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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is Interviewed about Repealing the AUMF; Nine Service Members Killed in Black Hawk Crash; Economy Grew 2.6 Percent in Fourth Quarter; California Ski Resort Breaks Snowfall Record. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 09:30   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: A slaughter fest for the Russians. That's how top U.S. General Mark Milley is describing the battle over Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. Scenes of catastrophic damage in the city this week as Milley told the House Armed Services Committee, Russia is not making progress there. He called Ukraine's strategy, quote, effective and costly to Putin. He also said Russia is struggling, quote, in a big way with command and logistics.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We turn now to a major move by U.S. lawmakers aiming to claw back war powers they once had, have constitutionally. The Senate voted to repeal the decades old Iraq War power authorization 20 years after the U.S. invasion. The lawmakers behind it want to reassure Congress' authority in making military decisions, including declaration of war. The bipartisan bill now heads to the House.

With me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's been pushing for just such a change for a number of years.

Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: I do want to put that -- put a pin in that topic for a moment now and just get to the breaking news this morning of the U.S. journalist for "The Wall Street Journal," Evan Gershkovich, arrested, accused by Russia of espionage. As you know better than me, Russia's track record on charges such as this does not inspire confidence. I wonder, given your experience on this issue, should we look at this American as now a hostage, in effect, of Russia?

SCHIFF: I think we should. This is very typical Russian behavior, and that is to grab Americans, use them as leverage, in this case a reporter, make spurious allegations against them and detain them, you know, potentially for long periods of time. In this case, you know, I think we can see it in concert with their nuclear announcements, the abrogation of their treaty obligations as a way of just ramping up pressure on the west, signaling that Moscow is going to use whatever tools it has, including essentially hostage taking, to try to deter the United States and the west from opposing its ambitions in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Notable, it's been since the '80s that Russia arrested a U.S. journalist, accused them of espionage. And we've had a lot of signs recently. You referenced the further withdrawal from the nuclear treaty, or at least some of the standards of the nuclear treaty there. Are the U.S. and Russia in a new and dangerous Cold War, in your view?

SCHIFF: I don't know that I would liken it to the Cold War, but it's certainly a very dangerous period when Putin is essentially rattling the nuclear saber in increasingly dangerous ways by, in this case, and most recently, decided it's not going to provide notification when it does missile tests. Test that, you know, previously it would alert us to, and we would alert them so that we didn't misinterpret something they were doing and end up in an unintended war. So these are dangerous steps.

At the same time, I don't think Putin has any present intention to use nuclear weapons. I think he does intend to use the threat of them to try to get the United States to back off our support of Ukraine. And we simply cannot let that succeed. We have to continue our vigorous support for our Ukrainian allies.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's move on to the AUMF now. You've been pushing for this repeal for a number of years now. Has the support, bipartisan support, in the Senate. It's going to move to the House. Do you sense the dam breaking here? Is this going to be the moment where 20 years later that authorization is now repealed?

SCHIFF: I think, yes, I think this is finally the time when we can get this done. We can repeal these authorizations that have long outlasted their original purpose.

We still have the hard work to do with the 2001 authorization to narrow its terms and to provide a sunset for that authorization. That is, in many ways, the much heavier lift. But these Iraq resolutions absolutely should be repealed. And I think the time has finally arrived where Congress has the will to get it done.

SCIUTTO: Do you think there is a bigger picture move here in that for decades, really, even prior to 2001, Congress has step by step given up its constitutional power to declare war. Presidents have called wars, other things other than wars, right, to avoid getting congressional approval. Do you think that the next time that will be less likely, that Congress will have its voice heard and have to have its voice heard?

SCHIFF: It sure darn well better. But what I've experienced, and you're right, I've been pushing for the repeal and the narrowing of these authorizations for years and years.


I pushed for it during Democratic administrations and Republican ones. And I found opposition from Democratic and Republican members to putting constraints on the executive. And also, even during the Obama administration, very limited willingness of that administration to use its muscle, its political muscle, to try to scale back the authorizations Congress had given prior administrations and was giving that one.

So, this is a bipartisan challenge, and we have to make sure that we begin with the easiest step, which is the repeal of the Iraq authorization. And then we narrow the 2001 AUMF and we make sure that subsequent authorization should ever be a necessity much more narrowly drawn.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you now about the ongoing investigations of the former president, Donald Trump. You, of course, were a key member of the January 6th Committee. We now have the former vice president will have to testify for his -- regarding his conversations with the former president. And yet, despite multiple investigations, his role in January 6th, also having been twice impeached, he's the leading candidate for the GOP nomination, maintains broad Republican support.

If he wins the nomination, what choice will U.S. voters face in 2024?

SCHIFF: Well, it will be a choice between staying the course, assuming that Joe Biden runs for re-election, as I expect that he will, and moving the country forward, or it will be a choice of going tragically, not only backward to the drama and the trauma of a Trump presidency, but I fear far worse.

What we have seen with Donald Trump is, whenever he is allowed to escape accountability, he engages in worse and worse misconduct. Should he be rewarded with another term, he would begin where he left office, and that is begin at the point of a an insurrection. And it would just descend from there. So, I think that would be a catastrophic choice if the country were to even entertain his candidacy. And it is a marvel to me that someone that may be charged with writing hush money checks to a porn star and incite an insurrection is somehow still the leading Republican candidate for president. How is that even possible?

SCIUTTO: That's the reality today.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

DEAN: This just in to CNN, new details in that Army Black Hawk helicopter crashing in Kentucky.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.

Tell us what we're learning.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Jessica, we learned just a short time ago from a defense official that nine soldiers were killed when two HH60 Black Hawk helicopters collided last night in Kentucky. There were no survivors as a result of that crash. Those helicopters belonging to the storied 101st Airborne.

So, now we're waiting for more updates at this point. That tragic news coming in just a short time ago. Again, nine soldiers were killed when those two helicopters collided in Trigg County, Kentucky, at about 10:00 last night.

In terms of information from this point out, General McConville (ph), the chief of staff of the Army, is testifying on Capitol Hill right now. We don't expect him to say too much, or to get ahead of the investigation. But at the top of the hour, we are expecting a press conference from the Army, perhaps with more information on what went wrong here and where this goes from here in terms of the investigation and where the process moves forward from here.

So, this crash happened around 10:00 last night, again in Trigg County, Kentucky, were two HH 60 Black Hawk helicopters collided. We learned just a short time ago that there were no survivors in that crash. Nine soldiers were killed. And now we're waiting for the latest updates from the Army.

I will read a statement here that Senator Mitch McConnell put out on Twitter earlier. He said, I'm devastated to learn about the Army helicopter accident over Kentucky involving our brave 101st Airborne. My team is in contact with the Army and authorities on the ground. Please pray for our service members and their families as we learn more.

Jim and Jessica, we'll keep you updated with the latest on the investigation and what Army officials say at the top of the hour.

SCIUTTO: Yes, nine service members.

DEAN: Oh, that is -

SCIUTTO: Nine families, nine military families.

DEAN: Heartbreaking.

All right, Oren Liebermann, thank you for that breaking news update. We'll continue to monitor for that press conference next hour.

Still ahead this morning, the data just in. The U.S. economy growing slower than estimated last quarter. And jobless claims seeing an uptick. What it all means for inflation, and for you. That's next.



DEAN: New numbers out this morning showing the economy grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter than previously expected. Inflation adjusted GDP increased by only 2.6 percent. That's down slightly from what economists were hoping to see.

SCIUTTO: Still not a bad number given everything.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.

So, Christine, where - the trend is your friend. Where does this put this trend on the economy and is this a sign that interest rate hikes are having an impact?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a respectable finish to the year, 2.6 percent. It certainly is a rejection of that slower growth we saw in the first half of last year, but it is a rear view mirror kind of picture. And so everyone's looking, Jim and Jessica, for any kinds of signs that the Fed's medicine is starting to work. So the fact that it came in at 2.6 percent, and not 2.7 percent, like the last reading, I guess that might be -- might be evidence that the Fed's medicine is starting to work, but still that's underlying strength in the American economy.

And then when I look at jobless benefits, this number has been pretty consistently below 200,000 every week. It rose from 191,000 to 198,000. Just look at the trend there, you guys. I mean this is a sign of the still very strong job market.


Layoffs, outside of the tech sector, are pretty rare. Bosses are more interested in holding onto workers than laying them off here. So, we're just kind of trying to parse every one of these numbers for any sign that the Fed's work is -- magic is working. And I think overall here we can still say this is still a solidly performing economy.

Again, rear view mirror looking. No one knows what's going to happen here in the future. And a lot of moving parts. But, still, resilience, I would say, in the economy. Little signs of maybe the Fed's rate hikes working, but resilience overall.

DEAN: All right, everyone -- everyone looking for those signs, Christine Romans, as you said. Thanks so much.

And let's take a closer look at this with Catherine Rampell, CNN economics and political commentator and "Washington Post" opinion columnist.

Catherine, great to see you.

We just heard from Christine kind of laying this all out for us. Do you agree that perhaps there's some little signs that the Fed's decisions and actions could be working?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, also in that report we saw that consumer spending is still growing but has slowed in how quickly it's growing. So that could be a sign that the Fed's medicine is having an effect.

But as Christine laid out, this is very much a rear view mirror. This is the end of 2022 that we're talking about. A lot has happened since then, including, of course, lots of financial turmoil. And what kind of effect that may have on both the labor market, financial conditions, and other economic forces going forward is still yet to be seen.

SCIUTTO: You wrote in a "Washington Post" opinion article just about the overall pessimism that we've seen from Americans about their finances, but, interestingly, even as consumer spending has remained strong, and you've seen sort of consumer confidence strong, these numbers, the job market, et cetera, why the disconnect? And then I wonder what happens when those numbers -- when the economy does actually slow, right, even more significantly, where this all goes from here.

RAMPELL: Right. There has been sort of a puzzle about why we've had this red hot labor market and yet sort of icy cold consumer sentiment, particularly among lower income workers who are seeing the biggest wage increases. Depending what media you consume, I think you get a very different partisan take on how to explain that. Either the economy is obviously great, and anybody who says otherwise has been brainwashed by Republicans or Fox News or whatever, or the economy is obviously terrible, and Democrats are deluding themselves into thinking that it's good for low wage workers, in particular, given these inflationary trends.

So, what I looked at in this piece was trying to sort of get a better sense of what the headline metrics might be missing. And indeed they do, when we looked into, you know, receipts data, matching up actual growth and expenses against growth in earnings, we did actually find that lower wage families, those, you know, sort of like in the bottom, let's say, quintile of the income distribution, are coming out behind. Yes, their wages are growing pretty quickly in percentage terms, but it's not keeping up with the actual dollar spend.

And beyond that there's this sort of psychological tax that a lot of families feel from inflation that's harder to quantify. You know, the mental strain of now having to do a lot more price comparisons, shopping at multiple grocery stores, managing budgets that used to sort of be on autopilot, that sort of thing. So, that was the goal.

And as you point out, you know, this was all while, you know -- these numbers are captured while the job market is still strong, while there are a lot of good economic indicators. What happens if and when we have a recession?


RAMPELL: Presumably people will turn much more negative than they are now.

DEAN: And, Catherine, quickly before we let you go, I want to turn to the debt ceiling because that has -- we're starting to see some more information about that percolating as Congress and the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is sending letters to President Biden back and forth. You talked about financial turmoil already this year. As we approach that, that has the potential for financial catastrophe if we go off that ledge. How critical would you say this issue is? It is potentially catastrophic, but even more so with all of the turmoil surrounding it right now.

RAMPELL: Yes, it was always a bad idea to threaten to default on the U.S. debt. Always. Always a bad idea. Always potentially could instigate a global financial crisis. It is colossally dumb right now to be even, you know, voicing that as a possibility. And I'm super concerned about the fact that there doesn't seem to be any progress in negotiations. That Republicans, rather than looking at the underlying fragility in financial markets right now and saying, hmm, maybe now is not the good time -- the best time to be threatening this -- this, you know, historic default seemed to be saying, hmm, maybe now is a great time because we have more leverage.

This is a very bad strategy.


I think they should raise the debt limit immediately without preconditions. Deal with the budget stuff as part of the budget process, that's a separate issue, but honor the existing debt obligations that the U.S. has already made.

DEAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Perceived political gain. Powerful force here in Washington.

Catherine Rampell, thanks so much.

DEAN: Parts of California are buried under feet of snow after being slammed by yet another winter storm. We're there live with a look at the efforts to dig out and how all of this snow is actually good news for the state.


DEAN: All right, take a look at this. This is what nearly 700 inches of snow looks like. That's how much has fallen at a Mammoth, California, ski resorts since they opened back in November. I think we can all imagine, with 700 inches, it is their snowiest season ever.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, there are a lot deeper pictures within that.

DEAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam s there live.

And, Stephanie, listen, obviously good for ski season, but really dangerous for folks, many of whom trapped in their homes.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it depends on where you are. Obviously, Mammoth Mountain, as a massive ski resort, they're used to getting snow and so they know how to act. In fact, take a look at this. Let me just see. you can see the waves of snow here behind me. I'm actually standing inside of a bus stop in Mammoth Lakes.

And let me just show you what it looks like outside here because 700 inches is close to 60 ft of snow that they've recorded this season. And it's still coming down. It's the snowiest March that they have on record here.

Just take a look at these mounds. Look at that stop sign. See how the mounds are so much higher than that. For these people, fine. But for some parts of the Sierra, the southern Sierra, they're not used to seeing this much snow. And so we have seen people trapped in their houses at different points during this winter.

But, overall, you're right, this is good news for the drought because the U.S. Drought Monitor is out today with their new numbers. Only 1 percent of the state is in severe drought. Three years ago is the last time we saw it anywhere near this.

So, just take a look at this. I know it's hard to even believe, but look over here. You can see this mound. The trees looking like almost bushes in some places coming out of these massive snow mounds.

Jim and Jessica, just unbelievable. Unbelievable how much no we have here.

SCIUTTO: Wow. Lord, that's incredible.

DEAN: I know. Packed in.

SCIUTTO: It's like the scene from "Frozen." It's like a massive scene from "Frozen."

DEAN: All right, Stephanie Elam for us. Stay warm. Thanks so much.

Up next, we are standing by for a news conference from Army officials. The military now saying nine service members killed after two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Kentucky. We're, of course, going to bring you that event live when it happens.