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Biden Administration Downplays Recession Certainty; Texas GOP Declares Election Illegitimate Despite Evidence; Vaccines for Children a Turning Point for Many U.S. Families. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


We are following several stories this morning. As the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection prepares for the next hearing on Tuesday, at the Texas Republican convention, a central message was that the 2020 election, without evidence, was illegitimate. It underscores lawmakers and hearing witnesses' testimony that there are legitimate reasons to worry about what all this means for this year's elections and those that follow.

HARLOW: That's right. Committee Member Adam Schiff is expected to play a lead role in the hearing tomorrow afternoon. He told CNN the panel will present evidence showing state officials who stood up and said they wouldn't go along with this plan to either call legislatures back into session or decertify the results for Joe Biden and will connect the bid to submit fake electors to overturn the election straight to the former president. That is what Schiff says.

Now, as investigators watch for where the markets go this week, days after the Federal Reserve increased the key interest rates three quarters of a percentage point and the Dow navigates bear market territory, the administration was out in full force over the weekend with a consistent message that recession is not inevitable, recovery is possible. Watch this.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, I expect the economy to slow but I don't think a recession is at all inevitable.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: Recession is not inevitable. The president really wants to have a steady and stable recovery.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Not only is a recession not inevitable, but I think a lot of people are underestimating those strengths and the resilience of the American economy.


SCIUTTO: Not inevitable, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins us now from New York. So, Alison, I'm curious, how the markets, how investors are reading the danger of the economy falling into a recession and when?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim and Poppy. I think investors are also reading what Biden administration officials are saying as well, this consistent message that a recession isn't inevitable and there is some truth to that, but then, again, no one really knows.

Even Fed Chair Jay Powell said after he made his policy decision last week, raising interest rates at a pretty big clip, the last time raising it 0.75 percent was, you know back in 1994, even he admitted that there is a lot out of the Federal Reserve's control, including high oil prices, supply chain constraints and the continued effects of COVID-19, of emerging from the pandemic. And there really is no guarantee that raising rates will help to lower inflation and there is no guarantee that raising rates more aggressively will keep the economy out of a recession.

So, I will be looking for Fed Chair Powell, his testimony this week happening on Capitol Hill. He will be testifying twice. It is his usual annual -- twice annual monetary policy report. We'll get a report on the health of the economy, but no doubt he'll also be feeling some really tough questions from lawmakers.

As far as data this week, not much but we are getting June's consumer sentiment. We'll get a better understanding, at least number-wise, of what Americans are feeling as they pay for these higher prices from the grocery store to the gas station.

As for the stock market, you said it is closed today. Hopefully, everybody will take a deep breath and maybe cooler heads will prevail when the markets open again tomorrow. But it was a brutal session last week. It looked kind of where we are now, year-to-date. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq, they are sitting firmly in bear market territory. The Dow getting very close, it is down 17 percent for the year. A lot of this, Jim and Poppy, has to do with confidence, and I think that's why you're seeing the Biden administration in full force coming out and saying it is not inevitable, but it is hard to have confidence when you see the market dropping as much as it is.

HARLOW: For sure. Alison Kosik, thank you very much. We'll see what happens when markets open tomorrow morning.

Catherine Rampell is her to discuss, CNN Economics and Political Commentator and Washington Post Opinion Columnist.

Catherine, I'm so glad to have you on, on Alison's great point, when we're talking about whether we're going to see a recession or not, we don't usually know until we're in it or it is over. But I thought it was striking, these economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal now said -- 44 percent of them said a recession will happen the next 12 months, up from 28 percent who said in April. And when you have numbers like that, you're usually already in a recession.

So, the point you make is be careful because you can talk yourself into a recession.


HARLOW: Make the case.

RAMPELL: Well, there are a lot of reasons to believe that the risks of a recession have grown in recent months, particularly since inflation has been higher than expected, which means the Fed needs to act more aggressively, raise interest rates more, could accidentally tip us into a downturn


But if everybody starts getting gloomy about that, it can become a sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Companies decide to lay off workers, or to cancel orders, pull back investments, that sort of thing. If everybody does that en masse, that is the recession, right? A recession is basically a decline in economic activity.

So, there is this challenge for the White House, and for Fed policymakers as well right now, where they kind of want to give people a pep talk and say, hey, don't make this a self-fulfilling prophecy, don't start anticipating a recession and will it into existence. But they are too optimistic, they seem, A, tone deaf, right, because people really are suffering, even if we think we're not technically in a recession right now, or, B, they lose their credibility, right? If they say things are better than they are, they lose credibility and people stop trusting them. So, it is really difficult to find the right tone

HARLOW: What about inflation, because the Fed has to give this economy medicine you know what may kill the patient. Question is can you get the right balance. And when you have the raise of three quarters of a percentage point last week followed by maybe another one just as big, I mean, we saw Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller say, Saturday, he would back another interest rate hike of three quarters of a point, how do you know, when we will know if the Fed has killed the patient or not?

RAMPELL: Well, officially there is a group called the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is a bunch of economists who decide when the economy has turned or not. And they usually do it long after the fact. So, they are the arbiters of this thing. But there are other -- the actual turning of the economy into a recession or recovery.

But there are other indicators, obviously, that we can follow. We should look at the job market. We should look at consumer sentiment. We should look at GDP growth, investment data, things like that. That will give us a sense of how consumers and businesses are reacting to tightening financial conditions and more broadly worries about the future of the economy. And those are the kinds of things I'll be looking at

HARLOW: One point that I think has been interesting, the administration keeps reiterating, is, yes, inflation is too high here, yes, it is painful, but there is an inflation problem all around the world in developed economies. Let's just listen to what some of those in the White House have been saying on this. Here they are.


YELLEN: It is important to recognize that the United States is certainly not the only advanced economy suffering from high inflation. We see it in U.K. We see it in France, Germany, Italy.

DEESE: We have a stronger and better position to tackle inflation than almost any other country around the world.

GRANHOLM: Of course, oil is traded on a global market. This issue of supply is hitting every country around the world. Every country is paying high prices for gas.


HARLOW: When you actually look at core inflation, stripping out food and energy prices, in Europe, last month, it was 3.8 percent, in the U.S., it was comparable measurement was 6 percent. So, we do have higher core inflation, significantly.

RAMPELL: Yes. So, inflation is a global phenomenon in part because the pandemic was a global phenomenon and has messed up supply chains around the world, which means that when demand is strong and supply can't expand sufficiently or easily enough to meet it, you end up having higher prices, right? And that's -- we're still having consequences of that because of lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine and what not that are partly related to the pandemic in some cases and in other cases not. So, this is a global phenomenon.

That said, there are also policy choices that we have made that probably made those numbers a little bit worse. There is a debate about how much worse, did, for example, fiscal policy sending almost all Americans' checks, for example, including those who didn't need them, didn't lose jobs, et cetera, how much did that contribute? How much did the fact that the Fed was kind of behind the curve and didn't start raising interest rates sooner was still leaning into expansionary monetary policy until relatively recently, how much has that contributed? It is a confluence of factors.

The administration is right. It is not unique to the United States but it does look like it has been worse in the United States, at least if you strip out energy, for example.

HARLOW: By about a third.

RAMPELL: By about a third.

HARLOW: Yes. RAMPELL: And that does seem linked to policy choices we have made, even if those are not the sole reason behind this painful level of inflation we have.

HARLOW: Well, lessons for everyone to learn as we move forward. Thank you, Catherine. Good to have you.

Well, the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is preparing for the next high profile hearing, previewing to CNN that those state officials who stood up to Donald Trump at the time resisting an effort to overturn electoral votes will be key in this hearing.




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Our hearing, we'll show during the hearing what the president's role was in trying to get states to name alternate slates of electors, how that scheme depended initially on hopes that the legislatures would reconvene and bless it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Will we see that he directed it?

SCHIFF: And they pressed forward with it anyway.

BASH: Will we see that he directed it?

SCHIFF: I don't want to get ahead of what we're showing during the hearing but we will show you what we know about his role in this.


SCIUTTO: Tuesday's hearing will feature Georgia election officials and the Arizona House speaker who resisted pressure from Trump and his campaign to overturn 2020 election results. There they are there.

Congressman Schiff also said the committee still has several key people they have not yet interviewed but would like to, that includes possibly subpoenaing the former vice president, Mike Pence as part of the investigation. We'll see. Still on the table, apparently.

HARLOW: In Texas this weekend, a prime example of the concern that some of these key witnesses and lawmakers have expressed in these hearings about upcoming elections.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now. So, Melanie, Republicans in Texas made it official, it is part of their platform now that Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election. So, tell us how this fits in and how Republicans there are reacting.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, Texas Republicans essentially went full MAGA this weekend. The state GOP proposed a policy platform that includes Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 election, saying there is significant fraud and that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president.

Again, this is false. We know from the January 6th select committee that even Trump's own advisers knew there was absolutely no merit to these claims, but this policy platform really shows how Trump's election lies has permeated the top rungs of the GOP party.

And, you know, it is not just Texas. There are election deniers who are running in races all around the country, including for positions that would have power over overseeing the next elections. And so this really could be a preview for what is to come in the midterms and the next presidential race.

And we should also point out that it is not just election denialism that was front and center in the policy platforms and just how far right Republicans have gone, they also booed and rebuked conservative Senator John Cornyn, who is trying to work on a bipartisan gun deal after there was a massive school shooting in the state of Texas, a group of activists confronted GOP Congressmen Dan Crenshaw, who is a combat veteran who lost his eye in combat and called him Eye Patch McCain and they also included in their proposal for the policy platform language that would call for anti-abortion rhetoric in schools and also referring to homosexuality as an abnormal lifestyle choice.

And so, look, even though elected Republicans in the state aren't required to adhere to these policy platforms, it shows a glimpse into the direction of the Republican Party even as GOP leaders here in Washington would much rather focus on kitchen table issues and the future election, not the culture wars and not the last election. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. Melanie, thank you very much.

Clearly, there's a lot ahead in the hearing tomorrow. We heard testimony from the January 6th committee last week underscoring the exact concern about the message we're seeing. Look what happened in Texas over the weekend. Listen to this.



J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: The former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024.

Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.


SCIUTTO: That phrase has meaning.

Joining us now, CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero and Elliot Williams, thanks to both of you. Elliot, so big picture question to you first. I mean, this is both a political and a legal question for DOJ, presuming it sees evidence coming out of this hearing, says, okay, there is something here potentially criminally. Let's set aside the political question, although it is tight, but purely from a legal standpoint, have you seen the evidence presented so far that could merit criminal charges against the former president for attempting to overturn this election?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Now, certainly, Jim, even if it is not at the federal government, you're just seeing it in the state of Georgia, and that's -- we're going to hear from two witnesses this week. The thing that this is really going to come down to, and we talked about this before, is intent. Can you prove that not just did someone do something, but intended to violate the law, right? And that's sort of in fraud and campaign cases. That's not uncommon.

Now, look, the body of evidence is growing here, number one, with the president's direct engagement with folks in Georgia, number two, seeking out legal advice, number three, the conduct of John Eastman, number four, the list goes on and on and on.


And so it is -- and most importantly, he knew that these schemes were unlawful, and, frankly, knew that he lost the election as the evidence -- as the record is seeming to indicate.

So, it is getting clear and clearer that that's the case. Now, look, getting to the reasonable doubt standard in court is more difficult than winning a congressional hearing and winning the hearts and minds of people, but it is getting there.

HARLOW: Carrie, to Elliot's point about intent, I want everyone to listen to this exchange from State of the Union with Dana Bash yesterday, as she is speaking to Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was the Trump White House director for strategic communications.


BASH: One of the questions that we have been asking since these hearings started is whether or not the committee can prove intent, whether the president intentionally tried to overturn the election, knowing that he actually lost. He told you in November of 2020 that he lost, when you were working in the White House.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: He admitted, he blurted out watching Joe Biden on T.V., can you believe I lost to this guy?


HARLOW: So, there's that, and I wonder how you think that would factor into an argument that there was intent coupled with the fact that I think Maggie Haberman laid it out well in her Times piece over the weekend, the president said so many different things after that, that it could make it muddled and hard to prove intent. CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So, Poppy, I think her statement certainly is an important fact. She was a firsthand witness. And so if she were to provide that statement under oath in testimony, whether it would be to Congress or whether it would be in a future Justice Department investigation, if that were to take place, then her statement would be an important fact, an important piece of evidence.

But I think there is the bigger picture, which is whether or not the Justice Department moves forward on this case also depends on whether the Justice Department thinks that it could win. And so we have to separate out the January 6th committee investigation, which is a political process, versus the prosecutorial decisions that would need to be made in the Justice Department in which they need to have a basis. And this goes for any criminal case, they need to have a basis upon which they think they would likely succeed.

And so that's why the Justice Department is not moving as quickly as people might want. That's why they want access to all of the potential evidence. And that's why we want -- we should want, if we want the rule of law to apply appropriately, we want the Justice Department to continue -- to consider such a case against a former president very carefully.

SCIUTTO: So, Elliot, there are -- listen, there is a political aspect to this, no question, as well. I mean, the attorney general is a political appointee, he has to make political judgments. But I thought the political process was the impeachment, right? That was the Senate trial. And, by the way, you had Republicans, Mitch McConnell among them, who said, if we don't vote to remove here, there is another legal avenue to this. So, isn't this the legal avenue, right, to -- if presidents can be prosecuted for breaking the law, isn't this the path?

WILLIAMS: And to be clear, presidents can be prosecuted for breaking the law. There is Justice Department guidance on former presidents. Justice Department guidance is very clear on this.

So, Jim, look, there is a number of processes for holding someone accountable, impeachment, number two, voting somebody out of office and, number three, prosecuting them if they violated the law. And sort of as we're getting at here, you know, the case is growing in its strength in terms of being able to prove intent against the president.

To back up Carrie's point a moment ago, it is not just about being confident that you can win and just sort of cowardice, it is actually grossly irresponsible for a prosecutor's office to go down the road of prosecuting someone if they don't think they can win. It is right out of the Justice Department guidelines, right?

So -- but you're right, we should -- we ought to have a justice system where politics isn't driving the decisions of our prosecutorial leaders. And we would hope that they would make the decision based on the facts and evidence, which here are starting to look pretty good.

HARLOW: How important, quickly, Carrie, is it for this committee to hear from Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, not only to know what she and John Eastman were saying back and forth in these emails but also because of the, you know, credibility or lack thereof at this point of the institution of the independence of the Supreme Court?

CORDERO: Well, I think those are two separate issues. So, the issues of the independence of the Supreme Court is an issue for the Supreme Court to take up. And so that's an issue between the chief justice and Justice Thomas and his decisions whether he should have recused in prior cases and whether he should or will need to refuse in future cases given her involvement behind the scenes in events leading up to January 6th.


The committee, on the other hand, I don't see any reason based on the information that's been publicly reported why they shouldn't be interviewing her and then the first step is an interview and then from there they would decide whether or not she would make a valuable witness in a future proceeding.

SCIUTTO: So many open questions here with enormous implications. Carrie Cordero, Elliot Williams, thanks so much to both of you.

Still to come this hour, one of the Republicans on that committee is now receiving death threats, among them, a threat to execute him, his wife and their five-month-old son. Congressman Adam Kinzinger's warning about the potential for political violence, that's coming up.

HARLOW: Also, finally, coronavirus vaccines for children as young as six months are ready to go. What patients need to know.



SCIUTTO: COVID vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers could be available as soon as this week. The director of the CDC signed off on COVID-19 vaccinations for children under five on Saturday.

HARLOW: Our next guest wrote a statement to the CDC in support of COVID-19 vaccinations on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, writing, we've successfully immunized millions of children and adolescents to protect them from COVID-19. Families with infants and toddlers need and deserve the same chance to protect their children. Amen to that.

Joining us now is Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric infectious disease epidemiologist with Stanford Medicine. It's great to have you.

I can tell you my five-year-old was bragging to our four-year-old about getting her booster last week, and now my four-year-old is very excited that he is going to have this chance. What does every parent need to know this morning, considering this availability?

DR. YVONNE MALDONADO, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, STANFORD MEDICINE: Well, I certainly agree that parents everywhere are really excited about having this availability of this vaccine. So, I would tell families that we have gone through rigorous studies of these vaccines, millions of children five and older have already received them, and we know that the vaccines, the two vaccines, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, that were approved this weekend are extremely safe in children and they are effective in preventing infection from COVID-19, as well as importantly serious disease.

We know that this disease is very serious in some children and we can't predict which children will have serious illness. We have kids on ventilators, on oxygen therapy, and we just don't know which child will fall to this. So, it is important, like every other vaccine, for children to be protected against these disguises that can really do some long lasting harm.

SCIUTTO: Now, I know we have spoken about this for years on this broadcast that vaccination is both about the person receiving it and others so that you don't sort of become an incubator for this and pass it on and it can mutate and so on. But the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, Ashish Jha, he said as much 70 percent of children in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19 already, have immunity levels among children in particular, but the population more broadly, with vaccination and exposure reached a point where it is less critical for children under five to get vaccinated in any way.

For a parent who would ask you that question, how would you answer?

MALDONADO: Well, there are two different issues here. So, I think what Ashish Jha saying really is correct and that we do have a high level of population immunity at this point. So, that's good in some ways. Obviously, some of that happened through infection. But immunity against omicron is not long lived. It can really drop off very quickly, especially if the immunity comes from natural infection. So, if somebody is infected, their immunity won't last very long, especially against omicron.

And so it is really important to think about the vaccine as being an added booster, even after infection, to keep a child from becoming re- infected with omicron. And we know that the child can still wind up getting very sick, as well, as you mentioned, potentially transmitting to other family members, other people in the community who will suffer -- could suffer serious disease.

HARLOW: The rollout for this vaccination of six months, you know, up to five years, will be different than previous rollouts. We know a large portion will be administered by pediatricians. Looking at the numbers that we have now, vaccinations among children 5 to 11, so already approved long ago, are only at, you know -- they're very low. I think it's somewhere around 30 percent. How do you make this next rollout more successful?

MALDONADO: Well, you know, it is unfortunate that many families still have been listening to this misinformation that started at the beginning of the pandemic, where we were hearing nationally that children didn't get infected, and if they did, then they didn't get sick, or transmit to others. And all of those are incorrect. We know that children -- this is one of the top five causes of death of children in' any age group under 18, so serious infections and death, not the same as the deaths we see in adults, for sure but we shouldn't see any children dying from a preventable disease.

And so we really think that it is important to emphasize the need for this vaccine in children to keep them safe and health and also keep the potential for long COVID away.