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U.S. Inflation Slowed Last Month; Trump Influence has Mixed Results; House Passes Ukraine Aid Bill; Oleksandr Syenkevych is Interviewed about Mykolaiv. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


This just in, there are new signs inflation may have peaked. Prices still at near 40-year highs. But this morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics says inflation actually fell to 8.3 percent. So that's a decline of 0.2 points from last month. It's also the first decrease we've seen in nine months. The big question, of course, is what does it mean for you? We are going to break those numbers down for you just in a moment.

SCIUTTO: Yes, is it part of a trend? Is it a blip? We'll look into it.

Plus, fresh primary results as we head closer to crucial midterm elections. Two GOP candidates endorsed by former President Trump have split nights with a win and a loss. What is the outlook as we get closer to November? What are the main voting issues? We're going to be on the ground in West Virginia.

And a key vote on Capitol Hill. The Senate is set to take up a bill that would guarantee abortion rights. That vote putting elected leaders on the record, at least, as the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Whether it can pass, make an actual difference, that's an open question.

HILL: Indeed it is.

Let's take a look now, though, at those new inflation numbers. What they really mean. Here to help us do that, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

So, I mean I guess the bottom line is, how should we feel about this right now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, prices are still rising but not as quickly as they had been, and that's important. We've been looking for the sign of a peak, as they call it, in inflation. You look at the overall numbers, 8.3 percent. Last month, it was a little bit hotter than that. So that's the inflation rate year over year. And 0.3 percent, that's how much prices grew from March to April.

Again, that's significantly cooler month over month inflation growth than we had seen in the past. So that's an important development.

And 8.5 percent was that 40 some year high when we saw it last month. When you look at a line chart you can see exactly how dramatic this move has been in prices over the past almost year now. But there are signs there that it is peaking.

When we look inside the inflation shock here, right, the sticker shock, if you will, gas prices up almost 44 percent. Used car prices. Look, anybody trying to buy a car right now will tell you that this is really high math at the dealerships trying to buy an automobile.

Food prices and shelter prices, these have still been rising and these are a real problems, especially for lower income Americans. They don't have a lot of choices when you're talking about higher food and higher shelter prices, so that's something to continue to watch here.


ROMANS: So I would say, Jim, persistent troubling inflation, I think you're seeing signs of it cooling here. You asked, is it a blip or a trend? I wish I had the answer to that. I hope it is the beginning of a trend, but we'll be watching these energy prices very carefully because, you guys, last night, gas prices hit another record, $4.40 a gallon.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, there are big influences around the world, too, right, because you've got the war in Ukraine, that effect on both energy and food prices.


SCIUTTO: But you also have lockdowns in China, which the fear is that that exacerbates supply chain issues.

ROMANS: That's a really big deal. And there are growing worries that if those China lockdowns last a long time or spread to other big cities, you're talking about maybe years long problems for supply chains, which means years long problems for inflation feeding into inflation. So that's a really good point to make there. You've got a war in Ukraine. That's going to be a food and fuel price. You've got an economy coming out of a pandemic and you've got what's happening in China with Covid. All of those are really important variables.

SCIUTTO: Yes, when you lock people in their apartments, they don't go to the factories, right? They don't build a lot of the stuff we buy over here.

Christine Romans, thanks so much.

This morning CNN can project that West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney, who made Trump's endorsement the centerpiece of his campaign there, will win the GOP nomination in that state's second newly created congressional district. HILL: In Nebraska, where CNN projects Republican Jim Pillen will

defeat Trump-backed candidate Charles Herbster in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary. A different story.

CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes joining us now from Charlestown, West Virginia.

So, a split night for those Trump-backed candidates, but what's the larger picture here? Is it really all about the former president or are things more important to other folks?


Well, it's interesting. What this shows us is that Trump still has an enormous grip on the Republican Party, but it's not absolute. Particularly when you have a candidate like Charles Herbster who is deeply flawed. He had multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, all of which he denied. And even with Trump's support couldn't pull it through.

And the thing to note here that makes both of these races very interesting is that they are essentially similar in the fact that they were a proxy war, but they had very different outcomes.


Here in West Virginia, we had Congressman Alex Mooney, who was backed by President Trump. On the other side, you had David McKinley, who was backed by the entire establishment essentially of West Virginia politics. You had Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, as well as the Republican governor, all backing McKinley and yet Mooney prevailed.

And I will tell you that we really started to believe yesterday on the ground that that would be the result because Trump's popularity here in the state is so palpable.

And one thing I do want to note, because this was a little bit of excitement during Mooney's victory speech, he seemed to take it a step further indicating he might actually take on Joe Manchin for Senate in 2024. So a little bit of drama there.

But, anyway, moving on to the Nebraska race, because, again, another proxy war here that yielded a different result. On one side you had the incumbent governor, Pete Ricketts, who is no longer going to be able to be governor, his term is up, who endorsed Jim Pillen, who ended up winning. On the other side, you had Charles Herbster, of course, who was endorsed by Donald Trump. And Ricketts had actually asked Trump not to weigh in on this race. Of course, Trump ultimately denying that request when he backed Herbster.

So, two different results. One establishment candidate winning, one establishment candidate losing. But the caveat there again being that Herbster was a flawed candidate.

And the thing we need to point out here is this is just the beginning of a large midterm cycle in which Trump is going to be tested time and time again. We have big primaries coming up here in Georgia, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania, just next week, where his lead candidate is actually in a three-way tie. So this is just the beginning of what could be a potential series of losses as the Republicans try to define their party.

HILL: Kristen Holmes with the latest for us this morning. Thank you.

Joining us now for more, CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Good to have both of you with us this morning.

It was interesting, as Kristen noted there at the very end, a lot of this is about how Republicans are going to define their party moving forward.

Eva, there's so much, I think, in a lot of circles. There's exhaustion, right. This obsession with just how much power the former president has at this point. Are the issues getting lost while that's being worked out?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I mean, that frustration is warranted. The issues very much do get lost. And now reproductive rights is on the ballot. So, that is going to be an issue that is highlighted in many of these races.

But Trump's endorsement is tremendously powerful. We saw that play out in West Virginia. I think we're going to see more Republican candidates in these primaries continue to court Trump as a result. It is not absolute, as Kristen said, but it still is a factor. So that is why it continues to dominate political conversations.

What I'm really looking towards, though, is, as these Trumpian candidates become successful in their primaries, who are Democrats going to put up against them? There is this tendency in the Democratic Party to put up non-controversial moderate candidates that are not inspiring, but are safe bets. And I'm wondering, in order to compete against these Trumpian candidates, who Democrats -- if Democrats are going to shift their strategy, maybe put up some more fire brands, some more progressives that perhaps can compete.

SCIUTTO: Zolan, are the Trump endorsed candidates necessarily the stronger ones in the generals, right, because we know that someone like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been skittish to say the least about some of those candidates in terms of his chances of retaking the Senate. I mean we don't know for sure, but there are certainly concerns even within the Republican Party.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's still a little bit early to say if it's -- if that's going to be the trend going forward as we go through -- through the rest of this election season, right. But this was an early test. And it wasn't just a test in West Virginia and Nebraska. These are not isolated races. It was also a test of Trump's influence, but also what would be prioritized. Tapping into the ideology reflected by the former president, or pragmatism and at times delivering for your constituents. I mean that resonated in West Virginia where you did have one candidate who stood by a bipartisan infrastructure package. West Virginia has a history as well of supporting representatives that go to Washington and bring back federal resources back to their state. And here you saw that supporting that President Biden's infrastructure package became a polarizing issue and not as prioritized as an endorsement from the former president, whereas in Nebraska, even though you saw a more establishment Republican win, I do think it should be noted when we're talking about the former president's influence and the power of his endorsement, that even Pillen at one point started to tap into and started to talk about critical race theory, and whether or not there should be bans on the transgender community when it comes to (INAUDIBLE) as well.


So, even though that race, you saw the establishment Republican won, you still saw him execute some of methods that we've seen from Trump- backed candidates. It will be interesting to see where we go going forward.

HILL: Which -- I mean which really is the point that you were making earlier too, that will we see more fire brand candidates to counter that coming through on the left? Interesting too when you look at West Virginia, Zolan just noted, where bipartisanship, right, which there was a time when that was a good thing. This was painted as one of the worst things you could be as a candidate is bipartisan.

MCKEND: That's right. You know, historically supporting an infrastructure package would be a good thing because you could be at that -- those ribbon cuttings, you could go to people in your community, especially when you're talking about house races, when it is truly a local race, and point to specific deliverables. But now, if you are a member of Congress, you are thinking, well, maybe it pays to be more tribal. And historically you were thinking about, what can I actually do for my community?

So it does sort of indicate that there is some toxicity in our politics.

SCIUTTO: Yes. For sure.

HILL: Maybe a lot.

SCIUTTO: And -- but we should also note that -- well, yes. But what works in a primary doesn't necessarily work in the general, right? It's a tiny sliver of the voting and it's, you know, skewed, obviously, to one party or the other.

Eva McKend, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, thanks so much to both of you.

Coming up next, the White House is pushing an additional $40 billion aid for Ukraine. This is a huge jump compared to previous packages. What difference and how quickly will that new aid, those new weapons make on the ground? I'm going to speak to the mayor of Mykolaiv in the south, hear what's happening on the battlefield.

HILL: Plus, recaptured inmate Casey White now back in jail, returned to Alabama for an arraignment.

We also are just getting some of the audio of that 911 call that Vicky White made before their getaway car crashed. That's ahead.

And a bit later, a harrowing experience on a single engine plane. Full disclosure, I am obsessed with this story. A passenger with zero flying experience had to take control to land the plane.


PASSENGER: I've got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.

TOWER: What was the situation with the pilot?

PASSENGER: He is incoherent. He is out.




SCIUTTO: New this morning, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is thanking the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a nearly $40 billion bill for more weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. A big jump over previous aid bills, and just as the existing funds were about to run out.

HILL: Yes, we're also getting a sense too of just how quickly some of that aid is being deployed and actually being used. Ukraine's deputy defense minister says weapons the U.S. and other allies supplied at this point are already deployed to the front lines.

CNN international correspondent Scott McLean joining us from Lviv this morning.

So, officials say that supply of foreign weapons has actually settled into somewhat of a routine, Scott. What more do we know about that?


Yes, you heard President Zelenskyy there thanking the Congress for passing this, or thanking the House at least for passing this military aid, humanitarian assistance bill. He also said this morning that, well, his mood for negotiation for peace is sort of waning giving Bucha, given Mariupol, given some of the atrocities that they've seen across Ukraine, and perhaps given some success in the Kharkiv region especially in taking back territory. The Ukrainians are in a bit of a fighting mood, especially given the foreign hardware that is flowing into the country.

You mentioned the deputy defense secretary saying that, well, a lot of foreign equipment is already at the front lines and they sort of established a rhythm in delivery in how it's getting there and how it's getting into the country.

The U.S., for instance, has pledged 90 howitzers. These are the artillery systems. Sort of a modern day cannon. And the Pentagon says that 89 of those have already been delivered.

Now, Russia has 4.5 times the number of troops at its disposal. It's not even close. But the Ukrainians actually say that they've gotten so much foreign assistance, which President Zelenskyy has really been advocating for since the outset of the war and even before. They say they've got so much new hardware that it's getting to the point where the Russians don't actually have a hardware advantage, they don't have an equipment advantage on the ground.

Now, the Russians have made clear that any foreign equipment coming into the country is fair game for air strikes. And in recent weeks we've seen the Russians try to target some of the infrastructure that's likely being used to transit those weapons across the country. It seems that that may be slowing things down, but certainly not preventing it.

Jim. Erica.

SCIUTTO: Ukraine also suspended the flow of some Russian natural gas to Europe. I mean this has been one of the ironies of this war, right, is that Russian gas is still crossing Ukrainian territory to customers in Europe throughout the war. But they've stopped some of that now. How much and why?

MCLEAN: It's actually amazing to think that given this conflict that any Russian gas has been able to transit through Ukrainian territory, but it has up until now. It was this morning that some of those taps were shut off, affecting about one-third of the gas that transits through -- from Russia through Ukraine en route to Europe.

Now, the reason that the Ukrainian pipeline operator gives for doing this is because -- the reason that they give is because of Russian interference, especially in the occupied parts.


They say that the Russians are actually siphoning gas off of the line, which is threatening the safety and stability of the line. The Russians have responded saying that the Ukrainians don't actually have a good reason to break this contract and stop the flow of gas. It's not really clear what kind of long-term impact this will have on markets in Europe. The Germans, for instance, have already said that they're good because most of their gas comes directly from Russia and doesn't actually transit through Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Scott McLean, in Lviv, thanks so much.

So, joining me now is the mayor of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Oleksandr Syenkevych. Mykolaiv, one of the hardest hit cities in the southern part of the country. Mayor, thank you for joining us this morning.

I know you and your city have gone through a whole heck of a lot in recent weeks. Ukrainian forces have remarkably held back Russian forces there. And Mykolaiv would be a key step towards Russia's hope of taking really all of the south.

How are Ukrainian forces holding up right now?

MAYOR OLEKSANDR SYENKEVYCH, MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE: So, the battlefield is on the territory of Mykolaiv region. It's about 20 miles from our city. Almost every day we have bombardments from Kherson region. It's about 50, 60 miles from us. They launch rockets and in three minutes they are over our city.

Let's say the line of attack, the space on (INAUDIBLE) for two weeks on the same place. So neither our troops, nor Russian don't move forward. For sure we expect for more weapons to move forward because both of -- parts in defense now.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because, as you were saying during the break, the weapons have been focused on the east in recent weeks. The howitzers, the additional military aid, they're not coming to you, new weapons. What new weapons do you need to push back, or perhaps launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces nearby your city?

SYENKEVYCH: Let's say the biggest fight is on the east now. All the troops of Russia gathered there. They also gather troops in Crimea region and move them to Kherson region closer to us. But they don't use a big group of troops against us.

So, the biggest part of (INAUDIBLE) little (ph) weapon that comes to Ukraine goes to these. And we expect to have also part of it here in Mykolaiv, to go forward to Kherson, that is occupied by them let's -- for already two months.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned Kherson. Kherson, of course, has been taken over by Russian forces. And now they're taking over political control of these cities and claiming, as they have following other invasions, that the people there want Russian rule. They welcome Russian occupation.

You're getting a sense of what they would do to Mykolaiv if they were it take over Mykolaiv.

What's your reaction when you hear the Russian government says, this is what the Ukrainians and Kherson want?

SYENKEVYCH: This is complete lie because we know that -- I know personally mayor of Kherson who is still in occupation. He worked for a number of months, but then occupants moved him out of the office and assign another person. So, people in Kherson don't want to be a part of Russia. The situation in the beginning of the war was such critical that all the troops left the area of Kherson. So, I'm sure that no one wants to go to Russia there. People want to be part of Ukraine, but for sure Russian TV and Russian propogandists (ph) will say they want to go to Russia. No one wants to go to Russia.

SCIUTTO: You hear from the Ukrainian president and others that they're not interested really right now in diplomatic negotiations with Russia, particularly after atrocities witnessed in a place such as Bucha but we've seen repeated elsewhere. Do you believe that there should be diplomatic talks underway with Russia to find at least a path to a cease-fire?

SYENKEVYCH: You know, that the -- our president now in a difficult position because Russia occupied much of the Ukrainian territory while this war. And all negotiation could be -- go around Russian troops to go back to Russian territory. I'm sure that Russian part want to do this. So the -- this (INAUDIBLE) negotiation won't have any good result.


SCIUTTO: Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych, we wish you, we wish the people of your city safety.

SYENKEVYCH: Thank you.

HILL: Just in to CNN, new 911 audio of former corrections officer Vicky White in the moments just before the crash that ended a nationwide manhunt. Just before her death as well. The inmate she busted out of jail is now back behind bars this morning. We have the latest details for you, next.