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Millions Struggle As Pandemic-Era SNAP Benefits Boost Ends; Grizzlies Coach: No Timetable For Ja Morant's Return; Former National Security Adviser John Bolton On Trump's Reelection Bid. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 06, 2023 - 07:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Offering a $50,000 reward in the case as the details remain to be seen.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everybody, take a look at this. A lithium-ion battery -- look -- wow -- that powered a scooter is believed to have sparked a huge fire in the Bronx that destroyed a commercial building. You can see it here as it started inside that building. Almost 200 firefighters were on scene battling flames and smoke for hours -- wow. At least seven people were injured, including a civilian, an emergency responder, and five firefighters.

Officials say this kind of battery fire can be very dangerous and difficult to put out.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY: How do we educate the public that you must use the legal batteries? And also, this -- these devices should not be placed inside your home.


LEMON: Hmm. Well, officials say the battery may be illegal. They don't know yet who owns the bike, but they are investigating.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this morning, millions of Americans are scrambling now that the pandemic-era boost to food benefits -- food stamps has ended. Recipients are now seeing $95 less a month.

This was all profiled in a fascinating and really important piece in The Washington Post. It's forcing many families to turn to other options, including food banks, which are concerned they can't keep up with demand.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much were you guys getting during COVID?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred fifty dollars or something like that. And then after it was over it went back down to what it was before -- about $140. But still, the mayonnaise and everything else stayed high so it didn't equal out.

Both of us are disabled. She's on oxygen and I'm on oxygen. She's got blood clots in her legs. We usually have to take money out of something else for food -- you know, out of our checks. We draw disability checks.


HARLOW: Gabe Cohen is following all of this. Gabe, good morning to you. I think the question for all of those families is now what, right -- is that this is the policy now, right?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, that's right. And in the short term, a lot of this is going to end up falling on food banks as you're seeing there. And we are already seeing alarming signs that food insecurity is exploding and that it may only get worse.

Look, when those SNAP benefits expired recipients lost at least $95 a month from their food budget. In some cases, it was a couple of hundred dollars. And it's coming at this really difficult time with inflation still squeezing families. The food -- the price of food is still through the roof.

And look, I've spoken with food banks across the country from Arizona to Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania -- all of them telling me that they are seeing record demand right now, higher even than at the peak of the pandemic. And in many cases, these pantries are having to ration food so that there's more to go around and that means families are getting less food when they show up for help.

And you mentioned this weekend The Washington Post publishing that powerful piece showing a mile-long line -- a three-hour wait at a food bank in Kentucky where people are struggling. Take a listen to one of the people in that line.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the SNAP benefits ended it was like our line doubled the next giveaway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on up a little bit. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what time it is now -- 4:06, Hot Dog. I didn't know it had been that long but I have sat longer. If it wasn't for this place here I wouldn't be a doing it. With it, I can eat one meal a day. Without it, I'd eat a meal probably every two- three days.


COHEN: And we're starting to hear more and more of those stories -- people who are saying they can only afford one meal a day or they're having to ration their supply inside their home.

Those emergency SNAP benefits lifted 4.2 million people out of poverty. It lowered child poverty by 14 percent according to the Urban Institute. And Feeding America says three-quarters of their food banks have already seen a rise in demand because of the program's end. In some cases, they're seeing 20 percent more people showing up for help.

They're over budget. They're dipping into reserves. And it is going to be tough for these food banks to even help the number of people they are currently serving if this keeps up, let alone if more people start showing up. So, Poppy, this is just driving us closer to the hunger cliff that I brought up on Friday that experts have been warning of.

HARLOW: Yes, and people are really, really struggling in the meantime.

Gabe, thank you for that reporting.

COLLINS: Also this morning there is fallout in the sports world as the Memphis Grizzlies are now without their superstar Ja Morant against the Clippers last night. Morant has been suspended with no real clear timeline of when he's returning after he appeared to flash a gun while livestreaming from his Instagram over the weekend inside a nightclub.

The Grizzlies said Saturday that the 23-year-old is going to be away from the team for at least two games. Morant has since apologized saying in part that he takes full responsibility for his actions and that he's going to use this time away to, quote, "get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress."


Grizzlies' coach Taylor Jenkins made clear that is also their top priority.


TAYLOR JENKINS, HEAD COACH, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: He's made some difficult decisions and poor choices in the past that he's got to account for. And that's why you see in his statement -- it speaks for itself -- that he understands he's got to get help to get into a better place not just for himself but also for his team.

You know, we love him. You know, we want what's best for him. We support him. It's going to be a difficult process, but we've got a great group to get through this.

And we're taking it one day at a time. I mean, this is going to be an ongoing healing process. So I can't comment in terms of what the exact timetable is going to be because it's really not a timetable situation.


COLLINS: Yes. Kind of hard to understate the fallout from that and what's happening.


COLLINS: All right. Also, we will continue tracking that.

Also this morning, China has announced it is upping its military spending. What this could mean for the U.S., Taiwan, and Beijing's relationship with Russia. The former national security adviser to President Trump, John Bolton, is standing by to discuss.



COLLINS: This morning, China has announced plans to boost its defense spending by 7.2 percent this year. That's slightly up from last year but to put it in perspective it's the size of this year's military budget is more than double that of 10 years ago.

As Beijing is modernizing and building up its military, U.S. officials have recently gone public with their warning that China is considering providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.

This is all coming as this morning we are seeing a fierce battle underway raging in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut with Russian forces closing in on three sides as Ukrainian troops are struggling to keep a strategic road open.

Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin is weighing in, saying if the city falls, this is what it would mean.


GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I would not view that as a -- as an operational or a strategic setback. I think it's more of a symbolic value than it is a strategic and operational value. So the fall of the Bakhmut won't necessarily mean that the Russians are -- have changed the tide of -- the tide of this fight. I mean, I think it will continue to be contested.


COLLINS: Former national security adviser in the Trump White House, John Bolton, joins us now. Good morning, Ambassador, and thank you for being here.

What's your reaction to Sec. Austin's comments? Do you agree with him?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, AUTHOR, "THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED: A WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR": Well, I think that's probably correct. I think it's another example by the Bakhmut fight -- another example of how incomprehensible Russia's strategy is.

They're still fighting trench warfare World War I style. Still like the winter war with Finland in 1938. Still like much of the Second World War. They've learned nothing about maneuver -- you know, things like outflanking the enemy. It's cost them terribly. The Ukrainians have held out for a long time. I don't think a short retreat here necessarily says anything but it

does emphasize this conflict is fundamentally at a stalemate, which could on for a long time, and time is on Russia's side ultimately.

COLLINS: And what's the significance if they do take it though? If it doesn't strategically mean anything does it kind of give them a victory though that could be a moral boost or something that they need for Putin to tout a victory.

BOLTON: Well, there's -- they'll certainly try and make propaganda hay out of it but fundamentally I don't think it changes the military situation. And I think you could see back-and-forth all along the line of control between Russia and occupied Ukraine and territories still controlled by the Ukrainians.

If a war of attrition goes on long enough typically, the bigger country wins. So that's not good news for Ukraine.

COLLINS: Yes. The idea of a stalemate is certainly concerning.

I also want to ask you about a new report that came out from the U.S. Intelligence Community saying that they believe it's very unlikely that a foreign adversary was responsible for what has now come to be known as Havana Syndrome. I know this is something that has touched you personally with your staffers at the National Security Council who said they believe they experienced it.

What was your reaction to this new report?

BOLTON: Well, I thought it was essentially the same thing I first heard five years ago when I had my first meeting on this at the White House. And really, nothing has changed. They haven't found any evidence conclusive one way or the other. They -- I think their main conclusion is that they didn't find credible evidence of a foreign weapon that would do it. But to make the assessment from that that it's likely not a foreign adversary I think is very bad intelligence tradecraft.

And I would just recommend that they go back and look at an interesting book by one of the icons of intelligence analysis, Richard Heuer, of some of his early papers where he points out the difference between an unproven hypothesis and a disproven hypothesis.

There's nothing in this latest report that disproves the possibility that this is from a foreign adversary, which is what we should worry about.

So my suggestion here is that Congress authorize a team B analysis -- something that's disconnected from existing intelligence agencies, independent. Can take a fresh look not only because of the critical need to assess what happened to American citizens overseas working for their country but also because I've never heard anybody say that the possibility of this kind of directed energy weapon is not feasible.

We've got to worry about what could happen in the future as well. And I'm just worried the intelligence community said we're tired of this. We're pushing it off. I think we need a team B to go after this in a completely new analysis.


COLLINS: Your former boss, former President Trump, was on stage this weekend at CPAC. He was talking about what's happening in Russia and Ukraine. And he said that he believes if he arrives -- if he's reelected, before he even arrived at the Oval Office he could have the war between Russia and -- between Russia and Ukraine settled. He said, "It will take me no longer than one day."

BOLTON: Look, this is more proof, as if much is needed, that the man is not fit to be president. That's obviously not going to happen.

I do think the most significant he said in that very long speech was this is between us and them and if they win this time we don't have a country anymore. I think that's one of the most subversive things any candidate for President of the United States has ever said. It's very dangerous.

I very much want to see a conservative Republican elected next year. But the idea if we lose, particularly if Donald Trump is the nominee, means it's the end of the country is absolutely foreign to conservative philosophy. I mean, I think it's another example of Trump proving yet again he's not a conservative.

COLLINS: What about him saying that he wouldn't drop out even if he is indicted?

BOLTON: Well, I think that's a pretty good sign his attorneys are telling him that in at least one of these investigations going on he's going to be indicted very soon.

I think it's for the voters to decide. If he wants to keep running while he's under indictment I think that will help Republican candidates opposing him for the nomination.

I think it's clear to avoid the 2016 scenario where Trump slips between a whole field of candidates. The candidates shouldn't focus on each other. They should focus on what's wrong with Donald Trump, which is a subject that would take an awful lot of time to consume.

So Trump may think he's going to have an easy road to the nomination but only if the other candidates give it to him.

COLLINS: You think him saying that means that he thinks he's going to be indicted?

BOLTON: I think it's -- I think it's preventive, in a sense, so that people aren't surprised by it. But we know that several of these investigations are coming to a conclusion. Whether there will be an indictment or not -- obviously, we don't know, but I think his attorneys are obviously very worried about the developments in a number of them. And to me it indicates they believe, perhaps having heard something from the prosecutors involved, that an indictment is more likely than not. COLLINS: We heard from former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. He says he's not going to run for president. He's worried about the field being too big and that it benefits Trump in the end.

You have said you are considering a 2024 run. Where does that stand?

BOLTON: Well, I'm still considering it. I was very disappointed, I have to say, that Larry decided not to run. I'm a fan of his. I'm a Maryland resident. I was born and raised in Baltimore. I thought he was a great governor.

And I do understand the analysis that too many candidates might be a way through for Trump. But on the other hand, let's just say he only had two other opponents for Trump and in a given primary they each got 33 percent. He could still win with 34 percent.

I think the focus here has got to be on eliminating Trump from the -- from the nomination process as early as possible. And I think it's very clear that the mistake candidates made in 2016 wasn't going after each other instead of going after Trump. It's 2020 hindsight but I think it's the right analysis.

COLLINS: Notable that you said you are still considering your own run potentially.

Ambassador John Bolton, thanks for joining us this morning.

BOLTON: Glad to do so.

HARLOW: A fascinating take from him as always.

OK, Wall Street is bracing for a lot of big reports this week that could shake up the markets. What they mean for you with our Christine Romans. That's next.



HARLOW: We are gearing up for a big week. Will it mean rocky markets this week? Maybe. Investors bracing for several days of market volatility as they wait for a whole lot of new economic data. Also, Jerome Powell testifying on the Hill, also. This is all ahead of a big Fed rate decision in a couple of weeks.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans here to break it down. Yikes.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": They're calling it -- they're calling it hell week on Wall Street this week because there's so much happening and it's all really important.

You've got Chair Powell going to the Hill for a couple of days. You've got a bunch of different job statistics until we get to Friday's jobs reports. You've got the president is going to drop his budget blueprint on Thursday. So there's a lot that matters for your money happening this week.

And one of the big issues here I think is a very strong job market and that is something that has been a problem for the Fed. We're expecting the job market to be maybe 200,000 jobs added in the most recent month. And you can see -- remember last month how strong that number was? So the job market continues to be very, very strong and we expect we're going to see that again this week.

LEMON: So why -- how -- why would a strong labor market be bad news for the Fed?

ROMANS: It's because the Fed has been raising interest rates over and over and over again and it's not cooling off the job market. And that strong job market could continue to spin off more inflation and the Fed is trying to cool inflation. So it just shows you the Fed might have to keep interest rates higher for longer.

We know that there are two jobs open for every person who is looking for work. That is a really, really tight labor market. That chart right there shows you that the Fed might still have a lot of work to do. The Fed would like to see things cool off a bit.

So we have a strong job market. It's great for Main Street, not so great for Wall Street.

COLLIN: Well -- and also, it really kind of shows you the power or lack of the Federal Reserve when it comes --


COLLINS: -- to these interest rates. Because if they're not impacting the job market, are they having any impact?


ROMANS: And I think that's what you're going to see the Fed chief grilled about this week. You're going to hear him -- people on the Hill are going to say you're going too hard. This is hurting working families. Or they're going to say you're not going hard enough getting inflation under control. So I think he's going to be criticized on both sides.

But we can see where the Fed interest rates have been working in the housing market -- that has slowed -- but also credit card interest rates. And I think this is really the takeaway for kitchen table economics here.

Credit card interest rates are at record highs. Nineteen percent for a typical credit card; up to 30 percent for a store card. If you put $2,000 on a typical credit card and you only pay the minimum balance, at 19 percent it would take more than 12 years to pay it off and you would have $3,200 interest on that $2,000. That is just --


ROMANS: That is just stupid. HARLOW: More interest than the initial spend.

ROMANS: Way more interest than the initial spend. And on a store card it's even worse.

So I think that where you're seeing the higher interest rates really working through the economy are places like that, and that's where people have to really be careful on it.

HARLOW: I think Kaitlan makes the point, which is the medicine's not working enough. The Fed medicine on interest rates is now working enough yet.

ROMANS: So what does that mean? Does the Fed have to keep raising interest rates?

HARLOW: What else can you do?

ROMANS: Do they raise it to five percent, the target rate? Do they raise it, as Goldman Sachs suggested, closer to six percent?


ROMANS: That means higher rates for longer in the economy. And higher rates are something --

COLLINS: And we don't even know if it would work.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: Higher rates are something that real people and working families feel.

Meanwhile, the job market is strong, right? On its surface that should be good news. The job market is strong. There are a lot of jobs open for people out there even with these headlines in tech and in finance of layoffs. Overall, the job market is strong and you still have very few layoffs every week.


ROMANS: It's going to be a --

HARLOW: The economy is always --

ROMANS: I know.

HARLOW: Hell week -- brace yourselves.

ROMANS: A crazy week.

HARLOW: Thank you, Romans, very, very --

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: -- much. A little bit later we're going to be joined by economist and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers. What he says about all of it.

LEMON: All right. So this video you have to see this morning of a wild moose attack. That's right, a wild moose attack. Things got scary for two Idaho brothers when they encountered this giant moose last week. The average moose is about six feet tall. They can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds. But our very own estimation at CNN THIS MORNING is that this one is a ginormous one.

At one point, the moose suddenly turned and charged at one of the men, trampling the snowmobile and really tumbling it into the snow. There it is right there. Look at that. Wow, it's frightening.

So, fortunately, no one was hurt in this incident. The moose eventually ran off and the brothers left happily they were alive to tell the tale.

One more look -- oof. I think the snowmobile kind of actually helped, right?

HARLOW: A buffer?

LEMON: It was a buffer there.

HARLOW: A buffer to the moose?


COLLINS: It took both of them out.


ROMANS: Wow -- bulls and bears, and moose.

HARLOW: Who knew -- oh my.

LEMON: Moose.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, thank you.

LEMON: OK, let's see it one more time -- one more time.

HARLOW: Oh gosh.

LEMON: See that, right? If it had not been for the snowmobile -- see -- yes.

ROMANS: What are you supposed to do with these? Are you supposed to get like, hey bear, hey bear if it's a bear? Like, what are you supposed to do if it's a moose? I don't know.

HARLOW: I don't know.

LEMON: I'm not a moose-pert.

ROMANS: (Laughing).

HARLOW: That was a very good one.

LEMON: I'm not a moose-pert.

ROMANS: It was terrible.

HARLOW: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


CHIEF DARIN SCHIERBAUM, ATLANTA POLICE: Actions such as this will not be tolerated. When you attack law enforcement officers, when you damage equipment, you are breaking the law. And this wasn't about a public safety training center. This was about anarchy and this was about the attempt to destabilize.


COLLINS: Good morning, everyone. Those are the videos you are seeing of what is happening -- what happened in Atlanta over the weekend. A violent crowd of protesters clashed with officers as they stormed the construction site of a police training facility in Atlanta. We're going to take a deeper look at the tensions that led up to this that have been building for months.

LEMON: And former President Donald Trump delivered a doozy of a speech at CPAC. We're going to break down the check -- the fact-check on that and some of the downright false claims that he made.

Plus, this.


CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN, NETFLIX "SELECTIVE OUTRAGE": You all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Shug Smith.


HARLOW: That is Chris Rock coming out swinging. What everyone is talking about from this weekend. What he is now saying nearly a year after that infamous slap.

COLLINS: We'll get to that in a moment but we're going to start this morning in Atlanta where investigators say that a violent mob of protesters attacked the construction site of a police and firefighter training facility, throwing bricks, rocks, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails at officers.

They were dressed in camo. Their faces were hidden behind masks. Some of them were carrying shields. They torched police and construction vehicles, along with a trailer that was on site.

Police officers were outnumbered and overwhelmed. They had to retreat and take cover. You can see fireworks exploding here right next to the officers. This is not exactly a surprise. Tensions have been escalating for

months over this as some of the protesters and activists are fighting to preserve the forest while others are opposed to the facility in and of itself.