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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Investigators: School Police Chief Has Not Yet Responded to Request for Follow-Up Interview; Source: Senators "Optimistic" About Small Package of Gun Legislation; Yellen Admits She was "Wrong" to Downplay Inflation Threat. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 01, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we, go it is Wednesday. It is the first day of June, and at exactly 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: June at long last. We have waited.

I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

We begin this morning with more swirling questions surrounding this embattled school police chief in Uvalde, Texas. We heard very little from him since 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School on his watch.

Now, we have learned that state investigators aren't hearing from him either. Chief Pete Arredondo essentially gone radio silent, not responding to a request for an interview with investigators there for days, that according to the Texas Department for Public Safety. Chief Arredondo was the commander who made the decision, of course, not to send officers into that classroom while the carnage was still taking place.


REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Every key piece of testimony and evidence will help those families get answers. The last thing we need is silence in the face of a need for those answers.


JARRETT: The chief has not responded to multiple requests from CNN for comment on this.

ROMANS: We are also learning more this morning about the gunman, and how he got into that school. Texas investigators now forced to walk back a claim they made that a teacher popped open a door prior to the shooting that day. Now a teacher's lawyer pushed back on the count noting, teachers shut the door when she realized there was a shooter on campus. Authorities are looking into why the door did not lock.

JARRETT: So many shifting accounts there, still. And senators, meanwhile, are optimistic that a bipartisan agreement on

a small package of guns safety measures could actually come together in the next several days.

Daniella Diaz is on Capitol Hill for us on this story.

So, Daniella, what have senators actually been talking about? What's going to get done?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Laura, there are several issues that they are trying to get included in some type of gun safety legislation that could pass the Senate. Remember, they need 60 votes, so Democrats need at least ten Republicans to pass to break the filibuster to pass that bill. There was a Zoom call last night with four senators, to Republicans, to Democrats discussing several things, including red flag law incentives, mental health, safe storage, school safety, and background checks, and trying to figure out what they could possibly include in some type of gun safety legislation that could pass the Senate.

Now, they're still passing the scope, no details there, and an aide told CNN yesterday that we should be really careful, because even though they are having these discussions, they could dissolve, they might not reach an agreement, so those are things to consider as these Republicans and Democrats continue to have these bipartisan talks.

And remember also, Laura, that it's recess here on Capitol Hill. So lawmakers are not physically in Washington, D.C. right now. They are in their home states, which is why they're having these zoom calls in the first place, but a source told us these talks will continue at the staff level today, promising on that front.

JARRETT: So, Daniella, that is what is going on in the Senate, then we also have the house and what is going on there. The judiciary committee plans to vote as soon as tomorrow on a wide ranging gun bill. What is in that one? And does it have any chance of getting through the Senate?

DIAZ: That's right, Laura. This legislation came together very quickly, it would raise the age to purchase a semiotic weapon from 18 to 21. It would establishing a federal offense for gun trafficking, it would allow local governments to compensate individuals who surrender magazines through a buyback program. That is just a taste of some of the things that legislation does. It is very widened with scope. It's likely that it will not pass the Senate because it includes so many measures that Republicans have pushed back on.

But it is likely going to pass the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, go to a full vote in the House. Remember, it's just a simple majority that is needed to pass legislation in the House, and it does show that Democrats are working to try and do something in the wake of the Uvalde shooting on gun safety legislation, but again, it is really important what is happening in the Senate because that is where legislation gets stuck, and Democrats need those ten Republicans to be able to pass any measure.

So if that legislation passes the house, it could get stuck in the Senate, so that is why those discussions are so important -- Laura.

JARRETT: Got it. All right. Daniella, thank you for following for us as usual.

ROMANS: All right. Here in New York where a gunman killed ten people in the Buffalo last month, lawmakers are introducing ten gun reform bills. Some of the proposals include increasing the minimum age to buy semiotic rifle to 21, and requiring state local federal agencies to share information when guns are used in crimes.


They are expected to pass the state Senate and assembly and be signed by the governor.

JARRETT: And a woman who was wounded in the Brooklyn subway shooting here at last month is suing the gun maker Glock. She claims the company is creating and maintaining a public nuisance in the state of New York through its marketing and distribution of firearms. It is a test of a New York law passed last year allowing victims of gun violence to sue gunmakers and dealers for their injuries.

ROMANS: Two more funerals today in Uvalde, Texas, for victims of last week's mass school shooting. Teacher Irma Garcia's funeral will be held later this morning, and ten year old Jose Manuel Flores Jr.'s funeral will take place this afternoon. Services for five victims, five other victims were held Tuesday. Ten year old Maite Rodriguez was the first.


DESTINY ESQUIVEL, COUSIN OF SHOOTING VICTIME MAITE RODRIGUEZ: She was brave. She was grabbing the other students and telling them where to hide before the gunman turned on her.

JULIE GARCIA, ATTENDED MEMORIAL: When that casket closes, and they lower it down for me, it's the realization that it won't be able to touch them again. One more hug, one more kiss, one more goodbye.


ROMANS: Rodriguez wanted to be a marine biologist somebody. And that smile, five funerals in one day, two funerals today, the grief and a long road for that community is just almost impossible to bear.

JARRETT: And it is such a small community, too. You get the funeral, folks, everyone knows each, other everyone is pitching in rallying together trying to support these families.

Coming up for you, President Biden pledging more help for Ukraine's fight against Russia's invasion.

ROMANS: Plus, a defeat for the man investigating the investigators.

JARRETT: First, a frank admission from a top Biden cabinet secretary.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, look, I think I was wrong then.





YELLEN: Well, look, I think I was wrong about the path that inflation would take.


ROMANS: That's Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admitting she misread the path of inflation.

Now, the White House is refocusing its efforts on the economy, trying to show more urgency in his message that inflation is issue number one.

CNN's John Harwood live in Washington for us.

And, John, let's rewind the tape here for a second. This is May, last year.


YELLEN: I don't anticipate that inflation is going to be a problem, but it is something that we're watching very carefully.


ROMANS: In June, she called inflation transitory. She said, it might level out of 3 percent. It's now at 8.3 percent.

You know, to be fair, just about everybody got it wrong. The Fed chief was saying it would be transitory. We were looking at all of these supply shocks and so that they would work themselves out and they just haven't.

Talk to us about this new urgency of the White House, trying to show its ominous message sage. Yeah, we got it wrong, go on the case now.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to your point, Christine, think about the context here. We've had a couple of decades where inflation remained very low.


HARWOOD: So, that was not a top of mind problem, going into the pandemic. Well was top of mind, the fact that in the recovery from the great recession and the financial crisis, many economists think that the government under shot, in terms of its fiscal support for the economy, so we had a slow recovery.

So, when the make a cost-benefit analysis, they said, out loud at the time, we think the risks of going small are bigger than the risks of going big. Going big had some positive affects. Unemployment is very low. We had strong growth, stronger than some of our peer countries.

On the other hand, some of the skeptics who are saying inflation was a big risk, like Larry Summers, have proven to be correct. So, it wasn't surprising that Yellen acknowledged that yesterday. It's obvious from the tape you play that you got it wrong, as Jay Powell did.

What they're trying to do now is a matter of politics. This is a very difficult political environment for President Biden. There's not much he can do in any short term basis on inflation. What he can do is try to project urgency for the American people. That's what he did with the op-ed he did in "The Wall Street Journal" yesterday.

That's what the administration is going to do all month, and that's what Janet Yellen was doing yesterday.

JARRETT: So, is it too late? He's got these two op-eds, as you mentioned, in the past two days. "The Washington Post" reports that he's frustrated with his aides inability to get out the message. You know when those stories pop up, things have gone to a bad place.

Take us in behind the scenes.

HARWOOD: Well, look, when your football team is down by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the coach is not in a good mood. Joe Biden is not in a good mood, he's frustrated because he thinks he's not getting credit for the positive things that he's done. He thinks he's getting too much blame for negative developments.

The presidents always feel that way. It's a very difficult job, especially in a first midterm election. You've got 100 years of history showing that presidents in their first midterm elections usually get a significant defeat. He's been stuck in the low 40s approval for eight, nine months right now.


So, he's in a tough spot a little trying to do is fight through it by telling the American people, we're on it. Inflation accountability principally goes to the Fed, and Jerome Powell has signaled a sharp term that he's raising interest rates. We're seeing some effects of inflation moderating and things like the housing market maybe cooling off a bit, mortgage rates are rising.

So, all of those things are by design. We'll see in the jobs report this weekend whether job growth has slowed down somewhat. But the idea is to cool off the economy without tipping it into recession. That would be the biggest calamity for the Biden administration.

In the meantime, they've got a very unfavorable landscape, Republicans look like they're pretty likely to take Congress in the November midterm elections. ROMANS: That jobs report would be so interesting because you hear people sort of -- some people starting to say, oh, stagflation, stagflation. You know, stagflation, you have to have high, high unemployment. We don't have that. We also have an economy --

HARWOOD: We're not there.

ROMANS: No, we're not. This is in the '70s, you know? I mean, it's painful, this inflation situation is painful and coming out of COVID, it's uncomfortable. The travel delays, difficulty getting goods. All of this is a really unique experience.

I guess, with 21 weeks to go to the midterms, what's the life preserver for the president here, in terms of approval ratings? I mean, is it a peek at inflation this summer? Will that help? Or maybe, the Democrats focus on gun safety and abortion rights, could that energize Democrats? I mean, what's like it for the president politically?

HARWOOD: Well, there are a couple of possibilities, in realizing the odds of Democrats salvaging and having a good election or quite low. But when you think about what the things that could benefit them. One is, we have seen some signs that inflation is peeking, has peaked. If it begins to creep down, if we get month after month of data were people saying it slowing down, that would be positive.

If you could possibly get a favorable development on gas prices, that's the number one irritant for voters. Without that, you might not get that benefit, even if inflation is declining on a path to, say, 4 percent in December.

A second positive path for the administration is going very hard at Republicans, making it a contrast. Not just on what people are unhappy about in the current economy and projecting that on to the administration, but also what would the alternative be? What would Trump do? What do the Republican Party and Congress do if they take power?

And the issues that you mention, guns and the fact that Republicans have a roadblock opposition to new gun measures after -- in the wake of these mass shootings, and abortion. We've seen the potential for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Those are things that could energize suburban voters, for example, who have helped Democrats in past midterm elections, in 2018.

Those are things that could mitigate some of the Democratic problems. They cannot wipe out the Democratic problems. As I said, Joe Biden's been stuck where he is for a long time. And the benefits you could expect to get by November are going to be incremental.

JARRETT: John Harwood, thank you, John. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Have a great rest of your day, John.

HARWOOD: You bet. JARRETT: All right, the nationwide baby formula shortage, it is not easing up. This afternoon, President Biden will be virtually with major formula manufacturers. They're going to discuss efforts to accelerate domestic production and imports through Operation Fly Formula. Retailers like CVS tell us that the situation is not improving and they're doing all they can to keep those formula cans on their shelves.

ROMANS: Just another frustration for American families and American consumers.

But, coming up, the local prosecutor who just subpoenaed the state of Georgia's top lawyer for disinformation on Donald Trump.

JARRETT: And meet the Italian citizens bold enough to stand up to the mafia.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Georgia prosecutors are turning up the heat on former President Trump. CNN has learned that they have now subpoenaed the state attorney general, Chris Carr, for testimony later this month. Fulton County prosecutors are digging into other Trump's efforts to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the 2020 election results were criminal, and they are particularly interested in Carr because Trump demanded he not rally other Republicans to oppose that bogus lawsuit that Trump had filed seeing to toss out millions of votes for states that President Biden won.

Also, a defeat for special counsel John Durham after a three year investigation into possible wrongdoing in the Trump Russia probe. A federal jury acquitted former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann Tuesday. He had been accused of lying to the FBI during a 2016 meeting.

Sussmann spoke after the verdict.


MICHAEL SUSSMANN, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN LAWYER: I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today. I'm grateful to the members of the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved the justice ultimately prevailed in my case.


ROMANS: Remember, this is all about investigating the investigators. Special counsel John Durham's hunt for wrongdoing in the Trump Russia investigation actually lasted longer than the Mueller probe itself.

[05:25:03] Robert Mueller's investigation took one year in ten months, it cost taxpayers $32 million. John Durham, three years, and one month so far at a cost of $3.8 million.

Important to note on this one, it is still going, and this defeat in the trial raises questions about whether it should continue. Not so much a question of the cost, but the lack of success. In the Durham investigation, a former FBI lawyer was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty. After Sussmann's acquittal yesterday, there's one more case going to trial this fall, that's it.

Compared that to Mueller's scorecard, senior Trump figures like campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Gates, Papadopoulos, two others not even seen here, all either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. Six people serve time in prison, six people. The former pardoned four of them before he left office -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, from the gridiron to the green, some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL are said to compete tonight in the latest version of that match.

Our Andy Scholes is in Las Vegas with a preview.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The sixth edition of "The Match" will once again take place at the Las Vegas strip at the Wynn Golf Club. This time, it is all about the quarterbacks. You have the grisly veterans in Tom Grady and Aaron Rodgers, taking on two of the game's brightest young stars Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen.

JOSH ALLEN, NFL QUARTERBACK: We are not just doing this to do it, like we want to win.

PATRICK MAHOMES, NFL QUARTERBACK: We want to win, like he says, especially those two guys.

AARON RODGERS, NFL QUARTERBACK: I'm not going to let my partner down. He knows I'm a gamer.

TOM BRADY, NFL QUARTERBACK: It's going to be really, fun really challenging. Probably the most challenging one yet.

SCHOLES: And this will be challenging, because for the first time yet, no pro golfers are involved, and fans will be in attendance.

BRADY: I said, are their caddies out? Is there anyone that can help us? He's like no, you guys are totally on your own. So, we're going to be reading each other's putts, I don't know if that is a good thing.

RODGERS: I'm not carrying us, we've got to pull this thing together, man. This is going to be interesting for sure.

SCHOLES: And what is going to make this match even more interesting is the heightened level of thrash talk that is going to take place out here on the course.

ALLEN: We are going to be in their heads, and we are going to force them to hit a couple of shanks, and missed a couple putts I guarantee you that.

BRADY: Josh really hasn't backed much up on the football field in his career, let's be honest, especially playing against me.

MAHOMES: As the day goes on longer and longer, you will see who the real thrash talkers are, and that's the young guys who go out there and kind of handle business.

ALLEN: I think once Tom's script from his team runs out of jokes, I don't think he's going to be able to really bank on his feet like that.

RODGERS: Kermit the frog and Josh, you know, trying to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) talk me and Tom, a couple of old school, you know, grizzled bets. Come on.

SCHOLES: And for Brady, Rodgers, Mahomes and Allen, they better hope they bring their A-golf game because what happens in Vegas, doesn't stay in Vegas when everyone is watching.


JARRETT: All right. Our thanks to Andy for that.

You can watch "The Match" at 6:30 Eastern on our sister network TNT. It is, of course, a production of Turner Sports, which like CNN, is owned by Warner Brothers Discovery.

ROMANS: All right. Just about 20 minutes past the hour. President Biden announcing a new round of weapons for Ukraine.

JARRETT: And the price for saying no to the mafia.