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CNN This Morning

Mark Esper is Interviewed about Putin and Xi's Meeting; Shoppers Flock to Cheaper Products; Vera Wang is Interviewed about her Award; Look Back at CDs. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 08:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news this morning out of Ukraine. You see the map there. This as search and rescue operations are underway here in Zaporizhzhia after two Russian missiles hit a residential building, the one that you see here. This is a high rise. That is according to Ukrainian officials. And the mayor says one person has been killed, dozens more injured, including children. The video shows the immediate aftermath from the inside after that missile hit.


COLLINS: This attack comes one day after that high stakes summit between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow has now come to an end. You see Xi Jinping leaving, returning to China now.

Putin says that China's so called peace plan could be the basis for a deal in Ukraine. The White House is pushing back, though, saying if Beijing truly wanted to broker peace, it should tell Russia to leave.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: If President Xi really believes that stuff they just put out in Moscow, then you ought to be telling President Putin to get his troops out of Ukraine, because they're the ones violating the U.N. charter, they're the ones violating sovereignty and territorial integrity. And this war could be over right now.


COLLINS: Joining us now for more perspective on this is the former defense secretary, Mark Esper.

Mark, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

I know you are coming live from Lithuania. Obviously, an important backdrop in this entire conversation.

Let's start, though, with the end of that summit between President Putin and President Xi and what it says to you about Russia's level of reliance on China right now.

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, Kaitlan, great to be with you. And as you said, I am a Lithuania. I'm keynoting a Baltic military conference, and also meeting with the nation's leaders. And this is a great country that's meeting its NATO commitments and punching well above its weight when it comes to helping out the Ukrainians.

And, look, they were under Soviet rule not - not a little bit more than 30 years ago. So, they see this all very clearly. And people here in Lithuania are watching the events on the ground, and they see this - this meeting between Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin with great concern, alarm as to what it may portend.

COLLINS: Yes, and we didn't see any reference to military assistance, at least not publicly, between Putin and President Xi. But if China does decide to provide weapons to Russia to use in Ukraine, what should the U.S. response look like, in your view?

ESPER: Well, first, we -- China is providing Russia assistance in the sense that it's buying its energy off the market. It's providing technical assistance, duel use items. And there have been some reports that Chinese munitions have been found in Ukraine, which is very interesting.

But, look, if China was to provide lethal assistance, I think, one, it would change the game with regard to Russia's ability to sustain this conflict because Russia is running out of men, material, and munitions. And Chinese assistance could help.

That said, if they did, it would strategically, I think, change the game between the United States and hopefully our European partners, which is one of the issues I'm talking about here with regard to our willingness collectively to sanction China, financially, economic and -- economically and otherwise for making such a move.

COLLINS: OK, and that is something that the White House has said there would be consequences. They haven't said exactly what.

The Pentagon, though, Mark, is now saying that those Abrams tanks that they are sending to Ukraine, they weren't really expected to even potentially reach there this year. They're now saying they'll arrive by the fall because they're sending a refurbished, older model, basically allowing them to speed up the timeline.

Does this make it clear to you that the Pentagon should have decided to send the Abrams tanks sooner to Ukraine?

ESPER: Absolutely. I mean, I thought we should have been making that decision last year -- late last year when Ukraine began asking. And then when the decision finally came out, which was a way to unleash the Germans in terms of providing the Leopard's, we made this decision that we would provide them, you know, tanks coming off the line sometime next year. That didn't make much sense given what's happening now in Ukraine. So, I think providing them either current models or, you know, the Marine Corps has turned in its tanks, I think we can -- we should be able to get them Abrams tanks within a matter of weeks.

I think what is happening is this, Kaitlan, the Ukraine's are trying to assemble a counter offensive that would happen sometime in April or May, which is just a few weeks away. And to do so, they need that heavy armor, accompanied by fighting vehicles, to really punch through these Russian lines and push the Russians out of eastern Ukraine. That will be a big game changer and important to do before the NATO summit in Vilnius (ph) in July here in Europe.

COLLINS: Yes, and I know you've also said you believe the U.S. should send the F-16 fighter jets. We'll see what happens there.

Mark, I do want to ask you about some political news and some legal news here since you did work for former President Trump as his defense secretary. He has this history, as a politician, of typically a traditional scandal that would bring any other politician down doesn't really hurt Trump.


There's this idea that maybe an indictment here in New York could be an asset to him. How do you see it?

ESPER: You know, Kaitlan, I'd like to answer your question, but I've been on planes for the last 24 hours and not focused on that news. I haven't really seen what has developed. The people here are really focused in terms of how the United States and whether the United States will continue to support Ukraine. That's the biggest concern when people look back at the United States right now.

COLLINS: Do they have any concerns if Trump is the GOP nominee, of what that support from the U.S. would look like given he's been skeptical of it, so has Ron DeSantis?

ESPER: Oh, absolutely. I mean there is concern that there may be this isolationist pull. And we've heard the comments recently by Governor DeSantis about this being a territorial dispute, which it's not. In my view, I think the view of other Republicans, traditional Republicans, is that this is a contest between democracy and autocracy. And it's certainly in the United States' national interest to support the Ukrainians. And that needs to be - that needs to continue. That's the concern I think of folks over here in Europe.

COLLINS: All right, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, live from Lithuania. Thank you so much for taking some time to join us this morning.

ESPER: Thanks, Kaitlan.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening today, the Federal Reserve is set to announce its decision on interest rates as the country continues to grapple with sky high inflation. Rising prices have pushed many consumers to abandon premium goods in exchange for cheaper alternatives in everything from groceries, to clothing, to personal care products.

So, for more on this let's bring in now CNN reporter Matt Eagan.

Matt, hello to you.

What is this shift away from premium products? What does it actually look like?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Don, you know, I think Americans have just really changed the way that they shop. You know, people are trading down. That means going to cheaper brands, cheaper products for groceries. Maybe that means getting regular fruit and vegetables instead of organic. For electronic, that could mean getting the TV that has the best deal instead of the one that has all the best features.

And, you know, we've heard about this trend anecdotally, but these new numbers from Adobe, shared first with CNN, really put an exclamation point on how this is playing out online where it's actually easiest to price shop.

So, Adobe found that across all 11 ecommerce categories, the lowest priced goods are gaining market share, and the highest priced ones are losing. So, for example, let's look at groceries. In early 2019, the lowest priced tier of groceries had about a third of the market. But look at that. Today, now half of the market.

Same things playing out for personal care products, like shampoo and perfume and cologne. In 2019 the lowest priced goods had about a quarter of the market for personal care products. Now it's about 50 percent of the market. So it's doubled. Clearly these trends show that because of high inflation, you know, Americans have just become a lot more price conscious.

LEMON: All right, Matt Eagan. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.


President Biden awarding artists, creators, philanthropist with one of the nation's highest honors. Guess who we get to be joined by. I'm so excited. The iconic Vera Wang is here.

LEMON: Vera Wang. I love the metal too. Look at that -- look at the medal.


LEMON: Hi, Vera. Can't wait to see you. We'll talk to you after the break.

And something that I have just for you. I've conjured this up. I did it myself. See what I prepared. A live look at the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.


LEMON: Kaitlan's going to be -

COLLINS: I'm going to tell you - I'm going to tell you they bloom and then like snow hits and April and you're like, no.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And every time I open the closet, I see her, when I got introduced to Vera. And Jill turned to me and said, what are you saying that for? Because of all those labels. Vera Wang.

Well, I guess I could have said it a little better. When I open the closet I see you all the time. But, anyway.


LEMON: Oh, what a moment. President Biden honoring fashion designer and icon Vera Wang with the 2021 National Medal of the Arts. It's one of the nation's highest honors. She joined a select group of creators, advocates and writers to receive this award, including Bruce Springsteen, Julia Louis Dreyfus and Gladys Knight.

I mean, this was the first time since taking office that President Biden held this event due to Covid-19, right, in the restrictions there.

So, joining us now, fashion designer, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, all around hero, my friend, Vera Wang. Our friend.

Vera, good morning to you. Congratulations.

VERA WANG, FASHION DESIGNER: Thank you so much. I'm flying on air. It's kind of surreal, I have to say, but here it is, my Olympic gold.

LEMON: That's what I was going to say, looks like an Olympic gold medal. But as, you know, Poppy and I were talking, we were saying in the break as we were talking to you, Poppy said they're both important.

HARLOW: But this is about a lifetime of work, not just one huge win.


HARLOW: This is about your body of work.

WANG: Yes. Yes, a long body of work, definitely.

But, I have to say that I was really moved. I mean you never really think how you'll react. But when I walked into that room, it was really quite emotional for me because also something I totally did not anticipate, I mean, in a million years.

[08:45:04] So, this was, you know, really an out of body experience.

HARLOW: Awe. Awe.

LEMON: You had no idea, like -

WANG: Oh, I see a dress of mine.

COLLINS: Yes. Your stuff is so beautiful. It's just -- it's like timeless. And, I mean, what he was saying there about walking into the first lady's closet and seeing your -- your designs everywhere, I wonder what it's like to even hear something like that, that the first lady's closet in the White House is full of your work and things that you've created.

WANG: Well, I like to think, guys, Poppy Kaitlan, everyone else, Don, I have to say that it's such an honor to craft clothing. But to see it really warn and enjoyed and experienced by someone like the first lady, I don't think it really gets better for any designer, to tell you the truth.

HARLOW: Yes. You know, I -

WANG: SO, I mean -

HARLOW: Go ahead.

WANG: No, I just think that for something so unexpected, I was unbelievably moved.


WANG: So, you know, I'm just happy as can be today. This is celebratory.

LEMON: We're playing - we're showing video of some of your dresses. I mean truly are stunning.

HARLOW: It's unreal.

WANG: Thank you.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, I'll never forget the experience of walking into your boutique, like 10 years ago -

WANG: Yes.

HARLOW: And getting to try on your gowns. It's a once in a lifetime experience.

Look, I love that you have said, if anyone had said I'd be the girl who didn't get married until she was 40 and would build a business based on wedding gowns, I would have laughed. Look at how much you have done since this moment in your life when you thought -- and you've said, well, maybe it was too late.

WANG: Guys, is 40 that old?


WANG: (INAUDIBLE) says that to me. God, you didn't get started to you were 40. And I'm thinking, well, I don't know if I could have done it at 35. I was too crazy. I mean, I'm just saying honestly, 40 doesn't seem -- 40 doesn't seem that old to me, particularly now. And I have to say that there's something about a certain maturity that comes, you know, that comes with age and experience. But I certainly had two major careers before, both of "Vogue" magazine -


WANG: And then, obviously, as a design director for Ralph Lauren's company. So, both of those things really helped me establish, you know, a resume - not only a resume, but such incredible education experience.

So, I don't know, is 40 that old?

LEMON: No, but, look -

WANG: I guess it is.

LEMON: It's not. Not -

COLLINS: No, it's not. It's absolutely not.

LEMON: But let me ask you about -- we were just talking about, you know, people looking for cheaper products, but there's also luxury goods are really soaring right now. Aspirational. I think probably coming out of Covid is helping as well that people want to be aspirational.

Do you think that it has changed now that, you know, considering what happened after Covid, that people are, you know, foregoing their dream wedding -- weddings now? Are you seeing that or are people still leaning into the big wedding dress and expensive stuff?

WANG: You know, I think, frankly, before the pandemic, there was a new trend. Young couples wanted to not spend quite as much on the sartorial, the clothing part, of the wedding. There's more interested in travel and experience.

But I think since the pandemic, and everyone was locked up, there's been this wedding resurgence. It's been really kind of insane. And I think the desire to celebrate with people you love and, you know, just really experience the full wedding moment has really galvanized and changed pretty much our business for now.

I have to be honest, I did 38 personal VIP weddings myself last year.



WANG: And that's even a record for me.


WANG: Yes.



WANG: So -

LEMON: Well, listen, you do beautiful stuff. But the best accessory I think today is that huge metal hanging around your neck.

WANG: I love it so much. I can't even tell you. I could never have expected this in a million years. So -

COLLINS: Well, well deserved. And thank you -

WANG: Thank you, guys.

COLLINS: Yes, thank you for joining us. You're such a gem (ph).

LEMON: Thank you, Vera.

WANG: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll see you soon, in New York, dinner, all four of us.

WANG: Thank you.

HARLOW: How lovely is she.

WANG: Yes, absolutely, all four.

LEMON: All right.

HARLOW: Oh, I love that.

WANG: Love you. Bye.

HARLOW: You too.


HARLOW: OK, moving on, when was the last time you played a CD? For our younger audience, have you ever seen a CD?


HARLOW: Harry Enten is throwing things back with this morning's number?


[08:53:47] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The discs retail for under $20. The players cost from $300 to more than $1,000. Most can be programmed to give the listener control over the order of selections. A portable version is on the way, as is a version for your car.


LEMON: Oh, my gosh!

HARLOW: A trip back in time to the donning of a new technology that redefined how we listened to music and made us throw out our cassette tapes or keep them if you're Don.

Let's bring in CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten.

He told me he still has eight tracks.


LEMON: I do have an eight track player (INAUDIBLE). But --

COLLINS: Someone did tell me that you keep a lot of stuff (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: I - yes, I'm -

HARLOW: A draw full of phones.

LEMON: A bit of a - nostalgia. Nostalgic.

I'm triggered because do you remember opening those darn things? You could - you would like rip your fingers off because you could never open the CDs.

HARLOW: The CDs? Oh, yes, these -

ENTEN: Yes, the wrapping tape around it, right?

LEMON: Well, not even that, the things that they were secured - at the counter you're like, how do I get it off.

HARLOW: I don't -

ENTEN: I know what you're talking about, the anti-theft stuff, essentially.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: Tell us what you're talking about.

ENTEN: What am I talking about. OK. This morning's number is 40. Why? Because compact disc sales from music started 40 years ago this month in the United States. I can't believe it was that long ago.

[08:55:01] And there truly has been a rise and then a fall of compact disc sales. So, compact disk percentage of all U.S. music sales. Back in 1983, when it was started, it was just 1 percent. Look, it jumped to 65 percent in 1993, 95 percent in 2003, dropped to 30 percent in 2013, 3 percent in 2022. And look at where we are now. Streaming is the number one way, it's 78 percent of all of the way that music was sold.

Digital download in 2013 of 40 percent. You have to go all the way back to 2003, when it was compact disc. And, of course, vinyl of all types was the tops back in 1983, when compact discs started.

COLLINS: But, Harry, we've also seen this, and this is something happening among my friends as well, is a resurgence in vinyl. Everyone is getting vinyl records again and record players because people do have this sense of -

HARLOW: We have them. We love it.

LEMON: I have and I play it, yes.

COLLINS: Nostalgia.

HARLOW: And the sound is different.

LEMON: The sound is great and warm and -

ENTEN: Look at this, vinyl, Eps and LPs, 8 percent of sales of music this past year. Compact disc, just 3 percent. We've seen this rise of vinyl. And I have Uncle Neal right here, vinyl. And I'll note, the sound is not actually better on vinyl than compact this, but the album cover art is.

HARLOW: I think it is.

ENTEN: For nostalgia, I guess the question is, how old are you?

HARLOW: You know what I want -

LEMON: No, it's - it's the sound is - it's -

HARLOW: It's better. The record player, it's better.

LEMON: It's just warmer and it's not so perfect, right? It get -- it's a mood.

HARLOW: Yes. I couldn't find the Taylor Swift vinyl, you know, Midnight - was it Midnight.

COLLINS: They're hard to buy.

HARLOW: Yes, so I'd like you to get me one this weekend. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: I'll see what I can do.

LEMON: We've got to put the needle on the record and got it here. ENTEN: Very good.

COLLINS: Thank you, Harry.

LEMON: Harry Enten, thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks.

LEMON: Thank you. Oh, gosh, I feel so old. I remember my first CD. (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: It's OK. We've got you.

LEMON: Eighty-three.

"NEWSROOM" starts after the break.