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Sources: Trump Weighs 2024 Bid Announcement Before Midterms; GOP Source Offers Grim Outlook for Senate Gun Safety Bill; Kremlin on Missing Americans: "We Do Not Know Anything About It"; Heat Wave Rages Across South, Plains as Yellowstone Floods. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 14:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: He said a potential economic downturn, the timing could coincide with Trump returning to the political stage.

There are some sources who say he's considering announcing a run in 2024 before the midterms.

Is that limited to the commentary, or is that something that is spread on Capitol Hill, that they're concerned, if the economy goes down, it will hit at the exact time that Trump is coming in and that could lift him back into the White House?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think everybody has understood for months that the former President Trump seems, until further notice, likely to get back in. And his calculus would involve, does he think he could win again?

A number of factors go into that. One is Biden's popularity. The other is the economy. The third is the impact of the January 6th hearings. The fourth is the relative strength of Republican contenders he might have to face. We're seeing all of this come into play.

But I do think we know, poll after poll after poll, that inflation and gas prices are absolutely, by far, the top issue people are concerned about.

Abortion rights is close behind. Gun safety is a factor, more so in some places than other places.

But inflation and gas prices hurt Democrats in the midterms, hurt President Biden's reputation, and may create incentive for former President Trump.

But I think he's considering a number of other factors. But I certainly think that's one of them.

BLACKWELL: All right, Margaret Talev, Catherine Rampell, thank you.

The chief GOP negotiator on the gun safety bill has a dire warning. Talks may collapse for good if key decisions are not made soon.

And three Americans who traveled voluntarily to fight in Ukraine are missing. What the Kremlin is saying about it.



BLACKWELL: Talks continue today on the Senate's gun safety bill. A Republican source tells CNN the text is far from being released. Republicans say Democrats are trying to renegotiate some issues that had already been settled.

Two of the biggest sticking points are over federal funding for Red Flag laws and language on the so-called boyfriend loophole that would ban firearm purchases for people convicted of domestic violence.

CNN's Lauren Fox is with us now.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, says it's now or never on this deal. What comes next?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he said this repeatedly yesterday, it's now or never, it's time to fish or cut bait, making it clear that the time was really running out for these negotiations.

We should note, he left for Texas yesterday afternoon after meeting with those central players for several hours. They were trying to find a way through those two remaining sticking points, and they just couldn't get there. They're the same sticking points they had on Tuesday afternoon.

And if you're staring down the calendar, there's a reason why he's arguing that this needs to be finalized soon. And it simply has not come together, including today.

In conversations I'm having with Republicans and Democrats on the Hill working on this issue, they are making it clear, they just aren't there yet.

Democrats a little more optimistic about where these talks stand. And Republicans a little more pessimistic about where things stand.

I should tell you that next week when lawmakers return, they're going to get back into town on Tuesday. They normally depart on Thursday. That doesn't leave much time to put this bill on the floor.

And that's assuming they can write legislative text, be ready, communicate and educate members on what exactly is inside the bill and be ready to vote. Right now, that is an incredibly heavy lift.

And after Thursday, lawmakers are scheduled to leave for a two-week recess, Victor. So right now, it's looking like these gun talks are in a precarious state.

BLACKWELL: We'll see where they go.

Lauren Fox, watching all of it for us, thank you. [14:38:27]

Even under the crippling economic sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin vows to accomplish all of his goals in Ukraine. More on what he said next.



BLACKWELL: President Biden says that he's now been briefed on the three Americans missing in Ukraine, and he is strongly discouraging Americans from traveling to the country.

Officials are working to verify a new photo of two of the Americans reportedly captured by Russians. Look at this. You can see the men in a military vehicle. It appears their hands are tied behind their back.

Brady Kurpasi is a former U.S. Marine, as well. His family last heard from him in April.

CNN's Barbara Starr is with me now.

Barbara, what more do you know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, earlier today the Kremlin spokesman in Moscow said they didn't have any information about these men.

But as you say, very difficult circumstances. Their families have not heard from them.

And now we have that photo of two of them. On the left is Alexander Drueke. He is former U.S. Army. On the right, Andy Huynh. He is a former U.S. Marine.

They appear to have their hands behind their back. The detail behind that photo, the fine detail shows cans of food with Russian writing on them.

But their families have not heard from them in many days. The last time any account of them was made, they were apparently in fighting north of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. So their circumstances, very difficult to know at this point.


Now, the other American, as you said, is a Marine Corp. Veteran, 20 years in the Marine Corp. He is Grady Kurpasi. He, apparently, his family has not heard from him since April. So as well, a good deal of worry about him.

Right now, the State Department says they are in touch with Ukraine forces. They are also in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross. But until they can get some word from the Russians, if the Russians

know anything about these men and what their circumstances are, this is going to be very difficult for the families.

And it's going to be very difficult, potentially, to get them back home to their families -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Understandable.

Barbara Starr, thank you.

The European commission has now recommended E.U. candidate status for Ukraine. Now it is up to the 27 European Union member states to decide whether they agree.

This morning, Vladimir Putin spoke at an economic forum, after cyberattacks caused some delays.

But during the speech he said that Russia has nothing against Ukraine joining the E.U. And he slammed the West, claiming sanctions have failed to crush Russia's economy.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in St. Petersburg.

What else did we hear from Putin?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Victor. Well, certain, aside from all of those things, it was a really forceful speech by Vladimir Putin.

I think that anybody who thought that Vladimir Putin might be thinking of changing course in Ukraine with what the Russians call the Special Military Operation, the invasion of Ukraine, that certainly does not seem to be the case.

In fact, the Russian leader said that Russia was going to continue that Special Military Operation until all of its military objectives are met.

It was interesting because he kept calling it the Special Military Operation in Donbass, which certainly seems as though he moved the goalpost a little bit.

Of course, as we know, the Russians invaded the area around Kyiv and some other areas in Ukraine as well. And now they're talking about the Donbass area.

He also laid blame on the West for pretty much all of the other problems around the world right now that have stemmed from that Special Military Operation, like, for instance, inflation, higher gas prices, food shortages around the world.

I want to have you listen to some of what Putin had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Russians actions to liberate Donbass have nothing to do with it. They are a result of systemic mistakes by the current U.S. administration and the European bureaucracy. That's where the causes are, only that.

I will mention our operation did play a role, but the root causes are in their erroneous economic policy.


PLEITGEN: So Vladimir Putin speaking earlier today.

Now, of course, the Russians do understand that their own economy is definitely in trouble due to those very strong economic sanctions by the U.S. and by its allies.

Vladimir Putin said that he's trying to essentially reorient Russia's economy. He says he believes that Russia's economy and Russia itself is too big to isolate.

He wants to reorient it toward the east. Of course, big partnerships with countries like China, one of the countries also at the economic forum where he spoke today, and also Egypt as well.

The Russians are saying that they want to reorient their entire economy. But they are aware of the fact that the sanctions are hitting their economy pretty hard.

But as you said earlier, Victor, he essentially says he believes the strong economic pressure so far by the West is failing to dissuade Russia from its course and also failing to cripple Russia's economy -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us in St. Petersburg. Thank you, Fred.


Back here in the U.S., from the south to the central plains, millions of us are battling a record-breaking heat wave. We'll tell you what to expect where you are next.


BLACKWELL: No relief just yet for millions of people sweating through a heat wave in the south and central plains. Nearly 40 million people are under some kind of excessive heat alert today.

Now, the dangerous temperatures are easing in the Midwest and Ohio valley, but still above average.

Rising temperatures at Yellowstone Park could lead to more snowmelt and that means a rise in river levels there.

CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is here with more.

So, Allison, yes, it's uncomfortable, but what's more important, this could be really dangerous.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. Take a look at the video behind me. This is of the road that was basically washed out, not just in one spot but multiple locations along the Yellowstone River, just because of how much water was flowing at one time.

And part of the reason for that was you had a lot of snowmelt come down. You had a tremendous amount of moisture from an atmospheric river that moved through.

A culmination of both of those events really led to an intense amount of moisture.

Here's the thing. We're going to see those temperatures warm up yet again in the coming days around Yellowstone National Park.

And take a look. All this pink and purple you see here, that's snow that's on those mountains. That is the snow that has the potential to melt as those temperatures warm up over the next couple of days.

The other thing to know, too, that heat wave that will initially start across the northern plains and areas of Montana and Wyoming and Idaho, that's going to begin to spread off to the east in the coming days.

So by next week, you're really starting to look at a lot of these locations that were finally at least getting a little bit of a break from the heat, starting to see the temperatures rebounding again.

And 130 cities could end up with record temperatures over the next seven days.


Take a look at this, Victor. Chicago going from a high of 71. That nice break they're going to get for one day on Saturday, back up to triple digits by Tuesday of next week.

BLACKWELL: At least we're all in it together.

Allison Chinchar, thank you.

The Golden State Warriors are the 2022 NBA champions. First time finals MVP Steph Curry led his team to a 13-point victory over the Boston Celtics, they're fourth trophy in eight seasons.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does just this mean to you to finally be a finals MVP after everything?

STEPH CURRY, NBA FOUR-TIME CHAMPION/FINALS MVP: Forget that. We champs. Why you starting with that question? We got four championships.

This one is different for sure, just knowing what the last three years have meant, what it's been like. From injuries to, you know, changing of the guard and the rosters, our young guys, carrying the belief that we could get back to the stage win.


BLACKWELL: Last night's win gives the trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green their fourth title together, all under head coach, Steve Kerr.

Someone on our call called Steph Curry "goat." Am I late to that? Our floor director, Mike, doesn't think it's funny. All right. I thought it was ingenious.

All right, moving on. The January 6th committee wants answers from Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. New details ahead.