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U.S. Inflation Slowed Last Month, But Still Near 40-Year High; Trump Influence Has Mixed Results in Nebraska, West Virginia Primaries; House Passes $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Bill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 10:00   ET



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I just want you to listen now to Robert Morgan, who says, this is all part of a lot of teamwork that took place to get this to happen so successfully. Listen to him.


ROBERT MORGAN, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: I felt like I was going to, because I had so much adrenaline built up. But I was really happy it worked out, nobody got hurt.

He was a calm person and I'm kind of a calm person. We're kind of able to work together as a team. And I had a lot of my coworkers and facilities also participating to keep everybody calm and get him to a big runway, basically, a big target he could land.

I knew that if we could get him close enough to the runway and have the power back on the plane that he'd be successful one way or another, they'd be okay.


MUNTEAN: The video out there of the landing pretty darn good. They got pretty much right on the runway, right on the center line. They've been around flying my entire life, nothing has ever happened before like this in my memory, pretty remarkable and incredible.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, I'm no pilot like you, Pete, I've taken lessons. It's easy to take a plane off. It's not easy to land it. That's remarkable.

MUNTEAN: Hard to land.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Just moments from now, President Biden scheduled to leave the White House, headed to Illinois where he's expected to address concerns, continuing concerns over food supply and inflation. This as new data signals inflation may have peaked but the numbers are still high. We're going to break down the numbers and take you to the White House in just a moment.

HILL: Plus, testing the power of an endorsement from former President Trump after gaining support from him, two GOP candidates have split nights, a win and a loss. What that says as we get closer to the midterm elections and what about the issues? We're on the ground in West Virginia.

Plus, a little later today, a key vote on Capitol Hill. The Senate set to take up a bill that would guarantee abortion rights, a vote that is expected to fail. The goal here, though, the strategy, we're told, by Democrats is to put elected leaders on the record as a Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe versus Wade. Just ahead, I'll speak with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But, first, to the latest on inflation, CNN Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans and White House Correspondent John Harwood joining us now.

Christine, first, to you, let's look at these new numbers. What do they tell us?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it shows that inflation could be cooling here. The fire is not out, as one economist told us this morning. The fire is still there, but at least the flames are not as big and that's really, really important here.

Over the past 12 months, inflation, 8.3 percent. That is a headline decline from what we saw last month. And when we look at month over month, 0.3 percent increase in inflation and in prices from March to April and that, again, is a little bit cooler. This is what you want to be seeing.

You can see on this chart the huge spike up that everybody felt at the gas station, the grocery store, in your rent. Whatever you're trying to do costs more money over the past many months. We're hoping now this might signal the peak.

Looking within these numbers, gasoline, 43.6 percent year-over-year increase, and we know last night, a new high for gas prices, nominal high at least for gas prices. So, that's not captured here. You can see used cars. Anybody trying to get a car knows what that is like here. Food and shelter increases there. This is really something that's a problem for lower income Americans. And I was digging into air fares. I think this is a really telling story about the pandemic and the rebound from the pandemic. Air fares are up something like 35 percent over just the past three months. They're more than 10 percent above where the pandemic began just because of higher jet fuel costs and because, look, American consumers are coming out of a two-year COVID crouch and they want to spend their money, they want to travel.

So, a lot of this is pandemic-related, supply chain-related and we're hoping again that this might be the first signs of cooling here.

SCIUTTO: Christine, a question, Jason Furman, former Democratic administration adviser, he makes the point -- and one of the first to warn about inflation, he makes the point that core inflation, however, in these numbers remains high and even ahead of the previous pace. Is that something economists are concerned about?

ROMANS: Yes, everyone is talking about that. That particular little 0.6 percent number, a lot of people are talking about that. Look, one month does not make a trend, and John and I say this all the time, but we've been looking and scouring for any signs of peak behavior in these numbers heading into the summer. And so we'll have to just wait and see what the next one looks like.

SCIUTTO: So, John, what is the president's message following this report? I don't imagine they're going to be holding any champagne parties based on a slight tick down.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, but I think what they're going to do, Jim, is seize on the positive parts of the number. This is a report where you can find good news or bad news. Yes, it appears that inflation has peaked.


The problem is it's peaked at a relatively high level and the nature of inflation is changing.

We see during the pandemic when people couldn't go out and do things, they spent a lot of money and pandemic relief money on goods. That's what created all that supply chain problem. Now, the spending is shifting back towards services and pushing service prices up. That's a problem because services are a larger part of the economy than goods.

So, I would expect the president to talk about the peaking part and the idea, which I think most economists share, that inflation is likely to decline this year, to taper off. The question is, given how high it is right now, how low can it get? Does it get down to 3 or 4 percent by the end of the year? That would be an improvement over the current situation. But you still got the specter of the Fed coming in to take stronger action, could push the economy, not this year but maybe next year into recession.

So, lots of challenges for the administration here. I think they're going to take the half full part of that cup.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood at the White House, Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Now to politics. Overnight, mixed outcome for two candidates who, among other things, had former President Trump's endorsement. In West Virginia, CNN can project that Congressman Alex Mooney will win the GOP nomination in that state's second congressional district.

HILL: In Nebraska, however, CNN projects Republican Jim Pillen will defeat Trump-backed Charles Herbster in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes joining us from Charlestown, West Virginia this morning. So, what's the larger picture this morning, Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica and Jim. Well, the Republican Party is still working on redefining itself in this post-Trump presidency era. And while it's clear that the former president still has an enormous grip on the party, it's also clear that it's not absolute. Particularly, when Trump endorses candidate like Herbster, who is facing a slew of sexual misconduct allegations, all of which he denies.

Now, what's interesting about both of these races is that they were both similar proxy wars, however, they yielded different results. When you look here in West Virginia, on one side, you had Congressman Alex Mooney, who is endorsed by Trump. On the other side, you had Congressman David McKinley, who is backed by essentially the entire establishment of West Virginia politicians, including Republicans and Democrats, like Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. And Mooney won easily here and quickly. The final margins were Mooney at 54.2 percent and McKinley at 35.6.

And it had become abundantly clear when we were on the ground here that that was the likely outcome. Trump's popularity in the state is still incredibly noticeable. We saw giant signs with Mooney and then just slightly smaller print. It said, endorsed by Trump.

And a different story though in Nebraska. On one side, again, an establishment candidate, Jim Pillen, who ended up winning, he was backed by the governor there, Pete Ricketts, in that Republican governor race. Ricketts, of course, cannot run again. He is termed out. On the other side, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster.

Ricketts had actually asked Trump not to weigh in on this race, obviously, a request that Trump ultimately denied. And here, we saw Pillen ultimately pulling this through with a win, so, one establishment candidate winning, one establishment candidate losing.

But it is important to note the direction that the Republican Party is going in. We even saw Pillen, who was an establishment candidate, shifting some of his views to those Trumpian-type views, particularly when it came to critical race theory, so, again, all part of a larger process of this redefinition of the party.

And one thing to note, this is just the beginning of a lot of primaries coming up. We have another big one on Tuesday where Trump has endorsed Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor in Pennsylvania. He is now in a three-way tie. So, this could be the beginning of several losses or wins for the former president.

SCIUTTO: Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

Joining us now to talk about the big picture, David Chalian, CNN Political Director. David, good to have you.

In any race on any election day, there multiple issues driving it. What do you think were the decisive issues in these races?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, I mean, you just heard Kristen talk about the Trump factor. If you look in West Virginia and you just look at where Alex Mooney put his money in his advertising, it was touting this affiliation with Trump, with the MAGA world. I mean, that was front and center in this campaign. There's no doubt about that. And that obviously helped him in West Virginia.

I do think it's not just looking at sort of a scorecard of Trump, back to this candidate, didn't back this candidate, won and lost. It's the larger point that Kristen was getting at there, which is the fact that Trump has -- whether he is with the candidate or there are other Republicans in the race that are running in Trump-aligned fashion, even though they don't have his endorsement, his influence on the party is seen in the state of play.


He sort of dictates the terms of the campaign both for those candidates he's endorsed and where those candidates don't have his backing but clearly want his supporters because they make up the base of the party.

HILL: Which is why it's interesting when you look at a state like Georgia, right, I mean, of the states we're going to watching coming up. But when we look at what's going to happen in Georgia, where you have these establishment governors now coming in and being very vocal to push back.

CHALIAN: Yes. The Georgia race, circle it, it's two weeks away, I think the last couple of weeks, we sort of had the appetizer of primary season and the main course coming up in the next couple of weeks. In Georgia, I don't think there's a person in American politics Donald Trump has in his sights more than Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican governor there, who he's so vocally opposed to because Brian Kemp did not sign on with Trump's 2020 election lie and legitimately certified the election results in the state that Joe Biden had won there.

But here is what you see, Erica, when you say the establishment. We're seeing Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, Pete Ricketts, the governor of Nebraska, who backed the winning candidate in that primary there yesterday, Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, all of these establishment Republican governors come in to get behind Kemp, as is the National Republican Governor's Association with him. And they're all lined up against the former president who's backing David Perdue, the former senator there.

So, that is a big one to watch because that could potentially be a very big loss for Donald Trump at the end of the month if the polls bear out where they are now.

SCIUTTO: David, there were Democratic primaries as well. This country is headed potentially for an enormous societal change if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Did we see signs of how Democrats are going to attempt to campaign, run on Roe v. Wade, abortion rights, reproductive rights, et cetera?

CHALIAN: Well, almost every Democratic politician and candidate across the country is leaning into the issue and using it as an opportunity to try and remind the faithful, rally the base around the notion of, wake up, pay attention, there are really important things on the ballot.

Democrats are trying to expand it beyond just a conversation about abortion, suggesting other rights, privacy rights, such as the right to contraception or same-sex marriage could be on the line here too, all in an attempt to try and awaken a party that has seemed pretty apathetic towards these midterm elections. I don't think we've seen anything in the primary results yet, Jim, in terms of how that cuts.

And it's not at all clear yet that it's going to be pure advantage Democrats. We know over the last many decades of American politics, this issue of abortion rights and the pro-lifers, the pro-choice movement, this is something actually that has proven time and again to animate Republicans more, it seems, than Democrats in terms of getting out and voting.

The question is, now that Republicans have achieved this 50-year quest potentially, if that draft opinion is the final opinion, does that change the way in which this cuts politically? We'll have to wait and see.

HILL: We will. David Chalian, always good to talk with you, thank you.

CHALIAN: You too, guys.

HILL: Still to come this morning, billions of dollars in critical aid for Ukraine now one step closer to getting to that country. This is as U.S. intel officials warn the war could soon become more unpredictable.

And lawmakers set to go on the record today with a vote on abortion rights. Senator Elizabeth Warren joins me to discuss the way forward for Democrats if the Supreme Court does indeed overturn Roe versus Wade.

SCIUTTO: Plus, a Ukrainian superstar forced to flee her country. The 2016 Eurovision winner shares her story of escaping a war-torn Ukraine with her children and how she's now using her winning song to raise money for people suffering through the invasion.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is thanking Congress after House lawmakers passed a nearly $40 billion aid bill, this is both weapons and humanitarian aid, days before funds were set to run out. This is as many multiple previous bills.

We learned this morning weapons supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. and other allies are already firing away on the front lines, that's according to the Ukrainian deputy defense minister.

HILL: Ukrainian officials also say Russia is diverting troops near the Kharkiv region because Russians are, quote, very worried about counteroffensives.

Here to discuss, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and CNN National Security Analyst Beth Sanner. Beth, good to see you this morning.

When we look at what Ukrainian officials are saying about those Russian troop movements, what do you read into that?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I read into that that they have to concentrate forces in order to make some gains. They are behind schedule. Pentagon officials said earlier this week, they're about two weeks behind what their plans are and they're really not making the kind of gains that they need to.


And that's why Director Haines yesterday and General Berrier from DIA talked about stalemate and prolonged war being the most likely near- term outcome.

SCIUTTO: So, tell us what the prolonged war looks like along that front. I mean, we're seeing pretty intense fighting particularly in the central part where the yellow is on the map, where Russian forces are trying to break through, trying to surround Ukrainian forces. They've broken through some. Ukrainian forces have tended so far to push back. Are we going to see a back and forth like that for months, for years?

SANNER: Well, General Berrier said he did not expect a breakthrough. So, you know, I think he probably knows a little bit more than I do about this, given that they get into intelligence. But I also think that there is some potential underestimation of what the Ukrainians are doing on other fronts. As they're pushing out from Kharkiv, they are really pushing the Russian forces away from that second city. And so I think that they are tied down in some places.

So, the real key is whether enough weapons can be moved to the frontlines. The air defense is moved up but also taking out some of the ships that are firing these precision-guided missiles, which, by the way, they're running out. SCIUTTO: Yes.

HILL: I was struck too, we heard from President Zelenskyy, and I'm paraphrasing obviously, but the desire to negotiate is waning, right, with every -- he said, with each new Bucha or a Mariupol, and also touted some of the successes, the mayor of Mykolaiv telling Jim just a short time ago here on our air that Zelenskyy is in a difficult position when it comes to potential negotiations or diplomacy. What's your estimation? I mean, is that door almost closed at this point?

SANNER: I think so. I think that Director Haines said yesterday that she did not see a path for negotiations at this time. I've been saying that for weeks and weeks myself, because, you know, Russia really cannot lose this war. They also can't, you know, accept total losses either.

But right now, clearly from that parade speech that Putin gave earlier this week, he is doubling down, and the Ukrainians are feeling that they are winning in some places and pushing back. And they also just have public opinion that they have to deal with. Ukrainians cannot and will not capitulate at this stage. So, they're going to keep pressing. So, that leads us to this very prolonged effort.

SCIUTTO: So, let me ask you this, because U.S. and NATO war aims changed and expanded, frankly, since the start of Russia's invasion. At first, the goal was simply to defend Ukraine and now you have Lloyd Austin and others speaking openly about weakening Russia so that it can't do this again and, in fact, whether against Ukraine or another country.

By doing that, have the U.S. and NATO increased the risk of escalation and also, from Russia's perspective, taken away an incentive to negotiate?

SANNER: Yes and no, I think. As I was saying, Russia can't afford to win at all costs. Putin has to manage this in some way, but he can define victory as he needs to. But I do think that it's really not about us when we're talking about what Putin needs in this war. It's about what Putin wants.

I don't really worry about the risk of escalation right now in terms of drawing us in. I think that that is a bit of a canard. It's what the Russians want us to think.

So, right now, we've just got to keep throwing things at the -- giving things to the Ukrainians so they can fight this war, but at some point, you're right. I mean, we have to come to a point where negotiations are the way out. All wars end in some way by talking.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and maybe being forced to the table too, right? Well, Beth Sanner, always good to have your perspective. Thanks so much.

HILL: Coming up, abortion rights in jeopardy, a critical Senate vote today to codify them expected to fail. So, where do Democrats go from here? A staunch defender of those rights, Senator Elizabeth Warren, joins me next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HILL: Today, the Senate will vote on a bill that would codify into federal law a woman's right to seek an abortion. It comes, of course, in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating justices are poised to overturn Roe versus Wade. The measure needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate, that is currently split 50/50.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer though says he will put every member on record as to where they stand on the issue.

One of those senators joins me now, Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Senator, good to see you this morning.

We know you don't have the votes, that this, in many ways, is symbolic to put people on record as we heard from Leader Schumer. Senator Tim Kaine, as I understand, is working across the aisle with Senators Collins and Murkowski.