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Interview With Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich; January 6 Committee Set For Next Hearing; Air Travel Delays; Taxi Hits Four People in Manhattan. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Alisyn is off.

We have got a lot going on this afternoon, but we're going to start with what just came in -- into our NEWSROOM out of New York City. A taxi jumped a curb and ran into a number of people in Midtown Manhattan.

CNN's Athena Jones is with me now.

What can you tell us?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, this is still a breaking story, still developing.

This happened just in the last hour. It was 12:39 p.m. When this taxi jumped a curb, struck four people. Three of them are critically injured. They were sent in critical condition to a local hospital. This is according to the NYPD.

Now, it appears at this moment that this was just an accident. But it is something that is being investigated by detectives on this scene. We also know that the taxicab driver has remained on the scene. So, to repeat, four people struck, three people critically injured, taken to the hospital after a taxicab jumped a curb and struck these people walking on the sidewalk.

We're not clear at this moment on the condition of the driver, other than that we know that driver is still on the scene. And this happened at around Broadway and 29th Street. So, for people who have any sense of Manhattan, this is a few blocks south of the Empire State Building, so very much in the center of things.

You can imagine how many people might have been on the sidewalk on a day like today, when this happened just, before 1:00 p.m. But, as I said, as of right now, this is being investigated as an apparent accident. We will find out more as they find out more on the scene.

We also have a team headed to that location -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, tragic nonetheless, even if it is an accident. JONES: Frightening.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, let us know if you get any major updates.

Athena Jones on it for us, thank you very much.

More than 300 flights in the U.S. have been grounded so far today, 1,900 flights delayed. Airlines are trying to recover from a chaotic holiday weekend. We saw massive delays, a long list of cancellations. And those numbers for today compare to what we saw over the weekend, not even close.

Rough weather, staffing shortages, a surge in passengers are fueling chaos for airlines. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met just a few days ago with airline CEOs to urge them to step it up ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

Joining me now see, CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean at Reagan National Airport in Arlington and CNN business editor at large Richard Quest. He's in Doha, where top international airline officials are meeting.

Pete, you're first here.

What are you seeing where you are and what's happening across the country. Give us the lay of the land.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Things still pretty busy here, Victor.

A lot of folks are still trying to get home after those massive cancellations over the weekend. These cancellation numbers are huge, but the cause of this is really not all that new. Airlines got a lot smaller over the pandemic, meaning that they have massive crew shortages now of pilots and flight attendants.

Look at the cancellation numbers, because this really all came to a head because of bad weather that started at the end of last week on Thursday, more than 1,700 flights canceled nationwide on Thursday, more than 1,400 on Friday. Airlines tried to play catchup unsuccessfully on Saturday and Sunday, more than 800 flights canceled Saturday, more than 900 flights canceled on Sunday.

This really impacted some of the biggest hubs for airlines here in the U.S., Charlotte, New York's La Guardia. In fact, we talked to a passenger at La Guardia. She was booked for a flight on Saturday. Then that flight was canceled. She was rebooked on a flight on Sunday, and that flight was canceled too.

Want you to listen to her now.


TERRIE CHERRY, AIR TRAVELER: We left North Carolina on Sunday, came to New York, was supposed to go back to North Carolina yesterday, and got delayed. And we got on the plane, went out on the, tarmac, sat on the plane for four hours, four hours, before they took us back to the terminal.

Anyway, they told us to go to gate 11. Gate 11 was 400 people trying to rebook a flight.


MUNTEAN: This is so upsetting for so many people traveling this weekend.

In fact, this could be the biggest weekend we have seen for travel since the start of the pandemic, 2.38 million people screened at airports nationwide by TSA just yesterday, 2.44 million people screened at airports nationwide on Friday. That's the highest number we have seen since Thanksgiving 2021.


All of this comes with a stern message from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He met with airlines last week and said they need to get their act together when it comes to their schedules over this summer, especially with July 4 on the horizon.

Nobody immune to this, Victor. Even Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had his flight between New York and Washington canceled. He had the drive, just like so many others were pivoting to when they had their flights canceled this weekend -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so many people here in the U.S. dealing with that.

And, Richard, that brings me to you. It's not just an issue with U.S. airlines. We're seeing this -- these staffing shortage problems all around the world impacting flights and travelers.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Oh, there's plenty of blame to go round, Victor, and plenty of -- misery loves company, and it's global misery at the moment.

To give you an example, Heathrow today, Heathrow Airport in London asked airlines to cut the number of flights over the next few days. Gatwick has done the same. Amsterdam has had to tell its airlines that it wants them to cut the number, cancel flights.

And the reasons are exactly the same. The industry has ramped up faster than anybody thought they were going to. And in doing so, it's caused bottlenecks and pinch points across the industry.

The airlines -- I was talking to Scott Kirby of United Airlines who was here attending the IATA annual meeting. And Scott was saying, look, at the end of the day, we did staff up to where we needed to be. But the airport, Customs and Border Protection, security, check-in, you name it, every bit has lost workers during the pandemic, can't get them back in quickly enough, the security issues, the training issues.

And, as a result, Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa Group, Europe's largest airline group, he said to me, what travelers need to be wary, they need to be -- understand -- we need their understanding. This is going to continue across the summer. Don't let anybody tell you this is going to be solved quickly.

BLACKWELL: Domestically and internationally, some travel challenges.

Richard Quest, Pete Muntean. Thank you both.

A short time ago, President Biden said a recession is not inevitable. Of course, that echoes what his Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen said.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I expect the economy to slow. It's been growing at a very rapid rate as the economy, as the labor market has recovered and we have reached full employment. It's natural now that we expect to transition to steady and stable growth.

But I don't think a recession is at all inevitable.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Matt Egan is with us now.

So, we heard from the president, Treasury secretary there. What are economists saying?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, economists are getting more concerned about the risk of a recession, and so are investors and CEOs and consumers.

I think the problem here is, we hoped that inflation would level out, and, instead, it just keeps getting worse. It's forcing the Federal Reserve to really slam the brakes on the economy. That means higher borrowing costs, credit cards, car loans, the big one, of course, mortgages.

And then, over the weekend, another Fed official came out and endorsed the idea of going big with another large interest rate increase at next month's meeting. He said the Fed is -- quote -- "all in' on fighting inflation. And investors are clearly getting concerned. Last week was the worst for the S&P 500 since March of 2020, during the height of COVID.

But I would say that Treasury Secretary Yellen and President Biden, I mean, they are right. This is not inevitable here.


EGAN: I mean, they could still pull off a soft landing, where they tame inflation without causing a downturn.

And it's also worth remembering that not all recessions are created equally, right? I mean, many of us only think of the Great Recession and the COVID recession. But, hopefully, if there is a downturn, it's a mild one.


So we have been watching gas prices for the obvious reasons, instead of ticking up, ticking down just a bit, so some good news. What's happening?

EGAN: Yes, that's right.

Gas prices are obviously not cheap, but $4.98 a gallon, that's down 4 cents from the record high set last week. No one's going to be celebrating, of course. You still have 16 states, plus Washington, D.C., at $5, or higher. And diesel prices, they are basically at record highs. Remember, diesel powers the trucks and trains and boats, the tractors. Those costs need to get passed along to consumers.

I think the good news is that oil prices, they have actually cooled off, trading around $109 a barrel as we speak for U.S. oil prices. That's down about $15 from the recent peak. That could help ease the pressure on gas prices. I think the bad news is that the reason why oil prices have come down is because of those recession fears.

BLACKWELL: So is the expectation that it will continue to drop a penny here, penny there?

EGAN: I think a lot is going to depend on what happens on the oil front, right? If prices bounce back up, that's going to lift prices for gasoline too.

But if they come down some more, the president's going to Saudi Arabia, right? Maybe there's some sort of a deal there. That could help.

BLACKWELL: All right, Matt Egan, thank you.

EGAN: Thank you, Victor.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now, former Labor Secretary under President Clinton Robert Reich. He's also the chancellor's professor of public policy at Berkeley and author of "The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It."

A lot of titles there, sir. Good to have you back.

Let's start here with the line we are hearing from the administration. They certainly have a talking point on the question of the potential for a recession. Here's what we're hearing.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was talking to Larry Summers this morning. And there's nothing inevitable about a recession.

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

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: Inflation, obviously, is happening globally. A recession is not inevitable. The president really wants to have a steady and stable recovery.


BLACKWELL: So a recession is not inevitable. Sure. But when you look at the strengths and some of the challenges, what's your assessment of the likelihood?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Victor, it's looking more and more likely, because the Fed keeps on raising interest rates.

In other words, there's nothing about the economy, per se, that inevitably leads to a recession right now. But if the Fed, in trying to head off inflation, continues to raise interest rates as fast as it has and as fast that it seems to be heading in the direction of raising even more, then the economy is going to go into recession.


Matt just mentioned this Fed official, Fed Reserve Governor Christopher Waller, who said over the weekend that he would back another 75-basis-point increase at their meeting in late July.

Are they that far behind, that, even without seeing some of the major implications of the most recent increase, the largest in, what, 35 years, that they can project ahead that they will need it in five weeks?

REICH: No, it's very, very difficult to do.

The Fed interest rate policy is not an exact science, which is one reason why we shouldn't simply rely on the Fed to control inflation. And this gets to the core issue here. There are a lot of other things that we can and should be doing to reduce prices, reduce the pressure of price increases.

Why do we only rely on the Fed? I mean, for example, getting pharmaceutical prices down, we could do that, because the government has huge bargaining leverage over the pharmaceutical country -- companies. Also, gas prices, we could pass a windfall profits tax and take some of the heat off of these gas prices.

Remember, these companies are enjoying record profits right now? Why should they be raising their prices? Why not have a windfall profits tax, use the money to have -- to eliminate gas taxes on both the federal and at the state level? We could do many, many things right now, rather than rely solely on the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates so much and so fast that it does exactly what we had in the early '80s, and that is, plunge us into a deep recession.

BLACKWELL: You're talking in large part about things that require congressional approval. It's not clear that there are 10 Republican votes for a windfall tax on oil companies or even 50 Democratic votes in the Senate for it.

Independent of that, talk to me about the gas tax, federal gas tax. President Biden said that he hopes to have a decision by the end of the week. There are some Democrats who say it's a stunt. Others support it. Where do you stand?

REICH: Well, I think it would be helpful. It's not going, independently and of itself, to do the trick.

It's one step in the right direction. There are other things that the president could do as well. And we have talked about some of them. I think it's very important to understand, though -- and the president really can use his bully pulpit here and needs to use his bully pulpit, because one of the factors we have not yet talked about is corporations, big, profitable corporations pushing higher prices because they can use the cover of inflation.

Now, don't get me wrong. The basic problem here -- and it's been a problem all along in terms of this inflation -- is you have got coming out of the pandemic huge demand, pent-up demand. And you have supply of all kinds of goods and services trying to catch up with that demand, very difficult for an economy, a global economy coming out of a pandemic, just suddenly, come out of comatose -- basically a kind of comatose period.

So it's going to take time. And, until we get there, there is going to be inflation. But, meanwhile, you have got very big corporations that dominate most markets, most of their industries that are pushing up prices. There is no reason for that.

There ought to be antitrust enforcement .There ought to be -- and the president ought to be taking these companies into the White House and saying, if you don't stop raising your prices, and you don't have to -- I know you don't because I know how profitable you are -- then we're going to slam you with antitrust cases. We're going to stop your monopolies. We're going to reduce your market power.


I'm going to try to get a windfall profits tax.


BLACKWELL: But we know that is something that is happening in Congress. We will find out. The president's also reached out to some of these oil companies. We know he sent the letters to the CEOs asking them about their profits and the wells that they are not using.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, thank you very much.

REICH: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: The January 6 Committee is set to hold their next high- profile hearing. That's tomorrow. State election officials who stood up to former President Donald Trump are scheduled to testify. Also, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that the

former president should be charged with a crime for his role in the insurrection. The political fallout of the hearings, we will talk about that next.



BLACKWELL: Tomorrow, the January 6 Committee will hold its next hearing.

Now, this time, the panel will focus on former President Trump's efforts to pressure state officials to overturn the 2020 election, including evidence that Trump himself was involved in a scheme to submit fake slates of electors.

Let's bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

Murray -- Sara, I should say, what should we expect -- sorry.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's already a long day. Don't worry about it.




What should we expect that from tomorrow's hearings?

MURRAY: Well, look, we have seen a lot already about the pressure that was put on former Vice President Mike Pence.

This is about the pressure that Trump and his allies put on state officials. And one of the things we're waiting for is what kind of evidence a committee could put forward about Donald Trump's involvement in this effort to put forward the fake slates of electors.

Here is what Adam Schiff had to say about that.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme.

We will also again show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this scheme. And we will show courageous state officials who stood up and said they wouldn't go along with this plan to either call legislatures back into session...


MURRAY: So he's teasing that there will be some evidence of Trump's involvement, not laying out exactly what the committee is going to show us.

But this is important not just for the congressional hearings and what the lawmakers are trying to show in that, but there are also two criminal investigations going on. The Justice Department is looking into this fake electors plot. There's also a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, who is looking into fake electors as part of her criminal investigation into Donald Trump and his allies.

So that's part of what they're going to focus on. They're, of course, also going to focus on some of the efforts Donald Trump made directly, like his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger is expected to be a witness tomorrow, as well as the chief operating office -- officer in the secretary of state's office, Gabe Sterling, who pleaded with Donald Trump to call off his supporters when they were all receiving these threats.

And we're going to hear from Rusty Bowers, who is the Arizona State House speaker, who also rebuffed Donald Trump's efforts to try to overturn the election results. So we have seen a lot of sort of what that pressure looked like coming from the campaign. We're going to hear directly from these folks about what it felt like at that time -- back to you.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sara Murray, thank you very much, joining us from Washington.

Ron Brownstein is a CNN political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic." Harry Litman is a former U.S. attorney and a former deputy assistant attorney general.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Let me start with you, Harry, and the threshold of criminality as it relates to the slates of fake electors. Did the former president have to do more than be aware? Did he have to instruct, some personal involvement? Where's the line?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, all of these things sound convoluted, but, actually, at the bottom, there's a scheme, which means a lie.

So, basically, because he knows that he didn't win, the effort to try to get different state electors to certify these phony-baloney papers that were sent to the Archives, that is what bottoms the charge, and that's what he's looking at.

So, yes, he has to know. I think, in this case -- it's different in others -- that he -- that these papers are phony, and he's pushing them. But, of course, when he says something like to Raffensperger, just get me 11,780 votes, that's pretty strong evidence that he's just looking to get over the line and it's unrelated to what he actually garnered or didn't in the election.

BLACKWELL: Ron, let's talk about the effectiveness of the hearing and the presentation. A recent poll out shows that close to six in 10 Americans believe that

the former president should be charged in connection with his role in the Capitol riot, 58 percent here. That's up about six points from the same question in April.

It's never going to be 100 percent. You know numbers far better than most. Is that a significant jump? And what's the broader message?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a significant majority that feels that way. And it kind of belies the idea that all of this -- that many argue that all this was for naught from the beginning.

Memories of what happened on January 6 had -- were fading, I think polling showed. And, beyond that, I don't think Americans have really heard until now the magnitude of what happened. I mean, the frame that we have been thinking about for most of the past year-and-a-half has been, did Donald Trump's words and tweets inspire the attack on the Capitol on January 6?

The committee has reframed it to a much more broader and frankly more significant issue of, was the attack on January 6 merely the final stage of a multistep, multimonth process to undermine the result?


The key variable, Victor in this, roughly 20 percent of Republicans, Republican voters, say Donald Trump should be charged. Roughly 20 percent say he bears a substantial degree of responsibility for the attack. What do those voters do?

So long as they continue to vote for Republican elected officials who enable and defend Trump, they will feel no pressure to break from him. They are the ones who I think have the leverage to force the party to reckon with this in a way that it simply has not done so far.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's a crucial minority, one out of five there.

Harry, let me come back to you on a potential witness, someone we have not heard from yet. Let's start with what we heard from Adam Schiff, member of the 1/6 Committee.


SCHIFF: We're not taking anything off the table in terms of witnesses who have not yet testified.

We would still, I think, like to have several high-profile people come before our committee.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Mike Pence is a possibility still?

SCHIFF: Certainly a possibility. We're not excluding anyone or anything at this point.


BLACKWELL: Harry, one of his former advisers said that she's called for the former vice president to come forward to speak with the committee, but she's not sure what new he would offer that they have not already heard from Marc Short, they have not heard from Greg Jacob.

Do you agree with that?


He would be very valuable. But he's not coming. The committee is being cautious and conservative and doesn't want somebody there who could wriggle or be half supportive of Trump. Pence, they know, is in a very -- this is more Ron's bailiwick -- but is in a very -- he would be in a vise.

He could well try to exonerate Trump a little bit. It's exactly the kind of thing in these 90-minute tightly choreographed and very -- to date very effective presentations that they don't want to mess with. You won't see him. The most you would see as if he voluntarily had an interview, and then they had a little snippet of him.

I don't even think that will happen.


Ron, your thought?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I tend to agree.

I mean, the testimony from Mr. Jacob in particular has just been devastating, I mean, that Donald Trump was told -- Donald Trump present at a meeting where it was made clear that the scheme he was pursuing was illegal, that it violated the Electoral Count Act, that it was likely to lose 9-0 at the Supreme Court.

And he moved forward anyway, which seems -- again, this is Harry's bailiwick -- that that crosses an important legal line for establishing his culpability. So I don't know what else they get out of Mike Pence.

But the fact that Pence could hedge and dodge on this really underscores the larger problem. The comparison to Watergate, when Republican officials at each stage of the process validated the inquiry, made clear that the offenses were serious, we are just not seeing that in the Republican Party.

I mean, the only people speaking out about the January 6 Committee are those who are condemning it, like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Those who may be supportive, like Mitch McConnell, are saying: I'm not watching it.


BROWNSTEIN: And so you are not getting any cues in the Republican coalition that this is something that you need to take seriously.

And, in essence, much of the party leadership is saying the fact that Donald Trump engineered a scheme to overturn the 2020 election, even when he knew he lost, even when he knew the scheme was illegal. They are effectively saying that is not disqualifying for him to be the next party nominee or the next president.

It's extraordinary. It's ominous. And it's unlikely to be checked, as I said, until more Republican voters exact some sort of a price for it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, next hearing tomorrow.

Ron Brownstein, Harry Litman, thank you.

Today in Uvalde, law enforcement officials involved in that botched police response to the elementary school massacre are facing lawmakers' questions.

We will get into that next.