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At This Hour

U.S. President Joe Biden Touts Economic And Legislative Accomplishments In State Of The Union Address; Over 11,000 Dead And Survivors Pulled From Rubble Of Turkiye-Syria Earthquake; Syrian Regime Calls For U.S. And E.U. To Remove Sanctions. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, President Biden calls Congress to finish the job. The real-time response from the president.

Plus, time is running out. The search to find survivors has now turned desperate and the death toll has doubled after that massive earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. We will bring you a live update.

Also it was not just one balloon. It is part of a vast surveillance operation.

This is what we are watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: President Biden is hitting the road after delivering a fiery State of the Union address last night. The president is touting his economic record, calling for the new House majority to work with him to finish the job on rebuilding the economy and make a direct appeal to working-class Americans.

While there were moments of unity, the divided country was on display, Republicans heckling and yelling at the president.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will give you a copy -- I will give you a copy of the proposal. That means Congress doesn't vote.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): You see there, the president handed it right back. This morning they are high-fiving at the White House. As the "National Review" put it, "Deal with It: Biden's State of the Union Was an Aesthetic Win."

MJ's at the White House to start us off this hour.

What are you hearing? MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: White House officials are feeling pretty good about last night. Not just because of the rally moments that they appreciated.

They felt like the president was able to lay out some of his major accomplishments from the last two years and painted a picture of an optimistic future and started to lay out why the country would be in better shape if he was leading it.

He said multiple times last night that it is time to finish the job that he has started.


BIDEN: Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong.

LEE (voice-over): President Biden seizing on a major prime time address to a joint session of Congress to reflect on the past two years.

BIDEN: The story of America is the story of progress and resilience.

LEE: -- and lay out his vision for the next two.

BIDEN: Let's finish the job.

LEE: Biden describing an inflection point for the country, arguing that the U.S. economy has made a turnaround.

BIDEN: Two years ago, the economy was reeling. I stand here tonight after we created it with the help of many people in this room, 12 million new jobs.

LEE: But the COVID pandemic is now in the rearview mirror --

BIDEN: Today, COVID no longer controls our lives.

LEE: -- and also touting some of his major legislative accomplishments.

BIDEN: I signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation since becoming president.

LEE: A notable difference from Biden's last State of the Union Address, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy seated behind the president.

BIDEN: And the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy.

LEE: At times stoic as Democrats applauded the speech --

BIDEN: Our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.

LEE: And at other times, visibly trying to quiet his colleagues as they heckled Biden, including on the topic of entitlement cuts.

BIDEN: Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.

Let me give you -- anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy -- I'll give you a copy of the proposal. Look --

LEE: Still, the president insisting that he will work with the other party.

BIDEN: There's no reason we can't work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well.

LEE: Foreign policy also in the spotlight following the dramatic downing over the weekend of a Chinese spy balloon, Biden only making a passing reference to the incident and instead emphasizing America's readiness to compete with China.

The guests invited to Tuesday night's speech by First Lady Jill Biden painting a story of some of the president's top priorities and challenges over the past year.


(voice-over): Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., a reminder of how much the war in Ukraine has tested and dominated Biden's second year in office.

BIDEN: We're going to stand with you, as long as it takes.

LEE: Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was violently attacked in his home and raised alarm about political extremism.

BIDEN: That's such a heinous act. It should have never happened. We must all speak out.

LEE: And the parents of Tyre Nichols, a man whose death after a violent beating by police officers prompted outrage and grief across the country.

BIDEN: Let's commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre's mom true, something good must come from this.

All of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment. We can't turn away.


LEE: We are told that White House officials literally cheered during some moments of heckling and booing. This is what they wanted to show between Republicans and the president. For his part, Biden is headed to Madison, Wisconsin, for some of the messaging that we heard from him last night.

All of this is leading up to what we think will be a re-election announcement that could come in a matter of weeks.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

President Biden spent most of the time last night focusing on the economy and touting the gains that the country has seen coming out of the pandemic. Christine Romans is here with me now.

What did you hear?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He used the word job or jobs 23 times. On his job superlatives, he is correct. The jobless rate is the lowest since 1969, an exceptionally strong jobs market with few layoffs outside of technology.

Black and Hispanic Jobless rates are at historic lows just above the record low of 5.3 percent set in August 2019. The Hispanic and Latino rate, both those rates you can see are down sharply since Biden took office.

More than 12 million jobs, compare that with Trump's 4.5 million and job losses in the first few years of Presidents Obama and Bush. Biden's record is distorted by the historic recovery of jobs lost during the pandemic.

It is a reminder, presidents get too much credit and blame for what happens on the economy on their watch. President Biden took credit for the deficit which has fallen by $1.7 trillion. The deficit skyrocketed under Trump on massive pandemic relief spending and that is winding down.

Biden also claimed one quarter of the national debt was added by Trump because of his major tax cuts. Just under $8 trillion was amassed under Trump. Just like the massive deficit spending under Obama, pandemic relief bloated the debt and all of that spending is authorized by Congress.

So it is congressional spending that dumps all those piles of dollars on the debt.

BOLDUAN: Those are the bills paid in the past. The spending is done. So we need to raise the debt ceiling going forward. We appreciate that.

We'll talk more about this. Joining me now, Van Jones and Scott Jennings.

I was at home watching you guys last night. Thank you for coming in today. Let's start where Christine left off.

President Biden spoke about macroeconomic trends and what he is touting, what he sees as the moves that his administration has made with the help of Congress to improve the economy.

I would say that he also spoke to smaller economic issues as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges you and gets away with it. Not anymore. We have written a bill to stop it all. It is called the Junk Fee Prevention Act. We'll ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill, which can cost up to $90 a night in hotels that are not even resorts.



BOLDUAN: What did you think of that?


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I find this to be him complaining about nagging little things that annoy us. That whole statement came before he ever mentioned anything about China. That is the massive geopolitical thing that you'd expect the president to talk about.


This is small ball. I do not know that this is going to get you there for another term.

BOLDUAN: Is it small ball?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I disagree. There is nothing small about the way corporations rip the American people off 100 different ways. The airlines rip us off, the hotels, you get ripped off all the time and feel there is nothing you can do about it.

In fact, there are rules, regulations and laws, that can be put in place. I think the knock on Democrats is, if you are not eating kale, you cannot be a Democrat.


JONES: I'm just saying.

JENNINGS: I'd say the rates of kale eating, smaller.

JONES: And this is the Joe Biden that I love. This is working-class Joe, middle-class Joe and he's reaching out -- he would say, I get it. Most people, it will take a long time for the infrastructure dollars to get to them. If all of a sudden you stop getting ripped off, that helps real people and I think it is good.

BOLDUAN: All of this is serious but it was a very emotional moment last night. There is something that stuck out to you, Van, when the president talked about police reform and the reaction of a divided Congress to what he said.

Tyre Nichols' mother spoke with Don this morning. And let me play why she said.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: You need to get off your butts and get this bill passed because we cannot have any more kids -- we can't have another Tyre. We just cannot have that anymore.


BOLDUAN: Very powerful what she said this morning. Very powerful seeing them in the gallery last night.

The question is, do you see momentum from it?

JONES: I do and I was really moved. When Biden spoke about it and the mother was there, both parties stood up. They turned around and faced that mother and they applauded her.

Then they talked about the remedies. And they stood up again. Both the emotions and the policy, you saw something there. People should not forget, both Trump and Biden did executive orders on police reform and they actually overlap on help for the cops and on a bad cop database and on national training standards.

Between the last administrations common ground, something needs to get done. Maybe not everything. But do something.

JENNINGS: I thought the Nichols statements were some of the greatest pieces of the speech. I thought they were very powerful language. I agree with Van, watching both parties stand up was a powerful moment.

There's broad bipartisan agreement something needs to happen. I think there are overlapping ideas that could pass. I will remind everybody. Democrats filibustered it because they did not want Tim Scott to solve this. Their fear of Tim Scott trumped their desire for good police work. It happened. They filibustered it.

JONES: Here is the deal, Cory Booker, Karen Bass and Tim Scott all worked together. They could not get it across the finish line on a couple of points. Democrats had given a lot. However --

BOLDUAN: It speaks to the dynamics that people need to set --


BOLDUAN: -- environment aside.

JONES: But Scott is right; we got within an inch just a year ago. We could get this thing done.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your takes on the back and forth. Not only did you have Kevin McCarthy, who warned before, "Behave" and the children did not. I'm not calling them children.



BOLDUAN: I will not.

And then the back and forth with Biden from the podium. We know people are high-fiving at the White House, were last night; the White House was very happy with what they saw last night.

Some are describing this as Biden's best speech of his presidency.

JONES: I say advantage Biden for a reason that people have not talked about. None of that was scripted. That was late at night, a President of the United States doing parliamentary style debate and back-and- forth in real time. And he won.

He got the better of them. And he came across as a uniter as he was doing it. That is hard to do on live television in the morning. And he did it there.


So I think, maybe it is OK to have this guy back in there again. Maybe it makes sense.


JENNINGS: Do you generally believe that murder is wrong?

JONES: Yes, I do.

JENNINGS: OK, I would like take credit for keeping you from going on a murderous rampage. If I can get you to admit to that, I have stopped you from doing something. This is so dishonest.


JENNINGS: He said the Republicans were going to enact the Rick Scott plan if only --


JENNINGS: -- on the debt limit deal. It is just not true. It's not true.

BOLDUAN: You are accurate, that it needs context. But Republican need to talk to Rick Scott.


BOLDUAN: -- would use the Democrats if there is one -- half of the Democrats who thought the same -- I know it's --


BOLDUAN: -- it is great to see you guys.

JONES: We will be back.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, I really appreciate it. We will turn overseas now. The people who were killed in the

devastating earthquake has more than doubled in 24 hours. We will take you live to Turkiye next.





BOLDUAN: Take a look at this incredible video, an entire family being pulled from rubble of a building that collapsed in Northern Syria after the massive earthquake on Monday.

You hear the joy in all of their voices, that they found someone alive. The death toll there in Turkiye and in Syria added together is almost 12,000 people killed. That is over double what was known at this time yesterday.

We will show you live pictures of rescue efforts at this hour underway in Turkiye still. Let's go to Jomana Karadsheh.

We have been watching all morning, as you have been watching and waiting with all of the people there.

What is happening?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are here in the city of Adana, part of the quake zone across the southern part of Turkiye, where it has been impacted by this earthquake. This is just one of thousands of buildings that have been destroyed, flattened, by the earthquake.

We understand from people in the area, about 100 people were believed to be inside this building when the earthquake struck. This happened at 4:00 in the morning with a lot of people at home in bed, asleep.

So far, unfortunately, rescue workers have not been able to locate any survivors. But this is continuing as a search and rescue operation.


There were a few moments today where they thought they have found signs of life and they called for quiet several times. So far, no good news, especially for the hundreds of people who have gathered here.

People who are waiting for news of their loved ones, friends, family members, who were inside this building. We are hearing from people that, right now, the only thing they can do is wait and pray. And that is what they are doing out here in the bitter cold. They are waiting for news of their loved ones.

BOLDUAN: Still ongoing for hours and hours. Jomana, thank you for being there. Joining me for more on this is Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of

the Syrian Emergency Task Force. It provides assistance and aid to Syrian civilians.

Thank you so much for being here. Two children in your kindergarten program were killed, along with their families.

What are you hearing from people there now?

How desperate will it be at this point?

MOUAZ MOUSTAFA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SYRIAN EMERGENCY TASK FORCE: It's beyond horrific. It's the worst catastrophe, this natural disaster that has visited on a people that have already endured 12 years of the worst crimes against humanity perpetrated by Russia, Assad and Iran.

And today there is absolutely no U.N. aid, no E.U. aid that is coming in. The regime, Russia prevents cross-border aid.

Imagine, these White Helmets have not been contacted by the United Nations. No one's asked for assessments. There are millions of people that are waiting in line to use one heavy machine or bulldozer to try and check for their loved ones.

The school that is funded by American communities here lost two of their students in the past and a lot of the staff have lost their families. It just is a horrific scene.

BOLDUAN: Just horrific.

The Assad regime is calling for sanctions to be lifted now and they say then aid can be sent in faster. I want to play for you the reaction from our State Department's Ned Price.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This is a regime, Saeed, that has never shown any inclination to put the welfare, the well-being, the interest of its people first.


BOLDUAN: His point being is that the U.S. will tried to provide aid. But it's not going to lift sanctions to do so. Obviously, noting how the regime has been brutalizing the same people that it claims it is going to help now.


What if the U.S. lifted these sanctions in order to get aid in after this disaster?

MOUSTAFA: Anyone asking for the sanctions on war criminals to be lifted, has absolutely no idea what they're talking about, especially in context of the earthquake. First of all, they have no effect whatsoever on the humanitarian aid.

The ICRC is operating. Different countries have landed, you can see it on the news in the Damascus airport.

The fact is the Assad regime continue to block aid from the millions of people in the worst hit place out of this earthquake in northwest Syria. He, alongside Russia, they have stopped and blocked cross- border aid to millions of civilians that are out in the cold.

Lifting sanctions on war criminals is playing into the propaganda of the regime. They want to continue to fuel its war machine by lifting sanctions on war criminals that do not affect humanitarian aid.

BOLDUAN: Your team has sent us some pictures from one town that was devastated. I believe this might be the same town where there has been some glimmers of hope. A newborn baby found alive, her mother and the rest of the family found dead. A miraculous story.

Everyone wants any glimmer of hope they can find.

What then, when you see this and you see what is happening especially in the northern parts of Syria, what is your message to the governments and anyone who sees these 12 long years of conflict in Syria and then sees this natural disaster and then they think that there is no hope there?

MOUSTAFA: There is absolutely hope. I just came back from Syria a few days ago, before the earthquake. The resilience in these people is inspirational. They aspire to have the rights that we have here.

And for 12 years, the world has turned away. Today, they have faced the worst earthquake in the region's history and, without any support from the U.N., they continue to live and help each other out.

I call on the U.S. to appropriate funding for southern Turkiye and northern Syria specifically and for the United Nations to proceed through the multiple, open cross-border points and do not listen to Russia and the Assad regime. These people demand help right away.

BOLDUAN: Mouaz, thank you so much.

MOUSTAFA: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: For more information on how you can help the victims of this earthquake, go to our website, You will see much more there. We will be right back.