Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Ukraine Getting the Upper Hand on Russia; Cell Phone of CEO of My Pillow Mike Lindell Seized By the Justice Department; Video Clip of CNN Jake Tapper's Special For Sunday Night Regarding Election Fraud; Mortgage Rates Still On the Rise With FedEx CEO Saying That Recession Is Probably Around the Corner. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CO-HOST: So that mass grave is -- is the result of-- of what is positive progress for Ukrainian forces, taking back territory after a very swift retreat really from Russians in the northeast. The second big retreat we've seen since the start of this invasion, including that around the capital Kiev. What does that mean about the state of the war right now? Has the -- the momentum fundamentally shifted?

PETRAEUS: It has fundamentally shifted Jim and, you know, I'm normally fairly guarded and cautious about this but the tide clearly has turned because the success of this offensive, as important as it is itself on the ground, what really is important is that it reflects a hugely important development. A new reality that Ukraine has been incomparably better than Russia in recruiting, training, equipping, organizing and employing additional forces. While Russia has been struggling to do just that, literally running out of soldiers, ammunition, tanks, fighting vehicles and so forth. The Ukraine supported superbly by the U.S. and NATO, whereas Russia even if it declared mobilization today could not reverse this fundamental reality.

So the implications are stark. They're very, very clear. Ukraine will, over time and yes tough fighting, more casualties, more punishing Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure, but Ukraine will overtime, I think, retake the territory that Russia has seized since 24, February and it's even conceivable now that they could take Crimea and the Donbas. And oh by the way, with what's going on in the front lines, there is insurgent activity now picking up in the Russian rear areas carried out by Ukrainians out there as well. Again, this is going to take time. There will be tough fighting, all of that.

But this is a disastrous situation for Russia now and I'm not sure that everyone recognizes just how does -- is it worse than Afghanistan? Remember they left Afghanistan (inaudible) left behind stayed in power for two years. This is going to be a terrible, painful retreat for them, and then again, you know, the outcome just is I don't think in -- in doubt anymore. Ukraine will prevail unless there's some unforeseen development as long as we continue to provide them weapons and, of course, you noted the latest announcement about that. I'm confident that we will continue to do everything that they need to help them build on the momentum that they have now achieved and carry this all the way through to victory frankly.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you your read of Putin's next move here? Because, for instance, beyond the losing -- losing the ground that Russian forces had gained since the invasion, you're talking about losing ground which Russia has held for eight years in Crimea. And which by the way, the Kremlin views as strategically essential, right, I mean that is -- that is their warm water port in Crimea, so and -- and -- and so on. Do you then fear that Putin takes a step beyond where he's gone now, whether it's full mobilization or even use of weapons of mass destruction?

PETRAEUS: Well again, full mobilization is too late and beyond that they've stripped their crane base. They don't have the replacement vehicles, the export sanctions on microchips to Russia have crushed their industrial base and so forth. So that's too late. The -- the consideration of tactical nuclear weapons, yes, you could have a tactically, very disastrous situation but it doesn't chance the fundamental realities which are that Russia just cannot generate the force. It's must less employ them capably and competently. They're moral is rock bottom. They're not even sure what they're fighting for other than a paycheck or perhaps to stay out of jail.

The moral on the Ukrainian side is sky high. They're winning. They're -- so the question at first is can the Russians find new defensive lines, or do they have to fall all the way back in the east, for example, to the original lines of the Donbas, where there are very considerable, almost World War I like defenses. And then, how do they hang on in these other locations? Yes, they'll find places where there are urban settings that they can use effectively and fight hard. Again there will be tough fighting, tough casualties, a lot more damage, but Russia is, again, a truly disastrous situation at this point and time and crossing the nuclear threshold would be so profound and the benefit that, quote "benefit" would not be as profound. So I think again, he's in a very difficult position. What he's going to do now is try to change the narrative and blame others and all the rest of this and find some way to explain why the special operation has failed.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you, you -- you mentioned the comparison to the Afghanistan War, Russia's experience in Afghanistan in the 80s'. It took Russia nearly a decade to lose as many troops as it's lost in -- in the span of months, frankly more in Ukraine now. Afghanistan helped lead to the fall of the Soviet Union.


SCIUTTO: I -- I -- I wonder in your view, is President Putin's leadership now in jeopardy given all he's invested in this invasion?

PETRAEUS: Well he still clearly has a very, very solid grip on power in Russia, but this does, obviously, call that into question somewhat. And somewhere there are going to be individuals who are going to be raising serious questions. There have been officials of course, from St. Petersburg, that suggested that he should resign. They ended up in jail but there are others from St. Petersburg and Moscow. So again, he's in a precarious situation I think, although it's so difficult to predict when someone who has been an autocrat obviously. What is that moment that pushes them off the throne? And of course, he's a kleptocrat on top of everything else and everyone is empowered by him. So but what he has done in his country, again I think we mentioned before, he set out to make Russia great again what he's really done is make NATO great and -- great again.

And by the way, you could -- this changes the dynamic, I think, with respect to European and U.S. reluctance to say that Ukraine should be able to join NATO given what Russia has done. There has to be a security guarantee at the end of this. The only credible guarantee is NATO membership and we can then say, look, you brought this on yourself. We were very sensitive to your feelings before. We did not want to needlessly provoke you. You have needlessly and -- and unprovoked invasion of your neighbor and this is the price that you're going to pay as a result of that.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, well we've already seen NATO, of course, expand with Finland and Sweden. That's the next step. General David Petraeus, fascinating assessment of events on the ground in Ukraine. Thanks so much for joining us.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CO-HOST: What a fascinating interview, absolutely. All right, still ahead for us. The Justice Department seizes the cell phone of one of the most vocal election deniers in the country, that is My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. The new details we're learning about the (inaudible) investigation from that subpoena.





HARLOW: We are learning details about the scope of the Justice Department's investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And they're coming from a subpoena for the cell phone of this man, this is, you probably recognize him, the My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. Important to note, he has not been charged with any crimes or wrongdoing but investigators do say they're looking for information in his phone about at least seven people connected to the breech of a voting system in Mesa County, Colorado.

SCIUTTO: Yes, one of the many investigations going on. That county's clerk, Tina Peters has already been indicted on 10 counts related to tampering with voting machines. She has pleaded not guilty. As these election investigations plural, play out on several fronts, CNN's Jake Tapper is examining how those threats to democracy continue today and here's a preview of a special report which will air this Sunday night.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of the people we've interviewed have expressed concerns, not just about what happened, but what will happen. In fact, we see a whole bunch of election liars running for office. Are you worried?

LIZ CHENEY, HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE FROM WYOMING: I'm very worried. The responsibility that we all have to make sure that we defend our republic and that we defend our institutions has to be above politics. There are people running so that they are in a position that they will be able to certify the results only for Donald Trump. That's obviously, fundamentally a threat to the survival of the republic and I think those people have all got to be defeated.

TAPPER: You have been shouting from the rooftops, this is not just about 2020. You're worried about 2024. You're worried about future elections.

J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE: I -- I am and right now, the former president and his allies and supporters including in Congress and including in the states represent a clear and present danger to American democracy. That's not because of what they did on January 6th. It's because of what they pledged to do in 2024.

TAPPER: Do you think that Republicans are hearing what you're saying?

LUTTIG: I hope they are. There's no evidence that they've heard anything to date.


HARLOW: Joining us now is Jake Tapper, Anchor of the Lead and CNN Chief Washington Correspondent. So Jake, when you look at that and I'm -- and I'm so glad you go all those voices in there. The analysis by CNN recently found that at least 19 Republican nominees in this years election have contested or refused to affirm the 2020 elections, including five incumbent Senators, 11 other candidates who have at least a reasonable chance of winning in November. So this comes at such a critical time for the upcoming election and I wonder if the people that you spoke with talk about what they thought would breakthrough people who still believe those lies.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, just to -- just to underline the point, the two voices you just heard from Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Former Federal Judge Michael Luttig. These are two of the most conservative Republican voices out there. They just also happen to be pro-democracy and what is sad is that those voices are few and far between in today's Republican party and there are so many Republicans out there. So many Republican officials who know better, maybe are even watching me right now.


TAPPER: They know better. They know that it is important that we have elections in this country where the will of the voters is respected. And yet, we see them supporting and giving money to people like the gubernatorial nominee in Arizona, Kari Lake who says that if she had been governor during the 2020 elections, she would not have certified the vote for Joe Biden. Why? Well she says she has evidence of fraud, where's the evidence? She doesn't present it, because there is none.

This is a threat to American democracy and you have people like Cheney and Kinzinger and Luttig and others, shouting as loud as they can sacrificing their careers for this message and the only thing we can do is hope that some Republicans join the Cheneys and the Kinzingers and Luttigs in bravely accepting and acknowledging what's going on. That the MAGA movement right now, under Donald Trump, is a threat to democracy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's a good point you make because -- because -- because critical has become a synonym for partisan. Right? Critical of one side and you make the very wise point there that these are Republicans who are standing up against what is a lie. I do want to ask you because this committee, the DOJ, they're processing an enormous amount of information. People watching right now and who will watch on Sunday night are probably like me and you sometimes overwhelmed by it. Tell us what stood out to you when you went through all of that for the CNN Special Report.

TAPPER: Well what we tried to do was take all of the evidence that the committee has unearthed, and the testimony and distill it so people can really understand and see it in a coherent, relatively short presentation. So you don't have watch, you know, 50 hours of committee hearings and testimony and what stands out is the degree to which this was a very complicated, comprehensive conspiracy to undermine the election. It wasn't just one guy behaving erratically and -- and trying this and then trying that. No, there -- there was a plan, and if this didn't work then they had this lined up and ready to go.

And if that didn't work, they had this lined up and ready to go all the way to the point of the violence that we saw on January 6th which was the last gasp of Donald Trump in the 2020 election to undermine the democracy and undermine the will of the American people. So it really was quite a scheme and it does not surprise me that the Justice Department is bringing criminal charges and will likely bring more because it was much more comprehensive and much more planned than even those of us who were covering it in real time, like the three of us, knew at the time.


HARLOW: Jake, thank you, to you and your entire team for putting this together. Everyone watching don't miss it.

TAPPER: Thanks so much guys.

HARLOW: Of course. This special report airs, "The American Coup, the January 6th Investigation" it airs this Sunday, 9 o'clock eastern only right here on CNN. And next hour speaking of this, we are joined by two election workers both faced down serious threats to their personal safety while working on the 2020 election. Their stories and why they are so determined in 2022, still ahead.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, FedEx shares take a hit after warning the company will fall nearly half a billion dollars short of its targeted revenue. We'll explain why such a big miscalculation and why your online shopping decisions could be a factor in all of that.





HARLOW: Early this morning FedEx is warning that a global recession could be on a the horizon. This comes as demand for packages around the world is falling. The weakening global economy means the company will miss its revenue target by, wait for this, half a billion dollars.

SCIUTTO: In response, FedEx is now reducing flights, cutting staff hours, delaying some hiring, closing some 90 locations. CNN's Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans joins us now. So this is a big recalculation but it's also a sudden one.


SCIUTTO: What happened?

ROMANS: It's so swift. That's what really has people worried that something's been happening over the past few weeks. They're going to actually park cargo planes. They're going to close offices. They're going to have a hiring freeze. They're doing all of these things dramatically and quickly to try to reverse this, and let me tell you what the CEO said. He said global volumes declined as macroeconomic trends significantly worsened, and it happened quickly here and that's what they're really concerned about. So the CEO went on CNBC and was asked do you see a global recession, he, kind of, differed and then said well yes, actually. This doesn't portend very well to the -- to the global macro-environment here. So specifically Asia and Europe, the businesses there. Their express business is there saw a decline in package volumes really quickly.

HARLOW: Mortgage rates. You talk about what -- what indicates what's on the horizon, what's ahead. Mortgage rates you had last hour we had Treasury Secretary -- former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers on with -- with New Day and he said he doesn't think they have peaked yet.

ROMANS: Yes, because the Fed's going to continue cranking up rates. Right? And when the Fed raises interest rates, these rates tend to rise as well. You can see 6.02 percent, that's a 30 year fixed. A year ago at this time, it was 2.87 percent. That is a quick period of time to more than double mortgage rates. So what it means is housing affordability is less affordable. It means you can afford less of a house.


ROMANS: You can have a bigger down payment and it's changing the calculation of rent versus buy because home affordability has been declining all over the country. Because you're paying a lot more in interest right now, so he thinks, Larry Summers and a lot of others frankly too, think the mortgage rates are going to continue to rise. Next week the Fed meets, they're probably going to jack up rates maybe another 75 basis points and there are more meetings later this year where rates will likely keep rising. So that means, if you're -- if you're on the fence about locking in I would say lock in. Right? If you're going to have more rate hikes later this year.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, thank you so much. I wish you had better news but thanks for giving to us straight. All right. Still ahead, the Florida judge ruling that could be (inaudible) as soon as today. Stay with us.



HARLOW: It is the top of the hour. Good morning everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.