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U.S. Economy Adds 428K Jobs in April, Employment Stable at 3.6 Percent; Biden in Ohio to Meet with Manufacturers; Satellite Pics Show Excavation of Mariupol Theater Where 300 Killed; Judge Recommends GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Should Not Be Disqualified for Reelection. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 15:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of a brand new hour here on CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

Strong economic indicators after a volatile week on Wall Street. Employers added 428,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate is staying right there at 3t.6 percent. An hour before the closing bell, the Dow is down about 300 points.

This has been a turbulent week. Investors had their worst day of the year yesterday. Stocks fell more than a thousand points after the Feds interest rate hike.

And live this hour, the president is in Hamilton, Ohio, right outside of Cincinnati. He's about to meet with manufacturing leaders and he's promising to make inflation a top priority.

Joining me now, CNN's Matt Egan, and CNN's John Harwood who's traveling today with the president.

Let's start with Matt.

The number, 428,000, higher than what was expected. What does this mean for the recovery?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Victor, today's report paints the picture of a hot jobs market that continues to defy expectations of a slowdown. Four hundred and twenty-eight thousand jobs added this month, 2.1 million added so far this year. That's impressive job growth given the shortage of workers and all of the gains we have seen to this point. In fact, the U.S. economy is on track to be back at pre-COVID levels of employment by the end of the summer. That's a major milestone, and one that would be coming basically three times faster than during the last economic expansion.

But we are at kind of a weird moment where great news about the jobs market may not be universally good news for the economy because remember, the Federal Reserve is concerned that the jobs market is overheating. They're trying to cool it off by raising interest rates, and the goal is to try to narrow this really, really big gap between strong demand for workers and relatively limited supply of workers, and so that's the major concern right now.

And I think that we have to remember that at the end of the day, the economy is what people feel, and I think the last two years has really revealed that while people hate unemployment, they may hate high inflation even more. And so, the fact the jobs market is strong is great, but it doesn't change the fact that people are feeling sticker shock when they're filling up at the gas station, they're at the grocery store, they're at the mall, and I don't think anything about today's report really dramatically changes that story.

BLACKWELL: John, as I said, the president is in Ohio meeting with manufacturing leaders. What's the goal of the visit?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he's going to try, victor, to highlight things that he has done, and things that he still wants to do. What he has done, as Matt indicates, strong job growth, reduced unemployment, that's partly the result of the big American Rescue Plan that was passed last year. He's also trying to take actions to limit the inflation that also stemmed in part from that rescue plan, so he has been trying to smooth out supply chains so that the production of products can keep up with consumer demand, the mismatch between those two has been fueling inflation.

Part of that is what he's doing here. He's highlighting an initiative that will try to pair manufacturers with 3D printing companies to smooth those supply chains. This is one of those 3D printing companies that we're in right now.

He's also going to talk about the bipartisan Innovation Act, which is a piece of legislation he wants to pass with Republicans and Democrats, would invest $52 billion in the production of semiconductors. That's a part of the crimped supply chain is the lack of semiconductors. So, he's going to talk about those things and also just try to make the case for keeping the recovery going while hoping that the Federal Reserve which has been raising interest rates can have some success in bringing that inflation.

And there was some good news on the inflation front in the jobs report today. Some tempering of wage growth, which counter-intuitively may be good as a signal that inflation has peaked and may be going down, Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right. John Harwood, Matt Egan, thank you.

Let's get into all of that with Cecilia Rouse. She is chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with me.

So, let's talk about this mixed picture. On one hand, you have really strong job numbers, another strong month after a string of really strong months. On the other hand, you've got the highest rate of inflation in 40 years, the dimmest public view of the economic situation in more than a decade.

What is the White House's view? Are these good economic times?

CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Look, this report was about the labor market, and it reflects that our labor market continues to be strong, that we're making a robust recovery from the pandemic. Let's remember back at the beginning of 2021 when the president took office, there were about 20 million people who were on unemployment insurance. Today, that is around 1 million. That's the lowest it's been since 1970.

So the recovery in the economic and labor market is so very important, and we believe that is very important news. And it also reflects the fact that household balance sheets are strong. If we look back at 2021, economists at Berkeley have estimated that the lower half of households, those in the bottom 50 percent, their real labor market earnings increase 11 percent.

So we have a strong labor market. Of course, though, we understand, and the president understands that inflation is painful, that, you know, for families to go to the supermarket, to be paying more for milk and eggs and gas prices are high. But let's face it, the president is focused on this, at the same time, that is the purview of the Federal Reserve board. The president respects the independence of the Fed. He also supports their pivot in policy making and calls on Congress to go ahead and confirmed his nominees.

That said, he is doing what he can. You highlighted, he's in Ohio today, highlighting not only the efforts he's made in the bipartisan infrastructure law, and in other places to be improving supply chain, ensuring we're making investments in roads and bridges to lower the kinds of costs for firms to move goods, and to be helping more flexible with the added manufacturing or 3D printing, so it is a concern.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk -- let's talk about inflation because that, of course, is what American people face first, the price of gas, the price of food, the price of housing. The president said in December that he thought that the U.S. was hitting its peak at inflation. Of course that's not true. Let's put up the chart of the rate of inflation.

Where on this trajectory is the U.S.? Is this the peak? Is it coming soon? What's the expectation from the White House?

ROUSE: Well, look, my crystal ball is -- you know, I do the best -- we do the best that we can.

Here's what we do know, is that if we look at month on month core CPI, which drips out gas and food, and that is what the Federal Reserve pays attention to, it's month on month monitoring. We know however that in late February, Russia invaded Ukraine and that had a large impact on energy prices and it's also had a big impact on food prices. That is the largest explanation for the increases in food and gas over the last couple of months.

So while we certainly hope that we have seen the peak of inflation, it will be tied to the war in Ukraine. So the president understands this. This is why he's been focused on trying to address gas prices, on trying to, you know, he's released 100 million barrels from the strategic petroleum reserve.

He has been taking other actions to work with our partners, to ensure that there is adequate gas on the market. But nonetheless, will be punishing the Russian economy so that we can reduce the prices for American consumers.

BLACKWELL: So the latest poll we have out about what the president is doing, the results just came in two days ago, is that when it comes to the response to inflation in the country, 81 percent of respondents say that the administration is doing too little. The president said today in a statement that there is more to do. You talked about the obligation, the onus on the Fed, but is there more from the administration and what is that, if it's coming?

ROUSE: So we are focused and looking under every rock to consider policies that can meaningfully move the dial on inflation. So that involves efforts, for example, to improve labor supply, so that's, for example, lowering the cost of childcare for families, so they can better balance work and family. That is we announce administrative actions on improving visa processing, so it's improving immigration.


We're -- you know, we know between the prior administration and pandemic, we are missing out on immigrants who provide innovative labor to our economy. So, we are considering a variety of policies in order to address inflation, because this is the president's top priority right now.

BLACKWELL: Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, thank you so much.

ROUSE: You're very welcome.

BLACKWELL: First on CNN, new satellite images show Russia is excavating the site of the bombed Mariupol theater that once sheltered hundreds of civilians. We've got more on that next.

And Ukraine's president says more than a half million Ukrainians have been deported to Russia and stripped of their papers and phones.



BLACKWELL: Got some breaking developments in Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine. A short time ago, Ukraine's deputy prime minister confirmed at least 50 civilians were freed from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol today. She also said that evacuations will continue tomorrow. The shelter in Mariupol was breached by the Russians this week, and earlier, President Zelenskyy said the Russian shelling of the steel plant has not stopped.

So there's also a resident inside Azovstal reporting that Russian troops broke a truce of blowing up a car that was helping evacuees. One person was killed.

Now, there are new details of another major shelter in Mariupol, you remember the drama theater where Russian strikes killed at least 300, according to Ukraine, well, these satellite images first seen on CNN show Russians excavating that site. The area is now under Russian control.

CNN's Sara Sidner is in Kyiv.

So, Sara, first, what do you know about the excavations today out of Azovstal.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: There have been a lot of different satellite pictures that have slowly come out, and what you're seeing is just absolute destruction, parts caved in. You also talked about that theater, there's also on the edge of town, a satellite image that appears to be of mass graves, rows and rows of graves there.

Very devastated. You can see how devastated the city is all the way from space essentially. It is a terrible scene. So you're getting some idea of just what the destruction looks like.

We should also talk about what is happening at the steel -- in and around the steel plant which really is the last Ukrainian hold there in Mariupol. The fighting has been absolutely fierce. There have been bloody battles, according to the commander.

We're seeing some of those pictures coming out. They are being hit by the sky, the air and the sea. There is just absolute deep, deep, deep, fighting and on top of that, of course you've got civilians.

Now, we know that at least 50 people have been evacuated today, and over the last two to three days, we've seen a few hundred. But we have heard from the mayor that there are certainly hundreds more who are stuck underneath that steel plant in that cavernous area of bunkers, and there was fierce fighting inside there as well. Bloody battles, again, inside the plant as Ukrainian soldiers tried to repel the Russians who made it inside.

Those battles never stopped even though Russia had said it was going to give some sort of civilian corridor, to have a cease fire. That never materialized.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, even with the help from the U.N. and the Red Cross, that agreement in principle wasn't really reliable.

Let me ask you about what the Russian defense ministry reported this week that more than a million people have been, in their words, evacuated to Russian territory since the beginning of the war. Today, the Ukrainian president gave his own figure of those who, by his classification have been deported to Russia. Talk about that. SIDNER: Yeah, and, you know, so what basically Russia is trying to say

is here they are giving aid, as they're putting it, to those, and refuge who were there offering them a place in Russia, how nice, right. Many of these people don't want to go to Russia. They want to be in their own country, Ukraine.

So it is a war of words still, there's plenty of propaganda that has been happening. Of course, you are going to hear this and see this over and over and over again, and especially in this region, and you know that as May 9th approaches, which is when Russia celebrates victory day from World War II, there are a lot of people looking at that date and worrying and wondering if that date is so significant as a date for Putin to try and say, hey, we have become victorious, look at what we've done in Mariupol.

That may be why there is such a intense pressure, and intense fighting there to try and finally take the last remaining stronghold in that area of Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: Sara Sidner with the latest developments there from Kyiv -- thank you very much, Sara.

Now, the pentagon has denied providing specific targeting information to Ukrainians on the Moskva, the Russian ship that sank in the Black Sea last month. Well, sources tell CNN they did confirm the location of the Moskva to the Ukrainians but the U.S. has been very clear it was not involved in the decision to strike the ship.

We're also learning that more than 200 Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on the U.S. provided howitzer weapons. The Pentagon added another 150 are still being trained.


So, let's discuss all of this with Brigadier General Steve Anderson.

General, good to have you back.

I want to start here with Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby on the intel that the U.S. is giving Ukraine. Let's watch and listen.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Did not provide specific targeting information about the Moskva to the Ukrainians. We weren't involved in their decision to conduct that strike, and we certainly weren't involved in the actual execution of that strike.

And again, I want to just stress that in order for us to be able to help Ukraine defend itself, it's not just about the weapons, it's not just about the training. It is about some of the information, and we want to be able to protect that information, and rightly so. And so, weeks like this, and stories like this, they are unhelpful to the effort to help Ukraine defend itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: General, what did -- and I don't ask this sarcastically at all, what did the U.S. expect Ukraine was going to do with the information about the Moskva if not use it to strike?

BRIG. GENERAL STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I think it's pretty safe to assume that they knew that they would use this information to the maximum possible advantage. And of course, one of those outcomes would be to try to strike the Moskva and to take out the general officers that they provided intelligence on to.

And I want to remind you, victor, these are combatants engaged in an attack on a sovereign nation. Okay? The Moskva was directing activities. It was firing cruise missiles, okay? These are general officers strapped up, put on body armor and helmets and weapons, and went into a sovereign nation, Ukraine, with the attempt to kill Ukrainians in the seized terrain there.

These are combatants. These are not innocents. They deserved what they got. They were fair game, and for us to provide intelligence to our Ukrainian brothers and for them to use that, and of course take advantage of the poor operational security that the Russians have been known for to begin with, and in their own sources of human intelligence and other ways that they can gather, analyze social media, et cetera -- I mean, for them to take all of this together and to figure out where the Moskva was and to take it out with a couple of cruise missiles, I think that's a good thing.

BLACKWELL: OK. Let's go to the map now. Russian officials say that Russian troops are, quote, here to stay in Kherson. They're continuing to bombard Mariupol. Russia is digging in in the south but really not having a great time of it in the east. What's the significance of what you see on the map?

ANDERSON: Well, I have been saying this for a while now. They spread themselves way too thin. You essentially got an 800-mile, excuse me, an 800-mile front that they have established here. And what they have done is they've spread themselves in all of these areas here, and they're not really attacking in any key access of advance.

Let me give you an example. Let's talk about what's going on up here in this area, just south of Kharkiv. They have been trying to get down to Kramatorsk down here. They have gone 150 miles from Belgorod, they have got to maintain the supply line.

They started the war with 130 BTGs. After the battle of Kyiv, they were down to 90. Okay? Twenty-five percent degradation. They started this attack with 22 BTGs. Now, by the time they get 150 miles down there, if they have maybe 10 or 12 left, they're probably lucky.

Now, normally in an offensive mode, you need to outnumber the defenders three to one. So what that tells you is the Ukrainians can put a couple thousand troops out there, a couple dozen tanks and they can probably withstand any kind of attack towards Kramatorsk.

So, this is why they have been failing, the strategy is flawed is because they're not concentrating. They should have started this watt battle right here, now with 22 BTGs but with 50.

BLACKWELL: There have been a dwindling of the battalion tactical groups.

Retired Brigadier Steve Anderson, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Breaking news, a judge in Georgia has ruled on whether Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene should be able to run for reelection in light of her role of the January 6th events. We have details ahead of that.

And shocking revelations from former Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He claims then President Trump floated the idea of launching missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs. More on that, next.



BLACKWELL: A judge has just ruled that Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene should not be disqualified from running for reelection over her actions after the 2020 election.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now.

Ryan, this is a recommendation from this judge. He does not have the final say. Walk us through the decision and what happens next.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you're right, Victor. This is not the final say as it pertains to Marjorie Taylor Greene and her future on the ballot. It is certainly the most important hurdle she needed to cross in this fight that she has from liberal activists that are trying to remove her from the ballot because of the role they said she played in the January 6th insurrection.

This judge, state judge by the name of Charles Beaudrot put out a 19- page decision after a marathon hearing last month where Greene herself testified for more than three hours in her own defense.