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Medical Chopper Crash in Philadelphia; Ivo Daalder is Interviewed about NATO; Biden Calls for Filibuster Change; Schumer Set to Force Filibuster Debate; Jared Bernstein is Interviewed about the Inflation Number. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 09:30   ET



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Including a two-month-old baby. All survived. We're learning from local media that the pilot's condition here has been upgraded, and that pilot being heralded as a hero because his helicopter came crashing down essentially right in front of a church in the Drexel Hill neighborhood in Philadelphia. That patient, that two-month-old baby, was being transferred from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Still not totally clear exactly what precipitated this incident. Helicopters are pretty hard to fly. Very hard to fly when there's any sort of mechanical incident. We know that the weather was pretty good at the time. All things that the NTSB will be looking at here, although a pretty skillful job by the pilot and a real testament to this design of this helicopter, stayed in one piece pretty much. When it comes to the passenger cabin, everybody OK.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And you would know, Pete. You're a pilot yourself. Folks might not know that.

Thanks very much.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you, Pete.

Well, this morning, ambassadors from NATO countries met with Russian officials in Belgium, attempting to de-escalate the crisis at the border with Ukraine. Just moments ago, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke about what happened inside.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO allies are clear-eyed about the prospects for progress in these talks. They express serious concern about the Russian military buildup in and around Ukraine, and called on Russia to immediately de-escalate the situation.


GOLODRYGA: Ambassador Ivo Daalder joins me now live. He is the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Ambassador, welcome to the program.

Russia's deputy foreign minister described these talks as a, quote, moment of truth in our relations with the alliance. What is your takeaway from what we've heard from this morning's meeting?

IVO DAALDER, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO COUNCIL ON GLOBAL AFFAIRS: Well, it's all pretty discouraging. The Russians came to NATO basically asking them for unilateral surrender, for NATO to abandon its own commitment in this original treaty to allow countries to be part of NATO, and for NATO to withdraw all of the military equipment that it has put forward in the eastern and central European countries that have joined NATO since 1997.

NATO is not going to accept that. It's not going to draw -- rewrite history in the way that Vladimir Putin wants to. The problem is that the Russians aren't willing to talk about anything else. There are ways to de-escalate. There are ways to address their security concerns through arms control and other means. But the Russians clearly are coming here with a gun pointed at the Ukrainian heads, as well -- and at the same time trying to get NATO to, frankly, surrender unilaterally. It ain't going to happen.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and that having been said, given that the nonstarters that Russia presented, you know the situation in dealing with Russia all too well. They are very hostile and have been with NATO, even more so than with U.S. officials.

What's the likelihood that they will meet some sort of agreement given that the one person who decides all of this is Vladimir Putin, and he's not there. These representatives may not even know what he's planning to do.

DAALDER: No, that's right, it's all in Vladimir Putin's head and he's the one who's going to make a decision. And he'll ultimately have to make a calculation. Clearly Putin, who, as you remember, was a KGB officer in east Germany when the wall came down 30 plus years ago, has resented the fact that the Soviet Union lost the Cold War and has resented the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed. He's trying to now find a way to -- in some ways to retake what the Soviet Union lost at that time. That's really what's driving him.

And so the question he is facing, how much does he want to risk in order to get there. The reality is, even if he takes military action against Ukraine, he may be able to take part and occupy part of Ukraine, as he did indeed when he -- in 2014 when he invaded and annexed Crimea. But as the result, the Ukrainians will become more anti-Russian, more likely to be wanting to have ties to the west, and NATO will spend more time providing reassurance and military capabilities and equipment in eastern Europe in order to make sure that these countries can be defended.

So, the reality is that what he's threatening is likely to bring about the very thing he's hoping would go away. GOLODRYGA: And what he's arguably obsessed with, that is the past, and

NATO's relationship with Russia and the former Soviet Union, NATO is now looking forward. And I'm curious to get your thoughts on perhaps what could come of an invasion. And that is the real possibility that non-NATO members, like Finland and Sweden, may be willing to join.

So, do you think that that, if anything else, would be a deterrent for Putin and do you think that they should be welcome if, in fact, they do want to join?


DAALDER: Well, if Finland and Sweden want to join NATO, then I think there is little doubt that NATO will, and certainly should, welcome them to become part of it. And that's the dilemma that Putin faces. The instrument he's chosen to try to get what he wants, a threat of a military invasion in Europe, is likely to strengthen NATO, to make it more likely that NATO is -- gets closer to the borders, has more military equipment there and may, in fact, bring in new members, as you say, Finland and Sweden, and perhaps break the debt log even on the question of whether Ukraine at some point should be a member of NATO, which, at the moment, NATO is divided on. But if Russia acts in the way that it is threatening to act, even that question comes on the table.

So, the very thing he's trying to avoid may come about by the action he's taken. And I hope that he thinks about those consequences before deciding to take military action against Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: Except, I would say, in a dark way at least, what he's gaining is the attention of the world in a time when at least the United States had been hoping to move to two other areas, particularly to China.

Ambassador Ivo Daalder, as always, thank you for your expertise. We appreciate it.

DAALDER: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: A sobering read there.

Well, coming up, President Biden changing his posture on voting rights, calling out Congress for not getting it done. Can he get the ball moving?



GOLODRYGA: President Biden is demanding legislative action from Congress on voting rights, challenging Senate lawmakers to act right now to protect access to the ballot, no matter what it takes.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House, Lauren Fox joins us as well from Capitol Hill.

Jeremy, though, first to you.

Is the president willing to expend all his political capital to get this done? And, crucially, does he see a real path here? Because I'm not clear, watching this, whether and if he can get the votes to do it.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really hard to see how the president gets these two pieces of voting rights legislation that he was talking about yesterday through the Senate, given the fact that you have two Senate Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, both refusing so far to change the filibuster rules. And then you have almost unanimous Republican opposition to passing these two pieces of legislation. So, despite that, though, the president clearly is willing to put a lot of political capital on the line. It's a fight that he and his aides believe is worth fighting. And the president yesterday making very clear that he supports gutting the filibuster as it relates specifically to voting rights legislation and making changes there.

Here's the president yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills. Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.


DIAMOND: And so, ultimately, the question is, where do they land here? We know that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer intends to move forward with these pieces of legislation. But the White House says that this is a fight worth having, even if they don't necessarily see a path to a compromise. Cedric Richmond told me earlier that he believes this is a fight that they need to have.

GOLODRYGA: And meantime, Lauren, the president, obviously, is calling out Republicans, but is he any closer to getting all 50 Democrats on board? He did mention that he's been talking to a lot of them, just behind closed doors.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these efforts have been ongoing for several months now, Bianna, but so far there is no indication, like Jeremy said, that Manchin or Sinema have changed their minds about gutting the filibuster. This is all going to happen really in two steps. We expect that the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, will make an announcement at some point today about when they will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, in the next couple of hours. Once that announcement is made, and those votes take place, you can expect that they will go down because there won't be ten Republican senators to support them.

At that point, there will be another vote on changing the filibuster, or the 60-vote threshold, for this piece of legislation, a kind of carveout for voting rights. But, again, this has been the critical question, and the critical issue, so far Manchin and Sinema say that they want to preserve the filibuster as it stands for legislation because they argue that right now Democrats control the Senate, but soon Republicans could control the Senate and this could go back and forth several times in the next couple of years. Their fear, including something that Sinema has made very clear over the last several months, is that you would careen then from one extreme to another on legislation. So, it's a path that so far they've made very clear they do not want to go down. Does that change with all of these meetings? So far I'm not getting any indication it will. But, again, that is the effort that Schumer is making.

SCIUTTO: And so we are, where we have been for some time it appears.

Lauren Fox, on The Hill, Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thank you.

As we reported earlier, the U.S. is now seeing the highest inflation rate since 1982. So what is the plan to turn it around? I'm going to speak with one of President Biden's top economic advisers. It's an interview you want to hear. It's coming up next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, a key U.S. inflation measure shows consumer prices soaring 7 percent in the past 12 months. That is the fastest pace in four decades.

Joining me now to discuss is Jared Bernstein. He's a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Mr. Bernstein, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: This is a severe inflation number. Jay Powell admitted that the Fed believed that the root causes behind this inflation would alleviate more quickly.

Did the White House get this wrong? And why wasn't the administration better prepared?

BERNSTEIN: No, I wouldn't say we got it wrong in the following sense.


It's really important to get under the hood of these monthly inflation reports. And if you look at the change from November to December, inflation is up half a percent. That's considerably down from October and November when inflation was up 0.8 and 0.9 percent respectively.

One reason why inflation came down in December, why the rate of inflation was slower in December, is because energy prices actually fell after growing 6 percent in October and November. They actually fell 0.5 percent in December.

The president has consistently said there are two key components in this recovery. Here I think he's in sync with Chair Powell. One is to maintain the strongest labor market we've seen. And we are posting historic numbers in that regard.

The other is to do everything we can to unsnarl supply chains, which, by the way, are jammed across the world. This high inflation problem is a global problem.


BERNSTEIN: And try to bring down price pressures through these efforts.

SCIUTTO: It may be a global problem but it's one that Americans are feeling right now.


SCIUTTO: The president said last month that inflation was peaking. What should give Americans confidence today that inflation is coming down? What gives you confidence?

BERNSTEIN: It's an important question.

First of all, let me just underscore something you said. We know what a challenge this is for middle class families trying to make their budget. That's why we are working relentlessly. And here's my answer to the first part of your question, what are we doing to try to ease these pressures?


BERNSTEIN: At least four things. At the ports, and in the trucks, we're trying to make sure that we can unsnarl those supply chains. And we're having some success. The rate of dwell times, the amount of time containers, they're staying in the port, that's down 40 percent. Shipping costs are down 25 percent. We are trying to make sure that competition is robust in industries so cost savings get passed on to consumers.

We are dealing with the energy price increases. The release of strategic reserves helped in that regard.


BERNSTEIN: And, fourth, this is really important, one of the key factors in today's report is a very big bump in the price of used cars.


BERNSTEIN: That relates directly to semiconductors. Once again, a global constraint. There is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate. What gets 68 votes in the Senate? A bill to expand domestic semiconductor production. It's called the Chips Act. It's part --

SCIUTTO: OK. I'm aware.

BERNSTEIN: And that's something Congress needs to get to as quickly as possible according to the president, something he said this morning in a statement.

SCIUTTO: Despite that optimistic statement, the Fed is talking, right now, preparing the country for a sustained effort to combat inflation. They're talking about multiple interest rate hikes this year, as well as tapering off bond buying.

Do you, does the White House support, the Federal Reserve's plan both to end the bond buying stimulus program, but also to raise interest rates multiple times?

BERNSTEIN: We very much support an independent Federal Reserve. We don't get into their knitting at the level of precision your question suggests.

I will say the following, first and foremost, when it comes to maintain full employment, and stable prices, that's the -- that's the task of the Federal Reserve. And we have obviously great faith in particularly the members that we have recently nominated for repeat terms. So -- so that's one part.

But, secondly, one of the things I do in my job here as the Council of Economic Advisors, I track every forecast we have. Every forecast shows that even with Fed rate hikes penciled in, the unemployment rate will continue to decline this year, and we should be back to full employment at the end of the year.


BERNSTEIN: So under this scenario, inflation comes down in the second half of the year. We still have a very tight labor market.

Now, we are not sitting on our hands idly by hoping that these forecasts are right.


BERNSTEIN: We're doing everything we can to ensure that's the outcome.

SCIUTTO: A couple more issues here.

One, I want to understand your sense of the effect on the Build Back Better agenda, because both Senators Manchin and Sinema, whose votes you need, have already expressed worries that BBB will worsen inflation. Has this latest report just sunk the chances of passage for BBB in its current form?

BERNSTEIN: I don't believe so. And I think there are a number of very important, substantive reasons for my belief.

First of all, over the longer term, building back better will ease inflationary pressures by increasing the economy's productive capacity, investing in childcare, elder care. That creates a path into the labor force. You know, we need to boost labor supply. BBB is part of the solution.

Secondly, bringing down costs for prescription drugs, for health insurance, for education, for child and elder care, that reduces the costs that families face by helping them pay those very important family budgets.


BERNSTEIN: So -- and thirdly -- thirdly, very important, let me just get to it --

SCIUTTO: Sorry to interrupt, just because our time is limited. Just on the issue -- just, the point you just made, I get why reducing, for instance, prescription drug prices would help people with prices, but --



SCIUTTO: Another piece, a major piece of BBB is putting more money in people's pockets, the child tax credit, et cetera. Explain to folks at home --


SCIUTTO: Because, by the way, "The New York Times," for instance, had a piece earlier this week about how public support is falling for even the child tax credit.

BERNSTEIN: OK. That -- I'm glad --

SCIUTTO: Explain to Americans how putting more money into the economy helps inflation.

BERNSTEIN: So, I'm glad you asked me that. It is exactly the point I wanted to make. It was my fourth point. So, thank you for giving me the stage here on this.

The amount of -- the amount of money that the government is putting into the 2022 economy, including Build Back Better, is much less than in '21. The fiscal impulse, or the amount that the government is stimulating the '22 economy is much, much less this year than last year. BBB, building back better spends out over 10 years. It is far more gradual. So it's impact on inflation is going to be extremely negligible in '22. It's a much longer term program on that, and you have to net out the fact that all of the government spending in the rescue plan is beginning to wind down in '22. When you take the net impulse, which is the correct way to do this, you actually see that inflation due to fiscal policy should be coming down in '22. SCIUTTO: Jared Bernstein, we'll be watching those numbers closely, as

I know you will. It's good to have you on the program this morning.

BERNSTEIN: Great to talk. Great questions. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: It's a delicate balance, Jim, right, keeping the economy hot but also keeping inflation low, right?


GOLODRYGA: So, that's what the White House has ahead.

SCIUTTO: It is. And it's tough. And we don't have to tell the folks watching at home that they feel this, right? They feel this in prices for a whole host of things.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Yes. That's very true. Well, what they're also feel are Covid hospitalizations soaring to record highs right now as mostly unvaccinated Americans crowd into emergency rooms across the country. The stark warning from the acting FDA commissioner, just ahead.