new details that are coming in in the trial involving five members of the far right paramilitary group, the Oath Keepers. A former member testifying now that he overheard its leader Stewart Rhodes in contact with the U.S. Secret Service agent ahead of a Trump rally in September of 2020, in his statement in response to this, the Secret Service says that they do not have enough information to confirm if the contact actually took place but added that occasionally agents do contact protest groups for quote unquote, situational awareness. Rhodes and four of his deputies are facing seditious conspiracy charges for their alleged planning and participation in the January 6th insurrection.

I want to turn now to an update on a CNN exclusive report. The Uvalde School District has now fired a school police officer after CNN is reporting that that very same officer is one of several that are currently under investigation for their response to the school shooting in May. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz broke this story for us. He's joining us now. So Shimon talk to me about this. What is -- what are you hearing from the school district about this?