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Consumer Price Inflation Hits New 40-Year High In March; New Book Details Friction Between Trump & McConnell In 2020; Putin: Talks With Ukraine At "Dead End," Vows To Continue War. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 13, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Is there a different way to maybe you talked about the logistics challenge to get things over here to the east more quickly?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, we can solve that problem once we get the authorization from Congress to push more equipment in there. I want to remind Americans, we're spending $300 million a day on the war in Iraq. Now thus far, we spent 2.4 billion, we're talking about another 700 million, that's still less than 10 days of the war in Iraq. We get -- need to get as much equipment over there.

And what I'm talking about, I'm talking about artillery, I'm talking about M1 tanks that can potentially be positioned in Poland and other places to push T-72s from Poland into the Ukraine. We're talking about S-300s. We're talking about Air Defense Artillery systems. We're talking about more drones like the switchblade drone that we've talked about before. We need to make sure that Ukrainians can leverage technology to their advantage.

Right now, that's one of the reasons they're winning this war. They have a technological edge on the Russians. And we need to make sure industry continues that trend.

KING: One of the things is I just want to bring these pictures of the Russian forces back into play here. Again, these ones in Russia, a lot of people have talked about that we haven't seen anything like this since World War II, meaning this many armored vehicles, this many tanks moving. The Ukrainian say what they believe will play out in the east will be as brutal as the tank wars, the ground wars of World War II. From what you see here, do you believe that?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. I think it's going to be a pitched battle, open terrain. True. There's going to be long fields of fire from the Russians, but there also going to be long fields and fire for the Ukrainians. Again, it's about pushing as much heavy equipment out there, artillery, tanks, helicopters, drones, to enable the Ukrainians to take the fight to the Russians. And again, that key town of Kramatorsk, whoever controls Kramatorsk is getting control Eastern Europe or Eastern Ukraine.

KING: General, appreciate your insights coming in. We'll continue the conversation.

Up next for us though, juggling crises foreign and domestic, President Biden accuses Vladimir Putin of genocide, and he blames the Russian president for higher prices at the pump.



KING: Another escalation in President Biden's characterization of Vladimir Putin's conduct in Ukraine. This one as the President also blamed the Russian leader for a big problem here at home.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of us should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commit genocide in a half a world away.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights. Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast and Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal. Let's start with the international part of that first, Vladimir Putin is the villain for Joe Biden, obviously for what's happening in Ukraine, but increasingly for inflation, political problem here. But let's start with the international part.

The President then talks to reporters later, essentially said, look, that's my personal opinion, the lawyers, the international lawyers will decide whether it meets the test of the International Criminal Tribunal or some international tribunal. But we've seen this increasingly his personal disdain.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's right. I mean, this is an escalation of the rhetoric, right? I mean, we've seen him calling a war criminal. We've seen him say he shouldn't be in power. Genocide is a word that the White House had not been using until yesterday. And I thought it was interesting, as we all saw that, while he made clear this was his personal feeling, he thinks the rabbit is evident. You know, they were being very clear that there's a legal process this has to go through, but he's not walking away from it. He's saying he thinks this is the case, he thinks that this is going on,

KING: Right. Which puts obviously pressure on anybody from the United States government, and other international resources to gather --

LUCEY: Sends a very clear message international community, to Putin, to other allies about how Joe Biden is feeling about this.

KING: And so let's listen to the escalation, Catherine, just spoke of, because at the end, where the President also adds in the domestic issues, but this has been building for some time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Putin a war criminal, sir? Are you ready to call him a war criminal?

BIDEN: Oh, I think he is a war criminal.

The man who, quite frankly, I think is a war criminal. And I think it will meet the legal definition of that as well.

For God's sake, this man cannot remain power.

Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commit genocide in a half a world away.


KING: That part yesterday is interesting in the sense that, look, inflation is a major problem for every American consumer and family right now. And it's also hugely a political problem for the President and the Democrats, because, you know, he's in charge, he's in charge at this moment, people are taking it. Putin's price hike, he calls it. But that's partly true. Gas prices have gone up because of the war in Ukraine. But also inflation was a problem, including higher energy prices before the war as well.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that's the thing. And you've heard this message from Democrats. I think going back around two weeks now is when they started with the Putin's price hike, rhetoric, and, you know, one of our reporter, our Seleprano (ph) spoke to Celinda Lake about this. And you're right, it does, it does create a villain.

However, Democrats are in charge. And that is who is getting blamed by voters for these price hikes, both at the pump and also at the grocery store and every faction of their life. They were promised a return to normalcy after COVID after two really, really hard years, and it hasn't happened. And whether or not is completely Joe Biden's fault. I mean that is up for debate. I think a lot of particularly Democratic voters would say no, that's not true. Republicans would say, yes, it is true. It's falling at his feet. It's falling at the Democrats feet because they control Washington right now.

KING: Right. Part of it is, some people argue the Biden spending, the stimulus spending contribute to it including Larry Summers for example. But the base of it is the economy, global economy shut down during COVID. And then when you bring it back you automatically create inflationary pressures because of supply and demand. But the numbers, to your point, the Democrats are in charge. This is the consumer price index for March, March to March, if you will.


All items up 8.5 percent, energy costs up 32 percent year to year, or you can look at it this way, you look across whether it's fuel oil, whether it's gas, whether it's used cars, whether it's hotels, whether it's airfare. And Catherine Lucey, that's the hard part for the Biden White House politically. Those are all things you encounter every day. Maybe your wages did go up, but they probably didn't go up as fast as those prices are going up. And you see that every day.

LUCEY: That's the problem. Wages are up. Jobs are up. The White House wants to point to that. But yes, people buy milk every day. They drive by a gas station every day. And they are feeling this. And when you look at polling, prices are the number one thing that people are looking at prices, the economy. These are the biggest concerns for voters right now.

And Republicans who were feeling increasingly very optimistic about the midterms have been very disciplined about hammering Biden on this, really putting a lot of pressure on Democrats. And so part of what you saw yesterday, the other thing that happened in Iowa State was the President announced this effort to try and lower gas prices or, you know, another move to trying to help with gas prices. They're trying to find any way they can to get at this.

KUCINICH: And this is why you see him at this roadshow, right, where he's in Iowa, he'll be in North Carolina, he's supposed to address inflation there and talk about manufacturing, really getting -- trying to get out in front of the cameras in the country to sell what they are trying to do to mitigate these problems whether --

LUCEY: And options are limited. But they're trying.

KUCINICH: They're trying.

KING: Right. And part of this, yes, showing the early part when he said inflation will be transitory that hurt him. So now showing at least I get it, I get it. But I'm trying to do everything I can. It may not be enough to do anything quickly. That's -- we shall see if it works. We'll see. We'll see.

Up next for us, a brand new book includes some fascinating new details of Donald Trump's big lie campaign, including an inside look at his failed efforts to persuade Senator Mitch McConnell to go along.



KING: We have some fascinating new details today about just how Donald Trump believed he could pull off his plan to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump planned this way. First, get Georgia's Republican governor to decertify Joe Biden's win there. If that happened, Trump believed he could then get supporters in Pennsylvania and Michigan to follow a suit. These new details are included in a new book, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future." That book by great New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns.

Trump detailed his thinking to other Republicans including the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell. As he tried, the former President tried, to enlist others to help his scheme. CNN's Manu Raju is with me. He has some key excerpts from the book. Let's start with this idea that in Trump's view, Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, was the first domino. If he could flip Kemp, the other pieces would fall into play.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really gets inside into his mindset at the time. This is right after the election. This is after it had been called for Donald Trump have lost the race, that states have begun to certify that Joe Biden had won. But in Trump's mind then and still now, there was widespread fraud, the election was stolen, that Joe Biden did not win anything that to do something to change that calculus.

And what he told the Republican leaders in his private call on December 2020, according to this book, is that Brian Kemp was key, that Brian Kemp had to decertify what happened here. And then as a result for what happened in Michigan and Pennsylvania, they would follow suit.

And he also tells the Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and others that he had been spoken to Republican officials in those two other states, and he had some assurances that they would also follow suit. McConnell didn't respond to that phone call, shook his head. And said, we have to focus on Georgia, a reference to that Senate race that was happening January 5th. But it was very clear he wanted the Republican leadership. He wanted those Republican candidates in Georgia to listen to him, but they didn't.

KING: Yes. This is the piece directly from the book. What it looks like to me he's doing is setting this up so he can blame the governor and the Secretary of State if we lose. He's always setting up somebody to blame it on. That's the effort to flip Brian Kemp. Walk us inside more from the book. And you have a history there, I'm trying to report this at the time of how Mitch McConnell was part, Trump was trying to flip everybody, help me, help me, help me, it didn't work.

RAJU: You know, it was interesting is that Mitch McConnell since then, since mid-December, December 15th when he declared Joe Biden, he said Joe Biden had won the race, acknowledged reality. At that point in the aftermath, he has not spoken with Donald Trump since. But Trump and McConnell were speaking a lot in the aftermath of the November elections.

And at that time, Trump was still saying the election was stolen. And I asked Mitch McConnell on December 1st, 2020, why he's not speaking out against Trump's claims that he lost that he actually won the election when McConnell for so long has claimed election integrity, it was a big focus of his.


RAJU: Why have you not spoken out and why have you been quiet amid the President's claims that the election has been rigged and it's been stolen from him?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: As I've said, repeatedly, we have this government for the next three weeks for sure. And what I'm focusing on is trying to accomplish as much as we can, during this three-week period, which requires dealing with the government that we have right now. The Electoral College is going to meet December the 14th. There'll be an inauguration in January 20th.


RAJU: So clearly not answering there. But what this book show is that, privately, there was a strategic reason why he was staying silent and not calling out Donald Trump. He was worried that Trump would turn around and do something to sabotage the campaigns of David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, who are running in that runoff on January 5th to maintain the Senate Republican majority.


And if he did something, Trump could potentially take them down, cost them the majority and of course, January 5th, the day before January 6th, the insurrection at the Capitol. So it shows you his thinking here, don't anger Trump, it could hurt us in long term. But Trump was peddling these things that we know aren't true.

KING: And they lost both, the Republicans lost both those Georgia races. Here's a little bit more on McConnell's mindset from the book again, by Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin. Everybody around him except for clowns like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood are trying to get him to do the right thing. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, two of the lawyers who were telling Trump essentially he could figure this out, or Mike Pence could deny the election, cockamamie, no legal basis for it.

But it turns out, they actually weren't the only two, but that was McConnell's mindset was that he was hoping, he was hoping the voices of reason, whoever they might be would get to Trump, it never happened.

RAJU: It never happened. He was nudging him to concede, others were nudging him to concede. But those voices in Trump's ears and Trump wanted to hear that said don't and he fought it.

KING: It's fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book. Manu, thanks for sharing some of it with us.

Up next, Vladimir Putin says he will achieve his mission in Ukraine.



KING: Ukraine and Russia are offering somewhat different takes on the prospect of talks to end the war. A top aide to the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, for example, tells CNN justice morning talks with Russia are quote, very difficult. But he says they are ongoing. The Russian President Vladimir Putin uses the term dead end and says he will win the war.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): We have again returned to a dead end situation for ourselves and for all of us. The military operation will continue until it's fully completed. And the objectives that were set at the beginning of this operation are achieved.


KING: Our former CNN Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty, joins me now. Jill, for anyone who was hoping maybe Vladimir Putin would see this is not going well, maybe he'll look for an exit ramp. Those remarks, especially if you look at them in their entirety. I'm in this to win this and I will win this, pretty sober.

JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: They are. But you know, John, I really think, obviously, he's talking to the world. But I think this is really a domestic argument. I mean, he know -- we know the war is not going well. And I think it's kind of a pep talk to the Russian people. Number one, war is going to be OK, because we're going to win. This is all in quotes. We're going to win in the end.

And then I think also he's trying to convince Russian people that those sanctions which are really hurting the Russian economy are hurting the West, maybe even more than Russia. It's really, you know, there were a lot of messages, especially even the timing, you know, he made those comments on the 61st anniversary of Eureka Garden. Remember up in space, first man in space. And to remind Russians, you know, we've done great things in the past. But this is I think it's just kind of trying to keep people behind him at this point.

KING: That's a fascinating point. Add your take on this one. President Zelenskyy says let's have a prisoner swap. And President Zelenskyy says I have in his view somebody important to Vladimir Putin. It's Viktor Medvedchuk. I hope I'm saying that correctly. He was under house arrest in Ukraine. He's a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, under house arrest anyway because the Ukrainians view him as essentially a Putin plant. Is he important enough to Vladimir Putin, for Putin to say you give me him, I'll give you back some Ukrainian prisoners of war?

DOUGHERTY: You know, in the end, John, I'm not so sure. Because I think people in this war are kind of dispensable in a very sad way. But also, it could be that Medvedchuk is not worth doing something, you know, that would undermine Vladimir Putin's main objective right now, which is to try to take back the Donbass, to take it over.

And so, you know, there may be some people that he could trade that he really, really wants. But my tendency would be that he's not going to do any deals. He will just plow ahead.

KING: Just plow ahead, you say. Jill, one of the one of the questions has been, did Vladimir Putin miscalculate? Did he think the West was divided? President Biden's poll numbers of bad, the French have elections this year, a new German chancellor. Do you think you'd get away with it? Do you think he could just get away with this essentially?

You have today, the prime minister of Finland talking about a new report submitted to Parliament about the question of would Finland join NATO? Finland, of course, right there on Russia's border. Sweden on Finland's border, saying it too, will now consider dropping its neutrality and perhaps thinking about joining NATO. How will that go over with Vladimir Putin?

DOUGHERTY: Oh, he'll be infuriated. And he already, you know, Russia has already made some real threats against those two countries. If they happen have that to merit in to join NATO. So I think that's very serious, you know, especially Finland, because Finland has been the symbol of, you know, not being aligned. And it does have a good relationship with Russia to think that Finland would join NATO would be really quite revolutionary. And I think it would be very worrisome to Putin.

KING: Jill Dougherty as always, grateful for your important insights as we continue to watch this play out. We'll continue the conversation.


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