Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Elon Musk Completes $44 Billion Takeover of Twitter; Biden Pivots to Pocket Message with Warning About GOP Rule; Yellen: Inflation "Unacceptably High and Americans Feel That"; Putin Downplays Fears of Nuclear Standoff with West. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's Friday morning, we are off to an early start with Elon Musk taking over Twitter. His first move, firing the bosses.

Barack Obama back on the campaign trail. Can the former president fire up enough Democrats just days before the midterms?

And Jeff Bezos takes $23 million personal hit. The bigger story is, what Amazon's sales outlook says about the U.S. economy.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We began with a titanic sea change in the world of social media. Billionaire Elon Musk completing his $44 billion takeover of Twitter. Two sources tell CNN that Musk launched his reign by firing the Twitter CEO and two other top executives.

CNN's Clare Duffy is with me here this morning.

He spent months trying to get out of this deal, Clare, and now he owns it and he is the boss.

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Yeah, I think for Elon Musk, this deal, to use his analogy, it really sunk in for him this week that he is now -- will be owning Twitter, and we have heard that the deal is closed, it is happening. He spent time at Twitter's headquarters this week, meeting with employees, essentially a letter to advertisers yesterday trying to give them a sense of what his plans are here.

Now the question changes from is he going to buy Twitter to what is going to do is Twitter? There are a lot of questions about his plans here.

ROMANS: Yeah, absolutely. He posted this big, sort of I guess mission statement at one point he said that Musk said he wants to take a free speak maximalist approach to content moderation, but the seems to be giving advertisers the jitters. Where is he now? Will we be seeing Trump and other people on the platform? DUFFY: I think Elon Musk did realize that advertising still makes up

89 percent of the average of the revenue. He previously said that he hates advertising, but now he needs advertising. I think this letter yesterday was a way to try to reassure us advertisers that, despite his plans to relax content moderation, he still wants it to be a safe place.

He said that this is obviously -- Twitter cannot become a free for all hellscape where anything could be said.

And so, yes, I think he is trying to walk the line here, but I think that we also see Trump, and also banned, controversial figures returning to the platform.

ROMANS: He is got to figure out how to light in the content moderation, but not let it be a -- that as what is been a struggle for all these platforms in the beginning. He is going to come in cold and think that he has the magic formula.

DUFFY: Yeah, it's a good -- it is the good question, right? Like social media platforms have been working on this for years, and why should he have it more success of this issue?

ROMANS: Right.

DUFFY: So, he has been talking about wanting to have all legal speech on Twitter, which sort of sounds simple when you say, about the laws of content moderation varies widely from country to country. The European Union just passed a strict regulation about this. So, I think it will be a bit more complicated for him.

ROMANS: All right. We will certainly watch Twitter. No longer listed, it is now in private hands, his hands.

Thank you so much. Nice to see you, Clare.

Just a week and a half into the midterms, Obama is leaning into his role as the most popular Democrat on the national stage. Today, he'll be in Atlanta supporting Raphael Warnock reelection, and Stacey Abrams for governor. Obama is also appearing in this rare campaign ad for Pennsylvania Democrats.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: So when the faith of our democracy, a woman's right to choose, are on the line, vote Democrat.


ROMANS: President Biden and Vice President Harris making a rare appearance together at the party's independents dinner in Philadelphia tonight. Biden now sharpening the economic point of his midterm message. He warned that Republicans, what Republicans will do if they control the Congress, including cuts to Social Security, and refusing to lift the debt ceiling.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are determined to cut Social Security and Medicare, and they're willing to take down the economy over it. There is nothing, nothing that will create more chaos or do more damage to the American economy if that were to happen.


ROMANS: CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington.

Good Friday morning, Jasmine.

It does seem like Democrats are moving toward pocketbook issues in these final days before the midterms.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They are, Christine, and it is born out of the political reality that despite whatever improvement Democrats feel like they have done to the economy while Biden has been in office, from low in unemployment, to the high GDP numbers we saw yesterday, the fact is that the economy and inflation remain their worst issue, just heading into the midterm election in 11 days.


So, this closing message from President Biden that we heard yesterday in Syracuse, it did two things. First, it argued that things are not just that bad. Secondly, it focused less on the accomplishments that he had in office, Christine, and focused more on what havoc the Republicans could greet if they were in control of Congress.

Now, President Biden using a little bit of concern, and a little bit of fear here, trying to motivate voters. He said that Republicans control would be a ticking time bomb under the economy. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Tax credits, for lower energy bills gone. Corporate minimum tax, gone. Under the Republican plan some big corporations are going to go back to paying zero again. That is the plan.

I would argue that it is reckless and irresponsible, and will make inflation worse if they succeed. And then, there are coming after Social Security.


WRIGHT: So we heard there from the president, trying to draw that contrast as some Democrats fear that some of those swing votes may break for their opponents going opposite of Democrats. Of course, we will see the White House bring their full night tonight in Pennsylvania, where the president and vice president are going on the campaign trail. Of course we have not seen the much together in the last few weeks as they have been going separately, trying to fan out across the country, motivate voters to come to the ballot, but here they will be putting their might into Pennsylvania, a very important state for Democrats. One of the seats they can hope they can flip from Republican to

Democrats, with John Fetterman facing off with Mehmet Oz, just in a few days here, really, as Democrats and the president has spent a lot of time trying to save up losses both in Pennsylvania and across the country as they try to maintain control over both the Senate and the House.

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney has endorsed a Democratic colleague in Michigan and will campaign for her next week. Incumbent Elissa Slotkin is in a tight race with Republican state lawmaker Tom Barrett. Cheney calls Slotkin a good and honorable public servant. Cheney lost to a primary public challenger when she after she docked called out Donald Trump in his role on January 6th.

An arrest and a break in at the headquarter of Arizona's Democratic candidate for governor, Katie Hobbs. Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Dos Reis now in custody. An incident report obtained by CNN says Dos Reis told authorities he just need a place to stay for the night, because he was cold.

Hobbs and her Republican opponent Kari Lake trading barbs after the arrest. The Hobb's campaign statement says: Kari Lake's preposterous allegation that this break-in was staged is unfounded and her refusal to condemn the threats that become common in our politics continues to sow chaos.

Blake, firing back.


KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GOV. CANDIDATE: She is willing to make up complete bogus stories. She knew that I had nothing to do with that break in. And yet, she perpetuated that lie.


ROMANS: Phoenix police said the suspect was arrested after a patrol officer recognized him from surveillance video and realized that he was already in jail for another unrelated burglary.

All right. There is more evidence that energized electorate in the midterm, the latest election data shows more than 13.8 million ballots have been cast in 44 states during the pre-election voting. The largest number of votes, 1.9 million, are in Florida. California, Georgia and Texas have all topped 1 million votes ahead of the midterm elections.

House lawmakers will finally get a look at former President Trump's tracks records. A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Trump's request to block the release. In affirmed a ruling by three charges the summer.

The decision clears the way for the IRS to turn over Trump's tax returns from 2015 to 2020 to the House Ways and Mans Committee. The Supreme Court could still intervene if Trump appeals.

President Biden now sharpening his midterm message, but is it too little too late in the race?

Plus, Kim Jong-un testing the West with two more missiles, will nuclear tests follow?

And next the U.S. treasury secretary telling the hard truth.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Inflation is very high, it is unacceptably high. Americans feel that every day.





BIDEN: It's working compared to what the very conservative Republicans are offering these days. Let's just take a look at the facts. When I took office, the economy was in ruins. My predecessor was the first president since Herbert Hoover, not a joke, to lose jobs in the entirety of his administration.


ROMANS: President Biden seizing on the showing the U.S. economy growing after two quarters of decline, and delivering a warning about putting Republicans in charge of Congress.

In an exclusive CNN interview, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that the news is good, but we are not out of the woods.

Here is Phil Mattingly.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Democrats scramble to coalesce around an economic message to hang on to their congressional majorities --

JANET YELLEN, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: I don't see signs of a recession in this economy at this point.

MATTINGLY: -- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sitting down with CNN to deliver her own.

YELLEN: We have unemployment at a 50-year low. There are two job vacancies for every American who is looking for work.

We have solid household finances, business finances, banks that are well capitalized. And we've been creating average 300,000 jobs a month.

MATTINGLY: It's an economic scorecard the hardly tracks with an exceedingly unsettled electorate.

The discontent seems to be real. The feelings about the direction of the economy seem to be largely negative. Why?

YELLEN: Inflation is very high. It's unacceptably high. And Americans feel that every day.


MATTINGLY: The split screen that has weighed down Democrats for months.


On the day the U.S. economy delivered a bounce back quarter of growth, Republican campaign ads continue to hammer inflation that remains near a four-decade high. Soaring costs driving the economy to the top of voter concerns, a reality with no near-term solution that has clouded not just Democrats' midterm prospects --

I understand what you're saying in terms of the time horizon. Yours is not very helpful when there's midterm elections in 12 days. I know you don't come from a political background here, but how much does that weigh into the policy process that you guys pursue?

YELLEN: Well, as I said, we're doing everything that we can to supplement what the Fed is doing to bring inflation down. And medium term, we have an historic investment in the strength of our economy, the passage of three very important bills.

MATTINGLY: But also what officials view as a historically rapid recovery.

YELLEN: These are problems we don't have because of what the Biden administration has done. So, often one doesn't get credit for problems that don't exist.

MATTINGLY: All as Biden's legislative wins have driven tens of billions of dollars in private sector investment to manufacturing across the country.

Is the kind of message at this point, to some degree, we've done the work, be patient, it's coming?

YELLEN: Yes, but we're beginning to see repaired bridges come on line, not in every community. Pretty soon, many communities are going to see roads improved, bridges repaired that have been falling apart. We're seeing money flow into research and development, which is really an important source of long-term strength to the American economy.

And America's strength is going to increase, and we're going to become a more competitive economy.


ROMANS: That's Phil Mattingly with treasury secretary. Just 11 days to go until the midterms.

Let's bring in "Axios" managing editor, Margaret Talev.

Nice to see you, Margaret.


ROMANS: So President Biden finally delivering the message that it's Bernie Sanders has been urging Democrats to push on, to zero in on the economy. Will it work?

TALEV: Yeah, that's what we've been seeing yesterday in Syracuse for sure. You know, he's kind to portray Democrats as the party that are going to rebuild and modernize the industrial manufacturing base, things like semiconductors. And Micron where he was yesterday, building up a under million dollar chip plant those, were thousands of jobs that are -- you know, jobs of the future and all those kinds of stuff.

The challenge that he's going to have is that, when you are talking about things like Janet Yellen, she is talking about is there going to be a soft landing for the economy, Biden talking about the CHIPS spill, these are kind of economic theories. I think that most voters, as they are going to the polls, are thinking about gas prices and inflations. What is recession mean? They are not thinking about how many consecutive quarters the economy would be shrinking, they are thinking about whether they're going to lose their jobs.

So how do translate that complex message into a guttural message, that voters can take to the polls? You are also trying to argue that, if you are a Democrat, the Republicans are going to take you backwards. Voters are still trying to feel like they're going forward.

So, it is hard to thread that needle, but you are certainly seeing him emphasize the economy and he is doing it in a place where he can potentially help Democrats.

ROMANS: Yeah, I think as Phil so perfectly put it, the scorecard for the administration doesn't match the mood or, the way people are feeling, and that is the ultimate disconnect here.

You know, the president and vice president are going to be in Pennsylvania to fundraise for John Fetterman. Former President Obama, he will be on the campaign trail in Atlanta with Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock today.

Will it energize undecided voters?

TALEV: I mean, that is the question. You are really seeing this spike from the message. As we are seeing Biden put it very strongly towards the economy, and we keep saying consistently that that is how the Democrats want to be the closing message. If there is one guy in the Democratic Party who can actually focus on

the sanctity of the elections, the rule of law, and women's reproductive rights, it's going to be Barack Obama. That is -- when he is in Georgia today, when he is in Detroit, Milwaukee, Vegas, and then back in Pennsylvania next week, you are going to see him talk about some of those court issues that are helping Democrats more over the summer.

The idea of down battle races, why it is important to vote for secretary of state, so that you are not putting election deniers on the ballot, or these down ballot races across the states.

But that is the effort that they're trying to turn out independent voters, women voters, voters of color, and it's the final push.


ROMANS: Final push, 11 days to go. Senator Chuck Schumer called on a hot mic speaking with the president. Listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It looks like the debate didn't hurt us too much in Pennsylvania, so that's good.


ROMANS: Talking about that debate between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz. John Fetterman who's just five months out recovering from a stroke. I guess that's Chuck Schumer's opinion, that his performance, is stumbling on that debate stage, did not hurt them.

TALEV: A lot of -- Democrats are concerned with they do not know how much it hurt, but they do not think it helped. In the closing days for Biden's purpose in Pennsylvania and Harris's purposes to refocus the race, not just in Pennsylvania but nationally, and who wins that Senate race, and get the focus away from that to -- what Fetterman it's doing is trying to own it, saying that that was our thing for me to do, and I'm going to push through your micro-targeting adds an individual cities in Pennsylvania, again just trying to get past that debate into a closing argument.

ROMANS: All right. Margaret Talev, nice to see you. A lot to talk about in the next 11 days and beyond, of course. Thanks, Margaret.

All right, 20 minutes past the hour. Quick hits across America. The sheriff in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has turned over his findings in the "Rust" movie shooting. A cinematographer was accidentally shot and killed by Alec Baldwin last year on the set. It's now left to prosecutors whether to bring criminal charges.

A family of eight, including six children, found dead in a house fire near Tulsa. Police are now conducting a homicide investigation. A court is clear the way for Richmond, Virginia to remove its last Confederate statue, the statue of a general, A.P. Hill, will go to a museum. His remains under the site will go to a cemetery. All right. Russia's Vladimir Putin now says he never said anything

about using nuclear weapons. Hear for yourself, next.

And Tom Brady now facing an entirely new challenge, at least for him, losing.



ROMANS: Vladimir Putin taking some jabs at the U.S. and its allies as he presses his war in Ukraine. In a speech Thursday, he accused the West of playing a dangerous, bloody, and dirty game by blaming Russia for the world's problems.


PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): We are standing out of historical frontier. Ahead is the most dangerous, unpredictable and at the same time the most important decade since the end of World War II.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Yeah, he talked about this being one of the world and dangerous and uncertain times since World War II. I mean, he's the reason. He is the one who invaded Ukraine in a completely unprovoked manner.


ROMANS: CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Odesa, Ukraine.

Fred what else about Putin's speech stood out?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Christine. Well, first of all, one of the things that stood out was that it was an extremely long speech he gave yesterday at that club. About three and a half hours of Vladimir Putin using to give his take on what is currently going on here in Ukraine, but also as you put it, wrapping into the West as well, talking about the fact that he believed that Russia was always very sincere in trying to get better relations with the West, but it was always the West that negated all of the proposals.

Also, he said that the Russians were not against Western elites as he put it, but simply wanted to ensure that Russia's right to exist. Obviously, the situation to here on the ground in Ukraine is a very different, one Russia invading this country.

And one of the really interesting things that he said as well is that he claimed that Russia had never said that they would be willing to use nuclear weapons or never threatened that, one of the things that we have to keep in mind as we've been covering this conference is several days into the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on heightened alert. And then when he started mobilizing troops he said that the threat of nuclear was, quote, not a bluff, that Russia is not bluffing. Here's more on what Vladimir Putin said in that speech last night.


PUTIN: Russia is just defending its right to exist and to freely develop. Power over the world is what the so-called, West, is banking on. But this is a dangerous game. We never intentionally said anything about the possibility that Russia could use nuclear weapons.


PLEITGEN: Meanwhile, Christine, the Ukrainians are saying with the things that Vladimir Putin has been saying in his speech, and of course some other occasions as well. They're giving her answer here on the battlefield, there say that they are stranding strong, especially here in the south. Of course, there was some talk about the Ukrainians taking the key city of Kherson as fast as possible. I was actually on the front lines on the battlefield there yesterday, in the trenches with Ukrainian soldiers.

And they say right now, it's a really tough battle because the Russians are digging in. But what they do believe is that they are going to be taking that city or being able to take that city, possibly before the end of this year. Also, this warning proceed, Ukraine's defense ministry says they believe around 1,000 new Russian recruits, newly mobilized people already on the front lines with other troops here in the Kherson region.

ROMANS: Oh, interesting.

All right, Fred Pleitgen thank you for your excellent reporting stay safe there. Thanks, Fred.

All right. North Korea firing twos ballistic missiles a short time ago, the regime's 28th missile launch of this year. Officials in Washington and Seoul believe Kim Jong-un is about to conduct a tactical nuclear test.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me this morning from Hong Kong.

What else do we know Kristie about this launch?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, we know that tension is certainly rising in the region after North Korea fired.