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Gas Prices Creeping Higher; Trump Likely to Run for President; Bishop Reginald T. Jackson is Interviewed about Faith Leaders Supporting Voting Rights; FBI and DHS Warn Faith-Based Groups; Asteroid Flies by Earth Today. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 09:30   ET




And, Bianna, the oil markets seem to be pointing towards higher oil prices this year, too.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, some predictions that they could go up to $100.

CNN's Matt Egan joins us now from New York.

And, Matt, U.S. consumers, as we know, are already feeling anxious with high inflation. The Biden administration had been pointing to lower gas prices over the past few weeks. So what are they saying now about this sudden increase?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Jim and Bianna, alarm bells have got to be ringing inside the White House over energy prices. As you mentioned, we actually saw gas prices start to tick lower at the end of last year, but that proved to be very short-lived. The national average at $3.31 a gallon. That's up by about a penny from a week ago and more than a dollar from a year ago. And pump prices are likely to go higher in the coming weeks because gas follows the lead of oil.

U.S. oil topped $85 a barrel this morning for the first time since late October. Goldman Sachs is now calling for brent crude, the world benchmark, to hit $100 a barrel by September and then $105 next year. That's going to drive gas prices even higher.

Now, prices are already in the danger zone for President Biden and the White House knows it. Let me read to you what a White House official told me on this topic. They said, quote, tools continue to remain on the table for us to address prices. This is something the administration is continuing to watch and monitor very closely. But presidents have limited power to lower gas prices. And while Biden

does have some options, they all have real drawbacks. Let me run you through just a few of them.

He could release more barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That's what he did in late November. And, you know what, prices did drop ahead of that announcement, and then they crashed afterwards because of omicron. But presidents can't go back a release barrels, you know, every month or two. There's a finite number of barrels there. And the fact that we're talking about gas prices again, just two months later, shows the limitations of that tool.

Biden could also take a more extreme step. He could ban oil exports (ph). But experts are saying to me that that could backfire because oil is a globally traded commodity, and gas prices are actually set by world prices. So, if you limit U.S. supply, that would drive prices at the pump higher.

Jim and Bianna, you know, presidents don't have magic wands to lower gas prices. If they did, they would use them.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Yes, and, Matt, it's one of the reasons why the administration had been trying to pressure OPEC, right, to increase production as well over the past few months. They did do that. But, clearly, not to the level where consumers are starting to feel the relief that they much need.

Matt Egan, as always, thank you.

EGAN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, the upcoming midterm elections, they're not far away, could have major implications for the future of the GOP. How the ripple effects could lift former President Trump back to a run in 2024 perhaps to the White House. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: The 2020 midterms could play a key role in deciding the next presidential primary for Republicans. According to new CNN reporting, former President Trump views the November elections as an opportunity to be a so-called king maker inside the GOP, as well as a chance to potentially springboard himself back to a run for the White House.

CNN reporter Gabby Orr joins me now with her reporting.

Gabby, it seems that a big piece of this, right, is that Trump and his allies are putting pieces in place for him to run in 2024. Can you describe how extensive that is and do we know if he's made a decision?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Yes, absolutely, Jim, there's been a lot that's been done behind the scenes in Trump's orbit to really get his political operation into a place where he can not only have a significant influence in 2022, but also use it as a launch pad for 2024. They've implemented different organizational changes, such as the vetting that he does when he's deciding how to endorse and who to endorse in primary contests. He's now looking at polling regularly. He's being briefed on field research before meeting with candidates who are seeking his endorsement. So, he is taking an active role in determining where he wants to put his weight in the 2022 midterm elections.

Whether this will help him in 2024, if he does decide to run, and that is not a decision that he's made at this point, but it is one that he's strongly -- he is strongly considering running in 2024, I'm told, whether -- whether -- how 2022 goes for him is going to be the ultimate factor. You know, does he pull off this role as king maker. Does he choose candidates at the state, local and national level who are able to get into office and then pursue his agenda and help him as allies in a 2024 presidential bid. Or does his focus on 2022, when he goes to campaign in places like Georgia and New Hampshire and Arizona end up backfiring and hurting Republican chances of gaining power on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: It's a big question.

CNN's Jake Tapper, some reporting, that three dozen former Trump administration officials, these are people who served the former president in senior positions, are together concerned about his impact, his potential run, and they're strategizing now against him, both in 2022 and 2024. How so?

ORR: Well, there was a meeting that took place last Monday between a number of former Trump administration officials. These are names like Alyssa Farrah, the former White House communications director, ranging up to, you know, former high-level cabinet officials and even former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.


They gathered for a brief meeting to talk about how they can undermine the influence that Trump has gained over the last year since leaving office. It doesn't seem, based on our reporting, that there was a clear outcome or clear guidance that they've narrowed in on in terms of deciding how to move forward and how to subvert his influence in the Republican Party, but it is something that they're going to continue to discuss over the course of future meetings.

This is a group of administration officials who have already spoken out publicly in some cases, but also some who haven't, who have been more critical behind the scenes and are now planning to come out and question whether Trump is truly a threat to democracy, and, if so, how can they subvert his influence over the GOP.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's remarkable. Is there any precedent for folks who served a U.S. president at such a senior level making that argument, saying that he's a threat and doing their best to stand in the way?

Gabby Orr, thank you so much.

ORR: Thank you. GOLODRYGA: Well, today, the Senate will take the first steps towards a

floor vote on the Democrats' voting rights legislation. The effort is almost certain to fail because Democrats simply don't have the votes. That will then trigger another fruitless vote to change the filibuster in order to pass the legislation, which Democrat Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain opposed to doing.

A group of black faith leaders just released a public letter to express their shock at the unwavering support of the filibuster, writing, we want to make it clear that your uncompromising stance has prevented needed action from the Senate on a host of issues, roadblocked the voice of America's majority and has now been used to block needed voting rights bills and our very democracy is at risk.

Well, joining me now to discuss this is Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, a voting rights activist who leads over 500 of the AME churches in Georgia.

Welcome to the program, Bishop.

Listen, your letter is extremely powerful. And I thought to myself, however, when I read it last night, why you choose to write this, given what you heard from Senator Sinema, taking to the Senate floor last week, just moments before the president was to go and meet with the senators to try to persuade them on this, where she said that she would not be in favor of doing away with the filibuster. What makes you think this letter will convince her otherwise?

BISHOP REGINALD T. JACKSON, PRESIDING PRELATE OF SIXTH EPISCOPAL DISTRICT, AME CHURCH: Well, I think at least an effort had to be made. And I think Senator Sinema has a responsibility to explain to the nation why she is opposed to opening and moving the filibuster so we can vote on this important legislation. And I remind you, she approved and supported a carveout to increase the national debt limit. If she can do that, why can't she do it for voting rights? I believe the greatest right we have in this democracy is voting.

GOLODRYGA: You also said that you believe that these votes should go through, that they should take place, even though they are destined to failed, just basically going through the motions here. Why do you think it's important for the nation to see that happen?

JACKSON: Well, one, the voters in Arizona, the state she was elected from, need to see and hear their senator and her position as it relates to voting rights. There is a consequence for everything we do, either good or bad. And I believe if she does not vote to support voting rights, I believe she's going to put herself in a very difficult position in Arizona.

The same goes for every one of these senators. I'm remind of 2006 under a Republican president, the Senate voted 98-0 to support voting rights. Sixteen of those senators are still in the United States Senate. So, you mean to tell me we can't get one Republican out of 50 to support voting rights, when in 2006 there was not one Republican which opposed it? GOLODRYGA: So, what do you make of her argument, warning that this

could set a precedent, right, that if, in fact, the Republicans take over the majority, they could do the same, and they could strike down abortion rights and other legislation that liberals and Democrats hold so dear? What -- do you think that -- clearly that's not a compelling argument in your view, but why not?

JACKSON: Well, the first thing is, let's understand, this is a fight. Voting rights is a fight. Republicans, when they show up, they show up with an axe. Democrats show up with a butter knife.

Let's look at Senator Sinema's argument. First of all, there had been so much evidence given by Republicans that they have no second thought. I remind you, Barack Obama had a year remaining in his term as president, they would not give Merrick Garland a single hearing.

A few years later, Donald Trump has only a few months left in his presidency, three months, I believe, and yet they rushed through Amy Coney Barrett.


So that, by itself, ought to say to Senator Sinema that the Republicans do not play with the same values, the same principles. This Republican Party is not the one of 2006. In fact, this is a cult.

GOLODRYGA: Bishop, prior to this letter that you wrote, you wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" addressing this very issue as well. And while you commended President Biden's heart and where he stood on this issue, you all but suggested that he, at this point, is a weak president, and that Americans would only respect a powerful president to move forward.

Why do you think this president is in a weakened position right now and what can he do to change that in the months remaining before the midterms?

JACKSON: Well, the perception is that he is weak. And that perception exists, first of all, because there's been no consequence for opposing him. And the Democrats' fight right now is not with Republicans, it's among themselves. And so the Democrats need to make sure that they have their own house in order.

And I remember Lyndon Johnson, during the 1960, when they were trying to get the civil rights bill passed, Lyndon Johnson twisted arms, in fact broke arms if he had to, in order to get the civil rights bill passed. Joe Biden needs to, likewise, be a strong president. We've now gone through passing an infrastructure bill. These senators are going to want projects in their states. And my position, I believe, and I think the position of the president ought to be, if you cannot support voting rights, the most important right we have in this country, how can this administration support what it is you're trying to do for your state, which at this point is less important?

GOLODRYGA: Bishop Reginald Jackson, thank you. We appreciate you coming on. A stark warning there, Jim, not to Republicans, right, but to


SCIUTTO: No question, saying that Republicans come with an axe to these voting rights fights, Democrats come with a butter knife, says the bishop there.

Coming up this hour, a stark warning from the FBI to faith-based communities following the standoff at a Texas synagogue. Why they believe there may be more violence to come.



SCIUTTO: This morning, federal officials are warning faith-based communities that they will likely remain targets of violence.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the warning comes on the heels of the hostage situation at a synagogue in Texas. Homeland Security and the FBI are now urging state and local leaders to re-evaluate security measures at houses of worship and large gatherings.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

And, Shimon, what exactly are we hearing in these warnings?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the thing that most concerns law enforcement certainly is copycat attacks. Anytime something like this happens, the fear is always it's going to inspire others to act. We're in this heightened state of alert because of the domestic terrorism concerns across this country, but they're also warning, based on where this person came from, where the hostage- taker came from, he came from a foreign country, that there is still this foreign threat that people need to be aware of.

And in this letter that they've sent to law enforcement and also in warnings to the faith-based communities, they say that -- law enforcement says that, foreign influence actors have also promoted narratives online intended to sow discord in the U.S. and foreign terrorist groups continue to encourage followers to conduct attacks and use social media to incite violence.

And that is the concern. A lot of what law enforcement is seeing on social media certainly concerns them. So they're just reminding the faith-based community to stem up security. You know, we heard from the hostages yesterday talk about these courses that they took to learn how to protect themselves and run and defend themselves, and they are reminding them to also continue those courses. And so they just want everyone to be on alert. This is not tied to any specific threat. But they want people to be vigilant and to continue to be safe.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the copycat phenomenon is a real one.

Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much. Coming up next, an asteroid hurtling close to earth within hours. How

close and how close is too close? We're going to have a live report next.



GOLODRYGA: I'm not sure how I'm feeling about this story, Jim.


GOLODRYGA: An asteroid more than half a mile wide will have a close encounter with the planet earth today.

SCIUTTO: Just how close is the question. Did it ever put the earth in danger?

CNN's space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher joins us now.

We can see stuff in space earlier and better than we ever have been able to before. So we're seeing more of this kind of stuff.

Was this ever a moment where we had to call Bruce Willis in to go up and save us?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. This is an asteroid that we should not be too worried about, but it technically is labeled as potentially hazardous by NASA for two reasons, because of its size and its orbit.

If you take a look at its size, this is a big one. It's about four times the size of the Empire State Building, twice as tall as the tallest building in the world. And then if you look at its orbit, this asteroid is going to get within about 1.2 million miles of earth. And while that sounds like a crazy distance far, far away, in the grand scheme of things, in terms of the size and scope of the entire universe, a million miles is actually a little too close for comfort.

But the real reason astronomers aren't too worried about this is, this is an asteroid that they have been tracking for decades. It was first discovered -- they've been observing it for about 47 years. And so this is not going to sneak up on us.

Those are the types of asteroids that really concern NASA. And it happened just two years ago. A very large asteroid got within 44,000 miles of earth. That's nothing. And they only found out about it less than 24 hours before due to a quirk in the earth's rotation.


It made it appear as though this asteroid was approaching much slower than it actually was. And so that really rattled NASA and the