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Gas Prices Hit Record High Amid Rising Inflation; Biden Touts Efforts To Lower Fuel Prices As Gas Hits Record High; Democrats Urge Schumer To End Filibuster To Protect Abortion Rights. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 15:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.


Today, President Biden is confronting an obstacle course of economic challenges. While trying to assure Americans he has the tools to keep everyone from struggling. The President shared his plan to ease the pain of persistently rising inflation and record high gas prices.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the families all across America are hurting because of inflation. I understand what it feels like. I come from a family where when the price of gas or food went up, we felt it. It was a discussion at the kitchen table. I want every American to know that I'm taking inflation very seriously and it's my top domestic priority.


CAMEROTA: Well, with less than 200 days until the midterm elections, Biden also claimed the congressional Republicans would make inflation worse. CNN White House Correspondent M.J. Lee joins us now. So M.J., did the President lay out any sort of roadmap or new plan to fight inflation?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He certainly tried. You could tell from his tone, the language that he was using, that this is such an urgent priority and a problem for this administration. He said that inflation is the number one problem for families across the country right now and that it is his top domestic issue that he is most focused on. And he did try to sort of explain that there is a plan that the White House is trying to execute to try to bring prices down.

So, of course, gas prices are again hitting record highs, he talked about the fact that the U.S. has tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to bring those costs down. He talked about trying to make drivers a little less dependent on cars that run on fuel and then a number of other actions that he has taken or is trying to take to try to just bring those prices down on everything from food, to drug prices to even childcare. And then another sort of striking part of this speech was the

President acknowledging the reality that he knows this is a huge political problem for him. And the Democrats, he multiple times a contrast of what he said was his economic plan from the plan of the Republicans what he labeled the ultra MAGA agenda, take a listen.


BIDEN: All of my plan is focused on lowering costs for the average family in America to give them just a little bit of breathing room.

Now, what's the congressional Republican plan?

They don't want to solve inflation by lowering your costs. They want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income.

I happen to think it's a good thing when American families have a little more money in their pockets at the end of the month. But Republicans in Congress don't seem to think so.


LEE: But as much as the President talked about having this plan, it is really worth emphasizing just how difficult a problem inflation is for this administration to try to resolve and to get the prices down. We know that the past efforts to tap the petroleum reserve, that hasn't had a permanent or significant effect on bringing gas prices down. We know that some of these other actions that the President is talking about they are challenging for a variety of reasons, including the fact that some of them would require congressional action.

And he said himself from behind that podium that he knows how difficult it is to try to get 60 votes on anything in the Senate. And I think the messaging challenge that the President was talking about too, that was significant. He said that he really does understand that Americans are deeply frustrated. But he also said that it might be good for them to try to find sort of simpler terms to explain to the American people exactly what is going on.

BLACKWELL: M.J. Lee at the White House, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So if you have to fill your tank today, brace yourself. Gas prices hit another record high averaging $4.37 a gallon. That's according to GasBuddy, which looks at fuel prices all across the country. Patrick De Haan is the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy and he joins us now. Patrick, thanks so much for being here. What should Americans mentally prepare for as we head towards the Memorial Day weekend?

PATRICK DE HAAN, HEAD OF PETROLEUM ANALYSIS, GASBUDDY: Well, I think to start, a lot of the increase that we've seen in the last couple of weeks is due to the EU talking about sanctioning Russian oil. Now, we have seen oil prices pull back to start the week yesterday and today. We're, at one point today, back under $100 a barrel, so that may give us a little bit of short-term relief, but keep in mind, a lot of things can escalate between Russia and Ukraine and that's certainly a key driver right now.

Motorists should prepare for the national average to potentially continue increasing closer to $4.50 a gallon as we hit the road for Memorial Day. And I'm a little worried this summer with not much margin for error, we could go higher.

CAMEROTA: Is there anything that President Biden could do? Any sort of short term creative solution that he hasn't thought of or he hasn't announced?

DE HAAN: Well, I think certainly the administration is in a bit of a predicament.


Because they do not control the overall levers of supply and demand and there's really not much that can be done on the supply side. The administration's already talked to other countries: Venezuela, Iran. Now, that's fizzled. That can be brought back up in terms of bringing additional into oil production online to offset Russia.

On the supply - on the demand side, though, it's very difficult to ask Americans to do things like driving more fuel efficiently to curb consumption, so they're certainly in a bind.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I was reading that you were saying there were things around the margins, but they're so politically unpalatable, for instance, lifting some sort of environmental standards or asking states to lower the speed limit. I mean, those are just things that are they on the table?

DE HAAN: I think in this day and age, lowering the speed limit is not going to be on the table, Americans are going to do what they want and I think that that encroaches on the freedoms that many Americans were talking about, but to your other point there, I had mentioned allowing winter gasoline to be used across the country over the summer months now, that would primarily help in major cities that have more stringent gasoline requirements, but there's a cost to that as well that winter gasoline tends to be cheaper, but there are ramifications in terms of the emissions and volatility of that type of fuel.

CAMEROTA: Patrick De Haan, thank you for explaining how complicated this moment is right now.

BLACKWELL: The President insisted today that Republicans only plan to tackle inflation and bring down high energy prices is to raise taxes on middle class Americans. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is with me now. Madam Secretary, good to have you back. Let's start here with what we heard from the President today. It was a partisan speech. I mean, he spent a lot of time talking about ultra MAGA, and Republicans, and Rick Scott. Was this the speech that Americans needed to hear today when gas hit a new record high and the prices of groceries, and cars and housing are all going up?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: The whole point about the speech today was to say that the President has a plan and is obsessed about the rising prices on people. And so whether it's reducing prices for them of the internet or calling upon releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make supply and demand meet each other in terms of fuel prices or making sure that he's calling upon Congress to reduce the price of daycare for children. I mean, all of those are things the President is fighting for.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about part of the President's plan, the million barrels a day of oil released from the reserves for six months, the President announced that March 31st, on that day, gas was for 22 a gallon and he was asked about how much and how soon that would bring down the price of a gallon of gas, here's what he said.


BIDEN: My guess is we'll see it come down and continue to come down, but how far down I don't think anyone can tell. But it will come down and it could come down fairly significantly. It could come down a better part of - anything from $0.10 to $0.35 a gallon. It's unknown at this point.


BLACKWELL: All right, $0.10 to $0.35 cents a gallon, that was March 31st. It did dip to $4.07. Let's put up the chart on the gas prices over the last nine months. It's now back up to $4.37. That dip, that short dip at the end on the right of the screen was that it? Was that the full breadth of the impact of this release?

GRANHOLM: I think, Victor, it's really important to realize that the price of oil is affected by global events. We are paying high prices in the United States. But everybody across the world right now is paying high prices. Everybody across the world is paying the same $106 per barrel of oil. And so the question is what is it that's happening on the global stage that's causing supply to contract, that's what causes prices to go up.

And of course, when Russia decided to invade Ukraine and all countries like the United States and Canada and others rightfully said, we're not going to take any Russian barrels of oil. That means the supply was constricted and that caused the price to go through the roof.

And then when the EU just very recently said they were going to do the same thing, that also constricts supply. And we applaud them, we don't want to see the EU or any other country finance Putin's war. That is a huge part of what's going on.

Before the war, we were coming out of a pandemic. And when the economy was opening up, we didn't have enough supply. Meaning, the oil and gas companies weren't producing at the level of demand. So it's all about supply and demand.

The President has called upon the oil and gas companies to increase the supplies so that we can level that out, but - and that's why he has said for the next six months, he's going to release a million barrels per day from our strategic petroleum reserve to try to level that out. But if other countries decide to, again, not use Russian oil, which they should, that still will create a further pinch on supply and will impact prices.


BLACKWELL: Yes, the President has called this Putin's price hike. He did that again today. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Milley says that this conflict, this war will be measured in years. So how far, how high are the projections for gas prices? We heard from our own Richard Quest, it could go up to $4.80. What are your projections?

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, this is a really great question, really. We don't know how long the war is going to go on, but we do know that we have the ability to increase supply. So for example, our Energy Information Agency has predicted that the U.S. oil and gas companies will increase their supply to about a million barrels per day, increases by the end of this year. That should start to even things out.

But honestly, the amount of oil per day that has been pulled off of the market is closer to 2 million to 3 million barrels per day. So there's still an amount to make up. We're calling upon our allies. Canada has just said they will increase to the tune of another 200,000 barrels per day. Brazil has said the same thing.

So while we've got to increase supply, we know that the war is still going to be affecting the price per barrel. And ultimately, Victor, the most important thing we can do is to continue to accelerate toward clean energy, electrifying our transportation system so that people are not under the thumb of a petro dictator like Putin.

BLACKWELL: Does your department having a projection of how high gas prices will go? We're soon entering the summer driving season.

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, the international - excuse me - the Energy Information Agency had - it's been bumping around a little because of what's been going on with the EU. The prediction was that it would come down a bit by the end of this year, but it is going to take a while, there is no doubt.

And because there is additional constraint, because of the summer driving season, that is why the President has said he wants to see more of an ethanol blend allowed for the summer, which would reduce by $0.10 per barrel on average, those who can access E15. He's looking at every way possible to make sure that we can stabilize.

BLACKWELL: Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, good to have you back. Thank you.

GRANHOLM: Thanks, Victor.

CAMEROTA: So Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issues a stark warning not about inflation, but about the economic impact of overturning Roe vs. Wade.

BLACKWELL: And later, new Russian strikes in Ukraine on two hotels and a shopping mall. We're live there.



BLACKWELL: House Democrats are urging Democrats in the Senate to abolish the filibuster to protect abortion rights.

CAMEROTA: The renewed effort comes after that leaked draft shows the Supreme Court may strike down Roe vs. Wade. Today, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addressed the economic impact if Roe versus Wade is in fact overturned.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us. So Manu, where to things stand now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're headed to a vote tomorrow in which Democrats are pushing to overcome a Republican-led filibuster to codify abortion rights nationwide, but that will fail because they need 60 votes to overcome Republican filibuster. Really the only question is if there are 50 votes in favor of it or 49 votes.

So one Senator Joe Manchin, who's opposes abortion rights says he still hasn't made a decision on this bill even though he votes (ph) a similar bill he was a no on early - back in February. Now, we did catch up earlier today with Sen. Susan Collins. She's a Republican who does support abortion rights, but she also voted to confirm justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh who signed on apparently to that draft opinion to ban abortion, sending it back to the States.

I asked her whether or not she regrets supporting those two justices. And she made clear that she wants to hear more information about this ruling. And also if this is true, it's inconsistent with what she told her.


RAJU: Senator, do you regret supporting Kavanaugh and Gorsuch?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Manu, we do not know what the decision for certain it's going to be as we have said ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you misled by them?

COLLINS: ... many times. As I have said, if the draft decision proves to be the ultimate decision, it is inconsistent with what both justices told me.

RAJU: Does that mean they lied to - that's what Schumer said that they lied.

COLLINS: I'll stick to the facts. What I am doing is that I am working on legislation to codify Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. I think that should be our focus.


RAJU: She said that she supports moving forward legislation to codify abortion rights, but she does oppose the democratic-led bill that's coming to the floor tomorrow, because she said it is too broad. Now, with the same kind of questions about what the Republicans might do if they do take back the Senate Majority, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader suggested that a ban on abortions nationwide is possible. He said that last week.

But when asked today about that issue, he said that Republicans, for the most part, believe it is should be up to the states not Congress to move ahead. He said he would not change the filibuster rules to advance a ban on abortion nationwide.


And I asked him whether he would rule out scheduling a vote to ban abortion nationwide, he did not go that far but said the Republicans believe ultimately it should be left up to the states, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks.

CAMEROTA: Alyssa Farah Griffin is a former Trump White House Communications Director. She also served as Pentagon Press Secretary under Mark Esper. She is now a CNN Political Commentator. Great to see you, Alyssa.

So there's the real world impact if Roe vs. Wade is overturned and then there's the political impact if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. And Sen. Ted Cruz, it won't surprise you, talks about the political impact. And what he said on his podcast is that he thinks it could end up benefiting Republicans, so let me play that for you.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): There are several of us who are conservatives, who have been trying to make the case to the nervous nellies in our conference, it'll be okay. This is going to be fine. And I actually think it probably will not have much of an effect on the midterms and to the extent it has an effect, it will be a positive effect.


CAMEROTA: Alyssa, how would that work? How could it be a positive effect?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I slightly disagree with Sen. Cruz here. I do think he's correct that Roe is not going to be a substantial issue in the midterms, that all the polling out suggests that it's going to be inflation in gas prices, the economy.

Where I disagree is I think this will be a major 2024 issue. That's incredibly animating on both sides. The conservative right, the pro- life right, as well as the liberal progressive left. And I don't know that I've seen any data to suggest it helps one side more over the other. But what I would say is this as I'm counseling Republicans, I'm pro-life, but I say this, we can't simply say we're pro-life.

If we are, in fact, looking at overturning a 50-year long precedent that people have expected was going to be in place, then we need to be pro-paid parental leave, pro more funding for rural health care, for maternity care, helping the most vulnerable women and mothers in our society. And that's what I want to start hearing from Republicans as part of this conversation.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa, let me get your take on some news that developed since we've been on air. Elon Musk, who is the soon to be owner of Twitter says that he would reverse the ban, the permanent ban on former President Trump's account. Now, Trump has said that he wouldn't go back. He's going to stick with Truth Social, which doesn't work right now. But what do you think the impact is if that happens before the midterms and into 2024?

GRIFFIN: Well, mark my words, the former president is going to reverse his own decision and as soon as he is allowed, he's going to get back on Twitter, trying to keep his Twitter account from him was a fool's errand for anyone who worked around him. I actually take kind of a different than the common wisdom here.

From a free speech perspective, I think the former president has a right to be on Twitter even though I'm someone who's been the recipient of his attacks. He's abused it at times. But I actually think that the more that the public hears him weighing in and spouting off some of his kind of crazy takes on social media, I actually think it hurts his chances in 2024 doesn't help him.

So I'm of the mind it probably has an impact on 2024, I don't know how substantial. I don't think it helps the former president to be back on Twitter.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's talk about your former boss, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. So he's been making all of these revelations in his book and he's been on this interview circuit, and he has been saying, for the first time, quite candidly that he does think that President Trump was a danger to democracy. So let me play that for you.


MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that given the events of January 6th, given how he has undermined the election results, he incited people to come to D.C. stirred them up that morning and failed to call them off, to me that threatens our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: So I know that so many people are saying, oh, great. Now

he's saying that. He should have said it at the time. He should have resigned. What - I mean, I think that his thought is that he was still acting as a guardrail in the administration and that President Trump would have installed a crony if Mark Esper had left. What do you think would have happened if he had resigned?

GRIFFIN: And I think that's absolutely correct. Mark Esper is one of the finest public servants I've had the privilege of working with. He served our country in uniform before he was Secretary of Defense. I traveled all over the world with him. I know him well. I will tell you this, we saw exactly what would happen if Mark Esper left.

He was fired shortly after the election and a loyalist was installed at the Department of Defense and it's now been widely reported the sort of things that the former president was trying to do to misuse the military to try to stack loyalists in different national security parts of our government.

And I will say this, Esper was one of the first people to come out in June and say I am opposed to invoking the Insurrection Act to using active duty military to police American streets. So this notion is getting some criticism now of why didn't he say more at the time I actually think he was one of the more vocal people within the administration.


Finally, I've mentioned this, on two different occasions, the former president asked me in the Oval Office knowing I'd worked for Mark Esper, "Should I fire Mark Esper?" And on both occasions, I pled with him and I said, "Sir, this is a man who has served his country. He's with you on the key issues, getting more contributions to NATO, securing our border." And because you have to reason with Trump, I said, "He's also - it would not be good for your reelection to fire your Secretary of Defense."

We gratefully people like myself and others who chimed in on his behalf were able to keep him in office for as long as he did, because I worry about what would have happened had he not been there.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa, though, at what point does this go from being not only a guardrail to potentially an enabler? What the former Secretary said was that when Trump wanted to call up many thousands of troops, potentially for the 2020 protest, he placated him with 5,000 troops on the 82nd Airborne. I mean, that indeed was a deployment of some sort.

GRIFFIN: I sort of disagree with the framing or if I were Esper, I would have framed it differently. I was in that meeting when the President and others raised using the Insurrection Act and it was Chairman Milley and Mark Esper, and actually Bill Barr who chimed in and said absolutely not. We can maintain peace in the streets by using guardsmen, not using active duty military. And he did mobilize outside of D.C. and Virginia the 82nd Airborne.

Understand, to serve in this administration, if you're a person of good faith and a public servant was to walk a tightrope. If you didn't do enough to stay in his good graces, you would be fired in a heartbeat, and somebody far worse would be in that position and Mark Esper knew that. And I think there are many things that could have gone much worse had he not been in government.

And I would say this, he did take the unprecedented step of joining every other living Secretary of Defense and condemning Donald Trump after January 6th, that is remarkable and the American public cannot forget about that.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa Farah Griffin, good to have your insight. Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Well, the nation's top spy warns that the war in Ukraine could escalate even further in the months ahead.

BLACKWELL: And new COVID concerns, a sub-variant of the Omicron strain is quickly spreading. That's ahead.