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At This Hour

Cyber Monday Shatters Despite Inflation; Protesters Say Chinese Authorities Are Tracking Them Down; U.S. To Provide $53 Million For Ukraine's Damaged Electrical System. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 29, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST (on camera): Holiday spending off to a record start, Cyber Monday spending topped $11 billion despite continued concerns over the -- over inflation. Matt Egan is here with me. And, Matt, it's just raising a lot of questions of you're seeing them break, right -- you're seeing these record-breaking numbers, but you're also hearing inflation was the key concern for everyone about the economy -- everyone's concerned about the direction of the economy. That was the key reason people were turning out to vote in the -- in the midterm elections. So, what is going on in the economy?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Well, Kate, it is a confusing time. And I think we are learning that despite high inflation and relatively low consumer confidence, Americans keep spending. Adobe Analytics says that Cyber Monday sales jumped by about 6 percent year over year to $11.3 billion. That is not just the biggest online shopping day of the year. It's the biggest online shopping day ever. And this is a big deal, right because consumer spending is the main engine of this economy and there's really nothing about today's numbers on Cyber Monday that would speak to an imminent recession.


EGAN: This is also, I think, another reminder of what consumers say and what they do, are not always the same thing because we learned that consumer confidence fell in November because of high inflation to a four-month low and yet people are spending. Black Friday sales were strong. A record number of people went out and shopped. Cyber Monday sales are really strong.

We heard from Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. He told her colleague, Poppy Harlow, that he is concerned that despite all this strength for consumers, that we could have a mild recession in the U.S. economy next year. And that is largely because of the Fed's war on inflation. These rapid interest rate hikes haven't fully hit the economy yet. And when they do, a lot of people are concerned that that's where you get the recession.

BOLDUAN: But so far, consumer spending is really propping the economy up.

EGAN: Exactly. And for as long as that continues in this recovery can keep chugging along.

BOLDUAN: We shall see.

EGAN: We will.

BOLDUAN: Matt, it's good to see you. Thank you so much.

EGAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

All right, so, protesters in China, they say police are now tracking them down in an attempt to further to prevent further unrest. This is after those unprecedented and widespread demonstrations that we've seen against China's strict zero-COVID policies. Ivan Watson, he's back with us. He's in Hong Kong watching this all. Ivan, what are you hearing about this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Right. Well, we're hearing kind of the first real signal from the Chinese government about how they view the protests over the course of the weekend. And I think it's safe to say they don't like it. There was a statement from the Communist Party's kind of domestic security committee saying that officials must "resolutely strike hard against infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces, as well as criminal activities that destabilize social order." So, they're basically labeling anybody who peacefully came out to say, hey, I'm sick of getting locked in my apartment for two, three months at a time to try to stop COVID. They're saying that those people are basically criminals, even if they're out peacefully protesting.

And I think we've seen evidence of this hardline approach with police flooding the streets of the capital, Beijing, Monday night, of Shanghai as well, the commercial capital, putting up barriers to prevent people from being able to gather where they had protested in Shanghai Saturday and Sunday night. And this is very important. We have eyewitness accounts and videos emerging from Shanghai from the subway system of police stopping travelers and searching their phones.

An eyewitness telling us that they're looking for apps and VPNs that let users circumvent the great Chinese firewall that censors the internet that stops anybody in China from being able to see Facebook or Google, things like that. Those are signs of how the authorities now are going to deal with what's been the biggest display of discontent that this country has seen, really, in a generation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's the good context around it all. Ivan, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Let's now turn to the war in Ukraine. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, he just announced that the United States will be giving $53 million in additional aid to help support Ukraine's damaged electrical system. This money is supposed to be used to supply transformers, circuit breakers, other key equipment that they are now lacking or are in short supply as they continue to try to fix the damaged electrical systems. [11:35:07]

A barrage of Russian airstrikes are what is -- are what is to blame here of hitting Ukraine's power grid in the last week. President Zelenskyy is also now warning his people of more attacks just like this to come throughout the winter. Joining me now to talk about this is former Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen. It's good to see you, Secretary General. Thank you for coming in.

So, this $53 million for the U.S. to try to prop up Ukraine's electrical grid, if you will, at this point, from what you've seen, do you think this will be enough or is more going to be needed if not from the United States from others?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, FORMER NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: More is needed. We really appreciate the comprehensive American support for Ukraine but more is needed. This week, President Macron of France and President Biden will meet in Washington and I hope Macron will tell Biden, Putin has escalated the war. We have to adjust our strategy. We have to deliver all the weapons the Ukrainians need. Long-range missiles, air defense, missile defense, anti-drone capabilities, heavy tanks, all that is needed for Ukrainians to deter Russia from continuing targeting civilian infrastructure.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that even aside from helping with the electrical grid which is important in the immediate, you think right now and what we're looking at this long cold winter, the United States, NATO allies need to -- need to -- what I'm hearing from you is like flood this -- flood the zone in terms of getting weapons to Ukraine, you think not enough is done yet?

RASMUSSEN: Yes, indeed. I think we should lift all restrictions on weapons deliveries. I don't understand why we have those self- inflicted restrictions on weapons deliveries. The Ukrainians have shown in the past that they can make efficient use of the weapons we deliver.

We cannot allow Putin to have success in Ukraine. He won't stop in Ukraine. It will hurt whole -- the whole of Europe if we don't put a quick end to this war. And the best way to do that is to provide all the weapons to Ukrainians that they need.

BOLDUAN: The current NATO Secretary General, he spoke about the latest barrage -- continued barrage and bombardment of attacks these airstrikes from Russia hitting the energy infrastructure in a way that I haven't really heard many speak of yet. And the way he put it is to say that Russia's bombardment of Ukraine's energy infrastructure is trying to use winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine. What do you think of that as a strategy coming from Putin?

RASMUSSEN: I fully agree. No doubt that Putin has now escalated the war by missile attacks against civilian infrastructure, electrical systems, etcetera, partly also to cover or hide his defeat in the Kherson region. He tries to break down the morale of the Ukrainian people. He tried to terrorize the Ukrainian people through a harsh winter without electricity, without heating, in darkness in Ukraine. We should not allow that to happen. That's why, of course, it's needed to help the Ukrainians to repair the damage to the electoral system. But it isn't enough. We should deliver all the weapons they need. They have the will to fight. It's our obligation to give them the means to fight.

BOLDUAN: Secretary General, some officials say that this approach attacking the energy infrastructure and trying to leave people without heating in the dead of winter could amount to a war crime on the part of Vladimir Putin and Russia. Do you think it -- do you think it does?

RASMUSSEN: Yes. Actually, I think Putin is the one who has escalated the war. And we should adapt our strategy to that end. We should define new red lines. And I think we should raise the cost for Putin because of this new strategy, and the best way would be in addition to helping the Ukrainians with electoral systems to also help them with all the weapons they need, and the Europeans need also to step up their weapons deliveries.

BOLDUAN: A strong call from the former Secretary General of NATO. Thank you so much for coming on.



BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So, the world's largest active volcano is erupting. Right now, officials are also now warning of a worst-case scenario. Details on that, next.



BOLDUAN: All right, we want to take you to the White House right now. We're going to be -- we're going to get to the volcano in a second. We're going to go to the White House right now, where Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are speaking after their meeting with President Biden.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY): Productive discussion about funding the government. We all agreed that it should be done this year. We all agreed we had to work together and everybody had to give a little bit. And we also -- the speaker and I believe, and we all said we would try to work towards getting a -- an omnibus as opposed to a CR. All of us agreed that the CR did harm on the military side and on the domestic side, or at least that was the consensus in the room. So, it was a good meeting. We made some good progress. Speaker.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): Yes. Well, let me congratulate you on the bill that's coming up today and on your daughter's marriage a couple of years now.


PELOSI: A couple of years ago. That's -- it's pretty exciting to have this marriage equality bill come up, so we passed it a while ago in the House, and we look forward to having a beautiful signing ceremony for that. OK, so, the business at hand. First of all, I think it's really important for people to know that we left -- if we don't have an option, we may have to have a year-long CR. We don't prefer that. We don't think it's a good idea. But nonetheless, we have to have a bipartisan agreement as to what the top line is defense, domestic discretionary non-defense spending. And that's what we have, I think in good spirit, said we'll go to the next step.

SCHUMER: That's really a good spirit of all four of us.


SCHUMER: Trying to have a meeting of the minds that we could get enough votes to pass in both the House and the Senate.

PELOSI: And that is something that we would like to get to work on right away. Our appropriators have been working on it. Now, we're going to take it to the next step as soon as possible. On the subject of the rail strike that -- or to avoid the rail strike, the president made his statement yesterday -- tomorrow morning -- he asked Congress to act. Tomorrow morning, we will have a bill on the floor stand. He said we could come up as early as nine o'clock in the morning with the legislation that accepts the original agreement plus the additional benefits that were gained in further discussion.

I salute the president and Secretary Walsh for their leadership in improving that. That was a negotiation between labor and the railroads or presided over by the president -- the administration. And so, we would bring that agreement to the floor. It's not everything I would like to see, I think that we should have paid sick leave. Every country -- every developed country in the world has it, we don't. But nonetheless, we have an improved situation.

And again, I don't like going against the ability of unions to strike. But weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike. Jobs will be lost, even union jobs will be lost. Water will not be safe. Product will not be going to market. It is -- we could lose 750,000 jobs, some of them union jobs. That must be avoided. So, tomorrow morning, in the House, we will bring up the legislation, send it over to the Senate --

SCHUMER: And Leader McConnell and I agreed we try to get it done ASAP. And while the actual deadline of the railroads being shut down is the eighth, our real deadline is sooner than that. Because as the speaker mentioned, many of the people who -- many of the suppliers, if they believe there will -- may will be a shutdown will then not send their goods. Chlorine, desperately needed -- perishable. And cities and towns throughout America need that chlorine for their water supplies to keep them safe. So, the real deadline is sooner and we're going to try to solve this ASAP.

And just -- I -- the one other thing I just say on the budget, which the speaker mentioned, and on the funding, there was goodwill in the room and a desire to come together and solve this problem. And that gave -- made us feel quite good about it. OK.

PELOSI: If I just --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we have the numbers as to the majority in Senate?

SCHUMER: To pass?


SCHUMER: Look, the speaker -- the leader and I are going to have to get together and try to get that done. And we're working on it. We're working on it.


PELOSI: If I just may close on a personal note as the leader began, last night -- yesterday, sadly, we lost one of our members, Congress in the kitchen of Virginia. I bring that up because my last communications with him last week during the Thanksgiving week were about the strike and he was expressing the concerns of his constituents about the downside shall we say of a -- of strike.


And I told him that I thought that the president would be making a statement. I couldn't speak to what that would be. But that -- but he should be alerted to that. He thanked me for keeping him posted. Little did I know that by Monday, he would no longer be with us. But right up until the end, he was advocating for the people of Virginia and for his -- for his -- for his district. We --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, what it is --


SCHUMER: OK, that's all. OK, thank you, everybody.



BOLDUAN: All right, we're listening just there. Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi speaking after their meeting with also the Republican leaders in the House and Senate. And President Biden very optimistic and positive about what this lame-duck session is going to mean on a couple of fronts, a massive need to fund the government and keep the lights on. They seem to want a bigger funding bill to fund federal agencies, which is the job of Congress rather than just kicking the can down the road again, but standby to standby on that.

And also making very clear that they're moving ahead with this rail deal to avoid and avert a potentially damaging rail strike. Nancy Pelosi is saying the House is going to move on this tomorrow morning. So much more action that's going to be happening on that, we'll stay on it for you. A new study though highlighting America's gun violence epidemic shining a new spotlight on it, the community's most at risk, that's next.


BOLDUAN: Let's go to the White House once again. Kevin McCarthy is speaking now.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): To secure our borders, CRs are not where we want to be. But if we cannot get that -- done now, we are going -- the majority, if they don't want to work with us, we can get this work done in January as well.


But we had an in-depth conversation about the security of the border and fentanyl coming across and killing our younger generation, ways that we can make energy and our natural gas be able to produce more to help those in Europe, our allies, and others in ways that if it is possible to work together, get our spending in control because of how much has been wasted throughout. But I'll take questions from you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leader McCarthy, what about the railroad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there -- is there -- isn't it -- you have yet to condemn the former president for dining with a white supremacist?

MCCARTHY: No, I don't think -- I don't think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party. I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him and didn't know who he was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he doesn't even know he was. He didn't condemn him or his ideology.

MCCARTHY: Well, I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your --

MCCARTHY: That's all.


MCCARTHY: The president that knows who he was. And the president has gotten us up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he knew Kanye West.

MCCARTHY: You know what, he's been --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knew who Kanye West was.

MCCARTHY: So, he knew who Kanye West but he didn't know who Fuentes is. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leader McCarthy, did you get a sense that anything is going to be different in dealing with this White House now that Republicans are going to have a House majority in dealing with the border war and dealing with energy (INAUDIBLE)?

MCCARTHY: I think the administration got a -- indication is going to be different.


MCCARTHY: I invited the president to go to the border with me. I explained to the president -- he asked me about the border so I told him about my current trip. Just in El Paso, in one -- on one overhang of a freeway, 70,000 people have come across in the last seven weeks. If we would send people back to the country that they came from, the border agents will tell you they stopped coming.

The border agents themselves are cut short that there's not enough of them. That they're sitting and working the job is processing. We could have somebody else do their job so they could be out front. I explained to the president what I saw, where you can see the videos of these cartels literally shooting tracers at our National Guard. A woman hung because she didn't pay the cartel. Her feet cut off, put on fire, that the cartels controlling as you watch them across. But I also explained to him what's happening when it comes to fentanyl. There's not just any city, every city today is now a border city.

Your affinity with Bakersfield now, in our own junior high, a junior high the age of 13 brought 150 fentanyl pills to school. It's killing our youngest generation from 18 to 45, the number one factor, coming from China making these cartels wealthy. So, you've got to lean on President Xi. You got to stop the cartels.

And my expression to the president too as it is a different situation now that has become so bad that we need to have our own military embedded with the border agents to be able to be on the level competing with these cartels and what they have done. The control of our border is lost right now. That is why I asked Homeland Security Secretary to resign. And come January 3, we'll have an investigation of why the border has become the situation it is and not allow them to continue along the same path. Yes, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) position on the rail legislation the president has called for?

MCCARTHY: Yes, it's unfortunate that we're here because I know the president told us all that this was solved long before the election. And now, we find ourselves in the last moments, in the last hours, asking us to rush a bill to the floor. Nobody wants the economy to fail. Nobody wants this to happen. But this is another situation where the administration told us one thing, just like they told us about inflation, it's transitory. We found that it was not. This wasn't a negotiation that was selected by this administration. This was something that was celebrated by this administration that it was fixed. And now right before a holiday season, right, when farmers need to ship their goods and others, we'll have to rush something to the floor. This is --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it will pass?

MCCARTHY: I think it will pass. But it's unfortunate that this is how we're running our economy today. This is all got to stop and change. We need an economy that is strong. If you're passing a bill to force the rail workers to work, how strong is your economy? If you have gas prices that you can't simply depend upon that continue to rise, you're going into winter and you're wondering, can you afford your winter heating? That's not an economy that's strong.

I think that's why in the -- in the last election, he made a change in Congress. And this is what we're going to focus on for the American people. We're going to make an economy that strong. That is not the government dictating where somebody can work. We're going to have an economy that workers can work. We're going to have an economy that has energy prices that are lower.