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Ukraine Reports Stunning Gains in Counteroffensive Push; President Biden Celebrates Passage of His Inflation Reduction Act; Amtrack to Cancel More Routes Amid Freight Rail Labor Dispute; Columbia Professor Finds School Gave Bad Data for Magazine's Rankings. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 13, 2022 - 15:30   ET



LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND MILITARY ANALYST: And I think what we would see if it was a fear referendum, unlike the one that was held in 2014, it would have a different outcome than the one back then. So, you know, the biggest part right now is there's still a lot of fighting to go, Victor. There's still a lot of combat. The last five days have been brilliant on the part of Ukraine's execution in their offensive in Kharkiv and Kherson and their hasty defense operations continuing in the Donbas.

But you know, to regain the continuation of those territories, you're talking about areas which are very big and there's still a lot of Russian forces there. Russia has not been able to defend very well. In my opinion, they're not going to ever get to the point where they're defending very well and Putin has a problem of getting more forces and more equipment into those areas. So, I think the point about liberating all of the territories that were taken not only since February 24th but since 2014, is something I watched very closely as I was the commander in Europe and certainly there's going to be some discussion about how far can Ukraine go.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Susan, what about that? I mean, obviously the Russian military meltdown has been stunning to see. Are they capable of turning it around?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, it's an interesting question. I mean look, Crimea, it's been since 2014. That's a long time for Russia to be on the ground, to be, you know, maximize the advantages it has. Zelenskyy politically for his people, he has to say that Ukraine needs to be restored in its entirety. But I think there's a worry that, you know, when it comes to the United States or Western allies, they may not be willing to fully go along with that or to see that as an escalation with Russia.

Russia has resources. This has been a stunning victory by Ukraine but it's not a victory in the war itself. The war is not over. And I do think you see a lot of this commentary that leads right from a successful counteroffensive to the end of the war. You know, there's a lot we don't know about what actually happened on the ground during the Russian occupation in the newly liberated areas. And you know, it's not like is just going to -- you know, we're going to wake up in a week and it's going to be over unfortunately.

CAMEROTA: OK, Susan Glasser, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you both for your expertise. Microphone off while the Dow fell 1300 points and all railroads are going on strike

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Major rail routes are already being closed ahead of a pending strike that threatens to hold a significant portion of the country freight. How you could feel the impact firsthand ahead.



CAMEROTA: At any moment President Biden will celebrate the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The timing is not perfect though. Today a key inflation report revealed that consumer prices remain painfully high compared to this time last year.

BLACKWELL: And markets are not reacting well. Take a look at these numbers. Down more than 1,300 points there on the Dow. CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House. So first, what do we expect from the president today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think when you hear from the president, right now you're hearing from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer just spoke. The president shortly will be introduced by a woman he met in the 2020 campaign who had lost her job due to the COVID downturn and is now -- she spoke to the president at the time. She will talk about how the president has delivered on his promise. I think, that's going to be a key focus of the president.

Guys, if you think back to the last 17 or 18 months, this was the corner stone legislative proposal on the president's agenda. The most significant climate investments in the history of the country -- really kind of in the history of the world -- prescription drug prices, tax changes that very much line up with what Democrats have been pushing for several years. They got it over the finish line and it was no small task. I think the president is going to underscore that and underscore the history behind that effort.

And yet you -- as you guys noted -- have the split screen of the realities of the current economy. Obviously, inflation has been soaring for the better part of the last several months -- at 40 year highs. Today's CPI report came in much hotter than I think White House officials wanted to see. And that is the reality of the moment.

There is no question the White House has momentum after the last several months of major legislative victories. And some since that perhaps the inflation issue could be cooling than they've had at any point over the course of the last year and a half for the president. However, it is still an uneven economy, it's an uncertain economy. It is one where prices remain very high for some of the most basic items that individuals are attempting to buy every single day. This is a significant legislative achievement, one you will hear the president talk about repeatedly over the course of the next eight weeks in the lead up to those midterm elections. But the economy right now is still one that is uneven and one that not everybody is completely satisfied with.

BLACKWELL: All right, Phil, we are standing by for those remarks from the president. Thank you for the report.

Also, one of the two rail unions threatening to go on strike said they have now narrowed their ask in ongoing labor negotiations. And the remaining labor unions and railroads have until Friday to come up to some agreement. Now if they do not, preparations are already underway. Union Pacific, for example, has already stopped accepting shipments of hazardous and sensitive materials. Amtrak has shut down some of its long-haul routes with even more closures in effect tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: CNN's transportation correspondent Pete Muntean is here with us. So, Pete, I know you're just getting in more information about all this.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT: The list keeps growing, the impact from Amtrak. Remember, Amtrak owns only about 3 percent of its rails. But if there is a freight rail worker strike, that would have a big impact on Amtrak. Because the other 97 percent that is freight rail track. That could cause these impacts to just keep going and going. We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg just now. You can see the routes there that have been canceled by Amtrak.

Chicago to Seattle. Chicago to San Francisco. Chicago to L.A., L.A. to San Antonio. But the list has grown now. Chicago to New Orleans. Seattle to L.A. New York to New Orleans. Boston to New York to Chicago. New York to Miami. L.A. to New Orleans.


Now unions are saying they're making some concessions now on all of this, but that is before these talks potentially go to D.C. starting tomorrow. You know, what's at issue here is really unpaid leave that these rail workers want. It's crazy but this could come down to a simple thing like unpaid leave. Because there's been a presidential review board that has said that rail workers should get big raises, should get bonuses, back pay from 2020. So, we're seeing really this all come to a head right now at the 11th hour.

You know, we're just around the corner from this deadline to avert this rail workers strike. We're talking about 90,000 workers here that could be impacted. This could have a huge impact though on the economy, not just to mention passenger rail but just freight rail in general. If freight rail stops, we see 30 percent of all freight in the U.S. come to a grinding halt that could have a huge impact on everything from auto parts, farming, fertilizer, grain, you name it. So, we're just now seeing the start of this impact and it could get really bad here. We'll see. The 11th hour. The clock strikes literal midnight on Friday. That's when the strike would go into effect. All of these union's for the rail industry striking in solidarity.

CAMEROTA: I feel like we don't need that right now. Thank you for spelling that out for us. Pete, great to see you. MUNTEAN: Any time.

BLACKWELL: Some sad news to report now. Paige Pate, a prominent constitutional law and criminal defense attorney has died. Now pate was a regular here on CNN. You've probably seen him on this network providing legal context on some of the biggest national headlines.

CAMEROTA: According to local news reports, pate died after a strong tide swept him and his teenage son into open water after they were swimming off of St. Simons Island. His son was able to make it back to shore safely. Pate was just 55 years old. Our deepest condolences to his family. From all of us here in is CNN family who knew him and relied on his unique knowledge and expertise like Victor and I did so often.

BLACKWELL: He was certainly someone who when I was on CNN "NEW DAY WEEKEND" he would be up at whichever hour we asked to flip on that camera and offer some legal analysis and was always someone who we could rely on. So, certainly, we will miss him.

CAMEROTA: Any time that Pate was going to be in our show, I was always so happy to see his name on our segments. Because I knew that I didn't have to do any work, frankly. I knew that we could ask him anything.


CAMEROTA: We could ask him anything he would answer it in a smart way that, you know, you hadn't thought of before. And this is such devastating news and our hearts are really with his family and our prayers.

OK, now we want to get to this story to tell you about. Because Columbia University admits that it submitted incorrect data for the widely used college ranking for the U.S. News & World Report. So, we're going to speak to the math professor who figured out something did not add up.



BLACKWELL: Columbia University is now admitting that last year they submitted inaccurate data to the most widely accepted source for college rankings. The University jumped from 18th place when it debuted on the U.S. News & World Report list in 1988 to second place in 2021.

CAMEROTA: Our next guess had some questions about the university's notable rise. So, he took it upon himself to crunch the numbers and noticed some things did not add up. He found discrepancy related to class size, faculty degrees and student to faculty is the mathematics professor at Columbia University who helped pull back the curtain on all of this. Professor, great to have you here. What first aroused your suspicion that Columbia might not honestly be number two on these rankings? MICHAEL THADDEUS, PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well,

my dissatisfaction with the administration and with its truthfulness, to be honest with you, goes back many years. But, you know, my curiosity about the rankings was first peeked a year ago when the new year's rankings came out. And I paid $35. I got a U.S. News college campus subscription and I saw the class-size figure. Where was claims that did 83 percent of our undergraduate classes enrolled below 20 students. And that just did not square with my experience at all or with the experience of most faculty teaching at the university to be honest.

BLACKWELL: Now the university says that this was the result of just using outdated or incorrect methodologies, their words there. Are you alleging that this was not a mistake. I see you shaking your head. You believe this was deliberate to mislead people?

THADDEUS: I wouldn't say that with certainty. I would say that the way that the university has responded to the scandal does not inspire confidence. It took them four months even to announce that they were conducting a review at all. When they did, they didn't say who was conducting the review, what it's reviewing. When they came out with the announcement on Friday, it still didn't say who had conducted the review or what years it covered.

So many key questions remain unanswered. How long did the misrepresentation continue? How did it happen? What were those outdated methodologies? Did the provost who signed off on the numbers last year, did she know they were false when she signed off on them? And what about our president, Lee Bollinger? What did President Bollinger know and when did he know it.


CAMEROTA: Professor, here's what's so vexing for parents and I'm one of them. My two daughters are seniors in high school right now. As we speak, they are applying to colleges. It is so high stakes, it's so all-consuming. Somehow this game has been ramped up where it is, you know, crazy making for all students and this doesn't help. I mean, these are the kind of thing that universities are doing I guess that add to the sort of high stress level of all this. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it's become this game somehow.

THADDEUS: That's absolutely right. College admissions have become crazy and nobody likes the way that it works now. But rankings aren't helping. Rankings are just adding a further level of confusion and obfuscation. Rankings are worthless on so many levels. I don't know where to begin. I mean, for one thing it's a one size fits all approach that is not tailored to individual needs. Some students are looking for strong humanities departments, others for science -- strength in the science departments. The ranking doesn't reflect that.

Then you know, furthermore there's -- the factor that appear in the rankings have a tangential relationship at best to academic merit. They're based on things like administrative spending or alumni donations. And then at the, you know, most damning level there's the issue if we don't know if the data that goes into them are correct and there's good reason to believe that a lot of it isn't.

BLACKWELL: So, the university is not or has not submitted data for this year's list. They've now moved to something called common data set initiative they'll participate in. What do you think it meant for the reputation of Columbia? Has this besmirched that reputation?

THADDEUS: I mean, that's a painful question for me because I've taught at Columbia for 25 years. I want to see Columbia thrive and prosper. And I would emphasize nothing has changed with the facts on the ground. Columbia is the home to many brilliant faculty, many brilliant students. And you know whether it's ranked two or number 18 that there's no difference there. What has been besmirched for sure is the reputation of our administration for integrity and they have a lot of new leaves to turn over.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Professor, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Professor Michael Thaddeus.

Let's now go to the White House or go back there where President Biden is celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, welcome to the White House, everybody. And thank you LaVette, for this law is for you and for the millions of people like you. Good decent hard-working Americans.

And how about James Taylor? A voice that heals our soul and unites a nation and a good friend. I don't know where -- James is smart enough to be under the shade of the tree over there or have taken off. But James, thank you, thank you, thank you.

And we're joined by many champion for the American people. The first one -- one of my best champions -- is the first lady Jill Biden. I thought she was teaching but she's here. Vice President Harris is not only a great vice president but has become a great friend. And the second gentleman as well as Speaker Pelosi, leader Schumer and Joe Manchin. Joe, thanks for sticking with what you said you'd do. Appreciate it.

And the committee chairs who work for almost two years to make this law real. All the House and Senate Democrats who stood together and never, ever, ever gave up. This couldn't have happened without every single one of you. And that's the literal sense in the Senate. Every single one was required because the other team didn't want to play. And all our distinguished guests, CEOs, active advocates, activists, thank you for joining us. What a great day.

Exactly four weeks ago today I signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation and one of the most significant laws in our history in my view. I said it then and I'll keep saying it. With this law the American people won and special interests lost. Say it again. The American people won and special interests lost.

Folks, we're going to lower prescription drug costs, lower health insurance costs, lower energy costs for millions of families. I want to take the most aggressive action ever, ever, ever to confront the climate crisis and increase our energy security. Ever in the whole world.


And that's not hyperbole. That's a fact.

We're going to build a future -- the future here in the United States of America with American workers. With American companies. With American made products. And after years of some of the biggest corporations in the United States paying zero in federal income tax, they'll now have to begin to literally pay the fair share. Today offers proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright and the promise of America is real. It is real. It is real.

This is the extraordinary story being written today in America by this administration as I step all over my coat. Good thing my mom's not around. But look, you're awful lot of brave allies out there in the Congress that took a lot of heat. Took a lot of heat. And by so many determined advocates and activists all across the country. And as I look out on this lawn, I see the leaders who made the government of America began to work again, work for the people, not for special interest, for the people.

Folks, look, elected officials who stood up to the millions of dollars in attack ads from special interests, business leaders who were willing to endure the criticism from many of their colleagues and so many people who fought for years to lower prescription drug prices and tackle the climate crisis. This is your victory. This is your victory. And that's a fact. And you deserve a huge round of applause. Give them applause, all these people who stood up, every one of them.

And let's hear it for the workers in the labor unions, mayors and local officials, environmental activists, students and young people, advocates for senior citizens and family. This is what it looks like when the American government works for the people.

When we tell the powerful interests, no, you're not going to get your way. This time, not this year, not this time, not now.

I say to my colleagues been around. How long have we been fighting pharma? How long have we've been taken on these interests? From the time I got to the Senate 720 years ago. I'm serious. Think about it.

Let's be honest. Passing this law wasn't easy. I proposed it as soon as I got here basically and I've said that day that I determined, I was determined to work with Republicans. And I have done that. On historic laws like the infrastructure law. Republicans came across the aisle and they've worked with us and we got it done. Over a billion, 200 million dollars to reshape this nation's infrastructure.

The Chips And Science Act and the Pact Act for veterans and their families. In fact, I think it's fair to say we have achieved more bipartisan agreement in these nearly two years and my presidency than anyone thought was even remotely possible when I entered office. So, I think the Republicans who stood up ...

CAMEROTA: OK, you're listening there to President Biden at the White House. He's celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. He says that he's been fighting big pharma for decades. But there is this unfortunate split screen right now with the Dow taking a total beating down more than 1,200 and so feels like it's hard to be celebratory for some people in the crowd.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is the day on which the White House celebrates the Inflation Reduction Act when we get a new report shows that inflation is still especially high and what we are seeing on Wall Street is reaction to that anticipating what's coming from the Fed. The decision that will come on whether to increase -- or likely they will increase, but by how much the interest rates. Another half point or three quarters of a point, we'll have to see in just a few days.

And that was what Rachel was telling us that this influence what we saw today. So, obviously, we'll keep you posted. Thanks for joining us. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.