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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Tehran Delivers Deadline Response To Draft Nuclear Deal; Calls Intensify For Russia To Withdraw Troops From Nuclear Plant; Clock Ticks Down For Biden Decision On Student Loan Debt. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 16, 2022 - 05:30   ET



SUSAN ANDERSON, FREELANCE JOURNALIST (via Webex by Cisco): It offends her that we seem to have allowed a person to thwart an election. And so, that means a lot to her and there are a lot of different ways you could pursue that --


ANDERSON: -- cause.

ROMANS: Of course, it is a critically important race there today. We'll watch it and so will you.

Susan Anderson, thank you so much for your perspective this morning. Nice to see you.

ANDERSON: My pleasure. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin trying to pull off a political comeback in today's primary there. And next, what Tehran now says about reviving the Iran nuclear deal.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

This morning, Iran is closer than ever to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. That's according to Tehran's negotiating team advisor. He says there are a few remaining issues but they're not very difficult to resolve. Now Tehran is awaiting a response from the White House.

Senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen joins us from Moscow. Fred, what concessions is Iran looking for?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's three major areas. And one of the things, Christine, that we have to -- we have to mention is that the Iranians do believe that they are very close to an -- to an agreement taking place and then the Iran nuclear agreement being back in full force. Because, of course, right now, it is the U.S. that's outside of the deal. The other countries trying to bring the U.S. back in.

And those three, sort of, remaining issues are there's a probe the International Atomic Energy Agency essentially accusing Iran of activity at undisclosed sites -- nuclear activity. The Iranians want that probe to go away. They say that probe is unfair.

But then, when it comes to the actual agreement itself, they say that there's two key areas for them that are very important. On the one hand, they say that sanctions relief, if it's going to happen, needs to be real sanctions relief and not something that would be undermined, for instance, by the United States, by scaring off companies from doing business with Iran or countries from doing business with Iran. The Iranians want some safeguards there.

And then also, as far as the U.S. remaining in the agreement, obviously, the Iranians feel burned by the fact that the Trump administration left the Iran nuclear agreement. And they say they understand -- this is also coming, by the way, from an -- from an advisor to that negotiating team of Iran. They say they can't -- they can't stop the U.S. from leaving the deal again in the future but they want to make sure that there's a price. They want to make sure that they would be compensated if the U.S. leaves the deal once again in the future.

Now, the Iranians are saying that a lot of that is actually in the language of the current proposal that's on the table. They say just have a few additions and they believe that it's something that all the other parties can agree to.

But, of course, we know from covering this for a very long time, Christine, that it is very complicated. Of course, all the sides don't trust one another.


PLEITGEN: But right now, there does seem to be a good degree of optimism, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, optimism, indeed. We know you'll follow it for us, Fred. Thank you.

Also this morning, calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are intensifying. Repeated shelling near that plant in southeastern Ukraine have ratcheted up fears of a potential nuclear disaster.

CNN's David McKenzie joins us live from Kyiv, Ukraine. David, what is Russia's response?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russia's response is to say that there haven't been any moves to get inspectors in, and they blame the U.N., Christine, on not getting that to happen. But the U.N. secretary-general's office has rubbished those claims. They say that they need to get inspectors from the International Atomic Energy inside as soon as possible. They say they have the logistical support and security support to do that. Here's the situation. That nuclear facility to the south of where I'm standing has seen repeated strikes and artillery shell attacks in recent days. Russia blames Ukraine. Ukraine blames Russia. But the threat remains of a possible meltdown, at worst-case scenario, or some kind of leak because of damage to the power supply.

President Zelenskyy, here in Ukraine, says more needs to be done by the international community.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: (through translator): If now, the world lacks the strength and determination to protect one nuclear power plant, it means that the world will lose to terrorists -- yield to nuclear blackmail.


MCKENZIE: At this point, there's no sign of inspectors getting in there, but negotiations continue and the U.N. appears to be trying to broker some kind of settlement, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie. Thank you for that.

Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Forecasters are now warning of an extreme heat belt that could affect millions of Americans. And forgiving student loan debt. What's fair for borrowers and taxpayers?



ROMANS: This afternoon, President Biden will sign the sweeping climate and health care bill into law. The Inflation Reduction Act includes the largest climate investment in U.S. history -- more than $400 billion. It also gives Medicare the power to negotiate certain prescription drug prices and caps out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors. And it aims to reduce the deficit by imposing taxes on big corporations.

The bill passed the House and Senate along party lines, of course, last week after months of negotiations.

And there are just over two weeks to go until the pause of federal student loan payments expires. Borrowers have faced no payments and no interest accruing for more than two years since the start of the pandemic. Now they're anxiously awaiting a decision from President Biden on whether the moratorium will be extended and whether any of their debts will be forgiven.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president understands how student loans could affect a family and how the pressure of that can really be a lot and put a lot of weight on a family's purse or economic situation. So, we understand that.



ROMANS: That's the president's spokesperson last week.

Democrats and advocates are pushing for loan cancellations up to $50,000 per borrower. The White House says the president is considering extending the pause on student loan payments and possibly canceling up to $10,000 only for borrowers earning under $125,000 a year. The White House says a decision will be announced before the end of the month.

Let's bring in Greg Valliere, chief U.S. strategist for AGF Investments. Nice to see you, Greg.

So, the president has to decide not only what's fair for student borrowers --


ROMANS: -- but what's fair for taxpayers? How does he balance those interests? A $10,000 forgiveness would still result in $321 billion forgiven in federal student loan debt.

VALLIERE: This is a tricky one, Christine. I think that for a lot of Americans who paid all of their loans, they could feel they were not treated fairly. For a lot of Republicans who worry about the deficit, this does add (audio gap) and plunging. So, as we've seen on so many issues, the president has not decided. He has to decide within the next week or two.

ROMANS: Yes. There are some who think he'll just continue to pause that -- put that pause back on. I mean, Trump did it twice; this president has done it four times. Just keep that going down the road.

But there was a campaign promise to forgive student loan debt. This has been something that Democrats have really wanted, especially progressives.

What would be the political implications in the midterms and beyond if --

VALLIERE: Well, your --

ROMANS: -- Biden ultimately provides no relief for borrowers?

VALLIERE: Well, he will do some. I think it's virtually certain he'll extend the moratorium on payments until the end of the year. If I'm not mistaken, there's an election in November, so he'll certainly extend it past then.

Beyond that, I think $10,000 in forgiveness is quite likely. More than (audio gap) is not likely. So, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and others will say it's insufficient.

ROMANS: Would $10,000 bring younger voters to the polls in November?

VALLIERE: Well, that's the key question, isn't it? I think some younger voters would, but there is an awful lot of people that -- far more -- two or three million people who have loans of $100,000, so they're clearly not going to be covered. But I think some relief would be a plus for the administration politically.

ROMANS: One of the arguments against it, of course, is that it doesn't address the core problem, which is universities charging too much money and people borrowing more money than they can foreseeably -- you know, reasonably pay back. That's a whole separate structural problem. This would just be filling in the potholes, I guess, in the near term and helping people pay their -- you know, get into the middle class instead of paying all those student loan debt.

Let's talk about the Inflation Reduction Act today. In the doldrums of August, a legislative win for this White House. Where does the Biden agenda go from here? We know next month, heading into the midterms, they're really going to go out across the country trying to sell these wins.

VALLIERE: Yes, I think so. I think this is a very big deal today inside the beltway. I'm not sure it's a big deal if people are paying attention around the country.

I think the big story around the country is what we've seen -- yesterday, especially -- on the price of oil. To see oil drop by this much it means, inevitably, the price of gasoline is going to fall further -- maybe another 20 or 30 cents by the end of September. That will have a bigger impact.

ROMANS: Yes. We're going to have more on that soon -- a whole segment on what's happening with the price of oil coming up in just a minute.

Greg Valliere of AGF Investments, nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much.

VALLIERE: OK, you bet.

ROMANS: All right.

Two popular workout giants spinning into trouble. More on SoulCycle and Peloton. And former Trump advisor John Bolton not holding back on the former president. He joins "NEW DAY" live.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares closed mixed. Europe has opened higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are honestly barely moving here. Stocks finished higher Monday as the Dow posted its longest winning streak in nearly three months. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also sitting at almost 4-month highs. Investors brushed aside a move by China's central bank to cut interest rates as that country faces an economic slowdown.

Walmart set to release quarterly earnings this morning. America's largest retailer has long been seen as a top inflation gauge, particularly in the retail sector. Last month, Walmart slashed its profit forecast citing concern inflation fears will prompt shoppers to spend more on essentials like food and less on electronics and other discretionary goods.

Americans are dipping into their savings to cope with inflation and the rising cost of living. According to a new survey by New York Life, the average American withdrew $617 in savings from the beginning of January through the end of June to cover everyday costs like groceries and gas bills. The survey found nearly 90 percent of adults are concerned there will be a recession soon.

Oil prices dropping below $90.00 a barrel after weak Chinese economic data renewed fears of a global recession and a slowdown in fuel demand. A decline in crude cost also coming with the prices going down at the pump. Drivers have now seen gas prices fall for 61 straight days.

CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London with more. And it's so interesting. You have oil prices now, right, back below where they were before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That's a remarkable turn of events and a lot of analysts didn't see coming.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not, Christine. This is now -- WTI -- back where it was at the very early days of February, several weeks before the invasion of Ukraine.


Now, a lot of what pushed that big gap lower on Monday was a demand story, essentially. As you say, worries about China, one of the biggest global consumers of oil. We saw the central bank there cut several key rates. Retail sales there dropped. We saw more signs of decline in the property market, which is a major part of the Chinese economy.

And less, though, but still lingering concerns about the U.S. economy were arrived by a report on New York area manufacturing, which took a huge slump so far in the month of August. So that revived its concerns about the U.S. economy.

Now, we have gas prices in the U.S., Christine, below $4.00. Bear in mind, they peaked over $5.00 in June. So a big impact here and we should see this decline in oil price trickle through to those gas prices. Will it continue to go lower is the key question for people about to get in their cars this morning.

I think there are several key factors here. One is, obviously, it's coming to the end of the U.S. driving season -- summer driving season. That is a mark in favor of oil prices continuing to go lower. Recession fears continue to linger.

And there's a supply side issue here as well -- Iran. If the Iran deal is revived, that could see a million --


SEBASTIAN: -- barrels of sanctioned oil come back on the market. That could bring prices lower still.

ROMANS: Yes. I was talking to an energy analyst the other day who said that he thought that maybe prices would level out here for gas prices in the U.S. and maybe start to climb a few pennies. But because of the crude oil response to China's weakness that maybe -- you know, maybe you'll have gas prices continue to tick lower. We shall see.

Clare, nice to see you. Thank you.

All right, the Yankees get shut out for the second-straight night and frustrations are starting to boil over.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, the Yankees -- they still have a 10-game lead in the division so no reason to panic just yet. But they certainly have not been playing their best baseball recently, losing 10 of their last 12 games.

Last night, they were playing Tampa Bay. In the bottom of the third, Anthony Rizzo gets hit in the thigh but the umpire said he leaned into the pitch. Rizzo and Aaron Boone would argue but the at-bat would continue. It would end up with Rizzo striking out. He would then take his frustrations out on his poor batting helmet.

The Yankees shut out for the second-straight game 4-0. They've scored just eight runs in their last six games.

All right, the only fans likely more frustrated last night were Angels fans. Tied at two in the top of the ninth, first and third, Seattle's Julio Rodriguez hits a screamer to second and it's dropped. The Angels try to home. They get Sam Haggerty in a rundown but then they botch it and also Mitch Haniger to get to third.

Rough season for those Angels fans. They lost that game by a final of 6-2.

Now, the Dodgers' Mookie Betts, meanwhile, making a fan's day. This fan had a poster that read "Mookie, wanna play catch?" Well, in the third inning, Mookie did just that to warm up. Pretty cool right there.

All right, the Little League softball World Series, meanwhile, wrapping up yesterday. And Midway Little League from outside Waco, Texas, adding yet another title to its collection. They rallied from three runs down to beat the team from Delmar, Maryland. Zaneria Hughes drove in the winning run and also pitched the final out.

Texas has won 14 World Series titles overall since it began back in 1974. Midway has 12 of those titles.

All right, the college football season is just 11 days away and for the second straight year, Alabama will open number one in the AP Poll. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young among the stars returning for a Tide team that lost in the national title game. Coach Nick Sabin actually called last year a rebuilding year for his program.

Ohio State and defending national champion Georgia are the only other teams to get first-place votes in this year's poll. Clemson and Notre Dame rounding out the top five.

All right. And finally, LeBron James and son Bronny putting on a show in Paris. The 17-year-old going the length of the floor and throwing it down for the massive slam, posterizing a defender. That had everyone fired up in the arena and on social media, including dad. LeBron tweeting afterwards, "Oh my goodness Bronny!" with 10 shocked emojis.

And, you know, Christine, the thought is LeBron's going to hang around in the NBA until his son Bronny can get there. We'll wait and see if that happens. But hey, if any -- if yesterday was any indication, Bronny certainly has the flare for the dramatic --

ROMANS: Right.

SCHOLES: -- in terms of making the big leagues.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, thanks so much. Nice to see you --

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: -- Andy Scholes.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" starts right now.