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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: Putin is "Rational Actor" with Irrational Aims; Soon: NATO Leaders Consider Reinforcing Ukraine's Air Defenses; French Government to Order Striking Fuel Workers Back to Work. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It's Wednesday, October 12. I'm Christine Romans.

President Biden says he believes that the Russian leader Vladimir Putin is rational, but in exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Mr. Biden says Putin's objectives, invading Ukraine, were irrational and a serious misjudgment.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think Putin is a rational actor?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he is rational actor who miscalculated significantly.

TAPPER: So if he's not rational, and --

BIDEN: I didn't say he's not rational.

TAPPER: You said the speech is irrational (ph).

BIDEN: I think the speech is --


BIDEN: His objectives were not.

I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he's going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was -- this has been the home of mother Russia, in Kyiv, and he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated.


ROMANS: CNN's Jasmine Wright is live for us this morning, this Wednesday morning in Washington.

Good morning, jasmine. What else did the president have to say about Putin and Ukraine? JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christine. The

president warned of catastrophic mistakes and miscalculations, that Russia and President Putin continue to make these nuclear threats. This insightful interview, Christine, provided fresh insight into the president's mind, as the U.S. grows more concerned, while looking at the escalations happening in Ukraine, caused by Russia.

Now, last week, of course, we noted the president warned of course of nuclear Armageddon, and it was at its highest level in 60 years.

Take a listen to his answer last night, when asked by Tapper about that possible outcome.


TAPPER: How realistic, do you think it is, that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon?

BIDEN: I don't think he will, but it's irresponsible for him to talk about it. The idea that a world leader, of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

TAPPER: Have you directed the Pentagon and other agencies to game out what a response would be?

BIDEN: There's been discussions on that, but I'm not going to do that. That will be irresponsible for me to say what we would or would not do.

TAPPER: Have you asked the Pentagon to gain it out though, I mean, just in case?

BIDEN: The Pentagon didn't have to be asked.


WRIGHT: So there we go, clear answer from President Biden about the U.S.'s readiness. Of course, officials continue to say there's been no change in the nuclear -- excuse me, nuclear posture. But for the last few months, this is important. President Biden and top officials along with Western leaders just before he had this conversation with Jake Tapper, he had a g7 call of members, including Zelenskyy, all talking about not only Putin's rational comes to decisions he would make in the next few months, but also any possible outcome.

So this whole conversation factors into this. No one last thing to note here, President Biden warned that there would be consequences for Saudi Arabia, after they cut that oil deal with Moscow. Of course, that led to the U.S. saying that they now want to re-examine or re- evaluate the relationship with Saudi Arabia, just months after President Biden traveled there in a sign of warming relations.

ROMANS: Yeah, consequences, but he has not laid out exactly what they will be quite yet. Presidents Biden and Putin will both be at the upcoming G20 summit.

Did the president give any indication that they could meet, or under what conditions?

WRIGHT: Yeah, well, the president was clear. He said that he didn't see a reason for them to meet, but officially he has said, depending on what President Putin would want to talk about. Take a listen.


TAPPER: Would you be willing to meet with him at the G20?

BIDEN: Look, I have no intention of meeting with him. But, for example, if he came to me at the G20 and said I want to talk about the release of Griner, I'd meet with him. I mean, it would depend.


WRIGHT: So the president also ultimately said he would believe the President Putin was acting brutally and had committed war crimes, therefore he did not, basically it was a good idea but of course, it would depend on what he wanted to talk about. A very, very insightful interview with Jake Tapper here, Christine.

ROMANS: And Griner, of course, is Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been found guilty, and sentenced to nine years for drug possession in Russia.

All right, thank you so much for that jasmine, nice to see you.

We will have more ahead from Jake's wide ranging interview with the president including Mr. Biden's new admission about the U.S. economy.

Plus, his reaction to the investigation into his son, Hunter, and whether he plans to run for the White House again in 2024.

But right now, NATO defense minister, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are gathering in Brussels. For the top of their agenda, sending new air defense systems to Ukraine in the wake of Russia's deadly airstrikes, all across Ukraine this week.


CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live in London for us.

Salma, where is NATO right now on shoring up Ukraine's air defenses at this point?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, for now, President Zelensky's wish for more air defense systems, that's being fulfilled. The United States has promised to more surface to air missile systems. Those are going to be in Ukraine as quickly as possible, according to White House officials. Germany has also promised for more air defense systems, one of those already delivered, three others being expedited.

You can absolutely expect that these defense ministers are going to be talking about providing even more. And there is a sense of urgency around this. I will tell you why. Since Monday, 30 percent of Ukraine's energy infrastructure has been hit by Russian missiles. It is said some cities in Ukraine, plunging into darkness. You can imagine as we head to the winter months, how much civilian suffering there could be, if Russia continues to target civilian infrastructure.

So that's going to be one of the discussions here among the defense ministers. If President Putin is switching strategies, is the spat of rocket attacks, drone attacks, is this the beginning of President Putin, who is increasingly cornered, and therefore inflicting those losses upon the civilian population of Ukraine?

I will point to one last thing here, which will be a concern to the defense ministers as well. Coincidently, on the same day that the Kerch Bridge blast happened, Russia appointed president Putin, appointed a new commander, for Russia special military operations in Ukraine, a man who is known for its brutality, and is known to inflict again, suffering upon residential areas, civilian populations. That's absolutely going to be at the top of their minds. How do we protect the innocence in Ukraine?

ROMANS: All right. Salma, thank you so much for that, keep us posted.

All right. The Department of Justice is urging the Supreme Court not to intervene in the dispute over classified documents that were seized from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and resort in August. The DOJ wants the court to let stand the federal appeals court order that blocked the special master's access to those records, while the legal challenges play out. Trump's lawyers won the special master to review more than 100 documents which were marked classified. The court could act on this matter within days.

The Sanibel Island causeway to Florida's operational again. A convoy of first responders and bucket trucks across yesterday for the first time since Hurricane Ian damaged it nearly two weeks ago, at least five sections of that bridge, connected to Sanibel and Captiva islands were washed away by the storm. The bridge is currently open to emergency vehicles only. It will open for all traffic, we are told, on October 21st.

All right, now good news from outer space.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh. Oh, wow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awaiting visual confirmation.


ROMANS: NASA says that dart planetary defense mission was a big success. NASA was testing whether it could change the trajectory of an asteroid by slamming a spacecraft into it. And the answer? It is a big yes! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Now, this is a watershed moment for planetary defense, and a watershed moment for humanity.


ROMANS: Scientists say they would've called the mission successful if indeed it could move the trajectory, and shorten the test asteroids orbit by ten minutes. In fact, they shortened by a full 32 minutes, bringing us one step closer to saving our planet is a space rock is ever discovered heading straight for planet Earth.

All right. Just ahead, Herschel Walker facing direct questions about a woman's claim that he paid for her abortion.

Plus, former presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, declaring she's leaving the Democratic Party.

But, first, President Biden on the criminal charges that his son Hunter might be facing.


BIDEN: I have confidence in my son. I love him, he is on the straight and narrow, has been for a couple of years now.




ROMANS: Welcome back.

Investors, economists and banks are all feeling for, and warning about the possibility of a recession. President Biden, though, still think the major recession can be avoided. Here's the president with Jake Tapper.


TAPPER: Should the American people prepare for a recession?

BIDEN: No, look, they have been saying this now every six months they say this. Every six months, they look down the next six months and say what will happen. It has not happened yet.

It has -- there is no -- there's no guarantee that -- I don't think there will be a recession, if there is, it will be a slight recession. That is it will move down slightly. They have been predicting this off and on for the last --

TAPPER: But you just set a slight recession is possible?

BIDEN: It is possible. Look, it is possible. I don't anticipate it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, the president was also asked about his son Hunter Biden's legal troubles.


TAPPER: Our reporting -- CNN's reporting and "The Washington Post" reporting suggest the prosecutors think they could -- they have enough to charge your son, Hunter, for tax crimes and a false statement about a gun purchase. Personally, and politically, how do you react to that?

BIDEN: First of all, I'm proud of my son. This was a kid who got -- not a kid, he is a grown man, he got hooked on, like many families have had happened, hooked on drugs. He has overcome that. He's established a new life.

He is -- I am confident that he is what he says and does are consistent with what happens. And, for example, he wrote a book about his problems, was straightforward about it. I am proud of him.

He came along said -- by the way, he said this thing about a gun, I knew nothing about it. But it turns out, but he made an application to purchase a gun, what happened was, he stay -- you could ask the question, are you on drugs, you used drugs?


He said no, and he wrote about saying no in his book.

TAPPER: Right.

BIDEN: So I have confidence in my son, I love him, he is on the straight and narrow and has been for a couple of years now, and I am just so proud of him.


ROMANS: Many Democrats have warmed up to the idea of the president running for a second term. But with Jake Tapper asked him about his plans for 2024, Mr. Biden did not exactly answer.


TAPPER: The big question of course is when you will make an official announcement about whether or not you around for 2024 for reelection, you think you will make a decision before the end of the year?

BIDEN: Look, I will not make this about my decision, I'll make this about the election. After that's done in November, then I'm going to be in a process to decide.

TAPPER: Is one of the calculations, that you think you are the only one who can beat Donald Trump?

BIDEN: I believe I can beat Donald Trump again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Biden said publicly he intends to run again, but quickly points out that is just an intention, and not a firm decision.

Former Hawaii congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, she says she is leading the Democratic Party. Tulsi Gabbard says it's the culmination of years of being at odds of the party and its policies.


FORMER REP. TULSI GABBARD, HAWAII: I can no longer remain in today's Democratic Party. It is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us, by racialism every issue and stoking anti white racism, who actively worked to undermine our God-given freedoms in shined in our Constitution.


ROMANS: Gabbard endorsed Joe Biden after suspending a presidential campaign in 2020, but had since been a vocal critic of the president. She did not say whether she intends to become a Republican.

All right. Imagine for a moment, President Rock? Ahead, the Hollywood superstar, leaving the door open for a White House run.

And next, out of gas, pump running dry it right now in France.



ROMANS: All right. The French government now stepping into a refinery strike, as gas stations run out of fuel. About one third of France's service stations are low on gas or completely out.

CNN's Jim Bittermann has the latest from Paris.

Where do things stand right now, Jim?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, you can kind of see it here in the background. This is a gas station in the middle of Paris, and people have been lining up here, sometimes as long as two hours, two hours or more. There is a line that goes down the block here, probably at about 500 yards down the block. And it is like this all over Paris, like you said, about a third of the stations in the country are either completely out of gas, or there are different grades available, but not all.

In any case, this is because six out of seven of the refineries in the country are on strike, and the government this morning, has taken action to what they call requisitioning the workers, getting them back to work. This is something they can, do for a critical industry. Although the unions say they will challenge this. Basically they send out notices to the critical workers that they need to run the refineries. And then if they refused to come into work, they can be fined up to $10,000, and put in jail for six months.

So it really forced a hand on the part of the government, whether it will work or not, bring workers back to work. Even if it does work, it will be several days before things go back to normal. So we might be in the same situation over here, at least through the weekend, maybe more as this strike goes on -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. Jim Bittermann, thank you so much, nice to see you this morning.

A stunning testimony Tuesday, in a criminal trial centering on the Steele dossier. A senior FBI analyst telling jurors, the bureau offered retired British spy, Christopher Steele, up to $1 million to prove those explosive allegations in his file, his dossier on Donald Trump.

Supervisory analyst Brian Auten testified Steele never got the money because he refused to give the FBI anything. Auten testifying in the trial, with Igor Danchenko, the primary source for Steele's dossier, he faces counts of lying to the FBI.

Just ahead, Republicans using crime as a campaign weapon in some key midterm races. And the Biden administration looks to shake up the gig economy.



ROMANS: All right. There is new reporting now on those abortion allegations against Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, made by the mother of one of his children. She tells "The Washington Post", she had to press Walker to pay for an abortion in 2009, an abortion that he wanted. Walker, in his campaign, opposes abortion without exception.

Speaking to ABC News, he repeated his previous denials. He accused this woman of fabricating the story.


REPORTER: As you well know, there is a woman who reportedly says she was in a long relationship with you, has a ten-year-old son with you, that you paid for the cost of an abortion. Were you ever aware of her, having an abortion?

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA SENATE: I don't think about an abortion, I know that is a lie, I said it was a lie, and I should just move on. And that's why I say it is sad that people, say they are totally surprised, but you're destroying families. And I said this race is too important for me to give up, for me to stop. So October surprise is not going to faze me.

REPORTER: I know initially last week, you were saying you weren't even sure who the woman was.

WALKER: Which is true.

REPORTER: But at this point, you now know who she is?

WALKER: Yes, yes.

REPORTER: Have you had a conversation with her?

WALKER: Not at all, so I did not know who it was until last week. And then I went oh, that's not true.

But they still ran with it, so I said you know what, that is not true. That is a lie, I called that a lie. And right now, I said I will go back to campaigning, and people can continue to do whatever they want with this story.

REPORTER: If I could get you to say a yes or a no. Did you ever have a conversation with this woman, at anytime about an abortion?


REPORTER: Did you ever, to your knowledge, give money to pay for the cost of an abortion?