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Subpoenas for Insurrection; Finland Joining NATO; Bodies in Kiev, Ukraine; Inflation and High Gas Prices. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 14:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota, welcome to CNN Newsroom.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. We're beginning with new developments in the investigation into the insurrection. The committee investigating the Capitol attack just announced subpoenas for five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The others are Congress Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Jim Jordan.

CAMEROTA: So let's go straight to CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill with his new reporting. So Ryan this is significant obviously. Why these five lawmakers specifically? Why are they being subpoenaed?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well first of all Victor and Alisyn, before we get to that I do want to tell you the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just walked by us here on his way into the House Chamber and was asked about this new subpoena for the first time and told reporters he simply hadn't seen it yet. So he didn't have anything to respond to, so that's the first response that we've had from any of these Republican lawmakers that have been subpoenaed by the committee. But to answer your question Alisyn about why these particular lawmakers, well the -- the Chairman of the Committee Benny Thompson has talked about this for several weeks about his desire to hear from these members. They've issued them letters asking for their cooperation.

What it comes down to is that they believe that they have information that is relevant to these members about their conduct leading up to the events that took place on January 6th, and on the day itself. And they want to give these members an opportunity to tell their side of the story. This is what Thompson said in a statement today.

He said, quote - let me bring it up. I'm sorry -- he said, "The Select Committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack of January 6th and the events leading up to it. Before we hold our hearings next month, we wish to provide the members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably the individuals receiving the subpoenas today have refused and were forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th. We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done."

And they've set a date for that to happen. They've asked these members to come and sit for interviews at the end of the month, in May. That would be right before these major hearings, these public hearings that are schedule to take place in the beginning of June. The big question right now Victor and Alisyn, will this be the step, this unprecedented step that forces these Republican members to comply with the committee's investigation.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Nobles with the news right there. Stay with us, let's bring in now CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and Former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariatti. Gloria, let me start with you. The committee members have deliberated for many weeks whether to take this step they have done it. Your first thoughts.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there was a robust debate inside the committee, because you know that this can be flipped if the Democrats lose control the House and Republicans start doing investigations. Then of course, Republicans can say well we want to subpoena people like Nancy Pelosi or whomever else it is up to talk to us, because you have set the precedent here. But the debate internally I'm told by a source was really just about whether they knew enough about what these people did, and whether they really needed to force the issue this way, because if they don't answer the subpoena then what do you do?

Hold them in contempt of Congress or do you enough about what they did so you don't really need them. I think in the end the committee clearly decided that these people were either in direct contact with Donald Trump on or about January 6th and had a lot to say that they still needed to hear, or they were involved in plans to overturn the election and there were details that they also needed to hear and did not yet know. And they just said, you know, we've got to do it.

CAMEROTA: Renato, one of the other things that we understand they were debating behind closed doors, these lawmakers about whether or not they would subpoena their colleagues. Was whether they had the Constitutional authority to do so? So is that now solved? Do they have the right to do this?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think it's solved at all and in fact I think this really creates a tricky situation for everyone involved. You know, I think Gloria made an excellent point. Next year for example, Jim Jordan they want to issue subpoenas or Kevin McCarthy may want to be issuing Congressional subpoenas. So aggressively do members of Congress who may be in the majority next year, maybe chairing the committee or in Kevin McCarthy's case the leader of the Republicans in the House -- the speaker of the House.


How aggressively do they want to advance arguments that limit Congressional authority to issue subpoenas or suggest that, when a Congressional subpoena is issued it doesn't need to be complied with. So as somebody who's not a member of Congress might have more of an incentive to aggressively challenge Congressional authority. I think they're in tricky here and they have to be careful. You can see already they're -- they're trying to duck questions about, you know, exactly what they think of the subpoenas.

BLACKWELL: So Ryan, the committee members, are -- are they willing to push for a consequence if they -- these members don't comply? We know it's been, what, five months since the Congress referred over Mark Meadows for not complying with the subpoena and nothing from the DOJ. Are they willing to take it to a vote for the full House and then on to DOJ?

NOBLES: Yes Victor, I think that is the open question, and -- and -- and to Renato's point they may be able to do this, but I think the bigger question is whether or not they're able to enforce that. And that has been the big part of the deliberation internally with the members of the committee, is if we take this step do we have the guts to take it all the way. And what we've seen so far with the committee, with the subpoenas that they've issued, is that they have been willing to force the subpoenas that are ultimately not complied with. They've issued a number of criminal contempt referrals, but Victor to your point the question may not be whether or not it goes to the Department of Justice where the adjudication of -of--of denying or ignoring one of the subpoenas happens within the United States Congress.

Usually that's how they handle their matters within the family if you will. And it's more likely that, if it gets to the point where these Republicans just outright deny this effort and don't comply, that it then becomes an investigation of the House ethics committee as opposed to the Department of Justice. But again, we're in unprecedented territory here, no one knows the answer to these questions. We're going to find out how this works as the process happens.

CAMEROTA: Gloria let's look specifically at some of these Congressmen. Congressman Scott Perry, what -- what unique information does he have does the committee think?

BORGER: Well according to what the committee is saying here, the committee says and we know from our own reporting that he was involved in efforts to install a new attorney general, Jeffrey Clark. I'm sorry, install him as acting attorney general and that he, you know, was very involved in trying to figure out ways to overturn the election, was involved in allegations that that the voting machines were crooked and perhaps had been corrupted by China I believe. So he's one of the people they're saying, you were really involved in trying to overturn the election and put Donald Trump back in office. He's one of those. I want to add one thing though here about one of the people. I actually think, might be willing to testify is Mo Brooks. He's the gentleman who spoke at the rally who said, you know, we're going to start taking down names and kicking ass. Then Donald Trump did not endorse him in his re-election race and he's already gone public and said that the president had spoken with him to work to quote, resend the election of 2020. He has already said that publicly. If he's already said it publicly, why not say it to the committee? BLACKWELL: Gloria, I wonder though how that would impact the Alabama

Senate race if he's now a Republican competing or -- or working with the January 6th committee.

BORGER: Right. I'm saying it wouldn't -- it wouldn't help him, but he's already said it and is clearly so angry at Donald Trump and maybe he figure he's, you know, the outcome is -- is already there so maybe he'll do it anyway. I don't know. I just think it's, kind of, interesting that somebody's already said Donald Trump asked me to -- to work on his behalf to change the election result. I mean, he's already done it.

CAMEROTA: All right. Gloria Borger, Renato Mariotti, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for helping us understand this breaking news. OK. Once again, the war in Ukraine is backfiring on Vladimir Putin. The Russian president had wanted to weaken NATO but now Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia is taking a major step towards joining NATO. The Finnish president and prime minister are calling for Finland to become a member quote, "without delay". The Kremlin then warned, if Finland joins NATO Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps. Today the UN's high commissioner for human rights said the civilian victims in Maruipol alone could be in the thousands.

BLACKWELL: She added the only with time the true scale of the atrocities will become clear. She also said more than 1,000 civilians, 1,000 have already been recovered in the Kiev region. CNN exclusively obtained video showing Russian soldiers --


BLACKWELL: -- shooting down two civilians, shot them in the back in the outskirts of Kiev, then the soldiers ransacked the business. Now we're not showing the moment that the men were shot. A top Ukraine prosecutor says the incident is being investigated as a war crime after viewing the video that CNN obtained.

CAMERATO: So let's go now to CNN's Erin Burnett who is live for us in Kiev. Erin, we have some breaking developments. I understand there's a Russian ship on fire.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: There is. So the very latest that we understand and this is actually coming from Ukraine. The military -- military down in the Odessa region saying that a Russian Navy ship is on fire in the Black Sea. Now this a Russian Naval support ship they say and it is currently being towed to Sevastopol, which of course is the Russian Military Base in Crimea and that apparently this fire, as it's being called, started right near Snake Island which you remember was where the now sunk Moskva had that infamous incident with the Ukrainians. There's been a lot of incidents and fighting there recently. The Ukrainians aren't saying what caused the fire, but we do understand that -- that this -- this crucial naval support ship is on fire right now Alisyn so that's the latest we understand.

BLACKWELL: Erin there contrasting front lines are taking shape for Ukrainian forces. They're making gains in the north but seeing some setbacks in -- in the east. Explain what you're seeing. BURNETT: Yes. So this is all part of the Russian efforts to try to

establish some sort of consistent front line in the Donbas. And that's where we're seeing right now, Ukraine just afternoon acknowledging some Russian advances in the east. And basically what they're saying is that the -- the Russian operational update that we get from the Ukrainian military every night, and they're saying that Russian forces have crossed a crucial river. This is the Siverski Donets -- Donets River. And they are heading towards Sloviansk. That is in Donbas and is a crucially important strategic city, as the Russians try to consolidate control of the Donbas and again, as I said, set up a consistent frontline. If they are successful and this is true in crossing this river, what it means Victor and Alisyn is that they could be able to, sort of, encircle and trap some Ukrainian forces.

So this is very much a moving back and forth line, artillery, shelling, very chaotic and that's what you're seeing. And the Ukrainian forces are acknowledging some advances by Russian forces there. So this is obviously important to watch given the strategic importance. And as Alisyn and -- and Victor, you mentioned Finland. This is a really important part of the story when you take the broader NATO context. Finland moving much closer towards NATO membership and sort of, joining that block. Nick Robertson is in Helsinki tonight and Nick as we talk about the front lines and the fight here in Ukraine, obviously so much of this for Putin is about this perception of NATO which he has successfully may get bigger as part of all of this. So what needs to help for Finland to make their joining NATO official?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Just a couple of small steps. The monumental decision really or announcement came today from the prime minister and the president. I mean, that really does signal what's happening. And on Sunday the government is going to put forward its assessment which is going to be let's join NATO, and that will go to the parliament on Monday. And they it's just a matter of hours, maybe a couple of days max before the parliament's expected to vote on it, and I spoke to somebody, an MP, in the prime minister party just yesterday and he told me, look. Out of 200 members of parliament, more than 100 maybe are -- are going to vote for this. So the big announcement was today. Finland asking to join NATO, forgone conclusion. Just a matter of days now.

BURNETT: Nick Robertson, thank you. And Alisyn and Victor as I send it back to you and you were talking about the stunning number of 1,000 civilians that they're saying are dead in the Kiev region. You know, even in this region and -- and we've been to a couple of regions in this area. But when you drive through and you just see the devastation, you talk to villagers and they'll talk about in a village. Well they know this many people were dead but this many are still missing. There is so much we still don't know and just amidst this devastation, you know, it isn't just easy to get a count. I -- I -- I think the horror is we need to be prepared for all these numbers to just still go higher and higher.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It's such a great point, and we may never know the exact numbers because of how this has been executed. Erin, thank you very much we will check back with you. So back here, gas prices hitting another record high today. What can be done about inflation? Well former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has some ideas. Next.

BLACKWELL: And all nine justices of the Supreme Court are meeting in private for the first time since the leak of that draft that they suggest to overturn Roe v. Wade. We'll talk about this ahead.



CAMEROTA: Gas prices hit another record high today. This is the third day in a row.

BLACKWELL: But on a more positive note, here economists are hopeful that inflation may have already peaked. Another indicator, the producer price index rose at a slightly slower rate in April. Richard Quest is here, CNN Business Editor at Large. All right, so slower rate here, so rate there.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: But the first thing to remember is we're still going up, all right? We're just not going up as fast.

BLACKWELL: Not going down.

QUEST: Still high. Still high. And by high, I mean extremely high. Look at the numbers. The last 12 months inflation at the PPI --


QUEST: -- this is the factory. This is the whole sale level has been going up by 11 percent. Now if you bear in mind that consumer inflation is 8.5 percent give or take. That shows you that 3 percent of it's being kept in the factory. 3 percent is being paid by companies, by -- by the margin before it's actually passed on to consumers. Month over month we really don't worry about, it's still very high (inaudible), 11 percent is unsustainable as a PPI if you like wholesale level for factories. Look at the way the graft grows. The graft will show perfectly the awfulness of the current inflation situation, which is why the president says it's his number one domestic priority because we've really never had anything like this for decades. You've got to go back to the 1980s' before you're talking (inaudible) and inflation out of the system. But that shows perfectly why this is such an issue why it can't be left to fester much longer.

CAMEROTA: So gas prices, should we prepare for another record breaking day tomorrow and every day after that?

QUEST: The interesting thing about gas prices, let me show you the numbers first and I can some -- some -- some thoughts on it. The gas prices is not -- we're at $4.42 today is the average, up two cents on yesterday and quite considerably up over the last week or so. The problem with gas is that there are many external variables, the war in Ukraine, Russia's delivery of gas to Europe. If gas starts going up on the international exchanges, to a large extent the United States, even though nearly self-sufficient, even though with vast production it can't withstand those pressures because gas is an international commodity traded. The long and short of it is yes, as long as there are issues. Don't forget if China opens up again and therefore productivity in Shanghai, Shenzhen all gets underway again, the demand will go up, prices will go up. I think we're looking at higher prices ahead.

BLACKWELL: Richard Quest, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks Richard. OK. Joining us now is Robert Reich, she (sic) served as a labor secretary under President Clinton and is now the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkley. He's also the author of the book "The System, Who Rigged It. How We Fix It". Secretary Reich great to have you. In keeping with the title of your book, "How We Fix It", how does the Biden administration fix inflation?

ROBERT REICH, LABOR SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well there's no easy fix Alisyn, obviously. We had relied on the Federal Reserve and interest rates and the Federal Reserve's control over interest rates to control inflation. That's the -- the standard way we do it. The last time we faced any inflation like this was in the early 1980s' and Paul Volcker who then was chair of the Fed, raised interest rates so high he said to break the back of inflation. Well he did that but he also broke the back of the economy. We went into a deep recession and that is the danger.

CAMEROTA: And as I understand from reading your notes, you think that corporations could step in and do more here.

REICH: Well obviously they can, I mean, if you look at gas prices, you were just talking about gas prices. The oil companies are raking in record profits. Chevron for the first quarter of this year, record profits. We see the same thing with all of the oil companies. Now why is it that they are raising prices. They are raising prices at the pump, notwithstanding the record profits because they can. That is basically markets -- oil markets, they are international but they're not terribly competitive. In fact, there's a lot of coordination among oil companies. Well, what ought to happen in this, kind of, situation at least a temporary measure that prevents prices gauging by oil companies and that's what Congress is going to be considering and that's actually a good thing. Congress should stop that price gouging. We also see in the Senate, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and joined by House Member Ro Khanna, they've introduced a measure to have a windfall, a temporary windfall profits tax, on oil companies again for the same reason. These oil companies that are showing record profits should not be allowed to take it out on the consumers right now.

CAMEROTA: President Biden has begun talking about inflation in more political terms. So let me play for you what he said yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (Inaudible) predecessor, the great MAGA king, the debt increased every single year he was president. They don't want to solve inflation -- inflation by lowering the cost. They want to solve it by raising taxes and lowering your income. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: I don't know if you could hear that but he was calling President Trump there the great MAGA king and talking about how he thinks that Republicans would raise middle-class and even lower taxes. --


CAMEROTA: -- is that effective for messaging?

REICH: Well it may be effective for messaging and it may be close to the truth in the sense that the Republicans, what they did under Donald Trump is they did reduce taxes on the wealthy and on big corporations. And promised that would all trickle down to average people who would see increases in their incomes, but nothing trickled down.

In fact, the big story Alisyn that we have on have to hammer home because it -- it basically effects most people's lives, is that most Americans have not seen a real wage increase adjusted for inflation in four decades. There's been a little bit of an increase in wages over the last year and certainly over the last six months, but inflation has taken away almost all of that increase. So where has all of the money gone? Where have all the profits gone? The economy is much larger than it was four decades ago obviously? Well it's no surprise it has gone to the top, this is not an indictment of anybody who is rich. This is not class warfare, but it is necessary to understand that if we want to do a lot of things we have to do in this country. You've got to raise taxes on people at the very top and at the same time lower taxes on average working people.

CAMEROTA: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

BLACKWELL: All right. We're going to get more into President Biden's new mid-term mode. As you mentioned he's sharpening his attacks, called the president the great MAGA king. He's also warning about the Supreme Court. We'll talk about it next.