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Ro Khanna is Interviewed about Inflation; Alabama Church Shooting; Biden Announces Climate Initiatives. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Significant news just in to CNN.

The FDA has just authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer Covid vaccines for children as young as six months old. Moderna's can be administered to children six months to five years. The age range for Pfizer is six months to four years. The shots still cannot be given until the CDC's vaccine advisers vote on whether to recommend them. That is expected to happen Saturday. And the White House said vaccinations may begin next week.

This is great news for all of us parents out there.

All right, the White House appears optimistic that the U.S. can avoid a recession, amid what is happening with the explosive inflation. And officials tell CNN the administration is unlikely to push for sending out gas rebate cards, you've heard some talk about that, to help families struggling with record gas prices, but President Biden says he's doing everything he can.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With Russia's war driving up inflation worldwide, threatening vulnerable countries with severe food shortages, we have to work together to mitigate the immediate fallout of this crisis. In the United States, I'm using every lever available to me to bring down prices for the American people. And our nations are working together to stabilize global energy markets, including coordinating the largest release from a global reserve -- from global oil reserves in history.


HARLOW: Joining me now on all of this is Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California.


It's good to have you, sir. Thank you for being with me. You have been now for a while, since your op-ed a few weeks ago in

"The New York Times," saying repeatedly, look, the Biden administration is not doing enough to tackle inflation. You've said separately to "The Times" rhetoric about, well, we're doing really well. Quote, it doesn't capture the profound sense of anxiety Americans feel. I know it's what you're hearing from your constituents.

I just wonder if you've seen the White House take up any of the litany of recommendations that you made?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Poppy, I have. I think that the administration is now getting much stronger. I've had some conversations. A few things that they're considering. One would be an export ban of oil going before 2015, where we didn't allow oil to be exported. We could exempt our allies, our European allies, but that would do a lot to lower prices. There's no reason we need to be as dependent on the global price of oil.

The second, the president has talked about this windfall profits tax that Boris Johnson passed in England, and that would put more money in the pockets of American consumers while they've been paying $6, $7 at the pump.

HARLOW: OK, well, let's go through those line by line here because those are two significant changes. So, if you - if you consider an export ban right now in the middle of Europe needing more access, especially to oil, I mean you've seen what's happened in that gas prices in less than a week, up about 50 percent. Why do that right now? Isn't that just harming the people we're trying to help?

KHANNA: Well, it would exempt our European allies, but I don't see any reason that we need to be sending our oil to China, or to many other countries. So, you can exempt NATO allies from that.

But the reality is that this would actually significantly lower prices. I mean there's no reason we need to be so dependent on the global price when we're a net exporter of oil.

HARLOW: So, I read to your second point here, about a -- what you call a windfall profit tax on oil companies. I read through the legislation, your bill, this morning, that was proposed back in March. It's similar to what Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat, has proposed in the past few days, which is a 21 percent surcharge on what he's calling excess profits for oil companies. I'm not sure either of you have really defined, you know, what excess is. You're saying the difference between $45 a barrel and, you know, $120, where we are now.

But my question to you, and I've tried to think about this a lot of ways is, why does that make any economic sense right now? How does that incent oil companies to produce more if you're just going to tax them more?

KHANNA: Sure. Well, a couple points to it. It's the difference between $66 a barrel, which was where it was before the pandemic. But look, Boris Johnson has done this. It hasn't had an impact of -- negative in England so far. We did this in 1980. And, actually, after 1980, it led to an increase in production and a decrease in price. So it's --

HARLOW: Well, that's different because so much more drilling was opened in Alaska then. I mean I'm not -- I don't - I don't -- correlation and causation are different things.

KHANNA: Sure, but there - t here's no - there's no evidence that doing this is going to somehow decrease the current production because, as you know, it takes years to bring production on board. And so the question is, what is it going to do most immediately. Most of the money that's going to be get - that's going -- getting taxed is going to stock buybacks, it's going to Wall Street. By the oil companies own admission.


KHANNA: So it -- this is what this is going to do is saying, instead of giving the money on stock buybacks, put that money in the pockets of the American public.

HARLOW: It - it - it's -

KHANNA: And -- go ahead.

HARLOW: It's -- I'm sorry. It's just - it's not just me that is scratching my head to try to figure out how this makes economic sense. I get that you represent constituents, like all of us, who are looking at these prices at the pump, especially in California, and they can't bear it and their families can't afford it. But what needs to be done is something that will help them right now. And there's only so many tools the Fed has and the White House has.

I mean there are a number of Democrats who think this -- a proposal like this doesn't make sense, including Jason Furman, who was a top economic adviser in the Obama White House.

Here's what he said about this just yesterday.


JASON FURMAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Don't think an excess profits tax is the way to encourage, you know, more investment and, you know, more supply. So, I think it's barking up the wrong tree.

HARLOW: Not - it sounds like you're saying not just barking up the wrong tree, but it actually could make it worse.

FURMAN: Depending on how it's designed and what the details are, absolutely.


HARLOW: He thinks it could hurt. Do you think he's wrong?

KHANNA: Well, look, you can get an economist for everything. I respect Jason Furman, but he doesn't have the - HARLOW: Come on.

KHANNA: I mean Robert Reich is coming out for it. And all the conservative economists advising Boris Johnson came out for it. And the conservative government passed it. And the reason is that this is a question of whether these excessive profits that are being caused by Putin's war, whether they belong to shareholders or whether they belong to the American public.


And the reality is, there's not going to be an increase in supply.

Look, if the oil companies were taking this money and drilling and increasing production, we would have an argument. That's not what they're doing.

HARLOW: I just have one - first of all, it's not just any economist. This is the top economist from the Obama White House that I just played for everyone.

KHANNA: Sure, but there are a lot of top economists and -

HARLOW: But have you talked to any -- have you talked to any oil executive -- I know the White House invited them there next week -- who said, sure, windfall tax, we're going to drill more, refine more, even knowing that on top of that increased tax, in a few years, you know, the position this administration is less fossil fuel, not more. So you're not going to want us to do that in a few years. I don't -- how does that make business sense? Have they said to you they would do that?

KHANNA: Well, first of all, there are a lot of economists, other than Jason Furman, who recommend a wind fall profits tax. Robert Reich being one and other economists. So, the economists are split on the issue and many conservative economists recommended it to Boris Johnson.

But the second point is, no, a lot of the oil companies, of course they don't want a windfall profits tax because they're making record profits. So, while I've engaged with them, there's not a single one who have said, yes, please, please tax us on our excessive profits. But they will acknowledge that they can increase drilling anytime in the near term. So, it's not that that tax is going to somehow decrease short-term production.

And actually, having the export ban would increase the production, or having the government purchase and sell back on to the market at a subsidized rate. So there are other ways that we can increase the supply, lower price, but putting money back into the hands of the consumers I think is smart policy.

HARLOW: I always appreciate the lively debate.

Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks. Have a nice weekend.

KHANNA: Thanks, Poppy.

Still ahead, another lone gunman tragically opening fire, this time at a small church right near Birmingham, Alabama. The latest on the investigation, what we've learned about those killed.



HARLOW: New this morning, a suspected gunman is in custody after two people were killed, another injured in a shooting at an Alabama church. Police say the lone suspect entered a small group meeting yesterday, it was yesterday evening, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, this is right outside of Birmingham, and just opened fire.

Our Nadia Romero is live this morning in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

It's tragic. What more do we know this morning?


It really is. And it's shocking for people in this community. They talked about what they normally see. And people were walking their dogs by the church when we were out this morning and they said, we have car burglaries and maybe a home break-in every once in a while, but never a shooting and never at a church.

We also spoke with a former U.S. senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, who was really trying to push for gun control back in 2018, right after the Parkland shooting there where 17 students and staff members were killed at a high school. And he says that now this is happening in his community. He lives about a mile and a half from the church where this happened. It's where his kids went to school. It's where he says his wife goes to the grocery store. And now he's concerned because it's a church, a place of worship, where this attack happened.

Take a listen.


DOUG JONES (D), FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR: Birmingham community area is known as the city of churches. There's a church everywhere. This is not the only one. There's one right - just about, you know, a tenth of a mile right there. There's another down the street. Another this way. And I think people, because we have such an affinity both for our faith and our houses of worship, regardless of your religion, that when something happens there you expect that to be the safest place you can be. And, unfortunately. It's not always the case.

Hopefully this will bring attention to a lot of things.


ROMERO: A place of worship turned into a crime scene. We've seen that before. And now that's what we're dealing with here at Vestavia Hills, right outside of Birmingham. Poppy, we're outside of the police department here where we're

expecting to get an update from the local police chief. Hopefully we'll learn more about the suspect and potentially his motive, and the people who were impacted, the two people who were killed and the third person who is recovering in the hospital this morning.


HARLOW: Nadia Romero, thank you for being there and for your reporting.

Still ahead, President Biden convening a global meeting on climate leadership as heat soars now in the east and floods wreak havoc in the west. The very real challenge facing U.S. infrastructure from all of this, ahead.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

Right now at the White House, President Biden is hosting a major virtual forum with top global leaders focused on climate and clean energy. He's announced also a new initiative focused on raising $90 billion to develop new technologies to curb CO2 emissions.

And this all comes as the U.S. is seeing, look at that, extreme temperatures across the country this morning with nearly 40 million Americans under heat alerts.

Let's go to our Rene Marsh for more.

I mean it's an aggressive goal for sure. What else did the president say?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, as you mentioned, Poppy, I mean, this is a critical meeting in that there are 23 of the world's largest economies are a part of this meeting. And they're all announcing these stronger climate targets. Biden announcing these new initiatives to curb methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, and again those new, clean energy technology investments.

But this meeting is happening in the backdrop of climate change induced extreme weather that, as you mentioned, the majority of the United States has seen just this week alone a dramatic pendulum from droughts out west, and record heat over much of the country, and at the same time we are seeing these catastrophic floating and downpours elsewhere.

Yellowstone, which you're looking at there, was drenched by rainfall and rapid snow melt. That was early summer heat that contributed to that, melting that snowpack really quickly.

And then in the southwest, it is in the grips of a 20-year megadrought where reservoirs for drinking water are dropping to record lows. [09:55:03]

Drought and high winds are fueling wildfires. At this point, more than 30,000 wildfires have burned nearly 3 million acres across the United States. So those are the real-life scenarios that are directly correlated to whether or not those countries meeting today actually follow through with their climate commitments, Poppy.

HARLOW: Rene Marsh, thank you very much.

It just points to how important this meeting is today and, more importantly, the action out of it.


HARLOW: Thanks again.

MARSH: Yes. Thanks.

HARLOW: Still ahead, why the committee investigating the insurrection wants to talk to -- formally talk to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. More on her eye-catching emails with the conservative lawyer who spearheaded the effort to overthrow the 2020 election.